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10 Design regrets from new-build homeowners

The one thing a builder never wants to hear from a new homeowner is "I wish I would have done this differently". Regardless of how much time is allocated to plan design, there are inevitably details that only come to light after living in a new, custom designed home. With the advantage of hindsight, what would homeowners do differently if they had a second chance to design their homes?

While style is important, the underlying theme of homeowner regret hinges on function that doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in the planning phase, and is realized only after moving into their dream home.

1. Laundry room is lacking One of the most common complaints from homeowners is that the laundry room needs more love, either being more conveniently located or with more functional features. “Laundry should be on the same level as the bedrooms, whether that is upstairs or downstairs,” says Kendal Cavalieri, founder and principal designer of Kendal Cavalieri Design, because of easy access.

As for the laundry room itself, “an area for drying clothes is a good idea. A lot of people like to incorporate that into cabinetry, with pullouts to hang clothes on,” says Cavalieri.

Also essential is a folding station, either on a table or a countertop, as well as adequate storage for supplies. A sink is a must-have, and even better if it is deep or has helpful features such as “jets that mimic hand-washing,” says Cavalieri.

A laundry room is an excellent space to be bolder with décor choices, such as a funky floor tile, wallpaper, or rich paint colors, making chores a little more fun.

2. Keep leftover materials It may seem like keeping leftover paint, tile, or flooring is a waste of precious storage space, but if quick repairs are needed in the future, homeowners may face challenges without the necessary materials on hand.

It's not uncommon for products to be discontinued, and even if homeowners are able to purchase more of the same material, differing dye lots can make a difference. A small repair could become a big, costly job if all new tiles or flooring are required because they don’t match.

3. Change position on the lot For homeowners who can choose placement on the lot for their new build, some regret not taking more time to research where to position the home.

While framing a view is important, factors such as sun direction, exposure to wind and other elements, proximity to noise (street or other), slope for drainage, or even realizing that the yard opportunities aren’t ideal will all matter. That’s why considering placement from all angles and scenarios is good advice.

4. More outlets Outlets are not particularly noticeable when looking at a two dimensional design on paper, but homeowners certainly notice when they aren’t there while they conduct daily living activities. Having quick and easy access to power is at the core of functionality. Including electrical (or rough-ins for electrical) is one upgrade that is highly recommended at the construction phase.

There are several places where homeowners may not think to include outlets but should, such as in closets (particularly walk-in closets), the kitchen (in the island and the cabinetry), the garage, the basement, and the exterior.

Easy accèss for charging of electrical devices is also something to consider during the construction phase. Docking stations in kitchens and mudrooms are increasingly popular as they centralize to one area the charging of devices. Many homeowners are appreciating the added convenience of outlets with built-in USB ports, especially in bedrooms.

5. Better kitchen storage A common complaint with homeowners is not having enough storage in the kitchen. But more storage doesn’t necessarily require more cabinetry. It’s about making existing or available storage more functional. That may mean having pot-and-pan drawers or pullouts for spices, rather than simple cabinetry with standard shelving.

If the kitchen island allows it, housing small appliances in appropriately sized drawers can help to keep counters clutter-free.

Having a walk-in pantry is one of the most common features requested when designing a kitchen space. An area that can be closed off from the rest of the kitchen not only significantly increases storage, but also de-clutters countertops of those things that are necessary but used infrequently.

6. Better lighting in the kitchen Storage isn’t the only thing that can be lacking in the kitchen, according to homeowners. Lack of lighting, or lack of lighting in the necessary spots, is another common complaint.

The key to adequate illumination is to include ambient, task, and decorative lighting, so that various tasks can be done at different times of day, without the light being too dim or too harsh.

Add recessed lights for overhead lighting. Layer with different task lighting, such as under-cabinet lighting, to help with certain activities, such as cutting vegetables. The additional of toe-kick lighting serves as a nightlight, and also provides an ambient light to highlight the features of the kitchen,

To add style, include overhead fixtures, pendants, or sconces, but don’t rely on these for main light sources. Adding dimmer switches helps to control distribution of light.

7. Higher ceilings or ceiling detail Homeowners don’t necessarily think about looking up when planning their homes, but many wish that they did after the fact. Increasing height or vaulting a ceiling can go a long way to making a room feel larger, lighter and brighter.

Often, higher ceilings might be included in common areas, such as the great room, foyer, or kitchen, but it’s a good idea to raise the ceiling height in bedrooms and in the basement.

Homeowners wish that they had added detail to their ceiling, such as decorative beams and trusses, which adds visual interest and elevates the overall aesthetic without changing the space.

8. Dark flooring While dark flooring is undeniably luxe in photos, living in a household with dark floors can be challenging, as many homeowners have found shortly after moving in.

Dark floors will show everything, which is something to consider in a household with children or pets.

That’s not necessarily to deter homeowners from choosing dark flooring, but many wish they’d selected a lighter shade that does not require as much maintenance.

9. Having a mudroom or a more functional foyer Many homeowners wish that they had opted to include a mudroom in their design, ideally located between the garage and foyer or tucked away next to another entry point to the home.

For homeowners with floor plans where that isn’t possible, adding built-ins, cubbies that close, and some sort of seating will go a long way in concealing clutter, as well as providing a sensible place to put on and remove shoes.

10. Adding a screened in porch For those that have not spent significant time in the Northwoods, having a screened in porch may seem like an unnecessary expense. It doesn't take long for new homeowners to realize that not having a screened in porch significantly restricts the amount of time one wants to spend outdoors during peak mosquito season. Even if screens aren't added during initial construction, factoring into the design the ability to easily screen in a covered area saves significant expense and headache when the decision is made that living without is not an option.

Many homeowners opt for window systems such as Ez-Screen vinyl porch windows to extend the usability of the screen porch by several months. The design of these windows allows for the feeling of a full-screen porch when desired, and the functionality of an enclosed room when weather dictates.

Oftentimes financial consideration requires that certain "wishes" be sacrificed in order to make the home fall into budget. Most often it is possible to make accommodations in the homes design to add these wish-list items at a later date when doing so is financially more practical. The additional of a screened in porch is just one example, and consideration should always be explored to make certain that the home plans take into account those things that could potentially be done at some point in the future.


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