Gentlemen, start your bulldozers

mtnrdredux_gwNovember 21, 2012

As of last night we are under contract on a beachhouse in New England. I posted before to solicit opinions on whether we gut reno or teardown; leaning toward the latter. Have not chosen an architect yet.


1. We have a 44x24 foundation that is in good shape. We like the siting on the lot and don't want to go through zoning and coastal permitting, so we will probably stick with that. We can build 32' high and have a porch 8-10' wide.

2. We want a casual beach vibe. All sorts of au courant "must-haves" are not on our list .... no granite no marble no recessed lighting no glass shower doors no mudrooms no garage etc etc

3 Our "Must haves" - cedar shake siding, allowed to grey, lots and lots of windows and french doors, best quality and hurricane rated

4 Hopes - to find creative ways to keep costs down and keep a simple feel true to the vernacular. No budget per se.

5. We just finished a gut reno and large addition on our primary home, so we feel better educated then last time and have learned a few things ... hopefully

6 We have had a second home for a number of years so I feel that I have a good sense for what we need (and don't need) in a 2nd home


This plan is very much the look we like. It is slightly larger at 48x28, and in our case the porch would wrap around to the right, for a view of the cove. It would be in cedar shake unpainted.


Excuse my crude plans; ignore crooked lines. Note that I don't know where chases and systems would need to be so I left them out. Lack of closets not an oversight. Kitchen is unfitted. Large open rectangular rooms on 1st floor desired. Can't seem to keep my dimensions to multiples of 4, unfortunately.

I know it's a lot to digest and not a good day to be asking for help probably, but the clock is ticking to get us in for Summer 2014! And and all comments welcome, and thanks in advance.

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Many New England beachhouses put the bedroom floor on the first floor and the living area & eating areas are on the second floor, so as to provide the best views. Have you considered that? I know some people have strong feelings against having bedrooms on ground floors. Just something to think about, depending on your views and your position on bedrooms on the ground floor.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 9:53AM
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Thanks, Zen. I tend to think of that for situations where you are right at water level on flat ground. We are on the side of a bluff, so already quite high up and we are very happy with the views from that level.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:03AM
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A nice, simple house and a useful "shotgun" type plan--it should serve you well.

Your floor plan and rendering don't match, but if you can achieve the rendering you will have an attractive dwelling. Just stick with a "5-bay" proportion as shown in the rendering. You have way too many windows shown in the plan and the result will look very odd if built that way.

If the children's bed count is accurate (2 boys and 3 girls), your upstairs bath is totally inadequate. You might want to consider 2 lavatories and (in a seperate room), a WC and tub/bath fixture.

Your first floor powder room won't work as shown; it would be improved if it followed the example in the basement. Speaking of which, the shower in the basement will not fit the space provided. Seems like you really aren't to scale for any of the bathrooms.

Stairs look too short as well.

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:04AM
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I like it overall, but a couple of things.

The first floor powder room needs to be reworked. I don't think it will meet new code. Add the door to the middle similar to the basement one

Kids toilet room is too small and won't meet code on space in front of the toilet.

Basement bath. I think I'd like for it to be closer to the outside so it is easy to use and get to from the outside.

Love your exterior inspiration.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:26AM
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Thanks! I did check code on all the bathroom fixture placement, and we just meet it. It may be a shortcoming in the precision of the rendering.

As for the basement bath. Only 1/3rd of the basement is walkout, and I don't want to use up any sunlight for the bathroom. I could swap it with the laundry area, but then you would need to walk through it when you are going to or coming from the steps. (the wall on the south side of the playroom and guest room is an old original stone foundation wall that I dont want to mess with). Also, id rather the guests have a BA with privacy.

Thank you. Optimal fenestration is always so tricky to me, especially since I love (and this plan dictates) symmetry. The size and placement of windows to optimize views and light and still be pleasing from the exterior, is definitely something for a professional .. I agree.
We actually have 2 girls and one boy; the layout is to accommodate young guests. There is also a little bunkhouse on the property that can sleep 2-4 kids in the summer.
I actually researched the code for bathroom fixture placement and for stairs, and everything meets code and is to scale per the program (but that doesn't mean the (free) program isn't wrong or I didn't mess up).

As for the PR not working, is it the door swing issue? Are you suggesting moving the door around the side, so you enter the door and have sink left, toilet, right? Makes sense.

Thanks again. and Happy Thanksgiving!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:49AM
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oops, oops. I fixed and moved some things. Sorry here are the photos again (with Pr fixed)

The exterior style (but in cedar shingle)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 11:40AM
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I guess I'd be a little concerned about having 5 beds (therefore 5 people) all try to cram into that little hall bath on the second floor with only 1 sink; then having so much room dedicated to the single master bedroom.

Maybe give some thought to redistributing that space.

I like that you double-pocketed the basement bathroom for access to the bedroom and the shared space.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 11:56AM
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Hi Kirk,
Keep in mind this is not a primary home, and we have only 3 kids. Who knows how many beds we will put in those rooms in reality -- i just sized them with maximum furniture in mind. And the sink is a large trough style sink and I may put in 2 faucets; the w/c will be private as well. I could make the bathroom longer but I don't know that I could make it wider.

I don't think we will often have 5 kids sleeping on the second floor. We'd most likely have guests in the summer. Adults would get the walk out basement bedroom. I bet the kids will want the unheated little (separate) cottage that sleeps 2-4. It doesn't have a bathroom but it is perched on the edge of the cliff we great views.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 12:02PM
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I love that inspiration picture, a lovely simple home. Will you use the kitchen table as prep area? I'm envious of your unfitted kitchen, I'd love that but don't think I'll have enough room. You certainly do, but I'm wondering where the chopping will take place?

The bathrooms look more than sufficient for a summer/second home to my lay perspective. You have four bathrooms (three full!), a real luxuary for most second home (or even primary residences) I would think. Kids can head to the downstairs bathrooms if needed.

But you could devote a little more space in the kids' bath by taking space from your master bath or closet, and/or the end of the hall. I guess you wouldn't want to give up the tub (or the shower) in your master bath? Your bedroom is large enough to move the closet I would think too.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 12:56PM
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Thanks, Sochi!

Yes, I kind of like kitchen table as prep -- didn't most of us grow up that way? And now that all my kids like to help, its nice to do it around a table. The sink will be the large old fashioned kind with dual drainboards, so we can prep there too. And the d/w will have a butcher block top. I will store dishes in an old cupboard/sideboard I have, as well as some open shelving.

I think I can play around a bit with the upstairs baths and the MBR closet. We have a huge walk in closet in our current second home, and never use it. But since it will be the ONLY closet on the second floor, it should be generous.

I do want a tub in the MBR because there will be a great view from it, and I think every house should have one tub somewhere!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 1:18PM
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We have a cape with a similar-ish upstairs layout (stairs are off center, house is 24' x 34'). In order to make the 2 secondary bedrooms work I had to put the master bedroom on the smaller side of the stairs (the left side of your drawing). If you can give up the large hallway area upstairs, you would gain a lot more space for the secondary bedrooms and they'd have space for closets in them.

Here is what we did, and I am NOT saying its perfect, but it might help you see some ways to make the hallway smaller and add storage in the bedrooms. If you can mentally spin the plan below, it will probably make more sense.

We had a shed dormer to deal with, but the top wall of our plan is like the bottom wall of yours (front of the house has 3 windows). The little jog in the larger secondary bedroom works well actually, I was surprised that DH put a lateral filing cabinet in there (we don't have kids, both secondary bedrooms are home offices for us).

I love the idea of a long linen closet, I just feel that the current plan spends a lot of floor space on the hallway.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 1:36PM
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How exciting! My take on the bathroom situation is that you are probably okay. Our quirky summer house has 3.5 bathrooms and sleeps 12-13 pretty easily. We share a bath with our daughters, and we have one full bath in the guest part of the house and a super small full bath in another part of the house where guests sometimes stay. The key is the outdoor shower - the kids almost exclusively shower there during the summer and the adults take half their showers there.... We do use the house year round, but even off season it hasn't been a problem.

In terms of closet space, we use very little for clothes - summer clothes are so easy. What we do need a ton of space for: beach towels, sunscreen, candles, picnic stuff, coolers, etc etc. It looks like you will have plenty of space for that downstairs.

So - looking at your furniture layout, I have two words: swivel chairs. We LOVE ours for the ability to take in the view, and also "take in the room."

PS are you considering the Kohler Brockway for your trough sink? I am about to use that in the remodel of my girls bathroom in our year-round house. I have had my eyes on that sink for years....

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 1:48PM
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I realize this is not your primary house. I was also thinking in terms of, if I were to "rent" this house as a short term vacation rental, how would it best perform? or, when your kids are grown, and they want to head to the beach house, how many people might be in the upstairs needing that bathroom. It is helpful that you have separated the toilet in that bathroom, so at least you can brush teeth while someone else is using the toilet.

Also, what virgil mentioned--you have too many windows, I think, compared to your elevation... In the elevation, you show 5 windows across, but in your plans, you show 7... Minor details.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 1:48PM
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Powder room looks better.

Generally recommended space in front of a toilet is 30", although code will allow less. Try standing in front of the toilet and pulling down your pants with the area you have. I see no reason why you couldn't add 6" to it since it is just walking space in front of the door anyways.

I understand the exterior wall issue in the basement. I think you could turn the bath and accomplish both with a door on each end and moving the guest room door.

It would be skinnier and between playroom and guest room, but would also lend itself to using the playroom as another bedroom. Drawback would be more of a hallway there, but would separate the guest room some too.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Thanks, Lyfia. You make a great point about trying to make a basement bathroom work for a 2 basement BR paradigm. Not a bad idea since it is a really pretty "basement" given the walk out and views. I appreciate it.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 4:48PM
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Engineer, thanks for sending the typing on my phone in the car so it's hard to see. I will look later

I know I've wasted a lot of room on hallways but generous hallways are important to the feel of a house IMHO. And I know from experience at our current vacation home we dont need storage.. A row of hooks is best! BR size matters a lot more in a primary home.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 4:56PM
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Kirk --- our kids are so young, I failed to think of your point -- when they grow up and return with their families. Good point, thanks.

I should have made clearer that there is no connection between the houseplan , which conveys a rough style, and my hand drawn floorplan from another program. I will defer to an architect to reconcile. The whole beauty of the house style though is its simplicity so it won't be easy.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 5:04PM
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Thanks Marinagal! We sound of similar minds. Good to know it works for you. Sounds like your house is popular !

Too funny about the swivel chairs. My exact thoughts. Already found swivel upholstered rockers w slipcovers!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 5:09PM
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Sophie Wheeler

This is a situation where the septic system needs to be oversized in order to take care of the potential for more visitors than just the occupants. Systems are designed around the number of bedrooms, and you have a potential for 5 bedrooms. There may be some difficulty in rocky soil in getting a leach field large enough for that number so you may need to go to a mound system. But this is one of the FIRST things to investigate, as the size of the septic that is able to be done will determine the size of the house that can be constructed, and it will probably be even more of a limiting factor than not being able to go outside the existing foundation.

Figure out the most limiting factors for the location first, as those set the parameters for the design--rather than your potential "wish list". And an island location is bound to have plenty of other limitations that wouldn't perhaps apply when compared with mainland construction. You gotta find your architect and builder on the island during the first stages of this planning to be sure you won't be spinning your wheels.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 8:25AM
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The existing home is a hundred years old,but the septic is new. The home has 4br 2ba, plus a studio apt w BA in the walkout basement. So we should be ok.

We are well beyond the "wishing" stage. We've been looking at the property for 3 months. We stayed in it for a weekend. We've had two builders inspect it. We've spoken with three local architects, the bldg dept and coastline regulator. I even specs the cost of hurricane rated Marvin windows and doors, perhaps the single largest line item for the project.

Lastly, I looked for an online plan with similar proportions to illustrate the look we want.Separately, I used Room Planner to see what I can fit into the 44x24 footprint

This preliminarY plan is pretty simple. If I reAlly want to go with it, we should get a"journeyman" architect. But there is a local "name" architect I also like and I need to decide if we should try to use him or it isnt necessary.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 10:03AM
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Do you know for sure that if you tear down the house, you can keep your current septic (without having to upgrade)? It is possible a teardown will negate all grandfathering... (it is also possible that keeping the foundation will allow you to keep the grandfathering. Or, it is possible there is no need for grandfathering because the system is sized appropriately...)
Just in case you didn't talk to the local regulators about that specific aspect.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 1:24PM
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Wow, you were able to spend the night in a house you hadn't bought yet? How unusual.

The foundation is 100 years old? And it is in good enough shape to support your new house?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 10:29PM
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I think you're prioritizing perfectly for a Summer house. I'd be focusing a lot on the outdoor spaces.
At our Summer home everyone was always lining up for the outdoor shower. No one ever used the indoor shower, unless the weather wasn't cooperating. So in our new build (a beach community) we're putting in an outdoor shower with two stalls so two people can shower privately at once.
How deep is the porch? 10'? I'd start thinking about what type of furniture you're going to have out there to make sure the depth is enough. I'd want a comfy couch and firepit or fireplace. Some chaises too.
In regards to your septic, in Mass the Board of Health has final say on what can be done. I imagine it's not much different there? Here you can have rooms equal to two times the septic bedroom count plus one. So a four bedroom septic allows you to have 9 rooms total in the house. Bathrooms and hallways excluded. And a room is anything 100 SF or more with a window and doorway. But a local architect and builder should be able to tell you if you can use the septic (I assume you can) and if you have a limit on room count.
Have fun!!!

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 1:16PM
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I think the master is a large space for two verses the kids rooms... the kids will "retire" to bedrooms after beaching... there is not much space to do anything in there. I don't think the large hall is necessary.. wont do anything but walk thru in there. I had a beach home and only voicing from experience..I also think another bathroom is a good value for resale too one day.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 9:17PM
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I tend to disagree with Peytonroad...when we vacation, the children are NEVER in the bedrooms, except to grudgingly go to sleep (as late as possible!) They are outside, on the porch, or, all together in the family room. Privacy isn't all that important to us at the beach! :)

Love your lot and plans...can't wait to see it come together! Exciting!

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 7:49AM
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Hi, Kirk, We aren't really relying on grandfathering of the septic, it was put in within the last year or so.

Dekeoboe, Yes, sort of like that show they used to have on HouseHunters? The beachhouse is an estate sale, and they have been renting it by the week since they put it on the market last spring. (In this beach community, most people rent their houses when they aren't using them, as demand is very high ... it has been rented every week from May 1 to Sept 30 , even though we think it is a teardown ,,, and not for cheap either). We rented it for a weekend in the end of September.

As for the foundation, we didn't initially assume we could use it but two builders opined we could. Of course we are having inspections. But also our bidding is really based on the lot and views and location, and if we can't use anything that's not the end of the world. On the other, hand, I've never lived in a house that wasn't a hundred years old!

Thanks, Chris 118965. The porch question is complicated, because what we now have as porch we can actually build out over, which would mean we could build larger than 44x24. But then, we would have to get permission to put a porch on again (we are told they'd almost certainly say yes). I thought that was kind of funny, if you could just keep doing that?! But they say you get one shot at that. Anyway, we have a 8' wide porch on one side and 14' on the other, for now. I'd like a 10' one in an L around half the house.
As for septic, our total room count actually won't change. We are taking out a first floor bedroom to make the kitchen bigger, and putting in a basement playroom where there was just a studio apt. So, net, no change.

I think that a 16x12 room is totally reasonable for kids, and it is only 25% smaller than the master. I don't want to facilitate the kids going off into their own worlds. That's not the point. We have a lakehouse, and people only go to their rooms to sleep; there is nothing else to do there, as it should be! Note that we have have a lakehouse for 7 years and have no TV or internet or handheld devices or ipod shuffles or even a way to watch a movie. All of that is intentional. ANd even though my kids are now older --- 9, 10 and 12, they were just saying to day we shouldn't have those things at the beach, either. We just got back from thanksgiving at the lake, and right now we are all on electronic devices. Last night at this time we played bingo and then ping pong.

I think, also, the way I am showing furniture is influencing people's view of the kids rooms. If I put a full in my son's room, and one bunkbed in the girls' room, I don't think people would say they are too small?

Lastly, though, given my love affair with the center hall on the first floor, and the symmetry, how could i make the kids rooms bigger anyway? Especially because you see I made every single room a rectangle. I don't like "L" rooms if they can be avoided .... IMHO they are always a compromise.


    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 10:10PM
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M'deaux, I am green with envy~~you lucky duck!

I have the utmost faith, *you*, m'deaux, will get things all sorted thru and be in by the date you're planning. I can read your excitement 'between the lines' and am very excited for you.

We'll be waiting for updates as things progress. Meanwhile, have that milk and bourbon on occasion, or at least a glass of wine. You might need a little something when those bumps in the road come along. ;o)

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 2:32AM
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I would make room in that upper hall for a games table where the kids can play cards or other games. We went to a mountain cabin where the kids could play games in the loft area--kept the dining room table free on those rainy days that keep people off the beach.

I agree with whomever said that having a toilet near the outside in the basement would eliminate sand being tracked into the nearest bathroom.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 2:13PM
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Thanks, Pattycakes!

Still_waters, I was going to say "but we have a game table in the great room", then I realized that floorplan was deleted. Sorry, I made a few improvements and forgot that when I delete them from my album they get deleted here. As for sand tracking, let's hope the outdoor shower solves that. I don't want to give up the walk out part of the basement, where we have windows and views, for a BA. I also tried making the basement bath equally accessible to the playroom and guest room, as some suggested, but I can't find a way to do that that I like - yet. A big stone wall there is part of the problem.

These are the latest floorplans. The toilets were to code, but I made the spaces larger anyway. The stairs were not long enough, as someone correctly surmised, so I fixed that. I did make the hall bath a bit larger. I also went and adjusted all the furniture and appliances for actual size and not software defaults.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 7:51PM
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You should check your stairs again. For a typical 9'-0 floor to floor height (8'-0 ceilings), it will take a run of approximately 16'-0, using a reasonable approximte 7.25" riser and a reasonable approximate 11" tread. Anything higher as a riser or less as a tread will be too steep and too short for convenience or safety.

Thus, your stairs should show as long as the kitchen, bedroom or upstairs bedrooms (all of which are 16'-0 in one dimension), which they are not.

Stairs can be a very complicated formula and a point of extensive discussion (experts may disagree on the most desireable stair formula), but for general planning purposes you can assume a riser of about 7.25" and a tread of about 11". Work out the math to see what is mathmatically needed based on your actual floor-to-floor height.

Your upstairs bathrooms are still not workable--the actual dimensions of the fixtures are not properly shown and they are not arranged for maximum efficiency. They look like left overs. I have no idea why you would design the basement bath the way you have.

You need some professional design help before your finalize your drawings and get construction bids.

Good luck on your project!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 9:48PM
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Thanks, Virgil.

Just to be clear, I would never use these to get construction bids! It's just some free program I was fooling around with when I was trying to decide if 44x24 was big enough for what we want in a home. Goodness, my lines are not even straight.

Yes, stair math is quite interesting! The steps are 11', fwiw. I see problem number one is I calculated them assuming an 8' foot ceiling meant I had to traverse 8', forgetting the thickness of the second floor. I used some online calculator and assumed code minimums. If it is 16', I will have to make the house wider then 24' to get the look i want. Too bad!

The toilets all have at least 30", and some have 36". But the actual drawing of the toilet comes from the free software and may be off (the other stuff I measured).

The purpose of these crude drawings was just to give us a sense of what might be possible, before we talk to professionals.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 10:17PM
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none of the bedrooms have closets. You will come with your suitcases/luggage. Where will you put the luggage? Each room will need to keep some extra bedding if you are ever there in the winter.

Our friends' mountain ski lodge has a huge long table that seats about 15 to 20 people. it is one of the best things about that house. I like the communal way we can interact with lots of people in a vacation home. Just food for thought.

I would like to have a large summer outdoor eating area at the beach house if you can accommodate it. Is your porch big enough for eating? New England summers are short if you are far north. This makes the outdoor summer events even sweeter.

I have a house where our living area does not connect with outdoors as well as it could due to hillside elevation and the view. This is one thing that I wish I had. I would make one of the porches bigger so that you can eat out there.

Do you have a lot of bugs in the summer?

Regarding septic: my kids go to the lake house with my brother and SIL. When there are a lot of people (20 plus) there, they are not allowed to shower due to septic limitations. They use the fresh water lake to rinse off and clean. They also do not run the DW. They only use disposable dishes/flatware.... It is an interesting way to vacation but this is how they work around the limitation of the septic.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 11:06PM
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Hi Kaismom,

Yes, that is not an oversight. At our lakehouse, every bedroom has a generous double closet and our master has a large walk in closet. One has games, one has outdoor furniture cushion, one has ski stuff, etc etc. None of them have clothes, except a sports jacket of DH's for special occasions. Our MO is that we keep our clothes there so that we never have to pack, and everything is in drawers or on hooks. We have luggage racks for guests. This is why ive put in so few closets. It's easy enough to add them in the future for resale, especially if we stage with fewer twin beds.

The table I put in the kitchen is 40" wide and 9 feet long, we currently have it at the lake, and have squished 12 at it. I don't like the table, so I will be buying a new one anyway. I might go longer if we have to make the house deeper than 24' (based on what Virgil mentioned about stairs, a real possibility). I have to say though we both come from small families and we are the youngest so our kids are much younger then their cousins --- result no huge gatherings.

We definitely want to make the porch big enough to eat. Right now it can where the corner of the porch is, but we will seek approval for a wider porch, too.

We are told no bugs, and we didn't experience any when we were there in the summer. Being on a little point of land jutting into the ocean, i think wind keeps them away.

Oh goodness, well, we can't shower in the ocean! I like guests as well as anyone but my primary purpose is not to provide free vacations to all comers. : )

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 11:43PM
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Silly question, but if the East and North sides of the house have great views ... What if you made the stairs run North to South along the longest dimension of the house (run them along the South wall)?

Our first house was an old Victorian and the stairs ran along one outside wall like that. It let us have really cool windows marching up the side of the house (square ones that either weren't operable or weren't operable by the time we owned it).

That would leave your East and North walls free to be large expanses of sitting, eating, kitchen prep paradise with views of the ocean, without being chopped up by a staircase. And it would be cheaper than cantilevering an extra couple feet off the back of the house, I think.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 7:54AM
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I mixed up N and E on your plan, I meant to suggest running the stairs along the WEST wall (the longest exterior wall that doesn't face the ocean).

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 7:57AM
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Hi Engineerchic,

I was just reviewing this post to add notes to my file, and I noticed I never responded, sorry.

I know that stairs are "wasteful", but I find flow to be very important. I think the center hall layout I have provides great flow, especially in a house like this one where there are a lot of logical directions for traffic (eg the front door and back door are likely to be used almost equally).

Thanks, too for the floorplan showing the bedrooms. Of course, it will be dictated by what I do on the first floor and hence where the stairs come. Further complicating things is the fact that I just learned that I may be able to add a full or partial 3rd floor. THe maximum height is 32' from average grade, but the roof peak can be 37'. So, we will see what the architects have in mind!

thank you!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:29AM
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