Choosing a Budget & Family Friendly Custom Home Design
Now that the dust has settled and my family’s new home is built, I have a few tips for choosing a custom home design that is practical and budget-friendly and that you will love because it really really works for your family!
This is the second post in my series on building a custom home. My first post was all about Choosing a Home Builder.
I learned most of these tips for choosing a custom home design the hard way!
1) Don’t rush
Building your home will take several months and you will probably live in your new home for several years so the ideal situation is not to rush the planning stage. This is because:
Research is the most important part of choosing your custom home design
Worst case scenario is that you will not be happy with your home because it takes TIME to figure stuff out.
Of course, life doesn’t always proceed as smooth as butter – in that case – these tips will still apply!
2) Make a List
I recommend that you start the process of choosing your custom home design by making a list with two columns.
MUST HAVES can include things like number of bedrooms, bathrooms, open concept or not, one-story, two-story, basement or slab – all the essentials including the approximate size of your new house.
WOULD BE NICE can include the stuff you are just not sure will fit in your budget, such as a large foyer, a cathedral ceiling, or a second floor laundry room.
My MUST HAVES were: a small bungalow roughly 1600 square feet with a basement, open-concept design, 3 bedrooms, a good-size mud room/laundry room with a side door and a two car garage.
Your MUST HAVES will grow once you start looking at house plans. For example, I quickly figured out that I liked the designs that had the master bedroom on the opposite side of the house than the other bedrooms.
3) Do your homework (before you visit the architect)
I recommend that you have your final house plans (or blueprints) prepared by a local certified architect. You can order stock plans online but you will need to make sure that the builder and the sub-contractors have a set of plans that conform to local building codes. These plans will also be needed to apply for a building permit.
An architect will not only be able to revise your design but also help you avoid costly mistakes such as too small bedrooms or inadequate bathroom allowances.
In order to really get the house of your dreams (on a budget, of course) the more detailed the plan that you present to your architect the better. This is where your homework comes in.
In my search for the perfect floor plan I figured out roughly the size of house we wanted – a smallish 1500 to 1700 square foot bungalow. I entered “1600 square foot bungalow” in my search engine and was able to view hundreds of house plans. I also took out some house plan books from the library. I viewed a lot of house plans and guess what?
I didn’t find a custom home design I truly loved.
Yet, this was an extremely useful project because I learned what I did not love! That my friends is half the battle.
We are a family of 2 adults, 3 children, and 2 dogs and we have lived in a few different homes. I know what doesn’t work for our family!
A few plans I checked out:
This 1,650 square foot bungalow has a huge Master Bath but a teeny tiny back entry/laundry room. I will rarely use that very large corner garden tub. And the toilet closet? Nope. But I really really need a bigger laundry/garage entry – the entry we will be using most of the time.
This 1600 square foot bungalow has the double garage I need, but the foyer has a tiny coat closet and the utility room opposite the garage door entrance is very small. Again, there is a big corner tub and a toilet closet in the master bath. Not for me!
While I like the division of the master bedrooms and the other bedrooms and the open concept space of this 1600 square foot bungalow, the large master bath layout and small utility room do not work for us.
4) Find a Plan and Make it Work
What became apparent after viewing dozens of plans were the features that were not important to us: such as a large master bathroom or a foyer.
Features that were more important to my day-to-day sanity were a good-sized laundry room and a practical back door entry.
Figure out what works for your family and choose a custom home design or revise a design that has these specific features
While my internet research helped me refine my list, I finally found a plan that roughly conformed to my wish list in a library book. I made a copy of it and used tracing paper to change the room configurations.
After many revisions I created a plan that looks nothing like the original but it works for our family.
This simple plan looks like a large rectangular box and it is not fancy but we love it. Now that we have lived here for a few months we would not change a thing!
These are the things I like about this design:
The main feature of this custom home design is the large open concept living, kitchen and dining room. With large windows at both ends of this space, it is filled with light!
There is no formal front entry. A large living area and a large mud room were on the MUST HAVE list, a foyer was not.
The master bedroom is on the opposite side of the house than the other bedrooms. There are pocket doors on each side of the open concept living area separating these areas.
While it is not shown on the plan, there is a large rectangular kitchen island dividing the kitchen and the dining room. Plus the kitchen has another of my MUST HAVES, a sink underneath the back window.
An important feature is the side door (on the right side of the mudroom) that leads into a small fenced side yard for our dogs
The mud room includes a large coat closet, laundry area, an open closet to hang clothes to dry and store laundry hampers and a large utility closet which has a floor space for the vacuum, mop and pail, etc.
There are basement stairs off the garage and side door entrance for the teenager who “lives in the basement” and the friends who come to visit him. Note that the stairs are directly opposite the side door which makes it easier to fit large items down the stairs.
5) Review your Draft Home Design with your Builder
Your home builder will have some valuable insights regarding your custom home design
For example Trent Hill, our builder suggested that in order to save money we straighten an exterior wall that had a two foot indent where it met the garage. He explained that corners cost more money – due to extra work to build the foundation and install the siding. We ended up extending this area by two feet and found that the extra cost in square footage was offset by the savings in construction. We are happy we added the extra two feet to the open concept living space. We can’t imagine not having that additional space now.
6) Try Not to Make Changes to Your Final Custom Home Design
Changes are expensive! What may seem to be a simple change will require major revisions
We changed the design of the front elevation of our house and removed the indent (noted above) after our (supposed to be final) architectural plans were prepared. Do I regret it? No… we are happy that we made the changes now that we are living in the house. Was it expensive? Yes!
Scroll down to see a winter view of our sweet little bungalow!
A wintry view from our front porch…
My next post is all about actually building your home and the lessons that I have learned.
Are you thinking about building a new home in the future? I would love to hear about your plans!
If you have any questions please leave a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org