May 23, 2022


Masters of home interior

Designer, builder, homeowner reflect on what makes a dream home

3 min read

What kind of home would you have if you had all the money you needed to make it a reality? 

It’s one of those questions that’s fun to ponder and talk about with friends. Most of us won’t have the opportunity to build or buy the house of our dreams, but no one says those Pinterest boards have to lead to something. 

Houses are as different from one another as the dreamers themselves, but interior designer Brendan Flanigan said he has seen one prevailing trend among the dreams presented him by clients: The showy mansion is over. 

“I’m creating specialized spaces driven by clients’ interests and hobbies, whereas 15 years ago dream houses were driven by that aspirational thing, what they think everyone would want,” Flanigan said. “My clients want to create something that is their own, not a statement to the neighbors.”

Someone who is building their dream house is looking for an enhanced sense of ownership, Flanigan said. For example: Meeting the woodworker who is creating their dining room table, and hand-selecting the slab that will be used to make it. 

“It’s not just a table and legs then, there’s a story,” Flanigan said. 

Home builder John Witt said he often hears clients say they’re ready to build their dream house — but what comprises a dream home has changed over the years. 

“I’ve designed and built for clients who wanted a lot of garage space for their cars, or people who don’t need a big bedroom, but they want big closets,” Witt said. 

Casual spaces for entertaining are popular, with glass walls that open to outdoor living space in the warm months. The outdoor space is fitted with cooking, refrigeration and an 80-inch TV. The quality and affordability of flat screen TVs has driven down requests for home theaters, Witt said. 

Big pantries or second kitchens are also a frequent request, Witt said, because a second kitchen allows for prep and clean up away from the main one, where people tend to hang out, or in an open layout where the kitchen is visible throughout the living space. 

Asked what he built when it was time to build his dream house, Witt’s focus was on his workout space. He likes yoga, cycling and golf, so he built space for all of that, including a screen that places him in the French Alps (or anywhere in the world) when he’s riding his bike. He decorated the space with big photographs of himself and his daughter skiing.  

Beyond the amenities, a quick answer to the question, “Where is your dream house?” might be a special place on the planet — a castle in Ireland, or a sleek apartment in Dubai — but it might also be right where you are now. 

Karen Armstrong in Wilton said she’s considering upgrades to her home, but doesn’t want to trade it in for a mansion:

“We have a flexible lifestyle and have explored options near and far. The result keeps us right where we are. The Saratoga Springs area has all the amenities we want and need. Sure, there will be house renovations — a new deck, outdoors kitchen and fireplace; a mud room; first-floor  laundry; sprinkler system; finished basement — but I would find changes I would want to make no matter where we lived. The beautiful trees, natural views and wonderful neighbors we have currently are priceless. A monetary windfall would allow us to rent other homes on oceans, in charming cities and with great adventures but we love to come back home, modest as it may be.

“Dream homes are where we thrive, love to be and feel comfortable. Feel lucky we have found ours.”

A survey by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, released by the National Association of Realtors, found Americans spent $420 billion in 2020 on remodeling their homes. NAR calculated a Joy Score for each project based on the happiness homeowners reported with their renovations.

There were numerous interior projects that received a perfect Joy Score of 10: paint entire interior of home, paint one room of home, add a new home office, hardwood flooring refinish, new wood flooring, closet renovation, insulation upgrade, and attic conversion to living area. While some are DIY projects, an attic conversion is one of the most expensive projects to undertake.

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