Choosing the right house plan for you and your family can be very frustrating. Even if you’re looking at a future house plan and thinking only of the needs of one person you’re probably trying to have an eye toward usability by a future resident. Maybe factoring in multi-functionality of the spaces within the house (eg: bedroom into office into nursery into craft room).
The best outside resource I’ve found so far for choosing the right house plan is Richard Taylor’s site Don’t Buy a House Plan– Until You Read This!. He goes through many factors from how a building site can affect what factors a plan can have (like slope and soil type), to choosing the right builder.
Standing back and really analyzing what your wants vs. needs are is a good starting point. And it can be easy to confuse those wants and needs. Sometimes it’s easy to say you need a certain feature on a house– like a pool or a four-car garage. In the end try to imagine the time and money it’ll take to maintain those extra or larger features. Do you really want to work longer to support a house that’s more than you need? Do you love your work that much?
It seems, from my experience, that people long for a kind of house that’s different, or even opposite, of what they grew up with. And maybe you’re at a point in your life where you have some more financial resources to build bigger or better. My question is: why? Money can be used for so much better things than opulent housing.
Some things to ask yourself are:
What is your cooking and entertaining style? Do you usually eat in or out: Do you like to have guests over for dinner and other entertaining? Maybe a larger kitchen and deck area might be in order, and then going smaller on the bedrooms.
Are you single, newly married with kids in the future, or into the retirement lifestyle? These factors will probably have the greatest impact on your ideal house plan. If you’re thinking of being in the same house for several decades keep an eye on adaptability of the spaces within a house. Too many walls will limit how creative you can be with your space.
Are there kids involved? And do they all necessarily need their own bedrooms? I grew up with one younger brother (and no sister). So we each had our own rooms. But, I can see an advantage of sharing rooms for kids in learning a valuable life skill of sharing.
Do you regularly host over night guests? Or need room for an aging parent to move in (ie. the “granny flat” or “mother-in-law apartment”).
What do your finances look like? Would it be better to fully finance a smaller house right now that allows for an addition in the future? Frankly, this is the good old fashioned way of doing it. My mother’s childhood home, a dairy farm near Berlin, Wisconsin, was built like this over a couple decades. It’s still a really solid old farmhouse after all this time. Paying for building materials as you earn more money over time might avoid a mortgage all together. Check out ‘Mortgage Free’ by Rob Roy.
What are your hobbies and interests? Do they require space to spread out your work environment? Or can you pack everything away when not in use?
Do you work at home — or would like to? How much space will your office stuff take up? Can you move into more of a paperless or virtual office? It’s hard to let go of needing that hard paper copy of something and rely on stored bits and bytes of data. But, that’s what external hard drives, zip drives, and flash drives are for. Just don’t keep your magnet collection near them 😉
What is your “privacy quotient”? Do you absolutely need space of your own to get away to? Do you crave absolute quiet when trying to get to sleep at night: If you fall in this category I would highly recommend to avoid an open loft bedroom in your house– at least as your primary sleeping place. The open loft bedroom in my house was great until I hosted guests and found out just how unprivate the sound factor was!
Do you like spending time outdoors? Do you need space for outdoor games like badminton or tag football? Maybe planning for an outdoor room would be appropriate for you. But, do you necessarily need a semi-enclosed space to keep out rain and bugs like a screened-in gazebo? A pergola and simple brick floor will certainly cost less and probably allow you a closer-to-nature feeling.
Do you have physical limitations? Trouble with stairs? Even if you don’t right now you may be in that position as you age. A single story with wide interior doors would probably be a good idea. Also considering future ramp placement might be something to keep in mind too.
Do you want a garden? And how big of a garden? Producing a sizable quantity of your own vegetables is very feasible. It’s both an economical and ecological pursuit of your time and energy. Maybe you’d even be so lucky to live in a city where they allow 2 or 3 chickens in a backyard coop.
Overall I would encourage you to consider that if you build a house that has more space than you really need you will inevitably fill it to the gills with stuff. Most people do — I think it’s more of a survival instinct than anything else. In my opinion stuff (excess stuff) is the bane of a liberated existence. And modern marketing tactics are extremely skilled at leading us to believe you won’t be fulfilled without 6 credit cards and revolving consumer debt that goes along with your plethora of stuff.
Again, I come back to encouraging you to really examine your needs and wants in choosing a house plan. There’s more to a good working house plan than a line drawing of the floor plan and pretty picture of the front elevation.