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In the process of building our new home we came up with several ideas for how a modern home should be organized. Some ideas we used, some got cut for various reason. Here are some of the ideas.

GIFT WRAPPING SPACE: We imagined a small workbench space just off the garage that is designed for wrapping gifts. It's always someone's birthday, either friend or family. And you want it near the garage because most gifts enter, get wrapped then exit or move to storage. That space didn't make it into the final design.

HOME THEATER: Home theaters aren't new. What we did different is locate ours (seats 10) adjacent to the family room, across from the kitchen. That way it's integrated with the main entertainment area and near the food. The theater's double doors will have a large circular glass center so the space is visually connected to the family room. It's ideal for entertaining during the Superbowl, Oscars, Grammys, etc. because adjacent family room will have a smaller TV for the overflow crowd.

UNCONDITIONED FOYER: My pet peeve is huge foyers. A foyer just sits there looking pretty, sucking up your energy for heating and cooling. We built our foyer outside the conditioned space, within an entryway tower. When finished we hope it will have the same visual "pop" as an indoor foyer but without the energy suckiness.

CAT'S BATHROOM: We built a small space just off the laundry room for the cat's litter box. Most houses have pets, but few are designed for them. We fixed that.

PING PONG GARAGE SPACE: Relative to the cost of building a house, adding a few feet to the garage is cheap, and you don't need to heat or cool that space. In California, garage space is useful year round even unheated. So we included some extra space for a ping pong table. They're great for entertaining. Everyone plays ping pong.

TEMPORARY HOLDING SPACE: Every time a member of the family enters the house, something gets plopped on a table surface. It might be school projects, the mail, something from a store, a DVD, an iPod, you name it. Every flat surface becomes the temporary holding place for things that belong elsewhere. Our new home won't solve that problem, but I fantasize about a special room just off the garage that does nothing but hold all the crap that will later get sorted to appropriate storage places.

PROPER HOME OFFICE: When an office is designed in a home, it's usually the space just off the front door. I can't imagine a worse place for an office. A working office will generally be a bit messy, a tangle of cords, and not the first impression you want to leave guests. My office will be upstairs, on a corner, away from the action of the house, with a view. And the room will be largish. If you intend to work in a home office for ten hours a day, you don't want it to be a closet.

TOY JAIL: This is a closet on the first floor, near the stairway to the second floor, used for jailing any toys that the kids neglected to pick up and bring back to their rooms. The closet isn't locked. It's just a way for the adults to tuck the debris out of the way when they want things tidy in a hurry.

MOM'S COMPUTER COCKPIT: Our current townhouse is small and didn't have any extra rooms for the home computer. So the computer ended up in what should have been the living room, just off the main entry. This turned out to be accidentally brilliant because the computer is central to all the activity in the house and it gets used day and night. It is especially handy having it on the path to the garage because we always need to check e-mail or directions on the way out. Our new home has the computer cockpit just off the kitchen/family area, right next to the door to the garage.

NO MUSEUM ROOMS: Few things are a bigger waste of space than a formal living room. Our new home won't have one. That's the square footage that should be your home office, if you need one, or your home theater.

Another big waste of space is a formal dining room that is in its own area away from the action. Our dining room table will be integrated with the kitchen/family room area and casual in design, probably with bench seating. If the Queen wants to visit, we'll throw a tablecloth over it.

OUTDOOR LIVING: Relative to the cost of the house, it's inexpensive to include a large roofed patio, or lanai. In California you can use it most of the year. I expect it to be the most popular space in our home, and it costs the least. Depending on your insect situation, you might prefer a screened porch for the same reason.

NO HALLWAYS: We tried to design the home with as few hallways as possible. Hallways are a waste of space and energy. We designed our family room to be the connecting space for most of the downstairs rooms. We couldn't avoid all hallways, but we tried to make use of them for other functions where possible.

CHRISTMAS TREE CLOSET: It's a bother to crawl around in the attic every December to get the holiday decorations, only to be putting them away a month later. We designed a closet just off the family room that will hold all the holiday stuff, just yards from where most of it needs to be in December. As soon as I convince my wife that artificial trees are the way to go (a tough sale) I will be on easy street. Every year I'll have the tree up and decorated in about five minutes.

WIRING CLOSET: We have a closet where all the wiring will meet. It's located roughly in the center of the house and shares a wall with the home theater, housing that equipment as well. That will make life easier as technology evolves.

 
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+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 23, 2009
Scott,

Sounds like so much fun designing your dream house!!

One thing I would advise - from personal experience - is NOT to have bench seating at the kitchen table!!
I agree it doesn't have to be anything fancy, and certainly not in a "dining room", seperated from the main "hub" of the house - which is of course where the food is - but from my experience, despite much more comfortable seating options available in family rooms/living rooms/home theater etc, most of the time, we all end up hanging around in the kitchen area - eating, reading the newspaper, studying, etc. and so chairs with backs make a difference!
Also, family meals are really the only organized "together time" we have, and we often stay sitting around the table talking for a while before everyone rushes back to their individual lives, which we probably wouldn't do if the chairs were replaced with merely functional benches...

I love a lot of your other ideas, though - like the computer !$%*!$% and the temporary holding room... so important!

 
 
Apr 16, 2009
The Christmas closet idea sounds good. We moved into our current house in 2001 and I thought finally the trips to the attic at Christmastime were over. No such luck. My new theory is that Christmas decorations of all kinds will exceed whatever space you imagined by 150% to 300%.
The walk-in that was 30% devoted to Christmas stuff is full. A second closet is probably 15% full and, the trees now number 3 and they are in a rented storage building. I takes at least a week to get it all out and more to get it back because of the new stuff that somehow gets in the house each season.
My new theory is to have a very small space for Christmas stuff or convert to another religion. You see, us guys do not get to decide what we have for Christmas decorations.
 
 
Apr 13, 2009
you might have already covered this in another post, but what about skylights and/or solar panels?
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 11, 2009
Some great ideas - would love to see the floorplans (pretty please?)
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
Make sure to put in 36 inch doors. If you expect to retire in this home make sure the doors are nice and wide for things like walkers and wheelchairs. You really don't want to end up moving into the living room because you can't get through any doors.

It often costs as much to gut and reconfigure a home with wider doors then to buy another one. The stress of a move on top of all that is not worth it.
 
 
Apr 9, 2009
When we converted out attic to an office/family room, we made one accomodation for the cats. Rather than leave the door open all the time (heat in summer/much cold in the winter), we built a "cat tunnel" in the wall beside the door. Worked pretty well until one cat started eating emotionally, and now he can't squeeze through.
 
 
Apr 9, 2009
Wasn't there an episode of Frasier, where Frasier Crane discovers that his brother Niles has a special room just for wrapping presents?
And wasn't Frasier astonished at the extravagance?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
"Our dining room table will be integrated with the kitchen/family room area and casual in design, probably with bench seating. If the Queen wants to visit, we'll throw a tablecloth over it."

I love this comment. Reminds me of my parents teaching us table manners, saying, "What if the Queen were here?", to which our response was always, "THEN we'd put our best manners on!" I wouldn't have expected a Queen / dining table reference in the US though!

House sounds great. Can I visit please?
 
 
Apr 8, 2009
I am also interested in seeing the plans. I see that many of the things that you are incorporating into you house are simular to the house design you had on the web a few years back. Great stuff then and great stuff now.
 
 
Apr 8, 2009
Another suggestion:

Run conduit from your wiring closet to (a) your office, (b) your bedroom, (c) to the attic (if 2 or more stories).

Reason:
In the 1930's, everyone suddenly needed to have electricity in every room in the house.
In the 1960's, everyone suddenly needed to have a phone in every room.
In the 1980's, everyone suddenly needed to have cable in every room.
In the 1990's, everyone suddenly needed to have internet (CAT5) in every room.

Who knows what kind of cable you'll need tomorrow. It can be nearly impossible in some cases to run new wires without punching large holes in walls, ceilings, etc. With conduit, a simple snake (assuming that there isn't a pull-string installed with it), will get any cable from point A to point B.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2009
One space we really want is a CRAFT ROOM. Just a place for a table and some storage for all the stuff for homeschooling, LEGO building, gift wrapping :) and so on with a good sized but not deep closet for all the associated stuff. An old formal dining room would be good enough to convert but is often too close to the front door, this should be hidden in the back for leaving the projects out where you can tinker.

That dumping zone by the garage needs to have some power for charging stations for all the cellphones, iPods, Kindles and other things that need to be charged often.
 
 
Apr 8, 2009
Very interesting ideas. I think your home works for CA, but I'm not sure of other climates....
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2009
I don't know about you guys, but my garage will have a urinal in it. Mowing the lawn, working in the yard, dirty from head to toe...

Great to not have to clean up enough just to go inside for 3 minutes.
 
 
Apr 8, 2009
Add a urinal to the bathroom, Scott. My parents put one in our house when I was growing up, and it was GREAT.
At night, if you have to get up & go to the bathroom, you never have to turn on the light. You're never going to have to worry about your wife telling you to put down the toilet seat, and a urinal flush uses much less water than a toilet flush. When I own a home, whether built myself or purchased and renovated, it will have a urinal in the bathroom closest to my bedroom, and another in the bathroom closest to my son's bedroom.

-Wil
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2009
Built my house in 2004, and ran CAT5 to most rooms. Blue for data (ethernet) and White for phone. They meet in the basement at a patch panel. I can patch any room in/out at anytime. Made it extremely easy to switch from Verizon to Vonage. In the future, I can see misbehaving kids having phone or internet taken away. Muahahahaha.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2009
A living room is a home theater with the TV turned off.
 
 
Apr 8, 2009
Good ideas, especially reducing hallways. Though I don't understand why you want a foyer at all - I prefer a small "airlock" that stops cold air from coming in and has a big closet for jackets and boots.

One of the first things that made me realize that being a successful professional doesn't mean you're competent, was seeing that a lot of buildings had stupid designs and layouts.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2009
Scott,

As awesome as your house sounds, I started reading this blog because you used to write about interesting topics. Topics that would make a guys head burst from thinking. When are those blogs coming back?
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2009
Hm... the "living room" is called "family room" now and you have to pass it to reach other rooms because there are no hallways? - Can't say I would like it. Especially with kids that may even feel controlled more this way.
 
 
Apr 7, 2009
One day you should be sympathetic to our cognitive dissonance and explain why you celebrate xmas. ;)
 
 
 
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