This is the fun part of every remodel: the life-enhancing frills.
In our book, Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home, we partnered with members of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory to come up with a list of extras well worth the splurge. True, these frills aren't inexpensive, but they're often money well spent. We have lived with many of these details ourselves and are eyeing several more for future remodels.
Here, 11 worth considering:
A fireplace or woodstove
Fireplaces can have enormous impact as architectural details, and woodstoves are significant and efficient heat sources, point out Seattle architects Malbouef Bowie. "You can have a really simple interior," architect Tiffany Bowie says, "and if you add a focal point, it really grabs people’s attention and interest."
Pictured above is a minimalist fireplace in a house remodeled by Napa, California, designer Carolyn Leonhardt, who recommends making "at least one spectacular change" per remodel. Read more of Leonhardt's tips in Expert Advice: 15 Secrets for Saving Money on a Remodel.
Pull-out shelving in kitchen cabinets
For storing appliances and pantry items, architect Sheila Narusawa suggests installing pull-out shelves. They bring all of the hidden items at the back into the light, making them easy to reach—and easy to put away.
Pictured above, a floor-to-ceiling cabinet with pullout shelves in a Boston remodel by Chris Greenawalt of Bunker Workshop. See the rest of the project in Rehab Diaries: Tales from the Hood.
Antifog bathroom mirrors
Architect Jordan Parnass of Brooklyn, New York, recommends installing antifog bathroom mirrors; they'll save time and irritation in the morning, especially if two or more showers need to be taken. Shown above, a San Francisco bath designed by bathroom expert Malcolm Davis. He shares his tips with us in Expert Advice: 10 Essential Tips for Designing the Bathroom.
Acoustic insulation for bathrooms
As charming as open-plan loft spaces are, it's not always charming to use the bathroom in one. Ditto for Victorians or anywhere where sound carries well, such as a powder room next to a dining room.
According to architects Specht Harpman of Austin, Texas, the job of an architect is to consider things like "solar position at different times of day, reflectivity of materials, acoustics, and many other items owners might not be thinking about." We're all for that, and think acoustic insulation, especially in the overhaul of an old space, is a smart move.
Pictured above, the powder room in A Hardworking Brooklyn Kitchen by Architect Annabelle Selldorf. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista.
Dimmers on the light switches
Sheila Narusawa suggests adding dimmers to all light switches. And you needn't wait to be installing new lights—introducing dimmers can be a simple home improvement project that combats harsh overhead lighting.
Shown here, a Meljac dimmer, which we've designated The World's Most Beautiful Light Switch.
Self-closing cabinet drawers
Brooklyn architects Made LLC suggest installing self-closing cabinet drawers. Kitchens and baths look their tidiest when drawers are closed; if you live with a messy crew, spring for cabinets that close themselves.
Pictured above is a Dublin kitchen by architect Peter Legge, who used self-closing drawers with rectangular cutouts in lieu of drawer handles. Find this project and more in 10 Favorites: Cutout Kitchen Cabinet Pulls.
An electronics charging station
Bay Area architect Jennifer Weiss is proactive about suggesting details that clients don't think to ask for, such as charging stations for laptops and cell phones. Virtually everyone building or remodeling a house has tech gadgets to charge and corral, and having built-in solutions adds ease and order.
Shown here is an electronics charging station incorporated into a Henrybuilt closet system.
Averse to curtains or shades? Old-fashioned wooden shutters are a great alternative, says San Francisco designer Kriste Michelini. We like the way they filter light in unexpected ways.
Shown above, a cottage bedroom from Here Comes the Sun: 10 Bedrooms with Yellow Accents. For more inspiration, see our posts Indoor Shutters and Black Interior Shutters.
A designated area for your pets' things
Another tip from Made LLC: "Factor your pets and the way they live into your design plans." If you don't want a cat scratcher in the middle of your hallway or a dog bed on your living room floor, take the time to think this through during your remodel.
Find the cat hideaway shown above in our post In a Modern London Addition, Books Come First. And for canine ideas, see Remodeling 101: How To Build A Dog-Friendly House. For an ingenious drawer for pet food, see 15 Life-Changing Storage Ideas for the Kitchen.
A waist-high dog-washing tub
We had one of these in my house growing up. (Actually, we had an entire room dedicated to grooming our dogs.) And it didn't feel like a luxury: If you bathe your dog(s) a lot, a waist-high tub will spare your back—and double as a utility sink.
Explore the dog-centric setup shown here in Only in Japan: An Architect-Designed House that Doubles as a Dog Salon.
Embarking on a house project? Be sure to peruse all our Remodeling 101 posts, including:
• How to Choose a Kitchen Counter
• Architects' White Paint Picks
• All You Need to Know about VOCs in Paint
• How To Choose an Overhead Light Fixture
• Solar-Paneling Primer
N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on February 5, 2014, as part of our Small Space Living issue.