Even if you want a simple home, without over-the-top features, adding surprising, or unique elements will make your home more interesting and distinctive. I believe that all homes should have some degree of the wow factor--things that make your house different from your neighbors’. So, in this week’s mini lesson, we’ll cover a list potential wow factor features that you can include in your house. But, only consider adding those things that resonate with you. Don’t feel any pressure to add something just because it's on trend, impressive or popular.
Before embarking upon our list of wow factors, let’s first define Wow Factor, our Pro Term for this week.
PRO TERM: Wow Factor
Wow Factor is defined as a striking, or impressive feature. A quality that something has of being very impactful, or surprising to people. Distinctive appeal. Something that you can do, or include that exceeds expectations. Something that makes your house stand out from the rest. Wow factor often evokes an emotion or reaction, whether that’s a gasp, happiness, surprise, a smile, or a sense of tranquility or excitement. Wow factor will make people literally say, or think “WOW.”
Now let’s talk about some things that you can do to, or include in your house to create the wow factor.
1. Decorating utilitarian rooms
That is, decorating rooms that are primarily functional and practical, like the laundry room, the mudroom, or the powder room. Rooms where you usually go to do your business and leave. You don’t typically put much thought into decorating rooms where you don’t spend much time hanging out. Most homes include only functional items and appliances in those spaces. But, in addition to the useful, practical things like the washer and dryer in the laundry room, or the toilet and sink in the powder room, adding some beautiful or playful decor can create wow factor. Thoughtful decor in those spaces is unexpected.
Not only will decorating these rooms add wow factor for visitors, but for you and your family. True enough, we don’t spend hours per day in those spaces, but we do use them on a regular basis. So, wouldn’t it be nice to add a bold paint color, or dramatic wall paper, or fun artwork or photos.
Since these are small areas, you can get away with dramatic, or playful decor without it feeling too overwhelming. In a smaller space, like a powder room or mudroom, that bold or playful decor can be a nice departure from the more formal, subdued parts of your home. Go for it… bling out your power room with glamorous wall paper, a matte brass faucet and a mini chandelier. Or paint your laundry room with a fun, bright color. Or decorate with a sports theme in your mudroom. Do something in those rooms that you wouldn’t dare do in a larger room in the house. For ideas on what unexpected features to include in your mudroom specifically, take a look and listen to episode 43 called “14 unexpected features to include in your family foyer—the mudroom.”
2. Large windows or glass doors.
Large windows bring the outdoors in and make your house feel more expansive and connected to nature. Those windows also add lots of natural light which brightens your space. Windows are especially wow-inspiring if you have a decent view. And it doesn't have to be a view of a lake or mountains. Using windows to frame even a nice view of your backyard adds lots of appeal.
If it’s in your budget, adding large, slidng glass doors that can stay open during nice weather can really bring on the wow. Those doors can help blur the line between outdoor and indoor living and entertaining. Being able to seamlessly move from inside to outside creates wow factor by exceeding typical expectations.
3. Themed or Unique bedrooms
Have you ever gone to a model home, open house or a show house and skipped looking at some of the bedrooms because you knew what you would find? A king or or queen size bed, a window or two, and a dresser. Yeah… not so interesting.
Most people and designers think about creating master bedrooms with wow factor, but the other bedrooms are often forgotten. Do something unexpected. Make one of other bedrooms a bunk room for your kids and their cousins, or your grandchildren. Put two twin beds in one of your bedrooms, instead of one king sized bed. Add a window seat or built-in bookcases. Or give the room a distinct pop of color, or a nautical feel. Just do something more interesting than just adding a bed and a dresser to the space (YAWN).
4. Interesting ceilings
Ceilings can be some of the most boring, uninspiring features in your home. But if you just give them a little extra thought, your ceilings can add tons impact. Higher ceilings will create more of a wow factor than standard 8 foot ceilings. Or you could add a contrasting paint color or wallpaper to some of your ceilings. Placing tongue and groove wood planks on the ceiling adds interest and texture.
While you’re planning the design of your house, consider incorporating vaulted ceilings, or curved barrel vaulted ceilings. They can make an otherwise ordinary space look really unique.
You can also design kitchens, living areas or bedrooms with coffered ceilings. Coffered ceilings are ceilings with connecting beams, usually in the shape of squares or rectangles. The beams look like interconnecting boxes. Coffer actually means sunken panel, because after adding the beams, the actual ceiling drywall looks like its sunken, or indented.
5. Oversized or statement lighting fixtures
Back in the day, lighting was pretty simple and modest. It was functional, more than it was decorative. You might have seen a shiny chandelier in the entry way or dining room, but lighting wasn’t what it is today. Lightning fixtures today are often focal points. It’s not unusual to see chandeliers in every major room of a house, plus in the master closet and master bathroom.
Lighting fixtures can definitely add the wow factor to your house. Especially if they’re a bit oversized, or if you cluster several pendants, or smaller chandeliers together. You can add wow by choosing unusual shapes and finishes. Think of the lighting fixtures as the room’s jewelry.
Another element that can act as a room’s jewelry is hardware. Which brings us to number 6.
6. Unique hardware
You could choose standard drawer and cabinet pulls that are so understated that you hardly notice them. Or you could choose hardware that creates a wow factor. Consider handles that are substantial in size, or with unexpected finishes like brushed brass or bronze. Instead of choosing run-of-the-mill round knobs, go for square or hexagonal knobs. To add wow factor to your cabinetry, choose cabinet hardware that’s prominent and unique.
7. Oversized artwork or photographs
Very large paintings and photos are more impactful than your typical 24 by 24 inch painting, or 8 by 10 photo. If you want to add impact with smaller photos or paintings, consider a gallery wall, which we’ll talk about in a moment.
But including one huge piece of art on a wall makes quite a statement. The shear scale of an oversized picture is enough to create a wow factor. It almost doesn’t matter what type of art or photo you use. You could enlarge a black and white photo taken on a family vacation, or you could personally create an abstract painting with an extra large canvas and paint that you purchase from your local arts and crafts store. Whatever you choose, make it big and bold and something that has some meaning to you and your family.
8. Architectural interest
I think a house should be interesting and beautiful even when it’s empty—without any furniture or art. Adding unique architectural elements to the home’s interior adds a wow factor. Think of built-ins shelving, curved walls, moldings and unique doors, like barn doors. These things make the structure of the house so beautiful that anything else you put in the house is just icing on the cake.
9. Unconventional flooring patterns
Most people want hardwood and/or tile flooring in at least some rooms of their house. You can add some wow factor to flooring by using conventional materials in unconventional sizes and patterns. Using wide planks of hardwood instead of standard 2 1/4 inch strips will make a hardwood floor less boring. And laying the planks on the diagonal, or in a herringbone or chevron pattern is unexpected and wow inspiring.
The same with tile. Using larger scale tile in unusual patterns makes tile so much more impactful.
10. Feature walls
There’s no harm in having all the walls in a room look similar, but that doesn’t add much wow factor. Including a feature wall in some of your rooms is where the wow comes in. A feature wall can be achieved in a variety of ways. You can paint one wall in a contrasting color. Or you can paint one or several bold stripes on the wall. You add barn wood or shiplap. You can add natural stone tile from ceiling to floor. Or add wallpaper on just one wall.
Finally, you create a gallery wall. For a gallery wall, display an eclectic mix of pictures, mirrors, or clocks. Highlighting one wall in a room with color, pattern or texture adds wow.
Although your home’s wow factor will often be impressive to your guests, you shouldn't just include these features for visitors. YOU should be wowed, happy, calmed or excited by the spaces in your house. Include things that you think are awe inspiring and that make you say or think “wow.”
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Next up is this week’s quiz.
1. What is true of Wow Factor?
A. It invokes an emotion or reaction
B. It comes from features that are impressive
C. It comes from features that are unexpected
D. It makes a house stand out from the rest
E. All of the above
The answer is E all of the above.
2. True or False? Standard 8 foot high, flat ceilings that are painted the same color as the walls add a wow factor to most houses.
That’s false. Standard 8 foot high, flat ceilings are expected and therefore don’t typically add a wow factor. Wow factor can be added to ceilings by raising them to 9 or 10 feet. Or by painting the ceiling a contrasting color, or adding wall paper, or wood planks or beams, or by vaulting the ceiling.
3. How do you add interest and wow factor to hardwood floors?
The answer is to use wide planks and unique patterns like herringbone and chevron patterns.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thank you for joining me this week. Let’s do it again next week. Come back for another edition of Build Your House Yourself University (BYHYU).
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