The Floor Plan: An Essential Element of Home Design

Keys and floor plan blueprints

A great house–one that meets the needs and desires of its occupants–begins with a well–developed house plan. This1) plan consists of a set of drawings that provide specifications for constructing the house including dimensions, installation methods, layouts, materials, and techniques. According to The House Designers2), a residential architectural and design company, a house plan includes six elements:

  1. Exterior Elevations
  2. Floor Plans
  3. Foundation/Basement Plans
  4. Building Sections and Details
  5. Roof Plan
  6. General Notes

The floor plan is one of the most important drawings in the house plan because it determines how the interior of the house will look, flow, and function.

Elements of a Floor Plan

The floor plan is based on the architectural style of the home. It provides a view3) of a home's layout from above. It usually consists of one sheet for each floor. Floor plans, which are drawn to 1/4" = 1'–0" scale, show how spaces relate to one another. They also include most or all of the following specifications and measurements:

  • Location of doors, stairs, walls, and windows
  • Location of fixed installations including appliances, bathroom fixtures, and kitchen cabinets
  • Room types and sizes
  • Wall lengths
  • Layout of furniture and outdoor areas
  • Electrical elements including lights, plugs, and switches (may be included on a separate sheet)
  • Structural details like floor joists (may be included in separate framing plans)

Types of Floor Plan Design Tools

Architect, designers, and other professionals draw floor plans by hand and/or use computer–aided drafting4) (CAD) software. There are also online software programs, like Room Sketcher5), that allow homeowners and professionals to create 2D and 3D floor plans.

2D Floor Plans

2D floor plans consist of drawings that have no depth or perspective. These high–resolution plans6) are optimized for both print and web. Users can create black and white floor plans, colorful floor plans with materials, and standard floor plans. They can download or print these plans in multiple formats and scales.

2D floor plans are used for the following purposes:

  • Commercial Spaces
  • Energy Appraisals
  • Flooring Layouts
  • Home Appraisals
  • Home Design
  • Home Remodels
  • Home Renovations
  • Interior Design
  • Office Layouts
  • Property Layouts
  • Property Marketing
  • Real Estate Listings

3D Floor Plans

3D floor plans consist of drawings that have height and perspective. In contrast to 2D plans, 3D plans are more detailed and easier to understand.

Users can create Top View 3D floor plans7), Isometric 3D floor plans, or Custom 3D floor plans that show furnishings, materials, and textures. As with 2D plans, these plans are high–resolution and optimized for web and print.

3D floor plans are used for the following purposes:

  • Commercial Design
  • Furniture Plans
  • Home Design
  • Home Improvements
  • Home Remodels
  • Home Renovations
  • Home Staging
  • Interior Design
  • Office Design
  • Property Layouts
  • Property Marketing
  • Real Estate Listings

Live 3D Floor Plans

A live 3D floor plan8) allows users to view their plans in three ways:

  • Hover over the floor plans to view layouts from every angle
  • Use avatars to navigate through rooms
  • "Walk around" the rooms to get a feel for the entire space

Interested in learning more about Home Construction? RealEstatece.com9) provides an online course that is filled with great information.

Types of Architectural Styles

There are a number of architectural styles for homes. Some homes reflect a single style while others are designed to incorporate two or more styles. Furthermore, some homes have had renovations that create a mixture of styles. REALTOR®Mag10) stated that "fitting a home into one specific category can be daunting or even impossible." Listed below are descriptions of common architectural styles.

Bungalow

The bungalow11) style was developed in the rural areas of the Bengal region in South Asia. These smaller, one–story homes emphasized efficient use of space, included warm spaces for communal gatherings, and had many windows and wide verandahs. They were ideal for India's hot and humid climate. The windows provided cross ventilation which increased airflow throughout the house. Overhanging roofs provided shading for verandahs, which provided protection from harsh weather conditions.

Today's bungalow house plans do not necessarily fit into a single category, size, or style, but typical features include the following:

Expansive Front Porches

These wide porches have large tapered beams or columns. They create a beautiful transition between the indoors and outdoors.

Open, Free–Flowing Floor Plans

Many bungalows have dining, kitchen, and living spaces within a common area. Although they may be small, these areas generally feature high ceilings, a gathering room or breakfast nook, and built–in detailing that create a spacious feel.

Low–Pitched, Gabled Roofs

Bungalows generally have low–pitched12), gabled13) roofs that frequently have additional decorative features.

CapeCode

According to America's Best House Plans, the Cape Code14) style is "one of America's most beloved and cherished house styles." Originating in New England during the 17th century, it is a traditional style that emphasizes simplicity and symmetry. This style was generally one or one–and–a–half stories and featured a centrally–located front entrance and fireplace; a moderately steep, pitched roof; and shutters and multi–paned windows. It was designed to endure the cape of New England's cold and stormy weather.

The fireplace provided warmth; the steep–pitched roof prevented excessive accumulation of snow and provided water drainage; and the shutters protected the home from weather elements like wind. The style changed over the years to include more space on the upper floor for bedrooms.

Today's, Cap Cod style emphasizes both functionality and form. It includes the following features:

  • A large centrally–located chimney
  • A steeply–pitched roof line
  • Cedar shingles
  • Central entrance
  • Double–hung, multi–pane windows with shutters
  • Neutral colors
  • Symmetrical design

Over time, these modern improvements have been added to the style:

  • Brick, stone, or stucco siding instead of shingle siding
  • Dormer windows15) that create a more open feel in the attic or second story spaces
  • Increased square footage to include an expanded half story or a second story
  • Open floor plans
  • Porches (extended front, rear, or wraparound)

Contemporary

The contemporary style16) is a "dynamic and fluid category" that encompasses a wide–range of style features. This is the result of architects' access to diverse influences, design principles, and building materials. This style, which emphasizes functionality and versatility, includes the following features:

  • Asymmetrical façades
  • Eco–friendly and innovative building materials
  • Flat roofs
  • Flexible layouts with open floor plans
  • Large and/or multiple outdoor spaces including courtyards, patios, and porches
  • Large, asymmetrical windows
  • Light filled interiors
  • One or multiple stories
  • Sustainable building components

Mediterranean

Mediterranean House

The Mediterranean style17) depicts the character and warmth of the Mediterranean region. It emphasizes eclectic and artistic designs as well as a seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces. Additional design features include the following:

Cool and Warm Colors

  • Azure, cool green, and neutral white
  • Bright yellow, gold, and terra cotta

Interior Designs

  • Archways
  • High ceilings
  • Large window views
  • Open, rectangular floor plans
  • Textured wall surfaces

Exterior Designs

  • Archways
  • Balconies
  • Barrel18) style roofing
  • Columned beams
  • Courtyards
  • Covered porches or open decks
  • Landscaping that includes pavers, rocks, and stones and flowers, shrubs, and trees
  • Lofty entrances
  • Low–pitched, tiled roofs (often red in color)
  • Ornate ironwork
  • Patios
  • Smooth stucco walls
  • Swimming pools

The Mediterranean style is often associated with expansive floor plans and luxury. However, it can be adapted to meet any budget, lifestyle, or square footage.

Ranch

The ranch style19), one of the most enduring categories, became popular after World War II when veterans used the GI bill to purchase homes. The style, which originated in California, was modeled after Western ranches. It is casual in nature and emphasizes effective use of space, convenience, and flexibility. Ranch homes typically have one–story, L or U–shaped floor plans. Additional distinguishing features include the following:

  • Attached, detached, or semi–detached garages
  • Blending of the indoor and outdoor spaces
  • Large windows that create bright interiors and picturesque views
  • Low–pitched, hipped20) roofs
  • Low to the ground exteriors
  • Open layouts in which dining, family, and living areas are easily accessible from each other
  • Retractable sliding glass doors that provide easy access to the outdoors
  • Wide, overhanging eaves

Five Common Mistakes When Choosing a Floor Plan

White two-story house

Whether designing a new home to build or shopping for an existing one, the floor plan is an important part of the home buying process. The following tips21) can help home buyers choose the best floor plans for their needs.

Ensure that the floor plan will accommodate one's lifestyle.

Home buyers should assess their lifestyles before choosing floor plans. They should determine the aspects and characteristics that make a home comfortable for them. Some questions to ask include the following:

  • What architectural styles appeal to me?
  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms will accommodate my current/future needs?
  • Would I prefer a single story or multi–story home?
  • Is an open or closed floor plan better for my needs?
  • How often will I entertain?
  • Do I need a home office?
  • Do I want a large outdoor space?
  • Can I really see myself living in this space?

Image the model home without the upgrades.

When touring model homes, prospective buyers should try to image the home without upgrades like beautiful finishes, color–coordinated drapes and wall paper, and upgraded flooring. This will allow them to focus more on the layout including the flow of the rooms.

Select an affordable floor plan.

Home buyers should consider floor plans that fit within their current budgets as opposed to overspending. They can always add upgrades to their homes in the future. Purchasing a home that will cause a financial strain every month could decrease peace of mind and comfort.

Determine the amount of space required to live comfortably.

Home buyers should measure their furniture and current space to help determine how much space they really need. Answers to the following questions can help them make this determination.

  • Do I need more space than I have now?
  • Am I planning to downsize?
  • Am I planning to purchase new furniture? If so, how well will the furniture fit into the new space?

Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of floor plans.

Most home buyers probably will not find floor plans that meet all of their needs. For example, a living room with a window wall will provide natural light, but it could increase energy expenses. A big home with a large outdoor area will provide plenty of space for occupants and guests, but it will be more expensive to operate and maintain. Therefore, home buyers should consider their priorities and weigh the pros and cons22) of floor plans to determine which ones are right for them.

The goal of home design is to create a home that meets its occupants' need for functionality, aesthetics, and comfort. The floor plan is an important component of the home design process.

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