Do you love your home exactly the way it is? Are there areas of your home you’d love to renovate and items you’d love to include? As your family grows and your life changes, the way your home functions also changes. There are definitely things I wish we included in our home when we built it fifteen years ago.
Our first home was a one-hundred year old Victorian in central Massachusetts. The interior of the house clearly showed signs of renovations throughout the decades – like the layers of flowered wallpaper in every room, the recently-painted eight-inch woodwood, and the brown and gold (1970’s) kitchen.
For four years, we renovated that entire house room by room. Our biggest projects included gutting and re-building the kitchen, moving a wall, moving the pantry, and installing a downstairs bathroom. It was an enormous project. While we were really happy with the way it turned out, after living in it for a while and seeing how our family functioned, there are things I would have done completly different today.
Regardless, when that renovation was complete, we decided to sell the house and move closer to Boston to be near my family. There, we built a New England colonial home and, at the time, included everything we thought we needed.
Fifteen years, three kids, and a home business later, there are now things that I wish we included in this home that we didn’t know we needed when we built.
So if you’re considering a renovation or a new build, I hope this list helps you consider things that you may not even be considering now, but may appreciate in the future.
While these may seem like luxuries, every item on the list is there because it’s practical and would make our house function better, keep it cleaner, and tame any clutter – even if implemented in a smaller, less luxurious form than the photos show.
Double-Entry Door (Breezeway)
Every time I open our back door to let the dog out on a zero-degree winter day like today, I can’t help but think about how much heat is lost through the open doorway. I wish we had included a double entry door to buffer the cold in the winter and keep the air conditioning in in the hot summer months.
At the time we built, we figured we’d be entering the house most of the time through the garage and cellar, so our coats and shoes would be dropped there when we entered. That didn’t turn out to be the case.
Everyone either comes to the top of the cellar stairs and then drops their coats and shoes in the hallway or they enter the back door off the kitchen and leave their shoes just inside the door. In both instances, there’s no good place to leave the coats and shoes so they end up cluttering the house.
I wish we included a separate mudroom area either at the top of the cellar stairs, as you enter the back door or, in an ideal world, inside a double-entry (breezeway) door.
Speaking of the kitchen area, I wish we included a dedicated kitchen table. Like many homes built in the last 20 years, our kitchen and dining room are all one large open space. At the time, we figured the dining room table would be our kitchen table, so we included two large islands in our kitchen for workspace.
The problem is that even as casual as our dining room is, it’s still a dining room area and we never take the twelve extra steps over to the dining table to sit together. Instead we eat at the kitchen island. This may be how every modern home is designed, but each of our islands only holds 2-3 stools and we’re a family of five. Translation… we never actually sit and eat together. We eat at different times. Some of us stand and eat or we eat in the living room.
Dirty dishes in the sink is like a kink in my back. I can never relax when I see a sink full of dirty dishes. I wish we included two dishwashers in the kitchen so every dish could immediately be put into the dishwasher. Two dishwashers would also come in very handy for parties.
Thanksgiving dinner. Need I say more? Instead of the built-in oven/microwave combination we currently have, I wish we included a double oven and eliminated the microwave altogether. I really don’t like the idea of microwaves and leaving it out of the kitchen design altogether seems like a healthier option.
Larger Stovetop Without a South-Exiting Downdraft
We currently have a thirty-inch, 4-burner glass stovetop with a center downdraft set into our countertop. Worst decision ever! There are several problems with that choice.
First, when cooking for a family of five, four burners on a cooktop can get very crowded, especially during Thanksgiving dinner.
Second, the downdraft vent is located right down the center of the cooktop and takes up too much space on the already-small thirty-inch cooktop, so large pots just barely fit.
Finally, our downdraft is vented with a pipe that leads out to the south side of our house. Don’t ever do this! If you were to look at the outside of the house where that pipe exits, all you would see is a flimsy plastic flap that covers the vent hole entering the house. All of our wind comes from the south. It’s zero degrees today here in New England and very breezy. That flimsy plastic cover blows open and the wind gushes up into the pipe and up into our kitchen through the stove vent!
If you were to put your hand on the stove vent, you actually feel the cold air rushing in! We lose so much heat through this hole in our house! My husband did custom-cut a wood cutting board to fit into the hole on the stove, but it’s still not perfect.
Storage in the Study
It’s important to have a closet in every room. I knew this so why did we not include one in our study/office? Instead, projects get piled up in plain view, making for a disorganized workspace if we’re not careful to keep on top of the clutter.
Large Linen Closet
We did include a small linen closet in our upstairs hallway, which I love. Seeing how I’m not a fan of holding onto items you don’t use often, a small closet that held just a few extra sets of sheets and blankets should have been sufficient. Wrong again!
A family of five from New England where the weather changes means… Five beds. Five sets of sheets. Ten extra cold-weather blankets for the beds. Three throw blankets for the livign room. Three sleeping bags. Afghans my grandmother hand-knitted that I could never give away. And extra pillows for sleepovers.
Yes, a large linen closet is essential.
Rainshower Shower Head
There’s always one end of the shower that has that soap scum build-up and needs extra cleaning. It’s the end of the shower where the water and soap hits the walls.
We designed out master bathroom with a large walk-in shower and eliminated the bathtub. It’s just a large square area with four tiled walls. The shower heads are all on one end so the water never hits the walls on the other end where the towel rack hangs. Translation… the dry end never gets wet, dirty, soap scummy, or moldy.
I wish we had just put a rainshower shower head in our shower that came down from the center of the ceiling so the water barely hit the side walls.
A barn is on my dream list. It’s not something I ever thought I’d need before I started refinishing furniture; but I would absolutely love a large barn to sand, paint, build, store, and sell furniture. A barn where I could slide open the oversized double wood doors and feel like I was working out side in the summer, but them close them and still work through the winter.
Aaaaahhhh… a girl can dream big right?
If you’re considering a renovation or building a home from scratch, this list may help you include items that will keep your home organized, keep it cleaner longer, and function better as your family grows.
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Chloe Crabtree says
What a great list of ideas! I don’t think I will be building again, but we have a lot of renovating we need to do still in this house, and I appreciate these ideas as we go forward! I have shared your post on Facebook so more people can have a heads up, too! Thanks so much for sharing at Celebrate Your Story!
Vicki Blazejowski says
Thank you so much for sharing. So happy you found the list useful. A home doesn’t have to be be oversized to be function well, it just needs the things our families need to function well.
Your list is very well thought out. I actually do have a kitchen table instead of an island. I would love to remodel but would consider keeping the table instead of having an island. Your list made me realize I do like having the table and it is a workspace also.
Vicki Blazejowski says
Keep the table! I think it encourages family meals together too.
Great list of ideas to consider in a new house. Hindsight is always 20/20 and you don’t know what you don’t know until you do. But I really appreciate you sharing the things, in retrospect, you wished you’d included in your home build with others.
Vicki Blazejowski says
So true Lisa. My hope is that it helps others as they renovate or build new. Plus it’s my own wish list when the time comes down the line when we do need to update.
Sara altmann says
Those are some good ideas – especially if you live in cold climate. I live where it’s warm most of the year and lots of bugs.
I’ve built houses and here is my list of things to add while you are building.
1. Grab bars next to walk in showers and toilets.
Even if you aren’t elderly or disabled, many people will have times in their lives when extra stability aids can help. Pregnant? Knee replacement? Rotator cuff surgery? Spend the extra money to get a premium finish to match the rest of your decor. It doesn’t have to look utilitarian to work well.
2. Handrails on both sides of a staircase. Same reason as #1.
3. The laundry room close to where the linens and clothes are stored. Give up a bathtub to add a stackable washer and dryer if needed.
4. The biggest linen closet possible. I use pillows, throws, blankets and window treatments to add pops of color so I tend to have multiple sets of bedcovers and decorative throw pillows to change with the seasons.
5. Radiant barrier plywood on the roof. It’s like adding a layer of aluminum foil to your roof to reflect heat away from your attic. It works better than insulation to keep heat out of the upper floors of your house if you live in a climate that uses AC more than your furnace.
6. Garages are used more like an interior space of your house rather than just a roof and walls enclosing an exterior space. Insulate them accordingly.
7. Have your builder use sill plate insulation around the perimeter of your house. It’s a narrow strip of thin plastic insulation that runs under the sill plate ( the bottom part of the wood frame) of your house. Run it on the perimeter of your garage too and you will reduce the amount of critters that sneak into your garage.
8. Consider where children or teenagers will play or hang out and Insulate the walls of those rooms. IdeaLy, build a double wall for the best sound barrier. Video games, media, or a budding musician can be a nuisance so plan ahead. Think walls, floors or ceilings.
9. One can never have enough outlets. Consider any hobbies require electricity and add outlets accordingly. Add extra circuits if someone plans on using the basement as a shop for workwooding. Or if you keep fish or animals that have enclosures requiring filtration or heat. Many houses are built with 15 amp circuits for outlets and it’s a nuisance to have to reset a circuit whenever someone plugs in a vacuum cleaner in the room with the fish tank or bird cage.
10. Consider putting an oversized laundry sink in the mud room. I don’t care to take really nasty, muddy clothes and shoes upstairs to the laundry room when I can rinse them at the point which they enter the house. Also works great for cleaning things like cat litter boxes or muddy small dogs. Tip: laundry sink faucets are not subject to the low flow restrictions that are on bathroom and kitchen faucets so you get a massive amount of water quickly. Useful for heavy clean up.
Vicki Blazejowski says
Thank you Sara! These are some great suggestions for even more things to include in your home when you build or renovate.
I loved all of these suggestions.When my husband and I built our retirement home, we considered its hillside setting, the weather, energy use, and functionality. Some of our best decisions included the following:
1) Six-inch exterior walls stuffed full of insulation and Isonene under the roof deck. We aren’t bothered by anything going on in the neighborhood and our utility bills are less than those for our much smaller previous house.
2) Sound insulation in all interior walls. I can clean the kitchen or watch TV without bothering my spouse even when he is napping.
3) A semi-open concept living/kitchen/family dining area. I knew I wanted to be able to carry on a conversation or watch the news while working in the kitchen, but did not want dirty dishes visible from the living area. A raised countertop behind the sink did the trick.
4) The laundry room near the master bedroom. Who wants to carry laundry across the house?
5) Porcelain tile in all wet areas. They are so much easier to keep. I chose slightly textured tiles to avoid slips and falls.
6) A whole house vacuum. How did I ever live without one?
7) A huge back porch with a view. It is large enough for a living area, a dining area, a grilling/serving area with plenty of space to move from one area to another.
8) A flex room that can be whatever is desired. Mine is currently an exercise space, but it could be used for a hobby room, a TV room, or space for a long-term guest.
9) A dining room surrounded with floor to ceiling bookshelves next to a dedicated office with double doors. This is a perfect space to entertain, work on projects, or read. Because it adjoins the office, this space could also be used as a waiting area for a home business for a counselor, accountant, or music teacher who works at home.
10) A large covered front entry porch to welcome guests. Mine includes space for a bench where I can visit with a friend.
11) A bay window sitting area in the master bedroom. This provides a nice place to slip on shoes, read a book, or have a quiet conversation.
12) A rainwater collection system. Our 25,000 gallon tank has never run dry; the water is soft and tastes great! We don’t have to worry about water spots, mineral deposits, or damage to our pipes or appliances,
I just couldn’t stop at ten!!! For my family, this is the perfect house!
Vicki Blazejowski says
Linda, What a great list! The six-inch studs and insulation are key. We have those too. As are the front and back porches. I love our back porch that overlooks the neighborhood.
I agree with everything except the rain shower. Had one the last house we built but rarely used it,
Gayla Herschler says
I want to add a heated towel rack to your list. We added one when we remodeled our bathroom. Amazing. Hang up your towels after you dry off and they dry rapidly, no damp smelly towels. When you get out of the shower your towel is warm and feels terrific. Additionally, it takes the chill off the bathroom as it gives off a little heat. Ours is hardwired into the wall with an on/off switch.
Vicki Blazejowski says
Nice idea to plan ahead for the electrical for the heated towel rack.
A pantry! Also big yes to lots of outlets, including outlets outside. Gotta plug in those Christmas lights
Vicki Blazejowski says
Outlets Yes! Thank goodness our electrician suggested plenty of outlets (inside & out) and we use almost every one of them.