Spend time looking in plan books and magazines for neat ideas to include.  Take pictures of houses you admire - draw sketches of things you've seen.  Visit showhomes, take a brochure, and make notes on it with you liked and didn’t like. Keep it all together in a home design scrapbook, and bring this along when you meet with the designer you've chosen to pull these ideas together into your next house – this will be a handy reference tool for you.

Design Ideas (1) pdf icon
Design Ideas (2) pdf icon

General Considerations

8’, 9’ or 10’ ceilings, and are they flat or vaulted? Do you want or need a 9’ basement? Is there a possibility of a walk-out – bring your grade certificate along to verify. Are you planning a two-storey, bi-level or bungalow, or are you flexible? Do you prefer the standard 2x6 construction, or the new insulated concrete form style for efficiency and long-term benefits? What about the new Built-Green construction methods – is that important? And what about resale – if you’re planning to sell in a few years, you many need to put your own ideas aside in favor of what the general public is looking for.


Do you prefer an L-shape cabinet arrangement, a U-shape arrangement, or something different? Is a square or odd-shaped work island required, and it is it large enough for a separate sink? Will you need a cabinet pantry, a walk-in pantry, or a walk-thru pantry to the garage entrance area? Is there a view to be taken advantage of, and/or is natural light important? What kinds of appliances do you want – a standard set, or a cooktop and separate oven? Do you want an economical kitchen, or something that is eye-catching? Talk to a kitchen cabinet specialist to get some unique ideas for your home.

Dining Room

Is there room for your furniture, or do you want a built-in hutch for your special dishes? What about a boxed-up ceiling, a vaulted ceiling or dropped beam ceiling? Perhaps a see-thru fireplace shared with the great room? Do you need a formal dining room and an eating nook for day-to-day meals, or will one space accommodate both? Is there a view – perhaps large windows in a turret-type space is a good idea. What about access to a deck (covered or uncovered)?

Great Room

Do you want a fireplace (gas or wood?) and location for a big-screen TV (if so, you need to plan ahead for furniture placement, as there are two focal points to consider)? What about a higher ceiling height in this area? Is it open to the kitchen and eating area, or a separate space? Is there a view to take advantage of with some larger windows? Is there a need for storage (kids’ toys, games, movies, blankets, etc.)?

Laundry Room

Is this space directly off the garage, or a separate room somewhere (do you prefer it close to the bedrooms (two-storey), or in the basement)? Do you want a strip closet or walk-in closet for coats and shoes, or would open lockers be a better solution? Do you need a bench for people to sit on while putting on shoes? What about a broom closet to store cleaning supplies? Would you like to be able to walk directly into the pantry from this room? What about a laundry chute?


Most people have a computer, so it does make sense to have a home office area for it (if clutter isn’t an issue, perhaps a desk near the kitchen is a better solution)? Do you want it to be a larger room with double french doors, or is a small room adequate? Is it on the main floor, or on the upper storey that is open to the great room below? Should there be a built-in desk or some built-in bookshelves here? Will this space also be for guest accommodations, and if so, is there a bathroom nearby for their usage?

Master Suite

How big do you want your bedroom to be – first measure the space you have so you know what you are working with? Do you want a separate sitting area with a view – what about a covered deck? Do you want your room separated from the other bedrooms, or in close proximity for small children? Do you want to do something special with the ceiling (boxed-up, vaulted, etc.)? What type of closet do you want – standard strip closet, his & hers closets, a walk-in closet, dual walk-ins? Do you want to walk through the closet (dressing area) to get to the ensuite, walk through the ensuite to get to the closet, or have the two separated? What about sound insulation in the walls for privacy?


First, is an ensuite in the budget, or would you prefer to have one bathroom on that floor to share? What type of fixtures do you want – a tub/shower combination, a shower instead of a tub, a tub and separate shower? Do you want a corner tub? Is the shower made out of fiberglass for easy cleaning, or is it a tiled walk-in shower? One sink or two – one vanity or two? Should the toilet be in the room, or in its own room? What about a towel closet or shelving? What about windows? And should this room be open to the bedroom, or does having a door make better sense for your lifestyle?


How many bedrooms do you need? Should they be in close proximity to the master bedroom, or separated – either on the same level, or on another level? How big should they be, and to they need to be exactly equal size to prevent squabbling amongst your kids? Standard strip closets or walk-ins? Do you want a window seat with storage beneath, or any special built-in desks or shelving? What about sound insulation in the walls for privacy?


How many bathrooms do you require? If you’re building a two-storey, you’ll need at least a powder room on the main floor for your guests; if it’s a bungalow or bi-level, using the main bathroom may be sufficient. Should each bedroom have its own bathroom, or do you want one bathroom to be shared by all? What about a Jack-and-Jill bath that is shared between two bedrooms, but not accessible from the hallway? Should there be storage for linens or towels? How large should the vanity be, and is there one sink or two?

Bonus Room

Many families are now going with a bonus room above the garage. If you are considering a space like this, do you want it open to the rest of the house or separated with a door? Do you want the room built inside the garage trusses for an ‘attic’ feel, or will it have a standard flat or vaulted ceiling like the rest of the house? What is the use of the room – a kids’ play area, a media room with big TV, an office, the master suite?


A standard size is approximately 22’x22’ – is this sufficient, or do you prefer something like 24’x26’? This may depend on whether or not you are the type to work in the garage vs. merely storing your vehicles and yard tools here. Do you prefer one overhead door or two, and what size(s)? If you elect to have two doors, do you want one stepped back from the other? Would your lot support a three-car garage? Is the garage a front-entry or a side-entry? Do you need a man-door to the exterior? Do you want windows in the wall or doors?


Having your basement layout designed, even if you aren’t finishing it right away, is very important, as having support posts, windows and plumbing in the concrete slab in the proper locations is very important for future development. Some rooms to consider in a basement are bedrooms and bathrooms, kids’ play room, mechanical area, storage rooms, laundry room (combined with mechanical?), cold room, family/games area, media room, billiards area, wet bar, wine room, etc. Some people are now considering a separate media room for serious movie watching, as opposed to the traditional family area with a big TV that is a multi-purpose room.


Are you going with a standard furnace and hot water tank, or do you have something else in mind? There are a lot of different possibilities – dual hot water tanks, dual furnaces, high-efficiency furnace, high-efficiency on-demand hot water system, boiler, HRV, etc. Are you planning to have underfloor heat in the basement or anywhere else in the home (garage, etc.)? Is your house going to be a Built-Green home? Talk to a mechanical company to determine what the best solution for your home is.

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Site updated February 5, 2017