Friday, August 24, 2007

Designing the House

As I said in the last post, we searched the online house plan sites for months without finding exactly what we were looking for. So we decided to hire an architect or designer. Once we made that decision, we had our next problem: where would we find one?

Since we started our plan search online, we figured an online architect search was a logical place to start. An easy first hit was Milwaukee Craftsman. We talked with Bruce Wydeven, the architect who owns the site. Some of his plans were listed on the Healthy Home Plans site, and we really liked them, but we wanted something a bit bigger. We found his site online, and contacted him. Bruce came out to talk with us, and it turned out that he wouldn't be available until the fall. After our initial discussion, we decided we really wanted to be done with the plans in the fall, not wait until then to start them.

So we kept on looking. Finding an architect locally is difficult. Finding one online is almost impossible. We searched everywhere. And we probably found sites for about 20 or more local architects online. But almost without exception, architects who advertise online are looking for commercial or very high end residential jobs.

Sharad, a colleague of mine at work, is building a house on Pewaukee Lake. He referred us to Kerry Sutton. Kerry used to design houses for a local homebuilder, and decided to strike out on his own last year. As soon as we met him, Megan and I were sure he would be able to design something we liked.

So we started the process of working with Kerry on a design. In our first meeting, we talked about what we liked and didn't like. We like a lot of the features of our current house: the rooms are a good size, and they flow into each other well. The bedroom on the first floor is isolated enough to be private. Ceilings, at about 9'6" are tall enough that you don't feel claustrophobic. The kitchen that we renovated has double ovens, a great cooktop, built-in refrigerator, and cherry cabinets. The exterior details are great: limestone foundation, and cedar shingles with a skirt all the way around the building.

There are also things we'd like to do differently. Built in 1903, the house really isn't very open. Rooms are distinct. We'd like for rooms on the first floor to be a little more open to each other. We weren't sure we wanted a two-story family room, but we certainly didn't want the typical 8-foot ceilings throughout the house. We have family get-togethers pretty frequently (several times a year), and need to be able to seat 35 people. A single dining room, even though it's pretty big, isn't quite enough.

We've been working with Kerry for a couple months now, and he's just about done with the first stage of the plans. So we'll be able to put the plans out for bids by contractors sometime next month.