Home upgrades I would choose all over again

February 18, 2020

Can you believe we've been in our home almost two and a half years already? It feels like we've been here much longer...it felt like home even before we moved in.

I forgot how long it takes to really get a new home the way you want it -- not just decor, but things placed where they work best, organization, figuring how we use the spaces. It's been a really fun process for me!

There are things I LOVE about our home that I would recommend to anyone, and there are a few items I kick myself almost daily for doing the way I did. I thought I'd share them here in case you're considering any of these projects or building your own home!

Let's start with the parts I love, shall we? I adore our whole house, so this is easy. But there are certain things in particular that would hard to go without now.

1. Master bath upgrades

Our master bathroom is HUGE and I love it. I am SO thrilled with our big shower -- it is a dream come true! We had a tiny shower before and this still feels so luxurious:
Large shower and soaking tub bathroom

If you have the ability to add a bigger shower -- go for it!! You won't regret it. We didn't add double shower heads, it's an expense I'm glad we didn't add on. (Although I do kind of wish we added a rainhead fixture.) 

**My husband thinks the bigger shower is colder -- I think it's just as toasty. Something to consider! 

Another bathroom upgrade that I absolutely love is our soaking tub: 
Soaking tub or jetted?

We had a corner jetted tub in the old house and loved it -- we actually used the jets quite often.

We priced out a stand alone tub with jets because we thought we'd really miss it. It was going to be another three grand or something crazy like that, so that was a nope.

Turns out I ADORE the deep soaking tub. I've taken more baths in this tub in two years than our old one in 14 years! It's so warm and toasty and I would never go back! :)

2. Our open layout

Ten years ago or so the master on main floorplans were gaining in popularity. With a toddler at the time, I told my husband there was no way I'd consider it.

Now, it's probably my favorite thing about this house. :) Living on (mostly) one level is amaaaaazing. :) Can you tell I like it?

Master on main level benefits

One thing I noticed immediately was how clean our master stays compared to our old one. We can easily take trash or dishes out where they belong. It's also much easier to keep up with laundry and just putting things away in general. 

I know it's not an option for many with young kids, but if you're building a house and plan to stay there for a long time, I encourage you to think past the baby/toddler years. It's the number one recommendation I make to anyone building!

Also, overall the layout of this house just fits our lifestyle better. We entertain a lot and LOVE having the open layout. Our family room, kitchen and morning room are all one big space and it is ideal when we have friends or family over: 
Great room with tall ceilings and fireplace

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Instead of dining, living and family rooms, we just have the one large space. Because I turned our old dining room into a library, we used those rooms more than most do, but we would have preferred to have that square footage in the family space. 

If you are building or renovating and want less rooms but more space, I don't think you'll regret one big living area. 

3. Door handles instead of knobs

This is such a little thing but it's something I think about nearly every day! 

I am SO glad I chose handles instead of knobs for our doors: 
Matte black door handles on white door

I picked them because I loved the look of them...no other reason. But we've learned they're so much easier to use. 

I especially love the handle on the door from the mud room to the garage. It's SO nice when our hands our full -- we can just push it with our elbow and open the door. If you have little ones I'm not sure you'd love them (I'm sure they have some kind of baby proofing gadgets for them) but if not, I highly recommend the handles! (And they just look good! These have a bit of a curve to them but are the same matte black.)

4. Mud/laundry combo

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this because we had this combo in the last house and I hated it! I eventually moved our laundry to the basement because I disliked it so much. 

The key to this working is SPACE. If you don't have enough space for both, don't do it (ours in the old house was basically a hallway). But if you have room, go for it!: 
Pros of combo mud and laundry room

I love having this utility space all in one. We have a lot going on in here -- a cleaning closet that serves multiple needs and a folding table that hides our cat litter as well. We keep our messes in here and most guests would never know. 

I also LOVE that when we walk in from traveling, I can just open the suitcases and throw the laundry in the machines. It's pretty awesome. :) 

Now, a very short list of the things I'd change if I could go back in time. All of these items are really lovely...but they don't function great. 

1. Our bathroom vanities 

I hate them. I hate them so much. 😂 I am an idiot for choosing them from all the options we had!: 
Bathroom vanity with no storage

Now I LOVE having the vanities separate -- that's not what bothers me. It's that they have very little storage. 

For some reason I thought I picked an option with drawers down the sides. I didn't. 😢 What makes it worse is they middle section can't be used for bins or storage because the plumbing was run right through the middle. I just hate them all around. Loathe. Ha!

My advice -- think STORAGE in the bathroom!!

2. Our son's segmented bathroom

I've talked about this before and how I've kicked myself for doing this. I had just finished knocking down a wall in his old bathroom and making his two room bath into one before moving into this house. 

I thought this one wouldn't bother me for some reason, but it does. Oh yes. It does:
Two room or one room bathroom layout

It's not a big bathroom anyway, so having it cut in two (sinks in one section, toilet and shower in the other) makes it feel SO tight. 

If I had just made it one room, I could have saved myself a ton of work. But now this is on my project list for the year because it's bugged me so much. 

3. Our engineered hardwood floors

I love the color and look of our floors. And overall they have held up OK to moisture, animals and life in general:
Cons of engineered hardwood floors

But they are MUCH softer than our old floors. Every time we drop something it dents or damages the wood. EVERY time.

Thankfully I have a stain pencil that fills the nicks in well enough that no one would see it, but the dents are still noticeable. We had finished on-site hardwoods at the old house and they are more expensive, but worth it. I wish I would have at least priced out the difference for this house.

(Our flooring is from Diamond Living but was discontinued right after we moved in.)

Again, the things that I would change are still beautiful, they just don't function quite as well as I'd like. I need both form and function! :) I'm pretty thrilled that those are my only problem areas in this house, especially considering how quickly I had to make decisions. We LOVE our home!

Do you have any of my favorites or problem items in your home? What would you have on your list? Hopefully this is helpful to any of you who are remodeling or building a home in the future!

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  1. Regarding your son's segmented bathroom, you might like it more as your son grows up. My girls had more sleepovers (and generally wanted more privacy) as they got older. The segmented bathroom allows for more than one person to be in the bathroom at a time. For kids sharing a bathroom, the segment is necessary as one wants to do her makeup while the other takes a shower or uses the toilet. Thinking way ahead, once your son is married, his wife may appreciate the toilet being away from where she's doing her makeup! :) For resale value, the segmented bathroom may be better, especially if more than one bedroom shares the bathroom.

    1. Yes a few readers suggested that last time I did it! I'm so glad I did it though, it just works best for us with our one kiddo at home. :)

  2. For now, instead of knocking out the wall between the sinks and the shower, maybe just remove the door to make the room feel larger and let more light in?

    1. I had the builder remove the door -- it's just a cased opening right now.

  3. Great post! One suggestion I've heard if you are building, is to have several external outlets installed. Luckily ours at least had some put in after the fact.

  4. We bought a house with a rain head fixture in the master shower. I thought I would love it, but I actually hate it. I guess if you just want to feel water on your head it's fine, but it's impossible to shampoo up your hair without getting completely out of the water (where it's cold) and then the water just pours down your face when you're trying to rinse it out. I prefer just a regular shower head that's at an angle.

    1. We had one in a hotel and it had independent controls for each one. If it was on all the time I wouldn't like it for sure!

  5. Great post! AMEN to the master on the main floor....I miss that from our last house so very much. When the kids were little we bunked them in the same room, slept in the extra room (while still keeping our master the master downstairs) and when they were in elementary school we moved them all around and claimed the master full-time :)

  6. I think your current home looks great already! I do agree about the segmented bathroom though – can't wait to see what you do with it! ❤️✨

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  7. We have a new house also. 2200 sq ft on one level. It was almost built when we purchased it so we didn't get to choose things. We have the separated guest bath (hate it) we will be tearing down the wall also. Separate master vanities with no storage (hate it). I actually miss vanity cabinets. We have dark engineered hardwood (hate it) Shows every bit of dust. Many scratches. SIL builds homes for a living, and they are installing wood look tile in their home right now. He would never do engineered wood because of it being so prone to dents and scratches. We have the open concept. Im not too fond of it. Even though it's just hubby and I now, if one of us is in the kitchen doing something the other will need to blare the TV to hear it. I feel there is no room between the kitchen and living area. I would probably go back to a semi open kitchen. Not only for the buffer for sounds but to keep cooking smells and splatters confined. I do love my 3rd half bath. I have a huge foyer. I repurposed my breakfast nook into a keeping room. Love my tall ceilings. Love the office. Master bath is big. But I would rather have a bigger master closet. We will probably be selling within the year though. So if we buy new again I know what not to buy LOL

    1. I totally agree with you regarding the problem with the open plan. I LOVE the way it looks and if you have a HUGE house it is cool, but only if there are also lots of other spaces to retreat to.

  8. In Europe we combine wall-mounted rain showerheads with handheld showers that can be mounted on a shower rod and adjusted in height.
    The latter are great for rinsing hair and showering without having to contort yourself for the water to get everywhere ;-) And to clean the shower.
    Rain heads are super relaxing.

  9. I've followed your blog for YEARS, but first time comment. Hello! I so appreciate your style, creativity, and honest opinions. I have a couple of questions: we also have engineered hardwood floors and I'm wondering how you clean yours.
    My other question involves paint. I was trying to find the wall color in your stairwell (and other locations), but couldn't seem to find it on your website. Would you mind sharing? Also, do you have a paint color you would suggest for an upstairs hallway with no natural light (would be paired with white trim and dark flooring)? Thank you!!

    1. Hello Janine! I use a microfiber mop, swiffers or a steam mop. :) Our wall color is Agreeable Gray by SW. :) I love that color!

  10. We have a segmented bathroom for the kids and I, too, hate it. The toilet roll holder literally was against you as you sat on the potty. I took that off the wall, puttied and painted. Then I removed the door to that tiny toilet and shower space and Hubby framed it out so you couldn't tell a door was missing. Painted it. Done. I bought a cute TP roll hanger/storage doo dad and the bathroom feels bigger. And guess what? The kids grew up and left and it seems bigger anyway!

    1. Good ideas! We had the builder just frame out the door thinking that would be enough! It's just too small of a bathroom to be segmented.

  11. Thank you so much for the details, Sarah! Have a beautiful day :o)

  12. We have a walk-through bathroom and I hate it! What it means is that the bathroom connects to both the master bedroom and the hallway. So I share a bathroom with my kids, and you have to close two doors for any privacy.
    The bathroom is large and could have been split into two smaller bathrooms... maybe some day we'll be able to renovate and put in a separate master bath.

  13. What the heck is a morning room?

  14. For families with more than one child, having a divided bathroom is wonderful. It means they can share to same extent while at least one has some privacy. The only way we could have gotten both teenagers to school on time for years!

  15. I find your observations about the different floors interesting. I think it depends on the type of wood too. I have finished on site hardwood on my stairs and engineered hardwood everywhere else (the house was 11 months old and like this when I bought it...I have no idea why the people who bought it from the builder designed it that way...the slight variation in the floors drives me crazy)...anyway, I find my main flooring (the engineered flooring) to be much tougher and more durable than the finished on site hardwood on the stairs. The stairs have far more scratches/dents/doggie nail marks than the main floors.

  16. You made the right decision not installing the rain shower head. We also built 2 years ago and although I love the look, I hate it. It's just a very focused water source so it dumps on you and if you are not directly under it, you are cold. So, epsecially with a large shower, don't plan on jumping in with your husband. Lol Someone is usually cold (him). Rinsing off is awkward if you are not trying to get your hair wet, because the water is straight down. Again, it looks pretty but is the least functional shower head ever. :(

  17. We too have engineered hardwoods and they are TERRIBLE. They dent and scratch and are awful. That being said, we had it in our last house too and it was wonderful. So I think there are certainly many options and when we installed it in our last house we shopped for it based on hardness rating. When we built we were limited in choices by what the builder offered, which was inferior.
    The floors in your last home were gorgeous!


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