Am I heading in the right direction?

pay_it_forwardMarch 25, 2012

Hi All!

After a long stretch of illness in our household (first my daughter, then my husband, and finally me) I'm back at it trying to figure out our floor plan! I appreciate any feedback you can offer!!

Here's a recap of our story/preferences:

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 less than 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

- one main entry (a disguised mud room with lockers and a utility sink)

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

- seamless indoor/outdoor living

Plan specifics:

- the top of the plan is south

- 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

- that is an attached carport rather than a garage (for aesthetics, thinking of spaced horizontal wood slats on the front (north) and left (east) sides with a sliding gate to access the covered walkway to the front door)

- the large door from the kitchen into the bedroom is supposed to be a sliding barn door (we plan to utilize this as a playroom/classroom for the time being and this doorway allows for supervision from the kitchen)

- the skinny rectangles separating the LR from the guest bath and flex room are bookcases

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

- "family room" is combo fitness/guest room with a Murphy bed (the rectangle)

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

- outside to the right of the dining room will be our daughter's playground area and to the left will be a "secret garden" style room accessible as well from the master bedroom

Thanks a bunch!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Swap the kitchen and LR and the entry with the family room. That gets the kitchen closer to where the groceries come in the home and consolidates the family entry through the garage with the formal entry into the home. I'd also add a porch to the front so that you have a covered entry. I don't care for the uncomfortable birds on a wire island seating that you have, nor the lack of good separation between cleanup and prep space. If you have more than one person in the kitchen, it will jam up the work flow. It needs an overhaul, and I'd probably take a bit of the porch space to help make the layout work better in it's new location.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 12:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sounds like you are wanting to build an energy efficient home. If that is the case, you might consider changing the sliding glass doors to French doors. For the most part, sliders do not seal very well.

Also, is there a reason the front entry is so large?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 8:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for your thoughts, Live Wire Oak ~ I'll experiment some more with your ideas. In the above plan, we would have a covered area connecting the front entry to the carport.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 11:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, Dekeoboe! We are contemplating removing some of the sliders, replacing with French doors or windows. The entry is large because it is serving as our formal entry as well as a disguised mud room with enclosed lockers (with a bench in front) along with a closet housing a utility sink (for rinsing off garden veggies, muddy boots, etc.).

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 12:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You know...LWO has a good idea, especially about switching the entry and family/guest room, even if you don't switch the kitchen/living area.

If you put the entry by the carport, you could enter from the front or directly from the carport. It would also allow you to use the family/guest room as your playroom/class room, with the barn door. This would allow the other child's bedroom, to just have the door, by the bathroom...not the barn door...and you could have a larger closet. If you plan to adopt, you'll probably need both of these bedrooms.

Your front entry will function more as a mudroom, in this location, too. Kids can come in from the porch, carport, or front yard and get cleaned up before tracking through the house.

I'd keep the murphy room in the family room...maybe with a combination craft table (have you seen those?) and either leave the exercise equipment, put it in the spare bedroom or maybe add a small space off the master bedroom for it.

You'll need the extra square footage, once you have two or more kids...and the family room/playroom can be the class room now and a parents' guest room/move in space, down the road. Flexible spaces are wonderful, especially in smaller homes :)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 4:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, Lavender Lass! I gave the switch a try but it did not appeal to my DH. He really wants the flex space to be tucked away from the main living areas as well as the bedrooms. He thinks that the potential uses for the space (fitness, recreation, parent quarters, guest room) are better served with some separation.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 3:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


You specifically asked for my feedback but I do hope you'll understand that because mid-century modern/Scandinavian is about as far off as one can get from my favorite house style which is turn of the century folk Victorian. Thus I don't consider myself qualified to make any comments about the aesthetics of your design and we're just going to have to agree to disagree about what is beautiful when it comes to houses. LOL!

That said, I'm happy to offer you my comments regarding functional issues.

First off, you mentioned that in a few years you may become foster parents and/or possibly adopt additional children. Many of the children in the foster care system are special needs children so if you're serious about becoming foster parents, you may want to make certain that your home is wheel-chair accessible. For a wheel-chair bound child, accessibility would probably mostly mean having doorways that are wide enough to get thru (minimum 32"), hallways that are wide enough for a wheel-chair to make a 90 degree turn when needed, a bathroom with accessible fixtures and enough clear floor space to turn a wheel-chair around in (5'diameter circle), and an entry door without steps. I can't see the details on your drawing well enough to make out the widths of your doorways but none of your bathrooms look like they would be accessible. You might want to modify at least one of them to make it accessible. You do have a nice long space between the carport and the front door so even if you have several steps up to the front door you should have plenty of room to build a ramp if you ever need one. Anyway, I thought I'd mention it because if/when you become foster parents, I'm sure you wouldn't want to have to turn a needy child away b/c your home won't accommodate his wheelchair.

Accessibility issue aside, I applaud your desire to go "green" but you might want to do a bit more reading on passive solar design. I think you may have gone a bit overboard on the amount of glass that you have facing towards the south. South-facing windows are good but TOO MUCH south-facing glass can turn your home into an oven. I have family in NC and spent many summers there as a child. What I recall are long terribly HOT summers. Depending on the altitude of your land, it might not get quite as hot where you are as I remember it being down around Wilmington. Still I'm fairly certain that your dining room (with it's south facing windows AND sliding patio doors on both the east and west sides) is going to be unbearably hot. We had a friend up in Maine with a south-facing sun room very similar to your dining room design. Her sun room sometimes got uncomfortably hot when there was still snow on the ground outside! If you haven't already done so, you might want to contact the NC Solar Center (on the NCSU campus in Raleigh). I believe they offer design assistance for those wanting to build passive solar homes. If not they ought to at least be able to put you in touch with local passive solar experts who can advise you on just what percentage of glazing to square footage would be optimal for your area.

Okay, now for some specific floor plan issues.

1) The walk-in closet in the master bedroom is pretty much a space-waster. It is too small to put hanging rods or shelves anywhere except on the back wall so you won't get any more use out of it than you would a reach-in closet but it takes up twice the square footage. And, while you indicate that this closet is also the "safe room", I'm not sure what you mean by that term. A place to protect you and your family from severe weather? Or a place for you and your family to retreat in the event of a home invasion? In either case, sliding "bypass" closet doors such as you've shown won't do you much good. Those things tend to pop off their sliders if bumped wrong so that closet probably wouldn't be of much use in a hurricane or tornado and would be of no help at all in the event of a home invasion. If you're on relatively high ground where flooding is not a concern, you would be far better off to dig an old style "root cellar" next to your home for tornado/hurricane protection.

2) I understand the concept of the sliding "barn door" for the playroom/schoolroom but I don't see any place for the barn door to slide to when you want the room open. You have another door in the hallway that is in the way of the door sliding to the left and it looks like you're planning to have a bookcase that would be in the way on the right. So, where is the barn-door going to slide to?

3) Having two doors into the playroom/classroom limits the amount of closet space you can have. If you want that room to have access to the bath without having to go out into the "public" portion of the hallway, why not swap the bathroom fixtures to the other wall and then put a pocket door between the playroom/classroom and bathroom? I'm not a big fan of J&J bathrooms but it seems like a better option than wasting space that could be used for a closet on a second door out to the hallway.

4) Are you really sure you want all those windows in your showers? Are they going to be "glass brick" or regular windows with opaque glass of some sort? With regular windows, sloping the interior sill and waterproofing the window surround will be crucial to keep water from the shower from getting into the wall.

5) I don't quite understand the bookcase walls you have dividing the living room from the flex room. Are you thinking floor to ceiling bookcases INSTEAD of walls? If so, I'd be concerned about things. First, this creates an awfully long stretch (from kitchen to edge of the porch) right down the center of your house with nothing to support to roof above. In long skinny houses such as you've designed, typically there is an interior LOAD-BEARING wall running parallel to the roof-ridge near the center of the house. In other words, the very wall that you've removed half of probably needs to be a load bearing wall. You definitely need to talk to an engineer but I suspect you would need at least one or two support columns.

6) If that circle next to the washer/dryer represents a water heater, you need to arrange for access to it. I suspect that code may require that water heaters be accessible but even if it doesn't, if/when you need to replace your water heater, do your REALLY want to have to completely remove your washing machine in order to reach your water heater?

7) Your masterbath toilet room looks like it might be too small. Minimum interior width of a toilet room (required by code) is 30". That is wall to wall. And I think code requires 24" of standing room between the front edge of the bowl and the wall.

8) Entry into the master shower looks pretty cramped.

I do hope some of this is helpful. Good luck with completing your design and building the home of your dreams.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 5:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks Bevangel! I am very grateful to you for taking the time to offer your feedback. My little one had another long bout of illness, so it has taken me some time to respond.

It seems that mid-century modern is not a very popular style on this forum! Turn of the century Victorian homes are beautiful indeed ~ I like to visit them but prefer a simpler, more streamlined space to live in!

I really appreciate your thoughts about wheelchair accessibility. Many versions ago, we had an accessible bathroom and I'm glad that you reminded me about it.

Your comments regarding passive solar are spot on! We do need further help with sizing overhangs and the glazing percentage. If we can just get the basic floor plan done, I am hoping to move on to address how to optimize the passive solar design.

Concerning the safe room... We are now hoping to have an underground shelter accessed by a sliding hatch. I agree that the safe room in the plan you are addressing did not function well as a closet (btw, we were planning to have an inswing steel door to that closet that would rest against the side wall and then have sliders on the exterior wall for day to day use).

As for the barn door... We are planning to utilize bypass sliding doors that will cover the doorway to the playroom, the bookshelf, and possibly even the doorway from the entry.

The windows in the showers are still up for discussion. We are planning to have fiberglass windows and if they remain in the showers, we will utilize opaque glass where appropriate. I like the idea of a shower with a view out... not so much with a view in!! I also like the natural ventilation that an operable window would offer.

I put the wall back in behind the bookcases in the living room.

That water heater has been moved around to many different locations! I haven't been really happy with it anywhere.

Based on your wonderful comments, I've made some adjustments to our plan (below). Thank you so very much for helping me!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 4:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hi pay-it-forward,

I saw your comment about MCM not being a favorite style on this forum, and I just wanted to point out a thread from the kitchens forum. It's actually from last year but was re-posted recently. It's an Australian kitchen in a modern / contemporary style. (Not sure if it's MCM, but it's definitely not traditional.) It's fantastic! I thought you might like to see it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fantastic Aussie Kitchen

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 9:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for sharing, Chicagoans! What a beautiful kitchen!!! This is very similar to what we are trying to accomplish.

Thank you, thank you for thinking of me!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 9:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

you are so welcome! Not sure if you've read the whole thread, but if you scroll down to Davidro's message you'll see his commentary on the features he noticed and appreciated - some things I may have missed without reading his notes and looking back at the pictures.

I tried to find some posts on the kitchen forum by rockybird, who is doing extensive renovation to an MCM and staying true to the style. Had no luck with GW search, but you might have better luck.

Be sure to post pictures as you go!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 10:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I did see Davidro's detailed commentary ~ very insightful! Thanks for the tip about rockybird's reno.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 10:23PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
How to cut back on cost
We have 6 kids, 4 still at home. We want a large house...
Question about screen porch
First, I'm ONLY thinking about the porch right now....
We have started construction!!
We have just started construction of our new home in...
Jack Mason
Lessons of this Winter
I find lots of people are guided by aesthetics and...
Are these doors acceptable to you?
These are walnut interior doors. I understand that...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™