Is Your Home Stressing You Out?

Is Your Home Stressing You Out?

Gainsville - #6651 floor plan

When building new, if you’ll have individual garage doors, don’t settle for less than nine-foot wide doors. Note also when the front door is open in this layout, the stairs going up are blocked.

It’s been a long day, and you still don’t know what you’re serving for dinner tonight. You slowly pull into the garage, careful to avoid running one of the side mirrors into the garage door frame (curse those eight-foot wide garage doors!).

Fortunately, your granddaughter’s asleep as you lift the carrier out of its car seat base. Bags in the other hand, you navigate around the shelves, then fumble with your elbow for the light switch in the mudroom. You nearly trip over your grandson’s tennis shoes. And yes, you can actually feel your blood pressure rising.

Deep breath. As the grocery bags begin to cut off circulation to your fingers, you wonder why the kitchen is so far away from the garage. Finally, you set the groceries on the kitchen floor, because there’s no room on top of the island. With a sigh, now you remember the family size cereal boxes don’t fit standing up in the pantry cabinet. Lack of storage…tiny closets…that’s the first thing you would change about this house.

Spencer, your grandson, is loading the dishwasher. “Well, at least we did something right, there,” you think to yourself. Of course, when that dishwasher door is open, you can’t get by. “Just like when the front door is open, resting against the first stair, blocking staircase access.  What were they thinking when they designed this house?” And to the other side of the entryway, the home office – the definition of clutter – and there’s no way to hide it with those glass doors. You wince, just imagining your friends coming over and walking by that room.

Bed-Dresser Conflict

Two feet between the bed and dresser is uncomfortably tight. If possible, look for one bedroom dimension of eleven feet, providing a three-foot pathway.

With Abbie still asleep, you carry her up to the nursery bedroom, turning sideways to squeeze between the bed and the dresser. “If beds are 6 feet long and dressers are 2 feet deep, why would they make these bedrooms so tight?” you wonder. And it’s cold – these secondary bedrooms – “Why can’t all of the rooms be the same temperature?” you ask.

Getting into some comfortable clothes always helps, and you grab your favorite navy-blue sweatpants. But as you’re changing, you realize those are the snug, black sweatpants. A single naked light bulb in your closet – what a joke. And your bathroom isn’t much better. No windows. No natural light. Yes, there are more light bulbs, but they’re all on one switch. Off or on – dark or really bright. Note to self, ask Frank about a dimmer switch.

Door-Stair Conflict

Door swing conflicts – when a walking path is blocked because a door was opened – are stressful.

Time to get dinner thrown together. Back in the kitchen, you’re looking for the salad tongs, and they’re in that one drawer. The one that always sticks when you open it and just doesn’t close right. As you dig through the drawer, the ice cream scoop falls out. Great. A new gouge in those birch wood floors. Why didn’t someone tell us birch was so soft and wouldn’t hold up like some other hardwoods?

You bend over to retrieve the ice cream scoop and notice the cobwebs in the toe-kick area under the cabinets, realizing it must have been a month since the hard floors had a good cleaning. And dusting? “Maybe, if I put that on my to-do list for the weekend…” you think.

Abbie had fun playing with her food and some of it actually got swallowed. Your grandkids bring you such joy, you feel your body releasing some of the stress. After dinner, there are a few chores left. There was just enough room for Spencer to fit the dinner dishes in the dishwasher, while you get the laundry started. You can’t wait for Friday when Frank gets back from that business trip. He’s still struggling with being a single dad.

You turn the big TV on in the great room, but with the dishwasher running, you have to crank up the volume, and Spencer has homework tonight. So, you decide to watch the TV in your bedroom, but same problem. Next to your bedroom, that washer and dryer are too loud to enjoy the TV. It’s great they put the washer and dryer up with the bedrooms, but really – a little laundry closet in a home this size?

Ah-ha! A relaxing, hot shower would be perfect. You turn on the fan because the mirrors fog over from the steam. There it is again – noise. Frank always said that bathroom fan must have come from an army surplus store. And then, just for good measure, the toilet flushes…all by itself.

Laundry Closet

Note the laundry closet’s proximity to the bedrooms – noisier than an enclosed laundry room – may possibly interrupt watching TV, sleeping, etc.

The next morning you wake up early. Finally, it’s quiet. No stress headache, like the one you had when you went to bed. Tablet in hand, you decide to take matters into your own hands and de-stress your home. Poor lighting? Frank can probably replace the bathroom switch with a dimmer, and maybe he could put a motion-sensor switch so lights automatically turn on when coming in from the garage. Another light bulb in your closet would be great, but that would probably mean hiring an electrician. And more windows? That sounds like a serious remodel.

Replacing the bathroom fan would help achieve serenity, and a new, quieter laundry pair and/or a quiet dishwasher would be heavenly. You make a note to talk with the heating contractor when they come out to inspect the furnace about the uneven temperatures. Maybe they can do something to remedy that problem.

You decide you’ll buy a couple deck boxes that could go under the deck, to stash garage items and free up some space in the garage. Saturday morning is going to be set aside for organizing the office. No exceptions. There was that ad you saw for a handyman service, maybe they could fix that kitchen drawer. You consider a little more seriously the kitchen remodel for improved storage and organization, but is the kitchen just too small in the first place?

Lighted Closet Rod

Closets are notoriously dark areas. Lighted hanging rods may be just the answer you’re looking for! Photo courtesy of Task Lighting

You start to create a cleaning schedule and realize it’s doable – you could give up a bit of Facebook time, and Frank and Spencer could take on a little more of the household cleaning. Feeling better already, having a plan for things you can do to de-stress your environment, you also realize there’s no practical solution for some of the design flaws such as the door swings that block traffic; room sizes; the wasted space of that big landing at the top of the stairs; even the skinny door into the main floor powder bath that’s too small for your dad’s walker. Those things just aren’t correctable. If you do buy a brand-new home someday, these things are going to be non-negotiable.

If our homes are our havens, our retreats, our sanctuaries from all that life throws at us, how is it that our homes are actually adding to our stress? Stress’ negative impacts on our health are widely known, yet still we under-appreciate the stresses our homes contribute. When remodeling, or purchasing an existing or brand-new home, looking at the home through the lens of stress will help you see the home in an entirely different light – helping you identify areas that cause or add to your stress, and the ways you could improve on the design of those spaces.

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, and then search plans using our Livability at a Glance Plan Search...a better way to search home plans.
Cover photo courtesy: <a href="">People photo created by jcomp -</a>
Your Laundry Room – Entryway Amenity?

Your Laundry Room – Entryway Amenity?

You’re unloading bags of mulch in the garage as your daughter and some of the neighbor kids are playing basketball in the driveway. Britany, one of the other moms, walks over and wants to talk. Recognizing this isn’t going to be a quick chat, you invite her inside. And it isn’t until you open the door in from the garage that it hits you – wet underwear hanging above the dryer and two overflowing baskets of laundry awaiting their turn, including sweaty workout clothes. What a multi-sensory experience!

A Recon Analytics study found that 92% of the time we go in and out of our homes through the garage. Yet, as compared with the front entry foyer, which gets so much attention in home design, that commonplace “laundry mudroom” is so often just an afterthought…someplace for the washer and dryer – check off that box.

Demand better! Who wants to be reminded of laundry to be put away or piling up yet to be washed every time they come home? Now that’s stressful! Laundry rooms are important, but surely there’s a better place for the laundry than your rear entry foyer. After all, would you display your washer and dryer openly in your front entry foyer?

The original Sinclair II (plan #1748-II) has a laundry/mudroom off the garage entry.

The new Sinclair Spring (plan #42375) presents a rear foyer entry with a seat and drop zone, plus a separate laundry room.

Rear Foyer - Elise, Maggie

Rear Entry Foyer with Drop Zone Design Concept

In fact, who came up with the term “mudroom” anyway. So inviting! Re-imagining that as our primary entry elevated its importance in terms of design, warranting a new descriptor – the “rear foyer.” Could it be more inviting? Could such a space be designed to actually reduce stress?

Many households have a family rule: no shoes worn in the home. A simple bench in the rear foyer provides a place to sit and untie shoes as well as an out-of-the-way place to perhaps store those shoes – right under the bench. You were carrying your bag and mail. A drop zone is handy for placing items as you take off your coat and can help keep clutter out of your kitchen, which is another stress reliever. The jury is out on whether traditional coat closets or a bank of coat hooks in the rear foyer are preferable, but a focus group we conducted of elementary age school kids’ moms taught us nothing was more stressful than getting the entire family out the door on time in the morning with everything. Their kids knew how to use hooks and cubbies at school, so adding “lockers” in the rear foyer was a natural solution. From science projects to gym clothes, everything can be staged in those lockers, eliminating morning stress of getting on the school bus with all they need.

So…where to put the washer and dryer? Ninety-one percent of home buyers want a laundry room (2019 National Association of Home Builders survey). Multi-tasking home buyers often prefer the laundry room near the kitchen, easing time pressures. Yet the trend today is having the laundry room near the bedrooms for convenience and minimizing steps lugging around laundry baskets, especially if all the bedrooms are upstairs. Homeowners report poor lighting to be a stressful aspect in laundry rooms, so a window, when possible, and attention to lighting is important. The noise common to washers and dryers can be a real source of stress particularly when the laundry room is near bedrooms. Choosing quieter appliances is money well-spent, and laundry machine pads placed underneath the feet of your washer and dryer can cut noise and vibration by 30% ($19 for a set of 4, Amazon). A solid-core door and door sweep that’s flush to the floor also have a significant noise dampening effect.

Zirkel Gables - #35092FB laundry​The Zirkel Gables (plan #35092FB) has a convenient dual-access laundry room, so that you’re just steps out of the dryer and hanging clothes in your closet. With natural light, folding counter, and storage, this well-appointed laundry room helps manage stress, as does its location, buffered from the bedroom by closet and bathroom!

When size allows, laundry room amenities can also dramatically reduce stress. A laundry room sink for delicates; storage for detergents, fabric softener, and dryer sheets; a folding counter; a place to hang clothes, laundry basket storage, even space for a chest freezer can all help lower stress levels. Even your laundry room’s appearance matters. From family photos, paint colors, and other wall art to your choice of flooring, attention to décor can help transform a mundane laundry room to a place that actually inspires!

For more on laundry room design, check out our article, Laundry Room - Dream or Nightmare?

Next week we'll present ideas for De-stressing for working from home arrangements.

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:

Laundry Room – Dream or Nightmare?

Laundry Room – Dream or Nightmare?

Ripping up new carpet and pad. Pulling away baseboards. Giant, noisy industrial fans running for days. The culprit? A humble laundry room. But before we continue that story, let’s look at what home buyers are thinking about as well as what they wish they had thought about regarding their new laundry room.

One of the joys of building a new home is being able to prioritize what’s important and get things just right. In the 2019 National Association of Home Builders survey, What Home Buyers Really Want, 91% said a laundry room was a priority, and few of them were okay with that laundry room being in the basement. If your laundry room is a priority for you, here’s a way to think through the most important issues.

Location Hexagon GraphicThe most common preferences for laundry room location are near the bedrooms. followed by near the kitchen. In two-story homes with all bedrooms upstairs, today’s buyers show a strong preference for a second-floor laundry room. Top location issues include:

  • Convenience. This is the reason for locating the laundry room near the bedrooms, minimizing steps with heavy laundry baskets. But this is also the reason for wanting the laundry room by the kitchen, for multi-tasking.
  • Natural Light & Fresh Air. If the laundry room is on an exterior wall, you may have the option of having a window in your laundry room, which makes the chore of doing laundry less taxing and more pleasant.
  • Dryer Vent Location. The shorter the dryer vent hose must run, the better – another vote for laundry rooms on an exterior wall.
  • Floor Drain. This should be a non-negotiable. Washing machine hoses fail, water pipes can break…there’s just too much potential for catastrophic water leaks in a laundry room to justify saving a few dollars by skipping the floor drain.
  • Views Looking In. When not in use, many people leave the laundry room door open. If in a high traffic area, what are you likely going to see (and smell!) when you pass by? This is also the reason so few people will accept a new home with the laundry room as part of a “mudroom” coming in from the garage. Research shows we go in and out of the home through that connection over 90% of the time. Who wants to be reminded of the clothes that need to be put away – or washed – every time you come home?
  • Noise. Clothes washers and dryers can be noisy. If you typically do laundry later at night, consider whether the noise and vibration of doing laundry would affect someone’s sleep, based on your laundry room location.

Size Hexagon GraphicHand-in-hand with location is your laundry room’s size. Budget, household size, and your priorities tend to be the most influential considerations when determining the best laundry room solution for you and your family.

  • Appliance Choice. Front- or top-load washer? Pedestal base? Stacking washer and dryer? Your choice of laundry room appliances can impact size requirements, and vice versa – if the home was designed for only a laundry closet with stacking washer/dryer, your decision has pretty much been made. Note to self: Look into paying more for a quieter laundry pair if the budget will allow (see “noise” above.)
  • Sink. Do you desire a sink in the laundry room? From washing delicates to bathing the dog and even cleaning paint brushes, laundry room sinks can be a wonderful amenity. But they require additional space.
  • Hanging. We all have clothes we hang to dry instead of throwing them in the dryer so they don’t shrink. Providing a hanging space (particularly over a sink when possible) is a favored amenity.
  • Folding Counter. Tossing clean clothes out of the dryer into laundry baskets is an invitation for wrinkles to set in. Having a folding counter in your laundry room can save you time (ironing) and embarrassment (wrinkled clothes).
  • Storage – Laundry Supplies. The first time I heard someone say, “A man must have designed this, no woman would have designed it this way,” was a lady looking at a Parade Home’s bare laundry room that was just big enough for the washer, the dryer, and for the door to swing in. There was no storage. Where would you put the detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, etc.?
  • Storage – Laundry Baskets. You might have a different basket for each person in your household; or, maybe for separating whites from colors, or warm vs. cold water items. Whether they go underneath the folding counter or on shelves: laundry basket storage = organization = less stress.
  • Multi-use. If large enough, could your laundry room serve other purposes too? A hobby or craft area, sewing, or ironing, or perhaps even doubling as your pet area?

Lastly, there are aesthetic laundry room considerations that can actually add a little joy to your life. Lighting can be an afterthought in laundry rooms, with the result being a single ceiling fixture. You can do better! Consider the different activities for your laundry room (pairing up dark blue and black socks at night can be frustrating) to help identify the lighting solutions you need. Your choice of flooring material is important. Obviously, it has to be able to withstand getting wet. Beyond that, what about comfort and style? And your laundry room’s overall décor. Believe it or not, your laundry room says a lot about you. Bare, painted walls…or do you see things that make you smile?

Your entire life turned upside down because your teenage daughter left the laundry room sink running. You didn’t think about whether or not that sink had an “overflow” drain. By the time you got home your kitchen ceiling, right below the second-floor laundry room, was little more than white mush soaking into your brand-new wood kitchen floors. You never even thought about a floor drain!

Take steps to ensure your laundry room experience is a dream not a nightmare. The interplay of all those variables can be seen in the following illustration.

Learn more about Laundry Room design by searching "Laundry" on our Blog. 


I Need My Space!

I Need My Space!

Where do you like to go in your home to de-stress? An easy question, right? Except for the fact that the word “de-stress” means different things to different people. Many interpret de-stressing to mean relaxing, or “chilling-out” perhaps watching TV; others seek serenity, needing calm, peace, and quiet; some de-stress best doing something – exercising or hobbies; and, others think of recharging and rejuvenation when they hear de-stressing. For our emotional, mental, and physical health, de-stressing is essential and should be a priority in our homes. Among the most common de-stressing areas in the home are:

DiMarco - #50014 Owner's Retreat

DiMarco - #50014

The Owner’s Suite. Last week we discussed the many de-stressing attributes associated with the owner’s suite bathroom. But it’s the owner’s bedroom that is the go-to spot for a lot of homeowners. The location of that bedroom is an important consideration, particularly if privacy and quiet are important to you. Specifically, what rooms adjoin the owner’s bedroom? If the great room, is its big-screen TV on your shared wall? If the kitchen, is normal conversation going to disrupt your meditation? If the laundry room, will the washer and dryer noise and vibration ruin your otherwise perfect get-away? A sitting area in the owner’s suite can be a beautiful thing, especially if you like to curl up with a good book to relax. The right chair or daybed along with windows there make daytime reading more enjoyable.

Yes, that’s a see-thru fireplace, mini-fridge and wet bar in the Owner’s suite’s retreat/sitting area in the DiMarco (plan #50014)!

Tucker Terrace - #50039 ML

Tucker Terrace - #50039

Outdoor living areas, including porches, courtyards, verandas, decks, and patios, can offer both the solitude and connection to nature you’re after. The home’s design can make a huge difference, with recessed areas providing degrees of privacy from neighbors on either side. Roofs that cover some or all of an outdoor living area allow you to enjoy being outside, even when it’s raining. Even the homesite you choose can make a significant difference – do you prefer to watch sunrises or sunsets? South-facing homes with a nice rear patio may be more enjoyable than if that home faced east on hot summer afternoons/evenings. The right furniture, along with amenities such as added lights and ceiling fans, help create the perfect place.

The Tucker Terrace (plan #50039) provides privacy from neighbors on both sides on its 16’ x 7’ covered rear patio as well as a sunroom.

Sunrooms. Our bodies are wired to seek out daylight, and sunrooms, which in addition to having multiple windows on two or three sides and oftentimes skylights, are a fabulous alternative to outdoor living spaces in colder climates as they can be used year-round. Many colorful and fragrant plants and flowers thrive in sunroom environments, and those sensory inputs can also help alleviate stress. Akin to outdoor living space, sunrooms allow you to bathe in sunlight’s Vitamin D, and that sunlight also triggers the brain's release of serotonin, which can both improve our overall mood as well as helping to calm us.

Crocket - #50032 Hobby Room

Crocket - #50032

Flex rooms. Prayer. Yoga. Reading. Crafts and hobbies. Exercise. Flex rooms are meant to be tailored for how you want your home to live and make natural de-stressing areas. They may be dedicated to de-stressing (e.g., an inspiration room) or dual purpose, such as a larger laundry room with an area for hobbies and crafts.

The Crocket (plan #50032) offers a generous hobby space in the laundry room where creations can be crafted yet need not be cleaned up from the dining room table or cleared away when guests arrive.

Personal space(s) for De-stressing is an important aspect of your home's design. Not only the location, but also the design and livability of that space are equally important. When you choose a plan from Design Basics, our Plan Specialists can assist you with identifying, or customizing, a personal space in the home's design.

Next week we'll present ideas for De-stressing in laundry room and rear entry foyer design.

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:

De-stressing Concepts in Bathroom Design

De-stressing Concepts in Bathroom Design

78% of American adults don’t take baths. In an online survey of thousands of adults on our website, when asked If you have a tub in the owner’s bathroom, how often do you take a bath in that tub? Seventy-eight percent responded “Never.” In fact, bathtubs were stress-inducing, with comments such as, “I’m tired of dusting the tub,” “I feel guilty about all the water a tub bath takes,” and “I don’t like the thought of soaking in my own dead skin cells!” Tearing out bathtubs and installing oversize showers is the most popular remodeling project in America. And when it comes to resale, Realtors® tell us that regardless of the presence of a tub in the owner’s bathroom, if there isn’t a nice shower, many of today’s prospective home buyers are simply going on to the next home. Still, there’s a significant number of home buyers who dream of a long, hot soak melting stress away. So, whether you want a tub in the bathroom is one of the first questions to answer. Know that most men won’t bathe in a standard five-foot tub, due to its size; a six-foot tub is more acceptable. 

The Giles Farm (plan #42403) features a 6-foot shower plus 3-foot linen closet as the standard owner’s bath configuration, with the option of a 5-foot tub and 4-foot shower shown in the alternate master bath (requires 10-inch bump-out).

Bathing amenities make a big difference. Among the most frequently mentioned regrets was overlooking storage, whether in-wall or integral shelving, for shampoos, conditioner, soap, sponge, etc. Their big, beautiful shower has multiple shower heads including a handheld shower head, seat or toehold for shaving, and perhaps individualized temperature presets. But their shampoo and conditioner sit on the floor and sponge hangs from the handle set. In-wall recesses or thoughtfully planned shelves are essential. Additionally, if there is a dedicated shower, how is it accessed? Doorless showers are very popular but they can also be cold once you’ve turned the water off as there’s nothing to hold in the steam. In-wall or ceiling heaters, in-floor heating, or towel warmer/radiators are all great solutions to keep you from shivering, whether you have a doorless shower or perhaps the bathroom is situated over an unheated garage.

The Hepburn Terrace (plan #42421) features a doorless walk-in shower. With no door to clean, what would you do with the extra time? Note also that bathroom’s private toilet area, privacy…or claustrophobia?

No matter how long you’ve been married, there are just times you need your privacy. For some, that means the toilet must be in its own little “room.” But there are just as many people who don’t like the claustrophobic feeling nor cleaning challenges presented by those toilet rooms.

ClearMirror Classic

Photo courtesy: ClearMirror

Two sinks can be a marriage-saver, when couples both need to get ready at the same time. In contrast to a single long vanity, dual vanities allow one of the sinks to be at different height, truly appreciated by taller individuals. Separate vanities also provide “me space” so that one person’s clutter around the sink doesn’t have to stress out the other person. Raised make-up ledges at the back of the vanity are an expected amenity in some new home markets. Mirrors should not be an afterthought. If hot, steamy showers are routine, you may want to spend a few dollars more to have fogless mirrors. Lighting at the vanity is also a critical issue. The quantity of light bulbs and their color temperature can have a significant effect on applying makeup and how it looks.

Cleaning in general is a stress issue, and in the bathroom, cleaning concerns may dictate flooring choices, shower enclosure materials, and discreet storage for the ever-present toilet plunger and toilet bowl cleaner. Serenity is another issue – ultra-quiet bathroom fans to the rescue! Smell is the sense linked most strongly with memory – floral scents may have the power to transport you to your favorite getaway spot. Lighting is yet another priority. We often hear complaints regarding a lack of daylight in bathrooms, and one light switch, where (all) lights are on or (all) lights are off does little to help de-stress.

Shared hall bathrooms have many of the same issues. Compartmented designs, wherein the toilet and tub/shower are separated from the sink(s) eases schedule conflicts. When the shared bathroom has private access from the bedrooms it serves, sinks or even sinks + toilets can be separated from the bathing area. A powder bath (half-bath) means your dinner party guests need not admire all of the kids’ bathtub toys. But note, pedestal lavs, popular because of their size and style, provide no storage for extra toilet tissue, etc.

Vermillion - #43041 Bath

Vermillion - #43041

The Vermillion (plan #43041) provides a private bathroom for Bedroom 2 upstairs, and a compartmented shared bathroom for Bedrooms 3 and 4. The plan also shows an option to turn that shared bathroom into more of a Jack-and-Jill bath, replacing the original design’s linen closet with a private sink area serving Bedroom 3. Would that help de-stress your home?

Ultimately, a well-thought-out bathroom design, and included amenities, will not only help you de-stress, but also add value to your home.

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:

Image Courtesy: ClearMirror
(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

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