Do house plans reflect the way we really live?

lavender_lassJuly 18, 2011

Maybe it's resale, keeping up with the Joneses, or we just don't know what we really want...but do you ever wonder if most of these house plans reflect the way we really live? Of course, some of you may use every room, entertain constantly and have several children, but if not, do you really use these rooms? Do you wish you had more space in other areas?

While the 'Not So Big House' ideas address some concerns, I wonder if it's time to start thinking about a different type of home. One that offers storage, craft rooms, places for dog and kitty storage, rooms that are easy to heat and cool, less bathrooms and more items like greenhouses, vestibules, screened porches, TV rooms and kitchens that you don't need roller skates to get around in!

Okay, that's my rant, but if you sometimes wonder about these things, too...or if you have a great link to some fantastic 'out of the box' plans, please share them :)

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This is actually a very excellent point. I didnt wish I had a formal dining room because I dont use it that much. However I do use it for formal occasions and I am quite gratefull at those moments to have a formal dining room. But the other 362 days a year I could be using that space for something else. Dont really know how to get around that... But to come up with a floor plan that really suits how we live is very nebulous - I wish I could have figured it out fully when I approved my home plans on the build I am doing now.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 4:43PM
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Most of the online floor plans that I see would not work for me and the way my family lives. Many are big on grand or trendy features and short on practicality, IMO. These are the plans with no closet by the front door and no mudroom or other storage area by the back door. In fact, many of them only have a back entrance that opens into a nice area like a family room -- that wouldn't work at all for us (2 active kids, a dog, and we garden a bit. And I don't want my main family and kid entrance through the garage.) I'd give up a "keeping room" or a "hearth room" for a back entry mudroom any day, based on the reality of backpacks, sports gear, etc. and how we use our back yard.

And any plan with an "over look" or "open to below" space on the 2nd floor looks impractical to me too: heating/cooling issues; sound traveling; and the unused / wasted space. And the plans where the master WIC is bigger than a kid's bedroom? I don't have or want that many clothes, and I DO want my kids to feel that their private space is a priority too.

I agree with the poster above re: a formal dining room. I'm glad I have one and use it several times/year for entertaining, but I'd love to see a more flexible space that could morph from dining to something else. Something that works when it's just 4 of us at home, or when there are 25 for a holiday dinner, or 75+ for a big party. hmmm, maybe trade my fancy dining table for a pool table with a some kind of cover that we could eat on? DH would like that.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 5:20PM
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Our lives are not as simple as we may wish to think and they do not always stay the same for as long as we planned. The issue is not just how well a house plan reflects the way we live now but how adaptable we and the house might be in the near and the distant future.

I wouldn't cut the bathrooms; they become more important as time goes by and are difficult and expensive to add.

I never use roof trusses because that space can provide for a cheap first class addition later and I try to convince my clients to have a formal dining room or at least a space where an extended family can comfortably gather to eat on holidays, birthdays, and other special family occasions. A barbecue in the backyard is great but it's not the same experience. Nothing is more important than keeping a family close and opportunities to sit face to face and talk can easily be overlooked in these days of digital non-communication. No phones at the table!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 5:50PM
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The dining/pool table has been done before.

Here is a link that might be useful: dining/pool table

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 5:58PM
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This is the reason we had to do a custom build. Of course alot has changed since we finalized our floor plans 3 years ago-most notably the economy. Some of the things that makes our floorplan different than most other new construction in the area:

Only one dining space. It's open to the kitchen and has an 8' table in it.

Most homes in our area have a family room, hearth room and formal living room. We opted just to have a library/living room and a hearth room.

Our mudroom is huge compared to most in the area. It's really a back hall with a powder room, office, large closets. I insisted we have access to the mudroom from the backyard.

Our laundry room is close to the master bedroom instead of being in the mudroom.

We have both a master suite and guest suite on the main level. With aging parents we wanted the guest suite on the main level.

No 2 story entry or vaulted ceilings. The staircase is off to the side and is private instead of a grand stairway entry. This really helps the noise factor.

There are only a couple of things we did to "keep up with the jones" or as everyone said "you have to have x in a house like this" but were a waste IMHO:

2 powder rooms. One is "formal" and the other in the powder room.

Our second level is only 800 square foot finished and is our son's space. There's an additional 1200 square feet that can be fnished if desired. But it still cost us something to have this space there-all because houses in our area are typically 5500 square feet and we had to have the option to expand to that size.

So we tried to build for our lifestyle now and in the future, but we did try to take some resale expectation into consideration just in case.

Chicagoans, I've seen many dining rooms double as librarues, craft rooms etc.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 7:17PM
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I think different regions, different families and families at different stages need or want different floor plans. For example, our current house has been a fantastic place to raise our four kids. It's a big ol' ranch with Cathedral ceilings in the public rooms and all the bedrooms on the main level. The master bedroom is closest to the living room and entry, so that created a buffer space when the kids were small and the grownups were up later than them. Also, if a young 'un wandered down the hall in the night, it would wake us up. We had one bathroom for the four bedrooms to share, which was great when they were small.

Fast forward 15 years. Now they are all teenagers. They all need or want more privacy than one bathroom can afford. They are never in bed before us, so they are tromping up and down the hall and waking us up. The centrally located master bedroom that was so great for toddlers is not working for teenagers. Our new house has the master bedroom blissfully isolated from the traffic flow. So, in a sense we have outgrown our house.

I happen to like separate rooms for separate functions. We have a lot of chaos in our lives. Having a formal space that is always tidy is wonderful. If a neighbor drops by or a parent comes to pick up their teen, I love being able to have them sit down for a glass of tea in a nice room free of text books, notebook paper, laptops, Coke cans, video game controllers and what not.

Maybe that's a regional thing. I grew up with the concept of "front door company" and "back door company." You know you're part of a family's inner circle when you become "back door company." However, I really hate it when people who are "front door company" come through my garage and enter my kitchen. I feel somewhat like the wizard of Oz when Toto pulls the curtain back, but I also feel that they have invaded my inner sanctum.

Similarly, although I'm happy to have people in the kitchen sharing a glass of wine while I am cooking, I prefer to eat in the dining room and leave the mess behind in the kitchen. It's fine to gather around the kitchen table with friends and a bowl of chili on a football Saturday, but for a nice dinner, I feel more civilized in the dining room.

As far as a craft room, Lavenderlass, I am not the least interested in crafts. A craft room would not hold any appeal for me. However, with 3 kids with Type 1 diabetes, I am putting in an "infirmary." We need a clean space with cabinets and a minifridge for isulin. I can't wait to get all of that equipment out of the kitchen and into its own space. That's a room you wouldn't see on any house plans. I wish I were better at dual purpose spaces. I admire the European simplicity and small and tidy areas, but, alas, that is not my reality.

Different plans for different folks.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 10:12PM
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So interesting!! Truly, that is the beauty of using an architect to custom design a home to your needs. We feel like our architect really gave us what we wanted and needed in our home. We only have two children (8 and 11) and honestly, we really didn't want to build a 5000+ sq ft house like most in our 'hood. The minimum is 3500 and that's really all we needed (honestly, "need" is probably a strong word, who really "needs" 900 sq ft per family member, "desired" is probably a better term.) She was able to make the rooms we wanted big, big...and keep other spaces intimate. We have a small library/parlor near the front of the house for "fancy" guests and a good-sized formal dining room...but really kept all of the action in the kitchen/breakfast/family rooms. She was able to carve out a great master suite on the main level, and gave each child a decent (but definitely not grand-sized) bed and bath on the second level (and a guest suite) a really large playroom. Oh, and I got my little office area near the kitchen, and a laundry/mudroom near the back door.

There was no reason for us to go bigger. She did leave all of the space over the 3 car if way in the future, someone with a large family wanted to buy and expand our house, they could. We just wanted to build a nice, custom home with all of the nice finishes that wasn't too big for our needs. We didn't want to heat and cool unused space and I certainly didn't need more sq footage to keep clean! ;) Keeping it at 3500 sp ft also enabled me to have more bells and whistles than I would have been able to have in a bigger house.

If we hadn't used an architect, I feel very certain we would not have been able to find the spaces we wanted in a stock 3500 sp ft plan. We would have probably had to go bigger, and had unused space.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 9:34AM
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"Do house plans reflect the way we really live?"

They can and do... but it is not a "one size fits all" thing!

Some things mentioned in the original post - craft rooms, places for dog and kitty storage, greenhouses, vestibules - I have no desire or need for.

Other things - storage, rooms that are easy to heat and cool, screened porches, TV rooms and kitchens that you don't need roller skates to get around in - my 1966-built house already has.

Also, I would never want a home that does NOT have a separate dining room. We love ours and use it plenty!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 10:07AM
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I like that so many people are rediscovering how a home can be both intimate and grand through the manipulation of space, ala Susanka. Frank Lloyd Wright was creating homes with the same spirit 50 years before. Using different ceiling heights, room proportions, sightlines, and combining functions can lead to a smaller overall footprint, yet a house that lives "big".

I really began to understand how effectively these concepts can be combined after my trip to Falling Water. All of the public spaces are combi use spaces, with higher ceilings, interesting and unexpected sightlines, and a uniform approach to using color and materials. The great room lives in a very "today" large fashion because of this. The private spaces are smaller and feel much cozier than many of today's large bedrooms. They achieve this through lower ceilings, built in storage, and indirect lighting. The baths are smaller, and while functional, do feel a bit cramped compared to even some of the smaller baths of today.

Overall, I think it's a good lesson for today's home designers and architects to use. A smaller footprint is a greener choice, and less costly to maintain than so many of the millineum bloated square footage homes. I'm at least hoping that the trend towards having a "master suite" that's bigger than all of the other bedrooms put together will dwindle. How many hours a day is someone able to enjoy such a space? And yet 30-50% of the home's square footage is devoted to buying into the idea of a "relaxation spa" environment---with some of the most unwise and obscene use of our precious water resources ever. I think this is a prime example of not building a home in the way it will really be used.

As far as craft, rooms, mud rooms, pantry rooms, entry halls, etc. ad nauseum, there is often way too much space devoted to a warren of these small spaces rather than having a larger single space at the front and rear of the home to buffer the inside rooms from the outside. All any of these rooms do (if done properly) is buffer the occupants from the weather and flotsem of the exterior making it into the interior of the home. A mudroom can be a pantry, laundry room, storage locker, craft room,office, and other multipurpose room just by tweaking the space enough to be able to assume all of those functions. It will decrease the overall footage of the home if the functions are combined, and serve the homeowner much better than separate rooms for each function. And, if the combi entry way, coat closet, hall, and powder room takes up 20% of the space, you're either trying for something too grand for the rest of the house, or you're wasting a lot of space that isn't really "lived" in. Halls especially, while useful transition spaces, are often a poor space wasting design solution of an amateur designer.

And, too many people design for how they "wish" they lived, instead of how they actually do live! That's where the formal living and dining room come in. Most people don't use thsebut maybe 5% of the year. And too few people have enough vision as to how to reclaim those spaces to be used every day. Just because you want a formal space to eat or entertain adults doesn't mean that you can't combine those functions and also a library or office function so that the space is used rather than mothballed for only special occasions. Space is a precious expensive commodity to build, and it's an expensive luxury to waste a single square foot of it!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 12:18PM
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For the past few months, I have been studying plans at the website for Hajek Associates (see link below). I consider myself pretty jaded and think I have seen it all (lol), but these designs made me cock my brow and say hmmmm. Their ideas about room arrangement are kinda different and some of their smaller plans are surprisingly full-featured. I stumbled upon their designs while on One glaring omission is that their ideas about mudrooms seem to be pretty nonexistent, with few exceptions. I really think a mudroom, even just a small one, is a feature you will never regret having, not optional at all.

At various times over the years, I have become fixated on various designers' floorplans. Usually how it goes is I will find a new set of plans or someone will recommend them to me, and I will pick them apart for awhile and find several that seem to fit my requirements and think they are my new favorite candidates for future construction. But closer examination almost always reveals they are impractical or just plain wasteful.

While keeping in mind that all plans can be altered for my needs (and that a custom plan may be in my future), I am still searching for that holy grail, the plan that needs very little tweaking. My view is that I must find a plan that needs as little alteration as possible because those are dollars that could be better used to pay for materials and construction. I am willing to pay for space and useful features, but my tolerance has gotten very low for features and square footage just meant for show.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hajek Associates homepage

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 5:31PM
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Your post made me smile, sanctuarygirl.

I live in an established community of 240 homes, and not one has a mudroom. We all raised our kids and managed our households just fine without one.

Yet every plan scrutinized on this forum stresses how it is, as you put it, "not optional at all" for today's homeowner.

Makes me wonder what the 'must-have' will be for the next generation....

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 5:54PM
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In our last house, a jacuzzi tub was considered "mandatory" for any resale. I think we had fun it a couple of times and then used it to store water during hurricanes. We hadn't run it in so long, I was glad the buyer did not ask to fire it up before closing!

We resent the fact that we could not get an appraisal to build our new house for the way we want to live: a MBR on the main floor and the bedrooms in the walkout basement in order to minimize the footprint/maximize the usage of the space. To paraphrase the cliche: building a house these days is the art of what's possible, not necessarily most desired.

Luann - I suspect max energy efficiency/alternative energy will be the must have of the next gen.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 9:40PM
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We will be building a house in the near future without a dining room and family room - just a den and large eating area attached to the kitchen.
It will have large mudroom that includes laundry room and storage. Large three car garage (one of 3 is really a workshop. Idea is to use garage for some storage as well instead of using up conditioned space for storage.

Renovator8 - What do you use instead of trusses?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 1:09PM
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I'm enjoying this thread. While it would be much more economical to buy an existing home, we're building because we want a house that will reflect the way we live today, and hopefully will meet our needs for the next 30 or so years.

For us, in particular, we wanted a house that had:

* two master bedrooms, one on each floor. We're in pretty good physical health now, but maybe not be in 30 years. Also, my mom may live with us, so that gives her some private space. Our family are scattered around the world, so when they visit, they stay for weeks at a time. Just can't think of a downside to up and down masters.

* ICF construction: for a multitude of reasons, but the most important being sound insulation since I live with a traumatic brain injury and NEED a quiet house. Also, energy costs are only going to go up, so we think the fact that ICF is quiet AND efficient is all good.

* As much universal design as possible. Just thinking ahead.

* From a more practical view, we aren't putting a separate dining room, either. We do sit down to dinner, but the dinette off the kitchen works just fine. A large walk-in pantry because I do cook from scratch every day, and we save a lot of money by buying in bulk from the Amish market. A big kitchen that is set up that I can cook in "my" area, but since we like to entertain, it's open for others to be able to mill around (i.e. toddler on his Tonka, friends doing prep or serving drinks, people sitting at the bar.

I'm sure we'll think of things we could have done differently later on, but at the moment we're really happy to have a house that fits us. And, if in 30 or so years, there's another family who wants energy efficiency, green design, universal design and room for in-laws to fit comfortably, they will love our home, too.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 1:58PM
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I have also come to feel strongly about not having a separate formal dining room. In a practical sense, it would be the first room to go if I have to cut a room. There are people whose lifestyles warrant formal dining areas, and these folks should get them, but for most of us, they are not used enough to justify them.

What I visualize is a single eating area immediately off the kitchen. Not a nook or a breakfast area, but a full-sized dining area that could hold a long table, at least a six-seater. This would be supplemented by seating for 3 or 4 at an island. Notice I did not say seating at a bar. If you are going to skip the formal dining room, the eating arrangement you have should be full-featured, and I just feel like island seating with its wide, flat surface is superior to a bar for casual eating and serving (not to mention for spreading out the newspaper to read while drinking a cup of coffee). Ideally, I will have a U-shaped kitchen with a longish island with a 2nd small sink and seating for 3-4; and immediately in past the island, the dining area with its long table. Here is a link to a plan that has the kitchen/dinette arrangement I like (ignore the rest of the plan, way too extravagant!).

Here is a link that might be useful: Example of kitchen/dinette arrangement

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 5:14PM
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What? You don't NEED a basketball court in your house? :-)

I agree totally on your idea of the kitchen dinette. That's exactly what we're doing. We have a very large kitchen, with two islands: one is the prep island and one is the clean up/entertainment island. We started out with a U + island, but made a last minute change to the dual islands because our dinette is off to the side, and prevents us from having to walk around all the time.

Here is a link that might be useful: kitchen

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 7:07PM
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Isn't that plan just beyond the pale, icfgreen? LOL

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 7:18PM
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"What I visualize is a single eating area immediately off the kitchen. Not a nook or a breakfast area, but a full-sized dining area that could hold a long table, at least a six-seater. This would be supplemented by seating for 3 or 4 at an island. Notice I did not say seating at a bar. If you are going to skip the formal dining room, the eating arrangement you have should be full-featured, and I just feel like island seating with its wide, flat surface is superior to a bar for casual eating and serving (not to mention for spreading out the newspaper to read while drinking a cup of coffee). Ideally, I will have a U-shaped kitchen with a longish island with a 2nd small sink and seating for 3-4; and immediately in past the island, the dining area with its long table. "

sanctuarygirl, that's our exact setup.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 7:46PM
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OMG, you stole my house, pps7! That top picture makes my heart beat fast, lol. It looks casually elegant in a way that I can make more casual or more elegant as needed with accessories, but not formal. The position of the appliances is exactly where I intend mine to be. Kitchen windows, they are a dying breed, but I want it right there, too. I can see a tiny bit of a seating area past the dining table, connected to the kitchen/dining, but not looking directly at the sink, that is part of what I want, too.

Inquiring minds want to does this arrangement live? Would you make any changes? Got any more pictures you want to share? What about the layout of the rest of your house? One-story or two-story?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 8:26PM
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sanctuarygirl, I had to look that phrase up! I love it when I learn something new...and YES, it was!

PPS7, What a lovely set up. I love practical and pretty!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 9:16PM
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PPS7...gorgeous set up! Do you mind me asking the dimensions of the rug under your dining table?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 9:32PM
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I'm going to have a similar set up in a home I'm going to start on soon. Would you mind sharing some more photos of the area such as a full length photo from family room to kitchen and back. I also second sanctuary girl's question about how the space works.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 9:59PM
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pps and sanctuary girl,
I have lived in a home very much like that picture above for nearly 2 decades. Except my house has an entire wall of windows from the kitchen and dining and LR that gives much needed natural light. Our large island is a wonderful feature! When I walk into homes with double tier islands with little if any usable counter on it, it makes me cringe. Our living room is also open to the kitchen and dining. I cannot live in a typical generic builder grade home because the floor plans are unacceptable to me. For example, I do not want a home that accomodates 2 tables/breakfast and dining. A big waste of space!

I agree with Green design absolutely! All the concepts Greendesign talks about is how my house was designed, slowly over time with a good architect and us users. I also do not find the NEED for small rooms with separate functions. (no need for craft room, but I need built in storage so the room can function as a playroom/craft room/gym etc.) I would rather have a slightly larger spacious rooms that can double function. For example, our guest room is our media room. My laundry room is our mudroom. This uses the space well and functions well. We have never felt that this causes hardship. Our bathrooms are small because I do not value large bathrooms. Large bathes are cold to shower in, difficult to heat, and too PITA to clean. I also do not want large bedrooms, just big enough for a bed and some storage and space around it. Again, large bedrooms are a wasted amount of space since we (my family) do not spend alot of time in the bedroom. These generic house plans with huge masterbed and master bath are a true waste of precious space IMHO. I really adhere to the concept of smaller private space and larger public space.

My house is about 2700 sq foot. We often look at houses to see if we can find a spectacular house to move to. Most houses that we look at that are much larger than ours do not live larger because the spaces were given to rooms that do not contribute to a sense of space; ie the public space. This is all due to poor design.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 10:49PM
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Love this thread! (and the pics above and also want to know the rug dimensions) I have Susanka's nsbh beside me now and it is full of great ideas and things to consider.

I really don't think there is a one size fits all in housing, much less in a HOME. We have a formal dining room and a living room, we don't use. It looks nice, but just wasted space for our lifestyle. For us, a great room with dining area open to kitchen with an island eating/visiting with the cook area would be ideal for our lifestyle. The best designs for this type of floor plan can make it feel like you are with the rest of the family while working in the kitchen, but don't do the opposite -- you don't really notice or feel like you are in the kitchen when you're in the greatroom. The pics above have that feel by defining the space so well. For us another small den more private area, which could also serve as an office or even an overflow guest room would be nice. Dog friendly design is necessary for us. I'd sacrifice larger living spaces for more storage any time.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 11:08PM
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Really enjoying this thread. But the question is-if so many of us agree on these points that why haven't these ideas made it to mainstream floorplans?

Green design makes some excellent points. We first saw the "multipurpose room" at a Southern Living Idea house and fell in love. It's flex space to use as office, mudroom, pets area, pantry, extra fridge, crafts. Whatever suits your family. We also loved the open kitch-dining-family room layout of this space. We just nixed the breakfast room. This also allowed us to have 2 sinks and a wall of windows in our kitchen which I love.

Southern Living Turner Bayou House

Kaismom, you don't know how many times I've heard that our master is too small-- too small for what? All I want in my master is a king sized bed, 2 nightstand and maybe one other piece of furniture. We don't have a tv in there and I don't need a sitting area.

I did indulge in the master bath a bit. Our last master bath was 4' x 8' so I may have over compensated, but I do love it!

santuarygirl & bb19, I love the greatroom arrangement, it functions quite well. We entertain quite a bit (I host bookclub monthly and DH likes to cook so we often have small dinner parties for 6-8 people). If you move your messy pots to the clean up sink and wipe down the counter on the island, the kitchen looks very clean from the rest of the space. The only thing I would change is get an exhaust fan with a remote blower in the kitchen. We've never had a heavy duty exhaust before and it is LOUD. Hard to watch tv or hold a conversation while it's on. But other than that it works great! We hosted Thanksgiving last ear with 16 people without a problem (with 14 staying at our house). The open space allows everyone to hang out together but to migrate to different areas. Someone could be on the island working on the laptop. 2 people could be at the dining table having coffee. The kids hanging out in the family room.

A few pics that include the family room( we love lots of windows too!):

Please ignore the decor-in the family room. Everything is going to go, I just haven't gotten around to it yet. We're still working on that :)

And there are other more private spaces to escape to if one so desires...

Library/living room:

nin805, the dining room rug is 8 x 10. It's a tad too small in length. I'm going to try to find and 8x 11 to replace it eventually.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 12:08AM
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I am loving this thread, too!

Kaismom, 2,700 sq ft is a great size. Many of the plans that are my favorites and that feel like they have just enough room are around 2,600-2,800. I wholeheartedly agree with you about the double-tier islands. If I had a rec room or something, the bar island would be welcome there and function well, but as the only island in my kitchen, the increased surface area and functionality of a one-level island is the way to go!

Suddenly noticing that there are no upper cabinets in the photo??? Does this work well? Kinda a lot of cabinets on the right wall, so maybe no loss? Do you have a nice pantry? Good storage counts for a lot! And this is a rare kitchen these days, since it does not appear to have any tile whatsoever? Is there any rationale behind that decision? I am thinking of also having stainless steel behind the stove, but instead of plain, one of the patterns now available, since you will be able look directly at it all the way across the living space.

So as far as public living spaces, I would also want in addition to the connected kitchen/dining/living area is another spillover living area. So, two living areas for me, but not two dining areas. This works for me because while I need a formal dining area very seldom, I cannot count the times when family or friends are over and groups want to separate--women/men, adults/kids, whatever--and there is no place to go to besides a bedroom, which I dislike. But this 2nd room would not be a room for show, everything in it would be comfortable and easy, although I would kick up the furnishings maybe one notch from the other living space.

I do have an indulgence that I would sacrifice but want badly: my heart wants a small study. I am a huge book person who would love to have place for them, and make it a cozy personal space with a couple of great chairs and maybe a chaise to crash on and where I keep things that I have collected that are important to me and that I pretty much keep closed off. Though I could have bookshelves in the other rooms, but it would not be the same effect of a tiny personal sanctuary.

Icfgreen, your house sounds really great and very thoughtfully planned for your needs, extremely livable, indeed. I like just about everything you said, except I have decided that a 2nd story is not for me. I actually love the "awayness" and privacy for an upstairs master bedroom and think 2 up/1-2 bedroom down houses can function really well, but since I will only get to do this house once and plan for it to be a forever house, I just put the idea of an upstairs away so that there will be no areas of my house that will be difficult for me to reach when I get older.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 12:57AM
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I dont know about the rest of you - but my family and i wanted the kitchen and the family room as one big great room. That is way we live - my wife can be in the kitchen and still see me and the kids plus anything on TV. Our breakfast nook is off to the side. I understand about having a dining room inbetween but it seems to break up the way We live (as the thread talks about)

I also 2nd a guest suite on the main floor - that is what I am doing because of my parents getting up in age. However - I also have that dining room on the 1st floor off to the side up front and I just see it as a waste...

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 6:15AM
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Thanks, PPS7 for the rug info. I loved seeing your beautful home...really gorgeous. I think your master looks absolutely perfect, very peaceful. I mean, what do these people who think it is small DO in there? To me, MBs are for sleeping and um, well, you know ;), can't imagine what else people do in there besides those 2 things! :)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 9:21AM
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pp7, your home is GORGEOUS. It's exactly the look I'm going for. I hope I can pull it off as well as you have!

Our new house will be 2,600 square feet. We'll have 1 story and a full basement. DH & I have a toddler-age son now and plan to have one more. We really tried to pay attention to what works now vs. what will work later, and I think we've managed to pull it off. A functional floor plan was a huge deal for us; any "trendy" features are just icing on the cake. The reason why we didn't buy an existing house was because we couldn't find a floor plan that truly fit how we live. Many 2-story homes felt far too grand for our lifestyle and had formal spaces that we'd never use or struggle to find a real use for. And I hate huge bedrooms; they just don't feel intimate and cozy to me.

Even though we entertain a lot, we decided to forgo the formal dining room, even though I wanted one at first. The more I thought about it, I realized that we entertain in a very casual way with our closest friends and family. Formal dinner parties aren't really our thing.

This isn't meant to disparage choices others have made ... this is just the house that works for US.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 9:56AM
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So great to read all your comments! When you have thought about something over and over, you can get in a rut. It helps to have other people tell you what they have and how it works for them. Inspriration all around. I hope some of the things that you all mention are making it to the ears of people in the housing industry.

Your master bedroom suite looks plenty big enough to me, pps7. Your style seems very comfortable, laid back and simple in a good way, as do all the photos of your house. I would want a bench at the end of the bed or a single upohlstered chair to make it complete. And I need a vanity with a stool somewhere in there.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 11:01AM
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Our first house was very chopped up - you had to go through the dining room to get to the kitchen from the living room. Once we had kids we found it was not conducive to our lifestyle at all.

When we moved into our current house, we increased the size as well as openness. For a long time we loved it, but then realized we don't need a formal dining room or living room - they are wasted space that only get used 1-2 times a year. We also realized that we no longer like living in 2-story homes.

We hope to begin building next year, and plan on building a single-story, completely open plan. The living/kitchen area will be open, and even though the floorplan includes a dining room area, we're going to have it be part of the living room and put a pool table in that space. Our island will be only an island - no seating space, and our breakfast area will also be open to the living room and have seating for 6-8.

Based on another thread about open floor plans, we decided to close off the office area from the main living space with the use of french doors. This way the room is still visible, we're still "present," but noise is reduced when needed.

I'm excited about the build - more and more things are falling into place that lead me to believe that we'll be able to build in summer 2012 rather than summer 2013.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 1:40PM
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Interesting thread, as we embark on building and are living in a "too small for us" house in the meantime. We are a family of four with a 10 year old and 13 year old who are big into sports with a lot of gear (mainly hockey). Our current house is about 1200 square feet (I'm guessing). We are planning to build a house that will end up probably around 2600 sq ft.

Some friends of ours who built a very large house warned us that they noticed a huge deterioration in their family life (three teenaged girls) when they moved in. The house is so big they go their separate ways and never see each other. Computers in their rooms, tv's in their rooms, etc.

We are trying very hard to create a house that fits us and our needs with some room to change that as we age. We don't need huge bedrooms--kids won't have computers or tv's in there and we don't either. No "formal" living areas like in the house I grew up in. In over 40 years I have eaten in the dining room once and only spend time in the living room when "company" is there. Before my dad passed away, he had to climb the stairs to bedroom on hands and knees and my mom refused to give up that never used dining room for him to sleep in, and there was no shower/tub on that floor anyway. And now she's in a four bedroom two story with partially finished basement all alone. Ridiculous!

2600 seems about perfect for us, and I'm going for bedrooms on 2nd floor, laundry on main floor, and computer room/library that can be turned into a bedroom later in time, with a 3/4 bath on that floor.

I hope we can make smart choices to have this work for us as we age, yet still work for us with kids at home now (and hopefully grandkids sometime in the future).

I have no interest in a grand showcase home that is too large. I think a lot of people just don't think about it or don't want to custom build.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 5:52PM
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Thank you for the photos. Your home is beautiful! I hope I can do as well with our project.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 6:52PM
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"But the question is-if so many of us agree on these points that why haven't these ideas made it to mainstream floorplans?"

That's a good question pp7. It seems like a lot of these plan sites are 10 years behind or maybe I'm in the minority by my preference for your arrangement.

Here is the first floor of my floorplan. It's not perfect but I think it will be great for our family and that's the whole point of a custom home.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 7:21PM
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We are starting construction on our new home next month and we had to tweak our plans based on our personal needs. I desperately wanted a "drop station" to collect all sales flyers, invitations, school forms, I took out a closet to make room for a counter, pegs for hanging bags, a calendar, and a large bulletin board to hold my stuff. We will most likely put our dog's crate under the counter as well. We also made our laundry room much larger so this will make up for the lost closet that was intended to hold cleaning items. This simple change will hopefully help me control the clutter that now invades my one and only eating table.
We will have three bedrooms, but we have only one child. We rarely have overnight guests, so the spare bedroom will have a mobile bed in a nice wooden chest, book cases, two recliners and a tv/cd player. I think I will love to use the "library" on a regular basis as I enjoy reading. This works for us, but others would most likely prefer a true dedicated spare bedroom.
I am a china collector, so I really wanted to have a separate dining room to entertain and house my china collection. I plan on using this room for family meals as well, especially when homework and projects are taking up space on the kitchen table. Most people probably prefer one large eating area instead of two, but I think our arrangement will work best for us.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 9:53AM
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Our 1.3 acre is zoned for a 6000 sq ft house. It's in an established neighborhood where many homes are that size or larger. The oldest homes date to the early 1900's and are on lots of up to five acres. The few scattered ranches on our street have been or are being replaced.

We searched on and off for three years in this town for an existing house that was small, single level, with big rooms and high finish. Didn't find it. We finally bought a 1950's ranch on a quiet, lot bordered by a creek and backing to a conservancy.. It became a teardown.

Our house 'fits in'. It's 28' high, brick and stucco. A stick-built, full-height attic extends over the 2900 sq ft first floor that is our home. The attic can be developed into BR's and baths by a future owner. A formal staircase ascends from our large foyer to...our attic.

We have the 'few, big rooms' we wanted. We have the high finish we wanted. We're happy with a nine-foot ceiling; cathedral in the library and a barrel over the kitchen and bath windows.

The only spaces we do not use *daily* are the DR and guest room and bath. (I'm still happy that we have them for occasional use. If the house is expanded, a 12 X 15 DR would be expected. There would be no point expanding a house where the public rooms were too few or too small to support a larger family.)

Meanwhile, DH and I sleep in our master suite, read in our living room, watch TV in our 'library', cook in our kitchen, eat three meals a day in our 'breakfast' room (seats 6 - 8), and relax on our screened porch and terrace. My big back hall houses a large closet and a powder room at one end and my laundry at the other. There are three big archtop windows in front and 15 French doors across the rear. (I like *light*.)

Let's not forget 'location' when we discuss how we live.

We could live in less space. We could live on a 25 X 150 lot in Chicago, or in a condo. We could have bought in the boonies, but we wanted this town, on this street, three minutes from shopping, RR and beach, amidst mature landscaping and value-holding RE. We have a great library and city services, excellent schools and hospitals. We're 40 mins. from O'Hare, but out of the flight pattern. We can commute to the city by rail, expressway...or cigarette boat! lol (We did have such a neighbor.) The 'where' is as important as the 'what'.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 12:22PM
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Figured out that I have the Southern Living Idea House issue from 2007 that has the Tucker Bayou house and all the color photos in it. Only thing is, besides the back-to-back kitchen-dining-living area that I am so in love with, the rest of the floorplan is not workable for me, want all rooms on one level. Found out that the architect is Looney Ricks Kiss out of Memphis, interesting.

There is also a plan from Donald Gardner called the Pine Ridge at (aka Cedar Ridge plan at that is also a Southern Living plan that has that same back-to-back-to-back room arrangement. Looking more and more like I will have to pay extra to have a designer/architect alter an existing plan or do an original one that includes this layout.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cedar Ridge plan by Don Gardner

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 2:49PM
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I am going to come back and read every word on this site. What I did (but DH loves our house!) is --I drew the house that was the way we actually live and the (fabulous!) builder and I had it put to code working with a building code guy (my mind just went blank as to his title). I would only change 10% or out house. We also came right on budget.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 3:29AM
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I am really enjoying reading this thread...we are about 50% done with this much went in to the planning. We purchased our current home about 6 years ago, and we really loved the neighborhood. BUT, the company that built this home cut corners and chose not to insulate ANY of the interior walls. It is an "open floor plan", so it is very loud. We have a front living area that houses my son's drumset and his XBOX 360 set-up...ugh! Our main living room is in the back of the house and our tv is along the wall that butts up to the master bedroom (with no insulation between the walls...) We have a "formal dining room" that is very pretty, but it holds mail and assorted tools and materials that my husband brings and takes for the business. The dryer vents to the attic vs outside, and on and on...Sooo, we bought the lot next door and we are building a home that will be used...and it will be well-insulated and private.

We decided to build a hillside walkout-style home. The homes in our neighborhhod that have great landscaping and grass! have this type of design. The others struggle to grow grass in their backyards. We put a lot of thought into the design of the home we will live in for a very long time. My husband has a really bad knee and we considered that as we planned our shower area and master bedroom area. Everything that we will need as we grow old is on the main stairs or steps. We have a kitchen that opens to the dining area and great room. In the basement, we have 2 bedrooms for our extended family that visits often...future grandchildren, etc. There is also another tv/game room and bar area. Our son's bedroom is currently on the main floor but as he goes into college, he might move downstairs and we could move our office into his old room. We have thought this all through...this is the beauty of building a custom home. I am still considering how to lay out the mudroom for maximum efficiency. I have learned a lot from this thread!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 7:05PM
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Thank you all for the wonderful responses...and pictures! It's nice to see I'm not alone and I appreciate the variety of responses. So many homes have lots of rooms, but not set up in the way we really use them. Hopefully, more builders will incorporate what we're starting to see in custom homes.

Please keep the pictures and ideas coming! I know it's helping me and I hope it's helping others, who are trying to build or remodel their homes.

One of my main concerns is making our home more self sufficient. Since we live in a cold winter area, I want to incorporate a greenhouse (for plants, not for show) and lots of pantry, storage space...while eliminating rooms we don't use.

Anyone else trying to incorporate a greenhouse? Anyone else thinking about more wood stoves or fireplaces to help with heating costs? Thanks again :)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 3:31PM
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We currently burn wood as our primary heating source, but on our build, we have a zero clearance gas stove. A future project is a small addition on the south side where there are currently patio doors. On the extreme south facing wall will be sun room type glass panels where my wife can start her veggie plants in the winter as she likes to start from seed. In the room we'll put in a wood burner and get back to having that as our primary heat source and look for some help in the winter from the sun on sunny days to warm that room through the glass as well.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 4:42PM
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I would think that adding a greenhouse to a home could be tricky because you need to control the heat and humidity migrating from the greenhouse to the home.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 7:19PM
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Dekeoboe- I've wondered about that, too. Although you still see some plans with greenhouses, I think they're from the 70s and 80s. If it's too difficult to add to the house, I could add it to the side of the garage, near the house, which might be a better orientation. With the garage, the majority of the windows would face southeast, rather than southwest.

Sierraeast- Your addition sounds like a great space. How big is it going to be?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 7:58PM
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Hi Lavender_lass, Too early to finalize a size just yet, but we are kicking around 12' wide x 16' deep. A lot is dependent on coinciding with the main house concerning air movement, window sizing, and gettiting it porportioned too be as efficient as possible. We have the services of the engineer, draftsman who can help out with advise. Just kickin' it around for now.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 9:44PM
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pps7, what are your floors? I'm in the midst of thinking about floors and yours are nice. If you can be specific that would be great! They have nice character.

We have been designing our custom build with our architect and will have a very similar layout to pps7. We have a family of four. Our island will have seating on two sides though so that we can see each other better while eating and also if someone is eating only at the side facing the sink, they can see the TV.

I love that our dining area is part of the main space. We will have a bump out bay window/ window seat in that area with built in hutches on each side as well. I can't wait! I think it will be great for casual days or gatherings.

We also designed the house with the master and a guest suite downstairs and the kids' spaces upstairs. We have a boy and a girl and each has their own moderate bathroom. With different sexes and them getting older in this house, I knew a jack and Jill would just create issues. We are right at 3100 living. It's a bit bigger than we intended because my exercise room ended up upstairs and the layout worked better. We chose to do 10 foot ceilings down and 9 up...nothing two-story or extravagant...just comfortable. I think the house will function well for us.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 11:14PM
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babs711, I thought I had responded to your thread in the home decorating forum but it seems to have disappeared.

Our floor are carlisle pine 8-12" in the sturbridge brown stain fininshed with tung oil.

Honestly, I would go with a harder flooring- maybe oak or walnut. The pine dents really easily.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 12:27PM
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pps7, I think we're crossing! LOL! You've not been happy? Are your floors heart pine or regular pine? I've read there is a difference. We're looking at heart pine. There is a brazilian walnut option I'm eyeing (but don't like as much) as well as a hickory.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 8:58PM
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I often ask this question. We live in an approx 2700 sq ft house where about half of the first floor is formal areas (LR and DR) as well as a very large foyer. It all looks pretty but it is entirely useless.

My kitchen (20x13) is fine for my family but if we have another family over we eat in shifts due to kitchen table size. We DON'T use the dining room for various reasons: 1) table usually covered with kids artwork/schoolwork 2)Don't want to mess up a tablecloth or the carpet 3) Seems too formal for BBQ :-) Honestly, the kitchen is too narrow with our island so it's cramped for the 2 of us.

We use the DR room (14x14) several times a year for actual meals and seating but it still seems like a waste of space to me when we now have needs for more frequent, casual meals for 8+ and additional homework space. DH likes the formal space however and is focused on resale when we won't be selling for at least 10 years.

Our LR is 13x16 and also only gets used when we want to get away from the noise to talk on the phone. It also is where we put our Christmas tree.

We live in the Midatlantic in a planned community. Our house is about 12 years old and I imagine most people have a formal DR. DH would rather put an addition on the house than to make the DR part of the kitchen and maybe the LR more of a study type area. If I could buy any house I wanted, I would have a study, large kitchen that comfortably seats 12, family room and large mud/laundry room on my first floor. Then I wonder how applicable any of these issues will be in 10 years when my kids are off at college and out of the house. Homework space will not matter. The formal dining room for BBQ still seems awkward though. LR still see no need for this room as it stands.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 11:45AM
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Soto- Have you seen Sarah Susanka's 'Not So Big House' books? She does an excellent job of combining spaces so that they're still attractive, but used every day. There are a lot of great ideas and it might help you to show your husband...maybe there's more of a demand for this type of lifestyle than he might realize :)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 12:20PM
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pps7 . . . i am IN LOVE with your house. Can you tell me a little more about your layout. Where did you attach the garage? Is the multipurpose room accessible thru the garage, do you have an island in it? Did you leave the kitchen, dining room dimensions the same as in the tucker bayou? I typically don't like when islands butt up with dining tables but yours still looks very spacious! How many square feet is your house? I am sorry about all the questions but your house makes me swoon!! BEAUTIFUL! After a year or two of looking at plans I see a slight glimmer of hope.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 11:19AM
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The part we learned while designing our custom build (they start digging tomorrow!!!!) is that moving things around on the main floor affects things on the second floor. It seemed like everytime we bumped out a wall on the main floor we ended up with an unnecessarily large kids bedroom, bathroom, or laundry room upstairs. We are very pleased with how things are turning out, but I'm sure many people would wonder what the heck we were thinking. Of course, we are thinking about how we live. Tne ONLY reason I agreed to go through this miserable process of building a house (I'm not fond of decision making and interior design) is because we have some unique requirements for a house and we couldn't find anything already built that fit our needs.

So to answer the OPs question, yes our house plan does reflect how we live. :)

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:40PM
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LL... I wish I could jump the fench and take a picture of this beautiful greenhouse nearby. There's a new condo neighborhood that I occasionally walk through with the kids. At first glance I thought the people had a pool house/guest house in their backyard, but then I noticed the window panels on the roof and realized it's actually a greenhouse. It has the same finishes (siding, color, framed windows, etc) as the house. Of course I haven't been inside, but from the outside it's beautiful. :)

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:49PM
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Wow! It sounds very nice...if you do get a picture, let me know :)

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 2:37PM
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mom to blondie- Thank you!

The multipurpose room is off the kitchen and does connect to the garage as well as the rear patio. We did not do an island. We elected to have a separate laundry room by the master bedroom. I LOVE my mudroom/multipurpose room. Yes, it's often messy but it keeps the mess out of the rest of the house.

The house is 3800 sq feet- probably a little too large. If I could cut some space, I would make the secondary bedrooms a little smaller and cut the 2nd powder room. Otherwise, I'm happy with the size.

Our kitchen is 20 x 12 and dining 20 x 13.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 2:53PM
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What a timely post for me! My DH and I just retired, sold our large and primarily formal home in two weeks and then moved several states west to be closer to family. We have been house hunting the past two years during visits to this area. We have finally decided to custom build a small home, but highly functional for the way we live. We are also making modifications for our continued aging in place. We almost bought a much larger home with a formal dining room but I just could not see myself using that space. It was nice to have while my daughter was growing up but I really do not wish to have a dedicated formal dining room.
I do plan to use my formal dining room furniture on a daily basis. It was my grandmother's and I know she would be happy to know it is being used. I will also have the kitchen island to use for breakfast and snacks.
We do not have a lot of family left so small is okay for us. At least, I hope so. I keep on second guessing myself thinking maybe I should have gone with the bigger house that my husband liked.
My new home will have a combined living/dining/kitchen area. I hope I will like that. I am excited that the house we are building has a laundry room with a door into the master bedroom closet. You can go from the yard into the laundry room on into the closet and then directly into the master shower. We both enjoy gardening and this is just a handy set up when you work outside in the yard. I am planning on having this whole area including the closet tiled. The rest of the home will be the wide hickory hardwood floors. I live in Texas and it is hot here more often than it is cold so the tile floors will be cool and easy to care for. I am just hoping I will be happy in a much smaller space.
I sold a lot of my furniture before the move and I do not miss it. The last few years we lived in the big house, we never used the upstairs. We did all of our living on the main floor and it was quite comfortable.
DH and I only have one grown daughter and she has not lived near us in years. We have no grandchildren either and very few family members left.
I lived in the Atlanta area when they had a terrible drought several years ago and just could not bring myself to use the whirlpool tub knowing I was wasting precious water. I am trying to be very aware of my water usage since I am in another state that has been undergoing a drought. I hope I will be making a smaller footprint with this retirement home.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 9:16PM
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