Advice please, oh wise ones!

icedCSeptember 25, 2012

Yes, yet another "please help with my plan" post. I know, so banal. But regardless, it would be very much appreciated! :)

about my little family:

This will be our first home (due to my training which caused us to move fairly often, but now finished and plan to stay put)

We hope this will be the home where we raise our family (so we plan to stay for 25-30 years)

We are currently a family of three (husband and I are 32 and 31), with an almost two year old son and plans for another one or two children

Want 4 bedrooms and hopefully around 3700-3800 sq ft

I have expensive taste and want tons of architectural detail (much to hubby's chagrin)

We just made a huge move across a few states back to our home town and have moved into an expensive apartment that has been a nightmare; cannot wait to move!

I do feel we are at a distinct disadvantage having only lived in apartments thus far, and we still want to make sure we get this house right. As above, we plan to be here for a very long time.

We have been working with an architect on our plans for the past couple months and like the direction we are heading, but know it is not quite perfect.

My concerns with the current plan:

Not enough kitchen cabinet space and no pantry

Will it be weird to have the covered patio have walls on three sides?

Is the garage set too far back?

Wasted hall space?

note: We are doing the 13 ft ceiling in the great room, but likely not the kitchen and will put bedrooms above.

That is all that I can think of at the moment. Let's hope I can get our plan attached. And thank you thank you for any advice.

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Here are my thoughts:

1. Can't see measurements so that part is hard to give feedback on.
2. The foyer is very large - while this is nice it seems overkill as does having two cupboard upon entry.
3. Add a cupboard to the Office as it will help with paper files etc.
4. Kitchen looks good - I think the cupboard space is fine.
5. A pantry (even a walk in one) would be a great idea esp that way you wont feel the kitchen cupboard issue.
6. Are all of your bedrooms upstairs? If so, if it were my home I would move it upstairs to prevent the up and down moving of laundry.

Hope that helps

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 9:28PM
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Your kitchen is really far from the garage for carrying groceries. I am assuming there are a lot more windows than are shown? As a mom, I am wondering how much that playroom will get used, and if it is in the right location. When my children were small (they are 9 and 12 now) they wanted to be right near me, and I wanted to keep my eyeballs on them, too! I imagine your children will be dragging toys from the playroom to the living room to be near you. WRT your porch, we have one with walls on three sides also. We love it, and are out there all the time. However,
ours seems wider (can't tell your dimensions) and is kind of a focal point
in that when you stand in our foyer and look straight ahead, you see our
fireplace which is flanked by french doors that access the porch, and there
is another door with access from the breakfast room on the other wall. We could have also had access from our master bedroom which is the opposite wall, but I didn't want French doors in my bedroom. Also, the chimney has 2 fireboxes and flues, so we have a fireplace on the porch as well. I really recommend a FP on the porch...we use it a ton, fall - spring. Our porch also has steps that span entire way across that lead to the patio area, so you go from an area of being private, with walls on 3 sides, down to a more open entertaining area. At the least, on your plan, I would provide access from more than one room to the porch.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 6:49AM
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The foyer proportioning and closets are just right. Public space on entry is not "wasted."

Laundries are now almost always upstairs. That's where most of the laundry originates and returns to.

Cabinetry is a personal choice. There's certainly an average amount of space. My dw fills all storage space, no matter how large.

As noted by others, that is a trek from the garage to the kitchen. But, then, not once in decades have we ever used that route for bringing in groceries.

Instead of providing a separate play room, I might opt for a larger "great room" encompassing the current kitchen, living room and playroom. On the other hand, at a later point, the play room might become a computer or game room or a more formal living room.

Overall, it looks fine to me.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Hmmm. I was on the same page of, "Wow! That is a lot of space dedicated to the foyer." As a percentage of the 1st floor, it seems a little overkill. But, I guess that depends on what is going on upstairs too.

I am also of the opinion that the LR will be the playroom and the playroom will end up being your LR. See how you feel about that. But, I think in practicality, that is what will happen. Also, do you want all your guests walking past your playroom to get to another public space? Or, do you plan to take them through the DR? (not likely).

Maybe you should consider how to get the playroom/dining room spaces interchanged. Or, interchange your playroom kitchen spaces (to get kitchen closer to doors). Where are your main outside play areas with this floorplan? When the kids are in the 'backyard', where will they be? Where will you be able to see them from?

I also think the garage and kitchen should be in close proximity. I disagree with worthy in that *IF* my house had a connection between garage and house (and it will soon! can't wait!) I'd be using that door all the time to come in the house. However, I live in the Pacific Northwest--the drippy side of the PNW. If you never use your garages to house your cars, and will be coming in/out of your front door with groceries, well, then, you and I live differently, and so front door to kitchen route will be more important.

If you plan to live here 30+ years, I think you need to consider a bedroom on the main floor, and well as a full bath. I am your age, in good shape, and have been stuck to one floor living for a couple weeks at a time due to an injury... I was thankful for a tub/shower and bed on the main floor. You could set up your office or playroom as temporary bedrooms, but you have no place to bathe in this sort of case. If you don't want main floor living ever, then plan a place for an elevator. This is your long-term house, but you have it planned as a starter home/second home (where you would likely move out by around age 45).

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 12:05PM
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I would consider making the downstairs laundry a full bath with an entry from the office so the office could serve as a bedroom at some point.

I would have access to the porch from the playroom the dinette and the garage.

The angled entrances to the kitchen and playroom seem out of place in the overall plan as a whole.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 12:05PM
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For example, you might want to consider this "orientation" of the rooms... (as seen in this thread linked below):

Here is a link that might be useful: breakwater thread

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 12:10PM
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I would consider making the downstairs laundry a full bath with an entry from the office so the office could serve as a bedroom at some point.

Excellent suggestion!

I disagree with worthy in that *IF* my house had a connection between garage and house (and it will soon! can't wait!) I'd be using that door all the time to come in the house.

I build custom homes and I always use a plan with easy access from the garage. It's just that personally we have never used the garage that way. Even when hauling in truckloads of food from Costco for a family of six! (But we're probably the odd ones out.)

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 5:46PM
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Easy access between the garage and the house is all well and good if it works with the best plan. But I have seen people reject good plans because the garage was "too far" --one time ten extra feet was mentioned, or IRL site the house or garage for grocery convenience, totally killing a great view or compromising a better overall plan.

Have we really gotten so lazy that 20 extra feet will kill us every week if we are carrying something over and above our own body weight? What's next, a drive through pantry with a conveyer belt so we can stay seated and toss groceries onto it from the car windows? Universal access in all kitchens so even the able bodied can cook from a seated position in a Jazzy? No wonder the country is obese.

That is my didactic, hectoring curmudgeon speaking.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 6:12PM
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Thanks all so much for your time! I am always so impressed with this community and ow much time everyone is willing to give. Sorry the picture turned out so small; it became smalle in the upload process?

We agree that the foyer is probably too large, but not terribly sure how to go smaller without altering the back of the house.

Nini- Your foyer view to patio space sounds wonderful. I love when outdoor spaces feel like part of the house. The covered patio area is 16 x 9 and we would definitely expand beyond the covered portion as well. How big is your porch?

I do agree that the kitchen feels a bit far from the garage, which is very likely to be our commonly used entrance (we live in upstate New York.)

Yes to the more windows! We have just been trying to focus on layout thus far.

My hope with the playroom is to keep the toys (sometimes at least) out of sight.

palimpest- the hope with the angled kitchen and playroom doors was to make them somewhat open to each other and therefore hopefully the kids plus toys in the playroom. I like the full bath in place of the laundry idea!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 8:58PM
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Ok, sorry I could not easily write one long post from my ipad.

Kirkhall- definitely good points about our playroom space. It may not quite accomplish my toy avoidance hopes. The breakwater plan is interesting! I need to spend some more time with it and see if we can change it a bit to fit us.

We are meeting in person with the architect tomorrow for the first time in a month, so we are really hoping to make some serious progress.

We are in the middle of an absolute apartment nightmare and cannot wait to get this house started.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 9:33PM
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"Wasted" lobby space.

Do we spend so much time watching TV sitcoms with their one room direct to the stage scene of action that we think that's the design standard?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 10:08PM
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With the turned stairs you will need this width: the doorway to the back half of the house needs the headroom, and if the foyer were narrower the stairs would cut into the ceiling space above the doorway. This could work but it would be an awfully constricted doorway for a main circulation pattern. (Doors tucked under the stairs can be kinda sweet entering a den or small room but not the rest of the house from the entry.)

I think a "sense of entry" is very important, and part of this is a transitional space from the outside to the inside.
I like a real foyer, whether it is a small vestibule that makes you experience some compression before the release into the larger house, or a rather grand room with a nice staircase. But I do think the transition room is important.

One of my classes was with an architect who was a pure functionalist and said any hallway over about 6 feet long was wasted space.

I have lived in two apartments in this building, one with a doorway that opened right into the living room and one with a 20 x 6 foot hallway inside the door. The one with the large hallway actually has slightly less square footage, but the living experience between the two is better with this hallway. It feels like a house with this hallway and the separation from the public hallway, or the outdoors in your case, is a nice thing to experience.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 10:26PM
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Hello icedC! I'll jump right in:

What I dislike about the plan is the feeling that you're entering the "back door" of the kitchen every time you want to go to the most used parts of the house- kitchen, family, informal dining. ("Hello, welcome to my house! Here, past the refrigerator, is my awesome family room. You'll have to step all the way thru to turn back around and see the entire kitchen that I spent a small fortune on.....") :) I jest, but hopefully that illustrates my point.

In regards to the playroom, do you have a plan for it after it's playroom "assignment" is over? I wonder if you really need to dedicate that much centralized space to it. In my experience (4 kids aged 8-1.5) the playroom should really be called 'where-the-kids-put-the-toys-after-I'm-sick-of-tripping-over-them-room'. They play in it every once in a while, but most of their play time is spent bringing their toys *with* them, not them going *to* the toys, if that makes sense. There are no PBK catalog moments at my house. Just would hate to see you dedicate valuable sq ft to what is really a glorified closet. Can you put that room in the basement, or utilize a loft area for now?

Sorry you're having a bad apartment experience! I hope your dreams become reality for you quickly!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 10:47PM
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kelhuck's comment is correct.

I think there should be a complete axial hallway from one side of the house to the other so that the living room could be entered separately. The hallway would run through the current powder room and butler's pantry, so those two elements would have to be pushed toward the back, and the house extended by the width of the hallway in that part of the house.

Also the living room would have to shift down a bit to have a graceful entry from this hallway.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 11:12PM
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I will stay out of the lazy kitchen people debate... Other than to say what I did above...
My personal kitchen is entered at the farthest side of the house from the garage; go figure.

Would I like to have it nearer? Probably. Is it a real problem for me? Obviously not.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 1:03AM
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I have a 10'x10' room right off my kitchen that is a playroom. It has a dutch door. Toddlers love it because it's small & just their size. It's near me by the kitchen so they love to play there. Yet I can close the door to the mess & the kitchen will still look great. Once the kids are older the whole thing could be turned into a large walk in pantry or butler's pantry or wine room or even an elevator! :)

As far as not having a pantry in your kitchen, take one or both sides of that butler's pantry & put wall cabinet units that are 2' to 2'5" deep & run the length of the butler's pantry. With good organization you'd be amazed how much you can store in wall units like that & the cabinetry looks beautiful too!

Your counter space seems a little limited but with an island you might be OK. What is that thing dividing the kitchen & the living room?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 8:41AM
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I agree with the others who suggested that the kids may not actually play in the playroom, but will likely bring their toys out to wherever you are. I have a friend who tried a set up similar to the one in your plan. She converted a dining room that was adjacent to, but not visible from, the kitchen. Instead of being a playroom, the kids used it as more of a toy library. They'd go in, browse, try out a toy or two, make a selection and then bring it out to where the adults were. All the kids who were guests in their house did the same (including my kids). My friend has repurposed the room several times now, because it just didn't function as intended.

The best idea I've seen for keeping the toy clutter to a minimum was at another friend's house. She had an entire wall of window seats with hinged tops built in her great room. They included a safety mechanism so the lids wouldn't slam shut on little hand or heads. When the kids want to play in there, the lids are opened and they have at it. When it's time to clean up, everything gets tossed into the bins, the lids are closed and the mess is gone. Bigger items like ride-ons, easel and kid table and chairs are tucked away in a corner. That set-up worked for the kids because they were close to mom and it worked for mom because she could keep an eye on the kids while getting other things done- and once play time was done, she could relax in there without looking at and tripping over tons of toys.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 10:06AM
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kelhuck- Really great, helpful comments. I never thought about the aspect of feeling like you are entering the kitchen through the back door. Definitely do not want that!

Floppy- Our intention was to do something like this with that the block of cabinets in the middle of the kitchen, to form a bit of separation between the kitchen and family room.

maybe a smaller playroom will be the way to go..

TheRedHouse- sounds like their play room turned into a large closet! I guess that would not be too awful, but probably would not want to devote a 13x15 room to that cause.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 5:36PM
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We met with the architect and builder today. Given the helpful thoughtful comments here, we thought maybe we would head toward this sketch which the architect had done for us a few weeks back. Any thoughts on this (obviously rough) plan?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 5:38PM
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I like it. A play room is a good size and adjacent to the living room which is perfect. If at least one of you is in the living room they'll play there. If the kids are older & they know that's where the toys are they'll play there still.

I really like the mudroom/laundry arrangement in the first plan. I was about to suggest something like that when I noticed that was already an idea from before but then you added that little covered porch so that doesn't work with the original design...Overall the plan is much better :)

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 6:20PM
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I think the walk in pantry is a must. As you grow in the house so will your need for a pantry! I have a friend with a similar plan regarding the kitchen, dining layout. Her plan has the spot where the playroom is as the great room and the playroom is where your great room is. One thing I LOVE about her plan is the half bath you have is actually her walk in pantry. The butler pantry is like yours but has cabinets on the opposite wall to the walk in pantry which would be your half bath. If you make a full bath in the laundry area I think you could do away with the half bath and gain that as the pantry without losing much. Also, I find it is always nice not to have a bath to close to the kitchen (I have two little boys, enough said!)

If you rearranged the living playroom layout a bit I think you will be happier. Maybe just flip flop them and grow your kitchen into the playroom space so you aren't wasting the whole room. That would also solve your concern for cabinet space. I agree that even with our dedicated play room my kids still drag toys around to be with us or just to make a mess. Then if you make the hallway larger running from the garage to the kitchen through the great room you can eliminate the cased openings that are at the angle and have a more open space to enjoy your great kitchen!

I like the layout of your kitchen now over the rough drawing you posted but I think you could make it happen and have the other changes to make the space really functional and still grand!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 11:10AM
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I like the second (sketched) plan much better! Was there something you didn't like about it that made you switch to the first plan you posted?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Love the sketch! Something about the first plan wasn't sitting right with me, I think it was mainly the playroom space taking up such a central part of your home and making it feel more closed off.

The sketch works much better, the one thing I would consider is putting a full bath on that floor.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 3:06PM
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Sorry - I think there is a real flaw in all your designs. The living room should be easily accessible to the entry. In your designs, you have to walk through the kitchen - not the best flow.

Also, most offices have a lot of unsightly equipment. Do you really want that as the first thing that people see? With most people using laptops now, the main use of an office is for files and printers and such.

Also, you have a huge dinette, nice dining room and small kitchen. I wouldn't like that either.

I like the playroom, but children do outgrow their toys all too quickly. In six or seven years, what will the room be used for?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 9:09PM
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The design concept of this home is wrong (both plans) and the main problem is the placement of the great room. As simple as that.
All your other concerns are kind of minor in comparison.

I agree that the laundry should go upstairs and the laundry converted to a full bathroom.

It is not that difficult to fix the problem.
Good luck

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 12:19AM
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Agree that it is odd to have to walk through "private spaces" to get to the public one.

Also, I would dislike not being able to see the playroom from the kitchen... The kids (in my house) misbehave the most when I am busy with dinner/dishes.

Do you need a separate dining room? (because I'm trying, in my head, flip dining and foyer, then make the new dining location be the playroom... but that makes your dining room really far removed from the kitchen proper. However, it would make it more direct to get your guests to the public space.)

Some thoughts.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 1:14AM
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jamie- Agree on the pantry. We are definitely contemplating a full bath in the laundry area.

kel- The reason we did not go in this direction in the first place is that I had in my head this idea of a relatively separate breakfast nook surrounded by windows, but I suppose it is not a deal-breaker if it just does not work well.

Laura- Agree, we are definitely contemplating the full bath.

deb- Hmm, you are right about the kitchen becoming too small in this version. Hopefully since it is a rough sketch that will not be the case in the next plan; will discuss with the architect.

naf- Laundry will definitely go upstairs. It just is not reflected in this rough sketch.

kirk- what would you recommend then for placement of the playroom? Hmm, our architect does think we should have a formal dining as we are in a traditional market and people definitely expect a dining room in a home this size.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 11:01PM
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The second sketch is better than the original plan, but I think you need to go back to the drawing board on this one. This house concept has a fundamental flaw: You have devoted a great deal of space to a grand entryway . . . to the office and the kitchen. Walking through the kitchen /casual dining area to get to the living room just doesn't make sense.

Also, you've devoted about 25% of your entire downstairs to hallways -- that's a great deal of money to spend on passages to other rooms. Speaking only for myself, that isn't where I'd want to put my money.

Finally, you have a formal dining room AND a very large casual in-kitchen dining area. Do two dining areas really fit into your lifestyle? Again, speaking only for myself, we're skipping the formal dining room, and what we would've spent on that foom is enough to pay for a pool and a covered outdoor dining area.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:08AM
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