What Features Make a House a Happy Home?

How your architect or home designer can
make sure your new home enhances your quality-of-life

By Steve Moeller, Vice President, Sherman Homes Construction, Inc.

We Americans spend 90% of our time indoors. The majority of it in our homes. That’s significant, because our homes have a profound impact on our emotional state and the quality of our lives. Happy people are healthier, wealthier, and live longer than their less-happy neighbors. That means, we should all live in houses that enhance our happiness, as much as possible. But, what design features make a house a happy home?

Below are research-based home features that lift our spirits and make us love our homes. At Sherman Homes Construction, we design and build custom homes that includes most, or all, of these features. 

I recommend you find a competent, client-centered architect or custom home designer to help you load up your new home with these must-have features.  

Safety and Security

Feelings of Personal Safetyand security are critical for happiness. That’s because if we feel insecure, we will never be truly happy —no matter how perfect everything else is. Low-crime neighborhoods, strong locks, security alarms, fences, and outdoor lighting all enhance our feelings of security. With these features we can relax, de-stress, and enjoy our home’s happiness-enhancing features.

Fire Hardened—For homes in wildfire danger (Wildlife Urban Interface or WUI) zones, a fire hardened home make occupants feel safe and secure. Most importantly, fire hardened homes are much less likely to ignite during a wildfire. (They are also less expensive to insure.)

Single StoryToday, most people prefer single-story homes with no steps or stairs. That’s because homes without elevation changes are much safer and more convenient, particularly for older people. In addition, single story homes support aging in place. Finally, they are faster and more convenient to clean.

Privacy—More perceived space around a home, with trees, shrubs, and fences, increases our feeling of safety and privacy. These are critically important emotions for enjoying “quality time” when we are trying to rest, relax and rejuvenate.

Features of Happy Homes

Peaceful and Quiet Inside—Double pane windows, good weather sealing, and plenty of insulation help isolate a home from outdoor noises. That’s a good thing because quite spaces are relaxing and calming. They enhance our ability to stay focused on a task and think things through. Quiet homes also help us get a good night’s sleep, a critical contributor to happiness.

High CeilingsNine, ten-foot, vaulted, and treys ceilings evoke the feelings of freedom and possibilities. High ceilings promote relaxed, open, and expansive thinking such as planning for a vacation or party.

Open, Flexible Floor PlanSpacious, open floor plans with wide halls and doors provide flexibility for entertaining, working, and projects. Similarly, great rooms that combine living, dining, and kitchen areas facilitate communal gatherings and meals. Connecting with others is the most popular way to elevate our mood and enhance our quality of life.

Big Windows—Big windows, skylights, dormers, and courtyards let natural daylight into every room. Most of today’s home buyers want to see nature when they look out their windows .

Natural lightharmonizes our circadian rhythms with the sun, which fosters restful sleep. Deep sleep is critical for repairing and rejuvenating our cells and organs. Lack of restful sleep can cause anxiety, depression, and slow thinking. Good sleep, in contrast, makes us calmer, more energized, and focused elevating our mood and concentration. 
Windows to Nature—Big windows that look onto plants, trees, and nature elevate our mood, speed healing, and enhance our well-being. That’s because they bring a sense of nature into the house. Natural environments restore our ability to focus and enhance our working memory. That increases our creativity and intelligence, making us better problem solvers. 
Finally, just feeling like we are in the forest, parks, or other natural places reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormones.

Big, Beautiful, Eat-In Kitchen—Spacious floor plans with big, quartz islands and countertops, plenty of cabinets, lighting, and storage space all contribute to our happiness. In-kitchen seating encourages spontaneous gatherings and dining. And, importantly, socializing over meals is one of the highest rated happiness-inducing activities.

Walk-in Pantry—A big pantry, with lots of shelves and storage, makes it easy to view and access all your kitchen “stuff”. In addition, having everything in one place makes it faster and easier to prepare meals. That means more efficiency and convenience, which makes cooking more enjoyable.

Generous Laundry RoomWith lots of cabinet storage space, plenty of countertops, and a sink. A functional laundry space with linen and supply cabinets makes doing laundry more convenient and faster, and less of a chore. As an added bonus, a generous laundry room can double as a project room.

Private SpacesIn addition to open common areas, happy homes have plenty of private, get-away spaces where occupants can de-stress and recharge their batteries. Alone time in a peaceful, quiet space allows us to relax, dream, plan, and create. Being able to “get away from it all” enhances our feelings of autonomy and freedom, two critical element for happiness.

Hardwood FloorsHardwood floors are beautiful and reduce concerns about dust, dirt, and allergies. Furthermore, beautiful floors throughout the home elevate people’s moods and trigger the positive emotions of joy, awe, and appreciation.  

Smaller Floor PlansToday’s average home size is dropping. Smaller homes are less expensive to build, heat, cool, and maintain. They make people feel good about themselves because of their low-cost, eco-friendly footprint. The result is most buyers today feel happiest living in a home that meets, rather than exceeds, their needs.

Oversize Garages with StorageBigger garages are easier to park in, accommodate trucks, boats, ATVs, lawnmowers and other tools and machines. Also, plenty of garage storage helps people hide clutter and provides easy access to lesser-used items. Big garages give owners a sense of possibilities and opportunities. Men, particularly, seem to light up at the site of a spacious garage.

Lots of StorageThis means: walk in closets with built in wardrobes and shelves, pantries; coat, cleaning, and linen closets, attic, basement, and garage storage.
The more storage, the easier it is to find things and to keep the house clutter-free. That makes owners feel competent and in control of their environment.

Outdoor Living SpaceLarge covered decks, patios, kitchens, BBQs, porches, verandas, and other outdoor areas increase our home’s usable space. These amenities encourage indoor/outdoor living, dining, and socializing. People rate socializing outdoors extremely high on their happiness scales.

Outdoor LightingNight lights welcome visitors and allow outdoor socializing and dining after dark. They showcases the home’s exterior features and landscape after dark. Outdoor lights also enhance feeling of safety and security.

Eco-Friendly and Energy EfficientLED lights, Energy Star appliances, and modern heating and cooling systems use only two thirds the energy of a typical older home. That means substantially lower utility bills, which translates to happier homeowners. Eco-friendly, energy efficient designs make owners feel good about their impact on the planet and positive about their personal finances.

Design Your Happy Home

When designing a new home or remodeling your current one, keep these insights in mind. The happier your home makes you, the more relaxed, productive, and satisfied you will be. With a little foresight and the right custom home designer, your new home will make a huge positive impact on your happiness–for as long aa you live there.  

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Steve Moeller is the Vice President of Marketing for Sherman Homes Construction. The company is a custom home designer and builder in and around Auburn, California. Steve is the author of Endorphinomics: The Science of Human Flourishing, a book about money, happiness, and quality of life. His firm applies research from positive psychology and positive neuroscience to intentionally create living spaces that elevate their occupants’ positive emotions.American 

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