Please Critique Our Plans

rosskaDecember 21, 2012

I first want to start off by thanking all of the extremely knowledgeable people that contribute to this awesome site. Although this is my first post I have been reading for quite some time and can say this is the best home building forum on the web.

We have been working on our plans for several months and this is the 5th draft. I did not want to post our plans until we were really happy with the outcome. We just got this plan today and like what we have but would like all of your constructive criticism to make it even better. This is our first build and I am trying to do everything I can to make sure it is functional. Thanks in advance for any help!

Here is a link that might be useful: Our Plans

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Please tell us more about your family, who will live in the house, how often you entertain, etc. Fabulous entry and lines of sight in the house. At first glance, I would eliminate the narrow extention on the upstairs bedroom closet. Instead, I woud create a linen closet from the common area since this is missing upstairs. Laundry seems far away from master if you are empty nesters or don't have kids occupying the upstairs bedrooms. Your ceiling details willbe beautiful. Please take the kitchen layout to the kitchen forum. I am not a fan of corner ranges, or corner anything for that matter. You will lose valuable floor space and storage space. I would put the range on the left wall, leave sink in front of window if you prefer, and extend the wall on the other side a bit to put refrigerator here. YOu would have to shorten the island a bit, but it looks generous already. What is the space in the closet off the dining area? I cannot see it that well. It would be a great spot for a little office/computer area that can be closed when not in use. I hope that is what it is. :) The covered porch in the back (and summer kitchen) look very deep. Plan lighting accordingly because your family room and kitchen are likely to be fairly dark. My house is the same, but I am OK with it because we really wanted outdoor living space and I like the flow of having it all together.

Your house will be beautiful! Good luck with your progress.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:43AM
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Thanks for your insight Momto! We are a family of 4. My wife and I are in our early 30's with two children (7yr old daughter, 4yr old son). We are from Louisiana but currently live in Houston, TX. The elevation style of our home will be Acadian/Louisiana. We plan to do a good bit of entertaining along with having large family get togethers so we really focused on that when designing the plans. The space off of the dining are will be a wine grotto/wet bar with iron doors so you can see into it. Unfortunately our home will have to be east facing so we made the porches deep for efficiency. I really want as much indirect natural light coming in as I can so we will have 12' ceilings throughout with transom windows in the dining and family room (see pic). I have been visiting a lot of home construction sites and find that I really like the 25' depth for the outdoor living area. I am hoping that the 12' ceilings will keep the living and dining rooms from being dark. A lot of our inspiration came from pictures of the Terrebonne floor plan. I hope this gives everyone a better understanding of what we are trying to achieve. Please keep the questions and suggestions coming.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 2:14AM
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Where will the children sleep? I wouldn't want kids as young as 7 and 4 as far from me as your upstairs bedrooms are. Dealing with a sick/scared child in the middle of the night would involve a lot of long treks back and forth between the master and the upstairs.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 10:37AM
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Hi there. I love Houston. We lived there for 8 years.

Overall I like the plan. It is similar to what we built in that we have the master and guest suite on the main level with 2 kids bedrooms upstairs.

I do have a few comments and suggestions:

1. I agree with zone4. The biggest issue with the plan is the location of the stairs. It is a very long hike from the master bedroom to the kids bedroom. I have one 9 yo and although I don't go upstairs that much, you will be going upstairs for quite some time and not just for sick kids. For bedtime, bathtime, and oh by the way we forgot the socks time. Also, I would not want to have to go through the game room to get to the seconary bedrooms. Maybe shift the guest bedroom right and put the stairs off the foyer or family room.

2. The laundry is very far away from the master bedroom. Our laundry is off the hall that leads to the guest and master bedrooms. I love it. I never lug laundry around.

3. Are you sure you want the entry from the garage to the pantry? Just one more exterior door to secure.

4. Considering the climate in Houston, I'm not sure if I would put the fireplace in th family room. If you must have a fireplace, how about putting it in the study? I would prefer to center the tv in the family room.

5. I noticed quite a few of your bathrooms don't have a window. We have a similar situation and this is one of the things I regret! The guest bathroom- no big deal, but I would consider putting in a transom window in the powder room above the sink. With the kids' bathroom if a window cannot be worked in maybe a skylight or solatube.

6. Storage. I know in Houston there are no basements. You have alot of garage space so maybe storage won't be an issue, but have you considered using some of your 2nd floor attic space as storage space? It seems like you have a ton of space there.

7. Kitchen definitely needs to be reworked.

Good luck with your plans! Other than the staircase issue, the other comments are minor and just a matter of personal preference but I would seriously think about the stairs.

This post was edited by pps7 on Sat, Dec 22, 12 at 11:03

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 11:02AM
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I only have a couple of minutes but when I looked at your plan I was shocked because I thought that this plan was designed for me. It has just about everything on my wish list.

Fabulous plan. Architect designed?

I will look at it more closely later. What does the exterior look like and who is your architect?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 11:04AM
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Sophie Wheeler

I'm confused by your port cochere. It's traditionally a covered roof that allows guests to be dropped off outof the weather while the vehicles are parked in a separate motor court area. Yours is an expensive "porch" to a garage. The entire large accessory garage is puzzling frankly. If you did a separate structure more to the rear of the property for all of the boat and RV parking, that would allow the house garage to be a side load, which would be MUCH more attractive. And you could screen the separate garage from the house with landscaping to make the whole property be much more "estate" like. The look that's happening now is more of a mini storage attached to a house.

For a million dollar build, the kitchen is pretty proportionately small, nonfunctional and blah. When your master area is three times the size of the kitchen, something is out of proportion. And yes, to me that also means that the master is a bit larger and the kitchen is a bit small for the living space. And both are rather large for only a 4 bedroom house. You'd need to add at least 2 more bedrooms and baths to even out the proportions.

Overall, the cubic space suggested will feel rather cold and impersonal rather than cozy and intimate. You need some lower ceilinged height areas to contract with some of the taller areas if you want to have the taller areas feel spacious instead of cold and exposed. Not to mention the additional construction and ongoing energy costs that all the extra height will cost you.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 11:11AM
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Pps and zone 4 I have moved the stairs several times because I do not want them to load in the family room or kitchen. I am trying to design the house so that all of the space is used efficiently and did not want the stairs to take up space I wanted in other parts of the house. I am not that concerned about the trips up the stairs as I am planning to be in this house for a very long time. I feel like the stair placement will keep the traffic of our kids and their friends from coming through the house when they are outside.

The laundry room is a concern of mine but I can not figure another location for it without changing the whole layout. On thing I considered is putting a stacked washer/dryer in the master closet.

We walked into a home that had a garage entry pantry and after that day my wife would not budge that aspect of the plan.

Thank you for pointing out the fact that the bathrooms have no natural light! This is something that I did not think of and will be changing.

The fireplace will have the tv built in and framed above the mantle. The plan shows entertainment center to the left but that will be changing.

The kitchen is an area I want to get perfect as it is the most important part of the house to me. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 11:45AM
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It seems there is a concensous that our kitchens needs quite a bit of work! Here is a link to the plan and pictures that inspired a lot of the design. I also attached a picture of an elevation we like. I think it will help to give an idea of the style we are wanting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Terrebone Plan

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:13PM
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Food for thought, take it for what it's worth. I had a friend in high school who could get from his bedroom to the outside without passing through the rest of the house, and he was the one who stored the liquor, and he didn't need to worry about not being visibly drunk when he got home. I think your design will be great when you are empty nesters who host big family gatherings, but I think having the kids' bedrooms so disconnected from the rest of the house will make it easier to miss things about your kids' lives. Even really good kids get tempted to do things they shouldn't, and whether or not they're likely to get caught can tip the scales.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:46PM
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I agree about the kids bedrooms. And about the kitchen. And about the size of the master and the excess ceiling height that you're planning.

And especially about the expensive space devoted to all of the stuff that you can pay $50 a a month to park somewhere else. Having that giant storage garage attached to the house is a BIG mistake. Do a barn if you want to get up in the middle of the night and visit the boat, but most people that own RVs and boats do park them at storage facilities in the more upscale neighborhoods.

Also think about getting furniture into that master suite. You've got an immediate 90 degree turn right off the bat that will make getting anything in or out of there a big war. But especially think about getting a king sized mattress in there. It just won't happen unless you give the guys an extra $100 and have them carry it through the yard and turn those windows in the (expensive) bowed area into at least a french door.

This will be a very expensive house to construct also. That may not concern you if you have the budget that the boat-mahal suggests, but this is the type of home that invites going over even a high budget quite easily. And that is something that does need to concern you if you want it to fit into the neighborhood, or get a bank loan to build it, or if you ever need to resell it due to any family issues.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 2:00PM
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Thanks for your opinion green designs. The idea of the porte cochere comes from the fact that I never park in our current garage I want a covered parking area. Here is a pic that gives a general idea of what I am looking to do.

Hollysprings, the current house garage is a side load. I am open for suggestions on where to do the varied ceiling heights. Not sure I understand the point of the master being to big and the kitchen to small? The master bedroom is 16'x15', which I do not feel is to big, and the
kitchen is 20'x16',which I feel is large compared to other plans I have reviewed.

Greendesigns other than the detached garage or as you put it boat-mahal can you explain how this house will be very expensive to construct. I am open to ideas on how to build smart and reduce cost.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 7:21PM
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I understand the need for a covered porch in TX. However, I think the family room will be dark, especially with the wood ceiling. What direction does the back of the house face? Have you had your architect show you the path of the sun during the year, to show how much light you will actually get into the family room. To me, it looks like you will constantly be turning on the lights in that room. That would bother me, but I know it wouldn't bother everyone.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 7:36PM
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The back of our house will face west. Do you think raising the porch height will allow more light in? I plan to keep it at 12'. What is the max depth of the outdoor living area to still allow natural light to enter?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 12:24AM
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Is the summer kitchen also covered?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:04AM
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Dekeobe, the summer kitchen is covered. The back porch goes from the master to the utility. The back of the home faces west so I wanted to shade the windows plus I like porches.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 12:12PM
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Be sure a put curtains on that west-facing summer kitchen. I am native Houstonian, and I would not want to do anything on the west side of the house, especially in the summer! Maybe swim.....

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 10:25PM
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I know what you mean springroz! I wish I could figure a way to layout the backyard to make it enjoyable in the summers. One thing I did not mention is my lot is waterfront on canal off of a lake so I can not reposition the home. The summer kitchen is not final my designer just put it there as his suggestion. I figure that I will wait until the house is complete to layout the back yard due to the issues with the sun.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 11:18PM
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I know what you mean springroz! I wish I could figure a way to layout the backyard to make it enjoyable in the summers. One thing I did not mention is my lot is waterfront on canal off of a lake so I can not reposition the home. The summer kitchen is not final my designer just put it there as his suggestion. I figure that I will wait until the house is complete to layout the back yard due to the issues with the sun.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 11:19PM
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All of the foundation jogs, the curves, the high ceilings that need extra HVAC, and especially that extra garage will all add to the construction costs. The cubic space that you envision will also cost a lot ongoing to keep heated, and especially cooled. Tall ceilings and open spaces mean extra engineering to achieve this. And difficult and expensive rooflines. It's building a cathedral instead of a single family home.

Just the size of the extra garage finished to the house standards will probably cost you 75K minimum. Maybe even 100K by the time you add in decorative extra height garage doors. 100K will buy you a heck of a plain jane barn with some great landscaping to make it disappear at the rear of the property. Or even paid for storage elsewhere. Of course, storing your toys somewhere else doesn't give you the immediacy of impressing your visitors with them, but it's more practical for many many reasons. Even if you paid $150 a month to store the boat and RV at a storage facility, (which is double what my BIL pays) you could do that for over 50 years before you'd ever recoup the costs of building all of that space attached to the home. Costs that you will NEVER see a dime of added value for resale. That means that you're going to need extra money out of your pocket to build this home, because giant extra garages just don't add value to an appraisal. My friend has a 2000 square foot heated and cooled garage on her property, and the appraiser allowed 5K in value for it. And it probably cost her 135K to construct. The only "value" that she sees out of it is in the extra enjoyment that it brings her husband to be able to comfortably restore his old cars without freezing or sweating to death. Yours doesn't even bring that to the table as it's purely storage space for seldom used objects. It's the functional equivalent of building a giant closet to house all of the blow up kiddie stuff that you take to the lake every 4th of July.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 7:51AM
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rosska, You CAN make your backyard enjoyable in the's called the Astrodome.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 8:21AM
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Things others mentioned above that I think are fine:
1. Size of kitchen vs. master. Our kitchen is 260 sf and our master suite is 889 (bath is 250 of that, closets are 216). Not a soul that has toured our home has said the master feels too big. On the contrary, we typically get 3 "wow" responses at predictable points of the master suite tour. As long as your furnishings are appropriately sized for the space, it's fine.
2. Walking through the game room to get to the bedrooms. If you think of the game room as more of a loft/living area for the kids, it's not weird to walk through it.
3. Light in the FR given the covered porch. We have a west-facing back yard (also on a lake, so no houses or trees to obstruct the sun), with a 15' deep pergola that shades the deck until the sun drops below the roof level. The sunroom on the end of the house is plenty bright, though it does have windows along the north and south sides, which allow more light in than your FR with its walls on N and S sides. (photo below)

Things I'm not too fond of:
1. No coat closet in foyer (not an issue in Houston?)
2. Laundry too far from master. What about swapping the guest suite with the laundry and powder rooms?
3. Long narrow hall to master.

The kitchen forum is the best place to get kitchen layout advice.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 10:19AM
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Greendesigns, I a, going to discuss the added cost of the foundation jogs, curves and high ceilings with my builder to determine if they stay. At this point I have been questioning my designer about the added cost and feasibility. I appreciate your insight here as that's the info I'm looking for.

The detached garage is going to be nothing more than a two car detached garage with one part extended to store my boat and act as a small shop. The attached garage is only a 1 car garage (it is labeled wrong as a 2 car garage) so essentially I will have a 3 car garage (common in our neighboorhood) with one bay extended. I do not even own a RV but wanted my designer to add it to my plans as a future addition due to the fact that a lot of the homes in my neighborhood have this feature. Also, my builder that lives in the neighborhood and has built and and sold numerous homes here advised me that the RV garage is a feature that helps with resale. He just sold the home he has been living in and will be building on another lot in which he is planning to do the RV garage (he does not own a RV and uses it as a batting cage). But as I mentioned the RV garage on the plans is nothing more than a future addition to account for space if it was ever added.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 10:32AM
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Thanks for the post weedyacres. The coat closet is a good point, although we have never used our current coat closet, I will discuss this with our designer.

I agree that the laundry is to far from the master. I have told my DW (which does all of the laundry) this and she insist that this is not a problem for her. My suggestion was to put a stackable unit in the master closet but I'm not sure of the draw backs to this. The only problem is switching the tiling with the guest suit is the utility will be further from the kids rooms.

I asked my designer about the hall width yesterday and he said they were 42". I am thinking about making the master hall and side entry hall 48". Any thoughts on this? Is 42" wide enough?

I posted the kitchen layout in the kitchen forum yesterday so I hope to get some good insight there. Thanks again for your feedback!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 10:59AM
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Since some of my concerns have already been addressed I'm just going to add some other minor suggestions.

The 2 doors to the guest bath seem more like a pain than anything. If you want to have some privacy for your guest going to the bath without getting dressed you could just add a pocket door to the little hallway entrance to the bath and room that could remain open most of the time and just pulled closed when guests are staying.

We are in Tx. Our front porch (covers the whole front and faces southwest) is about 10 ft deep and 9 ft ceilings. We have lots of light in our house from that side, but porch helps with heat gain in the summer. A taller ceiling should get you more light as well as taller ceilings and windows. If you have walls on the sides though they seem to block more of the light than a roof with columns does. Ie think cave. This is the case at my in-laws and even though their rear patio faces SW and they have taller windows and transoms they don't have the same light we do as they have a recessed patio. Somewhat similar to how you have your dining and master walls sticking out. I think their depth is 12 ft on the walls though.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 4:48PM
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Kitchen: For such a large kitchen, this is inefficient. For example, as it is placed, the wall will prevent the refrigerator door from opening all the way. And is that a prep sink . . . within reach of the main sink? In a kitchen this size, especially since it faces the front of the house, I would expect a larger window over the sink. Also, I'd elminate that corner-to-nowhere in the lower right-hand side; at best, corners are expensive and inefficient -- you'd be better off just ending that spot with a straight cabinet to the wall.

I would consider flipping the casual dining / kitchen areas. If the kitchen were placed to the back, you could have a pass-through window that'd allow you to easily send plates of burgers or steaks out to the grill. It'd be a nice, functional feature. It'd also allow you a good view of the children in the back yard as they're playing.

I like the garage-to-pantry entrance. I'm planning something similar myself. It means that the groceries are put away IMMEDIATELY, and they never make it to the kitchen 'til they're ready to be used. I'm including a 4' workspace in mine. This'll be a place for the grocery bags to be set down and unloaded, it'll be a spot to hide dessert 'til the right moment, and it'll be a spot to let bread rise or a crockpot stew.

However, I would remove the short wall of your pantry and let all traffic enter through what is now your "middle door". You could have pantry shelves on both sides, and people with groceries to drop off could walk through that more "open" pantry. This'd elminate the corner in the pantry, which can be difficult to deal with. If that's a cubby-set-up on the back wall that I'm suggesting elminating, you could put that on the wall that now houses the garage-to-pantry door. You'd keep the same function, but you'd eliminate one door.

What I would not do, however, is have THREE entrances from the garage to the house. Three doors to lock every night? Why? I'd reconfigure the pantry so that all garage traffic funnels through the pantry; as such, I'd allot some of that large garage entry hallway space into the pantry itself. And the door straight into the staircase is just a mess; partially, it's a parenting problem because -- as someone else said -- it keeps the children out of your life; partially, it's an accident waiting to happen (really, stepping down into a doorway -- someone's going to fall).

NINE exterior entrances? First, that's very expensive -- exterior doors and door locks are not cheap; a basic exterior door and lock set can easily cost $1000 -- 2-3Xs more if you're thinking of French doors or doors with pier glasses to the side. Second, these multiple entrances are a cleaning nightmare -- because we bring dirt in on our shoes, entrances are always in need of vaccuming, and they often are littered with bookbags, shoes, etc. Instead of having all the mess in 1-2 places, you're going to have nine little messes to clean up all around the house.

A switchback staircase costs MUCH more than a simple, straight stair (think, almost double; likewise, it takes up double the square footage). I might be willing to pay for such an item, if it were a showcase item in my foyer, and I'd look forward to decking it with greenery and lights at Christmas. I would not pay for it in the back of the house next to the garage.

Your guest suite bathroom is accessible from the hallway. Why then pay for a separate half-bath? If you're trying to provide easy access for the backyard, I'd consider moving the guest suite to the back door area. A bathroom costs about as much as a car; a simple half-bath would cost about as much as, perhaps, a little Toyota. A large, fancy bathroom would be as much as an Escalade or other luxury car. If you're financing this, every dollar borrowed tends to be paid back three times. So, it makes sense to me to minimize the bathrooms -- and using the guest bath as a backdoor bath is efficient.

I agree with those who say that the garage(s) and porte cochere are overdone. Your lot isn't all that big, and you're using much of your space to house vehicles and toys. That would be a big turn-off to me, if I were looking to buy your house. A future buyer who's interestesd in a house of this size will be able to build another detached garage -- what matters more is that the space is available. You say you want this because you never get to park in the garage. I assume that's because you're using the garage as storage -- so build a three-car garage, which is what you really need, instead of this ill-conceived monstrosity.

I wouldn't be worried about your family room being dark. You have ample windows to the back of the house, and you will get some light from the foyer. This tends to be a "hot spot" on this board, but I have a covered porch in a position similar to what you're planning, and although my family room is DARKER than it would be without the porch, it is not DARK. Not so dark that it's uncomfortable, and we do not need to use the lights all day long. If you're nervous about it, you could include skylights in the porch roof.

42" for the master bedroom hallway is fine. It is neither small nor large. Just average.

I do not like anything about the master bathroom. It's very large, but most of the space is just wasted space in the middle of the room /in front of the tub -- this isn't useful space. Have you priced tile? By moving things a bit, you could have one large, long vanity rather than one good sink and one cramped sink. Also, I'm sure I wouldn't enjoy walking by the toilet to get to the shower. You're going to hate those double-doors into the bath; where's the light switch going to go? The answer is either outside the door in the bedroom, or behind one of those doors. You have no linen storage in this bathroom; I assume that's going in the master closet? I'd be more efficient to have towels stored nearer the shower.

I agree that the laundry room is too far from the master bedroom. You have an over-sized closet; you should have no problem putting a washer/dryer into this area. You'll already have plumbing in the master bath; putting in a laundry area here would cost almost nothing -- in contrast, lines from the kitchen over to the far edge of the house, as your laundry is drawn now, will cost more AND will provide one more set of pipes that will eventually break down and cost you money. I'd do away with the downstairs utility room altogether and put a second laundry room upstairs for the children's clothes; this'll save lots of trips up and down the stairs.

In fact, thinking of doing away with that back utility room, looking at the garage entrance area, I think you could easily do away with 50% of this square footage -- a big savings, and you could come away with MORE usable space rather than this mis-match of oddities. This back area has numerous little aggravations -- like doors opening across doors, which'll always be banging against one another.

I have no problem with the children's bedrooms being upstairs. They'll find their way to you, if they need you during the night. These are good, big bedrooms. I personally would build one jack-and-jill bathroom rather than two separate baths for two children; square foot for square foot, bathrooms are the most expensive rooms in a house. You could decrease this cost by moving the two bathrooms so that they "back up" to one another.

My honest thoughts? I do not like this floorplan. It's a big house, and I'm sure it'll be impressive, but I don't think it'd be a comfortable house in which to live. It's all about space and show, but little thought has gone into function. It's going to be outrageously expensive to build: So many jogs and switches around the perimeter, so many ceiling features, plumbing strung literally from one end of the house to the other. Lots of things like the curved wall in the bedroom are going to end up costing MUCH more than you expect; builders say that there's a reason a curve is shaped like a dollar sign. Furthermore, it's going to be an expensive-to-maintain house: The air conditioning'll cost you as much as sending a kid to college. For this much money, you should be able to have a house that's beautiful AND efficient.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 6:18PM
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Wow MrsPete great post with good feedback. It will take me a little time to process the whole thing but I wanted to see if you may be able to show me some suggestions for the stairs and panty. The idea of the side entry is that it will be used far more than the front entry so i would like for it to be a grand type entrance. I have numerous friends who's house I have never been through their front door. I would like for the stairs loading area to be visual so I can put a small amount of iron railing. One thing I want to point out is the door in the garage that goes under the stairs is not an entry it is a storage closet but I do agree that there are to many entries and I would like to somehow eliminate some. I will start with the master bedroom door.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 3:36AM
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