Anyone built either of these

jcalisiJanuary 8, 2012

long time lurker and thought I'd ask the group for a little help. We are in a rental and have failed to find a house that fits. So have resolved to build. We have it down to two plans with the only difference being the exterior. I was wondering if anyone has built either of the two and or willing to share any pictures.

Here are the two plans.

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The name "Monster House Plans" seems apropos.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 7:33AM
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Can't say I understand R8's comment above at all!

At just under 3200 sq ft, the plans are large but certainly not monstrously sized. Much bigger floor plans have been posted on this site without such comments. And while R8, with his well-educated professional architect's eye may disagree with me, I certainly don't think either elevation is creepy, monstrous, or suggestive of a haunted house.

While I don't particularly care for the elevation shown on the site, I rather like the elevation shown on the Monster House Plans site. That elevation has a bit of a "story book" look that I find quite appealing. Yes, there is a lot going on, what with the curved roof lines, curved windows, the two different stones, the two stone chimneys, the bay window, the window box of flower, the lanai wall, and that tall tall tall roof... but somehow it all makes a rather charming whole. I do hope you can find some pictures where someone has actually built the house.

I particularly like the rear entry garage! How lucky you are to have a building site that will allow that! We have almost 4 acres but couldn't do a rear entry garage because a large "wet area" near the center of our lot precluded running a driveway clear around to the back. So we had to settle for side entry.

For the most part, the floor plan looks pretty livable. There are a few changes that I would suggest but nothing terribly complicated. In fact, I suspect most of them would save you money.

First and foremost, I'd get rid of the island in the kitchen. The island is smack dab in the middle of the kitchen work triangle so you'll be constantly having to walk around it. Plus, the kitchen is only 13' wide x 12' deep. Assuming the island is 3' wide by 2' deep, once you cut 2' off the perimeter of the kitchen for the base cabinets, you only have room left for 3' wide aisles. That is just too narrow... especially since the fridge is across from the island and even expensive counter-depth fridges extend out into the aisles a little way. Regular fridges can extend as much as a foot out into the aisle. With a regular depth 36 inch wide refrigerator, you would not even be able to open the refrigerator door without it smacking into the island. So, I'd cut out the island completely and then I'd move the utility room wall about 12 to 18 inches to the right and cut an equal amount off the end of the bar in order to keep an aisle way into the breakfast nook. You would end up with a somewhat smaller but more user friendly kitchen AND a larger, more useful utility room.

The kitchen is rather far from the formal dining room but at least you have a spot for a "staging area" across from the pantry. Unless you throw lots and lots of formal dinner parties, the inconvenience of carrying food in from the kitchen probably won't be that big a problem.

Next, I really dislike the big, double-faced fireplace in the masterbedroom and study. The fireplace's location in the bedroom would make arranging furniture very awkward. When you have a fireplace in the bedroom, it seems like the fireplace should either be centered on the foot of the bed, or located where one can put a couple of chairs in front of the fireplace to create a sitting area. You can't do either in this case. The bed can't go directly across from the fireplace because of the bathroom entry and, where ever you put the bed, if you then put a couple of chairs in front of the fireplace, they'll be directly in the path one would take when walking from the door to the bed. Besides, while a fireplace in the master bedroom sounds very romantic, I strongly suspect that such fireplaces are rarely or never actually used.

Plus, the study with double doors to the hallway AND double patio doors is left with no good place for any chairs in front of the fireplace either. I'd probably just cut the entire fireplace out and give both the study and the master bedroom more useable space.

Alternatively, while I don't know how you plan to use the study, since you have a formal living area AND a family room AND space upstairs for a future playroom, I'm guessing that the study is intended as adult space... sort of an "owner's retreat." If so, you might consider removing the wall between master bedroom and study completely and making it all one big room. You could then put a SMALL fireplace up against the wall with the dining room and have a very lovely sitting area with looking out over a private lanai. And, if you wanted to be able to close off the study area from the bedroom on occasion, you could leave the wall but put two large pocket doors where the fireplace is now.

Upstairs, the only thing that I don't like is the J&J bathroom for bedrooms 3 and 4. J&J invite sibling squabbles when one kid accidentally (or accidentally on purpose) locks the other child out. Assuming the two bedrooms will only be used by adult guests, bear in mind that even adults often forget to lock both doors (resulting in embarrassment when someone walks in on them) or forget to unlock one door when leaving thus locking the guests in the other room out. That same space would easily accommodate a separate bath for each bedroom. Basically, just move the hall closet to the spot where the vanity for bedroom 3 is now. The remaining approximately 5'x9' space on the left will make a nice sized full bath for bedroom 3. Put a shower for bedroom 4 in the space where the hall closet is now. Add a toilet beside the shower and bedroom 4 has it's own private 3/4 bath.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 11:55PM
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renovator8 thanks for your editorial...

bevangel i do appreciate your insights into the plans. I do share a few of your concerns and had not really thought about the others but probably should. The fireplace will more than likely be deleted. not sure about the study (will be used as an office) but more than likely will be removed completely. I like the island but the kitchen size probably doesn't support it. Again thanks for all of the great feedback I don't sense this is your first rodeo on new construction... :)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 7:13AM
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jcalisi, if you put a link in your original post more people might look at it.

Here is a link that might be useful: like this

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 9:56AM
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and this

IMHO the house design web sites you are using are not very good ones. If you ask the forum for suggestions you will probably get some better ones.

Here is a link that might be useful: and this

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 10:00AM
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OMG! I think this is my next door neighbor's plan! It was built spec by the same builder we used, so they weren't involved in customizing it. Their house is bigger than the plan...just over 3700, I believe. They do have the play room, so that is part of it. The study is part of the bedroom, and I don't think there is a fireplace. I so wish I had a photo! They have a stone and brick facade. It is very European looking to me. The owners wish that they had an outdoor fireplace (I think they are planning to have one built this Spring)...maybe you could trade that see-through one for an outdoor one? Oh...and they don't have that bar peninsula-type counter at all....just a large island. It seems roomier that way vs. the plan.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 10:10AM
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Renovator8 thanks for the links. I'll make sure to do that in the future. I'm open to any suggestions anyone have to offer on plan sites.

Nini804 any chance you have any landscape pictures of your house that happens to have theirs in the background... :)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 10:41AM
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Jcalisi...I don't have any that show their facade, but I will see if I can discreetly get one....give me a day or so...

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 11:19AM
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I think R8 was referring to the design, not the modest size.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 11:53AM
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Since jcalisi did not design either of the referenced houses and I have already been called out for being critical, I will offer my professional opinion for free with the warning that free advice is often painful and worth what you paid for it.

These house designs are variations on the same idea with different materials, windows, trim and cornice returns: 1 1/2 or 2 stories with a tall steep hipped roof from the French Manor House tradition with 3 front facing gables from the English Cottage tradition, two of which are different heights and overlapped and a third lower one is off to one side with a monumental or bay window. They often contain juxtaposed architectural elements from different historical periods retaining little of the style and detailing of the originals. The roof eave overlaps are often responsible for poor water drainage and higher maintenance expenses. The huge attics spaces are usually unconditioned and full of 2x4 truss struts.

John Milnes Baker labeled this style "Nouveau Traditional" in his book and was very critical of it. (see link)

French Manor House

Cotswold Cottage

Here is a link that might be useful: American house styles: a concise guide

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 2:48PM
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R8 thanks for your feedback. I hope you didn't feel I was being critical just dry humor... Also, thanks for the link to the book. On the eave overlaps is that something that is an issue for the colder climates or just in general. I'm in the south TN.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 5:09PM
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Jcalsi, my neighbor's house resembles the drawing much more closely than the photo that Ren8 posted. It retains that front fireplace in the living room which I think makes it look very English cottagy, and the roof doesn't quite so massive, although that may be because the builder put a softer color shingle on the roof. The stone they used is more natural looking, as well. It has been raining here today, but I won't forget to try to get a pic...I have only been in it a couple of times, but I know it is the same basic floor plan!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 5:29PM
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Overall, it's a big plan, but not huge and seems to be fine, if you think you'll use a formal living room, formal dining room and a study. Only you know what your social/entertaining needs will be, so a good house plan should reflect your lifestyle and how you really live.

I think the kitchen sink is too far from the range and the fridge is on the other side of that little island. Not a very good traffic pattern and lots of walking around, to prepare a meal. That could easily be improved, with a visit to the kitchen forum!

Also, you're assuming that all your guests can climb stairs, or possibly be staying in your master suite. If you changed the powder room to a 3/4 bath, the study could be a guest room, in a pinch...for older grandparents, etc.

I like french manor/country style okay, but I don't like how half of your backyard is the garage. If that's a necessity for your lot, then fine...but I would want more garden space. Can you make that a side entrance garage...and maybe put a nice yard/garden in the back, instead? Just a few thoughts :)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 6:31PM
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When R8 says he was "called out for being critical", he may have been referring to my having said that I didn't UNDERSTAND his comment. I'm afraid I still don't.

The 3rd and 4th picture posted by R8 are the two elevations available for the floorplan Jcalsi originally asked about.

Obviously both have a steep hipped roof like the French Manor House (picture #1). Equally obvious, #3 has front facing gables like the Cotswald Cottage image he posted (#2). I would point out though that the Cotswald Cottage has only has TWO front facing gables... not three.

So, should our take-away lesson be that EVERY house that has front-facing gables, regardless of the number of such gables, is borrowing that design element from the Cotswald Cottage style? And, if the house in question also has other design elements which are NOT found in pure Cotswald Cottage style but which can be seen in some other historical style, then the designer is guilty of juxtaposing architectural elements from different historical styles...???

Next I have to point out that image #4 DOES NOT in fact have any front facing gables at all! If you look closely you'll see that those are actually HIP ROOF section with a slight flare at the bottom. Further the windows in those sections actually extend up through the hip roofs. So it seems to me that elevation #4 does NOT borrow from the Cotswald Cottage at all. However, while I have no idea what "historical style" windows like that ARE borrowed from, I know I saw them a lot while traveling in Europe - so I'm sure there MUST be some "historical style" that they're commonly found on. And I would place bets that #4 incorporates other design elements that are NOT found in whatever "historical style" that is.

The bottom line is, I suspect that EVERY possible design element that can go into building a home has probably been used at some time or another in one or more previous architectural styles. Thus it is probably impossible to come up with a new style that one cannot knock by saying that it "juxtapose[s] architectural elements from different historical periods [while] retaining little of the style and detailing of the originals." So, I'm afraid I just don't find that comment to be a very useful criteria for judging the quality of a new design. It seems to me that it is about as useful as saying that a new novel is not worth reading because the author juxtaposed words and plots found in Shakespeare, the Bible, and/or various other historical novels while retaining little of the style and detailing found in the originals....

The important question I think is, is a particular design balanced and lovely in and of itself or does it just not "work"?

I'll grant that image #5 (a generic suburban tract house?) also has a high hipped roof and three front facing gables but beyond that fact, image #5 and image #3 have almost nothing in common. Even without taking into account various secondary design elements, the massing and positioning of the three gables in the two designs are entirely different and that makes a huge difference.

IMHO, image #3 has dynamic balance and is very appealing. At first glance, the two taller gable sections on the right appear as a unit. My eye flows from them (the dominant form) to the single gable on the left (the subdominant form) and from there to the arched front doorway (the subordinate form). This is a natural progression from a broad view of the whole house to the front door. To me, this is very welcoming and very appealing. Note however that for this dynamic balance to exist, the brick or stone on the two taller gable sections MUST be the same. Decide to use two different kinds of brick or stone on these two gables and I think you would destroy the balance.

Image #5 lacks dynamic balance. While there are 3 gabled sections, two of them are exactly the same width and practically the same height. One's eye does not quite take those two gabled sections in as a single unit but neither does either gabled section predominate. My eye just sort of stops dead at a point just about centered in the cross formed by the three windows on the left and the door. Then, when I force my eyes to move, I notice the smaller gabled section (which wouldn't be a bad subdominant form if there were a dominant form somewhere in the picture) but then, instead of my eyes shifting to the doorway, I find them drifting off to the right and down following the line of the base of the house as it drops off to the right and out of the picture. NOT INVITING at all. The door needs to be brighter or darker or SOMETHING in order to pull my eye back to the center of the house.

Just my opinion.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 8:23PM
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Bevangel, you continue to take my comments too literally and call me out by name as if this were a debating society which hijacks the thread - not everything needs to be adjudicated.

Somehow you seem to miss the point of any comment that is not rooted in the common logic of lifestyle accommodation and design cliche. It's difficult to think of a way to explain why these house designs are a poor use of architectural ideas from any era that doesn't trip you up with nitpicking and gable counting.

There is a vast array of architectural ideas waiting for you to discover them (preferably in person) but before you "borrow" and adapt them, you should try to understand what earlier design traditions and cultural/climate forces helped to shape them and why some have endured and some have not and why adding more of a good thing (an apparent design epidemic) is not necessarily better.

I understand that in a society where "culture" increasingly centers around triviality and minor celebrity behavior it is difficult to believe that it would be important to create buildings that are respectful of the culture and built forms of the past.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 10:53AM
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Nouveau Traditional.

So now we have a name for the predominant building style of modern North America. Very impressive!

When I mentioned to the designer of my latest offering to try and keep it English country style, he said he likes to mix it up with French so it looks good.

The roof eave overlaps are often responsible for poor water drainage and higher maintenance expenses.

Plus higher construction cost. And typical poor attention to drainage will generate lots of repairs down the road.

The huge attic spaces are usually unconditioned and full of 2x4 truss struts.

Zoning often prohibits use of the attic anyway. And saggy uplifting trusses are the order of the day. Not one in a million buyers cares how you build the the roof support, let alone is willing to pay more for stick construction.

Architectural consistency is such a bore.

"Style, shmile, I know what I like."

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 12:03PM
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For private residences, trussed roofs are virtually unheard of in the Boston area. The under roof space of new and renovated New England houses is almost always occupied and conditioned. Trusses and fake dormers seem to be reserved for multifamily housing. I saw a strong wind knock down about 50 trusses in a half built monstrous apartment building last year.

It's interesting that the French tradition of hipped roofs and round pointed roof towers can be found mated with front facing gables in the Normandy region but usually with strongly decorative slate wall cladding or a wild mixture of stone, brick and half timber with clay tile, slate or thatch on the roofs. The last two photos above and the one below are from Honfleur. The buildings are very quaint but there are no overlapping or "stuttering" gables.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 1:05PM
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The mixture of styles is aggravated by a lack of the detailing that was part of them. No wonder so many homes look like they were drawn by kindergartners. Or Homer Simpson.

Entry detailing circa 2000, Toronto, Canada Photo: Heather Joy Investments Ltd.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 2:05PM
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R8 I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're not fond of the plans I'm looking at :) However, I do appreciate your criticism and sounds like I should voice some concerns with my builder who is familiar with our climate and customary building practices.

I do enjoy a lively discussion but it appears I may have gotten myself in the crossfire of an academic dispute of architectural design.

I will say this that like anything else its always a matter of opinion of likes and dislikes. For whatever reason I like the look and feel of both of the plans. I have a few tweaks I will probably make but unless I find something better I will move forward with these.

I should also mention that we are planning to build on a 5 acre lot.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 3:54PM
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Good, then you should be able to have plenty of room for the landscaping, no matter how you site the garage! :)

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 5:54PM
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I wanted to add a photo of a very old country house in Saint Romain de Popey in south central France, just west of Lyon. It belongs to my wife's college roommate, from Cleveland, and her husband, a native of the region. It is what the English would call a "cottage", but it is not a "farmhouse". I have spent enough time in this region to be able to say that what Americans call a "French Country" house cannot be found.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 7:18AM
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R8, actually us Brits refer to a one story as a cottage. What you are showing we call a house.

jcasali, good luck with your plans.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 8:49AM
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I was using the historical English meaning of "cottage" as a small house without land to help distinguish this country home/retreat from a "farmhouse".

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 10:43AM
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In an attempt to counter the strong influence on home designers of modern developer and internet plan service design cliches and eclectic caricatures, I find that even the words commonly used in my profession to describe traditional buildings have also been reduced to common usage cliches so it is difficult to make the simplest of points.

All buildings are a mixture of architectural influences, the success of which is in the mind of the beholder. But in assembling traditional design elements I make this final plea: before combining attractive elements you see in magazines and on the internet, please look at the historical sources of these design elements, try to understand how and why they evolved into a recognizable style and endeavor to avoid the inevitable awkwardness and staleness of copies of copies of copies.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 9:41AM
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