Ten Home Design Tips

Our family has primarily lived in two houses...our former house in California (for nearly ten years) and the one where we currently live.

The first house was a fixer-upper.  No.  It was a FIXER-UPPER!  Honestly, when we acquired the keys, it was not even livable.  And after ten days of grueling work, it was livable enough to move our family into, if we kept the kids' bathroom door locked for safety's sake.  From that point on, home fix-up was not our "hobby", it was our lifestyle. Home Depot loved us!  We tore down the strange, termite-ridden family room...including the foundation, for even it was not worth saving...and replaced it with a new one.  We replaced drywall and plumbing.  We hardscaped the backyard and planted grass (a huge improvement over waist-high weeds).  We poured our heart, soul, and blood (sometimes literally) into that house.  And finally, in one big remodeling push, we gutted the kitchen to the studs, put in a brand new kitchen, remodeled two bathrooms, put in hardwood floors...and...sold it and moved 1 1/2 years later.  Ohhh...how I hated to leave that new kitchen.

But living in New England had always been our dream, so off we went!  Before we departed, a friend said, "You know, you're never going to find a kitchen like that one!" Gulp.

Every house we looked at to buy, here in New Hampshire, was lovely, but we always left saying, "But the kitchen...".  And then, at the end of a long day of house hunting, our realtor showed us the perfect house...AND it wasn't quite finished!  The buyer still got to pick out: cabinetry, appliances, flooring, lights, fixtures, countertops, and the color of the front door!  Perfect!  SOLD!  We felt indescribably blessed to be able to create just the home we wanted after leaving one we'd taken so long to create!

All that designing has given me quite the education!  So, today, I thought I'd share five home design tips that I really love, and/or that I have been surprised at how much I love. 


Tip #1 - When it comes to lighting, don't limit yourself to indoor lighting on the inside of your house.  

In California, builders haven't been putting light fixtures in the center of the ceiling of a room, or down a hallway for decades.  So, I was shocked to discover that I had to choose eight(!) of them for this house.  Yikes!  The builder here pointed me to a style that looked straight out of a 1950's California track home to me, and I said, "Hmm...I'll look around." In the end, I choose these outdoor lights, because I loved their seeded glass, black metal, and updated lantern-style.  They were meant to be light fixtures for under a porch, and were very economically priced, which is a consideration when there must be eight of them.

Tip #2 - When buying a light fixture, consider where the light will be going and the potential play of light and shadow.  

I choose those fixtures for their style, without a single thought to how they would look when the light switch is on.  Fortunately, I absolutely love the beautiful shadows they create!


Tip #3 - Put your spices in a drawer!

It is so handy to have the spices in a drawer near the stove and any baking area! Everything is alphabetized and turned label up, so the exact spice you reach for can be easily found.  I had them on wooden racks in the doors of my pantry in our other house, but I vastly prefer the drawers.

Tip #4 - Little drawers are wonderfully useful!

These four little drawers were the suggestion of the kitchen designer I worked with on this kitchen.  Mostly, I designed the kitchen, but was willing to listen to all of her expert suggestions.  She was really sure I'd love these, and she was so right!  They are directly above the desk in my kitchen, and even though the desk has four drawers of its own, these little drawers are the ones everyone finds the handiest.  They contain (from left to right): Things That Stick (tape, packaging tape, double stick tape, and Post-It notes), Things That Go in the Mail (postage stamps and return address labels), Things That Cut (scissors, wick trimmer, and hole punches), and Things To Set Fires With (matches, lighter, and flint and steel...really!).

Tip #5 - A towel-drying rack is a magnificent thing!

In our previous kitchen, the dishwasher was immediately to the right of the kitchen sink.  But in this house, there was a little extra space in that bank of cabinetry, so I opted to put in a towel-drying rack, and just love it!  All the damp towels get hung there until they are dry, and then they got tossed into the laundry basket in the laundry room.  No more damp towels mildewing away in the basket.  Problem solved!


Tip #6 - If you have the space for it, a jacuzzi tub is really wonderful!

The space and plumbing were there for it when we found the house, and when the builder said, "A jacuzzi tub is going to go there," I thought, "Oh.  That's nice."  But I was wrong.  It's not just nice.  It's amazing nice!  We all use it so much more than we ever thought we would!  Headache?...sore muscles?...hard day on the ski slopes?...need to get away?...it is so soothing and so comforting!

Tip #7 - Frameless shower glass is super easy to clean, and we've loved it in both our homes.  (The shower is just barely visible off to the left of the tub in the above photo.)

Tip #8 - Do the cabinetry on the front of the jacuzzi tub to match your cabinets, and not your mouldings.  Made that mistake and have been regretting it ever since.

Tip #9 - Pay the extra and have the tile man build into the shower wall openings for holding shampoo bottles.

Tip #10 - When having tile installed, insist (INSIST!) that it be done with 1/8" spacers.  We did that on the California house, but forgot to mention it here (bad mistake).  Having 1/8" spacers means essentially no scrubbing grout, since everything gets cleaned when you clean the tile.  But 1/4" spacers leave you scrubbing grout, and that's never fun.

I hope our experiences have provided you with some ideas for your next home project!


  1. love the towel idea and very practical tip re: grout spacing! I have cleaned more than my share of difficult jacuzzis, and wonder what you tips you may have for making that chore tolerable. My dream bathroom would have a bidet in a water closet.

  2. Thank you for the useful tips, love the lights you chose! Would love to see pictures of your old house. Before and afters, if you have them.

  3. Deb - Oh, yes...the down side to a jacuzzi tub. Sigh. Tips?...hmm...have long arms! Haha! It really does help! Other than that, I just get it done.

    Melissa - Well, before and after photos would be grand, wouldn't they? That would require me to possess the skill of scanning pictures and saving them to my computer. Haven't learned that one yet. But someday... OR, if Technohubby has some free time someday, maybe he can help. I'll keep it in mind.

  4. oh man! it would be so hard to leave a new kitchen.....but what a dream to move to new england! you have a beautiful home

  5. Thank you! It was hard to leave a home we'd poured so much into, but in the end we knew our home couldn't be an idol, and to follow where God was leading was much more important.

  6. Hi Kate, this post could not be more timely. I love all your suggestions and will consider them with our house. Many thanks for your IG follow…lovely to see your "likes" along the way. Best wishes…Jeanne :)

  7. Hi, Jeanne! So pleased to see it was you! Must confess to lurking on your blog and following the beautiful progress of your farm. It's plain it's a labor of love. Best of wishes to you as you continue progress!


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