I tend to use reference pictures when I build. I'll google a house style or general aesthetic I want emulate and pick a few pictures that match what I want to build. Sometimes I copy the image exactly, but mostly I only use the pictures to get an idea of the look Iím shooting for. I always build the outside of a house first and then add rooms later, so I personally hate following floor plans. I know a lot of people love using them though.
If you want to build more interesting houses, I suggest focusing on building more complex roofs. This is one of the most difficult aspects of building, but it makes the most difference in appearance. Also, it helps to decide ahead of time what style of house you are building.
I've tried to build houses based on floor plans I've seen online before but I cannot, for the life of m, pull it off. I just can't get it to look good. Ever. At all. Not a chance. Even with tile-by-tile detailed plans, I always end up deviating from it and going back to the type of building/roofing/decorating I always do. I guess I like things the way I like them.
What I like to do when I'm stuck on the structural design of a house is to google pictures of houses and/or look around my house. I'd try my best to mimic the look of my home and/or the home of someone else's. Or, if I'm feeling kinda lazy, I'll make lines then sharp turns in the walls to give the house an odd shape until ideas come up.
it's an unfortunate design "feature" of TS2, everything has to either be on a hard angles not curves. There are hacks and other ways to bend the laws of TS2 physics, but they are what they are. I found some CC in dealing with roof re-textures and placement as well as some bay window designs, entryways, columns, etc. to take some of the squareness out of designing a floor-plan. They can help mask, but not eliminate the fact that a "round" spire is actually not "round" although CC can make things appear to be so. In looking here and in other places, I have found some wonderful inspiration in thinking "Outside the Box" with design.
But just a silly question, aren't most "real" houses kind of boxy?
I so completely just build as I need both when it comes to enlarging Sims homes and doing improvements on community lots. I've built a few from scratch but I suck at it, the inside looks nice enough but they are certainly boxy. In the end it comes down to function being more important than form to me and I'm no architect so my function usually has a very basic form.
Part of my issue is the fact that I've never been able to master roof building. If it's not the most basic of roofs I'm floored and usually end up using the auto roof which in turn always looks a bit screwy. My other issue is it makes me crazy to have walls where usable items can't be placed. Sure interesting features to throw in a few diagonal walls or some turrets but when you can't hang anything on the wall or set anything in front of it it makes me mental.
I don't currently have the luxury of fast internet, so I've been using real estate newspapers for ideas or just imagine a house I might like and build it as best as I can.
Having some knowledge of interior design can also be a huge help since colour schemes often make a big difference to the finished house. Google has everything you'll ever need to learn about compatibility in regards to colour!
I've also been getting tonnes of books out from the library about architecture and interior design. It helps to read them as well as look at the pictures since you get an idea of usability and pretty much what you'd find in the real world.
When I first started building houses I was completely dumbfounded for inspiration, but like you, started using floor plans, there are so many amazing websites which I thought were a goldmine hehe.
The most important thing about building a house is to make it as realistic as possible, you don't want sims to have to run upstairs to take a dump, and if you plan for them to have big families, build as many rooms as you think you'll need, even if they're unoccupied for a while.
I like lots of space since it's no fun having everything extremely compact to the point of unreasonable, unless of course that's what you want. I have the habit of filling every corner and every wall with something to make it seem homely when usually it just makes it look hoarded. xD
But anyway, end conclusion, build realistic floor plans. Usually smaller houses are okay to be boxey since not many middle income families can afford the luxury of stylish architecture, but if you build a huge house it will look awful if it's just one big warehouse.
I'm utterly terrible at building houses. Whether I follow a floorplan, build as I go, or recreate a house from memory it almost always ends up ugly. In fact, I've only built ONE house that I really really liked and that is the Breckenridge house in my BACC. I followed a floorplan on that one and I'm really thrilled at how it turned out. It actually looks like a house!
When their numbers dwindled from 50 to 8, the other dwarves began to suspect...Hungry
Here's the thing about boxes: they're disguisable. If you will excuse a moment of intrusion from real life, this is my house immediately after the front porch was rebuilt four years ago:
Casa Griffin is, in its essentials, a box. Four main rooms downstairs, four up, with stairs up from the kitchen and foyer sharing a landing on the side, enclosed back porch. Nobody looks at it and sees a box. The fact that the symmetry is irregular - front door on the side balanced by a block of three windows into the front parlor, the paired columns extending the stair portion of the porch out a little bit from the main porch, with a little dormer on top - that there's a separate little box on the side of the house for the window seat on the landing, and most of all the sheer fact of those Corinthian columns - transforms it so that people either see a haunted house or a potential showplace. The locals should be a bit jaded with this house's bag of tricks, because it's a pretty common one in town - I could show you half a dozen variants within walking distance of us - but it works on everybody.
So, if you find little box houses the most liveable for your sims, throw in a few frills on the exterior. A stained glass window. Varied texture on the siding, with, say, different degrees of half-timbering, or shingles on the second story and clapboard on the first. Columns, porches, a tiny courtyard patio at the entrance. Put the front door on the side instead of in the middle and slap a bay window onto the front. It can make all the difference.
The second trick is to think of your house not as a unit, but as a set of units that can assembled in various ways. Each room is its own little box; they do not all have to fit neatly into the larger box of the house as a whole. Here's a shot of Poore Street, where my core families live. You can't see much detail in it, but the main point comes across.
Some of these houses are from the lot bin, some started out being built from floorplans, and some are made from scratch. All have been expanded during the course of play, either by adding a second story, or by sticking extra rooms or porches around the edges. Note how the effect of having three boxes stuck together in that brick house on the right (that's the Harris Hawkins house, on the corner of Poore and Easy), two oriented vertically at either end of one oriented horizontally, in three different sizes, transform the house into a non-box. Ditto the porches on the red house and the one opposite on the corner of Poore and Hillside. You can't see it well, but that white house on the extreme left started as a Ramblin' Ranch; Mary Munny expanded it up and to the rear as her need for space to entertain and store her date rewards increased, and she made no attempt to make the siding match or to line anything up. The top story extends a little bit over the lower story in one place, and she has funky odd-shaped windows in her home sound studio. It may not be in the best taste, but it's not boring and it suits her.
Drama Acres is certainly no architectural gem. I almost always use auto-roofs because fiddling with them drives me mad, I do as little site engineering as possible, and I only do as much planning as I think the sims who live there are likely to do. But it's at least not little boxes on the hillside all made out of ticky-tacky and all looking just the same. If I can do it, with as little design sense as I have, anybody can.
Crystal Springs. I don't think people use it often because so much of the available terrain makes for bumpy lots; but it was the only one hilly enough for my ex-mining community. This bit is the highest part of the map.
I actually managed to build a house more or less based on a floor plan that I found through a search. I had to use 5X5 lot, too! I also deviated a little bit from the original floor plan (didn't want it to be exact).
I've since deleted that 'hood but let's just say, the great room was just that--great in size!
Well, most houses around here are connected boxes, so it's not that hard to build something for me! Though I do tend to deviate towards the houses which I hate the most, American McMansions. UGHHH. Slap 'em up, add some odds and angles, and you have a house, though, so problem solved!
My one thing that I like to do is just add a few (not a lot of) cool angles to my lots. Millandroe College:
"There's only forward, Vi. Only outward and up." - Patrick Ness
I'm a girl. Angie. Or DS for all of you lazy shmucks out there. You know who you are.
Quite possibly the owner of the largest TS2 downloads folder on this site. Last count: 75 GB
I don't tend to be too concerned with making houses look pretty (I'm more interested in functional), but I do on occasion follow house plans: House Plan Gallery, The Plan Collection, House Plans, and Drummond House Plans are my go-to sites if I need a nice-looking new house. If I'm not using a plan, I do try and start with a main box and add on around it, like in beeps' tutorial.
I fail when it comes to designing nice rooves, though, and tend to just put up some shapes which look vaguely nice. Most of my shots are about the sims, and rarely are the rooves in shot.
I like to try and build and I avoid CFE where I can, as I don't like how it "buggles" on the camera tracks or makes funny walls.
When I make a house I always start from the outside in and worry about the interior later. I never use a house plan, I try and look at pictures of real houses and catch the atmosphere. Sometimes it works - sometimes not.
"Boxes" are the norm in the northern hemisphere because they are more heat efficient. However, you don't really notice this because of paint pattern, window decorations, roof design etc. Maybe you could try do the same with your in game houses.