Please review my 4BR 2-story Minnesota home (updated)

minneapolisiteMay 3, 2012

Please take a look and let me know if you seen any potential design hiccups or suggestions for minor tweaks. :)

We are a young couple (aged 28-30) with a 6-month-old and plans for at least one more child. I work from home (at the computer) so I can stay home with my son. We cook dinner together almost every night. We have small dinner parties (4 adults + kids) several times a month, and we have a one or two big parties (20+ guests) each year. Our parents/siblings live a great distance from us and travel to visit us frequently.

About the lot

This is a 0.36-acre east-facing corner lot (north points right on these drawings). The right side (north) faces another house, the front (east) faces an outlot, the left side (south) faces a house across a wide street, and the back (west) faces undevelopable treed wetlands across a wide street. The lot is slightly sloped so the house will have a basement with a walk-out on the south side.

Front elevation

Colors/materials are still up in the air (the builder provided a line drawing and I colored it in). I've also asked the builder to draw/price a version w/ gambrel gables.

First Floor

(1) Foyer closet. I'm torn between having one long bench instead of a closet, making the hall closet a "reach in" instead of a "walk in," or just leaving it the way it is. If we make it one long bench, I'd need to find another storage solution for things like lightbulbs, batteries, board games, etc.

(2) Wall oven/microwave location. I'm not sure if I like it right next to the doorway. Moving it in a few feet breaks up the counter run between it and the fridge, but I don't want to move it right next to the fridge because I'll want that space for when I'm pulling ingredients out of the fridge.

(3) A first floor bedroom isn't important for resale in this neighborhood, and we'll probably want to downsize by the time we have trouble with stairs. In the unlikely event that we decide to stay in this house as an elderly couple, at that time we will be able to afford to renovate to add a first-floor bedroom.

Second Floor

(1) Sitting room. I'm would you use this space?

(2) Laundry room. Not sure what to do with the layout.

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Firefighter/EMT advice - if you can manage to put outswing doors on your bathroom doors it's a good thing. We'll always get to people that need help, but it can be a pain to get to someone who collapsed in a small bathroom behind a closed inswing door.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 5:48PM
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Your sitting room is the perfect spot for work from home office. But, not if you are needing to supervise children at the same time.

I know I have commented on your plan before, so ignore again if you want, but I think it is worth mentioning:
Your pantry door: outswing and reversed (hinges on other side). Then, you can open it from the kitchen, and you can use the space on the floor of the pantry rather than waste it on door swing space. Same is true of your foyer closet.

All toilet doors need to be outswing or pocket. (This applies to MB, and Bath 3 in particular).

Your Oven/MW location isnt a bad one. And, I'd leave it right where it is rather than divide up your countertop.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 5:58PM
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The master bath doesn't have any window shown. Is it just not drawn in?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 8:46PM
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Yeah, I noticed that this drawing is missing a few windows. One above the master bath tub, one in the study, two in the living room. Still considering whether I want one in the powder room.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 9:19PM
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"picture framing" the windows by adding "apron" trim below the sill not only looks odd, it invites water to enter the wall system unless you take considerable care to flash it properly.

I much prefer to allow shingles to wrap the corners of a house so I would delete the corner boards.

If you want serious design crits you should show all of the elevations and a roof plan.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 9:41PM
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Thanks! I think I'm not ready for a serious critique of the elevation--at least not until we iron out the remaining details of the floorplan itself. :)

Renodvator, I'm wondering if you can critique my stair layout. In another thread it sounded like you had some specific thoughts on good/bad stair layouts and I'd like to understand that more. :)

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 9:59AM
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Since you asked...
Unless you want to make a feature of the stair to the basement there is little reason to let it start at the same place as the stair to the upper floor as if it were in an office or a school. Since 13 risers is adequate for headroom the basement stairs could start 4 treads farther toward the outside wall and allow the other run to be featured. That would also avoid someone being knocked down the basement stair from a collision at the blind corner to the foyer. The upper run might be a tread longer to establish it as the dominant stair.

If there is an interior side handrail it is good to allow it to extend onto the landing 1/2 tread length (or stagger the treads by one) so the handrail can turn without dropping.

The 45 degree bend in the upstairs railing would not be needed if the lower run got a tread longer.

I'm curious how short pieces of closet rods are supported without hindering their use; I suspect there might be a lot of wall brackets and I never like to use them. I would get rid of the chamfered hall corners, in fact, I would try to find a way to eliminate most of the 45 degree walls in the house.

In addition to making it difficult to get someone out of a small bathroom in an emergency, an in-swing door would make it difficult to get into the bathroom on a regular basis or I should say it would be easy to get in but difficult to close the door. It is odd that the halls are so generous but the baths are so tight. People spend more time in their bathrooms than in their halls. The lavs in bath 3 are going to cause some sore elbows and unhappy siblings. All of the lavs are too close to the adjacent walls.

I hope that isn't a sunken living room.

I dislike kitchen sinks in islands because I would not want to sit in front of one when it is being used or when stuff is in it. To me there is nothing so elegant or attractive about a sink and a faucet that would justify putting it in the center of the house exposed to most of the living spaces. Running water is not very compatible with watching TV nor is it nice to splash your spouse's relatives as much as you might enjoy it.

If I had an island that was adrift in the middle of the house I would put a large radius curve at the sitting edge or provide strong end elements to anchor it there.

Why doesn't the sunroom open to the deck?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 6:04PM
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Sun room doesn't open to deck because it's not really a sun room. It's actually the "piano room" and is mislabeled. :)

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 6:26PM
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I think I'd switch the piano room and study. If you're staying home with kid(s) then I'd rather be able to see the great room, from the office. Also, less sunlight on the piano.

The kitchen does look like it needs a bit of work. You might want to post on the kitchen forum...but one quick idea is to move the range down towards the mudroom door and put the oven/microwave on the end by the sunroom. Then leave the fridge 'as is' and move the main sink/dishwasher and trash, between the fridge and mudroom door. I'd put a prep sink on the island (in the corner by the range) and switch the pantry door, as Kirkhall suggested. This will give you a lot more prep space at the island and the oven/microwave won't be in a major walkway.

The microwave could also move to the island or stay closer to the fridge. With kids growing up, you might want to keep it high as they're young and move it down as they get older. Keep this in mind, to see if you want a built-in microwave or maybe a shelf that can house the microwave for now and cookbooks/display, later.

Upstairs, some pocket doors between the master and sitting room would allow it to function as a nursery, office, craft room, etc.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 12:43PM
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Hi minneapolisite...

Since you asked us to have a look at your plans... here are a few comments my wife and I came up with. Same disclaimer applies to us too - we're not experts and these are just our personal opinions.

Generally Speaking

- Too many angled walls for our taste. Pantry could do without the cutout and why not square up your master W.I.C?

1st Floor

- Instead of trying to find another storage solution for board games, etc, why don't you spec out a bench that doubles as storage (swing-up or with drawers)
- Oven/Microwave is too far / awkward position. Seems like it has the potential to impeded foot traffic from the mudroom/powder room area. Why not have it next to the fridge (you already have a divider there)?
- Can you do without a dedicated dining room for the dinner parties? Plenty of room around the island for informal gatherings but an actual sit-down could be tough.
- Is the great room sunken? If so (and if the table is true to size), the step down might be too close to the table (and the table too close to the edge of the island).
- It's been said, but +1 on having the pantry door swing the other way.

2nd Floor

- Counter in bath 3 seems a little tight for a double sink. Pocket doors could come in handy in this washroom as well.
- What are the squares between the Master Bath and Master W.I.C?
- Master Bath water closet seems a little narrow... I know I'd feel a little squeezed when trying to do my business! ;)
- Bedroom 2's door could go to the other end of the room as to not interfere with access to the W.I.C.

I didn't go through all the other posts, but hopefully you find some of the above useful! What's the timeframe for your build?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 9:51PM
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Great room is NOT sunken. That line just shows flooring differentiation.

Square inside master closet = linen cabinet
Square inside master bath = position for an accent chair (one of my wish list items)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 10:06AM
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I have a chair planned for my bathroom too...between the claw foot tub and the sink. I saw one like that years ago, at an open house and have always wanted to include one in the bath...but haven't had room, until now :)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 10:30AM
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Over the weekend I read several of the "Not So Big" books and realized that this floorplan is REALLY close but has some space that will probably go unused.

I think we need to (1) eliminate the "Bedroom 2," "Sun Room," and "Study," (2) design more thoughtful spaces for my computer workstations and the family piano, (3) limit angled walls, (4) use bump-outs judiciously.

We ***REALLY*** loved the feel of the model home this floorplan is closely based on and I want to make these changes without losing the "wow" factor that we had in the model. What's our next step? Summerfield to the rescue? :)

(Side note: are those window seats in the great room silly?)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 10:06AM
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The not so big house is not the inexpensive house. Great use (judicious use) of bumpouts will increase your cost. Be sure you really want that.

That said, can your house go wider? (or have you met your lot width?) Your garage may be the big "issue" in your redesign.

One of the simplest things I could see doing downstairs is to functionally swap your stair/study with Foyer. Cut off the current study/mudroom, and move your mudroom to the space of the new location of the study. Garage to the right side, as it is now. (you'd enter your mudroom from the side of your garage.)

That translates to a lot of lost space upstairs, though, as I've chopped off your right side.

I see your garage being your sticky point. The not so big house probably doesn't have a 3 car garage either. (otherwise, you building a garage with living quarters and not a house with an attached garage. See what I mean? Some food for thought).

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 11:10AM
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Your desires reminded me of this first floor plan, a bit. And, one other, but I am still searching for it (since I can never remember people's names...

I can't get GW to accept its own link... (grr)
So, here it is:

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 11:16AM
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Thank you so much for your thoughts!

When I say "judicious" use of bump outs, I mean "having, showing, or done with good judgment or sense. sensible - reasonable - prudent." So only using them where they greatly improve the use of the space.

Our house could go a *little* wider but not significantly. The current floorplan is approx 60.5 feet wide. The buildable width of the lot is approx 68.4 feet. The great room bumps to the left 2 feet--we could easily remove that to bring the base floorplan down to 58.5 feet wide. (The lot is a relatively square corner lot with a beautiful view out the back (west), nice views to the left (south) and front (east), and a future neighbor immediately on the right (north).

I think I like where you're heading with moving the stairs/study/mudroom around. I'm having a hard time visualizing it though. What would the view from the front-door looking in be? Where would you suggest placing my workstation and the piano? I just want to make sure I follow what you're saying so I can try to sketch it up and visualize it. (I'm the kind of person who doesn't "get it" until I can see it.) :)

I agree about the garage...I TRULY hate houses that look like a garage with a house attached.

That said, a large garage does fit our lifestyle. We live in a very cold climate where parking outside requires 30 minutes of heavy labor just to get on the road in the morning (I am too old for those shenanigans!!!) I have an SUV my husband alternates between his sedan and his motorcycle for his daily commute. We will also need space for a lawn mower, snowblower, and kids toys and sports equipment.

I don't want to build a large house for the sole purpose of making our large garage "look" right. I feel like there must be some creative way to accomplish all of the goals of an aesthetically pleasing house, a house that suits our needs, and a garage that suits our needs.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 11:36AM
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I like the window seats in the great room...very 'Not So Big House' in my opinion :)

What if you swapped the stairs and study, so that the stairs are on the front of the house? Then, the study could have french doors opening to the great room or hall...and would the piano work in that space? Very pretty (especially off the great room) but still some noise control.

The sun room would make a great office and if you could rework the bath/mudroom space, maybe you could access the bathroom (a 3/4 bath?) from the sun room/office and that could even be a future main floor guest room, if ever needed. Flexibility is one of the main attractions to a 'Not So Big House' you'd have two 'away rooms' and they could be used however you see fit, as your family grows and changes.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 9:02PM
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Couple things:

Laundry room - consider moving the machines closer to outside wall. You'll have accommodate the vent run for the dryer - shorter the better.

Bedroom3 and Bathroom3 look like they could be very cold in the winter being above the garage.

The framers and finish carpenters are going to be cursing all those 45's. lol

Overall, I feel the use of space could be more efficient.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 11:23PM
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