Thursday, November 28, 2013

Custom Home Design--Why It Makes Sense

With so many great "stock plans" available (including our own portfolio), people looking to build a new home sometimes struggle with whether the added time and expense of designing a one-of-a-kind house makes sense. Sometimes it doesn't. The number of pre-designed homes available means that there is probably one out there that comes pretty darn close to matching just about anyone's needs. Modifying a stock plan may very well take it from "almost perfect" to ideal. But there are a lot of reasons why completely custom makes sense.
Top of the list of reasons is the property the house is going on. A special view, challenging topography, or unusual shape mean that an "off the shelf" plan is probably not going to work. A custom design can shape itself to frame views, turn a difficult terrain into a positive feature, or work around challenging setbacks.

Many of the clients I meet who decide to go the custom route have lived in or built "almost perfect" houses before. Calling these places home have given these clients a list of "wish we hads", "if onlys", and "wouldn't it be nices." Examples: "We love our house, but wish the laundry room were closer to the bedrooms." "Our kitchen would be perfect if it were just two feet longer." or "We wish the family room had a better view of the backyard."

Such was the case for the clients I designed this house for. They had enjoyed their previous home for many years, and loved many things about it, but came with a wish list that reflected the things that were wrong about the previous house:
"We need somewhere to put the dog's crate. At our old house, it just sat in the corner of the sunroom."
"This sounds silly, but we want a place for the trash bins. I can't tell you how many times we hit it at the old house because it just stuck out into the garage!"
"We used the formal living room for the piano at the old house, but it would be nice to have that closer to where we spend all our time."

These specialized details, along with their desire to  have the master suite on the second floor (an increasing rarity in "stock" plans.) led them to design a one-of-a-kind house.

Let's take a look at some of the custom features.
The least glamorous part of the house is actually one of the parts that makes this new plan work so well for the clients. The garage (just a few feet larger in each direction than their old one) allows them to get out of their cars without the old "turn sideways and squeeze" maneuver they used to do to walk between them. A niche in one corner holds the trash bins til its time to take them to the curb, and a wall of built ins with a sink allows for gardening and projects. Just inside the house is a small mudroom with shoe racks and a place to put coats. ("At the old house, we had this awful pile of shoes that we were always tripping over right when you came in from the garage.") Straight ahead is a custom "drop zone" with places for mail, car keys, and electronics charging stations. ("It's a godsend! All the mail, receipts, change, etc. always wound up on the kitchen counter at our old place.) The laundry room is small (they send most things out to the cleaners), but has an open area for laundry baskets or ironing that was lacking in their previous one. The dog room, for the four-legged family member, is a much-loved feature. A split dutch door means they can see their pooch from the hall, and a doggy door leads to a small fenced area so he can go outside even when he is home alone. ("That one little thing has made such a difference! We don't feel like we HAVE to rush home at lunch or right after work to let the dog out.") Two large closets finish out this area--one is dedicated to cleaning supplies, and the other is a pantry dedicated to serving pieces, lesser used small appliances, and seasonal china patterns.

The main floor is designed to function for large parties but to be comfortable when just the two of them are home. Throughout the design, we made sure to provide places for important furniture, art, and rugs. The kitchen is laid out to allow comfortable flow for guests and plenty of workspace for cooking. Another pantry within the kitchen is dedicated to food storage. In the great room, a wet bar provides another spot for serving guests, and various other built ins allow for display of dishware, art, and books.

The piano room opens to the great room through a deep paneled archway. The piano is set between built in shelves, inspired by this picture the clients found online:
The "tea room" is a space inspired by their favorite room at the old house. "We had a nice sunroom on the back of the house where we loved to have our breakfast and coffee on weekends and just look out at the yard and watch the birds. We knew we had to have another little spot like that here."

The home office rounds out the other side of the main floor. The placement of this room was carefully considered. One of the clients works often from home, and wanted the ability to close the space off, but also wanted to be within earshot of the great room so he wasn't completely isolated when pulling those long hours. With built ins for organization, the space also provides future flexibility. The adjoining full bath (which doubles as the powder room) and a walk-in closet will allow it to serve as a bedroom if one is needed on the main floor.

A large screened porch, with enough room for dining and lounging, shares a double fireplace with the great room, and adjoins a grilling deck. Two other porches shade the great room from the afternoon sun, and act as an extension of the living space.

Upstairs, two nicely sized guest rooms share a nicely appointed bathroom. The clients weighed the option of giving each bedroom a private bath, but ultimately decided that the number of times both guest rooms would be occupied made it an unnecessary expense. The master suite is on the other side of the second floor, across a balcony that looks into the great room and foyer (a feature they enjoyed at their previous house.)

"Our other master bedroom was HUGE. 22 x 22. We deliberately made this one smaller, it feel so much more comfortable and was much easier to decorate than the old one."  The king sized bed fits into an arched niche with lovely trimwork and narrow built in bookshelves, a feature inspired by this photo the owners came across:

Double closets, one large enough to include an area for ironing, buffer the master bedroom from the bath, and a small morning kitchen between them means that weekend coffee or a midnight snack are just steps away. Double vanities, a private water closet, and a free standing tub are all memorable features of the master bath, but the true star of that room is the huge walk-in shower. "No glass door to scrub! And it's big enough that, with the multiple shower heads, we can get ready at the same time now."

By going the custom route, these clients got the details they wanted, the layout they needed, and a home that functions perfectly for the way they live.

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1 comment:

  1. I do agree with this. I think, at the end of the day, no matter how cost-efficient it is to buy a pre-made home, there will always be those wish lists, what-ifs and could-have-beens that we’d always have. This is why, if you have a dream home, it's better to just save up for it and have it designed your way than buy a pre-designed house and have hang ups. :)
    Paul Dabbs