Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What I would do differently

Hello! First of all, I know some of you are having issues getting emails with posts from blogger’s feeds lately. From what I’ve read it’s an issue with Yahoo emails – they seem to be going to spam? So if you have Yahoo be sure to check that. Also, the feeds are still working, it’s the email that’s not. So if you want to get all the posts from your favorite bloggers, I suggest you subscribe to them all in one spot like Bloglovin. I used to bookmark all my blogs on my computer and now I love having them all in one place!

So last week I talked about the process of building our house ten years ago. Today I’m talking about what I would done differently when it comes to the finishes and upgrades and layout – all that good stuff.

First up – the things I love about our house! Well, there’s a lot more than this that I love, but these are certainly things I’m glad we did. One was upgrading the elevation, or the front of the house:

cottage shutters on house

I fell in love with those shutters and the design, and when I saw this brick I was sold. I LOVE our brick. It’s just on the front – I wish we would have wrapped at least the bottom half of the house all the way around. Brick holds up better and feels safer to me.

I’m so glad we put in a basement – we got about $12K in free upgrades and used that towards the basement. If you have kids I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea if you have the option and the funds. If you don’t it’s still much needed storage, even unfinished.

I’m also glad we roughed in a bathroom down there:

blue and green bathroom

Even if you won’t finish it off a potential buyer might. And adding plumbing after the fact is not cheap! The bottom line is, the way you live in your home changes so much through the years – space you don’t use early on may be space you are craving years down the road. And rooms you use a lot early on may not be needed as much later (a playroom for example).

We fell in love with this house because it was so open and there are good and bad aspects to that for sure. It’s not for everybody. Sound does carry. :) I was worried our heating and cooling bills would be awful but surprisingly we don’t pay any more than friends with less open houses. Well, maybe a little more in the summer, but the winter is fine.

If could do it again I would do the cathedral ceilings and open floor plan again – maybe just not quite as much in the house. Our foyer, living room, staircase, loft, bedroom and master bathroom all have the high ceilings:

craft room table

I especially love it in the foyer, staircase and bedroom. Most of those came standard with our house plan. We stuck with the basic eight foot ceilings upstairs otherwise. (And as a side note, I’m so happy we did nine foot ceilings on the main floor!)

Here’s one I wish we had done more of – recessed lights! I love them and wish we would have put them everywhere:

beadboard backsplash We have them in the kitchen and over the fireplaces (and we installed them in the basement later) and I wish I would have placed them strategically all throughout the house. But I’m weird and I love a lot of light, especially in the winter.

OK. Now, the stuff I would have done differently! Some of it’s big, some small. A biggie is the thorn in my side – the corner fireplace:

corner fireplace

I was all, “Oh, it will be COOL and DIFFERENT!” and it’s just ANNOYING and AWKWARD. I’ve made it work over the years but I’d still rather have it on a flat wall. Normal is good, trust me.

Here’s a small one – lights in the closets. All the closets! Linen, bathroom, storage: organized linen closet

Whatever it is. Put a light in it. Just do it.

Also, I’d have a light fixture installed in every room. We don’t have ceiling fixtures in two bedrooms, my office and the living room and I so wish we had them: red blue boys room

If anything have them roughed in and you can hang something you love later.

Our builder did connect light switches in each one of those rooms to an outlet, so we have lamps plugged into those. It’s convenient to walk in and flip a switch for light.

This next one is a biggie and it’s two-fold. Most homes you walk from the garage to the mud room/laundry to the kitchen, right? Ours is weird. We walk from the mud room, past the office, into the family room and then into the kitchen. I seriously sit and think of all of my friend's houses and ours is the only one I know of with that layout. It’s not ideal – especially when you’re bringing in load after load of groceries.

Another big thing is I would NEVER put my HVAC system so close to the family room again:

(Old pic of the mud room but it shows the utility closet.)

You don’t realize how loud it runs until you’re trying to watch TV. :) I love days when I don’t have to run it just because it’s so QUIET in our family room and kitchen. I would move it to the garage or a storage room in the basement in a heartbeat.

And I think it goes without saying if you’ve read this blog for a while – I would never have put the washer and dryer in this room again. Ever. It didn’t work for us. I would put it upstairs (in a tiled/waterproofed room) or in the basement. Or just away from the garage door where you dump all your stuff. :)

Both my husband and I agree – the biggest thing we would have changed would have been to bump out the back of the house, even a few feet. Not the entire house, just the family room and kitchen:

DIY farmhouse table

We added the bay window and I’m so glad we did! Otherwise we wouldn’t have much room to move by the table and pantry at all. We are actually thinking about adding more space back there someday but I don’t know if it will happen. It’s just something to think about – where you want more space to live. We have rooms like our dining room and loft that we hardly use and I hate that. I wish we had that space in the areas we use, like the kitchen.

Of course that one especially was realized as we lived in the house longer and longer. It was not something we even considered when looking at models and floor plans. And in general the way we all live has changed over the years – people don’t use formal spaces like they used to. It’s all about your family needs!

So that’s just an idea of what I would do again and I wish I would have done differently. All in all I’m pretty darn happy with what we ended up with. :)

Do you have any thoughts to add to this list? Lights in closets – am I right?? Yes.

41 comments:

  1. My husband and I bought out house 2 years ago. It was an older style ranch, but there is so many things I would have done differently. It's our first home and it's definitely been a life lesson.

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  2. I totally understand your problem of walking through your entire house to get to the kitchen from the garage. Our house is set up that way and I won't buy another house with a similar layout again! I like to imagine hiring an architect to design our next house and I'd probably start with describing how I want the house to work rather than look.

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  3. I can relate to many of the things you like and dislike, as well as the changes you would make. Lights, YES YES YES!!! In all closets, and ceilings. We too have at least one room with no overhead lighting (switch connected to outlet), and it drives me insane. Our laundry room...TINY, way too small even now that it is just the hubby and I. The other thing is I would have upgraded to hardwoods throughout (especially due to allergies). And agree, would have gone 4 sides brick (2 are complete, 1 about half, and the back 1/3). Windows...we are in the process of installing new windows to replace our 20 year old double hung, single pane, wood windows. Not fun!!! Not cheap!!!

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  4. I have the same thing... we come from the garage, through the mudroom/laundryroom, through the family room to the kitchen. Never noticed this when we walked through the model, or peered over the blueprint.
    Better equip next time I guess....

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  5. I bet as the Bubs gets older, especially into his teen years, that the loft gets a lot more use as an extension of his space. My two teen girls would kill for a space like that, near their rooms, but separate from where the adults hang out to watch tv, play video games, or just hang out with friends. The one requirement we will always have for a house is a separated space for a home office. DH works from home and its a necessity, especially when we are invaded by the mob of teens all summer long :) No 'shhhing' required! Lights in closets are a necessity! We went out and bought battery operated led lights for every last one. Problem solved with a lot less expense.

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    1. +1 on the battery led lights - mine are technically under cabinet ones (with the magnetic mounting plate) - they're also really useful as designated emergency lighting

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    2. I have them in ours now too -- one turns on when you open the door which is really nice! It's still not a ton of light though.

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  6. Oh, I totally agree with all of your input! My biggest regret: not finishing the basement! we thought on finishing it a couple of years after we built the house but here we're almost 15 years later and it's not finished yet :( at least we did the rough in! Great advice, Sarah!

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  7. I think all of your input is spot on my friend. PLUS your house looks just beautiful

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  8. We built our house the same year you did. Our move-in date was Halloween weekend, 2004. You are so right. The things you don't realize when walking through models. And we have walked through MANY! You really have to live in a place. Thing is with our builder is they killed us in upgrades! LOVE recessed cans. I would of added them to the kitchen if they weren't $150/light. My hubby works for an electrical wholesaler. That is ridiculous. We were not allowed to get our own electrical supplies. We had no say in brands we wanted. So, we have since switched out all of our cheap outlets and switches to a better brand. Each extra outlet was $40. :/ We are upgrading our windows, so I can relate to the other commenter. Builder grade vinyl sliders are going bye-bye. We have replaced all of our brass door knobs with better Schlage ORB ones. Replaced the chrome sink fixtures for ORB. Flush doors are slowly being replaced to 2 panel recessed. Hardwood floor is being added. I wish I could upgrade my kitchen cabinetry. We went with simple finishes being the upgrades were super expensive for even the simplest things. $50 for an outlet in the floor next to this ledge we have so we can put decorative things with lights up there. Adding on to the garage. That was unreal. We skipped it. Almost $10,000 for a small section in the 3rd stall for my Tim the Toolman hubby to have a little workshop area. Garage here is tiny!! Shed going up this summer. May I suggest for anyone that reads this... this was another really expensive upgrade we wished we would of done. We built a two story and wish we would of added a split trunk to the heating/cooling system. Our house is so unevenly heated/cooled. I think a split trunk system would of alleviated that. Our house isn't big either. Maybe 2000sf, not including the basement, which right now is unfinished (and cold!). Our 2nd floor is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Frustrating. The good thing about this place?? We upgraded and bayed our dining like you did. There really isn't any wasted space in this floor plan. I love the open foyer, though noise really does carry through the house. I likes my kitchen (just not builder grade cabinets). Design is fine. All of the bedrooms upstairs have walk-in closets, all with lights. :) Hindsight, I wouldn't of gone with this builder. But, my hubby was sold on this floor plan, which is funny because he is a rambler kind of guy. The house I wanted was a spec home in our neighborhood, better builder, a rambler, same square footage as this with the basement finished. Ah well. We are having fun remodeling and puttering with this place. Funny thing, it is our form of entertainment. LOL

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  9. I have been such a fan of yours forever! This is, as always, a timely post. We just signed the contract for our first home build on Sunday! I am crazy excited...and nervous. I came here to see if you could give advice on porcelain tile flooring? We originally thought to go with dark, hand scrapped wood to offset a white kitchen (shaker cabinets, subway tiles, grey quartz tops). But now we are considering porcelain tile...not sure if we'd go with the wood-like versions. Probably a darker grey, more modern. The attached living area will have a neutral grey, peppercorn accent wall and teal, I think. I want to mix in natural textures and some bling too...not sure what my style is but I've got some awesome inspiration here! My question is...would it be weird to do the tiles with loads of rugs through the entire downstairs which includes office, kitchen, mudroom, great room, et.?

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    1. can I give my input on the tile? We built in 2012, have tile thru out with carpet in spots. Its REALLY hard on our feet and knees. The move in and the months following were extremely painful:( We've since recovered:) but can no longer where flip flops or soft soled slippers. Wished we would have gone with hardwoods!!

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    2. Hello! I agree with g-loo. :) We only have tile in a couple areas in our home right now and honestly I wish I could put hardwoods in every bathroom, I love it so much. Personally I'm not a huge fan of tile because it's so cold and hard. But if you love it, do it! And if you are in a warmer climate it will probably feel great underfoot. But I'm a hardwoods girl through and through now. ;)

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  10. we are currently in the process of building our first house so this was very interesting to read. i've already made one change major change dealing with the drywall. there are definitely things that i wished we could have afforded, but there is only so much money. it will be interesting to see what we wished we had done after living in the house a while.

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  11. My Mom just built a house with a corner fireplace!! I thought it looked odd when I did the dry wall walk through with her!

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  12. We'd like to eventually build our own home, so this is really helpful! It's amazing how you can look back a few (or 10) years later and think "Why the heck did I do that?!" We've only been in our house 2 years and I already think "Why the heck didn't we paint the whole inside before we moved in?!" :)

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    1. YES! I meant to mention that -- we had our builder spray about half of the house and it was SO nice. Because they were doing it during the build and before trim it was incredibly cheap, and it was added onto the mortgage. I painted our family room before we moved in and it was so great not to work around furniture!

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  13. We didn't build new, so our situation is a little different, but there are things I'll do differently the next time we buy. The biggest one: more natural light! Oh my god. I didn't even think about how dark it would be in the winter with these tiny split-level windows. It's the worst, and we totally kicked ourselves this year. Overhead fixtures in all of the rooms is another one. Weirdly, the only room without any is the dining room (???) so we have lamps in there.

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  14. I agree with the lighting entirely. They didn't mark or let us know where there would be a spot for a chandy roughed in. But they did it anyway and right in the center of places we added extra recessed lighting. Also wish we roughed in a recessed light or place for something in bedroom 2 & 3. My biggest regret is not adding the extra trim package. I didn't understand the difference, for just a bit more we could have had crazy chunky molding. =( Otherwise, amazing home, we are really happy. lol =)

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  15. I adore this post! We have renovated twice, but are getting ready to build soon and it's a whole new ballgame. When renovating, we simply worked with what we had and tried to make it better. It's so overwhelming that we make ALL.THE.DECISIONS. Thanks for all your tips.

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  16. We built and the biggest annoyance that I never knew was important was that the builder put the hot water heater on the side opposite the master bath. It is one of those things you wouldn't think of, but has a huge impact on your daily life. Also, I should have arranged the kitchen to my specs, not the design teams. They obviously didn't cook because the trash is on the opposite side of the fridge/prep space.

    What we did do, in our two story, was make sure the bottom level had a guest room and is handicap accessible. It was for a family member who would visit, but in the interim i broke my toe and having flat access to the house is invaluable.

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    1. Yes, the hot water is something you never think of! Our shower and powder room is instant but the other sinks and showers take a while to warm up.

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  17. We moved to our current house when our babies were 4 months, 2, and 4. That had given me enough time to see how I really live with little kids, and I'm thankful for that (even though moving with those ages wasn't fun). I still love our house, almost 4 years later. It's not our forever house, though, and I think about what we'll want in the next one. Definitely a second living space (we just have one now). I think you'll use your living room and loft more as your kids get older--I know we will.

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  18. I need shutters for our house and I am DYING to know where you got yours. Can you share if you don't mind??? Thanks!!

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    1. Our builder put them on but they are fairly easy to DIY if you are handy at all! The only hard part would be the curve at the top. I did a much smaller version on the back of the house years ago: http://thriftydecorchick.blogspot.com/2009/07/details-of-deck.html
      But I would use nicer wood -- these warped really fast.

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    2. AWESOME!!! I can't wait to try. Thanks for your quick response :-)

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  19. "We have rooms like our dining room and loft that we hardly use and I hate that. I wish we had that space in the areas we use, like the kitchen. "

    I'm sure you will find a way to solve this issue ....


    great idea for a post!

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  20. Completely agree with the useless rooms. (Formal dining and living seemed like a good idea at the time). If I could build, my house would have just a great room. Also, we wouldn't put the kid's bath right next to our bedroom since they wake us early on the weekends. And, forget the jet tub that we've used a handful of times in 10 years. I would love a huge shower in its place and a closet where the current shower is at.

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  21. I hear what you're saying about the grocery journey to the kitchen, but I see something good wit hour layout. You can dump mail right in your office. We're having a new house built and I'm dreading the entryway table again. My husband is getting a tiny tray for his keys and such. No more baskets for that man. His basket is horrendous!

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    1. My office is right by the garage entry and hubs still dumps the mail on the kitchen island at the back of the house! GRRRRRRRR!

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  22. Completely agree with you about wishing for lights in closets etc. EVERY single time I go into my (small) pantry in the evenings I have to switch on the main kitchen light so I can find anything. Next time I have the electrician out, I'm going to ask him to quote me.

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  23. Lights in closets: YES! I did put one in the big hall closet upstairs. Then I moved in and wondered why I didn't add them in every closet. Outlets, too. I thought it did not matter where they were. Now I realize it matters very much! I would add them in more places, as well. I added one in the master closet, in the garage (still should have added more in the garage) and in the basement store room.

    I did a very similar blog post last year: http://www.velezita.com/2013/07/nine-things-i-would-do-differently-when.html

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  24. (Long time reader. First time commenter.)
    You wish you had a bigger family room area. You're not a fan of the fireplace. Have you considered removing the wall between family room & office to make a bigger family/dining room? Your office is adorable, yes, but you have that little-used craft room that would make an awesome office. Bubs will always have the basement for teen hang-out space.
    See how easy it is for followers/fans to rearrange your space?
    Thanks for the consistently fun DIY read!

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  25. Hi there! I LOVE your blog but like many others-first time commenter. We are building (they just broke ground) so this post is so timely. Thank you for all of your tips.

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  26. I agree with the lights in the closets heck lights everywhere! I bought kitchen under counter lighting and had it put in my closets - something you might think about. I would also put electrical outlets everywhere, really everywhere! My house also does not have ANY overhead lighting upstairs - NONE. So yes get it. We had it put in our kitchen and dinning room area because it wasn't even there when we moved in. Thanks for all the tips. Victoria

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  27. Your home is amazing. I love what it has become. I'm a first time home buyer (purchased 24 January) and I cant wait to see what my home transforms into. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  28. I agree with the lights everywhere AND the mudroom/garage entry. We didn't build this house, but we are the first owners. I didn't realize how weird it was to walk in from the garage into the hallway and have to choose living room or kitchen, there is no mudroom and the coat closet (and my upstairs linen closet) are triagular because of something (toilet stack or something maybe) running through that spot. If we ever build (I dunno if I can take the stress) I'll be super particular about those parts.

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  29. When you enter the from the garage in my home, you pass the laundry room, go through the living room, into a short hallway, and finally end up in the kitchen. I get a great arm workout when I bring in the groceries from the car! Also, when you walk in my front door, the first thing you see is the back door directly across the house from the front door. I hate that!

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  30. We added and enlarged most of our windows. We added two extras across the back of the house in the basement which makes our basement really bright like a main floor. And WAY cheaper to do it then.

    I agree with the laundry room. Our old house had a laundry room upstairs and the new one we chose to keep it in the mud room and have cathedral ceilings in the entry instead. I would give up the entry ceiling to have the laundry back upstairs.

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  31. Hi, I have read your blog here and there over the last couple years and finally realized today that we have the same floorplan! (I think the corner fireplace threw me off.) ;) So, it was fun to read what you like/don't like about it. We totally agree on needing more space in the kitchen and family room, overall the house has great square footage, but wish more was allotted to those 2 areas. Unfortunately we did not do a bump out on our kitchen and opted for a french door that swings into the kitchen instead of a slider (what were we thinking??). After 5 years of the door bumping into the kitchen table, we decided to take the table out (we have a large dining table) and double the island to 8 feet. We can now seat 5 people and love it! It was super easy since they still make our cabinets and counters. If we ever finish our basement, I'll have to come check out your ideas. :)

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  32. I know this post is kind of getting older now, but I thought I'd chime in on my open floor plan. My garage entry is by the front of my house by the office& bathroom and I hate it too! Treking through the house to get to the kitchen; I'd definitely think about that design again. I don't even have a mud room :( My washer and dryer are in the equivalent of a CLOSET upstairs; so I bought a front loading stackable set and installed a laundry sink where the old washer used to be. WHY in a 3300 sqft home the laundry room is the size of a closet baffles me. I could go on, but explaining the poor design of this open concept home would be a longer blog post than yours! Live and Learn I guess!

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