Lesson 16. Every house could use a few surprises

Since finishing the basement is near the top of the to-do list for most homeowners (second only to adding a deck), we decided to give the future residents of the Carlisle house a leg up by building in a bonus room just below the main living areas. And not just any old room, but a well-appointed, temperature-controlled wine cellar that's lined in redwood, with a tiled tasting bar and big windows — a definite destination when guests come to call.

Lesson 17. Comfort and utility aren't mutually exclusive

Wire shelves, peel-and-press floors, electric-white paint. The laundry room gets no respect and so is rarely comfortable to work in — troubling, given the 7 hours most of us spend with a stain stick each week. That's why, in addition to putting in the requisite washer and dryer, we upgraded with a drying cabinet and a jetted sink (for hand washables), then finished the space with furniture-grade cabinets, hardwood floors that match those elsewhere in the house, and even a flip-down television to pass the time while folding.

Lesson 18. The best investments are often hidden

Let's face it: systems aren't sexy. But they keep the place going. And comfortable. Entertaining, even.

A lot of thought went into how to cool the house without waking the neighbors every time the air went on.

Dealing with waste from five toilets (plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey installed a new septic tank.

A central box connects the lights, media, surveillance, and alarms that allows for touchscreen controls throughout the house.

Those decisions made, we could relax, knowing everything would soon be up and running.

Materials

Wine cellar: Wine Cellar Innovations
Laundry appliances: Whirlpool
Air-conditioning: Carrrier
Septic tank: Shea Concrete
Home Automation: Tweeter Home Entertainment

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