Design + Build, Interior Design

14 “Must Haves” in a Custom Home, According to Our Designers

14 “Must Haves” in a Custom Home, According to Our Designers


Our design team have helped hundreds of homeowners design and build a home they love. As a custom home builder, many of our clients have lived in other homes throughout their years, and come to us to build a home that’s perfectly suited for their needs. After years of helping clients design their dream homes, below are the things our designers say are “must haves” if you’re building a custom home.


1.) Flex Spaces

No matter what stage of life you’re in, building flex spaces into your home’s design is essential. If you’re determined to have a formal dining area, build in space for some built-ins and a fold away desk area so it can serve as a library/work from home space when you’re not entertaining. Take a good look at every space on your floor plan. If you don’t think you’ll use it everyday, think about either replacing it with something you’ll use more often, or building in the necessary structures to allow that space to be used for more than one function.


2.) Owner’s Suite on the Main Floor

This is a hotly debated topic, because some prefer a the Owner’s Suite on the second floor for privacy.  Our perspective? You can design a suite on the main floor with privacy, but you can’t make climbing the stairs easier.  Asheville is a retirement mecca, so this rings especially true in our area, but designing the Owner’s Suite on the second floor of a home can not only mean frustration for the owner later in life, but also limits the age groups to whom your home will be appealing later on (in other words: it limits your resale value). Do whatever you need to design a privacy into your main floor Owner’s Suite, but always put it on the main floor.


3.) Tons of Windows

A lot of home design comes down to “can I change that later, if I do it this way now”? Whether you like a cozy, moody space or a bright, airy space, windows/door packages and a home’s exposure to natural light are one of the most important components in most people’s custom home design process. You can always add tasteful window and door treatments that will allow you to perfect the amount of sunlight and heat entering your home, but it’s much harder to add windows, door, or skylights later on.


4.) Screened Porch or 3 Season Room (Especially in Temperate Climates)

Western North Carolina’s famously temperate climate is one of the most significant reasons that people choose to move to and live in Asheville.  Most all of our homes feature prominent outdoor living spaces, most often in the form of a screened porch or 3 season room.  Especially if you live in a temperate climate where the Spring and Fall weather allow for enjoying the outdoors, we can’t encourage you enough to factor a highly usable outdoor space into your home’s design.  Depending on the homeowner and their needs, if you’re choosing between extra square footage or a nice outdoor living space, sometimes we even recommend the outdoor living over additional square footage. Just to be sure to factor in a heating and air source, like a fireplace for the cooler months, and a fan for the warmer months. Most people underestimate how much they will use and enjoy an outdoor space that is truly equipped for comfort.


5.) Forgo the Tub/Shower Combo and Opt for a Tile Shower (+ Taller Vanities)

A fiberglass tub shower combo is one of the most cost effective ways to achieve a bathroom that fits a variety of needs. But, if you’re building a custom home, it’s time to think realistically about whether you’ll use the tub in a bathroom. If not, forgo the combo and opt for a curbless, slightly larger tile shower. In most cases, this will give you the best day-to day use and experience. While you’re at it, opt for now-standard 36″ vanity instead of the previously popular 32″. Your back will thank you – not to mention the wonders this does for a cohesive and luxurious bathroom feel.


6.) Ensuite or Jack-n-Jill Bathrooms

Most of the time, we’re designing homes that either feature an en-suite bathroom in every bedroom, or a Jack-n-Jill style bathroom  for secondary bedrooms (a single bathroom with double sinks, privately accessible by two bedrooms).  Why a bathroom for every bedroom? If you were staying at someone’s home, would you rather have a smaller, private bathroom in your own bedroom, or a larger bathroom you share with other guests? If you answered “smaller, private bath”, then you’re thinking the same way most of our clients do. If your budget doesn’t afford for a private en-suite with every bedroom, our recommendation is a Jack-n-Jill bathroom design for children’s bedrooms, with a private en-suite for the guest bedroom.


7.) A Sizable Laundry/Mud Room on the Main Level

The laundry/mud room tends to be an after thought when designing a home.  It’s understable how this happen, given that things like dreamy kitchens and luxurious Owner’s Suites are competing for attention when designing a home.  However, a laundry/mud room tends to be one of the most utilized spaces in a home, and too often we see laundry rooms be reduced in size or functionality to prioritize other things. A good rule of thumb? If you’re going to use a space everyday, or if lots of your family will use that space, give it the space and attention it deserves.


8.) A Walk-In Pantry with Room for Appliance Storage

Being that we’re usually designing retirement/dream/”forever homes”, our clients often know what they want – and what works and what doesn’t – when it comes to kitchen storage. Something we almost always include in our custom homes? Walk in pantries. The pantry is best located near the family’s entrance, so that is can be quickly accessed from the car for bulk grocery runs. Importantly, make sure that there is space on pantry shelves and countertops for appliances that you don’t want sitting on your kitchen counter all the time.


9.) Hidden Outlets + Organization in Cabinetry

By the time you’re designing a custom home, you will likely know exactly how you use your kitchen on a daily basis. Think about your everyday use, and apply simple upgrades like hidden outlets cabinet organization. These upgrades, though they aren’t highly expensive, will make your kitchen feel luxurious in everyday use.


10.) If You’re Building on a Basement: Make it a Separate Living Space

If you’re building on the basement (which is often the case in Western North Carolina because of our steep terrain), consider making a few strategic moves to make the finished space in the basement a stand alone/separate living space.  Adding a full bathroom and a tiny kitchen or wet bar in the basement can make the living space both luxurious and private for guests staying in that space.  We’ve seen separate living spaces in the basement have an expansive purposes: guest suite, income producing space, mother in law or aging parent suite, living quarters for in-house long term care, and more. What’s more: a space that has the potential for producing income will always drive your home’s value up.


11.) A Future-Proof Floor Plan

What, you ask, is a future proof floor plan? None of us can plan for the future with complete certainty, but if we think strategically about home’s floor plan and design, we can plan ahead to make our home adaptable to our needs! As an example: ask your builder or architect about factoring in closets in the home that could later be converted to an elevator shaft should you ever need it.


12.) A “Middle Ground” Budget Strategy

Making decisions on areas to save and areas to “splurge” when you’re building a custom home can be a challenge. More than likely, everything you want in your custom home isn’t going to fit in your budget.  Making cuts to your selections can feel challenging too, because everything feels important, and everything feels essential to the overall design and feel of your home. It’s best to approach your home’s design with a middle ground strategy: go with the options you really want for items that can’t easily be replaced later on. For everything else, go with the budget-friendlier option and rest assured that replacing them later won’t be a concern. Things you don’t want to skimp on (that can’t be easily replaced later on): windows and doors, flooring, cabinetry, and countertops. Things you could upgrade or add later if you wanted to: plumbing and lighting fixtures, door hardware, wall texture (like wallpaper, wainscoting, etc.).


13.) Lots (and lots) of Layered Lighting

Speaking of things that are challenging or expensive  to add later on, extra lighting is a big one.  “I’m a huge proponent of adding more recessed lighting than you think you’re going to need” says Kelsey.  “Recessed lighting can be installed on a dampener to adjust the brightness, and with a variety of light warmths.  It’s one of the best ways to have total control over the lighting in a room. Even if you have decorative lighting like chandeliers or pendants  in spaces like your bathroom, main bedroom, or kitchen, always add recessed lighting. If you don’t use it often,  it’s out of the way. If you do, and you didn’t plan for it, it’s a costly revision in the future”.


13.) Especially if you’re in the Mountains: A Home Plan that Really Works for Your Lot

If you’re building a custom home, chances are you’re planning to stay in that home for a while. In this case,  you want to think not just about the design of the home, but also the design of your lot and how the two play together.  Do you need extra parking for guests? Do you think you might want to add a pool or additional outdoor living space later on? Do you want a flat space for kids and dogs to play? Be sure to share your collective vision with your builder or architect, and let them help you plan a home that truly fits your needs and your lot. “When it comes to designing a home on mountain topography, you really want to design something that responds naturally to the lot. Forcing a house plan to work with a lot can result in huge grading and site preparation costs”  says Jessica, Buchanan’s Design + Build Manager. “Instead, you’re much better off designing something to the lot. It’s helpful to choose which matters most to you: a very specific home design/plan, or a very specific property. Then, you can make decisions with your primary goal in mind”.


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Buchanan Construction is a full-service, award winning construction firm offering a vast array of services including Custom Luxury Homes, Semi-Custom Homes, Luxury Renovations, Commercial Construction, and Community / Planned Development Construction. As a custom home builder in Asheville, our dedicated team of over 40 experienced professionals guide clients through the construction process from concept to completion. With an all-inclusive design/build approach, on-staff interior designers, and exclusive project management software, our team strives to provide our clientele with an exceptional construction experience.  Located in Asheville, NC, we serve Asheville, Hendersonville, Cashiers, and the greater Western North Carolina region.