Members of our staff share their advice
By Pam Kamphuis, Debbie Eisele, Kara Thorpe, and AnneMarie McPherson
When it comes to the home, we’ve all had more than a few of those “I wish I had done it differently” moments. While brainstorming ideas for this month’s home section we realized that each of us on staff, in one way or another, had little bits of advice to share with others…all based on our own “I wish I had done it differently” experiences.
This one is clearly a personal choice, but here are some things to consider. Do you like to open up your house to air out? A beautiful or ornate front door will be minimized if you place a screen or storm door in front of it. So, if you are not looking for a breath of fresh air through that entryway, then purchase your dream door. Other options to consider are doors with small or large windows, transoms to left or right (or both sides), wood, composite, or metal. There are a myriad of options, but consider these various points because your tastes do matter, as well as maintenance considerations.
Entryway and/or mudroom
One staff member doesn’t have a mudroom and shared this with us: “It is absolute torture with teens in the home. I wish I had planned better when building my home (which doesn’t have a garage) to include an entryway reserved for shoes, coats, backpacks, and athletic gear.” So our advice to you is to consider where all this “stuff” will gather if you are moving into a home without a mudroom. Some people utilize a screened in porch to unload the shoes and gear, which is still not ideal but does offer an alternative for wet, muddy boots and smelly athletic bags. Hooks and a bin for shoes are other options, but our parent with teens said, “We tried the shoe bin, but my children never quite figured out that they should use it, opting for the floor next to it instead.” And if it’s big enough, a mudroom can supply a logical place for dog crates and bowls. Another staff member values an entryway that’s welcoming and inviting to guests. That doesn’t mean fancy and formal — just an easily-accessible place for visitors to hang up coats and slip off shoes.
Get one, even if you don’t think you’ll need or use it. You will (and even if you do not it is good for resale and looks nice). Wood-burning fireplaces are beautiful and great for warmth and ambiance. Plus, they offer the lovely smell and crackling sound to relax you as well. But, gas fireplaces are beautiful without the mess that wood ones make, and the gas ones come to life with the flick of a switch. You’ll have to consider which fits your lifestyle better.
Formal living room and dining room
If you are a formal person and love to gather in a place reserved for special occasions, then formal rooms are for you. However, many houses you may move into may have these rooms which can become wasted space if you aren’t that type of person. Here are some staff suggestions on what they use their formal living rooms for: office, library, music room, playroom, and hobby room.
As far as using your formal dining room, one staff member’s family uses it as a catch-all for projects during the day but clears it in the evening for a family meal. This means that the projects must reach a good stopping point before dinner, so the supper is a relaxing finish to the day. For this purpose, they chose a sturdy, second-hand dining room table that can be elegant with a tablecloth covering it but can also stand the wear and tear of everyday practicality.
It is definitely worth it to spend more money on structurally sound pieces, as they last much longer. When buying your first sofa, save for one that will last you. Some of us have furniture that has lasted over 12 years, while others “started breaking down in two to three years.” In terms of color, go neutral. Use pillows and throws to change the look if you get bored or want to change it seasonally. Plus, make sure it is comfortable; you spend a lot of time together as a family and it should make you want to stay and hang out. If you have pets, they are a part of your family and some of us allow our animals on the furniture. So, if you buy a leather sofa you can wipe it down and there will be much less pet hair sticking to your clothes. If that isn’t in your budget, consider pieces with removable covers you can wash.
This is the main gathering space for family and entertaining in many homes, so you want to see if you can make it comfortable and inviting, yet functional. Make sure you have sufficient storage for your family’s needs. Also when looking at a home to buy or build, consider and plan for trash can placement and pet food bowls…will they fit? Will they be in the way? One common feature is a kitchen island. While an island can be helpful for extra counter space, it can block flow and take up needed room when guests are over, or when the kitchen is busy in the morning out-the-door rush. One interesting alternative is a rolling island with wheels so that it can be moved when extra space is needed–these are especially good in a smaller-sized kitchen.
For some people, a plush, luxurious rug is the best thing in the world. For others with small children or dogs that like to “dig” to make their beds, it may be a great deal of money that is spent that may have an outcome that is not ideal. Some of us started with builder-grade carpet while children were young, transitioning to the high grade, luxury version once children have grown. Another option is to use inexpensive throw rugs on top of your low-grade rugs or hard-surface floor that you can clean or replace easily once they are worn, stained, or torn up (by the claws of your beloved animals).
Carpet or no carpet on the steps? One staff member said, “We just took the carpet up from our stairs, and it was so disgusting underneath. I prefer just the wood, but the dogs do have a harder time on that surface because they tend to slip on it.” Really it is a personal choice, but the stairs tend to gather the dirt and wear more rapidly than other areas of the home due to frequent use.
Color code as you plan and buy storage containers to organize items such as children’s clothes, holiday items, or other memorabilia. These items are a necessity. Plan where you have room to store them and utilize color system for you to easily find what you are looking for. Pretty baskets of all sizes can be used in highly visible places to dress up your room. But if you want to store things in a basement, crawlspace, attic, garage, or shed, definitely use the tightly-sealing plastic tubs. No matter the location, these bins will help protect your items from insects and water damage.