Ragan Folan, the former president of Old Salem Museum & Gardens, likes to say she’s retired. But it seems impossible that someone as energetic as she is can — and will — actually retire.
She and her husband, Dara, also retired, are just back from Figure Eight Island, where they’re in the final stages of building a beach house. Soon, they’ll leave for Ireland. So she concedes they’re busy as ever — the two of them sit on several local boards — and along with the “liberating freedom” that comes with retirement, their recent status as empty nesters opened up a world of possibilities for a new home base.
“We always asked ourselves, ‘At what point do we downsize?’” says Ragan. “And we often talked about moving to the coast; Dara grew up on Long Island and has always missed the water.”
Their former residence in Buena Vista served their family well as a place for their children to gather with friends, and as a holiday destination for extended family. With a guest apartment over the garage and a barn-sized recreation room out back, downsizing 7,300 square feet of living space into more modest accommodations would take some creative thinking.
So creative they got, and the Folans decided to build at Arbor Place, an exclusive, in-town patio-home community opposite Arbor Acres retirement community. Working with custom-home builder Trent Adams, the couple began by paying a nostalgic, if not modest, nod to their former abode with the façade of their new home.
But inside the house, day-to-day life takes on a more casual simplicity in a floor plan designed for the couple to age in place.
“It’s far less formal and easier to manage,” Ragan says.
With the help of her longtime design consultant and friend Laurie Whitaker — this is their third house together — the two have created a home both stylish and fresh with an emphasis on casual.
While the home checks all the boxes for a growing family — a guest bedroom for each of their three children and families on the second floor — the Folans pretty much live out their daily lives on the ground floor. There are no stairs required, minus one exception: Dara’s man cave. The cave is located in the bonus room above the garage, where he occasionally retreats to watch a game.
“I told Dara he needed to think like a museum curator when it came to his collection,” Ragan says. Downsizing from the former barn to the more modest bonus room meant the lion’s share of his collection would have to be packed away in storage.
“I suggested he change his collection out with the seasons,” she says. “Showcase the football memorabilia during football season and the baseball memorabilia during baseball season.”
Despite the man cave’s obvious limitations, Dara’s affinity for baseball eventually spilled over into the home’s bar area after he and a group of investors bought a piece of a distillery in Cooperstown, New York. So now, in addition to Yankee hall-of-famer signed baseballs, Dara’s collection includes hand-crafted artisanal spirits with names like “Beanball Bourbon,” “Spitball,” and Abner Doubleday’s “Double Play Vodka.”
From bar to bonus room and back again, Ragan’s tour of the house brings us to the master bedroom, and what she considers the best part of the house: his and her bathrooms, which leaves her smiling big.
And at the end of the day, the Folans seem to have “rightsized” their new home for the latest stage of life, and in so doing, upsized that life where it was most important.