Tour This Home Through the Mind of a Woman

Tour This Home Through the Mind of a Woman

So… what does a Woman-Centric approach to home design actually look like? Join us as we tour a floor plan through the collective eyes of scores of women we’ve talked with. The Mackenzie (plan #42067) is a family-oriented two-story home that’s just 40-feet wide, fitting perfectly on today’s increasingly common 50-foot wide lots.

Since we go in and out of our homes through the garage 92% of the time (Recon Analytics), the design of the rear foyer receives as much attention as the front entry. We heard tales of having hands full walking in from the garage and needing a place to put things – but not the kitchen island or counters! That inspired the Drop Zone. The coat closet was nothing new, but since kids knew how to use lockers at school, bringing lockers into the home meant a familiar place for everything they needed, from coats to gym clothes to art projects. That would help de-stress the morning rush. A bench meant a place to sit when tying and untying shoes, and since pets are often considered full-fledged family members, a pet shower. Importantly, that essential rear foyer transition space was not to be the laundry room!

Mackenzie rear foyer amenities include a Drop Zone and Pet Shower (click on images to enlarge).

While we have been told we’ve never designed a home with too much storage space, the Mackenzie’s kitchen might come close! The long wall of cabinets is interrupted only by the sink and is complemented by the 5’-2” by 6’-9” pantry – deep enough for cabinetry at one end. Meal prep space is essential, and abundant in this kitchen, while three transom windows over the range add sunlight. Also note the location of the door onto the covered rear porch. Unlike most designs that access the back yard via a door in the eating area, this design solves the problems of that door dictating placement of the table and chairs.

Mackenzie - #42067

Holidays coming up? Go ahead and add the two leaves to your table – the Mackenzie’s 17-foot-deep dining area can easily expand for larger gatherings – so important to women we spoke with. The Great Room’s triple windows deliver daylight, while its sloping ceiling provides drama. Built-in storage for books, games, electronics, and display items is suggested along either side of the home’s fireplace. 

Just off the entryway, the den/home office is close to the powder bath, ideal when receiving clients and colleagues into your home. Just past the front door, a seat recessed between the garage and stairs is handy in case another client shows up early, while the angled office entry provides visual privacy.

So many items on wish-lists are accommodated in your suite! The double door entry is a reminder that this suite is special. Splitting the windows to the corners of the bedroom provides another possible location for your bed. There’s a provision for furniture and/or an entertainment center at one end, and it’s a stunning view into your bathroom with sloping ceiling through yet another set of double doors. Bathing options include both a corner soaking tub and 6’-4” by 4’-9” doorless shower (no door to clean!). Women told us showers should be large enough that her elbows don’t run into the sides when washing her hair.

Mackenzie - #42067 UL

Separate vanities mean they can be built at differing heights, which is a more comfortable solution if your partner’s height is quite a bit different than yours, and a gentle radius countertop adds a bit of sophistication. There’s also a makeup counter area next to the interior vanity. Regardless of how long you’ve been together, there are times when you just need your privacy. Hence the toilet area design with storage shelves, because when you’re sitting in there and there’s no provision for additional rolls of toilet paper or hygiene items, it’s simply not good design. And at 10’-1” by 9’-3”, your walk-in closet provides generous storage.

We learned maximum closet space is also a priority in the secondary bedrooms that, in this design, are separated by a compartmented bathroom. With the toilet and tub separate, two people can use this bathroom at the same time, easing schedule conflicts. The linen closet is also big enough for extra bed and bath items. A study desk in the hall provides another option for completing homework. And for homes with all bedrooms upstairs, locating the laundry room on that second-floor also means avoiding carrying overflowing laundry baskets up and down stairs, which can be dangerous as well as annoying. That laundry area design also answers the calls for natural light/fresh air, a folding counter, sink for washing delicates, plus storage.

Mackenzie - #42067 4-Bed

Larger households may prefer the four-bedroom Mackenzie (plan #42067-4Bed) option. Lost is the sloping ceiling in the great room, in order to gain another full suite with private bathroom and walk-in closet. Or turn this space into an upstairs playroom for the kids when you have neighbors over. How you purpose this additional 318 square feet of space upstairs is entirely up to you!

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Cover image: <a href=''>Technology photo created by gpointstudio -</a>


Revealing the Real You – Selections for Your Home

Revealing the Real You – Selections for Your Home

How your choices affect the cost of your new home.

While a 2,000 square foot home selling for $350,000 works out to $175 per square foot, all square feet do not cost the same. For example, square feet in the kitchen are much pricier than square feet in bedrooms. Some of that difference is due to the presence of added products such as cabinetry, countertops, and appliances in the kitchen. And some of that difference can be attributed to your choices.

The Minter (#29305) plan has a kitchen measuring 11' x 19'. A basic appliance package (microwave over the range, refrigerator, dishwasher) in stainless steel finish prices out at about $3,000 (retail). But stepping up to a top of the line refrigerator, ultra-quiet dishwasher, microwave with convention cooking, and a serious 6-burner gas range puts the appliance package at $18,000!

Kitchen cabinetry. The size and number of cabinets, style, materials used/wood species, finish, construction features such as dovetail joints, and hardware such as full extension drawers and soft-close hinges all impact cost. Cabinetry in this kitchen would start at about $5,000, with custom cabinets more likely coming in around $12,000 or more.

Minter - #29305

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Countertops. Laminate countertops for this kitchen would start at about $1,200, while solid-surface, granite, or quartz countertops might come in around $2,500 - $3,500 or more. Adding the appliances, cabinetry, and countertops, a budget approach to the Minter’s kitchen totals $9,200; the high-end choices are closer to $33,000. That approximately $24,000 difference works out to more than $12 per square foot in the overall price of the home.

Cedar Pointe - #42389

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Bathrooms. As originally designed, the Cedar Pointe (#42389) plan has a 3' x 5' shower, private toilet area, and 3' linen closet in the rear suite. If you want a bathtub, that same bathroom space can be reconfigured to also have a 5' tub. Is that going to be a $500 or $3,500 tub? By the time you’ve paid for the additional plumbing, faucet, and the 4' x 4' window, you may have added $5,000 to the cost of the home.

Then there’s the same cabinetry and countertop cost drivers illustrated in the kitchen example. Even your bathroom mirror(s) can vary in price by $1,000 or more.

Flooring choices are another area that can affect your new home’s cost significantly, and there’s wide variability in costs even within the same product. Carpeting costs vary by the fiber, style, density, and padding. Hardwood varies due to thickness, wood species, size of the planks, and finish. Tile cost differences show up in ceramic vs. porcelain, tile size, and finish. LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) and LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank) have come on strong in recent years due to the combination of durability, looks, and easy care. Several builders offer buyers the choice of LVT/LVP or wood flooring at the same price.

Some choices are more obvious than others. Few amenities can match the ambiance of a fireplace, but to keep price down, dashed lines in the family room of the Womack Springs (#29389) plan show the suggested location of an optional fireplace. Heatilator offers a variety of great looking fireplaces, with electric units starting around $850 and natural gas models running about $1,800 - $6,000+; that’s without installation costs.

Womack Springs - #29389

Or consider lighting. We’ve had clients come to us to design their one-of-a-kind home and they’ve already picked out one-of-a-kind light fixtures. Stunning – both in their looks and price tag. On the flip side, hidden in plain sight, Design Basics’ popular Hepburn (#42065) plan has sixteen 32"-wide interior passage doors, a size that is truly appreciated when moving furniture! Arched, 2-panel, hollow-core molded interior doors cost around $100 each, while their hefty, sound-deadening, solid wood door counterparts are likely going to run you $200+ each. A difference of $1,600 for the Hepburn – with similar looks.

Schulte closet system

Photo courtesy of Organized Living
(Click on image to enlarge.)

Storage and organization. You may not have been thinking about spending extra money in your closets, but storage and organization are a high priority with many home buyers. The standard closet shelving offered by your builder may be perfectly adequate. But a well-designed closet system with just the right amount of double hanging, long hanging, cubbies, shelves, and drawers that are easily reconfigured as needs change can be a beautiful thing that eliminates stress. Yes, there’s a price tag. It usually comes down to priorities. If you had to choose between a dream closet and, say, a heated tile floor in your bathroom, which would you choose?

Big and small, your choices of products in the home can add up to significant added costs or significant savings. Another example of why it can be misleading to compare new home prices on the basis of cost per square foot.

Next time we look at the cost of some popular energy efficient and green building choices.

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Cover image courtesy of iLumigreen.

(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Storage in Bathrooms is Non-negotiable

Storage in Bathrooms is Non-negotiable

“That’s not a closet – that’s a joke!” Such was one woman’s reaction to an 18-inch-wide linen closet in a very nice owner’s bathroom. Her dismay continued, “We have king size blankets, comforters, and bedspreads. Extra pillows and sheets. Then all the towels.” We at Design Basics were actually researching the “de-stressing” aspects of a home’s design. Not surprisingly, women often focused on their owner’s suite bathrooms. But the fact that lack of linen storage was so frequently brought up helped us realize the two sides of linen storage. Understanding that trade offs are ever-present in residential design, linen storage also frequently shows up in cabinetry, often between two sinks or over the toilet.

What’s most important to you? The Giles Park (plan #42401) standard owner’s bathroom layout includes a 6-foot shower and 3-foot linen closet. But if having a tub plus separate shower is your preference, there’s still a linen storage cabinet atop the toilet. Sometimes, linen storage is a cabinet separating two sinks, providing a sense of “me” space. Still, if your morning coffee trumps storage...

Linen Closet Design

Linen Storage Cabinet Design

Linen Cabinet on Counter Top Design

Counter top linen turned Coffee Bar?

Speaking of storage in a water closet (little toilet “room”) and at the risk of being indiscreet, when you’re sitting in there and there’s no storage, that’s just not good design. Then there’s the unsightly toilet plunger and cleaning brush, so often resting behind the toilet in a corner. Surely, we can do better! Look closely at the private toilet area in the Underwood (plan #50025) owner’s bathroom and you will see a slender orange recess in the wall. That signifies the “toilet valet” concept – in-wall storage between the wall’s studs for extra toilet paper, hygiene products, and cleaning supplies.

Toilet Valet Concept

Hy-dit® from Helber Industries, Inc., is an attractive solution for where to keep your toilet plunger, toilet bowl brush, and cleaner – in the wall and between the studs! Photo courtesy of Helber Industries, inc.

Yet another in-wall storage solution is medicine cabinets. Available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and finishes, these provide hidden storage and some models are lockable to help prevent any medication misuse. Over-the-sink models feature mirrored surfaces, and some have lighted mirrors.

Pojjo Vanity Drawer

Photo courtesy of Pojjo

Makeup ledges, typically behind the sinks, help keep often used items organized and available, yet off the sink or vanity counter tops. Within your vanity, elegant storage solutions from companies such as Pojjo provide always-plugged-in, ready-to-use access for hair care appliances such as curling irons and hair dryers as well as protective sleeves these hot appliances can safely be dropped into after use.

It seems so obvious. We get undressed in the bathroom to bathe, so it’s only natural to have a place for the dirty clothes. But that laundry basket’s always in the way! Design Basics’ innovative Stor-N-More™ design amenity answers the need for a seat in the bathroom with its padded bench. That bench top flips up to reveal laundry basket/dirty clothes storage. Around/behind the bench are towel hooks, and a linen cabinet above the seating area.

Even in the modest-size Wendling Park (plan #42473) owner’s bath, there’s room for a Stor-N-More™ solution for laundry basket/dirty clothes storage, towel hooks, and linens.

Nothing says “careless” louder than a beautiful, oversize shower with no storage. Yes, it was inspired by a spa or perhaps luxury resort, with multiple shower heads and room so that as you’re washing your hair your elbows don’t run into one of the walls. And then the shampoo and conditioner sit on the floor, while the soap, sponge, and razor hang from a shower head in a cheap plastic caddy. Whether it’s in-wall recesses, a built-in ledge, or tasteful corner shelving, avoid daily regrets by discussing your in-shower storage needs before building or remodeling. And if a grab bar is an important addition to your shower, look at the attractive storage options built with grab bars from manufacturers such as the Invisia Collection.

Invisia Shower Shelf

Photo courtesy Invisia Collection

This beautiful shower shelf from Invisia Collection is actually an ADA-compliant grab bar hidden in plain sight!


Look for our next blog series focusing on Flexible Living.

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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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.

Storage…Just Imagine the Possibilities!

Storage…Just Imagine the Possibilities!

Garage OrganizationSpecial glasses? You understand it for a 3-D movie, but for a model home tour? Still, you’re intrigued, and you don’t want to be rude to the salesperson here in the home’s garage, so you accept the glasses and slip them on.

Then you see it. Funny, you hadn’t noticed it before. Along most of the garage wall, shelving – some open for easy scanning, some with bins. Then there are the hooks for garden tools and bicycles to hang from. You look back at the salesperson’s work area, but now what you see is a lawn mower, trimmer, edger, snow blower, garbage can, and recycling bins. You slide the glasses down on your nose, peering over the top. It’s all gone. There’s just a deep recessed area and bare garage walls. Now you get it!

Rear Foyer - Elise, Maggie

Rear Foyer Concept

You step into the rear foyer from the garage, glasses in hand. You see a partitioned bench. A little cabinet. A sliding door. You put the glasses back on. Directly in front of you, several pairs of shoes parked neatly under that bench. Great idea! A place to sit, remove and store shoes out of the way, and not track dirt into the home. Organized within one of the partitions, you see a backpack, jacket, gym clothes, and lunch container. The adjoining one is like it, except there aren’t any gym clothes but there is something that might be a science project? You realize the partitions above the seat work like open lockers, organizing everything your kids might need on their way to school. What a relief!

Drop Zone

Drop Zone Concept

You turn your attention to the cabinet and discover a paper shredder resting on the pull-out base cabinet drawer. Perfect place for a shredder and sorting mail. The pull-out drawer above looks like the junk drawer in your kitchen – the one with glue and tape, scissors and markers, flashlights and batteries – but this one’s not in the kitchen! There are even USB and AC charging outlets. The sign says, “Drop Zone.”

Your focus turns to the pocket door. Sliding it open reveals hanging for off-season coats and shelves with bulk packs of toilet paper and paper towels as well as baskets with gloves, stocking hats, and ball caps. Again, you look out over the top of those glasses. Hanging rod and shelves. Nothing else.

Drawer dividers

Photo courtesy: KraftMaid Cabinetry; Tony Giammarino/ Giammarino & Dworkin, Design: Marge Thomas

The unique double island and beautiful cabinetry catch your eye in the kitchen. No need for the glasses to appreciate that storage can be beautiful! But just for fun, you put the glasses back on. You open the smaller island’s base cabinet and discover the specialty organizers built in. Your foot seems drawn to nudge that drawer under the cabinet door and a toe-kick drawer pops out with baking sheets and cake pans. Twin tall cabinet doors in the corner of the kitchen probably lead to a four-foot by four-foot pantry, but you discover not only a well-organized long storage wall, but also deep base shelves and a counter top at the back along with small appliances plugged in, ready to use. Perfect!

These sturdy cabinet drawers can store heavy dishes. Removable dividers let you configure interiors. 

These glasses are wild! Walking towards the owner’s suite your gaze is drawn to a door next to the staircase. Behind that door, board games, children’s books, and a basket of toys. And as you turn around, a six-foot coat closet, so there’ll be no need to lay guest’s coats across your bed when entertaining.

The owner’s suite. You love that bayed window. But you are seemingly pulled towards the short, arched hallway leading to the bathroom. That walk-in closet has double rods and shelves, providing over 17 feet of hanging on each long side, along with a single rod and shelf for long hanging at the back. With that much room there won’t be any need to put clothes back in the dryer on “touch up” just to get wrinkles out. You realize there’s also a wonderful fragrance. It’s stronger back in that short hall. Sure enough, sliding the mirrored door on the off-season closet reveals it was lined with cedar.

Two vanity cabinets in the bathroom handle your storage needs at each sink and linen storage above the toilet is home to your towels and washcloths. But no storage for bed linens? They’ve done everything else right. Was that just an oversight?

As you make your way towards the front bedrooms, there it is. The hallway closet holding all the extra sheets, blankets, and pillows. To your surprise, there’s a second closet for bed linens in the hall bathroom as well as its own towel linen storage in the tub/toilet area. Equally impressive are the deeper closets for both secondary bedrooms.

Pretty cool, these glasses. Calling attention to, and helping you see all the storing amenities in this home. Oh wait, one more door. Ah, the laundry room, with shelving above the washer and dryer and folding counter. One more time you put the glasses on. In addition to all the laundry room supplies stored on those shelves, you see laundry baskets stored beneath the folding counter, and scrap booking supplies on shelves beneath the glass block window to the right of the regular window. There’s even a closet in that laundry room that opens to reveal storage for your vacuum cleaner, broom, and mop. You begin to wonder, what ever happened to broom closets, anyway? It’s not like we don’t have brooms!

With advancements in technology, we may not be too far off from having such “magic glasses.” Until then, Design Basics’ Livability at a Glance™ floor plan colorization can help you identify all of the (orange) storage amenities within our designs. Then, just envision how you would use those spaces to make that new home perfect!

Along with Entertaining, Flexible Living, and De-stressing, Storing is one of the four lenses women told us they typically use when looking at a home design’s suitability for her and her household. Design Basics' fun Livability at a Glance Quiz can help you identify which of these four lenses is most important to you. Of all of the people who took that quiz last year, Storing was the top priority for 70%!

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