toilet-for-twoAfter writing about some really cool features for your custom home a few weeks ago, I was reminded that knowing what to avoid is a big part of getting the home you really want. And the truth is, sometimes home designers/builders don't seem to actually live in homes. Too often they create features that aren't just fluffy, but a real pain to live with.

Today some real homeowners weighed in with the lousy design elements and ideas that annoy them most. When you build your next custom home, think about how these things will work on a practical level with your lifestyle. Maybe the “upgrade” is something to avoid.

  1. Toilet Built for Two

    The TwoDaLoo is billed as the first toilet that “brings couples closer together and conserves our water supply all with one flush.” Seriously? Let's just hope it's the last.

  2. Step Up to Whirlpool or Soaking Tub

    Stepping up may seem convenient, but once you're up on the step, you are left with a long, wet step down into the tub. When getting out of the tub, you have to step up from the tub onto the step. This is pretty awkward. There have been scientific studies that show how dangerous this can be.

    The safer option is to eliminate the step and when you get in and out of the tub, simply sit on the edge and swing your legs over the side of the tub. The floor of the tub should be as close to the floor level as possible to improve safety.

    Thanks to Bill Hirsch of Designing Your Perfect House

  3. Open Floor Plan

    While I'd never harken back to the days of small, dark, completely enclosed and isolated rooms, sometimes I think the open concept idea has gone out of control. Having one huge room with multiple functions — kitchen, dining room, family room, entry — might look expansive, it can be a real pain. The biggest drawbacks are:

    • Decorating: It's hard to decorate a very large space, because what you really have to do is design and define the “rooms” using strategic furniture placement. Fine if you're skilled at this type of thing. But if reality TV decorating shows are any indicator, most of us are abysmally inept.
    • Sound: Multi-function rooms might be purposed for television watching, piano playing, dining, reading, playing games, etc. Because these activities are often noisy, they tend to be mutually exclusive. So no one can play the piano while a television show is on and no one can watch a movie while people are trying to eat and carry on a conversation. Add to that the fact that often these open homes have balconies or other open areas adjacent to bedrooms, and parents might well be unable to watch a movie together or entertain in the evening, because the noise wakes up the kids.
  4. Open Master Suite

    open-bathroomWe just moved into a rental house that has a master bedroom that connects (with no door) to the master bath. This, in turn, connects (again with no door) to the master closet. I honestly didn't even notice it when we looked at the house, but this “feature” drives me nutty!

    First, if I want to shower or dress in privacy, I have to lock everyone out of my bedroom, bathroom, and closet. Seriously, unless you have six kids, you have no idea how difficult it is to shower privately anyway, but when the locked door is so far away that you can't hear even hear the fifteen questions that absolutely must be asked right now every shower time, it makes privacy that much less practical.

    Second, if either spouse gets up early or goes to bed late, their bathroom activities are very likely to disturb their sleeping partner. Bad idea.

  5. Walk-in Shower

    After seeing all sorts of cool model homes, we built a huge, walk-in shower in our last home. It was about 6′ x 5′ and had two rainheads, a hand sprayer, and a small bench. There was a window on one side, one side of solid surface material, and two sides of glass block with an opening to enter. The ceiling in the room was ten feet high and the shower walls went up to about eight or nine feet.

    So, what's the problem? Nothing…if you like cold showers.

    With the large area and openings, there was no way for the nice, toasty steam to stay in the shower where it belongs. It looked great, but wasn't comfortable. We put in a heat lamp, but with ten-foot ceilings, you really can't feel the heat down where you need it.

    Trust me, shaving and goose bumps don't mix.

  6. Clear Glass Shower Doors & Walls

    Glass ShowerI don't care what they put in magazines. I hated the clear glass doors/walls in our house in Florida. They looked great but were a maintenance nightmare. Every speck shouts out on glass. And there's just something about standing naked with soap in my eyes that really makes me want to have a little more protection and a little less exposure.

  7. Recirculating Cooktop Fan

    These fans are worthless and dangerous. They don't evacuate smells and water vapor out of the house.

    New houses are built with house wrap that does not let moisture through it. With a recirculating fan, since the water vapor is not carried out (like when you put a pot of water on to boil for spaghetti) it is trapped in the house and causes mildew over time in the walls.
    This can lead to breathing problems and allergies for the occupants of the house. Recirculating fans should be outlawed.

    Thanks to John Wilder

  8. Oversized Garages

    It's great to have plenty of room to park your cars, your bikes, your stroller, and your lawnmower in a safe, secure space. But too much is still too much.

    As Randy of the Fun Times Guide pointed out, enormous garages can waste a lot of building material and dominate the exterior design of the house.

    In our too-large home, we had a very roomy four-car garage. It was too deep, too wide, and the ceiling was much too high (not really by design, but from the slab drop from the main floor) — a big waste of materials — and it was only because it was completely side-loaded that it didn't look hideous. The area over the garage served as our business headquarters. It was nearly 2,000 square feet. We aren't automobile collectors. Did we really need that much garage space?

  9. Pot Filler

    This seems like a great idea. You won't have to carry the heavy pot of water from the sink to the stove. But what about when the cooking is done and the pot needs to be emptied? You'll still have to carry it back, so you've only solved half of the problem.

    Add to that the fact that this is a water outlet with no drain beneath it and you're looking at a potential flood if it ever decides to leak. [Editor: Or you start filling a pot and get distracted doing something else. Don't ask.]

    Thanks to Bill Hirsch of Designing Your Perfect House

  10. Cabinet Boxes Build Out of Particle Board

    If you are remodeling your kitchen, you need to specify when ordering your cabinets that you want the cabinet boxes built out of plywood instead of particle board. It is almost always a no cost option and you definitely want it. I have had too many experiences dealing with customers whose sink, dishwasher, or disposer leaked and the particle board box disintegrated inside. This would not have happened with plywood.

    Thanks to John Wilder

  11. Main Floor Laundry

    Washing MachineI understand the selling point of the laundry room on the main floor. It's so you don't have to lug laundry up and down from the basement. That can be a real boon to tired parents and older folks. The problem is, the main floor is prime (and expensive) real estate, and no one wants to pour a whole lot of money into a laundry room. So, having main floor laundry room is often created at the expense of a laundry room that actually functions and makes this most tedious of chores efficient. Instead, it's crammed into a tight, out-of-the-way corner. The room is tiny, has little storage, nowhere to sort, fold, hang, or…heaven forbid…iron. And if you thought it made sense to put a sewing machine in the same area, you're dreaming. You have just about enough room to slip in sideways, open the appliance doors, and get out.

    Not to be sexist, but I've been to dozens and dozens of award-winning model homes, only to see a really beautiful — and completely useless — laundry rooms. And I always point and cry, “A man designed this!” (Meaning, rather, that the designer doesn't actually do the laundry.)

    Walking up and down the stairs carrying laundry may be a pain but, trust me, it's not as painful as trying to do laundry year after year in an unworkable space. Besides, the climbing is good for your gams.

  12. Master Closet Entrance From Master Bath

    Although it's a great convenience for dressing and prepping, this floor plan cuts off closet access when one partner is showering or bathing. Of course, if you live with the totally open door policy, this is not as much of an issue, except for the steam. But if you are a couple who maintain a bit of personal privacy (this includes more couples than you might imagine) then the closet should offer at least a secondary doorway to the bedroom.

    Thanks to Bill Hirsch of Designing Your Perfect House

Before you go with the flow and put in the latest, greatest home “feature,” take some time to decide if it will really work for you. And, yes, we are planning on another pot filler.