Building and designing a new home build or renovation can be exciting, but also intimidating if you don't know where to start. Luckily, there are many amateur home designers that turn to photographs, free software, and existing designs to become fully inspired for their own home design projects.
You want a new home. Where do you start? How do you go about pinning down the right home design?
30 years ago, it wasn’t easy. I remember my parents looking to build had a stack of home plans magazines scattered around the house. They combed through them daily looking for ideas and inspiration.
These days it’s much, much easier because of, you guessed it, the internet.
In fact, in some ways, it’s harder now because of too much choice.
I’m going to add fuel to the choice excess by listing out in methodical fashion below all your options and approaches to home design.
Here you go.
Table of Contents
- 1. Browse, Research and Perhaps Buy Stock Home Plans
- 2. Create Your Own Design
- 3. Hire a Professional
- 4. Visit Open Houses
- 5. Visit Model Homes
- 6. Travel
- 7. Browse Modular Home Plans
- 8. Shop Factory-Built Houses
- 9. Hand Draw Your Own
- 10. Collect Photographs and Inspiration
- 11. Look Through Magazines
- 12. Research Styles
- 13. Professional Software
- 14. Pinterest
- 15. Shop the Million Dollar Homes
- 16. Zillow, Realtor, Redfin
1. Browse, Research and Perhaps Buy Stock Home Plans
There are many available online resources to be able to purchase pre-made, stock home plans. In fact, there are many house plan websites you can check out. These can be great if you are starting from scratch on a new home and need inspiration, or if you already have an existing home that you are looking to remodel. On these websites it is easy to sort the floor plans by the style you are searching for, the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, stories, and even key features within the floor plan. It is easy to hone in on the exact design you are searching for, or find variations of your current home that may give you great ideas for renovation. IMO, browsing house plans websites is the best source for coming up with overall house design ideas.
2. Create Your Own Design
Creating your own design for your home doesn’t have to be difficult. There are several online software programs that you can easily download so you can begin designing. Many of these programs are free to use, such as our free online home design software. If you want something more robust, check out Chief Architect (I have this as well and love it – read our Chief Architect review).
The great thing about these programs is that you don’t have to have an architectural degree to begin creating your primarypiece. Simply download the software (or use the online version) and start creating. This can be a great option if you are starting your home design from scratch, or perfectly suitable if you are trying to design a home renovation. Simply create a plan similar to your own home, then work on renovating an exciting new addition, or rework a current room in your home.
3. Hire a Professional
There are plenty of professionals in the home building world that can help with your home design. One option is to start with a home builder. Many builders, even builders who work in housing plans, have their own set of plans that can easily be customized to your own needs and wants. Some custom home builders employ or work with architects to create custom home designs for clients.
Another option is to hire an architect. An architect is a great professional resource that can really make your design dreams become a reality. Simply tell an architect what you are hoping to get out of your home, and what design styles you like, and an architect can help you create something truly workable and unique for your home.
4. Visit Open Houses
One of the absolute best ways to get an idea for how you would like your home to look is to simply visit other houses. A great way to do this is to visit open houses in your neighborhood or city. Open houses are not only perfect for seeing what is trending now in home design, but they are perfect for understanding what design considerations work well for your particular city and climate. If you currently live in a housing plan, there is a strong chance that you might even be able to visit an open house with a very similar floor plan and layout to your existing home. Visiting an open house allows you to physically walk through a home so you can understand how the space actually functions and moves.
5. Visit Model Homes
Similar to visiting an open house in your neighborhood, you can visit a model home for a new development or plan. Not only do you have the opportunity to walk through a physical home, but you have the chance to see what is new in home design. Typically, model homes are designed to showcase the best features the developer has to offer, so this is a great resource to see what design options are trending now for a high quality and modern home design. Usually, model homes have a representative onsite that can help explain various options to customize a home plan, which may help to give you further ideas.
Vacations are a time for you to enjoy quality time in fun locations. Whether you stay in a hotel or a rental home via VRBO or Airbnb, chances are there is some design inspiration you can pick up from your destinations. Look around you when you travel and consider the design flare in your vacation location. Perhaps you have vacationed to Italy and simply love the Tuscan flare? Or maybe you vacationed in a mountain resort and want to include natural building elements like cedar and stone? Bringing some design aspects back to your own home will not only help to influence your current home or build but will certainly fill your new home with features that remind you of a relaxing and fun time. Design elements don’t have to be big, it can be as simple as a window casing or stone element mixed into your current home design.
TIP: If your budget permits, when renting a house on VRBO or Airbnb type sites, choose one that you’d like to have. This way you can “kick the tires” so-to-speak.
7. Browse Modular Home Plans
Modular homes are a smart and effective way to build a home. These homes use all the same materials as a traditional home, but they are assembled off-site in a factory or warehouse. These homes are then pieced together in a factory in order to make large, easily mobile sections. These large components of the home are then shipped to your build site, where the pieces are assembled together to create your home. Because modular homes use the same materials as a traditional home, it is possible to use modular home plans as inspiration for your own home design. Many modular floor plans can be completely customized to create a home design unique to your own style and needs. Modular home design can be used to create an entirely new house or to add an addition to any existing home.
8. Shop Factory-Built Houses
Similar to modular homes, factory-built houses are another great source for design and inspiration. Factory homes are completely manufactured in a warehouse, away from the site where you will build your home. There are many benefits to a factory-built house, including the fact that these homes are not exposed to damaging weather through the build process. While factory houses start out as standard floor plans, there is an opportunity for you to enhance and customize the standard plan. Looking through factory-built house plans is a great way to find design inspiration. Start by finding a plan that works well with your current family and social dynamics, then begin to customize the design. You may even find that you like two different home designs separately, and want to do a morph of the two plans into one, cohesive design.
9. Hand Draw Your Own
Time to get out the graph paper, rulers, and protractors (so THIS is what a protractor is used for!). It is perfectly alright to hand draw your own home design. While there are computer software programs that can help you design your own home, there is something completely functional and satisfying about constructing your own design by hand. Not only are you able to draw and tweak exactly what you have in mind, but you can constantly change and alter what you currently have drawn. This is a convenient way to take your designs anywhere or to have multiple iterations of the design. Of course, when it becomes time to transfer your ideas to a professional architect or builder, you will have to hand over your hand-drawn designs, in order to have him or her create a professional and readable version in professional software like CAD.
10. Collect Photographs and Inspiration
Home design does not happen overnight, where a person instantly awakes knowing exactly the design that will work. These things take time, and will often evolve over time. One of the most useful ways to create a perfect home design for your needs is to slowly gather photographs from home and interior design sites to be used as inspiration. We have a huge section on interior design photo galleries as well as featuring many custom home designs by famed architects. Other sources of photo inspiration include our many celebrity houses and of course our carefully curated house plans. Maybe you will find a color that you like in a magazine, or go to a restaurant with interesting woodwork. Take photographs and continue to keep a folder or file to store all of your home design ideas. Chances are, if you are regularly photographing and collecting things that you like, your final product will be one cohesive collection of colors, styles, and items that give you joy. Taking your ideas to a professional builder, designer, or architect can help put your thoughts and inspiration into one beautiful home design.
11. Look Through Magazines
There are plenty of magazines geared toward home design and style. Start by looking through architectural magazines such as Architectural Digest. Often, these magazines will have floor plans included in the magazine for entire houses, or for individual rooms. Many architectural magazines will also give you some detailed information about the plan, explaining the features that help to make the plan so functional or successful. Aside from architecturally specific magazines, other home design magazines, such as HGTV or Better Homes and Gardens, that focus more on the interior can also help. Don’t forget to check out popular furniture catalogs. Print magazines will often feature ideas for overall style and concept that can be further communicated into a successful home design. It can help to collect various pictures and plans from magazines to take to your professional designer, once you have an idea of the plan and style you like.
12. Research Styles
Homes come in a wide range of architectural styles and designs that can vary from builder to builder, and even by location. First, determine the type of house you want. Do you prefer a single story, or two stories? What type of kitchen do you prefer? How many bedrooms and bathrooms will work best for your family? After you have an interior style in mind, focus on the exterior. Are there certain materials and finishes that you like? What about windows, doors, colors, and exteriors? There is so much to consider when designing a house, but narrowing down the particular style you like will help tremendously. Going into a designer or an architect saying you prefer an “open concept” or “ranch” style will help them better understand what you are looking for.
13. Professional Software
While there are plenty of options for free software available for download, there are also plenty of professional software options available for download as well. The go-to software option for any home designer and builder is CAD. This is an all-inclusive software package that the professionals use. Buyer beware though. While it is certainly possible to create professional-quality designs and images, CAD can be an incredibly difficult and complicated system to fully primary. If you have time on your hands to learn though, you may be able to create professional-grade home plans that can be easily passed along to a professional to make your ideas and designs become a reality.
Oh, Pinterest. Many of us can get lost browsing through the various ideas and images on this social media platform. The main idea surrounding Pinterest is that it functions as a digital bulletin board. If you find an image or design you like you can simply “pin” the idea for later reference. The real beauty of Pinterest though, is that you are able to find other images related to the things you already like. This can be useful to help hone in on a particular design. If you find a design element that you like, but aren’t 100% sold on it, keep scrolling until you have narrowed down your search to exactly what you are searching for. Then, conveniently “pin” your idea so that you can share later with a professional builder, architect, or designer.
15. Shop the Million Dollar Homes
As much as we would all love to live in a million-dollar home, chances are this is far out of the realm of what is possible for most of us. That doesn’t mean we can’t shop the million-dollar homes anyway! Don’t be afraid to look at what expensive homes have to offer. Chances are, there may be simple features or designs that you can include in your own home. Many of the expensive features and styles can be emulated, or scaled-down, in an average home with great success. Just because you see it featured in a home with a big price tag, it doesn’t mean it can’t be included in your own home on a more manageable scale.
For fun: If your town has street of dreams or home lottos, spend an afternoon touring those homes. It’s a great outing and in the case of the house lotteries, you can support a great cause. In our area, the dream home lottos support local hospitals so we buy a ticket to support their efforts and who knows – maybe one year we’ll win.
16. Zillow, Realtor, Redfin
These home buying sites are great to see what is currently available on the market, in any city in the country. Browse millions of existing homes, right from the comfort of your own couch at home. The beauty of looking through the millions of homes currently for sale is that many homes feature professional photography of the highlights and features found throughout the homes. Maybe you will find a kitchen set up you like, or perhaps a fireplace that works well in the living room. Whatever it may be, it is possible to save the home listing, for reference later. These images and pictures can then be shared with your builder to either including in a brand-new home, or to work into a current home renovation.