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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Apr 7, 2009
> As soon as I convince my wife that artificial trees are the way to go
> (a tough sale) I will be on easy street.

I have an easy way to accomplish that. Next Christmas, leave your tree up for a few extra days until the needles start falling off. They seem to all fall off at pretty much the same time, leaving you with literally hundreds of pine-needles that get trudged around the house.

You'll be sweeping up and vacuuming up pine-needles for 6 months, and you'll swear off real trees for the rest of your life.

It worked for me.
Apr 7, 2009
Great ideas all, many of which I incorporated into the home I built five years ago. Although my home is small, 1120 SF on the main floor, I made it a walk-out and tucked the home office/library and a craft room underneath with an exterior stair. Everyone I know criticizes the exterior stair, but the physical and psychological separation make it worthwhile (it rarely rains or snows here). Between the two I have a mechanical room that houses the HVAC, water softener, central vacuum, distribution panels for structured electrical wiring, cable, and phone (ironically, we just dropped our land line), and the central manifold for our water distribution -- keeps most of the noisemakers isolated. There's also enough room for a half-bath. Conversely, the freezer is in the kitchen and the stacked washer/dryer is in a nook just off the Mbrm with the linen closet right next to it -- no dashing up and own the stairs with armloads of stuff. One last thing -- no rickety fold-down attic stair (the best device known to man for breaking your neck)!
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 7, 2009
Thanks for the info! And, it's probably too late...but there is a sheetrock called "QuietRock" that is marginally more expensive, but really delivers. It adds to R value, fire rating, and significantly quiets your rooms. And, many people don't insulate interior walls--but that makes your house quieter, too--and should especially be done around bathrooms!

[We'll have that in the home theater, maybe elsewhere. -- Scott]
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 7, 2009
So of the ideas listed, which made the cut?

Oh, and do you plan to hang stuff from the ceiling in your garage? My girlfriend's family does and while they can pile a lot more in there it's not easy to get to at all.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 7, 2009
I would like to request that when all is said and done that you give us a cartoon drawing of your floor plan, much like what you did back in the planning stages. I ravenously devour your plans and am incorporating them in my future plans. Also, I really like Aardwizz's plans for the patch panel to reformat the power grid of the living room. Cool.
Apr 7, 2009
One thing I find frustrating in any house I've owned / rented is that the switch by the door when you enter a room rarely powers the outlet where you want to plug in the lamp. Sometimes I want to have a lamp near the door, other times, I don't want anything near the door, so have the lamps on the other end of the room.

What I want are small "patch panels", say in the closets. Instead of wiring from the master circuit breaker box directly to the switch then directly to the outlet, all wiring would go to the patch panel - the power, the light switch and all the outlets. Each would land on it's own, clearly labelled terminal. Simple jumpers would then conduct the electricity from the breaker to the switch to the outlet. If you rearrange your furnature, shut off the power, change the jumpers, and presto! your electricity follows.

Put some extra space in the panel, and you can expand for home automation. Build the home with motion sensors in each room (over the door), and, when you're ready, you can have the lights come on automatically when you enter, a programned pattern and/or a burgular system for when you're away.


Another features:

A laundry room (large enough to include a clothes-folding table) near the bedrooms (where the dirty clothes accumulate). The room does not need to be on the A/C venting cirucuit, as it will be a heat source that should be vented to the attic / atmosphere, and will probably be an internal room anyway.
I've known a few people who've had their washer hose break while they were away - the water damage to the rest of their house was horrific (2nd floor laundry room took out most of the first floor ceiling). So make a low point in the floor of the laundry room, and add a drain there.
Apr 7, 2009
My 2 biggest complaints with new homes.
1) "Lets put the quietest room in the house (master bedroom) sharing a common wall/floor/ceiling with the noisiest room in the house (living room)." This is common across just about EVERY new home builder in 90% of the plans.

2) "Lets put the wiring hub in the master closet. This way the cable man/phone man/alarm guy/etc can be in the most PRIVATE room in the house going through our personal stuff while he is doing his job." Again, this is common across just about EVERY new home in 95% of the floor plans.

Granted these are for spec builders, but it still one of the dumbest things these builder could have come up with.

[Noise management was a top priority. My office and the master bedroom are far from the noisy parts of the house. -- Scott]
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 7, 2009
As someone who owns a construction company, I am delighted. I do a lot of redesigning...HATE the hallway space suck and such. One special feature I always do is outside electrical jacks at the right height for christmas lights, run with an indoor switch. No biggie to add during construction, but a huge benefit one month a year.

About your kitty litter room--I have been working on that--share more, please. I want mine to be at least 3' up as cats like to climb & jump and I hate to be all hunched over to deal with the litter box...so I will build a climbing ramp up. The size, layout, ventilation of yours?

[It will be the size of a small walk-in closet , with a ramp up to waist height, for food and litter, and windows for the cats. Ventilated too. -- Scott]
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