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Flexible Living: Home Office or Guest Room?

Flexible Living: Home Office or Guest Room?

It's both!

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

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

Murphy Bed - Closed

Murphy Bed Closed
Photo Courtesy: Closet Factory

Murphy Bed - Open

Murphy Bed Open
Photo Courtesy: Closet Factory

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

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

Kenosha - #50024 Hobby

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

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

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

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

Walnut Trail - #8110 Playroom

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

Leinart - #29336 Playroom

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

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

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Cover photo courtesy of the Closet Factory.
(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)
Flexible Living: Tailoring to Your Preferences

Flexible Living: Tailoring to Your Preferences

Flex spaces in a home can be tailored to your personal preferences for how that space will be used. A common example is seeing a home that features a dining room off the front entry, but you don’t want a formal dining space in addition to the casual eating area, so you re-purpose that space as a den. That’s relatively easy, with no changes needed, except that you may add walls and a door for privacy.
Haskell - #42006_4 Bed, Den

Sometimes re-purposing rooms requires subtle floor plan modifications. Opting for a fourth bedroom in lieu of the den in the Haskell (plan #42006) deletes the larger linen closet to provide more private access for Bedroom 4.

​We want your home to work for how you live. That’s why we’ve labeled some rooms as “Flex Space” instead of a bedroom. At times, it can be difficult to envision something other than what is directly shown. But the power of a Flex Space let’s YOU envision how you want to utilize that space. Whether it is a natural space for an additional bedroom, home office, or craft space, you get to choose. Take the Connick Chase (plan #42465) with its 8’-6” closet and adjacent bathroom, the front room makes a natural bedroom. But we chose to label this as a Flex Room because our research told us doing so gave people the freedom to envision that space however they might want, such as a home office. 

Sometimes you will see the term “Bonus Room” on floor plans; often, these are spaces that could be finished off as living space if you desire. An example is Plan #55886, with a possible bonus room just off the entry from the garage, alongside the laundry room. Five steps down from the main floor, this location provides excellent privacy as a den or home office or could be left unfinished as storage.

When you see square footage called out for a bonus room as seen here on plan #55886 (143 sq. ft.), it's because that footage is not calculated in the home as originally designed; and if you were to have that space finished off, you would add that number to come up with “total finished square footage.”

Accessible unfinished space over a garage can make wonderful storage, especially if you are not building on a basement foundation. But finishing rooms over garages, affectionately referred to as “FROGs”, is another classic example of flex space. We’ve seen awesome home theaters, fitness rooms, and even delightful creative studios for writers and artists. But perhaps most common is to turn that flex space into a kids’ play area, especially when there is adequate sunlight!

The space over the garage in the Cedar Glen II (plan #42229V) was enhanced with a pair of VELUX® brand skylights, providing the natural light that makes this space an ideal playroom. Photo courtesy of VELUX.

 

Upstairs lofts are also common flex spaces. Due to their design, some plans’ loft spaces are more closed off and make for natural reading, study, or game spots; while some are open to living areas below. Prized for their flexibility, loft uses are sometimes limited by sound transfer between floors.

The Mariposa (plan #42237) is mostly closed off; thereby, limiting sound transfer from one area to another.

The loft space in the Gretna Mills (plan #42250) is open to sound from the entertaining area and vice versa, noise from the loft potentially interrupting conversation downstairs.

Some loft spaces can be reconfigured, as the Gretna Mills shows the option of a third bedroom in lieu of the loft space.

Fiala - #42281 Signature SpaceBecause flex spaces are critical to how you want to live in your home, some Design Basics’ home plans show a Signature Space® – literally, a small space that you can put your signature on! Among the more common uses are Pocket Offices, extra bathrooms, Pet Centers, and specialized storage such as a super-pantry. We’ve also seen these turned into safe rooms, wine rooms, and even a home elevator. The Signature Space’s location may further suggest possible uses. The Fiala (plan #42281) has a Signature Space just off the patio doors leading to the covered porch. Some homeowners, particularly households with pets and small children, prize such a space for coats, boots, pet sundries, etc., because of all the traffic to and from the back yard.

Ideal for corralling boots, coats, and gloves after building a snowman, a Signature Space near your backyard access is a handy space. Or do you have dogs? What a perfect spot for the Pet Center complete with shower for washing off those muddy paws!

Finally, some people prefer to convert outdoor living spaces into flex spaces. For example, the Palmer (plan #42057) has a covered porch that the buyer wanted to turn into an inspiration room. Windows lined two walls for connection with nature, a wall fountain added the sounds of gently falling waters, twin fireplace tubes anchored each end of the built-in bookcase, and there was a traditional work area as well as another, more comfortable chair plus table for storage and work surface.
Coming next week: Flexible spaces that serve multiple purposes.

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 VELUX.
Versatility by Design – Product Spotlight

Versatility by Design – Product Spotlight

KitchenAid Attachments Stacked

Attachments Stacked

Whether you are entertaining or preparing a meal for your family, efficiency AND versatility are important. KitchenAid® has introduced a wall oven that will quickly replace many other cooking appliances in your home. They applied one of the most popular features of their widely popular KitchenAid Stand Mixer, versatility, to the Smart Oven+. The Smart Oven+ features interchangeable attachments that allow you to cook, grill, steam, etc., all in the same appliance. Even better, the attachments stack to save space and most are dishwasher safe, making clean up a breeze!

Baking Stone Attachment

Grill Attachment

Steamer Attachment

The oven also boasts smart capabilities that pair with the mobile app, so you have complete control. The oven can be powered by voice commands or through your AI devices. KitchenAid did not skimp on design options either. The Smart Oven+ can be customized to match the height of existing cabinetry to give your kitchen a cohesive look.

Learn more about the KitchenAid Smart Oven+.
Photos Courtesy of KitchenAid.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

(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.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

News Flash – Storage Sells!

News Flash – Storage Sells!

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

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

Rosebury (plan #1767) - 1604 sq ft

Shelton Farm (plan #42392) - 1603 sq ft

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

Tailored Living 3-Tier Closet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: Storage solutions in the bathroom.

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

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Cover photo courtesy of Organized Living.

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