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Flexible Living: Changing Households

Flexible Living: Changing Households

With more than 60 million Americans living in multi-generational households, the tremendous popularity of home plans with two owner’s suites is easy to understand. In fact, 20% of Design Basics’ top-selling home plans last year have two owner’s suites!

Caring for aging parents, shared finances, and bringing the family together are the most common reasons for these plans’ popularity. With grandparents or even great-grandparents in the home, the suite they use will usually be located on the first floor, allowing them to mostly avoid climbing stairs. The Cedar Glen II (plan #42229) features both owner’s suites on the main floor. Secondary bedrooms are found upstairs as well as possible expansion over the garage – there’s even a version enhanced with skylights.

With its streamlined foundation and modest 42-foot width the Cedar Glen II (plan #42229) is affordable and accommodating for multiple generations.

Independent entertaining can call for a somewhat different layout, well-illustrated in the McAllister (plan #42027). Here, the original design’s Bedrooms 2 and 3 can be reconfigured as a second owner’s suite complete with its own entertaining area and possible private access from the front covered porch. This is a great layout for times when your parents are having a few friends over at the same time you’ve planned on a get-together with neighbors in the great room.
Frahm Cottage - #42355

Frahm Cottage - #42355

Casitas

Even more independence can be found in our plans with Casitas, such as the Frahm Cottage (plan #42355). Positioned behind the garage, the Casita is in effect a small apartment, complete with its own kitchenette, laundry area, and gathering area. This Casita has its own outside entrance, though a door could be added from the main home’s rear foyer.

Petaluma - #42290 UL

Petaluma - #42290

Casitas can also be the perfect solution when a live-in caregiver will be part of the household. The Casita in the Petaluma (plan #42290) is located atop the home’s garage. Adding a door off the second-floor hallway means immediate caregiver help is just steps away. Or maybe your situation involves adult children. Forty-five percent of college graduates move back in with their parents after college, often due to the huge student debt they have taken on. Perhaps it is the loss of a job or other life circumstance. Casitas can provide the togetherness AND separation these households crave. Casitas may also provide some rental income. A surprising number of Millennial home buyers look to rent out part of their home from the day they move in.

Whether it’s a desire to grow closer, sharing expenses and upkeep, or life-altering events, households are changing. New homes designed with two owner’s suites are meeting the need and facing little competition from resale homes.

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

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Flexible Living: You Have Options

Flexible Living: You Have Options

“Have it your way,” wasn't just an advertising slogan; it's evident throughout our homes, showing up in our priorities. That’s why you sometimes see layout options highlighted alongside the original design’s presentation floor plan artwork. When the plan was being created, our designers recognized that suggesting a particular modification would appeal to a significant percentage of new home buyers and therefore included that option on the construction drawings.

Bedrooms

The Teglia Place (plan #42481) provides a good example. As originally designed, the split three-bedroom plan offers a powder bath, highly prized by people who love to entertain, adjoining the staircase. However, some home buyers would be willing to forego the powder bath in favor of spacious walk-in closets for both secondary bedrooms. As both configurations are shown on the construction drawings, the option is also illustrated with the presentation artwork.

Bathrooms

As originally designed, the second floor of the Dillon Park (plan #42477) shows a two-story high front entry and owner’s suite with dual-sink vanity, linen cabinet, toilet area that provides privacy without the claustrophobia of having a door, and 6’-4”’ x 7’-8”’ walk-in closet.

Some homeowners prize “me” space around the sink they use in their bathroom. In the “Alternate Owner’s Bath” rather than one vanity with two sinks, two separate vanities provide counter space for items each person uses. (This also helps when one wants to keep the vanity area clean, but that’s not important to the other.) And to avoid the door into your bathroom swinging against the vanity, a pocket door is suggested instead. A bonus is being able to peer into the mirror and see how you look from behind, as reflected in the other vanity’s mirror.

Dillon Park - #42477 Opt LaundryThat two-story entryway is a “Wow!” feature many buyers like or even expect; however, other buyers look at that space and wonder how much it costs to heat, considering it “wasted space.” For these buyers, instead of the two-story entry, they could opt to add the 6’-4” x 8’-8” “open to below” space to the walk-in closet, plus have a convenient seat for dressing (natural light is great for discerning colors in your wardrobe!).

Still another option in lieu of the two-story high entry is adding an upstairs laundry room. This home plan also has a first-floor owner’s suite and was designed with the laundry room on the main floor. Note: two-story high space is counted only one time when calculating a home’s square footage. Finishing off that space upstairs adds 58 square feet to the home.

Home Offices

People who work from home, whether that’s a full-time home-based business, telecommuting two days a week, or just finishing up a project at home, typically need dedicated space for where they’ll do their work. The Slater (plan #29333) suggests a couple options, starting with the traditional home office at the front. This location is popular for its convenience to the front door when clients and/or colleagues arrive, for its relative privacy, and proximity to a bathroom. Also, a private entrance into the office could be added from the front porch. Depending on your household size and preferences, we’ve also seen Bedroom 2 converted into a second home office or even a conference room.

Notice also there’s a Pocket Office off the owner’s suite. Most people have strong opinions against working from their owner’s bedroom, feeling that area must be set apart, a respite from work life; therefore, the pocket door is essential, closing off this ideal space with its sizable work surface, storage, and natural light.

Just under half of the homes built in America are built on basement foundations. So, the presence (or absence) of stairs going down to a basement can make a significant difference in a home plan. For the one-story Pelham Gables (plan #42446), no basement stairs can mean a much larger office space.

Kitchen Pantries

Even two-story homes are affected when eliminating basement stairs. In the Bassett Terrace (plan #42241), deleting the staircase going down off the kitchen means you can double the size of the kitchen pantry!

Garage Spaces

It’s even possible to turn garage space into living space. The Windsor Cottage (plan #42226) includes the option of a first-floor bedroom suite rather than the original design’s tandem third-car garage space.

Pre-configured floor plan options, included on the construction drawings and shown accompanying the standard presentation artwork, help you envision some of the popular ways plans can be tailored to your preferences. Please know that Design Basics also offers individualized Plan Customization, providing you the opportunity to have our design team modify the plan you choose so that it lives exactly how you want!

Join us next time for Changing Households and Lifestages.

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Flexible Living: Home Office or Guest Room?

Flexible Living: Home Office or Guest Room?

It's both!

One of the reasons for the popularity of Flex Rooms is the ability to tailor areas in your home to how you want your home to live. Equally popular is having rooms that can serve multiple purposes.

The Kingsley (plan #42047 below) provides a flex room off the front entry, the most common location for a home office. Many people will opt to add doors for privacy from both the entry hall and near the stairs. Doing so makes having a space-saving Murphy bed (also known as a wall bed because they fold up against the wall when not in use) an attractive, practical option. With the Murphy bed, this space easily doubles as a main-floor guest bedroom, served by the bathroom just a couple steps away.

Murphy Bed - Closed

Murphy Bed Closed
Photo Courtesy: Closet Factory

Murphy Bed - Open

Murphy Bed Open
Photo Courtesy: Closet Factory

Scrapbooking, jewelry making, even jigsaw puzzles – flex rooms are prized when they can be home to projects-in-progress. The alternative is having to clear everything off the breakfast table. Where in the home can you leave your activities undisturbed? And, what special amenities would make such a room perfect? Do you need specialized storage to organize supplies? Would hard-surface flooring be beneficial, in terms of cleanup? How about a sink for washing out paint brushes or hard-surface flooring for easy cleanup?

The Kenosha (plan #50024 at right) exemplifies flexibility. To the left of the entry, a flex room with Murphy bed. Just off the entry from the garage, a multi-purpose flex space with drop zone and lockers for organization, walk-in closet, pet center, and shower, plus cabinets, counter top work surfaces, and a sink for cleanup. What a great space for pursuing your favorite hobbies and crafts!

Kenosha - #50024 Hobby

In recent years, laundry rooms have become targets for flexibility as well. Like the Kenosha plan, the Harmon Haven (plan #42366) incorporates a hobby/craft room with the laundry area. Or, with plumbing already running to that room, adding a private toilet area is an option, especially if there’s a sink. We’ve even had some folks ask for a planning center/desk in the laundry room, which often shares its workspace with a folding counter.

Importantly, both the Revenna Springs (plan #35079 below left) and the Harmon Haven (plan #42366 below right) have windows for natural light in their laundry/flex areas, making those areas more inviting.

Revenna Springs - #35079 Laundry-Office
Harmon Haven - #42366 Laundry-Hobby

While there are an almost unlimited number of possible uses for flex areas, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out playroom opportunities. Often, in lieu of a two-story high entry, buyers will instead finish that second-floor space and when it’s sandwiched between a couple of secondary bedrooms, kids’ imaginations naturally gravitate towards playing there. Similarly, you may see some home plans that have identified this type of space as a storage area – but think about how much fun your kids would have!

Walnut Trail - #8110 Playroom

Imagine all the fun to be had by finishing off this modest bonus area between Bedrooms 3 and 4 of the Walnut Trail (plan #8110); especially with its magical sloping ceilings, this may be your children’s favorite spot in the home!

Leinart - #29336 Playroom

Toddlers want to be with or near their parents, and parents want to keep tabs on their kiddos. With the kitchen often the activity hub of the home, having a play area off the kitchen (but not the Great Room!) is a wonderful thing, as seen in the Leinart (plan #29336).

Coming next week: Flexible living and floor plan options.Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Cover photo courtesy of the Closet Factory.
(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)
Flex Spaces Save the Day!

Flex Spaces Save the Day!

COVID-19 in the Spring of 2020 ushered in a new appreciation for flexible living spaces in our homes as we adapted to having our entire families at home all day, every day. Suddenly our children were completing school online, and many of us began working from home. There was increased emphasis on home-based activities, such as crafts and hobbies. And amidst the blessings of more togetherness, a newfound recognition of the importance of “me” space.

Flex rooms became school rooms. While homeschoolers may have already figured this out, many households were thrust into the position of deciding the best places for learning and completing assignments. Often, this wasn’t the kids’ bedrooms, particularly when lessons were assigned, but the “teaching” aspect was unfortunately diminished even though textbooks and online instruction was available. When your kids did not understand something, getting answers on a timely basis was challenging – so they needed your attention. Adequate seating and workspace became primary concerns, along with internet and printer access (ruling out that flex room over the garage that just can’t get a good wireless internet signal), and even windows – we all learn better in sunny environments and daylight improves concentration while reducing eyestrain.

The Burlington (plan #43023) is a value-engineered, affordable two-story home that could accommodate such changes. Common default areas for schoolwork include the dining room table and kitchen island. There is also a flex room (Den) off the front entry, which might be able to double up as a learning center. Upstairs, there is a computer loft plus lots of available space over the garage that could be purposed for schoolwork.

At 6’-8’ x 3’-4” the Burlington’s wrapping island snack bar presents abundant workspace. The Den (flex room) up front provides the privacy and natural light conducive to productivity. Upstairs, the 6’-5” wide Computer Loft makes for another convenient study area. 

If working from home became your new normal, you quickly realized the importance of location, organization, privacy, and sunlight. You may have been fortunate enough to already have a den, or even a spare bedroom/guest room that you could office out of. Some companies provided employees with money to purchase necessities such as an ergonomic chair and/or workspace furniture to make the transition to working from home more efficient – their importance cannot be overstated. Privacy needs varied as much as the type of work being done, but being able to close a door (remember, solid-core doors block sound transfer better) as well as proximity to commonly used traffic areas and adjoining media rooms gained heightened importance. Windows provide a connection to the outdoors that our biorhythms depend on. Officing out of a basement or interior space without sunlight can adversely affect mood, irritation, and concentration as well as bring on eyestrain and even headaches.

As days stretched into weeks at home, parents scrambled for new ideas that would occupy and entertain their kids – going decidedly old-school. Increased screen time was pretty much a given, but from play dough, to coloring and innumerable other hobbies and crafts, spaces in the home for such pursuits became treasured.

Photo of Boys with Toy RocketsRocket men! Our tech-savvy kids of all ages began to experience the joys of new, offline activities. But whether it was jigsaw puzzles or model glue and paint drying, or even some board games, where could such indoor undertakings be left, undisturbed, to complete later? The multi-purpose laundry/activity center in the Aden (plan #42037) provides just such an opportunity and is particularly versatile with its island on casters for easy re-positioning!

Aden - #42037 Activity Center

Finally, personal space carved out new meaning as we were introduced to these different realities of family life. While people were designed to live in community, Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., writes of the benefits of seeking solitude in Psychology Today, “Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind. It’s an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.” She goes on to say, “You also may come to appreciate your relationships more after you've spent some time alone.” 

You might retreat to your bedroom, especially if it is spacious enough to offer a sitting area. Or perhaps you can sneak away to an outside living area.

Where would you go for some alone time? The Carswell (plan #29317) presents a sunny bayed sitting area in the owner’s suite as well as a private rear deck off that bedroom. Or is the sun room more to your liking? Then there is the option of this home’s spacious patio under a cathedral ceiling!

Even with the added demands of responding to the pandemic, everyone needs to have a place they can go to be alone, even if that is just for a few minutes.

Carswell - #29317

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News Flash – Storage Sells!

News Flash – Storage Sells!

Home builders and real estate agents have long accepted that kitchens and owner’s suites sell homes. And they do. First impressions matter. Perhaps not as fully appreciated though is storage and organization’s impact on the buyer’s new home decisions. The keys to effective storage are: 1) devoting adequate space for storage, 2) locating storage where it is needed, and 3) organization within to maximize storage. All three of those elements are showcased in closets.

Comparing Design Basics’ top-selling 1600 sq. ft. ranch plans from 25 years ago (plan #1767 – Rosebury) and today (plan #42392 – Shelton Farm) reveals 34% more square footage devoted to closets in the Shelton Farm. There’s more appreciation for storage space among home buyers and designers.

Rosebury (plan #1767) - 1604 sq ft

Shelton Farm (plan #42392) - 1603 sq ft

Closets (bedrooms, coats, linen, pantry) in the new Shelton Farm plan (top right) provide 34% more storage space than in the older Rosebury plan (top left).

Tailored Living 3-Tier Closet

Triple clothes rods that clex up and down for ease of access. Photo courtesy of Tailored Living

Sometimes lineal feet of hanging (the closet’s interior perimeter for clothes rods/shelves) is used to measure closet storage. The Rosebury’s owner’s bedroom closet offers 16 lineal feet of hanging, not a whole lot less than the 18-feet 6-inches lineal feet of hanging in the Shelton Farm. But the Rosebury’s owner’s bedroom closet is very tight, particularly with its modest 24-inch wide door swung open. The more comfortable 32-inch pocket door accessing the Shelton Farm’s owner’s suite closet solves that door swing issue and allows for dressing within the closet. To maximize storage, two clothes rods and shelves (upper and lower) can be installed for shorter hanging articles like shirts and pants, with a smaller space dedicated to a single rod and shelf for long-hanging items such as gowns and dresses. Additionally, the Shelton Farm’s 9-foot high ceiling offers the potential of triple clothes rods and shelves; not advised with the Rosebury’s shorter 8-foot ceilings. As a rule of thumb, look for walk-in closets that are at least seven feet wide, in order to provide two feet of hanging on either side and a three-foot walkway in between.

Closet organization can be tailored to your preferences. Shelving and accessories to the rescue! Since many items in your closet don’t hang, shelves provide organized storage for lay-flat items such as sweaters, boxes, and baskets. Shoe cubbies/racks or shelves can keep your footwear paired up and off the floor making quick work of vacuuming up closet dust bunnies. Free-standing or built-in dressers within walk-in closets keep everything you need, from underwear to socks, handy. Some closet systems make it easy to adjust the height of rods and shelves, so you can quickly re-configure your closet as needs change. And specialized hangers can help corral accessories such as belts, ties, scarves, and purses.

Glass shelves can be beautiful, but you will typically choose between solid wood or wire shelving, both of which have advantages. Small items can sometimes slip through wire shelving, and you may not want to lay sweaters on wire shelves due to the resultant creases. But solid shelving blocks air movement. Wire shelving allows the naturally occurring air currents within your home to move about freely between your clothes, keeping them fresher, longer. If you choose wire shelving, be sure to look for products that allow clothes hangers to slide freely, rather than the annoying systems that may provide only a few inches of travel for your hangers between stops.

To make quick work of finding what you’re looking for, some people choose to organize clothes by casual vs. work, or by color. Either way, good lighting within your closet will make a big difference in easily identifying what you want. In addition to ceiling light fixtures, you may want to consider lighted shelving or lighted clothes rods. Whenever practical, cheery natural light is welcome, especially for discerning colors.

Depending on your elevation styling, a window in the closet will complement the home’s exterior. If your closet has room for a window seat, that’s a trifecta: sunlight, a seat for dressing, and storage under the seat for shoes, etc. Note also in this plan (Durango - #50020) the handy mirror positioned opposite that seat and convenient connection to the laundry area, making both quick work of hanging clothes up out of the dryer as well as providing a quiet exit if you’re catching an early flight and your spouse is still sleeping.

Often overlooked is the convenience of electrical outlets in your walk-in closet. It could be for ironing or something in your closet that needs to be charged/plugged in. Other amenities, typically found in larger closets, include fold-out ironing boards, island storage, and/or seating. Recently, we’ve started getting requests for a makeup space in the closet, too. Also, mirrors in your closet reflect light making your closet brighter, in addition to helping you see how everything looks. If you’ve already dedicated every square inch of wall space to storage, consider adding a mirror on the back side of the closet door.

A Travel Center in your closet is ideal not only for keeping the suitcase out of the way so you’re not constantly kicking it or tripping over it, but also for packing the suitcase (as shown in the Tristan - plan #42211).

You have valuables and perhaps a firearm. Where’s the best place to keep them safe? Your closet can be a secret location for a fireproof safe, as shown in the Wendling Park (plan #42473) at left.

Yet another in-demand amenity is having your personal laundry station right in the closet as in the Fairchild Knoll (plan #42422) at right.

Also typically overlooked is your closet décor. While drab, off-white is the default color for most walk-in closets, what do you want to see when you enter your closet? From windows and lighting fixtures to built-ins, which become display niches for cherished items, a well-thought-out closet can be one of your favorite aspects of your new home. And, if it makes a big difference to you, it probably will to the next owner of that home, helping ensure a quicker sale at a better price.

Thoughtful linen storage addresses both the storing and de-stressing points of view, as it’s aggravating when you lack storage for towels, sheets, and blankets. A linen closet should be on your “non-negotiable” list and shouldn’t be checked off that list until you’re happy with its placement. Is it near the bathrooms or bedrooms where it is needed, or just where a little closet space was available?

Rear foyerMore regionally specific is the desirability of coat closets, as half of Americans live in cooler climates. But even in “must-have” northern areas, coat closets have fallen out of favor vis-à-vis benches topped with coat hooks or a cubbies and lockers solution in the rear foyer coming in from the garage.

Cost of storage unit vs. built-in storage. Ten-foot by ten-foot storage units rent for an average of $95 per month (source: SpareFoot) and according to the Self-Storage Association, nearly 10% of U.S. households rent a storage unit. For that same $95 per month, you could finance an additional $16,000 in terms of your mortgage (assume 5% APR). So, a new home, with thoughtful attention to storage, might solve your dilemma of where to put everything and save your money at the same time!

Next week: Storage solutions in the bathroom.

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Cover photo courtesy of Organized Living.

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