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When building a new home, careful attention to traditional design points can help you create the most comfortable home. Here’s what to focus on before the first wall goes up.

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Building a new home is one of the most exciting things you will ever do. But sometimes the thrill of designing your own place can lead you to focus on the wrong things, and years later, you have a home that isn’t exactly what you had envisioned. Sure, you have the newfangled countertops and the amazing entryway, but your closets leave something to be desired. Or you have the perfect kitchen — and as long as you never grow old, you can still use it!

Go into your new home design with a wide open mind, but keep the traditional basics firmly in front of you.

Create spaces that can change

A child’s room is a fantastic place to create. You are building a room that will host a young person throughout their growing years. They will create many memories in that room, and so will you. But keep in mind that yes, children do grow up. And one day in the not-too-distant future, that young child will be a teenager who needs an entirely different use of the space. Built-in bookshelves are one of those things that will be used for a very long time, just as a homework nook can do all sorts of double-duties.

The same is true with those rooms that can handle more than one use. For example, a dining room might easily convert to a den if you choose to entertain a bit less in the future, so beware adding things that might make the change awkward. For instance, you don’t want to install that insanely beautiful stained glass window or gorgeous chandelier in a room that one day might be used to house drinking buddies watching the Super Bowl!

The kitchen is the heart of the home

Literally and figuratively, the kitchen at the center of the house can be one of the best moves you make in new home design. Make sure it is easily accessible from as many areas of the house as possible. An open floor plan can help facilitate this. Look at what you really do in the kitchen right now, and incorporate that into your new design. For instance, I tend to look at magazines, clip coupons and dream up recipes at the kitchen table. If my kitchen were a bit larger, I would definitely incorporate a desk into it!

Remember too that your kitchen, perhaps more than any other room in the house, has to be able to change to accommodate you as you grow older. You can start that process right now by including things like sliding shelves in the lower cabinets, wide walkways between the island the countertop, and even a sink that is a bit lower than usual.

Consider the outside, too

It’s easy to get caught up in what kind of shingles you want and what color siding to use. But consider some of the more practical issues, such as where the kids will come into the house after a long play-session. Do you have a mudroom that will accommodate all those coats and boots? Is your entryway big enough to incorporate the proper storage space for those things?

You can also consider expanding your living space with exterior areas. During the summertime we practically live on our front porch, and almost every meal (barring a serious rainstorm), is served on the deck. If you love to expand your horizons, consider a very deep porch that can handle outdoor furniture, as well as a deck with a covered area so you can enjoy it all the time.

Make caring for your home easier

If you have a house with more than one level, you can stack the bathrooms in order to make plumbing easier. This also allows you to carefully position things like hot water heaters in a storage area that is specifically designed for that purpose and easily accessible through the lower floor of your home. If you can put the bathrooms near the kitchen, all the better.

Speaking of a maintenance closet, definitely make sure you have one. Many people choose to put everything in a sizable basement, and that’s a great option too — but if you are building a home on a slab and want to put it all into a small room, keep in mind that small rooms mean a tight fit if you choose to later upgrade to a larger model of furnace or need to have serious repair work done. Your maintenance closet should not be a tiny afterthought, but a well-planned area that makes caring for your home easier.

You can never have too much storage

Finally, remember that if you think you have enough storage, you don’t. You need more. You will always need more! Create storage areas that do double-duty, such as walk-in closets that could be turned into tiny study areas for the kids, window seats that lift up, and even benches in the kitchen that do the same. Don’t forget the attic — that’s a great deal of space that normally goes to waste. Plan to finish out the attic during your construction, and create storage spaces that make it easy to pack a lifetime of memories up there.

Designing your own house is a delight, but make sure the home that results from it is just as exciting. With a little careful planning, you can create a space that lacks in nothing and gives you a warm, comfortable home that grows with you.

 

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.