Editing the Model Home

If you’re unfamiliar with how home building works, there are basically two ways to go about it. The first would be to hire an architect to help you design your home and then send it out to construction companies for bids. The second way (arguably less complicated) is to use a builder. “Custom” home builders typically have an assortment of model homes to choose from — these are homes that are already designed and you just “pick the finishes.” I don’t have much experience either way, but from working alongside architects at my day job, I’ve quickly deemed them superior to builders. Maybe that’s not fair, but as a designer, I think that a carefully crafted home that is designed from scratch, for you, is the way to go if you’re investing the time and money in building a home.

That said, my parents chose the easier (read: faster and more economical) route of using a home builder. They found a model that mostly fit their wants and needs, and shared with us that they were moving forward with the building process. Initially, Virgil and I were super disappointed by the prospect of all of this — it seemed like a missed opportunity to do something amazing and unique. We assumed it would be a cookie cutter Monopoly house. We really wanted them to have something more suitable to THEM, so we decided to push our stigmas aside and try to help maximize the outcome. Here’s the front exterior and floor plan before we got our hands on it.

 
PorterModel_Exterior.jpg
 

You can see in the floor plans below how there is a lot going on — lots of bump outs on the sides of the house, decorative ceilings (we got rid of all of those), and a pretty silly master bathroom layout that lacks symmetry and is overcomplicated. Basically, we reduced visual clutter.

 
 

Now that you’ve seen how it started, here is some of our inspiration for the outside of the house — the ‘modern Italian farmhouse’ vibe we are chasing. It’s fairly traditional, but has a little bit of a modern edge, boosted by the charcoal siding which is pretty striking. The black window frames also help bring the design into the present. I’ll get into the details of the interior in various posts later. Our primary focus was the exterior, as those finishes must be chosen first, and cleaning up the layout for engineer approval and permit submission.

 

We brought the plan into SketchUp, tweaking it as we drew the model to make it feel more modern and fresh. We opened up the wall completely between the kitchen and two story family room, removing the cased entry way. We straightened out unnecessary bump outs to make more room in the kitchen and to streamline the exterior. We recommended black framed windows for a good dose of modern contrast that would carry through the home. We asked for gabled roofs throughout, and they also added vaulted ceilings wherever possible. Flat trim, craftsman style. Shelves aside the two story fireplace that were built in to the wall, sleek and seamless. Light, neutral stone paired with dark, charcoal siding on the exterior.

The new front elevation from the builder

The new front elevation from the builder

our 3d model with materials — warm, neutral stone, light gray stucco, and charcoal siding

our 3d model with materials — warm, neutral stone, light gray stucco, and charcoal siding


So many little edits amounted to a completely new house, hardly similar to the original model. It was so exciting to see the revised elevation drawings come back from the builder — and made us happier still to hear that he appreciated our suggestions and was excited to try some new things in one of his homes. The house unfolded into this new, highbrow version of its former self — sometimes, paring back on excessive “decoration” can make the most staggering difference. We’re calling it a modern Italian farmhouse, which feels fitting but also a little aspirational, which I like. Gives us something to strive for as we continue through the design process. Take a gander at the full transformation of the plans below! Now, we wait. Engineer approval, HOA approval, permits. They hope to break ground in April, but we will be making lots of design decisions between now and then. More soon, stay tuned — thanks for reading!