Request for Layout and Design Help

gerty1231March 22, 2014

Good morning GardenWeb experts! I need your help and advice on some layout and design options for a home we are building. We live in the Oklahoma City metro area and have included several magazine pictures of the house we want to build. We want a home that functions well for our family, with lots of curb appeal and charm. Style-wise, we like traditional (not particularly country) but with a little modern here and there. There are things we are struggling with and would appreciate your expertise. In reading through the blog, we can see that your comments and suggestions are invaluable. Please weigh in with any ideas for improvement.

Photobucket link:

Lot size: 80� Wide /145� Deep
The lot is in a planned subdivision of about 100 homes near the top of a small hill. There should be minimal traffic passing in front of the house. The back of the property abuts to a subdivision with larger homes. Those lots take longer to sell, and the developed lots are far from our property. So, for the foreseeable future (7-8 years), we should not have neighbors there, only trees on the adjoining property. Construction is slab.

There are 4 major issues and then some minor issues we are trying to address.

Major issues:

1) Add a 3rd car garage to the house. The best design our builder and architect have come up with is the attached front elevation picture. We still feel as though the design could be better. Specifically, we do not like the roofline of the 3rd-car garage. We love the look of the house with the 2-car garage only (see the bricked front elevation) and want to preserve the balance of that design. (Note that we cannot recess the 3rd-car garage back any further from the 2nd because we will block first floor windows.)

2) Eliminate the half-wall design between the family room and kitchen. The current plan is to completely open this area up with no dividing posts or support beams in the middle breaking up the space. We would put in a header beam and then wood panel the two support posts at the ends of the kitchen. Is there a better option than completely opening this space up? We love an open floor plan, but in terms of design and character of the house, does another option present itself?

If we do open the entire area, what are our kitchen layout options? One island, two islands, what shapes, sizes? We cook most meals at home and holiday bake. Usually only one person is cooking at a time, but someone else tends to be loading or unloading the dishwasher. I�m worried about the look of the refrigerator (ours is a side-by-side, counter-depth) right next to the double-door pantry. Are there too many tall doors close to each other? Our builder has pretty much talked us out of the prep sink in the island. He estimated $3,000 for the sink/disposal/plumbing, etc. We love the look of the island sink, but will still use the main sink for cleanup and prep. If we do not install an island prep sink, we definitely want to include a pot filler in the design ($300).

Another consideration is that we would like to have island seating for breakfast and light dinners. If the island (7�6" x 3�6") cannot accommodate seating for four, however, we can be okay with just the 2 bar stools at the end of the island (as in the picture). We would consider seating at the counter with the sink/dishwasher on the family side if the seating includes something more interesting like slipcovered chairs or benches. Our kids (daughter 13 and son 8) mostly do homework in the formal dining room and only occasionally in the kitchen. We have a round wooden table and chairs for the breakfast area.

Do you see a better layout or design option? Suggestions for improvements?

3) Layout the master bathroom. We plan to install a free standing bathtub and include a glass shower with glass door. In the original house plan, the entrance to the master bedroom was right off of the family room across from the stairs. To create privacy, we redesigned the entry to the master bedroom to have a bit of an alcove before reaching the door to the master. By doing this, we reduced the floor space in the master bathroom? Is that space too small now? Do you see a more workable layout? Oh, and thanks to this site, we now know that the toilet closet door should swing outward. (It is common where we live to have the closet at the rear of the bathroom.)

4) Eliminate the half bath upstairs. It will save money, and we don�t think we need it. We would use the additional space for closet storage of games and toys. If we eliminate the half bath, how would you layout the space upstairs? We want to keep both bedrooms and closets large and the loft area on the north side should stay the same, but are open to redesign of the remaining space. Also, we would like to add a linen closet in the landing area.

Minor issues:

1) In the master bedroom, how many windows and what placement would you recommend on the east wall? We plan to place our bed on that wall.

2) We were really hoping that the pocket door going into the laundry room would line up with the outside door (added for pool access), so that we could look down the hallway and see outside. The current plan does not allow for that. If the doors do not line up, how should we offset them so that it doesn�t look like a mistake in measurement or design? In the laundry room, we also need a sink large enough to bathe a small dog and a drop/sort area for mail (but not a desk). Baskets in lower open cabinets will hold fresh towels, and we will leave an open floor space (maybe counter and upper cabinets though) for a small dog bed, food, and water. How would you layout the laundry room with these parameters in mind?

3) In the family room, we are thinking of building a fireplace without buildins on the sides. The fireplace would be as low as possible with the t.v. above. The storage closet in the master alcove would house the t.v. components. Honestly, we would prefer not to have the t.v. above the fireplace, but don�t see another design option. In addition, we would like to be able to view the t.v. somewhat while in the kitchen, and be able to sit comfortably on the couch to enjoy a show. Do you see another option?

4) Should the concrete porch area outside of the breakfast room be covered or not? We want to maximize light in the kitchen, but do not want to have to close the curtains during the day (south-facing windows). After walking through a similar, but unfinished, version of the house with the breakfast area covered, we were happily surprised by the amount of light actually in the kitchen. The magazine photo of the breakfast area shows an uncovered porch. One final consideration is that if the breakfast area is covered, the subsequent roofline limits the length (or tallness) of windows in the south-side bedroom. We could still have 2 but both would be higher. What say ye?

5) In the upstairs bedroom next to the bonus room, we really want 2 windows. The only way we see to do that is to either eliminate the porch outside the laundry room or use a larger, taller slider window. While we don�t mind a slider for a bonus room, we really don�t like them for bedrooms. (Bunk beds also need to fit in this room. Any placement ideas?) Which would you choose?

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good luck with your project

This post was edited by Renovator8 on Sun, Mar 23, 14 at 11:47

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 11:24AM
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Thanks for the quick response. We are at our maximum width on the lot, so we cannot move the garage. You mention in your post that the “large brick wall…deserves more than garage doors and a solitary window.” What do you suggest?

We would love an idea for the 3rd car garage that would turn the roof and create an additional gable look from the street. This house plan is a Southern Living plan originally drawn with side-facing garages. We did not like the look of the windows to nowhere in the garage and were looking for an alternative. The front-facing garage in the magazine provided a solution we liked.

We are building in the Oklahoma City metro. Thanks again for your response and for your help.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 5:33PM
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Just wondering … did I post too many questions? Or not follow GW protocol?

I really need your help. I drive home every day to a neighborhood that I hate. My daughter has been a constant target of neighborhood bullys both at home and at school (same kids) since last year. We need to move elsewhere and are desperately trying to resolve problems with our plan to do so. Please help.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:47AM
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Gerty- There's not much that I can comment on because I am not an expert. On the issues with the kitchen and Master Bathroom, you need to post them separately on the Kitchen forum and Bathrooms forum. That would be a much shorter post and would get a lot more responses.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 6:34AM
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Thanks JDez. I have already posted on the kitchen forum but will add a post in bathrooms.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 9:10AM
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Sorry to hear about your dislike for your current neighborhood. Is there no suitable existing housing in the area where you'd like to live? Sounds like you're in a hurry to move, and building new can take quite a while. Just something to think about.

On your plan, a few thoughts/questions:


1) Why do you want a third garage space? Is it for a car or for storage/workshop? If the latter, could you put an outbuilding elsewhere on your lot?

2) I like the wall with the pass through, so can't help you there. I think it helps with furniture placement in the family room. Do you really need island seating since you have the adjacent breakfast area?

4) I think the upstairs layout is fine as you had proposed with the half-bath turning into the game closet. It is good that the kids can go back and forth to the bathroom without being "on view" from downstairs (a problem with some two-story family rooms).


3) Do you really need a fireplace? Just throwing that out there.

5) What is the purpose of the little porch -- shade? If so, you could use a pergola instead.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 12:53PM
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You only have a mayor issue:
The garage roof / Elevation style.

The rest are minor, easy to fix issues.

I'd concentrate on the mayor issue and for that, you need to find someone with better designing skills than the ones your builder seems to have.

This post was edited by naf_naf on Tue, Mar 25, 14 at 21:05

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 9:02PM
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Oaktown: In terms of “suitable existing housing”, we have been unable to find anything close to what we like. It is not necessarily because we are picky but because available housing is thin (and expensive) in our chosen school district. A new subdivision opening has presented us with an opportunity to build something we will enjoy.

I will try to answer your questions:

1) We have been living with a tight 2-car garage for the past 10 years. In the area we want to build, almost all garages are 3-car or 4-car. The few exceptions are deep 2-car garages. I could be okay with an extra deep 2-car garage, but hubby says that there is no room in the plan to extend the garage back, it would run into bedrooms.

2) I too like the pass through. I am afraid that it is too dated though, and I do not want to build any house with resell issues. In addition, we currently live in a completely open kitchen/family room layout and are very happy with it. I worry that I will feel trapped and isolated with a pass through design. In terms of island seating, I could give up seating for 4 but would at least like seating for 2 at the end (like in the picture).

3) As far as the fireplace goes, we don’t need it, but would have big resell issues without it. In the neighborhood we are building in, every home has at least 1, some 2, and some 3 fireplaces. Although we have a fireplace in the keeping room, many people here might view that room as an office, hobby room, etc. No fireplace in the family room would be unusual. In our current house, we have a fireplace in the living room and use it all the time. (Fireplaces particularly come in handy here when ice storms knock out power for days, or longer.)

4) In asking about the little porch, I assume you mean the one off of the laundry room. The purpose was to have a covered area for protection from the hot, western sun, a place for swimmers to dry wet towels on outdoor hooks, a place to watch the dog when let out, and finally a place to protect the back entrance to the garage (we had water problems in that area in our current home). Maybe those reasons are not sufficient to justify the porch. Your thoughts?

naf naf: Well, I am glad to hear that someone besides us does not like the 3rd car garage. Thank you. May I ask…do you also dislike the 2-car garage layout in the color picture? I am trying to get a sense of whether you hate (my word…not yours) the whole look or just the addition. I am beginning to wonder whether there is any hope of adding a 3rd car front-facing garage that looks good. I would be willing to pay someone for the redesign of the garage, but cannot start over and put thousands more into the plan.

If we were to go to a side-facing garage, my husband says that we will lose back yard space and need additional concrete work. I care more about losing space in the back yard. The reason we endeavored to add a front-facing garage in the first place was because we really liked the character of the 2-car garage in the picture. We could not imagine that the task would become so difficult.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 3:00AM
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Sorry, double post.

This post was edited by gerty1231 on Wed, Mar 26, 14 at 9:50

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 3:08AM
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Check your thread on the Kitchens Forum.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 2:48PM
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Overall I like the house, though it seems very large for four people. You say you're desperate to move. Don't do anything in a big hurry -- well-thought-out choices are less often regretted. Also, I'm concerned that you're trying to move to avoid bullies. Kids who attract bullies (and one of my own kids is one) tend to attract them in new places too -- you can't solve this problem by switching locations. Instead, work on her self-esteem and help her learn to stand up for herself in an appropriate way. You don't want to go to the trouble and expense of moving, just to find that you still have the same problem.

Master suite:

- Yes, I would add windows on the east wall. I'd want one on each side of the bed. I'd find it odd to have just one on one side, as pictured.
- The front-facing triple-window to the front of the house is problematic. People could stand on the front porch and look into your bedroom! I'd cut the size of the porch so that it stops just before that window. Front porches tend to be "just for show" anyway, so I don't see that this would affect the function.
- The one set of double doors into the bathroom look odd placed in a room with lots of simple, single doors.
- I see several issues with the bath: No place for a hamper, no place for linen storage, no place for a small trash can. Too many doors to the back of the bath.
- You're wasting a corner (with backyard view!) on a closet. I'd consider re-working this area so you'd have the closet first and the bath to the back of the house.

Foyer: No place for a hall table or guest coats.

Dining: Is your table round? If so, all is well, but I ask because most people tend to have rectangular tables.

Garage: If money becomes an issue once things are really begun, the third garage spot is the first thing I'd drop. I just don't see the point, and the roofline would be nicer without that extra garage bay. You say you've been dealing with a too-tight garage; keep in mind that adding a separate bay won't give you extra space for the main two-car garage.

Back entrance: Spacious, good placement. In the laundry room, is it possible for you to vent the dryer directly outside towards the porch? Is this the porch that you foresee swimmers using to enter the house? I don't see that happening: Why would they walk all the way around the side of the house, when you have a back door straight into the family room right by the pool? I'm neither pro- nor anti-porch; I just don't think the placement is realistic.

Kitchen: I don't love the kitchen. I don't like that it's too spread out -- you'll constantly be taking extra steps, and the island blocks major parts of the kitchen from one another. A kitchen should have ONE "aisle". Yours has two.

I completely agree with not doing a prep sink if it's going to cost 3K. I'd vote instead for reworking the kitchen layout so that the main sink is more accessible.

I don't see any problem with the pantry and the refrigerator being side-by-side. No, two tall doors isn't an issue, and it makes sense to have all your food storage down at the end of the kitchen . . . you bring out all the things you need when you begin cooking, and then you're not tripping over the storage area while you're cooking. This is the part of the kitchen that already works well.

I also question the need for a dining room, a breakfast table, and island seating. Probably outdoor seating too. Do you really want to devote this much space to different eating areas? I think people are doing this "just because" it's become a thing, but it's overkill.

Wall: I have no opinion on whether to keep the wall between the family room and the kitchen or not, but I don't love the idea of a pass-through.

Keeping room: How do you envision using this room? The entrance to the room concerns me a bit. Unless your table is quite small, it will block the way to this door. The fireplace is a nice thing, but if things have to be cut (which happens pretty often), I'd put it on the chopping block. With its placement back at the back of the house, its impact is minimal. And it'll probably cost two prep sinks.

With an open floor plan, I also think you should consider doors into the Keeping Room. If someone wants to read quietly or listen to music, this would provide a place for acoustical privacy. Pocket doors might be a good choice.

I think this Keeping Room could solve your porch problem. Create a door from the back yard into the Keeping Room, and flip-flop Bedroom 2 and its bathroom. Now swimmers can enter through the keeping room (which should be built with a tile floor) and enter the bathroom without walking around the edge of the house.

Upstairs: I agree with losing the half bath --- no real purpose. I'd also lose the door between the sink and the tub/toilet -- again, no real purpose.

Why a loft AND a gameroom? Just one is already a luxury. I wouldn't build both. I'd have extra storage instead. You've several times mentioned re-sale; if the space is there, a future buyer could add this himself.

This post was edited by MrsPete on Sun, Mar 30, 14 at 8:37

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 8:29AM
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We really need some help thinking through some design options. In trying to reduce square footage and costs, we have decided to reconfigure the garage layout -- from a 3-car to a 3-car tandem (2 vehicles side by side and 1 in front). That change also will allow us to go back to the original 2-car, front-facing garage we always loved.

Decision 1: Eliminate the Bedroom or Keeping Room?
We need to cut either the keeping room or the secondary bedroom on the main level. Here are our (somewhat random) thoughts:

Keep the Bedroom (4 bedroom/3 bath/2 living)
The bedroom would probably be used by out-of-town family 2 to 3 weeks a year. We are hopeful that more out of town friends will visit if we have a dedicated guest bedroom but that is by no means certain. This choice would give us 4 dedicated bedrooms in the house with a possible 5th, if you include the bonus room. Isn’t that too many? At least the 3rd full bath makes sense though. Finally, having the bedroom would provide future flexibility for an elderly or disabled parent to come live with us.

Keep the Keeping Room (3 bedroom/3 bath/3 living)
The keeping room provides another open (but private with french doors) living space on the main floor. It would be used at least weekly. However, don’t we look silly for building a full bathroom without a bedroom nearby? There is a pool, but how often will the shower actually be used? We think we need 3 full baths for re-sale. This room also will be more expensive to build. Both options could be used as an office, a hobby room, or a play room.

Decision 2: How Do We Lay Out the Space?
The next post includes some options we have drawn. We need a minimum garage depth of 40 feet on the long side and 21 feet on the short side. Please, please help us choose/improve our layout. Thanks for all your help and reading all the way down!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:05AM
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Option 1

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:26AM
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Option 2

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:27AM
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Option 3

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:28AM
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Option 4

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:29AM
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Option 5

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:30AM
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    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:32PM
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Option 5 is probably my favorite... I need to see the whole picture (floor) though for better context. My brain works best to shift spaces).

But, I am going to point you in the direction of a number of houses by a local designer here (in WA state). They design for a narrow lot with 3 garages (tandem style). You might get some inspiration from them. The homes I've been in from this designer are very livable...

When you view this plan at this site, you can choose "view other plans by this designer" and you'll see a few variations of the entry from a 3 car tandem design on a narrow home...

Also, I think you'll get more help if you start a new thread with your specific questions. I had mostly ignored this thread because it was from March and I wasn't aware that it had essentially a new question on it.

Here is a link that might be useful: one of the plans

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 1:19PM
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Also, the kitchen as drawn in the above 5 options, needs work. The kitchen forum, once you know what space you'll be working in, can get this optimized for you. But, the stove in the corner (while I am not against them like some) in this layout is not working for you.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 4:22PM
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Kirkhall - Thanks for the helpful link and the suggestion to start a new thread. I was afraid of getting yelled at ... but now that I have permission. :)

Hope to get the original plan and options posted in a new thread soon.

Thanks for looking at my post!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:47PM
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When you start your new post, link to this one. And, try to get all your pictures in the first post. Less words, but very specific--who lives here? What climate? Typical pattern of coming and going (through main door? back door? pool door?)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:58PM
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Whoops. I started the new thread before I saw this post. I will see if I can edit to link back to this one. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 8:19PM
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