New “Old” Farmhouse Plans


I love looking at house plans. I built a house once before. I was in my twenties, pregnant with Ross, living in Texas. I didn’t know what I wanted in a house other than space. I’d lived in apartments for a long time by then and was tired of it. I didn’t know anything about building a house, and it didn’t much occur to me to make any changes in a house plan. The house plan we picked was chosen mostly because it was inexpensive to build–it was a simple one-story ranch-style house, about 1800 square feet.

One day, Steve-the-Builder and I were talking about the windows in this house and about first-time homebuilder mistakes, and he said, “The biggest mistake I made when I built my house was making the windows too small.” I was nodding along. Me, too. That first house? Terribly small windows, some of which were later torn out at great expense to replace with larger windows. I never even thought about the windows when we chose the house plan, nor did it occur to me that we could change them. But not this time. This time, the house was chosen not so much for the amount of square feet but for the functionality of the way the square feet were laid out along with the design aesthetics (which didn’t play into that first house at all–never did enjoy how that house looked). And the windows? Definitely not small and there are a lot of them. We also made a lot of changes to the original house plans to suit what we really wanted–so much so that when you look at the original house plans, you almost won’t recognize our new farmhouse in them.

Check out the original farmhouse plans, which we bought online, then take another look at the house we made out of them.

One of the most striking differences is that the main floor of the house is lifted up to the second level. The plans were purchased with the “basement” option, but there was too much rock in the ground at the house site. The most economical way to build the house was to elevate the “basement” above grade so that the entire house was built from ground level up, which not only gives a totally different look to the house, it also brings the porch up and had the effect of enhancing our view. (Lucky!) This is why the first level is built with cement block–it was intended as a basement. After the conclusion to build the “basement” above grade was reached, the siding and roofing were chosen to blend and give a seamless coordinating color scheme to work with that turn of events.

We chose this plan for the basic elements–the huge country porch, the open feel inside, the dormers, the farmhouse-style charm. The idea was to build a modern “old” farmhouse, and this plan suited the bill overall. But oh, how many things we changed! Take a look at the changes we made to the plans, then tell me what you would have done. (I know, I should have asked you all before! I’ll be smacking myself after you tell me all your great ideas.)

One of my favorite things about the house are the dormer windows. In the original plans, these were false dormers. It came as a surprise to me that most homes built today with dormers have “false” dormers, meaning the dormer windows are for appearance-only from the outside. Out of the three dormers on this house, we were able to open up two of them–the one that opens into the cathedral ceiling in the living room and the one that goes into the loft bedroom (Morgan’s room). The middle dormer is above the staircase and for structural reasons had to be left closed.

We changed the layout on the exterior steps to work with the geography of our site. The main steps are eight feet wide and built off the side of the porch down to the parking area. Steps go down from the back porch to the parking area, too, and there is another set of steps on the far side of the porch to the other side of the house. (For easy access to my chickens!) The entire porch, by the way, rather than being of painted wood was built out of treated lumber and left with a natural look.

The front half of the former “basement” (below, left) is a storage area on one side and a future TV and computer den for the kids on the other. (There will be a bannister on those stairs! It’s just not there yet. But soon.)

Above, right, one of the two boys’ bedrooms downstairs (complete with some extra pieces of trim propped against the walls). The bedrooms and the bathroom in the “basement” were drywalled and finished with windows and closets. Still, I suppose you could call these rooms somewhat “industrial” as the entire downstairs has a concrete floor with drains in every room. For teenage boys, this sounds perfect to me. They can clean their rooms by running a hose….. We’re going to put an old fridge and microwave down there for cold drinks and snacks. It’s the ultimate teenage boy cave, don’t you think?

The boys’ bedrooms are on the back half of the house, and in between them is a huge bathroom. This bathroom is as large as a lot of bedrooms. It includes a shower, a large wash tub (for bathing Dookie-the-farm-shih-tsu), a pedastal sink, toilet, and a washer/dryer. (It’s still a bit of a construction area in here.) I described what I wanted, and the plan for the two bedrooms, bathroom, and storage/den areas were brought to me one day by Steve-the-Builder with the rooms and specs drawn out so neatly by hand. I said, “You came up with this and then your wife drew it, didn’t she?” He said, “Yeah.” (We always know these things, don’t we?)

Going up to the main floor, one of my favorite things about this house is the open feel of the living area.

Cathedral ceiling, tons of windows, open floor plan…. It doesn’t have to be big to feel big.

But all of those windows didn’t come without some hard decisions. One decision I’m guessing most of you would have gone for is that garden window (left) in the kitchen. It’s one of my favorite things we added to the house plans. Right, that triple window might be more controversial. Not that the triple window isn’t fabulous–but I haven’t pointed out yet what I gave up to get it.

The fireplace.

In the original house plans, there was a fireplace in that spot, and a single window to the side of it. We took out the fireplace and replaced it with a triple window. I love fireplaces–mostly the look of them. I enjoy sitting by a crackling fire, too. I don’t enjoy how fireplaces smell if you don’t clean them regularly (and who has to do that, hmm?) nor did I like the wall space it was going to take up in this room. The decision went in the direction of going for more and bigger windows that I could enjoy year-round rather than a fireplace that would only be useful a few months out of the year. The result is a room full of gorgeous views and light–but it didn’t come without a price.

Another significant deviation from the original plans was the layout of the hall bathroom and laundry room.

Since we put a bathroom with a shower in the “basement” and were also adding another full bathroom to the loft bedroom upstairs (including the master–making a total of four bathrooms, three of them with showers/baths), we took the shower out of the hall bathroom and reduced the size of the room. That spare square footage then went into expanding the laundry room into a full pantry with room for food and pots and pans storage as well as a washer and dryer. (Yes, this is the second laundry in the house. The boys have their own laundry downstairs and there is a separate laundry on the main floor. Decadent, yes? I’m so in love with the prospect of not sharing a laundry room with two teenage boys anymore. Even more decadent is the part about four bathrooms. For the past two and a half years, I have shared ONE tiny bathroom with three kids. No more waiting in line for the bathroom!)

This decision was based on two things–the second bedroom on the main floor will be used as an office, not a bedroom, and the kitchen feels roomy but it’s actually small when it comes to cabinet storage. As an active cook and a lover of all things culinary and gadget-like, I need the extra pantry space.

The cutest area in the house, without a doubt, is the loft suite.

Morgan’s bedroom is full of angles and light. The dormer, as I mentioned above, was opened up and turned into a windowseat. On the right, you can see the closet that was added, along with a nook that will be turned into a built-in study desk.

The bathroom layout was designed by Steve-the-Builder and I think it worked out really well. It’s finished now and decorated in horsey-theme.

I want to be 12 and have this loft suite.

The plans called for an open staircase, but we decided to wall off the stairs to create the only full wall space in the living room and instead designed this cut-out at the top of the stairs. Princess will throw things down on top of my head from here.

Other changes through the house include windows in the master bedroom and office on the far side of the house (that entire side had no windows) and changing some windows in the plans into doors.

In both the dining room and the office, there were single windows onto the ends of the wraparound porch. Those were both made into doors.

Okay, what would you have done? Go ahead. Don’t worry about me. I’ll just sit here and smack myself all day while reading your great ideas.


  1. lintys says:

    Love all the windows and the light. I especially love the garden window. I might have added a skylight or three. I love that you left the porch natural instead of painting. You’ll probably be glad later too – staining or sealing is a lot easier, quicker, and less messy than painting. I might have used cedar or redwood, but that’s said before comparing costs. I love the above-grade lower level. So much lighter and brighter than a basement. My mom’s house is like that too, and it’s really nice – has french doors in the family room, and doesn’t feel like a basement. I think I would have had to have a fireplace or even a (smaller) wood-burning stove. I’d want a high-efficiency one with built-in pollution controls that actually helped heat the house rather than being the energy-waster fireplaces usually are. Love the dual laundry rooms! Love the high ceilings, the open floor plan, love the colors, and the hardwood floors. Oh, and did I say I love the garden window???

  2. Treasia says:

    I don’t know if I would have changed much about it at all. The only thing I believe I would have changed is added a big bay window in the living room.

    Your home is beautiful.

  3. Kim A. says:

    Love the tour, Suzanne. I have no idea what I would have changed. But who will be cleaning all those gorgeous windows? 😆

    My townhouse is only 1200 square feet, and that *includes* the unfinished basement I use for laundry and storage, so your having all that space and natural light seems like a dream to me.


  4. Kim A. says:

    Oh, I know what I would want in my own house, though, if I could build — a library. Floor to ceiling bookcases with French doors that open up onto a stunning garden. *Wistful sigh*


  5. Blaze says:

    Your place is just awesome.
    And a huge change from the starting plans. I totally think you made the right choice in ditching the fireplace too. I like the extra window look.
    And I want a loft suite thing now too :snoopy:

  6. Lora says:

    I agree with Lintys about the fireplace..another heat source is practical. What happens if the power goes out?
    Having said that, fireplaces can be really expensive, I know you put that money to good use.
    Love the walk-out basement. Two laundry rooms…oh yeah!
    You are the bomb, girl!

  7. Hillbilly2 says:

    I would have to have a fireplace. To each his own. Love your house! The possibilities are endless. I know when you go to bed at night you dream of decorating. You know you do. I would, if I got any sleep at all. With all that excitement, who has time for sleep. There’s work to be done. Happy work! :bananadance:

  8. Howdy says:

    Congrats! It has been fun watching you build and move into this house. I also question what you have for emergency heat – way out in the country? Do you have a generator? We currently live in a rental townhouse that has a gas firplace placed in an interior wall… with no flue? I always thought you had to have a flue if you had a fire – but I haven’t died yet… so what do I know? So it seems a fireplace could be an option.
    I love, love, love all your light… I don’t think you can have too many windows. I’ve noticed with a lot of new construction homes around here that there are whole sides of houses with NO windows… what’s up with that?
    Again Congrats! Nice job, very nice job!

  9. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Oh–re the extra heat source–we have an electric furnace with heat and a/c, but we also have gas heat as an alternative, so we do have heat if the power goes out. We’d like to add an outdoor wood-burning furnace, too, to take advantage of all the free wood (free if someone will chop it, LOL). Originally, we planned to add a wood-burning stove inside, but then couldn’t decide on the right place to put it, so for now that idea is on hold, but we might do it sometime. I saw a pretty little red Buck stove that I loved, so maybe….

    Re the bay window–you think like Steve-the-Builder, Treasia! He said if he built this house again, he’d build out one end into a gazebo-shape, or something like that with a window that extends outward.

    Lintys–I think if I was doing it over, I’d put bigger windows in the “basement” than we did. We were still in “basement” frame of mind and now I wish we’d made those windows larger.

    Kim, I’m hoping for lots of bookshelves in the office, only we put in so many windows, I’m not sure where they’ll go! That, I’m discovering, is the downside of a lot of windows–less wall space.

  10. Christine says:

    The teenage boy den is brilliant, says the mom of a teenage boy. I’d love to hose his room down. 😆 Oh, and removing the fireplace was a good idea too. Your views are much more valuable.

    I wouldn’t change a thing. I love it.

  11. Remudamom says:

    You’re absolutely right about the fireplace. They aren’t used much and the time put into cutting the wood, hauling the wood, stacking the wood is tremendous. Even if you pay someone to do it there’s the wood chip mess and ashes. Snakes like woodpiles.

    The kid bedrooms are great. If my girls see your girls room we might have to redecorate theirs.

  12. April says:

    Suzanne! Did you intentionally give up the attached garage option?!

    The attached garage thing is one of my pet peeves on newer houses. I know they are practical and blah, blah, blah, but especially on traditional designs, they often just don’t look right. OR the first thing one sees approaching a house is a great big garage!

    Anyway — I love what you’ve done with it. It looks like a dream home. Which it is, right? Congrats

  13. Shirley says:

    I think you have done a super job on your house and the changes you’ve made. As for the decision to have more windows over the fireplace, I think you made the right one. The main thing is you have an alternative heat source.

    Great choices. Your new home looks totally livable.

  14. Jill S. says:

    It’s beautiful! I wouldn’t change anything, except maybe to have you built closer to us . . .

  15. Sooz says:

    :cattail: The house is gorgeous! Every time I looked at it though, I wondered; where is the chimney? Where is her alternative heat source, in case we have another depression and can’t buy stove oil?( I learned about these things when we lived in the sticks.)
    Anyway, it is lovely and your boys will be able to play hockey in the basement on their rollerblades.

  16. Annie says:

    I would screen in part of the porch. Or what about the area under the porch? Is that dirt there? Or a cement slab? I would probably make it into a screened patio/sleeping porch. We have such a mosquito issue, a screened area is needed to really enjoy it at night.

    I like the windows more than the fireplace too. My dream is an outdoor furnace and radiant floor heat.

  17. Melissa says:

    You could maybe put in a gas fireplace. Or potbellyed stove gas fire place.
    I think it’s great that you were able to open up the dormer window space. We have sky lights in three areas of our house. If we didn’t the place would be as dark as a cave in the middle of the day. I think you did great. I like it. :thumbsup:

  18. Suzanne McMinn says:

    What we have are two gas wall-mounted heaters. One is in the “basement” and one is on the main floor (in the hallway). They do a great job of heating the house all by themselves. We’ve hardly used the electric furnace so far because we’ve been using the gas heaters.

  19. Suzanne McMinn says:

    April, yes, a garage didn’t quite seem to fit the new “old” farmhouse idea. Not to mention it would have required more dirtwork on the site to create space for it. If we ever decide we want one, we could build a detached garage at some point, but I’m not sure I’ll ever care about that. I’m used to parking outside and I can live with it. (Every time I’ve had a garage in the past, it’s ended up just used for storage anyway! I think I’d rather build a barn than a detached garage!)

    Annie, that space under the porches would make a great patio! Right now, it’s just dirt. Someday, I’d like to do either stone or cement down there and make a really pretty patio area out of it! It would be nice to have part of it screened, too!

    And we were hoping to do an outdoor wood-burning furnace right away, but they’re expensive, so that’s one of the things on the future to-do list!

  20. kacey says:

    It’s gorgeous, Suzanne. I would have tried to find a place for the fireplace though. I love my fireplace. Use it as much of the year as possible. But I would have hated to give up the windows… We put in extra windows at the end of our family room. (what is =up with walls without windows??) But, you’re right. More windows = less wall space)

  21. Jodie says:

    I would opt for an indoor wood burning furnace. Given the economy, it would be a good idea. Electricity and gas prices will continue to rise with the price of barrels of oil. I know you live in coal country, but mining is a dirty polluting and dangerous business. Some solar energy features might have been nice to reduce your heating costs. I’ve got some friends with a house on a wooded lot in North Texas… see

  22. Amy Addison says:

    You know, when we built our first house, I went for space, too. It was a disaster. More space doesn’t necessarily mean more livable and it’s definitely more to clean.

    We’re in a “tract home” now, and it is the smallest house we’ve ever owned, but it is, by far, the most livable…I’m guessing the builder’s wife did a lot of the designing. I do have a few things I would change here, but not too many. But if I ever build another house?

    There will be a bathroom in every bedroom. No, really. There will. Toilets and sinks are cheap. Every bedroom gets one.

    And every bedroom will be at least 14×16. No more of this 10×10 crap where you can barely fit a bed and a desk in the dang room (much less a drum set, a desk chair, a guitar stand, several bookcases….really Teenager’s room looks like a storage closet in a middle school).

    I love the idea of the teenage boy cave. I am so not showing that to Teenager…he’d kill for one of those and I’m not prepared to move right now.

    I would make the kitchen and dining area much bigger than what we have now. Even with as much decluttering as I’ve done in the kitchen, I spend a lot of time in there and sometimes, a one-butt kitchen just isn’t big enough for three or more people. Also, when I have company, it would be nice if they had a place to be while we’re in the kitchen prepping stuff. And I need two dishwashers. No lie. If we remodel, I’m getting two dishwashers. On this I am adamant.

    I love the triple window, but I wouldn’t have given up the fireplace for it. I love fireplaces. Not sure how big the original fireplace was in your plans, but in our first house, we had a fireplace that was surrounded by 2×6 windows on either side and often let in too much light, so that wasn’t an issue.

    After living in this “open floorplan” I would make sure my next house had a few more walls so I had a place to hang things…like artwork and pictures. I applaud the decision to wall in the staircase.

    There would be a “bedroom” (used as my office) on the main floor, and a full bathroom. We’d also have an out of the way suite where guests could comfortably stay. We get a lot of guests so that’s important.

    And wood floors. Everywhere. Heated, of course, because I live in the Pacific NW and I like warm feet, but definitely wood floors.

    And dormers. I love dormers. Princess’ room is the room I wanted as a teen (heck, it’s a room I want now).

    Oh, this is fun! but I better stop because now, I want to build a house! Any chance Steve-the-Builder could come build a house in Oregon?

  23. Maria says:

    When I get a chance to peak in while my husband is on a drywall job I always think what I”d rearrange and change in a house. 90% of the houses have TINY windows. I never get that. LIght is SO important. I LOVE what you did. I have about 1 million house plans saved under my “future” file…and this is one. I LOVE a light filled loft. I also like how you brought the basement up as it were…love the open floor plan. This is a great post for us to see all that went into this farmhouse!

  24. Bayou Woman says:

    Thanks for the open house! It’s fabulous!

  25. Gaye Miller says:

    The very best decision you have made, in my humble opinion, was to replace the fireplace with the windows. Great idea!! We had a corner fireplace where we lived for 19yrs. I never quit looking at that corner wishing that I could take out the fireplace to make more room. It was a wood burning fireplace and no one wanted to fool with cleaning it or hauling in wood. We built our present house about 10 yrs ago. And..smack in the head!!…we put in a fireplace. Good grief!! But we mostly did it because we have this absolutely gorgeous hand carved mantle and surround that we’ve hauled around with us since the 70s. But I sure wish we had been more creative and used them in some other way than around a fireplace. I want that wall and space where that dag-blasted fireplace is! So, good decision on the fireplace. Everything else looks very well thought out and fantastic. Of course, down the road you will come across a few things you wish you had done differently. But I bet they won’t be major things.

    Love your blog!!!

  26. Susan says:

    It looks gorgeous! I love the open feeling. I would have opted for at least one fireplace. We have two and a wood burner, the power goes out a lot here and they keep the house warm and are useful for cooking too!

  27. Brandy says:

    You make me feel lucky that our house has so many windows. I wouldn’t change anything about the changes you made. I wish my Daughter had her own suite. *g* And later when Son is older that drain idea sounds wonderful. *G*

  28. robin says:

    :clap: :clap: :clap: great changes to original plans…we have the open dormers to the front of our house with cathedral ceilings and two skylights to the rear of same room…really opens it up.
    love the two laundry rooms…and the huge bathrooms with multi-purposes. That huge blank wall will be so nice when you
    find your treasures you want to hang and place…and also for that big christmas tree! great to raise the main living areas up and and the porch…we are also up (just 4 1/2 feet) but it really makes a difference when sitting on the porch viewing the world.
    a very nice open house – thank you for sharing!

  29. Tori Lennox says:

    I love everything you’ve done with the house, Suzanne. I agree re the fireplace. They’re great but they’re also wasteful. I’d rather have the windows, too!

  30. Estella says:

    Your house is beautiful. I think you did a great job re-doing the plans.

  31. catslady says:

    Everything is gorgeous. I would have to have a library though :yes:

  32. Maryann says:

    What about a short gas stove right in front of the windows? Watch the flames and the snow falling at the same time. I am so missing our wood burning stove. Right now I am looking at a pellet stove to put in.
    As far as the boys rooms. Can they get out easily with those windows in case of a fire blocking the staircase? Here in Mich, all bedroom windows need to be able to have a full size adult fit thru a window. What about a built in bookcase for them to climb on just in case?

  33. Krista says:

    Loved the tour! I think you made some wise changes. I am really torn over the fireplace because smelly or not, I LOVE a wood fire. But the windows were probably a better options. Our first house was small but it had the vaulted ceilings and the whole living room wall was huge windows which made the room seem twice the size. Big thumbs up to making the washroom bigger. Only thing I could see that I might change is to put fancy cabinet doors in the living room to give better access for storage under the stairs.
    Well done!

  34. Carole says:

    I don’t have anything more to add than what was already said. Your home is beautiful and the redesign is great.

  35. Leah's Mom says:

    Well…how ’bout that! I found this post, the floor plans and your changes! (After sending you the pm yesterday…) So, now that you’ve lived in it for some time, is there anything you would do different?

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