Designing the floor plan for your house is one of the most exciting
steps in building a custom home. It can also be one of the most time
consuming. Again I recommend looking at 25-50, or even 100 homes before
you start. Doing so will help you understand which features you want in
your new home.
Finding an architect whom you like can be a challenge. I think your
best bet is to get some recommendations from your builder. Then you will
need to look at some of the architect's designs. Find out if there are
any homes near completion which you can explore.
It will take several months to design a custom home, so make sure
that you have a good personality match with your architect.
There are many issues to discuss before you start the design of the
Single or multiple stories?
- Do you want a single-story home or multiple stories?
- Do you want the master suite downstairs or up?
- Do you want a guest suite downstairs or up? This is especially
important if you are considering elder care in the future.
- If it is a two-story home, do you want to plan ahead for an
elevator? They are not that expensive and are very useful if you will
be caring for elderly parents. Basically, you build a couple of large
closets upstairs and downstairs that can be converted later to an
elevator shaft and equipment room.
- If the bedrooms are upstairs, consdier placing your laundry room upstairs also. It will save you from having to haul laundry up and down the stairs.
- Does your game room need to be large enough for a billiard
- Consider a plant shelf with electrical and cable outlets for a
sports bar look with TVs.
- Don't neglect storage for a game room. If it will start out as a
children's game room, where will toys be stored?
- Is there a bathroom that is accessible to the game room? A powder
bath near the game room will prevent your guests from having to go
through a bedroom to get to the bathroom. It will also give the
residents a private bath.
- A built-in ironing board in the master closet
is useful if you iron your clothes just-in-time.
If you iron them out of the dryer, put it
in the laundry room. Or live life on the edge
and do both!
- Make sure your master closet is called a "Changing Room" on the
plans. This will allow you to have a return vent for your climate
control system. The uniform code prevents you from having return vents
in any closet.
- I like having two entrances to the master suite. One for the
bedroom and one for the changing room and bath. This allows you access to
changing room and bath without going through the bedroom.
- Design your master changing room with multiple clothes dressers inside.
If all of your clothes are in the changing room (and
not in the bedroom), then you can dress or
put away laundry without disturbing the sleep
of your spouse.
- Three-way mirrors and benches are popular in master closets.
- Unless noise will be a problem, consider
having your laundry room attached to the master
changing room (master closet).
- Whirlpool and Kenmore have stackable, full-size washers
and dryers. I like having one washer and two dryers because
you spend most of your time waiting on the dryer, not the
- A built-in ironing board in the laundry
room is a great space saver.
- Leave space for drying racks and/or laundry
- If you will spend time sorting clothes or
ironing in the laundry room, consider adding
a ceiling fan to make the room more comfortable.
Also consider either a second or larger exhaust
fan to suck the heat out.
- If your laundry room is going to be near
the kitchen, consider space for a freezer.
You will want a dedicated electrical circuit.
You may want a water supply if it will have
an ice maker.
- A rug or mat in the laundry room can help
prevent shin splints or back pain if your
spend a lot of time standing in your laundry
- A large sink with a sprayer is helpful when
you need to pre-treat clothing.
- Many people like to have a second laundry
room upstairs. If your children's rooms are
upstairs, it prevents having to haul laundry
up and down the stairs. However, it does mean
that you will have to go upstairs to do their
- I saw a home with an air-conditioned room
and a cement floor off of the garage. It was
a nice work room with climate control.
- Garage space is not that expensive. Consider
an extra-large garage so that you can get
in and out of cars, especially large ones,
with ease. In my first home, every time I
got in or out of the car, I got some kind
of smudge on the front of my pants.
- I like extra-wide and tall garage doors
so that entering or exiting the garage is
easier. It does not cost that much more to
get insulated garage doors. They are sturdier
and more energy efficient. It can help prevent
freezing problems during the winter.
- We have a door from the garage to the back
porch. It has a screen door because we installed
a special ventilation system that allows us
to draw the hot air from the cars out of the
garage during the winter. At a spot in the
roof where the roof line is very close to
the garage ceiling, we installed an attic
roof power vent. It is switched near the screen
door. We then built a duct from the power vent to the ceiling of the garage and put
a grill over it. This allows us to open the
screen, turn on the power vent, and suck all
of the hot air out of the garage.
- We put a faucet with hot/cold water outside
the garage and over the driveway. The valve
was just like the kind in a bathroom so that
you could get warm water. This is handy for
car washing in the winter. I recommend putting
it over cement drive so that to use it you
don't have to walk on grass which can get
muddy. The plumber is going to need to order special faucets so that the stems are long enough to reach through the brick. Normally, they just go through sheetrock and tile.
- Leave room in your garage for a freezer,
central vacuum system, whole-house water filtration
system, water heaters, etc. Make sure you
have the electrical/plumbing you need for
any of these items.
- Consider windows on your garage door. They
provide light during the day and if you place
them high enough, there shouldn't be any privacy
Media room or home theater
- Consider whether your thing is audio or video or both. Personally,
the picture is the most important thing to me. I enjoy good sounding
speakers, but I would prefer to spend my money on what I will see.
- Most media rooms that I have seen are too small for the size
screen. If you want a jumbo-sized on-the-wall screen, make sure the
room is large enough that the seating is the right distance from the
screen. If you don't get the distance right to the screen, then the
picture resolution will look wrong. You will also have a problem with
eye scan movement. You will have a hard time following the action. It
can even make you dizzy. If you don't believe me, go sit right in front of a large TV and try watching it for 30 minutes or go to a movie theater and sit on the front row.
- Many media rooms have more than one level of seating. Ours has a
lower level for a love seat. We are considering
a love seat recliner. The upper level has
bar seating. This is useful for eating a pizza
or snacks during the movie.
- Most audio/video equipment can now be controlled
through a remote remote control device. You
point the remote control at the screen, and
it can control the equipment regardless of
where it is located. It will be part of your
pre-wire for the room. This allows you to
locate all of the video equipment at the back
of the room. If you put it at the front of
the room, then you will get to look at a bunch
of blinking lights while the movie is going.
- A media room can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 for the
equipment. It seems like most of the ones I have seen cost around
$25,000. We decided to build the room and then add the equipment a few
years later when we can afford it.
Interesting designs or features
- Our home has 10 foot ceilings downstairs in most rooms. It has 8
foot doors. This gives it quite a grand appearance. Upstairs, most of
the ceilings are 9 foot and the doors are 6'8".
- Higher ceilings give you the opportunity to have rooms at multiple
levels. Many finer homes have steps up or down into different rooms.
This makes for an interesting design. It also makes things more
difficult as you get older and less mobile.
- I have also seen homes where a room had an 8 foot ceiling. It can
give a dining or living room a much more cozy and "the old-country"
- Although we have an entire page on windows,
they bear mentioning here also. If you are going with wood
windows, you'll want to pick them out before you complete
the architectural design so that they can be specified in
the plans. Wooden windows are in different sizes than aluminum
- If your designer wants eyebrow arches on windows, consider using
rectangular windows and faking the arch with brick or stone. Arched
wood windows can be very expensive.
This is when you need to decide whether you want your wall
thickness to be 4 or 6 inches or more. If you make your exterior
walls 6 inches thick, then you can have more insulation.
This section of our website is still under construction. Pardon the
This is somewhat of an insider joke.
Quality web design does not allow for
"Under Construction" pages.
I just included it because this part of
the site is dealing with building a custom
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