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House Design Ideas

Making Your Dream A Reality

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The truth about getting the type of home you dream of is that it really involves a combination of inspiration and perspiration. The inspiration comes from experiencing other homes, whether through pictures, actually being in them or both.

The perspiration results from the steps you'll need to take to make it a reality. It may not sound as fun as the "inspiration" part but if you really want the home that you envision then it only makes sense to do the homework so that your home turns out to be just the way you want it.

Publisher's Comments

Before taking you any further I thought it best to give some context to the information on this page.

No website, person, magazine or book can claim to have a lock on home design ideas. There are lots of great sources of inspiration out there and using them is a cornerstone of getting the kind of design you want. You'll probably come up with your own ideas too, independent of any photos you might see.

But there are lots of other things to consider besides pretty pictures that will ultimately get you to the design that's right for you. And remember that "house design" encompasses everything from a new home to a remodeled bathroom. How you plan and ultimately "make" your home, regardless of scope, is your home's "design".

Getting the home design you're looking for, whether it's a completely new house or the remake of the one you're living in right now, is more than just amassing a bunch of photo clippings. There are design "ideas" or concepts that transcend pictures and bear thoughtful consideration. These ideas focus on making your house conform to the way you live, or the way that you want to live. The material trappings, the products and surfaces you choose to flesh out your design, flow from there.

At some point (and hopefully beforehand) you have to go beyond the photo collecting stage and decide how you want to live in your home and how it can best serve your needs. The information presented here is intended to do just that -- provide both inspiration and the important steps that make up the perspiration, to put you on the right path to the house design that'll match your dreams.

granite kitchen island

The Perspiration - Get Clear On Your Vision & Plan

The first step toward achieving the home you desire is assessing what it is you're really after, even beyond the materials and space layout. Why should you do this? You do it so that you're able to make clearer decisions on what will make your vision/dream/vague idea a reality and one that gives you what you want and not something else. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money on something that in the end, doesn't fulfill your expectations.

side by side bath sinks

A good suggestion is to live in a home for a while before you take the leap of building a new home or remodeling. That's because once you've lived in a house you get a good feel for how your family lives and operates on a daily basis. You see what works and what doesn't.

You then have a much better picture of what it is you truly want/need in a new or remodeled space, with less risk of spending on features you won't really use or that are just frivolous.

Home design ideas are as wide and varied as the stars so it helps to narrow your focus so you can be more productive in your choices and decisions. Good ideas aren't limited to the development of new homes either. They can also be incorporated into an existing home through the remodeling process.

To start off, consider the following broad design ideas. Understanding these concepts first will give you a solid basis that will ultimately help you hone in on the right inspirational ideas.

Make Livability A Top Priority

Think about how you really live in your current home and how you can make your new home or remodeled space meet your livability needs. In other words, consider how to make your home easy to live in given the needs of you and your family.

Maybe more space is needed simply because your family is growing. Look for plans and ideas that meet those requirements. A mudroom, kitchen/great room combination or an additional bedroom are several ideas that might address those needs.

modern house

An example of 'poor' livability in contrast to the above example includes cramped spaces, no place to store boots and backpacks and family members living on top of one another. That scenario breeds discontent and makes living in the house less convenient and even frustrating.

If you really stop and think about your priorities and what will make your home safe, comfortable, relaxing and convenient (in other words, with great livability), everything else about its design will (or should) flow from that.

Size It Right

What's the right amount of square feet that you need? Answering this question will help narrow down the plans you look at (if you're building a new home) and refine what you need to do to your existing home if you're remodeling. Big isn't always better - it costs more, takes more energy and money to heat/cool and more effort to maintain (and you'll probably pay more in taxes too).

Don't get lured into the McMansion syndrome where your home becomes a way to flaunt your social status. Right-size it instead, based on your livability needs.

  • Do you have enough room now?
  • Is your family getting bigger?
  • Will you need to accommodate live-in parents (or post-college children) in the future?
  • Do you just need more closets and storage space?
  • Do you want to down-size because the family is gone and your existing home is too big to maintain?
  • Maybe your kitchen's too small and you want a bigger space to serve as the social hub of your house.
  • Want to know who your teenagers hang out with? Perhaps a finished basement with the right entertainment incentives will keep them and their friends where you want them.

The answers to these questions will help you determine the size of home design that's appropriate.

country style home

Use Your Crystal Ball (AKA Think Ahead)

How long do you plan on staying in your new or remodeled home? If the answer is 5 years or longer, think about how you and/or your family status will change in that time period and how your home's design can accommodate that. Build-in the required flexibility (or at least, "design-in" that flexibility) so your home can adapt later on.

Maybe you anticipate children or the need to care for aging parents in the future, so you'll need more space than you have now.

Don't overlook the idea of using universal design features either. House designs with these elements make it easier to live in for people of all ages and capabilities. We're not getting any younger and homes that can age gracefully along with us and allow us to remain there longer are an asset.

double bath sink vanity

Energy & Operating Efficiency

Any new home design you embrace, whether for a new home or a remodel, should include energy efficient products and design concepts wherever possible. It might cost more initially depending on the choices you make but in the long run these choices can save you money by lowering your home's operating cost.

Remodeling is a good time to incorporate items like more insulation, better windows, and more efficient heating and cooling systems. New homes offer the opportunity for the installation of geothermal systems and passive heating and cooling, based on how your new home is situated on its site and takes advantage of its environment.

This concept isn't just limited to your home's energy consumption either. Having to paint your house every few years also factor's into your "operating cost". If you choose a low-maintenance siding like fiber cement or vinyl, you effectively lower the cost to maintain your home because you don't have to paint it as often (or at all).

small powder room

Consider how long you plan on staying in your home and make prudent choices to minimize long term utility and maintenance costs.

Personality And Style

What personality do you want your home to reflect and what style resonates best with your own personality?

When building a new home you can choose whatever style suits you, both inside and out. Don't forget too that a home's architectural style also has an impact on how you live inside.

If you're remodeling you're constrained somewhat by your home's existing style (assuming you're not doing a complete whole-house renovation).

Even still, think about how you may want to change your home's interior and exterior to something that's a better match for the style and image you want it to present. Maybe it's a bland suburban home with no real style right now but you've always loved the craftsman look. There may be ways to incorporate design elements that take cues from that particular style, giving your home more character and curb appeal.

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The Inspiration - Home Design Ideas You Don't Want To Overlook

If you've made the effort to think about how you live in your home (or want to live) you'll be well equipped to focus your design efforts on the ideas aimed at bringing the results you want.

Don't be concerned however if you can't figure this out by yourself and need some help. This page can show you how to get that help and provides information on the various levels of professional involvement you can take advantage of, whether building new or remodeling.

Do as much research and dreaming on your own as you can because the more prepared you are to speak with design professionals, the faster you'll be able to get your project moving forward.

As mentioned previously there are many sources of inspiration for getting ideas on how you want your home to be. Obviously pictures and other homes you see form a solid base in that effort.

But before you run off and start pinning and clipping pictures, take a look through these ideas and find the ones that resonate with you. They're organized into groups based on the concepts discussed above. Then you can start dreaming and looking for examples that are consistent with those ideas.

white kitchen with stone island

Livability & Accessibility

  • Go For Good Flow & Space Planning
    Pay attention to how the traffic in your house "flows" now and how it can be improved either with a remodel or in a new house. Is there good access to all rooms or does one particular space become the "highway" through which all traffic has to move to get to another area? Avoid choke points.

    Make a virtual walk-through of any plans you consider or develop to be sure the layout works. Just imagine yourself walking from one spot to another to "see" if it makes sense. Kitchens, family rooms and other common areas work well when they accommodate unfettered traffic flow through and around them.

  • Consider Fewer Walls & More Open Spaces
    The open floorplan concept is one that helps make spaces appear and feel larger and gives you the feeling of having space beyond your actual boundaries. For example, instead of using a separate kitchen and dining room where the two are walled off from each other, bring them together by eliminating the wall. It not only provides a larger feel but helps traffic flow too since there's no constraint from the wall.
  • Put The Laundry Room Near The Bedrooms
    Usually the laundry emanates from and returns to the bedrooms. If your bedrooms are on the second floor, put the laundry room there as well. It saves the trouble of hauling baskets of clothing up and down stairs.
  • Make Your Home Accessible

    suspended bath vanity

    If you're designing your forever home or simply plan on staying there for a long time consider making it as accessible and easy to live in as possible. Single story homes are beneficial in that they avoid the need for stairs and keep the bedrooms on the same level as the living areas.

    Making the distance from the garage to the kitchen shorter makes it easier to unload the groceries.

    Wider doorways work well for moving furniture, giving a more open feel and accommodating a wheelchair should it be necessary in the future.

    Good lighting, low-or-no curb shower stalls and one-level living are just a few ideas that embody this philosophy.

    This doesn't mean turning your home into a nursing facility. It simply means designing it to work "with" you and make it easy to live in regardless of age and ability.

  • Use Universal Design Elements
    Universal design ideas go hand-in-hand with accessibility. It involves making the things you use and the spaces in your home accessible for people of all ages and physical abilities.

    You might describe universal design as "accessibility that's unnoticeable". It typifies products and designs that don't blatantly evoke a look that's institutional or made specifically for disabled persons. Rather, it simply makes living and navigating easy and unfettered for everyone, without being obvious.

    Kitchen cabinet handles that are easier to grab, levered door handles, variable height counters and vanities and more light are just a few examples of universal design elements.

  • Consider The Benefits Of Soundproofing
    Every home, whether new or remodeled, can benefit from some form of soundproofing in key areas. It's an idea that's often overlooked and it doesn't apply just to home theaters.

    Any rooms like offices and bedrooms that are adjacent to common living areas where conversation and media are prevalent will benefit from some sound isolation. There are soundproofing methods and materials today that make it simpler and cost effective to incorporate during new construction and remodels. Talk to your contractor or design professional about using soundproofing in specific areas that you'd like to keep quiet.

modern house design

  • Use As Much Natural Light As Possible
    Using natural light, or "daylighting" as it's called, makes a home not only physically brighter but can help reduce energy use too. Use more windows (energy efficient ones of course!), skylights and sun tubes to make this happen. Today's sun tube technology even allows light to 'bend' around corners and direct light from the outside to spaces inside your house.

    When remodeling, think about how to bring in more light than what you currently have through the addition of one or more new windows. If you're building a new home you should orient the house on your site to take advantage of the sun's position to maximize the available light. An architect can help you make the most of how your home should be positioned relative to your site.

  • Make It A Healthy Home

    cabinets with glass door fronts

    Choose materials and products that make your home a healthier environment to live in. Wood products (like cabinets) with little or no formaldehyde and paint with zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are just two choices that can help you get there. These products can be more expensive but in the long run, isn't a healthier environment worth it?

    Don't overlook proper ventilation either. New homes built today are tighter and don't "breath" as well as older drafty homes. Moisture needs to get out so make sure you have bathroom fans or even a whole-house ventilation fan to help that process. Work with your HVAC (heating, ventilation & air conditioning) contractor to gauge your needs.

  • A Welcome Transition Spot From The Outside
    Having a space to transition from the outside into your home makes it more comfortable and inviting, both for you and your guests. A mudroom is a great asset for any home, as is an entryway that offers enough space to comfortably welcome guests. These design features avoid going from the outside right into a living area and provide a place to leave boots and coats. It's another facet of making your home more livable.

Space & Energy Efficiency

  • Remodel Without Changing Your Home's Footprint
    There are plenty of ways to remodel your home without the need for expanding, which

    stainless stove top and hood

    adds cost due to excavation, added foundations and roof tie-ins, not to mention zoning implications. Instead, focus on how to gain the changes you want by working within the confines of your home.

    Walls can be removed and switched around (though load bearing walls need special attention). Surfaces like countertops, flooring and walls can be dramatically changed by changing the materials and/or colors used. More windows and larger sizes can bring in additional light.

    The point? Consider what you can do with your existing space first before pushing out the exterior walls.

  • Bump Out For Added Space
    The above point aside, don't underestimate the benefit of bumping out your existing exterior walls. What might seem like a small change can actually give you a reasonable amount of new space.

    Going out two feet along a 15 foot wall will gain an additional 30 square feet of space. That might be enough to alleviate the cramped feeling in a small kitchen. Consider what an additional 3 or 4 feet would give to a crowded bathroom. It might afford enough room for a larger shower.

  • Include Greater Energy Efficiency In Your New Design
    Regardless of whether you're building new or remodeling, take steps to make your home more energy efficient. Better windows, more insulation (sprayed or blown fill), LED lighting and more efficient mechanical systems (heating and cooling) are all available for the choosing.

    Up front costs might be higher than less-efficient designs and products but you'll most likely see a long term benefit in lower energy bills. Do the math if necessary to justify the benefits. You don't have to be the 'greenest' house on the block; simply make a step-change to a level of efficiency that you and your budget are comfortable with.

  • Make Sure There's Enough Storage Space
    Don't overlook the importance of storage space in any home design you consider. That means everything from sufficient closets to enough cabinet space. Think about how much storage capacity you have today for all of your clothing and everything else including the Christmas ornaments. Is it enough? If not, figure out how much space you currently allocate to "storage" and make sure the new or remodeled space incorporates more.
  • Make The Fireplace "Pay" For It's Space
    Some schools of thought say that a fireplace is wasted space in today's modern home. But that doesn't have to be the case. Fireplaces that are actually functioning

    gas fireplace

    sources of heat still have their place in the home. Just make sure that they're efficient and convenient (which usually means they'll get used more).

    Gas fireplaces are more efficient and easier to use than an open wood-burning hearth because they can be "turned on" with the flick of a switch. That usually means they're used more often.

    On the flip-side, if the fireplace isn't easy to light and keep burning, chances are it won't be used that much. If that's your scenario then put the space to better use.

  • Use Pocket & Sliding Doors To Save Space
    Pocket and sliding doors are great ways to maximize the space in just about any room in the house. They do this by eliminating the swing-space they need to open and close. They allow you to put furniture adjacent to walls that you wouldn't otherwise be able to do with conventional doors. That means better utilization of space which is particularly helpful in smaller rooms and homes.
  • Plan Basements & Attics To Make Use Of Their Full Potential
    Basements and attics are a great way to reap the most space potential of your home without increasing its overall footprint. Whether they're used simply for storage or as living spaces the point here is not to overlook what they can offer.

    There are various options for making basements feel more like rooms on a main level by employing walk-out designs or the use of larger daylight windows. Even if you don't finish them as living spaces right away consider putting in the necessary plumbing, electrical and heating/cooling infrastructure for changes later on.

    If you want livable attic space, particularly for an upgrade in the future, make sure your home is designed with roof trusses that can accommodate the required headroom. Some pre-made trusses used in home construction aren't designed with the required space that's needed in a livable attic which requires more structural work to be done when the time comes to finish the space.

  • Consider A Conditioned & Accessible Crawl Space
    Make the most of crawl spaces used under additions and new homes by making them "conditioned" accessible spaces. A conditioned crawl space shares the same heated and cooled air as the rest of the house. It has a concrete floor with a vapor barrier and insulated perimeter walls. Compare that to one with a dirt floor and uninsulated walls.

    This type of design is more efficient and if it's accessible, it provides a clean hospitable area for storage. Talk to your contractor or architect about the benefits of this design feature when a full basement is not an option.

Publisher's Comments

You can read about my own experience in deciding on a conditioned crawl space in this article. It's part of a series of articles detailing the remodel of my own home.

cape style house

Personality & Style

  • Invite The Outdoors Inside
    Design elements like porches and large windows blend the transition from outside to inside. Depending on your surroundings interior spaces are usually more enjoyable with broader views of the outside world. Consider designs that make a connection with the outside environment in some way through features like a sunroom, porches, and larger or additional windows.
  • Make The Most Of Your Home's Environment
    Take advantage of the site your home is situated on. This holds true for both new homes and remodels. Consider the position of the sun and how you can maximize heating and cooling as well as lighting to your benefit. Great views and natural privacy screens are also points to think about.
  • Use The Roof To Add Curb Appeal

    modest kitchen island

    Home designs with steeper roofs make the roof more visible from ground level than their shallower counterparts.

    Use attractive roofing choices to enhance the overall look of your home and complement the style of your house and the type of siding used.

    That doesn't mean you have to choose the most expensive materials but roofing that has some depth and texture can dramatically alter what would normally be a large uninteresting surface. For example, there are asphalt shingles made with thicker textures to mimic slate roofs and add more design detail than flat, non-descript, inexpensive varieties.

  • Details & Craftsmanship Are Design Features With A Strong Impact
    Including details and features that exemplify craftsmanship in your design make a strong style statement, primarily because it's not that prevalent in a lot of typical homes. Things such as built-in bookcases, buffets, banquettes and the like offer a look of craftsmanship that can elevate a design to a higher level of aesthetic value. These details also come with their share of utility and usefulness.

    Such features typically add more to your overall cost per square foot but they have a large visual impact. Consider adding these kinds of details to your design where they might be appropriate.

  • Use Classic Styles With Modern Amenities
    There's nothing stopping you from building a home in a classic style or with period elements. You can hire an architect or simply use a pre-designed home plan to find one of these home styles. You'll not only get a classic design of your liking but it can include modern building materials, energy efficiencies and today's amenities that aren't available in existing older homes.
  • Detach Your Garage
    While this may run counter to modern notions of practicality and accessibility, there are circumstances where a detached, separate garage is a desirable design option. Some home designs simply look better when they're not attached to the garage. It keeps the scale of the home smaller and puts the visual focus on the house itself.

    If your environment is suitable or you don't mind the inconvenience of bearing the elements to get to your house, consider a design that employs a detached garage. A covered walkway is one option for staying dry between a free-standing garage and the house.

white kitchen with stools at island

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Publisher's Comments --
Where To Go From Here - Other Home Ideas To Check Out

The point of this article is give you some broader ideas or concepts if you will, about different ways to fashion your home as a complement to collecting a bunch of pictures. In many cases these ideas can be applied regardless of whether you're remodeling or building a new home altogether.

By all means go and fill your project folder, virtual or real, with photos that illustrate how you want your home to look. Even if those pictures don't give you exactly what you're looking for they help bring some reality to those vague notions you have bouncing around in your head.

But use them in tandem with the ideas suggested here, after you've given some thoughtful consideration to how you really want to live in your home.

If you want more specific design ideas for mudrooms, basements or bathrooms, click on the links below to learn more. These articles present more details and suggestions on how to make the most out of those spaces.

mudroom ideas thumbnail What's one home design feature that's listed as a top "want" among homeowners? It would have to be the mudroom. Regardless of size or style, it's a great asset to any home.

Mudrooms offer a place to shed backpacks and muddy garden shoes. They're a transition point from the outside into your home. And it's a design option that shouldn't be overlooked.

Find out how to make a mudroom "work" with these helpful design ideas.

basement ideas thumbnail A finished basement can make a house seem bigger than it's actual footprint would suggest. Walkout basements and those with 'daylight' windows are just as bright and inviting as main-level rooms.

If you're building new, a finished basement can provide that additional space for a playroom or family room without having to expand the outside envelope of the house.

If you currently have a basement but it's more like a cave then a hospitable room, find out what you can do to make it more enjoyable and livable.

bath ideas thumbnail Big or small, new or remodeled, everyone wants a bathroom that's comfortable and efficient. But did you know that there are some bath ideas that you should consider "must haves" and other's that are more "discretionary"?

Bathrooms live with a lot of challenges, not the least of which is the amount of moisture that's present. Making sure it's not only beautiful but is able to weather the day-to-day use is important.

Check out these ideas if you're looking for ways to make your new or remodeled bathroom the best it can be.

Do you work from home, or maybe do a lot of "home-work"? Whether you've made the transition to tele-commuting or you're just looking for that spot where you can manage the household, an office can be a key asset to a home.

One of the biggest questions is where to put it. Most of us think that all of our space is already allocated. But depending on how motivated you are there are places in your home where you might find a suitable spot for an office.

These ideas can help you design your office so that it "fits" in your home and it's functional too.

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