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2nd Nov, 2020
Articles

The dream of a custom-built home isn’t restricted to the seasoned homeowner.

Newlyweds and younger parents are increasingly eyeing the benefits of a custom design, one that is versatile and can evolve as their family grows.

Home design experts have seen young families create practical, serene starter homes that become the setting for priceless memories – but have also seen them make mistakes that lead to design regrets and resources poorly spent.

“Get the most function out of your livable square footage,” said Kirya Duncan, founder and building designer with Design Evolutions in Snellville, Georgia.

Young families today are a bit more willing to sacrifice some size in their homes and yards than their parents’ generation. But they still need to consider how to best utilize their home lot, design and budget. They should also keep in mind what their family might look like a few years down the road.

“Consider the future growth of your family, but don't make a design too custom,” Duncan said. “A functional and flexible home design will always attract future buyers when you decide to move.”

Duncan’s #49175 and #31053 designs featured on The House Plan Company incorporate many of the elements that are ideal for young builders and new families. The first design places a vast majority of the home – a vaulted family room with adjacent kitchen and dining rooms, a master bedroom and two additional bedrooms – on the main floor. But a staircase off of the kitchen accesses a bonus room that’s easily convertible into a fourth bedroom if needed. The second design puts central gathering spaces and a single bedroom on the ground floor, with the master bedroom, two additional bedrooms and a large bonus room on the second floor.

A bonus room can be a valuable asset in a home plan. These rooms can be framed during construction but finished later, once a family has a clearer sense of the best use for it. Including a bonus room in the design is also much cheaper than a home addition later on.

Storage is another important aspect for young families to consider. Storage needs can change dramatically as families grow, and things like toys and holiday decorations start taking up more and more space.

“Look for opportunities to use the attic space, dead space in the design, or any other space that is suitable,” Duncan said.

Above all else, families need to have a realistic sense of the possibilities and limitations of a design, as well as their resource constraints. One home built on a set budget simply can’t check every single box on a dream list. So a family wanting a home office and a guest bedroom in their design may be best served by creating one room that serves as both, for instance.

“The biggest hurdle with young families is trying to fit all of their design needs and wants into the home design,” Duncan said. “Young families tend to have a tight budget and a limited amount of square footage to work with. I try to open them up to the idea of multi-purpose rooms as opposed to designing specific rooms, which makes the home more flexible in its use of space.”

 

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6th Oct, 2020
Articles, Blog

The land and financing are lined up, and the decision has been made: It’s time to build that dream home.

But there’s a lot to consider in the time it takes between choosing to build and starting construction, from an initial site analysis to home design, engineering and eventually permitting. The House Plan Company, a home plan marketing company out of Eugene, OR, has teamed up with a couple of their home design experts to share tips for aspiring custom homeowners, to help them navigate through the process and make it a pain-free experience.

“Put together a solid team to help with your project. Hiring an experienced and qualified designer and contractor to guide through the decision making process will help avoid frustration and disappointment,” said Rick McAlexander, owner of Associated Designs in Eugene, Oregon. “If there are going to be other team members such as interior decorator or landscape designer they should also be brought into the project early.”

McAlexander has helped countless homeowners bring their visions to reality, and seen clients struggle through some of the same trouble spots. Many clients start the process wanting to know exactly how long it will take to get through the planning process and start construction.

Designers like Ken Pieper, owner of Ken Pieper Signature Plans in Evergreen, Colorado, stress patience. It can be typical for six months to pass between a project getting from initial design consultation to the permit application stage. Projects on simple lots may proceed a bit faster, but it is just as likely that the planning phase will take longer. Timelines can also vary by jurisdiction, depending on local regulations.

“Creating a new home, if it is designed from the beginning, will take time, and a very liberal amount of patience,” Pieper said. “Should the client purchase a pre-designed house plan, the construction timing can still become a challenge. I always instruct and advise to expect the unexpected. Patience and flexibility are a must.”

If a couple are planning the project together, being able to express clearly what each person wants to accomplish with the home early in the planning process will prevent potentially costly disagreements or second-guesses further along.

Impatience or distraction can also lead to important design elements being overlooked. That’s especially true when owners are balancing jobs, families and other life distractions with the challenge of designing a new home.

“It is not uncommon to need to gather additional engineering and specifications for your project prior to being able to apply for a building permit,” said McAlexander. “This can add weeks to the project.”

For clients working under a narrow construction window, Pieper advises creating a detailed schedule with key milestones to meet, working backwards from the targeted completion date to the present. Owners investing in a project need to have a clear-headed view of whether their timelines are attainable.

Research at the outset can give owners a clearer sense of who the architects, contractors, planning and building officials involved throughout the process are, as well as the key events to check off along the way. 

“When I meet with my clients, I give them an outline, a schedule of events, individuals and authorities that will be involved during the design and build process of their home,” Pieper said.

While a custom build requires careful planning, the rewards of a truly unique home are worth the challenges. And no owner needs to go through the process alone.

“It’s never too early to bring in any professional who will be working on the project,” McAlexander said. “Their participation may be limited in the initial phase, but their feedback can be valuable and help avoid delays.”

 

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21st Sep, 2020
House Plan of the Week

Designed for a hillside lot, this split-level Northwest Contemporary Prairie-Style home design provides an open concept floor plan and takes advantange of a large sweeping forward view. The large kitchen with a covered patio to the rear is open to a large great room with a twelve foot ceiling. Natural light flows in through large windows across the front of the home that will keep your home bright even on the most overcast day. The lower level two car garage opens into a mudhall with a drop zone and stairs leading to main level living. The unfinished basement can be finished to provide extra living space.

The Nahalem is a new plan in our concept house plan collection

 

8th Sep, 2020
Articles, Blog

Anyone who has searched for or purchased house plans online can attest to how easy it is to quickly become overwhelmed by the volume of plans that are available. Whether building a forever home, garage or investment property, homeowners can successfully navigate the search process when they know where to start, what questions to ask, and how they can most effectively (and efficiently) find what they’re looking for.

Georgia based Design Evolutions, Inc. building designer Kirya Duncan says the online pre-design plan market is great for both design professionals and consumers. Specifically, “consumers benefit because they’re able to browse through thousands of designs and choose a home plan from some of the nation’s top designers, paying only a fraction of the cost of a custom home design.”

Duncan notes that customers looking for plans are best served when they find a site with a diverse portfolio of pre-designed home plans. “The larger the pool of contributing professional designers, the better the chances of finding the ideal home design,” he continued.

Because of the vast number of choices in the online house plan marketplace, Ken Pieper, residential designer at Ken Pieper Signature Designs asserts that “searching through many thousands of plans online can be exhausting without a specific list. Be realistic and educate yourself on cost before starting this journey in order to eliminate many avenues for disappointment.”

The House Plan Company, a house plan marketing firm based in Eugene, Oregon compiled the most important considerations recommended by design professionals for homeowners to better navigate the online plan shopping experience. Here are five tips architects and designers recommend in order to save time and money when searching for the perfect house plans online:

  1. Create a concise “wish list.” This should include the family’s priorities for the home, including the architectural style of desired home, the square footage, how many floor levels, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and other design elements that are important to those who will call it home.
  1. Establish a budget. Be mindful of the cost before embarking on a new project and be sure the selected plan fits your budget. Keep in mind that just because two home designs have the same square footage, that doesn’t mean they will cost the same to build; the less complicated the design, the less costly the construction.

In addition to construction costs, the budget needs to encompass the lot that will be built on, the purchase of the house plan itself, landscaping and other elements that could arise as the project gets underway. This includes the development of site plans, additional engineering drawings or other plans that may be required by the city or county where the home is being built.

  1. Plan for the future. It’s rare to find a perfect home design, but when homeowners are looking, it’s important to consider not only the family’s immediate needs, but potential expansion and lifestyle changes that may be necessary down the line.
  1. Match the plan to your criteria. The best sites have search engines that offer the ability to search for plans using pre-defined criteria to quickly find the plans that align with your specific desires. Find a plan that is as close as possible to what fits your needs, or only needs minor modifications. This will save time and can also save hundreds or thousands of dollars.
  1. Ask questions. Make sure you understand the complete layout of the selected plan. And, in the event you want to make changes, before purchasing plans online, find out if the design professionals who created them offer plan modification services. It’s also important to find a reputable builder who can bring the plans to life.

“The pre-design plan market offers homeowners tremendous value,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of The House Plan Company. “This market has made it possible for many people to build homes that are tailored to their needs without spending the time and money that might be required for a truly custom build.”

The advantages of buying house plans online are numerous. In addition to considerable cost and time savings as it relates to creating custom home plans, buyers have significantly more choice and the ability to search plans at their leisure. This affords the opportunity to locate plans by hundreds of architects and designers that appeal to the buyer’s design sensibilities. Online house plans can also serve as a great jumping off point for those who are interested in a custom design. With modifications, plans that are “close” can often be adjusted to achieve the right design elements the buyer is searching for.

“The pre-design plan market is here to stay. This market has made it possible for millions of people to realize their dream of building a home that is custom to their wants, needs and lifestyle,” said Duncan.

 

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4th Aug, 2020
Articles, Blog

Thousands of home and garage plans exist online that can be searched as future homeowners envision their perfect house design. The odds that one design will include every desired feature a homeowner wants are slim however, and that’s where house plan modifications come in. Architects and designers are often able to adjust and refine plans to make the layout work or the style fit better with what a homeowner has in mind. These modifications, when made prior to the start of construction, can result in one of the most cost-effective ways for homeowners to create and customize their dream home. The House Plan Company, a house plan marketing company based in Eugene, Oregon asked professionals in the field for their insights about how to make the home building process easier for homeowners. Here’s what they had to say:

“House plans provide a starting point for those who are interested in having their home built to meet specifications that work for them,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of The House Plan Company. “Having the ability to alter existing plans is often both less expensive and less time intensive than designing a custom home from the ground up.”

Through the plan modification process, clients work with designers to customize a specific design with changes that can range from simple door or window adjustments, to adjusting exterior elevations by adding dormers or changing the texture of the façade. More complex adjustments can also be made, such as a complete kitchen redesign, or the addition of rooms or other spaces not previously in the plan.

“House plan modifications really offer the customer the ability to add a personal touch to a house plan they will soon call home,” said Jessica Langlois, modification project specialist at Drummond House Plans. “Big or small, the ability to make these adjustments help customers feel creative and allow them to be part of the design process. It also results in the construction of a home that meets their specific needs.”

The House Plan Company’s experts in the architectural and design fields suggest that the ideal time to modify plan designs is during the blueprint phase – not in the field when the project is under construction.

“The advice I give clients about plan changes is to trust the designer to look at all of the elements that modifications to the original plan may cause to be altered,” said Charles Roccaforte, owner of Charles Roccaforte’s Hill Country Plans, Inc. “Plan modifications should be done by the designer and not on the job site. When changes are made in the field once construction has started, it can be disastrous – and expensive.”

Ken Pieper, residential designer at Ken Pieper Signature Designs believes the customer willing to select a home plan and go through the construction process is a much more invested buyer than someone purchasing an already built new or resale home. His advice? “The most important contract the home plan buyer will have between the builder and themselves is the set of construction documents the homebuyer delivers to the builder or contractor. The need for accuracy and specificity that must be and should be required in a professional set of construction documents is paramount,” said Pieper.

Architectural design experts agree that key considerations homeowners should keep in mind when modifying existing home plans include:

  • Agree to the design plan before construction begins. Changes are less costly when made on paper before the build begins, however homebuyers must realize there is a cost to alter plans. Even “simple” changes require experience and time to adjust.
     
  • Never improvise during a building project. Improvisations on the build site not only present the opportunity for errors, they can be detrimental to the budget and the project timeline.
     
  • Know the qualifications and experience of the architectural designer hired for the project. House plans can sometimes be difficult to interpret, especially to the untrained eye. Designers must have the experience to review all of the details to verify that the changes are possible, comply with building codes and meet the client’s goals.
     
  • An architect or designer’s title is not the most important consideration. When selecting a design team, experience, creativity and a satisfying connection with the chosen individuals or team should be the most important and relevant considerations.
     
  • Clients should consider working up a rough sketch of the desired outcome. Putting ideas down on paper in the planning stage will help the designer gain perspective related to the client’s likes and dislikes. Gathering ideas from magazines or social media can also contribute to this invaluable insight.
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7th Jul, 2020
Articles, Blog

The joy of a vacation is universal across countries and cultures. For many, a second, vacation home can add to the bliss of getting away by providing welcoming comfort in an exotic locale.

But as tastes change, so too do the features that vacation homeowners look for when choosing a design.

“We’ve had vacation homes forever, but today people want to have more flexibility because they’re more mobile than they used to be,” said Ken Pieper, owner of Ken Pieper Signature Plans in Evergreen, Colorado.

Pieper’s Summerfield #53614 and Laramie #56656 are featured on The House Plan Company with vacation home owners in mind. The two-story Summerfield brings a southern charm to any location, with a wraparound covered porch and wood posts giving the farmhouse design an idyllic flair. But the country lodge-style Laramie plan speaks to many of the trends in vacation homes today. At a bit over 1,300 square feet and with a log sided cabin façade, the plan incorporates all the elements of a classically rustic retreat in a modern, modest-sized design.

“Don’t overbuild,” Pieper said, adding that more and more families in the market for vacation homes are eyeing smaller properties with flexible spaces instead of larger cabins with bedrooms that may be seldomly used.

The same considerations have been taken in many of the vacation home plans designed by Drummond House Plans. The Quebec-based designer has found success by packing modern amenities into moderately sized spaces.

“In the past few years at Drummond House Plans the best sellers are divided between the modern, sleek styles and rustic chic country,” said Jennifer Larocque, designer with Drummond House Plans.

Such is the case in its Lakewood #11215 and Olympe #86940 vacation home plans, featured on The House Plan Company. A contemporary craftsman design, Lakewood boasts a front façade of stone and natural stained wood, highlighted by posts that support a multi-level gabled roof. Olympe offers vertical siding beneath a metal roof, with an open floor plan inside centered around a main area fireplace rising up to meet a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams.

Each fit two bedrooms, distinct living and dining areas into just over 1,200 square feet. Their sizes reflect what Larocque calls the changing tastes of vacation home buyers in recent years.

“Our modern chalets seem to attract a younger clientele to the search for original, clean and minimalist lines,” Larocque said. “The bedrooms are secondary, all attention is paid to common family spaces such as the kitchen, living room and dining room.”

They’re the same trends that Pieper has noticed among younger home buyers, many of whom are bucking the long-held ideal of large, cabin-style vacation homes for extended families to gather. Instead they are focusing on the needs of their immediate family, and using flexible spaces like living rooms and even porches to accommodate any additional guests.

“What I’ve found is that for generations now, like the millennials, those old traditions are falling away,” Pieper said. “The designs, whether it’s a contemporary beach house or a waterfront house, it’s all regionally driven, and driven by individual customers’ tastes. Cost is a big thing, but it also depends on what you’re trying to achieve with the vacation home, what it means to you.”

 

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29th Jun, 2020
Announcements, Blog

We are here to help you with your plan needs and strive to provide excellent service. 

The health and safety of you and our employees is a priority for us. The following outlines the steps we are currently taking during these times.

Our office location is open by appointment only. Most design consultations can be made over the phone and email. Appointments are reserved for the occasion where an office meeting is necessary and the following protocols will be adhered to:

  • Prior to your arrival for a scheduled meeting, surfaces will be sanitized. 
  • Staff will be wearing masks
  • In effect July 1st, the State of Oregon Governor is mandating the use of face masks inside businesses. As certain areas of our office are difficult to maintain social distancing we will be following the state's mandate and requiring the use of masks while in our office. Masks will be available at our front desk if needed.
  • Efforts will be made to respect social distancing during an in office meeting.
  • Surfaces will be re-sanitized after conclusion of an in office meeting.

During this time, we are striving to fulfill orders as quickly as possible. For print packages, we are unable to guarantee shipping timeframes so if time is of the essence we encourage the purchase of our digital plan packages (Print PDF set, PDF Master, CAD Master, or Master Builder Set) which can be emailed. Digital planpackes reduce contact and can often be emailed the same day the order is received.

2nd Jun, 2020
Articles, Blog

A sloping lot can seem like a hurdle to building the ultimate dream home. But the right home plan can unleash the best of what nature throws one’s way. Owners embracing sloped lots have reaped the unique rewards of these distinguished sites: stunning views, light-filled living spaces and adaptable lower levels that maximize a home’s square footage. With a little creativity, builders can turn even a formidable slope into a bright hillside oasis to call home.

To be able to have a finished, light downstairs with all the advantages of a usable space, it helps keep a smaller footprint upstairs and keep a better cost per square foot,” said Allison McGraw, client services manager for Ahmann Design, Inc. in Hiawatha, Iowa.

Ahmann’s sloped lot contemporary ranch house design #23861, is featured on The House Plan Company, a residential plan marketing company based in Oregon. The design highlights all the luxuries of a home built for its surroundings. A hip roofline creates high, two-story ceilings, a vertical feeling enhanced by the eye-catching circular staircase winding down from the entry to a flexible lower level, with bedrooms, common gathering places and a walkout to the backyard. Rear-facing windows on both levels fill each room with natural light.

Rick McAlexander, owner of Associated Designs in Eugene, Oregon, says each sloping lot poses its own unique challenges. Finding a design to fit a specific sloping lot can be a bigger decision than even choosing a lot. But the rewards are worth it.

“Every lot is different when you’ve got a sloping lot, whether it’s a 15-degree angle, a 25-degree angle or even more dramatic,” McAlexander said. “The effect is different if the slope is away from street or towards the street. And then each sloping lot usually has some opportunities to take advantage of as well.”

Such is the case in McAlexander’s Ridgeview #80878 house plan. The three-story craftsman home situated on a hillside boasts more than 2,500 square feet of living space. An exterior of siding, shingle and stone, with a second-story deck and third-story private balcony off the owners’ suite, evokes a palatial feeling. Living spaces are spread throughout the interior, while an open kitchen and gathering room allows sunlight to stream in through windows on all sides.

“The Ridgeview met the specific challenges of that specific lot,” McAlexander said. ”It had a narrow building envelope, and a thoroughly aggressive grade from the street, so we were trying to create the opportunity to be able to take advantage of the amount of living space they wanted to create in a narrow building envelope. That pushed us vertical, and it worked out well because we had some nice views we were able to capitalize on.”

Once a sloped lot home is complete, owners can find as much comfort in the lowest level as in more traditional gathering spaces above, said Ken Pieper, owner of Ken Pieper Signature Plans in Evergreen, Colorado.

Pieper’s Spring Branch #33877 is a three-story, 4,500-square-foot craftsman with prairie school architecture boasts a warm, inviting front facade. But the rear-sloping lot places some of the design’s most alluring features on the other side of the home: three levels of nearly floor-to-ceiling windows, with a second-level rear patio providing stunning views.

“A rear-sloping lot like that affords you the opportunity to create a lower level – I don’t refer to them as basements, because they have 10-foot ceilings, lots of glass windows. Consequently, they’re just an extension of the main level up above as far as their feeling,” Pieper said.

And with an unfinished lower level design, owners are able to customize their home plan to their needs.

“When you do this, you create an opportunity for the rear of the house to be as attractive as the rest, or in many cases more than any other part of the house,” Pieper added.

 

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27th May, 2020
Announcements, Blog

Introducing our latest collection and plan package option, the Concept Plan. Created for those homeowners or contractors building in areas with unique building practices or building departments with strict submittal requirements; the Concept Plan provides you with the essential design – Exterior Elevations, Floor Plan(s), and Roof Outline. With this information the construction documents can be completed to area specific requirements and conditions.


The Concept Plan Package by Associated Designs provides you with the works. A PDF plus CAD Files (.dwg) provide flexibility for the file format used to create the construction documents. The license provided with the Concept Plan Package will give the purchaser the rights to modify, reproduce, and build the design as many times as they would like.

An economical alternative to a Custom Home Design, a Concept Plan  provides a great starting point for your plans. The time spent crafting the design represents a significant portion of the traditional custom design services and the Concept Plans speed up that initial phase of your project.

Don’t have a local design professional lined up for your project but would like to have the construction documents completed? Associated Designs talented team of designers can help! As an extension of our Modification Services, you can work with our design staff to incorporate any floor plan or elevation changes you would like plus have the construction documents completed to your specifications (such as type of wall framing, foundation, and roof framing).

Take a look at our Collection of Concept Plans here.

 

1st May, 2020
Articles, Blog

Over the past two decades, tastes and preferences in home design have changed drastically in many respects and very little in others. The House Plan Company dug into the archives to find the top five most popular house plan designs since the late 90s and discovered it’s a diverse collection of styles to fit varying purposes. The only common denominators among all of them, they found, was the attention to detail and open living space in the design.

“Each of my designs delivers as much detail on the exterior of the home as they do in the interior,” explained Ken Pieper, owner of Ken Pieper Signature Designs in Evergreen, Colo., whose house plans are featured on The House Plan Company. “One thing I find clients always request in a design, no matter the size of the home, is to make it “live larger” than the square footage suggests. And nearly every house plan I’ve created for homeowners over the past two decades incorporates family-centered open living space,” he added.



The Cub Creek #54439 is a mountain rustic design which illustrates the focus on open living space that lives large. At 890 square feet the open living, dining, and kitchen arrangement and large covered porch allow the cabin plan to live beyond the square footage.

When it comes to exterior detail, the Prairie Wind # 15610 exudes Arts and Craftsman detail. Gable ends with low pitched roof lines plus a mix of natural materials combine to create an exterior that you can’t help but stop and admire. The attention to detail continues through the 5800 square foot open floor plan which emphasizes outdoor living and entertaining.

“Another design trend that has remained consistent is the desire for the separation of sleeping areas. Each of my designs allows the homeowner space around their en suite master retreats for maximum privacy,” elaborated Ken.

The luxury modern house plan, Aurora #57029, showcases both a contemporary open floor plan and private master suite. Completely separated from the main living area by an enclosed bridge walkway, the master suite is a true retreat with lavish en suite and indoor and outdoor sitting areas. The large gourmet kitchen with two large pocket doors allows the exterior covered deck to become an extension of the home for al fresco dining and entertaining.

Two other designs that have stood the test of time are the Sheridan #14350 and Cherokee #87514 home plans.

Each at 1492 square feet, these designs feature comfortable and open floor plans and represent two styles that have outlasted the fads. The Sheridan offers homeowners a rustic cabin feel with an abundance of large log details inside and out. While the Cherokee, reflects the simplified aspects of traditional home design.

“Our five most popular house plans over the past 25 years represent a very diverse collection of design styles and purposes yet share common characteristics such as open living space. From a 3,800 square-foot sprawling estate to a 2,100 square-foot vacation cabin, each home design was created to meet specific needs and lifestyles,” explained Rick McAlexander, Principal Designer at Associated Designs, Inc. in Eugene, Ore.

One such house plan that best illustrates the focus on open living space is the Barnhart #96262, a rambling ranch-style design that enters from a covered front porch into the great room and kitchen and dining area, separated only by a large island for entertaining. The entire indoor living space opens to a covered patio that runs the length of the back of the house for a seamless transition to outdoor living.

Two of the most popular home designs are more classic in style while still retaining open living space. The bungalow-style Tillamook #47690 and ranch-style Manor Heart #80138 feature open living in the great room, kitchen and dining areas, but also offer more formal space that can be used for a variety of other functions such as a den, office or guest suite.

The classic Ottawa #98509 with its soaring ceilings and oversized windows creates the right amount of drama and makes the scenic landscape, whether it be beach, mountains or forest, the main focal point. The design also offers an open floor plan with ample living space for families to spend quality time together.

The uniquely designed Eddinger #24963 completes this collection of time tested plans. A hexagonal-shaped great room anchors the floor plan to allow for expansive views of the building lot and ideal year-round indoor/outdoor living. The great room is flanked by a master suite on one side and guest suite on the other, affording privacy for families and guests. All of the modern amenities fit neatly into a fairly compact 2,100 square-foot floor plan, creating a retreat that is spacious yet cozy.

 

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