Building the House

Designing House Plans… On a Budget

So… we decided to build. We bought the land. Now, what do we build on it? Designing our own house plans presented a set of challenges we weren’t prepared for. Of course, we couldn’t just make things easy on ourselves and simply choose a ready made house plan that comes with a nominal fee and all the work done for you. Nooooooooo – we just had to do something different. By now, you may have noticed that conventional is not our normal.

Keep You Design Options Open

The first home design plan was something along the lines of “let’s start with something small and temporary on one end of our land and build our dream home on the other side of the land when we become very rich.”

Enter the Arched Cabin idea:

Arched cabins are pre-made structures which use a pier and beam foundation to construct a weather tight structure. The finish work would be completed with contractors on site. There is a lot of really cool things about Arched Cabin. They are relatively inexpensive for how large they are. Arched cabins they are also unique, can be quite beautiful and they are totally customizable. We found quite a few resources from others building them on YouTube and Pinterest.

We liked the look of the arched cabin and even created a rough floor plan (drawn with a good ol’ ruler and pencil… to scale!) for the first floor. We were planning on getting their largest model (40×24) and building a partial loft. The idea of 1 1/2 stories was something we loved- imagining a lofted ceiling in the living room with lots of windows. We created a floor plan we were excited about for the first floor… but then realized that the rooms wouldn’t actually be this big because we neglected to include the amount of space walls would take up within the structure. (I would like to, embarrassingly, point out that the preceding sentence was taken from an email we actually sent to our contractor. He probably thought we were silly lunatics!!)

Arched Cabin 40X24 Floor plan

After our epiphany that walls actually take up space… :), we moved on to other ideas. Unfortunately, there was another unpleasant discovery around the corner.

If you read our previous post, foreshadowing Buying the Land of Our Dreams… On a Budget, you may remember a forshadowing that some of the imperfections which made our land affordable would actually be to our detriment down the road. This is example, numero uno. Turns out, that since our lot shares a neighborhood with many smaller, older homes, banks would probably not be inclined to lend us enough for two homes. To our dismay, we had to figure out a way to build a house that would fulfill our dreams, work for us as we (Lord willing) have children, and still remain in our newly wed budget. Whew! That’s a lot of must-haves for a tiny wallet! We had to go back to the designing house plans drawing board.

Learn from Experience

We got to Googling and spoke to our knowledgeable parents and grandparents and learned a few things.

How Save Money When Designing Your Floor Plan

  1. Building up rather than out is cheaper
  2. Box-like houses with few roof breaks and gables are also cheaper
  3. Prefab houses are a lot cheaper… but also not usually as structurally sound as a stick build (that’s contractor speak for a structure built almost entirely on site).

Then… one day scrolling through our glorious Pinterest feeds David found it. The most beautiful boxy house I’d EVER seen. I knew I wanted it to be mine.

Designing House Plans

Find the original plans here

Be Flexible in Your Home Design

This house is a giant, however. It’s somewhere around 3,500sq. ft. and that was definitely going to be out of our budget. The heart wants what it wants, though… so we figured out a way to make it fit our wallet. We downsized the structure to a 30X40 and, again, let our imaginations run wild. Addicted to the idea of a giant window with a lofted area upstairs thanks to Arched Cabins, I dreamt of using the loft like a library where we could read while we look over the banister and out the big window to the beautiful woods outside. David loved these ideas too, so those were two features we stuck with in our new design.

Armed again with my ruler, pencil and paper I got to work, then promptly emailed all of our (probably crazy and naive) ideas to our contractor.

DIY Floor Plans
Designing House Plans

I’ve already mentioned, in previous posts, that we were living 10 hours away. So, it was a few months until we could meet with our contractor in person. Although we were clueless and inexperienced, he was so kind to us. He actually got excited about these plans with us. In a few words… he just got us, ya know? He took our pictures and plans and got back to us with a drawing that blew us away!

Up until this point I really did believe that, to our contractor, we were just like the patients who go into their doctor having already diagnosed themselves with WebMD and Dr. Google. The annoying patients (or in our case, customers) who try to tell the doctors (contractors) what to do. As it turned out, we weren’t so crazy after all! That wonderful, understanding man sent us the following note with the proposed plans:

And I quote ” I explored many options but largely ended up back at the schematic layout you had. Trying to fit so much in a confined space doesn’t give much leeway, but I like how it is coming together.  I developed it a bit more than I normally would at this stage, but I wanted to make sure it would work. ” …… 🙂 hurray.

How to DIY the Perfect Home Layout

Designing Floor Plans, Cathedral ceiling 1900 sq.ft.
Designing House Plans, Cathedral Ceiling, 1900 sq.ft.

Just imagine cooking in that kitchen with lofted ceilings two stories high. Put yourself right in front of that wood burning stove while you gaze out a 17’x10′ window out to a 9 acre forest. Dream about sitting in that soaker tub with the window slightly cracked so you can hear the rippling brook in the backyard. At about 1900 sq ft., These 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms will be where we bring home our first baby. They will be where we learn all the ins and outs of home ownership, small town living and homesteading. This will be home.

It isn’t a mansion…. but that means less to clean! It isn’t going to be super fancy or high falutin’ but we are so thankful, because financial freedom is one of our goals. No, this house might not break any records, but we hope it will be an encouragement to those who have a dream to build but have a little budget.

So, as an encouragement to all I would like to leave this post with the following sentiment:

Just because you have never done something before does not mean you cannot. If it’s your dream, go for it! Then, surround yourself with a ton of people who know how to help you along the way.

See? This blog isn’t just about house construction. Hope you feel uplifted today!

DIY Your Perfect Home Layout

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