Walking into the show home of a professional new home builder is bound to elicit a few "oohs" and "ahs". Dramatic entrances, sweeping vistas, soaring ceilings, gleaming floors, bold colours—today's new homes are designed with flair and creativity.

With the incredible selection of styles and designs available today, it can be a challenge to narrow your choice down to a single home. As you visit model homes and look over builders' plans, take time to consider how various designs would work for you and your family.

Space

Today's design trends lean towards smaller well-designed homes, with little "wasted" space and all the details and amenities you could want. Before you start wondering about square footage in the particular model, consider the actual space available and if it is adequate to your needs.

Often space is a matter of perception. High ceilings and large window areas can create a feeling of spaciousness without adding the cost of extra square footage. Also, builders might be able to move interior, non-load-bearing walls or columns in a particular model in order to give you the additional space you need in a certain area.

Function

Think about how you like to live and about your daily routines. Where will the children play, study and watch TV while you are preparing meals? Do you require private spaces for work or relaxing, away from everyone else? Where will overnight guests stay? And so on.

What if you love a particular model but the bathroom simply won't work for you? What if your family grows—is the layout flexible enough to allow for future changes or modifications? Discuss your needs with your builder who can direct you to the homes that would be most suited to your lifestyle. Many models are available in different designs and layouts. Also, new home builders are often able to customize plans and can advise you on cost and construction implications.

Traffic Patterns

Movement in, out and inside your home is an important aspect of design. Consider how easy is it to get grocery bags from the outside to the kitchen, or let the dog into the backyard. Can the kids take off their outside clothes without trekking mud into the house? Do some areas serve as "corridors" to other areas, thereby limiting privacy and furniture placement? Can everyone get around the whole house safely and easily?

Open concept

One of the enduring and popular design trends in new homes is the move away from formal and separate rooms on the main floor. Eating, kitchen and living areas are often integrated into a single "great room"—from the front entrance you can often enjoy a wide open view all the way to the rear of the home.

The open concept brings it own challenges for homeowners. For instance, where to hang pictures, how to add visual interest and how to delineate different living and working areas without closing up the space.

There are lots of possibilities. Bulkheads and other ceiling treatments can provide visual interest and delineate spaces. A mixture of lighting (ambient, task and accent) will create distinct atmospheres within a great room. Flooring can have a big impact; using a single material throughout the entire area, for instance, offers a different feeling than "mix and match" flooring. Columns, partial walls or glass-block walls can help to define private areas without taking away from the overall sense of open space. Ask your builder for suggestions for personalizing your space.

Light

Natural light is important to the overall appeal of your home and contributes to your feeling of well-being. New homes are light and bright by design, but you may want to consider enlarging the window area in your home to let even more light in, or increasing the size of exterior glass doors. There is a great selection of attractive, energy-efficient windows and doors available, and your builder can advise you on the best possible choices for a particular model and location.

Storage

Without adequate storage, a home can become cluttered and harder to keep tidy. Look for closets located near the entrance door, and in every room as needed. Check that the home has enough space for linen, seasonal clothing, sports equipment and so on. There is a wealth of storage solutions, from prefabricated units to built-in customized systems. Ask your new home builder for advice.

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