I've put up a few posts about house design, remodeling and real estate on Just Sayin' and continue to read and watch programs about these things because they always seem fascinating, whether they explore plans that could work, do work or are shiny, attractive ego displays. The house plan above, for example: isn't it a tad overdone, chopped up and probably ridiculously expensive? Major American developer/builder Toll Brothers, and several companies in your own area do nothing but these McMansions, and they sell. They just make no sense.
There's a sweet spot, seldom found, between architectural wonders made by Frank Lloyd Wright and other mid-century visionaries and mass-produced schlock. They do have design fails in common that make neither a good home: being leak-prone, energy inefficient, expensive to build, poorly sited (think mudslides and fires in the West, floods everywhere), maintenance/tax/insurance burdens and clueless about useful interior space.
Above is a typical TV show type dream house. Note the absolutely useless space in the third picture down. And think about heating the Great Room in the first picture. Unless this home is carefully oriented for solar gain and insulated superbly, you're not going to be getting utility bills you will like -- or can afford when you're retired. And imagine paying for those huge custom windows, at interest, over a 30 year mortgage. The architect or designer doesn't have to.
The kitchen island is always great, as is a reasonably big kitchen to put it in, with easy movement foremost in the layout. What every kitchen needs, and few homes have, is a pantry. We actually had one once, and loved it. Another useful space every home needs is a dedicated closet for cleaning tools and supplies. I have never seen that, but homes today that have more than enough space for it are trending instead toward at least three living spaces (a living room, not to be used; a family room with giant TV, and a bonus or game room). Some have all three and a big finished basement with a pool table that you won't be taking with you when you move, used three times and afterward just horizontal storage. What you really need, after that pantry and utility closet, are:
* Ceiling fans. A must. The only downsides are cleaning them and the fact that they go out of style long before they stop working, and only the cheap ones ever have problems.
* Laundry room. Those little post-WWII two-bedroom tract houses eventually ended up with washers in the kitchen and dryers in the added bathroom (because you only got one, despite the big families back then). What were they thinking? That a family with children adding up over the years never needed to do laundry? Some clever designers today want to put those appliances crammed tight in a hallway closet, behind doors in a bathroom, or inside cabinets completely. Ideas that don't work at all, because lint, dust, lighting, access for repairs and duct cleaning, and humidity are real concerns that must be addressed. Space and structures for towel storage, hanging clothes, ironing, and folding are necessary in the design of that laundry room. And ventilation!
* Lighted, walk-in closets. They'll make you happier than that $6000 arched window, which the designer or real estate agent swears makes the "Great Room" "pop!"
* A garage, even if it's only a small one just enough for your Toyota. Cars deteriorate outside, they are at risk for all kinds of damage, and why unload groceries in the rain -- that's just miserable. Trade the third bonus room for one.