Help me make this house smaller?

CamGSeptember 24, 2012

Hi everyone,

Love the Smaller Homes forum. Although I grew up in a giant house that my parents built themselves (complete with an indoor racquetball court), I very much want the house I'm building to be as small as comfortably possible. That said, my wife and I would like to be open to having a large family if that is in the cards (we already have an 9 month old and another on the way), so we have to plan carefully.

Right now, we are in the drafting stage, with a couple of local students drafting our plans for us. But that plan will not differ tremendously from the wonderful drafts Summerfield has done for us, below. I can find a few spots to decrease dimensions by 6" here and 1' here, but those small changes are not going to really significantly affect the size or cost of the house. Any significant changes you can see that we could implement? Currently the house is about 2,300 square feet, and I'd like to discover any such changes now, before we get too far down the line.

Thanks for any thoughts!

Main floor:

Second floor:

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Annie Deighnaugh

We spent a lot of time working on our house plan and finally determined that the only way to make a house smaller is to cut square footage!

Obvious, but true.

If you are planning on a large family then this plan is pretty reasonable. If you want it smaller then do you need the library? Do you need as much space for utility mud room? And a separate upstairs laundry? Your master closet is nearly the size of another room...are you wiling to give some of that up? If not, then go with what you got.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 6:47PM
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dekeoboe

How much square footage are you trying to cut?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 8:04PM
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marti8a

Annie brings up good points. Another thing to consider....

Kids are noisy, so if they are in the kitchen/family room, so forget trying to visit with guests, or have quiet time in the library. You'd be better off having just the office upstairs, if you really need that extra space.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 10:53PM
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nancyinmich

I looked hard, and I don't really see places to cut. You do not have extravagant room sizes. Your halls are extensive, but it seems to be a center-hall colonial style, and that means you have a center hall, right? The mudroom could lose a sink and a cabinet, I suppose, and you could lose the extra fridge in the pantry (but it would be freezer there in my house, so I can't say be rid of it!). These are such minor changes that they are not worth making. A 14x14 Library or MBR is not large. I envy the laundry room, and might make it a bit bigger! Your clearances in the kitchen/dining rooms are minimum.

My only suggestion is a hygienic one. Should a person need to leave the water closet with dirty hands, the pocket doors will get dirty. You have no way to wash hands in there! Opening the door means the door will become a germ farm. You might need these toilets:

Here is a link that might be useful: tank-top hand washing sink

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 11:59PM
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lavender_lass

Cam- I love your plan and I wouldn't change a thing! Maybe I'm biased, but I think you'll use every square foot of that space.

The only way I could see to save some money is to maybe not have the basement...but that might be something you really want/need. Would a bonus room over the garage be any cheaper, or more trouble than it's worth?

I think your kitchen/dining/family room area is just beautiful...and as you know, I'm a big believer in larger pantries and mudrooms :)

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 1:09AM
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CamG

Thanks everyone for the thoughts. It's good to know there aren't any obvious space saving options that I'm missing.

Nancy, that's a really interesting point, I'm glad you mentioned it--we'll have to think about that! I never really wanted a separate WC, but given the placement of walls below for the soil stack, there's no other good place for the toilet--and its not exactly the view you want from the vanity mirror! The master bath is definitely my least favorite part of the plan, but I don't see how it can change.

LL-thanks for the ideas. I thought about a bonus room, but it wouldn't save anything without making the main floor smaller, and there is no clear way to make the main floor significantly smaller without loosing a lot or sacrificing the shape. And basements are standard in Nebraska, with tornadoes and such.

At any rate, I realize this is probably an impossible question. There are plenty of rooms I could decrease the size of--but not without changing the shape. If I decreased this by 200 square feet but added another couple of corners, I don't think that would decrease cost at all. I think I could decrease the length or width by 6" or 1', but I think that would result in (for example) a 3' deep hallway at the top of the steps, or less than a 14' wide living room, etc. Those changes would be livable, but probably aren't worth the couple of grand they would save.

I love the design of the house, but it grew significantly bigger than we were hoping. To afford it, I'll do lots of the work myself, we will do all the built-ins later, do the cabinets in the mudroom and laundry room later, etc.

I just hope you all will let me post here about it even though we exceed 2,000 sf! Can we make the cutoff a certain ratio of square feet per person (and dogs)? Haha :)

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 8:57AM
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autumn.4

Hi Cam-
I have been following you as you've switched from a ranch to a 2 story and we are following suit for similar reasons. Did you ever decide on an outside facade? Just curious.

I would definitely count the dogs in square footage by the way - they have 'stuff' too! The plan we are leaning toward is a smidge over 2k also (but I'm not counting the screened porch and that makes me feel better). Haven't gotten up the 'nerve' to post it yet. I have to organize my questions. ;)

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 12:41PM
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desertsteph

you could switch the toilet and shower. then there wouldn't be a mirror across from the toilet.

while the kids are few and little you could have the office upstairs and make that a play room for them downstairs.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 1:45PM
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CamG

Autumn,
I'm thinking for price, we will use vinyl as much as possible. Under the covenants, we will have to have stone facade some places--I'm thinking the base of the columns, the front of the front porch, then if we have to, an apron around the front of the house (but I don't like the idea of having something on the front and not the sides.)

Here is the elevation we've come up with lately--its still a work in progress, as far as window sizes and placement, but here's where we are now. We took some inspiration from Whallyden's gorgeous house (mainly the double columns), but we were approaching a very similar look before I saw hers.

Desertsteph, I can't move the toilet because the sewage pipe from the toilet goes into the wall between the library and living room--if I put it where the shower is, there wouldn't be any place to put the pipe. Thanks for the idea though.

Back to the house size...
Here are some things I'm thinking about changing to make the house a bit smaller (these would shave off almost 150 sf):
-Stairway from 3'6" to 3'
-Front hallway from 5' to 4'
-Long hallway upstairs from 4'6" to 3'6" (under our current plans, the upstairs is 4'6", not 4' which Summerfield had)

Do these sound like reasonable changes? Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 2:57PM
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autumn.4

Cam-I would not shrink the stairwell. Those extra 6" would go along way when moving furniture. Just my 2 cents on past experience with our 3' stairwell down to a family room...that needed trim and door removed to get a not so large sofa through the doorway. Even if you don't have a door and it's not trimmed out around a jamb it is pretty tight with a banister, etc.

Sorry - I meant elevation not facade so thanks for the picture! We are in the vinyl camp as well. Love the look and the double columns - very symmetrical. Very nice.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 4:20PM
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desertsteph

'if I put it where the shower is, there wouldn't be any place to put the pipe. Thanks for the idea though.'

oh detals, details, details! don't let those bother you...
lol! YW!

on the halls and stairway - I saw how wide yours were and almost posted about it BUT, then I thought you could have a handicapped child - shoot, even an adult with a bad leg (broken etc) and need that width. It IS good to have those a bit wider than they normally have been in past homes. Even for taking furniture up the steps, thru a hall or in / out of a doorway. Who knows when one might need a wheelchair even if it's only for a temp time. It happens.

It's good 'planing ahead' anyway. I stumbled around here for over 6 wks with a leg 'shoe/brace' on when I broke my kneecap yrs ago. And space was very tight in my old trailer. My dog learned to walk backwards. If she met me in a room or hall face to face she knew she had to go backwards. poor thing. It did come in handy for yrs after that too.

You might consider taking the 5' one to 4 or 4.5' etc. The hall in my new place is 3'. I think that will be plenty wide for a walker - maybe a wheelchair. I haven't looked them up to see how wide either would really be. I'm looking at things like that at my age - and my ability to fall over nothing.

It might add up to a foot here and there for you.

btw, do you really need a mirror over your sinks to brush your teeth? I know where mine are w/o looking... lol!

It looks to me like you have a window over the vanity not a mirror?

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 4:40PM
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CamG

Desertsteph, the window above the vanity is set to be a transom window. I think we will modify the bath to have one big countertop across the whole span (no big cabinets on the sides), with sinks on either side and a makeup station or whatever you would call it in the middle. Not sure about the mirrors, although I whole heartedly agree--I would prefer not to look at my face if I can help it. My wife, however, might disagree...

Oh and LL, you should be biased in favor of keeping this plan as is, you had a large role in its design! :)

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 5:16PM
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lavender_lass

Maybe just a little bit, but Summerfield makes it all come to life :)

I wouldn't shrink the stairs (for the reasons already mentioned) and I also wouldn't shrink the halls. It won't make that much difference and that extra space is perfect for bookcases, benches, etc.

In the front entry, I'd definitely put a table or bench, against the wall to the stairs. And the extra room to get past open closet doors will be nice, too.

Upstairs, a nice low bookcase in the hall (against the wall to the nursery) would be perfect for kids' books and toys...and a tall, narrow linen cabinet (built in) would be great, against the broom closet wall. You can always use more storage and this linen/cupboard would be great for extra games/toy storage, too. Did I mention, you can never have too much storage??? LOL

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 1:00PM
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mrspete

Truthfully, with this floorplan, I don't see any way to cut out any significant square footage.

Things I like:
The library is nice, though I would want more bookshelves -- but that can be added later, as needed.
Since you have the library downstairs, the office/nursery upstairs seems a bit repetative, but you'll appreciate it when you have teenagers -- it can be a TV room/computer room for the kids.
Your bedrooms are good-sized but not outrageous. Two kids could share those rooms. If you don't want them to share eventually, you could consider eliminating the master bedroom in favor of four smaller bedrooms /2 bathrooms upstairs -- assuming that eventually those'd all become kid-bedrooms, and you could add on a master bedroom downstairs.

What I don't like: MUCH of your square footage is in hallway space, which is kind of wasted space. I like the mud room area, but the rest of the hallway is space that you're paying to build, paying to heat/cool . . . yet it doesn't enhance your lives.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:49AM
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jakabedy

Are you just trying to decrease the cost? Because that can be done by tweaking finishes and doing some DIY -- not just by cutting square footage. But if cutting square footage is a must, you could consider chopping about 3' off the front of the house. You would lose the mud room, would have to restructure the pantry to allow for the garage entry, would cut down the library size, and might have to redesign the stairway to include a landing and a turn. But you don't have as much "extra" space on the second floor, and losing that 3' up there will cause a problem.

And since you're asking about where to cut back, I thought I'd chime in on where to add ;) I don't know what you plan to do with the basement, but might there be a kids' playroom/family room down there? I really think you'll want a separate place for kids to be noisy kids. If not, I would suggest bumping up the roofline over the garage to allow for future build-out there if you want it later. You could have a kids' playroom back there that is accessible from both of the two larger kids' bedrooms. And with it over the garage rather than the main living spaces, the noise wouldn't be that much of a factor in the rest of the house.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 11:37AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Remember that cutting sq ft isn't a one to one cost saver. Cutting a little bit of sheet rock and 2x4s does not save much money as you still need the expensive spaces such as the kitchen and baths. It also costs so much to get the trades on site. Once they're there, it won't mean much if they have to paint a little more or tape a little more or rock a little more. The materials costs don't mean a lot unless you're looking at expensive materials....like decorative tile in the kitchen and bath.

So if you need to affect the budget, you need to cut the sq ft by a significant amount or you need to look into the contents of the expensive spaces, like cabinetry, appliances, flooring.

We designed so many houses, I'm afraid to mention. We kept running into things we didn't like which could be fixed by adding sq ft. But then the house would get to big, so we'd rip up the plan and start over. It took a long time, but we managed to finally get a house that is very efficient in space and meets 95% of what we wanted out of the space. So if you really want to shrink the house, you may have to start over.... and in terms of budget, plan on lots of cost overruns--probably 25-30% as every build ends up costing more than you ever figured it would.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 5:52PM
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lazy_gardens

Look into the classic American Foursquare plans ...

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 8:18AM
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