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February 1, 2013

In anticipation of having to find a new place to live,  Brian and I began discussing what we wanted in a house.  It's hard to immediately say, "oh, I want a house like THIS" unless you've actually lived in it.  Lots of houses are pretty, but not necessarily easy to live in.

There's so many options for house styles and features!  I began looking at floor plan sites for ideas, and thinking about what I liked and disliked about our current townhouse.  I was surprised to realize that there were actually features about this house I liked!

One night, after a marathon internet search frenzy, I made a list.

Features I like:
- Kitchen being secluded/separated from the rest of the house
- not having to walk through kitchen to get to other rooms
- not having to walk through laundry room to get to garage or other places
- second bathroom being right outside the master bedroom, or a master bath big enough to separate into two little baths
- master closet not in the bathroom
- I really don't feel we need a living room AND family room, and a largish dining area in the kitchen is quite sufficient.
- covered front entrance, although a big outside covered patio area is nice
- basement!
- workshop area
- basement with walkout also nice.  could easily turn into workshop
- coat closet by the front entrance.  (You'd be surprised how many floor plans I've looked at that didn't have that.)
kitchen islands, but a long unbroken, well lit expanse of of counter space would do

Features I could do without:
cathedral/vaulted ceilings
walls that are mostly windows (reduces furniture placement options)
open floor plans
layouts that force you to walk through rooms to get to other rooms, or that land you in the kitchen first

I realize my list goes against the latest in housing design, but I have good reason for each.

First and foremost is the issue of noise.  When you've got a big open area  and you're cooking in the kitchen, with water running and things frying and pans clinking, and people are talking while the television is playing in the next 'area' and the washing machine is chunking away and all the noise is getting amplified by the high ceilings, you're going to go to bed with a headache.  That was one nice thing about the townhouse - there was enough of a separation between the kitchen and living room that noise was cut down.  (It didn't help at all for the washer and dryer, which was on a lower floor but the noise comes right up the open stairwell!)  I need quiet.  I want my house to be relaxing, and reducing the noise as much as possible means no open floor plan.

Secondly is the issue of layout.  I saw one floor plan where, from the front door, you walked through the formal living room, into a less formal living area, through the dining room which was open to the kitchen, and then into the family room before you could get to the bedrooms.  I feel it was meandering and clumsy, and adds unnecessary foot traffic and the potential for more of a mess in every room.

Other floor plans required you to walk through the kitchen to get to the master bedroom.  I don't want to come out of my bedroom every morning and look at the kitchen!  (I don't always get to the dishes.  Maybe this would actually help, but sometimes you just want to close the kitchen off til later.  Thus the 'secluded kitchen' wish.  I love that our current kitchen can be totally ignored/avoided until needed.)  A kitchen is a messy, noisy place, and I don't feel it should be a showcase.  I'm a messy cook, still learning, and though I try to clean as I go along, I don't want to be a performance act.

Many floor plans pop you from the garage directly into the kitchen and/or laundry room.  For us, the garage is our main entrance.  We rarely use the front door, so every time I come home, I have to look at the washer and dryer and the lint bunnies that always elude my broom.  Ideally, my dream house would have both the front door and the garage open up into the same area, so all the coats and boots and such could be removed and stored at the same location, and if you're making plans with visitors you can roughly leave the house from the same area.

My husband and I don't share a bathroom.  You may laugh, but in a house with four bathrooms and only two people who are a bit OCD about territory, we figured we don't have to.  Bathrooms need to be used or they develop problems anyway!  We both think it's weird that master baths are designed with double sinks.  Just how long do 'normal' people use a sink in the bathroom that they can't share?  It's really toilets that should be doubled, if anything.

We also dislike the feature of putting the master closet IN the master bath.  Won't the humidity hurt the clothes?  And if someone's in the bathroom and taking their sweet time, you're not going to be able to get to whatever you need. I realize that some people are perfectly OK with walking into the bathroom while someone else is using it, but this is not going to be happening for us.

Skylights are OK for the most part, but definitely not in the bedroom.  I am not a morning person, and blackout curtains are my best friend.  After having to get up at 6am on a Saturday in that hotel room with the skylight and the morning sun so disgustingly cheery, I hope I never encounter a skylight in a bedroom again.

After living in a basementless house and tripping regularly over random items we had to keep but not use, I hope to always have a storage area in future homes that isn't meant to be a regular room.  And Brian really, really wants a workshop, which I'm perfectly content to have.  I have two dollhouses that need messy work done!

What else?  Covered front entrance?  Always loved having a place to shake off the rain or stand and watch the thunderstorm without getting wet.  It's more welcoming to visitors for the same reason.

While I would prefer not having to continue hauling our laundry up and down two flights of stairs, it's something I can continue to do if I have to.  But if you can put those appliances near the closets, please do!

I haven't really thought much about the exterior of the house, or the decor features.  I figure if it meets the other criteria, it doesn't matter if it's Craftsman, Colonial or Modern.

It should be interesting to see how many of these features we can meet in our search for a house.