An Architect’s 6 Essential Elements of a Well-Designed Vacation Home

A SHM Architects-designed lakehouse in Long Cove, Texas

Architects — well, good architects — think about interior and exterior space to a degree that most lay people would never think of. That’s why when you hear Mark Hoesterey, principal architect at SHM Architects in Dallas, talk about Costco closets and other things you never think of when building a second home, you nod your head vigorously in agreement, wondering why you never noticed these things before. We tapped into Hoesterey’s brilliant mind to share the most sought-after features that homeowners want (and need) in a vacation home.

1. “Cowboys wear a big hat, houses need that as well.”

Have you ever considered what the wide brim on a cowboy hat does? It provides an overhang of shade and coverage to keep the hot sun off a rancher’s face and neck. Texas homes need that too. When building your dream vacation home, the first thing to consider is the direction of the sun and prevailing breezes.

“When you’re looking at views for your home, you’re looking at the sun and shade very carefully because you’re planning spaces that tend to be for a higher percentage of outdoor use,” Hoesterey says. “You have to be conscious that these spaces have the opportunity to be very pleasant or they can be absolutely miserable.”

2. Family rooms that’ll fit the whole extended family

Yes, vacation homes can be an intimate escape for a couple of empty-nesters, but it’s more likely you’ll have a gaggle of extended family and friends eagerly hinting, “So, what are your summer plans?” To that end, make sure your communal spaces like the great room, kitchen, and outdoor spaces are spacious enough to host everyone together. Hoesterey says communal spaces should be more generous than dwelling homes because you want the spaces you enjoy most to be more generous.

“You want everybody to be able to feel like they’re together,” Hoesterey says.

3. Design the kids’ bedrooms for bunk beds

“Someone once told me it’s really more about bed count than room count, so you have smaller, more efficient spaces where people are going to sleep because you’re trying to encourage them to be either outside or with a bigger group of people,” Hoesterey says.

That’s why Hoesterey says you don’t need some big huge bedroom for a child in a vacation home. The more appropriate approach is bunk beds. “The scale is a little bit tighter and cozy,” he says. “You can put curtains on the bunk beds so somebody can just pull the curtain and read in bed while everybody’s sleeping.”

4. Closets that are made for vacation-ware

When people go away for seven days, they need a place for their bag and a few clothes, Hoesterey says. But designing a smart closet for a vacation home means thinking about what kind of clothes they’ll be packing most.

For a summer home, the homeowners probably won’t be hanging formal clothing on a single rod in a closet, so extensive rows of single rod closet space aren’t necessary. Maybe just enough for a few long sundresses and more built-ins and drawers for casual wear. But winter home closets in cold locales need generous vertical closet space for long coats and skiwear, plus shelves and drawers for sweaters.

“Plus drawers for kids,” Hoesterey says with a laugh. “I’m lucky if my kids hang up any of their clothes.”

5. A dedicated pantry for bulk items

Here’s something you didn’t know you needed but will want immediately: A Costco closet.

“For a lake house, for example, you’ll have bulk non-perishables that you’re going to leave there,” Hoesterey says. That means plenty of room to store bulk amounts of paper towels, paper plates, or plastic ware, as well as room for industrial-sized portions of ketchup, tuna fish, or cases of beer. “You have to think about where that stuff goes.” You also need space for what guests typically bring — maybe a dinner dish, drinks, and coolers.

6. Specialized storage for the locale

Every kind of vacation home has its own unique storage needs. Lakehouse? You’ve got bulky floats, fishing poles, and waders.

Beach house? You’ve got boogie boards coming out of your ears.

Ranch house? You’ve got hunting equipment that needs to be stored away with lock and key. Hoesterey says it’s important to build this kind of specialized storage into your vacation home.

“When you’re dealing with a second home, this is where people dream to be when they’re not doing their day-to-day grind,” Hoesterey says. “But the unique struggle with it is that you’re creating a manmade footprint on the very environment you’re trying to celebrate. Thoughtful design is part of the special consideration you take when building a new, second home.”