How to Choosing Unusual Options for New Homes

When told they can have anything they want in their home, some buyers will ask for anything from secret rooms to a hydro-therapy pool, prayer rooms and specially outfitted craft rooms.

Hiding Your Vices

When Eric Tovar, owner of Churchill Classics, a custom builder in Rockville, Md., designed an addition to a home in Potomac, Md., a simple plan for storage beneath the addition morphed into a secret hideaway “like something from a James Bond movie,” says Tovar.

“We built a door behind a bookcase so that when you pulled on a particular book it tugged on a wire so the door would open,” says Tovar. “The whole addition cost about $400,000. It had a ventilation system so you could smoke cigars in the room, a humidifier so you could store cigars, three piped-in beer taps and a temperature-controlled wine cellar. Underneath a deck just outside the secret room we added a hot tub with lighting and music.”

Pampering Your Spiritual Side

In the Houston area, prayer rooms are a popular option for people of Hindu and Muslim faiths, says Jim Lemming, president of Partners in Building, a custom builder in Houston and Nashville.

“Our buyers know the best location for the prayer room and which way the windows should face,” says Lemming. “We have to design the home around it to avoid having drain pipes next to or above the room for Hindus because of their religious beliefs. Muslims typically just want a room that can allow one or two people to kneel for prayer.”

Lemming says some buyers have a religious consultant work with their builder, architect and interior designer to make sure the space meets their spiritual requirements.

Second kitchens, while becoming more common for multigenerational residences and for homeowners who like to entertain frequently, are sometimes installed to accommodate Jewish families who maintain a kosher diet that requires complete separation of meat and dairy products.

“We built a complete second kitchen in the basement for a rabbi and his family in addition to the full kitchen on the main level,” says Tovar.

Sumptuous Outdoor Spaces 

In Hawaii, spiritualism can sometimes take the form of hydro-therapy, says Erika Alm, vice president of sales and marketing for Kohanaiki, a luxury resort community on the Big Island.

“Swimming pools and Jacuzzis are pretty common here, but one homeowner built the Jacuzzi in the middle of a pool so you have to swim back and forth through cool water to get to the warm Jacuzzi,” says Alm. “The pool is designed to mimic the color and texture of the ocean with three layers of tile in seven different colors. When the sun hits the water just right, it creates a dapple effect on the ceiling of the whole house.”

Another buyer at the resort opted for a deep-soaking tub outside inside of a shower, set in the shade beside a lava wall covered in bougainvillea and surrounded by lush tropical plants.

“The homeowner loves to read in the tub and decided to indulge that pleasure outdoors,” says Alm.

Outdoor spaces in the Washington area can be elaborate, too, but Tovar says many homeowners want a screened porch so they can use the space during three seasons.