If you were building a home...

hedgehoggyFebruary 2, 2011

... what would be some of your best ideas/things to incorporate/design for keeping your home (and all it's contents) organized/clean/efficient.


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First, I'd take a good long look at everything that I have trouble storing and organizing in my current home. That would give me a place to start--I would know that I would want to plan for storage for those items.

Then I would troll the internet and books for creative ideas on storing/organizing those things.

For me personally, I'd want a broom closet to hold the vacuum and mops and brooms and related gear, like vacuum bags and cleaners. A linen closet that actually holds linens, instead of the 8" deep "linen" closet in my current house. I have a lot of books, so I'd have bookshelves and a window seat, with drawers underneath (because I've had the kind where the lid lifts up and they are a pain in the neck), built in the library.

The kitchen would have a pantry for food storage, with adjustable shelving. In my dream house, I'd also have a butler's pantry for all the china and glasses, where the cabinets are hung lower than the average kitchen cabinet, so that it is easier to see and grab what you are looking for (I have this in my current house and love the fact that the bottom shelf is chest high instead of at eye level).

And there'd be what the British call a "box room." Just a small room, maybe in the attic or cellar, with some adjustable shelving on two walls and then empty space. A dedicated place for luggage and Christmas decorations and out of season sports gear and the tent and other camping gear and the big coffee maker that only gets used at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My SIL had a laundry room built when they added on to their house. One of the kids has a bedroom adjacent to the laundry room with a huge walk-in closet. She didn't plan to do this originally, but now she puts all three kids' clothes in the one walk-in closet. It's very easy to put them all away when the closet is just steps down the hall, and she has one hamper that they all use for their dirty clothes in there as well. So SIL eliminated running up and down stairs with clothes and saved herself a lot of time and energy.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 9:26PM
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I would head to the library and just look through all of their organizing books. Check them out too maybe for ideas. The one thing I wish we had for our house is a sink/counter in the garage. A semi deep sink. It would be great for handwashing, potting plants, cleaning dirty items like a bird feeder.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 2:43AM
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besides the sink/counter in the garage, I'd have a laundry room close to the bedrooms, with side by side W/D and a counter over them, and enough storage space for supplies, with enough space for an ironing board and a comfortable chair to sit to do mending, natural light, as well as good artificial light and a radio or something... oh yes, it is good to dream!

Also, a corner of my kitchen would be closed off with a closet door and turned into a step-in pantry with shallow shelves, rather closely spaced, all around and to the ceiling, a small stepstool in the middle and a good light.

I wouldn't waste space for walk in closets - reach ins with a higher section for out of season are great for me!

Also, I'd love to have appropriate storage space in each room to store the christmas decorations that I use in that room.

And of course the obvious launch pads for everyone in the family close to the door, as unobtrusive and beautiful as possible, but with space for everything: coats, shoes, bags etc.

Just my ideas.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 4:50AM
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The Spousal Unit grew up in a house with a combination mudroom/pantry at the entrance. Would love something like that for everything from coats to canned goods.

Definitely a broom closet. My parents's house has one and a tiny closet in the kitchen for brooms, ironing board, etc., is incredibly handy.

Build-ins! Instead of conventional closets, the same house has shorter than usual bedroom closets with the extra space going to drawers underneath.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 8:54AM
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One thing I wouldn't allow is that space in a reach-in closet that ends up on the sides behind the walls. Have the doors extend ALL THE WAY to open up the whole closet.

I would incorporate a quality central vac system.

Definitely have the w/d on the same floor as the bedrooms.

Extra wall plugs. And plugs outside if you like to decorate the house for Christmas.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 11:55AM
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There were a lot of things we thought about with our current home, plus a few that I would consider for the future as well...

We added tons of electric outlets throughout the house. So glad that we did.

We planned ahead for finishing the basement and had the foundation poured an extra foot deep, so our basement will have "normal" height rooms when finished instead of "basement" height rooms. We roughed in the plumbing. Where the build was going to cantilever a bay window and the box bay off the kitchen, we had them add it into the foundation. The box bay in the basement (a three sided recessed area) will become mirrored walls for our exercise room and the box bay in the basement will become a future wine/fruit cellar - we're going to wall it off without insulating it so it mimics more closely the colder root cellar environment.

One of the things that I loved about my current house was its simple layout with few niches. Over time though, I have grown to miss having some of these as I have no really good areas for displaying things like a christmas village. I would add in a few recessed niches built between drywall studs in some of the rooms.

I would also look more actively ways to increase storage. I would have reconfigured our kitchen / foyer slightly to allow for a larger pantry. I would have included a cabinet in the kitchen that holds things vertically like cookie sheets and wide skillets. I would have incorporated garbage collection bins into the cabinets (maybe... that one I'm still thinking about, because I like the one handed step on the garbage can lid flipper option), including definitely something for recycling bins.

I would have looked for more places to add closets. I would have built a workbench area and an extra recessed bay into the garage. I would finish the garage upfront and add cabinets and possibly slat walls.

I would go through my house NOW and write down a list of categories / storage needs and then go through the new house blueprint asking - where would this be stored? where would that be stored?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 12:57PM
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I would re-read Don Aslett's books and the Not So Big House Books.

Have fewer large cavernous rooms that duplicate functions and more rooms specifically designed with the known functions in mind. Nooks and bump-outs for specific types of furniture or built-ins (harder for mass market, so to some extent that becomes a personal/custom home thing). The place for the piano, the Christmas tree, the music or TV (now on the wall, I guess). So much of a "room" is not needed for living but needed to house the entertainment center, books, allow for dysfunctional flow patterns, etc.

Way more of the thought process of the home into the entry/exits and keeping dirt out; mudroom and pantry concepts and mail flow stations; getting ready for work.
Storage for outdoor and garden equipment. More design attention to the materials used so that cleaning is easier. Great windows and views--doesn't seem like an organizing concept, but the idea is to make you really love being in a room or only have spaces you love being in so you use them and take care of them and they don't become the abandoned dungeon rooms. Multipurpose rooms or rooms that you can imagine in multiple ways--sure, to some extent that just depends on your imagination and a bit of refurbishing, but some rooms just look like they would only be a bedroom and not comfortable feel for other activity--this goal is because it helps you re-organize your life and stuff at different stages.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 2:38PM
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The best thing you can do if you are building a home is to get out there and look at open houses to see what everyone else has and what might be useful to you.

We just built a year ago and may be building again later this year if dh gets transferred. Some things I did were to take all pantry and closet shelves to the the highest point I could get them in the room. There is always stuff you only use once or twice a year that can go on top. Also, I fell in love with the switch in the pantry door that turns on the light when you open the door. I also had just a couple of feet on one side of the pantry that the rim guys were going to leave blank. I had them put 4" or 5" deep shelves there. They ended up being my favorite shelves because I can store my spices there. I don't like the actual spice rack that the cabinet guy installed and will be removing it at some point in time.

All my bedroom closets in my house are walk-ins. All bedrooms have different styles depending upon which bedroom it is and who it is for. All bedrooms have adequate space in the closet and so I got rid of the dressers and chests. We still have nightstands for the reading lamps. The master closet has a built in bench so you can sit down and take off your shoes. One thing I wish I had done differently was to design a better shoe storage area. I think I would prefer cubbies like you see in the McDonald's Playland. There is another recent thread on shoes storage that would be worth reading. I also went as far up as I could to the ceiling with shelves in this room.

The way it worked out with my hallways, I have two linen closets and two coat closets. I wish I had put the coat rack down lower in the coat closets. I could have added another shelf. I also wish I had added shelves down at the bottom. I originally said I wanted them and then the trim guys talked me out of them. I realize that the way I said I wanted them originally fits our lifestyle better. My one linen closet works better than the other because it has rectangular shelves and my bins fit in them properly. The other linen closet has triangular shelves. My option was not to have a closetso I'm just happy to have it.

Another suggestion I have is to measure widths and depths of what you need or like. This is our first house with a mudroom. I love having it. If I had measured some other mudrooms, I would have known in advance that I needed more space in there. We have five people in our family and only three cubbies because that is all that would fit. I have to be diligent about hanging extra jackets up in coat closet or we don't have enough room.

My kitchen cabinets are beautiful, but not deep enough. I'm not sure if I wasn't paying attention or if I got shorted when they were built. If I were building again, I'd take a hard look at function.

If I were building again, I would consider having some sort of desk space off of the kitchen. A floor plan both my dh and I like has a butler's pantry. I have no real use for one of those, but something I've seen in a builder's house is to convert that cabinetry to a desk with mail slots and shelves above. It's a place to keep a laptop and a few other things handy, but out of sight.

I love my laundry room, It has plenty of shelves and closets. The only I would do differently is to have a place for every single person's clean and dirty clothes and maybe a folding table so stuff could get sorted.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 4:54PM
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We remodeled the entire house a few years back. Here are the things that I like the most about the remodel:
* After 30 years of doing laundry in the garage, we made a laundry closet in the bedroom corridor. One shelf and a cabinet to the ceiling are above the washer; hanging bar and high cabinet over the dryer. There is plenty of space for folding on top of the machines. Laundry basket hangs on a hook on the inside of the door. And a good light and fan. Placed the electrical outlets high so we can reach it with the machines in place.
* Had a custom murphy bed built for my spare room. Guests are infrequent but I like to sew almost every day. The bed folds up giving me 50 square feet of floor space for my sewing. When the bed is folded I can hang a quilt on the outer surface.
* We have a piano and a ceiling spotlight is aimed at the music rack above the keys. No floor lamp to constantly move and trip over.
* Moved the furnace to the attic of this ranch home, giving us that much more space on the ground floor. Quieter, too.
* Deep drawers below the cook top for pots and pans. So much more convenient that cabinets.
* A double-wide drawer immediately below the cook top for all utensils and measuring items. Everything is right where I need it.
* Xenon undercabinet lighting makes all kitchen work easier.
*Air switch on the sink surround operates the garbage disposer. No dripping hands feeling under the sink or on the wall.
* Love my huge built-in lazy susans in each upper and lower corner cabinet. One is my pantry, bakeware in another, spices and baking supplies in the third and large cookware in the fourth.
* Moved the furnace to the attic of this ranch home, giving us that much more space on the ground floor. Quieter, too.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 2:56AM
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Put at least one electrical outlet in the mantel and put an electical outlet in the base of all of your built-ins (or at waist level, depending on function). Run a strip of outlets in a built-in entertainment center.

I would also put an outlet next to each toilet on the least conspicuous side.

Kitchen night-light: Make one can light work independently of others so you can leave it one during the night or while you are out of town.

Have one of your bathrooms be wheel chair friendly. I know that you might not be in that time of your life, but you never know.

Circular drive in front of house.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 12:53PM
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This has nothing to do with being organized but I would make sure there are vents in any large closests so they dont get that musty smell, and also make sure the pipes all supply the same amount of hot water... what I mean is, I have a large bathtub and the hot water is no where near the same as the showers, or another bathroom. No idea why but it drives me crazy! I'm guessing it has to do with how they decided to do the pipes when they built the house.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 3:09PM
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Employ every Universal Design principle you can. These are not only for the handicapped, but for making any building accessible to everyone.

Here is a link that might be useful: Universal Design

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 3:48PM
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Great ideas here. A few more:

1. Hydronic radiant floor heat throughout. (The covers on baseboard heaters are a nuisance to remove for cleaning and once you get them off, the fins are hard to clean. Forced air systems spread dust and are less comfortable.) Also, not having any baseboard heaters will give you more flexibility for furniture arrangement and door placement.

2. At least one dedicated broom/cleaning supplies closet with outlets for charging cordless vacuums, mops, emergency flashlights, etc. If the house is large, try to squeeze in a broom closet on each floor.

3. Consider a central vac system. (I don't have one myself, but I'd like to.)

3. A coat closet near each entrance and a place to sit to take off boots if you live in a 4-season climate (or if you have a no shoes rule). Obviously, if you don't allow shoes, you'll need a place for keeping your outdoor footware and indoor slippers. Also, if you live in a cold climate, it's good to have an airlock entrance to minimize heat loss and tracking in snow/mud.

4. Consider wall-hung toilets in your bathrooms to make it easier to clean both the toilets themselves and the bathroom floors. (The wall behind them must be thick enough to accomodate the hidden tanks, but some in-wall tanks are designed to go in a 4" cavity.)

5. Don't use "furniture-style" vanities and cabinets or clawfoot tubs (so you won't have to clean underneath them).

6. Use motion-activated faucets that don't have separate handles. You can also get touch-free soap dispensers.

7. Buy toilets and other fixtures with special glazing that prevents minerals from adhering and inhibits mold (such as Toto Sanagloss, American Standard/Porcher EverClean -- other manufacturers will undoubtedly come out with similar technology soon). Make sure that you have an appropriate water filter or treatment system if you need it so your fixtures will last longer.

8. Consider toilet bidet seats to reduce (but not eliminate) toilet paper usage - better for the environment, better for your septic system/waste treatment plant, better for your wallet (eventually), and less toilet paper to store.

9. Plan for extra-deep recessed medicine cabinets with built-in outlets.

10. Avoid very high ceilings so you won't have to hire someone to change bulbs or clean the light fixtures or fans. Use long-life LED fixtures in places that are inaccessible.

11. In the kitchen, avoid open shelves (to minimize dusting and also re-washing items you haven't used recently). I like the idea of appliance garages too.

12. If you have high ceilings in your kitchen, consider double-decker cabinets. Use deep full-extension drawers in place of lower cabinets for pots & pans. Avoid narrow or very shallow drawers (not very space-efficient). In my kitchen, I have to use countertop utensil caddies because because I don't have enough drawer space. Also, avoid single-purpose drawers (like spice drawers) which aren't very flexible.

13. Maximize kitchen storage space by using kickspace drawers (good for flat items like cookie sheets and even a collapsible footstool). Someone on the Kitchen forum used one for her appliance manuals, an idea I hope to be able to copy some day.

14. Use pullouts for garbage and recycling.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 8:10PM
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Some things I had in the house growing up: 1. Lots of built-in book shelves, elegant, with glass doors. 2. A closet holding a fold-down ironing board. 3. A tall broom closet for brooms, mops, even room for a small vacuum.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 12:34PM
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Something I forgot earlier, add a wall outlet in your master closet in case you want to iron clothes in there.

I made my builder put an outside water faucet for each side of my house. It is so much easier to water my trees and things around the yard.

Look for lower maintenance finishes so your house doesn't look as dirty if haven't cleaned. For example, get brown colored grout instead of white. We have hand scraped distressed wood plank floors. Dh dropped a burning log on the floor and burnt a couple of spots. It looks like it is meant to be there. Scratches don't show up as bad either. My kids are hard on walls. I'd recommend not getting special finishes so it's easier to touch up the paint.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 1:12PM
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This is OT but, trilobite, I haven't heard the term "Spousal Unit" before; made me laugh. Reminds me of the time before DH and I married that I was complaining about his failure to respond in some way I wanted, don't remember what, and he said, "But I'm just a basic unit." Cracked me up! Thanks for the laugh.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 6:07PM
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Some really great ideas in this thread!!!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 7:16PM
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I forgot to mention the ADA toilet. (Americans with Disabilities Act). We are in our 60s and I can't tell you how nice it is to have a toilet seat that meets you half way! Even if you are 30 years younger that we are (as we were when we bought this house) there will be days when your back is sore or injured and not having to do a deep knee bend will save the day. Little kids can't manage the height so be selective where you place one. Oh, and we had space to add the bidet. Truly love it.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 11:42PM
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Cross Stitch brings up a good point. We are all getting older. Even if you are young and healthy, you will appreciate the comfort of higher placed countertops, ADA type toilets,etc. We once considered building a house to live in "forever" and the architect sold us on making the house handicapped accessible.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 7:07AM
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