Are You Building a Green Home? 5 Things to Consider Before You Build

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If you’re planning on building a new, green home, here are 5 important tips to consider:

1    Green, Sustainable House Plans

Start with ENERGY STAR® blue, with ENERGY STAR® approved house plans from Direct from the Designers. All the plans in this collection are designed to inspire consumers and builders to build an energy-efficient and eco-friendly home that utilizes all the latest green building techniques and building products.

green house plans

green house plan

The Evergreen Cottage House Plan is an award-winning ENERGY STAR® approved home. Green, energy-efficient features include 6″ SIP exterior walls. Both active and passive energy saving technology is used in this design including a wind generator and grass roof – perfect for practicing golf. Learn more about this craftsman, eco-friendly cottage by viewing the designer notes on the plan page.

2    Size and Site Matters

A smaller home typically costs less to heat and cool and is more affordable to maintain. The trend toward larger houses is decreasing as homeowners continue to assess how many rooms they actually need for their family and lifestyle. If your dream is to build a large home, you can design a very energy-efficient home by incorporating the latest green building techniques and home building products.

traditional green house plan

traditional floor plan

This traditional house plan is perfect for a growing family. This home is packed with extras including a detached apartment studio, open floor plan, home office, large bonus room, mudroom and spacious, private master suite and front and rear outdoor living spaces.  At 3,215 square feet this flexible home is perfect for homeowners starting out on a smaller budget.

3    Eco-Friendly Construction

Use eco-friendly building techniques and sustainable materials like energy efficient windows and roofing. ENERGY STAR® appliances and heating and cooling systems will greatly reduce the energy consumption of your home. Don’t forget about your interior by using eco-friendly flooring, low- or no-VOC paints and finishes and WaterSense® products for your faucets, toilets and showerheads. Be sure your builder uses the right insulation and house wrap to create a tight building envelope for your home.

4    Green Home Builders

When you’re shopping for a home builder, look for a builder that is experienced in sustainable building. Check their portfolio to see what green elements they use to construct new homes.

5    Consider Extra Green Factors

There are many extra green products and techniques you can incorporate into your new home like wind turbines, solar panels, radiant heat, passive cooling and much more. It all depends on how ‘green’ you want to go.

green house plans

Why Universal Design is Smart Design

People often talk about planning for a future. When you are designing a home you need to consider it even more so. Your home is one of the biggest investments you will ever make. You want it to last and in many cases outlive you.  That’s where Universal Design comes in.

It may sound a little bit like something out of science fiction but Universal Design aids the idea of aging in place by designing cities, streets, homes, and buildings to appeal and accommodate the needs of a diverse population.

This one-story house plan has an optional second floor for future growth but the first floor can easily be made into the perfect home that stands the test of time by using some principles of Universal Design.

You might think that you don’t need to worry about Universal Design in your home, but the truth is that if you are aging (and all of us are) Universal Design can benefit you in many ways.  Even if you are a couple just about to start your family features like wider doorways and a one-story floor plan can help you accommodate strollers as your family grows and wheelchairs later in life. 

Low counters will allow you and your kids to prepare dinner but will also allow you to sit down. The safety features involved with Universal Design are designed to keep everyone in your home safe with fall prevention, step-free showers, and built-in ramps.

Another beautiful one-story Craftsman house plan that can be made into a great home that will meet your needs for years to come. The beauty of Universal Design is that with some of the safety features and modification in building, you can make sure your home appeals to wide variety of potential buyers and will remain comfortable for years to come.

The best part of Universal Design is that it is all designed to be functional without looking institutional. These modifications can be costly later so if you are looking to build a home now, why not take some of these design principles into your house plan now.

You can browse our accessible or multi-family house plans to get an idea for homes that might be a good fit or you can modify most one-story house plans to have these designs with the guidance of your builder.

Three Dining Rooms To Die For

We’re over halfway through November and in just a week we’ll all be sitting at our dining room tables with a turkey and mashed potatoes.  If you tend to be the one who hosts the holidays in your family, you want to make sure you have a dining room to host your family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Open floor plans are great for casual get-togethers but when it comes to dinner parties, you’re going to want a place to fit a table that seats (at least) eight.  Here are some fabulous house plans that feature a dedicated dining room for your entertaining needs.

5230DiningRoom
This dining room is washed with soft colors, offering a relaxing feel that makes you feel like you’re in Florida.

The dining room in this house plan is perfect for your gatherings. The dining room combines with the foyer and living room creating a spacious floor plan for casual entertaining. Not only is the dining room inviting but the rest of the house has several amenities that are sure to keep you happy for years to come. With everything from a well-integrated three-car garage to lots of outdoor living space, this house will be perfect for your family gatherings year-round.

Combining the best of a dining area and an open floor plan, this house plan can do it all.
Combining the best of a dining area and an open floor plan, this house plan can do it all.

Just because this cottage is small doesn’t mean it can’t have a functional dining room. With this house plan you won’t just save on heating and cooling costs, but you will also benefit from efficient and compact design.  The kitchen is designed with a buffet server and eating bar that are perfect for staging your Thanksgiving dinner.

dining room
A dining room doesn’t have to be formal. This house plan gives you the perfect space for a family meal while keeping an open and airy feeling.

A dining room might be a luxury, but if you have a sloped or view lot, a dining room is a big bonus for this home. This house plan is one of the most sought-after models by owners of view lots. The ample windows insure that your main living space, including your dining room have gorgeous views. A large central island in the kitchen doesn’t hurt either as you’re setting up your feast.

Whether you will be hosting your first Thanksgiving in your new home or you’re a seasoned pro at your family’s annual turkey dinner, you will want to take a look at a house plan with a dining room. Not only will it give you a space for lots of family memories, but you will be thankful for it down the line as your family gets bigger. Take a look through Direct from the Designers top-selling house plans and see if you can find a home that meets your needs.

You’re ready to build your dream home. (Congratulations!)

You’ve sifted through architecture and design books, looked at models and developed a sense of what you like and don’t like. But now comes the important question – should you design a custom home from scratch or stick to a stock floor plan?

Overall, stock floor plans are an excellent choice. Why?

ranch house plans, floor plans
This best-selling ranch floor plan features fabulous curb appeal with a mix of Boral® Bricks and Cultured Stone®.

Variety: Looking for ranch house plans? Two-story Victorian-style plans? You may think pre-made plans will limit your choices, but you’d be surprised. Unlike many years ago, there are many different types of floor plans available from architects, designers and builders. With so many choices out there, you’re sure to find the perfect plan to suit you and your family’s needs.

Details: What if you find a pre-designed plan you like, but you want to make minor tweaks? No worries – most stock floor plans can be easily modified to your desires. Common changes include making a mirror image of the plan, moving walls and adding small features such as a fireplace.

Cost: Having an architect create a custom floor plan is typically a pricy endeavor that can set you back thousands of dollars. Stock home plans, on the other hand, are far more budget-friendly. You get the advantage of using a professionally designed plan for a fraction of the price.

Time: If you’re on a tight schedule, stock floor plans are an excellent option. These plans are ready as soon as you buy it – whereas custom house plans can take weeks (or even months) to create and approve. You may go through several versions of a custom-designed plan before you are comfortable with the final version.

Reassurance: Building a custom-designed home means doing things no one has done before. Even the smallest details and decisions can be nerve-racking. When you purchase pre-designed stock home plans, you may be able to find an identical home that’s already been finished, so you can easily see how your home will look. You can also visit online forums to talk to others who are using the same plan.

Tips to remember:

  • Find out if your neighborhood has any building restrictions or requires your home to meet any specifications.
  • Be sure your stock floor plans are in accordance with local building codes.
  • Ask about the credentials of the planner who created your stock house plans.
  • You want your home to be unique, but not to stick out like a sore thumb – choose a stock floor plan that suits your home’s surroundings.

 

House Plans with Fabulous Kitchen Floor Plans

open kitchen floor plan

1 — A regal kitchen like this from the Chatham House Plan has every amenity a homeowner could crave. With rich hardwood floors from Lumber Liquidators® and granite countertops, it has a clean and sophisticated appearance that will be in vogue for years to come. Top off the kitchen with some pendant lights over the counter and you have a kitchen table ready for multiple purposes. Of course, all this luxury is not without practicality, as this kitchen’s storage needs are covered by effective use of custom cabinetry from KraftMaid.®

luxury kitchen design

2 — A kitchen like this doubles as a dining room, ideal for entertaining a small dinner party.  Stylish and elegant cabinetry and countertops are perfectly paired with these 5-Star appliances.  When it comes to luxury and performance the technology of Wolf® and Sub-Zero® Appliances remain favorites for high-end homes. You can also customize the way you cook with their virtual kitchen designer. The award-winning kitchen is part of the Retreat at Water””s Edge House Plan which won “Best of Show” at the Seattle Street of Dreams and AIBD Design Competition.

luxury kitchen home design

3 — An open floor plan blends the kitchen and the living areas together, making it ideal for a cozy family gathering. This luxury kitchen floor plan features a Wolf® range top, which is perfect for the chef of the family, and the island can double as a buffet for entertaining.  A Delta® faucet sits center stage at the kitchen sink and an ornate tile backsplash behind the range adds a decorative finishing touch.

 

luxury craftsman kitchen design

4 — Not an inch of storage is wasted in this European-influenced kitchen.  The KraftMaid® center island includes drawers that make keeping countertops clear a breeze. Stainless steel appliances from Jenn-Air offset the crisp white countertop and island.  Adding appliances to compliment your cabinetry is easy with Jenn-Air’s® DesignVision app for iPhone.  The light tile and cabinetry are offset by dark flooring from Lumber Liquidators.®

luxury kitchen home plan

5 —  A thoughtful layout for a family, this spacious kitchen floor plan blends form and function with country styling. At the center of this kitchen is an island with two sink-prep areas outfitted with Delta® faucets.  Light square tiles and chandelier lighting from LAMPS PLUS® offset the dark marble. This cozy kitchen is the perfect place to prep meals and spend time together as a family.

Let the Sunshine In: Daylight Savings Time Returns

 It might not feel like it right now, but spring is on its way.  Sunday March 10th marks the beginning of daylight savings time, and we will once again spring forward into daylight.  A few more hours of daylight are a precious commodity that can heighten spirits as we move into springtime.

This house plan, with a large covered porch makes for a perfect place to spend a temperate spring evening. Plant a colorful garden surrounding the porch and you will have a lovely evening and weekend oasis.

 

What can you do with extra daylight? According to Lowe’s, you can prepare your home for use during the long warm late spring and summer nights.

1.     You can begin by cleaning and washing the exterior of your home, including your patio and desk. It is important to finish cleaning before you plant your garden beds so that you don’t disturb any new plants. You can also clean your outdoor furniture and consider covering it until after the pollen has fallen.

2.     Then, you can tune up your outdoor power equipment.  This includes making sure that your lawn mower is in perfect condition. You can take the initiative by checking the engine oil, changing the blades, and even restringing your trimmer.

3.     Trim and shape bushes around your yard and cut down low hanging tree branches. It’s best to complete this task early and clean up the pieces before you plant in your flowerbeds.

4.     Place a new layer of pine straw or mulch in your beds to freshen them up. Just be sure to check with your homeowner’s association for restrictions.

5.     Plan. This step is the most fun.  Take a moment and plan where you want to add color with your spring landscape.  Consider adding spring bulbs or perennials to your flowerbeds or you can decide to undertake planting a vegetable or herb garden.

Need some air? This farmhouse plan has two large porches for the perfect getaway without leaving home. This house is the perfect place to entertain some evening guests with a pitcher of iced tea as you overlook a beautiful garden and watch the sunset.

 

Daylight savings time will bring with it the chance to do spend more time doing many outdoor activities, but if you plan on using a porch or patio during the spring and summer, a few simple tasks can make your outdoor space much more enjoyable and create an outdoor oasis from the second the clocks spring forward on Sunday March 10th at 2 a.m.

 

Quartz vs. Granite Kitchen Countertops

A kitchen counter is a space that is used for more than just cooking.  It’s where kids do their homework and eat breakfast, and it is no surprise that they will probably take a lot of abuse during their lifetime. In recent years, quartz countertops have been on the rise. If you are thinking of the crystals that you would use during your high school experiments, think again. The quartz countertops found on the market today are stylish and fresh, and have their own benefits when it comes to making a smart choice for your kitchen counters.

This beautiful country kitchen will stand the test of time with these granite countertops.

Since your kitchen counters are bound to be a surface that will take a lot of abuse, one of the most important decisions regarding selecting a counter is surface durability. Before you worry about limitations of style and color, let’s begin by saying that both quartz and granite are available in a wide variety of colors and styles, making it easy to adapt either into your kitchen house plan.

Granite is a very strong material that resists cracking and chipping but quartz rates higher on the hardness scale. Quartz is also non-porous, which means it resists common stains such as oil, coffee, and wine better and is very easy to clean.  Granite on the other hand, is composed of a crystalline structure that is composed of several fissures that requires regular sealing. This maintenance needs to be done about once a year or you run the risk of staining your granite or letting bacteria fester inside. Quartz on the other hand offers superior protection against pathogens.

This beautiful kitchen with white cabinetry has a beautiful quartz countertop surface that will resist staining.

Cost is another factor in choosing your countertops. While both make excellent choices for kitchen counters, the cost of the materials can vary greatly. Granite tends to be the more expensive material, depending on style.  Quartz countertops can vary widely, but given the ease in maintaining the countertop, you might find the higher cost to be more practical than unreasonable.

Overall, the choice of granite or quartz countertops is really a matter of preference, but one thing is certain. When it comes to installing your countertops, make sure it is done by a specialist.  Hiring a specialist will reduce the risk of chipping, breaking or fissuring. Check out these fabulous kitchen collections for Direct from the Designers to start creating your dream kitchen house plan.

Save Your Pennies and Make a Floor of Money

When it comes to flooring, there are your standard materials: carpet, hardwood and tile. In Garfield, Pennsylvania, however a woman decided to use a different building material, pennies.

artisan tattoo gallery
This newly opened artisan tattoo gallery and coffee shop in Garfield, Pennsylvania now has a shiny copper floor made of pennies.

Yes, that’s right, copper pennies. ABC News reported that Mel Angst, who runs a Pittsburgh-area tattoo parlor with her husband was looking for a unique way to tile her parlor, called Artisan Tattoo Shop. She picked up the pennies from a local bank and traded her services as a tattoo artist for manpower.  The task took 300 hours and over three weeks to complete. The results was approximately 800 square feet in Lincoln profiles.

“My floor is made out of about 250,000 pennies,” Angst told ABC Pittsburgh affiliate WTAE. “Amazingly enough, it’s a lot cheaper to glue money to your floor than to actually buy tile. It’s about $3 a square foot.”

After the floor was laid down, Artisan had a gallery show where patrons could view the new floor, and anyone who logged 30 hours or more of penny tiling, would be promised a free penny tattoo.

What”s even more interesting is that this is apparently not the first time someone had the brilliant idea to use pennies to tile a floor. At New York”s Standard Hotel restaurant The Standard Grill the floor is literally tiled in thousands of copper pennies, adding a unique vibe to the interior decor.

Domino magazine
This image, featured in Domino magazine, features cork penny rounds being used in a breakfast nook. They complete the space, calling attention to the chairs while everything else around it is square.

Picking up a quarter million pennies might be as easy as going to your local bank, but if you aren’t  interested in metallic, but like the look of rounded tiles there are a number of places that sell what are known as “penny rounds.” They are tiles, measuring about three quarters of an inch in diameter shaped like tiny circles.  In short, they are about the size of a penny.

Your next question might be, where you should use these tiles.  Tile flooring is common in kitchens and bathrooms, and pennyrounds can be used for either. Like other tiles, penny rounds can also be used for flooring or walls, even as accents over a countertop.

large kitchen with a breakfast nook
This house plan features a large kitchen with a breakfast nook as well as 2.5 bathrooms, all perfect spaces to make use of some penny rounds.

If you are enamored by the concept of rounded tiles then make sure to check out our collection of Fabulous Kitchen House Plans.

 

Affordable Fireplaces for Your Home Design

No matter what size or style home you have, adding a fireplace to your home design will create a warm and cozy living space. Traditional fireplaces are not the most energy efficient, but you can still enjoy the comfort and warmth of a fire without wasting energy by installing an electric fireplace or insert instead. Here are three beautiful built-in electric fireplaces that are also affordable to operate:

home design
The Kendal Electric Fireplace from Dimplex® has traditional grace and elegance. Take a look at our collection of traditional house plans for beautiful homes that complement this fireplace.

 

This Dimplex® Kendal electric fireplace is beautifully crafted and operates at a low cost.  You get the look and feel of a fireplace without having to retrieve wood.  The Kendal electric fireplace operates for pennies an hour, four cents with flame only and nine cents with the heat cycling at fifty percent.  With high-efficiency and beautiful craftsmanship, this would make a beautiful centerpiece to any room.

home design
The Modern Flames® Home Fire series is a more contemporary fireplace. With sleek lines this hearth will look perfect in any of our contemporary house plans.

The Home Fire series from Modern Flames® operates with a low energy LED flame.  Unlike the Dimplex® model, this fireplace is sleeker with a more contemporary fit and finish. This fireplace can be used with or without heat, so the ambiance of a fire can be found enjoyed all year around.

home design
The Lennox® Ravelle™ fireplace comes with a variety of facing and insert options, making it perfect for any decor. Take a look at our collection of French country house plans for design ideas.

The Lennox® Ravelle™ fireplace is a high-efficiency, furnace-rated fireplace.  With everything from white to black arches to nickel, gold, and black inserts, this fireplace is a stylish fireplace that will meet high heating demands. This is perfect for anyone who wants lots of options and can””t quite find the perfect fireplace for their decor.

The charm of a fireplace is enthralling, but it doesn””””t have to be expensive. Consider an electric fireplace and make sure you get the most for the cost of your heating bill.  These beautiful fireplaces are energy-efficient and perfect for your home and any style home.  Take a look at any of Direct from the Designers”””” specialty collections and you are sure to find the right match for your vision.

 

House Plans: Inspiring Outdoor Living Spaces

Her Dream Home: Outdoor Living Spaces
Direct from the Designers presents Her Dream Home Magazine. This issue features fabulous outdoor living spaces so you can enjoy the summer outdoors with family and friends.

Now that summer is in full swing it is the perfect time to think about cookouts, backyard swimming and creating outdoor living space to enjoy with family and friends.  Something as simple as a covered patio or a grilling station or as extravagant as a fully functional outdoor kitchen with a dining area and fireplace that surrounds a custom pool and patio, can increase the amount of time you spend outdoors.

This issue of Her Dream Home features house plans with our best outdoor living spaces to inspire you to design a new outdoor area or to redesign your existing space. You’ll find everything from covered patios, grilling stations, dining and sitting areas, fully equipped gourmet kitchens, custom pools and much more in a wide range of architectural styles. A personal favorite is the Terrebonne House Plan featured on the cover. This two-story European-styled home is absolutely gorgeous inside and out and features plenty of photographs.

You’ll also find some great articles including Stepping Outside: Creating an Outdoor Living Area featuring innovative design ideas and tips including helpful suggestions for lighting, patio furniture, decks and more!  To inspire the cook in all of us, there’s 5 Sizzling Tips for Cooking Outdoors so you can create the perfect grilled dishes.

This is also the perfect time to think about building a new home or remodeling your existing home. The key to a well-designed house plan is one that offers flexibility with an open floor plan and bonus spaces. Learn about all the benefits of an open floor design in Create a Spacious Home with an Open Floor Plan.