feedback on our layout would be appreciated

mtc1March 31, 2012

We still need to design our master bedroom and kitchen, but I'd love your thoughts on what we have so far.

About the house:

Our lot is in the country with nature views. The main view is to the south, which is at the bottom of the page.

It's just two of us with no kids. There is space on the property for a guest house which will address anyone wanting more bedrooms for resale.

There is a little scale at the bottom right of the page. The main hallway/gallery is 6.5 feet wide. That hallway will be taller and have opening clerestory windows. The house is aprox 4200 sq feet.

The kitchen, living and dining rooms will be open to each other.


We will have two closets, toilets, and sinks. We can easily expand the bathroom on the north side (top of page) if more room is needed.

There will be a small sitting area either at the foot of the bed or on the north side of the bed. The screened porch will probably be moved so we don't block the view.


The south bump out of the kitchen will have the kitchen table. I picture the sink being on the west wall so I can have a window above it.

In a few days I will post some ideas for the kitchen and master to get your ideas.

The big space outside of the entry will be an enclosed courtyard.

The entry to the property is from the NW.

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There are multiple things I'd question. Most of this has to do with traffic patterns - how you get to various places from elsewhere.

Top-down, first I note that the shop off the garage is rather small, hardly big enough for a bench and any project space. You might move the east wall of the shop further east and its south wall down into the mudroom area. Why is space needed for three cars? If really only two cars need to fit there, then the shop can use some of the extra space.

While a mudroom is a good idea, the only way to it from outside is through a garage door. If you had an entry door to the garage from outside (a good idea), that would be a preferred way to enter the house after being out in the yard doing outdoor work. No one wants to punch a code and wait for a garage door to lift open to enter the house.

Why a "powder room" combined with the mudroom? Who will use it in that location anyway? There is a powder room already off the main entry hall.

Entry to the master BR is via the master bath, which seems awkward, or via the office, which also seems awkward. Why are two entries to the MBR or Mbath needed? If the bath is private to the master suite, why not have the entry to the bath be just from the MBR? The BR and bath could be switched, with no entry from the office.

Why should the screened porch be private to the MBR? Shouldn't others enjoy it also? Access should be off the "public" areas of the house.

Entry to the laundry is off the MBR suite entry. Why is that? Couldn't it be off the hallway itself?

The powder room off the main entry hallway seems small. Imagine going in and closing the door to use the toilet. Where do you stand while you swing the door closed? Why not move the wall where the toilet is further into the closet area?

See if there is a better arrangement of the three things in the guest BR bath. Why not put the shower to the north end of that room, so you don't have to squeeze past it to get to the toilet and vanity, and relocate the latter two. The entry door could be moved to clear either one.

I guess that's enough for one poster. I'll let others comment. Everyone has a different point of view, and we are all right, of course.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 7:41PM
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Hi Dick,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback. It is nice to have another set of eyes because it helps to see things from another perspective.

First.. Wow, I can't believe we forgot about a garage entry door! We have one at our house now and it's really wonderful to have. I'm with you!!! We do need to make that shop a little bigger too. Some of the spaces can shrink and expand as we narrow things down and figure out what will go where so we know how much space we really need. To answer your question, we need a three car garage because my husband says so :) Seriously though, we only have two cars, but it's a golf course neighborhood so we could potentially have a golf cart or another vehicle one day. As I have discovered with this house, it's a great place to collect all sorts of junk.

We are going to nix that powder room in the mudroom. It isn't necessary.

We have been perplexed about the screened porch. Originally I wanted two. The problem has been (and a great problem to have) is the views off the public spaces are so good, with all the windows we plan to have, we've been having trouble figuring out what to block. We have just sorta been waiting to firm things up some more and then figure it out, which may not be the best way to go about it. One thought I had is to move the screened porch to fit into the space between the work shop and north of the master closets. I thought perhaps we could have an entry to it at the end of the hall (that goes towards the mudroom) so friends could enter without walking through the bedroom. What do you think about that?

The reason the bedroom is on the east side is because that view is much nicer than the north view. Originally the hallway to the master was on the left side of the office (between media and office) so entering the master was more typical, just going down a hallway past the office. But, in thinking about the views, we thought it would be neat to have a hallway on the view side (east) with glass so we get to walk past nature instead of a closed hallway. The cost really isn't much more because we would have had the glass in the office anyway, so now the office and the hall just share the same windows. But, I get your point about walking 'through' the office. Now that you know what I was thinking, do you still think it's odd? Regardless, it's a great point because now I know we'll have to define the hallway aspect better to make it clear that it's a hallway past the office and that we aren't cutting through a room. Also, the entry to the garage hallway from the master closet area evolved as a bonus entry. We were thinking that was a nice cut through to the garage and wouldn't cost more so may be appreciated when I am on the way out the door and realized I forgot my sweater. Does that make it seem better or still weird?

We have to work on the laundry/master closet entrance. In just trying not to have an extra doorway, I was thinking you could enter and then go left or right depending which room you want to enter. But, I do want to somehow shape it so the sight lines into each room are blocked. There may have to be a turn involved. I want to have some sort of lateral chute so we can toss clothes through the closets into the laundry.

We will work on the powder room. Thanks. We didn't spend much time on the guest bath yet so I appreciate your ideas on that. It definitely needs work.

Thanks again for your ideas!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 8:58PM
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It's a long way from the garage to the kitchen. Imagine making that trek with arms full of groceries. If you're in the country, you will probably want a pantry near the kitchen for storing lots of staples (unless there is a nearby market, or maybe you do your own canning, etc., but then I think you'd still want a pantry.)

I'm assuming that all the doors aren't shown since there's no practical way shown to get from the kitchen to the outdoor kitchen.

If you plan to do alot of outdoor entertaining, the breakfast bumpout kind of isolates the outdoor kitchen from the rest of the outdoor space. I'd consider reconfiguring that to flatten out the wall and maybe steal some space from the LR/DR to increase the size of the kitchen.

There's a great deal of square footage taken up in hallways, including the one that sticks out at the far right of the LR, which I don't really understand.

I'm hoping some of the layout pros like Bevangel chime in!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 10:43PM
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As to location of the MBR, wanting a "view" toward the east, that of course is personal, what you want to see from that room. My own feeling is that access to the BR trumps view, and that a BR is for dressing and sleeping. Isn't a north view out decent enough, when the drapes/shades are open?

What is that bumpout on the north wall of the master bath? A closet? Bumpouts complicate the exterior shell (adds cost) and cost a lot of heat loss relative to space gained. Why not just move the north wall of the master suite further north a couple of feet. The closet could be moved, possibly used to provide privacy screening from a door opening to the hallway.

As Chicagoans questioned, that extended hall eastward from the livingroom is another bumpout of dubious use and a construction complication ($$).

Other thoughts to consider:
The coat closet to the west of the main entry area and the laundry room perhaps could be switched. That depends to some extent on how big you want the laundry to be and what you figure you want to do in there (move around, iron things, hang stuff, etc. A washer and dryer need a room only three feet or so deep, with a pair of doors to hide them. I do note that the laundry room drawn has some size to it.

Another place for the coat closet by the main entry is in that space just opposite the entry door. However, you may be intending that wall to have some glass in it for a view southward or to let in light.

This am I was wondering about your location. Are you in a heating climate, perhaps with a lot of snow to think about in a normal winter? I was thinking about that space between the garage and the main entry. I get the impression that it's somewhat like a courtyard, open above, and with house on all sides except the west. If you get northeast snowstorms (such as in NE), you could find that the relative calm of that main entry area leads to a lot of snow drifting in there. Clearing a lot of snow could be a problem if you don't have much place to put it. Imagine running a snowblower up the pathway. You'd get to a point and have limited space to park the snow without piling it against a wall (not a good idea). If snow is not an issue, ignore the above thoughts.

If you are in a heating climate, I'd strongly advise giving a LOT of thought to the exterior shell construction. Going beyond "code" (bare minimum) to something that saves a pile on heating/cooling costs and provides substantially more winter comfort is highly recommended.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 10:20AM
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Another reason to know your area of the country is for the location of the screen porch. In the South, you don't want it on the south side. Do you imagine yourselves going out there in the morning with a cup of coffee to watch the early golfers, to eat lunch or supper out there, or to relax in the evening and watch the deer eating the flowers out of your well-tended beds? Will you want some sunshine in a corner of it?

Also, I agree with the guest bath comments. Put the shower/tub on the same wall as the bed; have the toilet next to that and the sink where you come in the door.

I like how you have a separate entrance for guests. I also like the idea of a laundry off the master. I saw it in a house my dil's dad built--it was like yours, off the master bath but hall access was in the laundry room. It was nice, I might add.

I also would switch the entry closet and powder room.

I know this is really exciting for you. The more you think this through ahead of time, the happier you'll be later on.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 8:55PM
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The question I would ask, and I don't need an answer here, is whether you have the finances to build a house that looks like it is going to cost significantly more per square foot than a traditional design with less perimeter wall.

If the per square foot cost is going to be a limiting factor, then you might want to not get bogged down with details on this layout and look at other designs with less hall space.

You could still have all the rooms you want in more of a box design, and eliminate some of the perimeter walls. For example, imagine the mirror image of the guest wing turned 90 degrees counterclockwise so that it butts against the main part of the house.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 9:23AM
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Thanks Chicagoans, Dick, Graywings and Still Waters! Sorry this is so long but I want to address all of your good points and questions.

Our lot is in the hills 2 hours south of San Francisco, near Carmel. The elevation is 1700 feet.
The land on the north, east, and south sides of the house drops off down a hill

The weather is pretty mild all year. It can snow, but it's only an occasional dusting that would melt after breakfast. There will only be a handful of days that reach 100 and it will usually be cool in the mornings and evenings.

Having me think about how I'd use the screened porch is great because I've never had one. There are a lot of annoying flies for about 2 months in the summer, but other than that, it's not very buggy (no mosquito problem) so sitting outside anywhere is usually easy. The entry courtyard is big because it can get quite windy so I envision having a protected outdoor space will really come in handy. And you are right, the courtyard will have an open top but be surrounded by house on three sides. The west side will also have a wall and some sort of door. That little outdoor area south of the entry will also be protected on three sides which will be nice. I see the screened porch most useful for two reasons: to have one 'clean' outdoor area to use like a living room (some really comfy furniture for lounging in a bird poop and spider web free zone) and I have cats so it would be nice to have a predator free area so they can be outside with me.

I'm really looking forward to having the laundry off the master, thanks.
I do think it's far to the kitchen. Originally the kitchen and living room were swapped, so now that it's 50% closer, I'm feeling rather lucky. Funny how perspectives change. I do want a little cart that I can load the car with and take to the kitchen so it can all be done in one trip. I'm going to plan room in the pantry to store it too. I'm picturing an area in the mud room to store huge bulk items like paper towels and drinks. But other than that I do want a nice sized pantry in the kitchen. We can definitely increase the kitchen as far to the right as needed by taking living room/dining room space or even having the house expand in that direction. The south kitchen bump out can also be adjusted. I just grabbed some space so I know we'd have it but it seems like I'll still want some more room.

You are right, all the doors are not done. There will be some to get to the porch through the living room and also someway to get to the outdoor kitchen. That could be doors just south of the entry doors or through the west side of the kitchen bump out. We are also toying with the idea of moving the outdoor kitchen on the other side of the fireplace because there is more room over there. There is also plenty of room at the west end of the gallery/hall too, but that doesn't seem like a good hanging out space. We also are discussing putting the indoor exercise pool in that spot. So many things to think about.

That hallway sticking out to the right is mostly just for some drama and to define the hallway to make it a feature. We envision having a couple of comfy chairs at the end to sit and watch the sunrise with some coffee. The size of it can change if not that much is needed. We realize that is just an indulgence.

That little bumpout on the north wall in the bedroom was me just claiming some space for a makeup table with windows. I don't know about construction costs, so learning that it adds a lot of cost is helpful. Once we figure out the masterbath/closet set up, I'll try to level it out.

The wall south of the entry is going to be glass. We are planning on having big overhangs on the south side to help offset the window. We'll also have some sort of screens that could come down in the heat of the day.

Graywings: Thank you for pointing out we could have a more cost effective design. We don't want to be too wasteful, but we are able to give up some efficiencies for indulgences. But, your comments are really appreciated!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:13AM
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