We are looking for a new residential design to be built in southeast Texas on a 4.2-acre parcel with a large (approximately 1-acre) pond toward the back. (See attached survey for dimensions and approximate location of pond. Coordinates of the parcel are 30.174767,-95.772564.) The parcel is flat, rectangular, and densely wooded around the perimeter (except for the side fronting the street). We wish to have a home that is attractive, comfortable, unique, screened from view from the street and the sides, and that takes advantage of the unique and attractive view toward the back of the property over the pond.
We are looking for a traditional (read: not modern) home arranged to take advantage of the long view across the pond, which is the defining feature of the parcel. We like the Texas farmhouse look, ranch style, mountain style, traditional, country houses, etc. – we’re open to just about anything except modern (this IS out in the country, after all). The front elevation should accommodate a circular drive, preferably a lollipop shape with a single drive located approximately in the middle of the parcel and then circling around the stand of trees (see attached survey for sketch). Although not much of the house will be visible from the street, we'd like a pretty front elevation for our own enjoyment and that of our guests. We anticipate using driveable grass from www.soilretention.com for the driveways.
The rear elevation should accommodate a future swimming pool and a view out across the pond, maybe with a butted-glass window across the back. We like covered porches with multiple seating areas, and perhaps an outdoor fireplace for year-round enjoyment (although this should not be a huge feature – there’s rarely appropriate weather here to use it). We would likely get more use out of a screened-in porch (or a portion of the covered porch that happens to be screened); perhaps an outdoor dining area could be located in the screened portion. Space for an outdoor kitchen is a must - countertop, sink, BBQ pit, and a little storage. We're not quite sure how to incorporate the swimming pool with the pond; we've talked about perhaps a pool built close to the edge of the pond, with an "infinity" edge that makes it appear as though the pool is overflowing into the pond, but we're not sure whether that's feasible without a lot of engineering work to shore up that end of the pool.
A separate barn/workshop will be built to one side of the lot (see attached survey for sketch) and will be accessible via a branch off the main driveway. This will be an attractive, landscaped building, and does not necessarily need to be screened from view from the house. Because of its location and the need for driveway access, the garage(s) likely need to be located on that side of the property. Speaking of garages, we need enclosed garage space for four cars, and we prefer them a little oversized so there’s room to move around even when vehicles are parked inside. A small covered carport over the garage doors might be nice as well. A huge plus would be walk-up or walk-in (access from second floor) storage above the garage. We have way more stuff than I want to build house for.
We are a family of four, with children aged 10 and 8. The room details given below are suggestions; we are open to (and actively seeking) interpretations and suggestions. While we are not committed to any particular type of construction, local customs include slab-on-grade foundations and 2x stick framing. Our current home features 2x6 exterior wall framing with sprayed-in foam insulation and an unvented, conditioned attic space.
Room Schedule (main floor)
1. Family entry area - we'd like a place to set down purses, phones, mail etc. on the way in from the garage. We have a sort of wide hallway now, with a long bench with cubbies and hooks above; this doesn't work well for us, as it becomes a place to pile stuff. We either need a wider hallway, or a separate room/alcove.
2. Pet room - this is a "nice-to-have" room and not a "must-have". We have dogs, cats, birds, and a lizard, and frequently have guests with dogs. We'd like a small room with room for a couple of dog beds, a place for a couple of cat litter boxes (vented to the outside please) and room for a large parrot cage (about 3' x 3'). Preferably this room would open onto a covered porch or yard area, so we could utilize a doggie door to let the critters come and go when we're away.
3. Craft room - mom and daughter like to sew, and both kids like to draw, paint, and do other crafts. We picture this as a light-filled space with lots of storage and lots of countertops to work on. There needs to be a pair of knee spaces for sewing machines. Storage for craft supplies, fabric, etc. (This room could be upstairs.)
4. Pantry - prefer a walk-in pantry, minimum 5' x 10', with floor-to-ceiling shelving on one side and a small cabinet on the other for a coffee bar.
5. Kitchen – we like wide aisles (42” minimum, 48” is better) and a large work island with no sink or cooktop – just a flat, plain countertop (the one we have now is 48” x 96” and it’s just about perfect). We’d also like a breakfast bar with room for at least four stools, perhaps on a second peninsula island.
6. Dining room - this will be a multi-use space. We are doing away with our formal dining room and its attendant furniture and looking to replace it with a more user-friendly space. We'd like to install a large, casual harvest table in this area, suitable for family meals on a daily basis. But we'd also like to be able to dress the area up for the occasional "formal" dinner during holidays and/or dinner parties. This will likely have to be done with lighting and accessories and not via fancy furnishings. We'd like space to seat 10 or 12 at the main table. We’ve envisioned it between the kitchen and family room, but we are open to other suggestions.
7. Gathering room - this room is where the family gathers to visit and watch TV. While not a true media room, it should have space for a large flat-screen television, plenty of seating for the family and occasional guests (perhaps multiple seating areas?), some storage, a large woodburning fireplace, and views out the back of the house. We also have a baby grand piano that will need to go either here or in the library (see below).
8. Powder room - a small half-bath near the center of the house. Private, but not necessarily hidden. Might be a good idea to have this on the rear wall so it could be accessed from outside for pool users.
9. Entry foyer - need enough space for a large entry piece and mirror. The entry piece is roughly 2'd x 6'w x 4'h, and the mirror is roughly 5'w x 6't. A small coat closet would be nice, but isn't a must.
10. Stairs - prefer wide (say 4'), open stairs. Curved stairs around a piano niche would be neat if they don’t eat up too much floor space.
11. Library - we have TONS of books. This room will serve a couple of purposes: It will serve as storage for a massive book collection (floor-to-ceiling shelves all around), a sitting room for dad (a couple of leather chairs and a side table, or a small sofa and table/chairs for the occasional visitors), a TV room for dad (perhaps with TV on the wall above the entry door, so it isn't visible from outside the room), and perhaps a place for the baby grand piano (if space can't be found for it elsewhere). A small, flip-down desktop for dad's laptop would be a nice addition.
12. Master suite - Contrary to most, we prefer the master bedroom to be dark and private (not light and airy). Windows on one wall only. Room for king-size bed, two nightstands (30" x 20"), dresser (60" x 20"), TV armoire (48" x 30"). Prefer not to have a direct view into the master bedroom from "public" spaces. Would like "his & hers" master bath suite - separated by common tub & shower (mom and dad wake at different times). His closet needs to be minimum 6'w x 10'l, and hers probably double that. She'd like a small makeup table inside the closet, and she'd like her own WC with both toilet and bidet. No need for a huge shower - we have one now and it's a cleaning nightmare. 4' x 6' is probably plenty big.
13. Laundry area - would like a small laundry center on his side of the master bath suite. Either stackable units with a small counter to one side, or under-counter units with a counter above. Also possible would be a small laundry room on the master bedroom-side of the house instead of in the master bathroom.
Room Schedule (2nd floor)
21. Boy's suite - Room for a queen-size bed, dresser (60" x 20") and high-boy (42" x 20"), plus a small aquarium. Lots of book shelves, storage space, etc. Full bathroom with a walk-in shower (no tub). Access to a balcony would be a nice plus. He wants a "suite" complete with places for reading, doing homework, hanging out with friends, etc. Depending on the layout, perhaps a bedroom with a small "lounge area" outside for he and his buddies to hang out in. Think "master bedroom with sitting area." He needs a good-sized closet, say 6’ x 10’ minimum.
22. Girl's suite - same as the boy's suite, except the bathroom should have a tub/shower combo. Makeup table inside the closet. Lots of storage space. Room for books, dolls, toys, etc. Sitting area outside her room for books, reading, playing with friends, etc. Her closet should be at least as big as the boy’s, if not bigger – she has lots of clothes, shoes, costumes, and toys to store.
23. Common area/play room - if space permits, a common area between the boy's & girl's suites for TV, video games, etc.
24. Laundry area - small laundry area with room for under-counter units, basket storage, hanging space, etc.
25. Balcony – both kids have asked for balcony space; whether it’s separate balconies in each room or one large veranda overlooking the pool and/or pond, we’d like some outdoor living space upstairs.
We'd like storage space wherever we can get it. We have lots of clothes, books, knick-knacks, holiday dishes, etc. that need places to stay. A detached garage will be built with the residence; needs space for 4 cars, plus room above for future guest room and/or storage. Additionally, a roughly 30' x 50' workshop will be built before the residence; its approximate shape and location are noted on the attached survey.
While there is no need to provide a bunch of landscape design or other site-specific details, a general idea of locations of drives, walks, detached garage, workshop, pool, and/or any other exterior constructions would be appreciated.
Here is a link to a notebook we've been keeping with pictures and notes organized by room: https://www.evernote.com/pub/ataylor/newhouse-design
In the Uploads section of this project, there are an official survey with dimensions of the parcel; a screen capture of the Google Earth satellite view with our first shot at a site plan showing tree-lined circular driveway, house, garage and barn locations, and pool location; an image showing an elevation we really like; and two images showing a floor plan we had commissioned about ten years ago and then didn't pursue for various reasons. We'd rather the descriptions given above inform your design, but we wanted you to have an idea of what we're after. The plan shown needs work (we no longer want/need a formal living and dining room, for example, and we don't need the third bedroom upstairs), but it might serve as a starting point.
Rooms should be big enough to serve their intended functions without being large just for the sake of "impression." No need for two-story rooms or "open to above" spaces except in small doses (it's hard to heat and cool those spaces in south Texas). Unique design details are appreciated - window seats, unexpected views/niches/details, changes of floor level (although this should be kept to no more than one or two rooms, as doing it with a slab foundation presents some challenges), ceiling treatments (barrel/groin vaults, exposed beams, coffers, etc.). Try to avoid "door hell;" using sliding doors where necessary (barn-type sliding doors are particularly attractive, especially in the mud-room/family entry hall, where several doors are likely to be located in a small space).
Affordability of design, functional interior layout, attractive elevations, thoughtful details, appropriate utilization of exterior views and features (i.e. pond, pool location, garages, barn/workshop, etc. - in other words, the site plan) (not necessarily in that order). Prefer plans submitted in SketchUp/Layout.