Do you ever find that when you walk past a house under renovation you start to brainstorm the ways you would change your place if you hit the lottery, wrote the next "Harry Potter" or created the social media site that vanquished Facebook?
I do, occasionally, especially as dusk starts to settle and interior lights are flicked on to reveal floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases or cozy foyers or a beautifully-detailed staircase.
Truth is, I used to let my mind rework our space a lot more, but I made myself stop because it felt a little greedy looking at others' things and wanting more. I'm not J.K. Rowling or Mark Zuckerberg, and I'm more likely to get hit by lightning than win the Powerball, so I learned to be grateful for everything we already have and cut back on the daydreaming.
But then I went on the Del Ray House and Garden Tour and peeked inside houses with rooftop gardens, billiard rooms, glass staircases and bidets. Ever since, I've been wondering what I'd put on my must-have list for any home renovation. Turns out, my wish list is pretty modest and a bidet isn't even on it. So, what is? Here's the Top Five:
1. Built-in bookshelves
My husband and I met and fell in love in a bookstore; we are both book lovers of the highest order. But six years after moving into our house, our books remain in the attic. Our children have their own bookshelves stacked with picture books, dictionaries, biographies and novels, but our books languish in boxes without a home of their own.
I'm the type of person who is loath to spend money on something unless I love it, so I've been holding out for built-in bookshelves. Within months of moving in, we asked local woodworker Tom Welsh to the house to give us a quote on what it would take to build a wall of shelves off the kitchen. I thought we'd save the money but you know how it is, we built a playroom in the basement for the kids instead. We replaced our old garage door, put a new roof on. Something always comes before the bookshelves which, let's face it, seem like a splurge.
2. A screened porch
I love to eat meals on the porch, listen to the birds, watch the rain fall, enjoy the breeze. But when mosquito or fly season is in full swing—and it's coming—I can't enjoy any of those activities for longer than 15 minutes at a time.
Screened porches with overstuffed chairs and ceiling fans make me feel like time has slowed and there's nothing more required than to put my feet up, grab a drink and sit quietly.
3. A laundry room off the kitchen
I call foul on the building trend that puts laundry rooms on the second floor next to the bedrooms. In fact, as the mother of four young kids, I can't think of a worse place for the laundry room. I am never in my bedroom unless I'm sound asleep. I spend the bulk of my hours at home either in the kitchen, in the basement doing laundry or at the dining room table which, in our house, does double duty as an office.
In my dream house, I could put a load of laundry in the washer, then walk a few feet to pack school lunches for the kids. I could empty the dishwasher, then move the clothes to the dryer. I could fold clothes while I make dinner. You get the point.
Our washer and dryer are in the basement now, so I spend a good part of the day walking up and down the stairs to move clothes from the washer to the dryer and from the dryer to the table, multiple times given our astonishing mountains of laundry. And because everything is downstairs and out of sight, I end up ignoring the folding simply because I can.
4. A clothesline
This seems like a trifle and I suppose I could build one anytime, but I think I need the motivation of an actual home renovation to push me into action. Plus, given the large maple in our backyard, I want someone to help configure a covered clothesline. Perhaps one in the screened porch?
5. A foyer
I recently visited a friend's house for the first time and gasped at the entry. Their front door was moved years ago during a major renovation from the center of the house further to the right side. The homeowners created a foyer out of a former bedroom with two coat closets and a built-in bookcases on nearly every wall. I fell in love with it instantly.
Our front door opens directly into our living room. I'd prefer a separate, defined entry and I adore the idea of the books because there are fewer conversation starters as good as the books you love.
So, what about you? What's on the Top 5 list for your dream house? Tell us in the comments.