Got the prelim plan - not thrilled...detailed requests!

zosogirlFebruary 26, 2013

Hello! We are hoping to build our house this year, and we received our first prelim plan layout, and DH and I aren't exactly excited about it. I never found a plan that meets all our needs, so we are going with a custom design, and I think the designer tried to accomodate most of my wishes, but now we need to fine-tune it. We have a 1 1/2 acre corner lot, with well water and septic tank, but right near city limits, so we are not in the country. We are in the middle of the country, so we have hot summers and cold windy winters. Some of the things I asked for are the following:
1. Craftsman or bungalow style 1 1/2 story house with Southern exposure, for both passive solar and views to the back yard (which would be our best views), and privacy. I'd love the look of an old house with modern amenities. Would like to keep the main floor SQ between 2000 - 2200 or so, with a basement at garden level with windows on the south side of the basement for light and warmth in the winter.
2. Block views to the North and West (street sides of corner lot and neighbors), with MB on the SE side of the house. Window above bathroom vanity area facing east for natural light when putting on makeup in Master bathroom.
3. No closet in bathroom, I'd rather walk through or by a hall of closets to get to the bathroom (designer didn't do this, because he tried to give us a FP between bath and bedroom, but I'm getting rid of that).
4. Kitchen sink/window must look out south window, pantry behind kitchen, so I can spend less on upper cabinetry in the kitchen, and store more in the pantry. Freezer in pantry on opposite side of Frig in kitchen.
5. Front door facing west with porch, would like a ramp or gradual grading to get on the porch for our elderly and handicapped relatives.
6. I like stairs with a landing and a window.
7. Guest room that also works for handicapped person in case we take care of one of our parents (or for us) on main level.
8. 2nd story with 2 bedrooms - one would be a nice suite for our 13 yr. old daughter with her own bathroom, etc. I'd like her to have a nice view to the south and maybe a window to the west to see when friends arrive in the driveway.
9. I originally specified a mudroom/breezeway that could be used as a greenhouse on the southern side, and have a long row of closets for all our coats on the north side. I also like separating the garage from the house somewhat for noise and fires. I would like a dog shower area in the mudroom or laundry room, for our dogs and for muddy boots, etc. I don't want to walk through a laundry room to get anywhere. I hang dry a lot of clothing and I want the room to stay somewhat private and clean for that reason. It can be a larger space with cabinets for cleaning supplies, etc. I would like a window in the laundry for air flow and outside wall for dryer venting.
10. The front entry needs space for coats, etc. for guests, but not necessarily a closet, since nobody seems to want to use a closet, but find a bedroom instead. It can be a bunch of hooks with a bench. We host family gatherings that can easily be 20 people at a time, so I was thinking 2 rows of 10 hooks maybe.
11. We need a huge garage, that's why what you see is so large, it is a tandem 6 car garage with space for our camper. We have 3 regular drivers and one classic car, a camper, motorcycle, bicycles, and possibly an ATV later. Would like storage that is closed off towards the south to keep the main garage clean and clutter-free. DH works from home and would like his office on the west side of the garage with NO view to the backyard, so that he doesn't get bummed on a nice day while he's working, watching us have fun! :) There are times when he may have to bring in other people or the main office may move to our location, so that's why it's a large space. He would like to have a bonus space/mancave above the office. I picture a little balcony or deck to the west to watch sunsets and storms as well from up there.
12. Would like a music room/library for our books, a piano, a cello, a large antique sofa, artwork, maybe with French doors. DD needs a place to close off for privacy when singing and practicing.
13. Would like a big office/craft room for all my stuff. Didn't get this on the prelim due to space, but that's pretty important. He gave me the pocket office instead. We had pictured a room with a view to the west across from the entry because I spend a lot of time on my computer, and it would be nice to see the driveway when someone comes over, etc.
14. Don't want the kitchen directly near the LR for kitchen noise, but would like an open concept. The dining room needs to be able to house a large table that when extended seats at least 16. I would also like a buffet area near there for storage and to place food during holidays, and a closet with storage for table linens, tablecloths, etc.
15. We talked about a sun room, but will probably kill that. It's not very important, and the one drawn here is too big. I'd rather have the sunshine into the living area. A partially covered deck would be nice, though. We will be putting in a pool - nothing fancy, probably above ground. I will have a garden in the back yard as well.

I know this is a lot of information! I do have lots of inspiration photos and examples, and a 2nd story drawing I can post, but it looks like I can only post one image at a time? I've tried for so long to figure it all out myself, and just got frustrated, so we went to a professional. I was hoping for more, but maybe with your help, I can send him our changes and we can get a better second version! I truly appreciate all the knowledge and expertise I've seen on this forum! Please see if you can help me figure this all out...I know I've got a lot of requests! Thanks!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Inspiration for exterior

This post was edited by zosogirl on Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 13:36

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I lost track of your requests, so a couple questions:
1) Is your front door the one on the porch (facing west) toward the garage?

2) Where do you want your guests to use the restroom? The guest suite bath? Or the powder room in the mudroom? (I'd try to get the guest bath in a more accessible spot--from a hallway.

3) Can you do a detached garage? 6 car tandem is HUGE, and you can really see that with the 2D of layout. It is larger than the living area of your home on the first floor. (and is really ridiculous). But, a 6 car garage is a 6 car garage. Your designer can't "design" that any differently if you are locked into an attached 6 car garage.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 2:51PM
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Kathy Harrington

Just wanted to send you some encouragement. We are in the exactly same place as you. This past Friday we got our first prelim plans from our architect and I wasn't happy at all with it. The plan was so far from what I was expecting and to say I was disappointed would be generous. To say I was naive to think that I would get a perfect plan from the get go would be an understatement as well.

However, after sitting with the plan, talking it over with my husband and the architect, we began to appreciate some elements of the design and it made us more thoughtful about what we really wanted.

We are expecting our second draft soon and as I was assured by my architect, this will take several times to get it right, as it is a study process at first where we analyze and understand the site and its influences on the design and how the program fits. Also, just seeing a floor plan gives us both a very specific means of communicating.

So take heart, you are on the road to a perfect plan!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 2:58PM
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Thanks for the replies. Kirkall: Yes, that is where the front door is, to avoid facing north in the winter, and because I have a thing about not being able to see the front door when pulling into a driveway. I do not like where the guest powder room is at all, so we do need to find a place for that that works better. I would like to have a cabana bathroom, maybe behind the kitchen that can be accessible from the back yard for swimmers to change and use the bathroom without dripping water thru the house. About the garage: We considered doing a separate building in the beginning, because we are allowed two structures on the site, and that's what a lot of the neighbors have's really going to depend on whether we can afford to build it this way or have to wait and add a building later. If we add a separate building, it has to have the same outside materials as the house, so I do worry that we wouldn't be able to match it or that costs will be higher by then. We are paying storage on two different storage locations for our camper and car, so that's another reason for the size. It's also why I prefer the RV bay on one side instead of the middle, the way my DH wants it. That way the elevation can be broken up with some character, and by adding the office on the west, we can have it broken up as well with the view from that side. I do realize how unusual this is, but isn't that why we build custom homes? DH said I could have the house my way, and just let him have the garage...but we will see!
harringk: Thank you! This is stressful, and we are only doing this so that we can build a house that fits US and our lifestyle, so it can be crazy and hard to get our thoughts across to someone else! Good luck on your project!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 3:36PM
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My 2 cents: the 6 car garage attached is going to be challenging to work with, I'd do a detached garage for at least some of the storage needs. Have you priced having a detatched garage done? Not having the garage attached at all will give you more light inside the home too.

The entrance seems strange to me, but it sounds like it is your preference.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 4:48PM
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This is a fat, over-inflated house that is as deep as it is wide, with a garage bigger than the entire house. There will be no way to make the exterior appear graceful, well-proportioned and appealing.

I'd stop focusing on the interiors and start focusing on the exteriors and what this is going to look like from the outside.

You need an item 16: "Make the house fit into its surroundings and be an appealing and inviting structure". To accomplish this, you need a really experienced and talented architect or designer that can twist the first 15 requirements to meet number 16.

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:01PM
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Here's an aerial view of our lot (red square is ours) - we thought placing the garage where it is would shield us from some of the noise on the main road on our West corner, along with giving us some shade in the summer for the back yard area. We didn't want any bedrooms on that side because of the street, and it's not the prettiest view. Also - the neighbor on the north side has some hideously bright lights at night when they're on. I didn't want to have any "important" rooms on that side, plus it's very cold in the winter, so I wanted to limit the northern exposure. I'm sure I'll plan the landscaping to hide some of the views I don't like.
I really feel we've thought over the layout pretty well. We have to consider driveways, cost of concrete/gravel, etc., and trying to have some privacy while being on a corner lot. The advantage we have is that we have the space to do what we want, and not much for restrictions besides the 2 bldg. limit.
Anyone have ideas on the inside of the house for me??

Here is a link that might be useful: Entry/Driveway inspiration photo

This post was edited by zosogirl on Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 18:19

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:12PM
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You plan a pool? I'd consider taking some of your garage (and office) and putting that in a separate structure with the cabana powder/shower room. To me, that would make a lot of sense. And, because you have a corner lot, have that accessory structure accessible from the "other road". That would also be easier to sell, in the future, I would think than a 6 car attached garage. It would also be more charming.

On the inside, it really isn't a bad plan. It is unusual to have the front door where it it, but that seems to be your preference. Just make it obvious from the outside for guests that that IS in fact your entry door, and not a side door. (I'm a consultant, and when coming to a "strange" house for the first time, it is disconcerting to not know for sure what door you should use/where you should be looking for a door.)

Otherwise, I'd work on reworking your master bath/closet/guest bath/guest room so that the guest bath is accessible from the main part of the house without having to walk through the guest bedroom. Then, it can serve as your main floor bath. Right now, I am really not sure which will be your main floor bath. (probably your powder). Your kids won't want to run upstairs to get to the bathroom at dinner time, for example.

Otherwise, I like the back family entry. And am not averse to the location of the powder room. Though, perhaps you could go a little smaller on the utility to get the powder room in a better location.

Just some thoughts for your designer.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:02PM
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Do you have the ability to have a driveway on both road frontages?

Could you revise the plan so that you have a 3 car garage that faces north and another 3 car garage perpendicular that faces west with a half round drive? Still a lot of garage, but it would eliminate the 53' of solid garage wall that faces the street to the west.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:36PM
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No, I don't have the ability to access the house from the west side street. That street is currently a 2 lane road, which will likely be expanded in the future to 4 lanes. We did consider at one time having the garage face west and a building next to it facing north, so they could share a driveway. I'm still trying to figure out how to make that happen. DH is set on his big garage! Around here, though, the garage would not be a detriment - a lot of hunters, car guys, large families, etc., it's just a matter of making this work right and look good.
Kirkhall: Those are great suggestions - thank you. I'm going to play around a bit and see what that looks like on paper. We only have one child at home, and she's a teenager, but the guest room downstairs would be used often enough for them to have their own bath, but I do realize that's a luxury, and we could share that one. I'm wondering if we could get a little powder room under the stairs, even if we have to change the stairs somewhat. I just don't want one long staircase.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:17PM
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Overall, I like your plan too.

A few thoughts: The location of the "future greenhouse" is going to be shaded by the garage all afternoon. Is that really the best place for it?

How will you heat the office on the other side of the garage? Will it have it's own heater? It seems like it would be inconvenient to have to walk around the RV in the garage to get to it.

It sounds like the music room could become your craft room with a view to the West when your daughter leaves home in a few years. It'll even have nice Northern light.

I like big garages, but if you can swing a second building for your camper and other less-used vehicles, I think it would look better and be more convenient (since you wouldn't have to pull one car out of the garage to get access to another).

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:59PM
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Consider stacking the garages.ot moving some of your storage at a seperate location. Maybe have your RV garage and a double (two deep) on the main level then have a side load garage in the basement.

I would honestly consider buying or renting a garage off site for the camper and other low use vehicles. This is what we've done. I bought a couple acres and built a pole barn for tractor, RV, boat and other storage. I think I have less than 15k in the whole deal. We are also in a rural area. When we need the boat or camper they are a 5 minute drive away. As a bonus we have another couple acres to garden and use for other purposes... Good luck. It sounds like you know what you want.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:59PM
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The design challenge with your house is that it is massive and overpowering. You will not be well served on this forum by comments dealing with a room here or there, or the change of a door swing from this way to that way.

You need to explore design strategies that will reduce the apparent bulk of your house and garage and bring it back into a more "human" scale, consistent with more normal residential architecture. If I understand your aerial photo correctly, this strategy is made even more important because your site and the rest of the area is relatively flat with few or no trees or other screening vegetation.

There are many approaches you could take. For example, you could organize your design in a "compound" centered around a central large courtyard space, with one smaller 2-3 car garage on one side and the other garage space in another structure on an adjacent side of the courtyard. Occupies spaces could then be organized with "day time" living spaces on a third side of the "courtyard" and the sleeping spaces on the fourth side, making the enclosure complete.

The advantage of this approach is that you could have the very large spaces you apparently desire, but to all observers the appearance on any given side would be limited to a small number of smaller shapes. You would have the additional advantage of a private central courtyard or atrium for whatever outdoor activities you might desire, and which would be completely private from neighbors.

There are many other design strategies to consider, but your current "massed plan" strategy with such a very large and bulky area will only create a huge eyesore in the community. You need to break up the "masses" and make them smaller and more humanely scaled.

If none of this makes sense, you need a skilled architect to rescue this project.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 12:19AM
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I have a separate garage. I highly recommend them. Your plan is not at all about the house. It's about compromising to deal with the elephant in the room. You're not going to get a good looking home with that attached. I second the courtyard approach, and also exploring utilizing the second road to create a second entrance into the commercial looking garage zone. If the secondary road is to be the primary road, then the commercial look would be more appropriate to that face.

Or, you may be looking at the wrong lot for your wishes if that road is to be developed and you wan this super large garage. A larger lot where it could be located as a separate outbuilding at some distance behind the main structure would allow you to make it look like a barn and appear more at home in a more rustic setting.

Or, you should really explore rental locations for much of what you're trying to house. It will actually turn out cheaper to do that monthly than it will to pay for on site housing for the next 30 years in a house note. Plus the interest for housing all of that. Minus the affect that such a structure would have on a residential home value. Unless it is much more carefully handled than the plan above, it will become "the garage house" in the neighborhood and that's not what you want to be if resale ever happens for any reason.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 7:30AM
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FWIW, there are areas near me where having massive garages is common. I can think of streets where almost every house has a structure as large from the front as the garage in these plans. So it's possible that the garage will fit in the neighborhood just fine.

Having said that, I think the camper size garage doors always look kind of industrial and out of scale attached to a house, and I would look for a way to make that door invisible from the front of the house. Maybe the camper could be oriented 90 degrees from the rest of the garage and accessed from the side (behind the office)? An advantage to doing that is that the driveway for the camper garage door could be parking for office visitors so they don't end up blocking the house's garage. It would avoid having to interrupt a meeting in the office because someone has parked the residents of the house in, and they've got somewhere they need to be, and having the extra parking would be necessary, IMO, if you end up with support staff in the office.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:51AM
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When it comes to planning a house, there are some common architectural archtypes:

--Massed plan: Early American houses tended to be simple, massed plans (a Monopoly "house" or "hotel"), often multi-storied, using square and retangular shapes, which were easy and economcal to build and efficient to heat in the north's winters and cool in the south's summers. Massed plans are best for small, simple structures.

--Irregular plan: The advent of ballon framing in the 1800s allowed much more construction flexibility for building, and larger houses began to be common with irregular shapes (L's, T's, U's, etc) with many extensions and re-entrant shapes. Irregular plans are best for larger, more complicated structures.

--Garages: Before the automobile, horses, wagons, carts and the like were kept in buildings seperate from the house, for obvious reasons. When cars first became common in the early 1900s, they were kept in the same manner as horses and wagons--seperate from the house. This approach continues to this day, but it has also become common to make the car storage a part of the main house. This latter desire has drastically impacted the overall size, shape and appearance of the house--often dwarfing or even consuming the house such that the only visible element from the street may be multiple garage doors! Small lots and large garages make the problem even worse.

In this case, the house and garage are simply too large and overwhelming for the given site. In response, some of the strategies may be:

--Change from a massed plan to a irregular plan to break up the mass and humanize it, bringing it back to the scale of the residential neightborhood in which it is proposed;
--Find a piece of commercially zoned or mixed-use zoned property so tha the garage may be put on the first level and the living quarter placed above the garage--sort of an earlier era of "living above where one works";
--Purchase a wooded tract and place the current design in the middle surrounded by trees so that it cannot be seen, but can be enjoyed by its occupants.

The current design and site are simply incompatible with each other. Discussing the plan's makeup, such as laundry room and door swings, in this case, is really pointless.

A new design strategy is what is needed.

Good luck with your project.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 10:20AM
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Thanks for all the input - I really am taking it all in and trying to create the best plan for us with all the factors involved. The garage is a big deal for DH - he would like the RV bay to be in the middle of the garage, which I absolutely detest, but he's thinking of the cost of the rafters and that he would park the camper towards the back of the garage, and his work truck with a ladder rack in front of it. I'd like to come up with a nice way to get it all done. I did find this garage on Houzz that I can live with - we just have to create a house to match the style so it looks good together. I'm not absolutely dead-set on a certain look, because I like everything from old bungalow style houses to prairie style. We live in the Midwest, so as long as we're not ultra-modern, it should look nice in this area. I'm also attaching a scan of what DH drew out for me to show me better how he pictures the garage and office space (just a rough sketch). We also don't really want all the corners on the house part of the plan, because each turn costs more to build, so he shows a simpler box shape for the house on his drawing. What do you think?

Here is a link that might be useful: Large barn style garage

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 4:30PM
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Breaking the large single mass of house and garage into at least two, smaller masses is exactly what I was suggesting earlier. And the more each of these two still large masses are further "fragmented" to reduce the visual bulk of each will be better still.

For example, the 6-car garage (which will have additional vehicles parked in its vicinity, if the sketch is correct), could conceivably be a smaller 2-bay structure, with a "lean-to" component on one side for the third bay. Breaking up the single large mass helps to reduce the visual bulk and to make the results much more humane in scale.

A passing thought: is your property zoned for both residential and business uses?

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 5:10PM
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The business that my DH is in is more like him working from home. There might be times during a storm season where extra people might be in the area and have to pick up and drop off files, but there wouldn't be employees, etc., so as far as zoning, we are ok. Right now in those instances, if he is gone, I have to give files to people that come into my house, and we are trying to avoid entering the house at all and keeping the business activity separate. The reason we finally purchased this lot is because around here it's either live in the country (which I don't like) or live right in town with a small lot and no space for a big garage, garden, pool, etc. This is a happy medium which still gives us access to roads and sidewalks for bike rides and walking, and yet we are just out of city limits.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 2:55AM
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"The business that my DH is in is more like him working from home. There might be times during a storm season where extra people might be in the area and have to pick up and drop off files, but there wouldn't be employees, etc., so as far as zoning, we are ok"

Are you sure?

DH's business is the same way and we had to get a variance.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 10:39AM
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I hadn't thought about the zoning, because most acreage around here is not subject to strict rules, however, I would not expect to see an office with a separate entrance and it's own parking and an over-sized garage intended to hold work vehicles in an area zoned purely for residential use. I would definitely check that the powers-that-be are okay with your plans before you get much farther.

I *think* the nature of what you're building is more important than exactly what your husband does there, and it really seems like mixed-use project to me.

Hopefully it's not an issue, but if it is, it would be better to know now.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:44AM
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And you might want to double check the HOA/POA rules if there is one. The arial view makes it look like an HOA/POA neighborhood. And are there limits on how large the second structure on your lot can be?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 3:30PM
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If there is a Zoning Ordinance it will tell you if a business is allowed in a single family house in your zone. A limitation on employees is usually a part of that rule.

In older communities such offices may be limited to doctors and in others it is limited to services that don't involve retail sales, etc. Don't assume anything about town ordinances; ask the building inspector.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 4:56PM
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Sophie Wheeler

The overhead view shows several modest outbuildings/barns. I don't think any of the neighbors would be very pleased to see an "outbuilding" going up that dwarfs the house, even if local building regs allow it. I suspect they don't. Most localities or HOA's have limits as to the size of secondary structures. You think this board's reaction has been negative, just wait until the surrounding property owners see the plans!

You need a much larger lot in a more rural area for your garage plans. Or you need to find other locations for some of the garage occupants if you wish to build on this lot.

This post was edited by hollysprings on Sat, Mar 2, 13 at 18:49

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 6:47PM
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There is no HOA/POA. The only requirements are a minimum 1250 sq. ft house, limit of 2 buildings, plans to be approved by the "architecture committee", which is the married couple that owned the land before it was a subdivision. We can't have livestock or poultry, and the business part of it is very vague. There is currently a daycare at one house, a lady who has a large garden and a commercial kitchen because she makes her own salsas that she sells everywhere, and a guy that has a paper shredding business on a mobile truck. The house directly across from us has a garage with what looks like office space on one side and it's a hangout for him and the guys, football games, etc. Literally in this past year we maybe had someone come by 4 times to pick up files. This will be DH's office, but also a place for his "guy" stuff, like hunting gear and clothes, files storage, etc. and in the future it could be a guest room...who knows.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 10:49PM
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