Writtenby: Hans Wydler & Steve Wydler

As Seen In: The Washington Post

Overthe last few years, we have seen a boom in both significant home renovationsand new construction. It is an exciting time as homeowners, interior designersand builders are incorporating thoughtful design details into their projects.

Someare functional or aesthetic. Others are a bit of both. Since we have the uniquevantage point of seeing lots of homes and working with many sellers/buyers, wethought we’d share with you 10 of our favorites.

Kitchen cabinetry: Let’s face it, you can’t have too muchstorage in a kitchen. Kitchen cabinetry that goes all the way to the ceilingmakes use of all the vertical space. Besides, when cabinets stop short of theceiling, the tops just collect dust.

We liketo see good quality cabinetry that include “soft close” (a.k.a “self close”)features on the drawers and dovetail joints. Also, inset cabinets (as opposedto overlay) require a higher level of craftsmanship and have more of a finishedlook. Of course, they cost more money, too.

• Smart use of pocket doors: Nothing is more frustrating than opening adoor only to have it slam into another door that was left ajar. Where there aretoo many doors opening into an area or just a need for precious space, pocketdoors make sense. In addition to saving space, pocket doors allow for easierplacement of furniture and avoid the inadvertent crash of doors.

Attic HVAC unit: Most attic A/C air handlers we see arelocated in an unconditioned area. We are starting to see “green” homes in whichthe attic unit is built in a “conditioned” room. In other words, the A/C unitcools itself — making it run far more efficiently and extending the life of theunit. Very cool.

Backsplash outlets no more: A kitchen backsplash can be a greatfinishing touch to pull a kitchen design together. Because county buildingcodes require electrical outlets at regular intervals throughout the kitchen,electrical outlets break up the look of the backsplash.In the past, we’ve seenhomeowners go to great lengths to mask these outlets (e.g., faux painting). Amore elegant solution is tucking the kitchen electrical outlets neatly underthe hanging kitchen cabinets. They are out of sight but convenientlyaccessible.

• Floor vents and return grilles:Finished floor vents custom crafted fromthe same material as the floor are vastly better than a cheap metal insert.

Similarly,once overlooked metal air returns are an opportunity to add some pizazz withvintage style patterns.

Placement: Look for bathroom shower and tub faucetsconveniently located where you can turn on the water without getting wet.Similarly, “toe kick” light switches at the bathroom vanities make it easy toturn on lights with dirty or wet hands.

• Electric outlets: Incorporating combo electrical outlet/USBports into key areas in the kitchen, by bed tables and in home offices can makecharging your devices far more convenient.

Whilewe typically are reluctant to hard wire technology into a home (because of howquickly technology changes and thereby “dating” your home), we think theday-to-day practical benefits of this feature outweigh the costs of upgradingthem over time.

Doors and thresholds: Hollow doors make a home feel flimsy. Lookfor solid core doors, with good quality hardware. Taller door thresholds on themain level create a more open feeling and let light travel between rooms.

Solar tubes: Solar tubes are cylinders connecting fromthe roof to a ceiling bringing natural light into a home at a fraction of acost of skylights. They help save electricity costs and can brighten up anotherwise dark part of the home.

• Wood burning fireplace with gas starter: A gas starter for a wood burning fireplaceis the best of both worlds. With a gas starter, you can look like an EagleScout starting a fire effortlessly. No kindling, no newspaper, no sweat!