Whether you are two weeks or two years away from building your dream home, it’s fascinating to peruse floor plans. The configuration of these interior spaces and how that translates to the exterior architecture of the home is as enthralling as your favorite reality TV show.
Indeed, selecting the design of your dream home is high drama since you can finally begin to give shape to your personal vision. But how do you find a floor plan that’s right for you and your family? Is this a selection you should leave to the heart or to your head? For National Log Home Month, we asked members of the Log and Timber Homes Council for advice on narrowing your search for the perfect design. Here’s what council members suggest:
1 Find Financing
Get started by meeting with a log friendly lender to discover how much home you can actually afford. Try to get pre-qualified and nail down a preliminary budget before you go shopping for a design, council members advise. That way you don’t waste time falling in love with a design you can’t afford.
2 Have Land Lined Up
Have land in hand before you shop for a floorplan. That’s because the topography of your building site will strongly influence your design. The floorplan and the building site have to compliment each other. With a very steep lot featuring tall trees, choose strong vertical lines in a two-story design. Likewise with a level lot with few trees, a longer horizontal ranch design would be more appropriate to the site.
3 Time to Visualize
Pro athletes use creative visualization to envision themselves competing and emerging triumphant. Borrow this technique to prioritize what’s important to you and your spouse. For a moment, put away all the floor plans, close your eyes and just start visualizing your dream home. Then put pencil to paper and list or draw the features you see. It’s often helpful if you and your spouse do this separately and then compare notes. Usually 50 to 75 percent of the time, many of the features are overlapping. Then it’s a matter of compromise.
4 He said, She Said
Speaking of compromise: If you and your spouse have differing opinions about your home’s design, passionate…um, discussions are to be expected. Since you’re fulfilling a life long dream, emotions can run high. Solutions are easy if you remain flexible, honor each other’s emotional commitment to the project and use your designer’s expertise to sort out solutions. Another strategy is to leave decisions on rooms to the person who will use it the most; the kitchen for the chef in the family or the media room to the movie buff.
5 Life Stage
Where you are in your time travel will often lead you toward certain home styles. Lifestyle strategies include:
* The Young Family: Since the budget is likely tight, consider smaller floorplans where the kitchen and living room are adjacent to each other. Plan for future room additions with your designer, by way of example.
* Parenting Children & Parents: Opt for plenty of square footage to provide enough privacy. For your aging parents, include a separate suite (with universal design features) that has either kitchen access or a kitchenette.
* Weekend Retreaters: This house on the lake, mountain or meadow should have all the comforts of home, with an emphasis on the view, storage of toys and flex rooms for the influx of additional guests.
* Empty Nesters & Retirees: If you’re planning your last home, consider single level designs that incorporate plenty of space for entertaining (large kitchens are a must), universal design features so you can age gracefully and ample sleeping space for visiting kids and grandkids.
6 Reading Floorplans
It’s easy to get the hang of reading floorplans. The size of each room is indicated, as are placement of appliances, baths, hearths, decks, etc. Before you make your final selection understand what each feature means, which includes everything from how much closet space you’ll have to which way doors open. Plans can always be improved or changed to suit your individual needs. Some designers encourage home buyers to not necessarily pay attention to how a room is labeled, but rather how you would like to use that space.
7 Understanding Spatial Relationships
Everything on a floor plan is laid out to be a certain scale, which is usually marked on the plan. It might be that 1/4″ equals one foot or 1″ equals ten feet. To help you understand how these dimensions translate from paper to reality, use a tape measure to calculate your current homes dimensions and then compare with the plan. This will enable you to envision just how large–or small–specific areas will be. Another trick to gauge floor space is to measure your furniture and make cutouts to scale to position them within a floor plan to understand how your furniture will fit in your new home.
8 Visit Model Homes
No matter how powerful our imagination, few of us can view one-dimensional drawings and then picture the home in their minds eye. This is why you should tour a model homes to get a real feel for different designs. Walk around a model home, experience the floor plan. See the general functions of the home and decide if it works for you.
9 Basement is an Opportunity
If you’re budget is squeezing your square footage, add a full basement. This is a inexpensive way to add space. Many log and timber home buyers are building on steeper lots, which is perfect for a walk-out basement. Even if you opt for a modest design, say a single-story 1,200 square foot floorplan, with a 1,200 square foot basement, you’ve got a total of 2,400 square feet of living space.
10 Personalizing A Plan
One can personalize a stock design easily without making any changes to the floor plan. Add character by specifying logs or timbers with knots and interesting grain patters, for use as decorative posts, to frame a doorway or as a structural support for a loft or a staircase. Another way to individualize a stock plan is to use different textures in your flooring material–wood, stone, carpet—to set off different areas of the design. It’s easy and cost effective.
11 Making Changes
If you discover you need to make changes, you’re not alone. Nearly all log home buyers make changes to stock designs. The areas that see the most changes are those that are used the most—kitchen, master bedroom suite and great room. Work with a designer to make changes that are practical and cost effective. Sometimes changes can have unintended repercussions. Say if you wanted to move the interior wall between the kitchen and the utility room 18 inches. That may not seem like a big deal, except when you consider that same wall hides plumbing to the upstairs bath.
12 How Much Does Design Cost?
Most companies charge a small fee to create custom drawings, from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on the intricacies of the design. This fee is credited toward your log and timber home package should you decide to buy from that company. These fees are not a profit center for log home companies; but rather a way to help cover their costs should the project never graduate beyond the design phase. Do you need to hire an architect? That’s a matter of personal preference. Many log home companies have architects or designers on staff that will create your design for you. Independent architects’ fees can add anywhere from seven to 15 percent additional cost to the project.
13 Custom Design Tips
* Visit a kitchen design center to incorporate innovative ideas into your new kitchen.
* Hallways cost money to create but add little livable space.
* Most designs call for a front and back entrance—but consider adding a third to give easy access to your new terrace, garden or swimming pool.
* Heavy timber stairways with exposed rails and treads can be a work of art and the centerpiece of a design, but they occupy more square footage than a more modest stairs.
* In loft designs, pay close attention to room height in the design to understand what’s usable space and what could lead to a bump on your head.
* Windows are an integral part of today’s log home designs. Stick to standard size windows in the design to save money—custom sizes are often triple the cost.
* Watch the tendency to enlarge rooms. Each additional 200 square feet (living room size) comes at a cost of around $30k.
14 Don’t Hurry
You don’t want to hurry this phase of your dream home, since multiple rounds of changes could take months before you finalize your floor plan. Many home buyers spend months just finalizing the design and getting construction drawings perfect for their specific building site.