My ideal house and a weird/fun website

I have complained before about the difficulty of having a house in a 4-season climate (even worse when you rent, not own, and/or when all the available properties in an area are shoddily built!).  I have moved since I wrote that, and the new place is definitely better.  However, the HVAC system is in no way balanced between the upstairs and downstairs.  In my dream world, I live in a house with correctly-balanced temperature control zones and better insulation and larger eaves, especially on the side of the house where it always rains into the windows.

I found this interesting (?) website called truehome.net.  I have many opinions about interior designs, but a lot of them are surface-level that wouldn’t play into buying a home.  For example, if the flooring’s not ideal, that can be changed pretty easily.  Anyway, truehome asked me to describe my ideal home in detail, and here’s what I wrote:

Built-in bookshelves EVERYWHERE!  Comfortable, supportive seating.  Lots of places to sleep and be cozy.  Bathrooms with separate tub & shower (deep soaker tub, no jets).  Shower does not require curtain or door (nautilus).  Toilet next to sink.  Gas stove.  Areas to be together but also lots of privacy and sound isolation.  Garage.  No-maintenance yard.  Well-insulated with a well-balanced HVAC system and zones of climate control.  Fireplace.  At least 2 bathrooms.  No HOA.  Hardwood floors.  Maybe 4BR.  No dogs nearby!  Near or in the city.  Not modern, not minimalist: comfortable.  Not country.  Colors on walls.  Efficiency, low-maintenance, green.  Comfortable, safe, easy, lovely.  High ceilings in main living areas.  Cabinets I can actually reach.  Big closets.  Maybe a courtyard.  Privacy is a high priority for me.

(#2 likes modern and minimalist and dislikes fireplaces, also prefers neutral walls.  The rest sounds great.)

Then it also had fun questions where you could pick out which castle you wanted, and the reasons you need it.  My answers to “Why do I need a castle?” included the multiple-choice options:  My servants are bored.  I identify with eccentric Bavarian kings.  Everyone needs a moat.  I like how this house is protected from pirates.

Readers, why do you need a castle?

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34 Responses to “My ideal house and a weird/fun website”

  1. What Now? Says:

    Ooh, that’s a great-sounding fantasy house. Privacy is super important to me as well, which is one reason I fell in love with our house when we viewed it; the backyard feels really private without being all fenced in. We used to live in a side-by-side duplex with a shared front porch, and I hated not having privacy from the neighbors or the street, such that I would only sit out there if the neighbors weren’t home.

  2. plantingourpennies Says:

    Oooh, I will have to play around with that site. Honestly, our house hits a lot of our ideals, and some of the non-ideals are things that we are changing little by little (well, 2015 will see some big changes that we need to do all at the same time) as we live here longer.

    We have: high ceilings in main room, lots of windows, skylights, sliding glass doors, outdoor living/dining area, yard that is private-yet open (pool area overlooks a lake, so houses across lake can see in, but too far to listen in), tile everywhere (I HATE carpet… so unsanitary), ceiling fans in every room including garage and 2 on back patio. Location is also stellar – quiet & safe neighborhood, quick jog or bike to the beach.

    We are adding: better kitchen layout/design with built-ins for dining nook and new pantry, even more windows and raising the ceiling in the kitchen to make it more open, better more durable tile (commercial grade so should last a LONG time looking nice) – and that should all be done in 2015. Further in the future, 2020 or so, we’ll be replacing front windows and I anticipate putting the type that sticks out and has seating for the guest room and office, and I’m likely to build a custom murphy bed for the queen bed our guest room if we remain childless. At some point I’ll think about how to make our little bathrooms nicer, but that’s pretty far in the future. =)

  3. Bardiac Says:

    Windows for plenty of light, and wide eaves (especially in rain country) so that I can have the windows open (double hung!) during rain storms.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I would love to not have to rush around closing windows when it rains.

      • Bardiac Says:

        For just under a year, at a previous job in a different place, I lived in a 1920s house with wide eaves and double hung windows. I could open the upper and lower parts and get great air flow, and then just the upper parts even during really nasty summer storms. It was amazing!

        I’m guessing current styles are cheaper in terms of making more of the space covered by the roof into dwelling space, and the more current window styles may be cheaper in some way, but that house was GREAT! (And then it was torn down to make a parking lot.)

  4. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    Oh boy, your dream house sounds pretty specific!

    It sounds good though. I would love built-in bookshelves and a gas stove. When we bought this house, I realized that I will never have my dream house because I don’t actually want to pay for it. We’re trying to make small changes that make it closer to our ideal and that has helped!

  5. chacha1 Says:

    I need a castle to store my 13 black cats and my unicorns in.

  6. oil_garlic Says:

    Ideal home: Wood floors, tiled bathtub and floors, modern white kitchen cabinets, solar panels, minimalist, fireplace, 2 bathrooms at least, large backyard with mature trees, large double pane windows, central air/heat, lots of natural light, radiant heat bathroom floors would be neat, good size bedrooms as I’ve seen way too many closet-sized bedrooms in CA houses, and single story.
    I need a castle because I would love having people bring me breakfast in the mornings, but I think castles are kind of creepy…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      oh yeah, solar panels! Those would be great if I didn’t have to maintain them.

      • Rosa Says:

        There’s a local company doing the “you get reduced electric rates, we own & maintain the equipment” deal for solar installations. I’m so envious of the person I know who did it. But someone 100 years ago decided our roof should be built exactly wrong for it (the big, smooth slopes are East-West and the teeny tiny dormer roofs are North-South)

  7. OMDG Says:

    I love our house, and it is *close* to ideal. Changes I would make if I had an extra $100K lying around and was planning on living here forever:
    1) Re-do kitchen/DR area so it was one big open space.
    2) Add back deck/screened in porch.
    3) Update bathrooms
    4) Put in 1st floor 1/2 bath
    5) Insulate ceilings on 2nd floor
    6) Put in central AC

    In my fantasy world, it would also:
    1) Be located in a good school district
    2) Have garage parking and a BIG yard with mature trees (though a deck would help with that)
    3) Have a full bath in the basement instead of a 1/2 bath so the au pair wouldn’t have to come upstairs to wash
    4) Have a real wall instead of a screen dividing the live-in nanny’s space in the basement from the laundry area
    5) Third floor devoted to in-law suite / housing for live-in nanny instead of basement. Would have own bathroom and kitchenette.
    6) Have a park on the end of the block that was unpopular with people who like to smoke pot and abuse/neglect their children
    7) Be located on a street that was not often used for prostitutes to take their johns.
    8) Be located on a street near to restaurants/stores that I like to shop at (not Checks Cashed, Take out Chinese and pizza across bullet proof glass, and loosie/candy central). I would however, keep the dollar store and beer distributor.

    • OMDG Says:

      I will also point out that we actually looked at a “castle” in our neighborhood when we bought 5 years ago. It had turrets, a balcony, etc. It had a separate in-law apartment was cheap! Unfortunately it was located in an *even worse* neighborhood than the one we live in now and had no garage.

  8. Linda Says:

    Do you not have A/C in your house? I grew up in the Chicago ‘burbs and we had no A/C in our house yet managed to get through the summers somehow with just a fan and open windows. The first year I recall that really changing for me was in 1995 when we had a major heat wave. (Books have been written about this heat wave, it was that bad! http://www.amazon.com/Heat-Wave-Autopsy-Disaster-Illinois/dp/0226443221)

    Anyway, it was really, really bad and I was living in a one-bedroom apartment in a vintage building with no A/C. I bought a window unit second hand from a colleague and installed it in my bedroom so I could be comfortable at night. When I wasn’t at work (with central air!) or riding public transit (with A/C!) or driving in a car (with A/C!) during the brutal weather that summer, I was living in the bedroom of my apartment with my cat. Since then I have made sure that every place I live has air conditioning. Ahhh!!

    I’m not sure it’s possible to have a perfect house. After all, our needs change over time in ways that often make it challenging for one piece of real estate fit the bill, right?

    For me, no castle. I think of castles as being cold and drafty and possibly haunted. ;-)

  9. darchole Says:

    2 bathrooms and 2 walk-in closets for the master bedroom. And a hot water heater than can supply 2 showers or 2 other hot water using appliances without a drop in pressure. Soundprooffing in the room that has the or the best surround sound and television.

  10. eemusings Says:

    Because the general standard of housing in NZ is dire, even more so for rental properties.

    But we can’t afford to buy.

  11. Cloud Says:

    Right now, all I want is a room where I can have space to do yoga without picking up a bunch of toys first….

    I joke, but not too much. I really like our location. It’d be great to have a view, but I find that having a nice view from the corner when I walk my daughter to school is enough. But, to get our great location, we accepted a house that is small by modern American standards. Our kids’ toys, though, are still sized for the big houses we Americans seem to prefer, and they are slowly swallowing our living room!

    I don’t think I want a castle. Too musty.

  12. zenmoo Says:

    I want a kitchen where my back is not to the living room when I’m cooking. a big round papasan chair (like this: http://www.pier1.com/papasan-chair-inspiration/all_about_papasan,default,pg.html ) to read in. A swimming pool. Limestone walls.

    In my house in Australia I love our cork floors (best floor ever warm, soft and easy clean), wide eaves and grapevine covered pergola.

    I grew up in the tropics & never had aircon. First time I lived anywhere with ac was when my kiwi husband moved back to Perth with me and refused to live anywhere without it. I refuse to ‘upgrade’ our aircon from evaporative to reverse cycle but would like to get security screens so we can sleep with open windows.

    In our NZ house, well, I like that I can walk to work. And small is easy to clean.

  13. Liz Says:

    I need a castle to avoid HOAs… :)

    My imaginary mansion includes a lot of property (for dogs and chickens and fruits and vegetables), a separate in-law suite (just a small one, nothing too fancy), and at the very least one room on a second floor. I really like being able to “retreat” into an elevated fortress of solitude. If no second level, then I guess I would need a treehouse.

    • Liz Says:

      Also, I’m a big fan of rooms and windows that were designed in a pre-air conditioning era, such that they do a really good job of regulating temperatures with breezes, blocking excessive sunlight, etc. without electricity. Houses I’ve known from the late 1800s to WWII fit the bill. But I’d definitely want improved, modern insulation to support the architecture’s natural heating/cooling.

      • Linda Says:

        Agree. It’s hard to find houses like that. Also, passive solar design for areas that get cold/cool is a great feature that you rarely find. You just have to build a house from the ground up to get features like that these days.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One of our local HOA has castle walls and turrets in place of gates…

  14. First Gen American Says:

    Sounded good until the high ceilings part. I hate high ceilings…ie, the great room. They are so hard and inefficient to heat and cool. They are hard to paint and change light bulbs in. They are not cozy but I can see why some people like them. I just don’t find them very practical and they often feel sterile to me. My current place has ceilings about a foot higher than what I had and that’s plenty high for me.

    What my current home has:

    Mature trees, land, flat lot with lots of woods in back
    2 car garage
    Huge mudroom
    Walk to town
    One of the best school districts in country.
    Well funded town that is not in debt (which means streets are always plowed in the winter and there is not a pothole to be found). Other perks include virtually free after school care that is subsidized by the town and wonderful elder services department.
    History
    Central hearth fireplace
    Room for a big walk in closet that doesn’t exist yet but will be added.
    Wood floors (some totally shot but most still cool)
    Inlaw suite
    Space for mom and guests.

    What it doesn’t have we are adding over time. The house is 200 years old so it has broken old drafty windows and no insulation. Every room in the house is a complete gut job. I may save some of the old pine floors in the bedrooms even though someone did a bad sanding job at one point and there are big ruts in the floor so the professional floor refinisher guy wouldn’t touch them. The floors in the main rooms are worn to the tongue and groove, so not save able. The plaster is crumbling off the walls and is not salvageable. Insulation, windows, electrical, new interior walls and the exterior needs to be resided. We did the really bad rotted bits when the roof was done but there is still a lot to do. My house is very cold in the winter and that is the main thing that still needs to be fixed. On my husbands list is to pave the dirt driveway as its a big mud pit right now. The cosmetic things I could live with indefinitely if it didn’t have such a big impact on our comfort in the winter. And we didn’t insulate the attic or basement because we are running so much new wiring and plumbing that it just has to wait. We also want to build a cool tree house. Aside from the condition of the property which can be changed, everything else is ideal.

  15. Debbie M Says:

    I used to think I needed a castle because then I could have people over all the time–also, they are cool looking. Now I think they are cold and damp and they are expensive to buy, maintain, and pay property taxes on.

    The four things I insisted on for my “starter home” (which has turned into my “keeper home”) were: affordable to me, convenient to my work/local university, solid foundation, and big living room (for parties).

    Other things I really like that probably aren’t just superficial features:

    * Good water pressure and enough hot water – We can actually take a shower while doing laundry, and if someone flushes a toilet, no one gets hurt!

    * Good traffic design (don’t have two doors to a bathroom, don’t have to travel through one room–or an exterior door–to get to another room, don’t have to travel through the kitchen to get places). My house has what I call a figure-eight plan which means there are many ways to get from one room to another. (It’s like having a loop instead of a hallway, but I get two loops.) I am unwilling to block any of these doorways just to have more counter space or bookshelves; that’s how I know it’s important to me.

    * Level floors–at one place we looked at to rent, in each room I would declare which corner all the furniture would slide into. At a place I actually rented, my mom said she always felt like she was going to tip over into the bathtub whenever she was on the toilet. Also, I like doors that close all the way, especially bathroom (and exterior doors).

    * Plenty of wall space – our floor-to-ceiling windows are ridiculous–they should not go all the way to the floor. I like natural lighting in every room including the bathroom (except during hurricanes and tornadoes, I assume), but now we’re sticking furniture in front of windows.

    * I want the dining room and living room to connect so that I can turn the whole space into a big living room (for dancing or parties) or a big dining room (for dinner parties or board game parties).

    * Enough storage. I like walk-in closets a lot. I am jealous of people with garages, basements (that don’t flood) and attics (that are tall and don’t have nails stabbing you in the head).

    * Indoor laundry room–I don’t like going out to a boiling hot garage even if it’s attached.

    * Standard-sized appliances–easy to replace when they break. I’m not a fan of built-ins for microwaves, TVs, stereo equipment, and stuff like that. My fridge and oven have open areas on one side, which is nice–you can replace them with anything. The space for the washer is big enough for anything, but there’s this extra gap when you have a normal sized washer there. I also don’t like to have to get stackables–I should be able to replace one item without having to replace them all. So I’m also not into symmetrical gardening–if the poodle bush on one side of the sidewalk dies, what do you do with the one on the other side? My neighbor killed it, too–so sad.

    * Covered parking. In my part of the country, that protects the car from the sun breaking down everything and from hail.

    After reading all y’all’s ideas, first I want to know more about “Shower does not require curtain or door (nautilus).” Also the magical “No-maintenance yard.” I don’t think you’re talking about concrete. Or even Astroturf. Even native stuff is just low-maintenance, right?

    Then I’m also remembering:

    * toilet next to sink; also shower next to sink–it’s nice to be able to reach for spare soap. Also, there needs to be a place to hang towels next to the shower.

    * No HOA. Besides not living in a police state, I prefer living somewhere eclectic, even if some of the decor is super ugly.

    * Ceiling fans in every room (actually, these are pretty easy to add if you have overhead light fixtures).

    * Smooth countertops–not tile.

    * My mom said they once had a murphy bed that pushed in like a drawer under their walk-in closet. That sounded really cool.

    * Big eaves. Which can be simulated with screened-in porches.

    * Central air/heat.

    * I would like the wide doorways and ramps that are good for wheelchair use, but I hate those lever door handles that catch on purse straps and belt loops and pants pockets and long sleeves and otherwise grab you and stop you from going where you’re trying to go while also making you feel like an idiot. But after I get horrible arthritis, I reserve the right to change my tune.

    * Parking. Plenty of parking, and easy access to the parking. I want to be able to invite people over. I don’t like gated communities (because I still feel invincible like a teenager). Actually, better than parking would be awesome mass transit.

    * No bad smells. I’m not sure what I think about living near a bread factory or donut shop–too tempting? But I don’t want to live near a paper factory, etc. Oh, also no bad pollution, no living over a fault line, in a 100-year flood plane, etc.

    (Things that go without saying everywhere I’ve ever lived: full kitchen, indoor plumbing, glass in the windows, locks on the doors, permanent roofs rather than thatch, solid floors rather than dirt, and more I’m forgetting.)

    I don’t care about most of the privacy issues mentioned, good school districts, fancy bathroom stuff, fireplaces, swimming pools. I’ve though long and hard about solar, but prefer giant shade trees over the house. With big eaves.


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