{Series Part 2} Designing House Plans with an Architect

That's my house!

Oh man, it's been a while since Part 1. If you haven't read that post, it will give you a little background on our house building adventure. Today I'm sharing all about how we came up with a house plan and got it on paper. And, to put to rest that funny little thing people like to say when they find out you're building a house... "You can get exactly what you want then!". I think sometimes people confuse building a house with winning the lottery, because if that were the case, I'd have a mansion on the ocean with a water slide in my living room. ;)

So last time I told you about how our builder introduced us to our architect. Before I even met him I had been pinning plans, and searching realtor.com, and saving everything I loved about houses. Seriously, not only did I have a pinterest board ready for my architect, I also had little packets printed out, stapled, and labeled. (I just googled "house plans" to find them). "I like the front of this house". "I like the master bathroom in this house". Etc. Because I pretty much stalked realtor.com in our area, I knew (ballpark) what a house of the size we wanted was going to cost. We were looking to build a 4 bedroom, 3 bath house with a 3 car garage, around 3,000 square feet.

I also want to say at this point I was warned by my builder, architect, and another architect separately not to buy pre-made plans online. They all agreed that you, 9 times out of 10, end up having to have them revised by a local architect and engineer anyway. Especially in Florida, where there are a ton of hurricane codes houses must follow. My advice would be, get a plan done by someone local and familiar with the special building codes in your area.

One Saturday morning, my builder and architect came over. We sat around my dining room table and I gave him the basics of what we wanted (I like to say "we" occasionally since my husband will very much be living in this house too... however, he gave all design control over to me since it's "my thing". Yeah, he's pretty great like that.) Our basic must-haves and the size house I was thinking of.  He jotted those down and asked about the style of house we wanted. Spanish, Modern, Traditional... etc. I was set on having a Southern/Country style house. You know, the really big covered front porch? I was also set on having a 2 story house... however, I was talked out of that at this meeting. That's a pretty huge thing you have to figure out right from the beginning.

You see, we live in Florida. It's hot. All. The. Time. Having a house the size I wanted would make for a really large area on the second floor. Heat rises you know. Not only would it require a second air conditioning unit (that's code for more money), but it meant high utility bills forever (cha-ching) and a greater chance of damage in a hurricane (yeah, we get those here too). Thus, practically, it didn't make sense to go 2 floors since we had the space on our lot to fit the house all on one level. We proceeded with a one story plan in mind. (Dang logic!)

After chatting, jotting down notes, looking at my printouts and Pinterest board, we took a stroll around our current house.  I showed him how we live and what was and was not working for us. Tiny laundry room: not working. Giant master closet: working. Tiny pantry: not working. Separate office: working. Etc.

I also had to pay the architect a deposit at this 1st meeting. His pay structure worked something like this. Your architect's structure might vary a bit. Make sure to ask at the first meeting.
  • Approximately 10% deposit to start (percent of the estimated architectural fees, not percent of the cost of the house)
  • 40% due when a plan started to come together. (like 3 weeks in?)
  • 75% at the start of the front elevation
  • 100% upon completion of the floor plans , elevations, electric and foundation plan
Up until the plan is complete, these numbers are ball park estimates of what the final plan is going to cost. Remember, you pay an architect per square foot. You really won't know the exact square footage until the plan is complete.

In the weeks that followed I got tons of little emails from my architect that started out like big boxes. The basic shape of the house...
and eventually got fine tuned into rooms. The first area we fine tuned was the kids' bedrooms/bathroom. He'd send me an idea and I'd make changes or little drawings (or send him pictures I found on Pinterest). I really wanted a Jack and Jill bathroom for them but was SO not a fan of a half wall between their bedrooms and their sinks. I was just imagining the cups of water being dumped into the carpet. Plus the original bathroom was just taking up too much square footage.
One thing my architect told me was to be a pain in the butt. No really. If there was something I wasn't sure about or didn't like or would like to see another way, he told me to email or call. Don't assume your architect remembers every little detail you ever told them. If you assume they know something but aren't seeing it on the plans, speak up sooner rather than later. It's gets harder to change things the further along you go along.

After we got the majority of the plan hammered out via email, my architect dropped off a paper set of plans for me to look at and "draw all over". He told me to move walls, make notes, and be as detailed as possible about everything I wanted moved or changed. He also gave me little hints on how to save some money. For example, if we kept the guest bathroom against the same wall the master bathroom was on, we'd save money in plumbing. Same went for keeping the washer and dryer near the powder room.

After 3 rounds of paper plans and me adding skylights (I need natural light for blog photos you know) and little things I saw on Pinterest :), our plan was complete.

So without further rambling, here's our house!
Would you like a tour? Well come on in! The front porch is big and covered. The office and dining rooms (to right and left of the front door) have french doors out to the porch. The dining room is huge to fit my giant family for Thanksgiving. :) The living room and kitchen are one big area with a really big island. Walk-in pantry! The kids share a jack and jill bath. The guest room has its own bath. I would have loved to make the laundry room even bigger but at some point you have to cut off the square footage to stay in your budget. 3 car garage with plans for a bonus space above that we probably won't build out right away. Large back porch ready for a pool one day. We ended up with 4 bedrooms, 3 and a half bathrooms, just over 3,000 square feet.

After the plans were done we gave them to our builder who gave us an estimate to build. It was actually lower than we were expecting, however, I realize he is not familiar with my expensive high quality  taste. Marble and crown moulding anyone? I'm assuming picking the finishes is going to be an uphill battle for me!
Finally the plans will need to be sent to a truss plant to make the plans for the roof trusses. The builder should do that for you. The architect will make sure those plans jive with his plans. And, an engineer needs to sign off on the plans. The builder should take care of that too, however, you'll have to pay for it up front. 

So they're done and we're ready to submit them to the bank to get the loan to start!  Finally! :) Stay tuned.


  1. very helpful indeed, haven't built a house from scratch yet, but who knows someday! thanks!

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  3. Hi Sarah, Im also in Florida and starting to build our dream home soon. Was wondering if you got yours done already and if you will be sharing the process. I started a blog last month where I share my furniture makeovers, home projects and the building process.
    I haven't found many blog talking about the building of a new home. Glad I found yours :)


    1. WHOA! Holy cow... your furniture is gorgeous! And yes, I snooped around a little... your living room caught my eye too. I'm not kidding, at first I thought it was your "inspiration pictures" and then I realized it was the after! Amazing. So to answer your question, no, we are not done! We actually can't get our loan until July 1st... required waiting period (long story) but we've known that all along. So, so far we have purchased our lot, cleared our lot, found a builder, designed the house with our architect, and filled our lot (leveled and packed) with dirt. All of this out of pocket. I plan to write a post soon all about the fill dirt process. So fun, right? haha And I know! There's not a whole lot of blogs/info out there about building a house so I hoped to help some people in writing this. Very glad you found me and very glad I found your blog! I'll be posting way more this summer when the guts of the construction happen. Where are you in the process? -Sarah

    2. Hey Sarah, never saw your answer til now, by accident btw, I will be posting tomorrow morning where we at in the process :)
      We should be pouring our slabs by monday - fingers crossed. I will be following you now ;)