With plans in hand and a break in the weather, we set out to stake the footprint of the latest realization of the house. “Flag” is more technically correct as we used little pink flags attached to wire, but saying we went to “flag” our house sounds like it’s being penalized for “unnecessary roughness” or being “offsides” (especially in this, the playoff season). Regardless, if you ever find yourself doing this, I recommend flags over stakes. Flags are much easier to deal with: No pounding and easy to move when you realize you’ve measured wrong (or you change the design). You’ll also want a reel-type tape measure (at least 100 feet long) with a stake to hold one end down if you’re alone. And don’t forget your plans and a ruler!
I highly recommend flagging/staking your house during the design stage. We’ve had plans for about a week now and gawk and gander at them daily. Hell, I’ve even been having design dreams about the living room. For us, at least, it’s been hard to get a sense of scale of the rooms and the house itself. One way we put the plans into perspective was to compare the dimensions of the proposed rooms to the dimensions of the rooms in our current house. That helped somewhat, but didn’t really account for circulation. The other way was through staking.
The staking was eye opening. Rooms that seemed way too big on the plans suddenly seemed much smaller (and more reasonable) staked on terra firma. For example take the living room. It seems ginormous on paper. Once staked, to get a square foot from us you would have to pull it from our cold dead fingers. Walking about the flags on the property, synapses sparked to reveal a conversation I had about sizing rooms with a friend several months ago: “Find your comfort zone for a room and then add one or two more feet to the perimeter. You won’t be sorry.” Standing between the flags of a room gave the floorplan a real sense of scale. Staking “shrunk” the living room, kitchen, and master.
The other eye opener was how much room the driveway and garage take. For a city lot, our lot is a big lot, but between the house, the garage in the back, and the drive, much of that land is eaten away. Suddenly the rated-PG cursing of The Architect under his breath when he saw the lot while contemplating the garage (“Sure wish there was an alley back there…”) made a lot more sense. We’re giving up a lot (literally…) by having a garage in the back. We vowed that our next lot would be at least five acres. Maybe more.
And one more eye opener was how small the garden area in the northeast corner would be with this design. A friend of ours that lives three houses away from the lot tends to a huge Stonehenge-like garden in her back yard (you can see it from space…) and laments that she’s become a slave to it. So perhaps a smaller garden is best. And there are spots along the house and in the front for planting. Maybe that’s all we need. And the top of the garage…