With the emergence of websites such as Houseplans.com, high-quality designs of noted architects are but a click away

  • (From left)Houseplans.com Chairman Stephen Williamson, Chief of Design Nicholas Lee, and Editor-in-Chief Dr. Daniel Gregory in a newly built home for sale at 1183 Chauvet Rd in Glen Ellen, California on Tuesday, August 14, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

When Sherry Crichfield mentioned to her husband, Tim, that she'd found plans for her ideal Wine Country farmhouse while surfing the Internet, he immediately put the kibosh on the idea.

"Absolutely not. We're not buying anything online," the retired financial consultant informed his wife.

Famous last words. After calling several architects for estimates on a custom design — one said he would start at $75,000 and "go from there" — they wound up clicking back to Houseplans.com and selecting a classic, single-story California ranch house with an old-fashioned exterior and a simple, contemporary interior.

They paid $15,000 for plans for an architect-designed house that included site plans, permits and engineering and personal adaptation to their Sonoma property. The Novato-based company has built two houses in the Sonoma Valley adapted from the same plans created by in-house designer Nick Lee, so the Crichfields were even able to walk through an existing variation of their home before buying.

"It was an amazing deal, overall," said Sherry, a retired dental hygienist and cooking-school graduate. "We saved tens of thousands of dollars and got pretty much what we wanted."

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