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How to Design Your Dream Home In 25 Years or Less!
By Jan Jones Evans
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2014 Jan Jones Evans
All rights reserved.
In the Spring of 1986, my husband and I were out camping at our favorite spot on the lake in the Ozark Mountains. The weather had turned cold and gray, so we decided to go into town for a change of scenery. We were walking down the plaza, window shopping along the way, when we came to a real estate office. There, front and center, was a breathtaking picture of a lake front lot with Dogwood trees in full bloom. We were hooked. We went in the office right then and there and asked if we could see that very property.
We signed a contract that afternoon and closed a couple of months later, without even looking at any other properties. We felt like we suddenly owned a piece of heaven! We had always intended to someday build our retirement home at the lake, so now we had taken the first step. I think I began sketching floor plan ideas before we ever even got home from that camping trip!
That was in 1986. In the Spring of 2011 (25 years later), we were retired and living in that lake house! Awesome doesn't begin to describe the experience of building the house that I created from my own imagination on a piece of paper (in reality, it was probably more like thousands of pieces of paper)! I did have help from an awesome builder and a drafting firm in Springfield, plus some input from my wonderful husband and kids, but the design was all mine!
I grew up in Oklahoma, with a father who was a Realtor and builder/developer. I worked in his office nearly every summer from age 14 to college graduation. Therefore, I have always been interested in all things real estate and the "American Dream" of home ownership. My dad also remodeled all three of our family homes over the years to suit our family's specific needs. He was always excited when he could pull off something to "just fit" in an available space, or make unique changes that customized the house to fit our family.
One of the Jones family's favorite Sunday afternoon activities was to go see Dad's latest building, remodeling or development project(s). Maybe that makes us one of the original "Sunday Drivers", who had such a bad reputation back in the day. We really did drive slowly through his building developments, gawking at whatever progress Dad had to show us!
My dad's problem–solving skills and creativity must have rubbed off on me, because I have also been involved in remodeling or upgrading all four of the houses I have owned in my lifetime, before building this one, my dream home. I didn't even realize that fact until looking back on all my previous experiences while writing this book! I guess I never have been satisfied with any house just the way it was!
I have enjoyed sketching out different versions of my "dream home" since I was in junior high school. I think I have always had some version of what I thought was the perfect floor plan floating around in my head. But I really got into it when we bought the lake lot.
To those who say, "Why not just hire an architect? That's what they do!" My advice is to go for it! They will help you design your home, see the project through to completion, and save you lots of time and trouble. I also highly recommend an architect if you are not very knowledgeable about the subject of real estate and design. Hiring an architect is a wonderful idea if you can afford it.
But if you are like me, you would rather design your own home. That's why you are reading this book, right? And not everyone can afford an architect. Even if you do decide to go with an architect, you still need some idea of what you want in the house before they can design it for you. They will also want some input from you on your style and tastes. The more of these kinds of decisions you can make and agree on before getting started, the better.
If you are going to use an architect and/or a designer, you might want to visit with them briefly before you begin planning. You can usually have a first consultation, with little or no charge, just to get an idea of what you are getting yourself into. You can also visit with several firms to find the one you feel you can work with best. There are good architects and not-so-good ones, and some are easier to work with than others, so look around at your options.
My purpose in writing this book is twofold. One, to share what I learned (including my mistakes) over the past 25 years. Two, to help pay off the mortgage on said dream home with whatever meager proceeds I may make from this book in the process. Building plans will also be available for purchase, for those who would rather use my plans than create their own (see Chapter 16).
Choosing a floor plan (from the millions already out there in books and magazines), coming up with your own design, or narrowing down the choices with an architect, is not as easy as it sounds. It is a very complex process. There are just too many choices and infinite possibilities! And you want to make sure that you are happy with the finished product, as there are no "do–overs" here! I just hope this book doesn't turn you into one of those customers who drives the professionals crazy because you know too much (or not nearly enough)!
Anyone who has house–hunted with a Realtor (or on their own), or watched "House Hunters" on HGTV, knows that no house is perfect. Unless you have all the money in the world, the one you buy is just the one in your price range that has the most things on your "want list." You can avoid this if you design your own house, right? Wrong!
I have known many people who have custom built a house and were then disappointed in how it turned out. Mostly, they've said it was smaller than what they had pictured. Or they said, "if only our house had ...," "looking back, I wish we had ...," or "I didn't even think about ..." So I was determined that this would not happen to me.
For more than 25 years, I measured living rooms, kitchens, motel rooms, cabins, friends' houses, decks, cabinets, countertops, garages, furniture, etc. I had to get an idea what ten feet or twenty–five feet really looked like in real life, and what that measurement would hold in the way of furniture, people and traffic. I also wanted the best layout and the most efficient use of space possible.
I have never seen any published floor plan that I liked just the way it was. I may have liked one thing about this one, or thought that one had a good idea in a few rooms, but none were ever just right all the way through. That's why it never occurred to me NOT to design my own floor plan! Therefore, I am sharing what I learned throughout the whole process in hopes of preventing someone from having regrets after it is too late. When building your dream home, all of your decisions are so permanent!
I've obviously learned a lot about structure and design over the decades since Junior High School. My original college major was interior design, so I got enough drafting and design education to be able to draw floor plans with good traffic patterns and efficient spaces. I also learned to draw all the little symbols like doorways and windows before I changed my major to education.
That's right. I am not an architect, nor am I an engineer. I just happen to be a regular person who has always been intrigued with houses and studying/drawing various floor plan ideas. Perhaps I should have been an architect instead of a teacher, but I definitely found my "calling" in education, so wouldn't change a thing. I am now a retired speech/language pathologist and special education teacher. I taught full time for 30 years and raised three children. So I was by no means working at these floor plans more than sporadically, until the last few years as we got nearer to retirement age.
Designing floor plans has always been just a "hobby" until I had the chance to actually build one! I will be eternally grateful to my husband for letting me really do it! Three times, actually! My first opportunity to build one of my designs was in 1998, when we added on to our family home in Oklahoma. That one only took me 8 years! Seriously, designing that addition didn't take that long. Most of that time was spent convincing my husband that it was a good idea to add on to the house! But once it was finished, we were really pleased with how that addition turned out and how functional it was.
Several years later, we gutted our kitchen in that same house and built a new one, which I absolutely loved. So with those two successful experiences under my belt, I was even more excited about designing our lake house for the future. Many of my best ideas from those projects were incorporated into the lake house designs as well.
Over the years, I must have had hundreds, maybe even thousands, of starts on my dream floor plan. But whenever I saw a house or building feature that I liked, or thought of a cool idea, I would go "back to the drawing board", literally. I ended up with boxes full of floor plan books, decorating magazines, architectural books, and designs I had drawn at different times and stages of our lives.
Our hobbies and interests also changed during those 25 years of drawing floor plans. When we were younger, my husband was really into photography. My plans then always included a dark room for him to develop his own film and print his own pictures. He was also into woodworking, so early plans also included a separate workshop off the garage. With the advent of personal computers and digital cameras, the darkroom need obviously dissolved. The workshop also dwindled to only a small area in the front part of the garage, which is what we have now. The plans we ended up with for the lake house are completely different from the house I would have built 20 or 30 years ago!
I am not recommending that you take 25 years to plan your dream home, just giving reasons why you need to take your time and do a lot of thinking before you begin. There is no way to predict what science and technology may come up with, let alone what lifestyle changes may occur in your life. But it is a good idea to at least consider how things might change in your future (having kids or more kids; the kids getting bigger and needing more space; or children growing up and leaving home, thereby needing less space; extended family moving in to be cared for as they age; or your own changing needs in health and mobility as you age, to name a few).
For most people, moving is a stressful and traumatic experience, so you don't want to do it any more often than necessary. The more thought and consideration you put into your house plans, and the more adaptable your layout can be, the longer your dream home will suit your needs. That way you can update your house as your needs change without having to move and start over. And planning ample storage space so everything has a place will also help your dream home STAY your dream home for longer. We all accumulate too much "stuff" over time, which makes us think we need a bigger house. But often times, just organizing your "stuff" and getting rid of the excess will make your current home livable for longer. You can never have too much storage! Remember that when you are designing your spaces.
I mentioned above that I had some drafting experience in college, but I obviously did NO T get the training I needed to undertake this project in real life! It was easy to draw whatever I wanted when it was all a pipe dream. And free. But when it became a reality to actually build what I had designed, it really opened my eyes about what I did NO T know! Thank heavens for our builder and the drafting firm we used! I obviously learned a lot in the process, and I hope that my experiences and what I learned will help you design your dream home.
And don't worry. No matter what you draw or sketch, it will be structurally sound because you will consult people who actually know what they are doing before you turn a shovel. I took my designs to an architectural/drafting firm to review and draw my designs in building plan form so my builder and his crew could build it to my exact spec's. I only paid a small percentage for this compared to what it would have cost to have an architect design the whole thing. But I could not and would not have done it without the drafting firm putting my dreams into a form others could understand. And if there are any mistakes in your floor plans that won't work as you have designed them, an architect or an experienced architectural draftsman can correct them for you.
I don't know how I finally came up with a final floor plan that I thought was good enough to actually build, but somehow I managed to narrow down the choices and come up with a "keeper". The finished product just incorporated all the good ideas I had come up with over the years, and other people's ideas I liked, and combined them all into this one "perfect" plan. There's only one problem with my "perfect" floor plan. That is, it is MY perfect plan, not yours. Therefore, I would like to share the process with you about how I came up with MY perfect layout/ design. That way, you can come up with your OWN perfect plan! There is no one perfect floor plan for everybody, or all homes would be alike!
One more thing before I begin. As a scouter, the guideline here is to BE PRE PARE D. I cannot emphasize this enough! Building a house from the ground up is very time consuming, and you aren't even doing the actual work! Just be aware that the more prepared you are before beginning, the smoother the process will go and the less stressful it will be. It is an awesome project to undertake, but you will probably have an actual life, also (job, kids, family, etc.) while you are building. Therefore, you need to make it as easy on yourself and your family as possible by doing your "homework" ahead of time.
There are hundreds of choices that need to be made while you are building, and many of them may need to be made in a fairly short period of time. Building materials, stone/brick/siding, roofing, tile/hardwood/carpet, countertops, plumbing, paint color, trim, décor, etc., all need to be picked out at some point in the process. If you have made the majority of these selections prior to actually breaking ground, it will help streamline your project considerably. But when your builder is ready for you to pick out certain products, be sure to go back to your source or store to verify that what you originally settled on is still what you want. Double–checking with your supplier also reduces the possibility of errors in ordering!
It is imperative that you do not make the builder or construction crew wait on you to make up your mind on materials and choices. This costs them (and you) time, money, and scheduling delays like a domino effect, for both your building project and others already on the schedule. Indecision on your part can cause a major set–back in your progress, so I suggest you do lots of planning ahead. The more decisions you can make on what you want, before you start building, the better. Again, be prepared!
We were retired and living in a little 900 square foot cabin up the hill from the lot while we were building. That way, I could devote full time to watching our dream house take shape. I was also available at a moment's notice to answer questions or make choices about what I wanted here or there. That was really helpful to us and the builder. I would often just jump in the golf cart and run down the hill to watch the guys work. It was really fascinating to watch every square inch as it went up. I think it made the crews a little nervous sometimes, for me to just sit there and stare at them, but it was fun for me!
I realize that ours was the best case scenario, and most people would not have the luxury to just drop everything and run down to the building site whenever asked. But I would hope that you would be in a position to at least check on the progress regularly. It is nice to be able to conveniently participate in the process without adding too much stress to your lives!
Excerpted from How to Design Your Dream Home In 25 Years or Less! by Jan Jones Evans. Copyright © 2014 Jan Jones Evans. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 Introduction, 1,
Chapter 2 Layout and Design, 11,
Chapter 3 Size Does Matter!, 39,
Chapter 4 Location! Location! Location!, 47,
Chapter 5 The nitty Gritty: Foundation and Utilities, 51,
Chapter 6 Budget, Building Materials, and "Going Green", 59,
Chapter 7 Lighting, Electrical and Technology, 70,
Chapter 8 Doors, Windows and Fire Exits, 79,
Chapter 9 Handicapped Accessible?, 90,
Chapter 10 The Kitchen, 93,
Chapter 11 Bathrooms and Laundry, 116,
Chapter 12 Storage, Closets and Cabinets, 130,
Chapter 13 Décor/Design/Color/Finishing, 142,
Chapter 14 Garage, Porches and Outside Areas, 151,
Chapter 15 Remodeling, 158,
Chapter 16 My Floor Plan, 160,