Critique my house plans.

etherscreenJune 22, 2012

We are in the process of tweeking our first floor and I would like to get some feedback. The Great room will be a 2 story heighth with windows. We are hoping for an open floor plan that will accomidate a young family. Hopefully the picture is readable.

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That's a LOT of house and will be expensive to build with all those jigs/jogs in the exterior wall. A big house is fine if you can afford it but sometimes "young families" have a somewhat unrealistic idea about what things can cost so I'm just throwing this out as a warning. It would be sad for you to spend a lot of time and get emotionally invested in a plan that is 3 to 4 times the size of the average starter home only to discover that you need to scale way back.

I also can't that I'm overly impressed with this design. For one thing, all the jigs/jogs in the exterior wall means that the roof plan will be quite complex which means that it will be more expensive to built AND will be more prone to problems down the road. (Roof valleys are more prone to developing leaks because water is channeled in them, so the more valleys you have, the more likely it is that your roof will develop leaks.)

Secondly, even with that two story great room with, I assume, an entire wall of windows, I don't think the house will get very good natural light. One of the finest books on architectural design I've ever read is "A Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander. In it he says "When they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty." The reason "light from two sides" works so well is that it decreases harsh shadows. You don't wind up with a room that is overly bright on one end while the other is in deep shadow.

In fact, about the best justification for designing a house with a complex exterior is that doing so allows more of the rooms to have windows on two sides. Here tho, while you have all the expense of a complex exterior shape, the designer has not taken advantage of that complex shape to give the major rooms windows on two sides. In fact, he has wasted one whole corner of the house on a closet that doesn't need or have windows! As much as possible, closets should be located on interior portions of the house, not on exterior walls.

The master bath is huge...especially that shower... but I would find it dreary because, again, it has no windows.

The laundry room is nicely sized so I imagine the intent is that clothes folding and possibly ironing and mending will take place in the laundry room...but I would not want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary in the laundry room because... no windows! If you have hired help that does the laundry/ironing/mending, then you may not care whether the laundry room is particularly pleasant place or not. But, if you or your spouse takes care of these chores, then wouldn't it be nice if the laundry room were a more pleasant place?

The kitchen will only get natural light from windows that are at quite a distance from the kitchen work zones so it will likely be rather dark. Also, will it bother you that the kitchen island it totally off-centered in the opening to the great room?

Two story great rooms can LOOK very impressive but many people find that they're really uncomfortable places to actually spend time in. For one thing, they can make heating and cooling difficult as warm air from the great room rises to the second story and spreads out in the rooms up there. Some owners of two story great rooms have found that, in the winter time, they have to set their ground floor thermostat to 80 degrees in order to achieve 70 degrees on the ground level. Meantime, anyone who is upstairs is burning up!

Additionally, Sound from the two story great room can wake children sleeping in bedrooms on the second floor. Noises from children playing upstairs can bother people attempting to watch TV or talk in the great room. And, if improperly designed, you can get a echo effect in two story great rooms that can make you feel like you're sitting at the bottom of a well.

For the most part I think the two-story great room trend is beginning to die out as more people opt for cozy spaces to spend time with family instead of soaring spaces to impress visitors.

How old are your children? While you haven't posted the 2nd floor plan, it looks like it could be a pretty long hike for a 5 year old to reach Mommy if she wakes up in the night from a nightmare. If you have a small child, perhaps you're thinking you can use the office next to the master bedroom as a nursery until your little one is old enough to sleep alone way off upstairs. But, I would not want patio doors in a room occupied by a toddler. Many 2 and 3 year olds can open such doors and I wouldn't want to risk my baby wandering outside in the middle of the night.

Finally, there is no door shown to the office at the back? Do you plan to access it via the pantry or breakfast area? Not sure I'd want an office that you had to go thru the pantry to reach, but adding another door off the breakfast nook could make that space a bit tight for table and chairs.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 2:02PM
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As bevangel said there's a lot of house on the first floor. It looks big and grand. I haven't custom built before and never thought about the window placement in the design. It makes a lot of sense as I think about my current house and the lack of windows on two walls. Depending on your exterior, it looks like you could get more windows in the design. The mud room is huge but there are a lot of doors in/out so that'll cut down on useable wall space. The interior and exterior doors to the office may make furniture placement difficult. The kitchen layout looks pretty good to me. We lived in a house with a similar layout to the breakfast room and great room and it was nice to have an island like that. It's a great gathering place.

The biggest thing I would caution you about is the 2 story great room, as bevangel said. I had a house with a 2 story foyer, formal living room, and family room. It was impressive when you walked in because of the height but it was ridiculous to heat and cool. I feel that a 2 story great room or main gathering room lacks the warmth and cozyness you usually want. I always felt like the high ceiling was uncomfortable for that type of room. Personally, I'd go with 9-10' ceilings for that type of room and do just a 2 story foyer for the impact.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 2:47PM
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In addition to what has already been said... (I agree with all of it, btw)--

your kitchen is oddly laid out and if this is the plan you settle on, it will need some changes. First, having the stovetop directly across from the sink causes issues between the pockets... If it will ever be more than a "one butt kitchen", then having these 2 major standing zones in a kitchen be off-set is must.

If you plan to use the office near the master as a young-child's room... Agree that you can't have operable double doors out to the patio. Also, I think you need to consider sound transmission from the greatroom/kitchen through the wall in the evenings/day/any time a young child will be sleeping.

Master toilet room needs to have the door be an outswing door. It is just too dangerous to have it be an inswing door.

The front of your house appears to have very few windows. It would be interesting to see an elevation, but I am not sure that, as it stands, it would be that attractive; nor very inviting to the front door.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 3:35PM
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1. How do you access the small office?
2. I think the shower layout needs tweaking it is very awkward. If you place the tub beside the shower, reduce the shower could bring the vanities inward and increase the size of your laundry.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 4:50PM
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I also have to agree what has been said here. I do think you have some very elegant and attractive spaces and ideas going on here, as I can see how nice the kitchen, entry, master bath etc. could turn out. I also feel that these great spaces and ideas haven't been assembled in the best way, and that simplifying the geometry and reviewing square footage and how the spaces relate to one another will really help to get a tighter and more effective plan going. Spending the money on higher-end materials with less jogs in plan will really create more of a quality showpiece.

Starting with the entry, I think you could cut back some space here - unless you can add more to the rest of the home for proportion. I'd also move the closet behind the stair, as you'd (presumably) want the stair and other decoration to stand out more than the utilitarian. I also think if you're to dedicate the space to a formal dining room, that you should indeed make it a room and less of a partitioned space off of the entry - let it have an identity instead of feeling like annexed square footage off of the entry/hall. The great room looks like it will be wonderful, and I'd try and shift it in view of the front door to give better sight lines. I'd center the kitchen island and try to get those garages in one large volume of space. With those two offices I can envision a master wing being created (possibly to balance the garages), unless there's a reason to have the one near the kitchen/pantry. Overall, there's a great deal of potential here, and posting the second floor and any other drawings/plans to the forum if available will only improve the feedback.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 12:22AM
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