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6th May, 2019
Articles, Blog

Newswire - The eternal question for any homeowner planning to build a new home is, “How much will it cost?” But asking builders how much a new home will cost, and more specifically, how much it will cost per square foot, will likely elicit a wide range of responses from low to high and somewhere in between. Cost per square foot analysis may seem like an elusive math problem, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Cost per square foot analysis is difficult for homeowners to get their arms around because it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison and there always seems to be many different answers.

Imagine you’re purchasing a new car and trying to determine its price by its tires. How much is the car per tire? Do you divide by four or by five, to account for the spare?” explained John Kappler, owner of Kappler Architects who provides home designs for The House Plan Company, a residential plan marketing company based in Oregon.

Kappler advises breaking it down into two components to better understand the total cost of building a new home: Hard costs and soft costs. Hard costs are the actual “brick and mortar” costs of construction, including the cost to acquire the lot, labor and building materials and utilities and landscaping. Hard costs are generally easier to estimate because of their tangible nature. Builder profit is also included in these costs and can range from 15-25 percent.

Soft costs, on the other hand, are not associated with the physical construction of the home and encompass everything from architectural and engineering fees, permitting and legal fees, taxes and insurance.

Armed with this information about hard and soft costs, where does a homeowner begin? Kappler recommends diving deeper into the hard costs and, in particular, three areas: Complexity, size and quality of finishes.

“Focusing on the three most important pieces of the hard costs will help a client begin to understand cost per square foot. There are certain costs they can’t change such as permit fees and taxes, but they do have control over costs associated with the complexity of the construction, size of the house and quality of the interior and exterior finishes,” explained Kappler.

A good starting point, therefore, is to outline several basic assumptions prior to construction. What are the utilities needed for the property – tap or well fees and septic costs? What type of soils tests or engineering work must be done on the lot? Will the house have any outdoor decks or patios? Is landscaping work to be done now or later? What size garage is needed? What level of interior finishes are desired? High-end finishes, fixtures and mechanical equipment, for example, can quickly escalate costs.

In addition to these important questions, careful consideration must be given to other design and construction factors as part of the overall cost equation. The complexity of design and articulation of elements such as corners, wall height changes and bays; steep or complicated roof profiles; and complex trim and texture changes can all impact construction costs. Simple building designs can be constructed more quickly and with less waste than more complex building designs, thereby keeping total construction costs in check.

Once a builder and client can work together on answering all of the questions, they can begin to arrive at a relatively accurate cost per square foot and the total cost of the new home. As Kappler likes to remind clients, “Building a house is a process. You need to understand both the process and how all the pieces interact with one another each step of the way.”\

As seen on Newswire

 

1st Apr, 2019
Blog

EUGENE, ORE.—April 2, 2019—Detached garages with granny flats, backyard guest cottages, pool houses, gazebos, and standalone workshops and hobby rooms all have several things in common—they’re accessory building structures that can add much needed living space and value to a residential property and they’re gaining in popularity.

Rick McAlexander, CEO of The House Plan Company, a residential design marketing company based in Oregon, defines an “accessory structure” as any type of living space on the property that is considered incidental to the primary dwelling structure.

“Accessory structures are on the rise as homeowners look to add more living space to their property,” said Rick McAlexander. “This type of building concept is much broader than a detached garage for parking vehicles—it runs the gamut from gazebos and pool houses to backyard cottages and music studios—and can add considerable investment value to your property.”

The biggest trend McAlexander sees in accessory buildings today is the notion of a granny flat or apartment above the detached garage, even a standalone guest cottage in the backyard.

“As more and more baby boomers choose to age at home, they realize the need for separate living space for a caretaker or their adult children who can tend to them and their property,” he explained.

The House Plan Company offers a number of detached garages with apartments in different architectural styles from contemporary to craftsman. Several garage plans also feature plenty of hobby and recreation space in addition to living quarters.

Designer Steve Vatter of Legacy Home Plans, who has designed several accessory building plans for The House Company, says he sees growing interest in garage apartments as homeowners desire more living space but would like to stay in place.

“The biggest advantage to building a garage with an apartment above is the cost. The slab foundation and the roof are the same size so you’re just adding a second level,” he said. Vatter added, “With land prices at a premium today, it’s more cost effective to build a garage apartment on existing property either for personal use or as a rental. In the long run, it adds more value to the property.”

One of Vatter’s most popular garage apartment designs is a modern style structure (#71064) featuring an open floor plan with numerous large windows and sight lines from nearly every interior angle. A deck and sliding glass doors are added for homeowners to relax outdoors and enjoy the views.

Vatter notes a strong resurgence in other types of accessory structures as well, such as pool houses and workshops or studios for recreation and hobbies. His Driftwood pool house design #76849, for example, features a fully equipped kitchen, fireplace, enclosed TV, indoor and outdoor showers and a changing room.

“Years ago, homeowners wanted an enclosed pool house with windows to the outdoor swimming pool. Today, they want as much open outdoor living as possible, closing off only the changing areas and bathroom,” Vatter explained.

The House Plan Company features a collection of accessory structure plans from fully-equipped pool houses to stall barns for horses and even a luxury dog house #30487.

The first step in moving forward with building an accessory structure on private property is to determine the goals for additional space. McAlexander cautions homeowners to identify all of the different types of uses desired for the space and then determine space requirements for those uses.

“I’ve seen homeowners purchase a simple detached garage plan, for example, thinking it will be easy to convert into a place to work on hobby cars without taking into account the need for a higher ceiling to incorporate a car lift or additional workshop and storage space,” McAlexander said.

McAlexander’s Craftsman-style garage apartment plan #62272 is a great example of a design that factors in multiple uses. The two-car garage plan features 10-foot wide and 8-foot tall doors vehicle space, and a spacious hobby room. Stairs lead from the hobby room up to a second-floor apartment, where vaulted ceilings lend a spacious feeling to the kitchen, great room, office and bedroom. A bathroom with a soaking tub, utility room and balcony make the most of the space.

Next, he advises homeowners to research their local building ordinances and zoning codes for an accessory structure.

“It’s important to do your homework on the local building codes to see what you’re allowed to put on the property, including the regulations on square footage limits, building setbacks, exterior modifications and impacts on utilities such as water and sewer,” McAlexander explained.

McAlexander has even designed a country-style stall barn #92377 for property that is zoned for livestock. The spacious barn plan offers two stalls, plenty of storage space for equipment and tack and three garage doors that open to the center of the barn. Upstairs, a large space with vaulted ceilings could be used as a recreation or hobby room.

Once a homeowner finds an accessory structure plan they like after browsing the collection of plans on The House Plan Company website, they can work directly with the plan’s designer to

make additional modifications if necessary. The House Plan Company’s team of award-winning design professionals and architects can also custom design an accessory structure to tailor to a homeowner’s specific needs.

“Our team of design professionals and architects have created custom accessory structure plans for everything from a dog rescue shelter to an 80-foot oil derrick for a life-size model train configuration on private property. We can design any type of accessory structure to meet a client’s needs if they don’t find one on our site,” said McAlexander.

As seen on Newswire

7th Mar, 2019
Blog

 

We were fortunate to receive photos from a client of our Garage Plan 20-052. The client used our modification services to customize the design. The garage bays were pulled forward elimiating the front covered porch area, and added a covered side patio. This accessory structure was beautifully finished and we are happy to give you a tour!

 

Exterior:

 

Upper Apartment:

 

Interior Garage Area:

4th Mar, 2019
Articles, Blog

Building a new home is an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and selecting the perfect home design and floor plan to meet your family’s needs can be daunting, but it’s a critical step toward realizing your dream home.  

Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs, a leading residential design plan company based in Oregon, offers four important pieces of advice when choosing the right floor plan for new home construction.

1. Define the Goals of Your New Home

The first step in selecting the right home design, even before purchasing a building lot, is to determine the goals of your new home and create a “wish list” of the desired spaces, features and amenities based on your lifestyle. According to McAlexander, this goal-setting process lays the foundation for other decisions that follow, such as determining the size and style of the home, floor plan and budget.

“My biggest piece of advice to clients is that they give careful consideration to their goals for building a new home before beginning to look at design plans,” said McAlexander. “When I meet with new clients, I start by asking several basic questions such as, ‘What is your plan for the home? Do you intend to live in it for the next 15 to 20 years or do you plan to sell it in several years?’. We next develop an outline and begin to look at floor plans.”

2. Design Spaces to Suit Your Lifestyle

There are a number of factors to be considered in designing living space, such as how spaces will be configured for socializing or for privacy, and how to accommodate changing family needs over time. McAlexander notes that clients with young children generally want the private spaces of the house, such as bedrooms and baths, to be grouped close together. Conversely, he sees families with teens asking for more separate spaces in two-story home designs.

“Often times, the number of floors are determined by factors such as building lot constraints and the need for privacy. We find that a number of clients gravitate towards a two-story floor plan because they want a clear separation of living space, especially those with older children where the master suite may be located on the main floor and the rest of the bedrooms are on the second floor. If there are no land constraints with the lot, however, I recommend a single-level floor plan for the long-term as it offers the best aging in place option.”

While there are thousands of home design plans available online, McAlexander says not to be afraid to ask to customize one to meet your needs. “With many of our clients, chances are they find a floor plan they really like, but it’s not quite perfect. That’s when we bring in one of our design professionals to modify or customize the plan to add the right personal touches. Ultimately, the house should be a reflection of your personality and lifestyle.”

3. Factor Outdoor Living in the Plan

Outdoor living spaces are quickly becoming the new social hub of the home as families look to spend more time relaxing and recreating together outdoors. As McAlexander notes, more of his company’s clients are asking for formally defined outdoor living spaces, which often comes with its own set of unique challenges.

“One of the biggest challenges with building outdoor living spaces, which can feature fully-equipped kitchens and fireplaces, is that clients don’t necessarily take into account the additional cost to build this space as part of the total costs of home construction. The costs associated with this type of build-out will depend on several factors, such as the climate and whether some type of additional cover is needed due to moisture or direct sun or what type of appliances will be installed. Appliances rated for outdoor use, such as fireplaces, stoves and refrigerators, tend to be more expensive,” he explained.

Associated Design’s contemporary Edgefield 31-131 is a popular house floor plan with a vaulted, covered outdoor space accessed from both the Great Room and Dining Room.

Edgefield 31-131, Modern House Plan, Contemporary Home Plan
Edgefield 31-131

4. Don’t Build More Space than You Need

McAlexander has also noticed a downward trend in the need for bonus rooms in residential floor plans. Instead, his clients are carefully considering how every space of the house will be used.

“In the past, the concept of the ‘Great Room’ meant that people needed additional rooms for their own space, whether it be an office or media or hobby room, resulting in three- to four-bedroom floor plans,” he said. “Today, Great Room designs have evolved to include more well-defined separations within the open living space without the need for a third or fourth bedroom.”

The ranch-style Manor Heart 10-590 floor plan features open-style living where each of the main rooms – Great Room, dining and kitchen – are open to one another but still maintain some separation of space.  

In addition to these four tips, McAlexander sees the following trends in house plan designs for 2019.

Aging In Place, Tetherow 31-019, Ranch House Plans
Tetherow 31-019

Aging in Place Designs. As baby boomers continue to age, many are opting to age in place. Some of Associated Design’s popular age-in-place floor plans feature guest suites and caretakers’ quarters, such as the one-story Tetherow 31-019 in craftsman style or the two-story, lodge-style Barnhart 30-946 design.

Simplified Building Profiles. House plans with simplified building profiles are on the rise because they minimize construction complexity and cost.

Eliminating Bonus Rooms. As the Great Room has evolved into better defined space to meet everyone’s needs for both social and private time, seldom used bonus rooms are being eliminated from floor plans. The craftsman-style Westheart 10-630 features a Great Room floor plan with separate, easily accessible spaces for a little more privacy.

Mud Rooms and Drop Zones. For active families, a well-designed mud room or drop zone has become a necessity rather than passing through the laundry on the way from the garage.

 

 

8th Feb, 2019
Blog, New Home Plans

Stonegate 31-132

The charming storybook feel of the Stonegate blends the best of Lodge Style, Craftsman, and European influences. Designed for a sloped lot, the main living area sits atop a large garage with a side entry. The garage has two bays for car entry and a smaller bay on the opposite side for easy access to yard maintenance items, or golf cart. The garage is wide enough to hold up to four cars stacked two by two. The main floor is open style living area with vaulted ceilings. This area continues onto a large deck for extended outdoor living space. A fireplace is nestled into the living room wall. On the opposite side of the house is a large vaulted suite with a private balcony and bath with walk-in closet and shower. Above the guest suite is a great storage area accessed by ladder just off the kitchen. This house plan could serve as a guest house, vacation get-a-way or a primary residence.

Klickitat 31-129

The Klickitat is a traditional-style home with a charming exterior to fit in most settings. What may seem small will live large. The great room features tall, vaulted ceilings and a wall of windows and sliding glass door will let in the natural beauty. The kitchen has a large island with plenty of workspace and added storage. Near the step-in pantry is a bench that is convenient to the utility and main entrances. The utility room is spacious with a utility sink and room for a freezer. Down the hall from the great room, is a bedroom and an owners' suite. The owners' suite has a dressing area and walk-in closet which connects to a shared bath. This home could serve as a primary residence, or vacation cabin get-a-way.

Whiskey Creek 31-143

Farmhouse-style ranch home plan the Whiskey Creek will charm your friends and family with it's fun yet sophisticated look. With the garage doors at the side of the house, the street view of the house is quaint, while the inside is grand with luxurious amenities. The welcoming foyer has an 11' ceiling and a hall leading into the great room which offers museum quality wall space for your family photos or artwork. To the right of the foyer are two bedrooms and to the left is a formal dining room. The great room features a fireplace and sliding doors out to a roomy covered patio with room to entertain. The kitchen is open to the great room. Through the kitchen towards the front of the house is a large pantry with a secondary refrigerator and a nook big enough for a desk or shelving. Continuing through will lead you into the dining room. Through the back of the kitchen leads you to the utility room and mud hall and garage enterance. To the right from the kitchen is the owners' suite with a luxurious, spa-like bath with a clawfoot bathtub and modern walk-in shower. The walk-in closet has a convenient pass-through linen shelf connected to the utility room.

Logsden 31-075

The Logsden cabin plan blends elegance and rustic together with its lodge style and large wrap-around deck. Once inside you are greeted with an impressive view through the floor to ceiling windows in the two-story, vaulted great room. The cozy fireplace on the wall opposite the kitchen is enjoyed throughout the main level living space. Down the hall past the kitchen are two bedrooms and the pass-through utility room. Upstairs is a loft, open to the great room can take in the impressive view through the windows. The remaining second floor is dedicated to the owners' suite. This large suite is a quiet get away to relax. The owners' bath offers a soaking tub and two walk-in closets. The Logsden has all the amenities to be a primary residence or it could also be a luxurious vacation home.

Kinsale 31-142

The Kinsale is a Craftsman-style Farmhouse plan that brings style to functionality. The exterior offers  charm to any neighborhood with it's cozy covered porches and Craftsman accents. One will sure feel welcome when they walk through the front door into the two story foyer. To the left, double doors lead into a den which could function as an office, guest room, or library. Continuing past the entry, you enter into the great room. The great room features a fireplace and two-story vaulted ceilings and is open to the dining area and kitchen which is separated by a large island. From the dining room, behind a sliding barn door, is the utility room, a large storage closet and entrance to the 3-car garage. The opposite side of the home is the owners' suite and bath with two walk-in closets. Up the stairs along the great room is two additional bedrooms and a bonus room with kitchenette and built-in desk. 

 

1st Feb, 2019
Articles, Blog

Newswire —Feb. 1,2019—You are considering a new home and are stuck trying to figure out what style of living area will best work for you, your family, and the way that you live. Well ponder no further. The House Plan Company has prepared this helpful guide to the three main types of living areas and how they live.

The Vintage Layout: Separated Family and Entertaining Spaces

Formally defined spaces and separation between family and gathering spaces is the traditional approach to arranging the living area of a home. As showcased in the New Haven design 33225 the formal living and dining rooms are front and center while the casual family gathering spaces are at the back of the home.

“A family room is where you and your family gather with friends, watch TV, relax and play games. The living room’s purpose is more formal,” says Rick McAlexander CEO of Associated Designs, Inc. “The same can be applied to the dining spaces. A nook makes a great space for regular family meals while the formal dining room gives the homeowner the opportunity for more elaborate entertaining.”

The Contemporary Layout: Great Rooms

The pinnacle in relaxed living is the great room, a seamless blending of the three core living areas in one open space. The Bandon plan 33318 showcases this style of living area with a fully open great room at its core.

“The great room is about allowing movement in a house so that you aren’t confining living rooms and family rooms and kitchens to specific spaces. They are all connected in some way. A true great room can be a combination of several types of spaces, and that’s what this design does,” said McAlexander. “You have a centralized living space where everything happens.”

The Modern Layout: Open Living Style Great Rooms

 “The open living style great room takes the grandness of the room and redefines it with slight separation. It’s still a great room, as all the rooms flow together, but there are clear delineations for each area’s purpose,” says Rick.

Take the Clarendon plan 14996. The center of the home is filled with the living and dining room along with the kitchen. The L-shaped staircase is the only separation between the dining room and family room, while the kitchen is separated from the family room by the generous sized island. The main gathering areas are all open to other areas of the home while still having some sense of separation.

Every man’s home is his castle, or so the saying goes, which means the central living area can be utilized and designed in any way that suits your family, your lifestyle or your personality. It is important that your home reflects the way you live not just the latest trend. So ask yourself and be honest. What type of living area best fits me, my family and the way we live?

 

8th Jan, 2019
Articles, Blog

Trend Spotter: Up and Coming Design Styles for 2019

With the New Year thoughts wonder to what the year will hold. It can be both uplifting as well as thought-provoking. Maybe something that you did in the old year you’d like to not have happened in the New Year. But a trend that works, that fits well and catches on, you probably want to repeat.

Same goes for home trends. The best trends can be passed on into the New Year, whether it’s the style of house, a specific layout or design element, or even a room that becomes an amenity in and of itself.

“That’s kind of what happened with garages in 2018,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs. “The garage became an extension of the house, not an afterthought or a storage unit.”

With the New Year, we thought it time to look at home trends we see holding fast in their position as top design styles. Three homes and a garage exemplify specific trends in design, style, rooms, and amenities.

“In 2018, homebuyers wanted space and comfort. Everything in its place and in the right place,” said McAlexander. “And they want flexibility. Homes are larger, garages more expansive and useful, and living spaces spread out into the outdoor areas and backyards. These are such solid design trends we see them carrying through 2019.”

Prairie Style House Plan, Home Plan, Home Design Trends

Contemporary Comfort

The Patagonia (31-145) home design offers a modern take on a traditional prairie-style house. Rather than overwhelm you with straight lines and angles, the exterior is subtle and cool with a soft undertone of stone wainscoting and soft overhangs.

But it’s likely the 4,000-plus square foot interior that showcases some of the best home trends of 2018.

“This is a spacious family home,” said McAlexander. “It is meant to be lived in and enjoyed to grow with the family.”

One home trend -- the three-car garage -- takes up the left side of the house. It opens into a combined drop zone and mud hall, which is also conveniently set near an expansive utility room. Natural light brightens the garage hallway which then opens into the vaulted great room. Here is where the family can gather together, meet with friends, celebrate events, and create memories.

From the large open kitchen to the breakfast nook and great room with wood stove and built-in entertainment center, to the easy outdoor seating and barbecue places, it is a feast for the eyes. But there are of course a large owners’ suite and two bedrooms upstairs alongside a play area or bonus room. A den just off the front entry completes the house and its extensive floor plan.

Boulderfield 31-147, Farmhouse plan, home plan

Farmhouse Fantasy

Design trends in 2018 don’t have to stick to one exterior look or interior floor plan. In fact, with the Boulderfield (31-147) home design, you get traditional farmhouse flair with modern amenities.

The farmhouse look is pronounced by the angled roofs and plywood siding with quaint window shutters. But the windows are not small by any means. They let in plenty of natural light to brighten up the expansive 3,837-square-foot interior.

“Again, it’s not the size that matters here but where things are placed. Amenities don’t have to be tangible to be recognized as key to the home,” said McAlexander.

A three-car garage connects with a mud hall that includes built-in storage space and a drop zone. Nearby is a small powder room and an extra built-in storage space. To make things in more effective, the garage features a separate doorway to the mechanical storage for the home’s water heater and electrical units.

From there the home features one of the biggest trends in home design for 2018: the great room style living area that flows effortlessly into the outdoors. In the Boulderfield home design the outdoors features a covered patio for entertaining alongside a built-in stone outdoor fireplace.

The single-level home also features a pocket office with built-in cabinets, highlighting once again the idea that everything is in its place exactly where a family would need it to be.

Estes Park 31-146, Ranch Home Plan, Ranch House Plan

Flexible Floor Plan

The Craftsman home design is a well-known and much-loved home design. In the case of the Estes Park (31-146), the Craftsman home is given a unique (and expansive) interior makeover. In fact, the total square footage of the Estes Park is more than 7,000. But the highlight here is the lower level garage and storage space.

“It’s the trend that keeps on giving, I think,” said McAlexander. “A few years ago, garages were just meant to store a car or two, but they are now so much more than that.”

The Estes Park turns the lower level of the house into an expansive basement and storage area. The basement itself has its own garage door access for flexible use and sensible storage options. There’s also room for a future bathroom, a mechanical room separate from the rest of the lower level, and covered porches. The garage is on the main level, which means the entire lower level can be its own living area if the family really wanted to go that route.

The rest of the house features more of the obvious trends in home design: an in-home office space, expansive open living area, and a second floor recreation room and bonus room. The growing family will have nothing to fear with all the features and the unique, flexible layout of this high-end home.

Garage plan 20-147, 2 Car Garage, Garage Design

Grand Garage

In keeping with our theme on garages, this final design puts the focus entirely on flexible accessory structures. The featured Garage (20-147) provides flex space that can be used as either a guest house or craft room.

The garage itself can hold two cars easily. Along the back of the garage is a second floor recreation room. A wet bar and a full bathroom are near the stairway.

“It’s the quintessential look for a garage nowadays,” said McAlexander. “Separate from the house yet sensible and useful. I know clients who prefer this garage, and some choose to rent out the top rec room for some extra income.”

Bottom line, home design trends in 2018 were all about allowing families to choose just where and how they want everything to look and feel. A basic garage can be more than a garage, just like a living area can be more than just inside.  

As Seen on Newswire
4th Dec, 2018
Articles, Blog

The need for your home to grow with you has been a long standing concern with homeowners. Moving is time consuming and expensive so without spending too much on a larger home finding ways to adapt the current space is critical.

Originally the solution for this problem was the bonus room. Smartly maximizing the additional space created by the truss system over the garage, the bonus room provided family’s with the opportunity to spread out as budget and lifestyle allowed.The pitfall with the bonus room is the need for stairs in homes that are otherwise on a single level and being tucked away over the garage can leave the room feeling detached from the rest of the house. For homeowners’ looking for a solution to their growing needs that isn’t as separated as the bonus room adding a flex room is a great alternative. Integrated into the main living area of the home, the flex room is standardly not far from either other bedrooms or the entry of the home.

“While some designs may specifically call out an additional room as “flex” this space really goes by many names”, say Rick McAlexander CEO of Associated Designs in Eugene, Oregon. “For those looking for floor plans that will give them an opportunity to grow try and look pass room call outs. Dens, Offices, Libraries, Studies are all synonyms for Flex Room.”

Holyoke 31-093, Ranch House Plan, Flex Room

Take the Holyoke design 31-093. At first glance this home fits the bill for your classic 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom single family home. At a second glace it shows its potential for growth. Off the foyer, through a set of double French doors is a den with a closet. The possibilities for this space far exceed the label. It could be a play room for young children, a study for teenagers or an office for a parent. Maybe it is a craft room, a guest room, or the home’s media center set up to entertain friends and family alike during football season.

Whatever the future may hold, it is always great to be able to roll with the changes. Adding a little flex space to you home will allow you to stay comfortable and content for years to come.

As seen on Newswire

 

6th Nov, 2018
Articles, Blog

If there’s one thing most homebuyers find intimidating, it’s building a house. The planning, the project management, the contractors, the blueprints, the permits, the time… it can all become overwhelming.

“It’s the one thing that always gets my clients a bit bewildered,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs, Inc. in Eugene, Ore. “They start thinking about all the little details and they get blindsided. But I always tell them, the benefits of building far outweigh all the other concerns they might have.”

Home Building, Home Buying

The reason for this is simple: Building a home takes away all the “if only” statements.

If only we had a breakfast bar. If only I had a bonus room for my arts and crafts projects. If only the living room didn’t have this wall separating it from the dining room. If only we had a three-car garage. If only the refrigerator wasn’t so close to the dishwasher. If only we had smart home technology. 

“It’s the what-ifs that get you in the end when you buy a pre-built house,” said McAlexander. “A pre-built house has it all done for you, but it may not have everything just the way you or your family want it.”

In other words, building your house from the ground up gives you the option to get personal. Here are three reasons why building a house has advantages over buying a house.

Incorporate new technology and energy efficiency

Homebuyers like to follow trends, especially when it comes to their lifestyle and energy usage.

When building a home from scratch, you can incorporate the best of technology. Prebuilt homes meet current building codes, but not all of them include that extra touch of efficiency and gadgetry. Some even have the basic idea in place but the implementation is a little off. This usually requires repairs, upgrades, and big-ticket maintenance issues.

Building your home allows you to put your ideas -- the ones that might seem too complicated -- to good use. If your preference is a high-tech computer system that keeps your house safe or a state-of-the-art home theater system with built-in wireless speakers, building your own home can put these into action from day one.

“Energy efficiency is a big one in today’s market,” said McAlexander. “Everything from solar panels to smart homes is on the table.”

According to Statista.com, smart homes are forecast to be a $22 billion business in the U.S. by 2021. More and more homebuyers want to link their home security, entertainment, and energy systems into an automated app. 

Building your own home means you can put those items into the plan right away. You aren’t trying to fit it onto a home that doesn’t have all the wiring in place.

Add personal preferences and customization

Customization is a key benefit to building your own house. Choosing a floor plan and a design that has all the facets and amenities you want means that you aren’t trying to remodel an existing home later on.

“Remodeling a home is not a bad thing,” said McAlexander. “But it becomes a hardship when you begin to realize that the breakfast nook is in the wrong place you just bought off the market. Or the windows don’t bring in enough natural light.”

Choosing a design to build from scratch means you can work with the designer to add all the custom elements you prefer. The house ends up being exactly the way you want it, and you won’t need to update it for years if not decades.

Skip the housing market hunt

This might be the biggest benefit of them all. Why? Because choosing a home design and building from scratch means you don’t have to wade through piles of listings.

The market itself can be a harsh wakeup call on what is available and what is flying off the shelves. The moment you find a home you like, someone else nabs it first.

“It can be a real waste of time,” said McAlexander. “You are often disappointed, too. Going to a design firm, you meet with a designer, you talk through your ideas, what you want, the amenities and tech you prefer, and together you design the home of your dreams.”

Ultimately, building your own home is about building your dream home. Eliminating all the “if only” gets you closer and closer to that perfect home design.

As seen on Newswire

 

1st Oct, 2018
Articles, Blog

It wasn’t too long ago that the only thing you did in a kitchen was prepare the next meal. Think back a couple decades and you might remember sitting in the living room while someone put the finishing touches on dinner in another part of the house, disconnected from the rest of the family. The distant sounds of pots clanging were all that was noted. And the kitchen was small and box-like in most cases.

Nowadays, the kitchen is more than a kitchen. It’s the social hub of the home, with all the amenities and features needed to entice friends and family to gather around and chat. Yes, a meal is being prepared, but it’s not hidden from sight. It’s happening right in the middle of all the buzzing activity.

“The modern home has an open floor plan, so it only makes sense that the kitchen becomes less an afterthought and more an integral room with a multitude of functions,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs Inc. in Eugene, Ore.

More than ever, the goal is to open up the kitchen to the rest of the house and the means to do that depend on the desires of the homebuyer. From breakfast bars to large island work centers, the two homes below emphasize the social kitchen. The one thing that is similar for both kitchens is that they are not confined to one small space.

The kitchen becomes the home’s headquarters.

Kitchens

The Pacifica: Versatility and Social Living

Here is a craftsman bungalow with room to spare and then some. At 4,090 square feet, the Pacifica (30-683) is designed for a view with grandiose windows bringing in natural light and the outdoors.

There are three ample bedrooms, a generous secondary living space, a bonus room and a three-car garage. But the heart and soul of the house is the kitchen. A long, raised eating bar opens up into the great room with its vaulted ceilings and large fireplace. By connecting the two rooms in such a way, the kitchen is less a workhorse and more an extension of the living area.

“It’s all about versatility here,” said McAlexander. “You don’t want to block the kitchen off but you also don’t want to limit its features.”

Giving it a reason to be a part of the fun means the ample eating bar and the open L-shape of the kitchen let’s guests wander around and through it with ease while keeping everyone together. Countertops and kitchen storage -- including a large walk-in pantry -- are not ignored in this design, but rather made to blend with the great room.

“What’s great here is that you are not limited,” said McAlexander. “You are getting the best of everything while also creating a social space that is unique and spacious. Have a party, mingle with friends while you mix up an appetizer, or just be a part of the action as it happens in the great room when family is home.”

Kitchens

The Brookhill: Escape to the Kitchen

Another way to extend the use of the kitchen is to make it an extension of the dining area. In this case, the Brookhill (30-963) utilizes a huge work island that anchors the kitchen, which opens into the dining room.

The result is a dining area that is larger than it first appears.

“You walk into this house and you are surrounded by windows and natural light,” said McAlexander. “And then you have this great room that flows effortlessly into the dining area and kitchen. That huge kitchen island is basically a giant second table. Gathering with friends for holidays and big meals has never been so easy.”

Counters, cabinets and appliances wrap around three sides of the kitchen. The dining room opens up onto a partially covered patio, making the gathering space versatile, too. Combine this with the open floorplan that melds the kitchen, dining and living areas into one well-lit space and it’s the best of everything.

“It’s an ideal environment for families who enjoy bringing people together,” said McAlexander.

And that is essentially the purpose of the modern kitchen. It is not a workhorse or a forgotten cave in the back of the house. It is an integral piece to the home design puzzle -- a social hub.

As seen on Newswire
5th Sep, 2018
Articles, Blog

People often use terms interchangeably when it comes to home design. No more so is this evident then when talking about modern and contemporary architecture.

“It’s the funniest thing, really,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs, Inc. “In truth, the two terms are related. Parts of modern home design can mix with contemporary style and vice versa. So it’s not that people are wrong when they use those terms. They just don’t quite get the dynamics beneath the words.”

The dynamics come down to two things: defined style and a changing style.

Modern home design has characteristics that are distinctive and unchanging, for the most part. It’s not ornate or full of detail like the more elaborate style of the Victorian era for example. Simple lines, intentional asymmetry, and large open floor plans are characteristic of modern home design. Windows are a must for natural light.

Contemporary home design tends to “borrow” -- for lack of a better word -- from past home design styles, including Craftsman homes and modern homes. Therefore, it can change with the times and the needs of the homebuyer or family. It’s free-form, artistic and yet adaptable and simple.

A blend of the two essentially means you get clean modern lines with a few contemporary touches to give it character. The contemporary features might be on the inside for the most part, or they can flirt with the modern angles and lines of the exterior. At Associated Designs, there are three high-end home designs that are great examples of how a modern-contemporary home exterior can work.

Modern Home Plan, Contemporary House Plan, Edgefield 31-131

The Edgefield

The Edgefield (31-131) is a clear example of a modern exterior -- simple, angular lines with minimal fuss. Large expansive windows on the front coincide with a beautiful array of windows on the rear. Natural light, in other words, is not lacking in this home design.

“When you picture a modern home, you think it’s going to be sterile, but the Edgefield brings in natural light so that the simple becomes grand,” said McAlexander. “Modern homes love windows.”

The biggest feature likely on the front of the house is the slanted roof. The slant is asymmetrical to the left side of the house when looking at it head-on. It’s a key characteristic of modern home design, but the house also features simple materials with minimal ornate additions. A mixture of stucco brick and cedar brings a flair of color to the otherwise simplistic exterior.

Modern House Plan, Contemporary Home Plan, Carbondale 31-126

The Carbondale

The Carbondale (31-126) showcases the same slanted, asymmetrical roof as seen in the Edgefield, but it’s more pronounced. The result is a home that truly catches the eye. Simple materials and minimal ornaments and flair still give the home a modern look from the start.

“My favorite part of this home might just be the windows,” said McAlexander. “They are large and expansive on the front and rear of the home, but small and square on the sides. It’s the most unique thing to see.”

The two different styles of windows adds to the home’s beautiful asymmetry but also, again, give it plenty of natural light. Additionally, with the open floor plan of the interior, you get a home design that is stately yet simple.

Rogue 31-127, Contemporary Home Plan, Modern House Plan

The Rogue

The Rogue (31-127) is evocative of the modern-contemporary style of home that makes use of a spacious lot. In many ways, the home has a Ranch-style look to it but closer inspection shows that modern elements are still key.

At just over 3,000 square feet of living space, the home design is expansive and filled to the brim with light. Windows grace almost every facade. But it’s the clean straight lines of the exterior that are the most obvious feature to the home. Looked at straight on, the roof is a series of strong, horizontal trims that appear to accent the homes otherwise bare lines.

“There are no arches, no frills, but those straight lines are an eye-catcher,” said McAlexander. “From a distance, the home looks like any other home, but those heavy straight lines are ornamental in a way.”

And that, ultimately, is the point of a modern home design. Yes, there are no frills and limited details. But the homes have a character all their own. Simple lines can be beautiful. 

As seen on Newswire
6th Aug, 2018
Articles, Blog

Picture this: A homeowner wants to update the kitchen in his or her home, and a contractor is called. Without too much quibbling, the details are finalized and the work begins. But then things start to go wrong.

This scenario doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it often gives contractors a bad reputation when in fact the real issue is that the homeowner didn’t do the homework.

“You can do a Google search for contractors in your area, and you’ll get star ratings and reviews of names and businesses, but that’s just one part of the process,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs Inc. in Eugene, Ore. “Homeowners have to do a little legwork to really get a feel for who or what is out there.”

The prospect of spending days, if not weeks, finding the right person for the job can be disheartening when all you want is to get the job done. But it’s important to do your research before choosing a contractor. Following these steps will help things go smoothly and keep you (and the contractor) on the level.

1. Ask for recommendations.

You aren’t the only one who has a home design project in mind. Your friends and family have probably all been on a hunt for the perfect contractor. Their experiences could be useful for you.

“The trust you have with the friend or family member means you can also trust that they will provide reputable names and businesses,” said McAlexander.

2. Search the internet for highly rated contractors.

This is not about just doing a blanket search and picking the top two on the list. Filter through the options that Google gives you because it’s possible that one contractor has expertise in a specific field.

For example, if your project is to upgrade the kitchen, a contractor who gets good reviews and has experience remodeling kitchens is a good one to add to your list.

But bottom line is to take your time. Your list of contractors by the end of the first two steps will be anywhere from eight to maybe even a dozen names. And all of them likely perfect for the job.

3. Interview contractors over the phone.

Consider this step to be like a job interview. And the job is the home design project you have in mind. Whether it’s a new home or a remodel, the interview carries the same weight.

“I don’t think you can talk to too many people when choosing a contractor,” said McAlexander.

The reason is simple: You want to get to get to know what they can offer. Telling them what you want, and their responses to your specific questions, will help you discern who has the potential.

Good topics to talk about include experience, project management skills, and more basic questions about references and qualifications.

4. It’s time for a face-to-face interview.

Your list of contractors should be down to about four or five. A face-to-face interview gives you a chance to see them in action, show them the project, and get their thoughts. Not only that, but an in-person discussion also helps you find out if your personalities don’t clash.

The more you talk with them, the more you know whether they have the skills as well as the knowledge to do the project. And whether you can work with them easily and efficiently.

“Now might be a good time to consider getting bids, but if you have the time and there’s no urgency I would wait,” said McAlexander. “The reason I recommend such a vetting process is that the bidding process is time-consuming. The contractor starts investing their own resources into your project. A mistake is jumping ahead to bids with this big list of recommendations. Eventually, they will know they are competing against a half dozen other people, and they won’t offer you a serious bid.”

5. Ask for references and talk to subcontractors.

In this step, you are taking the face-to-face interview to the next level and now checking the contractor’s references and qualifications.

Who the contractor has worked with in the past (electricians, plumbers, etc.) can be a guide to how they manage a project. Good questions to ask subcontractors include whether the contractor was organized, if they paid their bills on time, and were they on time and on budget.

“It’s the final key to the contractor puzzle,” said McAlexander. “Subcontractors can give you an on-the-ground view of a contractor’s work ethic and skills. Doing this before you get bids is almost a must for me.”

6. Set the project details and ask for bids.

You’ve pared down the list to two or three key players, and now the real fun can begin: bidding. Ask for bids from your top prospects.

“You may end up with contractors that are of a similar quality, so it comes down to not so much the money, but which one you like,” said McAlexander. “Keep in mind, you can get a Cadillac contractor, but you may be paying for it.”

With just two or three bids on the table, you can easily pick and choose the one that suits you and the project best.

But, McAlexander says, there is one final step: You’ve done all this research, but before you sign on the bottom line, make sure the contractor has a license number and insurance. The easiest way to do that is to ask them directly and check the state contractors’ board.

Following these steps basically means you don’t have to worry whether the contractor will do the job right. You have vetted them and done the research, so the possibility of problems in the future is minimal.

“And that’s the whole point,” said McAlexander. “If you vet and do all the research before you get the bids and sign off on a contract, you are better off in the long run.”

As seen on Newswire
23rd Jul, 2018
Blog, House Plan of the Week

Featured House Plan of the Week, Beaufort 30-630, Ranch Home Plan, Contemporary Floor Plans

Single level Beaufort is friendly to wheelchairs, home business

Three round and stately columns highlight the recessed front porch of the Beaufort. This contemporary Georgian-style home has wide passageways on one level, which makes it easily adaptable for wheelchair accessibility.

Once inside, a wide arch on the right leads into a a dining room or parlor. The built-in buffet/hutch is nestled into an alcove. To the left of the entry the vaulted room could function as a den, guest room, or home office.

A centrally located bathroom is steps away from both of these rooms, as well as the three large gathering spaces that flow together at the rear of the home. The vaulted family room is windowed on two sides, and a gas fireplace creates a focal point in one of the rear corners.

Standing at the kitchen sink allows you to see into the family room, nook, patio, and beyond. The eating bar is great for conversation separation. Sections of counter space are available on all four sides of the kitchen, and a large walk-in pantry is in the corner.

Laundry appliances and a deep sink are close by, in a pass-through room that links with the two-car garage.

The luxurious owners' suite features a dual vanity, an angled cultured-marble shower, private toilet, and rlarge walk-in closet. The bedroom next to it could be used as an adjacent study. Two more bedrooms and a two-section bathroom are on the opposite side of the house.

 

17th Jul, 2018
Blog, House Plan of the Week

Featured House Plan of the Week, Mediterranean Home Plan, Velarde 11-051

While standing in the Velarde's living room, makes you feel as if you are standing outside. This bright space has a 10-foot ceiling with high arched windows on five sides and offers a panoramic vista. 

This Mediterranean home plan's lofty entry portico makes a striking first impression. The arched opening echoes the shape of the living room windows while sidelights and an arched transom frame the front door.

A family room with a 9-foot-high ceiling is at the core of this plan and is accessible from almost every room in the house - the bedrooms, entry, living room, dining room, kitchen, and screened patio. The family room has an eating bar and a large entertainment center.

The entry has a 12-foot ceiling and a coat closet. Columns define the boundaries of the living room, family room and dining room without sacrificing the feeling of openness.

Between the formal living room and the informal family room shelves between the columns create visual separate and a place for for displaying family mementos. 

The owners' suite has a large walk-in closet and a private bathroom with double vanity and enclosed shower and toilet.

10th Jul, 2018
Articles, Blog

A lot of families, big and small, crave a home life that is free of worries and troubles. They want to be able to move freely, focus on the good things, store their memories, and plan for the future. Formality is not in the cards (necessarily). Large rooms that seem to echo and reverberate with their grandeur are more ideal for entertaining than casual living.

But what is a “casual lifestyle”? Well, defining it is not as simple as just saying it’s having these rooms in a certain order or this layout in this size house.

“Casual living is about putting the spotlight on what’s important,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs Inc. in Eugene, Ore. “The important rooms, the ones that families will use the most such as the kitchen and living room, are the ones that become the highlight of the home design.”

The point of a casual lifestyle floor plan is to remove the redundancy and formality and keep it all in the family. Pretty simple, right? But it’s also about providing variety and, dare we say it, flavor.

“The casual lifestyle design is never boring,” said McAlexander. “Each floor plan is a bit different in style, depth, and amenities.”

Need inspiration? Have no fear. We have three great designs that showcase just how diverse the casual lifestyle floor plan can be.

Bungalow House Plan, Ranch Home Design, Casual Home Design

Efficiency with Style

The floor plan of the Strathmore (30-638) is both spacious and charming. From the outside, it looks like a simple bungalow with little flare and finish. But the 1,500-square-foot Craftsman home showcases the features more reminiscent of larger homes, giving it both a casual touch and a living space that is full of amenities.

The stars of the show are the key rooms that make up the casual lifestyle in the front of the house. The rest of the house flows around it. The kitchen, living room and dining area are centralized with ample natural light and an easy, comfortable flow.

From there, the features of a larger home come into play including a walk-in pantry, well-appointed master bath, and vaulted ceilings. A covered front porch and a back patio round out the home with outdoor living space.

“With the Strathmore, you get efficiency with style,” said McAlexander. “It’s not so much that the key rooms are center stage. It’s that you still have room to play and live comfortably with all the features included.”

Cottage Home Design

Adaptable Living

Another key point of casual lifestyle is flexibility. The important rooms -- the living spaces -- not only deserve the spotlight but also need to be fluid.

“You can have a home with all the amenities, but if there’s no flow, no adaptability, there’s not much point,” said McAlexander.

The Brookville (30-928) embraces a casual, open living with an upscale turn at 2,013 square feet. Clean lines and a pleasant combination of stone and wood create an eye-catching first impression. The vaulted living spaces are at the center of the house and are arranged for ease of movement.

The L-shaped kitchen connects with the living area and the dining area on either side. But those in the kitchen can still watch what’s happening on the back patio or by the fireplace.

“This doesn’t mean there can’t be private spaces that offer flexibility,” said McAlexander. “The Brookville has a large den at the front of the house for just this reason.”

The den can be an office, a study space, a private living area, or playroom, meaning the Brookville has the ability to adapt to the needs of the family.

Craftsman House Plan, Luxury Home Plan

Casual Luxury

The Westheart (10-630) showcases the best of Associated Design’s 2016 Home From The Heart survey. It’s understated luxury in a 3,100-square-foot home. Even so, it embraces the casual lifestyle.

The living spaces fill the heart of the home, with an expansive great room that opens up to large rear-facing windows for natural light and spectacular views. The bar in the kitchen faces the great room and runs perpendicular to a half wall and additional counter space that act as a built-in buffet for the dining area.

Top this off with a vaulted den for flex space, a guest suite one side of the house and a vaulted owners’ suite on the other side of the house, and you have a home that beautifully mixes casual living and luxury.

“Even back in 2016, preferences were high toward open, casual spaces,” said McAlexander. “I don’t foresee this preference changing anytime soon.”

Why? Because a casual lifestyle floor plan is not cookie-cutter living. It grows, flows, mixes, and moves with the needs of the homebuyer. 

As seen on Newswire

 

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