New here, very early stage. Need floorplan advice

estrella18August 14, 2013

Hi I'm new here!
We are just starting the building a home process and would love to have a house with a "courtyard" in the middle. I have not found any plans that are the size/layout I want, so we are talking with a custom builder now and will start the process in September/October. I just wanted real world opinions on our informal ideas. I know the floor plan is not for everyone...but is it functional? Practical? What would you change?

Second floor is a mess because I gave up on trying to configure the layout... I figure that's what an architect is for, I just wanted to *see* if it was possible at all.

Thanks in advance!

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here's the second floor... again its a mess. I have no clue what it will end up looking like, just a general idea to give the builder.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 4:29PM
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Have you checked on eplans? It says they have over 500 plans with courtyards, but I don't know how close they'll be to what you're looking for. Just go to eplans, look in the advanced search (top left corner) and then in outdoor features, choose courtyard. You can also customize with other choices, too. (Not offiliated with eplans, just my go-to place for plans :)

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 4:49PM
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hi, thanks Lavender lass!
Yes I have searched e-plans. Most of the ones I find have the master on the bottom floor and the laundry down there, which we don't want.

I havent been able to find anything with our specific criteria (4 beds, small study without double doors, gameroom up, laundry up, master up, under 3K SF, 3.5-4 baths, no formal living, no breakfast area in kitchen, etc).

I probably sound picky, but we are just thinking very critically about how we really live and utilize space and thats the criteria we've come up with (though I am not opposed to getting rid of the courtyard if it's really expensive to build and changing the layout drastically).

Just looking for peoples opinions as I know its good to get different perspectives.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 4:55PM
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I think you may do better with an L-shaped body of the house forming 2 sides instead of three, with the garage forming the 3rd side of the court. I would also try to get all the bedrooms with a view on the court, which would mean putting some over the garage.

The desirability of the pool tucked right in the middle like that is really dependent upon where you live. Where I live pools are seasonal and I lived in a complex with a pool in the middle that looked great 4 months a year and was covered with an ugly green cover the other 8. If your pool is *not used year round it may make sense to turn it to form the 4th wall of the court but still fully visible from the kitchen.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 6:06PM
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Fori is not pleased

Do you plan on keeping the pool gated all the time? If you do (and I think it's a good idea even though it tend to look less nice), you'll be denying the kids access to the back yard.

I love the idea of a courtyard, but wonder if a two story small one like this would end up with the courtyard being a dark clammy hole.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 7:28PM
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What is the space between your house and the pool shown here? It seems to be a very very tight fit.

I understand the reasoning for putting the pool in the courtyard, but the other drawback is that it will get very very little sun.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 7:34PM
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You're totally right to be picky, and no one here will fault you for it. You wouldn't be going to the trouble of building a house if you were willing to settle for "okay".

However, I see a number of things that could be improved:

For starters, you say you can't find courtyard houses. There's a reason for that: They are expensive. Think it through: What's expensive on a house? The thick, exterior walls that must be weatherproofed and insulated. Then the roof. A courtyard maximizes exterior walls and, as a result, cost.

In contrast, the cheapest possible house is a simple rectangle. Few corners. Simple, straight lines. Inexpensive to build. You probably don't want a plain rectangle, but ask yourself just how far from that most simple, least costly plan you're willing to stray.

You've listed some positive reasons to put the pool in the center of a courtyard. Here are two negatives: You'll get NO breeze in the courtyard area, and your water will remain cooler because it'll get less sun. I don't know where you live, so you'll have to judge just how much this would affect you. I stayed at a hotel (Renaissance in Las Vegas) that had a very nice pool in a courtyard, and it was utterly miserable. We were comfortable while we were actually in the pool, but lounging nearby was excessively hot (and made worse because the concrete flooring and walls collected and "bounced back" the heat).

Kitchen: I suggest you cut the cabinet area in half. Really, it's too big. Everything'll be too far apart, and it won't be efficient. You'll constantly be 6-8 steps from whatever you want, and that'll get old. All that extra cabinetry across the back will become a clutter-catcher spot. Test this theory: Stare at the floorplan and imagine yourself cooking a typical meal. Where do you reach to get your frying pan? How many steps to the pantry to get a couple cans? When you're ready to drain your ground beef, how far do you have to carry the frying pan to reach the sink? What you're going to find is that a comfortable, use-it-all size kitchen is about 14x10. That's a very comfortable size. Beyond that, you have extra cabinets for setting out fruit or cakes . . . or, most likely, collecting clutter. Perhaps you're saying, "But the kids cook with me." Okay, realistically they'd sit on the far side of the island to do their thing. They would not go to that long stretch of cabinetry and face the wall while you're working in the main part of the kitchen. Even with multiple cooks, the actual working area of a fairly ideal kitchen remains about 14 x 10. Extra walking space around the edge of that is helpful, but you really don't want more cabinetry than that. Cabinetry is one of the most expensive parts of your house, and countertops are also extremely expensive; so you're proposing to build extremely expensive clutter-catchers. Finally, as it's drawn, you have two corner cabinets. Corner cabinets are always a problem, and you're opting for two of the monsters. Yes, you can do a lazy susan, but they are expensive and sometimes fussy.

You could easily have a good-sized L-shaped kitchen in this area . . . and then open up that back wall with windows and have a large breakfast table at the end of this kitchen.

When it comes to kitchens, bigger is not better. Laid out efficiently is better.

While your kitchen is oversized, your dining room is a comfortable size . . . but it's long and narrow, which means that your guests will have to squeeeeeze by one another to get to the far end. The people at the far end will feel trapped. It'd be more efficient to "open up" the longest wall of the dining room. That'd allow better access to most of the table.

Living room is comfortable, bordering on cozy.

I question having the garage open into the living room. It's most efficient to have the garage entry nearer the kitchen so that when you carry in groceries, you don't have far to carry them. If you flip-flop the kitchen/dining wing with the living room wing, you 'd solve this problem . . .

and your windows would improve. You'd want cabinets against the kitchen/garage wall anyway, so no loss there. But if the living room were bumped over to the current kitchen's position, you could have windows on three sides of the living room.

Why do you have a breakfast buffet in the living room, far-far from the kitchen? I'm wondering if this is really more of a game table?

Why the wall in the garage?

You definitely need to move the master bedroom closet. If you move it to the other side of the room /bump it up against the master bath, you can have windows out onto that back balcony.

What's up with the doors to the two secondary baths? What areas are they meant to serve?

The two small bedrooms definitely need to be larger. 10' is really a minimum width (in either direction) for any bedroom. You can easily cut away some space from the gameroom to make the bedrooms comfortable.

I do not think you have space in the laundry room for the treadmill, and I question whether you could get it (or large bedding) up a turning staircase. Perhaps you were thinking of bringing large furniture in over the balcony in the master? Regardless, it'll be a challenge with this staircase.

You can't have a big closet in the staircase's landing. The laws of physics say no.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 10:39PM
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Wow wow thanks for All the feedback! I just got home so I will respond when I get on my computer. So much to ponder, thank you!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 11:47PM
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palimpsest - that is a genius idea! especially because I find garages so unattractive. Let me think about this a bit... where will the family room go?

We are building on an acre lot in Texas. Our plan for the pool (courtyard or not) is that it's a smallish pool, with a depth of 4" across so we can sit in there with a drink and just hang out, no diving or anything. Then in the winter it will be a largish spa, we can heat it up and there will be jets all around. I had one growing up and we used it about 8 months out of the year -- no cover.

fori - I think we'd just gate part of the yard/pool area and we would need a door from the kitchen to the backyard outside the gated area for the kids to access the yard... good call!

I'm not 100% attached to the courtyard idea, I just love the separation it gives to the kitchen/family room and fell in love with the style looking at french homes which are two story w/ courtyards... though much bigger. Maybe we could cover the whole thing though?

Laura 12- I think on this very crappy floorplan I threw together I have it at 18 feet? It's not massive, but not tiny. The no sun thing is a positive for me, as I really would prefer it be completely covered. We get WAY too much sun and it is scorching hot, so I think no sun would = colder pool. Which is nice.

Mrs Pete - thank you for that detail! I love getting inside someone elses brain. I appreciate it. Let me try to go through and address everything you brought up.

1) I am not opposed to doing a normal floorplan without the courtyard, but I have this silly dream of a courtyard house, so I want to get the quotes back before we nix the idea :) I also wonder why it would be that much more expensive? It basically a rectangle with a cutout... I see very elaborate floor plans online and I would think this is way easier than some ranch styles?

2) We are in Texas, there is no breeze unless a hurricane comes though and it is scorching hot most of the year, so ideally I'd prefer the pool covered (growing up we always stayed in the shaded part of our pool). I also like the less maintenance aspect of it being away from trees/grass.

3) I'm not sure about the corner cabinets, you mean the pantry? I really dont care how that layout is, the main thing I want is NO UPPERS. We measured our current kitchen and its only 4" smaller than this, but we think with no upper cabinets we will need that space? I want three walls of windows. As it is now, we all congregate in the kitchen standing around and chatting. I'd love a few extra feet in our current space.

4) we dont have a dining room now, so this is luxury for me. I have a specific table in mind and I read online that 3 feet on each side is okay, but not sure? The table I want is 3x10 feet long (without leaves its 8 feet). Is that too big for a 10x17 kitchen?

5) cozy living room is ideal 6) Right now we walk from a detached garage all the way across our yard and across our house to our kitchen with groceries (and up stairs) so I thought about switching the garage, but its not a deal breaker for me (our current layout has never bothered me), though I agree the garage to kitchen is preferable.

7) we have our breakfast nook in our living room now and we use it more than the kitchen. We always sit there with breakfast and watch tv, it is very functional for us. i hate breakfast rooms with kitchens, as I think thats what the island is for w/ barstools. Or at least how we use ours currently.

8) I didnt draw a wall in the garage, lol, disregard that!

9) I agree, the upstairs needs a lot of work. We currently have a closet (though small) over our foyer/steps in our house... I am curious why this doesnt work?

again thank you for your input! we are meeting with the builder this week and I want to have ideas for him that arent laughable. :)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 12:24AM
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Kitchen vision:

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 12:38AM
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Where do you live? Has the lot been selected and purchased?

Courtyards, as MrsPete points out, can be harsh environments.

You can get the same effect by a large setback, an "L"-shaped house and a wall around the other 2 sides of the square. Lower cost and easier to layout.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 9:56AM
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Just thought you might want to look at this plan as perhaps a starting point. I have a brother who, like you, dreams of a "central courtyard" plan so I do understand. Courtyard plans tend to be more a bit more common in New Mexico so you might try searching for Spanish style homes. Mediterranean style might also provide some additional hits.

Anyway, I could imagine someone taking the linked floor plan and revising it to make the front foyer and bedroom wings two stories high in order to provide room for additional bedrooms upstairs. If you used one of the current secondary bedrooms to for a staircase, you could use the other for a large laundry room which would then allow you to expand the kitchen if you wanted to.

I do think a courtyard house would be expensive to build but I have been in some in Santa Fe where the inner courtyard still feels deliciously cool even when the temperature out on the street was in the 90s.

So, if properly oriented to keep the blistering afternoon sun from baking the courtyard it might work nicely. I'd probably want to orient the two story wing so it was on the west side of the house and have the courtyard open toward the north. That way the taller portion of the building would partially shade the courtyard area for much of the day.

Here is a link that might be useful: Courtyard plan with pool

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 6:56PM
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Oh wow ... you definitely have to check zoning regulations about pool enclosures where you are building.

In Phoenix, for example, houses with children must have a child-proof pool, which means no doors into the courtyard, or other really intrusive hassles.

Others have a minimum distance between pool and house and pool versus fence.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 7:41PM
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Yes, the shape of your floorplan is kind of a rectangle with a cut-out, but think about the construction: Interior walls (the walls between your kitchen and dining room, for example) are relatively inexpensive. They're just 2x4s and drywall. In contrast, exterior walls must be stronger, they must be made of a weather resistant material, and they must be insulted. You don't want the walls that make up the cut-out portion to be made of interior walls; you want them to be exterior-quality. Otherwise your house'd fall down pretty quickly.

Here's another way to explain: If you look at your house (excluding garage) as a big rectangle, it's roughly 45 x 45 -- yeah, that's an estimate. You'd need approximately 180 linear feet of exterior wall, if your house were indeed one big rectangle. In contrast, if you build it as a courtyard house, you're adding approximately 45 more feet of exterior wall. The walls that surround the pool must be exterior walls, not simply drywall intended to divide two rooms. This means that the shell of your house -- the exterior walls, the ones that cost most -- have increased by 20%, give or take. Additionally, the more corners your builders create, the more it costs.

Should you build a courtyard house? I don't know. I'm not saying -- to use your term -- that it's a silly idea. I'm just explaining WHY it will be a costly choice.

Is your current kitchen almost this large and all cabinetry? I can believe it'd be this big with part of it being an eat-in kitchen, but I just can't see the purpose in so much cabinetry. Again, no one is going to work at a cabinet all the way across the room with his or her back to the action. I suggest you take it to the kitchen board; you'll get excellent information there.

Corner cabinets are cabinets located in the corner. They're typically considered problems because they're too deep to be useful as cabinet space, and they don't allow for easy storage underneath.

3' is pretty minimal for space around a dining room table. Try it at home: Move your table 3' from the wall, place a chair in a comfortable position for a diner, and then see how cramped it is for another person to scoot behind that diner. I'd definitely steal some space from the kitchen to make the dining room more than merely adequate. You won't use the room if it's not comfortable.

10' is a fairly minimum width for a dining room, BUT to work with a room that narrow, you have to have a room with the right shape. Imagine two same-sized dining rooms with identical-sized tables; one is shaped line a U and the other is shaped like a C. The U-shaped room will be long and deep, and diners will have to scoot by one another to reach the far end of the table. In contrast, the C-shaped room will have a larger door, allowing more comfortable access to three sides of the table.

Yeah, I hear you when you say that you're carrying groceries that far now . . . but aren't you trying to improve details like this as you build your house? Right now I carry groceries in through an office, through the kitchen, and then put them away in the pantry at the far end of my large kitchen. I'm looking forward to entering through the pantry and having a shelf upon which to drop/sort groceries right by the door. Fewer steps is more efficient.

You're looking at carrying breakfast foods more than 20 feet before sitting down to eat. That's a long way for kids to carry a bowl of cereal or grits (and a great potential for spills). And then all those dishes have to be carried back across the foyer. If you want to watch TV during breakfast, I'd suggest putting a TV into the kitchen.

I think a built-in breakfast nook in the living room could be a turn-off for buyers, if you ever resell. I'd be sure to build it in such a way that another family could envision it with a different purpose.

The closet /staircase thing is a problem because -- as it's drawn -- you have no landing at all. A person would walk up the first staircase and would then encounter the closet wall. It would be impossible to continue walking upstairs. Yes, a closet can be placed in this position, but you'd need to reconfigure the space.

I do agree with Laura that the space around the pool is tight. I can't see the tiny numbers (I'm getting old), but I think you've drawn a 10' wide pool in a 16' wide courtyard. This means only 3' of space on each side of the pool, and it would pretty effectively eliminate chairs on the sides -- you'd have to have all your seating on the end of the pool, where you'd have sun.

Since you're looking a small pools and you used the term largish spa, you should investigate Spools rather than Pools. They're a combination of spa / hot tub / pool. They're more expensive per square foot to build but would fit into a courtyard more easily and would require less maintenance.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 9:51PM
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One more comment, and a question:

Note that your plumbing is strung from one end of the house to the other. Downstairs you have the kitchen on one end and the bathroom on the other end. Upstairs you have the master bath on the far left and the other bathrooms and the laundry on the far right.

You will save significant money on plumbing if you scoot these rooms closer together. For example, upstairs you have two "back to back" secondary bathrooms. This is economical because the plumber will run water through that center wall, and it'll serve both bathrooms. The laundry room is close to these bathrooms, so a pipe'll have to run across the hall, but that's still cheaper than running the pipes across the whole house. You'll save on installation, and you'll save on materials.

Consolidation of plumbing also saves in two other ways:

A wall that contains water must be 6" thick, whereas other interior walls may be only 4" thick. Thus, a non-water wall is cheaper to build and allows you a few more inches of interior space.

Any pipe is subject to leaking sometime down the road -- perhaps because you accidentally cut into it or drove a nail into it, or perhaps because it grew old and rusty. If your pipes are shorter and more consolidated, you have less plumbing to potentially go bad. This lessens the potential problems you might have to pay to fix, and it lessens the number of walls that might one day have to be opened up to look at the plumbing.

And the question: Since windows matter so much, and since a pool is involved, where's north on your plan?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 10:44PM
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thank you lazygardens - my husband isn't so sure about the pool, but we both love the private courtyard idea and I like using the garage as one side! I'm not sure about regulations, though I know my parents pool is close to their house and has several doors leading to it, without a fence or cover, so maybe less regulations in Texas?

bevangel - HI bevangel. I like that floorplan a lot! That's the closest thing I've seen to what we want. We are not sold on the pool idea. Honestly I think we will nix it for now. I guess I'm not sure why this is so much more expensive to build, compared to something like this which I see all the time:

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 1:57AM
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Mrs. Pete - wow you gave me a lot to think about! Actually my husband and I have been talking endlessly since I posted this and we are going to present the builder with the courtyard idea and also this plan below.

which only needs a gameroom to make it perfect (though the exterior is ugly).

Ultimately we want a really energy efficient house, that works well for our family and is perfect, with every extra detail inside that we want (beams/wood/molding/etc.) so saving on the design of the house is totally great to me if that means getting everything else I want inside. The only reason we are building is because we are in the process of moving across the country, otherwise I'd keep this house for as long as possible. It is perfect (even with the long walk with groceries!). It's hard to describe the breakfast nook in our living room, but it looks like this (I'll post the link in the next post). It is very practical and we want one in the next house. We don't plan to build, then sell anytime soon... not for at least 10 years, so I'm not worried about resale.

Thank you so much for your advice. I am giving up on drawing floorplans.. going to let the professionals figure that out for us!

Here is a link that might be useful: house plan laundry and master up

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 2:07AM
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Mrs Pete -

Here is a link that might be useful: nook in living room

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 2:08AM
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I will admit that I have not read all of the posts and everyone is always so great on this forum!!
I drew on paper "how we lived" and my builder and I took it to a designer (not an architect as we did not have the budget) and our house actually is about 95% perfect (from my drawing on a piece of paper--I am a perfectionist so there will always be something I would change).
So if you do know how your family lives then go for it ...

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 3:12AM
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I'm not sure about regulations, though I know my parents pool is close to their house and has several doors leading to it, without a fence or cover, so maybe less regulations in Texas?

Could very well be. When we lived in San Antonio, there was no law/regulation requiring a fence around a pool. I was quite surprised, but there were several in our neighborhood without fences.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 9:49PM
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I live in the SF Bay Area, which tends to be one of the strictest areas in the county when it comes to building codes and enforcing policy meant for you own good.

Here you have several options for meeting safety req. that includes, fencing the pool, fencing the property, having a pool alarm, installing an automatic cover you can walk on and/or an alarm for doors that have access to the pool.

We are going to include: pool alarm, automatic cover, and alarm all doors (system will beep when exterior door is opened).

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 10:33PM
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Wow! This might be more home than you need, but I thought you might want to look through it for ideas :) From Farmhouse plans

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to site with slide show

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 5:29PM
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lavender lass - I LOVE that! Now if only we could cut the square footage in half! :)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 4:46AM
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Maybe take out the bedrooms on the first floor and move the bedrooms upstairs back over the other living space. Don't you love that courtyard? All those hanging vines...I wish we could do something like that here, with our four to five months of snow :)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 12:36PM
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