Great Design Matters: Sanders Lifestyles

Great Design Matters: Sanders Lifestyles

Sanders Lifestyles introduced Woman-Centric homebuilding to the Wichita, Kansas, area in a noticeable way, as their Hudson II model was selected “Pick of the Parade” for homes priced from $400,000 – $450,000 in the Fall, 2016 Parade of Homes. “The home and the Woman-Centric concept were very well received,” said builder Troy Sanders.

Sanders Lifestyles Bedroom

Transom windows provide added light with privacy

Sanders was looking for a way to distinguish his company and his homes from other area homebuilders when he heard about Design Basics’ Woman-Centric Matters!® approach at the International Builders Show. After researching the idea further and discussing the concept with family and colleagues, Sanders realized embracing women’s preferences in the home – in design, the products featured in the home, and designing remarkable customer experiences – was the way to go. “The Fall Parade would be an ideal opportunity to debut the Woman-Centric concept,” according to Sanders.

With the Parade little more than six months away, Sanders needed the right home design right away. Troy had previously built the company’s Hudson model in Iron Gate, the same Bel Aire, Kansas, neighborhood that his Parade home would be in, and gave the plan to Design Basics. “I wanted to shrink my original Hudson homeplan and yet add many of the innovative Woman-Centric amenities.” Design Basics revised the plan accordingly, including a new exterior design. To help build awareness of his new approach, Sanders placed a large sign at the front of the building lot during construction, “Coming soon – Wichita’s first Woman-Centric home.”

The company also had a new website designed based on Woman-Centric principles. Those efforts must have worked. “I had a lot of visitors during the Parade who said they had to come and see this Woman-Centric thing,” Sanders said, continuing, “I heard a lot of great comments.”

Sanders Lifestyles Kitchen

Impressive custom finishes throughout home

Sanders’ Hudson II features an enviable rear foyer. “When I had the time,” Sanders began, “I would take visitors to the garage entry and remind them this is what they would be coming home to, as most people come into their home from the garage. The big walk-in closet was a home run, as was the drop zone area with USB charging ports and mail slots. The bench, too, as you can sit down and slide shoes off right under the bench to keep them out of the trafficway. People really liked how that was done. And, putting a motion detector light switch there was so appreciated for those times when your hands are full coming in from the garage.”

Read more about Sanders Lifestyles’ Parade home and the Woman-Centric Matters!® program.


A Better Way

A Better Way

Last week, a builder client spoke with Design Basics Plan Alterations Designer Tricia Baker regarding Design Basics’ Livability at a Glance™ floor plan presentations, “It’s a better way to evaluate and compare home plans.”

People told us it was hard visualizing a built home when looking at simple black and white floorplan artwork. This prompted Design livability logoBasics to introduce Livability at a Glance, highlighting the four lenses women reported using when evaluating the home’s suitability for her and her household. Areas primarily for entertaining were shaded yellow, de-stressing areas blue, flexible living spaces green, and storage areas were highlighted in orange. Homebuyers responded enthusiastically, with comments such as “Now this I can understand!” Livability at a Glance helped buyers see themselves living in the home, creating an emotional connection with the plan.

Additionally, for all of the plans Design Basics has reviewed for their Livability attributes, on, a bar graph shows how each plan compares with similar size and type plans across the four lenses.

DBLLC Plan #42027

Livability at a Glance represented a major advancement in understanding how the home lives. Now, Livability at a Glance has evolved to become a better way to search home plans. Most online home plan searches are very linear and left-brained (logical), providing search criteria such as square footage and type of home to rule out home plans. Everybody did it the same way. Useful, but such search filters stop short of actually helping you identify home designs you would be interested in.

Now when searching home plans on you can also search by those four Livability at a Glance lenses. Since we all have different priorities when it comes to how we want to live in our dream home, Livability Search™ allows you to select the relative importance of each of those lenses. Searching by how the home lives is much more insightful and intuitive than old-fashioned plan searches! Learn more about Livability at a Glance™.

Let Your Home Live Larger with Finished Space Over the Garage

Let Your Home Live Larger with Finished Space Over the Garage

Whether bedrooms, flex space, or an upstairs play room, finishing off living space over your garage is inexpensive square footage that makes your home live larger. But it takes careful attention to make sure this space is comfortable year-round.


Finished room above garageProperly insulating this space requires extra air-sealing measures to keep these rooms comfortable. That means lots and lots of caulking joints during construction to prevent air leakage, plus as much insulation as you can get. Expanding foam insulating sealant in the exterior walls, roof/attic cavity, and between the floor and garage ceiling is an excellent choice. In cold climates, insulating the garage walls and insulated garage doors are important.


If your feet are warm, chances are you’ll feel warm all over, but the opposite is also true. And few things at home are more dreaded than climbing out of a warm bed and stepping onto cold floors! Hard surface flooring will be uncomfortably cold in these spaces (unless you choose a radiant floor heating system) so most people prefer carpeting. Here a premium, thicker pad will help keep the room warmer.

Energy efficient, Low-E of course! Other options available include double-panes, gas fills, heat-absorbing tints, insulated, low-emissivity coatings, and reflective coatings. Even the type of window frame and style of window play a factor in energy efficiency, heating, and cooling. And, you don’t have to compromise style for functionality! Don’t forget that window coverings also help with energy efficiency. (source:

Heating and Cooling

Talk with the heating and cooling contractor and ask their advice for keeping the area over the garage warm. Inquire about a zoned heating system–it may be a little more money, but rooms that are uncomfortably cold are no bargain.

Likewise, keeping the space cool in the warmer months is also an important factor. While a garage typically does not have a heating/cooling system installed, the heat that collects in your garage in the summertime rises to the room above, which can make the room quite uncomfortable. Again, talk with your contractor for installation; and, if you’re dealing with an existing area over the garage, check out duct-free heating and cooling products.

The Kincaid (plan #6710) shown at right is a great example of how utilizing 354 unfinished square feet makes your home live larger. And, the best part is, you can make the space over the garage anything you choose!

Search our plans by choosing two-story and Bonus Room feature.

15th Anniversary: Jan’s House of Hope

15th Anniversary: Jan’s House of Hope

Fifteen years ago, Jan’s House of Hope was constructed and sailed along the Eastern Seaboard. Design Basics was honored to be an integral part of this unique event. Read the reprint of the story below:

Jan's House of Hope on barge

A Houseboat Filled with Hope:

Waging war on cancer with an ocean-going, 1 ½-story home

Design Basics has sold plans in some unexpected places. Its homes have been built in Alaska, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Australia, Brazil, Chile, and Japan. But the latest location was by far the most unusual–on top of a 150-foot by 60-foot ocean-going barge.

Named Jan’s House of Hope in honor of a courageous woman who lost her battle to lung cancer, the home floated down the east coast during June and July of 2001. The aim of the project was to raise cancer awareness and funds to benefit hospice and other cancer-related programs.
The 3,100-square-foot two-story home was manufactured in a factory. Sixteen tractor trailers were required to deliver its six modular units, several roof pieces, and trusses to the barge. Cranes and crews clad in life jackets assembled the units in a day and a half. Extra safety measures were taken during the construction to withstand three-foot waves and other unique conditions the house was being exposed.

The floating house docked in seven cities between New Hampshire and Virginia. A special VIP preview party was held at each port of call; some ports even held fashion shows highlighting accessories designed for cancer patients. Following each party, the house was open to public tours. Donations to tour the house went to each port host for that city. Peter Yarrow (formerly of Peter, Paul, and Mary), gave a benefit concert in Branford to benefit The Connecticut Hospice.

The project generated tremendous publicity. It’s estimated over 100 television stations and 200 newspapers covered the story, including USA Today, People Magazine, and the Today Show. The September 2001 issue of Home magazine carried a 10-page feature on the house. Organizers believe the event generated the equivalent of 15 million dollars in free publicity.

The gray and red-shingled, Craftsman style home was far from a typical houseboat. Cathedral ceilings, elegant columns, French doors, and a dramatic loft overlooking the great room provided high style. Special amenities included Pella windows with retractable screens, a luxurious kitchen with Jenn-Air appliances, a state-of-the-art plasma TV by Sharp in the media room, a beautiful whirlpool in the master bath, and a media room with stereo equipment worth $40,000. The handicapped-accessible home featured a stair lift and was fully decorated and landscaped.

After the public tours at its final destination in Norfolk, Virginia, the house dismantled and offered for sale, along with its contents. Proceeds [were] donated to the National Cancer Awareness Foundation. And, 20 percent of the revenue generated from the sales of the plan used to construct the floating home (Jan’s House of Hope, plan #6739) [was] donated to the National Cancer Awareness Foundation.

Original publication: Spec Build, 2001 edition

Optimizing Traffic Flow

Optimizing Traffic Flow

When the weather’s nice, Mother Nature beckons for us to delight in her beauty. Whether grilling out or having friends over, the connection point, such as a door onto your deck or patio, can become a traffic jam.

Many floor plan layouts accommodate a circular traffic flow between indoors and outdoors by having more than one door from public areas of the home. A wonderful example is Plan #55548, with a door from the breakfast area and double sets of French doors leading from the living room onto the covered porch. There’s even a door from the owner’s suite sitting area directly accessing the porch—perfect for enjoying your first cup of coffee on the weekend!


How many steps do you have to take to get groceries from your car to the pantry or fridge? Do you have to climb stairs? Do you have to walk clear across one space (e.g., the family room) just to get to the kitchen? Minimizing grocery traffic distance and turns is an aspect of “high design.”  It’s usually not obvious when glancing at floor plans, but it will be very obvious after you have moved in!

Stair Location

If you’re building a new home with either a basement, second floor or both, where do you want the stairs to be situated? Stairs located in the center of the home may minimize hallways upstairs, but many times center stairs are an assumption at the design phase. When center stairs run along the entry, they may squeeze the traffic pattern and make the space appear and feel tight. Stairs right at the entry may interrupt movement through the home when the entry door is open.

Many of today’s buyers prefer an open, inviting entry view that does not include the staircase, locating stairs instead to one side of the home, often near the garage. Attending the public grand opening of a new model home in Minneapolis, the most common visitor comments complimented the rear staircase location!

Door Conflict

“Door conflict” is the term given whenever a door, by swinging open, might swing into another door, bump into cabinetry or furniture, or present some other design issue. Usually the home designer can locate doors so the swings don’t run into each other. Sometimes, door conflict can be avoided by switching one of the doors to a pocket door, which slides into the wall. Other times, two narrower hinged doors replace a single larger door.

Door swings can also interrupt the usability of a room, dictating traffic ways and furniture placement. Sometimes, this type of door conflict can be overcome by re-locating the door into the hallway, which has the secondary benefit of reducing perceived hall lengths.

Read more about Traffic Flow. And, Search our plans for a home that suits your traffic flow!

Garage Door Design

Garage Door Design

There are many elements to consider when designing your home’s exterior, but oftentimes we overlook the garage doors–whether that be aesthetics or functionality. We take great care in choosing just the right color for shingles, paint, brick, and just the right style for windows, doors, and decor, yet don’t take much time to consider how the garage door(s) complete the look.

Your Home’s Personality

Next time you drive down your street, pay close attention to the garage doors used.  They’re probably all pretty much the same–16- or 32-raised panels. Predictable. Boring. The homes in your neighborhood don’t all look the same, so why should the garage doors? An attractive garage door can actually enhance your home’s street appeal and become a focal point rather than an eyesore!

Size Matters

Single-wide garage doors can make a huge difference in terms of complementing your home’s architectural design and street appeal. But in another case of practical MEETS aesthetics, be sure your garage is large enough to take 9-foot wide garage doors. One homeowner we talked with, moving from a home with one double wide (16-foot) door into a new, custom built home with two 8-foot wide garage doors, lived for years with having to fold the mirrors in on her minivans every time she came home. Even when it was raining or snowing outside, she had to power the windows down and manually fold the mirrors in—an expensive lesson learned after suffering the consequences of knocking off one of those expensive side mirrors.

Let There be Light

Step from your home into your attached garage and the first thing you’re doing is flipping on the light switch. Even on sunny afternoons, if there aren’t any windows in your garage or garage door, it’s too dark to see.

Windows in garage doors are a matter of personal style and preference. Traditional windows in a garage can be wonderful, but if public, everyone can see in to the garage. Even if the windows are more privately located, they can still present a security/break-in issue. Consider transom windows for your garage. Because of their smaller size and high location they keep the curious from peeking in as well as preventing forced entry!

Read more about Garage Door Design.

(photo courtesy Amarr)

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