Are you planning for your dream home? Trying to stay within a budget? With the endless floor plan options, how does someone ever decide what plan is best for them? Below, I have outlined the steps I took when choosing a floor plan. After building 3 homes on our own, I would like to think, I am getting this down to a science! Disclaimer: We are not professional builders and are only making suggested practices using methods that have personally been useful for us. I hope you might one or some of the tips to be useful for you.
Our first home was a beautiful custom home with an open floor plan and modest square footage. It was the perfect starter home and stepping stone to our ideal home. Our second home was a grand two story with an open balcony and a great room with a 18 foot ceiling.
We lived in our second home for 12 years. While I loved this home and the memories created in it; over time, I started to dream about something different. My design style had changed a lot and the floor plan no longer met the needs of our family. I spent nearly two years searching for inspiration and the perfect floor plan for our lifestyle. I was really influenced by the modern farmhouse trend and there is no shortage of inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram. Narrowing down the options is definitely the hardest for me, because I really loved everything! Below are some of the considerations I made along the way.
Choose a Home or Design Style for your Floor Plan
For me, this was an easy choice. I cannot get enough of the farmhouse style homes. We live in rural Wisconsin so I grew up in and surrounded by farmhouses, barns and country living. Not only is the modern design appealing visually, it makes me feel so nostalgic thinking about my childhood.
I love the crisp white and black contrast, the use of natural elements and reclaimed wood and the classic look of it all. Think about what you are naturally drawn to, what designs or styles make you happiest or speak to you in some way. I wanted to feel most like me in my new home. So for me, the design of the home really invokes certain feelings.
Make a List of Floor Plan Preferred Features
When looking at home plans, I made a list of criteria that was super important to me. Below was my list:
- Open floor plan
- Large Family Room/Great Room
- Open Staircase
- Over-sized Master Closet
- Homework/Playroom for kids
- Jack and Jill Bathroom for kids
- Second story laundry
- Large Master Bedroom
- Screened porch or covered deck
- Walk-in Pantry
- Large Open Kitchen
Seek Inspiration for your Floor Plan
I looked for inspiration everywhere! While driving through different neighborhoods, I would look at exterior combinations of different siding, stone, brick, wood, etc. I spend endless hours searching through home plan books, design websites, Pinterest and toured a number of Parade of Homes sites.
While I found so many great ideas on Pinterest, I still found the ability to walk through an actual home to be the most helpful so I regularly attend local Parade of Home events. A Parade of Homes is a home tour, generally in a neighborhood of new homes, where builders feature their business and skill sets, as well as those of other professionals who want to sell home finishes and materials.
While many of these homes were outside of my budget, it was still helpful to be in a home to really feel the flow of different floor plan designs. I loved being able to touch the different finishes – flooring and hardware, seeing different paint color on the walls, different drywall finishes, trim options, cabinetry design, and even home decor. I could go on and on.
The nearby city of Madison offers a large Parade of Homes that covers multiple neighborhoods over most of the month of June. I look forward to it every year. Not sure about my husband, as he usually walks away with a growing list of honey-do’s from me! Even when we are not building or planning a new build, I always see some new and exciting idea or finish that I want to try! Below are some of the inspiration pics that I took from the most recent Parade of Homes.
Budget & Cost when Choosing a Floor Plan
This is the least fun part of landing on a floor plan. It is important to be aware of the projected cost per square foot of a new home (your builder can help with this). It is helpful to set parameters on the size of your home and will likely drive your floor plan choice.
We also learned a few things along the way to save a little money when choosing or customizing home plans. For instance, it is cheaper to go up than out. This means that a large footprint of a single story home is more expensive, then a smaller footprint on the main floor and building a second story or story and a half to add additional square footage.
We also learned that eliminating extra corners and pop-outs can save a little money as well. J and I have built three homes together, check out this post for more details on how we have learned to save money building our homes.
Non-Negotiables in your Floor Plan design
This is another list that I made after we really dug into how much a house would cost. You saw my first dream list of preferred features. My second list, I called non-negotiables, and it included things that I was not going to give up. Things that I knew if they were eliminated from the house plan, I would absolutely regret for the entire time I lived in the home. Really, it was the things that I was not willing to give up.
My Non-negotiables list looked something like this:
- Large windows
- Open Floor Plan
- Front Porch
- Kitchen Island
- Walk-in Pantry
- Master Bedroom on the Main Floor
Functionality of a Floor Plan
When looking at different floor plans, the options are really unlimited. It was important to me that I really thought about how my family behaves on a daily basis.
For instance, I know that no matter how many times I remind my kids, I still find their bags, coats and shoes lying on the floor. I knew that we would need an entry or mudroom that was functional. This space would need to have easy storage options for them (that would not include opening a closet door) and was generally out of sight from the rest of the house for the days when they forgot and someone unexpectedly arrives to visit. Let’s be honest, I am a busy mom- I work all day and don’t want to have to think about these things. To see more of our mudroom, visit the reveal post here.
Another example, I have always had a room dedicated for my office. I am a creative person, I love to make things and experiment and I love to spread out all over. I also hate stopping in the middle of a project and not being able to come back to it as it was in that moment. In our second home, we added beautiful French doors to my office that led to the family room where we generally spent most of our time, both as a family and entertaining. I only remember a handful of times over 12 years, where I looked through those beautiful glass doors to see a clean space. Lesson learned; my creative space had to have the ability to be hidden as well.
Another easy example is storage; it’s important right? However, when you are trying to maximize living space it is easy to not plan for enough of it. Keep in mind things that you never feel like you have the right place for. We live in Wisconsin and need to winterize every year; and while I love beautiful outdoor furniture in the warmer months, I never had a good place to store it without it being in the way of our indoor space. For this reason in our current home, we planned for proper storage for our actual belongings.
I could go on and on, but I try to think about what is real in our family, what absolutely drives me crazy about those things, and what is likely not going to change even in a new house and I try to plan for real solutions around it.
Customize when Needed
Don’t be afraid to customize an existing floor plan. I found a plan online that I really loved – but not totally. We worked with a very patient local designer to plan a more customized home design. I am so glad to have EXACTLY what I wanted and what would fit our needs. It was worth the additional cost to get us there.
TIP: Some builders have home designs that they have used with other people and may be able to offer those to you at no additional cost and may be able to meet your customized requests. We also know builders who purchase their materials from providers who offer free design services. Ask your builders before hiring someone to design a plan for you!
Are you planning a new home? I would love to hear about your design tips or dilemmas; feel free to comment below or contact me directly!