Does Your Home Bring You Happiness or Joy?

Does Your Home Bring You Happiness or Joy?

We can be happy about many things: it’s going to be sunny today; your favorite team won the game; the item you’ve been eyeing went on sale. Joy is different. Joy is about deep relational connection, that according to clinical psychologist Dr. Jim Wilder, comes from being with people who are glad to be with you. We yearn for this joy, as we came to realize during Covid-19’s forced isolation. Gathering together is life-giving, and a fundamental consideration of residential design. How our homes accommodate or frustrate, how we like to socialize will have a profound impact on our happiness. 

Most floor plans from Design Basics are color-coded, with yellow denoting areas at a glance commonly thought of for entertaining. Just 45’-wide (a concession to today’s narrower homesites) in the new Myles Estate plan #9303 shown, most get-togethers will take place towards the back of this plan. The octagonal Family Room with trayed ceiling is open to the kitchen and eating areas. The large kitchen is also shaded yellow, as it is thought of just as much as an entertaining space as for its functional aspects. Under its octagonal ceiling, the casual eating area enjoys a high level of natural light, and people tend to gather in sunny spaces. Just beyond, the rear porch invites the party outside while providing shade as well as shelter from the rain for your outdoor kitchen.

Myles Estate 9303

Though shaded blue (de-stressing), this design’s front courtyard may also serve as an outdoor entertaining space, extending onto the arched front porch. Front and/or back, sheltering in place due to the pandemic taught us all a new appreciation for outdoor living spaces. There’s also a formal dining room to the front with double doors to that porch, bringing the outside in. That space was shaded green, signifying its flexibility. This house plan includes the option of re-purposing that dining room as a study/home office.

A green highlight was also used to identify the flexible nature of the upstairs game room, as the design includes the option for making that space yet another bedroom. Having a second entertaining area on another floor of your home solves the issue of where the kids can hang out as well as helping minimize noise, minimizing interruption of your get-together.

Myles Estate 9303 Floorplan

Decades ago, residential design emphasized the separation of formal and informal entertaining spaces. Formal entertaining bordered on being an event, involving lots of preparation. As a nation, we’ve become more casual in terms of having others into our homes. Many home buyers, particularly millennials, eschew the notion of a formal dinner party, in favor of simpler meals which may be pot-lucks with everyone bringing a dish. Can’t seat everyone around a single table? Not an issue, we can eat in the living room too. Popular with first-time new home buyers is plan #35112, Kendra Springs, with its open floor plan layout fostering connection, allowing everyone to be a part of the action.

Taller ceilings in an entertaining area add interest and intrigue as well as providing room definition in an open floor plan. Notice the gap between the vaulted ceiling area (dashed line) and the kitchen island. That space means island seating need not infringe on the Family Room. And having used the extra time at home due to Covid to hone their cooking skills, a Hunter Report shows homeowners more confident and creative in the kitchen, with 71% of respondents intending to cook more at home after the pandemic ends.

Budget-conscious home buyers prize outdoor entertaining too. At 8’-4” deep, the Kendra Springs covered front porch is a wonderful place for impromptu time spent with neighbors. Off the dining area, there is a suggested 12’ wide by 10’ deep patio or deck. Bridging indoor and outdoor socializing, this house plan also includes the option of a 15’ by 12’ Sunroom behind the Family Room.

Open floor plan layouts are conducive to spending time together. And when you desire solitude, the bathrooms and closets in this design are arranged for bedroom privacy. 

35112 Optional Sunroom
35112 Floorplan

The pandemic accelerated the existing trend towards technology connections, as digital media, game streaming, and ZOOM calls brought us together, even if it was virtually. Media-based entertaining has long been a reason for getting together, now just more so. Though we can again gather in person, friends and visitors in our homes expect high-speed internet access.

Senior home buyers rank socializing as highly as millennials but have different priorities. Aging-in-place amenities such as no-step entries, plus wider doors and halls make it possible to enjoy friends’ company regardless of their mobility. A parallel consideration is barrier-free access to a rear deck or patio, removing any obstacle someone using a wheelchair or walker might encounter when transitioning to the outside. Open floor plans make getting around in the home easier. And since less light gets through their eyes’ lenses due to the aging process, senior-oriented entertaining areas should be light, bright, and airy.

Here on the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve got a keener appreciation for the joys of being together. While people’s entertaining styles and preferences vary, space in the home designed to bring us together is so important! Exclusively at, you can search home designs that prioritize entertaining. After clicking the Plan Search tab at the top of the home page, scroll down the left side of the search page to Search By Livability. Clicking on one of the buttons towards “Most” for Entertaining, along with your other search criteria such as square footage and the number of bedrooms, will show plans with the strongest entertaining amenities first! We invite you to give it a try!

Livability at a Glance Search

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America’s Premier Woman-Centric Home Designer

America’s Premier Woman-Centric Home Designer

What began as a discussion in January 2003, traveling back from the NAHB International Builders’ Show, has turned out to be one of the most powerful drivers in residential design – a Woman-Centric approach. Design Basics was already at that time one of the largest home plan design firms, yet something was missing. We were seeking and getting great feedback about our home plans from customers – mostly professional builders. Builders loved our home designs and provided valuable insights, positive and negative, into how to make them even better.

But we weren’t enjoying such communication with the home buyers, and in particular, we weren’t hearing much from women about our designs. Could it be that men and women looked at a home’s design differently?

Couple reviewing design

Most architects are men. Most engineers are men. Most home builders are men. Most home building tradespeople are men. Did the sexes look at total square footage differently? Not really, though it’s always a consideration. The home design’s influence on cost-per-square-foot? While price is important, that wasn’t a key differentiator. How about an energy-efficient, green home? That interested both genders, though men were more likely to brag about it.

Without realizing it, as we later came to recognize, the comments and suggestions we had been receiving from our trade customers were mostly being relayed through a set of “male filters.” We purposely embarked on a mission to achieve an ever-greater understanding of, and appreciation for, women’s preferences in the home. Women told us about things they would change if they could regarding home design and construction as well as things they would do differently if they could do it all over again. They also pointed out design challenges that had no obvious solution, but still caused frustration and sometimes regret.

Through focus groups, one-on-one interviews, observing how women overcame design deficiencies in their homes, asking lots of questions and listening – really listening – Design Basics was inspired to develop homes with increased livability and style. Author Marti Barletta had identified that women’s value equation demanded both function and aesthetics. There would be no more entering the home from the garage through a laundry/mudroom. There was a new appreciation for storage, and that storage can be beautiful. Women were tired of dusting big, unused bathtubs. Pets were part of the family, too, and pet accommodations were an important aspect of home design.

We also learned that perhaps even more important than function and form was the two-sided coin of social design: “What this home says about me,” and “How this home makes me feel about myself.” We reveal ourselves – our beliefs, what we care about, who we are – through our homes. The exact same dollar investment in windows might be used to create a remarkable window wall with dreamy views out the back, or to provide standard-size windows on two sides of multiple rooms in the home for increased light levels and cross breezes.

Our research uncovered the four primary “lenses” women reported using to judge a home design’s suitability for her and her household. This became the basis for Livability at a Glance™, using color coding on the floorplans to identify areas corresponding to each of those lenses. As we started to design homes through these lenses, we, too, began to “see” design differently. We even developed a fun online quiz that identifies which lens is most important to you – and your future home – which you can take here.

livability logo
Livability at a Glance Image

Color coded floor plans bring the Livability at a Glance concept to life, making it easier to appreciate design elements and envision how this home ‘lives.’ (pictured: Locklear Grove – plan #42314)

The marketplace has voted. With their dollars. Woman-Centric home designs are seen as different, and better. In obvious and not-so-obvious ways, women’s feedback has inspired so many design amenities that solve real-world problems, like getting the entire family out the door on time in the morning with everything, contributing to a less stressful morning. Design Basics has been recognized for industry-leading design innovation, but really, it’s simply designing solutions to challenges that women brought to our attention.

Whether the basis for new home design or modifying an existing home plan for enhanced livability and style, Woman-Centric home design is how we help buyers get the best home for their investment. Woman-Centric home design is having a profound impact on American housing, but it’s not sexist. Rather, in the historically male-dominated home building industry, Woman-Centric design is helping return the pendulum of home design to a more gender-neutral position, appreciating everyone in the household.

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What is a Woman-Centric Home Design?

What is a Woman-Centric Home Design?

“A guy must have designed this home. No woman would have designed it this way,” a comment overheard during a model home walk-through. The square footage was on par with nearby homes, as were the finishes chosen. Focused on construction efficiency, the builder was proud of his new model, having shaved days out of the construction timeline. But there were no windows in the bathrooms; when opened, doors blocked being able to walk by; and the bathroom linen “closet” was a joke. Gone was the decorative roof dormer with transom windows and brackets in the gables, the craftsman tapered porch columns had been replaced with simple 8x8 posts, and the uninspiring, raised 32-panel garage door was chosen by default.

Woman-Centric home design is rooted in addressing design-related issues women discuss with us, developing new, sometimes innovative solutions to those design challenges. Often, they deal with a home’s livability: making things easier such as a doorless shower (no door to clean!); giving back a little more time (e.g., a direct connection to the laundry room from your walk-in closet); and contributing to everyone’s well-being (increasing natural light levels). Just as frequently they address views and focal points, such as adding a gallery display to a hallway, reducing its perceived length; creating a small alcove at the doorway into your bedroom for visual privacy; and not entering your home from the garage just to be greeted by piles of dirty clothes strewn in your “laundry/mudroom.”

Woman-Centric home design appreciates both style and livability, form and function. Eliminating regrets is one way design is addressed. You love your new kitchen, until you realize there is no provision nor room for a pull out wastebasket drawer and you’re stuck displaying an unsightly tall kitchen wastebasket  that’s always in the way. Or the quandary of keeping kitchen countertops clean and uncluttered, while at the same time keeping small appliances readily available.

Inspired by women - what small appliances do you use most often? Wouldn’t it be great to have them ready to use, yet not cluttering your kitchen counters? Whether part of your walk-in pantry or a dedicated space just outside your main kitchen, a Small Appliance Center solves this dilemma elegantly!

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Appliance Center Concept

Design Basics has long been blessed by invaluable feedback from professional home builders and related tradespeople. Such feedback was, however, also a bit biased, though unintentionally, by the fact that it was mostly coming from men. Therefore, to achieve a more holistic view of home design and how people actually live in their homes, Design Basics goes out of our way to talk about every-day, real-world home design issues with women in the home building trades as well as female home buyers. Rather than being “sexist,” Woman-Centric home design is inclusive, soliciting and acting upon the design deficiencies and opportunities coming from all sources.

Back in 2003, our pioneering research into women’s preferences in the home uncovered the fact that women were primarily using four lenses when looking at a home’s suitability for her and her household. Other research shows women more easily get stressed than men and that women hold on to that stress more and longer than men. It’s no wonder then, aspects of the home and its design that can help her de-stress are design priorities.

In the Slater (plan #29333), the suite’s bayed sitting area, wet bar in the bedroom, sunset deck, plus two bathing options including a doorless walk-in shower in the bathroom can all help alleviate stress. (See also: De-Stressing Concepts in Bathroom Design; Is Your Home Stressing You Out?; I Need My Space!; Take the Stress out of Working from Home)

Entertaining is the second lens and is entwined with how she likes to entertain. Family get-togethers? Dinner parties? Having a few close friends over? The Slater’s open concept has a bit of formality with the columned, arched opening to the great room. A 10-foot high ceiling spans this area, including the dining and kitchen. And the rear patio has a roof overhead, so that the barbecue or study group plans need not be cancelled due to rain. (See also: Entertaining: Planning for Fun; Entertaining: Beyond Four Walls; How do You Like to Entertain?)

Slater - #29333

(Click on image to enlarge.)

While a home design may identify the intended use for a given space, you may envision that space differently. And some areas in a home can serve two purposes simultaneously. These are examples of flexible living, the third lens. If you work from home, the office suggested at the front would be ideal. Or perhaps you prefer the seclusion and location of the pocket office off the suite’s bedroom. Just as easily, that front office could be a spare bedroom, and the pocket office a second walk-in closet. (See also: Flex Spaces Save the Day!; Flexible Living: You Have Options; Flexible Living: Changing Households)

Slater - #29333 Alt Bath

Another example of flexibility are pre-configured floor plan options, such as the Slater’s optional bathroom layout with a larger walk-in shower but just one sink.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The Slater’s 12-foot-high ceiling in the suite’s walk-in closet is high enough for three hanging rods + shelves, providing LOTS of storage, the final lens. According to women we’ve talked with, the three keys to storage are: 1) dedicating adequate square footage, 2) locating storage right where it is needed, and 3) organization within storage – think garage or closet organization systems  and kitchen organizing amenities. (See also: Storage...Just Imagine the Possibilities; News Flash - Storage Sells!; Your Garage: Vehicles vs. Storage)

Join us next time for an in-depth look at Woman-Centric home design!

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Entertaining: Planning for Fun

Entertaining: Planning for Fun

Some prefer to entertain formally; others thrive on deep, life-giving conversation with a few close friends; and some prefer topical get-togethers such as book clubs and study groups. But when it’s Friday night, after a particularly trying week, you really appreciate an invitation to a fun night at Maggie’s house!

Finally About Me“Maggie” is the name we gave to one of the four primary personas in our Finally About Me® design personas, which are uncannily accurate in identifying what people prioritize in their homes. Energized by being around other people, Maggies don’t tend to take life too seriously and are focused on fun, which is one of the reasons they’re so popular – they’re fun people to be with! Regardless of which of the four personas best describes you, we can all learn from Maggie when it comes to home design for fun-filled entertaining.

Where does the big-screen TV go? Maggies actually have a difficult time seeing themselves living in a particular home until this question is answered, because media-related entertaining is super-important for Maggie. More evident in modest-size homes, this can become a bit more important when you enter directly into the home’s primary entertaining space and the only pathway through the home involves interrupting viewers’ line of sight of the TV.

It could be the hottest must-see show or the Super Bowl. The Bloom (plan #29303) provides a traditional front entry hall to help direct traffic. Most people will put the big TV above the fireplace, though we sometimes hear complaints that such a viewing angle is uncomfortably high, inducing a sore neck.

Bloom - #29303 traffic pattern

Slightly larger in square footage, the Greenwich (plan #8621) provides space for your big screen TV alongside the fireplace in the family room. But by design, that family room doubles as a hallway, meaning everyone entering or leaving the home via the front door will interrupt TV viewers’ line of sight.

Greenwich - #8621 traffic pattern

A companion issue to where the big TV goes may be related storage for associated electronics, from sound systems to game consoles. Preferred by some home buyers, built-in storage may be open shelving, discretely placed within cabinetry, or a combination of the two. But due to today’s wireless technology, which do not require line of sight, audio/electronics closets have sprung up in many homes.

Then there are noise issues, whether your sound system is too loud, or other things in your home are too loud to enjoy that TV. If your island contains the sink and dishwasher, since there is no full wall for the dishwasher to back up to and help absorb its noise level, you may want to invest in a quieter dishwasher if that island is open to your entertaining space. If that TV and speakers/sound bar are mounted on the wall shared with your bedroom and your spouse wants to rest, you may want to talk to your builder about various soundproofing measures that can be taken to reduce sound transfer through that wall.  

Revenna Springs - #35079

The Revenna Springs (plan #35079) suggests built-ins on either side of the fireplace, a traditional approach when the TV will go above the fireplace. Or, the TV may be mounted directly above one of those built-ins. Notice also there is an audio closet off the hallway leading into the family room providing space for the necessary electronics, yet not necessarily right next to the big screen. And, that island sink and dishwasher are open to the family room. This is the time to spend more money to get a quiet dishwasher, so you don’t have to go elsewhere in the home to enjoy movies while washing dishes.

Finished Basements. In many households, and especially homes with an upstairs and a downstairs, two separate entertaining areas are essential. It could be a billiards room downstairs in a finished lower level and the great room on the main floor. It could be a finished room over the garage for the kids’ gaming, minimizing the noise interruption of your first-floor socializing. It could even be a separate main floor gathering area for your mom and her friends while you have neighbors over for a cookout.

The Tollefson V (plan #42155FB) is an entertainer’s dream! The main floor (below left) is wide open with spacious rooms to handle larger gatherings. Downstairs (below right), there is another full kitchen and eating area, which will likely double as your game table. The family room is spacious enough for air hockey and Foosball, or your kids’ video game tournament with all their friends. There is even a dedicated home theater, which can receive special attention when it comes to soundproofing. If building on a basement foundation, how much of that space will you finish off for entertaining?

Tollefson V - #42155FB
Tollefson V - #42155FB

Outdoor Audio-Visual. While outdoor entertaining was the topic last time, we want to touch on the fun of outdoor audio and video entertaining here. In case you haven’t kept up, there are numerous exterior solutions for big screen TVs, from all-weather cabinets to amazing weather-tight outdoor hi-def TVs in a range of sizes. Where, on your covered porch/deck/loggia/patio will you mount the TV to avoid sun glare washing out the picture? Outdoor TV brightness capabilities vary, all the way up to TVs that can be used in direct sunlight, but as of the time this article was written, an electronics store was selling 55” outdoor TV’s for $2,000 rated for “full shade,” while the same brand 55” TV rated for “full sun” was priced at over $5,700.

Some people are content with just having their favorite tunes playing. Is your preference to install speakers? If so, will power need to be run to those speakers? Or would you be happier relying on battery powered wireless speakers paired to your smart device?

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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Entertaining: Beyond Four Walls

Entertaining: Beyond Four Walls

We get it. Some people are all in on outdoor living, relishing being outside, even at home. Second, we know that entertaining is one of the primary lenses people look at when considering a home purchase. At the intersection of outdoor living and entertaining is the sweet spot that helps determine many a home sale. Whether or not those issues are high on your priorities, a home designed for outdoor entertaining shows up in noticeable, and not so obvious, ways.

Modena - #29372

The Modena (plan #29372) has an inviting covered porch wrapping three sides.

Murnane Manor - #42156

The Murnane Manor (plan #42156) establishes its own sense of welcome with its fabulous front courtyard, anchored by a water feature to the left and French Door pass thru to the formal dining room.

Outdoor entertaining spaces in front of the home beckon passersby. Still, most of the time when we think of outdoor entertaining, we think of rear patios and the back yard. It may be privacy and lack of distraction from cars driving by, the security of a fenced rear yard for kids’ play and decreased likelihood that a ball is going to get kicked in front of an oncoming car, or just the fact that your back yard is more spacious. As with indoors, how you like to entertain will help determine the amenities that make your outdoor entertaining area ideal.

Porches, loggias, decks, and patios. Porches, loggias, and decks are attached to the home. Porches and loggias always have a roof, decks may or may not be covered. Advantages of a covered outdoor living space include shade, being able to still use the space when it rains, and the fact that materials used such as cedar typically last longer when protected from the weather by a roof. Porches may also have walls with screens and sometimes windows. Loggias have a more formal feel, incorporating columns to the open side and sometimes arches. Consider however, that covered and especially screened-in outdoor living areas will reduce the amount of sunlight enjoyed by the adjoining rooms. Patios are built on top of the ground and while they might abut the home, they are not attached to the house.

Multiple outdoor living spaces adorn the Sinclair Terrace (plan #42424 shown below). Sliding patio doors at the back of the dining room access the 30-foot screened porch, so even large dinner parties can enjoy the gathering without pesky mosquitoes.

Sinclair Terrace - #42424
Sinclair Terrace - #42424

Note the skylights atop the covered porch in the Comstock (plan #2778 at right), providing added sunlight for the great room, which might have appeared a bit dark because of the porch roof blocking sunlight.

Comstock - #2778

How and where we access the outdoor living areas is a significant design consideration. The choice of hinged or sliding patio doors is often dictated by the adjacent interior space. If a hinged door would have to open into the dining area, potentially conflicting with the placement of table and chairs, a sliding door would be best. Can the transition to your outdoor living area be barrier free for individuals with limited mobility? That indoor/outdoor connection can also become congested when entertaining, so is there the possibility of two doors, providing dual traffic routes in and out? 

Gunnison - #50016

The Gunnison (plan #50016) offers doors onto its loggia from both the dining room and the great room, providing a circular traffic route with minimal congestion. Notice also, being framed by the dining room and owner’s suite, this particular layout offers maximum privacy from side-neighbors for your get-together. And there is a door off the owner’s bedroom, perfect for enjoying quiet sunsets and cheery mornings.

Sometimes overlooked or underappreciated is where the bathroom is located that your guests will use when you’re entertaining outdoors. You would prefer they not have to walk all the way to the front part of your home. Planning a swimming pool in your backyard? If that nearby bathroom has a shower that’s even more accommodating!

Rourke - #42082

The Rourke (plan #42082) has a 5-foot shower in the hall bathroom conveniently, but privately, located near the dining room’s door out onto the rear deck/patio. Also, notice the private grilling porch – separate from the outside entertaining area.

Connery - #42084

Because there is a Jack-and-Jill bathroom for bedrooms 2 and 3, the Connery’s (plan #42084) full guest bathroom serves splendidly as a traditional guest bathroom when entertaining indoors. Perhaps even better is when your party moves outdoors, as there’s a covered patio pathway to this bathroom’s direct outside access.

Outdoor Cooking. Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults own a grill or a smoker (Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association). So, it’s only natural that our affinity for grilling out is a significant design consideration, beginning with where that grill will be located. Will it be the centerpiece of a full outdoor kitchen? A visible part of your outdoor entertaining space, or would you prefer a more private grilling porch? People who don’t want an outdoor kitchen but love to barbecue may fall in love with the Chill-N-Grill™ amenity found in several Design Basics’ home plans. If you plan on running a natural gas line to where the grill will be located to avoid lugging heavy LP gas tanks in and out of the car, up and down steps, plan also on an inside shutoff valve for that gas line, in case of emergency or severe weather. If possible, you’ll also want to run electricity there for a grill light. Overlook that, and you will find yourself grilling after dark, cutting into that steak you’re cooking and not being able to discern if it is medium rare or medium.

Cherry Gables - #42441

The Cherry Gables (plan #42441) suggests an outdoor kitchen at one side of its covered patio, right next to the eating area. 


Don’t have or want an outdoor kitchen but love to cook out? The Fiala (plan #42281) positions its Chill-N-Grill™ conveniently just off the patio doors leading onto the covered porch.


Chill-N-Grill™ design concept, with everything you need for a great barbecuing experience! 

Kennedy - #42134

Our attraction to fire doesn’t stop at the grill. The Kennedy (plan #42134) showcases a traditional fireplace at the far end of its covered patio. Nestled between two arched openings and underneath a beamed cathedral ceiling, the fireplace is the focal point of this wonderful outdoor space and also the home’s great room. It’s so easy to imagine ceiling fans suspended from those exposed timbers, too! And did you notice there’s a door from the outside into the rear foyer with its adjacent wine cooler cabinet?  Perfect for outdoor entertaining!

The Evergreen Weekender (plan #42054) presents a decidedly more casual approach, inviting conversation and s’mores around its fire pit anchoring the uncovered portion of the home’s rear patio. Other amenities include powder bath access and double doors leading to storage for backyard furniture, activities, and games.

Evergreen Weekender - #42054

How you like to entertain will strongly influence your desired outdoor living amenities. Stringing lights can make the occasion fanciful or festive, where might you want/need power outlets? Your home faces east and you enjoy being out back in the evenings. Even if you have a covered deck, do you need to consider retractable awnings? 

A final reminder – outdoor entertaining space and amenities do not affect a home’s square footage, but they can significantly affect a home’s cost. Another reason you shouldn’t compare homes on a cost per square foot basis!

Next week: Fun-filled Entertaining

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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