What features would your dream house have?
August 9, 2014 11:44 AM   Subscribe

We will be building a new house to live in, what features could we add to make this the best house ever?

We are going to be building our new house and are very excited. We have met the architects a couple of times and they are working on the initial designs. What I am looking for are things that could be implemented within the designs the architects come up with. The problem is that we have always lived in pretty normal houses from the 70s and earlier and so don't really know what is out there and what the experience of living with these things is.

An easy example would be going for a tankless water heater instead of a traditional one (we've already done this in our current house and it is great). But what about a water softener? The state of my kettle tells me the water here is hard, but no one I know has one. Having more than one outlet per bedroom would be nice too.

We're in Toronto and the lot is not particularly large ( 17m(55') by 29m(96')).

(And thanks to today's FPP I am already planning where the secret kids room can go)
posted by any portmanteau in a storm to Home & Garden (112 answers total) 227 users marked this as a favorite
If you have or are ever planning to have dogs, build a dog-washing station in the mud room.
posted by lois1950 at 11:48 AM on August 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

I've always wanted a foot pedal that turns the kitchen sink on.
posted by something something at 11:54 AM on August 9, 2014 [21 favorites]

Radiant heating in the bathroom floors. A hall closet that has a secret passageway leading into the study or den, so the kids can get home, throw their book sacks in, and then retrieve them later when they do homework. A mud room. Even if you don't get that muddy. With a small shower next to the washer and dryer. Ask them to put the thermostat and intake anywhere other than by your bedroom. That clicking sound can be bothersome on sleepless nights.
posted by myselfasme at 11:55 AM on August 9, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Built. In. Bookshelves.

At least one windowseat or other really really really great window nook.

Shelving or wide sills on windows for houseplants.

A moss wall in the bathroom.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:57 AM on August 9, 2014 [16 favorites]

A switch at the entrance to each room that controls all the (table, freestanding, etc) lamps.

Huge bathroom, roll top bath in the center, lamps wired in safely.

Underheated wooden flooring.

Seconding WidgetAlley's windowseat.
posted by humph at 12:00 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing the radiated heated bathroom floors. OMG. 2am shower after a crazy blizzard traffic and just standing on the floor is heavenly. Makes you forget it is winter.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:01 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

YES to the dog washing station! Heated floors if you live in a location with snowy cold seasons. Also heated driveway if necessary or heated sidewalk outside; anything to limit shoveling needs. (I see you've said toronto so yes do this!)

And even though you already know the glory of a tankless water heater I will nevertheless state my tremendous affection for them, they are the best.

Laundry chute? In-ground trash cans to prevent critter activity?

Depending on how long you plan to live there, it can't hurt to make a spare downstairs bedroom/bathroom handicapped accessible. Also good for kids with sports injuries.
posted by elizardbits at 12:02 PM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Speaking of secret kid rooms, we saw a house recently where there was a trapdoor in each kid's closet ceiling that led to a shared loft/play area. It was pretty sweet.
posted by Flannery Culp at 12:02 PM on August 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

My brother's new house has these vacuum things under some of the cabinets, so that when you sweep the hardwood floors, you just sweep it over to the vacuum thing and it gets sucked into the central vac system. No bending, no trying to get those last little bits of dust onto the dustpan. I have no idea how much that kind of convenience costs, but man is it nice.

Now is definitely the time to overwire your house for electricity. Lots of plug-ins and not a lot of plug-ins on the same breaker, especially in the kitchen, but also media rooms and offices benefit from being on more than one circuit so you don't overload them.

Counter mounted compost bins are super handy if you have lot of counter space.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:06 PM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:06 PM on August 9, 2014

I'd have a ground source (geothermal) heat pump if money was no object. Also heated floors throughout the entire house.

A house we built for a customer a few years back had high beds built in and each one had a little door in it that led to a secret hallway that connected all three kids' rooms. That was freakin' cool.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:07 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

A coat closet next the entrance you actually use. Bike storage at the entrance that you can roll right into. If you have cats a place to put the litter box so you don't smell it or step on litter. A water tap over the stove for filling pots. A window in the bathroom.
posted by florencetnoa at 12:08 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Reading nook/library with sliding ladder! Window seat. My mom's house has a three-season room with floor-to-ceiling windows that we get tons of use out of, even in winter with a space heater. Garbage disposal and double sink in the kitchen. Laundry on the same floor as the bedrooms.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 12:09 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: All the houses in Australia have drains in the middle of the bathroom floor. If the toilet/sink/tub overflows it drains instead of floods - it's brilliant.

My grandparents had a wood burning stove and an extra large deep bathtub (not in the same room). Heaven!

I once saw pictures of a house with moss bathmat....
posted by jrobin276 at 12:09 PM on August 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I really, really want a mudroom entrance with storage cubbies so my kids (and husband) have a place to drop their crap when they come in, and not track mud all over the house.

A good connection to the outdoors that makes outdoor summer entertaining easy ... if I were starting from scratch, I'd make sure there was a door into the backyard area from the kitchen, to make it easier to carry food outside, and arrange the first-floor bathroom/powder room so it was easy to access from the back door. I'd also consider an outdoor potable water sink, but if I didn't have to walk halfway around my darn house every time my kids want to get a glass of water, that probably wouldn't bother me so much. :)

If you have or intend to have kids, TURN THE TOE-KICK OF THE BATHROOM VANITY INTO A STEP STOOL. We are having our first-floor bathroom redone next month -- the one where the kids wash their hands after playing, before dinner, when catastrophes, after peeing, etc. -- and turning the toe-kick into a step stool is only costing us $200, and I cannot WAIT to not spend tons of time lifting small children up to the sink or helping them find the step stool that they took somewhere else to play rocketship. I am seriously super-psyched.

Have them put outlets near your mantle (if you have one) for ease of Christmas light decorating ... but also it's a good place for chargers. If you are having cabinets or bookcases built in living room-type areas, also have a couple of outlets built in those. We had cord drops built into our living room bookshelves, with the outlets in the base cabinet. We can then run a charger cord up from the cabinet and snake it between two books. It's unobtrusive, but we always have a phone charger immediately to hand. (It would also make it very easy to turn a bookcase into a media station with a small TV and the DVD/etc underneath in the cabinet, or to set up one of the cabinets as a computer peripheral station -- printer, scanner, etc -- and put a laptop on the first shelf of the cabinets and have a docking station for it.) Basically instead of just "Where might I want a light?" also ask yourself "Where might I want a charger?" for outlets in living areas.

Have an outdoor outlet in front (situated for Christmas light plugging) and in back (for parties!). You can always run long extension cords if you need to use a weed whacker or something, but it's very convenient to have one on each side of the house.

Handicapped-accessible is stroller-accessible ... I have had a heck of a time getting my stroller in and out of my doors, and then both of my doors have kinda narrow, steep steps down to the ground level. There was no good way to load the baby and get the baby in or out of the house/stroller. It's not a dealbreaker or anything, but starting from scratch I'd definitely think about making at least one of my entrances handicapped accessible which would help my friends and relatives with mobility issues AND make my stroller life easier.

This is out-there, but I would have whatever bedroom I intended to use as a nursery able to have a screen door installed. MANY TIMES I thought the perfect solution would be to have a screen door (in addition to the regular door) so I could leave the regular door open and close the screen door, thus keeping the pets OUT of the nursery but letting me see and hear the baby. Unfortunately my interior doors won't let me install a screen door on the frame because of fancy molding. But maybe I'm the only one who's ever thought that was a good solution. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:12 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Friends have 2 drawers in their kitchen that are actually refrigerators and their pantry is a walk in chilled room that keeps things around 50 degrees. So they keep dry goods, fruits and veggies, thaw meat, cellar temp beer, wine etc in there. Its, in a word, my envy.
posted by chasles at 12:12 PM on August 9, 2014 [13 favorites]

Lots of various nooks such as window reading nooks. Sarah Susanka's books are great for finding great examples of window nooks. A cozy dining area situated around fixed bench type seating, also around a window and nook like. Sort of like this but better. Also, a cute and cozy sun room, and a reading room, of course.
posted by Blitz at 12:14 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Putting a real (100°C) sauna in my house was the best decision I made, and I live in Texas. I'd imagine your winters actually get cold. Mine is 2m x 3m and we can easily fit eight. Great for get-togethers with friends.

Also with the dog: dog doors. It's great that they let themselves out whenever they need to and I don't have to. Especially at 0500 or right before bed when I don't want to move.

Unless you're shorter than 165cm (5'4"), make your countertops 10cm higher. If you're building cabinets, you can just make them taller, otherwise, put a block underneath pre-made standard height cabinets and you'll never notice. I'll never go back - none of that slight-but-gets-tiring-after-a-half-hour-of-chopping bending at the kitchen or doing dishes, or washing up, etc.

If you're so inclined, a wine refrigerator for wine/beer/water is quite nice and means you don't end up taking the every-day refrigerator space with "Well, I like to have a bottle of wine cold but only trunk it once a week...".

Our bedroom is immediately above our laundry, so when we had to put floor in, we left a hole. (then put a bench seat as it was next to the window. Now, we just open the bench and throw clothes in, and never have to walk laundry downstairs. It's niiiiiiiice)
posted by Seeba at 12:18 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you cook a lot, a serious vent hood - 1000cpm or so. Architects don't like them because they're visually intrusive, but there is no substitute, especially if you stir-fry or grill a lot.
posted by mr vino at 12:18 PM on August 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

A porch in the front and trees in the back keep things cool in summer.

As Canadians, you probably already know the difference that good, well-installed windows can make on the warmth of your house and your heating costs.
posted by the_blizz at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Over the last seven or eight years I've been renovating an older house that had been chopped up into small apartments and maintained as cheaply as possible for many, many years. It has been a more-than-occasionally frustrating and surprisingly prolonged process, but I am finally beginning to enjoy the results.

Here are some things that I don't regret a penny of the money I've spent to improve:
  • Maximize available natural light. This house already had good natural light, which is one of the reasons I chose it (the other: location, location, location, but in your case that's already fixed..) But I have no regrets about putting in the best, biggest windows I could afford and positioning them to give me as much light as I could reasonably get.
  • Appropriate storage is incredibly important to an orderly, peaceful home. This house had a terrible lack of storage when I bought it and I have worked really hard to address that. I would still like more, but I treasure every bit of it that I have added. Closets are important, yes, but don't settle for just a huge bedroom closet and throwing everything else in a garage or basement. Built-in strategically placed throughout the house give the home character and can yield a surprising amount of convenience. Put them everywhere you can, or at least consider it.
  • Transition zones at entries are important. And echoing the previous point, pay particular attention to your storage needs at the home's main entryway -- be sure there's a place to set the mail or a purse down when you come in, someplace for winter boots and coats to be stored that will allow them to dry but not be the first thing people see when entering the home, etc. Shelter near the entryway is always appreciated, too -- it's nice to be able to stop out of the rain and snow while you are fumbling for the keys to your door or juggling the bags of groceries you've just brought home.
Other thoughts:
  • If at all feasible, make it possible to open up at least part of the house to the outdoors part of the year, and if not, then have an outdoor area that is designated for sitting, socializing, dining, etc.
  • The market apparently disagrees (strenuously) with me on this point, but I have always preferred a smaller, more carefully planned and constructed home, over one that is big simply for the point of having more space. Smaller rooms mean less space to furnish, less surface to clean, less volume to heat, and a closer presence to the other people sharing the room with you.
  • Houses are not fixed in stone when they are completed. You can try something and change it if you don't like it. If you don't have the money to do everything you want right now, you can plan for future expansion and build accordingly. You are not permanently married to the decisions you make right now (though some decisions will be very hard to change later.)
  • I don't know about the local libraries where you are, but my local library has a nice variety of home design books which were a great resource for me when I was making renovation choices. I personally enjoyed Sarah Susanka's series of books about "The Not-So-Big House" (although I doubt I'll ever live in a home quite as meticulously crafted as the ones photographed in the books; still they were useful for giving me ideas for specific improvements as well as general concepts to contemplate.)

posted by Nerd of the North at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2014 [11 favorites]

A cold room!
posted by warriorqueen at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2014

What I love about my century house and what really works for me... lots of windows to take advantage of passive solar heating in winter, deep eaves to provide shaded windows in summer; large, deep window wells for basement windows; a sunroom/mudroom at the front entrance that allows us to get indoors and take off winter coats and boots before opening the actual front door of the house - no winter drafts coming into the rest of the house.
posted by saucysault at 12:22 PM on August 9, 2014

Best answer: dish drying cupboards!

also, I really like having enough room in the kitchen for a small sofa or chaise-longue. it's really nice to have a comfy place for someone to hang out and keep you company while you are cooking.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:23 PM on August 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Oh, and one other thing I forgot to mention.. Probably within the lifetime of the house something else will come along and replace it, but for the short-to-medium term home devices are getting more and more networked and having physical cabling for ethernet allows you a lot of options and more reliability than wireless. Choose a location in the house (basement or closet somewhere) where you can install a central switch and run ethernet cabling back to that location from (just about.. you can probably safely skip bathrooms) every room.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:32 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My boss is building his dream house right now. Off the top of my head:

* lots of solar tubes
* heated floor in bathrooms
* wall mounted toilet (for easy floor cleaning)
* fan for the range hood is mounted on the roof (for quiet)
posted by ftm at 12:33 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Double sink in the kitchen.

Built in desk + bureau + shelves/nooks in the bedrooms. My bedroom growing up had this and I miss it like crazy.

As many above have said, you cannot have too many windows.

Walk in pantry with built in shelves all around.

Root cellar.
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:34 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you are going to be there a long time, keep in mind your future renovation or repurposing needs when adding built-in things. For example, in the 40s many homes had little niches/pedestals in a central location for the one family phone. It was great, until technology caught up. So be aware that all the little shelves you might put in for charging stations, etc. might become obsolete one day; if you build everything out of solid heavy oak, then renovation could be a pain. (this partly depends on what "look" you are going for: modern-ish modular stuff is going to be easier to change than traditional-looking things.) Same thing for architectural details; for a while, every home seemed to have a sunken living room because they were trendy, but they are actually kind of a pain and a trip-hazard. Design for the needs of the person you might be in 40 years as much as for who you are now.

I kind of feel the same way about built-in bookcases. I think paper books are already getting more rare and they're going to become obsolete eventually; I don't know if I would invest in built-ins; it might make more sense to have standalone shelves for whatever books you want to keep.

The rest is stuff that lots of people have already mentioned; great insulation, energy-efficient everything, windows that use as much light as possible, even solar panels (if that's not a laughable thing to have in Canada). If you will have a yard, a patio/deck makes entertaining much easier, with doors that open out to it from your living and kitchen spaces.
posted by emjaybee at 12:38 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Laundry on the same floor as the bedrooms.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:44 PM on August 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Take a look at the book A Pattern Language to think about how to lay out rooms and houses to fit the diverse needs of their inhabitants.

I know you live in the arctic, practically speaking, but oh please have a broad front porch set high enough to feel separate from the street, that still allows you to engage with your neighbors. My dream house would also have a tiny second-story porch that's more secluded, and also a back deck with a glass garage door that opes up for adaptable indoor/outdoor space can stay closed in the cold months (perhaps with heavy curtains over it in the winter for insulation).

Passive solar: lots of south and east-facing windows, for one. Passive heating and cooling (low windows on one side to catch the prevailing breezes and draw them through the house and, because heat rises, out through high windows set at ceiling-level on the other side). I'm sure the architects are all over this shit already, though.
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:45 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Main floor bedroom/den combo. It works as a guestroom, TV room, and allows taking care of an elderly parent.
posted by Brian B. at 12:46 PM on August 9, 2014

Unfortunately my interior doors won't let me install a screen door on the frame because of fancy molding. But maybe I'm the only one who's ever thought that was a good solution.

What about those horizontally split farmhouse doors? I think they're called Dutch doors? So you close the bottom to keep out pets but the top is open so you can hear baby sounds.

posted by elizardbits at 12:48 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Electrical outlets in hallways, even if you install a central vacuum.
posted by rhizome at 12:48 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

oh GOD I love this thread. Thank you!!

For me -- a master bath that leads to a private patio, and that private patio has a hot tub and an outdoor shower and a heat lamp.

A kitchen that leads to private or semi private courtyard with both sun and shade, and built in concrete seating and maybe fire pit so summer meals can be easily taken outside. Maybe even an outdoor kitchen area while we're at it so can cook outside.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:51 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I also want at least a half bath up in the front areas out the house, where entertaining happens, so guests can use the toilet without having to trek through the bedroom zone of the house.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:53 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

heated floors in the kitchen and bathroom. Such a difference on winter mornings, and pretty economical considering how awesome they are. Oh oh oh and nice springy underlayment on the floors - I never knew how much difference that made til I moved to a house with porcelain tiles and promptly developed a whole constellation of feet/leg/back problems.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:58 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The other thing you might want to consider, both fr your own use and resale is a small separate hot kitchen. Chinese families use them for wok kitchens - install high volume gas connection and good range hood and a door that closes and you can keep the grease and smell out of the rest of the house. Indian families use them as spice kitchens again for coking things likely to create a lot of smell or grease. Sometimes Jewish families use them as meat kitchens and keep the main kitchen dairy.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:58 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

A lot of good ideas here, something tho think about in-general though, consider Universal Design. Especially if this is likely to be the house you'll live in the rest of your life. Yeah, single story might not be sexy, but also means if one of you end up ina wwheelchair you aren't cut off from 1/2 the house.
We're also building a home sometime soon and it'll be a single level, insulated frost protected slab, radiant floor maximizing passive solar, Universal Designed. Avoid turning it into a Peter Pan home (only good if you stay young forever)
posted by edgeways at 12:59 PM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Wow, this is an easy question to answer.
posted by w0mbat at 1:00 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

single story definitely. If I never have another plumbing leak come through my ceiling or see one of my kids (or grandkids?) tumbling down a staircase it'll be too soon. But, I would love a basement for storage. I'd make the staircase with banisters on both sides to help as we get older.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:08 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thinking about where the sun is coming from at different times of day and different times of year, and making your house so there's always light, and there's always a comfortable shady spot when it's hot and always a cosy warm spot when it's cold. I LOVE our deep windows that go down to 50cm from the floor instead of the 1m that's more standard here.

Storage in places where YOU need storage. If you have a massive hat collection, a hallway hat collection display area! You can itemise all your stuff and make sure everything will have its place.

A roofed area outside so you can sit in the rain. With lighting and a power point so you can work.

Laundry station near bedrooms.

Well thought out entrance where you don't get wet while you fish for your keys and there's somewhere to put down the shopping.

If you want to grow old in the house, making it as accessible as you can so you can stay there as long as you want. Wide doors, flat thresholds, big downstairs bathroom, and so on.

Plenty of little sitting spots, both inside and outside. Deep low windows are good for this, or window seats; or a wall at the back of the patio that's seating height and seating depth.

An inside that works well with the outside; so you can leave the back door open and be kind of in and out and pottering around.

I want a teeny tiny bedroom that has nothing in it but a bed, and a big dressing room / bathroom bit off there where all the clutter lives.

My dream home would be mostly teeny tiny but have a great big multi purpose project room with big benches and beautiful light, so I can get into music production or photography or dress making without cluttering up the rest of the house.
posted by emilyw at 1:09 PM on August 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Seconding the above comment about wiring your house with Ethernet. Just make sure it's Cat-6 or at least Cat-5e. Might consider adding coax for cable too. WiFi isn't always reliable, even in a small house, and putting in cabling means you won't have to settle for what you get with WiFi range extenders or powerline ethernet. Though if you really want to future-proof, you might consider running some conduit in the walls with some cable pulls, so that you can pull whatever cable you need later. I'd at the very least do the conduit thing if you ever plan to make a home-theater room, so that you can easily get cables to the back of the room without them being visible.

I've always thought it'd be nice to have a urinal in a home bathroom, but at the very least I prefer nice high counters that I don't have to stoop over. If you have or are planning to have a family with more than one child, I'd make the bathroom such that the shower/tub/toilet has a separate door from the vanity, so that it can be used more efficiently.

I also like the thoughts on accessibility. Even if you don't make it 1 floor, it's going to be a heck of a lot easier to think about that sort of thing now than try to adapt it later.
posted by Aleyn at 1:15 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

ok this is a little weird but it would be great for my family: a craft room off the living area, so the kids can enjoy doing their messy art stuff while still in eye contact with us and each other. And this craft room is a step down from the main level, and it has a tile floor and a drain in the floor and a sink for them to wash their hands in, so I don't need to be on them all the time about their mess, they can wash up right there and I can hose off the floor if necessary. Actually, I think a sink to wash hands in would be an awesome thing for any playroom now that I think of it. My kids are always covering their hands in ink when they draw and there are a lot of walls for them to touch on the way to the bathroom.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:18 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Think about passive heating and cooling as you orient the windows for max light. Having good airflow if you open windows; having wooden shutters for the insides of the windows is nice for keeping out sun in the middle of summer; insulated glass, really good insulation in the attic. Think about how you'll clean the windows, too.

Think about placement of windows that allow passersby to look into the house - ideally, you'd like to design in some privacy, and it makes the house less tempting for casual thieves if they can't just look in and see your tv in the living room or phone on the front hall table.

The point about having an electrical outlet on the front and back sides of the house is a good one. Plus think about where you'll store your bulky things, like a lawnmower, kayak, whatever stuff like that you have.

Having an airlock mudroom with a tile/waterproof floor and good storage space is nice, you can slough all your cold wet things there and then come into the rest of the house.

Storage space. Attic, basement if it can be kept dry, built-ins, big closets that go all the way up.

Seconding Universal Design and accessible entrances on either first floor or basement door. No level changes or thresholds on that floor. You don't need to make the house one story, but make it so that there's a room on the first floor (or basement, whatever's accessible) that could become a bedroom if needed (it can be a den/guestroom in the meantime), and a bathroom with a barrier-free shower/floor drain on that floor. Another option I've seen is to design it with stacked closets (i.e., a closet on the second story that is directly above a closet on the first story) so that you could put in a lift later if needed.

Circular floor plan for the first floor - this makes a house good for entertaining, if there's a good circular flow from room to room (ie rooms have two exits).

Re: stairs. As you're designing, you may be tempted to push it, change the stair dimensions to fit them into a space. I recommend against this if you can avoid it - stairs are one of the big everyday hazards in our houses, and your feet are good at navigating them only if they are adequate and consistent height and depth and with good traction etc. Insist on easily-navigated stairs and good solid railings.

Under-stair closets make charming little rooms.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:28 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm working on my own house design also, and I've done major (and minor) renovations on rent houses.

It's been mentioned in passing, but some means of creating a really hybrid indoor/outdoor space. I'm talking a whole wall of accordion-folding doors. I want one in my kitchen that opens it to a deck with an outdoor cooking area including a pizza oven.

Environmental efficiency is also high on my priorities list for multiple reasons, so I want a Nest and the Nest smoke detectors, tankless water heater (infinite hot water at a lower cost and less space??), solar panels, solar hot water tubes (maybe not in Canada), rain catchment, geothermal, and a gray-water system.

I also just recently learned of home membrane bioreactor sewage treatment systems. They can apparently produce potable water. I don't know enough yet to actually recommend it, though. I also assume by the fact that I can't easily figure out how much they cost that they're very expensive.
posted by cmoj at 1:29 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Drawers in the kitchen instead of cabinets with shelves.

A guest house separate from the main house. Like a cabana or a casita.

Radiant heating anywhere it's not carpeted.

Washer and Dryer upstairs where the bedrooms are, not miles away in the basement.

A real pantry, with a freezer.

A butler's pantry where all the special serve-ware can be kept.

A wine cellar if you swing that way.

Bidets, and/or those Japanese Toto Washlet toilets with the heated bum warmer and the water wash.

Walk-in closets. CEDAR walk-in closets.

Nth don't do anything that can't be changed as your needs change.

I'd do a large space that's multi-purpose, perhaps in the basement. It can be a ballroom, workout studio, art studio, sleepover space, party room, etc. Seems pretty useful to me!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:29 PM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh also, as cmoj says, a way to partition off rooms. A lot of open-plan houses these days have no way to close a door anywhere on the first floor, which can lead to problems sometimes. Consider including pocket doors to allow you to close off the kitchen from the dining room, or that kind of thing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:31 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

my fantasy house items:

- built in soda water dispenser
- Japanese style soaking tub and shower
-if a two story space: a laundry chute
-a properly located outlet to plug in my Christmas lights.
posted by vespabelle at 1:39 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah. Gigabit ethernet everywhere, like two jacks anywhere you might conceivably put a tv, and a big enough switch in the basement or a closet. Maybe power and network to a spot on a wall where it would be sensible to mount a wap.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:56 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Beti DreamhouseTM will have:

- a canning kitchen - back side of the house, garage-style door to the outdoors, proper airflow to stay cool doing the hottest work at the hottest time of year, storage around the perimeter and an island workspace in the middle with a six-burner cook top (not a stove/oven), deep sink for the large canner and other pans, second produce sink, refrigerator, chest freezer, pantry.
- lots of outlets around the outside of the house
- screened porch on the back side of the house
- old-fashioned front porch with porch swing and ceiling fans (saw these in Georgia - fabulous!)
- walk-in pantry/root cellar off the kitchen - lots of open shelving for food, and infrequently used dishes/small appliances, ventilated drawers with lids for potatoes, onions, etc (to keep out the goddamned mice), I can't think of the name of the ventilation system (California cabinets?) but it has venting at the bottom and top to draw cool air in and let hot air out
- an open plan kitchen/living room so I can cook and talk with my husband and watch television at the same time
- two sinks in the kitchen - one for produce on an island and one for dirty dishes and general hand washing off to the side. The washing up sink will be designed in such a way as to not have that dreadful under-the-kitchen-sink-space that usually holds the garbage can and dish soap and stuff. I have hated that space in every single house I've lived in anywhere. It's never anything but completely disgusting no matter how much I try to keep it clean. Just uck. I don't know what the solution is but the architect of The DreamhouseTM will find it.
- laundry room off our bedroom - it's just the two of us so we don't need to cart laundry all over the place, oh and a door to a space outside with a clothesline
- pocket doors
- outlets just under the counters in the bathrooms like in hair salons with a hanger for my blowdryer
- a dressing room off the bedroom because The DreamhouseTM will not have that those stupid hollow core sliding closet doors that always fall off the tracks.
- tunnel to the Zombie Apocalypse Bunker in the back 40
posted by Beti at 2:01 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Things that have worked well:
  • Toto Washlet
  • washing machines in the master bathroom
  • walk-in shower
  • cleaning/linen closet with electrical plug to charge devices like dirt vacs
  • pull-out shelving in closets, where appropriate
  • vent hood in kitchen
  • outdoor plugs
  • bathroom off back mudroom with walk-in shower
  • back mudroom
Things I wish I had:
  • sauna
  • steam room
  • laundry room on the main floor with enough room to have an ironing station
  • reading room area off the master bedroom
  • office for all adults
  • more electrical outlets and network
  • outdoor cooking area -- a serious outdoor cooking area
  • putting in more outlets in drawers so that things could be discretely put away while charging
  • appliance garage in the kitchen
  • guest bedroom
  • larger mudroom
  • front of the house mudroom
There are other things that can make your home more convenient in little ways. It is about all those details.
posted by jadepearl at 2:24 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh yes... Kitchen shelves that pull out (drawers), esp for below the counter. My grandparents had this as well and it was great! You can reach the back and see what's in there.

And yes... Separate the toilet from the bathing facilities in at least one instance, if not all. Maybe this is less of an issue in big houses with multiple bathrooms, but any house or floor that's only going to have one bathroom should have the two separated. The "upstairs" bathroom is not such an easy option with the stomach flu or a broken leg...

Also a big fan of the outdoor shower, but then I'm from California ;)
posted by jrobin276 at 2:34 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

My dream house would have a bathroom- a full bath- on each floor, and each bathroom would have a tall, deep closet with hookups for a stacking set of laundry machines, specifically a gas dryer and a front load washer. Plus a half bath in/near the more public areas of the house. Built in shelves in every room, and outlets wired into said shelves. Central vac. No kitchen cabinets- big, deep drawers under the counters and open shelving, plus windows and a good pantry. One or two 2'x4' closets in every room. Nthing radiant in floor heat. Double hung windows. Passive solar. Geothermal pump. Ceiling fans in every room. A mudroom with cubbies at the floor and ceiling and a shaker peg rail wrapping the entire room.
posted by Athene at 2:37 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When I was informally fostered with a family with 7 kids + me. And they had a washer and drier on both floors of their home. It was super convient and we didn't get clothing mixed up. Never seeing my Foster mom's underwear was a nice bonus.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:44 PM on August 9, 2014

Fancy Japanese toilets with heated seats, and whatever toilet amenities you always hear about in fancy hotels. And if you want to be eco-friendly about it, I'd go with dual-flush too.
posted by radioamy at 2:47 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Put a plug in the back of a bathroom drawer for a hair dryer/flat iron/etc. Items can be stored in the drawer keeping the counter tidy.
posted by cecic at 3:01 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Friends of ours just built a charging closet into the wall of their family room - a shallow closet with shelves and rows of power bars to charge phones, cameras, kindles etc.... all the devices that need power, and all the messy cables tucked away!
They tucked it into the side of a general closet - so that the width of the charging closet was the depth of the general closet, and it is the most efficient thing ever. Plus you always know where your devices are!

And speaking as someone who's apartment layout doesn't permit - storage space right next to the front door for coats, shoes and purses. Seriously. I wake up at night dreaming of it.
posted by tabubilgirl at 3:14 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As a professional organizer, I can tell you that lack of usable closet/storage space is one of the biggest problems my clients encounter. (It's not lack of space, but too much stuff and lack of space that can be conveniently stored and retrieved.)

Unless you're a giant, you probably won't use the storage cabinets above a full-size fridge on a daily basis, but you'll be desperate for someplace to keep your upright vacuum. That front-hall closet for coats, boots, etc? Essential, but don't stop there. When we built our house in 1971, my mother insisted on one closet in the foyer and another in the utility room that served as an entryway between the garage and family room. Do THAT, have overhead lighting built into both closets (so that whether you're coming in as a guest through the front or a family member through the garage, you've got a place to hang your hat (and coat). Don't carpet the closets that have wet, drippy over-clothes.

A second set of stairs, preferable at the back of the house. If you're ill, un-made-up, not dressed for company, or otherwise need to skedaddle when unexpected company arrives (spouse's boss, clients, etc.), it's great to be able to get upstairs and not have to hide in a back downstairs room.

Glide-out shelving in the kitchen. Adjustable (height) shelving pretty much everywhere.

A linen closet in at least one bathroom, but it shouldn't be your only linen closet. (If shallow, it could have one door into it from the hall and another into it from inside of the bathroom.) There's nothing worse than not having enough storage for towels and supplies in a bathroom, and I didn't realize what a necessity a bathroom linen closet was until I no longer had one.

Also, realize that deep closets (or cabinets) deeper than the length of your arm, are generally useless in terms of that back space. If you can't reach something, you'll buy more to avoid the annoyance and struggle. Think about having cabinetry built into closets on hinges so they can swing all the way out and grant you access to the inner back closet.

If you're big on using a KitchenAid-type stand mixer, and don't love having it on the counter all the time, there's an alternative to an aching back. Several of my clients have remodeled their kitchens with mixer/appliance lifts like Rev-A-Shelf lift-up shelving for mixers.

Walk-in bedroom closets where possible, but either way, closets with real doors rather than sliding doors, so that you can see and access everything at once. If you can't see it, you won't use or wear it. Plus, when you have a door that opens rather than slides, an over-the-door shoe-style organizer works well on the front or rear of the closet door to hold action figures, beauty accessories, small stuffed animals, etc. Any time you can avail yourself of vertical storage, it's a win!
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:34 PM on August 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

-ethernet everywhere (mentioned lots of times above, but MAN this is key)
-radiant floor heating in the bathrooms
-scattered outlets with USB charging ports between the plugs (not every outlet, but here and there)
-dual flush toilets
-grey water/black water dual drain system (i.e., toilet water into the sewer, the other stuff gets saved to water your yard)
-front door camera and viewscreen
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:41 PM on August 9, 2014

Hopping on to what DirtyOldTown states above, but if you are TV people, a cable outlet in every bedroom or on opposite walls in your living/TV space, in case you decide to change the layout of the room five years down the road.
posted by kuanes at 3:58 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

By the way, you don't need to spend Toto money to get a Great Toilet Experience. I have a Brondell bidet seat that cost $400 and took 5 minutes to install and we are so thrilled with it my husband now refuses to poop anywhere else.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:05 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Kitchen sink that is mounted in the "undermount" style as shown at the bottom of this page. This means that a) there is no lip around the sink where dirt can build up and, b) you can wipe any crumbs or dirt from the counter and push them directly into the sink.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:33 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, in case it wasn't already planned: exhaust fans in the kitchens and bathrooms, even if the bathrooms have windows. An open window doesn't always provide enough air circulation to keep mold and mildew at bay.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:35 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would totally have a drain in the bathroom floor and a raised bottom edge at the bathroom door, so the space could be flooded with several inches of water without any getting out. Taking a shower right out in the middle with all that elbow room and no shower curtain is awesome. (Keep the towels up high and try not to spray them.)

I would also have the same thing in the laundry/machinery room. More than one of my friends has had a washer hose or hot water tank leak enough water while they were gone to require a major remediation project to adjacent area carpets, floors, etc.
posted by ctmf at 4:38 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh god yes bidets, bidets everywhere, bidets for everyone at all times. You will never go back to a bidetless life voluntarily.
posted by elizardbits at 5:14 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I second the solar tube and wall mounted toilet suggestions. Raising three sons with wall mounted toilets made cleanup so much nicer. A have brand name Solatubes and adore them. They were added in a remodel and are incredible at bringing in daylight, especially to closets with no outside light.
posted by OkTwigs at 5:23 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: OK, so the first things that came to my mind were:

1. A fireman's pole or slide between floors;

2. An indoor swing;

3. Plenty of secret passages.

But then I realized that I have the mentality and aesthetic sense of a six-year-old, and this is probably why I'll never be in a position to design and build my dream house.

So, in addition to endorsing many of the excellent suggestions above (e.g., whole house vac, radiant floor heating, window seats, etc.), I'd like to make a plug for one grown-up suggestion that I have yet to see in the US (but maybe they are more common up in Canadia): Exterior European Shutters.

These were ubiquitous when I lived on the Continent and are the bomb. What is so great about them is that (a) they are the queen of all blackout shades--they make rooms completely dark, but without the interior ugliness of actual blackout shades ; (b) they provide pretty good acoustic dampening; (c) they provide good insulation in the winter and summer.

I don't understand why they aren't more common in the US, and if I had world enough and money, I'd make them mine!
posted by girl flaneur at 7:21 PM on August 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

- radiant heating everywhere, not just the bathroom
- tons of built-in lights
- towel warmers
- huge windows
- outdoor kitchen
- slide-out pantry in the kitchen cabinets
- tons of electrical power (consider 200 amp service).
- wired internet everywhere for TVs/etc
- a mud room with bike storage and an attached full bathroom
- toilet separated from the rest of the bathroom in the master bath
- a generator and ATS (if you live someplace where power isn't quite 100%)
- multi-head shower
- a coffee station

- geothermal HVAC (it breaks a lot, and nobody knows how to repair it)
posted by grudgebgon at 7:44 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

What comes to mind are:
- Enough space that you can walk all the way around the bed. That makes it easier to change the bedding.
- A desk large enough to lay a newspaper out flat.
- Anglepoise reading lamps over the desk.
- If money were no object, something like this LED panel would be my desk lamp.
- Pay attention to disaster avoidance and recovery. What will you do if the electricity goes out? What can you do to prepare for a flood?
- I recommend a book called "How Buildings Learn", by Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog. (Designs have unintended consequences, requirements change, allow for adaptation, and so on.)
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:02 PM on August 9, 2014

1. Ethernet *and* outlets with USB built in.

2. Outlets everywhere. Someone mentioned the outlets on switches thing for lamps. I'm not a fan...except sometimes I am. Think it over. There are non-hardwired solutions to this if you need it.

3. Because I hate taking out trash, a garbage chute. Here's what I'm picturing: On the inside, in your kitchen, below a window facing the backyard (that's where you're putting your kitchen, right?) a wide chute door (or three narrower ones). these can be made of your cabinet material if you want them to match, or designed to blend with the wall, or to match the window frames. These lead to: The outside, an attractive garbage storage area. Kind of like this, except I would make it out of something more wall-like. Make this big enough that it's larger than the current largest bin available (even if you don't use the largest bin) in case the sizes change. The reason you want it to be a more wall-like material is that it will insulate better so in the winter the cold doesn't come in the chute doors. Make the chute doors somewhat sealed with the kind of rubber they use on dishwasher and fridge doors. This will keep the cold out and keep any smell out. Label your three chutes landfill, recycling, organics, set your bins open outside, and never have to walk out in the cold or rain to take out the trash again. Bonus: your garbage storage area is racoon proof. That's important in Toronto.

God, I really hate taking out trash.

4. Heat lamp in the bathroom. I'm always cold after a shower.

5. Veranda.

6. Cantina in the basement.

7. Deep window wells to the basement so you can have larger windows, even if it's all below ground. If you can build it only partially below ground, extra super-win for more more basement light.

8. Design the house so that it would be cheap and easy to turn the basement into an income rental. Even if you never do this, it will be good for resale value.

9. Smoke detectors that are wired into the house electric and attached to a light switch, so you can turn them off if you just over-toasted your toast. The house I grew up in had this, and it was way better than waving a towel at the smoke detector while trying to hold your hears.

10. If you're building a driveway, heat it if you can. especially if you live in a part of the city where the city does the sidewalk for you. that will leave only the front steps for you to clear.

11. If you're building a garage with laneway access, think about the snow problem. I have no idea how one deals with this or if there is anything that can be done, but i know people complain about the fact that laneways don't get plowed, so it's a pain to get in and out in winter.

12. If you're building a garage with laneway access, put a little attic/loft in. You'll be happy for extra storage. Make the garage pretty. you'll be looking at it from your kitchen window every day.

13. Plant trees. They'll grow into real trees faster than you think. Not too close to the house, though. The city will do this for free in the front if you request it, or at cost in the back, all conditional on using species native to the area, but that's for the best anyway.

14. I love the idea of a plug in the back of the bathroom drawer. Along the same lines: when you choose the knobs/handles for your bathroom cabinetry, try to find something that cords won't hook on to. There's nothing more annoying than pulling a blowdryer/hair curler/hair straightener up to your head and having your arm jerked back by the cord caught on a knob.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:13 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You know what's not glamorous or sexy but has changed my life for the better, such that I will never go back? Extra large rain gutters and drains with leaf-screens. When my next door neighbor has to hire a guy to clean her gutters? I heave a sigh of relief: this is not a thing I have to have done. When Chicagoland dishes out another of its endless winter storms and the other homes in my neighborhood sprout icicles that are--no kidding--six to twelve feet long hanging from their gutters and mine are maybe 2-3 feet tops, I am glad. When we got the tail end of a tropical storm with flash flooding and the people across the street had water rolling over their roof edge in sheets because the gutters just couldn't handle the load and my big ass gutters just funneled that stuff away, NBD... I was glad.

Extra large rain gutters and drains. Leaf screens. Seriously.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:18 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Gutters with leaf screens! Yes!
Closet by front door and back door! Yes!
Laundry on same floor as bedrooms!
Excellent, complimentary lighting in the bathrooms. Nothing makes you feel older and uglier than poor lighting.
If you have both a front and a back yard, an area to sit in both of them. Porch, patio, deck - whatever! We have breakfast and lunch on our back deck and I'd LOVE to have a front patio for evenings. (Our house faces West)
In-window blinds. No dusting!
A breakfast nook in the kitchen or eat-in kitchen.
Entryway big enough for people to come in and take their coats and shoes off.
posted by jillithd at 8:28 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't believe I didn't think of this before: put those mister things in your backyard. They spray a very fine mist of water at you. Enough to cool you off, but you dont actually get wet.

Also, if you have natural gas in the house, consider putting a connection in the backyard for a barbecue. Then you won't have to go put for propane tanks. Except of course the cost of natural gas just went up 40%, so maybe you don't want to. But look into the likely cost and think about it.

No one has said fireplace yet. Fireplace.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:33 PM on August 9, 2014

Small "door" chute leading to laundry room from master bedroom closet or washer dryer in master bedroom closet. If 2 stories, have laundry room chute. If 2 stories have dumbwaiter. If you have small kids have built in pull out step stool under bathroom cabinets. In wall central vac. Play loft in kid's rooms. "Nest" thermostat. Remote control screens for outdoor areas.
posted by cherrybounce at 10:58 PM on August 9, 2014

Wood stove with a cooktop for emergency heat and cooking if the power goes out. Because generators suck.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:08 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

A dedicated library, however small, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on one wall (or two!). I would have a wall of windows on one side that let in tons of light, with light-blocking curtains/shades to create a darker, classical look when you want. A large vintage wooden desk, with the oldness balanced out by using it partly for your computer, a deep comfy couch, and several lamps. A pool table or card table if you have space and are into that sort of thing.

Less romantic, practical wish list:

- You can never have too many closets! Folding clothes up after laundry is a huge pain; space to hang up almost everything is a lovely luxury. Make sure there's enough height in places where you'll hang suits and dresses.

- Handsprays for cleaning up by the toilets. Bidets are expensive, take space, need maintenance, and personally, I find them impractical and a bit gross. Handsprays are used all over the Middle East and South Asia, and are much more hygienic than TP. (You can use TP to dry off.)
posted by redlines at 12:08 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

If only I had a penguin...: "9. Smoke detectors that are wired into the house electric and attached to a light switch, so you can turn them off if you just over-toasted your toast. The house I grew up in had this, and it was way better than waving a towel at the smoke detector while trying to hold your hears."

I think that's an awesome idea, although I'd make sure that the switch was a timer switch so that you didn't have to remember to turn it back on again.
posted by Aleyn at 1:21 AM on August 10, 2014

Best answer: Oh, for cold climate - I have a relative who installed a steam shower and loooooooves it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:58 AM on August 10, 2014

  • More rooms rather than large rooms. Build for a large family even if you plan on having a small one. Any extra rooms you end up with will be great down the road.
  • Solid internal doors on every room that close and lock from the inside and out, so you don't have to rely on the honor system that no one will walk in on you while you're practicing naked yoga or whatever it is you're trying this week.
  • Soundproofing or damping or whatever. One person's cool tune or fascinating conversation or fantastic sex is another person's nightmare, and these people often live in adjacent homes or even adjacent rooms.
  • Multiple bathrooms so you're rarely rushed out for the next person.
  • Outdoor space that is not visible by the neighbors. A green hideaway where you can do as you like in the sun or the shade, perhaps naked.
  • A comfortable outbuilding that can be sunny or shady and breezy during hot weather, sunny and warm during cold weather, and comfortable for reading and writing all year long, night and day.
  • Substantial walls or fencing all the way around the property. It's your space and you want to make sure it stays that way. Those kids will stay off your lawn because it would be such a pain in the ass to get on your lawn uninvited.
Passive: designed as much as possible for passive lighting, passive ventilation, passive cooling, and passive heating. Extra-thick wall insulation and extra-insulated windows, but nice breezes all the way through if you open things up. Maybe a central staircase that draws hot air up and out a skylight during hot weather. No air conditioner. Ecological heating system. Solar panels where appropriate.

Accessible: designed as much as possible for old or disabled people, because eventually that will be you and everyone else in your family one way or the other. Railings, ramps, etc.

Dividable: make it so you could easily divide the place into two separate homes with two separate sets of utilities and meters. Assume you will be renting to total strangers, even if that isn't likely as far as you can see now, because someday you might wish you could offer your grown child (and family) or failing parent or loser sibling-in-law a place to live without actually having to share utilities and space with them. The downstairs unit should be wheelchair-accessible and have good railings and so on.
posted by pracowity at 4:00 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Japanese soaking bathtub. I've only seen one house in person that had one, but i wanted it ever since. None of the pain and expense of taking care of a hot tub or jacuzzi, and clean chlorine-free water every time.
posted by bad grammar at 5:40 AM on August 10, 2014

I assume most houses in Canada have double-glazing - but am mentioning it, just in case.

Definitely get solar PV! It's 2014 - solar technology is amazing now.

Also, avoid halogen downlights. They use obscene amounts of energy. LEDs are the way, if you really need ceiling lights (I find them mostly unnecessary).

In general, make the house as energy efficient as you can. You'll be paying electricity bills for a long, long time. And it's highly unlikely to get cheaper.

And yes to making it as accessible as possible. You'll be glad.
posted by 8k at 5:52 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Thought of another one - picture rail molding. Lets you hang and rearrange art/mirrors/etc as much as you like without putting holes in the walls.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:34 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

A drain on the floor of every bathroom and the kitchen. You'd never have to worry about floods or overflows again, and it makes cleaning easier.
They're standard in certain parts of the world. I really like the ones that twist shut, to avoid insects when the house will be empty for a while.
posted by Neekee at 6:47 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Two washers and two driers. Parallelization ftw.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:47 AM on August 10, 2014

So many things I want have already been mentioned, so I won't repeat them, but ...
-ethernet everywhere (mentioned lots of times above, but MAN this is key)
Yes, but ethernet everywhere through conduit everywhere -- future proof that shit. 10gbe, bah!
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:56 AM on August 10, 2014

Broom/mop closet in/adjacent to the kitchen.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:58 AM on August 10, 2014

A screened-in porch or deck so I can enjoy being outside without the bugs.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:05 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ooh. And pocket doors for bathrooms/closets in narrow hallways.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:06 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I nannied for a family in Tokyo that had a water dispenser in the living room and a bath tub that informed the panel in the kitchen when the water was let in and what the temperature was. It also let you reheat the water and "call" whoever is in the kitchen over some sort of intercom.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 10:11 AM on August 10, 2014

I'm pretty sure this wouldn't meet code. And even if it did, don't most wired smoke detectors have battery backups?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:15 AM on August 10, 2014

Indoor/outdoor shower, dedicated charging area with extra regular and USB outlets for ipads, phones, hidden pantry (looks like cabinet door but opens into walk in pantry), solatube for natural light where you don't have windows.
posted by cherrybounce at 10:27 AM on August 10, 2014

My parents' house has two ovens. I thought it was silly at first but it's actually really great, especially for big get-togethers like Thanksgiving where we can cook the turkey in one and keep everything warm in the other.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:37 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Built. In. Bookshelves.

With glass doors!

I absolutely agree on two ovens and two kitchen sinks.

I would want a big soaking tub in a large room with at least one floor-to-ceiling glass wall that has a wooded or garden view, and a fireplace or wood stove in that room. Soaking in the tub while watching the snow fall ... ahhh.

And a pond. Then I could hear spring peepers from the tub!

On a forum somewhere I read that two dryers is really advantageous, but two washers might be too much.
posted by jgirl at 11:20 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


- Pull-out drawers in all cabinets. My kitchen has this and after 3 years I still marvel daily at how much I love it.
- Cabinets should have vertical handles instead of knobs. Much easier to tie together for childproofing and untie for ease of using.
- Appliance garage where you can keep your toaster, mixer, etc. out of sight but easily accessible.
- Coffee station where pot, mugs, etc. are all right there.
- Powerful vent over the stove
- Built-in storage for flat things like pizza pans and muffin tins. This can be a pull-out kickplate or a vertical system in a cabinet.
- Speaking of kickplates, have a built-in fold-up stepstool stored in a kickplate so you can always yank it out to get to out-of-reach cabinets.
- Faucet by stove for filling pots with water
- Cookbook storage, if you are a cookbook person.
- Double oven; at least one that is convection
- Beverage refrigerator for wine/beer/sodas. Would make parties so much easier.
- Walk-in pantry for food and a butler's pantry for servingware, etc.
- Pull-out double trash can so you can use on for recycling. I have this and can't say enough about how much I love being able to recycle cans while I'm cooking instead of making a big dirty pile next to the sink.

- A guest room with a built-in murphy bed so you can use the room for other things when you have no guests
- A utility sink in the garage where you can wash your hands and clean filthy things without having to come inside the house and touch the doorknob
- A utility sink in the laundry room for handwashing clothes
posted by gatorae at 11:27 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

* Put a drain in the garage floor, or else melted snow and mud will pool
* Toe-kicks for a built in vacuum in kitchens and bathrooms
* Reinforce the framing for any light fixtures that you might replace with ceiling fans eventually
* Zone your heating so there are separate controls for each floor
* Outlets above the kitchen cabinets (if you want to put lights or stuff up there at christmas)
* As many windows as possible, including larger windows in the basement
* 9ft ceilings in the basement, it's relatively cheap and a real selling point
* Even if you're getting electric appliances, run a gas line for a stove (and bbq), it's a big feature for resale
* Wider doors make moving furniture a lot easier. Instead of 32", go with 36"
* Drywall and paint the inside of the garage, and seal the floor. Paint the concrete floor in the basement to prevent dust (if you're not finishing the basement)
* Double sinks in the primary bathrooms
posted by blue_beetle at 2:41 PM on August 10, 2014

Finnish dish draining cabinets are cool. I've got a jerry rigged version that's a wire rack strung between the cabinets on either side of my sink.
posted by vespabelle at 5:14 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

- Good windows are a must. The ideal would be high-quality triple-glazed fiberglass windows, installed as "in-betweenies", but that may be a bit rich for your taste. You'll want high-solar-gain on the East and South sides, and low-solar-gain to the West (because that's where you get the most heat in the summer, during the afternoon). Good installation is primordial, ideally to one of the better methods of CAN/CSA-A440.4-07 (Canada: we have standards!).
- Good drainage and flood protection are also important: If you can, keep all the wiring, HVAC equipment, water-heating equipment, etc. as high as possible. Not completely possible if you have a basement, but if you go slab-on-grade, you can put the outlets at the same height as the switches and haze zero wiring below the 4 feet mark. All gutters should drain as far as possible from your foundation, ideally to something like a dry well, but your options might be limited by city regulations.
- Insulation and "vapor barriers": the Canadian Conundrum. As it is typically installed, the fiberglass batt + plastic sheet combination isn't very good even at its stated purpose: installing fiberglass batts in a wall that has wiring, outlets, etc. in it reduces its R-value a good bit, and the same outlets and wiring mean that the poly sheet is going to be full of holes. One way to avoid this is to install horizontal furring between the poly and drywall. Another is to avoid fiberglass batts and go for rockwool, possibly with rigid foam on the outside.
- If you're going to put rigid foam outside, make sure you put enough: you want the sheathing to be warm enough to avoid condensation.
- Consider VRF heat pumps ("minisplits") for cooling and heating.
- Keep the roof simple, and especially avoid valleys if at all possible.
- Already mentioned, but it bears repeating: provide cover on top of all entrance doors to protect yourself while you search for your keys.
- Generous roof overhangs will protect your expensive windows and wall coverings from wind-driven rain. The more expensive the covering (brick, stone), the more worthwhile it is to have a good overhang.
- No attached garage, or, if you can't live without one, very good air sealing between the garage and the house, possibly with an extraction fan to keep the garage at a negative pressure from the house. A carport can reduce the need to plow the snow and protect you while you take the groceries out of the trunk of your car.
- Other safety features to consider: sprinklers, non combustible finishes, hood vent fire suppression system, having two means of exit from the range/cooktop (so you don't get caught by a fire).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:44 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll be less imaginative than some of the others here:

Twice as many electrical outlets as you think you need. Nobody regrets overengineering their house's electrical systems.

Also, do multiple CAT6 and coax runs to each room, all terminating in a single wiring closet. This should be surprisingly future-proof, and won't cost much if you do it up front. Don't bother terminating any of the runs until you need them.

Buy a really nice medicine cabinet. A really deep one with a powered fog-free mirror and electrical outlets inside.

Induction cooktops are awesome.

If you bike, plan your bike parking carefully.
posted by schmod at 8:11 PM on August 10, 2014

Another kitchen one: some kitchens have cabinets that don't reach all the way up to the ceiling. Sometimes that area between the cabinets and the ceiling is open so you can store stuff there, but sometimes it's just dead space covered with drywall that you can't access. Don't do that. Make the space useable all the way up to the ceiling, either by having the cabinets go all the way up or by leaving the space above the cabinets open, like a little shelf. Unless you hate storage space for some reason.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:16 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are one or both of you taller than average, and maybe up to now have had to stoop to shower? Make sure they place the shower head higher than where it would normally go.

Solar tubes in any rooms that won't get an exterior wall/window.

Good windows. No, really, GOOD windows. Don't cheap out there. While you're at it, good window placement, go for lots of natural light.

Lots of storage.

We went from a 75sqft kitchen to a 500sqft kitchen, with a crapton of counterspace. Not exaggerating, every single person who has entered the house has commented on how much they like it. If we ever decide to put the house on the market, the kitchen is going to sell it.

Did I mention lots of storage?

Give a lot of thought to your laundry room. We didn't. I wish we had more work/counterspace in there.
posted by vignettist at 10:47 PM on August 10, 2014

Whole house back-up generator
posted by Flood at 5:12 AM on August 11, 2014

I note that nobody mentioned a wet bar. End of an era.
posted by Brian B. at 6:33 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

A possible alternative to a generator is solar panels + battery storage, possibly keeping only essential lighting and a few outlets fed from the battery system.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:14 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: One of the most useful features of my house, bar none, is a pull-out tray built into the cabinets next to the fridge/freezer hollow in the kitchen. It is so tremendously useful to be able to put stuff down at will, whether putting it in the fridge or pulling it out, and I am grateful for it every day. One of those small things that makes such an enormous difference in ease of use.
posted by E. Whitehall at 7:10 PM on August 12, 2014

Response by poster: There are a lot of great answers here. Thanks for all of them! (and keep them coming). I am marking answers that a) we haven`t already though of and b) fit our circumstances. But I think this could be useful for a lot of people besides myself.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:23 PM on August 12, 2014

Spiral staircases, trap doors, secret libraries, lofted reading nooks, and an airy sunny warm kitchen where you will share stories over biscuits.
posted by fritillary at 5:50 PM on August 13, 2014

- I love my wood stove with glass door. Plus, in a power outage, I can keep my small house warm enough so the pipes don't freeze. A nice spot to store wood would be a plus.
- My house has 2 big decks, which I love. Would be even better if there were 2 doors to the front deck, making it even more part of the house. Would also be nice to have a screened in porch to keep out skeeters. I added better lighting to the decks.
- Plenty of doors, making going out and coming in easy, and feeling connected to the outdoors.
- Ceiling fans reduce the use of AC.
- Lots of insulation, and a contractor who'll take the time to minimize gaps and thermal bridges.
- solar panels on the roof, feeding the grid
- Appropriate solar orientation, with deep overhangs and/or structures (I forget the proper name) to keep sun out in summer when the sun is high, and let it in in winter, when the sun is low. My previous house had deep overhangs, and it helped a lot.
- Tub deep enough to soak in, and ask the contractor to insulate the tub. So nice to be able to stay in for a while.
- My tub/shower has a deep ledge built in because there's plumbing in the lower part of the wall. It's great to have a spot for shampoo, loofah, soap, etc.
- A narrow kitchen cabinet tall enough for cookie sheets.
- Under-cabinet 'hockey puck' lights.
- My dream house would have a fireplace on the deck, and a small wood stove in the master bedroom.
- And wouldn't be huge. My house is under 1,000 sq.ft. and it's plenty, except for the bad layout and inadequate storage. Extra square footage needs to be heated, cooled, lit, furnished, cleaned, etc. With kids, it helps to have an extra living space where they can hang out with friends. I'd recommend that over bigger bedrooms.
posted by theora55 at 9:59 PM on August 13, 2014

Not a lot of mentions in this thread to think about the sound and acoustics in your house! It'd be key for me.

-Good speakers built in to the ceiling of all rooms.

-Sound proofing insulation placed in between walls of certain rooms. For example, it drives me crazy when I'm in one room and get all the low-frequency ambient noise from the TV in another. So a music room and a TV room with anechoic-type insulation. Same for the bedroom, so I could be as loud as I wanted without worrying about waking the kids.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:19 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should be able to walk between these places without stepping foot on carpet:
* back door
* garage
* kitchen
* bathroom
posted by maurreen at 8:28 PM on August 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Speaking of sound insulation - I just heard about a person who was building a house facing a busy street, and designed the house with "a lot of mass" (in this case, a stone facing on the front facade) up front to help damp the sound coming from the street. So if your site has one noisy side for example, this might be something to consider.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:55 PM on August 18, 2014

- Bidet hose : A simple installation on the pot but its really handsfree toilet paper.

- Kitchen with a real live herb garden. Pluck some rosemaries and thyme while you cook.
- Trash holes on floor - there is no picking up, vacuuming. You just sweep everything into the appropriate trash holes(recycle, compost, trash) in the floors.
posted by gadget_gal at 1:19 AM on October 2, 2014

Compost toilet, California cooler, green roof, greywater, rainwater collection, solar hot water heater, cob insulation, good bike parking. Smallish means less to clean.

And of course secret passages/rooms.
posted by aniola at 9:10 AM on April 8, 2015

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