Designing your Dream Home – tips and tricks for smooth sailing
The process of designing your new home or remodeling your existing home is an exciting time.  However, it can also be overwhelming.  There are many existing home plans on the internet, but it is very rare to find one that exactly fits your needs. We recommend working with a local architect that has designed other homes in the area where you want to live. Even then, there are lots of decisions to be made. Here are some things to keep in mind for smooth sailing in designing your dream home.

First, create a list of “must have” design ideas that are most important to you.  Write down all of the spaces that you want in your new or remodeled home and add any wish lists for certain areas such as kitchens and baths.  Do not worry about solving issues with the floor plan.  That is what the architect does. It is helpful for architects and builders if you create computer files with lots of photos of things you like.  Certain web sites like Houzz and Pinterest make this easy.

Now, you’re ready to interview architects. Most of them offer initial consultations for free or a small fee, so meeting with a few is a good idea. During the initial consultation, you should discuss project goals, budget, and learn about each architect’s individual process and vision.

Look for someone who has experience with your type of project and shares your values. This is a relationship that you’ll have for some time, so make sure it feels like a good fit. It is also a good idea to check references.  The same applies for the selection of your builder.

The first decision you’ll make with your architect is the main floor plan. When you’re looking at a floor plan, imagine yourself walking through the home. Go from the laundry room to putting the clothes away. Is it convenient? Does the flow of the kitchen to the dining area feel right? Will the bedrooms afford privacy for the occupants? When you’re coming in with an armload of groceries, will you have an easy path to the kitchen?  Will there be sounds coming from children in other rooms while you are watching your favorite TV show? Do you need a two-story home to accommodate everyone in your household, or is a single-level ranch more to your liking? A single-level home certainly fits the household that doesn’t want to deal with stairs. You can also integrate a first-floor owner’s suite if you need more space but want to do most of your living on the first floor. 

Many today’s floor plans feature the open concept. It’s a popular layout because the lack of walls between the kitchen, living room, and dining area allow for more socializing. The chef is no longer cut off from the activity outside the kitchen. As you look at the open floor plan in the home designs, think about how the rooms connect. It might be one big space—long, square, or rectangular—or an L-shape with the kitchen as the pivotal point. Do you prefer one style over the other? How will your furniture fit in the layout? With an open floor plan, you can create separate spaces, like a reading area or study space. You can also separate spaces with ceiling treatments (beams, cased openings, etc.).  Envision how you will use the main living area so you choose a floor plan that fits your family’s lifestyle.

Do not forget about the importance of the functional spaces. Features like a mudroom and the design and placement of the laundry room might not seem as important in the big picture, but small details often spark a big change. The mudroom, for example, is a threshold that protects your home from the great outdoors and keeps the clutter under control, if you plan it that way. Cubbies or cabinets are a smart choice here. Establish a system for organizing shoes, backpacks, school stuff, leashes, and everything else that often gets lost when it’s allowed to meander into the main living area.  As far as the laundry room, some homeowners prefer to have it closer to the master suite, while others want it near the kitchen. Either is fine as long as it fits your family’s needs.

While architects are great at designing your home, they may not be as familiar with the current cost of material and labor. During the preliminary sketch stage, run the plans by your preferred builder for some preliminary pricing to make sure that the design you are falling in love with will also meet your budget.  Also, ask your builder if there are ways to achieve some of your architectural plan goals with a lower cost.  Most builders are familiar with this process and will sometimes use the term “value engineering” to refer to cutting costs while minimizing design changes.

Finally, try to enjoy the process!  If you team up with a professional architect and builder that you get along with, building your dream home can be very enjoyable!


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