When you hear the term “designing a flexible house plan” you might picture a home office that can also serve as a spare bedroom or perhaps you picture the quintessential “flex room plans” so commonly featured in homes. When we consider designing a flexible house plan at My Modern Home, we consider the concept of flexibility more broadly – we believe that homes should be designed to serve their inhabitants better (with flexible living space) not just across functions, but also across time and through the various stages of life.
In this blog we explore the benefits of designing for flexibility in how we use various spaces in the home, and also provide real examples and design considerations that will allow you to ensure your next home’s design supports whatever life sends your way.
The term “designing a flexible house plan” isn’t easily defined, in part because it can be achieved in so many ways, including flexible living spaces, flexible floor plans in home design--all part of flexible house plans. A flexible home design is one which allows for a broader spectrum of use for each of its spaces, and one which considers how spaces relate to each other to maximize their potential.
Studies show that the average person will own 4.5 to 5.5 homes in their lifetime. Often, this is because homeowners find that their current space no longer works for their lifestyle as they move through different stages of life. Homeowners want to “move-up” to more luxurious fits and finishes, more square footage, or a larger lot than they enjoy in their current home.
Designing a flexible house plan means creating a space that continues to function well throughout the ages and stages of life, allowing homeowners to remain in the same home for years (or decades) longer than is often the case for conventional home designs. With a flexible house plans, you don’t necessarily need a larger space to achieve a home that is well-suited to the lifestyle changes. Flexible house plans will allow you to improve your existing flexible living spaces because an effective and efficient home design allows spaces to function “bigger” than their square footage would suggest.
Some of the benefits of staying in one home for longer include:
Improved Return on Investment – Between real estate fees for both the buyer and the seller, and the costs (actual out-of-pocket costs and the value of your time) spent in moving, transitioning to a new or new-to-you home comes at a significant cost. Data shows that, on average, it takes four years to recoup the upfront costs of buying a home. Reducing the number of moves in your lifetime can save tens-of-thousands of dollars which you can instead invest in renovations to your current home or use to pay down your mortgage faster.
More Personalized Design – When purchasing a “starter” or “move-up” home, it is common for homeowners to make design choices that will appeal to a wide range of homeowners, rather than choosing things like flooring, lighting, and fixtures they love themselves. If you are planning to be in your home for “only” 3-5 years it makes sense to choose fits, finishes, and fixtures that will appeal to more potential future buyers rather than truly personalizing the living space to ensure that resale will not require you to update or change these items in your home.
When you choose to design a flexible home plan that allows you to remain in your home for years longer, you are more likely to choose higher quality fits, finishes and fixtures with the knowledge that you are truly choosing for yourself, not for the next homeowner who buys your home. The investment in the quality of a flexible living space items feels worthwhile.
Landscaping; Enjoy the Fruits of your Labor – One of the major benefits of living in an established community is certainly the beautiful, large trees and established landscaping found in many of these communities. Living in your home for longer means that when you spend time and invest money in landscaping your yard, you will also be able to enjoy the plants, trees and flowers that mature and grow to their fullest potential several years after they are planted.
Not only does designing a flexible house plan mean that your home will be better able to accommodate changes in your lifestyle as the years pass, these flexible home designs also mean that you’ll probably enjoy your home more in your everyday lifestyle.
A flexible home design means that you shouldn’t have to shoe-horn activities into a given space – you’ll find that your home’s rooms and spaces flex not just individually, but together in ways that make everyday activities and special events easier and more enjoyable. For example, a good connection between the dining and living areas will allow you to host large social functions even if the square footage of your home is quite small.
You will also enjoy your spaces more: flexible house plans also requires that your rooms and spaces each function well, and that they are comfortable, visually pleasing spaces to spend time in.
A flexible home design will increase the resale value of your home by appealing to a broader range of potential buyers, which can be especially helpful if you chose to sell in a buyers’ market. In a sellers’ market, you will have more potential homeowners competing for your home – increases the likelihood that your home sells quickly and above its list price.
Of course, we all want a home with flexible living spaces and rooms that make our lives more enjoyable every day, and that function well through all stages of life. That’s obvious. What may be less obvious is how to achieve a home that offers these advantages.
At My Modern Home, we create flexible house plans by carefully implementing design considerations that provide for flexibility. Some of these include:
One of the best ways to maximize the space in your home is to ensure that every room in the house is a place that you want to spend time. Doing so will avoid “wasted space” and means that you will find yourself using various rooms for more than one function daily, but also for more functions across time. This is what we try to do when we design flexible house plans.
For example, a space that is a great home office today could function as a playroom, main floor bedroom, or fitness room in years to come--in other words: flexible living space. In fact, a large, well lit home office can also make a lovely spare room if you don’t have overnight guests on a regular basis by including a well-concealed Murphy bed as part of the room’s furnishings.
Ensure that “no room is left behind” by employing the following tips:
Prioritize creating an outdoor space that is connected to a primary living area, such as your kitchen. This will make your home feel larger than the square footage would suggest, as you are more likely to use a well-connected space more frequently.
Consider opportunities that allow secondary spaces, such as home offices or fitness rooms, to likewise connect to (visually or with actual access) to these spaces as well. This connection will make these rooms feel more like primary rather than secondary spaces, making them more enjoyable spaces to be in, and ones that you can then use for a greater variety of functions. Well-designed living spaces, whether primary or secondary, can make a world of difference.
Even small, urban lots can enjoy connection to outdoor spaces. Courtyard plans are a great option for an urban lifestyle, as they offer privacy in your outdoor space and (as noted above) allow for more windows(and daylight) despite bylaws which often restrict the size and number of windows on urban lots.
As we touched on above, when designing your rooms, consider the minimum size that you need for a room to perform a variety of functions. We recommend sizing secondary rooms (such as home offices, craft rooms, music rooms, etc.) so they could serve as a bedroom. Generally, 10 x 10 feet is recommended for a minimum size.
Including windows in all such secondary rooms is also important. As we’ve touched on above, access to daylight is a key element to making a room more pleasant to spend time in. It also provides an emergency exit, which is required for bedrooms in many jurisdictions.
As we discuss below, also consider the proximity of such rooms to full washrooms. If you are able to accommodate a full washroom in proximity to secondary rooms, they can serve more purposes in the future. For example, a full washroom on the main floor allows a home office to serve as a spare bedroom, or a live-in caregivers room. Should you experience mobility issues due to injury or aging, a room that can be transformed into a main floor bedroom with proximity to a full washroom will also allow you to stay in your home as you recover, or to age in place rather than moving to a care facility.
At My Modern Home when we design flexible house plans, we divide spaces in the home into two zones – the public and private zones of your home. Public zones generally include areas such as your dining room, living room, powder room and front entrance – areas where you would welcome company. In an open concept home, the kitchen is also usually in the public zone. The private zone would include bedrooms, bathrooms, and utility spaces such as laundry rooms and sometimes includes the family room and home office.
When designing your flexible house plan, consider which spaces you want to feel private, and which you want to feel more public and welcoming to guests. This is a personal choice – some people want to hide their messy kitchen, and others like to visit with guests while they cook. It is also a practical choice – if your home office will double as a spare room, you will likely want this space to feel part of the private zone, whereas if you welcome customers or clients into your home office you will likely wish it to be part of the public zone.
Once you have planned your private and flexible living spaces, consider how you will connect public zones together using the tips outlined above. Also consider your transitional spaces to the private zones of your home to create a natural separation between the two.
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