House plans: Think about scale

    You found a house plan that looks great online. It has an attractive exterior and the right number and kind of rooms. The overall size is actually a bit smaller than what you had envisioned, so it should be well within your budget to build.


    That's all good, right? Yep, until you build it, move in, and discover that there's no way to get the dining room table with eight people around it into the dining room. It's just too small. But it looked great on paper! What happened?


    Scale. It's hard to figure out how big rooms will be when you're looking at them on paper. The only way to know is to put scale drawings of furniture into those rooms and see how it all fits.


    Several years ago I built a home for a friend. He and his wife had fallen in love with a plan they found online (mostly because of the pretty artist rendering with 50-year-old trees and mature landscaping around it). Anyway, the formal dining room was a very important piece of the puzzle. Looking at it in relation to the other rooms, it looked great.


    The more they talked, the more I realized they planned to host family gatherings where ten or more people would be seated at a table in that dining room. We printed out a copy of the plan, created a scale using a dimension from the plan, then drew in the dining room table and chairs to scale.


    Guess what? The table and chairs fit, barely, but left no room to walk. They would literally have to enter the room in the order they planned to sit at the table. If someone sitting at the far end of the table had to get up to go to the bathroom, everyone else would need to get up to let him out.


    The solution was to widen the room, and of course the house attached to the room, which added a couple hundred square feet to the house. It wasn't a huge expense, as all we added was square footage without having to add heat and air, cabinets, or fixtures. But imagine the outcome had we not drawn in the scaled table and chairs!


    When you're looking at house plan, it's really hard to visualize the scale just looking at the plans on paper. By creating scale versions of your furniture and drawing them in, you can save yourself some major headaches.

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