25 Design Tricks That Sell More Houses

Everyone knows that good design sells.

By Meghan Stromberg, Senior Editor | February 28, 2003


18. Can It

In the island in a luxury home in Sedona, Ariz., is a cabinet only 5 inches deep, with four shelves only 7 inches high - just big enough to fit extra cans of tomatoes and green beans or infrequently used stemware. The area under the bar's overhang would have been left unused because the cabinets on the island's opposite side are not quite as deep as the island is wide, but builder Marvin James used the long, shallow space to create a unique storage solution.

Home consultant Carol Abrahamson points out that this traditional medicine cabinet concept based on instant identification and access has many other applications, including the garage, family room/media room, laundry room, artist studio and wood shop.

Carol Abrahamson, Extraordinary Homes, Sedona, Ariz.


19. Practical Stowing in the Island

Marvin James built the luxury home in Sedona for a couple on their third custom home - and by that point they knew exactly what a house needed to suit their lifestyle. The home buyers came to James with an idea for storing linens in a cabinet in the kitchen island. James used a stock cabinet door but fitted the cabinet as a pullout with four wide dowel rods running from front to back. Several tablecloths can be draped over each, putting them not only within convenient reach but also keeping them from getting creased by being folded and stacked in a drawer.

Carol Abrahamson, Extraordinary Homes, Sedona, Ariz.


20. Coffee for Two

A coffee bar or mini-kitchen in the master suite sounds like the ultimate in luxury, yet it is a smart, practical feature suitable for any home. (Who wouldn't want morning coffee brewing just steps from bed?)

In its simplest form, the coffee bar consists of base cabinets with a countertop and small sink, and outlets for a coffeemaker and perhaps a microwave. Moving up the price scale, the area can include more - and more extravagant - cabinetry above and below, a small refrigerator, an icemaker, a dishwasher and a trash compactor. It also might double as a bar complete with a wine refrigerator and wine and stemware storage.

Depending on the design, scale and finishes, and whether a builder uses stock or custom cabinetry, a coffee bar can be done at almost any price point. It could be argued that it has added punch in a less expensive home because it is an unexpected but thoughtful detail.

Timberlake Cabinet Co., Winchester, Va.


21. Coralling the Kitchen

Joe Ahmann had a common problem when he designed a large custom home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: how to define space without closing an open floor plan. He mapped out the plan so the kitchen is connected to a spacious gathering area and dining room on one side and a nook and the great room on the other. He applied a Gothic arch motif used throughout the house in windows, cased openings and doorways to contain the kitchen and help define the space.

Each column (except the center one, which conceals a load-bearing steel post) is a wood-framed box finished with maple and crown molding. The 8-foot-tall arch is also maple and is topped by wood-framed drywall with a textured plaster finish. While providing an interactive perch for guests as the host makes dinner, the raised granite countertops hide the sink and main counter area.

Ahmann Design Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa


22. Cleaning up the Mud Room

Once just a passage to hurry through from the garage to the house, the mud room is getting spiffed up - and bigger. Builders such as Jim Sattler in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are making the mud room into an organizing center where each family member has a designated cubby or locker to stow coats, hats, school bags and shoes.

There's even a special place to wash the dog, so Fido needn't be bathed in Mom's upgraded whirlpool tub. A shallow floor sink in the mud room gives buyers a convenient place to wash large or very dirty items such as pets, boots or even bare feet after a summer afternoon outside.

Kohler Co., Kohler, Wis.


23. Thoughtful Storage

The signature feature in McClure and Associates' homes is not some knockout showcase detail but a detail that's often kept behind closed doors: practical storage in the right places.

In the formal dining room, McClure decks out a standard closet with plenty of shelves for storing china, oversize serving pieces, stemware and table linens. Formal dining rooms get more use if entertaining is made easier, says builder Lesle McClure.

If it fits with the floor plan, a storage closet that opens from both the dining room and the kitchen makes putting away clean dishes a snap.

McClure and Associates, Raleigh, N.C.


24. Easy Laundry Upgrade

McClure and Associates adds a simple built-in shelving system to the laundry/mud room so buyers don't have to waste space within the room for organizing each family member's belongings. Standard laundry baskets, one for each family member, fit perfectly into a tower of shelves to the side of the washer and dryer. Above the appliances are two shallow shelves to keep detergents, stain removers and other laundry supplies neat and out of the way.

McClure and Associates, Raleigh, N.C.


25. Double Island

A double island design in the kitchen does more than just double the work space; it brings a human scale to the supersize kitchens so many buyers want. A tiny island in a large kitchen looks out of proportion, and a huge one becomes an overwhelming amount of surface area as well as a traffic obstacle.

Two smaller islands can break up the space and call out different workstations, such as a baking center, a prep area with a small sink or breakfast bar, and a homework station. Two islands also provide twice the opportunity to customize the kitchen with custom or furniturelike cabinets and specialized storage.

Mayer & Bowden Photography for K. Hovnanian, Irvine, Calif.


Design Tricks #1-8 Design Tricks #9-17


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PB-Design,PB-Custom Home Design