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Creative design ideas in your dream house - or for your future dream house
Old 01-24-2016, 09:25 AM   #1
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Creative design ideas in your dream house - or for your future dream house

What are your best house design wants or tips? They can be big things or little tweaks that make a difference.

I'll start with one idea we once employed:

We put a "family coat closet" near the door leading from the garage to the kitchen. That left room for guest coats in the guest closet by the front door. For the one guest closet, we got a chrome hanging pole. Looked nicer than wood.

Here's a link with lots of comments with good ideas: Small things that get forgotten
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Old 01-24-2016, 09:42 AM   #2
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I would love to have in-floor heat. Do any of you have that? Does it decrease cost by making rooms feel warmer?
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Old 01-24-2016, 09:57 AM   #3
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There are a ton of good ideas in the linked article and comments. One pet peeve of mine is the placement of outlets in the center of walls - exactly where furniture gets placed. I like an outlet right next to the door or opening to plug in a vacuum cleaner or other electrical device.
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Old 01-24-2016, 10:17 AM   #4
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Living in New Orleans, in floor heat would be insane.

Some of the things I love about my dream house are elderly friendly features that are very low tech. They were installed by the (elderly, disabled) prior owner's boyfriend, who was a general contractor and "did things right". Here's one:

Right by the side door from the driveway into the kitchen, at which I bring in groceries, he erected a permanent outdoor metal table. This table is about 2.5'x3.5' and it is is unbelievably sturdy. I think it is anchored to the foundation of the house maybe. Anyway, I think a sumo wrestler could do handstands on it and it wouldn't even budge. I can put my groceries on it while I climb the one step and get the door open. The table also has a sturdy rail that I can hang on to as I navigate that step, so that I don't fall (very important to me since I am getting older and falls are an issue).

Now who would have thought of that? I never heard of such a thing. It is one of my favorite features about this house, and I didn't even notice it until after I moved in.

He also did a wonderful job with the shower grab bars, which are perfectly placed and well anchored.

I have a coat closet but I don't use it. Instead, I put a coat rack by the door that leads to the garage so that I can just grab a coat or rain jacket on my way out. It allows rain jackets to be more exposed to air so they can dry out completely, important in our very wet climate down here.

I love my keypad entry deadbolts on every exterior door, that I added after buying the house.

My dream house has more closets and cupboards than you can shake a stick at. So far, they are only about half full. That has been very nice so far although only time will tell if they fill up or not. There are three huge double door closets just in my bedroom alone. I keep my winter clothes in one, my lighter clothes in another, and the third is for everything else. All of them have lots of easily accessible shelving.

As for outlets, I love that the outlets in my house are many and that they are nicely distributed. The kitchen has tons of outlets for all my small appliances. The outlets in this house also are at various heights from the conventional height to around 5' off the floor. There are outlets not only in the closets and cabinets, but in in the art alcoves, too. These add extra lights along with the spotlights that can be aimed at sculptures that I especially like.

I installed some motion detecting nightlights in my bedroom, hall, and bathroom, some battery operated and some that plug in. These are cheap and they are nice to have for that occasional trip down the hall during the night. Also the battery operated ones were great during a power outage just to make the house seem well lit and less spooky.

I suppose HGTV would have a fit, but I have ceiling fans in every room and in this climate I love them. They really save on energy during the summer because I can set the thermostat higher and run the ceiling fan on low.

I love having a laundry room.

Like Skipro33 describes below, my house had no obstacles for wheelchairs that I can detect. The outside entry from the garage has a smooth 6" tall gradual concrete ramp from the garage up to the back door so no steps to get inside either.

Amazingly, with all this elderly/disabled stuff the prior owner never put in a garage door opener! Go figure. So anyway, I had one installed.
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Old 01-24-2016, 10:41 AM   #5
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I got to fulfill the dream of my best house design when our house was lost to a wild land fire.

Here are a few things I was able to incorporate into the new house;
1. All doors and entries are wide enough for an ambulance gurney and halls are maneuverable for them too.
2. No steps, stairs or other wheelchair-type obstacles on the first floor. Even the entry door is flush and a minimal threshold for wheelchair access.
3. Bathrooms are ADA compliant.
4. Upstairs area is roughed in with plumbing and electrical to convert to an apartment space for a live-in health care provider, should one become necessary.
5. Upstairs has it's own entry from outside; steps leading to a balcony that has a door to the upstairs. Health care live-in can come and go without having to come downstairs where I will be living.
6. Master bedroom downstairs is on the opposite side of the house from the other bedrooms and the heating/AC unit can be shut off on that side of the house.
7. Replaced bathroom window with a windowed door, then placed a hot tub out side the bathroom
8. Added a door on the master bedroom to outside covered patio. I can leave my house in a hurry (we lost our last house in a fire and we were home).

I was 49 years old when we had our fire. My plan was to build my 'forever' house and thought about what I would need to make the house so I could do that.

****EDIT****
9. Oriented the house so the roof allowed for optimal solar panel placement. I installed solar last year.
10. Emergency water shut off where the water enters the house. Prior to that, the water shut off was at the street below grade and would rust up if not maintained annually. Now I can just throw a lever where the water comes in and the whole house water is shut off.
11. Insulated and sheet rocked the garage. I spend a lot of time out there, now that I'm retired, in the winter.
12. Installed a sewer clean-out and an electrical outlet next to the driveway. When friends visit in their RV's, they can just hook up like they can at the RV park. I also use it for my RV. My own black water clean out and power makes the RV into a guest house when we get more company than bedrooms.
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Old 01-24-2016, 11:46 AM   #6
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Interesting topic. Here are some of our customizations.

We have a "niche" in the hall between the family room and front door - it has an outlet. It is the perfect place for charging cell phones, mp3 players, etc...

That same hallway wall is lined with hooks that are anchored/sturdy enough for backpacks, coats, dog leashes, etc.. With a family of 4, the boys backpacks have a landing spot, my school bag (Italian classes) has a landing spot. The various hoodies and jackets don't get dumped on the floor, couch, etc.. they are hung up. (In theory, anyway... I'm dealing with a 13 and 15yo.) We don't have a mud room - but this acts as one kind of.

Grab bars added to the downstairs powder room, and a smaller vanity put in... it's not quite ADA because it's not quite big enough to fully turn a wheelchair around - but it's a lot better. (We tested with my FIL and his wheelchair.)

Our kitchen was totally designed for OUR needs. Stainless countertops for indestructible/easy to clean surface. Lots of outlets and under counter lighting. Cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling vs having dead space in soffets.

We have a wooden ramp out our back door. It's not permanent - but we never got rid of it when FIL passed - very convenient if we're taking things in/out of the house on a dolly.

All bathrooms have grab bars, including our outdoor shower.

We also beefed up insulation and sheer wall in our house. Much higher than code. The sheer wall changes were part of DH's big earthquake retrofit.
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Old 01-24-2016, 12:11 PM   #7
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For many years I have had a practice of going to bed on the early side (10 pm) and getting up early. It helps with avoiding traffic as I drive out of town which I do often. This could be a problem when there were visitors in the house who stay up late, watch TV, shower, handle dishes, or do other activities causing noise. My current house is laid out in a way that the master bedroom is pretty isolated from the other rooms where guests might be. I was just a happy accident but if I ever build a house it will be very deliberately designed that way.
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Old 01-24-2016, 12:16 PM   #8
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Some features can be added later cheaply and some can be added cheaply during construction. I'd concentrate on the latter.

Re grab rails, one can install wood behind the drywall and add the handrails later if necessary. It costs almost nothing and makes it so much easier to add sturdy handrails later.

Vents, like for a kitchen or bath exhaust fan are cheap to add during construction and a royal pain to add later.

A properly designed heating and cooling duct system is relatively cheap to install while building new, but is frequently installed as opposed to designed. Once you discover that it is impossible to balance the room temperatures, it is too late to correct the ducting cheaply. The correct tool is called a Manual D calculation.

Proper sealing for air infiltration is best done as it is constructed, particularly at the base plate and around windows, doors and electrical boxes. Stuffing fiberglass insulation into the cracks doesn't get it - in an older house that fiberglass is filthy from all the air it has filtered.

Another really nice feature is a home run hot water line from the end of the farthest hot water line back to the bottom of the water heater. The water will naturally circulate in a circuit and you will have instant hot water in every sink and shower. Alternatively, running a separate PEX line from a manifold by the water heater straight to every bathroom and the kitchen gives faster hot water.
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Old 01-24-2016, 12:22 PM   #9
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For many years I have had a practice of going to bed on the early side (10 pm) and getting up early. It helps with avoiding traffic as I drive out of town which I do often. This could be a problem when there were visitors in the house who stay up late, watch TV, shower, handle dishes, or do other activities causing noise. My current house is laid out in a way that the master bedroom is pretty isolated from the other rooms where guests might be. I was just a happy accident but if I ever build a house it will be very deliberately designed that way.
Another cheap trick is to double or triple the drywall thickness in the bedrooms. (The drywall on either side of a 2x4 should be of a different thickness to avoid sympathetic transmission) Drywall is very cheap and only the top layer needs to be finished so the extra cost is minimal. Throw a little insulation in the wall in between, seal the outlets and use a solid (versus hollow core) door and you have your own little tomb.
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Old 01-24-2016, 12:48 PM   #10
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I would love to have in-floor heat. Do any of you have that? Does it decrease cost by making rooms feel warmer?
A relative had in-floor heat. Sounds nice, and it felt good when you first got there, but, after half an hour, my feet were hot. It gets uncomfortable and I really did not like it. It was even too hot for her dog - he would go outside and lay on the cold concrete. Would be nice in a bathroom though.

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... Right by the side door from the driveway into the kitchen, at which I bring in groceries, he erected a permanent outdoor metal table. ... I can put my groceries on it while I climb the one step and get the door open. ....
That's nice - I think of this every time I grill, I need a little table at the back door, so I can set things down and open the door. I need to get that done!

Quote:
...There are outlets not only in the closets and cabinets, but in in the art alcoves, too. These add extra lights along with the spotlights that can be aimed at sculptures that I especially like. ...
Also very nice. I added an outlet and switch when I added cabinets/mantle/surround to the fireplace we had put in. Really convenient for holiday decos and lighting there.

I would also love to have a circle driveway, with a roof to cover a space from the driveway to the front door, so guests could enter under cover. The circle avoids backing in/out.

I like to have some sort of foyer at every entry door (could just be a laundry room for one of them). So two doors to go through to get in/out, with a small room/porch in-between. This really cuts down the blasts of cold or hot air when people go in/out, and cuts down on drafts, since that little room provides a buffer. It can even act as an extension refrigerator in cold weather, it might be ~ 35-40F when it is ~0~20F outside.

Garb bars a must.

Overhangs to optimize letting the winter sun in, and the high summer sun out (I've found that some architects just don't consider this). Of course, some of these depend on your climate, but these features are nice for the midwest here.

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Old 01-24-2016, 12:58 PM   #11
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Another cheap trick is to double or triple the drywall thickness in the bedrooms. (The drywall on either side of a 2x4 should be of a different thickness to avoid sympathetic transmission) Drywall is very cheap and only the top layer needs to be finished so the extra cost is minimal. Throw a little insulation in the wall in between, seal the outlets and use a solid (versus hollow core) door and you have your own little tomb.
From what I've read, for soundproofing you really want to get some special drywall hangers made for this. While doubling up drywall helps, you really want to isolate the sound. The special hangers decouple the drywall from the wall, which avoids the sound just being coupled through the wall. For example, hold a wood dowel against the bone behind your ear, touch it to something that is making noise - it couples the sound - you want to de-couple it.

Resilient Sound Clip FAQ


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Old 01-24-2016, 01:05 PM   #12
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Bigger rain gutters with leaf guard screens
Conduits under driveway for future utilities
Conduit from basement to attic for future wiring
Floor drains in garage
Heated garage floor
Backup generator
Lots of outside lighting/ electrical outlets
Sprinkler system
Workshop outbuilding on separate electrical service with tv/wifi
Conduit through house for tv/internet wiring - future wiring needs
Nat gas line to outdoor gas grill instead of propane tanks
Security / camera system



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Old 01-24-2016, 01:16 PM   #13
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The kitchen. Counter space galore, to the point I'd rather have more kitchen with counter space I can use as a dining table with bar stools when needed at countertop height, rather than a dedicated table just for eating at. Every lower cabinet would be a drawer of whatever height needed to comfortably store every heavy thing I'd rather lift up than try to pull down out of an upper cabinet. All plates and utensils would be in drawers. I'd love to have Julia Child's pegboard kitchen to hang up cooking utensils and some cookware. A proper walk-in pantry for storing bulk items.

Having a large single sink rather than a segmented one, along with a tall faucet for washing out stock pots and dutch ovens and cookie sheets, would make life so much easier. I could see a segmented sink being useful if you don't have a dishwasher, but otherwise what's the point?

I've found upper cabinets to be completely useless for the things I use it for. Storing jars, tupperware, baking ingredients, awkward appliances like a microwave or blender. I'd rather just have open shelves.

Never allowing a fridge to be placed next to a wall. Seriously, how are you supposed to open the door all the way to take out drawers and things to properly clean?

Thick drywall and solid doors for proper insulation and noise reduction would be great, especially through bedroom and bathroom walls.

A properly-sized detached garage. I'd rather keep as many fumes from entering the house as possible from stored paint, cars warming up, chemicals, etc. Having it detached would make it so much easier for me to build it larger and not have to fight with spacing of trying to fit toys, a gym, and a workshop in. I'd also be able to keep the roofs shaped more simply too.

Windows that are thick and properly insulated, everywhere I can possibly fit them. Especially around the kitchen. It's been so hard to find a place where I don't have to keep all the lights on in a kitchen to see what I'm doing.
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Old 01-24-2016, 01:29 PM   #14
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...
Nat gas line to outdoor gas grill instead of propane tanks
...
Good one. I did this in previous home and current home. Soooo nice to not have to futz with tanks, and worry about running out. And far cheaper too.

I'll add, make sure everything is properly graded, so gutters and downspouts really move the water away from the house to reduce chance of flooding, or running the sump a lot. Contractors seem to not pay much attention to this. Dirt always settles around foundation after a few years, so water moves towards the house eventually. Consider a back up for sump, depending on conditions.


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Old 01-24-2016, 01:29 PM   #15
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The kitchen. Counter space galore, to the point I'd rather have more kitchen with counter space I can use as a dining table with bar stools when needed at countertop height, rather than a dedicated table just for eating at.
That's just what I have, and I never use my dedicated table for eating any more. I'll probably do my taxes on it, but that's about it.

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A properly-sized detached garage. I'd rather keep as many fumes from entering the house as possible from stored paint, cars warming up, chemicals, etc. Having it detached would make it so much easier for me to build it larger and not have to fight with spacing of trying to fit toys, a gym, and a workshop in. I'd also be able to keep the roofs shaped more simply too.
I have a detached garage, and hadn't really thought about all of that. It really IS nice to not have fumes in the house. It's huge, about 800 sf I think, with a bathroom, storage, and workshop. Right now I just park my car in it but if I need more space it is there. Recently I told F he could use the workshop if he wants to because I'm probably not going to use it much. It's nice to have essentially infinite storage out there.
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Old 01-24-2016, 01:37 PM   #16
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Having a large single sink rather than a segmented one, along with a tall faucet for washing out stock pots and dutch ovens and cookie sheets, would make life so much easier. I could see a segmented sink being useful if you don't have a dishwasher, but otherwise what's the point?
If you have a disposal, it's nice to have a side of the sink to stack dishes, and one side to scrape (the side with the disposal.)
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Creative design ideas in your dream house - or for your future dream house
Old 01-24-2016, 01:43 PM   #17
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Creative design ideas in your dream house - or for your future dream house

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......I have a detached garage, and hadn't really thought about all of that. It really IS nice to not have fumes in the house. It's huge, about 800 sf I think, with a bathroom, storage, and workshop. Right now I just park my car in it but if I need more space it is there. Recently I told F he could use the workshop if he wants to because I'm probably not going to use it much. It's nice to have essentially infinite storage out there.

I always kept gas cans and propane tanks in my detached workshop until a few years ago. I bought one of these and its held up so far - holds a few gas cans and a couple of propane tanks.

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In floor heat
Old 01-24-2016, 01:43 PM   #18
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In floor heat

Boiler fed infloor heat can be a joy when done correctly. The costs vs warm air ducted is 2 -3 times higher in most cases.

@ ERD50, your experience is not common when systems are programmed correctly, namely in a floor condition, water temps should be no higher that 100 deg F. That translates into a floor that is perceived as not "warm" but just "not cold". That temp also leaves the boiler well into the condensing temp range, which is the best use of the fuel btus.

Radiant panels can also be placed in the walls or ceiling, but they still get run a low temps.
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Old 01-24-2016, 01:44 PM   #19
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I always kept gas cans and propane tanks in my detached workshop until a few years ago. I bought one of these and its held up so far
Very nice!

I don't use any propane, and my only gas can somehow got lost in the move. Hopefully the new owners of my old house are enjoying it. But the car itself probably would smell like gas in an attached garage, I suppose. I haven't parked in an attached garage for decades so I don't remember.
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Old 01-24-2016, 01:52 PM   #20
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On this topic, it's good (and now code in most places) to have a gas curb in an attached garage on the wall adjacent to the house. This raised concrete prevents gas, etc from getting from the garage floor to the house wall.


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