Story by Charles Bevier

Whether you’re two months or two years away from building your dream home, it’s always interesting to look at floorplans. The configuration of these interior spaces and the exterior architecture is nothing short of fascinating. But the real drama (or should we say reality show?) is how all of this translates into a living, breathing home.

But how do you know which floorplan will work best for you? Should you make this decision with your heart or your head? And how does your personal vision work within the boundaries of building materials, construction crews and budgets?

We asked log home designers for tips on narrowing your search for the perfect floorplan. Here’s what they suggested:

Bank On It
Get started by meeting with a log-friendly lender to discover how much home you can actually afford. "Try to get pre-qualified and nail down a preliminary budget before you shop for a design," advises Tom Ryan, vice president of Fireside Log Homes in Ellijay, Georgia.

Land Rush
It’s best to have land in hand before you shop for a floorplan. That’s because the topography of your building site will strongly influence your design. "The floorplan and the building site have to complement each other," says Brandon Miracle, technical department manager with StoneMill Log Homes in Knoxville, Tennessee. For example, a very steep lot with tall trees just begs for strong vertical lines in a two-story design.

Eyes Wide Shut
Pro athletes use creative visualization to "see" themselves competing and winning on the field. Borrow this technique to prioritize what’s important to you and your family, advises Tom with Fireside. "We advise our clients to put away all the floorplans, close their eyes and just start visualizing their dream home." Put pencil to paper and list or draw the features you see.

His & Hers
If you and your spouse have differing opinions about your home’s design, heated, um, discussions are to be expected. Solutions are easy if you remain flexible, honor each other’s emotional commitment to the project and use your designer’s expertise to sort out solutions.

Life Lines
You know those shopping mall directories proclaiming "You Are Here?" You’ll need a similar map for designing your log home. Consider your current lifestyle and how you expect to use this home, both now and in the future. Here are just a few lifestyle strategies:

If your budget is tight, make the most of square footage with an open floorplan. Ask your designer about staged construction, allowing you to add new rooms or amenities in the future. Also consider a finished basement for the rec room.

If you’re a Mom or a Dad, as well as a caregiver for your own parents or in-laws, opt for plenty of square footage to provide privacy. For your parents, include a separate suite with a kitchenette on the main level.

If you’re planning your retirement home, opt for a ranch design that incorporates plenty of entertaining space, universal design features and ample sleeping space for visiting kids and grandkids. Also talk to your designer about choices that will make your log home easy to maintain.

A getaway house still needs to feel like home. For summer destinations, you’ll save money and add living space by taking advantage of decks, porches and other outdoor rooms. In snow country, consider adding a garage, mudroom or even just a covered porch to protect you from the elements. No matter where you build your vacation home, spend more of your budget making the common areas comfortable and functional.

Sliding Scale
Everything on a floorplan is laid out to a specific scale, which is usually marked on the plan. To help you understand how these dimensions translate from paper to reality, use a tape measure to calculate your current home’s dimensions, then compare with the new plan.

Reading Material
It’s easy to get the hang of reading floorplans. The size of each room is indicated, as is the placement of appliances, baths, hearths, decks, etc. "Before you make your final selection, think carefully about what each feature means, from how much closet space you’ll have to which way the doors open," advises Megan Haas, lead designer at Gastineau Log Homes in New Bloomfield, Missouri.

Model Scout
To help gauge how much floor space you need, Megan at Gastineau offers this trick: "Measure the furniture you plan to put in a room, then make cutouts to scale and place them within the plan to see how everything fits." For the latest trends in cabinetry, counters and appliances, visit kitchen and bath design centers.

Spare Change
If you discover you still want to make changes, you’re not alone. Nearly all log home buyers make some changes to their stock design. Most changes occur in areas that are used the most: the kitchen, master bedroom suite and great room. Before committing to changes, talk with your designer about how they will impact the execution and expense of building your dream home.

Personal Property
You can easily customize a stock design—even without making changes to the floorplan, says Marty at Riverbend. Add a personal touch with knotty "character" logs. Give drywall a unique decorative finish. Or add wildlife carvings throughout the home.

Design Dollars
Most companies charge a fee, from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars, to create custom drawings, depending on the details. This fee is credited toward your log home package if you decide to buy from that company. These fees are not a profit center for log companies, but help to cover the costs if the project never moves forward.

Details, Details
Our last word of advice: consider every inch of your floorplan, no matter how insignificant it seems at the time. With careful attention to detail, you’ll truly build your dream home from the ground up.

For more information on determining which floorplan is best for you, check out the October 2005 issue of Log Home Design Ideas.