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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:

Homes Talk to Women as it Relates to Her Story

Homes Talk to Women as it Relates to Her Story

Rear Foyer - Elise, MaggieWelcome to Part 2 of the ‘Homes Talk to Women’ series focusing on as it relates to her story. Homes Talk to Women through her life experiences. What has she experienced in her current home or apartment? What does she like; what would she change if she could? Having lived in a home with no garage, for Aimee, the idea of walking into her home from the garage directly into the kitchen without a rear foyer was simply not on her radar screen. Now, homes without a rear foyer say to her, “Thoughtless!”

Homes Talk to Women through her knowledge. That’s one reason for touring model homes, watching HGTV, and surfing the internet. She may love the idea of a door-less walk-in shower (no door to clean!), but she may not know that it can get really cold without that door to keep the heat in. Incorporating a radiant towel warmer is an easy addition!

Homes Talk to Women through her culture, as different backgrounds may have significant influences on her preferences. Cultures that emphasize academic success may have strong interest in the Family Lounge concept where parents are involved with their kids’ homework. Feng Shui has significant influence over home design. The lack of a formal entryway, a closet directly opposite the front door, stairs facing the front door, or a bathroom door facing the front door all say to her, “This is not the home for me!”

Homes Talk to Women through her lifestage, appreciating the shifting needs of how people live in the home at those particular lifestages. Priorities and needs differ among newlyweds, growing families, empty nesters, and multi-generational households. Big closets in all the bedrooms say – ‘A place for everything’, and tells her she won’t be hearing any more, “But mom, there’s no place to put it!” from the kiddos.

Everyone’s life experiences and living situations are different. What’s your story and how do you prefer your home’s design to fit your story?

Next week learn how ‘Homes Talk to Women’ through the home’s livability. 

If you missed the other segments of this four-part series, click the links below:

For more resources on thoughtful design: 

Forward Framing

Forward Framing

Your best framers may not be part of your construction crew; rather, they just might be found among your sales team. Known as forward framing, they employ the power of suggestion to influence prospective purchasers’ expectations regarding your homes. When visitors to your model home hear, “There are so many amenities you’ll find in our (model) home you just won’t see in other builders’ homes,” those hopeful buyers are primed to notice, appreciate, and remember those amenities.

In 7 Secrets of Persuasion, James Crimmins writes, “You can completely change the outcome of a test drive by leading the driver to anticipate the positive aspects of acceleration, braking, handling, and road feel. If you don’t set the expectation beforehand, there is a good chance the driver will miss key selling points. Some key selling features are obvious – the stone countertops, for example; others might be overlooked – the pull-out drawers in your base cabinets can’t be appreciated if visitors don’t open those cabinet doors. And then there are amenities that are hidden assets – such as high-performance insulation; it’s covered up with drywall.

Visitors arrive at your model home and start in your garage sales center. Since the weather’s lousy, they begin their model home tour by entering from the garage. Maybe not the optimal first impression; however, if they hear, “Did you know, 92% of the time we go in and out of our homes through the garage rather than via the front door? That’s why we focus just as much attention on the design of the rear foyer as we do the front entry foyer,” those visitors will notice the rear foyer design and its amenities.

While visitors pause in the rear foyer, your new home sales professional uses forward framing in pointing out that the drop zone keeps clutter out of the kitchen, the bench is handy for tying or removing shoes, and lockers or cubbies for organizing the kids’ school needs for the next day helps de-stress the morning rush, getting everyone out the door on time with everything. Beyond merely noticing those amenities, this helps people appreciate, and value, them.

Your model home was built from Design Basics’ Cedar Hill (#42435) home plan. In talking with your prospective buyers, you find out his parents, who live in Oregon, come to visit every fall so they can take in a couple of their grandson’s football games. Using forward framing, your salesperson helps the visitors envision and appreciate having two owner’s suites as well as a third main floor bedroom. Then she shares her own story of moving her mother-in-law in after a fall and broken hip, and how wonderful it would have been to have an actual second bedroom suite.

The persuasive power of personal experience, and the emotion that comes through such stories, implants that thought and makes the dual owner’s suite concept more memorable. The hopeful buyers consider the fact that one day, they too, may want to move aging parents in and how desirable that suite would be. Another benefit, being more memorable, such amenities are more likely to be talked about, jump-starting word-of-mouth on your behalf. 

As your salesperson leads the visitors into the kitchen, she talks about the importance of storage as she points to the oversized, work-in kitchen pantry. Again, forward framing makes certain design features more noticeable. She goes on to point out the electrical outlets in the pantry, suggesting that’s a great place for keeping small appliances plugged in and ready to use – an amenity that might have been underappreciated or perhaps missed entirely. Ultimately, visitors have a better model home experience due to your salesperson’s forward framing… and, your company sells more homes!

At Design Basics, we have the tools to help you stand out from other builders:

Contact us today to learn more: 800.947.7526

Organized Rear Foyers

Organized Rear Foyers

Organized Rear Foyers Providing Hassle-Free Take Offs

Her Home™ asked women what contributes stress to their daily lives at home. One of the most frequent replies was: “Getting my family out the door on time in the morning, with everything they need.” Another common response was simply: “Clutter.”

Thankfully, an organized rear foyer can de-stress take offs and provide pleasant landings by eliminating clutter that may otherwise accumulate in the kitchen or family room. Because efficient, practical service entries are emphasized in all of Design Basics’ new home plans, Her Home asked two of the company’s designers, Carl Cuozzo and Marshall Wallman, to share their thoughts on these important areas. “ In smaller homes with limited space available, a simple bench with some cubbies above and a few coat hooks between is very popular,” Cuozzo begins. “We also include a drop zone somewhere near the garage entrance. Typically, a base cabinet that’s 36 inches wide, a drop zone provides a convenient spot to drop your car keys, sort mail, park your briefcase and recharge cell phones and laptops. It may include one or more locking cabinet doors or drawers for expensive items.” “It’s a great place for emergency items, too – flashlights, batteries, and a battery-operated radio,” adds Wallman.

Extra space provides added options, such as including pet amenities. “I’ve designed several homes with "pet centers" in the rear entries,” notes Wallman. “They included a special space for a kennel under the cabinetry. In another home, I designed a built-in bench with an open space underneath for a kennel for a small Pekinese. It’s also nice to provide a hook for leashes, a drawer or tub for toys and a pullout in a cabinet for dog food.”

Marshall prefers not to include a pet shower in the rear foyer area. “If the shower is strictly for the pet, I like to put it in the garage where it doesn’t matter if the dog shakes off water, and a messy floor can be hosed down. A garage shower can be used as a boot wash as well. They now make sillcocks (outside water spigots) that mix hot and cold water. Of course, in colder climates, you may need to shut the water off in the winter.

“The rear foyer is also a good place for a message center of some kind,” Cuozzo adds. “Since everyone in the family will probably use this entry, it’s the best place to leave notes so they aren’t missed. Families with young children enjoy blackboards. They’re easier to wipe clean than dry-erase boards and chalk doesn’t stain clothes. Bulletin boards with push pins work well with older kids, allowing parents to post soccer schedules or appointment reminder cards.”“The rear foyer is also a good place for a message center of some kind,” Cuozzo adds. “Since everyone in the family will probably use this entry, it’s the best place to leave notes so they aren’t missed. Families with young children enjoy blackboards. They’re easier to wipe clean than dry-erase boards and chalk doesn’t stain clothes. Bulletin boards with push pins work well with older kids, allowing parents to post soccer schedules or appointment reminder cards.”


“Including recycling bins in the rear foyer frees up space in the kitchen and saves steps when it’s time to put the recyclables out,” remarks Wallman. “One of my clients also put a paper shredder near the drop zone – so she could sort her mail, shred all of the credit card offers and toss them in the recycling bin, without ever bringing the junk mail into the rest of the home.

“Where extra space is available, a closet for the broom and vacuum, or even a central vacuum’s hoses, is a nice addition,” continues Wallman. “Some families request a shoe tower; others leave shoes in individual member’s cubbies or lockers. Another possibility is to leave an open space under a bench with a metal tray so the family can sit down to remove their shoes and then leave them under the bench.

“When the sky’s the limit, a pantry in the rear entry is a convenient spot for homeowners who like to stock up on paper goods, greeting cards and wrapping paper.”“When the sky’s the limit, a pantry in the rear entry is a convenient spot for homeowners who like to stock up on paper goods, greeting cards and wrapping paper.”

Size restrictions aren’t the only things to consider while planning a rear entry. One important consideration is whether to make the storage closed or open. If the foyer is visible from the rest of the home or if guests will be using the entry, homeowners may prefe the formal look provided by a conventional closet or cabinet doors.

“I designed a home for a lady who wanted a dressy rear entry,” Wallman recalls. “She chose to have a coat closet for her and her husband’s wraps and, rather than a built-in drop zone and bench, she asked for enough open space for an antique bench and a chest of drawers with a mirror above it.”

“Families with children usually like to leave storage open because that’s more convenient,” Cuozzo observes. “A row of open lockers or a bench and coat hooks are more popular with these folks than a single coat closet. Anything to make it easier for children to put their backpack where it belongs and hang up their coat. Opening a door and putting something on a hanger can seem like too much effort to a child. I’ve done several plans where I’ve designed a bench with a chalkboard above the bench and several lockers on each side.”

Whenever possible, it’s wise to keep the design flexible so that the area can change with the family and appeal to future homebuyers. “It’s probably a good idea not to customize cabinetry too much,” Cuozzo advises. “For instance, some people include spice drawers in their cabinets to keep smaller items sorted. But it may be more practical in the long run to choose regular drawers and then add dividers that can be removed or switched later. And, of course, it’s important important to remember that children grow – so allow space to raise coat hooks, or make sure cubbies are tall enough to accommodate longer coats.”

For those who want to maximize the efficiency of an existing space without built-in cabinetry, Chris Kroll, an interior designer in Omaha, Nebraska, who specializes in organizing and space planning, shares several options: “ has an amazing array of organizational products, including message boards, recycling bins and mail sorting wall units. offers a bench with a built-in shoe cabinet, a message center with coat hooks, and countless attractive baskets and boxes. Pottery Barn also has some very attractive benches and cubbies, which are available in black or white finishes.”

Rear Foyer Lockers
Expanded rear foyer
Rear Foyer Cubbies

“Spending some extra time and money planning an efficient, well-organized rear foyer will save the entire family considerable stress for years to come,” concludes Cuozzo.

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