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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.


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.


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.

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Your Garage: Vehicles vs. Storage

Your Garage: Vehicles vs. Storage

You probably wouldn’t put your king-size bed in a loft space overlooking the great room. Yet we accept leaving our vehicles parked outside because there’s just no room for them in the garage! Storage has always been a challenge to be addressed in our homes, and even as our homes grew larger, we’ve increasingly come to depend on our garages for storage, particularly as restrictions and prohibitions against backyard sheds became popular. In fact, the 2019 National Association of Home Builders' What Home Buyers Really Want report found 85% of new home buyers are looking for storage in the garage!

Hickory Cottage - #42234_garage storage

At 24 feet in depth, storage opportunities exist along the back of the garage as well as the recess along the side of the Hickory Cottage’s (plan #42235) garage.

Garage size dictates what you can store in your garage. Toyota’s RAV4, the best-selling SUV in America, measures over 15 feet long. Providing a couple feet behind the vehicle for closing the garage door and 3 feet in front for a path into your home means dedicating 20 feet of garage depth for your vehicle(s). So, at Design Basics, we suggest storage possibilities exist when the garage is at least 22 feet deep. Similarly, we consider storage opportunities exist when the (2-car) garage is at least 22-feet wide, allotting room for two vehicles, including space to open those car doors. Still, garage storage possibilities aren’t necessarily limited to length and width, as garages with tall ceilings can provide overhead storage opportunities as well.

Think of sectioning off garage storage in “zones.” Outdoor equipment (lawn mower, snow blower); ladders and tools; sports gear; automotive supplies; and, kids’ outdoor toys and activities are good examples of such zones. To get the most out of your garage storage space, look into shelving and organization systems. There is a tremendous variety of DIY garage storage systems and numerous contractors who specialize in garage storage solutions. But it all starts with a plan that meets your specific needs and wants. Also, if garbage and recycling bins will be stored in the garage, what’s the shortest/easiest path for transferring them out of the garage and to the curb?

Storage accessed from the outside is rapidly gaining popularity. Ever find yourself peering into other people’s garages when those garage doors are left open? That actually reveals a lot about what your neighbors value! If you would rather not have everything stashed in your garage visible to passersby, look for home designs with built-in storage that’s accessed from the outside. That’s especially useful for outdoor items such as mowers, lawn games, camping gear, patio furniture, etc.

A pair of 36-inch wide doors access the 14-foot storage area alongside the kitchen in the Neeson (plan #50011). From lawn mowers and garden tools to winter storage for your patio furniture, storage accessed from the outside frees space in your garage for other items.

Example of outdoor storage (Zinnia plan #42041 - as built by Fox Builders, Ontario, OH).

Coming next week: kitchen storage can be beautiful!

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:

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>
An Icy Reception

An Icy Reception

Depending on the design of your home and its roof, water run-off can be a major problem for your driveway. Take for instance this home: no gutters on the front side over the garage. Yet two dormers over the garage form a “V”-shaped area directing rainwater off the roof and onto the driveway. No problem until winter. During the day, snow melt from the roof drips onto the drive. At night it would freeze. For most of the winter there will be icy driveways.

Clarinda - #43020 Fox Builders

The Clarinda (#43020) as built by Fox Builders - downspouts on each side of the garage to divert water flow.

Another configuration that could present a hazard as well as concrete damage: a gutter downspout that empties between the garage doors. This directs water off the roof nicely, but again in the winter, creates ice problems on the driveway. And, the year-‘round diversion of water onto that portion of the driveway causes lots of concrete settling problems resulting in a very uneven driveway.

The solution in both instances is to place gutters and downspouts that direct the water to the side yard instead of the driveway. Thus, keeping your driveway from building up with ice in the winter, and maintaining the integrity of the concrete all year.

For more resources on thoughtful design:

Cover Photo: <a href="">Winter photo created by freepik -</a>

Think Storage

Think Storage

Storage. It’s a much-needed element in any home. And, we rarely hear homeowners say they have too much storage. But, that square footage costs money, and now averages upwards of $150 per square foot. Let’s say you have a 6’ x 10’ closet space; that’s 60 square feet, or approximately $9,000. That means storage space is expensive. One way to mitigate the expense is to include a well-designed storage system. They not only maximize space; they help you organize your stuff—and your life!

Areas where you can maximize storage space without adding square footage include extra shelving over your washer and dryer, under the stairs, or in the garage – again, storage systems are an excellent way to organize and contain items; also, think suspended shelves or shelves above your garage door tracks.

Specialized Storage. Do you dream of a huge kitchen pantry? How about a cedar closet for your households’ off-season clothes? Where will you stash the 36-roll package of toilet paper? Do you have room for the grand-kids’ toys and games? Is a wine room in your future? Wouldn’t it be great to have a handy place for your Christmas tree?

Over the years we’ve often heard homeowners requesting specialized spaces to accommodate their own unique needs. Gathering up all the ideas, we created what we call a Signature Space® – a small flex space/room measuring 6’ x 8’ that can be used however the homeowner wishes. The Serena (#42282) plan’s Signature Space could be used as a craft room, toys/games room, or customized storage.

Our Livability at a Glance™ color-coded floor plans help home buyers focus in on the elements they desire most in a home: Storing, Flexible Living, De-Stressing, and Entertaining. As in the Tillamook (#43038) plan, the different areas of the home are identified by color (Storing is orange) so you can visualize where storage is located/could be located. Using our Livability Search Tool, you choose which area(s) of the home are most important to you and those plans identified as being strong in this area(s) will filter into your plan search. Which of these four areas are most important to you? Take our Livability at a Glance Quiz to find out!


For more resources on thoughtful design:

Cover photo: Note the electrical outlet in the pantry; handy for charging small appliances. Photo by Renee D. Calvin Photography.

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