Universally designed brick ranch custom home.

Universally designed brick ranch custom home.

There’s lots of talk about downsizing when it comes to custom home construction – and it’s not limited to a certain age demographic. While those who are nearing retirement traditionally might be expected to build smaller custom homes, even younger families are thinking more compact than in years past. But simply lopping off square footage without rethinking the spaces you’re building is a recipe for failure. Today’s Charlotte custom homes have to be designed and built smarter to meet the dynamic needs of their owners. Here are some things to consider when you’re designing your new Charlotte custom home.

Which spaces can go? First, jettison those you rarely use. Unless you entertain formally frequently, a formal dining room usually can be eliminated. Use the square footage you save to create a graciously sized breakfast room and add a kitchen island with seating for quick family meals. What about that formal living room? Why not opt for a spacious family room with multiple seating areas that can flex to meet the demands of daily life. Do you really need a dedicated home office? If not, consider a workstation built into an alcove in a bedroom, hallway or family room.

Which spaces should you expand? In contrast, if you do need a dedicated space for something – like a home office away from the kids – don’t skimp! You can have all the square footage in the world, but if you don’t have a room that allows you to function as you need to, your home will still feel cramped. Storage spaces are vital in any home, and ironically, they become even more important the smaller your home gets, since space is at a premium. Experts recommend thinking about what you need to store and then coming up with creative ways to do so. A raised kitchen ceiling can allow for two rows of top cabinets to store rarely used but treasured china, seasonal items and more. Building deeper than normal interior walls will allow your builder to put in extras like built-in shelving. This eliminates the need for bulky storage furniture and makes the most of every inch of wall space.

Which spaces should you open up? Just about everything! Adding windows brings natural light into your living areas and opens up your views – making a space feel and live much larger. Opening rooms to the outdoors via porches and patios expands your living space outside. The kitchen is another obvious choice – opening the space to a family room allows the chef to be part of family activities during the busiest times of our days.

Which spaces should you separate? For a downsized home to function well without feeling cramped, there should be dedicated spaces for the really important things. Exactly what those are will vary for every homeowner. An avid gardener might want a potting area in the garage, while an artist might require a light-filled studio that doubles as a guest room.

Finally, allow for growth. That may sound counterintuitive if you’re building small, but planning for expansion on the front end will simplify your life later. For example, build a few extra feet of vertical space into an unfinished attic or raise the garage roof to allow for a later bonus room addition and you’ll be far ahead if the unexpected happens – like a child moving back home after college or elderly parents moving in.