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50 Dream Home Design Tips

50 Design Tips That May Interest You

Such a deal! I was supposed to only provide you with 25 tips. As I made my list, I quickly found out you would get shortchanged. I lost count and there may actually be 51 tips but who is counting? The point is I just would like for you to have the perfect home. Many of these items I mention have a column and Builder Bulletin waiting for you at the website. Go there to read more about each item. Just use the Search Feature on the home page. www.AsktheBuilder.com

Interior Doorknobs - Make sure that the backset hole is drilled 2 and 3/4 inches NOT the standard 2 and 3/8 inches. Your knuckles will thank you.

Second Sink - We have a regular double bowl sink and a second small bar sink next to our refrigerator. The second sink has come in handy on many occasions!

High Vanities - Who says you have to use low cabinets in a bathroom? Are you tired of bending over to brush your teeth? Use kitchen cabinets in a bath or see if your cabinet company makes a 34.5 inch high cabinet instead of the usual 30 or 31 inch high bath cabinet.

Sit in the Shower - Shower seats are luxurious. Make sure it is at least 16 inches deep and anywhere from 14 to 17 inches tall.

Dual Shower Heads - Forget about all those fancy shower devices. Just install two faucets! The shower heads hit you from opposite directions. You may need an extra large water heater, so plan ahead!

Tall Garage Ceilings - The average garage has lots of wasted space. If you raise the ceiling to 12 feet, you can install a useful loft that will give you all sorts of wonderful storage opportunities.

Large Entry with Closet - Many entry halls are too small to comfortably greet 2 or more people. Make yours spacious if possible. Be sure to have a large coat closet somewhere in the space.

9 Foot Ceilings - You would be surprised what a difference rooms feel like with tall ceilings. If the rooms are really oversized, then you better consider 10 foot ceilings.

Kitchen Space - The distance between rows of cabinets or an island should be at least 42 inches. You will love this roomy feel.

Indirect Lighting - Indirect lighting can really set the mood in a room. It is not hard to achieve this goal. It is an excellent idea in a family room for night time TV viewing. Have you flown on an airplane at night? They use the soft indirect lighting technique above the windows.

Electrical Outlets - You need to think this one out by doing a furniture layout plan early in the job. Who wants outlets BEHIND a couch or a bed? They are useless! Place outlets exactly where lamps, radios, appliances are going to be. Place the outlets at a correct height so you don't have to bend over or see the cords under furniture.

Multi-Level Decks and Patios - A two or three tiered deck or patio with large areas at each level makes for a dramatic outdoor jewel. Plant colorful vegetation or place it in planters between each level.

Cooking Out - If you have natural gas or propane, be sure that it is extended outdoors for your grill.

Garage Outlets - Be sure there are electrical outlets on all four walls of your garage. Have the electrician place an outdoor outlet near the garage doors for easy access if you are working outside.

Wide Garage - Most garages are not wide enough. Be sure each garage door opening starts at least four feet away from a corner. Five feet is even better.

Window Seats - These items are charming and functional.

Laundry Room Counters - Where do you fold your clothes? A countertop in a laundry room is nice.

Slop Sink - Every house needs one. They used to be in basements. Put it near or in the laundry room.

Hot Water Loop - Do you wait for hot water at your plumbing fixtures? Install a simple re-circulating loop.

Storage Shelves - You simply can't have enough storage shelves. If you live in a slab home area, then make your garage extra large to house these shelves.

Attic Storage - Many modern houses have steep roofs. Even if you don't you can order cost effective attic or storage trusses. Not all of the roof has to be made from these! That will save money as well!

Paper Cutouts - You must do scale cutouts of furniture to make sure room sizes are correct and that you don't block interior pathways within rooms.

Wide Driveways - Plan for a 12 foot width for single driveways and at least 20 feet for double driveways.

Garage Doors - Double doors should be 18 feet wide and single doors should be 10 feet wide.

Technology Wiring - You must install CAT5 wiring to each room. Put it where you think a computer, TV, or appliance might be. Some rooms may need multiple cable drops. All cable runs must be home runs. Do not loop wire through the house!

Central Vacuums - They are a real treat. I love mine. Get one that is fully cyclonic.

Outdoor Conduits - Put multiple 3 inch PVC pipes under sidewalks, drives and patios. This will allow you to get wires to remote locations in the future.

Hidden Safe - You can buy affordable safes that can be hidden while you build. Buy a fireproof one!

Access Panels - Old homes had nice access panels to get to the back of tubs and other critical plumbing areas.

Shower Stalls - Minimum width should be 36 inches. Bigger is better here.

Fans, Dryers, etc. Outdoors - Vent all fans, dryers, etc. to the exterior of the home. Never dump this air into a crawlspace or attic.

Combustion Air - The code requires this but make sure it is not forgotten. It is a life safety issue.

Return Air Vents - If you have forced air heating and cooling each room, except for baths and kitchens, you must have return air vents!

Hidden Hallways - Each room has these. This is were you walk within a room. Make sure they are big enough and that you don't have too many entrances into a room. More entrances means more hallways which means less space for furniture.

Dual Staircases - Old homes often had a main and rear staircase. My house has two staircases into the basement. One leads directly to the garage. They are a treat.

Hillside Foundations - Who wants to see an ugly triangular shaped slab of concrete on the side wall of a house? Progressive foundation companies can install treated wood strips for siding or brick ledges so the foundation can be hidden. Ask about these.

Door Covers - Porches - Builders years ago knew it was nearly impossible to stop wind driven rain from getting into doors. That is one reason large covered porches are common on old homes. Put covered porches over all your exterior doors.

Overhangs - While on the same subject, roof overhangs help protect widows and the sides of the house. They work like umbrellas. Make sure they are at least 2 feet deep.

Laundry Chute - If your bedrooms are far away from the laundry room, you will love an old fashioned chute. Make sure it is smooth inside and at least 8 inches in diameter or 8 inches square.

Soundproofing - This is a hidden design feature. You must do everything possible to minimize sound transmission. Read my past column and Bulletin about this!

Creature Comfort - Consider radiant heating if possible. Go one step further if you have the right conditions and do geothermal. The best heating system is a mixture of radiant heating and forced air. The forced air system allows you to move air and filter it.

Built-in Speakers - Consider wall speakers for the dynamic new TV's, DVD's, etc. Wait till you see what you will be able to watch from the Internet in just 5 years or less!

Heated Garage Floor - Do you work on your own cars? Does it get cold? Part of your garage floor could have a radiant loop in it connected to a small water heater. Fire up the heater the day before you intend to work!

Wine Storage - Many people are starting to acquire and admire wine. You need a place to store it to maximize its flavor.

Low E Glass - Window Films - These invisible features will save you money and keep your possessions in good shape.

Plan for Future Expansion - Do you think you might do a room addition? If so, plan for it now to make sure a perfectly good room doesn't become a wasted space as it is transformed into the entrance into the room addition.

First Floor Bath - Every house needs a full first floor bath. Someone might get hurt or sick and can't go upstairs if you have a two story home.

Blocking - These hidden framing materials allow you to securely fasten grab bars, large pictures, holiday wreaths, etc. with comfort that they won't fall. You need to simply plan where to hang things. Use large 2 x 10 or 2 x 12 blocks to provide a large target area. Take photos before the drywall goes up to be able to locate them.


2 Responses to 50 Dream Home Design Tips

  1. My husband and I want to hire someone to build us a new home. I have been looking for design ideas, and I really liked what you mentioned about shower seats. We plan to retire in this home, so I'm sure that would be worth our time. I will suggest this to him when he gets home from work today.

  2. My husband and I are about to start the process of designing our dream home so that we can have it built by next summer. Although I find all 50 of these tips helpful, I especially like the one about planning for electrical outlets. I will definitely have to make sure that there are plenty around every room so that I am free to remodel those spaces throughout the years and so that I don't ever have an issue with having an outlet behind a bed or couch where it wouldn't be accessible.

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