Designing a Floor Plan that Fits Your Lifestyle and Your Unique Property.
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
This is the first article in the series of "Great Reasons for Building a Custom Home."
From choosing the perfect lot to designing your home – there are so many reasons a custom-build may be perfect for you!
“A custom home is designed around your lifestyle and the unique piece of land in which it will inhabit.”
Location and Landscape…
Consideration of landscape, natural lighting, climate, wind patterns, and lifestyle is paramount when designing your dream home.
With a custom home design, you will be able to:
Capture the unique views and engage with the one-of-a-kind topography and natural landscape elements on your home site.
Take advantage of technological advances used in green builds like incorporating solar panels, light/shade exposure for optimal energy-savers and lifestyle preferences, and climate-considered roof designs and floor plans for light, shade, drainage, and construction protection.
Most importantly… design a home that fits and supports your lifestyle!
When you meet with your architect or designer make sure to share information about your lifestyle. In what rooms do you plan to spend most of your time? Do you frequently entertain? Do your out-of-town family members visit often? Do you need extra storage in your hallway or in your garage? Do you have a lot of artwork that you’d like to display on the walls? Will you need a home office, study, music room, or craft nook? These are all important factors that will be taken into consideration when designing your perfect home.
Many also consider creating a multi-generational floor plan or the addition of a casita. This will ensure a comfortable space for you and your aging loved ones in the future.
The Floor Plan…
It’s now common to develop an “open floor plan,” where two or more common spaces have been joined to form a larger space by eliminating partition walls. Most often, the kitchen, dining room, and living room are all combined into one larger communal living space that is sometimes called a “great room“. This has been the dominant architectural trend in new residential construction since the mid-1990s. Sometimes a kitchen island or peninsula acts as a visual dividing line between the two areas. A short set of stairs, two different paint colors, stairs leading to a sunken area, or a handrail can also provide a visual dividing line. Another common element that is seen in this area is a vaulted ceiling, although it may be contained to the living area as opposed to including the kitchen. The ceiling may have a luxury design or traditional-type vigas. (Vigas are wooden beams used in the traditional adobe architecture of the American Southwest. Although the beams used to be the main structural members carrying the weight of the roof to the load-bearing exterior walls, they are now used more as a decorative element.)
Advantages of Open Floor Plans
Better traffic flow. Without doors to open and close and no walls to hinder traffic, people can move through space unhindered.
Improved sociability and communication. Without walls it’s possible to talk to one another across rooms. Shared light. Interior spaces once without windows now get natural light from windows in the exterior walls of adjoining rooms.
Improved real estate value. In almost every instance, an open floor plan is highly desirable and increases your home's value to prospective buyers, up to 7.42% a year. Easier to watch kids or grandkids. Parents and/or grandparents cooking in the kitchen or setting the dining room table can easily supervise children in the living room. Layout flexibility. Without partition walls, it is easy to reconfigure furnishings and accessories to different room layouts. Spaces can be multifunctional. With open floor plans, space can serve as a family room, a recreation room, a home office, or an entertainment space depending on your needs of the moment.
Disadvantages of Open Floor Plans
Costly to heat and cool. While traditional floor plans allow you to heat or cool only certain rooms, with an open floor plan, the entire space must be heated or cooled. Great rooms with high ceilings are often energy drains, especially when the outer walls are outfitted with large windows, as they often are. Higher construction cost. Without partition walls, open concepts depend upon steel or laminated beams for support. These are more costly to install. Poor sound control. Without partition walls to block sound, open concept homes can be very noisy. Spaces can appear cluttered. One advantage of traditional floor plans is that they confine furnishings and accessories to their designated spaces. In an open floor plan, much more is at once visible which can create an impression of being cluttered. Lack of privacy. Open floor plans are great for social activity, but they can make it hard to find quiet spaces for private reading, work, or project.
Whether your kitchen is large or small, a clever layout will make all the difference in helping you to get the most out of the space - especially in a kitchen where there is a lot more to layout than just placing furniture and cabinetry. Ergonomics also has a huge role to play as well: getting the heights right, ensuring enough space for comfortable movement, placement of appliances, and ease of use are all going to factor in your enjoyment of the room.
A kitchen island is a very popular choice in open-plan homes. The island provides a large work surface or storage area in the middle of the kitchen. It can incorporate a cooking surface, prep bowl, and bar or wine fridge. It can also be used simply as a preparation area or for enjoying family meals.
Other kitchen design Items to consider:
Where to place windows for ample natural lighting.
Overhead or counter light placement.
Positioning of the cabinets or wall space for open shelving.
Size of the pantry – how much storage will you need?
How much counter space is needed for cooking, prep work, and small appliances?
The Master Suite – bedroom, bathroom, walk-in closet…
Layouts can vary significantly and range from your basic bedroom that contains just a bed and closet in one room to more elaborate designs that include the bedroom, master bath, walk-in wardrobes, a dressing room, and maybe even an office or a cozy reading nook.
Windows and lighting are two of the most important design elements in the master bedroom. Well-placed windows will add bunches of natural light during the day along with offering stunning views of the near and distant landscape. You may opt for a ceiling design in the center of the room. This could entail a 1-to-2-foot rise in the ceiling with natural wood vegis. A reading nook under one of the large windows could also add to the cozy feeling of this space.
Will you be using this area for just a few clothes, or do you plan to also use this as a storage area? This will determine the approximate size of your WIC. Do you envision custom shelving, a dresser, bench, chair, or wall space for a mirror or secret wall safe? Recessed lighting is most common in this room but perhaps you would rather leave space for a lamp or an area to do a bit of ironing?
There are a few more design features to think about when designing the master bathroom.
Consider your storage needs. How much room do you need to store your toiletries and hair care items? Do you want a built-in or stand-alone clothes hamper in your bathroom? Custom cabinetry allows you to maximize your space, function, and storage! Do you want a double sink? Many people do so they can comfortably get ready at the same time. Some people add a cabinet between the sinks to create more separation as well as privacy.
Do you want a small, functional shower or a spa-like larger one with dual heads and a steamer? Do you want a large bathtub or no tub at all? Some master bathrooms have the master tub as the centerpiece while others have it situated next to a window with spectacular mountain views. You may consider a separate toilet area with a door for privacy. This allows a more comfortable simultaneous use of the space. As an extra splurge, you can add a makeup vanity seating area. You may also opt to have your closet connected to the bathroom for convenience or if one gets up early, disturbing the spouse won’t be an issue.
Other Rooms in Your Home…
Creating the space for your family, work, hobbies, health and more. Keep it simple or go all out to make sure these rooms fit your lifestyle. A few popular room types are listed below:
Home office, study, or den
Exercise room, or yoga and meditation area
The Laundry Room…
Every modern home deserves a laundry room that is functional yet stylish. Below are a few elements to consider as you talk with your designer. It’s a good idea to maximize storage with cupboards, shelves, and baskets. If you’d like to be able to see items at a glance, choose open shelving or cupboards with glass doors. The laundry room could double as a mudroom with a door to the garage. A mudroom may include a bench, knobs to hang jackets, and shoe storage space. If convenience is important to you, attach the laundry room to the master bedroom or master bedroom closet for efficiency. Sufficient lighting is key in the laundry room. Windows, a skylight, or recessed lighting should all be on the table. You may even want to put in a small dog shower.
Size? Storage? Multi-function? There are several design factors to consider. You may choose an oversized garage, allowing for ample storage space. Would you like open shelving, cabinets, or just plenty of space for two cars and elbow room for a work project? Consider what you plan to store in your garage: bikes, golf clubs, and basic outdoor sports toys or do you have motorized vehicles such as a motorcycle or quad runner? These are all things that your designer should be aware of when determining spatial layout and drawing up plans.
Aging in place…
Aging in Place guidelines show how subtle design choices can have a profound impact on how long you can comfortably live in your own home, without compromising your aesthetic preferences. Aging in place is strongly linked to greater health and happiness outcomes for seniors. Even if in superb health, people in their 50s and 60s should consider aging-in-place principles when building. Consider how technology-powered devices can facilitate aging in place. Mechanisms like front door locks, lighting, or thermostats that you can control with a smartphone can be easier to operate in advanced age. Though when exploring these options, consider maintenance requirements, the risks associated with malfunctions. Throughout the home, you should opt for mechanisms that are easier to operate when mobility is impaired. For example, choose door levers over doorknobs. Light switches with a rocker panel are preferable to a toggle switch. Awning-type window units are the easiest to open and close. Wainscoting, chair rails, or shelves that protrude from the wall can aid balance, as long as they are thick enough to grip and securely attached to the wall. To reduce glare and shadows, which create trip hazards for seniors with faultier depth perception, install indirect lighting. To reduce how often you’ll need to change light bulbs, install LED fixtures. The Aging in Place guide recommends specific colors and tones. Two-way switches are recommended. They are particularly useful in bedrooms, so you can turn the light on upon entering through the doorway, and turn it off from the bedside. Install electrical outlets at 18-to-24 inches off the ground, to reduce how far you’ll have to bend down to access them. Flooring -- opt for soft and smooth surfaces. Quality vinyl flooring is now seen in beautiful high-end homes. These softer surfaces will be kinder to joints but won’t pose a trip hazard, like high-pile or excessively padded carpets can.
It’s not uncommon to see areas for our furry friends planned in the home design. A high cozy cat perch; an in-wall dog den; or even an area with a run that allows indoor pets to have an enclosed space to venture in the sunlight might be appropriate considerations for your home design.
Smart Home Accessories…
There is a burgeoning world of smart home technology. These interconnected devices promise to revolutionize the way we live in our homes, making things simpler, more efficient, and far more responsive to our presence. The best smart home products seem to anticipate your needs, reacting to your lifestyle to produce preferred settings and features before you have to ask for them. This can come in the form of thermostats, entertainment devices, security systems, communication devices, and more. We’ll create an article for you this spring to cover the vast array of smart home technology options.
Enjoy the process… It is an investment in oneself and one’s loved ones to do a custom build as your home is a fundamental source of happiness that will bring peace and joy on a daily basis. It is well worth giving ample time to reflect upon what matters most to you in your current lifestyle, habits, hobbies, and preferences, and also those you envision for you and your family in the future. With a few tweaks here, a little more space there, placing a window for lighting or a well-planned load-bearing wall in just the right place, or even adding an extra room or casita, your design choices will create a home that supports you and your family in just the way you desire.
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