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Design By Room

Design by Room: The Foyer

The entrance to your home is the first impression guests have of your home and your personal style. It can be elegant and formal as if to say “You’ve arrived” or it can be casual and cozy in a “Kick off your shoes and get comfortable” sort of way. The foyer is also the buffer between the outdoors and inside, helping to keep dirt and grime from getting into the home.

When you get home, the foyer provides a place to put down your keys, purse, groceries, mail and small children and shed your coats, scarves and shoes. Some houses also have a mudroom where the lion’s share of you and your family’s coats, bags and gear will be stored. However, if you select a house design without a mudroom, the foyer must be an even more versatile space. Here are some things to consider when thinking of home designs that include this essential space.

Here are some things to consider when thinking of home designs that include this essential space.


• Do you live where it is cold? Then you’ll need a home designed with a sizable foyer closet with ample space for heavy coats, along with cubbies, drawers or baskets for hats, scarves and gloves.

• Does it rain often where you live? You’ll need an excellent doormat and place to store wet umbrellas, slickers, and boots.

• Do you live in a sunny climate? Then consider placing a basket in the foyer for everyone’s sunglasses, hats and sunscreen in a convenient spot.

• The size of your house will dictate your foyer design as well. If you have small children, where will you store the stroller? If older kids are part of your family, they probably play sports, but where do those muddy cleats belong? If your family includes dogs, where do you keep the leashes?

• Find a spot for a hall tree or a console table where you can drop your bags while you take off your coat. Some homes from Tim Barber House & Home have a built-in bench to help you take off and store those boots and shoes. If you’d prefer something more movable, consider adding a free-standing bench instead.

• Hooks are great for hanging keys, dog leashes and your go-to purse so you can get out the door fast without a whole-house search.

• Don’t forget a mirror so you can check your hair before you head out.


Design by Room: Living Room

A Living Room can be a formal salon or casual gathering space.  Typically located just off the foyer, your Living Room beckons your guests to come in and make themselves comfortable.  The Living Room is a meeting room, a room to entertain and gather.  For some, the Living Room only gets used when company is over for holidays or dinner parties. For others, it is a playroom for grown-ups, a refuge when the kids commandeer the Family Room.  Whichever way you use this space, it should be one where the furniture is comfortable, conversation easy and the lighting makes everyone look ten years younger. To make this room your favorite destination, consider the following tips when designing your Living Room.  

  • Seating arrangements should be intimate allowing for comfortable conversation. If space permits, there should be more than one  seating group even if it is a single reading chair and a good lamp.
  • We are drawn to the light and warmth of the hearth. If there is a fireplace, design the room so people can easily gather ‘round.
  • Allow function to be your ornament - add built-in bookcases to house and display your books.  Well-worn books bring visual variety to the room.  They absorb sound and give guests insight into your interests and personality.  
  • Consider a window seat or a nook to read in the sunlight on quiet afternoons.
  • If the room is large, consider coffers or beams on the ceiling, creating a visual pattern and texture
  • As with any room in the house, the lighting in the Living Room can make or break the mood.  Strategically-placed lamps create soft pools of light throughout the room.  Lamps, accompanied by sconces and picture lights are usually all the lighting the Living Room needs. 

Design by Room: Dining Room

For some people, the Dining Room is a superfluous room, only used a few times a year. For others, it is a versatile gathering place that can be informal or formal depending upon the occasion.  We love Dining Rooms!  We think they are one of the most important rooms in the house.  Dining together is one of the oldest traditions in all cultures. The community we build from sharing food and ideas around a table is just not the same as when we pull up a stool by the island. Plus, having a dining room is the perfect excuse to host more parties!

  • Built-in china cabinets or buffets are convenient and lend character to the Dining Room. They can also prove to be invaluable storage for your finer dishes, glassware and collectibles. 
  • Even if you don’t own fine china or silver, buffets are perfect for linens, serving platters and bowls and other items that are not necessarily used every day.  
  • China cabinets often feature glass doors so you can be creative about showing off. Remember, sometimes, ordinary things, arranged thoughtfully, can be as interesting to display as the fineries.
  • If your home doesn’t come with built-ins or you are waiting to install them in Phase II, perhaps the room has a good wall for a free-standing credenza that also offers a place to serve from buffet-style.
  • Lighting, as in every room, must be just right. To achieve the right combination, you need three types of lighting: ambient, task and accent light. Wall sconces are a great ambient choice. Picture lights on artwork is a lovely accent and the chandelier can be both task and ambient with lighting’s secret weapon, the dimmer.  



Design by Room: Family Room

The Family Room is often where everyone hangs out, so, this room must be comfortable, casual, and durable.  With all the activities it hosts, the Family Room can quickly turn into the place where everyone dumps their stuff so it also must be clever in its storage opportunities. When designing this room, try the “day in the life” approach to imagine all the possible uses of the space.

  • For Movie Night or watching TV, be sure there are a few places to put down a glass a bowl of popcorn or to put up your feet.
  • Think about controlling natural light with shades or drapes.
    Be sure to give thought to speaker locations to create the optimal TV experience.
  • Built-ins to store books, board games, puzzles, project supplies, gift wrap, video game consoles, and audio/visual equipment might be the right idea.  
  • Then ask yourself, how neat are we?  That will help you decide if the built-ins should have open shelves or cabinets with doors.  Maybe a combo is the way to go.
  • The Family Room is often a playroom as well, so incorporating toy storage is a must. Think of lightweight bins or baskets that can be stored on deep lower shelves of a built-in or freestanding bookcase. Now your toddlers can access and put away the toys by themselves.
  • Whether you are hosting a movie night or stitching hems, a proper combination of ambient, accent and task lighting will help you either set the mood or see what you are doing.  

Design by Room: Office/Flex Room

The Flex Room is an adaptable space.  For some, it will be a home office. For others, a library, and for some it might be the ultimate man cave. These divergent uses bring different equipment needs that may require unique storage, furniture and technology solutions.  So, whatever you envision, plan well.

  • As a Home Office, the room might be a quiet space to pay bills, make private phone calls, write the Great American Novel or take a client meeting.
  • You might need room for a printer, office supplies, a computer and other electronics. Perhaps closed cabinetry is the best option to hide the inevitable spider-web of ugly cords.  
  • If a Library is what you prefer, you may want that Alistair Cooke Masterpiece Theatre look with bookshelves lining the walls and that, oh-so cool rolling library ladder. Consider glass cabinet doors for your prized old book collection. Don’t forget comfy chairs and good reading lamps. If your reading is all digital, 
  • If you envision a Man Cave, you might need room for your audio/visual equipment, a large TV and maybe a place to hide a mini fridge – or, go all out by adding a bar. Invite friends over for a game or a movie screening.
  • Reduce the visual distractions to keep the room optimized for TV or movie viewing.  Keep walls free of artwork or bright "pops" of paint colors.
  • However you use this room, that perfect mix of lighting is very important. Keeping noise out and in is essential in a Library or Man Cave so think about adding extra insulation or paneling the walls.
  • To make this room even more adaptable, think about adding a Murphy bed to provide an instant Guest Room. All you need is one good-sized wall and a layout that allows you to move furniture around easily. Your guests will appreciate the private space and, let’s be real, who isn’t impressed when a wardrobe turns into a bed?
  • If you are dying to use a rich, dark paint or wallpaper somewhere, this is the room. Dark colors create a calming mood that’s perfect for any of these room uses.



Design by Room: Bedroom

Bedrooms are the most personal spaces in the house. Each person can tailor their bedroom to their specific needs and preferences. Before hammer hits nail, we suggest you map out how each person might use his or her room and then give careful consideration to the furniture, built-ins and organization tools that will make it the perfect personal space to retire to when the day is done.  

  • To keep the room serene for sleeping, some people go minimalist and have nothing but a bed, dresser and night table in their Bedrooms.
  • Other people love to hide away to read a good book and need room for a comfy chair and a good reading lamp.
  • Kids often use their Bedrooms to get their homework done, so perhaps there is a built-in desk.  A corkboard or chalkboard might help keep track of papers and assignments.  
  • Little kids make it their playroom, so smart storage cubbies or shelving with lightweight bins or baskets will help your little ones learn to pick up their toys.
  • For teens, it’s party central when friends are hanging out or sleeping over. Teens travel in packs, so having somewhere to sit other than the bed could be useful.  
  • Speaking of teens, consider finding a location for a full-length mirror in their bedroom.  Where else can they check out their moves while singing into a hairbrush?
  • For women, a bedroom often doubles as the hair and make-up salon. If so, a vanity or a well-organized dresser drawer with lighting that makes you look fabulous at any hour is a must-have.  
  • Almost more important than having a bed in a bedroom is having a well-thought-out closet. There are books and consultants galore to help you tailor your closet to your specific wardrobe.  You can organize clothes, shoe and accessories in so many ways - by color, by occasion, by season. 
  • Don’t forget about storage for jewelry, belts, hats, and handbags.  Be sure to consider how you will ventilate your closet, especially if you are storing shoes there.
  • Light control is essential in a bedroom for most of us. Depending upon the styles and colors you choose, shades, drapes, plantation shutters and blinds all provide varying degrees of light control.  Only you know the optimum light control for a good night's sleep, so weigh the options wisely.
  • Sound is another factor to consider.  If you like to head to bed while the rest of the household is still watching TV, yapping on the phone or practicing a drum solo, you will want to study up on insulation.  Your contractor will know how to advise you as well, so be sure to bring this up in the planning stage.
  • In our bedrooms, we spend a lot of time staring at the ceiling. TBH&H thinks a flat, sheetrock ceiling is a missed opportunity. Ceilings should be something worth looking at - dynamic, paneled, vaulted or trayed.  A detailed ceiling gives a bedroom volume and openness as well as character and personality.

Design by Room: Bathroom

Baths can be the most disorganized rooms in the house. Smart planning is key to prevent clutter. Baths are often shared by more than one person; each with their own preferred product for bathing, washing hair, removing makeup, brushing teeth, etc.  There needs to be plenty of room to keep these products at the ready for daily use yet out of sight. This takes serious organizational talent. 

  • Can everyone see in the mirror?  If not, placing a stool in a location that is convenient but not in the way is key.
  • Electric toothbrushes and shavers are commonplace now, so we add an electrical outlet to the inside of your medicine cabinet for charging. 
  • Look for bathroom layouts that feature windows near the sink vanity. A combination of natural light and well-placed task lighting at the sink is essential for applying make up and shaving.
  • While we are on the topic of lighting, it is very helpful to add a light inside your shower or shower/tub combo for reading fine print instructions on product bottles.
  • When organizing your linen closet, you will need a place for towels, extra toilet paper, refills of all those products, and then the various and sundry items like, bandages, cotton swabs, polish remover, mouthwash, etc.
  • In bathrooms, there never seem to be enough racks to dry towels. Double bar and luggage rack styles of bars can dry multiple towels in minimal wall space.  They also look pretty cool.
  • Ventilation in the bathroom is paramount.  The steam and heat that accumulates when you shower can cause unsafe conditions ranging from slippery floors to mildew growth.  A bathroom ventilation fan is necessary. There are features for reducing drafts, adding heat to the room and reducing noise to take into consideration. To help you choose the right ventilation fan for your bathrooms check out our blog on Letting Off Some Steam.

Design by Room: Kitchen

Now, this is the room which requires the most thoughtful planning. Oftentimes, people pick a kitchen design they like aesthetically without thinking about the way they like to prep, cook and bake. This is backwards. The way you like to use your kitchen must inform its design. Here are a few things to take into consideration.

  • Traffic patterns - evaluate the way your family uses the Kitchen in your current home.  Is it a steady stream of people using the fridge, or does everyone descend upon the Kitchen at once? Remember the Kitchen triangle?  With modern conveniences like the trash pullout, microwave, pot filler and dishwasher, your Kitchen might need an octagon instead. 
  • Don’t walk far for things you will use frequently. Keep cutting boards, chopping knives and mixing bowls within arm’s reach.
  • Design the kitchen to have at least two work stations so the cook can have helpers.  Ideally, each station would be located in close proximity to the trash.
  • Speaking of trash, we love the cabinet options that slide out from behind a cabinet door and offer separate trash cans for regular garbage and recyclables; tucked away but not under the sink. (It seems there is always someone working at the sink whom you have to ask to move out of the way.) Be sure to give this cabinet a knob or handle that makes it super easy to grab onto when your hands are full, wet or dirty. 
  • Design your kitchen so the upper cabinets extend to meet the ceiling rather than stopping them mid-wall. The tops of the cabinets get dusty in no time. Why waste potential storage space only to have to dust more often?
  • Consider open shelving as an alternative to upper cabinetry.  Yes, you will need to be a little neater, but open shelves look so cool and make it a breeze to grab a plate, a bowl, or a glass.
  • Think about customizing the height of the base cabinets.  Standard cabinet height is 36” but you’d be amazed at how much raising it to 38” can save your back.
  • Marble countertops look classic and gorgeous but, when choosing them, remember that they stain easily. If you want that counter-in-an-old-French-bistro look, go for it.  If not, look into basalt, quartzite, stainless and, our personal favorite, soapstone as alternatives. 
  • Give thought to your flooring material.  Chances are you’ll be standing on it for long periods of time. Wood and linoleum are major back-savers, while if you are standing for long hours on ceramic, terra cotta or stone tile floors you can feel tired in no time. Tile floors are water resistant whereas wood floors are not, though both will require maintenance to keep them properly sealed.
  • There is much to say about selecting appliances. For now, keep these considerations in mind when choosing appliances: If there are multiple people in your household, don’t skimp on the size of your fridge. It is easy to underestimate how fast a fridge can get crowded and unorganized. Two dishwashers might be a worthwhile investment especially if you have a large family or entertain regularly. The same goes for adding a wall oven in addition to the oven in your range.

Design by Room: Laundry

Washing, drying, folding, and ironing can be made easy when the Laundry Room is well designed.  Depending upon who does the laundry in your household, accommodations should be made including storage height, layout and the positioning of the washer dryer.  Here are a few other things to ponder before you launder.

  • If only adults are responsible for the laundry, ample upper cabinets deep enough to easily fit large detergent bottles are ideal.  If you can swing it, encouraging your pre-teens do their own laundry empowers them and relieves you of hours of folding.  If you are able to pull that off, be sure the detergent, softener, dryer sheets and stain remover are placed where they can reach them. Avoid stacking your washer and dryer as kids might have a hard time reaching buttons and loading the machines.
  • Counter space should allow you to fold and stack two loads of laundry at a time. TBH&H plans prefer side-by-side washers and dryers tucked under a deep folding counter for just this reason.
  • People often forget to allot a space for two or three laundry baskets.  These typically hang around on the floor causing people to trip. Give some thought to where you would like to store the baskets so they are within arms reach.
  • If you prefer to line dry your clothes and sheets consider the proximity of your Laundry Room to the backyard. Tim Barber House & Home plans often combine the Laundry Room and Mudroom to maximize space but also to provide eacy access to line drying in the backyard.
  • Don’t forget to add a hanging rod or hook for newly ironed clothes and for air drying delicates. Be sure it is far from areas where bleach and other chemicals are used.
  • Providing easy access to a large ironing board is essential.  People often stuff their ironing boards in the broom closet amongst an artillery of cleaning tools which, inevitably launch an attack against you when you try to extract the ironing board.  If the ironing board must fit in the broom closet, do not position it in the back of the closet.  Rather, hang it on a side wall and lean your brooms and mops on the opposite wall.
  • If the design of your home and building codes allow, a laundry chute is a boon.  Keep a hamper or good-sized laundry basket at the base of the chute. Then no one has to store a hamper in their bedroom.  Plus, you don’t have to trek that heavy laundry downstairs. Look for laundry chutes in the next round of TBH&H houses coming soon!

Design by Room: Mudroom

The back door is the new front door! All who enter through the Mud Room must be well-served – by closet and hooks, bench and countertop, chargers and dog zones…and beauty. From strollers to walkers – the armaments we don when entering the outside world can be kept ordered, clean and out of the path when the Mudroom is crafted thoughtfully.

  • Consider the size of strollers. They will need a parking spot.
  • Does your climate warrant heavy coat storage? Then you will need a good closet in the Mudroom with cubbies for hats, scarves and gloves.
  • Consider umbrellas, or if this is a beach house, beach towels and wet suits. You will need pegs to hang things to dry before they can be put away.
  • A mudroom is the perfect place for arranging cut flowers, washing garden tools or starting seedlings, especially if there is a good-sized sink.
    Will you need an overflow kitchen for holiday meals? Perhaps you need an additional fridge or freezer for the six packs of bacon and four cartons of orange juice you buy at the wholesale store.
  • The Mudroom, is an ideal location for a Pet Zone, complete with doggie/cat door to the backyard.  You can create a tucked-away space to keep the food and water bowls if you don’t want them in the Kitchen.  Add some hooks by the back door so you’ll have leashes on hand for a morning walk.