In some ways, the decision to build a home is freeing — you get to choose everything about the place you are going to live. But that can lead to paralysis by analysis. To get you started, we’ve compiled some of the features that deserve your time, attention and money as you plan your build. If you get these features right, your home will be the envy of the new development.
Table of Contents:
1. A Chef-Quality Kitchen
The kitchen is the centerpiece of your home and will take up a large portion of your budget. But since you’ll be spending so much time in this room, it’s a good place to invest in efficiency and beauty.
First, you’ll need a good work surface, like an oversize island, or even two separate islands for prep and entertaining. Consider making it an eat-in kitchen, too, whether that means plenty of room for a table, a cozy nook or a dedicated place at the counter or island.
The next essential feature of a great kitchen is storage space. A walk-in pantry will give you plenty of room to store your essentials — and a door to close to keep any clutter contained.
Finally, consider higher-end appliances and special features. Here are some ideas.
- Under-cabinet lighting is attractive and helps you see what you’re doing when preparing food.
- Drawers can do more than store: consider a microwave drawer, refrigerator drawer for beverages, a warming drawer or even a dishwasher drawer.
- A beverage station can be customized to accommodate your drinks of choice. Make room for a coffee machine, and consider building in an ice maker, a wine cooler, an extra sink or a second small refrigerator. Don’t forget cabinets or shelving for glasses and mugs.
- A pot filler installed above the range makes it easy to fill heavy pots without carrying them across the kitchen.
A well-designed kitchen is efficient and inviting, and you’ll use it every day.
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2. A Spacious Mudroom
A mudroom is a place to contain the mess and clutter that accumulate in the transitional areas of the home.
Today’s mudrooms are larger than ever and often feature cubbies for coats, backpacks, purses and winter gear. But that’s not all; a mudroom may need to accommodate sports equipment, musical instruments, pet supplies, gym bags and lots of shoes and boots.
A great mudroom should have an easy-to-clean floor and a spacious horizontal surface for setting down groceries and other items as you bring them from the garage.
Add a sink or, if you have pets, a dog washing station — a low half-shower stall with a hose-style faucet.
A well-planned mudroom can be a critical feature for keeping the rest of your house clean and organized.
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3. A Bonus Room for Your Favorite Activities
When you build your own home, you can designate rooms for all kinds of activities. You are only limited by your budget, your space, and your imagination.
Love to watch movies? Create a home theater with a big, wall-mounted screen, dimmable lighting and built-in surround sound.
Want to stay fit at home? Build in a home gym with space for your treadmill, weight system and yoga mat. You might also want a ventilation fan, a place to wall-mount a TV, a mirror and resilient flooring such as rubber.
The list goes on. Build a game room with space for a large table and cabinets to store games. Create a mini-spa adjacent to your master bathroom and add a sauna. Build a play area for kids with a climbing wall, monkey bars and swings.
And don’t forget a home office, especially if you work remotely. Be sure you have plenty of outlets for your computer equipment and think about sound proofing.
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4. An Upgraded Garage
If you plan ahead, you can design a space that does more than just protect your vehicles from the elements.
One feature that can be helpful in a garage is a floor drain. It will make it easier to clean the floor and prevent standing water from things like melting snow.
Don’t just think about your current needs. How about electric vehicles? Even if you don’t have one now, you might in a few years — so consider installing or pre-wiring for a charging station.
If you’ll spend time in your garage, you might want to heat and cool your garage. Make sure that it’s very well insulated to improve your energy efficiency.
5. A Convenient Laundry Room
Laundry is a fact of life, so why not make it as convenient as possible? Skip the basement and choose a much more accessible spot — either the main floor where you spend most of your time or the upper floor near the bedrooms.
Include counter space for folding, a rack for hanging items to dry, and a sink for washing delicates. You can even upgrade to a jetted sink that works like a mini washing machine.
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6. Outlets Everywhere
You will never have as much control over your outlet situation as when you’re building your home, so be prepared to brainstorm all the places you want outlets, both inside and out.
Here are some ideas:
- In any toilet closets so you can plug in a nightlight
- Where the head of the bed will go. Choose a 4-plug outlet to make sure you can plug in a lamp, your phone, and anything else that helps you sleep or needs to charge overnight.
- Inside bathroom cabinets for charging things like electric toothbrushes and shavers
- In drawers for hidden charging stations
- Outside under the eaves and in the porch ceiling for holiday decorations
- In the floors for lamps in the middle of the room
In addition to standard outlets, you may need GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) plugs in the kitchen, bathroom, garage and workshop. You may also want to consider outlets with built-in USB ports.
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7. Smart Home Technology
Make sure your new home is ready for all the smart technology that’s available now, but also consider what you might like to add in the future.
Some features to consider:
- Video doorbells and security systems
- Voice-controlled lights and audio
- Smart thermostats
- Digital entry
- Wireless charging
- Connected appliances
As these technologies become more ubiquitous, you may find that some smart systems or appliances can make your life easier, and you’ll be glad your house was ready to accommodate them.
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8. Clever Lighting Solutions
The best lighting is layered — you’ll want a mix of ambient light for general illumination, accent lighting to highlight the room’s features, and task lighting for things like reading and food prep.
If you want to bring more natural light into the room, don’t stop with windows. Consider adding sun tunnels — essentially mini skylights that can brighten up dark spaces during the day.
Smart lighting is another way to upgrade your space. You can have lights controlled by a schedule, by your voice, or from your phone, and you can adjust the ambiance by changing the color or dimming the lights to your preference – for example, when you start playing a movie.
And pay attention to where you put switches. You can even have a switch in the master bedroom to turn off your outside lights.
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Home builders today have many choices when it comes to environmentally friendly materials, building practices, appliances and systems.
Here are a few ideas:
- a) The Energy Star certification on air conditioners, windows, light fixtures, dishwashers, air conditioners, washers, dryers and more means you’ll use less energy overall.
- b) WaterSense-labeled toilets reduce your water use, and dual flush toilets let you select low-volume or high-volume flushes.
- c) Passive home design takes into account factors such as the location of windows and the type of building materials to minimize the amount of heating and cooling necessary.
- d) Solar panels are an investment but can greatly reduce the net energy you need to draw from the grid.
- e) Sustainable flooring products like bamboo have less environmental impact.
- f) VOC-free paints and finishes keep harmful chemicals out of the air.
- g) Satellite-controlled sprinkler systems water your lawn and gardens only when necessary based on local weather conditions.
Be sure to ask your builder about other eco-friendly options for your home. You might be surprised at the options you have today.
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10. Future-Proof Wiring
If you have to give up a feature you want, don’t write it off completely — consider adding it in the future. And now is the time to make sure your home is set up to accommodate that eventual upgrade.
Here are some features to consider:
- a. Run conduit under the driveway that can be used for future plumbing or wiring purposes
- b. Prewire the house for speakers, both indoors and in outdoor living spaces
- c. Make sure you have faucets and outlets on every side of your exterior
- d. Consider running both hot and cold water to the outside for things like washing pets
- e. Wire for motion sensing lights
- f. Run a gas line to the grilling area
- g. Prepare the roof for an eventual solar panel system
- h. Outfit your garage with a 20z circuit
When you build a home, you have a chance to create a space that suits your lifestyle and meets all of your needs. With these fantastic features, you’ll be well on your way to the house of your dreams.
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