1st floor layout - opinions please! Be kind!

soosanoApril 26, 2014

We are nearing the end of our design phase with our architect and I was looking to spot any glaring mistakes, especially in the kitchen. We are a family of four, with two young kids (4 and 6). I imagine the island will be used for casual eating as well as homework, food prep, junk clutter (my husband sincerely hopes not!) and dishwashing. We are considering the Kohler Stages Sink. We will probably reuse our Viking Range, which I sort of dislike, our current fridge, which I also dislike and our dishwasher, which, huh, I also dislike. I figure we could replace all these things later, as they currently work ok. All cabinets and counters will be new. I can't seem to find an area for a microwave, which I use a lot. The Kohler sink takes up a lot of space on the island, and the dishwasher and pull out trash will pretty much use up all the space on the working side. I am hoping to get slim cabinets for the seating side for rarely used items. Also, I am 5' tall, so putting the microwave up high is not quite workable for me (as it currently is). My husband is concerned about food storage and the left side wall will have a pull out pantry and, I think, is enough space for the coffee makers, toaster and some extra counter space too. Is this too far away from the work area for a counter microwave?

So... is this a decent layout for our needs? We cook often, but healthy and nothing complicated. We entertain maybe twice a month, and usually with only a few others with kids so it's very casual. My husband occasionally bakes bread, but he's mostly on cleanup. He hates clutter and I create it! There needs to be enough room to store everything away! Finally, the layout shows a wall on the island, presumably to hide the sink clutter that always accumulates, but I think I like the look of one large piece. Will it look terrible when the dirty dishes are in the sink? Sometimes we are lazy about putting the dishes away immediately. I've read tons of comments about the single bowl large sinks and how to work around these issues. Actual money spending (aside from the thousands we have overspent on the architect) is right around the corner and I am starting to freak out about the multitudes of decisions we will need to be making. I am leaning toward white modern upper cabinets, grained wood lower cabinets, white quartz or soapstone counters (haven't priced anything yet), and half wood on the island/ half quartz or soapstone with navy cabinets. Too much going on? NOTHING is decided yet. Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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Here is the layout...

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 2:35AM
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In the larger view, I wouldn't be real happy with the flow of the house. Anyone entering the house must walk through the kitchen. The long hallway from the front door to the living room first goes by stairs, then the bathroom, then kitchen and another set of stairs to get to the family room.

Are you set on the overall design? If so, add dimensions to isles, cabinet runs, etc. in order to get better feedback.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 5:22AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Stairs with winders like that won't work, and not stacking stairs in a small home is a seriously amateur mistake. The powder room should be of of the mud room. Venting will be difficult or impossible with another floor on top. The whole home lacks good flow. It's a connection of boxes, not rooms and the proportions are odd. Take it back to the drawing board and hire an actual architect. No real architect produced this.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:07AM
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Is this a row or townhouse? If so, the flow from entry to family room doesn't bother me, it's the openess of the kitchen to the dining room that does. I would flip the island and range wall. Think of it this way, your family will spend more time, presumably, in the FR than in the DR. Wouldn't you rather be able to keep an eye on the area where the kids will be most?

As for the MW placement, couldn't you put it under the counter somewhere on the Fridge wall?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:11AM
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Wait, is this a new home or a rework of an existing one? What's upstairs? Is there a basement? What does the mudroom lead to?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:40AM
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Thanks for the replies! This is an existing 1948 small house (about 2500 sq ft) and there is no way to change the flow of the house, without knocking it down and starting over, which is not an option. There are three levels, 3 BR/2BA. Currently, the front door opens into the living room (actually the kids playroom), and there is a wall between the kitchen and living room so that you need to walk diagonally through it to get to the rest of the house. The only reason we have changed anything on this floor is to be able to fit the powder room on the first floor, of which there is none. The mudroom is the only thing that is new on the first floor, and only recently, so we might look into relocating the powder room there. I'm not really seeing a good place for one though and I don't want to make the mudroom any smaller. Wow, not a real architect, I guess we are overpaying him then, because he is charging real money! We unstacked (?) the stairs to fit the tiny powder room, which will be disguised as a wall with the door shut so that you won't know it's there. Our first plans had the family room open to the kitchen, but we realized that we use the dining room open to the kitchen far more (the dining room is the original living room). The family room will be more of our own space and the kitchen/dining will be the main hub/entertaining section. Upstairs there are three small bedrooms and one bath. We are planning on adding a master bedroom and bath above the family room, which is an addition to the original house (we did not do it). The basement is partially finished, with a full bath and is now the rarely used kids playroom (low ceiling, cold basement) and occasional overnight guest room. Outside of the mudroom is the driveway but no garage and the entrance to the backyard. The left side is the south wall.

Thanks for your replies! I'm thinking the microwave will go on the fridge wall, and hopefully it won't be too far from the stove and sink to be workable. I was hoping for a microwave drawer in the island, but with the sink and dishwasher and trash bins, there isn't really room.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 10:58AM
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No offence to architects in general but they are typically known for NOT being good with kitchen design. I know this first hand.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 11:02AM
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I agree. Did you hire a kitchen designer as well, debrak2008? I'm thinking our contractor and cabinet maker will help, but should I also hire a kitchen designer too?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 11:54AM
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I think I'd have considered putting the kitchen in the front of the house, so it is partially hidden by the front closet wall.

But, you are probably trying to keep plumbing in the same place? Would you consider rotating the kitchen so the range is on the exterior wall, the fridge backing up to the FR, and rotate the island? You'd be able to vent better, have views of both the FR and DR that way, and it's easier to holler up the stairs from the island without turning your head :)

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:19PM
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I guess I'm a little confused as to the DR/Kitchen use. Are you saying that with your current layout you use the LR/Kitchen more? Will you still be using it that way when the LR becomes the DR? I just don't see how a family of four would use a DR/Kitchen combo as a "main hub" more than a Family/Kitchen combo.

As for the Powder Room, I would move it to the Mudroom as was suggested earlier. Can you make that area larger?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:27PM
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Here's your idea, roughly. I don't mind the stove on that wall, however, it seems strange to be cooking and prepping in what is essentially, a walkway through to the family room. I think the architect had in mind that the stove would be the focal point of the room, that your eye is drawn to, centered on the main wall.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 2:03PM
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We figured out, when neighbors have come over, that no one goes down the three steps into the family room. Everyone stays in the kitchen and the current living room. The front window is a bay with seating and many people are drawn to the light. The only thing drawing people to the family room (which is generally cold) is the tv, which we don't often watch, and the couches. We figured, why fight it? With the dining table and comfy seating, the two rooms open to each other would be the spot where we did most things, and the family room would be for watching tv, reading or lounging. Does that make sense? If we raise the family room floor up to eliminate the step down, we lose about four feet of ceiling height. Our ceilings are only about 8 feet in the rest of the house.

There is nothing under the mudroom, so I'm not sure how to plumb a powder room in that area. Right? It would have to drain down through the cement driveway or through the new foundation that will be built for the mudroom? If we made that area larger, we would block the entrance to the backyard, and also take away from our small patio and backyard area.

Our house is very limited. But we love the neighborhood!!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 2:15PM
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this might not be possible but could you close off one of the doorways to the family room, maybe the one nearest the range wall? it would give you more counter space. right now all your counters are separated so you don't have a long run for baking etc

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 2:23PM
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I don't think walking through the kitchen is an issue because they are not walking through your work triangle-the island is blocking people from that.

Having small children, I'd keep the stove where you had in the first one. I have a throughfare right through my kitchen and constantly almost pour boiling water on a child's head because the walk way is between my stove and my sink. The fridge is less used, so I'd keep that where you had it in the first rendering.

Also, if you aren't set on your appliances, I'd take the measurements of the largest fridge sold and build your cabinets around THAT rather than your current fridge if you think you may upgrade. Nothing more annoying than being limited by the width of a fridge when appliance shopping.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 2:38PM
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If you can give up the cabinet/drawer space, you could put a microwave drawer just below the counter next to your range (either side). It would be a convenient place for it, and at a good height for you. I think the original layout will work. You can be social in the kitchen w/people in the DR and the LR (though how high is the wall behind the range)? As long as you can see over it while you cook I think it's good. You can see your kids, see guests, and not be isolated. I do like scrappygal's idea of making sure you plan for the space for a larger fridge down the road if you don't have a size you like already.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:18PM
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Personally I would not want the powder room in the main entertaining area. Guests can't use it without everyone hearing. Just something to consider.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:28PM
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@ ardcp - we originally wanted that too, but the architect really liked the two entrances, since that would be a dead corner anyway. We have a dead corner now, and although there are new solutions for that, we decided in the end that two entrances might encourage more interaction with the two rooms.

@ scrappygal - I will definitely keep that in mind. I might even pick out the fridge and buy it next year. We really dislike our counter depth side by side! Everything is so stacked up and constantly falling out! If only we had the space and cash for a separate fridge and freezer!

@malabacat - That is the most logical place for a microdrawer. However, with the sink and dishwasher space on the island, I really like the idea of having the drawers across from the dishwasher (i.e. next to the range) for dishes (again, being vertically challenged, I love the idea of dishes down low). The other side would obviously be for pots and pans. If there is room, I am hoping I can fit a trash next to the dishwasher on the end, leaving a space for a microdrawer on the other side of the sink in the island? The thing I dislike about the drawers, and maybe this my own craziness, but they open so gosh darn slow!! You push the button and it sloooowwwwwllllly opens while you're standing there with something heavy! But, I suppose I can deal with it! And right now, the wall with the stove is full height. Maybe we could put a cutout on one side? Would that mean we would have to lose upper cabinets? Would we need to have both sides cutout for symmetry? I do love the cutout we have now.

Thanks, all, for the comments, they are tremendously helpful!!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:43PM
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I think you're losing a lot of space with walkways...with the two doorways, the closet blocking the dining room, the powder room off the dining room, etc.

This is just a quick idea...I am NOT sure of exact measurements, but the stairs up could continue over the powder room and the stairs down could continue under the closet, then turn.

Anyway, this is what I would do in the space...given your constraints.

I know your kids are not watching TV now (at 4 and 6) but there's a good chance they'll want to be in that room more, as they get older. I would want to see them, as they're playing and also view the lovely bay window. So, I put the range on the island...with a DEEP seating area behind. I would also have a backsplash behind the range, so it would cut down on splatters. But, seriously...who wants to sit at the island if you're frying chicken??? I'd move to the table, anyway :)

Microwave by the fridge, pocket door for the powder room, closet behind the front door and nice window seat in the bay. Just a few ideas... From Kitchen plans

This post was edited by lavender_lass on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 15:56

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:50PM
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I think the suggestion of closing off the left door to the FR and incorporating this corner into your kitchen make sense if at all feasible.
Agree with the awkwardness of locating the powder room so close to the kitchen and entertainment area. This may not work, but could you move the stairs and enter the powder room from where the mud room is?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:51PM
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@ sarahstew - I totally agree with you. That's probably why there's no powder room right now. But, I hate having people go up or down the stairs to use the facilities (in our personal space). The only other place it could be (and our neighbors did this in their renovation in their identical house) is in the family room adjacent to the stove wall, which is about the same as far as privacy goes. Hopefully, we could sound proof the one under the stairs. As it is, it will be a hidden door in the wall anyway and with soundproofing, it will be like it's not even there!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:54PM
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We hired an architect but no KD. I spoke to eight KDs at different shops to get estimates. Then of course I got the best advice from here on the kitchen forum. Many of the decisions and construction was already done from the architects plan so we still had to work with some limitations.

I like LL's plan. As for the powder room, we have an older home with a bathroom off the kitchen. Insulate as much as you can. Get a solid (not hollow core) door. Instead of a pocket door I would suggest a door that either swings in so that you see the sink (not the toilet) or a door that swings out, hinged so that if the door is open a little, you see the sink.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 4:28PM
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@ lavender_lass - Well now you've created a problem! We thought the first floor plan was done, but now we're rethinking things! The really ironic thing is, we moved the stairs to accommodate the powder room. The plan you have is pretty much as it is now, with the kitchen flipped to the other side. This could save us some money, as now the basement will not change either, except to fully finish the utility room. The upstairs room that lost its closet for the stairs to move can become a bedroom again (albeit a very tiny one, as it is now). Is it possible to move the powder room entrance to the mudroom wall and enlarge, if that is the existing exterior wall? That would solve all the issues with the powder room off the kitchen. Do you think our architect will fire us for changing our minds again? Should we even care? You've really given us some food for thought, which is why I posted in the first place! Thanks for taking the time!

@debrak2008 - I will definitely follow those ideas. I really don't like pocket doors, even if they save space.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 4:56PM
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I live in a small city with older home from 1920's to early 1950's, and see many renovations, mostly very poorly done.

I will be brutally honest and say that you will be better off leaving well enough alone and looking for a larger home than doing this reno, then adding a master upstairs.

The architect already cost you more than you anticipated, and the build will cost you far beyond what you anticipate.

You will be left with a home that still has a poorly done addition on the back that is cold, and a weird layout where guests walk straight into your dining room with the entire kitchen on display.

They do this on TV a lot, blowing open small homes, but in real life, I don't want my entire home open to the front door, and people do not want to walk into a dining room from the front door - that will adversely affect resale.

Your layout as you posted will affect the value of the home, the home will be worth less per square foot than one of the same size with a more traditional layout.

At the very very least, please reorient the wall to the left of the entry and move it 90 degrees clockwise so your home is not on display from the front door.

I have been thought this exercise with a small home, and the right thing to do was move. It took three years once I made the decision to find the next house.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 5:14PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Now that I know it's a reno and not a (badly designed) new build, I agree with the suggestion to move. You're not gaining near enough positives for the (vast) amount of money this will cost you.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 5:44PM
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agree with holly and detroit burb.....get a real estate agent right away...there is a demand for housing [of course depending on where you live]....you are in the housing market .....you can move on and you should. An island kitchen works when the living space is adjacent. At most, I would make a long one wall kitchen ...or tight corridor or L kitchen, skip the island , have a spot for an expandable table and the rest a living area... then you'll have the family room and the new second living zone .

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 6:08PM
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I like Lavender Lass's rendition of the kitchen very much. One thing I might change is to increase the size of the pantry next to the fridge to at least 24" wide so that you're sure to have enough food and small appliance storage.

In order to give your front entry a sense of place and distinction from the dining room, I suggest adding a partial wall and column coming from the portion of wall between the front door and the bay window, perpendicular to the front wall of the house. It wouldn't have to come out very far, just enough to be there. It could even be a stub wall with a window cut-out, or a slightly thicker wall with storage below the opening (shoes?). I think you'd have to rotate the table 90 degrees to make this work. You might be able to put some built-in seating in the bay to help it fit well. I looked on Houzz for some column and partial wall ideas, but they all looked to "grand" for the scale of your home. This comes close, but I would make the column a little less substantial so that it didn't overwhelm your space.

Craftsman Dining Room by Seattle Architects & Designers Goforth Gill Architects

Another one:

Traditional Dining Room by Lawrence Home Builders Howell Custom Building Group
Here's something similar, without the column, but it would still help define the space and give your guests a feeling of arrival and enclosure before they continue into the rest of the home.

Craftsman Kitchen by Portland Interior Designers & Decorators Weedman Design Partners

When planning your cabinets and finishes, keep in mind the age and style of your home and those in the neighborhood so that they play nicely together. We recently bought a farm house that had a very "70's" kitchen plopped into it. This is the sort of thing I think you'd like to avoid. : )

Are you familiar with Sarah Susanka's "Not So Big House" books? They are wonderful and readily available at many libraries. I think you'd find them helpful in your planning.

As you undertake your renovations, please address the issue of your family room being cold. Would it benefit from a new gas fireplace, or energy efficient word burning insert? (Our wood stove draws our children to it like an outdoor light at night draws bugs in the summer, LOL.) If you make your family room warm and cozy, and keep a sightline between the kitchen and living room, everyone will enjoy it and use it more.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sarah Susanka's website

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 6:14PM
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robo (z6a)

Plenty of homes in my area have front dining rooms. It's basically part of the decline of the formal living - people are keeping the dining room as the one formal area of the house and moving it into the front living room to gain private family space in back. And in urban areas, plenty of homes have kitchens visible from the front door. So if this home is located in a city, which I'm assuming it is, I don't think either of these modifications will be a drawback.

Our urban home also has winders similar to those pictured and they work fine. What about them "wouldn't work?"

Soosano - I think the powder room could work as LL has it drawn and it would save you a TON of money. I too would want the entrance off the mudroom.

This photo is similar to the toilet room in an apartment we rented in Paris. Europeans are used to dealing with tight spaces and this is one way to get a sink and toilet into a hallway-sized space with a door at the short end. It hinges on finding a teeny tiny sink (no more than 12" deep, ) and having a bathroom at least 33" wide interior dimensions as you need minimum 21" in front of the sink. You might be able to carve out a few more inches here and there from the hallway beside the kitchen.

Best of luck! I get the constraints of working with a small urban home and hope it works well for you! It's true that often times moving is cheaper than renovating so it's probably worth looking at the pros and cons. In our case we just completed a major reno because we couldn't find anything we liked in our area in two years of searching within $100K, or even $150K of our budget. It really does depend on the area. We love our neighborhood and wanted to stay here.

Of course, I also think that just because Soosano wants to use the front room as a dining room, doesn't mean the next occupant has to. It would also make a nice little formal living room. My formal living is 12x12 with a giant triangular fireplace along one wall. Then the next occupant could dine in the family room. So it seems to me that the floor plan is flexible.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 18:23

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 6:15PM
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Your architect works for you! You can fire him/her. He/She can quit.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 7:08PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Winders like that don't meet modern building codes as they are unsafe. The narrowest part has to be a full step width, graduating to a wider double step at the edge. That's what ''wouldn't work'' if this were new construction. That was done because it's a tripping hazard as pictured. If zero is changed about them, then they are grandfathered in and don't have to meet modern building codes. Dosn't mean they are safe though. Especially with any kids or older adults around to take a tumble.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 7:28PM
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robo (z6a)

I believe they have to be 10" depth at the walk line which is 12" from the inside corner.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 20:03

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 7:58PM
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Laughable- I like the idea of the little wall...I even played with it briefly, but not as nice as your suggestions :)

What I like about it being open is that the dining room is so flexible. The table could be opened up to seat 8-10 in the future, without any obstacles. It also keeps the bay window centered on the inside, as well as the outside.

As for moving...I am always amazed when people say it will be easier to move than remodel. It all depends on the prices in your area...the cost of remodeling, the amount of work that needs to be done, how much updating needs to be done (electric, plumbing, foundation, etc.)

Your house seems like it's in fairly good shape and you just want to make some changes. Would another house in your area (if you want to stay in this area for schools, etc.) be affordable? Just a few things to consider...

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:38PM
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Thanks for everyone's constructive criticism. This is somewhat stressful for my husband and I, but necessary, in my opinion, for me to feel comfortable with whatever we decide to do.

First of all, I think I mentioned we love our neighborhood. We vacation with our neighbors, the local school is excellent and people are flocking to the neighborhood. I did a quick search to see what is for sale. For the amount we paid plus the cost of renovations, there is nothing in our school district. There are wooden houses of our size being torn down (I can think of at least 10 in the last year) and $1.2+ mil houses replacing them. They all look the same on the outside and are gigantic and super nice. Regardless, that is out of our price range. I think the brick houses like ours get renovated. Robotropolis is absolutely correct, we live in a large city. Mortgage rates are going up and have I mentioned we love our neighborhood? We can take or leave the renovation, really, but I don't see us moving.

Laughable, thanks for the pictures, and I have about 5 of the susanka books from the library right now! She is very big on soffits and such, which don't really show in this type of layout. We will most likely keep the wall in the first layout, but play with the size and length, perhaps with it open at the top or with windows. The enclosure will give the entrance a sense of arrival and the windows at the end of the long hallway in the family room will draw you in. The architect is planning on raising the family room floor to get ductwork under it to address the cold issue. We will also be adding insulation in all the walls and a second hvac system.

What are winders? I thought it was a typo, but now I have no idea.

Thanks everyone, for a lively discussion. This remodeling stuff is super scary!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:15AM
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robo (z6a)

Winders are the pie shaped steps that allow a staircase to turn 90 degrees without a landing. They're less desirable than using a landing: staircases are a source of injury in the home and having irregularly shaped stairs contributes to accidents compared to having stairs all the same shape. They're used when either width or length of the staircase is limited.

Code on winders is going to depend on your area and the code can change so it will depend on what year of code your area has adopted. In the 2012 International residential code I believe the winder has to have a depth minimum 6" at the narrowest point and 10" at the 12" walk line. If you're redoing a staircase your architect should and probably did spec winders to conform to your local code.

Where I live, Nova Scotia, goes by the 2010 building code of Canada which is a lot more lenient in terms of shape (for example, winders are allowed to come right to a point) but has other restrictions.

Here's a staircase with a landing (left) and winders (right)

This post was edited by robotropolis on Sun, Apr 27, 14 at 18:29

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 6:19PM
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Have you considered putting a small powder room in the mud room area, like this?

Putting the powder room here gives guests more privacy when they use it. It also makes it very convenient for quick potty stops from the backyard. Look for a shallow toilet so that you can maintain the required minimum of 21" clearance in front of the toilet.

I put the closet under the existing stairs (assumed this was doable based on your response to LL about moving the door to the powder room she drew to the mudroom). There are mud room benches in the 54" wide space between bathroom wall and FR wall. Those funny little squiggles on the wall between mud room area and FR are coat hooks.

I also tweaked the kitchen plan a bit, moving the clean-up sink and DW to the fridge wall (fridge shifted down the wall towards the DR) and adding a prep sink to the island.

Plan B is a slight tweak of the above kitchen.

I moved the fridge to the same wall as the range. Yes, it's visible from the front door but your whole kitchen is visible from the front door so I didn't think it made much difference where it was placed in your kitchen.

The clean-up zone now has its own wall, convenient to both the cook zone and the dining room and you've got a great work zone with fridge, range and water together.

If you want to increase the connection to the FR, you could widen the opening between kitchen and FR even more. It will decrease the length of the range wall but I doubt a foot or so will make a huge difference since it's a good sized kitchen already.

If I understood you correctly, these proposed plans should not require any work on your existing stairs, which will save you money.

I'd like to see the entry closet move to another location since I think it interferes with the front room's symmetry but I'm not sure if there's another place to put it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Easy 18 square foot half bath for guests

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Can you get rid of the wall between the kitchen and living room -- this would result in a very open floor plan with lots of light. You could have a galley + island (or perhaps even 2 islands).

I agree with posters above who suggested to move the powder room in the mud room area.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 8:10PM
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