Design features were not a priority in Irish homes until recently, but with everybody travelling and watching design shows, homes are becoming more stylish and interesting (not to mention comfortable). Now, aspects such as lighting and materials have become central to the design and build of a house or extension. Talk to your architectural designer about incorporating some of the following design features in your new build or refurbishment, and it will pay dividends in the attractiveness and liveability of your home.

Here are 8 design features that is central to our work as an architectural designer;

Maximising natural light:

Not that long ago, putting a window in a room was the most thought anybody gave to natural light within the home. Now, the best modern designs consider natural light from the outset. Your architectural designer will work with you to create the optimal floor plan, which will allow natural light to flow through the space from floor-to-ceiling glass windows, solar tubes, and/or skylights.

The open-close skylight is a common feature of extensions and attic conversions, but it also comes in more sophisticated versions. Velux windows are only suitable for a certain slant, for example, so flat roofs will require flush roof lights instead. These have become far more affordable in recent years. Because they are frameless, you have an unimpeded view of the sky when you look up.

Immediate access to the outdoors with a Veranda:

Judging from films and TV, American families spend their free time sitting out on the veranda, enjoying the evening sunshine. You don’t see that many verandas in Ireland, but you should. Given that our summers tend to be somewhat unreliable, the veranda is the ideal option to give you access to the outdoors—and shelter. From New England-style wrap-around porches to sheltered timber frame additions, verandas mean you can relax and enjoy the fresh air even in wintry weather.

Incorporate traditional materials inside the home: 

One of the most appealing aspects of contemporary design is the way traditional materials are being incorporated into interiors. Feature walls of natural stone and brick bring a relaxed feel to your living areas. Whether your design has a country feel or is more industrial in nature, brick can pull the look together. The texture of red brick can add warmth to more urban textures, like concrete. Those kind of contrasts are a common feature of modern spaces, but brick is also wonderful in rustic designs because it goes well with other rustic elements, such as textured rugs.

Include a pantry or larder:

A growing number of modern houses and extensions now feature pantries or larders. A practical option for anybody with the space, these larger utility-sized spaces make sense for storing food, allowing you to free up the kitchen for living and entertaining.

Make use of hidden lighting:

We all know how important it is to bring as much natural light as possible into your home, but you can’t ignore the importance of a well-designed artificial lighting plan too. There just isn’t enough natural light to compensate a poorly executed lighting scheme, and scattering a few pendants and downlights here and there just won’t do the job. You need to sit down with your architectural designer well in advance and discuss how you are going to incorporate hidden lighting to illuminate your home.

Raise your ceilings:

Ceilings don’t have to be flat. Think of the most imposing buildings—churches, castles, great halls—and you’ll find a common factor is a vaulted or domed ceiling. If you are extending or building from scratch, consider a raised ceiling to add a real wow factor, while making the space seem bigger and lighter. From recessed ceiling domes to church-style vaulted ceilings, this design element can even give you extra floor space, if you install a mezzanine in a single-story building. These kind of ceilings take more planning in the design and build stages and require skilled tradespeople to get right. Make sure your architectural designer has done one before and ask to see an example of their work.

Think about internal glazing

Interior glazing is nothing new, but its benefits are being recognised anew by home builders keen to maximise the light in a space. Not only does internal glazing allow natural light to flow through the building, it also allows views to be shared by adjoining rooms, while still maintaining a level of soundproofing. In this way, even the most central areas of the floor plan can create the illusion of space.

Incorporate window seats

Why don’t we have more window seats? They beg to be curled up on with a good book or stretched out on to watch the world go by. As well as versatile extra seating, window seats provide handy storage options. You could incorporate a lid in your window seat, but that would mean having to remove the cushions to access the space. Drawers are a more practical solution.

Bay windows offer the perfect space for a window seat, with good depth and great natural light. You don’t need to have a bay window, however. Build bookshelves around a window to give the impression of a bay window. Or feature a seat on a landing window for a really inviting space.

Considering any of these design features in your new build or extension? Talk to an architectural designer before you do anything: With some sound planning and advice, you can create the ideal home without blowing your budget.