Four Bedroom Country Plan - HOMEPW13535
Case Study in Home Building
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Missouri City, TX
Steve Iltis, a Houston-based home designer, wanted to create a country home of his own. With a young, growing family and the possibility of more children, Steve knew that a larger home, removed from the confines of the city, would best suit his family and their lifestyle.
Steve wanted a homestead with enough acreage for his family to enjoy the outdoors in privacy. He also knew that, surrounded by so many cookie-cutter developments, designing his own home would be the best way to ensure the quality he desired. Steve and his wife, Jana, found the perfect spot in a growing development outside of Houston called Sienna Plantation.
Having found the property they were looking for, Steve set about planning their home's design, taking into consideration the limitations of the development. Because the goal of Sienna Plantation is to offer a mix of homes with character, each design must be approved by an architectural review board before construction.
Experienced in creating large luxury homes for his clients, Steve began thinking of his home's design on a more practical level. At Jana's request, Steve's goal was to make sure that, despite the home's size, it would have a cozy feel to it, which suggested a more traditional-style home. Jana explains that they wanted "practicality for a family with children," which meant no balconies or ultra-high ceilings that would carry noise easily.
They also didn't need an overly elaborate home. Steve says that, in his experience, people who build homes with large rooms and impressive, high ceilings end up spending most of their time in the smaller rooms anyway, because these rooms are more comforting. Anticipating that his family would do the same, Steve tried to incorporate into his home design certain elements that would add to its coziness and everyday utility.
The Iltises broke ground in April of 2000 and moved into their new home nine months later. After construction was complete, Steve asked Jana whether his design had met her expectations, to which, he says, she replied in the affirmative. "I feel cozy," she said, "I can't believe this is my home!"
The living room perfectly illustrates Steve's success in creating this effect. He says one way that he achieved this comfortable feel was through the use of a lower, nine-foot ceiling. In addition, built-in shelves provide the perfect spot for media equipment, books and trinkets. "Our living room is more functional with built-ins and enough shelves for knickknacks," Steve says of how he created a clever and cozy family space. But the view out the back was the most appealing factor in designing the room as it is. "I wanted to be able to sit in the living room and feel open to the outside," he says. The solution was to place two extra-large windows side by side, facing the back of the house, making the outdoors the focal point for anyone entering or relaxing in the room.
The other half of the living area—the dining room and the kitchen—was also designed with utility and comfort in mind. Seeing no need in their life for a formal dining room, Steve decided instead to create an expanded dining nook that would accommodate a full-sized table. He placed this area in full view of the living room not only to extend the view out the back, but also to allow guests at large gatherings to interact more during meals, should they need to be divided between rooms. "The main thing we didn't like [about formal dining rooms] was that, with large groups, you were separated into different rooms, and you couldn't interact with people you hadn't seen for a while," he says.
The kitchen's overall design allows for easy meal preparation and service, due to a feature Steve calls "two working triangles." One of the triangles includes the snack bar, a sink, a walk-in pantry and an oversized island cooktop, which offers plenty of counter space around the range. The opposite triangle features a second utility sink, an oven/ microwave combo and a refrigerator. The reason for dual sinks is twofold: first, Steve wanted a utility sink to accommodate some of his outdoor interests, while complementing a standard sink; second, because he wanted a window to face the scenic view on the east side of the home, Steve thought a sink might best use the extra counter space. Now, when he and Jana put together a meal, he says, they "do not interfere with each other at all." As Jana puts it, "He has his area, and I have mine."
To offer Jana a working area of her own, Steve designed a quiet space off the kitchen that would function as her office. A nurse who stays home with Hannah, 8, and Rachel, 2, Jana says she appreciates the little room's seclusion, which is created not only by its location, but also by the clever pocket door that allows her to shut out noise and distraction. From here, Jana can pay bills, manage the family's schedule, deal with the mail and make phone calls without the burden of cords and papers all over their kitchen work space. Jana is pleased with how this space helps her stay organized
Another convenient spot near the kitchen is what Steve calls the "drop zone." Realizing that they enter their home most often via the side porch, Steve knew that without a place to set their things, that heavily traveled area would soon become cluttered with shoes, backpacks and purses. So he designed a multipurpose area that provides the right kind of storage for their needs—individual racks for the shoes, hooks for coats and backpacks, plus cabinets and cubbyholes for keys, purses and cell phones—and a large desk area for computer work and projects that require more space. Jana says this area is great for unloading her bundles when she comes home. It's also a great spot for the kids to use the computer or watch TV and still be supervised from the kitchen, the dining room or the utility room, Steve says.
While this is a particularly exciting part of the home, Steve says his favorite feature is none other than his walk-in closet. Customized to fit his clothing and other storage items, the closet was designed so that everything has a place, which helps protect his clothing and keeps him organized. Jana's closet is similarly planned, as are the girls' closets in their upper-floor bedrooms.
Bright colors adorn the girls' bedrooms, each of which features a vaulted ceiling and a built-in desk. Jana says that Hannah is enthralled with her desk because "she can do homework there and not be disturbed by her little sister." Also on the upper floor is a time-saving split bath that's sure to be a plus once the kids enter their teens, and a large game room that Steve originally earmarked as future space, but found more cost-effective to finish off while still in the construction process. Should they have another child in the future, Steve says, that space can be used as a third upper-floor bedroom. For now, the room works well both for the girls' playtime and for Jana's housekeeping: "They don't even drag their toys downstairs," she says, helping to maintain a tidy main floor. Jana touts another benefit of giving the kids space upstairs: "Hannah had a slumber party with 12 little girls in her room, and we couldn't even hear them."
Extra space over the garage offers a second area for expansion. Steve says that eventually he may transition into working more from home, which makes this space ideal for an office, not only because of its relative seclusion, but also because of its proximity to the side entrance, through which he could receive clients without having them traipse through the house.
While most of the home's design draws attention to its practicality, a few features hint at a bit of whimsy and luxury. For example, niches and shelves that Steve added to finish off corners and hallways offer spots for the Iltises to display souvenirs. The main-floor guest bedroom, Steve says, isn't entirely necessary, since they rarely have overnight guests. Still, its richly painted walls and adjoining Jacuzzi bath are a treat for any visitor. And an exercise room off the master suite offers a quiet spot to unwind and then easily slip into the private bath's Jacuzzi tub for a much-deserved soak. Because there are no upper-floor rooms overhead, the master suite has the added benefit of extra-quiet rooms and vaulted ceilings.
All of the home's many amenities, coupled with a surrounding environment Steve dreamed about, make this the perfect homestead for the Iltises. "I feel like I'm in the country when I'm at home, but my wife can still go to the mall nearby," Steve says of their choice location.
The average American couldn't ask for much more.