As an Architect, in designing new homes for clients, they first come to me with standard tastes you would see on any house in any neighborhood. What I try to do is to expand their architectural vocabulary and be bold in what they’re trying to do, without spending a lot more money. Part of that is to make their house look bigger from the street and live bigger inside. You can get a lot of “wow” factor if you try some simple things in your home design.
1. Make your house longer, not square. Most people want to make their houses more square in design, in the preconceived notion of saving costs. While this may be overall true, it also makes your house very small looking (and boring). For a 2500 square foot house instead of designing it 50 foot by 50 foot, make your house longer like 75 foot long by 33 wide. You’d be surprised how much more elegant and more expensive it looks for not that much more money. It also gives you a bonus of giving windows into almost every room in your home, giving light and visual space to them.
2. Use the Split level home concept. The split level home was more prevalent in the 1960’s than it is today, but it has a lot of advantages if you modernize it. The Split Level pulls the basement out of the ground. In most of the northern part of the country (I’m from Indiana), you need at least a 30″ or deeper footing to get below the local frost line. Well, let that be the staring point of your basement (or as I like to call it, the Lower Level). That means the Lower Level is 2 feet below grade, which means you can have full size windows. The Lower Level foundation wall is 30″ tall, the rest of the wall height can be wood instead of concrete (whether 8′ or 9′ tall) which saves costs. If you use 8′ tall lower level (to reduce costs) there is a design I like to use to eliminate bulkheads for HVAC;…incorporate the ducts in a floor truss system. I love to use 16” high floor trusses, 24″ on center, and keeping the trusses in the same orientation throughout the house. It gives plenty of space for the HVAC ducts in the floor truss system, and no bulkheads, meaning less cost since you have flat ceilings and no extra framing for those bulkheads. If you need space for the HVAC to “step over” each other, do that in the mechanical room.
3. With the split level home, The 2nd Floor (or the “Main Level” as I like to call it) it anywhere from 7 to 9 feet above grade, not only giving it a commanding view of the property all around, it also looks like a 2 story building, for a 1 story price. You can leave windows open at night because the window sills are 10 feet above grade. You have a lot of visual privacy because people on the street don’t have a direct view into the house. When you sit down they can’t see you, even if you have lots of windows. On the Main Level I love to use vaulted roof trusses on the Main Level to give more visual height in the rooms.
4. Use wide overhangs. Wide overhangs were more prevalent during the Prairie Style period This may seem strange, but wide overhangs (like 4′ wide) make you house look bigger both inside and outside. As I stated above, I love vaulted roof trusses. I start with an 8′ tall wall (rather than 9′). With a 4 foot overhang and vaulted roof trusses, the wall height on the inside is now 10′ (8′ wall, 2′ in the roof truss), with the ceiling peak at 15′. This is because the roof started “going up” further away from the exterior wall. I’m getting 10 to 15 foot ceilings for an 8 foot tall wall price. The wide overhangs also help in summer, by shielding the windows in shade, keeping direct sunlight outside.
5. Incorporate decks and screen porches into the design. Don’t make decks and screen porches an afterthought,…