Practical considerations as well as Creative possibilities, when designing a New Home
There are several practical, as well as creative considerations that should be discussed and entertained, prior to making the final determination, regarding the building plans and specifications for a new home. Many of them will be immediately dismissed, based upon your personal taste, budget and preference. Hopefully some of them will stimulate new ideas and concepts that could possibly be implemented within your new home.
When you have experienced several different building experiences, regarding residential homes, there are several different layouts, finishes and special considerations that individuals have incorporated within their custom homes. It would be a shame, if a new home was developed by the homeowner, and there were considerations that were never thought about. I am sure that this will occur; however, listed below are some common, as well as not so common thoughts and creative considerations for your new home.
1.) Type of home / this decision is based upon the living routine of the household, as well as the amount of room that is necessary to properly maintain your family lifestyle. There is another discussion within this website regarding types of homes, however when thinking of a newly designed home, the sky is the limit. Just because the colonial, or the cape, or the contemporary are common designs, a custom design can also be developed, that will specifically link to your family’s life style. Does your family want separate quiet time that could be enhanced by separate living and sleeping buildings, such as in a camp? Does your family enjoy recreation that could be enhanced by the development of a barn style home, with an interior basketball court, located within the family area? Does your family love to swim, then maybe a lap pool or larger type pool could be accommodated within the interior design of your new home. Any of these thoughts and interests, could result in some very interesting arrangements of the interior layout of your new home. Think out of the box when designing the type of home you want and need! Your family’s use of the home can be accommodated by customization in accordance with how you live your life. Remember, you are designing your own home, live it up and be creative!
2.) Size of the home/ again, like the type of home, this can be totally customized to your family life. Does your family enjoy staying home in the evening, requiring a large family room, or does your family read in solitude, requiring a different type of room arrangement? Does the family enjoy exterior decks and porches, or are they basically interior people. How many children do you have, and how many will you have? Will one or more family members be living in the house in the future as they grow older? Will the need to accommodate children and grandchildren, for holidays, fit into the equation? There are so many issues that should be considered when trying to accommodate the family and deciding on the size of a home. Allow your creativity to take over, think of the future, and design your home’s size, based upon your best guess. That is all it is, a guess, however, it is yours to make! If the home becomes too large for the budget at the present time, make sure the layout of the structure you are building at the present time, is planned to accommodate any future additions that would result in your final dream home.
3.) Finishes within the home / the finishes within the home are generally a function of how the family uses the home. Is this a formal home used for entertaining, where the finishes will reflect your position in society? Or will the finishes be functional and practical? Some interesting ideas for finishes, although some are not based on traditional taste;
a.) Wood pine floors such as No. 2 pine. This material can be placed on 15 lb felt paper and simply nailed or screwed to the floor. The use of screws with a tapered head will allow the use of different wooden plugs to cover the screws. Once the floor is finished, the plugs will stand out due to the different wood, making a very interesting appearance. Soft pine floors of varying widths, can achieve a very different appearance, and can be very functional. The pine floors can also be nailed with old fashion cut nails used in colonial times. I realize that the builders amongst you will all be saying, they are too soft, they will not hold up, etc. You are correct in identifying the softness, however, once the floors are marked and scratched, they can be repeatedly stained or sealed, and the eventual appearance will be similar to the old colonial floors of old. The same type of wood installation with oak or other wood species will produce different surfaces, wearing capabilities, as well as appearances. Do not hesitate to use wood that is normally not used for floors, that is the creative side of your selections, you might be pleasantly surprised.
b.) Painted floors. Painted floors are not common, but can add a very unique look to a room. Paint has developed technically, to an extent, that the deterioration of the finish has been substantially reduced. Painted floors in different patterns can also be quite entertaining and creative. Painted pictures in kid’s rooms or simple stenciling on dining and living room floors will make a unique appearance. The color of the painted floors can be coordinated with the interior trim colors, carpets as well as furnishings within the room.
c.) Concrete floors. The simple use of concrete as the finished floor can be extremely interesting. There are several coatings that can be applied to the concrete surface to add accents and color to the concrete floor. The surface finish of the floor can also be changed by a stamped pattern of brick, stone, etc. Concrete floors can be polished as well as stained to accommodate almost any interior design.
d.) Brick floors. In the past, brick was commonly used as a flooring material. It can be again, and makes a very entertaining and original floor. Different color brick can be placed in a pattern to allow for different creative appearances. The use of combinations of wood and brick are also possible for extremely creative surfaces that will be both attractive and completely customized.
e.) Concrete counters and surfaces. The use of concrete as a building material has advanced and is quite expressive and creative. Various surfaces and colors can enhance the kitchen, bar area or baths. Concrete counters and surfaces can be used in several different locations throughout the home. The coordination of floors and horizontal surfaces with similar concrete finishes can lend to the common interaction of various rooms and surfaces throughout the structure. There is even the possibility of the exterior concrete surfaces on porch decks and exterior patios can now coordinate with interior surfaces to promote a managed and coordinated interaction from exterior to interior.
f.) Soft Walls . Soft walls are specially padded walls that are created with a foam padding and covered, similar to a cushion on the sofa, with a fabric. The use of soft walls formally, such as in the dining room, make a very formal presentation, however they can also be used in the study or even the kids rooms to reduce noise and allow the kids to pin or attach items to the fabric. The use of soft wall surfaces was a common decorating technique that has been lost as more contemporary designs have been established. Due to this loss of usage in contemporary interior design the selection of a soft wall finish in today’s more modern designs will present a throwback feeling to the walls selected for soft wall.
g.) Cork Walls. Cork is a wonderful product that can make the wall surface of your office, study or kid’s room very user friendly. If art is the way to go, then cork on the walls, will allow you to display your art and drawings wherever you want. The use of cork framed with wood is a very creative method of using different color frames and artwork throughout the house of individual room. Cork is available in large rolls or separate panels that can be easily incorporated on the walls.
h.) Wood ceilings. The use of wood paneling, separate pieces of wood, or wood in a pattern, for a ceiling is especially appealing and creative. The use of texture 1-11 paneling laid down on the top of the floor joists will make a simple, effective ceiling finish for the room below. Wood ceilings were common in colonial times due to the exposure of the bottom sides of the floor boards as visually seen from the floor below. This look can be created in a number of different ways, and provides a very unique look to interior ceiling surfaces.
i.) Interior stonework. The use of stone, brick or other masonry products for interior wall surfaces of a home will add drama and creativity. The use of painted brick or partially painted brick will create an older atmosphere and can be quite attractive. The combination of wood trim, paneling and masonry on interior walls provides extremely creative ways of interior decorating. The use of stone to match the flooring or fireplace construction is also a great way to coordinate interior finishes throughout the home. The use of the same exterior stone as used on the interior will blend the two areas together in interesting and creative ways. Stone and masonry, used on the interior of a structure, provides a feeling of stability and hominess for the inhabitants of the home.
j.) Exposed beams, joists, etc. Allowing some of the interior framing to remain exposed, is also a creative method to add drama to a room. The exposed ceiling joists, if stained or painted, can add an attractive appearance to the ceiling of a room and provide the appearance of a much higher ceiling. The visual aspect of exposed structural components has a tendency to offer a more sophisticated and creative look to the interior of the home. Sometimes, this look can be extremely easy to create by simply not installing sheetrock sheathing on certain walls. What is nice about this creative process is that in many cases, there is a cost savings and not the normal additional cost attributable to creative interior finishes. This technique has a special impact if there are certain creative framing or structural elements within the home. In many cases the exposure of the laminated beams and columns creating open family rooms is an inexpensive way of offering this creative interior appearance. Ask your builder if your home will have any interesting or different structural elements.
k.) Creative combinations of several ideas. The combination of interior design elements such as the exposure of the structural elements, plus the insertion of a stone façade and the use of a soft wall application can create some very interesting patterns and interior appearances. Combine different ideas and thoughts, the result may be quite entertaining and creative.
l.) Varying surface treatments. There are many surface treatments such as pickling and oiling that will produce different surface appearances on trim pieces, structural pieces, walls, floors and ceilings. Ask for a conference with your builder and his painter to get creative ideas and thoughts regarding the interior appearance of your home.
4.) Adding drama to a home can easily be done by the selection of exterior finishes that are somewhat creative and unique. Possible exterior finishes that may not fit the norm;
a.) Exterior cladding of board and batten siding. This type of siding was very popular on old barns and colonial homes. The siding is made up of vertical boards of substantial width. The width can be a creative selection, but is commonly 8 ” to 16″. These boards are installed with a small gap to allow expansion and contraction. The gap is covered over by what is called a batten, which is a smaller piece of vertical board that is secured through the gap in the wider planks. This will cover the gap between the wider boards and provide a covering over the joint. The only limit to this type of siding is creativity and any size board, or species of wood can be used. In most cases this application is installed over an insulation exterior sheathing board.
b.) Special masonry veneer. The application of a special masonry veneer, on portions of the home will add drama and creativity. There are several faux products that look like the real thing. This type of creativity can extend to only the window trims or to the entire side of the home. The only limitation for this application is your own creativity. Exterior masonry adds drama to the home and with the new artificial surfaces, the more expensive and time consuming masonry façade can be selected as a faux material which is much less expensive and requires substantially less time to install.
c.) Specialty roofs. The selection of a specialty roof such as a metal roof, a tile roof or a wood shingle roof, will add drama and creativity to the structure. Most people do not understand the importance of the roof in the overall appearance of the building. Specialty fiberglass shingles that resemble slate or wood shakes or other roofing applications are now being produced. Their appearance as a roof finish will dramatically transform the norm to the outstanding. The use of specialty roofs with specialty siding can provide dramatic results.
d.) Specialty trims. The use of specialty trims around the windows, doors, along the eaves, etc. will add a customized look to the home. The difference in a well-trimmed home, compared to the vanilla appearance of pure siding and no trim is incredible. The proper trim package will transform your normal and common home into your own creative and specialized house. The use of fiberglass trim pieces can provide the look of large and ornate built up moldings, without the expense and difficulty of the installation.
e.) Doors and windows. The selection of specialty doors for the main entry as well as the proper and creative selection of window trims, mutins, cornice moldings, etc. will all contribute to the overall creative appearance of the home. Such applications of eyebrow windows, creative dormers, creative gable ends in terms of window placement can add creativity for the exterior appearance of the home.
f.) Specialty customization. This category is meant to remind the creator of a new home that there are several different customizations that can be addressed. For example the Tudor style home with the stucco and trim boards, the castle appearance with gargoyles, spires and pediments, the contemporary styles with skylights and open windows, the interior atrium layouts that allows each room to open into a garden. Each of these customizations is totally within the design capabilities of the designer of a new home. They should be contemplated and addressed. The important aspect of creativity on the exterior of a structure is the ability to select any type of material as well as any combination of materials to form the exterior of a home. There is no ridiculous suggestion, the use of creative and out of the box thinking can result in applications that are both creative and beautiful.
4.) Floor drains. The installation of floor drains in the residential home is a unique application. However areas that are constantly getting wet or dirty can benefit greatly with interior floor drains that will allow the ease of simply washing down the floor. The location of floor drains in the basement opens this area to a pet wash down area or a great place to wash down equipment and exterior tools. The location of a floor drain in the garage will allow the washing of cars and equipment during the cold winter months, especially if a gas or electric unit heater is installed to offer some heat in the garage space.
5.) Water spigots. The installation of water spigots around the home will allow the washing down of floors or walls if they are constructed of tile, concrete, stone, or another impermeable surface material. The ability to simply connect a hose, allows the use of water to clean, cool down or even water interior plants more effectively. Water spigots are very inexpensive to install, especially during the construction of a new home. I have never heard of anyone complaining that there were too many water spigots installed in their home.
6.) Multiple dishwashers. If two dishwashers are installed in the kitchen, then the dirty dishes are in one, and the clean dishes are in the other. There is NO reason to take the dishes and place them on the shelves if two dishwashers are used. I understand that this is more a male thing; however, I have seen this concept used very successfully in large sophisticated homes. The thought should at least be considered and is not as crazy as it first appears. The cost of a second dishwasher at the time of construction is not substantial, but the ability to have two in a busy kitchen is priceless, at least, in my opinion.
7.) Interior basketball hoops. The installation of basketball hoops in the home, although sounding a bit peculiar, is an excellent way to burn energy, and creates some great basketball players. This installation is not for everyone; however, if there is the proper space, such as a large family room, or garage, the installation of basketball hoops is a lot of fun. I personally have fond memories of my two boys competing on various hoops located throughout our home! Of course you need to reinforce these hoops as the boys get older, but if installed at the time of construction, the proper blocking is easily installed.
8.) Design the entire home for handicap. This has become a very practical trend, due to the ease of providing ramps and handicap rails , grab bars, etc at the time of new construction. The installation of a shower that is handicap accessible, when building a new home, is as easy as other types of showers. The no sill shower will not only make it easier to enter the shower, but if the need occurs, the handicap can access the showers as well as having handicap aids throughout the home. It is my opinion that the need to install handicap accessories and capability throughout a new home will eventually written into the new building codes. Why not install them all when you are building your new home?
9.) Bathroom for every bedroom. The cost of providing a small bathroom for every bedroom should be considered. The use of a home extends beyond the ability of providing children their own bedroom space. If the home is considered to be a long time venture, then the growth of a family will result in grandchildren and other responsibilities as time moves forward. The ability of each bedroom in the home, to be self-sustained should be a consideration. The installation of the plumbing necessary for several bathrooms is much less expensive during the construction of the home, than the installation as a renovation later in the history of the home. I remember when I first started in the business, an associate of mine that was considerably more advanced in his family life told me that he had built a home with a bathroom attached to each bedroom. I can remember thinking that this was a waste of space an money. I was incorrect, the ability to offer a bedroom and an associated bath allows you to service all aspects of your family as they grow and age. This is a very important consideration.
10.) Separate laundry area. The construction of a separate laundry area to accommodate the washer and dryer is a handy space in a residential home. This area can either be located on the second floor if this is the primary bedroom area, or on the first floor in combination with a small office accommodation. The creation of a separate space for activities that may be less visually acceptable, is extremely valuable, especially in a family home.
11.) Separate office area. Like the creation of the separate laundry area, the creation of an area that is separated from the primary living area as an office area, becomes a haven for creativity and business requirements. It is extremely difficult to separate family life from business life; however the creation of a separate space, as an office, is a very important consideration when designing a new home. If there is any possibility of a home business or one of the family needing an office work space, during the design of a new home, the creation of a space for an office may become an very practical use of space.
12.) Access to the basement. Whether the access is a walk out type of basement configuration, or a bilco hatch, the exterior access to the basement area allows the basement to be utilized in a much more efficient and practical manner. The walk out feature is a real plus, due to the fact that the creation of the lower level can be easily accommodated as a livable space. When designing the home, it is strongly recommended that if the site allows, the walk out basement should be considered. In some instances, even if the layout of the exterior site work does not easily allow the design of a walk out basement elevation, the use of retaining walls or separate site work structures, allowing basement walk out access should be considered. The ability to walk out of the basement level makes the entire basement space a viable livable environment. Whatever it takes to allow this to occur, should at least be considered.
13) Attic access. The use of an attic space, especially in larger colonials, is ideal for additional living space. During the design of a new home, the space allocated for an actual stairway to the attic will be beneficial to the future creation of the attic space into livable space. In addition, the rough plumbing of a future bathroom should be considered, to accommodate any future needs for even the construction of a kitchen in the attic space for an apartment. Large attic spaces are perfect for home offices, additional bedrooms and even the separate apartment that the in-laws may require. All covered spaces within the structure should be considered as livable areas, and the design and development of all of these spaces during construction should be discussed.
14.) Maximize glazing around the structure. The more glass, the more airy and comforting the interior space will be. Any need for privacy or dark livable areas can be accommodated with drapes and or blinds. During the design of a new home, the amount of glazing should be maximized, especially if the home will be used as a family home. The development of glazing and insulation qualities of glass has advance to allow the maximization of glazing in the new home design. It is far easier and cheaper to fill in a glazed area than create it. Maximize the openness of the home, it can be closed in later on , if required.
15.) Solar and geo thermal heating and cooling. The use of solar and geo thermal heating and cooling is something that is a personal decision. During the design of a new home, it is much easier to accommodate the newer mechanical systems. Alternative energy systems should be discussed with your builder, prior to the final design of the mechanical systems. The development of alternate energy systems and their installation is a totally separate consideration and should be discussed with our builder. Location and budget will determine which new systems make sense and which systems should be considered for your new home. There are several new developments regarding mechanical systems and they will continue to develop for residential use. This is a very exciting aspect of designing a new home and all avenues of energy conservation and new energy opportunities should be considered.
16.) Exterior security lighting. The installation of security lighting at the time of roughing for the electrical in a new home is much easier and more economical than accommodating new security at a later date. Any electrical applications, should be considered when the framing is open, than later on, due to the ease of installation at the time of framing. Security, data distribution, audio and video distribution throughout the home must be considered.
17.) Hose Exterior Bibs. The installation of exterior hose bibs during construction is much easier and more economical than the installation once the home is constructed. The use of hose bibs for watering and home maintenance should be considered. If there is a sprinkler system installed the installation of hose bibs around the home is not quite as important. However, the use of hose bibs are easily taken for granted and should be considered when designing a new home.
18.) Exterior electrical outlets. The installation of electrical outlets throughout the home, but especially on the exterior should be considered. Christmas lighting, landscape lighting, etc should are situations that will require exterior outlets. What happens with an issue such as exterior electrical outlets is that, if they are where you need them, you don’t consider them. If they are not there for example for Christmas lights or security lights and you have to run an extension cord, then the installation of multiple outlets is important should have been installed. The more the merrier, for exterior electrical outlets, they are not expensive and should be installed at the time of construction.
19.) Exterior gas connections. The opportunity to run a gas line to the exterior for a gas grill or fireplace should be considered during construction. Even the remote location of an exterior gas fireplace within a patio or garden area can, more easily be accommodated during construction. Piped applications of gas is taken for granted if installed, however if the future requirement or need for exterior fireplaces of gas fired heating units is considered in the future , the expense will be much greater than if the line was installed at the time of construction.
20.) Lightning protection. If the home is located within an area of intense thunderstorms, lightning protection should be considered. The installation of lightning protection is extremely inexpensive and its installation can save structures from devastating lightning strikes.
21.) Exterior shower capabilities. The installation of an exterior shower is convenient to keep the dirt and crime out of the interior of the home. If the home has a pool, then the exterior shower is a must. The use of solar hot water to supply the exterior shower is a simple means of utilizing solar heating. The use of an exterior shower is extremely beneficial for the maintenance of the interior of the home. Dirt kids and dirty husbands who can shower outside can eliminate a lot of interior home maintenance. The expense of installing an exterior shower is minimal, but the paybacks are maximized by washing off the dirt and mud directly to the exterior and not the interior.
22.) Composting ability. During the development of the exterior sitework there should be consideration of the development of a composting area. The development of a composting area is much more efficient at the time of site-work development and completion. Composting is an excellent way to teach children the interaction of earth’s bounties and the use as a fertilizer for future growth. During the development of the site-work around a new home, the development of a composting area is easy and inexpensive, please consider this.
23.) Exterior speakers and television. The ability to install televisions and speaker systems throughout the exterior of the structure is much easier to install and coordinate during the construction of a new home. These accommodations should be anticipated prior to closing in of all walls and ceilings. The installation of all of these type systems is very expensive after the walls, ceilings and floors are closed in, consider these systems during construction and not after.
24.) WIFI accommodations. The accommodation of WIFI connection throughout the home is easily taken care of during the construction of a new home. The installation of multiple routers and repeaters will guarantee connection in all areas of the home. This installation should be seriously considered in consideration of modern communication. The design of a new home is the time to think about the accommodations for wireless communications.
25.) Interior hot tub, whirlpool / lap pool. The installation of a lap pool or hot tub, whirlpool, within the interior of the home or on the exterior decks, should be considered. The installation at the time of construction is more efficient and less costly than adding such amenities later on, once the work is completed. It is extremely more expensive to install all plumbing fixtures after the home has been completed. Do it now, if you think that it will benefit your life style within the home!
26.) Roof gardens. The installation of roof gardens and patios, or decking, is especially popular in the larger cities such as Boston and NYC. The green roof concept is something that should be considered, especially if there are limited areas on the exterior of the structure for leisure and recreation. The more spaces developed for exterior living the more the home will appeal to the majority of people. Of course this is a future sales consideration; however, the resale value of the new home should always be a consideration.
27.) Floor drains as needed. The installation of floor drains during construction can be a valuable asset to the home as well as the resale of the home. If you have a drain in the basement slab, you can actually wash your dog, or equipment in the basement. If you locate a floor drain in the garage, washing the care on a cold winter day will be easy, in the garage. This is an important consideration due to the cost involved if the installation of drains is a future need after the home has been constructed.
28.) Gas unit heaters. Locating a gas unit heater in the garage space can warm the garage for cold winter startups, or allow the use of the garage during the winter for cleaning, recreation, hobby involvement, etc. The installation of a gas unit heater in an exterior shed or garage is invaluable regarding the functionality of the space. Heat, water and sewage installed in any exterior shed or garage will be considered extremely valuable to the home and its resale value.
29.) Emergency generator. The installation of an emergency generator at the time of construction is efficient and can be used as the primary power for construction, if the home is not within an easy and timely electrical service connection. Ask anyone that owns their own home when a hurricane or other issue interrupts their electrical service. The ability to simply go to emergency power will not only be very convenient, but may also save the food and perishables within your refrigerator and freezer, as well as allow you to live in the home without the utility power, saving in hotel expenses or visits to your mother in law. The installation of an emergency generator at the time of construction of your new home is in most cases, the proper decision.
The creation of a new home should be a creative, fun experience. The opportunity to customize your family home or a home for yourself is an exciting adventure. It is important that the creativity of your own spirit be allowed to flow into the design of the home. I have been in situations where individuals insist that they must comply with the traditional aspects of home design and layout. This is incorrect ,and should be eliminated from your thinking process. Granted, there is truth to the fact that when there is a resale involved, sometimes the more creative the structure, the less opportunity for instant resale. However the opposite could occur, if the home is a creative design that is not common, this creative design could actually cause the home to sell more easily due the uniqueness of the design.
The important end result is that you as the homeowner are proud of your new home and that it fits into your family life and overall life style. Do not be hesitant in your creativity and remember that most of the work required at the time of construction, is much more efficiently performed and completed, rather than after the home has been completed.
If you want it , install it at the time of construction. The mobilization of the contractor, the relationship will not be the same as when you are in the middle of designing and constructing your own home.
Good luck, and I envy your very much!! Have FUN!!