AUG 31, 2017

Top of the Class: Must-Have Home Features for Back-to-School Families


By Taylor Johnson

Following the lazy, unstructured days of summer, the arrival of the busy back-to-school season can have families seeking ways to keep home life streamlined and organized. According to several Chicago-area homebuilders, many popular elements in today’s new-construction home designs are perfectly suited to help families do just that as they make the transition back to school schedules, homework routines and extracurricular activities. Here are some of the must-have new-home features that are scoring high marks with parents and kids alike:

Kitchens and Pantries That Make the Grade

The kitchen is the hub of the home for most families throughout the year, but that is especially the case during the school year, when parents can find themselves managing meal prep at the same time they are helping kids with homework. Jeff Benach, principal of Lexington Homes, says an expansive kitchen island and walk-in pantry can help families multitask.

“The whole family benefits when kids have a space where they can easily spread out with projects and worksheets, and parents can be within earshot to provide homework help while also keeping dinner on track,” said Benach. He noted that at Lexington Towne at Arlington Heights, a new development of 15 luxury single-family homes near downtown Arlington Heights, each plan has an oversized kitchen island, which has been a standout feature for buyers attracted to the community’s location near many of the area’s top-rated schools.

Feeding hungry learners – and their friends – is another important job for parents, and Lexington Towne homes make that easier by offering large pantries where parents can organize lunch box items and after-school snacks. “Having ample food storage space means families can stock up on their favorite items, which can save time in busy schedules by eliminating extra trips to the supermarket,” said Benach. “All floor plans at Lexington Towne also provide the option to upgrade to a three-car garage, which can provide coveted extra space for a separate refrigerator and even a storage freezer.”

Located at 24 S. Kasper Ave., a short walk from downtown Arlington Heights, Lexington Towne offers four floor plans priced from $744,990. Homes range in size from 2,951 to 3,761 square feet and offer four to six bedrooms, 3½ baths, mudrooms, and two- to three-car garages, per plan. For more information on Lexington Towne at Arlington Heights, visit www.lexingtonchicago.com or call (847) 232-7200.

Extra Credit Laundry Rooms

When it comes to workhorse home features that families with school-age children rely on nearly every day, Northbrook, Ill.-based builder Barnett Homes says doubling up on some of these favorite elements can have a big impact during the busy school year. For example, several homes Barnett has completed in popular Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs feature two laundry rooms – one on the second floor, near the bedrooms, plus one on a lower level, often as part of a mudroom entry or near a guest/au pair suite.

“Most of our buyers love the convenience of a second-floor laundry room for their regular laundry, but many families are also dealing with sports uniforms, gym clothes and even muddy or wet snow gear that their kids bring home from school to wash every day,” said Ken Fixler, president of Barnett Homes. “Having another laundry area, especially near the mudroom, allows parents to handle those bulky and often extra-dirty items separately, without carrying them through the house to the second-floor laundry room. Plus, it keeps those items organized where kids won’t forget them as they head out the door in the morning.”

Barnett currently has two homes available for immediate delivery with dual laundry rooms: 717 N. Oak St. in Hinsdale, Ill., a 4,200-square-foot home with five bedrooms, five full baths and one half bath, priced at $1,400,000; and 2014 W. Sunnyside Ave., a 6,900-square-foot home with five bedrooms, five full baths and two half baths, located in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood and priced at $2,395,000. For more information, visit

Lockers + Mudrooms = Storage

Keeping family members’ belongings organized and accessible is a key component to ensuring a smooth school-day morning. According to Brian Hoffman, an executive with Northbrook, Ill.-based Red Seal Homes, that’s why a well-designed mudroom is a top priority for many families in the market for a new home.

“Kids are prone to dropping everything the minute they set foot in the house after school, so parents love having a great mudroom where each child has a designated place to put their backpack, coat and other gear where it will be easy to find the next morning,” said Hoffman. “Because we understand just how important this functional feature is for families, we actually give buyers of our single-family homes an allowance for finishing their mudroom. They can work with our design team and plan out exactly what combination of cubbies, shelving, bins and hooks work best to keep everyone in their household organized.”

Hoffman noted that at Provenance, Red Seal Homes’ master-planned community at Techny Road and Pensive Lane in the Northbrook area of Cook County, Ill., single-family homes called The Estates all feature a large mudroom with direct access to an attached garage. Besides allowing for customized additions like a bench, individual lockers and other storage options, mudrooms in the seven available single-family floor plans also feature a closet that is ideal for storing bulky sports gear or off-season outerwear. The Estates homes at Provenance range from 2,948 to 4,362 square feet and are priced from $949,900. To learn more about Provenance, visit www.homesatprovenance.com or call (847) 417-3056.

Benach of Lexington Homes agrees mudrooms are a must-have for families with school-age children and noted that they are included in all four single-family home floor plans at Lexington Towne at Arlington Heights. Depending on the plan, buyers can add cubbies and extra cabinets in the mudrooms, providing families with critical space to stow and organize shoes, gloves, jackets and coats as well as school and sports items.


"After a year searching for a place to live (Chicago and Suburbs), I couldn't be happier with our choice to go with Lexington Homes."

- Keith Christensen