Designing a custom home is simultaneously fun and challenging when you’re on a budget and your family is larger than average!
I started looking at house plans months before we bought our property. Our new build will be the 5th house I have ever lived in, and we had a list of features that we liked and disliked about each place.
Brad and I are both drawn to the same style of houses; when I showed him the plan that caught my eye, we both instinctively knew it was “the one.” We looked at several more plans online, but we always came back to “our house,” an open-concept Craftsman Style bungalow.
Front of House | Source
Back of House | Source
Things We Loved About It:
- Craftsman Style Home. My favorite! I had a different vision for the exterior colors, but I’ve always loved the look of a timber framed porch, and a combination of shakes and siding.
- Open Concept. It’s true that open-concept houses are louder and harder to decorate, but we absolutely love how welcoming it is, and how convenient the layout is for hosting large groups of people.
- Separate mudroom access from garage. It’s so handy for the kids to have a place to drop their things when they come in from playing outside!
- Room for Brad’s office.
Original Floor Plan | Source
It needed some modification to really suit our family well, so we sent the plan to our builder and asked if he could amend the drawing with the following changes:
- Reverse the drawing so it would work better with our lot.
- No walk-out basement. We liked this idea at first, and a slope at the back of our lot would have worked well for a walk-out, but we didn’t like the idea of the younger kids (and older guests) having to use a stairs to get to ground level if they exited the back of the house.
- Make the kitchen island straight so it’s less closed in. With 8 people home all day, we wanted each space to to allow multiple people to pass through freely
- Change the Walk in Closet into an office for Brad.
- Change existing office into a smaller entry way closet.
- Add more cubbies in the mudroom so each kid could have their own.
Our builder spent some time revising the drawing according to our specifications, but the quote came in higher than we were willing to spend.
Back to the drawing board we went!
Designing a custom home on a budget
We were able to shave off $50,000K from the quote by making the following edits and we ended up up with floor plan that we liked even more than the original.
- Removed the angle of the garage. I really liked the stylish angle, but angles add a lot of extra cost. They require extra material and a make the roof line a lot more complicated. Besides being less expensive, keeping the garage in line with the rest of the house resulted in less wasted space, too.
- Removed bedrooms 2 & 3, and the the bathroom in between them while expanding the space of the living area. We decided to finish 3 bedrooms (also leaving space for a 4th and 5th, if needed later) and a bathroom downstairs instead. Originally, we had planned for each child to have their own room, but now they’re all going to share, which they’re used to anyway. Sharing rooms is nice for accountability and camaraderie, too. 😉
- Removed stone from the exterior. Vinyl has come such a long way in the past decade, and is easily the most cost-effective option. Stone is expensive, and something we could always add later if we wanted to. We heard regrets from others about putting it around the base of the perimeter for aesthetics reasons because it just ended up hidden by shrubs and perennials anyway! If we add a little stone, it would probably be around the base of the porch posts, and armor stone in the gardens.
- Removed the timber detailing in the gables. It amazed me how much extra cost this had added to the project. The cost was more in the labor not the material: each piece needed to be hand-cut and assembled, which required a lot of man hours! We removed all the detailing from the gables and decided to make the timber frame front porch the focal point.
- Changed the flooring budget to reflect Luxury Plank Vinyl instead of hardwood. Not only is LVP half the cost of real hardwood, it is more kid-friendly and requires less maintenance. Bonus: LVP mimics real wood so well these days, not many people can tell the difference!
Items We Chose Not To Skimp On
- The Kitchen. This room has always been – and probably always will be – the heart of our home in every sense of the word. It’s where I prepare food approximately 2,000 times a year for our family. It’s where I create recipes, homeschool our children, and teach them to cook and bake. It’s where they look for me when they want to talk. It’s where the Littles play at my feet. This place is a workhorse in our home, and we felt in was worth the investment to build a quality, large family-friendly kitchen that would stand up to many more years of great memories.
- Windows. Long, cold, gray Winters take their toll on mental health (mine anyway), so we chose to maximize the amount of windows in the house to allow in as much natural light as possible! This included a double-vaulted ceiling in the Great Room to allow for an extra large window.
- 9 Ft. Basement. We shrunk the square footage of the house to keep costs down and put the kids’ bedrooms in the basement, along with a third bathroom and rec room. To keep it from feeling too “downstairs-ish,” we opted to add an extra foot to the length of the walls and maximize the ceiling height. This cost approx. $3,000 more than 8 ft. ceilings, but it’s a permanent structure that would be too hard to change down the road.
Once the drawings were finalized, we were able to apply for permits…
…and all of our plans to build came to a screeching halt.
In fact, at the time of this writing, we are still waiting for the green light to build!
In the next part of The Story of Our Homestead, we’ll share the permit saga and why we’ve been waiting (unnecessarily) for months to get started.