That's what Beaverton designer and furniture buyer Carol Director has been doing
Originally a convent for the Sisters of the Holy Names, when Mary's Woods opened as a retirement community a decade ago, its directors decided to maintain the historic integrity of the campus' Provincial House, opening it up as a hub for residents that houses its dining room, lounges, auditorium, fitness facilities, beauty shop and more.
And, when these directors decided to update the interior design of the building's common areas, they knew who to call.
As a designer, Beaverton resident Carol Director has worked on commercial and residential projects at retirement communities throughout the Portland area, including more than a dozen private residences at Mary's Woods.
Director is also the designer and buyer for Scott Director's, a Beaverton-based custom furniture company she jointly owns with her husband Scott that specifically caters to clients who are downsizing and moving into retirement living situations.
Working with a committee of residents, Carol Director and the staff at Mary's Woods have identified and updated furnishings in the Provincial House's entry way, lounges, dining room, billiard room, auditorium, marketing office and more over the course of two phases in 2009 and 2010. Currently, the committee is in the process of identifying Director's next targets for 2011.
Room by room, Director analyzed the existing design elements that needed to be replaced and the ones that could be reused.
From upholstery, dining room lamps and tables and wall décor to window treatments, paint, wallpaper and carpeting, Director worked to create a cohesive palate that was light, traditional and appealing to Mary's Woods residents - 'nothing too floral or French,' she said - 65 percent of whom are women.
Sometimes these changes were as simple as replacing wall sconces over existing outlets or creating window valances by reusing fabric that had originally hung as Roman blinds.
'The details matter,' Director said.
And the result is 'neutral with personality,' Cheri Mussotto-Conyers, director of marketing for Mary's Woods, said.
It's also functional.
Many of Director's biggest changes were incorporating seating that works with the needs of Mary's Woods retirement-age residents.
Originally, for example, the Provincial House's Cardinal Room, a multipurpose space used for birthday parties and family gatherings, contained an overstuffed couch and chairs.
'The seats were so soft, residents couldn't get up,' Mussotto-Conyers said, especially women with osteoporosis who had reduced upper-body strength.
Director's replacements are upright, firm and easy to push against for support.
The original couches had arms that measured 20 inches, and Director's custom-made replacements have reduced that height to 5.
'Scale is huge,' Mussotto-Conyers said.
And, because the interior design of retirement communities is often the work of larger, non-local designers, this concept is not always grasped, Director said.
In these common areas and in individual apartments, 'When residents move, it's hard to judge what will work,' she said. 'I'm here to say what works and what doesn't.'
Director replaced overstuffed seating with these firmer loveseats in the Provincial House's lounge as well and brought in a stand for the memorial book outside the facility's chapel that's sturdy enough to lean on.
Even with their durability, however, these pieces are lightweight enough to be moved around with ease - an important feature for rooms that serve a variety of purposes.
In all, Director's designs have leant the comfort, durability and accessibility Mary's Woods was looking for.
'Our goal is to have (residents) feel as though the whole building is available and feel comfortable enough to use all areas,' Mussotto-Conyers said.
And with comfortable, easily maneuverable pieces, residents said this goal has been met, as they able to make the Provincial House their own.
'This is my favorite corner,' said Patricia Labadie, a resident of Mary's Woods Dufrenes Building on the lounge. 'I feel as though the whole building is mine.'
Scott Director's is located at 9340 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in Beaverton.
To learn more about its work at area retirement communities or its small-scale furniture designs, call 503-292-9411 or visit scottdirectors.com.