Small simple farmhouses-bathroom off kitchens-anyone have?

marys1000July 7, 2008

I have seen 3 of these now (one my nephew was looking at in a different state) where the 1900ish small simple farmhouse has the only full bath, only bathroom at all downstairs, off the kitchen. My realtor says that's the way they used to do it so I have to think that in looking for modestly priced rural properties I'm going to see this a bit. Besides the fact that they are small, cramped etc. I find it somewhat off putting.

Does anyone have one of these? How is the actual living with it?

Are there floorplans available to look at to see what the standard floorplans were for some of these old farmhouses? Some of them have been pretty chopped up.

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What I have is one storey, big living room (and/or whatever else you might want to use it as), with two small bedrooms coming off it on one side, plus a large kitchen in line with the living room, counters and cabinets along one side divided by a doorway into 'the' bathroom, which is a relatively good size for the property. It's a bit of a nuisance having to go to it from the bedrooms, but not insurmountable.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 12:27PM
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I've lived in several houses and houses-converted-to-apartments with this setup both as a child and as an adult and honestly it was never a big deal to me because I was used to it. It's so common in old houses to have kept all the plumbing as close together, and shorter pipe runs from not-so-efficient water heaters kept the water warmer. In this house PO moved the bathroom upstairs from where, decades after the house was built, it had been shoehorned into the hallway that led from the front door to the kitchen! (With partition walls, of course.) We know there was originally an outhouse out back because we found the door to it in the shed. :-) DH grew up in an old Queen Anne with the original bathroom opening off the kitchen and a much, much later bathroom scavenged from a bedroom upstairs, so it wasn't really an issue to him either.

Heck, in one house I rented in college the "bathroom" had started out as only an unenclosed toilet in the corner of the kitchen that the landlord turned into a 3x6' microbathroom with an RV-sized shower and a wall-hung sink just big enough to fit two hands into as we were waiting to move in! The house was in rural Maine, built in the first half of the 19th century, and up until WWII had had a two-holer in the backyard and a hand pump in the kitchen. The lady who lived there for nearly sixty years (most of it as a widow) washed her hair in the kitchen sink and bathed with the old-fashioned pitcher and bowl once she grew too old to move the big tin tub that was still hanging in the attached barn. Must not have hurt her any because she was close to a hundred when she died!

There really aren't "standard" floorplans for rural farmhouses like that, since they were often built by the families who were going to occupy them to fit their needs, and then added onto as more space was needed. They might have copied neighbors or family, or just winged it. Some of them might have used planbooks, many of which are available as reprints; MacAlester's Field Guide to American Houses has some pretty good information on inferring an original floorplan based on things like window and door placement. Looking at other houses with similar exterior massing and footprints might also be helpful.

Remember, older houses (especially in colder climates) often have smaller rooms than we're used to now, with doors that actually close, instead of great rooms and open room transitions, so floorplans seem "choppy" to 21st-century people. Smaller rooms were easier to heat, and unused rooms could be closed off to preserve heat for occupied spaces. (In the warm months, farm folks spent little time indoors except to eat and sleep - they were out working their tails off!) Large rooms were often a sign of wealth, that you could afford to heat them!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 12:30PM
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So its just a regular room with a door right off the kitchen right? When you say divided by a doorway you don't mean some sort of wall then doorway then bathroom door.....
Its not walking through the house that bothers me its the proximity of the bathroom and kitchen. Just doesn't seem that um sanitary or appealing to the cook:)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 12:31PM
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I live with one now, in a c. 1815 farmhouse, remodeled in 1915 and then 1950. The bathroom was put where it fit, in a small room behind the kitchen. It is too small for a tub. We managed a 3x4 shower. There is a decided lack of privacy, which has its interesting moments when our extended family and their friends are around. But this is a farm and we are used to working with real life which includes manure.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 12:42PM
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and up until WWII had had a two-holer in the backyard and a hand pump in the kitchen. The lady who lived there for nearly sixty years (most of it as a widow) washed her hair in the kitchen sink and bathed with the old-fashioned pitcher and bowl once she grew too old to move the big tin tub that was still hanging in the attached barn. Must not have hurt her any because she was close to a hundred when she died!

Well there's nothing stopping from people doing this today, at least not the washing in the kitchen with a bowl part - but I don't see too many doing it, not willingly anyway.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 1:06PM
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Thanks for the tip on Field Guide to American Houses - I just found and reserved it at my Library!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 1:14PM
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Mary -- in the upper Midwest -- many of the farmhouses were built in the late 1880-1900 were the Classic-L farmhouses. They had very specific plans.

Usually a porch that faced south or east (kept the cold north wind out) The porch had two doors. One (the main) walked directly into the kitchen -- the other into the parlor. The other room downstairs was family room. The parlor had a bay window -- maybe stained glass in the door or in a window and the moldings were much nicer than the rest of the house.

And yes, the bathes were add-ons --usually to the kitchen. I live with it every day and I get by.

For more information --check out the book -- Death of a Dream --farmhouses of the midwest. And the Field Guide to American Houses in wonderful -- I am on my third copy -- I've worn two out!!


    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 1:28PM
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Hi Mary,
Yes, our bathroom has a door directly off the kitchen. My husband lived in our home as a child and he hated the way it way laid out - the toilet was directly in front of the door that opened into the kitchen! So, when we updated the bath a few years ago, we moved the toilet to the farthest corner of the room and partitioned it off as a separate toilet room (like fancy new houses have). Then we installed a noisy fan. The new floor plan makes the bathroom off the kitchen much easier to stomach!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 4:20PM
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I lived in an old Victorian where an half bath was put in directly off the kitchen. You could tell that this had been a large pantry at one time. Lived in another old house where the half bath was off the kitchen, this time, I suspect in a closet. LOL. They were usually added after the fact, and many were put in not much more than an enclosed porch.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 11:00PM
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My husband and I live in a c1850 farmhouse and we have a full bathroom right off the kitchen also. Actually the bathroom door opens right up next to our fridge.

Sure it is different and most people probably think it is gross but we get by. We love the house so we got over the bathroom thing. We also have a full bathroom upstairs by the bedrooms.

Besides the gross factor that some people may worry about, it is super nice to actually have the bathroom there. We have two dogs so if they roll around in mud or whatever we can bring them right through the back door and into the kitchen and bathroom and not dirty the rugged portion of the house. My mother also really seems to like the downstairs bathroom as she can take a nice shower in the morning and get ready without waking us. If we had children I think it would be nice as we would be able to see the kids in the tub or whatever while we prepare our dinner or are cleaning.

If you like the house, it is just something you get used to and deal with. Sure it would be nice to have the bathroom in a hallway or something, but our house doesn't have hallways so where else could we put it??


    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 9:13AM
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i have a 1920, small right hall colonial, with my bath off my kitchen. once i remodeled the kitchen and bath, im very happy with the layout. i moved the br sink to be the only thing you see if your are in the kitchen. the toilet is to the left of the br doom with a decorative hamper blocking any view of the toilet from the kitchen. so it looks quite nice standing in the kitchen looking into the br. we also matched the moldings, colors, ect so it blends nicely into the other rooms. 99% of the time, the br door is closed, but im not embarassed when its open because my br looks so nice!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 6:56PM
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We have a 1916 foursquare, and I can beat you in the "gross" department.

We have a toilet room just off the kitchen. No sink. Just the toilet. You have to wash your hands at the kitchen sink.

There's absolutely no room for a traditional sink in there of any size-- the room's only as wide as a toilet and has a window on the opposite wall, flanked by two doors (one to the kitchen, and one going down to the basement). My short term plan is to

1) install a bathroom vent asap
2) buy one of these:

Here is a link that might be useful: Toilet lid sink

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 1:35PM
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Our 1910 farmhouse has the main bath (with a big tub but no shower) directly off the kitchen. Sometime after that, they converted a second-story porch to a long, narrow half-bath, so at least there was a toilet with the bedrooms upstairs. Within a year of us buying the place, we converted the second floor half bath to a 3/4 bath with a large shower, so it suits our needs just fine.

Having the full bath downstairs is very convenient as well-- it's a very large for an older-home bathroom, so we have space in there to store cleaning supplies and whatnot, and the tub comes in handy for lots of stuff-- washing the dog, dumping ice from coolers, last-minute thawing of Thanksgiving turkeys, etc., etc.

My parents have an 1888 Victorian and there's has a bath also directly off the kitchen. (They also have a second full bath directly upstairs from the downstairs bath-- not sure if it was original or not.) I think that's just the way it was with a lot of old houses-- and since I love old houses, it doesn't feel weird to me.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 1:44PM
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We have this exact house! Ours is an L shape, built in 1867. We were lucky enough to acquire photos of our house from the nephew of a previous owner. The pictures are from the 1960's and show a pump for the sink. They also show a pantry that ran half the length of the kitchen about three feet deep. Our bathroom was built at the end of where the pantry would have been. It is literally in our kitchen. 2 owners ago had converted one of the bedrooms upstairs into a full bath. We have a 1/2 bath down and a full bath upstairs.

Our house is in the Field Guide to houses, I can't remember the name. It is was the predecessor to the Greek Revival. Like two rectangles put together, we have three rooms down stairs and three rooms upstairs. The porch was enclosed when we moved in and we promptly removed all the windows/screens. We were lucky, must of the house had been covered by faux wood paneling and carpet. We have the wide pine floors and the original waynes coating.

We have done a lot of work, but it needs more, and eventually we will get there, but it is a gem!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 6:59PM
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My house was built around 1850 and is simply one room wide, and long. One room was built, then later anothr room built behind it, then a kitchen behind that, then the bathroom behind that. Here are a couple of pics:

The bathroom window is shown in the 2nd photo.

I'd love to have some ideas for landscaping or adding to the "farmhouse" look. I love my house, but am creatively-challenged.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 1:23PM
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I grew up in a house that had the masterbath off of the dining room and then a bath with a shower that had probably been a pantry right across from the fridge. It was in a suburb of Philly. It also had a picket fence inside to keep you from falling into the basement. Not sure how old it was, but it was pretty old. The SEPTA trolley went through the back yard and eels lived in the stream.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 8:58AM
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Fuzzy, i have posted a link to an almost identical sink on gardenweb before... I had something similar in my apartment in Japan and they work GREAT! Someday I will add one somewhere!!!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 8:02AM
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(A year and a half after your post...)

Skatiero, they do. I bought one and it's solved the problem well for us. Only downside is the ICY handwashing in the winter. We soap up w/o water, and rinse as quick as we can!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 6:38PM
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We had a vacation house in the family that had a halfbath off the kitchen, which was the only entrance and built into the side of hill. There were NO full baths, though there were four bedrooms. The house was OLD--not sure how old. The bottom floor was stone, with wood framing above. Of course, there was no central heat or air.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 5:11PM
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My older sister lives in an 1850s farmhouse which has a bath off the large kitchen. The door faces the basement entrance in a very small hallway which leads to a bedroom. It is full sized, but only about 8x10. Spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with them, and it really wasn't a problem. The other half of the kitchen serves as a dining room.
If you want weird--my own house was built in 1907, with a pantry and small back porch--neither of which was converted to a bathroom. However, there is a full bath upstairs with original fixtures, and a half bath (well, a sink with a wooden counter, and a toilet enclosed with beadboard planks under the stairs), but the strangest of all--the only closet on the first floor--an alcove in the hall next to the kitchen, and facing the basement stairs and side door--had a toilet installed for the convenience of a previous elderly owner! No door either, just a curtain rod which had a shower curtain on it when I bought the place.
My very first task: to remove the carpet from the hall floor, then remove that toilet and make it a closet again! Despite this being done 21 years ago, I still have the 6" drain hole in the floor, because my cats love to stick their heads through it to watch me do laundry in the basement! :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 5:43AM
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