Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Planning a House: Square Footage?

Yesterday I went out to "The Property," the five acres we are in the process of buying. As we try to get various county tests done on it before signing the dotted line, it's becoming more and more apparent that we need to plan out (roughly) where the future house will be, how many bedrooms and bathrooms it will have, and how much square footage.

I grew up in a three (tiny) bedroom 1 1/2 bathroom house. There were six of us living (I thought) quite comfortably in the house and apart from a few years as a teenager longing for my own room, I never thought our house was very small. Now I realize it was so comfy because my parents had given up their master bedroom (with two closets and a bathroom) for three of us kids to share. Until planning my own house, I didn't realize how selfless and generous that was!

I bring this up because we're beginning to plot but I, at least, have no idea what I'm doing. Any advice on how many bedrooms and bathrooms would be ideal (if this is our "forever" house, not just a starter), how much square footage, floorplan features, general dos and don'ts? What is your house like, and do you like it? What would you change?

I don't want more house than we can handle (for cleaning and heating!), but I don't want to be ruing the day I thought we could live in tiny quarters, either. Sage advice in the planning stages would be grand.


Stephanie said...

Laundry on the second floor (if you go with multiple floors) so you don't take the laundry downstairs to wash just to have to take it back up again.

Walk in closet for master bedroom.

Space for an extra freezer.

Those are just the things I want in a house....

My goal is to have 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. My current dream house is 3,000 SF. My current house is about 1,300 SF.

Kansas Mom said...

Ah, one day I very much hope to be planning our house! I'd like an open plan so I can be making dinner and still keep an eye on the kids as they play or work. I'd like at least four big bedrooms: a master bedroom with room for a crib or correspondence desk, a bedroom each for boys and girls, and a room for school (at least the books and supplies if not actual lessons). Formal dining rooms are overrated, but an everyday dining room with room for a big table so lots of friends can eat with us. Kansas is tornado territory, so a safe room in the basement is obligatory, at least for me. A door that opens to the back with lots of windows so I can watch the kids play happily outside while being productive inside. Lots of storage space for all the canning I hope to be doing - more than just strawberry jam! And, if we can manage it, a library. A whole room dedicated to all the books that aren't in the school room with comfy chairs and reading lamps and hundreds or thousands of books.

Now I need to check the budget again to see if I can find some more money to throw at our mortgage so we can build this dream house before all the kids are grown!

Emma said...

Those are definitely some major questions!

From the research we've done, it's much more economical to build a little bigger than you think you need because adding on another room or two costs significantly more than doing it upfront. If you're on the fence between say 3 or 4 bedrooms, I'd err on the side of slightly bigger. It's easy enough to close off an extra bedroom from the heating / AC system, keep the door closed, and not use it. However, if you need that space for whatever reason, you'll be glad you have it. I'd make sure you had at least 1.5 bathrooms - with a growing family having the second half-bath would make a huge difference.

That being said, it can be hard to find the right balance. What will work well for a growing family with kids at home will seem too big once they've grown up and moved out (hopefully!). As such, we're tentatively planning on building 2 houses in Wildwood down the road.

The first will be our bug-out home. It'll be designed as a smaller house so it's easier to keep heated (or cooled) and will be able to function largely off-grid. Our priorities would be efficiency, a degree of comfort, and multiple bedrooms for our kids and extended family if necessary. We're anticipating a 1 story home, about 1500 sq foot with 3 or 4 small bedrooms, a larger central living and dining area, and a large kitchen. Since that's where we would spend the majority of our time, square footage is allocated accordingly.

Long term though, we'd like to build our "forever" home with all the bells and whistles that we want. I have my dream floor plan already picked out and it's a doozy -- 2500 square feet, 2 story with a walk out basement. Open living, kitchen, dining areas. Elevated decks across the back side of the house and a screened in porch / sunroom. Other extras includes extra rooms like a library or office, a rec room that would be great as a play room and homeschooling room, dedicated storage for a deep pantry and hopefully a root cellar (and a dumb waiter from the storage on the 1st floor to the kitchen on the 2nd). If we built the smaller house first, that one could serve as a dedicated guest house so we wouldn't need extra bedroom(s) for guests or extended family if they came to stay -- or if either of our parents needed to live with us for health reasons.

Very long term, we could "retire" to the smaller house once our kids are up and grown and we wouldn't need to maintain the large house with just the two of us as we get older. We're only in our late-20s now, but it's something to consider!

Our tentative time-line has us purchasing our first home this Friday (woohoo!), then saving up to build the smaller house in the next 5 years or so. Then 10 years out, build the forever home. Obviously there's no telling where we will be in 10 years -- when we think we might want to build the above forever house.

All of the above comes with a huge caveat -- it's all in our heads at this point. We haven't designed plans yet, nor are we really ready to move forward with them. This IS the overall direction we're heading though, for what it's worth.

Keep us updated!

City Roots, Country Life

dwija borobia said...

Oh girl...you have come to the right place! Well, maybe not, but I do like to say that ;)

We are in a 2,000 sf. single story ranch style house with 4 kids, 2 grown ups, 3 dogs and 8 chickens and we have plenty of space. Here's the deal- multi story houses are sometimes easier to heat and because their footprint is smaller, take up less space on your land. On the other hand, you have to deal with stairs which a huge hassle for babies, moving furniture, and the staircase takes up sq. footage on your main floor. Since you have property, I would suggest a single story. I LOVE not having stairs to worry about! No upper floor windows for kids to fall out of! It's great.

Now the other thing that has been great for us is to have small bedrooms and big living/play areas. The kids use their bedrooms only for sleeping, and that makes the rest of the house seem so much bigger than it really is. A single den/playroom that is enormous is awesome for bad weather. Throw 'em all in there in a pile and let 'em burn off their energy.

The only thing that I would want to seriously change about our house is that we only have one bathroom (ack!) and I would just adore a second toilet in this house, oh yes I would. But you know, if my grandma could have 14 kids in her 1700 sq. ft. house, then I can handle this, right?

Okay, hope that was a little helpful. We are out in the country too with our forever house, so if you wanna email me any other questions, feel free!


Jeanine Spano said...

For sure a minimum of 2 bathrooms. My ideal house would have a minimum of 3 bedrooms on the main floor 1 master and 2 for kids (1 for girls 1 for boys) and a basement (because I prefer ranch w/ basement) w/ at least one large open room for a play room/classroom for homeschool. I think kids' rooms should be for sleeping only so enough room for a few bunk beds, dressers and a large closet. I can't advise as to square footage though. :)

Karlab71 said...

Look at the website "Large Families on Purpose" and see how they organized to fit thier family with 9 children in an 1100 sq ft house comfortably. Thant will give you some ideas of what you could or could not live with. She shows the layout , pictures and organization of every room!

Karlab71 said...

Oh, and personally I would say minimum of 4 bedrooms ,2- 3 bathrooms, good closets/storage, and space for large gatherings= open floorplan in living space. ( Master bedroom with an attached bath and walk in closet, bedroom for girls, bedroom for boys, and guest bedroom)

Jennie said...

It's hard to plan out your whole life in one fell swoop, housewise. :-) We live in a huge house right now, at least, it's more huge than any house I've ever been in before. I haven't measured, but I'd say it's approaching 3000 sq. ft. We have seven children, though, and easily take up that space, but there's room to add a few more, should the situation warrant. When nobody is looking, though, I dream of tiny spaces, little apartments, coziness. It's a lot to take care of, this big house.

Make your kitchen great. I love ours. It's a huge eat-in. I'd redesign the workspace, but I love that this kitchen really is the heart of our home. We hardly ever sit in the living room. I'd only add a pantry. Design your bedrooms so that bunk beds will fit. I've seen houses that had windows or doors on every wall. Here, we have sloping attic ceilings. If you plan in advance for bunk beds, you can always fit more children into a more modest space. And being a farmer's wife, have an mudroom type entry with a utility sink and maybe even your washer/dryer so you don't have to drag all those farm-dirty clothes through your house. I'd go so far as to add a shower if I had to rebuild this place. :-)

Last, but not least, a house is not a home if it doesn't have a porch! Make it wide enough to comfortably socialize and if you can swing it, make it go all the way around to the back door. :-)

Nadja said...

I think three bedrooms is a good size, and you really can't tell what you will need in the future. My best suggestion is to make your floor plan in such a way that adding on will not be a horrendous undertaking. For the house I designed, which I doubt we will add on to, it is basically a big rectangle with a very simple roof line. We have nothing planned for upstairs but storage, but we have enough head space up there, and we are putting in a stairway. This way, if we ever want additional living space, it will take relatively little work (a couple of shed dormers and plumbing a bathroom) to do it.

Katherine said...

I don't know much about square footage or how much space is enough space. I think part of how much space is enough depends on how much land you have. We currently have 4 small children in a townhouse but since the yard is very sloped and unfenced, it really limits me to indoor space. I think less indoor space is somewhat compensated by more outdoor space.

Lisa Gale said...

Here's my dream house!!!! Master on the main level if possible (so I can grow old with my husband in the house), 3 bedrooms upstairs. The girls bunk together and the boys bunk together and an extra bedroom for playing/working/guests. Or, I would like a small den on the main level with doors that close for guests. That has been the main working room in my sister's house for a while!! Main living is a square. A kitchen where the sink faces out to the living room and half of it is kitchen and half is the eating area. The living room takes up the other half of the square. If possible, a small room off the kitchen or living room for playing/recreation/loud children! (Or a basement playroom - which isn't ideal for small children though.) And for goodness sake - A MUD ROOM!!! Why don't homes have these anymore??? Also, Jason and I dreamed of a playhouse in the crawl space under the basement stairwell. It's storage now though. But we would love to have a built-in fort hidden away for the kids! Lastly, the washer and dryer have to be near my bedroom. Either next to the kitchen or, if the master bedroom is upstairs, the washer and dryer should be upstairs. The laundry room should be big enough to include a small table for sorting and gathering laundry! Okay, I think I'm done. No no - one last thing. A screened in porch. This is a whole different living area when you can lock your kids out and have a romantic cup of coffee with your husbands. Nevermind the children blowing raspberries on the glass...maybe the glass doors should be soundproof??? Okay - NOW I'm done. Happy house designing!!

Marie said...

Dont make it too big! Think of what you'll have to clean..My sis built a 4000sf house for them and their growing family..She's up to 12 now. She hated it because with so many little ones in the house, she could not keep it clean! So, go for 2400 with three bathrooms..Those are very important...

Kieran said...

My house is 3600-3800 square feet, which seems huge! But that includes attic space, which you need to store your xmas decorations, as well as the garage which is very useful on rainy days. We have four bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms along with a formal living room, formal dining room, bonus room, and breakfast nook. Now it seems from my description that we have more than enough room....and WE DO, for now! When we first moved into our house two years ago, there was a lot of empty space, we have since filled it with furniture and personal belongings :) We have one of our bedrooms designated as the guest bedroom and I don't know how we would have it any other way cause when guests come, they can't sleep on the couch for a week. One bedroom is our office, Jonathan does all his school there and we keep all of our records, bills and official documents in there...the final bedroom has now recently been deemed the nursery :) Our bonus room is our recreational room, we have an extra tv in there and a ping pong table, it gets used the least of all of our rooms but I predict that will change when the little one arrives.

So, although our home seems really big and we will be able to stay comfortably for many more years....it is not my dream or forever home. There are things I would change and if we have more than one child, we will lose a lot of the luxuries we enjoy so much, like an office and guest bedroom. But try to remember when you are planning it all out, which rooms do you use the most? Make those exactly how you want them! We are always in out kitchen, living room and bedroom so I will never sacrafice size or efficiency in any of those rooms! Closets are essential, we have a lot of them and we use all of them. You can never have too many light switches and remember that if it is your forever home, splurge on the things you really want...cause you will have them forever!

H0pe it helps a little :) Good Luck!

Nicole St said...

We live in a huge house, and I (frankly) don't keep it clean. There are 10 of us, soon to be eleven: we use all the rooms. But many of the rooms themselves are bigger than they need to be. My mother grew up in a house of 12 (mostly girls) with roughly 1000 sq ft and one bathroom. Don't ask me how.

It's a mind boggling thing to keep track of, but try to plan the space (not just the square footage but the vertical space too) with an eye to maximizing every cubic inch in the house. Books like "The Not So Big House" (Sarah Susanka) and "The Small House" (Jay Shafer) might provide ideas or inspiration. I can't recommend them except on the strength of other references and a few glimpses, but I've always wanted to get my hands on them for a more thorough perusal.

patricia arnold said...

I don't know about 'sage' advice, but we've been working on a floor plan for our 'forever' home for years now...here's what we have figured out through trial and error, back and forth, mull it over, change our minds a thousand times:
There is no floor plan out there that is perfect, but it is a lot of work to make your own. That being said, we're making our own, based off of one that comes close. When we're as done as we can get, we'll give it to an architect to do the final renderings/floor plan.
Two-story: farmhouse look, easier to heat w/wood-burning stove, more cost efficient (roof/basement).
Make a list of rooms/dimensions you want based on what you have now. What we figured out is, bedrooms don't need to be very big (10x11 per 2 kids, 12x16 master), but the open living/dining/kitchen space needs to be comfortable for entertaining our huge extended fam. And we wanted multiple living spaces, so that when our kids are teens they will have their own space when needed. And a room on the first floor that will become our bedroom when we are old (it will be a "library" or "study" for now). I think we ended up around 2000 sq. ft. excluding the basement (30x32 ft.). There are 3 bedrooms upstairs, potential of 5 total.

I will stop before I overwhelm your with my babble. Here's where we started.
Exterior inspiration: http://www.countryliving.com/homes/house-tours/house-of-the-year/house-of-the-year-2010-photo-tour-1110
And the floor plan which we've greatly modified: http://newworldhome.com/#/showcase/COUNTRY%20LIVING%20COLLECTION/HUDSON

Colleen said...

OK, I know I'm in a different stage in life than you are right now (with 4 kids and one on the way) but my ideal house would have 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a laundry room, a nice big eat-in kitchen, a family room, a living room, a toy room, and an office. All for about 2200 square feet. Is that too much to ask? :)

Farmer's City Wife said...

Yeah, having my extra freezer in the detached garage right now is kind of a pain. On rainy days, especially, I've modified meal plans to keep from having to go out there to get a package of frozen ground meat :).

Farmer's City Wife said...

Lots of space for canning? Yeah, since we're in the dreaming stage, I'm planning a Summer kitchen (and outdoor building to can in so it doesn't heat up the house). A girl can dream, right? :-D

Farmer's City Wife said...

Two houses (especially if one could be a mother-in-law house) would be awesome. Maybe if we have ten great farming years in a row ;).
Yeah, we figured adding on later would be cost prohibitive, which is why we're trying to get a good idea of how much we'd need right now (though obviously we can never be sure).

You're purchasing your first home this Friday?? Congratulations! How exciting!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Gah gah gah, you're so right! Stairs are such a nightmare with little babies! A ranch house with a basement would be really nice, but I've heard planning out vs. up is a lot more expensive. Decisions decisions! (Love the idea for small bedrooms and big communal areas!).

Farmer's City Wife said...

Will check it out :).

Farmer's City Wife said...

Assuming we can afford it, that's probably the route we'll take...

Farmer's City Wife said...

Yeah, this whole not knowing if/when we'll ever be able to have kids is kind of a big deal... 4 bedrooms for just us two would be major overkill, but having 8 kids in two bedrooms would be tough too.
The kitchen is definitely the most fun place to plan, and yes, a wrap-around porch is in the dreams!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Oh, and you're so right about a mudroom with a utility sink! Dirty farm clothes are the bane of my clean floors! :)

Farmer's City Wife said...

I love the idea of an expandable house (without having to build additions). Finish as we can, and as we need :).

Farmer's City Wife said...

True true true!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Mud rooms and summer kitchens -- two things lost to media rooms and workout rooms of the modern McMansions, eh?
Love the idea of your fort :-D. If we can't go that elaborate, I at least hope to do something like this: http://thriftydecorchick.blogspot.com/2011/05/closet-turned-book-nook.html

Farmer's City Wife said...

In our current postage stamp house, I'm just able to keep it all clean. That's definitely a consideration! :-D Plus, the bigger we build, the more temptation to fill it with clutter.

Farmer's City Wife said...

An upstairs simple bonus room (especially above a garage) seems like a great place for the family to hang out that doesn't need to be shared with casual visitors :).
A guest bedroom (I LOVE to entertain) would be so lovely.

Farmer's City Wife said...

Yeah, my dad grew up in a tiny house with 10 kids (7 boys) so I guess we can make anything work :).
Soon to be 11? Congratulations!! :-D

Farmer's City Wife said...

We're all about the farmhouse look with a wood burning stove! Good gravy, we've got a whole orchard of prunings to heat our house with :).
Thanks for the links: there are some awesome ideas there!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Sounds reasonable to me ;).

Kathryn said...

Well, given as we currently don't have kids I'm not going to be much help there. But as someone who lives in a 1,400 sq ft house(4 bed/2 full bath) I do have some thoughts on things that would make the upkeep a bit easier.

For starters, if you have multiple full baths, you really probably only need to have a tub in one of them. For instance, anyone old enough to bathe without supervision is also probably old enough to shower. Plus, I at least, find cleaning a shower easier than cleaning the tub.

If you can fit it into the budget, you could install a zone heating system that closes off the ducts(not just the vents) in the portions of the house you don't want to heat/cool. Since it's just the two of us at the moment we close off the entire upstairs of our house rather than heat it in the winter and it's really helped a lot.

While sloped ceilings in the upstairs are kind of fun and cozy, they also make it hard to put bunk beds in those rooms(if you (hopefully!) need them some day). We've been trying to figure out which rooms in our house would be best for kids' rooms and have determined that only one out of the four is actually ideal for bunk beds; the other three have either sloped ceilings or less than ideally located windows. This might be important to keep in mind if you opt for a smaller bedroom option.

That's all I have for right now.

Farmer's City Wife said...

Goodness, such helpful things to keep in mind! I didn't even know about zone heating, and the sloped ceilings I'm so terribly fond of, I never even considered would be awful for bunk beds.

Jen&Eric said...

Wow. This is scaring me! We're actually just now looking to buy our first (and hopefully only!) home. We've been thinking 1,300 square feet would be perfect -- 3 bed / 2 bath, not too much space to clean. But all this talk about 2,000+ and 4 bedrooms?? Hmmm... we have a growing family (4 of us at the moment) & I guess coming from our 900 sq. ft. rental house anything over 1,200 square feet looks ginormous to us. Maybe I won't think so one or two babies from now, though.... Hmmmm!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Jen, what I've read and heard time and again is that square footage isn't as important as a good floorplan. A 2000 square foot house with a bad layout (wasted space, hallways in the wrong place, etc.) often feels smaller than a 1400 sq. ft house with a great layout.
The part that's killing me, though, is I don't know what a "great layout" looks like :-D.
As my mom says, a woman can change any house into a home :). And for what it's worth, I think it's totally possible to raise stellar kids without a formal dining room.

Victoria Leach said...

So interesting to read about your American homes! Here, in Australian some things are a bit different eg. we normally hang our washing on the line rather than use a dryer and basements are unusual, but a lot is quite similar.
We have renovated 2 houses and built one for our family of 8 kids, and thinking of the issues we've had has helped us to plan for next time.

These have been our biggest design headaches-
1. Children's bedrooms that guests have to walk past to reach the lounge or garden - a huge embarrassment as our kids can be little piglets!
2. Too much open plan - older kids need to be able to shut themselves away to study, etc, and babies sometimes need to be shut in for their own safety (more doors, next time)
3. A pantry and other storage - oh, how much tidier our house would be if there was only more storage!

Our favourite features are -
1. A large parent's room away from the noisy areas - but why do the kids treat it as another lounge room?
2. Large windows opening onto the garden - love to see the view
3. Wooden floors - easy to keep clean , dishes break less often when dropped (the carpets looked worn within 6 months)
4. Larger living areas, smaller bedrooms - room for bunks and good closets is all that's really necessary

I totally agree about design being more important than size. Good storage and practical work areas make housekeeping easier - and it's surprising how many kids will fit into small bedrooms.
Good luck with your planning!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Welcome, Victoria! Love your ideas.
Ah, wooden floors! If there's any way we can swing that one, I think it's a must :).

Em said...

We bought a condo last summer and we are appreciating the importance of a good floor plan. The kitchen is very small but it is so well designed and 'open' that it is perfect. And instead of having a room devoted to laundry, we have a closet in the bathroom where the washer and dryer fit. But I wasn't going to tell you about our house - I was going to tell you about my inlaws' house. They designed it themselves and planned it so that almost every main room has a stained glass window. They collected them before they built the house. In the kitchen is the stained glass window from the restaurant that where they got engaged. They have old church windows in their library and chapel. They have a porch off of the master bedroom and a brick patio off of the porch. They also have an observatory off of the patio so he can go out and look at the stars at night. The whole place is set back from the road with a fence around it all and an electronic gate across the driveway. The fence is nice for keeping loose horses, llamas, dogs, children, etc. from getting out to the road. I was amazed when my husband started telling me about the house but it doesn't feel that big even though it has 4 bedrooms. I love the library the best - it is at the opposite end from the bedrooms so we can stay up late hanging out with siblings without disturbing the whole household. :-)

Farmer's City Wife said...

How neat to have stained glass! Must be gorgeous when the sun comes up :).

Emily Brown said...

First, I just wanted to say that I came across your blog a few days ago,
and I have really enjoy reading your posts!  Now, as far as houses
go...we built a "shouse" (looks like a shed on the outside, finished as a
house on the inside) about a year and a half ago.  We had some local Mennonite builders put up the outside.  It was extremely
economical, especially since we finished the inside completely (and by
we, I mean mostly my Mr. Amazing).  We started small (just under 1000 sq
ft) but the plan is to add on in a few more years.  We still plan to add on in the same fashion.  We put our shouse on a slab, but you could do it on a basement or crawl space if you so desired.  I really like it, a lot!  We went with a really open floor plan:  we have a big room that houses the living room, dining room, and kitchen.  I love being able to cook and see everything that is going on.  We plan to do the same thing again in the big house:  we'll be adding on another kitchen, as well as a bigger living room and dining room.  The plan is to convert the current living space into the school!  I'm excited for that as well as having a second kitchen for canning and butchering.  So, I guess I would recommend an open floor plan as well as two kitchens, if you can swing it. :)  Also, even though our kids aren't old enough for us to have formal school, I can see that a space for homeschooling is really going to come in handy.  I do wish that we had a basement, or rather, really, just a storm shelter/root cellar.  That's really only because we live in the midwest, though.  Also, we kept our floors concrete and put an epoxy on them; we plan do that again, at least in part of the addition.  It was a pretty cheap route to go and it's super easy to clean.  The only down side it that it's pretty hard on the little noggins, but I figure not too much worse than tile.  Let's see...I do wish that we had some built-in bookshelves, and I'm planning on that in the newer house.  I think that's about it!  Sorry, this ended up being a really lengthy post!  I hope it was helpful. :)  God bless you as you plan your house!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Hello hello! :) Welcome!
Yes, a basement/root cellar/homeschooling area would be fantastic. Even if we only spring for a tiny little house, I want a good root cellar! :)

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