How to pick a floor plan on paper

sotodogDecember 6, 2012

We are considering building a new 2 story home about 2500-2700 sq ft. I look at floor plans online and feel I have a pretty good idea of what I like and don't like. I know the min sizes of rooms I want. I am worried that when the floor plan gets built I will see problems that I couldn't tell by looking at the paper floor plan.

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Sotodog, you raise a good question about being able to visualize what will actually be built from a paper-based floor plan. In my experience, there are at least two important critria to consider:

1. What are my truly important criteria and priorities about how my house must be organized and designed? One needs to seperate needs from wants. A list of important criteria and priorities is how one evaluates plans and seperates the fluff from the substance. Don't let yourself get seduced by large areas for master bedroom closets, huge laundries with cubbies for an army and humongeous triple-car garages. Builders and stock plans love to over-inflate houses so that there's more mark-up and margin for them than on smaller, more thoughtful houses. Anyone can make a large house.

2. How does the plan and the exterior massing and design of the house interrelate? A major mistake by many folks is to focus exclusively and unilaterally on floor plans, without thinking or visualizing how the plan will actually look on the outside. For example, plans that are proportionally almost as deep as they are wide, and have long stretches of unbroken exterior walls, will only produce very bulky, boxy, boring and plain exteriors, with huge ungainly roof masses. The design of the inside and outside of a house should be considered inseperable and always be designed integrally together.

Hope this helps! Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 4:35PM
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You can download a free program called Sketchup. When I first found it I stayed up all night and taught myself how to do a simple one room buiding (it's a little stonehouse we have on our property that i was redoing as a studio/playhouse etc.

I also started to use it for newbuild/gut reno/teardown we are looking at.

It's not terribly hard to use, it's free, and it creates a 3d look at a room or house with furniture, windows and doors, etc.

It is no substitute for an architect of course but if you like to lay around, it's pretty cool.

Here is a link that might be useful: take a look at this video

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 5:54PM
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How much time do you have on your hands. :)

I'm obsessive about being able to envision something before I build/pay for it so I purchased Chief Architect's Home Designer Pro and have input everything from the plans from our designer. The roof is the only thing giving me fits, but I'm close to solving that one.

It isn't cheap, and it takes time, but it is worth it to me.

Here is a link that might be useful: Home Designer Pro

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:43PM
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Something that helped me wrap my head around floor plans was thinking about rooms I have experience with in real life, and what I like and dislike about them, and how I could watch for those features in a paper floor plan.

Things I think are easy to ignore in floor plans: sight-lines (what do you see as you walk in the front door, or while you sit on the sofa in the family room, or from the kitchen table) and having comfortable transitions between public and private spaces (there should be a gradual transition from public entertaining spaces to more private spaces like bedrooms, not just a door, IMO). Also, think about how your house will be oriented on your lot, and whether you're going to get enough light, and how people will approach your house and what they'll see. There's not much point in spending a lot on the front of your house if everyone will come at it from the side, park in the driveway in front of the side-loading garage, and walk in through the garage.

Another tip: marry someone who will learn one of the tools above and make an awesome 3D model for you. The downside: s/he will probably want to have input in the house design. (kidding!)

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 10:21AM
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sotodog - Do what the pros in industrial design and computer programming do, or should do. Make "use cases" and walk through the steps with a colored pen.

A "use case" is a task that will be done by a certain person ... adult bringing in groceries, child getting a drink of water, someone cooking dinner, three teens getting ready for school, going to the bathroom during the night ... whatever. Draw the paths they will follow. Is the path convenient? Figure out what to do when paths collide because two users need the same resource.

Draw "sight lines". What is straight in front of the entry? If you are sitting "here", what's visible?

Pretend to decorate - how many places can you put a bed in that bedroom? Are there lots of funky short walls? Awkward corners? Too many doors in the way?

Look for impressive but useless spaces - atriums are overrated. Are the bathrooms too big to be convenient?

And remember that the best plan has to suit the lot it is on. That fabulous big window might be a broiler if the lot forces it to face south.

Here is a link that might be useful: work paths foir kitchen use case

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 4:52PM
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