As Galadriel, a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, said: “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.”

Too many amazing home features are becoming myth. Here are just a few we’ve let slip away.

Wide garages. Many garages have become so narrow the passenger has to get out of the car before it’s pulled into the garage. At the very least, there should be 4 feet from the side of the car to the inside wall of the garage. 

Full attics. Did you grow up in a house with an attic filled with your parents’ treasures and memories? Most architects and builders kicked those features to the curb decades ago, as prefabricated wood trusses became the belle of the ball. Guess what? You can have a full attic with real steps leading to it if you choose, all made possible by the same company that makes the roof trusses. This can eliminate the need for that monthly fee many of us pay for off-site storage.

Roof overhangs. Do you recall summer days at your grandparents’ home when you watched from an open window as raindrops from a summer shower danced in a puddle in the driveway? You stayed dry because of the generous roof overhang above the window. Builders of old discovered that overhangs kept a house dry, much like an umbrella works for your head. It’s shameful that roof overhangs have become outmoded.

Large front porches. Perhaps you were lucky enough to grow up in a house with a big front porch and a smaller back one. One reason that builders and architects designed every house that way 100 years ago was that it helped to keep front doors dry. Relaxing in a gently swaying front-porch swing was a pleasant bonus.


Plumbing access. Do you have a dim memory of a secret panel in a bedroom closet? Did you work up the courage to see what was behind it, only to discover the tub faucet and drain pipes? It would certainly be convenient to have that plumbing access panel available now, even if it is disguised by a bathroom mirror. I don’t know why we have allowed this feature to get tossed aside.

Window seats. These simple design features were as common in older homes as ketchup at a cookout. The best seats were like the one I had in my first home: It had a hinged lid, which created a great storage area under a delightful spot for gazing out the window.

Laundry chutes. Did you use to send plastic army men on secret missions down those chutes? Why would architects snub their noses at these marvelous features of multilevel homes? Yes, laundry rooms have, for the most part, moved up to the main floor of modern homes. But clever planning could still make laundry chutes a helpful reality in new homes, too.

Converging pocket doors. These features of older homes could transform large connecting rooms into two separate spaces when privacy was needed. I’m happy to report that you can still install pocket doors, and that the hardware for them is superior to that of the past. The doors won’t jump off the track, and you can also add soft-close mechanisms that work like your kitchen drawers.

Secret spaces. While not a widespread feature in older homes, I’ve seen my share of small spaces created between rooms or back-to-back closets. The secret spots had discrete access panels or small, well-concealed doors. They made for inexpensive safes in which to squirrel away valuables.

Tim Carter has worked as a home-improvement professional for more than 30 years. To submit a question or to learn more, visit