After we chose our builder and were on our way in the home build process, we began to work on the floor plan and iron out all of the details for the home design with our drafter.
- 4 bedrooms and 4 baths
- master in separate wing from the kids' bedrooms
- sitting room in the master
- second master (with en suite)
- Jack and Jill bath between two bedrooms
These plans we found online checked almost all of the boxes but we wanted to make a few edits right off the bat. The plans as-is had the large kitchen, mud room, second master, J&J bath, a bonus room over the garage for my office, and even a small office next to the master that we could convert to be the sitting room.
But we didn't love the indoor/outdoor bar (hello, Texas) and we wanted to take out that wall between the master and office. We wanted to change the garage access and make the front exterior more symmetrical. I didn't like anything about the front exterior of the house plans online:
Working with a Drafter
I had initially been trying to use as much of the original plans as possible, thinking it would cut down our costs to not be making drastic changes, but working with a drafter meant we now had more freedom and could really customize the home to our needs. I sent her the original plans, along with a visual I had created showing the changes we wanted to make, and a few pins to ideas of things I wanted to incorporate.
After reviewing our plans, she had a lot to say about them. It was great to be able to talk through everything with her and get an expert opinion on what would work and what didn't make sense for the space.
She was very thorough and had great attention to detail; for example, she noticed that the clearance for the doors in the toilet rooms was way too narrow. We would have had to stand beside the toilet in order to shut the door. She also considered line of sight when looking from one room into another; for example, repositioning the powder bath so you aren't starring at a potty from the couch.
A few of her suggestions were to:
- create the proper clearances for all the doors
- reduce the fat in the hallway and give the square footage to the bedrooms instead
- minimize cost by only offsetting the garage (create more of a square foundation)
- extend the garage to accommodate a full size SUV and truck
- make the laundry room larger to add cabinets and access from the mud room
The Revision Process
At first, I was a little shocked by how much additional work the "build ready" online plans needed but it all made so much sense! We discussed our options further and I explained more about how we planned to use the space; for example, that we were fine with a smaller master in order to create that sitting room area and how I had my heart set on lockers in the mudroom.
Using her rendition, I customized the plans even further to try and add back in some of the aspects we wanted. I went through two pencil erasers and walked away with more appreciation for what she does. Please enjoy this hand drawn rendition 🙂
We ended up doing several more rounds of revisions on the interior and two rounds of revisions on the exterior. By the time we were finished, the plans barely resemble the initial plans we found online.
It's important to remember that changes you make on the inside (window placement, size of room, etc) will impact the way the outside looks. Additionally, you pay for every bump out in the foundation, so we tried to keep a square-ish footprint while still adding depth and dimension. Here is the first draft of the exterior, based on what we had chosen on the interior:
I opened that e-mail and immediately shut my computer and walked away haha. I hated it so much. I then called our builder for help. This is a good time to remind you that a drafter is not an architect.
While our drafter was immensely helpful in thinking through the floor plan and brought a wealth of knowledge about things we had never even considered, aesthetics aren't necessarily their first objective. Thankfully, Ben sketched up some changes to the exterior that didn't impact anything we had done on the interior. The differences are night and day. This is the final drawing of our exterior:
And after several renditions and many e-mails back and forth tweaking this or that, this is our final interior floor plan:
Unfortunately, it is a little difficult to see past the measurement lines and markings, but I hope you can see the difference! We couldn't be more thrilled with the final layout of things. We ended up around 3200 square feet, with five bedrooms (one of which will be my upstairs office loft, not shown above), and everything on our wants/needs list.
Tips for Designing a Custom Home
- Consider working with a drafter to draw up your custom plans. Our drafter charged a set fee per square foot and was undoubtably cheaper than using an architect or paying a company to make edits to existing online plans.
- Think through the function of the space you are trying to design. For example, we originally wanted barn doors opening to the bathroom in the master bedroom. Ben mentioned that barn doors aren't great sound barriers, and that if one of us gets up earlier than the other (like when James leaves before dawn for the fire station) that the light and noise will likely wake the other. No thank you. We opted for barn doors for the sitting room instead.
- Keep in contact with your builder as you make changes. You don't necessarily need to get their input on every rendition, but once you are nearing the end, be sure to loop them in. Ben was incredibly valuable in helping us with the final design. For example- we plan to only use the upstairs room as my office space but because it will already have a door and a window, Ben suggested adding a closet to make it a true bedroom for resale value.
- Imagine furniture in the space. Imagine holidays in the space. Imagine hosting in the space. Imagine actually being in the home and walking room to room. The original plans had the dining room very far from the kitchen - this wasn't practical for our family. One of the revisions made the kitchen larger, and had the sink on the opposite side of the refrigerator. I couldn't get past walking 15 feet from the refrigerator to the sink with raw chicken.
- Don't rush the process. Once you think you have a final plan, sleep on it for a few days. You will be surprised what comes to you if you give yourself some time. We originally had a landing pad at the bottom of the stairs that opened up to the kitchen. The upstairs is only a single loft that will be used solely for my office. We made the stairs straight and more a part of the master wing instead of opening right into the kitchen. It makes so much more sense now and gave us some extra cabinet space in the kitchen.