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.


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.


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.

The Spookiest House on the Block

October means more than pumpkin spice lattes and falling leaves, it is also the time for ghouls and goblins to come out and play for Halloween.

If your new home is going to be in a neighborhood full of children, there are bound to be trick-or-treaters at your home, and a house with the right architecture can provide the perfect atmosphere for a frightening All Hallows Eve.

Victorian Gothic

The Victorian era has some fantastic architecture, ranging from the simple to the elaborate. With details such as stonework and archways, these homes provide the base for a haunting Halloween display. A large veranda provides enough space to display jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, or even some antiquated bottles with distressed labeling.

This unique Victorian house plan features stonework that gives it a spellbinding appeal perfect for Halloween.
This unique Victorian house plan features stonework that gives it a spellbinding appeal perfect for Halloween.

The Villain’s Cottage

Perhaps your dream home is more in tune with the witch’s cottage that Hansel and Gretel happen upon. While gingerbread and other baked goods won’t make for an easy to maintain home, you can still make the creepy cottage in the woods a reality with a home that features detailed millwork.

While homes like this have charm, they can easily be made into scary exhibits for Halloween with a few well placed decorations and jack-o-lanterns along the entryway. Dress as the wicked witch and you’ll have a façade that is sure to fright neighbors and friends alike.

This house plan is reminiscent of a fairy tale cottage, but whether that cottage belongs to the seven dwarfs or the wicked witch, remains a question.

Dracula’s Mansion

If your dream is to live in that house on the hill that looks like it came out of a Shirley Jackson novel, then consider a large towering mini castle house plan. Homes with castle-like silhouettes will also provide a sturdy backdrop for Halloween displays.

Ideal for a home with a spacious yard, small castle house plans like this can be made into instant Halloween spectacles with very little effort. Put a few pumpkins on the porch, and light the windows artistically, and before you know it, your home will be the stuff of legends.

This spooky small castle house plan is interesting to look at and chilling at the same time.

These detailed houses might seem a little off-beat for a modern home, but with the right styling they can be the envy of the block on Halloween.  Whether you go for understated Victorian or out-right Gothic, if Halloween is your holiday, your ideal home exists somewhere in the Direct from the Designers library.

Our Most Popular Budget Friendly House Plans

The decision to rent vs buy vs build is a common one, and one that can be a major life event. Renting allows you more flexibility and buying allows you to build equity. But building your own home allows you to create exactly what you want!

For those of you who are leaning towards building your own home but don’t want to break the bank, we’ve put together a list of our most popular budget friendly house plans.

10. Plan HHF-7139


This country craftsman style house is one of our most popular because of it’s smooth layout and efficient use of space. This plan features front and rear covered porches, a great room with vaulted ceilings, fireplace, and built-in cabinets, and a tucked away master suite that will make anyone jealous.

9. Plan HHF-3059


This 1,457 square feet ranch has 3 bedrooms and 2 bath and features a 2-car garage with work area, an open floor plan that highlights the kitchen, and a master suite with vaulted ceilings.

8. Plan HHF-3061


This spacious 1,666 square ft, 2-story cottage features beautiful front and rear porches, a drive under-garage and a second floor media room for the kids.

7. Plan HHF-7138


One of our most popular cottages, Plan 7138 features front and rear covered porches, a master suite with his and hers, get this, walk in closets, and a great room with a fireplace and built-in cabinets.

6. Plan HHF-2808


This compact design uses every inch of space efficiently. This cottage is 1,380 square feet and has 3 bedrooms and 2 bath.

5. Plan HHF-4718


Classic architectural elements adorn the facade of this fresh one-story design which has a great room large enough for any gathering.

4. Plan HHF-5458


This simple country home has front and rear porches, and a simple open floor plan to go along with 3 bedrooms and 2 bath.

3. Plan HHF-6262


This country style design features front and rear covered porches, a 1-car garage with a work and storage space, and a great room with a fireplace and vaulted ceilings.

2. Plan HHF-3800


This tiny cottage uses every square foot wisely – in just 1,080 square feet, this floor plan includes 3 bedrooms and 2 bath.

1. Plan HHF-2259


And last but certainly not least, our most popular house plan for those on a budget. Plan 2259 is an open floor plan that features a kitchen for entertaining, a basement with a game or media room, and a master suite that opens to the rear lanai and outdoor fireplace.

Which of these budget friendly house plans was your favorite?

Let us know in the comments below.

3 Popular Bungalow House Plans

If you want a home that can guarantee privacy and still look modern, you might want to consider a bungalow house plan. A bungalow is typically a one to one-and-a-half story home with low-pitched roofs and wide overhanging eaves. The term bungalow is widely used and has different meanings depending on the location. The term originated in India from a Hindi word literally translating to “house in the Bengal style.” Bungalows were adapted from the Indian style by the British and made their way to America in 1880. They remained popular for fifty years and are notable in American architecture for making good design affordable.

Our most popular bungalow house plan features a comfortable lanai and porch and a covered front porch. This enchanting fairytale style house plan has beautiful curb appealland is a wonderful place to entertain friends in a cozy atmosphere.
Our most popular bungalow house plan features a comfortable lanai and porch and a covered front porch. This enchanting fairytale style house plan has beautiful curb appealland is a wonderful place to entertain friends in a cozy atmosphere.

Depending on where you live, the word bungalow was used differently. From about 1905 to 1930 Americans used the term bungalow for any house that used space efficiently. In the United States however, the interior of a bungalow house plan often features a living room at the center, connected rooms without hallways and built in cabinets, shelves and seats. The space efficiency in a bungalow style house plan is believed to have originated from army tents and rural English cottages. The idea was to cluster the kitchen, dining area, bedrooms and bathroom around a central dining area. What we think of today as an open floor plan.

Another popular bungalow house plan is this small cottage. With an entertainment space downstairs and a private master suite, it is the perfect living space for a small family with the opportunity for future expansion upstairs.

While many different styles of bungalow homes developed were based on materials available in the area, the first bungalow house plans were built during the Arts and Crafts movement. Bungalows often feature natural woodwork such as exposed rafters and built in cabinetry or bookcases. These bungalows are known as craftsman bungalows and were heralded for their cozy appeal.

Additionally, these homes are popular for their heat reducing features. Its roots in India and warm climates explain why these homes are such great heat reducers. Since a large foundation is needed for this single floor house, the roof has a vast surface area, allowing the attic to trap most of the summer heat and making a bungalow the perfect solution for a warmer climate.

Our third most popular bungalow house plan is this piece of Americana. This bungalow rests on 1,380 square feet and packs a whole lot of value into its space. This three bedroom and two bathroom home also features a great room, sunny porch and recreation and media rooms.
Our third most popular bungalow house plan is this piece of Americana. This bungalow rests on 1,380 square feet and packs a whole lot of value into its space. This three bedroom and two bathroom home also features a great room, sunny porch and recreation and media rooms.

Bungalows are a house plan style that sits at the heart of American architecture. With its simple, cozy, homeliness these houses are sure to delight home buyers and builders who want a lot of bang for their buck.

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.

Fall Decorating Ideas & Tips from Direct from the Designers House Plans

Decorating your home for the fall months can be both an enjoyable time spent with family and relatively inexpensive. There are plenty of great things about this particular time of year like the return of cooler temperatures (gather round the fireplace), fall colors and nature changing before our eyes (take in the gorgeous foliage).

Adding fall touches of décor to the interior and exterior of home will help you transition into a new and exciting season of holidays and family traditions.

Here are some great ideas and tips to decorate your home for the fall from the leading designers and architects of American’s most popular house plans:

Dress Up Your Porch

You can easily give your front porch and entry fall inspiration by wrapping corn stalks, raffia or straw around your columns and railings. You can easily add rich colors to this theme by adding thick ribbons and placing mums on your front steps. If you have children, don’t forget the pumpkins.


Pumpkins not only symbolize Halloween but fall harvest. The best thing about using pumpkins to decorate your porch or entryway is that you can turn them into Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween night, while snacking on homemade pumpkin seeds.

Light Up Your Home’s Exterior

Luminaries are not just for the winter holiday season, they are perfect for fall too as the sun starts to set earlier in the afternoon. Try some harvest string lights in fall colors, Maple leaf garland string lights and of course there’s a wide selection of Halloween themed lights. Battery powered candles placed inside paper bags with sand in the bottom, makes perfect luminaries for your walkway and front stairs.

Nature-inspired Door Wreath

Welcome visitors with a beautiful autumn wreath at your front entry door. You can use simple grapevine wreaths, which are gorgeous on their own. If you prefer more adornment consider adding pinecones, leaves, berries and corn husks to your wreath. If you have a lot of windows that face the front of your home, consider hanging similar wreaths from these windows as well.

Roll Out the Welcome Mat

Accent your front entry with a fall themed doormat. Whether you’re searching for a harvest, football, school or any other fall theme, there’s a bounty of options to choose from. To help with visitors tracking in the elements, you should consider both an outdoor doormat and an indoor entrance mat.

Use Your Fireplace Mantel to Showcase Seasonal Décor

Your fireplace mantel is a great place to showcase your seasonal décor. Simply by taking a walk in the woods or your own backyard you can find a treasure chest of pinecones, dried leaves, cattails and red berries to create a simple decoration.

Adding small pumpkins, gourds, dried arrangements and rich colored candles will add appeal to your mantel. Candles will not only provide ambiance, but also bring the aroma of fall into your home with the scents of apple, cinnamon and pumpkin.

Create cozy sitting areas

As the cooler temperatures begin, you’ll want to bring out the colorful throw blankets and cozy pillows so you can cuddle up with a good book or movie. There are so many variations in pillow and throw sizes, styles, prints and textures that you can give your living room a whole new look for the fall.

Which of these fall decorating ideas will you be implementing in your home?

Let us know in the comments below.

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

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

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

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


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 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.

Landscaping Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Nothing quite says summer like a beautiful garden. Now that you have built your dream home the next step is to start working on the greenery surrounding it.  You’ve done the hard part in selecting your house plan and building your house, now comes the fun of planting and cultivating an outdoor oasis for yourself.  Here are a few helpful tips so that your outdoor space doesn’t go to waste.

The plants surrounding this outdoor kitchen look natural and beautiful. There might be a deck separating the owner of this home from nature but they can still enjoy a little bit of nature in their garden. Read more about this French Country house plan for more.

Soil is your friend. Planting a nice looking garden is all about the soil. During construction developers will often clear the land and scrape off the top soil before they build the house. After construction is complete they might put a few inches of soil back. You should make sure there is a good amount of soil left so that your plants can take root.  This means that you should have a soil depth of more than two inches. Without a sufficient soil depth your flowers will die.

Remember that plants grow. A cute little sapling might look adorable at the nursery but after years in a yard it will take root and grow. Make sure that when you go plant shopping, you read the label, or you do a little research to see what the size of a mature plant will be.  It might also be tempting to plant your sapling right next to your house. You need to factor in the space you need for your tree at maturity because otherwise you will end up with branches uncomfortably close.

Create garden rooms. Before you start planting, go for a walk in the park or in the woods and notice how plants grow. Are they along the edges? Are they alone? The answer to both of these questions is usually no.  The best advice here to is move away from edges and to use multiple of the same plant in your landscape design.

This craftsman cottage has a beautiful garden behind it. The pool is surrounded by color and nature but the repetition of plants ties it all together.

Don’t use a hatchet where a scalpel is needed.  It is a common saying but it occurs in landscaping too. If you own a chainsaw it should not come out to prune your bushes and trees. Not only are chainsaws dangerous if not used properly but the use of a machine sometimes makes someone shape all there bushes into something resembling a topiary. There is a place for this, and then there is overkill. Try to keep your bushes and trees looking as natural as possible, the result will look less formal.


Don’t be afraid of help. If the idea of planting your own landscape makes you a little nauseous, don’t be. Just like how you can be your own contractor and subcontract out some of the more technical jobs, you can hire someone to plan and plant your landscape. Whether you just make a plan and you do DIY projects on the weekends or your landscaper does the whole thing from start to finish you might appreciate the extra help.

Remember, your landscape is meant to be enjoyed. A well designed landscape can offer a peaceful retreat from the stress of a day and it can be further enjoyed with outdoor furniture and designated outdoor entertainment space.  Take a look at the outdoor living house plan collection from Direct from the Designers for houses that lend themselves to garden serenity.

These Beautiful Modern House Designs Will Make You Contemplate Moving

Clean, glass, light and minimal all come to mind when the term modern design comes up. Modern house design is also starting to incorporate green building materials and more efficient use of living space.

Here are 8 of our most popular and unique modern house designs that will certainly make you think about bringing your home into the 21st century.

8. Plan 3082


One of our most popular modern homes, Plan 3082 is a cozy 1,391 square feet that feels much larger due to its wide open floor plan.

7. Plan 5311

Plan 5311 is a sprawling 4,600 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 bath. An open floor plan and floor to ceiling glass make this home feel even bigger if you can believe it!

6. Plan 8236

This modern design is one of our newest plans added to our collection. Plan 8236 is 2,047 square feet and has 2 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bath and an office.

5. Plan 4765

One of our most popular modern designs, Plan 4765 has a ton of curb appeal. At 1,788 square feet, 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 bath, this home is perfect for a small family.

4. Plan 3075

Plan 3075 is one of our top selling modern homes. This home is 1,388 square feet and has 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 bath. A wide open floor plan with the master on the first floor along with plenty of outdoor living space make this home feel much more expansive.

3. Plan 5550

Glass, glass and more glass. This home screams modern design and is one of our favorites in the collection. Plan 5550 is 4,366 square feet and has 5 bedrooms and 3 1/2 bath. It also has room to store 4 cars in the garage for all your toys.

2. Plan 3359

Plan 3359 is a beautiful 4,102 square feet and has 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 bath and a 3-car garage. A wide open floor plan and a ton of outdoor living space make this one of our favorite modern designs.

1. Plan 5540

Now this is a modern design! Boxy, clean lines and beautiful. This drive under modern home is 3,104 square feet and has 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.

Which one of these modern house plans was your favorite? What did you like or dislike about these 8 designs?

Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation over on Facebook.