We love the new house smell: Drywall mud. New paint. Sawdust. Mmmm good!
Best of all are the features we’ve come to think of as necessities – double-pane vinyl windows, vaulted ceilings, wood laminate or luxury vinyl plank floors, stainless appliances and wide hallways. Way to go, builders!!
But not everything that’s new is best. Some features that were deemed old fashioned or “dated” and unceremoniously dumped from builder repertoire were practical solutions to every day problems and some were just beautiful. We miss them! Here are a few favorites:
Covered front and back doorways. The spacious covered back patio and big, fat covered porch was a common feature a few decades ago, even in starter homes. Now, well, you may get a bit of overhang, but that’s it. If you want to barbecue in the winter, you’ll build your own cover.
The formal living/dining room. The greatroom has taken the construction world by storm and there is no beating it for entertaining, family togetherness or for watching reruns of the Great British Baking show while Actually baking. But if you want to make a mess of the kitchen and close the door, forget it. The view of the pile of pots and pans is cringe-worthy and the smell of whatever you burned is disturbing your TV-and-Dessert time. Just me? Okay. Also, if you want to be someplace where the family isn’t watching the football game, you’re going to need to spend considerably more money to get that bonus room. Most entry level home new construction will not offer it.
Storage. There should be some. In the 1970s, it was understood that people owned things. There was the double closet in the front hallway, a full double closet in each bedroom (and the master often had two double closets), an oversized storage closet in the den or family room (to store the family board games), a linen closet near the bedrooms and additional towel storage in the baths. Now, at a time when people own more things than ever before, architects give you…that space under the stairs. Yay.
Trimwork. Unless you buy at a mid-to high price range, or buy vintage, you will not see full trim. Maybe a single wood slat serving as a window sill. No molding, no wainscotting, no artfully turned stairway spindles and certainly no glass accents for your windows. The art that was part of homebuilding is out of reach for most home buyers.
Master suite on the main level. By far, the majority of new construction plans put all the bedrooms upstairs, making them a no-go for folks whose knees are done with climbing. The cost of land being what it is, building vertical is the only way to preserve space in the yard, so, for the budget conscious…up the stairs you go.
Laundry Chute. In recent years, it’s become a thing to occasionally put laundry rooms near the bedrooms upstairs. No more lugging the laundry down to the main level! But in most cases, bedrooms are up, laundry room is down. What to do? Bring back the laundry chute!
A real laundry room. With a door. And a sink. Many modern laundry facilities are in hallways or tiny little rooms, often open to the great room or hallway. Which makes it hard to hide the piles of laundry or mute the sound of machines. And you know, why no sink? Doesn’t anybody need to soak anything? Didn’t your daughter’s lip balm ever go through the dryer?
Pocket doors. So you have a master suite with a double door. Beautiful. And great for folks with disabilities. A second set of doors opens to the bath, such a grand touch. And then you have the door to the closet, or even a double closet door. What you don’t have is wall space. Where is the dresser going to go? The TV, if you are so inclined? How are you going to fit a king size headboard? Hmmm? The new-fangled barn door sliders will not help you since they also take up wall space. The pocket door is the only one that disappears completely when it’s not needed.
Another great place for a pocket door: The teeny tiny powder room, where the door opens inward, causing injury if someone attempts to enter while the room is Ocupado. Bring back the Pocket Door!
Full size cabinets. Cabinets that top out 12 inches from the ceiling create a design dilemma for those Compelled to decorate. They have to fill that space with Something. Beanie Baby collections, fancy plates, fake plants, portraits of people they don’t want to see up close. No matter, they will all need to be dusted at the top of a ladder. Why not extend those cabinets to the ceiling? While the architects of the past often extended cabinets to the ceiling, it is also true that they dropped those ceilings, so while dust was not an issue, you actually had less kitchen storage than you might have now.
Views of neighbors. It’s good that you and your neighbors get along so well, but do you really want to sit at your dining room table, watching them at their dining room table? Do you really want them to know that you’re eating take-out for the fourth night in a row? Nah. Would it be a terrible thing to offset those houses a smidge?
You’ll be glad to know that you can have all of these things in one of two ways: One, buy an older house. Or two, you know, spend more money…