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Layout Efficiency Tips for Your Custom Home

My wife and I have decided to build our second custom home after outgrowing our first with three kiddos in three years (yeah). We didn’t know what we were doing for our first one and left much of the responsibility for design to the professional, who did a good job for the most part except for one major thing.

We were stupid and had agreed to a price per square foot without even getting the allowances for the flooring, cabinets, plumbing, lighting, and other features. They could’ve given us $5 for our entire flooring if they wanted because we had already agreed to the overall price. At any rate, we were focused on square footage and yet we accepted the designer’s plan that had a long hallway straight up the middle of the house. After living in the house for a couple years, I calculated it and found that that hallway had enough square footage to constitute at least another entire large room.

Feeling burned, I resolved to make the next house efficient and we were certainly going to need to do that. We were aiming at 4 bedrooms and a bonus room with a guest suite above the garage—all under 2500 square feet.

A quick browse through floor plans and you’ll see that that is pretty much impossible. Or is it? Here are some tips to help make your floorplan design the most efficient possible.

1. Eliminate hallways

I’m not sure if this is a principle in architectural design already, but I came to the conclusion that hallways are wasted space. If you can reduce the amount of hallway in your design by utilizing open connecting rooms, you can tack on the square footage from hallways to those rooms, making them bigger, or creating all new rooms.

This principle requires a fairly squarish footprint. The more rectangular the floorplan, the more hallways start to make sense.

2. Straighten the stairs

Stairs can be really cumbersome in design (and during moving). But if you can’t do an elevator (and who can?) you can maximize efficiency by making the stairs straight. When you have a landing or two, they’ll likely be square and that takes at least 16 square feet from the rest of your house each. Working stairs in to be straight reduces wasted space.

First draft including 3 unnecessary landings.
Final with lots of extra room.

3. Combine area purpose

If you can’t eliminate a hallway altogether, you can give them double duty. A mud room doesn’t have to be its own wing—it can serve as a hallway between the garage and the kitchen. A stair landing area doesn’t have to be isolated either. It can double as a hallway to the bathroom. In our first design, we had the stair landing on one end of the house and a small hallway on the other. We flipped the stairs and multitasked that hallway.

First draft with wasted landing.
Final draft with 16 extra square feet

It takes some effort and some serious Tetris skills, but you can make your custom home efficient and much more enjoyable. We’re extremely happy with what we were able to get out of 2500 square feet. In the age of tiny houses, you should expect no less!

You can purchase the plans here.


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