Steve Wydler and Hans Wydler co-lead the Wydler Brothers real estate team affiliated with Long & Foster in Bethesda and McLean, and are authors of “Inside the Sell: Top Agents Reveal Unspoken Secrets and Dangers of Buying and Selling Your Home.”
Over the last few years, we have seen a boom in both significant home renovations and new construction. It is an exciting time as homeowners, interior designers and builders are incorporating thoughtful design details into their projects.
Some are functional or aesthetic. Others are a bit of both. Since we have the unique vantage point of seeing lots of homes and working with many sellers/buyers, we thought we’d share with you 10 of our favorites.
• Kitchen cabinetry: Let’s face it, you can’t have too much storage in a kitchen. Kitchen cabinetry that goes all the way to the ceiling makes use of all the vertical space. Besides, when cabinets stop short of the ceiling, the tops just collect dust.
We like to see good quality cabinetry that include “soft close” (a.k.a “self close”) features on the drawers and dovetail joints. Also, inset cabinets (as opposed to overlay) require a higher level of craftsmanship and have more of a finished look. Of course, they cost more money, too.
• Smart use of pocket doors: Nothing is more frustrating than opening a door only to have it slam into another door that was left ajar. Where there are too many doors opening into an area or just a need for precious space, pocket doors make sense. In addition to saving space, pocket doors allow for easier placement of furniture and avoid the inadvertent crash of doors.
• Attic HVAC unit: Most attic A/C air handlers we see are located in an unconditioned area. We are starting to see “green” homes in which the attic unit is built in a “conditioned” room. In other words, the A/C unit cools itself — making it run far more efficiently and extending the life of the unit. Very cool.
• Backsplash outlets no more: A kitchen backsplash can be a great finishing touch to pull a kitchen design together. Because county building codes require electrical outlets at regular intervals throughout the kitchen, electrical outlets break up the look of the backsplash.
In the past, we’ve seen homeowners go to great lengths to mask these outlets (e.g., faux painting). A more elegant solution is tucking the kitchen electrical outlets neatly under the hanging kitchen cabinets. They are out of sight but conveniently accessible.
• Floor vents and return grilles: Finished floor vents custom crafted from the same material as the floor are vastly better than a cheap metal insert.
Similarly, once overlooked metal air returns are an opportunity to add some pizazz with vintage style patterns.
• Placement: Look for bathroom shower and tub faucets conveniently located where you can turn on the water without getting wet. Similarly, “toe kick” light switches at the bathroom vanities make it easy to turn on lights with dirty or wet hands.
• Electric outlets: Incorporating combo electrical outlet/USB ports into key areas in the kitchen, by bed tables and in home offices can make charging your devices far more convenient.
While we typically are reluctant to hard wire technology into a home (because of how quickly technology changes and thereby “dating” your home), we think the day-to-day practical benefits of this feature outweigh the costs of upgrading them over time.
• Doors and thresholds: Hollow doors make a home feel flimsy. Look for solid core doors, with good quality hardware. Taller door thresholds on the main level create a more open feeling and let light travel between rooms.
• Solar tubes: Solar tubes are cylinders connecting from the roof to a ceiling bringing natural light into a home at a fraction of a cost of skylights. They help save electricity costs and can brighten up an otherwise dark part of the home.
• Wood burning fireplace with gas starter: A gas starter for a wood burning fireplace is the best of both worlds. With a gas starter, you can look like an Eagle Scout starting a fire effortlessly. No kindling, no newspaper, no sweat!
Catch up with Steve and Hans’s previous columns: