23 Must-Have Features to Consider When Building a New Home 2023

The pandemic inspired many to reconsider their relationships with their homes. There’s a renewed focus on comfort, large living spaces, personalized offices, and outdoor entertainment areas. If you’re building a new custom home, you can choose exactly what you desire without compromise.

It seems open-plan spaces with lots of light and multifunctional uses are here to stay in 2022-2023. Of course, between current trends and classic features, there’s a lot to decide if you’re building a custom home. To help you discern, we’ve put together a list of new home must-haves.

23 Home Features Trending in 2023

Current new home features emphasize eco-friendly building materials, energy-efficient designs, and technological innovation geared towards smart-home living.

#1. Eco-Friendly Building Materials

Eco-Friendly Building Materials Home Must Have

As sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives become the norm, consumers and contractors insist that eco-friendly building materials are custom home must-haves. Green building offers a fantastic opportunity to save energy, reduce waste, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve natural resources; all while improving water and air quality.

Any building materials that contain phthalates, formaldehyde, toxic flame retardants, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) should be avoided. Home surroundings impact your health, so using eco-friendly building materials is truly an investment in your and your home’s longevity.

#2. Roof Insulation

The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling by adding insulation in attics. Fitted to the ceiling, roof insulation acts as a barrier between hot and cold air, keeping homes cool during summer. Without it, moisture from rain or thawing snow can lead to toxic mold growth and water damage.

A properly insulated home is healthier, reduces noise pollution, and improves air quality. In addition, insulating your roof prevents harmful pollutants from entering and spreading throughout your home. Due to its health and economic benefits, it is one of the most important must-haves when building a new home.

#3. Solar Panels

An average home can save between $10,000 to $30,000 over the lifetime of its solar panel system. When light strikes the semiconductor material of a solar cell, it releases electrons, producing electricity. The more solar panels are connected, the greater the amount of electricity produced. This clean electricity eliminates the use of harmful fossil fuels, and its panels are easy to install.

Not only do they reduce electricity bills, but solar panels can also increase a home’s value by 4.1%. Solar panels don’t require a lot of maintenance, and repair work costs are generally low. As providers of sustainable, renewable, and plentiful energy, they are new home must-haves, helping to reduce carbon emissions and contributing to a more eco-friendly way of living.

But it’s not just about solar panels anymore. In fact, as the world continues to become more energy-conscious, there are some other improvements that can be made to reduce your energy use and have a better environmental impact.

These improvements include:

  • EV Improvements: The rise in EV cars in the US has increased 25% year over year, and more popular car manufacturers are joining in on the movement toward green car models. However, many of these cars require charging stations at home. To create a sustainable charging environment, it’s important to check that your home has enough electrical service in the garage, thinking ahead to the furniture to plan for these environmental changes to come.
  • Home Battery Systems: Home batteries are like the batteries you have around your home, such as for your computer, but instead power the whole home. This works using solar systems, allowing homeowners to hold onto excess energy and use it to charge tier home batteries.
  • Geothermal Systems: If you are planning to dig for a well and septic, ask your contractor if you can also add geothermal systems during this process. These are a wonderful investments for your home in the long run.

#4. High-Quality Windows

Quality Windows Home Must Have

Superior quality windows are durable and easy to maintain. Windows provide light, warmth, and beauty to our homes. Well-constricted ones are airtight and keep interior temperatures regulated, reducing high-energy bills during winter months. They also protect furniture, flooring, and window treatments from sun damage because they reflect UV rays.

High-quality windows should have a minimum of double-glazing, although triple-glazed are more efficient to combat noise pollution. 2022 has seen an uptick in black window frames and floor-to-ceiling window expanses with furniture places to take in the view, rather than centered around a TV or fireplace.

#5. Smart Lighting

Smart lighting is one of the many must-have new home features you should add to your list. Being able to control light settings from a mobile or tablet means you don’t have to be in the room or at home to turn bulbs on and off. It saves money, improves home security, and is completely customizable. Smart lighting with LED bulbs also conserves energy without sacrificing the brightness or warmth you’re accustomed to.

#6. Personalized Built-Ins

Whether it’s shelves, benches, or entertainment units, built-ins are unique and personal to each homeowner. They’re cool things to add when building a house because they provide innovative storage solutions and heirloom display spaces. Functional and decorative, they add personality to the rooms they inhabit.

Most likely due to the work-from-home shift, built-ins are back, as more homeowners desire customized pieces no one else has and improved storage solutions. Remember to consider placement, shape, storage configuration, and architectural details when designing your personalized built-in. A beautiful built-in should seamlessly blend in with the style of your home and never look like an afterthought.

#7. Outdoor Living Space

Outdoor Living Space Home Must Have

Building a custom home doesn’t stop with the house — there’s also outdoor living space to consider! People have realized the benefits of the outdoors and are extending its functionality. Installing decks, patios, kitchens, bars, pools, and lounges are popular build choices that take full advantage of the outside.

It’s also possible to build semi-enclosed spaces that allow you to entertain outdoors for longer periods during seasonal transitions. Even a simple BBQ area can make a major difference to your outdoor landscape and cause many happy memories.

A trend report by Kleber and Associates noted that 69% of homeowners had increased their outdoor living options, along with landscaping, because they view the outdoors as expansions of their family-time venues.

#8. Smart-Home Technology

We’ve already touched on smart lighting, but there are so many more unique custom home features you can add to accommodate your lifestyle. Smart thermostats, doorbells, locks, refrigerators, audio control and security can help simplify mundane tasks and routines. These technological integrations make life easier and more comfortable.

Some of the more popular smart-home tech trends include facial recognition devices, video door alarms, and ultra-modern burglar alarms. On a less complex note, something as simple as a wall socket with USB portals can also make a massive difference when charging and powering phones, audio, and other smart devices.

#9. Big Mudroom

If you’re building a custom house, we’d highly recommend adding unique home features like a mudroom. Used to store coats, bags, and shoes, mudrooms help keep interiors tidy and organized. These transitional spaces were popular before the 1960s when homes started to embody minimalist designs. They can be multi-functional and used to do laundry or wash pets, for example.

#10. Double Kitchen Islands

Kitchen Island HOme Must Haves

A perennial favorite, kitchen islands double up as workspaces, classrooms, and food preparation areas. Double kitchen islands are one of those useful things to add when building or remodeling a house (if you have the space) because they're multifunctional and fewer compromises need to be made.

One typically serves as a preparation counter, while the other may include a sink, dishwasher, or double-up as a seating area. Interestingly, island countertops often make up less than 15% of the total countertop space; they tend to be used 90% of the time.

#11. Heated Garage and Garage Expansion

A heated garage building can protect your car from freezing conditions in winter and provides a warm working space if you’re the type that uses your garage space for DIY and hobby-related projects. Homeowners with garages attached to their houses often don’t realize how cold air from their garage can leak into their homes.

A warm garage will help your car start quicker during icy days and is a good idea, especially if you want to convert your garage into a living unit at a later stage. It also aids in quick evaporation from moisture and snow, preventing rust formation on cars and other metal tools and equipment.

One of many things to consider when building a house is a bigger garage. Parking is much easier when you have a slightly larger space like that of a three-car garage. Moreover, many homeowners are choosing to transform their garages into creative spaces that aren't just for car mechanics! There’s also the option to transform garage lofts into complete living spaces for elderly parents, and older kids, or rent them out to generate additional income.

#12. Pantry Cupboards

Pantry cupboards have long been a staple in older homes, but they’re also growing in popularity in custom homes. Having a dedicated space to store staples makes shopping and meal planning easier and eliminates the need for overhead wall cabinets, which are often hard to reach.

Clever, compact designs, dark surfaces, structured simplicity, and intelligent storage solutions are trending this year. New house must-haves include concealed pantry cupboards that blend in with the interior's modern aesthetics. This works particularly well for homeowners with smaller houses who desire a minimal aesthetic to free up space and improve flow.

#13. Lights & Outlets Under Cabinets

Lighting Home Must Have Features

When homeowners light the interiors of their houses, they often prioritize illumination over shape, form, and ambiance. Lights and outlets under cabinets are helpful for food preparation but also highlight cabinet features and offer a softer light than overhead ceiling lamps. LEDs and fluorescents are must-haves for a new home kitchen because they don't emit much heat, helping to keep an already warm environment cool. Consider under-cabinet lighting for your space.

#14. Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters are an excellent long-term investment. They only expend energy when using appliances or turning on the hot water supply, saving energy and utility bills. On average, they have a longer lifespan, produce an endless hot water supply, take up less space, and are safer.

While tankless water heaters are more expensive to install, the advantages outweigh the initial capital costs. In fact, they can be between 24% to 34% more energy-efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters. Thus, a major advantage of building a custom home is the ability to make energy-efficient decisions you might not have the opportunity to do in a bought house.

#15. Drawers with Outlets for Bathroom

Create a more organized, decluttered bathroom by adding outlets to your master bathroom drawers. This will provide built-in solutions for all your appliances, from blow dryers to electric shavers and toothbrushes, allowing them to be powered in these hidden outlets. This will eliminate the tangle of cords and products on your counter for a cleaner-looking sink.

#16. Outlets & Media Connections for Outdoor Space

If you plan on having outdoor decorations, appliances, or any power tools, you’ll need an outdoor plug. Ensure your home is equipped with an outdoor outlet, with multiple in different locations to provide the energy your outdoor tools need, without the hassle of extension cords.

#17. A Multipurpose Kitchen

Multipurpose Kitchen

If you’re committing to a kitchen overhaul, you might want to consider designing a multipurpose space to accommodate dining, a breakfast nook, or a walk-in pantry area. Kitchen islands are also cool things to add when building a house and offer ample countertop room for cooking and dining, while dual sinks make cleaning easier.

Smart storage design also provides space for recyclable and non-renewable bins and large pantry cupboards if you don’t have space for a walk-in area. Layout and lifestyle play a key role in designing an economical and efficient multipurpose space.

#18. More Drawers and Cupboards for Extra Storage

Building a house gives you a carte blanche to design ample storage areas. Consider how storage pieces can enhance other functions taking place in the room. For instance, if you’re building shelving in your study, you might consider integrating a working desk space.

Maximizing the practicality and aesthetic of wardrobe and closet storage should enhance and not compete with a home’s architecture and interior design. Some ideas include built-in wardrobes under stairs or in awkward nooks and kitchen cupboards built to the ceiling to store items less frequently used.

#19. Better HVAC System

New HVAC technologies reduce carbon emissions by up to 25%. Installing active solar thermal units and high-efficiency heat pumps is far more eco-friendly than traditional units. Quality HVAC systems clean the air as it cycles, preventing the build-up of pollutants, allergens, and dust.

Some of today’s automated HVAC systems offer individual room temperature control in heating or cooling mode. Not only are these HVAC systems easy to use, but they’re also manufactured with hi-tech noise-absorbing materials that remove operating noise, creating a more pleasant environment.

#20. Comfy Heated Floors

Heated floors are cool things to include when building a house. Radiant heating, a system of tubes installed under floors, behind walls, or the ceiling, is capable of warming up the entire house. It’s also more efficient than baseboard or forced-air heating because it eliminates duct losses and operates at 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

#21. Heated Driveways

Heated Driveways

Exterior custom home-building ideas include strategies to keep driveways free of snow/ice during winter. Installing a heated driveway system can keep your whole drive snow-free, or it can target a section. Often, a single heated wide tire lane is sufficient. Although it comes at a cost, it is well worth the investment if you live in an area with heavy snowfall.

#22. A Taller Basement Ceiling

Homeowners have increasingly realized the benefit of choosing a higher ceiling when basement remodeling. It’s more inviting and offers better resale value, in addition to improved usability. The option of larger basement windows also means more natural light.

Desirable homes include basements with nine-foot, ten-foot, or even higher ceilings. With an open space, you can add tall features like arcade games, a large viewing screen, or extended storage space.

#23. Sun Tunnels for More Light

If parts of your home lack natural light, then you’ll want to include sun tunnels on your custom home feature checklist. These tubular skylights run from the roof windows into the living areas, providing much-needed natural light.

Whether flexible or fixed, sun tunnels are easy to install and have become a mainstay in eco-friendly architectural projects. Their polished sheet metal tubing acts like a mirror that reflects light down the length of the tunnel, preserving intensity and warmth.


Building the home of your dreams is often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so it’s worthwhile investing in new home must-haves for sustainable and eco-friendly living that add to your quality of life and suit your lifestyle.

At Zenith Design + Build, we build custom homes with unique designs and superior craftsmanship. As Des Moines’ top home remodeler and builder, we offer comprehensive design and build services to make the process as smooth as possible. Contact us to discuss your custom home project today.


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