Vital Signs

Vital Signs

Have you ever spent the night in a hospital room with a loved one? Oh, they may have a recliner that folds out almost flat, but you’re not going to get much sleep. The nurses are going to be coming in at all hours to check vital signs, just to make sure everything’s okay; at least once or twice there’ll be a loud disturbance in an adjoining room; and, inevitably some machine that’s hooked up to your loved one is going to start beeping. Those annoyances then become increasingly problematic as you retell the story of that night.

Sadly, the same holds true for home design. Overlooked design aspects that can quickly become annoyances for your new homeowners can become a major part of their story. While lot characteristics and the size of the home may dictate certain design compromises, here are some annoying design faux pas we’ve heard recently, and some Design Basics’ plan solutions!

8160Coming in from the garage and stepping right into the kitchen, eating area, or family room. You’ve been working in your garden or perhaps it’s been snowing. Your shoes/boots are messy. A transition space such as a rear foyer will be sorely missed in such a layout.

5180Coming in from the garage and having to walk thru the kitchen. While kitchens may have evolved from functional workplaces to now also being an integral part of your home’s entertaining area, they are not a thoroughfare! Even worse are such designs that require you (and the kids or the grandkids) to walk right by the cook top that may still be hot.

6651Front entry views of a toilet. From the annals of “A guy must have designed this – no woman would have,” comes this design no-no. Since bathroom doors are usually left open to signal the bathroom is not in use, if there’s a bathroom off the entry foyer, make sure the toilet is not visible.

And, in this same design, front door swing blocks staircase access. If you can’t access your staircase when the front door is open, keep working to relocate the front door or the staircase! 

The Salem - Plan 3842Door swings that make you move from vanity. Some bathroom arrangements position a vanity right as you enter the bathroom, which can be an issue when shaving or putting on makeup and your spouse needs to come into the bathroom. Design Basics’ Salem plan (3842) solves this potential problem by having bathroom doors that swing into the bedroom rather than swinging into the bathroom.

6725Having to walk thru one room to get to another. While hallways have been referred to by some as “a waste of space,” having to walk through one room to get to another may disrupt conversations or block TV views.

2316Tiny coat closets. Even in the warmest climates, closet storage is essential – and nothing beats the convenience of storage located near the front door. In the example shown, the tiny twin coat closets flanking the entry door are inadequate in terms of storage, and they’re expensive to trim out compared to a decent size single closet.

56110aLong grocery traffic.
When you think about how people actually live in their homes, it’s amazing there are so many home designs with the kitchen positioned far from the garage entry into the home. Having to carry heavy grocery sacks clear across the house becomes a real pain.

Find your ideal floor plan with Design Basics’ plan search tool. Or, contact us for assistance.

Rear Foyer Design

Rear foyer with white cubbies“Mudrooms” have transformed into “rear foyers,” reflecting buyer’s preferences and the reality that many of us use the entry from the garage much more often than the front door. Seats with shoe storage under, coat hooks above, and a shelf or cubbies for additional storage help organize the family and reduce stress when trying to get out the door on time.

In an effort to control clutter and focus on aesthetics, creative builders and designers are taking the rear foyer concept to new heights with discrete amenities such as hidden message centers, concealed key storage, and other examples of private storage!

Message Center

Where do you keep the family calendar with everybody’s schedules?  Where do you leave notes and pin up reminders (yes, some of us still do that offline!).

Planning for a message center is something you’re sure to appreciate after the remodel or once you’re moved in.  Many people integrate the message center into a planning center or other area where they’ve a desk or modest work space. We’ve also seen them on the back side of wide cabinet or pantry doors, and in rear foyers (remember we’ve eliminated the term mudroom from our vocabularies!).

Charging Station

Cell Phone…laptop…iPod…Kindle…our lives are run on batteries!

Fortunately, these are rechargeable batteries. That’s great for the environment and avoiding battery replacement costs, but there is the hassle of keeping all of those batteries charged.

Recharging center to the rescue! One convenient location for a multitude of devices. One place where recharging is a snap and there’s no spaghetti-tangle of power cords, adapters, etc. One place where you know you’ll find that item you’re looking for–no more “Honey, have you seen my_____?” If the recharging center is for your entire household, locating it in the rear foyer entry from the garage works well.

Learn more about rear foyer design here.

Rear Foyer Drop Zone

Rear Foyer Drop Zone

“After a long day, I arrive home, open the door from the garage only to be greeted by piles of laundry. It’s like I’m starting my second job when I get home and find dirty clothes taking over the laundry/mudroom!”

Studies report for homes with an attached garage, the door from the garage into the home has become our primary entrance. In fact, we rarely use the front door. Designers have typically concentrated on front door entry foyer design, but the entryway from the garage was kind of an afterthought and often defaulted to a little space where the clothes washer and dryer could be placed.

“If you don’t get the sweaty workout clothes or kids’ sports uniforms washed right away, the stench is awful!”

Rear foyer layout
A Woman-Centric™ approach to home design elevates rear foyer design for both practical and aesthetic considerations. And it doesn’t double as the laundry room–keeping your blood pressure in check. “Getting the family out the door on time in the morning with everything they need,” was the inspiration for cubbies and lockers for the kids…and adults. “Having a place to take off muddy shoes,” pointed out the need for a seat.

Maybe your family pet needs his own cubby with toys, treats, and a leash to head out for a walk. Or, your teenager’s friends are over often to practice for their garage band or to shoot hoops–rather than have them coming in and out of the kitchen for beverages and snacks, set up a mini fridge and snack basket for their convenience (and your own sanity!).

At Design Basics, we know that each person/family has their own unique needs and wants. Let our plan alterations specialists help you create that perfect design.

Contact us today by calling 800.947.7526 or Search for a Plan.

Your Home Puts on About 40 Pounds per Year

Forty pounds of dust, that is! Now, there’s nothing you can do to completely eliminate dust as clothing fibers, pet dander, dead skin cells, and items we track in from outdoors add to the problem daily.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), dust bunnies aren’t just unsightly and sometimes allergenic; they contain toxic chemicals. Why? First, products inside your house “shed” chemicals over time — furniture, electronics, shoes, plastics, fabrics, and food, among other things. And, outdoor pollutants enter on your shoes and through open and cracked windows and doors. The good news is it’s pretty easy to keep those dust bunnies at bay and reduce your family’s toxic exposures, too.

The EWG offers the following tips to safely and effectively remove toxic dust from your home:

  • Vacuum frequently and use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. These vacuums are more efficient at trapping small particles and will likely remove contaminants and other allergens from your home that a regular vacuum would recirculate into the air. Change the filter to keep it working well, and don’t forget to vacuum the stuffed furniture (get under those couch cushions!).
  • Wet mop uncarpeted floors frequently to prevent dust from accumulating (dry mopping can kick up dust that simply resettles). Buy wooden furniture or furniture filled with down, wool, polyester, or cotton as these are unlikely to contain added fire retardant chemicals.
  • Wipe furniture with a wet or microfiber cloth. Microfiber cloths work well because their smaller fibers cling to the particles. If you don’t have a microfiber cloth, wet a cotton cloth — it grabs and holds the dust better than a dry one. Skip synthetic sprays and wipes when you dust — they only add unwanted chemicals.
  • Caulk and seal cracks and crevices to prevent dust from accumulating in hard-to-reach places.
  • Equip your forced-air heating or cooling system with high-quality filters and change them frequently to keep them working well.
  • Keep electronic equipment dust-free by damp dusting it frequently; this is a common source of chemical fire retardants in dust.
  • Pay special attention to places where little kids crawl, sit, and play. They live closest to our floors and as a result tend to be more exposed to those toxic dust bunnies.
  • If you’re dust sensitive, consider asking someone else to do the dusty cleaning.

Often Overlooked Areas

Don’t forget these often overlooked areas where dust can, and will, hide! Since closets are mainly used as storage spaces, we don’t always think about how much dust can accumulate inside. Luckily, closets can be designed to be easy to clean. Dust settles on solid (i.e., wood or laminate) shelving, whereas air currents move through ventilated wire shelving. Reality is, most of us don’t move stuff on closet floors when vacuuming so dust easily accumulates there. Installing shelving that keeps items off the floors, such as shoe racks, makes cleaning both easier and more efficient. And carpeting traps dust. Hardwood, tile, and vinyl flooring products are wise choices for healthier closets.

Blinds are a popular choice for window coverings, but faux wood or aluminum are easiest to clean because of their smooth surface. Textured blinds collect more dust and are harder to clean. Curtains can be more colorful and more personalized window fashions. Look for curtains that you can throw in the washing machine/dryer or at least regularly vacuum the fabric.

Ceiling fans are a nice addition to many rooms in the home, adding an aesthetic as well as a cooling and heating element to a room. But dusting those fans, particularly the fans reached via a ladder, is no joy. Using a microfiber or damp cloth, as mentioned above, is a good way to remove dust without it falling onto the floor or furniture. Also, there are several ceiling fan brands on the market that have dust-reduction features.

During construction or major remodel of your home, a tremendous amount of drywall dust and other debris can find its way into your vents and ductwork. While it may be possible to cover the vents (or raw openings) during construction, you may want to schedule air duct cleaning immediately before or after you move in—especially if anyone in your household has to deal with respiratory ailments such as asthma or dust allergies.

There are also a few things you can do every day to help keep added dust out of your home: Leave shoes at the door–the less you track into your home, the better; keep windows closed when the wind is kicking up dust outside (this is also helpful if you have pollen allergies); and, wipe down pets when they come inside–a quick swipe with a towel over their fur removes surface dust and pollen.

For more information about Healthy Home Tips, visit the EWG website.

5 Modern Ways to Reduce Wasted Space in Your Floor Plan

5 Modern Ways to Reduce Wasted Space in Your Floor Plan

Part IV in our series – Avoiding Common Regrets When Building Your New Home

Building a home is exciting. You get to create your perfect space – a place where your family will make lots of wonderful memories. However, this can also be a stressful time, too. You don’t want to make decisions you will soon regret, and need to make sure the home comes together perfectly.

All the little design details in a home can be changed, but the floor plan will remain constant without some major renovation. So, before you get too worried about what paint color to choose and which light fixtures to buy, let’s focus on the layout of the house. Whether you are building a 2,500 square foot home or one that’s over 12,000 square feet, you need to figure out the best use of space.

Not every square foot is created equal. Your floor plan can and should be created to make the most out of every single square foot. Many home designs can lead to a lot of wasted space, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take control of the floor plan and use every inch effectively to create a house plan with no wasted space.

Knock Down the Walls

Some home designs have multiple small rooms. If it is not imperative to your lifestyle, knock down a few walls and open up the area. Open floor plans are the way many modern home designs are leaning and are on the ‘must-have’ list for many homeowners.

Knocking down some walls can increase the size of high-traffic areas, so you use the space more effectively. If your family spends a lot of time in the family room, knock out the wall separating the family room and kitchen. It will open up the space and make the main room appear larger. If the house plans show two rooms where you only need one, take down the divider to make one room larger and ensure there’s no wasted space.

Ditch the Dining Room

Every older home has a dining room. It was part of the lifestyle of the time. Husbands were home from work at 5:00. Wives had the house clean and supper on the table. The children gathered ‘round and dinner was served in the dining room.
open living area interior

Modern families are more likely to have each parent working, kids with after-school activities and extra-curricular events and no one getting home until 7:00 pm. Even then, family members are trickling in at different times. The days of eating in the dining room every night have come to an end for many families. This large room is only being used two or three times a year for holiday dinners, which isn’t the best use of space.

If the floor plan of your home includes a dining room and your family lifestyle has no need for a formal place to eat your meals, Why not take this opportunity to rethink the entire room and dining experience. You can omit it completely or you can repurpose the space.

This room can be turned into an office, a playroom, a craft room or just about anything else you would actually use on a regular basis. The key to not wasting space is creating spaces that you will actually use.

Ideas for Putting Square Footage Where it Counts

In most modern families, a lot of time is spent in the kitchen and family room, so you should expand the available space. The kitchen is a natural gathering place, so feel free to add some square footage. Extend the wall in the kitchen a few feet, even if it makes the guest bathroom a little smaller. Widen the family room, even if it cuts into the entryway.

Most square footage should be used in the main living areas of the home. It is okay if your rear-entry foyer is just big enough for a bench and some lockers for coats and shoes. It is okay if your bathrooms don’t have enough space to host a fashion show. Cutting square footage from secondary spaces makes the high traffic areas more open and enjoyable.

Consider your Needs

stacked palette seating in chill out spacePicture Courtesy Mother Nature Network

Every family’s needs are a little bit different, and certain requirements can result in specific changes. If you have young children running around, you may want to add a little width to your hallways. If you have teenagers you may want to add an additional room for watching TV and playing video games. If you are the king and queen of entertaining, you can add space to the family room or a guest bedroom.
The key to each room in your home is purpose. If a room serves no real purpose, it is a waste of space. If you think you will use a room, but aren’t sure what for, it may languish untouched for years. In order for space to be well-used, it must have a function.

Think Outside the Box

Many floor plans are strikingly similar. If there is something you’d like to change about the traditional layout, change it. Don’t be scared to step away from the norm. Just because a floor plan has a certain number of rooms or distribution of space does not mean it is set in stone. Feel free to personalize it and make adjustments. After all, it is your home and want a no wasted space house plan.

If your lifestyle doesn’t need a certain room, take it out. If you require more space to make an area more livable, add it. The biggest key to not wasting space is to cater your floor plan to the needs of your family. If a space has a purpose, keep it or increase it. If it doesn’t, kiss it goodbye and use the square footage elsewhere.

Source: Featured Image

6 Master Tips for the Master Bedroom – Part II

6 Master Tips for the Master Bedroom – Part II

Part II in our series – Avoiding Common Regrets When Building Your New Home

When you begin looking over the plans to build your brand new home, you will experience a lot of emotions, and excitement is probably one of the big ones. You (and your significant other in many cases) get to help create a home to match your wants and needs, how could you not be!?!

If you are like most, you will probably begin to feel a little overwhelmed as well. With all the decisions you get to make, your builder will be looking for direction on this room and that. Which upgrades do you want? Where should you place your vents? What kind of lighting do you want in your master bedroom?

Understanding what is available to you before you have to make these decisions will help you when it comes time to make decide. Not only will this help you avoid that overwhelmed feeling, but it will decrease the stress and make the whole experience more enjoyable. With that said, let’s get into what you are all here for.

The master bedroom is yours! It’s your space to retreat, sleep, relax and feel at home. Taking the time to make it a place you will enjoy and find comfort in will go a long way in helping you love your home. So, what should you consider when putting your master suite together? How about we start with the following six areas:

  1. Focal Point
  2. Comfort
  3. Lighting
  4. Color
  5. Ceiling
  6. Storage

Focal Point

Deciding where (and what) your focal point will be before hand, will help you create a master bedroom you will be able to enjoy for years to come. You may have a number of options to choose from, fireplace, large window, doors leading outside, but no matter what the options may be you’ll want to begin by looking at the layout of the room.

Where will you place your bed, dressers and any additional furniture you may be planning to add? Having this in mind will help you visualize what you ultimately want out of your master suite. Once you have an idea of what will be going into the room, you will be able to determine where you focal point will be.

Depending on the builder and house plan, you may have a few add-on options to choose from, the fireplace, double doors leading to your deck or maybe even a large bay window. Any of these options would make for a beautiful focal point. If these aren’t available to you, you may want to consider the placement of your bed and/or the inclusion of the large painting.


As you settle in and begin to discuss the layout of your new bedroom, I recommend keeping comfort in mind. As I stated earlier, this is your room! Make it a sanctuary to yourself (and significant other.) Make it a place where you will be able to getaway, when you can’t getaway.

This could include simple things like the placement of your bed to enjoy the beautiful view outside to which upgrades will help you feel more at home. Imagine how the setup will help calm you, and provide a relaxing space to get the rest you need.

If you do have a significant other, make sure that both of your voices are being heard. This should be a room you can enjoy together.


Not only can you look at how the lighting will brighten your sanctuary, but you can add a touch of you with the style in the fixtures. You may want to take a look at a site like for ideas.

master bedroom lighting

You’ve probably already been thinking about this, you may have thought about wall sconces, chandelier or how the natural light will come into play. If so you are on the right track!

As you explore windows and the benefits of natural light, Transom windows are usually smaller and placed high in a wall allowing daylight and at the same time, privacy. When set atop other windows, they extend views and sight-lines. Where appropriate, you may also want to include a blackout liner for when you need to rest during daylight hours. Additionally, I would recommend adding a dimmer, so you can adjust the brightness during the evening and late night hours.


Similar to the lighting, you may already have a few ideas in your head. If you already have bedding, furniture or even art picked out, I recommend taking the time to understand how it will look with the color schemes you have in mind.

If you are struggling to choose the colors, check out these tips from the Decorating Files. Remember the colors we choose will affect our modes.


56139_11.jpgWill the master bedroom be on the 1st floor? Will the ceilings be angled because of the roof? How will the ceiling compliment the walls? As you can see this is only skimming the surface of choices you will have when deciding how to ensure the ceiling will compliment the goals you have for this important room.

Far too often I see new home builders skimp over the ceiling, and miss out on a tremendous opportunity to add some character to a room where they will be spending so much time on their backs. Spend a little extra time to add a little bit of yourself to the ceiling. Check out these fun ideas from HGTV to get started to get your creative juices flowing.


Maybe you have planned for a large closet or have a few dressers you’ll be counting on and feel you’ll have plenty of storage. If so you could be missing out on a great opportunity to get creative and ad some additional storage you may want or need in the future.

You may want to consider adding some shelving, built in doors or maybe even an alcove for a little more creative storage space. Don’t limit yourself just the traditional, get creative and check these storage ideas from DigsDigs for more ways to add to your storage needs.

Whatever your needs (or wants) are, we can all get a little creative and make our master bedroom a place we can truly enjoy with a little bit of planning and preparation.

What ideas and tips do you have? I would love to hear about how you’ve made your master bedroom a room that reflects who you are and what you need.

In case you missed our first post about what to consider when designing your kitchen you won’t want to miss it. Read it here.

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