NewHome Design Ideas: The Basics of Smart Design / RI-MA

home design ideas

New Home Design Ideas Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Author: Ed Beauchemin

The following list of home design ideas covers many of the basic consideration home designers and building professionals need to know in order to streamline the design and home construction process.

Building planning is an important part of any construction project. Smart design and attention to building codes helps to ensure a smooth and problem-free construction process. Unfortunately this is often where many homeowners (and even a few professionals) have difficulty. I will address some common code violations and include some basic home design ideas, that, although may not be required by building codes, add extra value at minimal cost. Many building codes contain exceptions and additional rules. Always check with the local building inspector or a design professional during the planning stage. 


  • All plumbing fixtures MUST be connected to an approved septic system or sewer line.
  • All plumbing fixtures MUST be connected to an approved water source.
  • When locating washing machines in finished areas, they SHOULD be set in a pan with a drain leading to the outside in the event of a water leak. Dryers MUST be vented to the outside regardless of their location.
  • Toilets, tubs and shower MUST be installed in a room that guarantees privacy.
  • A minimum clearance of 21 inches MUST be provided in front of toilets, sinks and tubs.
  • A minimum clearance of twenty four inches MUST be provided in front of shower stalls.
  • Designers SHOULD use 2×6 studs rather than 2×4 studs for interior walls, providing room for rough plumbing.
  • Insulation SHOULD be added to interior wall studs during construction. A layer of insulation adds sound-proofing at minimal cost.
  • Designers SHOULD create a separate closet for linen.
    All bathrooms require an operable window for natural light and ventilation. Exceptions are made to allow bathrooms without windows when artificial light and ventilation fans, vented to the outside are present. This allows the installation of bathrooms (usually half baths) in the center of a floor plan with no outside walls.


  • MUST be at least 70 square feet in floor area.
  • MUST be at least 7 feet wide in all directions.
  • Minimum ceiling height of 7 feet 6 inches for at least fifty percent of the required floor area. No more than fifty percent of the floor area shall have a sloped ceiling less than 7 feet 6 inches.
  • SHOULD have a door. Locking door knobs are optional, but recommended for the master bedroom.
  • SHOULD have a closet with a minimum inside depth of 24 inches to provide for clothes hung on standard hangers.
  • Insulation SHOULD be added to interior wall studs for sound-proofing. Especially in the master bedroom.

All bedrooms including sleeping areas in basements MUST, for emergency egress, have a window or a door that leads to the outside. The units MUST be operable from the inside without the need for a special tool, key or excessive force. The door MUST not have a double cylinder dead-bolt requiring a key to be unlocked from the inside. Windows approved for egress MUST have a sill height no more than 44 inches above the floor and a minimum opening of 24 inches in height and 20 inches in width. This allows a person to climb out in an emergency.


Openings from a garage into a room used for sleeping is not permitted. Openings from a garage to other rooms require a 20 minute fire rated door. All walls separating a garage from living space MUST have fire rated sheetrock on the garage wall side. If there is a habitable room above the garage, the garage ceiling and all the garage walls (including walls not adjacent to a living space) MUST be covered with fire rated sheetrock. Smoke detectors with carbon monoxide detection ability SHOULD be installed in a centrally-located area on the garage ceiling. A minimum of one step down is required from the living space to the adjoining garage space. Garage floors MUST pitch to the outside allowing for drainage.

If these home design ideas help even one person, than it was worth the time it took me to write this post. Good Luck on your next project.

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Energy geeks is a Home Performance Contractor whose primary focus is sustainability and efficiency as it pertains to energy use, water consumption, indoor air quality, land use and building design.

We can be reached at 401-766-1540 or