The Well-Designed Floorplan

By Melanie D.G. Kaplan
Illustrations by James Yang

Tom Hahney, owner of Designing Change in Ferndale, Washington, once had a client who wanted to be able to work at her kitchen sink, look out the window to a pond in the distance and capture a precise reflection in the water. An absurdly specific request? Maybe, but Tom knows the difference between an impossible idea and a viable vision, and this one was perfectly doable.

"I knew this aspect of her home’s design was very important to her," Tom says. "The question

I always ask a home owner is: "What are your values?’ and that can impact the floorplan tremendously."

Designing your log home is a balancing act: weighing luxuries against necessities, planning ample square footage while ensuring cozy quarters and, of course, saving money versus splurging. But a few important steps will help you sort through the choices and figure out how to design a home that will fit your current (and future) lifestyle as well as your budget.

Q&A
Tom, who works mostly with log home owners, says he begins by asking his clients more than 200 targeted questions, ranging from room size to oven position.

"If you understand what people want, the house will be tailored to some of the most basic things—values," he says. "And when you deal with couples, their values may not be the same, so eliciting both people’s values is important to designing a floorplan everyone will be happy with."

Everyone starts off with an idea of what their dream house will look like, and as they proceed with a designer, sometimes that dream gets bigger and sometimes it gets smaller. "Design is a process of sorting the wheat from the chaff," Tom says.

Do the Math 
An easy way of getting a ballpark estimate of how much your house will cost is to multiply the square footage by $150 to $200, which is average for log homes, Pekka explains. If it’s a 2,000-square-foot house at $200 per foot, you’re looking at a $400,000 house. Most people borrow the bulk of the total sales price. "Obviously, you know if you’ll qualify for a loan that size. When you do this calculation, you’ll get a pretty good picture of how much house you actually can afford."

Although some clients still request behemoth houses as large as 10,000 square feet, the average square footage is between 2,500 and 4,000, but still at the high end of the price spectrum. Why? Trends show that Baby Boomers are downsizing and upgrading, so their houses may be moderately sized, but everything inside is top of the line, from finishes to appliances to lighting. "They’re spending to get exactly what they want," says Pekka.

Go With the Flow
Trends also show that floorplans are opening up, creating better flow between rooms and accomplishing an owner’s goal to reduce square footage without sacrificing living space. A typical, modern log home often rolls the kitchen, living room and dining area into one big open space (or great room) on the main living level, with a master bedroom to the side. Secondary bedrooms often are located either on the opposite side of the great room or on an upper level. Family rooms and home theaters often are placed upstairs in a loft or in a finished basement.

Log home buyers also are planning for the future, designing their houses so that they can be altered and upgraded later. This is an ideal solution for those that have limited budgets today or who are expecting children to move out or aging parents to move in.

"We all have a budget, but sometimes we need to remind

people that some of the things on their wish lists—large decks, extravagant material choices, big garages—can be added down the road," Barry says. "Your required living space should be your first priority."

Into the Future
Simple additions, like porches or decks, are easy to add down the road, but when you want to make alterations within the living quarters, some forethought is required. "Make sure you’ll have access to that area where you plan to expand by putting in a big window or door now," Barry says. "And it’s always easier to add on if the starting point is a flat wall, rather than a corner." If you’re building for a family with children, think about how the house will accommodate their needs as they grow, or how the space could be adapted.

Just Do It
True, there are folks out there for whom money isn’t an issue. But even those with a seemingly bottomless wallet should think twice about building an immense manse. Mark, who comes from a budget-conscious background, says he personally leans away from houses in which the master bedroom is the size of a living room. "My preference," he says, "is to design proportions to a human scale rather than for a giant."

But big or small, luxuriously equipped or budget-minded, your log home’s floorplan should be an extension of how you live. That, in the end, is the most important element of all.

For more ideas on designing your log home floorplan, check out the June 2006 issue of Log Home Design.