Friday, February 24, 2012

Step Six: Designing Your Dream Home

The design process has been the most exciting part of the journey so far.  We initially met with our architect to show him our style and discuss what we were looking for in our home.  He then drew up plans and we met weekly for two months to discuss, tweak and alter them, until we finalized a floor plan that met all of our requirements and our budget. 

I mentioned that we had difficulty finding plans that met our particular design requirements.  Mostly these were my own rather strong views on what I wanted in my house, some of them reasonable, and some of them strange idiosyncrasies.  Here are a few of the things that we had difficulty finding in readily available plans for purchase.
  • No attached garage.  This one falls under the personal idiosyncrasies.  I have a strong dislike for attached garages.  I feel as if they are a waste of architectural space and I hate the idea of a large void as part of my house.  I somewhat understand the arguments for them, ease of access to the house in inclement weather, etc.  But to be honest, I've never had an attached garage and I can't remember ever thinking gee, I wish I could just get out of my car and already be inside my house.  I'm not usually one to complain too much about the weather, and I don't melt in rain or snow, so I think I'll be fine without the attached garage.  I'll note that this one point alone rules out about 90% of the available house plans on the market.
  • All the bedrooms upstairs.  Some of this is reasoned, and some of this is personal taste.  I think of my house in zones: there's the formal zone, where unexpected guests or small invited groups can be sequestered; there's the informal zone, where larger invited groups, or close friends and family are welcome; and there's the private zone, where guests are generally not invited.  Having a second floor, and putting all the bedrooms there, easily demarcates the line between the public and private rooms.  A large number of modern plans put the master suite on the first floor.  Some of this is for space reasons, but largely I think the current thought is that in your old age, you won't want to be climbing up and down the stairs.  I see the logic in that, but I also think having the parents' bedroom significantly separated from any children's bedrooms is a problem.  Navigating the entire house at night because a child had a nightmare or wet the bed or whatever, seems like a pain to me.  Plus I think having the children's rooms upstairs, where the parents rarely go, could lead to less supervision and more trouble of one kind or another.  With just these first two bullet points, we've pretty much ruled out ever house plan on the market.
  • Both a living room and a family room.  A lot of plans these days are doing away with formal areas altogether.  As I mentioned in my first point, I like the idea of formal areas for entertaining and welcoming guests.  Having a formal living room means you can have ladies' night or guys' night at your home without sending your partner out.  It means teenagers can have their friends over in a room where they aren't bothering their parents, but can still be somewhat supervised.  It means unexpected guests can be welcomed in a mostly clean, uncluttered room, without any sudden cleaning to find room for them.
  • A room for a library.  We own a lot of books.  We currently live in a two bedroom house, of which one bedroom is the library/craft room.  We have ten bookshelves, and not enough room for all of our books.  Having a room that could be designated as the library was important for us.  But this additional room adds square footage to the house, and of course is not something most people look for in their home, so finding plans with enough rooms for everything we wanted, was difficult.
Working with the architect, we were able to meet all of our requirements.  We looked at three alternatives for the lot we now owned: 1) tearing down the existing house and building a completely new structure; 2) reusing the oldest part of the original house, tearing down the additions and building a new addition around it; and 3) reusing the existing floor plan and building an addition around it.  In the end, option 3 gave us everything we wanted at a price we could afford, so we are moving forward with that.  The new home will be 2400 square feet with three bedrooms, two and a half baths, dining room, living room, kitchen, office, and a two floor great room with built in bookshelves.  We're excited to break ground, but there a few things that have to be settled first, like obtaining the financing and finding a contractor.


  1. I'm surprised you only went with 3 bedrooms. One thing I'm realizing is that we should have looked for a house with 4, because I would like to have a spare for a guest room. If we have a second child at some point, we'll lose that (not that we have it now, since our spare bedroom is the library and storage right now).

  2. The existing septic permit is for a three bedroom house. Zoning in PA determines bedrooms by closet space. The upstairs"office" doesn't have closets, so not technically a bedroom, but certainly can function as a guest room when needed. In our minds we got the 4 bedroom house we needed, but by the government's rules it's a 3 bedroom house.