How To Re-Think the Kitchen Work Triangle

For many modern  families, the kitchen is the heart and hearth of a home, where food is prepared and quality time is shared. Its social value makes its layout one of the most important factors when considering house plans. While the kitchen work triangle has long been the standard principle for kitchen design, it is by no means the only way to make a fun and functional space.

Geometry 101
The kitchen work triangle involves arranging the three most important kitchen appliances – stove, sink and refrigerator – strategically set apart from one another in order maximize efficiency and comfort while cooking. These three appliances form the points of a triangle, hence the name.

This has long been the prevailing approach to kitchen layout, and facilitates the cook’s ability to move easily and comfortably between each spot without feeling too crowded. Usually countertops, cutting space and cabinets help space out the three appliances so that there is some movement. Galley or U-shaped kitchens are most practical for this kind of layout, with one appliance at the bottom of the U, flanked by refrigerator and stove.

A perfect example of the work triangle is the kitchen in the Southborough Cottage house plan, however, L-shaped kitchens can also work, with two appliances on one wall, and the third on the other arm. Island counters can also be used to make a triangle, with dishwashers built into the island across from the refrigerator and sink.

Kitchen

Besides the point
This traditional layout is a great way to maximize cooking efficiency, but, as expert designer Susan Serra of Cultivate notes, the kitchen is no longer just the place where the cook works. Rather, it is becoming an increasingly social space in American households. That means homebuyers should consider what kind of kitchen experience they expect to have and design accordingly.

If a kitchen is crowded with children, for example, it may be worthwhile to move the refrigerator further away from the other appliances so that family may grab snacks without interrupting cooking, according to Serra. You may also prefer to break up the triangle with seated island counters, meaning a more social meal prep that relies on help from the whole family. Your family may not even like to cook, and so can get by on a single-wall kitchen, which bears no resemblance to the triangle.

The perfect kitchen for your family is really only dependent on your imagination and your floor plans – those looking to build a new home should take advantage of the opportunity to design the kitchen of their dreams.

The Pros and Cons of Pocket Doors

Pocket doors – sliding doors that recess into the walls – are a great way to maximize space in floor plans. However, there are some drawbacks to these sliding space savers. Here’s everything you need to know about pocket doors.

Opening issues
Regular doors have a swinging radius of about 2.7 feet, which eats up considerable space in a room for the sake of opening and closing a door. This can make for a considerable logistical problem for bathrooms, especially efficiency bathrooms, where tubs, closets and toilets must be artfully placed to avoid the swing of the door. Once inside, it can also be difficult to close the door depending on the layout of the room.

In other rooms of the house, regular doors mean that furniture, some mirrors and any other thick or delicate objects cannot be placed against the wall toward which the door swings. Furthermore, an open door will block posters, trim or any other kind of decoration behind it.

Pros in your pocket
Pocket doors eliminate these problems. While most commonly used for bathrooms, they are now increasingly incorporated into the design of bedrooms, living rooms and closets. For living rooms and bedrooms that incorporate chairs or couches, the use of a pocket door frees up space for a more spacious, evenly distributed furniture layout. If furniture feels too claustrophobic by the door, the open area is also the perfect spot for deep or even floating bookshelves, thereby freeing up space elsewhere in the room.

DTTR-209_Pocket-Door_s4x3_lgSource

The recessed door also creates a more holistic design space – the full effect of the room can be on display even with the door open. After switching to pocket doors, regular doors may even feel like nuisance.

Constructing cons
While there are many benefits to a pocket door, it does pose its own problems. The biggest issue is installation, which is much more difficult than a regular door. The door will not slide smoothly if there are any slight deviations in calibration during the construction of the interior frame or the setting of the track. Even experienced carpenters can have a problem with these fickle frames.

They can also be a hassle to maintain. A regular door that’s damaged or broken need only be removed from its hinges and replaced. However, it can be frustrating trying to repair any damages or remove any objects that have made their way into the recessed frame.

How Windows Can Save You Money and Keep You Comfortable Year-Round

Winter and summer mean higher heating and cooling bills, but fortunately, a well-considered floor plan and house design can save you a significant amount of money, as well as make for a more comfortable home. Here is how smart planning can save you a bundle.

The basics of passive heating
The path of least resistance for heat to enter and leave your home is through the window. While that means that windows are a poor insulator, their extreme temperature fluctuations can be used to your advantage.

The angle of the sun is key to good passive design. In the northern hemisphere, the sun is angled toward the south, and that angle gets more acute closer to the winter months. Hence, days are shorter and dimmer in the winter time. An array of larger, south-facing windows will allow for the most direct solar gain into your home during the winter, making the most of what little sunlight there is during the daytime.

Meanwhile, on the north side of the house – where there is no direct sunlight and the exterior wall is cast in shadow – it is better to have smaller and fewer windows so that less heat can escape your house.

Landscapes and awnings
There is a seeming problem with this kind of seasonal planning. In the winter, there needs to be a relatively unobstructed path for light to reach those windows. As such, there should not be other houses or foliage that blocks the sun’s rays. However, the summer time poses a different problem, as bay windows can make rooms on the south side of the house uncomfortably warm. There are two ways to help mitigate this problem.

First, intelligent landscaping will use deciduous trees that shed their leaves as a means of both allowing for passive heating and cooling. Foliage in the summer will shade south-facing windows, but in the winter, when the leaves fall off, light will be allowed in.

Secondly, the sun’s angle will be much higher in the summertime, so bay windows won’t get as much direct light. Awnings can be appropriately angled so that they shade windows in the summer, but not so much so that they block light in the winter.

Room selection
Having windows in the right spot is only part of the planning. Much consideration should be put into what rooms will have direct solar gain, and which will only receive radiated heat from those rooms. The Renville house plan is a very clear demonstration of thoughtful passive design.

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The plan is such that the rear side of the home is comprised almost entirely of windows, with over 20 separate panes. Between the three floors, the most exposed rooms are the great room – a living area – the master bedroom and a media recreation room. These rooms are some of the most commonly used in a house, followed by the den and dining room. All of the rooms require light and warmth for activities throughout the day and, as such, will receive the most heating. Those rooms are also some of the largest and most spacious, thus allowing for better air flow to circulate around the house. As these rooms get warmer, heat will spread and rise to cooler parts of the house, providing a better distribution of heat.

Conversely, the garage is on the backside of the house, as well as mechanical, laundry and extra bedrooms, which do not ordinarily require as much sunlight. Also smart is the decision to put the BBQ and screen porch in a place to receive the most western light – perfect for evening cookouts.

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The Renville is just one of many designs with an eye toward sustainable architecture. Dozens of green house plans are Energy Star-approved, meaning that they boast energy-efficient features to save you both money and energy.

5 Tips For Designing a Great Mudroom

Slush and snow are great arguments for the value of a mudroom – a place where people can take off boots and coats before entering the main rooms of a house. While there are plenty of craftsman house plans that offer them, it's still important for you know how to best design for them.

Here are five tips for designing a great, functioning mudroom.

Install large tile floors
mudroomfloor

Mudrooms are going to have a lot of dirt and mud on the ground, so you're going to want a floor that's easy to clean. Larger tiles are a great option because there is less grout – and therefore less cracks – where grime can collect. Whatever material you choose for flooring, however, make sure you can easily hose it down. Wood may be aesthetically pleasing, but difficult to clean.

Include a bench
mudroomstorage

Taking off wet and dirty layers can be an involved process. While a bench may take up a little more of your floor plan, you'll be thankful come the winter months when you have a place to sit. Make sure the bench is big enough to seat at least two people. The mudroom designed for HHF-8383 offers plenty of space.

Have plenty of storage
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Coats and boots will need to have proper storage in your mud room. Store boots under the bench and install a coat rack on the opposite wall. That way, all dirty clothing stays in one space. You can have dividers for the boots, but resist the temptation for cubby holes. You want your shoes to be able to dry and drain on the tile.

Allow for easy drainage

Before anything else in the room, you'll want to have a drain installed. This will keep water from pooling and help avoid mold. A center drain is fine, but the more discreet you can make the drain, the better. The opposite corner of the bench, preferably hidden under a cabinet, is a good spot. Just make sure the floor is slightly angled so that the water pours toward it.

Choose a good color

Paint provides an opportunity to bring some life to your mud room. Lighter shades will make the space feel brighter and bigger, but will reveal more dirt if not cleaned regularly. Dark colors will make it feel cramped, but dirt won't show. Choose a color somewhere in the middle if you're looking to compromise.

Everything You Need to Know About Exterior Doors



For most people, exterior doors provide three things: security, weather protection, and style. There are many different styles to choose from that will allow all three things.

You can get paneled, flush, or glass in front entry doors, back doors, French doors, sliding doors, and patio doors.

Paneled Doors

paneledwood

Paneled doors are designed to exhibit style while still giving the doors quality. They have raised inserts framed and fitted to allow the wood to expand and contract with the changes in weather so they will not damage over time.

Flush Doors

These doors are covered with veneer that can range from inexpensive pine to costly exotic wood. The veneer provides smooth unbroken exterior covering on the door.

Glass Insert Doors

House Exterior

These can range from small windowpanes in entry doors to full door-size panes in patio doors. When multi-panes of glass are inserted into a door, they are referred to as lights. The doors are then identified by how many “lights” it has. Lights are most commonly found in French doors. Full single panes of glass are considered as atrium or patio doors.

Exterior Door Materials

Exterior doors are constructed from wood, steel, fiberglass, aluminum or a combination of these materials. The standard exterior entry door is three feet wide and six feet, eight inches tall.

Wood

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Wood is still considered the most popular material used in exterior doors. The types of wood used often include oak, fir, and pine. Vertical rails made from separate pieces of wood and laminated together lengthwise are used to construct the doors to prevent warping in dampness. This process causes warping in opposite directions to avoid bowing of the door.

Steel Doors

Steel doors have become very popular due to the security that they provide. Most commonly, they are sheathed with 24-gauge steel. This can be chosen in paneled or flushed styles in a variety of colors. If you have fluctuating weather, you should purchase a weather-resistant steel door with vinyl coating. Steel creates great security, but can be easily dented and will bow and chip easily if exposed to continuous sunlight.

Fiberglass Doors

Fiberglass doors are ideal for humid areas. They are resistant to warping and bowing. They require the least maintenance of the door materials available. These doors can be purchased in flush or paneled. There are a variety of colors available to give the doors a natural wood look with faux wood stains and finishes.

Aluminum Doors

Aluminum doors are usually custom made to fit the opening you have. It is a good choice for unique shapes of openings. You can get aluminum in finishes like the fiberglass doors that have a natural wood appearance. Aluminum doors will not rust and usually have a longer warranty, but are lightweight and will dent easily.

Which of these doors do you currently have?

Let us know what you think of each style in the comments below.

7 Amazing Craftsman House Plans That Will Make You Jealous

Have you ever dreamed of building your own home?

From picking the floor plan to fit your lifestyle, carefuly choosing the perfect layout for maximum comfort and accessibility. To choosing the materials used for the exterior, flooring, tile, paint colors – putting your mark 100% on every detail of the home.

Below are seven Craftsman style home plans that many of our customers have chosen to build just like that over the past few years.

7. Plan 4422
4422

Design Tips For a Clean Kitchen

We've already covered general home design tips that will make spring cleaning easier. However, each room of your house poses its own challenges when it comes to freshening up – the kitchen, especially.

Of all the rooms in a home, the kitchen is probably the easiest to make dirty, and the one people spend the most time cleaning. Scrubbing it down is not just a matter of keeping up appearances, but also maintaining a proper level of hygiene. Fortunately, you don't have to cut down on the meals you prepare to keep a kitchen spic-and-span. If you're in the process of designing your kitchen, consider these ideas that will make cleaning up on a daily basis less of a chore. 

Cleanable surfaces
A general strategy for keeping your home clean is to install floors that can be easily mopped and dusted. The same idea applies to kitchen surfaces, the most essential being countertops. The less nooks and crannies in your countertops the better. Instead of installing tiled counters, invest in a material that's easy to wipe down. Granite has long been the popular choice for people wanting a quality, low-maintenance countertop with plenty of personal character. However, granite does require occasional sealing. Houzz recommended stainless steel, quartz, Corian and laminates as options that neither have grout nor require sealing. Another option is to install large porcelain tiles which have less grout lines than smaller tiles, are cost-effective and easy to install. 

You may also want to pay attention to your backsplash. Surfaces such as glass, stone or laminate only require a simple wipe to clean. Just like your countertops, the fewer grout lines, the better. Glass looks especially nice, though it may require a window-cleaning product to keep it from getting streaky. Stone, while expensive, also looks the cleanest. Laminate will be your cheapest option.

Efficient layout
Messes can easily happen when the layout of your kitchen is not efficient. As Better Homes and Gardens noted, spills are more likely to occur the farther you have to carry things, such as a pot from the sink to the stove. To solve this problem, make sure your kitchen has a well-designed arrangement of your sink, oven, refrigerator and trash. The work triangle of this craftsman house plan is efficient in that the chef need not work far to reach the stove, the sink or the refrigerator. Additionally, there is plenty of counter space to prepare food on either side of both the sink and stove. You may also want to consider installing a lower-level drawer for recycling and garbage, so scraps and excess may easily be disposed. 

Integrated drain boards
In your pursuit of easily cleanable countertops, consider an integrated drain board. The design is basically a short section of sloped countertop that drains directly into the sink – perfect for drying large pots and pans without the trouble of setting up a drying rack. All that's required for cleaning is soap and water. 

Plenty of storage
Cooking tools can easily pile up in a kitchen. If you don't have the proper storage for it all, you may end up with cluttered counters and overstuff cabinets. Such messes can make it hard to find ingredients and cook comfortably. By designing with storage in mind, you can make sure that everything has its own place. Even if you're working with small house plans, many blueprints make maximal use of an efficient kitchen space. Frugal homeowners may also want to implement wall hooks, under-island storage space and other creative storage solutions. To keep a clean look, it's also possible to install appliance cabinets for items such as mixers, blenders and food processors. 

Cost-Effective Designs to Incorporate Into Your New Home

Remodeling magazine recently released its annual "Cost vs. Value" report on popular remodeling projects and how well they retain their value over the years. People who are building their own homes obviously need not worry about remodeling just yet, but they should nevertheless take note of the report. By incorporating some of these home improvement strategies early in the building process, homeowners have the opportunity to increase the functionality and appeal of their home while saving more money by doing them during the construction phase.

Plenty of craftsman house plans already feature these kinds of additions or can easily be fitted to incorporate them. Here's a summary of some of the top findings, as well as some ways in which people building new homes can take advantage of them.  

Cost-effective across the country
A total of 35 popular mid-range and upscale remodeling projects were featured in the report, spanning everything from sunroom additions to fiber-cement siding replacements. Of the 22 mid-range projects, the most-cost effective projects for 2014 by national average were steel entry door replacements, wood deck additions, attic bedrooms, garage door replacements and minor kitchen remodels. Homeowners who look at the list may note that the national average returns often fall below 100 percent, however, they should take into consideration the importance of region. A wood deck addition in Alaska may only garner 87.5 percent of the cost recouped in 2014, but in Hawaii the addition resulted in 150 percent of the cost being recouped, resulting in a positive return of investment. 

Steel entry door replacements
While this project is maybe not the flashiest, it was the easiest way to contribute to the curb appeal of a home, thanks to low cost and the highest rate of return based on the national average. A steel door is sturdier than aluminum, more durable and gives the front of a home a sharp sheen. Most any house based on a craftsman house plan can be incorporated with this kind of door. 

Wood deck addition
This was the second-most worthwhile home addition, and if you're planning to build a home, you've probably already debated incorporating one. Wooden decks in particular fared well on the market, and there are a number of floor plans that incorporate them into their design. This craftsman vacation home is a beautiful design that offers a rustic but grand wraparound deck that provides the opportunity for excellent views of the backyard.

When considering decks, however, homeowners should take into consideration the kinds of activities they want to do on them. A thinner platform is fine for sitting and relaxing, but families that want to host parties or live in colder climates may also want to consider lanais or screened porches. These offer year-round relaxation while still providing the option for an open, airy indoor-outdoor space.

Attic bedroom
That same design also boasts an attic bedroom. The appeal of an upper-level sleeping area for homeowners is mainly the added space for more guests or children. Often, the number of beds and baths are among the first things listed by real estate and floor planning companies, as it helps indicate the size and worth of a home. House blueprints that allow for attic bedrooms, then, have an advantage in terms of design flexibility. The upper level in the previously mentioned vacation home is designed specifically to be a bedroom, however, other house floor plans feature the attic as a functional, multi-purpose space. This Florida house plan, for example, features three attic bonus areas to be used at the homeowner's discretion.

The Advantages of Side-Loading Garages

The garage is a main entrance for many homeowners, but it also serves a number of other design functions. While plenty of homes feature garage entrances on their front facades, homeowners may want to consider the advantages of side-loading garages, an easily achievable addition to many craftsman house plans.

A cleaner front
Side-loading garages are often built for the purpose of aesthetics. Garages on the front of the house can be distracting and are even considered an eyesore to some. Homeowners who want a "cleaner" front to their home may want to situate the garage on the side, where it is out of sight. A perfect example of the aesthetic gain of a side-loading garage is this family-friendly home model, which offers a perfectly symmetrical facade that would be disrupted by the placement of a garage door. Side-loading garages may not only suit your tastes, they can make a huge difference years down the line if you ever consider selling.

Curb appeal is one of the main arguments for a side-loading garage. While you may not be interested in selling your house anytime soon, this design choice may be considered an investment, much like the decision to buy a home in the first place. The front of a house is the first impression that potential buyers get, and can often influence their decision about whether to even look at the rest of the house.

Lot considerations
While a side-loading garage can look cleaner, it can sometimes be pricier and more inconvenient for homeowners than a simple front-loading garage. Every inch of driveway costs money, and you'll likely need to pave more to reach the side of the house than the front. Homeowners should talk with their architect or contractor about ways to minimize the cost of an extended driveway.

Another large problem with side garages is a matter of space. Your driveway will likely lead from the front yard to the side of the house, where it must then make a 90 degree turn to connect to the garage. Cars will need enough space to make that turn comfortably, meaning more pavement on the side of the house and a large enough lot to accommodate a sizable driveway.

This issue actually leads to a different kind of aesthetic concern. While you may have preserved the integrity of the front facade, driveways can eat up a considerable proportion of a side yard, thereby cutting down on grass, plants and potentially play space for children.

Consider design
If you have a sizable lot, then a side-loading garage may be a good option. However, whichever way you lean, it's also important to consider the overall design of the house in relation to the garage. The layout in this Mediterranean style home, for example, is positioned so that the garage connects immediately to a utility room and kitchen, while at the same time creating an enclave at the entrance of the house. In this case, the garage makes aesthetic as well as utilitarian sense. While you may be disinclined to choose a side-loading garage, you also need to examine connections such as these and decide whether the position of the garage contributes to a natural flow through the house.

Working the front
In that same vein, it's important to recognize that not all side-loading garages are prettier than their front-loading counterparts. Often a front-loading garage is an opportunity for smart and elegant design. While the garage is conspicuous, the door is designed to match the wood cladding on the left side of the facade, creating a tasteful connection throughout the house.

Housing Construction is Looking Up

People shopping for floor plans in 2014 may find themselves in good company. Despite a slight dip in housing starts in December compared to November, it seems as if the housing production market will continue to grow in the coming year, with some cities already showing historic highs in terms of home building.

Spikes and improvements
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently released statistics concerning the number of new privately owned housing units authorized in permit-issuing places over the past year, as well as statistics on the different phases of construction for new privately owned units. Nationally speaking, the number of permits and housing starts saw a decrease from November to December last year, with a 3 percent and a 10 percent dip respectively. However, November marked an unusual spike in 2013's overall trend.

Compared to December 2012, this last month actually saw a 4 percent increase in terms of authorized permits. Looking at yearly averages, there was a 17.5 percent improvement between 2012 and 2013, with 974,700 housing units last year over the 829,700 issuances in the previous year.

These statistics saw a roughly similar pattern in terms of housing starts, as there was a 1.6 percent increase in December 2013 compared to December 2012, and, in terms of yearly change, an 18.3 percent increase.

Breaking down the numbers
These national totals included multi- as well as single-family homes, but the statistics also showed improvements across differently sized housing units. Single-family homes – the largest sector of housing construction – also saw a percentage increase in permits authorized from year to year, as well as the number of homes under construction. Between 2012 and 2013, there was actually a 19 percent increase in single-family permits, roughly 1.5 percent higher than the total average. Housing starts, however, saw a roughly 3 percent dip for single-family homes. These numbers were then further broken down by national regions, all of which saw a yearly increase in issued permits. 

While the December dip may seem to be a sign that the housing market is slowing, Rick Judson – chairman of the National Association of Home Builders – noted that December's numbers were merely a return to trend after a particularly robust November, and that it was the third-highest monthly level of production in 2013, according to the NAHB. In general, that trend seems to be positive.

"Last year was a good year for home building, with overall production up 18 percent from 2012," said Chief Economist David Crowe of the National Association of Home Builders. "As pent-up demand is unlocked and the labor market improves, we anticipate that 2014 should be an even better year for home construction. That's good news for economic growth, as each new home that is built creates three full-time jobs and contributes to the tax base of local communities."

Cities of growth
While those statistics looked at general trends across regions, USA Today recently reported that some cities are seeing particularly robust improvements. Major cities in Texas in particular have reached 30-year average levels of single-family home building, specifically in Houston and Austin. Other cities that saw improvements include Nashville, San Antonio, Dallas and Jacksonville. When including multifamily construction, San Francisco, New York Seattle, Boston and Miami also reached or surpassed their own historic building levels.

Apparently some cities were able to reach those numbers because they hadn't already been overbuilt. Yet, according to the news source, economists are citing available land, pent-up demand, strong economies and good job growth as other reasons for the improved numbers.