Gardner Edgewater plan vs. Betz Mcginnis Ferry planplan

sanderscDecember 6, 2011

Hi: I am meeting with two builders and have narrowed my choice to 2 plans, Gardner Edgewater and Betz McGinnis Ferry. I want a 3 car garage and a keeping room. Builders have totally opposite opinions. One says Edgewater is better because foyer/great room are symmetrical and kitchen is a better layout. The other says the master bath, secondary bath, and secondary bedroom sizes are limited in Edgewater and likes the McGinnis Ferry better.

Any thoughts about keeping rooms? I think that is where I'd watch tv and hang out vs. great room, but perhaps it is an unnecessary luxury.

I wish both houses had a bit more "drama" to them in terms of foyer and great room.

Any thoughts or suggestions about any of the above would really be appreciated.

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If you are doing a custom build, then your builders may be able to take the aspects you like about each home and kind of combine them into your home. For instance, my husband and I brought 2 home designs to our builder. He asked each of us what we liked and didn't like about each home, wrote a list, and then used the plan that could be better customized to make both of us happy. He stretched rooms, added walls, removed walls, added "drama" in trimwork, changed the kitchen layout, etc until it became the house it is today.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 10:51AM
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I note that neither plan has the 3 car garage you say you want so to get one you'll have to pull the front of the garage forward by 10 to 12 feet on both plans. That will affect how the front elevation looks. At least both plans have side-load garages but, if you would prefer a less-prominent look to the garage wing, you might look for plans that already have 3 garage bays.

I see a number of pros/cons with each plans. Ultimately, if you're going to choose between these two plans, you'll have to decide for yourself which pros are more important to you and which cons you can most easily live with. As Pcandlyte points out tho, an architect might be able to incorporate the best of both designs into a single unified custom design.

Anyway, here are the pros/cons I see in comparing the two plans.

1) Symmetry of great room.
2) Much better kitchen layout in general (but note the lack of a pantry).
3) Separation of living room from family room means both rooms can probably be used at the same time with not too much noise bleed-over.
4) Separate his/hers closets for master bedroom.
5) Master bedroom closets accessible without going through bathroom.
6) All bedrooms on one floor means no climbing stairs.
7) Nice-sized sitting area in master bedroom.
8) Direct access to deck from master bedroom.
9) Guest bedroom can be accessed from the foyer if you want to use it as an office.
10) Masterbedroom is better separted from potential noise emanating from the living room.

1) Family entry is through the utility room. (UGH! Consider what happens if you're in the midst of sorting laundry when the kids arrive home from school.)
2) Lacks walk-in pantry.
3) No real "mud room" or place to put coats/hats/junk near family entrance.
4) Jack & Jill bathroom... (just a concept that I generally dislike because of kids locking one another out either accidentally or accidentally on purpose)
5) Roof seems awfully tall for a house that has no second floor. Seems to me like, if you're going to pay for all that volume, you ought to get some use out of it. At the very least, one ought to be able to open up the attic area over the foyer and make it two story foyer. That upper window could give the foyer some added punch instead of being a blind window into the attic!

McGinnis Ferry

1) Mud room.
2) Separate laundry room (which, BTW, could be improved by the addition of a WINDOW!)
3) Walk in pantry
4) Upstairs teen suite (no doubt the kids will love having their own hang out space)
5) Easy access to attic storage via the teen suite.
6) Design COULD be modified to create a 2 story foyer for additional drama by making teen suite smaller.
7) Larger secondary bedrooms

1) Kitchen definitely need reworking! Island is a "barrier island" and traffic from garage to the rest of the house passes right next to the stove which IMHO is never a good idea.
2) No real separation between keeping room and family room. Noise will flow from one to the other.
3) Master bath seems a bit disorganized.
4) Single master closet instead of his/hers.
5) Guest room is inconveniently located if you want to use it as an office.
6) Shared wall between master bedroom and family room could result in noise issues.

With respect to "keeping rooms," I personally tend to think of them as replacements for what we used to call the "family den" back in the good old days. The den was a place where the family could be a little bit messier while the "living room" (previously called the parlor and now often renamed the "great room") was kept a bit neater so that if company arrived unexpectedly, one didn't have to ask them to take a seat amongst discarded shoes, scattered newspapers, toys and games and perhaps the ironing board and a stack of laundry we kids were supposed to be folding while we watched TV. The den also provided a separate room for kids to play could go off to the living room for adult conversation. Or, when Dad and the boys wanted to watch football in the den, Mom and I could go off to the living room and watch a movie on the other TV set.

But, for a den to function at it's best, it needed to be totally hidden from the front door and not easily seen from the living room. And it was best if you had a door between the den and living room that could be closed off to shut out noise or a view into the den. LOL!

Hope some of this is helpful.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 4:03PM
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Hi: Thanks very much to both of you for your great information. Your specific insights have led me to two other plans that both already have a 3 car garage and many of the same features that I like, but incorporating some of your suggestions: The Gardner Birchwood and the Betz Magnolia Springs.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 9:58PM
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I like the Birchwood plan a lot. No "keeping room" but you may not really need one since, in addition to the Great Room, it has a study AND a nice sitting area in the master bedroom AND a screened porch with a fireplace AND a huge bonus room over the garage that could be turned into a children's play area, a mancave, a game room, a media room, or just about anything else one can imagine. How many different "living areas" does one family really need anyway? LOL!

The various ceiling treatments and varied ceiling heights should give you the drama you want and the plan is pretty nicely organized.

There are a couple of things that I don't like about the Birchwood tho. They are:
1) the kitchen design with it's barrier island smack dab in the middle of the paths between sink, stove, and fridge;
2) the lack of a powder-room near the garage entrance;
3) the lack of a "mud room" or unloading area at the garage entrance; and
4) no powder-room easily accessible to the bonus room except by going into one of the two back bedrooms.

I would either get rid of the kitchen island completely or make it a whole lot smaller. Or, alternatively, you could move the sink to the island, make the island a whole lot wider and get rid of the entire wall of cabinets next to the great room and open up that wall completely to get an "open floor plan." In fact, in the house they photographed of the Birchwood kitchen on the Gardner website, that is exactly what they did. (If you look closely, you'll see that the photographed kitchen is very nice but is definitely NOT the same as the one shown on the floorplan.) The folks over on the kitchen forum could probably give you some other suggestions for making the kitchen more user friendly.

As for the other issues, first off, I'd turn the e-space into a mudroom/drop zone. Every family needs somewhere to drop coats, hats, bookbags, etc when coming in or that stuff always winds on the nearest flat surface! In this case, the options are: on top of the computer, on the kitchen counters or the breakfast table.

So, I'd move the computer to the library - out of the way of traffic and where it wouldn't constantly be covered with dropped off junk and where I would have room to stretch out and get comfy when working at the computer.

Then, I'd probably have the two back bedrooms share a single but slightly larger bathroom opening off the hallway. (I.e., incorporate the closet on the right side of that hallway into the bathroom on the right and make it a shared bath.) Then I'd use the space dedicated to the bathroom on the left and that left-hand hallway closet for a powder room and a pantry. Put the pantry in the half nearest the kitchen so you go right past it when traveling from garage to kitchen. That'll make dropping off bags of groceries convenient. Then, I'd take the original pantry area and e-space area and combine them to make a nice-sized mud-room. You would have plenty of room for half a dozen 18" deep cubbies which will help keep junk from landing on your kitchen counters.

With a powder room opening off the mudroom, whatever you eventually decide to do with the bonus room, you won't have to run down the stairs and clear across the house ...or through one of the kid's bedrooms to reach a bathroom. Otherwise, you should probably plumb now so that you can easily add a bathroom upstairs someday. And that bath still won't be very convenient when coming in from the garage.

Note also that by moving the pantry out of the kitchen, you can wrap cabinetry around the corner of the kitchen... which, if you look closely at the pictures, is what they did in the house that was photographed.

You should also make sure of exactly how deep the garage parking BAYS are. If the 24' depth measurement includes the storage area, the actual parking bay may be less than 21 feet deep which could be a bit tight for parking a larger vehicle.

You'll also want to verify the dimensions of the two master closets. To hang clothing on parallel walls you need a bare minimum of 6 ft which gives you 2 ft for each hanging rod and 2 ft for the aisle space down the middle. A two foot wide aisle in a closet with clothing on each side feels claustrophobic so for real comfort the closet needs to be 7 feet wide. Those closets look like they're maybe 5'6" wide. If so, be aware that you'll only be able to hang clothing in an L shape in the smaller closet and on three walls in the larger closet. That is still a lot of storage space but not nearly as much as the drawing suggests you'll have.

In fact, with any internet plan, it is always a good to verify the actual wall-to-wall size of every room and closet before you buy. Some of the designs get pretty skimpy in rooms where they don't show dimensions. And, where rooms are not perfect rectangles, one can never be sure without asking if the listed dimension include the little bumpouts or the actual "useful" floor space.

With those caveats, I think the Birchwood plan could make a very very nice home.

As for the Betz Magnolia Springs, I can't say I like it at all. About the only thing about it that I like better than the Birchwood is that you have access to the outdoors via the laundry room... that can be nice for letting the family dog in/out of the yard when you don't want muddy paw prints on the living room floor. But you could easily add an exterior door in the laundry room of the Birchwood if you wanted one.

Furthermore, the rear elevation drawing of the Magnolia Springs doesn't correlate to the floorplan AT ALL. Either the artist added a full second floor (complete with 2nd floor deck!) instead of the single bedroom and bonus room shown on the plan OR he added in an entire walk-out basement under the main floor. In either case, without extensive revisions to the floor plan, you rear elevation would not wind up looking anything at all like the one shown with the plan. It's misleading enough when sites post photographs of houses supposedly built from the plans but where so many revisions have been made to the original plan that the built house is a TOTALLY different house. But, when the artist's conception is this misleading, it is inexcusable.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 1:33AM
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Thanks for the very specific feedback, which is really helpful. You all should know that my house will have a daylight walkout basement. You might be aware that there is another thread on this site in which many are highly critical of the Birchwood plan. One of the main complaints seems to be that the kitchen is buried within the interior of the house, with little opportunity for natural light. Does it strike you that way? Some have suggested that a house with a kitchen on an exterior wall, with a window over the sink, for example, is becoming increasingly popular. With plans that have this, it seems to me that it takes away the opportunity to have a bar where several people can sit and chat with the chef, replaced by an island (ala Betz Graves Spring) and also the kitchen is placed a long distance from the great room. Any thoughts about this?

A few more general thoughts:
1) I have debated about 1 story vs. 1 1/2, with a couple of bedrooms up in a 4 bedroom house, but just think a 1 story would be more useable for me. I might opt for a 1 1/2 story if I I could find one with a beautiful set of open stairs that add to the drama, but can only find that with a house with a two story great room, something that I think would feel cavernous. Thoughts?
2) I am going to see a built version of the Edgewater this weekend, which will be helpful. But I don't know how to get past the garage issue, since a 3 car garage would make the garage look out of proportion to the rest of the house. I would have a detached garage built, but know that would be lots of extra expense. Any thoughts about this?
3) I really appreciate all of your specific comments about measurements, such as for closets and interior room dimensions, and will check that closely before making a commitment to a plan. I'm not sure where consumers are supposed to go, other than with these national residential architectural companies, since I don't really trust that local architects can do a better job. Where does the typical consumer go to get house plans they can trust, and equally important, where they can at least see photos of the plan already built?
4) Finally, knowing what I want in a house:
2500-3100 square feet, open plan, rooms that take advantage of a beautiful view of mtns out of the back on a 1 acre lot, beautiful open kitchen with bar space for friends to hang out, a great master suite with beautiful bathroom with a good layout and big shower, 3 car garage, possibly a keeping room or a screen porch, lots of light (but with the knowledge that the back of the house faces west), great layout for resale, bonus room if possible-can anyone suggest any plans that you really like?
I'd like a house that has a lot of unique features, but recognize that if I make it too unique, it may impact ability to resell easily.

Thank you all for your fantastic, detailed input!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 9:20AM
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Now I'm ROTFLMAO because - would you believe? - I did a search for the thread you mentioned and I'm one of the people who trashed this plan on that thread! And now I like it!

Not terribly consistent am I??? LOL!

Actually, I think it has to do with comparing the plan against other ones that you mentioned. The Birchwood was soooo much better than the Magnolia Springs that I focused totally on the better points of the Birchwood in this post and ignored, or at least minimized, some of the negatives that I saw when I posted about it before. Plus, you made no mention of small children so the distance between master bedroom and kid's rooms wasn't on my mind this time around.

Basically consumers have three options for getting a house plan. 1) Hire an architect or house designer to design a plan for you; 2) Pick a pre-drawn plan from an internet site or plan book and maybe tweak it a little bit; or 3) Design your own house. There are pros/cons with each option and I don't recommend #3 unless you've spent most of your life drawing floorplans and looking at and thinking about how houses work and then are willing to spend an inordinate amount of time studying architectural design. Is there a particular reason you don't trust your local architects to do a better job than what you can find in the plan books? Have you, or has someone you know had a bad experience with a local architect?

Like every other profession, architects come with all levels of proficiency. Some are geniuses, some are hacks. Some know how to listen to their clients and some are only interested in displaying THEIR creativity. Some understand that a home must, first and foremost, function as a home while some seem to think that it doesn't matter if the house is uncomfortable to live in as long as it is "art."

Unless you live in a total backwater, I'm sure there are competent architects living near you. Finding one whose work you like and with whom you can develop a good working relationship might take quite a bit of time tho.

But, if you decide to go with a home plan selected from an internet site, be aware that VERY VERY often the associated photographs show houses that were "tweaked" so significantly from the plans that they might as well be pictures of a totally unrelated house. Do NOT rely on those photographs to select your design.

Some people can look at floorplans and visualize in their minds what the house would look like. Some can't. To this day, my husband looks at floorplans and still sees nothing but "boxes". So he left the design phase of our house totally up to me. If you're like my husband, perhaps you can find an architect who uses one of the 3D CAD programs to give his clients an idea of what your house would look like.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 11:41AM
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I, too, am drawn to the Birchwood by Gardner. But myself and a couple of people I have been corresponding with think that the modified version of the Birchwood, which they named the Chesnee, has a much more favorable room arrangement, specifically in the kitchen and dining areas, while knocking off one of the guest baths (not a loss in my book). Imagine the kitchen with the main sink under the front window (prep sink where the main sink is now on the plan) and the stove on the right arm of the U-kitchen. Still no easily accessible powder room from the front door, same for a coat closet. Think we are supposed to use the bath and closet in the study for this purpose as far as I can figure out, but not sure I like this.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardner Chesnee plan

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 11:46AM
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Thanks for the updated information. If it impacts thoughts about a house, I live alone, entertain a lot, am an artist who appreciates neat residential architecture, want to take advantage of the view of the mountains from the rear of my house, want a house that is a joy to me and a solid investment in terms of resale potential. It will require a walkout basement and the front faces east. With that knowledge, any additional thoughts would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 12:40PM
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"I am going to see a built version of the Edgewater this weekend, which will be helpful."

Sandersc - If you are able to take photos when you visit the Edgewater, would you please post the photos. Where are you located?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 5:32PM
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Thank you all for the information that you've put on this site. We are looking to build the Birchwood/Chesnee or even the Edgewater. Do any of you know of a builder or person who has used one of these plans? We would really like to see a real life one before we start building. Any help is greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 9:19AM
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