How our house was designed…

** The picture above was our very first rough draft of the house plan…  it changed a lot since.

I figured that today was a great time to tell the story of how our house plans came together.  This has been a long term project.  The drawing above was doodled out on my friend Jamie’s whiteboard during a New Years Eve 2009 party.   That was really the first time we were serious about what our house would look like.  Back in December of 2008, we had just closed on our land and were excitedly making plans of what the house would look like on the land.  You’ll see a wrap around porch – 3 bedrooms, an office and dining room in this drawing.

For the next 9 months, we seriously began looking at drawings from architects and we came to love several designs through Southern Living.  This particular architect captured everything we both loved about Carolina low-country architecture.   Ultimately, we got a set of study plans and began the process of building with those plans in hand.  But, two things we didn’t know when we began — the detail in these plans would prove to be too expensive for our budget and we couldn’t afford much of what we wanted in this house.  So, we backed up.

We continued to look at other stock plans, but never really fit for us.  Along the way, we eliminated the wrap around porch and decided upon eliminating the formal dining room.  We continued to look at options through Southern Living and Coastal Living‘s websites.

The process of talking with builders with the original plans afforded us a good feel for each builder’s process and approach.  We ultimately chose to work with Sterling Homes to build a green home and started the process of creating our floor plan from scratch.   Bruce from Sterling Homes did an excellent job listening to what we wanted to incorporating it into a two story, low-country design that fit us.   The process of designing the house was good, because we discovered things along the way about ourselves and about the house we wanted to build.  We nixed the formal dining room and opted for an office in that space instead.  We went for a four bedroom with two up (for children) and two down (master and nursery/guest).  He added back a garage that we had eliminated and was able to work it into our budget.

In the process of going through design process, we also looked at several existing homes — and this was one of the best things we could do.  We could see what we didn’t like in other existing homes and know to adjust our plans.  One of the biggest adjustments came in the form of one versus two floors.  We eliminated the second floor and were able to build approximately the same square footage for the same price on one level.  We added storage in every area we could find to make maximum use of our square footage.

We ultimately eliminated the garage again from our plans before we began the process of financing.  I knew a number I needed to be at to make our ratios and financials work, and eliminating the garage helped us get there without having to cut our screened porch,  front porch or square footage.

Through the process, though, I learned that having someone on your team who listens and provides their professional input is invaluable to the process.  This is one of the biggest advantages that I have found working with a quality builder versus trying to build the house ourselves.  I think that ultimately, we would have made costly mistakes had we tried to contract the build ourselves.

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