After the fire ... help with condo floor plan?

troffMarch 15, 2014

Hello gracious GWers,

We are rebuilding a condo that was levelled in a fire. (No injuries, thankfully, and we were able to rescue family photos and other mementos.)

We never liked the floor plan to begin with (too small here, too large there), and now we have a chance to grapple with it anew.

I'm attaching the plan as we've redrawn it, and I'm hoping your collective fresh eye can give the rooms a quick scan. (Please forgive me if the document is unclear, or not in the right format -- I had to cut and paste to avoid including our neighbours' place. I'll have to post the second floor separately.) The framing is up but we can still make some changes.

Problems that are puzzling us include: the size and shape of the kitchen island, where (if anywhere) to put a gas fireplace, where to put the living room TV, and generally how to use the newly open-concept'd main floor. (The plan shows two little walls in the kitchen area -- they're already gone. Builder thought he needed them for ductwork, but doesn't. The two "teleposts" are all that need to remain.)

Upstairs, we'd like a bigger tub and shower in the ensuite, a functional loft (what IS its function?), and a way to clear up the clutter of doors in the small hallway.

Thanks so much for whatever input you might care to provide. There must be a better way to configure the space ... I know, because I've seen you guys do it so many times before!

This post was edited by troff on Sun, Mar 16, 14 at 0:20

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Here is that pesky second floor.

Thanks again for whatever input you might care to give. I deeply appreciate it.

Oh, and I should add that we are 60ish empty-nesters. And that we may sell the rebuilt condo without moving back in. But I don't want to let that resale-value bugaboo colour all our choices.

This post was edited by troff on Sat, Mar 15, 14 at 23:48

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 11:23PM
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Well, it really isn't bad...
But, why have the entry door open and direct your gaze to the powder room toilet? (was it that way before?) I'd either rotate your powder room (180* or even 90*); change your door swing, or... (have a really pretty toilet or self-closing door on that powder room).

You have what appears to be a lot of wasted space in the sides/wings of the laundry closet. Can you tighten that up just a tad? Or, move you linen closet over there so you can give some of that space back to the second bedroom closet?

A functional loft... :) I'd enclose it for a 3rd bedroom. Is that an option?
And, do you need a gas fireplace, or can you do an electric like what you have upstairs? The gas one seems to take up so much space, and throws your bay window out of usable center... At least to me. Any pictures of the old space to help inform our comments?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 1:51AM
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My living room has a bay window and fireplace,arranged like your plan, and I find it so difficult to place furniture. I want chairs in the bay, but then they don't really have a view of the fireplace and they are far from the furniture on the other side of the fireplace. Keep the bay, but maybe move the fireplace? Hmm, but where? Closer to the bay, right up against that wall?

In the kitchen, do you really need a walkin pantry? It disrupts your counter flow and work space. Could you turn that into an L-shaped counter, slide everything to the left, and put the pantry as a shallow closet at the right end of the counter run? And, you won't be able to stand at the sink and load the dishwasher. Is that nice corner window already there?

Upstairs, the computer nook looks I small and out of the way, would you use it? Perhaps if you turned it into a laundry room, it could share the powder room plumbing below, and your master closet could be a little bigger.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 9:58AM
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I agree with bpathhome about the kitchen. Get rid of the pantry or put a pantry cabinet where the refridgerator is and move the fridge down. Put the sink against the outside wall not at an angle to impede DW.

Here is a quote from "31 kitchen design rules".

Guideline: A full-height, full-depth, tall obstacle should not separate two primary work centers. A properly recessed tall corner unit will not interrupt the work flow and is acceptable. (Examples of a full-height obstacle are a tall oven cabinet, tall pantry cabinet, or refrigerator)

Flip the door on the powder room so that you don't automatically see the toilet if the door is ajar.

Here is a link that might be useful: 31 kitchens design rules

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 10:50AM
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Thanks so much, Kirkhall. Yes, the powder room was there before, only the toilet used to face the other way. AND the washer/dryer were crammed in there! I will look into rotating the space. And a self-closing door ... never heard of that ... must investigate.

The laundry closet is a work in progress ... still deciding whether to go stacked or side-by-side. We will probably go stacked for more closet space in the second bedroom, as you suggested. My original idea was to have the washer/dryer IN the master bedroom closet, but the builder cast much negativity on that solution.

Oh that crazy loft! We haven't closed it off as a bedroom because of the way it lets light into the condo. Would we have to enclose the whole catwalk/mezzanine/nook/gallery thing to make a bedroom?

No, we don't really need a gas fireplace. That whole "gas fireplace" thing is one of those resale myths/truisms people like to scare you with around here ... "all the other condos have them!" And we live in a cold climate, so it COULD be an alternate heat source, I suppose. Would one of the other walls be a better place for the fireplace? Changing out the current "dinette" space to become a TV watching area with fireplace? Or putting a fireplace underneath the "piano window" on the other wall? Making THAT the dining room?

Sorry, no pix or plans of the condo in its previous incarnation. The room layout was pretty much the same, only it had more walls downstairs and in the loft area. We had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the loft so it was the "library," though we never sat there to read. Previous owners used it as a TV room.

bpathome, thanks for the bay window empathy! Thought I wanted one, for the view of the green space beyond, but it really does hamper furniture placement. I think I want a sofa (to look out towards the view) where the gas fireplace currently is.

Yes, that much-disputed corner pantry ... our kitchen designer hates it. It does break up the counter space, but I thought the island might make up for that. The final island shape is still a mystery, though. The corner window should stay ... I enlarged it from the original tiny, notched thing it was. I'll look out on a gas meter, but I like the light.

The "computer nook" (creative naming!) was always an oddball space. Previous owner had a piano there ... it looked like something the Phantom of the Opera might use as a hideaway. For us it was just "the attic" -- home of a big dresser and more bookshelves. I thought of putting the laundry room there, but didn't want to close off the light and see a funny box up there from the entry.... still, it would definitely be most useful that way. What do you think of all the open railings up there? I'm afraid it will look like a jail.

Thanks again for your creative input and suggestions. And for letting me complain about our layout woes!

This post was edited by troff on Sun, Mar 16, 14 at 11:28

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 11:01AM
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debrak2008, You are right about the kitchen ... yet I'm so neurotically attached to the corner pantry idea! Never had one, and to my lazy mind they're so handy for just closing the door on the mess. Will ponder that some more. (Although pondering time should be over by now. Builder is grumbling about the "standstill" our unit is causing!)

I should have noted that the sink has already been moved underneath the window. Corner sink was one of my pet peeves about the old place.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 11:11AM
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For the powder room view, can you just change the swing of the front door? And maybe swap the door/sidelight to give more room to the left of the door.

I'd rather have a bay window, makes it feel so much roomier! But a fireplace adds a nice feel. There are some very cool gas fireplaces that don't take up much space, can be almost flush I with a wall of bookshelves. That might be a good solution. Is the piano window going to have a piano under it? If you have one, that's the only spot for it; on the other wall the neighbors will hear it by its vibration (voice if experience). If not, that could be a nice spot for a fireplace. You, or any future owner, could use either space for dining, and a fireplace can be charming and cozy in a dining space.

In the master bath, personally I'd recommend against a step for the tub. They really arent easier to use because they require a big step down into the tub, and make it hard to sit on the edge if someone has trouble getting in for any reason. And getting out is odd because you have to step up.

The railing around the stairs doesn't have to look like a jail! There are so many contemporary options, including glass. Art glass could be beautiful. And I don't think enclosing the nook would darken the downstairs too much, and then you have place to hide stuff, too! And if you turn it into the laundry, you could enlarge the master closet by just a foot and still have a shallow closet in the hall if you feel you need one (just the right depth for toilet paper, bottles, and band aids, too), or the hallway could be a foot wider for more light and freedom of movement.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 12:14PM
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Thanks again, bpathome. Good idea about swapping the door/sidelight; never thought of that. The front door is already in ... wonder if they can do it (cheaply!) at this point.

The bay window does have to stay, and I think we will move the fireplace across the room, under the piano window. No, no piano there -- it's just what the window guy called it. I kept referring to it a "pencil window"; maybe "ribbon window" is another term?

About the tub step, do you see any way to eliminate it? I mean, can we just leave it out? I thought it had something to do with safety ... but if it's just another 80s touch I would love to remove it. (The condos were built in the mid-80s.)

We are pricing a glass railing around the loft ... I think that's the way we'll go. Glad you think it would work; the builder's design person recommended metal spindles in groups of three, but that's what evoked jail for me!

Thanks for your input about the laundry room too. I've already emailed our builder (maybe not a great thing to do on Sunday morning! don't want to alienate him completely ... but the deed is done).

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 1:37PM
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Master tub: Can you just eliminate the tile step and tile down the side from the deck?

Fireplace: (I like the term piano window, it describes the height perfectly) so if you put the fireplace under it, it vents right out the back, right, no chimney? What is back there, a deck or just grass? And if you do this, you'll want something contemporary (perhaps complementing the loft surround?) since a traditional fireplace wouldn't have a window above it. Or perhaps split the window, and have one on either side of the fireplace, even if they are up at the same height as the piano window. That allows you to put bookcases or console tables under them.

Loft: I just noticed you have an electric fireplace planned for the loft. How cool! We stayed in a condo hotel once with such a fireplace and it was perfect! Do you think you'll use the loft, or is it just space? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 1:57PM
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Thanks, bpathome. I will definitely ask that the step be eliminated. You're right, it doesn't really help anyone enter or exit the tub. A grab bar is more important.

The gas fireplace under the piano window would vent out the back with no chimney (no deck behind it either -- just concrete). We'll get a contemporary linear shape -- echoing the look of the window above.

The loft has always been frustrating. The light it lets in is really the only good thing about it. Our neighbour with the same floor plan uses hers as a play area for grandchildren. The builder suggested making it an office. I see it as just another TV-watching space, maybe with a pullout sofa for guests (family) who don't mind the lack of privacy once in a while.

I'm glad you like the electric fireplace! Most people I talk with are very snobby about gas vs. electric ... electric equalling fakey-fake and useless. Technically, it COULD be gas up there, but I think making it movable (or removable) is wiser in this case. It's that darn loft again ... what will it be when it grows up?

This post was edited by troff on Sun, Mar 16, 14 at 16:24

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 4:18PM
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I don't think enclosing the computer nook would look weird at all from below. Sure would make for a functional laundry space and have the noise away from the bedrooms too. I'd rather have a larger master closet. Also would be a shorter run to vent outside which the shorter the run the better your dryer will perform too.

Instead of the piano window have you considered doing a window on each side of the fireplace? Click here for some inspiration pictures.

I think you can keep the corner pantry, but need to straighten out the other cabinet run so you can move the island further in so it is across from the stove so it is more useful. Then essentially you've created one side that has a cleanup function only and then the other is the cooking side of things. I don't see a problem with it. Plus the pantry will hold a lot of things. However I would think through where you will be storing things you'll need while cooking to make sure they are handy.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:43AM
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Thanks, lyfia, for the yea vote on keeping the pantry.

About the laundry space, would having a partly enclosed window up there make it look too awkward? The builder thinks so.... Could the laundry "box" extend a little to include the whole window?

About the pantry, how would you straighten out the other cabinet run? The sink has already been moved (centred under the big window). Should it not be centred but more towards the corner? The island will probably be rectangular or L-shaped rather than the shape on the drawing.

Thanks also for the window inspiration pics ... if only I had another wall!

This post was edited by troff on Tue, Mar 18, 14 at 12:44

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:55PM
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Yes I would put the door to the laundry in between the windows. Then it would rest against a wall when open too and not impede on the space in the laundry room itself.

I'll try to draw a sketch and attach

Here's a quick drawing - btw I moved your prep sink over some as it will give you more space to do stuff and prep across from the range instead of moving back and forth as well as turning around to get there. You'll need to be careful about the distance for the pantry door and the space between island and clean-up sink. 36" makes it a one person aisle or a no person aisle with dishwasher open. 48" makes it a two person aisle. 42" is the minimum I'd want, but would prefer 48"

This post was edited by lyfia on Tue, Mar 18, 14 at 15:39

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:25PM
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Thanks again, lyfia.

We've moved the prep sink to where you suggested.

About what would be the dimensions of the island as you extended it?

The island is just so troublesome. Is there a way to make it L shaped and intersect with the small telepost wall? I really wanted the largest possible counterspace there, since the perimeter counters are small.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 5:55PM
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Well... You could turn your island 90* and put a wall where it is open now (not the full length) between the Kitchen and LR and have that island be a "peninsula" straight out of that wall...

Have you considered that option?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 6:21PM
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We did consider that, but decided to keep the downstairs as open as possible.

In the condo's previous incarnation there were two walls boxing in the kitchen, and the whole place felt dark, dark, dark. So no wall at all this time, just a beam-thing (12"x12") holding the telepost.

I don't like the way the telepost looks strangely isolated in the middle of the great room. Tried to incorporated it into a half-wall on that side but couldn't make it work.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 1:27PM
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Here is a revised version of the kitchen. Suggestions welcome!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 2:41PM
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