Floor plan enthusiasts please take a look, feedback appreciated!

pay_it_forwardFebruary 5, 2012

My husband and I, along with our two year old daughter, live in rural North Carolina. Our desire is to build a home that is healthy for both people and planet, using as many sustainable materials and methods as possible.

We own five acres and will be orienting the home to the south to benefit from passive solar heating. Our plans include solar water heating as well as preparation for future installation of photovoltaic panels. As we are not keen on forced air, we are considering ductless mini-splits to supplement the passive heating and cooling strategies we have in place.

While keeping in mind that the future is unpredictable, we are planning as if this will be the home we never move from (trying to incorporate as many universal design principles as feasible). In 3-4 years, we are planning to foster children (and potentially adopt). It is also important that we plan for the possibility of parents living with us in the future.

Here are our preferences:

- a nature inspired (organic architecture), mid-century modern/Scandinavian feeling, bright (lots of natural light) home that has character and is beautifully simple, functional, budget friendly...

- single level around 2000 sq. ft.

- three clustered bedrooms (including master) and, on the opposite side, one flex space near the guest bathroom to be used as a combo fitness/guest/potential parent quarters

- one master bathroom and two three-quarter bathrooms

- laundry near bedrooms

- kitchen open to living area, with dining area to the side

- office with room for storage

- something fun (like a hideaway/reading loft over a closet?)

- safe room that can be utilized as something else (closet, laundry, etc.)

- seamless indoor/outdoor living

- a detached garage or carport (most likely to be added later)

Using Chief Architect, this is a floor plan I have been playing with. I would greatly appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you may have (or ideas for something completely different, incorporating the above preferences).

Plan specifics:

- the top of the plan is south

- the driveway/parking area will be on the bottom (north) or right side (west), depending on final site determination

- mountain views to the south and southwest

- slab foundation

- still trying to determine the type of roof - thinking about a shed, a hip with a raised center (we also like FLW's prairie style), a modernized gable with clerestory windows, or a combination of sorts

- small walk-in closet in master bedroom is also the safe room

- that is a folding table across from the washer and dryer

Architect David Pearson states our wishes well:

"Let the design:

- be inspired by nature and be sustainable, healthy, conserving, and diverse.

- unfold, like an organism, from the seed within.

- exist in the "continuous present" and "begin again and again".

- follow the flows and be flexible and adaptable.

- satisfy social, physical, and spiritual needs.

- "grow out of the site" and be unique.

- celebrate the spirit of youth, play and surprise.

- express the rhythm of music and the power of dance."

Thank you in advance for your time and ideas!!

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I'm looking for the inspiration of nature; the unfolding like an organism from a seed; the "continuous present"; the following of the flows; the flexibility; adaptability; growing out of the site; uniqueness; celebration of the spirit of youth; play and surprise; and the expression of rhythm of music and the power of dance ... but I don't see any of that; I see a narrow hall, a simple vestibule and a conventional open living space with no special relationships between spaces or interesting transitions. I don't mean to offend you but you need to understand that the design is as stiff as a board.

The first thing I recommend that you do is turn the computer off and sketch by hand until some of David Pearson's ideas start to materialize. Kick ideas around with your spouse until you begin to understand each other and form a consensus.

What are the site features? Bringing local materials inside is important. Study the work of Greene & Greene. Think about the whole house, not just the plan, and don't be afraid to use curves. Resist the temptation to line things up or straighten them out too soon. Look for special diagonal views that occur when rooms are offset from each other. Eliminate all halls or at least line them with cabinets and shelves or make them into a well lighted gallery for kids' work. No space should seem unimportant.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 1:51PM
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Pay it forward- Hi! I like your ideas and I think you'll eventually end up with a lovely home, but I agree with Renovator...that right now, it's difficult to see, with the plan.

Have you looked at the Not So Big House books? Sarah Susanka has some great ideas for making spaces live large, but also includes unique details, lighting, diagonal views, banquettes, storage ideas, etc.

A few things I would add...what about a screened porch? If I were in North Carolina (my dad's from South Carolina) I'd want a nice, big screened porch, maybe with a fireplace, dining space, seating, etc. It's such a luxury to have outdoor spaces, because in my much colder climate (eastern Washington state) we have very long winters!

Also, for the kids' area, think about unusual closet space, loft beds with storage underneath, bunk beds or even bunk room style beds, with curtains that close, for privacy. Kids rooms are so fun to design!

One idea, maybe put the 'guest area' where you have the dining room and make the kitchen/dining/living area one big space, with a screened porch off the side. You might also want to think about a pergola or arbor, on the south side, to give you some shade, in the summer. Do you like to garden? You'll have a wonderful climate, for it :)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 3:03PM
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Please don't take this the wrong way, but the first thing I noticed when looking at this plan is that it reminded me of a mobile home. Like you could divide into two parts, right down the center. I think it's needs some personality! I doubt that this will be your final plan, so here are some things I would question if this were my house.

Lots of walls and hallway space! For your goal of an OPEN plan, this doesn't quite do it.

I'm wondering why the huge windows in every bathroom. Big windows over tubs and in showers have always made me scratch my head. Most people are buck naked in the tub or shower, so then they have to cover the windows up with blinds or curtains.

Bedrooms are tiny, and closets are very shallow. If you consider the "possibilities" listed (adoption, foster children, parents), where will they sleep. Why the sinks in the bedrooms?

Why a full bath right by your front door? To shower after your workout? Other baths are just a few steps away. That whole hallway and bath seems like a waste of precious space. I wouldn't like my work out room right by the front door.

Kitchen space needs to be looked at for functionality. I realize the large windows are for your goal of merging inside/outside spaces. But I think you could still do that with a "U" shaped kitchen. You could still do windows that are counter height, and have a counter along that wall. Also, visit the kitchen forum.

Your entry is bigger than your dining room? For a small house the dining room seems so separated. This is a small dining room, with no room for a cabinet of any kind. Perhaps make the dining/kitchen, and living areas more together??

I would check with an engineer/heating & cooling specialist as to your plans for solar, etc. There must be equipment that needs to be located somewhere. I don't see any space allocated. Would it all be outside?

Good luck. I admire your goal of being green and using sustainable materials and building practices.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 3:11PM
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Renovator8 ~ thanks for your perspective, no offense taken. I agree with you that the floor plan is a bit sterile at this point. Our hope was to get a basic flow and then find some ways to make it special. Perhaps this is a flawed approach. In actuality, I think I am feeling a little stuck right now and am looking for some fresh ideas and inspiration. The words of David Pearson represent what we are trying to move toward ~ point well taken that we are not there yet! We do plan to incorporate rocks and felled timber from our site in some capacity. We also want to utilize the hallway space better, incorporating storage and a gallery for pictures and our daughter's artwork.

I have looked at the work of Greene & Greene, among many others. Though beautiful in many ways, the Arts and Craft style feels a bit heavy to us. We really identify with the clean lines and indoor/outdoor connection of of MCM and the lightness of Scandinavian design.

Lavendar Lass ~ thank you for your comments! I have indeed studies Susanka's ideas and agree with many of them. For example, we do not want formal dining/living areas and we would like to incorporate as many built ins as we can afford!

You and I absolutely agree about screened porches! Both of the porches above are to be screened.

Kids' rooms are so much fun! We definitely plan to create a loft of sorts among other ideas. I only put the queen beds in the plan for spatial visualization.

The pergola is a good idea and I do hope to include one somewhere. We do plan to have the correct amount of roof overhang for the passive solar application. I am a beginning gardener (have only had small flower beds, a small vegetable patch, and some container gardens) and am looking very forward to improving my skills in this area. I would love to eventually grow much of our own produce!

Joyce 6333 ~ Thank you as well for your time! Again, no offense taken! I am trying to find a way to incorporate what we need/want into the space we can afford and am struggling with the personality part.

As for the windows in the secondary bathrooms, I was just playing with the front elevation, trying to find a good balance. I do like the windows in the master bathroom (they are also more private as they overlook the woods).

The bedrooms are small, but this is a necessity to keep the square footage down. We are rather minimalistic and do not plan to have any other furniture beyond a bed, nightstand, and possibly a small desk in the kids' rooms (all shoes will be stored in the "lockers" in the front entry, allowing more space for all clothing to be stored in the closets).

The full bath by the front door is the guest bath. Our thought is that if a guest visits or a parent needs to live with us, they can have the fitness room (we are thinking of having a Murphy bed) and use of that bath (kind of their own separate wing).

I am still playing with kitchen ideas and will certainly check in with that forum when the plan is more ready.

We don't mind that the dining room is small as we do not intend to have any other furniture other than the table and chairs (though if we have to sell one day, this is a concern). However, I'm not certain of the location and that it is so closed in. We do want it next to the kitchen, but are not fond of having it in between the kitchen and living areas (all three spaces in a row). So this was the best I could come up with so far.

Thanks again to all of you!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 3:55PM
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Sorry to have misspelled your name, Lavender Lass!!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 10:23PM
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What do you think about something like this? It's a modification of a modification I did of a plan by Alan Mascord when we were considering building a smaller version of his original plan. It comes in around 2400 sq ft (interior). Plenty of windows to bring the outdoors in, plenty of outdoor space for gatherings, open floor plan. Take a look at the photos I posted from his website of a Parade home that was built from the original plan (with some mods of their own)and notice how the inside & outside tie together.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 1:43AM
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Alex House

Here's what I think you should do with your program.

1.) It has a room layout feature - use it. It'll create little blocks that you can move around and arrange in different combinations.

2.) Prioritize your goals and don't try to have every iteration incorporate every single goal. I'm not saying that your goals are unimportant but by doing this you give yourself a little bit more design freedom and that freedom might result in some better designs, one perhaps might be better even with a sacrifice on a goal than anything you come up with which includes all your goals and if that's the case then you have a choice - how important was the missing element.

3.) A variation on the above - modify some of your criteria - perhaps a split level, perhaps sacrifice some southern exposure (to get away from the mobile home look) etc. There is no harm in creating 12 different plans, each with some goal either modified or trashed.

Here is a for instance - I took your basic goals AND YOUR BASIC LAYOUT and just tinkered on the edges.

The layout is not as long and narrow as yours, meaning I sacrificed some of your southern exposure. I eliminated the hallway at your front entry and merged it with the entry (not the best solution but a quick and dirty one) and you lost your office corridor from the master. What you gained is a dining area more integrated into the kitchen/LR, a larger island, a shorter hallway in the bedroom wing, a clustering of plumbing into a central core, and a guest bedroom and bath which aren't quite as isolated as they were before.

Now keep in mind that this 2,100 sf plan is just a variation on what you posted, not an alternative plan. What I was saying above is that you should do 6 or so variations on this plan, then start doing crazy stuff like moving the laundry and office away from the bedrooms, or maybe adding the guest bedroom into your bedroom wing, or splitting up the 1 story into two, etc. Don't kill the ideas before you test them out - all it costs you is a bit of time to explore alternative visions and those alternatives might change your thinking or give you fresh ideas.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 2:22AM
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that is some really good input.

what are you doing to make the
house energy efficient?

best of luck

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 12:04PM
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Thanks for the responses ~ I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I am currently caring for an ailing parent and that, along with the care of my toddler, is keeping me hopping these days :)!

Mydreamhome ~ thank you for sharing the plan and pictures. I do indeed love the beautiful connection to the outdoors! We are set on clustering the bedrooms together, so I'll have to see how I can adjust things.

AlexHouse ~ I really appreciate your suggestions and how very kind of you to create a plan idea especially for me! I am playing with this and will post some ideas soon. Thank you!

Energy rater la ~ our energy efficient plans: southern orientation/passive heating and cooling strategies, solar water heating, quality insulation, cool roof, fiberglass windows, preparation for future installation of photovoltaic panels, efficient square footage, Energy Star appliances, LED lighting, Water Sense fixtures, no fossil fuels...

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 12:50PM
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Good Evening Everyone!

Thanks again for your thoughtful feedback. We found out earlier this week that to afford the "healthy for people and planet" upgrades we're shooting for, we need our design to come in as close to 1800 square feet as possible (with the maximum limit being 1900). Here are a few more ideas I have been playing with:

This was an idea I was working with when I thought 2000 sq. ft. was the goal...

This is a variation of the first plan I shared. Though still small, I do like that the DR connects to the outside on two walls (one of which has doors to a potential courtyard garden!). I also like that the office has more window space!

This one, with DR and office inspired by AlexHouse, is a little more rough (no windows in yet).

I would love to receive any thoughts or ideas you have!! Thank you!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 11:16PM
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Alex House

With regards to your last plan, your bathroom looks like half of the space is used by halls, and your master bedroom has a wide hall corridor which also eats up square footage. I would suggest trying to find a way to either minimize halls space or use it in such a way that it serves multiple purposes - provides a path for travel and also adds to the sense of volume of adjoining space, which means that the adjoining space can be a tad smaller and still feel larger than it's actual footprint.

For instance, your entry is generous with space but that volume of space doesn't serve any other room. I see that you've also lost the laundry.

In your middle plan I like how the bedroom wing hallway serves 6 rooms. You amortize the space that the hallway uses across six rooms. Does your master have a pocket door? That's quite a contrast with the double door to the master in the bottom plan. Your entry into the dining room only has a 2 ft clearance between island and dining room wall. I'd either bump out the dining room a foot or two or lose the wall. The hallway to your family room is a waste of space. Better to take that space and give some to the dining room entry by moving the family room so that one enters off of the entry.

In the bottom plan if your shift the front part of the house over to the right by 4-6 feet then the entry space gets narrower, the entry and hall in front of it are better integrated into the LR/KIT and by sliding the bedroom wing bathroom over a few feet your reduce the width of the master bedroom corridor. If you split the bath into a kids bath and a master bath by switching the master bath and the office locations, then you erase some of the hallway space in the bath and by putting the tub where the toilet is in the kids bath and the toilet next to the tub the the space in front of the sink will allow access to the sink, tub and toilet. You use the space more efficiently but what you loose is the enclosed toilet stall. There are always trade-offs.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 12:44AM
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I would put the bedrooms upstairs so you could implement your ambitious design approach. Right now you haven't made even a start in that direction.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 9:18AM
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AlexHouse ~ Thanks for more of your thoughtful comments. I agree with many of them. Those stinkin' hallways are giving me fits!! I am playing around with more ideas.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 3:14PM
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Instead of having a small separate dining area in its own nook, have it continuous with the living area - no pinch points. That way if you have guests you can turn the table or extend the table into the living area - flexible space. In some of your plans you'll never sit more than six comfortably. Our dining room is 10'x11' and it seats eight with the table turned on the diagonal. We have to squeeze in eleven or twelve for Thanksgiving dinner. There's a nice big breakfast area in the kitchen, but there's a pinch point -can't join the spaces at all. And the LR is in an L-shape to the DR - but the LR is up three steps - arrgh! No flexibility! Which is what you NEED in a small space.

You don't want this order of connection DR-K-LR but K-DR-LR.

You could save a lot of space by having a much smaller, more efficient U-shaped kitchen. Save a lot on cabinetry and counters too. How many people will work in it at once? I'm the primary cook in my house; 8x11 workspace is plenty big enough for me. Your kitchen corridor eats a lot of space and those islands are really bulky - how about just having people sit at the table to socialize? I'd put the kitchen in one of those dining nooks in the plans and give myself a view while I worked.

Your wanting a one-level house, and maybe having your parents live with you, maybe adopting or fostering children, makes me think you ought to consider an accessible bathroom. All your bathrooms look big enough if the layout is right. Look at roll-in showers. At least put in the blocking in the walls for handrails before the drywall/tile goes up.

You and I have a lot in common with what we want in a house.
Same size, passive solar, low energy use, healthy living conditions - I even want to move back to Western NC which is where my family is from. I just started sketching my plans - a two story, 40'x22' rectangular layout - the minimum number of expensive corners.

I'm thinking of it in modular terms - on the west side, a 14x22 great room with dining area. In the 12x22 center module, foyer, stairs, and kitchen. On the east side, 14x14 study or ground floor bedroom, with an 8x14 area behind for accessible bath and laundry. Double pocket doors between great room and foyer and foyer and study - more flex space. Maybe have panels to close off the kitchen for more formal dining.

Maybe a masonry heater in the GR? I know the interior walls will shorten the spaces - and maybe I can shave a couple feet off the edges. I've read though that you should build in 2' increments - eliminate some waste.

Upstairs, master bedroom and bath over the study. Two more bedrooms over the great room. Window seat, gallery, bath in center module. Walls line up; the plumbing lines up.

Strong enough joists and steep enough roof that I can finish a couple rooms in the attic if need or desire arises.

So a really boring rectangular layout. Small by today's standards. I figure beauty will have to come from harmony of proportion, materials, colors. No mean, stingy narrow trim, doors or hallways.

Actually there isn't much at all in the way of hallways. The foyer is a SPACE, not a passageway, same for upstairs landing.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 12:01AM
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For the plan that has the dining room towards the front, I would remove the wall between the entry and the dining room, and the wall between the hall and the living room, as that would give you more of the open space concept you desire.

The second one you posted has too much space wasted in the entry to the master and in the bath, I think you can reconfigure that space to make better use of it.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 1:42PM
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In the plan Laura refers to, your traffic pattern in the morning will be to have all kids walking right past the stove/right in your way/kitchen space to get to dining area. I would not like that. And, I think I would swap the location of the dining area and the kitchen in that plan.

In the other, with all the bathroom hallway space... You need not double everything up/mirror it like you have. Anyway you look at it, it really isn't a master suite. So, why not just make it a 3/4 and a full bath? 2 separate spaces, laid out a lot better. Turn the toilets 90*, suck the shower/baths in to be right next to the toilets and put a wall between them, and pull that bumpout flush with the rest of the foundation wall on that left side. It will cost you less in roofing and foundation to do this also. And, make your master entry not so wide. That is a ton of wasted space.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 2:49PM
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Thanks Birdgardner, Laura12, and Kirkhall! I have tried to learn from your wonderful comments and have a new plan ready to post.

Birdgardner, your plan sounds wonderful ~ I hope you will share it when you are ready. Western NC is a beautiful place to live!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 9:36PM
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