House design trends in your area
June 2, 2017 12:16 PM   Subscribe

What are some features on new homes in your area that we don't know about? I'm trying to solve the 'Why don't we do that here?' conundrum. For instance, in Florida it is typical in many areas to build a huge screen structure over your home's swimming pool. Now I live in Texas, and you never see them even though the pool ratio is just as high.

In the Midwest, most new neighborhoods only build 3 car garages. Here in San Antonio, you're lucky to fit one car inside your two car garage because we don't have basements. Nowhere else to store your stuff other than the garage. So why aren't 3 cars more prevalent here?

So, what design features do you see in your area that are just genius and should be adopted everywhere?
posted by wwartorff to Home & Garden (33 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I don't live in Germany, but I've spent a lot of time there with family.

Two things I wish I could have here: built-in rolling shutters or "rolladen". You can have them all the way down and block out ALL light and noise, open them slightly and get some light without noise and wind, or completely retract them into the window opening.

Second would be these two-way doors and windows that you can tilt-in for air or completely swing open.

Here's a video showing both in operation.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:25 PM on June 2, 2017 [17 favorites]

The Florida thing has a lot more to do with pests (like, um, ALLIGATORS) plus the fact that it is state law that any outdoor pool is fenced; if you have to fence it, might as well screen the whole thing in and reduce the debris (AND ALLIGATORS) that end up in your pool.
posted by cooker girl at 12:36 PM on June 2, 2017 [10 favorites]

So why aren't 3 cars more prevalent here?

... income? Lack of 3-car families? Lack of families who need to store lots of stuff they don't use often?

I don't know, in my TX neighborhood, people pay $500k for tiny shacks that are a hundred years old, in a neighborhood infested with rats, roaches and mosquitos. Nary a pool in sight, and most "garages" have been converted to apartments a long time ago. I assume this is because nobody can afford a pool when nice big houses go for 3-5 million. I have given up trying to understand lots of things in TX, but I think money explains a lot.
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:55 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

In Israel: multi-shelf dish drainers built into a cabinet above the sink, so the water drips right down into the sink. Every other system seems downright absurd now. (Pretty sure I've seen them in Europe as well.)
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:57 PM on June 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

I'm really only interested in finding new (to me, at least) design features out there.

The remark about 3 car garages and economics was not what I'm looking for, nor was explaining WHY Florida uses the screened pool. (That 'why' in my post was rhetorical.)

Please keep the design ideas coming!
posted by wwartorff at 1:13 PM on June 2, 2017

Outdoor showers in seaside towns in New England, for rinsing off after the beach.
posted by feistycakes at 1:14 PM on June 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

Basically every toilet in Thailand has an attached hose with a spray head on it for use in addition to toilet paper. I was amused to find that our friends who had babies and were using cloth diapers installed basically the same setup for pre cleaning used diapers.

very convenient (and waaay less silly/ostentatious/space-taking-up than having a stand alone bidet).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:18 PM on June 2, 2017

A lot of the things I'd wish to have in any house are climate-dependent. You need mudrooms in snowy places, outdoor showers make sense in warm, tropical places, houses built on stilts are amazing because you have so much covered space -- but you only find those at the beach. Etc.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:28 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to see "dirt showers" on farms in Israel. They're basically two side-by-side shower stalls with a door between them - you go into one side that has a telephone shower to rinse the particulate dirt off your body, and then walk through the between-door to to the second shower to actually clean yourself with soap, shampoo, etc. Those farms reused waste water for a lot of things since it's a desert, so I think it was to separate out the waste water.
posted by juniperesque at 1:31 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Washer and dryer in the walk in closet. Maybe wouldn't be as fantastic for a family of 6 but a total game changer for singles or a couple.
posted by BoscosMom at 1:38 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Airing cupboards are fairly common in the UK and AU, but I've never seen one in the USA.

And sorry for my previous response, I guess I misunderstood what you meant by I'm trying to solve the 'Why don't we do that here?' conundrum. ;-)
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:43 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Washer and dryer on the same floor as the bedrooms (where the clothes usually live) - tons of time saved lugging laundry up and down stairs.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:45 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not local to me, but Spanish-colonial style houses were my favorite feature of Central America. Basically the house is a square of rooms around an open garden area in the middle of the house. You wake up in the morning, and you see trees and flowers and birds the first thing. Obviously, more practical when you live in a tropical rain forest, and less so in, say, Boston.
posted by empath at 1:51 PM on June 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

Living roofs aka green roofs.

Bedrooms for cars are optional if your house is within X feet of a major transit route.
posted by aniola at 1:54 PM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

My townhouse complex in Chicago has a feature that apparently exists in some homes in China but I haven't seen much here. Our homes are arranged in a closed rectangle, with parking outside. In the interior of the rectangle, each townhouse has a small private patio opening onto a large shared space. This shared area has a playground, flowers, a small basketball court, etc. Because it is enclosed and car-free, kids can and do run free there for hours with minimal need for parental supervision. Parents can look out their windows into he shared area for a chick check at any time. We've got 34 families, some 20 or so kids, and the biggest problem is that it's impossible to get the kids inside for bed in these warm summer evenings.

(The homes I've read about in China are circular, and seem to use the interior space for small-scale industrial work. They were the subject of the 360 video in the Times this week.)
posted by wyzewoman at 2:03 PM on June 2, 2017 [13 favorites]

(Parents can do a quick check, that is. Not a "chick check"!)
posted by wyzewoman at 2:28 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well, yesterday on a home tour I found out from my realtor that it's very common for houses in Arizona (not sure if particular city) to have trash cans built into the ground rather than ones you roll out to the sidewalk. Apparently it used to be common in a lot of places in the 60s but most neighborhoods have gotten rid of them, except for some magical part of Arizona.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:48 PM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Washing machines in the kitchens.
posted by Automocar at 6:02 PM on June 2, 2017

Just about every house in Peoria has an awning over the side/back door, so when you're coming in from the driveway/detached garage, you're not standing in the pouring rain unlocking your door and your steps don't get so snowy in winter. I've lived in the Midwest almost my whole life and I had only rarely seen these before, but they are EVERYWHERE here.

Also really common here is a basement bathroom in the unfinished part of the basement that is NOT ENCLOSED. What I've been told is that since this is a factory town, men who were exposed to gross chemicals and particulates at work would come home, go straight into the basement, pull off their work clothes, and wash up, both to keep the living areas less dirty and (later) to expose their kids to less chemicals. I don't know if that's true, but it's a VERY WEIRD DESIGN FEATURE. (Many of them are now enclosed by bathroom stall walls rescued from commercial building demolitions and renovations, which is also a weird market.) I guess that's not on new houses (which as I scroll back is what you're asking about) but imma leave it because it's SO WEIRD.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:03 PM on June 2, 2017

That's known as a Pittsburgh toilet, Eyebrows. (And it's totally weird)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:11 PM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

joan_holloway: I believe those are for garbage, not trash. My grandfather's house had one and way back the garbage collector would come and take out the interior can, dump it, and then put it back. I read somewhere that it was to keep animals out of the actual garbage. The real question would be does anyone still empty them? My guess is no. Which means neat idea, but totally impractical.
posted by clone boulevard at 6:14 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wait, what's the difference between garbage and trash?!
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:39 PM on June 2, 2017 [28 favorites]

Got me too, fiercecupcake. TIL, in the US, garbage is kitchen waste while trash is other dry waste. What the UK & elsewhere would call "kitchen scraps" & … well, I don't know if there's a word for general dry waste. In UK/Commonwealth English it's all rubbish.
posted by Pinback at 6:50 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can confirm the Pittsburgh toilet phenomenon is also fairly prevalent in many older neighborhoods of Cincinnati.
posted by mostly vowels at 6:57 PM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Weird, I live in the U.S. and the words "garbage" and "trash" are interchangeable to me. In my area, there's trash/garbage and there's recycling, two bins (we're single-stream). And then I guess technically yard waste is its own thing that you sometimes have to put in separate bags, but I've often gotten away with just throwing that away in the trash too.

Anyway, yeah, something I love about the Midwest is basements. But I understand you can't have them everywhere.
posted by limeonaire at 7:11 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Witch windows in Vermont. Never realized they were a VT phenomenon until I left. Apparently they retain heat better than a dormer window, which come to think of it really aren't common in VT.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:35 PM on June 2, 2017

If this is about building options, you could orient the house for solar panels/ passive solar gain(heat) or whatever you call it when you limit solar in order to keep cool. And plan for trees to block wind, provide shade, etc. Design the roof to maximize water collection/ manage snow accumulation. When I design imaginary houses, I like putting closets and bookcases on outside walls, for extra insulation, and window seats are really cozy.

I grew up in Ohio with hot, humid summers, and no AC. We had a strong fan built in to the attic, and it providing pretty good cooling.

My old house in Portland, Maine was literally built on rubble from a massive fire, and every room except the bathroom had 2 doors. We were on the 2nd floor of a 2 unit, and I appreciated that.
posted by theora55 at 7:54 PM on June 2, 2017

I ran into a lot of these windows in newer German buildings, and while I'm sure there are some places in the US that have them, I've never seen them. They're way better than casement or double hung windows for cracking the windows open on a rainy day, or blocking direct breeze while keeping the windows open. (I also ran into more radiant floor heating than I've seen in the US, and unsurprisingly also more solar panels, but neither of those are quite as rare in the US.)
posted by ubersturm at 10:44 PM on June 2, 2017

For the past few decades around Toronto it has been normal for builders to put a second, ulitarian kitchen in the basement of houses with "showcase" kitchens for the Italian and Portuguese families that prefer to cook down there for everyday use and thus avoid "messing up" the main floor kitchen.

In addition, in areas like Brampton with a large Desi dispora it is increasingly common to have new homes built with two or more master bedrooms (with ensuites) to accommodate the multi-family living. (Usually two+ brothers living together with their wives and children, plus parents living in as well to boss the daughter-in-laws and provide free babysitting). The cousins usually share two bedrooms by gender.

N'thing what someone said about a mudroom/sunroom/laundry/attached garage where most entry to house for family members involves an exterior door, a space to take off the parka and toque and THEN an interior door so the interior of the house is somewhat protected from the elements.

Basements are normally fully finished so they are built with high ceilings, large above-grade windows (not in window wells) and whenever possible the lot is graded so the backyard or, (more rarely) the side yard, has a walkout with glass patio doors.

New subdivisions have HUGE deep drainage ponds that are naturalized to become a feature that the more expensive homes back on to. They look weird to me because of the low water levels and sloped shorelines. Hydro and natural gas corridors are also naturalized with walking trails and a premium for backing on to.

Houses are not built with enough garages (usually two) or driveway space (usually two) because children living at home in their twenties is the norm (average house price in the GTA is a million+ as well as the common interfamily/intergeneration living arrangements). So the necessity of street parking on narrow streets that were never intended to have permanent parking is a huge mess.

Outdoor living spaces are VERY important. As soon as winter is over everyone is outside as much as possible. Where I am living now a bonfire pit is essential, depending on ethnicity other communities may have outdoor kitchens or brick pizza ovens. Where I am now (cottage country) it is pretty common to have a bunkie, more southern houses have a large shed for wordworking or yoga.

Most new subdivisions starting two decades ago do not have home mail delievery so many of the houses do not have mailboxes any more and flyers are just tossed on the porch and blow away. It is extremely rare to see a solid front door, almost all have huge glass inserts to bring the sunshine in.
posted by saucysault at 6:51 AM on June 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

In New Mexico and other hot, dry areas, home cooling is often accomplished with a swamp cooler or evaporative cooler. Uses much less electricity than an air conditioner.

I'm trying to solve the 'Why don't we do that here?' conundrum.

In this case, climate.
posted by yohko at 3:22 PM on June 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

My Cincinnati home (built in the late 30s) has the "Pittsburgh toilet".
posted by mmascolino at 5:19 PM on June 3, 2017

Not sure if this counts, but in some areas, like the Northeast, gas stoves/ranges are really common, especially in older houses/apartment buildings. In the Northwest, where I live now, they are uncommon and a bit of a status symbol.
posted by lunasol at 7:40 AM on June 4, 2017

The Japanese hotel room I lived in for a while had a feature I'd like in my house (though, not enough to spend a lot of money on changing at this point yet): The hot water thermostat. Looks and works just like the HVAC thermostat. This one had split zones so you could have a different temperature for the kitchen and the bathroom.

It's nice to be able to set the bathroom hot water for say, 41C, so you only have to open the hot water tap, wait 30 sec, then step in the shower- perfect. And it stays that way until you're done without fiddling with the faucet.
posted by ctmf at 11:40 AM on June 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

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