Seeking Floor Plan Inputs- building on a small lot

OskiTheBearMarch 14, 2012

Hi all,

In my neck of the woods (SoCal), the lot sizes are all very small, typically around 5300 sqft (53 ft x 100ft). We would like to double the size of the existing 1100 sqft house, somehow finding space for 4 bedroom, 3.5 baths plus an office area, laundry room, and great room.

We've played around with a design and have something we'd like to take to an architect, but I'd appreciate any insight the THS readers have. What doesn't look right? What seems too small? Anything that isn't buildable?

Thanks in advance.


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In Texas we have a lot of small lots like that as well. Is there any reason that you can't build a 2 stpry?

The inside of the layout you showed seems very closed off. Each quadrant of the house is completely shuut off from the others with an intersection point in the middle of two hallways. To me it doesnt feel like a home..more like an office building.

If you can do a 2 story let me know I have a plan that we liked alot with all the spaces yuo asked for.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 9:02AM
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You can accomplish what you want for sure but what you have is not it.

These are the main issues that I find:
-I am concerned about your front elevation: Big garage and a tiny window. That will be kind of sad for lack of a better word. There is nothing that you can do about the garage but the front could be a lot better adding more windows (or using a bigger one) and a porch.
-Too much space used in hallways - too many hallways
-As you have it, will feel suffocating
-You might want to find inspiration in bungalow style floor plans.

txaggieinargyle: good description!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Agreeing with Martha and Aggie.
An overall suggestion as you move forward would be to consider cutting out a bedroom rather than squeeze 4 br into 2200 sq ft.
Have kids share a room. They would probably prefer a bigger joint room to separate cubicles. And then when kids begin leaving you'd have a larger room available for the last in line or guests.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 10:13AM
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Sophie Wheeler

"We would like to double the size of the existing 1100 sqft house." You need to explore a 2 story plan if you want a bigger home. Plus, if this is a teardown, you need to be sure that your municipality still allows that to happen. Lots of places have tightly regulated that over the last few years.

If there is a reason that you can't do a two story, then you can't cram what you want into a one story. It just doesn't work. Eliminate both a bedroom and a bathroom. Or get rid of the office space in the master and keep a small bedroom to be used as the office space/guest room combo. A larger shared bedroom and bathroom is a much better use of the space than the tiny cramped ones on this plan.

Also, the entry to the home is tucked off over to the side and not at all obvious from the front. It looks like you are hiding it rather than trying to show people how to enter. The entry should be next to the garage, so that it's obvious, and that should lead to the main and only hallway in the home. If you work from home so that you actually need that office and will host visitors to the home, then it should be the first room off of the hallway. If you are just wanting a dedicated computer area, then you are behind the times. All you need is a spot in the dining room buffet to hide a router and printer and your laptop goes to any room in the house and a simple comfy chair and table become an "office".

In a small home, you still have 1/4 of the space dedicated to a master suite. That's like tying your thumb behind your back and only untying it for a couple of hours a day. Put the space into rooms that the whole family will use on a daily basis. Give up the tub. Most people never use it. Go for a good sized shower instead. If you occasionally enjoy a nice soak, then make sure a secondary bathroom has a nice tub that can also be used as a shower. Reduce the closet space. You can get more storage from reach ins than walk ins. Simply line one of the walls with reach in closets.

Where are the views on this lot? And why is there no good way to get outside from the family space except a small door on the lot line? And why is the family room so large? It has a ton of wasted space. Yet it's not large enough for a secondary seating grouping, so the extra space doesn't WORK for you. Open space that won't be used for anything isn't a luxury that you have in a home this size. Every bit of space has to give you payback and serve more than one function if possible. And with no formal living room or separate "den", there is no space for anyone to get away and have some peace and quiet except for their claustrophobic bedrooms. What do you plan to do when you have adult visitors over and would like to hold a conversation with them without the kids TV blaring into your face? Where do you go when you want to read a book? Have a quiet coffee?

You need an architect.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 11:16AM
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Are you thinking of doing a complete tear-down or are you planning on renovating and adding on to the existing house? If the latter, it would help to see the current floor plan and understand how much you're willing to change and what parts you want to keep.

As for the design you've shown, you mentioned a 53 ft wide lot and then sketched a 47 ft wide house. That just allows for 3ft setbacks on either side of the house. You would hardly have room for a walkway down the side of your house to reach your back yard. And unless your neighbors have left much larger set-backs on their lots, your house will sit 6 feet from your neighbors' homes. Your side windows will get little if any light and will be looking out on your neighbors walls or even right into their side windows.

On a narrow lot, I would want as many windows as possible facing the front and back and limit the numbers of windows along the sides. At least toward the front and back you have the opportunity to put in a small garden or patio or something nice to look out at.

I agree with previous posters that you can do a lot better if you build up. If you have height restrictions, consider a 1.5 story house with dormers. You can fit a couple of bedrooms and a bath or two upstairs and still keep the overall height under 30 feet and I'm pretty sure that most places will let you build at least 30 feet high...especially if the lots in the area are all as small as yours.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 7:16PM
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1. Have you thought of loosing the center hallway to the MB and entering through area between the living/kitchen.
2. Are you putting bar with chairs there?
3. Can you steal space for the smaller (10'X10') room's closet from the garage?
4. In MB not sure if you have the room but if you turn the tub 90degrees then slide the toilet up and to the opposite wall you may gain more spacious feeling on the vanity/sink standing area.

Good Luck with your plans.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 8:44PM
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In general I think you have a lot of space dedicated to circulation through hallways.

If you want a split plan, I think you could do a house with 2.5 baths if you put the MBR up front and had the three bedrooms clustered around a hall bath rather than a jack and jill + a single hall bath for one bedroom.

You will want circular access to the main living spaces rather than having them dead end.

You also have a lot of separate plumbing stacks. If you combine areas with plumbing together it will be less expensive.

Why do the family room and dining room/kitchen complex have no windows? Also the window placement with relationships to the beds is poor in all the bedrooms.

I think you may want to combine some spaces into multipurposes. I had my office space in a small condo combined with the laundry and I actually found the sound of the washer and dryer kind of soothing to work by. So think outside the box.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 10:15PM
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Hi all,

Thanks alot for all the inputs- just what we were looking for. To clarify, this plan bears little resemblance to the existing house; pretty much a complete teardown.

Yes, 2 stories would be nice, but the main drawback would be the cost itself- won't it end up costing significantly more?

The main point I've taken away is that the house has too many hallways; I've noticed this too, but it seems like whenever I try to remove them we end up with awkward rooms. But we have to do something otherwise when you stand in the middle of the house you might end up getting lost!

Agreed that the window placements and the front entry need some work also.

Ultimately you've given us a lot to think about and ponder; I will take all your questions/advice to heart and continue working on it. Better now then when we've broken ground!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 2:03AM
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Usually 2 stories is cheaper. I suppose in some places (earthquake rules) that might not be the case but in general, it is significantly cheaper to build up.

I just built 5 bedrooms and 4 baths in 2200 sqft - it can be done. But we don't have a powder room, walk in closets or any separate tub/shower bathrooms.

We have 2 houses, 1 5000 sqft and 1 2200 sqft. There are things you don't need - one of your biggest waste of space is the tub and shower in the master bath. I'd move that toilet as it is the showpiece when you walk in your master bath. The bathroom nearby is not code compliant re:walkway.

The windows over the beds is a pet peeve of my wife's and I see her point.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 6:01AM
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I think you should look at some two story house plans. Generally 2 stories are cheaper than one as the main costs are roof and foundation.

How about something like this

Here is a link that might be useful: Floor plan suggestion

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 3:15PM
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Here is one more - though a bit larger

Here is a link that might be useful: 2,730 Sq. Ft, Width: 30 Ft., Depth: 68 Ft

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 3:18PM
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I second the 2 story suggestion, with the master on the first floor.
If for any reason you want a one story house here is a possible starting point.

The first one is based on palimpsest suggestion of master location. It has 3 full baths, no powder room, but bigger bedrooms.
The second one has a powder room + 3 baths.
They both have a mudroom which you did not show, they also cut the hallways by about 60%. In both case the main entry could be located on the right instead of the center.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 5:09PM
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naf_naf - those are two great plans you pulled together!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 6:00PM
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@ david_cary- Thanks for the data point- it gives me hope that fitting a larger sized house on a small lot is possible! I will have to talk to my contractor regarding your point on 2 stories; it makes sense but is contrary to what he told me. We are in Southern CA so maybe the codes are the reason.

@Laura12- appreciate the links- definitely things to consider. The elevations look great too.

@naf_naf- wow, these floorplans are fantastic! Thank you so much for taking the time to create them. We really like the second one (master in the back)- the rooms have great flow, the dining room has more definition, and the mud room is something we wanted but never could fit in. One question- do you think it would work if we moved the stove to the wall where the refrigerator is and moved the refrigerator to the left of the sink? Seems like the island is a little too small for anything else.

Again, thanks THS readers for all the tips!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 1:44AM
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Oski- Naf's floorplans are great! If you want to rearrange the kitchen a bit, in the second one, what if you moved the laundry room wall over about a foot, towards the washer/dryer? Move the door over just a bit, too.

Now, you can have a 'back wall' to the kitchen, with a pantry, fridge, maybe a prep sink and the microwave. Great snack area for the kids, but keeps them out of your way, while you're cooking. Then the range can be moved to the wall (where the fridge used to be) and the island can be used for prep/baking. Great place to spread out cookies or make the kids' lunches :)

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Laura, Oski, Lavender - Thank you!

Yes, the kitchen can be re-arranged in a few different ways, all of them ok. Kitchen can be "U" shaped with peninsula and stools as you had it before.

There is enough room to create a separate pantry and Butler area. I love lavender idea's but with the refrigerator on pantry side, the U shape works better (to reach refrigerator) unless you use an undercounter refrigerator for the kids.
The island is not that small: (4'-6"x6'-6") and can seat 5 if you add to stools to the other side.

If you prefer to keep the island, the patio door will work better on the other side of kitchen.

I'll add furniture and post it later.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 10:46AM
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WOW - Naf's plans are amazing!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 10:59AM
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I'm in Northern California and I think in general the code requirements are fairly similar and I've been repeatedly told that two stores are slightly cheaper than one (though, out of preference we are building a 3000 sq ft single story).

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 11:34AM
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If you like the second of Naf's, I'd get the stove off the island too. And, I'd do what Lavender suggests. Move the fridge to one end of the butler area, and put in a prep/drink sink. You can recess a full size fridge with all the space that the laundry room provides behind it too.

You can also do what you suggest, if you like having the pantry/butler area be full cabinets, etc. Your main prep space will be between sink and stove. And, what you don't want to do it create yourself a barrier island (which is possible if you put the fridge in the wrong spot on that pantry wall).

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 12:19PM
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New Orleans resident here. Our lots are typically 50x120ish. That's what we're building on now. Have you gotten your setback and zoning requirements? We had to have a combined 10' total on each side and the smallest side could be 4'. So you could have 5' and 5' or 6' and 4'. I think the back was 4'.

Also, it IS less expensive to build a two-story than a one-story. There is less foundation/pilings, less roof, etc. We found that out quickly when we built our house more bottom heavy and lighter on the top. A more evenly split two story will be less and give you more yard space.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 12:56PM
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A few other small things...I would move the slider, to the family room, since that will be easier access to the outside (and BBQ?) from the kitchen.

The dining room slider I would change to a window seat...maybe with built-in dish storage, on either side. You can always use more storage :)

Finally, in the guest bathroom...I would flip the bathroom layout, so that the plumbing is against the closet wall, not the dining room wall.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 1:20PM
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here are a few kitchen layouts. The one that will look "more formal" is the one on the lower left.
Lavander, good catch (re: bathroom)

Here is a link that might be useful: kitchen

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 11:52PM
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naf could you please check/repost the file? I see words but no lines.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 12:31AM
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oops nevermind- I was able to view the layouts on my PC! Didn't render correctly on my Android phone or Touchpad.

naf great work again! Like them all but am leaning towards the one with the island...what happens if you put the refrigerator to the left of the sink rather than the butler's pantry? Is there enough room?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 1:46AM
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Regarding the setbacks, the city code is 3' minimum on each side and a minimum of 10% of the entire lot width. So for a 53' lot, 47' would be the max size. Yes, a tight squeeze but I think we can live with it.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 1:56AM
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I prefer the first suggestion by naf naf. Keep your master away from kids rooms. This was a priority in my plans since we are all on the same floor. Although my house is 2 story.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 8:36AM
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You have a few different possibilities. You can mix and match pantry, laundry, etc.
There are cases where you can place the sink at counters or laundry and I dashed it.
See attachment

Here is a link that might be useful: Refrigerator / kitchen

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 8:46AM
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If you built two stories with a set of cross wise stairs in the middle, you would minimize hallway and circulation space needed and get all the spaces you wanted into this house, and more outdoor space as well.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 12:29PM
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A two story would be cheaper and would be a much more pleasant existence. Having 3' to the property line is barely enough to have a walkway to the rear. It's really really claustrophobic. And unattractive.

My first house was on a 50' wide city lot and it was 30' wide, with 10' to each side. The drive was allowed to be on the lot line and it led to a rear separate garage. This worked really well, as the house itself could occupy the width of the allowable setback without worrrying about a garage. I was in the old neighborhood recently and subsequent owners had converted the garage to a one car and the second bay was a poolhouse for the pool that they built. They had also popped out a dormer for the 1/2 story attic upstairs and what had been a 900 foot starter home was now probably a 1500 foot urban gem. It almost made me wish I had never sold it! (But then I remembered the crime wave that the neighborhood went through before it started being gentrified.)

With a 53x100 lot, you could easily do something similar, with a drive to a rear garage that could be linked to the main house by a breezeway. The garage could even be a secondary construction at a later time to make the plan more affordable. The courtyard area between the two structures can be a charming jewel type garden/patio area. And the full two story structure can provide all of the needed living space without occupying 90% of the lot----which I think is a very unappealing look for a home.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 12:34PM
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