Let’s start at the beginning… the very beginning.
I’m Ashley. I like houses. I like designing them, decorating them, working on them, just looking at them, writing about them, all of it. I used to have a really nice house, but then I got divorced, sold it, and moved into a little apartment. And while I love apartment life for a multitude of reasons, I also have four sons that need space and I would like something more permanent.
So, I decided to design and build a house.
Why build a home instead of buying one?
Would buying a house that already existed have been faster, easier, and way more simple? Heck yes. So, so much easier. Like 100 times easier. Did buying a preexisting house sound like any fun to me though? Absolutely not.
What I was looking for was something to be excited about. Something to force my eyes to focus forward instead of backward. A project that I love, and that is all my own. So I bought a sketchbook and a little piece of land, and I got busy designing a new home for me and my boys.
I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, except something different. Different from what I had, different from what you see all day every day around here. I live in South Central Texas, and the homes here are beautiful…and also, they all look the damn same. It’s all Texas Tuscan and farmhouse, over and over and over. I wanted something bold, fresh, and different…both for the area and for myself.
The question I had to ask myself was…“What is the opposite of a farmhouse?” The answer was pretty obvious…a modern house.
So, modern it was.
New house wants and needs
When designing my last house, I wrote a post about my “must-haves” for that house. That list was ten things long, but I really had like 100. I thought about writing a post like that for this house too, except my list for this house really only five things. So here there are, in no particular order.
- Something small-ish, right around the size of my first house (which was 1600 sq ft).
- Something that could still be considered “open-concept”, but not nearly as open as my last house (a 3,000 sq ft farmhouse that couldn’t have been more open).
- Something different, with plenty of personality
- Three bedrooms, two or 2.5 baths, and a small office
- A one-car garage with room for storage (bikes, skateboards, fishing gear, tools, etc)
The (unintentional) Inspiration
One night, while perusing the internet for modern home inspiration, I came across this photo –
I found it in exactly one place…on Pinterest linked to a cooking website, and it didn’t even exist on that website anymore. I found it absolutely nowhere else, despite my best efforts. Also, it has Joanna Gaines in it…who I love just as much as the next person but whose style was also trying to steer far, far away from. Anyway…I loved the concept and designed my whole house around this one photo. Throughout all my designs and changes, that central double-sided fireplace was the only thing that stayed consistent.
Here is why I like the fireplace so much –
- It gives the whole house a focal point (mine will be covered in blue tile)
- It gives the main living spaces definition without completely blocking them off from each other
- It’s different, and I particularly love that it isn’t touching the wall and has open shelves connecting it instead
Designing a home modern house
I sketched floorplans for at least eight months before pulling the trigger on building. I’m going to walk through the process with you, but don’t be fooled, the floorplan sketches below are only a teeny tiny fraction of what is in my sketchbook.
At first, the sketches started really rough…
Then I started to nail down something a little more solid. These next few photos are of the first house I designed. It was very modern, and with the center part being one story and the main living area, then on either side there was a two-story section. The right side was my bedroom, bathroom and closet, with my office and a large patio on the second floor. The left side was a split level with a sunken garage (my lot is sloped) and two bedrooms and a bath for the boys on the second story. A complicated little house for sure.
Here is the exterior elevation of that final floorplan (directly above). Interior design school, which is basically rudimentary architecture so far, is proving to be very helpful.
So, as you can see….very modern.
I liked this design. It checked all the boxes and was unique. I especially loved what I called the “sky porch” on the right side off my office. It had a view and made the front elevation very dynamic. In other words, I dug it. So, I sent it off to the draftsman to make into official blueprints.
When I got this back it instantly didn’t feel right. The sky porch didn’t work like I wanted because stairs are complicated. And also…there were stairs everywhere. I loved the thought of stairs everywhere, but in real life they made everything weird and ate up square footage.
So…I started over. This time I decided to make it less complicated and only have one set of stairs. I accomplished this by moving the garage to the right side of the house, putting my bedroom behind it and the boys’ bedrooms on the second floor.
It was at this point in the design process that I started to realize that I wasn’t in love with the modern look. It was fun, sure…but what I really loved was a similar style that was a little less cold, a little more colorful, and was from the past rather than the present. Mid-century modern homes…that is what I actually liked. You can see in the design above I’m starting to move in that direction with the list of MCM features in the top corner, and incorporating a courtyard/atrium into the design (more on this in a future post, because it deserves more than a sentence or two), and making the roof a very low pitch.
This house definitely worked better than the first one, but it still wasn’t “the one”. So…onward.
This time I channeled all the midcentury inspiration pictures I had collected, took out all the stairs, and then…it fell together so easily. It was the one.
I’m going to have to continue this post in part two or else it’s going to become a ridiculous beast of a post. So I’ll be back to share the final floorplan, elevations, and more of my thoughts behind the design.
Also, I’m going to start doing an “in summary” section at the end of posts. I’ve found that this is super helpful in my real-life conversations, so I don’t see why it would be any different for blog posts.
So in summary…
- Do what you love
- It’s okay if it takes a while to figure out what it even is that you love
- It’s okay to change your mind
- and finally…if you knew where that “onward” gif was from instantly, you are in the right place. If not, then you have some homework to do