I had only a vague idea of what kind of house I wanted, except that it had to have an interior courtyard and passive solar potential. As I mentioned before, our current house is a passive solar design, and I wanted to retain at least some aspects of that. I also wanted a wine cellar My wife has a hobby of working with house plans. We have a program, 3D Home Architect, on our home computer. She locates electronic copies of plans that she likes, and then plays with them, moving walls, windows, or even entire rooms. I would have to say that most of the house designs she has come up with are well beyond our means.
She found a couple of candidate designs that were close to what we wanted, and we picked one to start working with. The basic layout is a U. The front of the house is the base of the U, with the dining room, foyer and study. One leg is the kitchen, breakfast room, laundry and garage. The other contains the bedrooms, with the master bedroom at the back of the house. Immediately behind the foyer is the family room, with the courtyard behind that. There is a partial second story comprised of a loft over the foyer and the two-story family room. The courtyard is enclosed at the back by a covered portico.