Design Faux Pas to watch for

aj33May 26, 2011

Hi All,

We had done an addition a while back to our house and the new Master Bedroom we added - we had vaulted ceiling and skylights. BAD move. Rainy nights wake us up.

Now we are starting to design a completely new home and I was wondering if you have similar Gotchas that you would like to share. We can make a list and make the posting sticky for reference (assuming this forum software allows it).

Feel free to suggest desirable list of features as well.

If you know of a book that has the list of things to watch for, please do share that as well. I do remember seeing a paperback that I will look up and share.

Many thanks in advance.


BTW: We are attempting to build a highly energy efficient, less than 2000 sq ft ranch (not including garages) in NJ.

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However big you think the laundry room needs to be, triple it.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 9:01PM
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We're in a rental now while we build our dream house and I have to say, watch out for the direction of your door swings. I have a nice size walk in master closet, but the door opens in (who's the genius who designed that??!!) The door blocks the clothes hanging on the rod behind it, so you have to step into the closet and close the door to get them. Also, the light switch is outside the closet (my old house had the switch inside) so when I step into the closet, I forget and have to go back out to turn the light on.

It's also an issue with bathrooms (don't have the door open in such a way that you have to straddle the toilet to close it).

And don't position doors so that two of them hit each other when both are open (another issue in my current rental).

I know it's a small thing but it drives me NUTS.

Good luck and have fun with your build!!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 2:01PM
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As far as closet light switches, put the jamb light switches on your master closet for sure. Haven't decided whether to put them on the kids. I guess it encourages closing closet doors! The jamb switches turn on when you open the door and turn off when you close - genius!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 8:55PM
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We love pocket doors, and the builder hates them. They saved so much space in areas like the closets, but we had to be firm with the builder that yes, we really wanted them. We do have several light switches that don't make sense now that we are living in the house. (Garage lights with the switch just inside the entry door to the house instead of out in the garage where you look for them). Setting the lockers not too close to the entry door. Always hitting someone trying to take off their shoes!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 9:57PM
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Watch for appliance spacing and orientation in the kitchen. Will the open oven door be a hazard to the person at the sink? Will the dishwasher block something when the door is open? Same thing for refrigerator doors.

Have you designed kitchen uppers that soar to 10', while the primary user is 5'1"? Same thing goes for counter top heights- what works for a 6' man may not work for his vertically challenged wife, and vice versa. Many kitchens even feature different height counter tops for different tasks. I'm 5'10", and find our standard height counters are too high for kneading bread dough.

Most garages are too small. Can you get two full-sized cars in there, and still open the doors all the way? Take a big car, open both front doors, and measure how wide it is- you might be surprised. That doesn't even take into account all of the stuff most people put in their garages. If you don't have any alternate storage and workshop space, consider building a BIG garage!

In designing our house, I find stairs to be one of the toughest things to fit in. I see a lot of amateur (and some professional) designs that either don't allow enough room for the stairs, or really infringe on something else. There is a thread going right now about stairs in the garage making it impossible to fit a second car in.

Unless you are young, and don't plan to stay in a house for long, do some research on universal design. It's easy to incorporate handicap-friendly features during the planning phase.

I see a lot of houses that lack service access for plumbing fixtures, particularly showers. Our current house is like this. If I ever need to replace the shower plumbing, the wall has to be opened up.

One more- incorporate the design into the lot it's going on. This is a biggie. Our FL home has a lovely porch, facing west. It is uninhabitable 6 months out of the year. The lots are so small here, there's no way around it, so we should have looked for a house with a different exposure. If you want to go further and incorporate passive solar, you really need to put some study into home siting and design. It's easy to fall in love with a house in a design book, only to have it be all wrong for the lot you have.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 8:28AM
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We echo the "big garage" comment. Ours will be 30'w x 25'deep. This gives us two 9' doors, and one "man door" + room for stairs going up into mudroom. Storage, utility tub, workbench, etc plenty of room along wall in front of cars, and wall either side of stairs. 36" door coming into both garage & mudroom.

We tried to make ALL our doors three-0 doors (3' wide), but did not go so far as making the whole house handicapped accessible, as some of our older friends are doing.
We DID however, re-think the interior stairs so that they are not so steep. Trying to take into consideration our aging knees, and visiting parents & folk who are no longer sixteen. That took tremendous effort to get it through the head of the person who our builder used to do CAD, but we finally got them done. Making them not-so-steep also made them two feet longer on the walls (and our dining room is sized thusly, LOL)

And my personal pet peeve? If you cook outside, give yourself some sort of covered area where you can grill when it rains. If you want. We did a covered porch off the kitchen specifically for that purpose. I see all of America grilling out on sunwashed expanses of wood - or huddled up next to the door with an umbrella on same wood (oh - maybe a vision from every rental house I've ever lived in....... )

good luck!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 9:22AM
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This is actually the Anti-Faux-Pas Forum. Run your plans past our seasoned eyes. The Wisdom of Crowds rules here. Our picky ole forum members will POUNCE on plan no-no's!

One thing you can do is 'walk through' your daily lives within your plans. You'll see if the garage-to-kitchen run with groceries requires a golf cart or if there's no place to put the dog's water dish ...or dishes from the DW.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 12:14PM
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Thank you so much for these ideas. I do plan to post the plans here for critique. I was hoping to minimize the churn with the architect by preempting some of the issues.

We are making a small house but large garage like you suggest. In fact, three garages - one of them is really a workshop in front and storage in the back 1/3rd of it. Having a regular garage door on the workshop makes it easy to extend the workshop onto the driveway on nice days and work with large pieces of wood.



    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 10:53AM
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After looking at a plan for weeks it helps to turn it and look at it from the other sides.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 11:17AM
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Too few architects actually consider where air conditioning duct work will have to run. While the a/c contractor is the expert in designing the system, homeowners often have a nasty shock after the house is built when they realize that there is absolutely NO alternative to a chase in their beautiful great room or that a closet intended for other purposes HAS to house the air handler. I would involve the a/c contractor at the planning stage so that he/she can make sure there is provision for those ducts and equipment and that good air flow will be available for maximum comfort.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 1:44PM
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For the energy-efficient house, orientation to the sun & taking into account shading trees is important in the design. Good overhangs at just the right angle will give you sun in winter and shade in summer.
Also consider, if you are planning photovoltaics, the roof orientation. We don't have panels yet, but our builder incorporated a chase from the attic to the fuse box that will make installation easier.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 3:15PM
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A faux pas is a social misstep, a matter of poor manners. A skylight in a bedroom can be a good or bad idea depending on your preference but it shouldn't offend anyone. I can't imagine a home design faux pas but it might involve the guest bathroom and a floor to ceiling "one-way glass" mirror .... D'oh!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 6:09PM
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Thought of another one - small, but important if this is the type thing which might make you crazy.

Take care the juxtaposition of recessed lighting & ceiling fans.
We sat once in an office about 12x12 with a center ceiling fan & four recessed cans in a coiffered ceiling. The cans showed onto the fan blades, which - when the fan was on - made a maddening strobe-effect. I could barely finish a sentence when we met - to work there all day would make me insane!!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 12:01PM
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I'm bumping this one for updates ;) Great thread!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 6:18PM
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Good point about the strobe effect on ceiling fans. I had never heard of it until my contractor pointed it out during an electrical walk through. It was an issue on our screened porch which has vaulted sides and a flat top. We wanted a fan out there - we finally had to do slope cans in the sides of the ceiling so we weren't relaxing in a disco!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 7:50PM
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In our current house we have rooms that when empty look architecturally interesting, but when there is furniture it seems that we can only arrange the furniture one way and its not even great then.
Another thing that "gets" me is cable hook up. I cant put the TV wherever I want because the cable hook up was put in a less than thoughtful place.
Same with outlets. You find the perfect lamp and then realize you need 2 extension cords to make it to an outlet.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 8:12PM
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My builder put our laundry room on the 2nd floor, but I don't think he put in the appropriate structure to support it. When my front-loading washer spins, you can feel the vibrations through the entire house. Sometimes the pans in the kitchen cabinets start rattling, one floor beneath the laundry room. Whoops!
Also, to repeat an earlier poster's point, our pantry door swung into the pantry, so we lost a lot of the storage space. We had someone re-hang the door to regain the space, but now the light switch is on the wrong side of the door.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 10:11PM
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Where do I begin. In our current house, if the double doors on the master bedroom are open, one blocks the doorway of the second bedroom. Two other doors overlay each other when open. One bathroom door doesn't open all the way because it hits the counter. The lighting guy who did the house must have been on crack :) If you want all the lights on in the kitchen you need to walk to 5 different places and one is even down a stair and out of the kitchen. We have hallways doors that are meant to stay open, but if you want to turn on a hallway light, you need to fumbled up the three stairs into the dark hall and reach behind the open door to find the light switch. If you want to turn the driveway lights on for guests you have to go out in the yard to turn them on and then back out after they leave.
Those things drive us batty.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 11:22PM
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Some of these comments make me laugh, mostly bc we have lived in homes with a lot of these issues, and you just scratch your head wondering what genius designed the house like that? mtc1, the frustration with the nonsensical lights cracked me up! You know what's crazy is that we had some friends who were designing their 1st home and they incorporated a lot of the nonsensical frustrations into their custom home bc they became so accustomed to dealing with them, that it didn't occur to them that in a custom home they could actually solve those frustrations with good design. For example, they didn't have a mudroom or anywhere to put their things when they came in the house and got into the habit of piling everything on their dining room table and hanging things on the backs of the chairs. So, in the custom home they were designing, they didn't bother putting in any kind of mudroom or landing area. It just goes to show that not everybody (most people who aren't on this forum) just don't care or think about stuff like that.

Anyway, I agree with the idea of making sure that your garage is extra roomy, that electrical/cable outlets and switches make sense, that you should think about the exact size and placement of the furniture you want in a room and make sure that it will fit and that you can walk around it, that you make sure you have enough storage for all of your seasonal belongings

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 4:04PM
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"My builder put our laundry room on the 2nd floor, but I don't think he put in the appropriate structure to support it."

If it has not fallen through he built it correctly.

Second floors are normally built to hold a 30 pound per square foot 'live' load, and a 10 pound per square foot 'dead' load.
Unless you washer weighs in at over 250 pounds it is not a structural issue.

If it bothers you that much have some vibration isolators installed under it.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 4:19PM
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Consider sight lines. The view from the front door shouldn't be of the powder room toilet. Don't kid yourself that you will always close the PR door! Think about what you will see from each room and walking into each room.

As a previous poster mentioned, go for a gentler slope on your stairs.

If you can, add a few inches to the width of any hallways and the stairs. It makes passing each other and carrying things around so much easier, as well as adding a feeling of spaciousness.

Make sure you have plenty of storage! You can have a much smaller bedroom if you don't have to squeeze in dressers, etc., but can put all the clothes in the closet. It's important in the kitchen, too -- a walk-in pantry is cheap storage space compared to cabinets.

Put closets where they can act as sound-buffers between rooms.

Have the lights in each space wired so you can turn them on and off from every entry.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 8:51PM
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