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I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

Posted by Ibewye (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 18, 12 at 13:57

We got sick of scouring through "a 1001-farmhouse, two-story, country homeplans, eventually realized that they,re all the same, and somehow related to Don Gardner. We live in the country and priorities are a larger mudroom, good view of backyard to watch our 3 kids, cozy yet open LR,DR,Kit., LR will have a raised ceiling (but no cathedral). Don't need huge Mas. Bath or Mas. Bedroom, but we have hoped to keep MC and MB isolated b/c I'm up at 5am, and turning on the lights is certain to wake sleeping beauty and the stray kids who wandered in. Pantry is important and functional kitchen. We like simple versus ins, outs, and the mazes we've seen in some houses, also been trying to keep stairs near master bedroom b/c I'm having tough time accepting kids are growing up (5,6,13). Also enjoy an open staircase so I can see footy pajamas come down the stairs at xmas time. Trying to limit mud and dirty so we placed all our access to outside (walkout basement,mudroom, and So after 5 full graphing notebooks, 30 lbs of eraser scraps and a wife whos ready to snap, heres a rough draft of our house, right around 2500sq ft. T-shaped farmhouse that will have a full second story above Bed,Stairs,Hallway. Kitchen and DR will be single story with a shed roof coming off the back, and a second story will be above the LR but will not have full 8' ceiling all the way across, sloped on the sides but still with plenty of headroom and furniture options. We live in Upstate NY and used to have really cold, snowy winters, yet today is 75 degrees and the snow shovel is just rusty.
This is 1st story and has some incomplete issues such as the mudroom on the left, mainly cause i've drawn it 1000x and it's fairly simple, my main concern is with the first floor layout, specifically the 1/2 bath, pantry, laundry room area. We really tried to limit the mud and dirt by consolidating all the doors to one corner so regardless of how you got in(backdoor, walkout basement or mudroom)you could use bathroom and take off shoes if going any further. Obviously couldnt do this with front porch but front door visitors will be limited,(the reason for no closet near entry). Seems weird to me that so many houses can't see when someone is coming up driveway, which will be on the left side of our house near mudroom, but will be visible at parking spots plus coming across front. Not an architect or an engineer but have found somebody to draft and stamp for us. Be harsh and nitpicky(?) as I never cry. Thanks. IBEWYE

Here is a link that might be useful: Floorplan of our future home for GardenWeb Critique


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

You've come up with a plan that suits your lifestyle better than the Don Gardner plans but you have lost too much of what is good about his plans. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water; get a professional to help you.


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

I think your missing the point and my sarcasm. It's not hard to find a plan that is outside Don Gardners lifestyle, move out of a newly developed neighborhood and into a country setting with a family. Maybe years ago they may have cared about specific needs, but his name and plans have sold out and basically recycle theirs plans and try to fool the public by re-categorizing the plan, wow it's gotta porch now, it's a farmhouse, change the vinyl siding and now its modern . Much like your criticism his plans lack any detail or character but instead stay general to sell plans. If my plan has problems please discuss them, specifically, and spend less time dating yourself with quotes that haven't been used since Don Gardner understood kids have feet and therefore need a place to keep their shoes. Thank you for reassuring me that my plans need "professional" help, it means I've avoided paying someone to flip through a 1000 page book and repeat monotonous ideas and instead will have character,detail and one clean baby.


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

If I am reading your plan correctly, you have a door that opens over the stairs to the basement. I'm pretty sure this is not allowed because someone could be coming up the stairs and someone at the top of the stairs could open the door into them causing them to fall.

Are the mudroom and back door at grade? (I don't see any stairs to them.) If so, how can the walkout basement door be in the same corner of the house? Maybe your definition of walkout basement is different from mine? My walkout basement doors are at grade, so there couldn't be any at grade doors above them.


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

The mudroom occupies alot of premium exterior wall space, kind of a shame....and the foundation box-out to accommodate it is awkward. Venting for laundry/powder may or may not be an issue depending on what you have planned for the upper floor.

Other things: Pantry seems far from kitchen. Entryway is underwhelming and looks to be missing a closet. Seems to be a significant amount of wasted space in the middle of the house.


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

Dekeoboe- your correct there is a door at top of stairs, however it opens to a landing and not directly over the stairs, I thought that would be acceptable but now I see your point. If that was necceasary I would have to rotate stair opening straight ahead or simply remove door.
In regards to mudroom door, it does go out the front of mudroom and on to driveway, the steps take you into the. Basement but the wlkout door is in the rear-right. It will come out under deck that will be built above which is where the backdoor on the 1st floor will take you. We just wanted the top of the basement stairs to bring into kitchen mudroom area so if you are muddy you have to track across living room or dining room. Basement will be unfinished and I imagine kids using that door quite a bit as their playroom will be down there. Does the laundry room size seem okay to you we placed it close to the outside because my wife likes to air dry her clothes. Thanks for your feedback.


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

There are a bunch of things that don't get me excited. In your attempt to contain the mud and dirt, you've made it difficult to get outside. Imagine wanting to go outside with friends, you have to lead them through your rear mud room/laundry area? Same with just going out to watch the kids play for a bit, it's odd to have to always go through your mud room door.

The front door sort of falls into the living room. It lacks definition if I'm reading correctly that the line on the floor is just a change of flooring and not some sort of angled wall?

I like an open floor plan, but it's a bit extreme. There is literally no place in the living area of the home where you can't see the entire rest of the space. Again you need some sense of definition to your rooms.

The pantry is too far from the kitchen. To go from the sink to get a can of something, you would have to traverse more than half the depth of the home!

You stressed mud and trying to keep dirt in the mud room area, but you've made the laundry room tiny. There is no room in there to set a laundry basket or indeed to stand without being in the way of the door swing. The laundry room would benefit from being combined with the mud room both in terms of light and space.
Having the entrance to the master right next to the entry and with no privacy from the living room is a bit odd. When my kids got to the teen years, I wanted the ability to come and go to the kitchen without always being on display to whomever was watching television or having friends over. Many people like to have the master bedroom be an occasional sanctuary and a little more private if you get the drift. :) It doesn't have to be isolated, but it could be a little less literally front and center.

I'm never a fan of having the toilet being the first thing that hits your eyes when you walk into a bathroom.... especially the master. You said you don't want a big master bath, so maybe putting the toilet in a separate area isn't important or possible, but you might want to consider at least putting it around the corner and not across from the doorway.

I can't make out any detail on the plans re windows, appliance placement etc. But be sure that you've got enough cabinets in the kitchen. You have no room for furniture in your dining room so all dishes etc will need to be in the kitchen. If you have any windows, you may not have many uppers in your design.

I'm not understanding the photo and drawing of the exteriors of homes that are with the floor plan sketch They seem to have nothing in common with your floor plan and they are both very different from each other.

I'm also confused about the walkout basement and the rear entry by the mud room and what part of the house will be at grade. What will be in the basement?

We spent ages on our floor plan too, so I feel your pain. Good luck!


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner......I think.

Sorry just saw your message about the unfinished basement. If you're worried about mud, I'd put another mud room downstairs. By the time they make it up an entire flight of stairs, most of the mud will be on the stairs!

And since I had four sons on acreage in the country, I'm a little in the know on this one! :)


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

Dyno- not sure if your referring to the way the mudroom blocks visibility to the side of the house,or aesthetically from the outside. Mudroom will sit on a heated slab similar to what a garage would. The 3 outside walls will be lined up with windows to provide a view to the driveway a front and back door, lockers along the inside wall with a bench to put on shoes , a sink and countertop underneath the windows, and drip dry area for wet clothes. A small closer will also fit nicely. That side of the house is 40 ft long ( if you include shed room off the back., most of it 2 story. So I thought the. Mudroom which I would like to do in stone would break up that side of the house a bit.
I've been concerned about pantry also, as a guy who never cooks I get confused on whether the pantry would be used to house ingredients you would use a daily basis or as a stock area to hold paper towels some cooking equipment , yada yada. My wife insists shell have plenty of room for her essentials close by and the pantry would serve more as an overflow. Laundry room will have a large chase in corner of it to serve as laundry chute and chase for vent and power.
I know the space in middle of house seems open and admit on paper slightly akward but we wanted some open room to play with. We tend to buy a lot of rummage sale furniture mainly old hutches and rustic storage stuff so we will probably box out to make some bookshelves or something that we can rotate in or out. Like for example at the holidays we have a large family so a second table could go there if needed. But thought it was kinda cool to leave some I dedicated space. Maybe a hammock would look good, relaxing. Thanks again for Input, let me know anything that sticks out.


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

Gbsim Thanks for input, your tap-dancing on some of the several fears I had hoped were just compulsive issues of mine prone to over analyzing and eraser scraps, but at some point had to let go and seek thy opinions. Quick rundown to your observations.
1) our last house had a door on every side of our home so my wife felt like spinning brooms trying to keep the dirt and tracking to a minimum so maybe we were a little bitter on our design when allowing too many ways in. We're dealing with a grading issue that we didn't anticipate as much hers an option. Front door will access front porch and then yard/path to driveway. As you mentioned mud room door gets to driveway and side of house the backdoor across from laundry room will step onto a deck that with a couple of steps drops you into yard. I'm considering a set of French doors or patio doors that will lead to deck and access to yard. I think that is a little more logical again, again we do live in the north east where we used to have winter so opening the wrong door on a windy sub-0 day will cool a house off real fast.
2) the dreaded entry, personally I didnt even want a front door but I know you have, the threats and scowls have made it clear, that. Being said the amount of visitors who will actually pass through that thing are limited, it's mainiy family and friends and they would probably feel awkward coming in that way, and its comical to think of a closet in our house that would remain empty long enough to accompany a couple coats a year. I left area open to bring in some more light and provides easy acces to dinners on front porch. I do see the need to define area a little more. Do you think a knee wall or some sort of railing would suffice or maybe some bookshelves that sit 4' off ground could double as storage. Not crazy about boxing out as entryway, went saw so many plans that dedicated absurd amounts of space to an entry that out in the open land dont get the expected use.
3) pantry is so confusing for a guy like me, I don't cook unless I'm so famined i cant watch tv. I have a great wife. Regardless I couldnt figure if the walk in would be used for daily items like peanut butter and sauces, it seems stupid to me to walk into a different room to grab this stuff, she reassured me that in our case it would be used to store overstock of food items we use a lot cases of bottle water, 2000 beers, paper towels etc...... So she was happy with its location and believes she'll have plenty of room for her basic daily needs.
4 this is the kicker- the overly open floor space is a constant back and forth in my head I go from feeling bad for whoever is cooking or doing dishes missing out on fun times in the living room, to imagining looking for a place to hide during a screaming kid day while I struggle to watch tv because the dishwasher is running. I kinda felt like it it should be a little more divided and we mainly took the idea that we would adjust accordinlgly if necessary, it's not too difficult to add a wall or divide compared to taking one. But more input and ideas would be helpful, especially after reading this.
5) yikes on the bedroom privacy, thought I had done well by rotating the door going into bedroom to keep it out of sight of people in living room. Main concern was with the little kids, theyre so used to running across a hallway to hop into our bed that I got pre-occupied making sure it was easy for them to get too. I know it's only a matter of time thing but I hate my kids growing up and am letting go very well. I never thought of being Holed up I'm my bedroom wanting late night ice cream while ,my 13 year old is hanging out, pop doing a sprint in his undies past them cant be cool. Maybe sliding stairs towards front of house where door is now would free up space for hall next to pantry would give me good route and some seclusion still.
6) I can easily move toilet in master bathroom, I've had that sucker twisted several times, pretty easy fix there. result of 3 am brain fail
7) laundry area/pantry/ bath have been the cluster of trouble for a while. I almost feel more so on paper than it would be actually built. My wife loves to air dry so outside access is a must. Obviously with groceries the pantry and path to Mudroom and then outside to car should be short and easy to navigate and 1/2 bath is super popular amongst 4/5 year olds that just took 45 minutes to get shoes and snow gear on. Keeping it close to outside is a must also, I figured this cluster would get noticed.
Thanks so much for the input. It seems like I have some fixing but I have a strong shell that's allows for so changes. I'll be back at it tomorrow. How long exactly did it take you to finalize floorplan?


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

Agree with others, and have a couple other comments from a personal perspective.

1) You will never be able to get anything large down those basement steps. Think about getting a sofa around all those tight corners if you ever decide to put one down there. You really need to have an architect or draftsman look at your plan. I doubt the stairs can be built the way you have them drawn. There isn't enough head room for the basement stairs.
2) This plan is way too open for me. So much wasted space in the middle. And I definitely wouldn't want my desk right near the front door. I'm way too messy for that.
3) Try to imagine your front windows. I think the elevation would look odd the way it's currently configured. Where will you put the windows in the master and the bathroom?
4) I have no problem with the pantry as long as there is room in the kitchen for all the things you use on a day to day basis. If you have to run across the hall a dozen times while preparing a meal, it would not be convenient. I do think you have the opportunity to reconfigure this area to be much more convenient. Think about a door from the bedroom to the laundry, too.
5) Dining room is small. Will you ever host large family gatherings? Where will you keep all the dishes?
6) I like your large mudroom. We have lots of grandchilden, and it's great to have a place for them to get in and out of snow gear. Even in the summer it's nice. We don't allow shoes in our house, so all he sandles, caps, sunglasses, etc get tossed in there, and we can just shut the door on the mess.

Good luck on this. I'm sure you'll be making many changes to your plan, and you do need some guidance from a professional. This is a long process, so just take it one step at a time. Remember, we don't get to build a custom home often during our lifetime, so make sure you have a litle fun, too!


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

Maybe I missed this in the earlier posts, but is that floor plan supposed to be for the drawing of the house, next to it, in Picasa? I like the drawing a lot...and the floor plan has some good ideas, just seems like the living spaces are too small. The big mudroom is great, but the laundry area seems small...any way to combine these? If not, maybe flip the powder room and laundry area?

I think the kitchen window would look better, if it were centered. The dining room seems small and the living area is awkward, with the placement of the front door. Can you switch the door and the window? Maybe add a few feet across the front (for living room and dining room areas? This would give you so much more space (where you need it) and get rid of that floating chair, in the living room. It's almost in your entry space. Maybe an L-shaped sectional and a chair in the corner? If you add a few feet and flip the door and window, a chair would look great in that lower left corner, by the fireplace. Perhaps add an ottoman and create a cozy reading area?

The basement stairs are an easy solution (IMHO) just replace the basement door with a pocket door. I plan to use a french style door, but it will slide into the wall (out of the way) when you open it. Much easier :)


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

My 2 cents, since I am currently building a self designed farm house on a working farm:
Put the laundry in the mud room Get it out of that cubicle you have for the washer dryer, your wife will thank you. This will free up space for a wider shallower pantry opening onto a back hall to your bedroom. Embrace pocket doors for basement stairs. Lose those angles in the Master BR. Again think pocket doors or sliding barn door for closet. Dont know why the desk needs to be in that stair alcove seems an after thought. Maybe have the desk back where the laundry was, in a open alcove with sight to kitchen.
I would also move the front door over to the wall farther it is infringing on the living room. If you want to see out just get a door with a window. The window just happens to be a door ;) Yes you need a front door its probably a code thing. Front porch seems big if its really not going to welcome any one I would bump LR out onto this area a couple feet and uncramp the dining area.
Dont be afraid of reworking a plan a few more times its really easy to move walls with an eraser...
Good luck


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

Thank you for all the input, I frustratingl(y) agree , with many of the issues , sometimes the obsession with trying to make it all fit perfectly or avoiding that one little pet peeve can cause you to lose focus and start forcing things, biggest problem I usually face is with stairs, I feel like they are humongous, I love a wider stair but they're proving to be bulky, and was curious if its possible to have only the lower portion of the stairs wider (ex. L-shaped stairs) aesthetically it looks nice but it may not be practical. I agree with front door problem and think its switchable. Im wrestling with some input on being overly-open, yet when I think about the homes I've seen, and used for ideas they were also wide open. I do worry about "papas need s a break" moments & picture myself running in circles looking for place to hide., and I could see how noise could be a factor In noise levels. Thanks for the critique, I'll keep at it. Ibewye

- special thanks for getting to the point laundry room, I have to pick on myself on my wifes behalf regarding that laundry room, she swears it'll be big enough, but I know better than to build it that size, somehow for the next 40 years it'll be my fault when it's too small. Did you have a tough time trying to shake out off the mold that homeplan mags seem to streamline you towards or did you get an architect?


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

I think you should narrow down your plans/ideas...and then definitely get an architect. Building a home is a huge expense and it will be very worth while, to have a professional give you input on your plan and help you make changes, to fit your lifestyle.

Narrowing down your choices, going in with a plan and pictures, to show what you like/want will help a lot. The more you know what you want (ideally) the less time you'll spend redoing the architect's proposals...and hopefully, save some money :)


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

Your poor design skill and arrogance will limit the design of this house to what you deserve.


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

I usually agree with you Renovator but I think that the OP has actually borne up pretty well to many of the criticisms and seems to be considering many of the suggested changes as well as possibly hiring a pro.

To IBewye, I think that at some point in order to get a quality home, most (if not everyone) should step away from the graph paper and get professional support.

The sketching, doodling and poring over books serve you well to help you decide what is and isn't important to you, but putting it all together into a cohesive mass that has flow, balance, and scale, not to mention is structurally sound and can be feasibly built is beyond the knowledge base of most of us.

You asked how long it took us to get our final plans? This time around it took us about 15 months total, but we had some challenges. Changed architects after a few months (largely due to difficulty in communicating long distance LA to VA), hired another locally (Louisiana) and then were about 7 months getting the final plans. We weren't in a hurry as we were selling our home in Louisiana, and the new build is in Virginia. Our architect is licensed in both states so that worked well.

25 plus years ago when building on a simple slab and strapped for money, we went the draftsman route and it served us well. That process took less than 3 months, but we were expecting the third of three sons born in 3 years and there was little time for dragging feet as we were in a small 2BR house!

This time around we are older, somewhat wiser, are building on a hillside with some elevation challenges and possibly more important we have more money to throw at the project so the risks of messing up are greater due to complexity and our demands for the quality of the final project are higher.

My blog covers family things too, so don't expect just a 'house blog' but there are quite a few photos on the website.

Here is a link that might be useful: News From The Hill


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

The author of this thread was unnecessarily rude to Renovator8 after the first reply. One learns to brush this off online as it is not uncommon, yet it is still uncivil.


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

Well I've run into some major hurdles, the big problem is there obvious and the solutions are complex. 1 st we know what we want(just based on our experiences from a previous) which seems to make it that much harder. I have no problem admitting that I went into this blind and that at some point I would need e help especially with roofs and stairs ( Ive learned to hate stairs with a passion). An old fashioned t-shape Pennsylvania farmhouse is our dream. I many worried about getting proportions right to keep with the look we like, too wide of a gable end and your house easily becomes a church. So any time we saw a home we thought was bell balances we would simply stop and ask the owners to let us measure. Finally we feeling comfy with the dimensions,'I've done nothing but ram and smush everything into this mold, problem it just won't fit naturally, of course ive been able to keep adding square footage to house but I lose the simplicity, my motto is " it always comes down to adding just 2 more feet". So we began hunting for architect which feels like a step backward at this point because we have a logic behind our placement. ( ex: we have beautiful views to the right side of our house and garage on left so naturally the pantry/mud room/bath plus keeping the kitchen close by for groceries has been part of the problem all though I've made work before just never felt right. Factor in I need 4 bedrooms and love an open floor plan ( no cathederal ceiling, just raised living room) and the simplicity of simple old farmhouse gets complex.
2) I decided I would try to find an architect to basically "bless" a floor plan and then draft into prints for us , logically if he was happy with it and there were no major blunders I wouldnt expect to pay full rate. I think he quoted around 15k for a 2500sq ft houses with a significant amount of the concept done. I believe it was $75-$80 for 220 hours, after the sticker shock, we decided to stay the course. Even found multiple plans from timber/log home companies that would not sell just a floor plan to convert without purchasing the entire kit. I could produce over 50 cad drawings I've done and probably 3 graphing notebooks of half-a$$ sketches that all come out the same, close but never perfect. Even the drawing i submitted was basically to confirm that the issues were not in my head but legit concerns, which is why the criticism didnt bother me. ( I've been yelled by more important people than you mainly. renovater8 ) , since I've posted my print I've already been back at it but this time better equipped with your comments and this site in general. I like "how long have you been at it" comments. I'll probably keep at my drawings myself until I truly feel like I'm at a dead end, and with the help of a friend who is an engineer/draftsman
I'll try to stick t through but not until I'm comfortable with a finished product, I love learning and still feel like I won something when someone points out a potential problem I would of never caught myself.
If anybody has used an architect geared towards the rustic/country/t-shaped farmhome, I would gladly be interested.' always enjoy finding that diamond In the rough website that leaves the vinyl siding and cookie cutter plans to their 1000 page book and recreates the classics look. Would also love any pics or comments from anybody who's been on the same path. My apologies to renovator8 for coming across harsh, i use a lot of sarcasm and I dont specifically hate don Gardner , just sick of the seemingly identical planss we poured through over the years. Thankss again everybody.


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

These aren't perfect plans for you...but they might give you some ideas. Hope these help :)

Here's the link to the farmhouse plan...and another link to a 'solar' option...just to give you some more possibilities.

http://www.eplans.com/house-plans/epl/hwepl58842.html?from=search

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to farmhouse plan


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Solar option

I'm not sure that worked...but here's the link to the other home. I've always liked this home, but it needs a larger laundry and mudroom...and a pantry. But, I hope it gives you some ideas for the stairs, living room/dining room, kitchen/keeping area and master down, other bedrooms above.

You may not be looking for solar options, but I've found that if you look at older homes (including Donald Gardner) they're much better plans (IMHO) than the new ones. In this plan, I like the family room upstairs, too...great idea for kids :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to solar plan


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One more...just for the clutter room!

This is one of my favorite plans...just for the clutter room! All homes should have one of these. The greenhouse is nice, too :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to home with clutter room


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RE: I can do better than Don Gardner....I think.

We bought a plan online, Because it was the Pa T farmhouse sort of. We are in PA. This plan was 30 years old hopelessly out of code. But this plan would work with out site. I completely reworked it as far as the floor plan and had a draftsman friend draw it up for us. He said he'd never done as much work on a house. The stairs were a big issue and we decided to just make it straight and not turned landing. Much better. He charged 75 cents a square foot. We are happy with it but it did change significantly from the plan we bought.


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