Category Archives: Home Plans

Using Salvaged Building Materials in Home Construction

The cost of building a new home can seem daunting at the outset, but there are a number of clever ways to keep costs down without cutting any corners. Use of salvaged building materials is becoming a popular money-saving trick many builders and contractors are offering.

Building materials and fixtures salvaged from old buildings first go through an evaluation process to ensure their quality remains intact. This deconstruction process can be quite lengthy but it often worth it in the long run when considering the reduced cost of materials. It is also a way to collect valuable old materials such as old growth timbers that are no longer available in other venues.

In addition to the cost benefit, there is an environmental benefit as well, as using materials already designed for construction save in terms of both the time is takes to generate new materials and the time it takes to process them as waste.

Salvaged building materials like beams, stairs, and framing supplies can save lots of money on home construction.

Salvaged building materials like beams, stairs, and framing supplies can save lots of money on home construction.

More than just wood timbers are used in salvage projects. Fixtures such as door knobs, sinks, bath tubs, and hinges are frequently resold for use in new home construction, as are actual building materials like bricks, concrete blocks, insulation, roofing tiles, wall paneling, molding, and baseboards. Considering the vast array of building materials that can be purchased from salvage yards and resellers, much of the new home you seek to build can be constructed with these repurposed items.

By using a combination of salvaged building materials and new, state of the art supplies, your dream home can be as unique as your family and be accomplished on a reasonable budget as well. Especially when considering the materials for low-visibility projects, look into salvage yards for low cost alternatives to brand new materials. It is important to work with a reputable contractor when purchasing refurbished building materials, or to buy from a credible retail location to ensure you are getting the highest quality.

Walkout Basement House Plans

Walkout basement homes are widely popular all across the country for the extra space and adaptability they offer. Although many imagine a perfectly flat, expansive lot on which to build a dream home, most lots present some degree of elevation that must be taken into account. Where possible, a walkout basement home provides a way to situate your home on such a lot without sacrificing any interior space.

For many busy families, having living space on a lower level provides a necessary separation between active gathering spaces on lower levels and quiet, more formal rooms for mature entertaining upstairs. House plans with walkout basement foundations often include rec rooms, home theaters and gyms, and expansive finished storage space with built-in features to maximize space-saving habits.  Guest suites are also common features of a lower level walkout basement house plan, providing a separate entrance and oftentimes a private patio or porch area for your guests to enjoy during their stay.

Maximizing square footage without enlarging the footprint of the house is perhaps the most beneficial feature of a walkout basement floor plan.  A single story home can still have a fully finished lower level, visible only from the back of the house and providing covered deck space below.

Walkout basement house plan exterior view

These types of plans are often the perfect choice to enjoy a rear-facing view, or when the home is situated on a lot so as to create an expansive backyard area. For the ultimate in home amenities, consider an elevator connecting the two floors or a lower level summer kitchen and BBQ porch to ensure seamless connection between separated floors and outside gathering spaces for the whole family to enjoy.

walkout basement floor plan

While the curbside view of a walkout basement home shows perhaps a modest single-story house, the rear of the home reveals two levels or more, with inside spaces connecting with outside spaces through skilled use of windows, porches, and patios.

Inverted Floor Plans

Inverted floor plans have a long history of providing functional protection. Recent construction innovations and clever design trends have brought this practice back to the forefront of home floor plans in a variety of settings.

Perhaps the oldest examples of inverted floor plans are the castles of ancient Europe. A design of concentric circles- the outer moat, the stone wall surrounding the grounds, and stacked structures ending with the Castle Keep, offered several layers of protection from invading enemies. This innermost tower, the castle keep, was typically where the family slept. It also provided, one supposed, the best and most expansive views of the kingdom.

Castles were some of the first inverted floor plans, with sleeping quarters on upper floors for safety and warmth.

Castles were some of the first inverted floor plans, with sleeping quarters on upper floors for safety and warmth.

Fast forward to a more modern view of the world, in which single family homes dominate the landscape. Early examples of this show homes built around a single multi-purpose room, used for sleeping, cooking, and as a gathering space for the family. Families that could afford a slightly larger home would often position a loft above this main room to use as sleeping quarters, where the rising heat from the central fire would maintain warmth through the cold nights.

In today’s world, this natural vertical progression has lead most home plan designers to place bedrooms on the upper floors, and living areas on the main floor. And while there are some stylistic deviations, such as a first-floor master bedroom, many styles of house plans accept this template.

And it works for many families. Regional construction, however, has kept the inverted floor plan alive and well. In coastal areas, the low country lots, and areas where rising river levels threaten the foundation, inverted floor plans make the best use of space. A view-driven plan will often feature main living areas on the highest levels of the home, in order to see above a neighbor’s house or over the tree line. In hot and humid places, these upper floor are uniquely able to capture breezes while discouraging pesky insects who tend to congregate at lower altitudes.

Rooftop in an inverted floor plan home.

Roof decks make the most of seasonal weather.

It is no surprise then that most of the inverted floor plan models you see are either Coastal house plans, Beach house plans, Florida plans, European house plans, and Modern or Contemporary floor plans. But an inverted floor plan is for more than just coastal properties. Even the more traditional house plans can make use of this design, as many of them draw from European design concepts.

Modern designs are beginning to make use of this feature as a way to make the absolute most out of available space, including outside areas like roof decks and balconies. And with modern amenities like elevators and dumb waiters, the logistics of spending most of your time on the upper floors are simply settled.

There are a number of factors that make an inverted floor plan the preferred choice for many families and builders. Whether its intent is to access sweeping views, to capture cool breezes, or to elevate the main gathering spaces for maximum light and openness, the inverted floor plan has evolved into one of the most efficient use of space available.

House Plans with Flex Space

Building your dream home is often a very exciting process. As you witness each phase of construction you draw ever closer to the completion of your goal. But there can also be moments of uncertainty: did I choose the right home for my family? What if things change in a way I haven’t foreseen?  No one is better suited to anticipate the future needs of your family than you are. Even though you are uniquely qualified for this decision, unexpected changes occur in the life of a dynamic family. Having the ability to meet those changes head on provides a welcome comfort. For many families, the best way to mitigate this anxiety is to choose a house plan with built in expansion options, or flex space.

The cost and headache of building an addition on to your existing home can be dissuasive and discouraging. The perfect house plan for today’s changing family dynamic will include spaces for growth that can be finished at a later date when the need arises. House plans with unfinished basement levels offer open space that can be defined in any way your family needs, or can be left open for a generous rec room, storage, or craft space. Yet other house plans include the structure for additional bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, walk-in closets, and outdoor patios for an easy transition from flex space to living space.

Whether planning for your aging parents or in-laws to move in, or transitioning into a work-from-home or self-employed arrangement, or the knowledge that your young children will one day want their own bathroom: having undefined space built into your dream home offers growth potential with ease.

Life is full of exciting opportunities and unexpected moments of change. The feeling of having flexibility on your side makes it easy to meet those opportunities with a positive outlook. A custom home plays a large role in terms of meeting the future needs of your family. By harnessing your unique ability to predict upcoming needs and changes, and including space for the unforeseen, your house plan can serve you for many years to come.

Autumn Curb Appeal for your Front Porch

Autumn is upon us, and it appears in all its colorful glory. It is the time of Hallowe’en costumes, darker days, pumpkin flavored everything. This time of year, we showcase our beautiful homes and extend our front porch space to friends and family alike as we welcome them to our homes for a string of holiday get-togethers.

Front porches are even more welcoming with festive fall decor.

Front porches are even more welcoming with festive fall decor.

Whether you have a walkway to your front door or a covered front porch where guests can take shelter from stormy weather, a visitor’s experience in your home begins with curb appeal. Those few moments between leaving the car and arriving at your door are filled with observation and the slow exposure to your cultivated environment.

Seasonal decorations bring out the exterior features of your home and share your enthusiasm for the holidays. Carved pumpkins lining front porch steps is a long tradition in this country, as are illuminated pathways. As the evening falls earlier and earlier, using decorative lights in your front

Carved pumpkins line the steps of this spooky front porch.

Carved pumpkins line the steps of this spooky front porch.

yard is not only functional, but can highlight design and landscaping features. Trees known for spectacular fall foliage make grand statements as well.

The focus on the front yard this time of year highlights house plan features that might otherwise go overlooked. A front porch, for many, is an intentional aesthetic that represents the style of the homeowners. But why beautify the front of your home just for visitors to enjoy? Some of the most perennially popular house plans feature large windows in the front façade, serving both as a welcoming openness to guests and to offer a view of the front yard from home offices, sitting rooms, and salons. House plans featuring wide covered patios or wrap around porches encourage year-round enjoyment.

 

Enjoy your front porch and yard with a house plans that features lots of front-facing windows.

Enjoy your front porch and yard with a house plans that features lots of front-facing windows.

Your front porch and yard are an extension of your home, and reflect your unique style. Changing seasons offer us the chance to highlight the gorgeous features of our homes. Whether your family is holiday-driven or more classic in style, this is one area where “keeping up appearances” is an extension of welcome and graceful hosting.

 

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Storm Savvy House Plans

The storm season is upon us!

The storm season is upon us!

For those of you who welcome the return of the Storm Watching Season, you know first-hand the value of certain house plans with features that make cold weather easy to enjoy inside a safe and cozy home. Whether you live on one of the coastlines or make your home on land located somewhere in between, winter is full of dynamic and intense weather systems that move across our landscapes with startling regularity.

There are some obvious weather concerns that an architect and a builder will pay close attention to: proximity to tide-affected water, for example, or a lot in hurricane-prone areas will inform many of the structural decisions to be made when building your dream home. In fact, this is one of the major reasons families opt to build from custom house plans rather than buy a pre-built home: it is a precious opportunity to cater the needs of your family to the demands of your specific region.

But even beyond these important concerns, there are smaller details to think about that are no less important as we head into the rough weather and low temperatures of a North American winter. When searching through house plans of the various homes that catch your eye, also think about the things that help you to feel safe when some of your amenities are unavailable.

Keeping Rooms

The keeping room serves a gathering place for busy families.

The keeping room in this house plan serves a gathering place for busy families.

Many house plans include a keeping or hearth room adjacent to the kitchen. These rooms typically have a wood burning fireplace and an open space in which your family can gather when the rest of the house is a bit chilly.  These keeping or hearth rooms were a staple in early American Southern-style homes. The keeping room is an informal and cozy space; often these are rooms with few electronic devices and plenty of comfortable seating.

Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor kitchens provide cooking alternatives when the power goes out during storm season.

Outdoor kitchens provide cooking alternatives when the power goes out during storm season.

Not just for summer bbq’s, a built-in outdoor kitchen is typically an enclosed space to keep out inclement weather and regulate temperature and ventilation while cooking. If you live in a place where electricity can go out for extended periods of time, having an alternate place to prepare meals and still be protected from the elements can make all the difference when in the midst of a storm. A non-electric grill is typically built in to these outdoor kitchens, but wood burning fireplaces are also common additions. Dress up your fireplace with a cooking grate and a roasting spit from which to hang a pot of steaming soup and you’ll hardly even notice when the lights come back on!

Walk-In / Butler’s Pantries

Wrought iron gates at the entry of the walk-in pantry lend an artistic flair to this breathtaking kitchen

Wrought iron gates at the entry of the walk-in pantry lend an artistic flair to this breathtaking kitchen.

When the bad weather warnings come, many families feel the need to stock up on essentials. Whether you preserve a seasonal harvest or head to the local shop for canned soups and bottled water, having these necessities on hand helps everyone feel more at ease when facing a stormy season. A generous pantry provides lots of space for your supplies and makes keeping track of what’s on hand a cinch.

The ability to craft exactly what your family needs into your dream house plan is exactly why so many people are choosing to build rather than buy a pre-made house. Consider the seasonal factors in your area and include in your floor plan the features that will best serve your unique family. To get started, browse through these curated collections here:

Browse-House-Plans-With-Outdoor-Kitchens.

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California Bungalow: An American Original

The term California Bungalow refers to more than just an architectural style. Referencing a time and place in American history, the classic California Bungalow home design reflects an early stage in the development of the American Dream.

A Bengal Bungalow in 1865 belonging to a British military commander.

A Bengal Bungalow in 1865 belonging to a British military commander.

Bungalows have been built for centuries overseas, primarily in the Bengal region of India, where the term originates. Popular with British commanders, the traditional thatched-roof home style was adapted to house the military elite and influenced house design across the world. The bungalow’s first appearance in the United States was on the East Coast but it was the fledgling state of California who greeted this modest design with open arms.

In the early days of the 20th century, California was a happening place. Between 1920 and 1929 the population of Los Angeles more than doubled, partly due to a tremendous influx of immigrant families finding work in growing industries. Hollywood was generating more than income; it was mass producing and disseminating American culture. An oil boom is largely responsible for placing California as the largest player in the aviation industry, the home of several large banking corporations, and the beneficiaries of an explosive real estate market.

As the population increased middle class American families who, up until this point, had largely rented city apartments were enabled to move outward into the wide and undeveloped lands beyond the urban city center. California Bungalow homes, with their one-story designs and open floor plans, were affordable to build and maintain. Because the homes were small, even a modest lot offered a yard space, typically in the back of the house.

california-bungalow kit edited

A kit illustration for an early California Bungalow style home

In previous years home ownership was mostly relegated to the wealthy, and the designs reflected this opulence. Servant’s quarters, formal spaces like sitting rooms and parlors, and expansive guest suites characterized the luxury homes of the well-off. The introduction of the California Bungalow home, however, brought home ownership down to the level of the successful working class American family. Materials came from local surrounding areas and prioritized stucco,  wood shingle, or horizontal siding instead of the early brick versions seen on the East Coast. Redwood beams became a common style characteristic. Sometimes sold in ready-to-assemble kits, one could even purchase a bungalow home from the Sears and Roebuck catalog!

 

By the end of the 1930’s, the California Bungalow style was on the decline. As Americans recovered from the war and the G.I. Bill helped returning soldiers build a sustainable life, the development of the suburbs saw homes getting larger and larger as American culture swelled towards opulence once again.

In today’s modern world of technology-enhanced experiences, dense urban populations, and multi-tasking families, the Bungalow home is seeing a resurgence. Bungalow floor plans typically place a large gathering space at the center of the home with the other rooms organized in a connected constellation around it. This open, casual feel is widely popular with families looking to balance out the distractions of the world with a home that brings family members together and integrates everyone’s living experience.

This modern California bungalow home boasts elegant efficiency with a nod to the classic historical design.

This modern California bungalow home boasts elegant efficiency with a nod to the classic historical design.

An early piece of American cultural history, the California Bungalow is sturdy and adaptable home that has already proven its worth against the shifting tides of sociocultural change.

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Home Gym Design

At different times of the year- and at different stages in life- our physical fitness rises up on the priority list. And in this we are often met with an overwhelming amount of information about what kind of exercise is best, which foods should be avoided, and just how to go about shedding those excess pounds. While it can be difficult to filter through the advice there are some things that can make this process a little easier to navigate. Perhaps the easiest solution of all is to create a home gym that can adapt to your needs as they change.

home gym

Big windows help this home gym feel open and expansive.

A home gym is often quite different from commercial workout spaces. Rather than a huge room lined with mirrors, rows of cardio equipment and weight machines, and a huge assemblage of kettle balls and free weights, a home gym can be a sleeker, simpler space. In addition to the fact that you won’t need all that equipment for just a few people, you are also enabled to craft your space in a way that cultivates a calm determination.

A small room will suffice for your home gym, but I recommend it be a room you enjoy spending time in. Choose a space with big windows and a view if you can, but free of distractions. Natural light is a big bonus and helps with both mood improvement and motivation. If natural light isn’t an option in your space, choose a lighting scheme that is gentle but provides ample illumination for your workouts.

Depending on what kinds of physical activities you’re planning on doing, flooring can be an important component of your home gym.  For many folks the home gym is a simple situation, and flooring materials can be of your choosing. Hard wood or wood alternatives create a warm, inviting feeling but can be in danger of damage if weights are dropped. Choose a hardy material that can stand up to the activity that will take place.

Work with your architectural team to customize that bonus room or flex space into your home gym.  Rather than just moving equipment into an empty space, you can cultivate a deliberate experience when working with a professional designer. Built-ins, light sources, and structural adjustments can be added to your existing house plan, ensuring that your dream home comes together exactly as you envision it.

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Craftsman Homes Continue to Captivate

For all its many years in circulation, Craftsman house plans are still capturing the American imagination. The progeny of two distinct parents, the craftsman can be seen as the quintessentially adaptable American child.

Paternal influence comes from Englishman William Morris’ rebellion against the Industrial Revolution. He perceived a profound discounting of the individual worker and a subsequent dehumanization of labor. In response, artisans gained prominence as a way to showcase the quality of individual craftsmanship. The mother of this style is the every-woman of the day, caught in the shifting tides of changing social structures and familial obligations. The woman of the house no longer typically had live-in servants and was mostly responsible for the housework along with the raising of the children.  Out of this grew the need for a functional aesthetic, simple yet beautiful; a home for the modern family.

Through this lens, we can trace the genealogy of the American family structure. And while the Arts and Crafts Movement increased in popularity, the Craftsman home gained prominence as the architectural embodiment of these shifting social elements.

The typical craftsman home can easily be identified by a few consistent features. Externally, we see steep hipped roofs and visible gables which are often used to protect front porches under deep eaves. Exposed rafters or supporting brackets on the exterior showcase the workmanship that is so important to this style, while also adding an aesthetic flair. Double-hung windows are also common features, historically boasting a four-over-one or six-over-one design for decorative enhancement. But perhaps the most easily recognizable exterior element is the visible mixed materials both local and natural to the area. Stone, handcrafted wood works, and glass are major players in this style of home, paying homage to the handcrafted workmanship out of which this style originally gained footing in the American imagination.

Interiors also reflected changes to the American family unit. Perhaps the most significant element to this design is the kitchen. As housekeeping needs changed, the modern family needed a way to interact in those spaces traditionally reserved for servants.  In response, the kitchen was integrated into the main floor plan and provided open sight lines to other common areas of the home, including the back yard. As an amendment to the open kitchen, the breakfast nook was introduced as a place for the family to gather around meal times. Space that would historically have been used as a butler’s pantry were replaced with built-in cabinetry more functional for the modern family. This was also a space in which to showcase handcrafted wood and glass work so indicative of the Arts and Crafts style.

Craftsman homes declined in popularity in the 1920’s or so, but came to the forefront again some 60 years later when many large cities in the United States experienced housing booms. In particular, California and Washington State saw large increases in population and growing local economies; the demand for homes for single family units was high. Even now, sales for Craftsman house plans are up from previous years.

Partly because of the simplicity and functionality inherent to the design of a Craftsman house plan, we are seeing another push for these classic designs for modern families. Perhaps it is a quieter cousin to the rebellion from which we first gained footing, but in this world of mass-produced everything and internet commerce, a return to the importance of hand-crafted features is growing in prominence.  Moving away from some of the earlier interior elements like low ceilings, this archetypal design offers much room for adjustment. This is a plan inherently designed for adaptation. The foundational clean lines and connected spaces are a short step away from becoming the open floor plans so high in demand right now. With the addition of higher ceilings and larger windows, the cozy feeling of the traditional design easily transforms into the bright, open, adaptable space of the Contemporary Craftsman.

Contemporary craftsman

An contemporary Craftsman house plan for the modern family.

In either the classic or the contemporary incarnation, this design has been integral to the American concept of home for over 100 years. And, in true American fashion, its easily adaptable structure allows plenty of room for reinvention and creativity, and continues to showcase all that is best about individual workmanship.

Re-Thinking The Contemporary Laundry Room

The pull of convention affects us all. Sometimes we just get so used to things being a certain way that it takes a strong wind to redirect our visions to something better suited to our needs. But this is the beauty of working with a custom design for your dream house: the options are truly limitless!

My favorite expression of this lately has been the rise of the contemporary laundry room in unusual places. No longer relegated to the mud rooms and basements of American houses, washers and dryers are starting to make an appearance in the more highly-trafficked rooms of the home: bathrooms, walk-in closets, or laundry rooms placed on the second story between bedrooms.

Ultimately, the chore of maintaining your family’s laundry is time consuming and tedious. The clothes basket can get heavy, the folding gets interrupted, sometimes there isn’t enough space to spread out. Regardless of whether there is one person in your family responsible for the laundry, or if its a rotating chore, having a contemporary laundry room set-up designed for function rather than tradition will make a huge difference.Contemporary laundry rooms

And with the advent of front-loaders, you can now feasibly put a washer and dryer anywhere that makes sense to your routine. Build a nice long counter top above the appliances and you’re all set with a folding area.

I think my favorite so far is the laundry room in the walk-in closet. How easy would it be to remove dirty clothes right into the wash basin? And then, once the dryer finishes its cycle, clothes go right onto hangers or into the bureau? Genius.

contemporary laundry room

 

 

 

 

Another popular option is locating the washer and dryer into a closet slightly bigger than the traditional linen closet on the second floor of the home. Situated between bedrooms perhaps occupied by older children who are responsible for their own laundry needs, this set up is highly functional for a busy family and is an efficient use of space.

contemporary laundry room

 

However you move through your home, consider the spaces that could be designed differently, or could work better for you. This is the single most important benefit in choosing to build your home: the ability to create spaces based on what works for you, rather than being tied to the standards of the masses. Talk to your designer about your ideas; they are excited and willing to help your project manifest into the perfect home for you and your family.