The Dream to Build Step #3 – Designing a Home from Scratch
Around the same time that we started to get our finances in order and started looking for land, it was time to settling on a house plan (or if you're like me, you've been dreaming on this for years!). Early on, I started dreaming about the home we would build. I spent hours pouring over websites that sold floor plans (like houseplans.com and homeplans.com) picturing ourselves in each one, noting what I did and did not like about them along the way. At the end of the day, I decided to design our entire home from scratch. I had looked at enough floor plans to know what worked and didn't work, but hadn't found anything that was 'just perfect'. Even though purchasing a ready to go floor plan would have been easier, I couldn't imagine not taking part in this part of the design process.
Again, I had a checklist. I knew I wanted the children's bedrooms on the same level as ours, a studio space for me and a work space for David. We wanted an open floor plan with about 3 times as many windows as any standard plan we looked at (I would live in a greenhouse if I could!). I began sketching out ideas and quickly moved them into Adobe Illustrator (my go-to for everything) so I could play with moving things around. For months I mentally lived in this home and would come back to it nearly every day to tweak the layout. I would widen a hallway, scooch out a wall here and there, move the windows around and more. I loved having the ability to visualize the house this way.
If you'd like to do the same (either with graph paper or a software), I would suggest measuring everything out by the foot. Also take a few minutes to research standard sizing of typical household items like toilets, tubs, counter, laundry machines and more. Being able to visualize how much space each of these items takes, and how much room you'll need to maneuver around them all will help you plan. This is also a great way to utilize ready-to-buy floor plans - you can take a bathroom layout you like and add it to a kitchen you like from an entirely different plan!
Of course, once I settled on the actual floor plan, I knew we needed to turn them in to official house plans. I contacted a few architects (for reference, I was quoted 10% of the cost of the house by one, and $4.50 per square foot by another) and after a bit of research decided to go with a local draftsman for our project (who charged .40 cents per square foot).
I sent him the floor plan as well as some initial houses that I liked and the next morning I had 3D CADS in my inbox. It was incredible to see my vision turned into a house! Over the next few months we met with him twice to tweak the layout and interior before we settled on the finalized plans, which is what I in turn gave the bank and my contractor.
*Update* Since we actually started building, we found that in our case, we got what we paid for. Our contractor found several 'design flaws' after he started building the house (nothing huge - for example a support beam right underneath where the plumbing needed to go, so we had to move a wall back 6 inches). Luckily, our contractor is amazing (more on that coming soon!) and was able to make adjustments on the fly. In hindsight, I wish we could have paid a little more for something that wouldn't have caused any headaches for our builder. Lesson learned!
Speaking of banks - most of them will need your finalized house plans before they approve you for a land/construction loan, so this needs to get hammered out early on. So feel free to start designing way in advance! The longer you have to pour over what you want the better. The bank will typically require signatures from your contractor for the loan, which I'll talk about next in this series.
At the beginning, designing the house from scratch really made me nervous. I mean, if I move into a home that has quirky corners and a weird layout I tend to embrace it. But if I designed it? Then all those quirky corners are my fault. BUT! Since we're nearly ready to move in (see all the progress here!) I'm happy to report that there are no quirky corners - haha! Being involved with every inch of this house has make it incredibly personal and special.
In fact, if I can get mushy for a moment, I feel as though my entire life's work has come to down to this point. If I can build the home where my babies will grow up (they're currently 1 and 3 years old), then I'll have accomplished my biggest life goal. It's the creek that they'll play in, the view out of their bedroom windows, the fireplace they'll remember sitting around.
Can you tell I'm a homebody through and through? :) If you are too, I know you'll love designing your own home from scratch!
Have you designed and build a home before? If so, what tips would you give us? Share them with us in the comments section!