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8 Tips to Design Your Dream Home

Follow these eight smart steps to design success.

 Photo: True North Log Homes 


Aside from log-raising day, designing your floor plan is the most exciting part of the log home purchase process. This is where you get your first glimpse as what your dream home will look like.
Devising a floor plan that satisfies can prove to be something of a challenge, and it’s likely that you won’t get it right the first time — but don’t worry. It’s common to go through several drafts and revisions, tweaking the size and adjusting the scale. Then, once it’s fine-tuned, your project takes that all-important leap from mere imagination to a real log home you will love. How do you get there? Follow these eight smart steps to design success.

1. Assess Your Life.

There’s a tendency to blindly follow current design trends whether they work for your lifestyle or not. Essentially, making your family fit the house instead of the other way around. The better approach is to consider the makeup of its occupants — both full-time residents, as well as occasional and/or overnight guests. Are you empty nesters with visiting grandkids? Do you have teens or aging parents? Is this a vacation retreat, and, if so, will you be inviting friends and family of all ages to join you at the cabin? These factors will impact your plan.
Once you establish who will be using the house, look at the way you live. A family that enjoys formal meals needs a dining room; one that loves to kick back with a pizza and a movie may not. If you love spending time outside, you may need both a front porch for relaxing with a juicy novel and a full-on entertainment mecca complete with outdoor kitchen, fire pit and hot tub out back. Find your balance. 

2. Consider Size.

Before you arbitrarily decide you need a certain number of square feet to be satisfied, make sure that number makes sense. Think of your rooms in terms of activity zones and how many people will use them on a regular basis. If the kitchen is your hub, more elbow room per person will be in order. If everyone cuddles on the couch in your family room, this may be an area you can downsize. Once you determine the square footage you’ll need to maneuver in each room, tack on another 15 percent to account for walls and traffic flow. And remember, bigger isn’t always better ... but it always costs more.

3. Come Up With a Plan.

Unless you’ve been fantasizing about your log home’s layout for decades, when it comes to drafting an initial design, you may not know where to begin. Nearly all log home producers offer standard (stock) plans of tried-and-true designs. One of these may suit your needs perfectly, or you may use it as a jumping-off point toward a totally customized home (Don’t be afraid to ask for changes. Most stock plans are modified in some way, so designers expect a certain amount of alterations.)
If you do have a vision of your home’s layout in mind, you don’t have to be an artist to sketch a floor plan. Start with a simple bubble diagram, with each bubble representing a room, and place them in relation to where you will want them to be located within your home. Then square off the bubbles to create the walls of your rough floor plan. Easy.
Next, engage a designer to create working construction documents from your plan. Your chosen log home company may offer design services, and, if they do, this team is a great resource as they not only know how to draft a floor plan, they have a deep understanding of the company’s building system. However, you may find that you want to hire an independent architect, and that’s a sound decision, too. Either way, keep in mind that you will be working closely with this person as you fine tune your design, so make sure you feel comfortable with him or her and that you are all on the same page with your wants and needs.

4. Show, Don’t Tell.

When it comes to specific colors, materials and finishes, conveying your ideas to your designer and builder through photos and drawings will be much clearer than trying to describe them verbally. Keep a scrapbook (or a Pinterest board) of clippings or a file of digital downloads of homes and ideas that represent what you’re looking for in your log home’s design.

5. Expect Adjustments.

Managing size, quality and budget is a balancing act. Unless you have unlimited resources, you can expect a little give-and-take while developing your floor plan. That could mean anything from shaving off a few square feet to eliminating an entire wing. (But it also could result in the ability to add extras you didn’t think you could have.)
If budget or site topography makes it difficult to squeeze in everything you thought you wanted, don’t be too disappointed. A skilled designer is adept at suggesting alternatives and creating trade-offs so that you will have a log home that satisfies. Just remember: Never skimp on the structural essentials (like proper sealants, foundation, roofing and insulation) that will affect your home’s performance. Even if they cost more up front, they will prove to be well worth the money in the long run.

6. Money Matters.

Speaking of budget, be prepared for your designer (and everyone else involved in your build, for that matter) to ask you outright about yours. Be honest! It’s common for people to think they have to hide their real target price for fear of being “taken,” but it’s vital you share accurate information about how much you’re willing and able to spend. (This same piece of advice will come up again when we discuss hiring your builder.)
It also may be tempting to think you’ll have your designer draft your pie-in-the-sky home first, then start cutting features and amenities until you reach a plan you can afford. This practice quickly becomes an exercise in frustration and disappointment, and it can actually end up costing you more in unnecessary design change fees.

7. Log Your Style.

From the diameter of the logs you select to whether you choose a milled log profile or a handcrafted finish to the stain color you choose, these decisions will affect the look of your home. Consider all your log options in tandem with your floor plan design choices.

8. Make Sure to Make it Yours.

Seeking guidance from log home professionals, designers or architects is wise, but keep in mind that this is your home. You are the one who intends to live there for the long haul. Make sure their ideas make sense for your needs before you adopt them, and be sure to work with people who are as excited about making your dream log home a reality as you are.

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