House plan, part 3

Front of house with covered porch entry

Front of house with covered porch entry

front door into hall 2013-07-03 house 07032013 010 

House plans are so confusing.  My husband is an architect so I’ve learned to read plans fairly well.  I just have a very hard imagining the finished product.  I know what I would like for it to look like, but then I am afraid of being disappointed after completion so I really try to work on understanding the finished product.

Still, it is overwhelming and frightening to put so much time, money and energy into something that is so abstract, for me anyway.  I obsess and stress over each little detail so I will not be disappointed, or wish a different choice had been made later when it can’t be changed at that point.   However, I must say I did not have that feeling in the last house we designed. I liked everything about it.  We had a very tight budget so the options we had to choose from (lighting, flooring, etc.) were not so overwhelming.  This time, however, we have a bit more budget to work with and this house will be our final custom, so a few more considerations are being made.   To me, the kitchen, laundry, my sewing room, and master bath were important spaces to plan out in detail to make sure enough room was in each.  Break out the tape measures and measure each item in that space and place it, as well as measure for widths of counters, and walkways.  Make sure you have the space you want and need in important areas.

We made this house a one story, except for my husband’s office upstairs, so that any future health issues will not create unreasonable navigation issues. From the front door you can see down the long hall all the way to the master suite door. Along the way is access to the entire house with short transitional halls to other spaces. For the laundry room you walk under the stairs and through a short hall that has two closets in it. Access to the 2 guest bedrooms and bath is off to the left and into a short hall that contains lots of built in wall storage units. A few key doors widened a few inches, and not too many tight corners anywhere in the house. 

I hope to make the short walkway inclined from the drive to the porch so no stairs there.  Access from the garage inside to the house is easy enough with just a small threshold step into the house.  The master shower and guest bath have been blocked out between studs for any future grab bars; we will go ahead and add a couple in the master shower now.  The interior floor of the house is all flat, no steps anywhere (except up to his office) and easy access to all rooms.  Kitchen, living and dining are one open area, but in their own clearly defined spaces. We have lots of pocket doors, which don’t open into a room and take up space.  Regular doors on bedrooms and bathrooms; pocket doors in transitional hallways or shared spaces to be closed off as needed.  With bedrooms, it’s really nice having an additional pocket door closing off the hallway to the rooms.  Creates a more private space, and cuts down on excess living room noise if there are guests.

Beware of teeny tiny laundry spaces.  Have enough space in there; you will be using it a lot.   And mine is not usually so neat and tidy that I would care to have it sharing another space, like a bathroom or kitchen.  It will share space with our elliptical exerciser and our dog’s kennel, but it’s not a public area.

It looks to be a very easy functioning and navigable floor plan for us, but we designed it specifically to our needs.


House plan, part two

Our house plan is something we designed for the way we live.  We measured current room sizes and decided if what we had is a size we could still work with, or needed it larger or smaller.  Example, one of our current three  bedrooms is smaller than I would like for a guest to move about comfortably and it has a double sized iron bed in there.  The new plan will have one master bedroom and two additional bedrooms that are generously sized.  One of those will serve double duty as my sewing room with a Murphy bed to pull open when we have overnight guests.  My sewing things will go into hiding, designed into the room, while the guests are there.

I also wanted a larger laundry room. And to make it roomier it will serve triple duty, as laundry, dog kennel (under stairs), and a corner for the exercise elliptical that has a very nice view out the double door to the pond.

We incorporated one set of stairs off the living that goes up to my husband’s office with enough room for layout tables, desk, computer, chair and bookshelves.  It is very compact, but with large windows that provide lots of light and that command a view to the pond and surrounding countryside.

upstairs office, and laundry below with porch

upstairs office, and laundry below with porch

The other spaces were basically kept to our decently sized spaces in our current house.  We did expand the living space a bit, but not much.  The front door opens off a dogtrot style covered porch.  Entrance to the garage is across from the house entry front door and the porch wraps on around to the back of the garage and looks out towards the  pond.

back porch and front door

back porch and front door

Porch entry to front door

Porch entry to front door

Front of house with covered porch entry

Front of house with covered porch entry



The overall style of the house is the merger of several of our favorite styles: Craftsman, regional Dogtrot, Farmhouse, and Ranch were the favorites.  We just took several key features and tried to incorporate some of each. We are using Craftsman style doors and windows; the porch entry is a nod to  Dogtrot style (the house one side of the porch walkway and the garage entry on the other); inner stairs and an upper dormer window of the office is our token Farmhouse feature rather than a whole second floor we don’t need, and the stretched out Ranch style to fit our 26 acre site and catch surrounding views.  The foundation was about a 4,000 sq ft pour, so you can see we really stretched it.   Inside will be furnishings that will marry all the styles together.  So many wonderful features, it was fun to incorporate as many as we could.

Two steps forward, one step back

front facing east

front facing east

kitchen windows on right and dining windows on left; metal roofing being installed

kitchen windows on right and dining windows on left; metal roofing being installed

detail of horizontal brick banding on garage workshop end

detail of horizontal brick banding on garage workshop end

The house is progressing nicely.  No weather issues to interrupt the process.  However, in June my husband was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer and so after visiting with a surgeon,  chemo oncologist, radiation oncologist, nutritionist, gastroenterologists and several days of various tests to identify the tumor and size, etc., a plan was put into place.  Good news is that it has not spread into any other tissues and is contained so that the chemicals and surgery will get it all. He is 63 and after treatment and surgery he should be good as new (only without an esophagus).

He is on chemo and radiation for 6 weeks and is already into his third week.  No ill symptoms from treatments, except just a couple days of feeling blah, and the usual tiredness associated with the body being bombarded with chemicals.  No hair loss (yet) and the oncology nurse says with the chemicals he is on he probably won’t have much, if any, hair loss.  Amidst all this, the house is a diversion and something to keep our attention and focus on.

The only negative is that after his chemo/radiation for 6 weeks, he is on 6 weeks of recovery, and then surgery will be scheduled to remove the entire esophagus and move the stomach up and attach it in its place.  Food will no longer have an esophagus to move through  and will basically empty directly into the stomach.  Our surgeon is tops in this field and anyone we talk to recommend him so highly that we have no second thoughts about this.  He does approx. 30 of these successful surgeries a year.  The surgery will be about the time our house will be ready to  move into.  Hopefully, the timing will be such that the house and move can be completed right before the surgery.

So, when life hands you lemons…..make the best lemonade possible.

The house plan, part one

pond from house06272013

As the build progresses, I thought I would just take some time to breakdown the house design. My husband is a residential architect, since 1982. In 1995 we designed our house for our active family. The kids are now on their own and married and we have a grandson.

For this house, we had a general idea of a preferred layout, and since we had the 26 acres bought we knew we could start the design. Suggestion: don’t design until you have your lot. It is too important in the design to know your lot layout and surrounding features you want to enhance or hide in your layout.

As it turned out we finally hit upon a good design on our third try. Yes, we totally designed 2 other houses first before we scrapped them to try again to get it right. Our criteria were: keep it livable for us, on one level (well, mostly), with porches for places to sit with room to spread out, and in a Craftsman style with hints of other favorite styles thrown in (dogtrot, cottage, lakehouse, vacation cabin). Additionally, we needed to have bedrooms for the family when they visit, but can be multi-functional (one bedroom is also my sewing room, with a hidden Murphy bed to use when needed).

The square footage had to stay under 3000 sf to be in our budget. The materials we knew we wanted (metal roof, well insulating windows and doors, new appliances) we agreed to economize on other areas to stay in budget. We wanted a stone exterior but way too much, so we settled on a good looking brick.

One large expense was the foundation. We had a soil test and knew it was a very active soil. It required quite a lot of piers to be poured, then the foundation pour was almost 4,000 sf because we stretched the house out long to take advantage of our site.

Next, I will break down the plan and how it fit our needs.

Some quick helpful internet shopping tips

I am just going to list some items on the internet that have helped a lot in the search for items I have found to buy. Your builder may have sources for you to go to and buy from. If you have time in advance, shop around and find things at really good prices you can buy. The builder may or may not reimburse you and check to be sure he is okay with what you are purchasing outside of his suppliers.

Of course, the most obvious would be Home Depot and Lowe’s. I used these to search for everything including sconces, dining lights, bath lights and fixtures like towel bars, and ceiling fans, doors and windows. I compared prices and found some things on clearance online I could order, like my dining fixture.

On EBay I found fantastic pricing on some cabinet knobs. In a store they would have been pricey, online I found them for about 69 cents each. I bought them and stashed them since February. I bought them at “lot” prices. Count up what you think you need and throw in a few extra. You may need to make changes on cabinets and add or delete some. For what you save it can’t hurt to have a few extra and they may not be online when you need them. Shop from reputable sellers; check out their reviews. Watch out for shipping charges and return policies. Converse with the sellers for options on quantity, shipping charges and returns.

Signature Hardware and Simpson’s have good choices and prices for door hardware. For door hardware I am currently looking at EBay for some good pricing on what I know I want. I have Googled the brand of the item and found who sells it so I can research the pricing, etc. Just be sure you can return it with no issues if you need to.

Our flooring research was started months ago. We went to Floor &Décor and walked the huge warehouse style selections. What is nice is they have lots and lots of samples put up on boards for you to see, and also in a design group that can give you ideas of patterns and colors.

I researched online for granite before we went to the builder’s supplier. I don’t like granite at all, but anything else I was considering was outside of our budget and I didn’t want to put extra money into this. I had to understand what I was looking for and an idea of a “kind” of granite. is the best site to look through. I pinned so many to my Pinterest board (I kept it a private board so others would not be inundated with my pins). It helped me identify styles of granites that I preferred. I prefer flowing granite with something interesting to look at, and particularly the island. I want it to be a focal point. The other counters can be neutral. The backsplash along those will be the focal point in a stone stick mosaic with copper accents.

And speaking of backsplash, I found my style preference at Home Depot. The Jeffrey Court brand (they have a website too) is in my budget and has natural stone. The Satin Copper Slate is what I hope to have.

It is time-consuming doing all this looking, but I will feel good about choices made if we know we left no stone unturned.

On a fast track

nice view from pondImageWell it has been awhile since last post.  Lots has happened house-wise.  So, fast forward to where we are today.  All framed with electrical, plumbing finishing up. We are waiting for delivery on roof (metal), windows and doors within the next couple weeks.

We have been busy making decisions which is always nerve-wracking and time consuming. After we got the windows and doors decided on, we knew we would have brick to decide and boy is that a huge undertaking on a custom house.  If you live in a development, there could be codes to follow like roof color or type, limited siding or brick styles to consider.  Out in our wide open spaces, the sky’s the limit.  That is very hard to narrow down.  Having a budget helps in knowing quantity of brick your design will require and then the cost of brick, which should give you an idea if it’s too expensive.  We knew stone was out of the budget, so we had an idea of a kind of brick we liked that had a “rough” look to it, so we hunted it down.  A lot of online looking at brick websites.  But our criteria was “tumbled” for one, then the color for us needed to be a lighter tone (as in stone-like), but not all white.  There was a good looking river rock brick that we thought could work, but it turned out it was only being produced in the white and so we had to move on to other ideas.  A lot of driving and looking at brick took a lot of our time until we could narrow down which one we liked the best.  Packer Brick has a very nice app on their website where you can plug in an address and find out what brick was used (name of brick and manufacturer).  Very handy.  I found out that for us, not being so specific by address number, but by just plugging in the street name, brought up all the bricks registered on that street with the house number.  We did a lot of driving in developments after printing off the results for each street in the development.

We also did a lot of shopping.  We knew what we wanted for faucets, fixtures, mirrors, ceiling fans,  hardware, so shopping online and at area stores way ahead of when we need these items allowed us to get what we wanted with good pricing and sometimes even on sale. Our builder will reimburse us out of the bank draw, as long as we have receipts and of course have the items to be installed when ready.  Work out with your own builder if they will allow it.  Some will, some won’t.  Some prefer you go through their very own contacts for your house fixtures.

We also finally decided on our granites.  I am not a big fan of granite, so getting something I could live with and enjoy I knew was going to be a challenge.  Our builder’s granite guy had a nice stock with an excellent price and even some custom made shower tiling with river rock that I am very excited to have him make up for us.  We were hoping to get as much “custom” work done to the house that our budget would allow.

For now, we are trying to made decisions as much in advance as possible so there will not be any delays to the builder.