If You Were Building Your House Today….

I am a mom of 4 so far. We are getting ready to build and was wondering if you had any advice for a growing family? I know big everything and more cabinets. But is there something you really wish you had?

That’s a recent question from the older post Four Moms Open House!

As I said in another more recent post, I wish I had given the girls essentially a dorm room instead of private bedrooms.

We have several places where we put outlets midway up the wall instead of down near the floor.  I *love* this.

We have a bathroom in our large laundry room, which also has an outside door.  I really appreciate this. It’s great to funnel all the comings and goings through one doorway.  In the spring and summer, this keeps the mud tracked in the house at a minimum.

In the winter it doubles as an arctic entrance, so all the heat doesn’t leave the living room every time somebody goes in or out. I wish we had made the coat closet deeper and longer.

I wish all of our closets were deeper, but you should understand that for some reason, our builder barely made them as deep as the width of a single coat hanger- and, in fact, in the coat closet in the living room, he didn’t even give us that much space, hence, the removal of the door altogether.

In the kitchen- I like my island, and I like having electrical outlets at the island. I like my super hot water dispenser. I love my magnetic knife strip for hanging knives out where I can see them but up high out of reach of grandbabies, and not in drawers where rummaging is a health hazard or in a knife block which takes up counter space.

I like my cork floors, although aesthetically, they aren’t holding up well. I did not stand my ground on giving them a good coat of some sort of laminate, and I wish I had stood my ground and insisted on two or three coats.  Neither the builder nor my husband thought it was a good idea, but I disagreed, and now I disagree even more strongly.  The floors are holding up best in the kitchen and dining room for two reasons- we bought the lowest end for the rest of the house because it is so big. I bought a higher grade for those two rooms.  And we keep the dogs out of the kitchen.  We also went with tile entry ways in every outside doorway- and for the entire laundry room.

I let a salesperson talk me out of the metal sink I wanted, and the finish on ours was ruined and ugly within the first month that we moved in.  It’s important to remember this when choosing things for your kitchen- kitchens and their fixtures are designed by and for people who do not actually use them, and they are sold by people who get their information about kitchens from the promotional material from those companies. They will think you are stupid and that they know better than you.  Thinly veiled contempt is apparently an effective sales technique that is calculated to make you second guess yourself.  Before you let a salesperson talk you out of a feature you want, ask him how many kids he has and how much cooking (or laundry, or hospitality) he does himself, personally.  Ask the size of his largest cooking pot, and ask him how much oatmeal he buys in a month.

I let my salesperson talk me out of my metal sink because out of all the other salespeople I talked to, she was the only one who didn’t argue with me about the depth of my sink.  The others wanted to sell me a sink that was a ridiculous 9 inches deep, at best.  And when I said that would never work, I received pitying smiles and was told that ‘studies show women only fill the sinks to 9 inches anyway, so you don’t need a deep sink.’  I tried pointing out that if you fill the sink to nine inches, then obviously, you need a sink at least 11 inches deep to keep the water from spilling out onto the floor when you put dishes in that water, but they just looked at me like I was a backwards child.  I also pointed out that studies show most women do not cook in five gallon pots, but I did, and I needed to wash those pots, and I think they just didn’t believe me.

I found that there were many areas where quite often people with no idea about our lives and lifestyle wanted to tell us we had no idea how we really lived. Just about everybody in the area kept telling us we didn’t need a house this big because the kids would be gone as soon as they were 18- not true.  And anyway, I still needed room for my ridiculous number of books and bookcases.

 One builder we considered kept telling us we needed either a family room OR a living room, not both, that ‘studies showed’ we’d only use one of those rooms, not both.  We told him that we were pretty sure those studies were not done on people who had gatherings of fifty once a month, or who might have a dozen different overnight guests in any given month, and he’d quietly erase it from our plans anyway, and I’d put it back in.  Others tried to talk us out of a separate dining room. Even the builder we went with wanted us to leave off the wall between the dining room and kitchen- making it all just one giant room. He kept thinking he’d talked us into it and I’d have to keep telling him no, put the wall up.  I need to be able to keep the Cherub out of the kitchen, though, and I dislike eating in the midst of dirty dishes, and my kitchen is always looking like a land mine exploded in a bag of flour by the time we finish cooking a meal.

I love my pantry, although I do wish the sliding doors with magnetic whiteboard surfaces were actually on the pantry instead of taking up space in the garage.  I measured to make sure the pantry was deep enough, and the space below the lowest shelf high enough to accommodate my five gallon buckets.of grain. 

We still have five children at home.  By the time we get down to three, I probably will not need all this space, in which case, maybe we will remove the shelves and turn this into a coat closet, or push a small table against the wall and have a breakfast nook (a very nooky nook), or find an old church pew to slide in for guests to have a comfortable seat.

You can look at other pictures of the dining room and kitchen here, and I talked a bit about what I did and didn’t like there as well.

One idea I liked but didn’t go with because of the expense, is a wall mounted toilet.  This would make clean up so much easier.  I wish I’d cut back on the number of bathrooms and done wall mounted toilets instead.

What about you?  If you were building your house today, what features would you want?

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  1. mapleleafmom
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    ditto on sinks….if you get a dishwasher make sure when the door is open you can still get by without going the long way around the island.

    power in the island YES AND DOUBLE YES

    deep bath, at least one…

    good, the BEST hot water tank.

    good placement of doors for cross ventilation…yes i open doors..yes even if i have a/c mr real estate agent….i put screen doors on…and get the loveliest air in spring and fall and cooler summer days…(sorry…my vent..lol)

    floors you can wash…easily..

    light fixtures you can get to to change the bulbs and clean…i'd pay extra to have one i can bring down to do that with…

    i'd rather have unfinished floors than cheap carpet that comes apart when you vacuum.

    good scrubbable paint.

    covered veranda!!!!

    entry to house from garage

    a pantry, and laundry area…

    good LUCK

  2. Fatcat
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I'd like a usable attic, a potfiller faucet over my stove, an office (since I do medical transcription at home), another bedroom, some outlets in the floor for lamps that I'd like to put on tables that are in the middle of the room, more cabinets in the kitchen, a more efficient kitchen layout with countertop on both sides of the stove, a small appliance garage, a real garage, a bigger laundry room since we use it as a family closet and an built in in-house vacuum.

    How's that for a list. 😛

  3. harper
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I prefer an enclosed kitchen to an open floor plan too! Kitchens are work rooms, and dining rooms are for enjoyment. I don't understand the desire to conflate the two.

    Anyway, you'd think the builder and sales people would be eager to sell you on more walls, more rooms, and specialty fixtures–more money in their pockets!

  4. Amy
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I have an open floor plan and love it, but if I had built the house, I'd have put the same flooring in the kitchen as well as the living room that it opens into. Then we'd be able to move the furniture around more freely and still have it be "pretty" when we had guests over. I'd love a nice place to put extra tables when we have big families over. We have carpet in our living room (ick!), so it doesn't work well. I'd love to get rid of the all the carpet, but we know we want to move in a few years, and houses without carpet don't sell as well here.

    Double ovens would be great for a big family. A good place to keep at least one extra freezer is important. Space for two washing machines and dryers would be good, too. In fact, I'm going to do a slight remodel to my laundry room so that I can get two stackable units in there. The laundry room for a big family can never be too big. Two dishwashers would be lovely, but that's at the bottom of my list of things I'd really like doubles of.

    Think about the floorplan and how you live your life. Do you want a separate playroom to keep the toys out of the bedrooms? Do you want it way out of the way, or within ear shot of you in the kitchen? Do you need an office? Will it be quiet? My husband works from home, and I homeschool my 4 (soon to be 5 any day now) sons, so my husband has to have a quiet office during the day. It's not really easy to accomplish, but we have a great floorplan that helps.

    It's hard to know about bedrooms when you hope to have more children. If we built our dream home right now, we'd only need one "dorm" since all of our kids are boys. I'd hate to build two big bedrooms for the kids and then end up with the opposite of the Common Room family and have one lonely girl in a huge room. In any case, watch the layout of doors and windows so that you can actually put furniture in the bedrooms. I'd want lots of space for twin-over-full bunk beds.

  5. Thalia
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    – A huge room to be the library/family room/media center/whatever; must have a fireplace, marble floors and wood paneling a plus

    – A giant kitchen with myriad cabinets, a large island, cast iron sink, commercial grade gas stove, and massive refrigerator(s). Also, the kitchen needs to be big enough for a large dining table, because I don't like having a separate dining room

    – Basement for laundry and food storage

    – Lots of bedrooms, because if I'm not using them for bedrooms, I can certainly find another use for them

    – Lots and lots and lots of windows, all of which open and all of which have screens

    – A whole house fan and ceilings high enough to install ceiling fans without anyone under 6 feet whacking their heads on them

    – Absolutely no carpets anywhere. Ever. Rugs are a possibility. Also no Formica or linoleum. I like real stuff, like wood and stone.

    – Radiant heat in the floors, because I hate shoes and cold feet equally. Also, socks are just evil.

    – Electrical outlets in LOGICAL places, instead of weird places where no one would ever need electriciy

  6. Bella
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    When our (very tiny) kitchen was being revamped a few years ago I asked the builder to put a surface in the two inch gap between the cooker and the wall. He couldn't see the point, and said that anyway the offcut he would have used was already in the skip. "Not any more, it's not!" I told him, "I rescued it yesterday as soon as I had the idea." I am glad of that surface every day – where else would I keep my chopping boards?

  7. Mama Squirrel
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    I've never heard the term "arctic entrance" before, but that's exactly what my grandparents had on their house: an unfinished, unheated space behind the kitchen, with a door to the outside. It was a good place to leave messy boots and let the dog shake himself.

  8. Stephanie in AR
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    We once lived in a ranch house that fit the song "don't know what you've got till it's gone". It was a ranch house that had been modified & was so wonderful. There are several things I learned from that house but the most important – have a way for kids that have been playing (or anyone) to get into the house to use the bathroom, get a snack, and take off muddy stuff without stepping on carpet. If a section of the house is tile so one can do that the rest of the house will stay a lot cleaner.

    Then if you can picture the bathroom with the shower/tub in the middle of the wall so that one end was the closet for the frontroom and the other end was a linen closet in the hallway – near the dining room end. Then a closet *in* the bathroom with overhead storage so little ones cannot see the extra supplies. In the master bedroom a long closet but an extra linen closet for an entire wall of storage. The powderoom near the kitchen had a closet too. I really, really miss those closets.

    The hallway took a slight turn at the end so the only bedroom door visible was the master bedroom and it looked like the hallway went straight into the room. That slight bend meant that no one could see into any of the bedrooms & that was nice. It just seemed more private.

    Lots and lots of windows but good windows that let the breeze in during summer and keep it out during winter.

    There's more that I loved about that house, just small adjustments but it would be a post and not a comment. 🙂

  9. B. Durbin
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    There are so many ways I would change this house had we built it, but what your post made me think is one strong thing, and that is to get a builder who doesn't treat your ideas with contempt. Really? You're proposing to WORK for this person and you're acting like they don't know what they need? That's just awful.

    I'm also going to note that there's a local architect whose basic advertising is around the idea that she finds the problems before they're built, like the doors that are ill-placed or the closets that aren't deep enough. She sounds like the sort of person who would ask how you use your space and design around that, rather than telling you that you're wrong. "Studies show." Ha. "Studies" are about probabilities, not people, and people can know themselves, thankyouverymuch.

  10. HeatherHH
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    If we were building our dream house:

    * We’d go with a total of 5 bedrooms, the master and 4 others, all big enough to comfortably hold 2 sets of bunk beds. For most years, and possibly indefinitely, that would leave one available as a guest room.

    * We like an open floor plan. Our kitchen is a couple steps above our living room, with just a railing in between. Love it! Airy, open, and less isolating to be in the kitchen. Another option would be to enclose kitchen more but have dining room open to living room.

    * Separate dining room, or a massive family/living room that has room for table on one side, or a big kitchen with room for a huge table on one side. We want room at least for a single table that can open up to hold 16, plus room nearby for additional folding table seating. We are about to become a family of 9 and hope to continue to grow.

    * Playroom off of the main living room. We have this now and love it! Keeps toys isolated so they don’t go all over the house, but kids are very close by.

    * Lots of windows to let in natural light. This house we’re in now (and will probably be in for a long time) has lots of big windows, and I find the atmosphere it creates so peaceful and relaxing, especially in winter when we’re not out as much. Of course, it also helps that we have a couple acres, so we’re not looking right out at a neighbor’s house!

    * Big, deep master bathtub. I often soak in lieu of Tylenol to help headaches and aching muscles (prone to with fibromyalgia). Also, nice for labors 🙂

    * 3-4 bathrooms. Nice to have 2, but definitely don’t want to deal with cleaning a ton.

    * Carpet everywhere except for bathrooms, kitchen, and dining room.

    * Plenty of counter space in kitchen.

    * Might be nice to have room for an extra oven. Or just a 6-burner range with larger oven. Convection oven so I could squeeze more in!

    * Lots of pantry shelving (could be in basement)

    * Lots of closets for handy storage.

    * Basement for storage. Don’t have one now and miss it, though we do have a small walk-in attic.

    Oh and instead of our current 2 acres in a subdivision (all houses have 2 acres), I'd rather have at least 3 acres, preferrably 5, in the country where we were allowed farm animals.

  11. Kelly
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn't have a hot water tank at all. Instead I'd have two or three strategically placed tankless heaters — they cost more up front but you'll use less fuel and less water in the long run.

    Also, since beautiful large professional-style ranges are ridiculously expensive, I'd have two normal ranges sitting side by side.

    High ceilings (10' minimum) in every room for two reasons: 1) we live in the South where keeping cool in summer is more of problem than keeping warm in the winter, and 2) high ceilings add to the feeling of spaciousness in a room and keep me from feeling claustrophobic. Okay, reason 3) large rooms are more attractively proportioned when they have higher ceilings. I'm sure that's in Aristotle somewhere.

    A laundry room that's designed for really working in (room for sorting, folding, ironing…) and has easy access to the back yard where the clothesline is. We're also, like Amy, doing a small remodel too so I can have two washing machines. At this point I don't think I'll need two dryers since I use the clothesline so much, but I'll have room for my second washer to be a stackable unit if I decide I do. On the subject of laundry, a gas dryer is a WHOLE LOT cheaper to run than an electric one.

  12. Kelly
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I don't know where the person who asked the question lives but if it's in the South she needs really wide eaves all around the house as a minimum, but old fashioned wrap-around porches are the best. My husband's grandmother's house is my model for this — it has a wrap-around porch on the front, which faces east (cover the entire front of the house, plus the sides of those two front rooms). Her back porch faces west and keeps out the evening sun. Her eaves are wide enough (6 feet?) to keep out the sun in late summer and early fall when it's still hot, but let in plenty of sun during the winter. Her ceilings are 14' high, the windows reach to 8', and all the doors and windows line up (and all the interior doors having working transoms above them) so that there's always a breeze in the house. Built before air conditioning, obviously, and a very comfortable house, even during a Georgia August.

  13. homesweetgrown.com
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    I would put a screened in porch in the plans, so that we could enjoy being outdoors without being eaten by mosquitos.

    I would have a visually open space for the main living areas, so that I could always see where the kids are (especially the youngest ones).

    In the kitchen area, I would have a place that would allow for me to hang up to three of the outdoor infant swings. i would want them to be away from the stove or any areas that would be dangerous for little ones, but close enough that I could take a few steps to the side from my cooking, in order to push the little ones. It seems my little ones always are fussy and want me to push them in a swing right at the time I need to be working on getting dinner to the table. My thought is that if I have swings close enough that I could push them and see their smiling faces within steps of where I need to be for dinner preparation, that everyone would be much happier when Daddy gets home…and dinner would be ready to go on the table.

    I would have a much bigger family closet to house all of our clothes, that is connected to a laundry room, and that also has a storage area to house out of season/sizes no one is currently in.

    A mud room that is adjoining a full bath (which is also close to the laundry room.)

    I would also make sure that I had a pantry that is large enough to house bulk food purchases, a extra freezer, and big kitchen equipment like the food dehydrator.

    That would probably be the top things I would add into my house.

    Oh, yes, I would not have any carpet either.

  14. sophia blue
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    This is specially useful in garages and gardens, when items which include big planters, paint buckets, and long tools have to be cleaned and washed within the utility sink.

  15. MrsKamorri
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    We've been in the middle of a remodel for going on 18 months now. What we have are two mobile homes (one about 50 years old, the other 14 years old. Total they have about 1800 square feet with 5 bedrooms and 3 baths. They're connected by a cool side stairway that my husband built. It's not what we would have chosen in a perfect world but it's working out great for us so far. The thing I wanted to mention though is our roof. It's basically an 85×45 foot pavilion/pole building and it extends way past the windows in the front of the house (where the most sun is) and it is so COOL in here now! We haven't run the A/C yet and it has been into the low-90s (though not for long; we'll see how it goes in July and August :)) here in NE Alabama.
    I am thoroughly enjoying this conversation as we still have plenty of decisions to make about our house(s) 🙂 including what to put in my new kitchen when the time comes.

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