Like many couples, the Hamilton Harts live in a typical small suburban colonial home that was built in the 1950s. They raised their family in this brick and shingle three-bedroom house. But now that their children are grown, they occupy the house alone.
Last year they considered their alternatives, which included selling their home and relocating to an apartment in New York City. They finally decided to stay put and remain suburban dwellers, but to have the first floor of their home completely redesigned and refurnished to meet their current needs.
The couple's situation is commonplace. In a national survey of 2,000 professionals conducted this spring by the American Society of Interior Designers, 24 percent of respondents replied that a significant amount of their time now went into the ''redesign of homes for empty-nesters.''
The Harts asked New York interior designer Michael Braverman to help them attain the new look they wanted. They specifically told him they wanted low and easy maintenance, additional sleeping area for grandchildren (without the use of a sleep sofa), and increased space in the dining area for books, stereo equipment, and general storage.
Since their existing layout only allowed for uncomfortable dining for six, they asked if it could be expanded to enable them to have a traditional sit-down dinner for eight, as well as serving space for buffet entertaining.
They wanted to revitalize areas not sufficiently utilized, and they referred to their present formal living and dining rooms as mainly ''walk through'' areas. Finally, although they had chosen not to move back to the city, they told the designer they felt ready, after 35 years of marriage, for a ''unified and tranquil, yet exciting, contemporary urban-type environment.''
They had been living with traditional furniture of ''early marriage'' vintage , heavy draperies over the windows, overstuffed seating, a few antiques, and a few oil paintings.
After analyzing their home, Mr. Braverman developed an open plan (for the former three small boxlike rooms) that reallocated the space to fulfill their stated requirements.