When working with a custom home builder, you have a chance to create the house of your dreams. There are so many major details you've probably already thought of - your ideal kitchen cabinets, the layout of your master bathroom - but what about the finer details?
This updated list for 2023 of 14 "must-haves" when building a custom home includes a combination of smaller features that make your home a more enjoyable place to live - and larger design considerations that will increase your home's value and make it more durable, higher performing, and comfortable to live in.
Ready to take a deep dive into planning for your custom home build? Listen to our podcast "The Art of Custom" to get prepared & inspired for your dream home build.
KITCHEN MUST HAVES
1 | Grocery Doors & Garage Pantry Access
A small door that opens from the garage to the pantry, sometimes called a Costco Door, are a viral sensation that makes you wonder, "why didn't I think of that?"
These small, fireproof doors make unloading large grocery trips a breeze. With the surge in grocery delivery services, delivery lockboxes for groceries are starting to come up in custom home design conversations, as well.
The creation of limited-access alcoves with keypad access is becoming more common in home design. These secure spots keep packages safe from porch pirates and weather
2 | Workstation Sinks
A workstation sink is sure to be the workhorse of your kitchen. The subtle addition of a ledge to support accessories like cutting boards, drying racks, strainers and more makes meal prep a breeze.
Like their traditional counterparts, workstation sinks come in a range of sizes. Whether you have a single sink, doubles, or a pantry sink this trending custom home upgrade is one of the easiest to add to your home's design.
3 | Hidden Outlets
Especially if you're planning to install a beautiful kitchen backsplash, why take away from the design with embedded outlets? Instead, consider installing electrical outlets under the cabinets so they remain hidden from view but are still easy to access when you need to plug in appliances.
4 | Customized Drawers Under Sinks & Stoves
Add functionality and storage to your kitchen and bathrooms by replacing decorative panels or traditional base cabinets under sinks and cooking ranges with custom drawers.
Drawers fashioned to avoid plumbing runs is a great option to make that space more usable.
Pro-Tip: Make sure the drawers are easy to remove so you can maintain plumbing!
Also consider switching out deeper cabinets for drawers. You'll be able to see and reach your kitchen items much more easily, and your back and knees will thank you.
5 | Trash & Recycling Chutes
No one likes to take out the trash, so when you're designing your custom home plans - make the trash take itself out. Ask your custom home builder if it will be possible to install trash and recycling chutes in the kitchen that lead to bins in the garage or outside.
6 | Double & Extended Length Kitchen Islands
If your home's floor plan allows, consider the latest trend in kitchen design - double kitchen islands. As open concept floor plans continue to reign supreme in home design, the average kitchen size continues to grow and the center island along with it.
Many families are opting to have two islands - sometimes stacked, sometimes side-by-side. One island can be used as a work station, which may include a pull-out butcher block, dishwasher and sink - while the other stays clean and ready for seating at family meals or entertaining.
7 | Prep-Kitchens or "Dirty Kitchens"
Sometimes referred to as a Butler's Pantry, discreet food prep areas are making a big comeback - especially for homeowners who like to entertain!
A walk-in pantry multiplied by a chef's dream, these prep pantries have closing doors so the food mess stays contained. Coffee stations, dishwashers, extra sinks, and small appliances all have a home in the dirty kitchen.
Pro-Tip: Add access to the garage for easy unloading and you have a luxury kitchen that drips with convenience and style.
CUSTOM KITCHEN HONORABLE MENTIONS
We can't move on from kitchen must-haves without a few honorable mentions:
- Pot fillers above the stove
- Spice cabinets flanking the stove
- Statement range hoods
- Drawers that double as charging stations with outlets inside
MUD ROOM MUST HAVES
8 | Dog Wash Station
If you've got kids and/or pets, a mudroom is definitely a must. Create a space by a back door that has towel hangers, shoe storage, and a small shower/drain area with a hand-held sprayer.
Putting everything you need right by the door, you can make sure muddy shoes get hosed off and wet dogs get dried properly so that your home will remain better protected from tracked-in dirt.
A number of homeowners are making their mud rooms pet headquarters in their homes. From spaces for kennels built into the shelving to custom cabinets for litter boxes - these areas tend to include tiled floors so all of the mess and stress from outdoor play and more is easy to tame.
9 | Custom Mud Room Cubbies
As must-haves when building a new home go, this is a universal need for most families with pets, kids, or an active lifestyle.
You can get as creative as you need to when wrangling coats, shoes, backpacks, and sports equipment. We recommend starting with a top shelf and rows of hooks. You can add a bench for seating and drawers to keep flip flops and sneakers at the ready.
Pro-Tip: Have a hockey player in the family? Size your cubbies tall enough for a hockey stick, wide enough for a bag, include plenty of hooks to air out pads, and throw in a drawer for skates!
2 | Second Floor Or En Suite Laundry Rooms
No more lugging dirty laundry to and from your basement. If your master bedroom is on the main floor, consider a main floor laundry room. If the bulk of the bedrooms will be upstairs, consider a small laundry closet on the second floor for the kids to do quick loads on their own.
Many of our clients are placing laundry facilities in their master bedroom closet area - and some have multiple laundry facilities, depending on their home's layout. Easy access laundry facilities make it easier to get the work done - and we are all about improving your quality of life through smart custom home design!
Smart Home & Home Media Must Haves
10 | Outdoor Outlets & Media Connections
If you plan on using any sort of power tools, outdoor appliances, or decorations that require a plug, you will thank yourself for thinking ahead and installing plenty of easy-access outdoor outlets.
Forget about long, tangled extension cords that create trip hazards and inevitably create an ugly, bright-orange line in your yard. With numerous outdoor outlets, you can easily install outdoor lighting and work on projects outside with much less hassle.
11 | Built-In Speakers Inside & Out
Bring on the tunes! If you already know where you want to put the sound system and entertainment center, talk to your custom homebuilder about installing built-in speakers in the room. You'll save yourself valuable floor or wall space and have the luxury of having your house literally be filled with music.
12 | Smart Thermostat
Chances are your home doesn't need to be at optimal temperature 24/7. Invest in a smart thermostat so you can program your home to ease up on the energy use when no one is in the house. You can also program it to warm up the house a little before you wake up on cold winter mornings, or cool the house down right before you get home from the gym in the summer.
If you want to take your in-home technology to the next level, we encourage you to dig into our Guide to Smart Home Automation.
13 | Accessible Home Design Features
You never know when you or a member of your family may have a change in mobility - even if it's just for the short-term. Everything from recovering from a broken leg in a playground fall to living comfortably for decades in your forever home become easier when you incorporate a few minor accessibility principles into your home's design.
We discuss these features with every client we build a home for during the architecture and selections phase.
When building a home that is truly for everyone in the family at every stage of life, we recommend thinking ahead during the design phase, which pays dividends later on.
FLOOR PLAN FEATURES
- Main floor bedroom that can serve as a primary suite later on or when mobility changes impact your ability to climb stairs or
- Including a shaft so you can install an elevator during construction or later down the road.
- Avoid sunken rooms and unnecessary stairs to access critical areas of the home - especially the garage.
- Widening doorways and spaces between counter tops and walls to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers.
- Include a full bathroom on the main floor.
- Reinforce your shower walls with solid blocking so grab bars can be added later, if needed.
- Design a curbless shower with a hand held wand for bathing.
- Selecting comfort-height toilets or bidets.
14 | Green/Sustainable Living Features
As one of the nation's Best Green Home Builders, every home we build is measured for efficiency. A typical Hibbs Healthy Home is 40%-60% more energy-efficient than a conventionally built home of the same size.
We do this by building a better, more insulated home from the ground up. but there are additional options you should consider if energy efficiency and sustainable living is important to you:
- Solar Ready: Have your builder prepare the roof when built for solar panels. Installing mounts and preparing for wiring now instead of later will save you money for when you do install solar panels in the future.
- EV Ready: The sale of EV cars in the United States has increased by 25% each year, and more and more car manufacturers are starting to roll out new green car models that require a charging system at home. While many electric cars CAN charge with a 110 or 220v outlet in your home, this is not a sustainable way of quickly charging a vehicle. If you intend to invest in an electric car in the years to come, considering asking your builder to ensure that your home has enough electrical service in your garage- and a potentially dedicated charging machine. By thinking ahead, you can save money by not having to retrofit or add to your electrical load in the future.
- Battery Ready: A growing trend around the world is the incorporation of a home battery system into home designs. Home batteries are like the types of batteries people already have around their homes for laptops and mobile phones - but instead of powering just one thing, they power the whole home. These work well with solar systems - allowing homeowners to hold onto excess energy, to use it to charge their home batteries. Click here to read more on home battery systems.
- Geothermal Systems: If you're already digging for well and septic for your custom home, ask your builder about the possibility of adding geothermal during the dig. Many of our clients find that their geothermal systems are an investment that pays dividends.