My wife and I have been looking to buy in SC and have been dismayed by bad floor plans. Many -- even the majority-- of "open" floor plans with lavish open kitchens and master suites that we have seen are quite often really bad, because the builders are cramming them in as "features" rather than looking at how people are supposed to live in the house.
We've seen at least a half dozen homes in the >500K range with windows right next to the front door that look right into the home's toilets or right into the master bathtub. We've seen first floor master suites off the kitchen where the dining room should be. We've seen 4000 square foot homes in which the front door opens right into a high-end kitchen until you realize that whenever the sink, dishwasher or stove is in use, it completely blocks the pathway to the rest of the house. These houses had the recommended "features."
Personally, I like kitchens that are not constantly in view of guests and which are at least partially screened so they don't subject the family room to noise and cooking odors. We've lived in a "too open" loft and learned that when the vent fan was on, or a food processor was in use, it's impossible to watch television or concentrate on anything else. Open plans are cheaper and more profitable for builders -- so there's been quite a lot of PR for this trend -- but can be really tricky to live with if you're not careful. The "openness" of a plan is far less important than how traffic must flow through the house. I've seen apparently large open "great rooms" that require absurd furniture placement or else one blocks a traffic path.
Storage is a huge issue. I'd rather have smaller bathrooms and more storage. Too many plans think that storage only means bedroom closets. In fact, you need other closets or cabinets. Where are you gonna store your vaccuum, where will guests hang their coats? Do you have a pantry? Where is recycling stored?
Another very basic feature upon which builders often completely miss the mark: more electical outlets. Today we live with computers, cable boxes, and everyone has cell phones that need charging, yet even new homes have rooms that seem built on the assumption that no one needs to plug in anything but a lamp.
Tall ceilings matter -- they make the rooms seem much larger and brighter.
Good windows matter -- but it matters what they face. Builders seem to forget that windows "go both ways." I love a nice view and sunlight; I don't want to BE the view for neighbors or burglars. I've seen double-height picture windows that basically put the house's occupants on stagefor the neighbors all night, then roast and blind occupants all day with western sun, and which are so large it costs a fortune to control with shades, shutters or curtains. The same house with the same huge window might be spectacular facing a pretty view, but quite awful facing a main thoroughfare. Just as bad are lots with wonderful protected views upon which absurd houses are built without any windows facing the view!
And it goes without saying that the basic infrastructure and systems must be adequate, and reasonably durable and energy-efficient..
So, my point is this:..."design features" stuffed into a house should never be confused with "good design." Homebuyers like me want to buy a good design that fundamentally works.