You're planning your dream home. You know the importance of finding the right people to design a house that will accommodate you for years to come. All of this leads to a very good question: Who will design your dream house?
For most future log-home owners, the decision boils down to one of two choices: the in-house design staff of the log-home producer they choose or an independent architect. Both parties bring certain benefits to the design process, but in some cases there are also a few obstacles to overcome.
In-house Design Staffs
To many people, particularly those of you who are ready to act now on your building plans, an in-house design staff is the natural selection. Undoubtedly, you've reviewed the company's stock floorplans prior to deciding on your producer. And you've also talked with your local representative about possible design modifications to suit your lifestyle. He or she can act as the necessary liaison between you and the in-house design staff.
A chief advantage, then, of working with your log producer's in-house design staff is convenience. It's a tremendous benefit to know that a single company will handle the design and construction of your log home. When you request a change or inquire about the impact certain decisions will have on the cost of your house, you know that it's all being handled by the same people. From the designers to the sales staff to the builder, they're all familiar with the process, as well as each other.
As the consumer, using the producer's architectural staff makes you feel comfortable that your requests will be accurately relayed to the designers of your home. And the reliable passage of information, specifically your personal preferences, is crucial in the home planning and building processes.
Perhaps nobody knows the log-home building process better than your log-home company, which leads to another major advantage of choosing the producer's in-house team: experience. Dealing with talented design people who have accumulated years of practical log-home knowledge offers you an invaluable benefit and resource. In addition to awareness of the log building process, the in-house staff will guide you through any changes you request to your house's initial floor plan. These designers can quickly tell you whether certain design aspects are feasible using logs and, if so, what size logs will be needed (as well as the effect on material costs). If some of your plan's features are not possible, the in-house design staff typically has instant access to state-of-the-art computer-aided design programs specializing in log construction. The company's designers can provide you with alternatives similar to your proposed ideas.
Last, but by no means least, an in-house design staff usually saves you money. In their package plans, log-home companies frequently account for certain aspects of the home's design. Should you opt for one of the producer's stock floor plans, you have virtually eliminated any additional design fees. On the other hand, if you approach the log home company with an independent architect's design that is not feasible, you may feel as though you have spent a lot of money only to see the in-house design staff redraw much of the original floor plan.
Many of us feel more comfortable going right to an expert in the architectural field, and you certainly should consider this option. Independent architects are experts at taking concepts or ideas and turning them into homes custom-built for a lifestyle — and a lifetime.
Your first step may seem obvious but it merits emphasis: Consult an architect who is familiar with log structures. If possible, work with an architect who has collaborated in the past with the log producer and builder you're using. In these instances, you can rest easy in the knowledge that all parties know each other's capabilities, and log-home design in general.
A primary benefit of using an independent architect is familiarity — on several levels. An independent architect gets to know you and your needs, often on a one-to-one basis. Through discussions, brainstorming and several revisions, the home is tailored to meet your needs, for now and the years to come. But there's another aspect with which an independent architect should be familiar: your building site. It's wise to choose a local architect who knows the area where your log home will be built. The architect can then advise you on the region's building codes and regulations, and presumably he or she can visit the site to make any necessary design adjustments during construction. These changes are less than desirable, but sometimes inevitable.
Having seen your property, independent architects can offer an expert opinion in situating your home to maximize views, whether they're of the mountains or the sunset. (Based on the suggestions of you and your company representative, in-house design teams also can customize plans as needed to capitalize on your lot.)
Best of Both Worlds
Of course, you do have a third option in the design of your log home; call it the "happy medium." You can consult an independent architect merely for preliminary sketches, which are less time-consuming and therefore less costly. In most cases, your log-home company can turn these sketches — essentially room-by-room drawings with dimensions — into the home's final blueprints, including a list of materials. It's a little more expensive than just consulting a plansbook, but you get the best of both worlds.
Finally, one more thing to remember in completing your log home's floor plan: Communication is the key. Tell your designer everything you want, and odds are you'll be very happy with the results.