8 Incredible Outdoor Living Spaces


As you get ready to fire up your grill and set up your pool you may think that your deck or patio needs renovation.  If you are in the market for a new outdoor living space here are incredible outdoor living spaces that will knock your socks off and have you enjoying the warmer weather.

4103 Pool

8. Plan 4103 was originally designed as a lake front property but now the plan includes a pool that comes up next to the house. The patio is covered and provides a great space for entertaining guests.

House Plan 2028 Courtyard

7. Not only is Plan 2082 a great plan for a scenic lot but the courtyard is a spacious and inviting place to spend a relaxing afternoon.

House Plan 4298 Outdoor Living Room

6.  It’s easy to imagine spending some cozy nights by this outdoor fireplace in Plan 4298. Not only does an outdoor fireplace add ambiance to your space but you can extend the life of your outdoor living area.

House Plan 4121 Pool

5. Plan 4121 is great for anyone who wants to be able to take a refreshing dip in their own pool. Not only is does this house plan have an elegant pool but as an added bonus, the pool is covered and surrounded by a screened porch.

House Plan 6513 Pool and Patio

4. With a pool, seating, and beautiful water features, Plan 6513 has it all. That’s not the end though, the rear porch includes an outdoor kitchen that makes it a great place to barbecue.

House Plan 7228 Courtyard

3. The courtyard in Plan 7228 invites guests in with the sound of bubbling water and colorful landscaping.  This pool setting actually features a little hot tub area where you can enjoy a good warm soak.

House Plan 6774 Pool and Patio

2. Plan 6774 is a multi-function house with a work at home office, but take one look at this deck and I am sure you can picture yourself unwinding after a long day watching the sunset and listening to the fountains.

House Plan 8292 Outdoor Dining Room

1.Plan 8292 is a beautiful French Country home with a spectacular outdoor living space. We love this beautiful dining area, but the home also features an outdoor fireplace, the perfect place for a romantic evening .

Whether you swim, barbecue, or just want a place to soak up the sun, an outdoor living space is a great addition to your home.  Do you see your favorite setting above?  Or do you want to tell us about your favorite summertime activity? Leave us a comment below.

Top 12 Beach House Plans

Summer is coming and our collection of beach house plans features decks, patios, and plenty of windows to help you soak up the sun.  If your dream home is a home by the beach we are here to help you by counting down the top twelve house plans in our beach house plan collection. So have a look and see if you can find a home that speaks to you.

House Plan 1141 Exterior

12. Plan 1144 is great as a four-season home or a vacation home. The home is designed with an airy feel to it that fits a scenic beach plot perfectly.

House Plan 4657

11. Plan 4657 has many features that the wish lists of homeowners today. For example:  His and Hers master closets, a laundry room on the first floor, and a walk in pantry.

House Plan 4692 Exterior

10. For a beach house with a more rustic look, consider Plan 4692. This house plan features a rustic design and interior design that is both spacious and dramatic.

House Plan 1145 Exterior

9.  If you like a little bit of an island vibe, take a look at Plan 1145. This beautiful house plan will let you take in beautiful waterscapes and the open floor plan lets you create the perfect space to entertain.

House Plan 1189 Exterior

8. A beautiful house plan with lots of curb appeal, Plan 1189 also lets homeowners take in beautiful views while also giving a family ample living space with three bedrooms and three bathrooms.

House Plan 1892

7. Plan 1892 is a European inspired house plan that is designed with spectacular views and outdoor living in mind.

House Plan 4153

6. Homes in warmer climates might like the look of a Mediterranean house plan. Plan 4153 fits the mold perfectly with its clay tile roofing and entry portico. This room is also packed with luxury including an exercise room and an oversized three-car garage.

House Plan 1492

5. Plan 1492 is the perfect house plan for your beach getaway. It make the ideal vacation house for a weekend getaway.

House Plan 1142

4. If you want a great four-season vacation home, then you want to look at Plan 1142. It is warm and inviting, and provides just enough space for a great romantic or family getaway.

House Plan 1150

3. Plan 1150 is a beautiful airy beach house that features tall 9’ ceilings on the first level and plenty of amenities including walk-in closets, island kitchen with a lunch counter and a wraparound balcony.

House Plan 1878 Exterior

2. Plan 1878 the charm of a cabin. It features three bedrooms and three bathrooms giving you plenty of space for a weekend getaway.

House Plan 1143 Exterior

1. Plan 1143 is all about views. Ample windows for panoramic views from the kitchen, dining room, and living space and the balcony provides plenty of outdoor views as well.

Do these house plans have you imagining your dream getaway? Or maybe your second home? Tell us which one you like best in the comments below.

Top 10 Best-Selling Lake House Plans. #2 Will Make You Jealous

Have you ever dreamed of owning your own lake home? One where you can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life to the pristine serenity of nature. Below are 10 of the best-selling lake house plans we offer.

10. Plan 5631- This plan features 3 bedrooms and 2 baths over 1500 square feet as well as an amazing outdoor space. 14

9. Plan 3687- This plan features 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a screened in porch and a daylight basement. 4916A_final

8. Plan 3888- This contemporary 3 bedroom, 3 bath house plan sits on 1800 square feet and has amazing floor to ceiling glass windows and outdoor porch space. 12

7. Plan 1150- This 3 bedroom, 3 bath sits on 1832 square feet and features a daylight basement and amazing porch space to entertain and enjoy the views.11

6. Plan 1145- This magnificent tiny plan features 1 bedroom and 1 bath and a gorgeous wrap-around porch. 10

5. Plan 1144- Very similar to play 1150, this 1832 square 3 bedroom, 3 bath features a daylight basement and plenty of outdoor space. 9

4. Plan 1305- This contemporary 2 bedroom, 1 bath 908 square foot lake house features a standard stairway to the second floor loft, believe it or not! 8

3. Plan 4762- This 1148 square foot 1 bedroom, 1 bath plan is perfect for any romantic couples getaway. 7

2. Plan 4672- This 1300 square foot 3 bedroom, 2 bath contemporary house plan features a first floor master and a wrap-around porch. 6

1. Plan 1159- This 3 bedroom 2 bath home features a screened in porch and 2 sets of exquisite French doors. 5

Which of these lake house plans was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

How to Compost at Any Home

Making your own compost is a great way to save money on gardening supplies. It's also a more sustainable means of living, as table scraps are basically used to grow your gardens and make your dream home even more idyllic.

Prospective homeowners interested in green house plans may want to consider composting as part of an overall strategy to live sustainably. However, anyone can make their own compost pile, no matter the design of their home or the square footage of their land.

Making the pile
Despite what many people think, composting is incredibly easy. To do it, all people need do is toss organic piles in a container and give it a little bit of oxygen and water. You don't even need an enclosure. The only major tasks involved are sorting out your scraps to add to the pile and checking on the pile to see that it hasn't dried out or become too wet.

To start, HGTV recommended choosing a pile spot that gets a few hours of sun a day, is situated away from tree roots, which suck out nutrients from the compost, and is conveniently located. Grass should be dug up and removed or turned over as a base for the pile. After that, you can start adding organic material to the pile. The ideal size for the pile will be roughly 3 feet square at the base and 3 feet high, guaranteeing that the pile will cook while still getting oxygen.

As the pile grows, you will want to water it lightly but regularly so that is has the consistency of a damp sponge, according to Better Homes and Gardens. If the pile is too dry it won't decompose and if its too wet it will rot and begin to smell. You should also turn the pile once a week with a garden fork so that it gets plenty of oxygen.

Choosing materials
There are many different approaches to choosing and sorting potential compost materials. Some people will throw anything that's organic into the pile, while others are highly selective. Fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and garden clippings are some of the more common materials that go into a pile. However, that list is far from inclusive, as TLC demonstrated with a list of 75 items that can be composted. Tea bags, stale bread, moldy cheese, preserves, paper cupcake cups, toilet paper, dryer lint and even cotton clothing ripped into pieces are all good materials for the pile.

Incorporating into your home
While it is possible to create a compost pile without an enclosure, many homeowners may feel that the look of an organic heap is probably not the most appealing backyard decoration. Fortunately, though, compost piles can easily be dressed up with a chicken wire enclosure or even a stout wooden fence. The design can even reflect the home, with a more wooden feel for traditional homes or wire for contemporary constructions. Given the needed size of the compost pile, it won't take up much space in even the smallest of lots.

The larger concern for homeowners, however, may be the hassle of sorting out scraps. All this requires is a small, separate bin next to your trash can where leftover food items can go. Even in an efficient kitchen such as this one, all that is needed is a designated cabinet for a small container. Because compost piles don't smell when done properly, you can even situate the pile conveniently next to that house's backyard deck. When the bin gets full, homeowners only have to take a few steps to empty it out.

Understanding Impact Fees

Jurisdictions across the U.S. have taken to charging impact fees on new developments. These fees are designed to cover the cost of utilities, schools, roads, parks and other community amenities that form the public infrastructure. Contractors may already be aware of these fees, but homeowners looking at floor plans should, too, as they can become reflected in the overall cost of a newly built home.

History of impact fees
According to the National Association of Home Builders, impact fees started in the 1970s in Florida and California as a funding source in light of federal aid cutbacks. Since then, they have become a resort for communities across the country in need of money to immediately improve public infrastructure, as well as those that have been unable to procure the necessary funding through regular bureaucratic channels. The context and legality of impact fees is a complex issue that  has spawned into a handbook from the NAHB that is more than 100 pages long. However, what homeowners and contractors both need to know is that impact fees are now a common occurrence. Developers and builders need to know about the impact fee for their projects and figure out how to offset those costs. Homeowners should understand that impact fees translate into higher home prices depending on where they build.

Impact fees across regions
​The latest survey concerning national impact fees comes from Duncan Associates in 2012, which compiled states' average impact fees. California had the highest of any state, with impact fees totaling $31,014 on average. The next highest impact fees were found mainly in the western and mid-Atlantic regions of the country, with Washington, Oregon, Montana, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia all having average mpact fees between $10,000 and $17,000. Conversely, much of the Mid-West and Northeastern regions of the country had impact fees under $4,000 or none at all. Some of those without fees included Mississippi, Alabama, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, both Dakotas and Michigan.

Understanding the effects
The NAHB noted that the earlier a developer or builder knows the impact fee, the sooner he or she can adjust the cost of a home. Waiting too long could mean incurring the cost and losing out on a profit margin. Homeowners, on the other hand, will want to know impact fees to know how greatly the cost of the home is affected. They should also note that impact fees will change across jurisdictions, meaning choice of lot could determine the affordability of certain home projects or even of the home plans themselves.

Brightening Your Backyard With a Fire Pit

Campers can attest to the warmth and comfort of a good campfire. Around it, stories are shared, bread is broken and nighttime chills are kept pleasantly at bay. Fire pits are a way for homeowners to bring that cozy intimacy into their very own backyards – no tent required.

Fire pits today are so much more than the name implies, easily built into any shape and size and able to be fueled by your gas line. With so many options, it's important that homeowners take a look at just how fire pits can be incorporated into their home designs.

Design basics
The main purpose for a fire pit is communal, a place where people can gather and enjoy the flame whether on a winter day or a cool summer evening. As such, plenty of thought should be given to the design of the pit. It serves not just a decorative element in the backyard, but a centerpiece for parties and hangouts. Brick and stone are common, simple and elegant materials for a fire pit, often built in a circle a couple of feet high, though the pit can be any shape or depth you want. A good example of a classic fire pit is shown in the example of this country house plan. Even without a fire, the pit is still an attractive element of the backyard that matches the gray pillars and concrete floor of the house design.

While a 3-foot-wide fire pit may be a perfectly tasteful and modest size, homeowners should not feel limited by convention. If the fire pit is the main attraction of the backyard, it may be more enjoyable to go big with something as large as a 6-foot-wide fire pit. Conversely, if you have other attractions in your backyard, such as a pool, it may be better to scale back to a more manageable size.

Important considerations
When designing your fire pit, there are a few essential concerns you should address. First, you'll want to make sure there is enough room for people to sit around the pit comfortably. Second, you'll want to make sure that the fireplace is shallow enough that people can actually see the fire inside. While a well-designed fire pit can look beautiful without being lit, you still want the fire to be an attention-grabbing element. Finally, if you plan on having a wood-burning fire pit, you need to make sure it's deep enough to contain the fire, which is its original purpose in the first place.

Beyond the pit
Of course, technology and design have taken the fire pit well beyond its humble beginnings. Metal woks, troughs, tables and even gas-fueled rock piles are just some of the more modern approaches being used in new homes. That means a greater ability to customize a fire pit to a home. A chic, metal bowl design could be a good fit with minimalist contemporary house plans. Sprawling, graded backyards could make use of two small pits or troughs strategically positioned at different levels. Pool backyards could make use of a fire-lit grotto. If there is a design you have in mind, chances are you can find it or have it custom built. 

You even have the option of blurring the line that separates indoors from the outdoors with full-blown fireplace, as seen in this elegant and luxurious patio design. With this particular patio, you can treat it as a secondary living room. Best of all, you, your guests and the fireplace are all protected from the elements, so you can enjoy the blaze come rain or shine.

Money-Saving Tips for Landscaping

If you want your home to be picture perfect, then you should think of landscaping as the frame. The right exterior design not only showcases your home, it also has the ability to put it in the best possible light. Also like a picture frame, landscaping can cost quite a bit more money than you'd originally intended to spend. 

Designing outdoor terrain wisely and economically is in many ways a unique response to lots and the floor plans involved. After all, you would never want to block an interesting detail lifted from modern house plans with shrubs, nor would you want to leave a two-story house's yard bare, making it feel exposed and imposing. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save money while still creating beautiful yards. To better illustrate smart design, here are some tips and how they would apply to one of our contemporary house plans were it built in the New England area.

Account for site
This particular plan is designed for a sloped lot, so that the front facade appears only to be one story, while the backyard reveals a sprawling first floor, a sizable basement and an interestingly asymmetrical design. Given the cutaway nature of the home, there is plenty of opportunity for landscaping all around the house.

Homeowners may be tempted to blindly landscape their yard with all of the plants and trees they love, but that can end up with a large bill for unnecessary design. Landscaping should be a response to the house's focal points and design elements. As such, trees in the front yard would unnecessarily obscure the grand pillared entrance and the interesting stone wall facade. Low shrubs may be a better choice. As you walk along the left side of the house, you can start to incorporate taller bushes and trees as the wall gets larger. Flowers can also be used strategically to emphasize walking paths, creating a strong visual element that doesn't require an entire flower bed. By choosing plants as a tool for showcasing your house, you can save more money than by just designing a pretty yard.

Buy natives and perennials
The kinds of flowers and shrubs you choose to buy will likely be the largest factor in your landscaping expense. Exotic flowers and shrubs that can't handle the climate are ultimately a waste of money. Stick to tried and true plants that will thrive in the region. Better Homes and Gardens provides a guide to the top native plants of the Northeast, many of which are easy to grow and maintain. Wild Anemone and Merrybells, for example, are both beautiful ground covers that can be used to line the sides of the house or demarcate the border of your property. 

Also, you'll get more bang for your buck with perennials. They last longer than other types of plants and also generally cost less. Be sure to accent with at least some kind of tree, which can become an essential focal point on the back end of a house as sizable as our example. 

Utilize mulch paths and built objects
This home boasts plenty of nooks and crannies. Laying down winding flagstone paths can be expensive and unnecessary, especially for a home that lends itself to a more humble landscaping approach. Mulch paths are cheaper than stone and match the country cottage vibe of the front-yard design. 

Buy and plant at the right time
Plants and seeds change in cost throughout the year depending on the season and kind of plant. Research the cheapest seasons for those plants that interest you before buying. Also, you should plant at those times that best guarantee survival. Summer can leave flowers and grass without water to establish roots. In New England, you should also be wary of fluctuating temperatures in early spring that might frost and kill plants.

Save money with the right window blinds

Potential homeowners who are concerned about the environment as well as their energy bill may want to look into energy efficient house plans. However, no matter the kind of home you build, there are simple ways to lessen your footprint even further. Window blinds are one easy way to cut down on electricity and better heat your home.

With the advent of electric cooling and heating, it has become easy to forget that there are more cost effective ways to heat and cool a home. One method, which doesn't require electricity, is the implementation of window blinds. In the winter a house can be partially heated simply by raising blinds when the sun is shining on the window. For example, if the front facade of HHF-4422 were to face south, then it would be a good idea to have the blinds open during cold days. At night, closing the blinds helps to retain that solar gain. During the summer, keeping the blinds closed during the day will help keep rooms cool.

The quality of the blind will help determine its effectiveness in regulating the temperature of a home. Thicker, denser and darker blinds will absorb heat and release it over a period of time. Special enclosed blinds, such as the ones recommended by Energy Star, can increase thermal efficiency by up to 104 percent, reduce solar heat gain by 77 percent and reduce heat loss by 28 percent, according to Energy Star.

Save money by preparing a house for frost heave

Winter brings freezing weather, and with it, the potential for frost heave – a phenomenon in which frozen ground shifts and expands. Houses that are not properly designed to handle the effects of frost heave could require costly repairs and even replacements of damaged structural elements. Here is everything you need to know about frost heave and ways that builders can combat it.

Defining frost heave
When the ground freezes, ice crystals in the soil expand, forcing the dirt somewhere else. Usually, the only direction for that soil to go is up, resulting in a massive displacement of earth that can wreak havoc on a landscape. Structures without the proper footing to anchor it can be shifted and even structurally compromised. Frost heave can affect porches, decks, overhangs and even the foundations of a home.

Such soil displacement is a serious concern: Frost heave and expansive soils are among the most damaging natural hazards to manmade structures in the U.S., according to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. While human health is not normally at risk, frost heave can result in costly repairs, as well as a poorly functioning house. Shifts in the earth can cause doors to jam, warped flooring and even broken foundations.

Areas most affected by frost heave
The phenomenon is most common during extended bouts of cold when temperatures dip below freezing. Soil quality can also affect the magnitude of frost heave. Expansive soils are determined by the presence of clay minerals, and their effects can be magnified by drought followed by precipitation.

Different parts of a home are more susceptible to frost heave. Areas with lighter loads, such as porches and patios, are more sensitive to frost heave, while heavier locations, such as the ground beneath a fireplace, are more resistant.

Many craftsman house plans offer walk-out basements, porches, side-steps and decks. HHF -7779 is a good example of a home with many elements susceptible to frost heave. In addition to two extended porches on either side of the house, the ground slopes away to reveal a walk-out basement. The foundation there, as well as the one-story posts that hold up the back porch would require special attention to protect against frost heave. Fortunately, it is easy to plan ahead and minimize any risks of structural damage.

Protecting against frost heave
Builders can combat the effects of frost heave by making sure that T-footings are sunk sufficiently below the frost line. That line can change depending on soil type, region, climate and ground moisture. Builders should research local regulations and make sure that they take into account the specific soil type and climate of the site.

T-footings are much better designed to resist the effects of frost heave than a slab-on-grade foundation. However, you can still pour slab-on-grade if you use insulation along the perimeter of the house, set up both vertically and horizontally to protect against frost heave, according to ConcreteNetwork.com. For walk-out basements, insulation can be more cost effective than excavating and pouring slabs.

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.