ISSUE 4  |  House Envy

Remodeling 101: 15 Luxuries Worth Considering in Your Remodel

January 29, 2015 2:00 PM

BY Meredith Swinehart

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The most fun part of every remodel? Perusing—and choosing—some 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 large and small that are well worth the splurge. True, these frills aren’t inexpensive, but they’re often money well spent. We’ve lived with many of these details ourselves and are eyeing several more for future remodels.

Here, 15 worth considering.

1. A standing seam metal roof

The favorite roofing material of every architect we polled? Hands-down the vote goes to “low maintenance, high aesthetic” standing-seam metal. Energy-efficient, sustainable, and long-lasting, metal roofs also provide a nice pitter-patter in the rain. See Remodeling 101: Standing Seam Metal Roofs for the lowdown. Pictured above: photovoltaic (PV) panels integrated into a standing seam metal roof. Photograph via Fabral.

2. Solar paneling

If you’re looking to reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint, the time may be right to go solar. See our Solar Paneling Primer and then get inspired by architect Rafe Churchill’s new solar Connecticut Farmhouse, standing seam metal roof included.

3. Radiant heat flooring

Can anyone resist the sensation of walking barefoot on a heated floor? If you’re just embarking on a renovation or building a new house, consider installing radiant heating (also known as underfloor heating), an energy-efficient way to keep warm throughout the cold months. “As an architect who has supervised and survived many remodels, I have experienced radiant floor heating in other people’s houses and covet it in my own,” writes our own resident architect, Christine. 

Stone tiles work well with radiant floor heating because of the material’s thermal conducting properties. Shown above: rough-hewn tiles in a bathroom by Atelier AM of Los Angeles. Photograph via Mark D. Sikes. Learn more in Christine’s post Remodeling 101: 5 Things to Know About Radiant Floor Heating.

4. Flat-panel radiators

“Imagine a heating system that isn’t seen or heard,” writes Janet in Remodeling 101: Wall-Panel Radiators. The embodiment of quiet, gentle warmth and minimalism, these European designs, now making inroads in the US, free up floor space, operate efficiently, and look good too. Shown here, the Sloan White Vertical Double-Panel Radiator by UK company Hudson Reed.

5. A fireplace or woodstove

A fireplace can have enormous impact as an architectural detail, and a wood stove is a significant and efficient heat source, 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

6. Pullout shelving in kitchen cabinets

For storing appliances and pantry items, architect Sheila Narusawa suggests installing pullout 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 here, 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.

7. A top-of-the line range

The race cars of the kitchen, a beautiful range is what we recommend for when your midlife crisis hits. Architect Vincent Van Duysen equipped his own kitchen, shown here, with La Cornue’s Château Series, sparking a black appliance rage. Photograph by David Spero for the New York Times. For more stove lust, see 6 Château-Style Cooking Ranges and take a look at Beth Kirby’s Star Is Born Kitchen, Lacanche Included

8. Double dishwashers

Have a large family or love entertaining? BAR Architects of San Francisco suggest adding a second dishwasher to handle overload. Photograph via Pure Style Home.

9. Antifog bathroom mirrors

Architect Jordan Parnass of Brooklyn, New York, recommends installing antifog bathroom mirrors; they save time and irritation in the morning, especially if two or more showers need to be taken. Shown here, a San Francisco design by bathroom expert Malcolm Davis. He shares his tips with us in Expert Advice: 10 Essential Tips for Designing the Bathroom.

10. 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 that sound carries, 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 that 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.

11. Dimmers on the light switches

Sheila Narusawa suggests adding dimmers to all light switches. And you needn’t wait to install new lights—introducing dimmers can be a simple home improvement project that combats harsh overhead lighting. 

Shown here, the Meljac dimmer (note: this is the European model), which we’ve designated The World’s Most Beautiful Light Switch.

12. Self-closing cabinet drawers

Brooklyn architects Made LLC always install 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.

13. 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, an electronics charging station incorporated into a Henrybuilt closet system.

14. Interior shutters

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

15. 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 A Modern London Addition Where 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.  

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.