Tips on Designing a Home

by generalmom

Surprisingly, designs on paper are sometimes very different than what it becomes in reality. Most people say that they can’t “picture” how it will look. I have a few tips to help minimize the surprise and expense from design to reality.

Since I’m on a nail-biting budget, the structure of the house needs to be designed right the first time because change orders are super expensive and cause delays. Here are some practical tips to get what you want, get what you need and most importantly, you aren’t surprised when it’s too late.

1. Plan for the future. Try your best to think ahead to future lifestyle. That may include more children, bigger children, elderly parents or retirement. Make a list and scrub your plans with that list in hand. We designed our first house with one toddler in tow. We never imagined five children, so we outgrew that house quickly. At the very least, we could have designed the kids bedrooms to accommodate bunk beds for future kids! Thankfully, in the shared bathroom, we designed a door between the toilet and sinks. When it’s bedtime…that is essential! So we kept these lessons in mind and implemented them into the current design.

2. Take an inventory of what drives you crazy at your current house or past houses. Mine include overlapping doors or doors that you have to close one to open another, not enough closet or pantry space, outlets in the wrong places, and narrow walking paths.

3. Pick your favorite rooms and take note of the size of the room and give that to your designer. For instance, 5 x 9 is my favorite size for a private bathroom with a tub. 12 x 12 is my favorite minimum bedroom size for two children. You may want to visit some model homes and bring a tape measure! Beware of those tricky decorators that somehow make a 9 x 9 bedroom look big with a twin and one dresser!

4. Get some blue painter’s tape and lay out room sizes on your floor. With 7 bodies in our house, I love a 4 foot max – 42″ minimum walking path, since I always have someone following and tugging on me.

5. Make cut outs of your furniture to the scale of your design. Place them on the drawings and make sure you cut out a segment to allow for your favorite or minimum walking path. This will ensure the flow is good. If the piano doesn’t fit on the drawing now, it won’t in reality. You don’t want to be surprised at how uncomfortable you feel when it’s all framed!

I haven’t been too surprised during first floor framing, since I have scrubbed every inch of the plan. The second floor may be a bit surprising, since I have an “innovative” laundry room plan. I’ll take picture when it’s finished at the end of the week. I hope I’m right and it’s genius! If not, I will be annoyed at how small it is. The master closet may be a foot too small (yes you should know what bothers you) and I may have too much room around the tub. So we will see if I will be moving a wall back to accommodate. My framer is alerted to this possibility. As soon as the perimeter is framed, then I will remeasure and adjust it. Pulling an interior wall in 6″-1′ is not creating more work in this instance, so there is no change order needed.

One HUGE surprise was the foyer on this house. On paper it seemed average in size based on our old house foyer, past neighbors, model homes. But I am shocked at the height! It’s 20 feet high! I just didn’t envision it. Well, it’s dramatic to say the least. The foyer doubles as a music conservatory. Our piano is nestled under the staircase. I have a romantic notion of the children having recitals with our family watching in the foyer. A Juliet balcony extends over the foyer for a trio or viewing area. It will marvelous. Even seasoned owner builders like us are still surprised and thankfully in a good way!