The journey of two millennials

Welcome to Fun Home Building, a blog on design, construction and building a dream house on a budget. We are documenting our journey of building a custom home in the suburb of twin cities, Minnesota and will share what we learn along the way.

  • House on West Shore

Designing Floor Plan

Updated: Apr 12

I have mentioned before that location is our No. 1 criterion picking a house. What is the second most important criterion? Layout. We have seen so many big houses that seem smaller than their actual size because of wasted space or poorly designed layout.

With a blank canvas, we can make the layout work for our family's lifestyle and preference. On the top of our wish list are:

1. Open concept in main living area. We are not fans of separated living spaces or formal dining room. 2. Bedrooms that are east or south facing. Good orientation helps reduce energy bill and brings in light during long Minnesota winters. 3. Shower on the main floor so our aging parents can live comfortably when they visit.

4. Three-car garage or at least two-car garage with extra storage space.

5. Laundry room on second level where the bedrooms are. We are so tired of dragging loads of laundry down and up the stairs in our current house and can't wait for the change. 6. Most importantly, because we are on a budget, we need to keep the overall square feet under 2500.

The last item was a tall order. 90% of two-story homes being built nowadays are above 3000 sqft, some are HUGE at 4000 sqft with indoor sports court. We had a hard time finding floor plans that meet our criteria. We drew countless Excel floor plans, had debates about each option, trying to convince each other our own design was better...Then one Saturday we went to a model home in a neighboring city and found the one.

Creative Homes is a production home builder local to Minnesota-Wisconsin area. The price range of their new builds is perfect for young families or middle class looking for a brand new house. If they offer lots in our city, we would definitely consider.

Their Bailey Plan gave us a great foundation to sketch out our own design. In fact, I would have been perfectly happy with this as long as shower is added to the powder room. But then DH decided to take on the challenge of putting ALL 3 bedrooms on the south side. Both our builder and I thought this is impossible without losing certain functionality on the second floor or having a wired layout. Lo and behold, he made something work using an app called RoomSketcher.

The tool has a bit of a learning curve, the GUI primarily uses drag-and-drop motions, sometimes it doesn't work smoothly to snap a wall or door in place. But after we get the hang of it, making changes was a lot easier. Here is what the second floor looks like now. DH switched the location of the kids bath with a bedroom in the Bailey Plan. The square footage stays the same, but the new layout now meets all of our needs. Woo-hoo!

We also found another great use of RoomSketcher: 3D pictures. Floor plans in 2D do not display all the details of a space. When designing layout, it is so much easier to visualize everything in 3D pictures, so we can better see how walls fit together, location of windows, room sizes, and cabinet layout. We love playing around with different layouts ourselves and taking snapshots of the rooms. For instance, we wanted larger windows by the fireplace, the rendering of the living room helped us tremendously to not only see the design in picture but also communicate with our builder the look we are going after.

Many new builds have small windows by the fireplace, we like the look of taller windows matched with low-profile media center and cabinets

At one point we considered removing the bump-out in the dining room to lower building cost, the 3D pictures helped us ensure the layout will work out

In order to fit all 3 bedrooms on one side of the hallway, we made some sacrifice--the master bath and walk in closet (WIC) both have some odd angles and are not rectangle shape; the kids bath is right next to the master bedroom, noise may be an issue. But we are pleased that we can keep the loft as a convenient common space for the second floor, and we can exit the master bedroom through the bathroom->wic->laundry room, getting ready in the morning will be a lot easier.

The design process for floor plan lasted about 2 months. There were many revisions, small tweaks, and discussions on functionality vs. aesthetics. In the end, we were quite pleased with how everything come together. Kudos to our builder and architect!


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