Sep 17, 2012

evolution of our floor plan

we have been working hard on selecting a floor plan for our house.

the first place i always start my search for a house plan is at frank betz + associates. they are an architectural design firm out of georgia, and we have used them for many of the homes we have built. they have thousands of stock plans available for purchase, and their selection is pretty great. their website has a fantastic search engine, so you can fill in your parameters, and it will only pull up plans that fit your needs. there are quite a few architects and designers that have great house plans, but  i think that frank betz's plans are the most livable and family friendly. (and no--frank betz is not compensating me in any way for bragging about them, but maybe they will one day! we also like stephen fuller, looney ricks kiss and william poole, but we couldn't find anything at these sites that would fit our needs for our lot and budget)

the first house we built for ourselves was the hembree, by frank betz:

we bought the plans, but made a few small changes to the floor plan to suit our needs. we enlarged the laundry room, added a pantry, changed the closet location in one of the upstairs bedrooms, made the bonus room larger, and added a walk in closet in the bonus room.
this is what the house looked like when we built it in 2001: (cannot believe that was 11 years ago!)

the second house personal house we built was the new albany, also by frank betz:
(one of the plans from their southern living collection)

 once again, we bought the plans, and made some changes so the house "lived" the
way we needed it to.
here is the original plan:

and here are some of the changes we made to the plan: 

and here is the house as we built it in 2004:

this time, however, we were on the hunt for something VERY specific. because the lot slopes so dramatically (i kinda feel like the yodeler from the price is right when i walk up it!), we wanted to minimize the amount of retaining wall$ we would have to put in. (because they are $$$$$!)

we also wanted to avoid having the garage on a different level than the main floor. every other house on the same side as the street has a basement garage. my husband had been toying around with the topography of the lot, and knew that if he raised the front of the lot a few feet, and put in a smaller retaining wall at the front of the lot, and shifted the garage to the back of the house, then we could minimize the amount of steps needed to go from the garage to the main floor. like---from a full flight of steps to 3-4. that's a big deal when both of your arms are filled with groceries!

at first, we fell in LOVE with this plan:
(all of these plans are from their new "concept to home plan" program, which allows clients to buy a plan and have it customized to their individual needs. the plan in this collection feel open and updated, and perfectly suited for what people want--no more unused formal areas, spaces to accommodate a computer, mudrooms, and large, open kitchens)

in fact, we had the kids pick out their bedrooms, and i was planning furniture arrangements and color schemes...i wasn't in love with the exterior, but i liked it a lot. i felt that the great room might feel a little bit small because of the walkway to the master suite going through the back of the room, but other than that, i loved the plan.

we even did a mock-up of how the house would look on the lot, with a third car
garage added to the side:
 however, as we started to do some cost analysis, we realized that the square footage on the main floor was too high, making this floor plan too costly for us to build.

THEN, we thought that this plan might work on the lot:
we loved the way it looked, liked the extra space over the garage, and the open feeling in the kitchen/great room. after doing a little more "research", we discovered that this plan was too deep
to work on our lot and still maintain our budget.

so THEN, we started looking at this plan:

 we really loved the large shed dormer in the front, and the plan had everything else we were looking for.  except a mudroom. we contacted todd, an architect at frank betz, and asked if they could stretch the house to accommodate a mudroom. of course they said yes. we knew that the house was a little too deep, but we thought we might be able to use the back garage wall as a retaining wall. BUT, after a little more research, we realized that because of the slope in the lot, we couldn't have the garage in the front of the house.

at this point, i was starting to feel like there was no way that we were going to be able to find a house plan that would work for us AND look good.

both my husband and i had a few things that we wanted in a house that were negotiable, and a few that weren't.  my husbands MUST HAVE was a master bedroom on the main. my MUST HAVE was a nice "service area". i had to have a laundry room that i could close off, and i wanted a mudroom and a small office near the kitchen. those things don't sound so demanding, do they? well, throw in our other needs, and the list becomes nearly impossible to achieve with a stock plan:

1. master on the main
2. separate laundry room + mud room
3. large, open kitchen
4. views from great room out the front of the house
5. garage in the back
6. house can be no more than 40' deep and 57' wide.

that last one was what REALLY became the challenge! you see, in order for us to not spend a FORTUNE on dirt work and retaining walls, and meet all of the setbacks and restrictions, we could NOT have the house be more than 40' deep. as we looked, it became more apparent that we were going to have to get a house custom drawn.

i tried cutting and pasting different ideas from different floor plans i liked to come up with something:
here are a few of my attempts:

(laying a house out and making it look good is much harder than you think!)

bring on the architect!!
you see, even though my husband and i have extensive training and education when it comes to construction and home building, we also realize our limitations. we know the value that an architect can bring to a project, and deeply appreciate the skills that they possess. so, once again, we talked to todd at frank betz. since we knew pretty much what we wanted, what we could afford, and how we wanted things laid out, we sent him this as a guide:

we actually sent this information off to the architect and have received the schematics! i cannot wait to share the final floor plans! stay tuned!


  1. What fun! They say building for the 3rd time is a charm and that's when you get it all correct! Looks like you are on the path to doing that and I am looking forward to coming along for the ride!

  2. you must be so excited!

    i've always loved lots where the houses sit on an elevation.

  3. If this route doesn't work out, my mom is a work-out-of home architect (read: very reasonably priced) in Centerville and she would meet up with you and design whatever you wanted.

  4. yay for you, autumn! so excited! the smartest homeowners/builders use a great architect! :)


  5. If this route doesn't work out, my mom is a work-out-of home architect (read: very reasonably priced) in Centerville and she would meet up with you and design whatever you wanted.

  6. Oh I have built several custom homes and I do know how hard it is to find a floor plan that suits you perfectly. Can't wait to see what you are going to build. Hugs, Marty

  7. Congrats! Can't wait to see the new design.

  8. Sounds fantastic, I cant wait to see you vision as a plan!!!

  9. I am so glad you decided to get an architect. My husband is a residential architect, and with a site so specific like yours, you really need a custom to get it all to work perfectly for you. We are in fact currently designing our next home (2nd custom), as well as our son and daughter in law's so they get the house they need for their very specific site. I would advise anyone to shop around and it really is not that much to have an architect spend a few hours with you and end up with a house you will absolutely love. Congrats!

  10. I like the Lakehurst plan! It is gorgeous!!

  11. EEK I am sooo excited for you! I hope you love what they come up with! YAY!!

  12. Thanks for sharing your journey--it is so interesting to see your progress toward the right house. (also I love looking at floor plans!!)


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