Imma gonna go ahead and quote the great Amy Poehler to start this story: “Good for her! Not for me.” Those are the words I repeated when choosing the floorplan for our new home. Dazzled by Pinterest images and unrealistic home models and surrounded by others buzzing about what what a house MUST or MUST NOT have, it’s easy to get caught up and make decisions that don’t fit your needs or budget. When it came time to choose the floorplan for our home and upgrade the various options, it was a difficult process because we had no reference point (the neighborhood is so new they hadn’t even broken ground on the first home yet.) We had 10 days from the time we put down the deposit on the lot to finalize the floorplan including all structural upgrades… which was a full 7 months before they’d even pour the foundation. Staring at the blank lot with wide eyes, I tried to imagine what the 5,786 choices would look like but it was tough with no reference point!
Customizing a house comes in two categories: structural (the floorplan) and design & electrical choices (tile, flooring, low voltage etc). Today I’m sharing the structural choices since that’s what we locked in first. It’s also the most nerve wracking, because once the plans go to the permit office they are set in stone! We white knuckled our way through it, and I think we did okay. I wish we’d tweaked a few things but we’ll know better for our next house (sidenote: my husband googles ‘divorce lawyers’ whenever I mention building another house.)
FYI, my little guy insists on wearing his helmet when we check out the house. After all, the sign says it’s a ‘Hard Hat Area.’
Our realtor gave us great advice– and it’s common sense but totally brilliant and became important when framing our choices: put the majority of your budget into structural choices since that’s the most expensive to change. You can always change the tile and flooring, but construction is pricey and that’s where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
Le sigh. So smart. As much as I wanted to go crazy at the design center, it was most important to figure out what we needed to add construction-wise, and ignore the ‘fluff’. Which is hard. Because fluff is PRETTY.
Step one when looking for a home whether you’re building or buying is to write down your list of must-haves (your needs), nice-to-haves (wishes), and your NO WAYS. The list may be fluid as you go through the process of searching and your heart starts really telling you what it wants. But it was essential when prioritizing our choices and figuring out the budget. Our list looked a little like this:
- wooded backyard with space to play
- laundry room
- two sinks in the master bedroom
- two offices (my husband and I both work from home)
- a guest room with accessible shower
- three car garage (we don’t have a finished attic or basement so we need the space)
- light, airy, and open
- screened porch with deck
- mudroom (this did not happen, so sad!)
- near walking and biking trails
- houses that are so close they practically touch each other
- a house in our backyard
- busy road
- slanted yard
- wasted space (like bonus rooms that have their own bonus rooms, etc)
As Amy Poehler would agree (GOOD FOR HER! NOT FOR ME!), this list is perfect for our family but I know it doesn’t fit every family. Or, any other family. Ha.
So what exactly DID we do to the floorplan? First up, we expanded the laundry room in hopes we could build a mudroom wall in there, but now that the framing is up it’s clear it won’t work. I was hoping to build a mudroom area similar to nc_homedesign’s Instagram photo below, but alas, the configuration of the room won’t allow it. A gal can dream, though.
One of our biggest structural decisions was the living room. A two-story living room comes standard in our home, and it’s gorgeous. It would have looked a teeny bit like this, minus the half-million-dollar upgrades in this model home:
So pretty, right? Well… we decided to add in a playroom on that second story instead. “GOOD FOR HER, NOT FOR ME!” I inwardly sob, trying to console myself as my two-story living room dreams disappear. I’m joking (sorta), because heating and cooling all that random air on the second floor doesn’t make sense. We need room to play, not air to heat and cool. Plus, the two-story setup is loud. It would be tough to watch t.v. in the living room and not have sound carry to the bedrooms. Instead, we upgraded to a playroom which will eventually be the ‘teen hangout’ (cue more sobbing from me.)
I snapped a few pics from a different model home that features the playroom-in-lieu-of-gorgeous-living-room option. Here’s the view looking into the playroom; if I’m gonna give up that stunning living room, I’m excited that the room at least has high ceilings:
This is a view looking out towards the entryway and a bedroom:
We stop by the model often to take measurements, using the highly scientific Making Lemonade ruler. Yup, this nook is definitely One Ben and Half an Abby wide!
Of course, it currently looks like this. Which still makes me pretty darn happy.
There were a few delightful surprises, like this staircase in the model home that’s standard in our home too. I didn’t need it, but it sure is pretty and it makes my heart go pitter-patter. Or maybe that’s my heart murmur. Anywho… it didn’t cost extra, so we’re going to take it and run with it.
Here’s what ours currently looks like, framing-wise (tilt your head and squint to imagine it with drywall and floors, ha):
The biggest structural upgrade is the kitchen. They say that if you put your money anywhere it should be your kitchen since that’s usually the biggest return on your investment when it comes time to sell. It’s not that I need a big kitchen, but there was (in my mind) a design flaw with the standard floorplan. The kitchen island juts into the eating area, making it a narrow area to navigate. Since the kitchen table is the lifeblood of our home AND the door behind it leads to the porch/deck/backyard, we needed space to move without bumping into chairs, the island, and each other.
After all, I have trouble walking straight let alone weaving between chairs. Plus, we need room for our dance parties.
Here’s the standard floorplan with notes. See how the table creates a traffic jam because it’s smushed between that half wall and the kitchen island?
To illustrate in real life, this is the model home’s eating area looking into the living room. You can see the half wall that we asked to be taken out. If you’re facing this direction, the (expanded) kitchen is behind you; if I went with the regular kitchen I wouldn’t have been able to take this shot because the island would be there–it is THAT close to the table and chairs.
So we upgraded the kitchen option which pushed the exterior wall out a few feet towards the backyard and turned the island so it’s parallel with the main wall. Ahhhhhh, now there’s room to JuJu On That Beat! (or the NaeNae, the Dab, the Running Man, or whatever it is you crazy kids are doing nowadays.)
Now that JuJu on that Beat is stuck in your heads… here’s a little more eye candy. I spy with my little eye at least 6 design upgrades (that we won’t be getting.)
Putting money into the structural elements is a way to save it down the road. You can rip out builder grade tile and carpeting later, but expanding the kitchen or moving doors is best done before the builder sends in that permit.
Next week, I’ll share the design choices. Yes, I was like a kid in a candy store. A VERY EXPENSIVE CANDY STORE WHERE I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO BUY THE STUFF ON THE TOP SHELF. 😉
Also how to figure out a whole-home design scheme. Because that’s kind of important before you go choosing ALL THE THINGS.
For more in the Building Up series, start here:
Let the New Home Adventure Begin!
We’re at the pre-drywall inspection stage which means things are really ramping up! Soon we’ll be able to better see what the final home will look like. What do you think of the plan so far?!
Read the entire Building Up series about building a new construction home from the ground up here: