I’m usually the first to know about new home design trends because I spend a lot of time in new homes. If it comes with an energy penalty, I’m the first to sound the alarm. And if it ends up causing other problems, I get that feedback pretty quickly from the contractors I work with. For this year’s Home, Garden, and Green Living Show I thought it would be fun to put together a talk about the trends that I wouldn’t personally spend the money on, and how I’d spend it instead. This post will have a part 2 covering geekier topics, so that today I can focus on “pinterest” topics: things you’ve probably seen cool pictures of online. Stop down at the home show on Saturday the 18th at 3:30 PM to talk about these and others, and… Do this…. not that.
Do this: Outdoor living rooms
I love outdoor living rooms because they give you that feeling of blending the indoors and outdoors… without messing anything up indoors. They actually give you the perfect alternative to several of my “not that’s”. They can have big openings to the outside,
but might be screened to keep bugs away. You can put a big, open masonry fireplace out there that burns wood or gas and it will keep you warm all year round. It’s also a great place for a big gas grill to give you that “cooking on a flame” experience.
Not that: Big doors
The outdoor living room also lets you avoid the many styles of “big doors” that are popular, but problematic. These are very large folding glass doors, french doors, rollup garage doors, and anything else you can imagine or find on Pinterest. What do I have against these doors? They’re expensive, they’re not usually very energy efficient, and they can be leaky enough to cause drafts. Some of them can make it hard to even comply with the building energy code. And how much are they typically used? They can be difficult to operate or to fit with screens. Do we really want to open up our homes to let bugs indoors? Should we really be letting all that humidity inside in the summer?
Not that: Open fireplaces
I know, you like looking at fire. It would just be better if you’d do it in your outdoor living room. Open fireplaces don’t draw particularly well in a tight home (which is pretty much any new home that meets the energy code). And if it doesn’t, I (and the contractor) usually end up in a situation where the homeowner wants me to FIX THIS RIGHT NOW. But sometimes they just don’t draw well, which is why I’d rather that your indoor fireplace be an EPA rated gas or wood fireplace/stove with outside combustion air and doors.
Not that: Big gas ranges
I know, you like cooking on fire. It would just be better if you’d do it in your outdoor living room. The big gas range that you fell in love with on Pinterest creates a whole cascade of expense. You’re going to pay for it, then the gas hookup, then the gigantic range hood that it requires, and then the makeup air that the code requires for that range hood. And then the makeup air will either be expensive or uncomfortable or both… if it works right at all. I could go on, but I’ve ranted about this before. OK, maybe twice.
Do this: Induction cooktops
Builders don’t do nearly enough to talk homeowners into induction cooktops. I think they are the best thing that ever happened to cooking and they’ve made me hate cooking on gas. They’re sleek, modern, and beautiful. They are MORE controllable than gas – no need to eyeball the flame, you can dial in the perfect setting every time. The surface stays cool so nothing bakes on and cleaning them is SO easy. They shut themselves off automatically so you can’t burn the house down with them. Or burn yourself with them. They’re arguably the best option for indoor air quality. Read more about my love of induction here.
Do this: LED lighting
You should really make all the lighting in your home LED immediately. Prices have come down to the point where the payback is quick. The appearance of the light is good, and the bulbs last so long you’ll probably never have to replace them. We are also starting to see some really creative fixtures that don’t look anything like the light fixtures we’re used to – because they don’t have to! LED technology can do some cool, creative stuff. And if you like the retro look, it can even fake that really, really well.
Not that: Retro “Edison” lighting
It’s actually a popular joke among my friends that if you want to see me really get worked up you should talk about how much you love this. It’s true: I do hate it. These bulbs are actually less efficient than the regular incandescent light bulbs that they stopped making because they’re so inefficient. They burn out really quickly (sometimes in a couple months) and cost as much as an LED. They get really hot and in the wrong location they can start a house fire. Seriously, if these were the new technology, stories about house fires started with these bulbs would be all over the internet. And when this trend is over (soon, please…) it’s going to be hard to find replacements. If you like the style, do yourself a favor and replace them with lookalike LEDs immediately.
Copyright 2017. Amy Musser