Found a house I like....sort of. Weird Floorplan?

jockewingDecember 2, 2012

At first I began by looking at new construction, but the only stuff in my budget was sort of low end and I didn't like any of the finishes offered, and the builder was completely inflexible in accomodating any changes.

So I began looking at existing inventory. Out of the 6 I've seen so far, only 2 have interested me. Once was priced decently but the bedrooms seemed so small to me, and I didn't really care for the kitchen. Then I saw one yesterday in the absolute perfect neighborhood. Probably the best neighborhood I will be able to get into at my desired price range in one of the best school districts in the entire state (I don't have kids, but for resale purposes, this is good).

The house is about 13 years old and it has a lot of my must haves. It looks modern with the high ceilings and has Brazilian teak floors in most of the living areas that looks beautiful. However it has a very unique floor plan that I'm not sure if I like or not. When you walk in the front door, there is a living room with big picture windows directly in front of you. There is a formal dining area to the left. All of this area has chair rail and paneled wainscotting with the beautiful teak floors. To the right is a small hallway whichs leads to a large master with ensuite in the back and a full bathroom and spare bedroom/possible office in the front. To the left of the formal area is a small hall from which you can access the kitchen. The kitchen is not huge but is has a nice layout. It has a wraparound counter with barstools and a large eat in area to the back with lots of windows. I like how you can enter the kitchen from either the hallway or through the eating area. Further down the hall you either go left to to more bedrooms and a full bath (house has 3 full baths). At the end of the hall is a laundry room through which you go to get to the attached garage. To the right side of the hall is the family room, which attaches to the eat in area in the kitchen. This is a rather small family room (about 18 x 15). Instead of making one small great room, the plan put the kitchen in the middle and put a relatively small family room on one side and a formal living room on the other.

I have never seen a plan like this in my area. Usually there is one large living room, and the kitchen is on the outside wall of the house, not in between two rooms like in this house. On the one hand I was looking forward to having a larger family room, as the one in this house is exactly the size of the one in my current house (although in this house the family room would not have to serve as a passthrough room like in my current house and it might live "bigger" because of that, and allow for better furniture placement). But I am also sort of warming to the idea of having two "living rooms". In the formal one I can envision creating a library feel with some beautiful bookshelves and great chairs, and also being a place to display some of my collectibles. This would be a great place to sit and look at the birds in the backyard, and have some peace and quiet.

My dad is probably going to move in with me (I am single) for at least a few years, so it would be kind of neat that the master and an extra bedroom I could make into an office are on one side of the house, and his bedroom and an extra bedroom he could make into his own office are on the complete other side of the house.

Some of the negatives are it had a small pantry in the kitchen, and I don't think the laundry room is large enough to store my extra appliances/large pots and pans (I am a fairly serious cook with a big collection of kitchen items). I also hate the fact that you have to walk through the laundry room to get to the garage. The bathrooms are in decent shape but the finishes are not that great. I honestly don't really need three full bathrooms and I would think instead of a full third bath it would have made more sense to put a half bath directly off the living area instead of close to the bedrooms. The cabinets in the kitchen are decent but not great, and the countertops are ceramic tile with wood trim. I do not really care for this but I have to admit the counters seem to be in great shape and they aren't really bad looking at all. I could definitely live with them for now. Finally, I am still not totally sold on the dual living room situation.

Hoping you can visualize my description, what do you think of a floor plan like this? Unfortunately the house is not new so I don't know if the actual floor plans are available.

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Almost anything about a house can be changed except the location and the size of the lot. It sounds like the location is great, and like the layout will work fairly well for you. There may be some quirks but they sound livable. If over time some of the layout bothers you, some things can be changed (move a door or wall, add windows, or combine two rooms, for example.) Many things about the house sound very nice.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:02PM
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The floor plan sounds very livable. If your dad is going to live with you for awhile, the two living rooms might come in handy.

Is the garage large enough that you could add a pantry cabinet there for your kitchen overflow?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:25PM
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I can't visualize without a floor plan. Your description makes the house seem livable. Where I live, the garages are usually right off the laundry room or accessed through the laundry room. That works okay unless the laundry room is about the size of a small closet. Do you have a place to keep laundry baskets there without tripping over them when you walk through? That would be a major negative for me.

I think you could probably find a way around the small pantry. If you downsize, the bathroom to a powder room, you could possibly add another closet in the extra space. It sound like you have more eating space than needed so you you could possibly add additional hutches or a wall of cabinets in one of the eating areas or the formal dining room.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 11:13PM
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I think that is very livable for 1 or 2 people (or more). In your situation, I'd say go for it. It is a house with nice finishes, which you liked. And, I wouldn't consider a 15x18 family room small. (I have a LR that is 14x18 that is also the "entry foyer" and also a hallway, so take 3-5 feet off each dimension); and a family room that is 14x14. So, to me, living with 2 kids, and 2 parents, that house sounds very livable. And, if you had kids, you'd be thankful for a room away from the toys/kid bustle (the formal LR).

Now, I think, what you really need to decide is, is the kitchen livable for you? Does it have enough storage (even if not in a formal pantry space--cabinets, etc?)? Or, is there enough close space somewhere else? Or, could there be if you had a hutch or armoire?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 11:25PM
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I'm not sure where you're located but the plan doesn't sound that odd to me. It's only been in the last decade or so that homes in the midwest moved away from two living spaces: family room and formal living room. Given that this is 13 years old, it makes sense to me. I'm wondering what size the living room is if you consider the family room small? I do also think that the size of the family room will seem larger since you don't have to use it as a pass through room.

I've been in hundreds of homes that have an entry from the garage into the laundry room.

I think it is particularly nice that you and your father can each have a separate area of the house for privacy.

No house will be perfect-even one you design yourself. I think there maybe creative solutions for your kitchen storage issue you may not have considered. Are there cabinets or shelves above the washer/dryer? Is there any room for a free standing shelving unit? I'm imagining a metal/wire unit like you might find in a restaurant kitchen.
Even some of the closet space in one of the "offices" could work if items are not used frequently.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 6:26AM
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Is there a basement? If you are used to having a house with basement storage, it's difficult to not have it.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 8:38AM
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The floor plan sounds similar to a house we had in the past. In fact, the floor plan was the most popular one in that subdivision where the house is.

From your descirption, it is not clear if there is a wall between living room and kitchen. Our previous house had a wall, a half bath next to the family room as well as a nice pantry in the laundry room.

We loved the house, it was very livable. We enjoyed the light, bright of the space as well as privacy of the master suite.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 8:58AM
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I think if you are planning to live with your dad, the two living spaces could be a blessing. When you want to entertain friends, he won't be stuck in his bedroom, but could use the kitchen and family room, or the living and dining rooms, depending on where you are entertaining.

It sounds as if your two bedrooms would be at opposite ends of the house, so you would both have some privacy.

Your main concerns seem to be about the storage in the kitchen and the countertops. These can all be fixed by redoing the kitchen. And there are temporary fixes, such as an attractive storage unit in the family room, or putting cabinets in the laundry room.

There might not be anything you can do about having to walk through the laundry room to the garage. Can you live with this? Why do you hate it? People here might be able to find a way for you to live with it.

But balanced against the right location, the finishes in the house that you like, the parts of the floorplan that you like, is the walkthrough laundry room bad enough to negate all the positives?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 5:16PM
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I have had two different houses that had the laundry room at the entrance to the garage. I did not find them difficult, even the small one. You just cannot leave laundry baskets on the floor in front of the doorway to the garage, that's all.

It sounds to me that you should buy this one. Location is key, and you have it in spades.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 1:37AM
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We have a different floor plan, too. It's taken me years to get used to it and I would still prefer something different. If you really, really don't like the floor plan, don't buy the house. We bought ours for all the "right" reasons--- the land, location---- and have completely remodeled inside and out, and I STILL don't like the floor plan!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 8:25AM
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Went back for a second visit yesterday. While I still do like the house, I don't really LOVE it. I re-measured the family room and see that it isnt even 15 feet wide (maybe 14 9/16 wide and although 20 feet deep, the back six feet serves as a corridor between the hallway to the bedrooms and the back door/breakfast/kitchen area, so in reality, there is barely a space 15x15 to arrange furniture in. One corner of this is completely taken up by one of those corner fireplaces which I don't care for. My current family room is 15x18 and since the front door opens directly on it, basically the whole room functions as a huge hallway. So the new house does have a bit of leg up in that sense. But with the idea of moving into a larger house, one of the main things I was looking forward to is a larger family room. I would love to have more room to buy some new beautiful furniture pieces and to have room for maybe even 2 seating areas. With this house, I'd be hard pressed to fit the 2 average size chairs and apartment size sofa I have. Granted I would have the other formal living room I don't have at all in my current house, but I just keep seeing that as a room that will turn into nothing more than a giant unused foyer and a good place to put the Christmas tree once a year. I mean I don't need one of those hanger-sized family rooms some of these houses have, but I was at least hoping for as big as my current house!

My other issue about this house--no separate walk in pantry. Basically there is a very small closet with about six 18 inch deep shelves. This is great for canned goods and the like, and I think the shelves are deep enough for my appliances, but I was really looking forward to the a lot of extra storage room for tools, wrapping paper, vaccuum cleaner, mops, brooms, etc. The laundry room serves as a pass through from the garage so there is no room here for any shelving. The master bathroom has a pseudo- linen closet that is basically 12 inches deep. Is this deep enough to store towels? The master bedroom has 2 smallish walk ins that are both about 5x5. That's not huge, but will work. One thing I really hate is how the listing counts the closet space when describing the size of rooms. It said all the extra bedrooms were 14x11 when in actuality they are about 12x11 or less because they count the little square where the closet juts out into the room as 2 extra feet. The master bedroom was listed as 20x14, when in actuality it is 13.6 x 16. They counted the little 2 foot wide space you walk through between the closet doors to get to the bathroom as part of the room size.

Lastly, I'm not thrilled about the curb appeal. The back of the house is vinyl (yuck), the sides are brick, and the whole front is that ugly fake stucco. I think that stuff looks so horrible. It is painted an unfortuntate color right now, but I think I can improve that. Can you brick over stucco? They also covered over the nice sized back patio with a tin roof? It is braced very well, but I don't know if they were going with an inexpensive material or did that on purpose?

Here is a link to the listing. It isn't the grand home a lot of the posters on here are able to afford, but it's at the high end of what I'm able to swing. Be kind, please ----

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 9:44PM
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If you don't love it, I'd just keep looking. Some of the things you aren't so fond of would be expensive to change. At some point, you start upgrading too much for a neighborhood.

The stucco can be changed to brick, but that will be expensive. The back patio could also be upgraded, but making it nice with a matching roof, refinishing the underside and giving in the columns a finished look will probably be a minimum of $2000. If the house is 13 years old, it is in the window of age where most people want to start upgrading. I would probably be tempted to look for a better deal on a house that is more of a fixer upper because I think you have a lot of things you would like to change.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 10:57PM
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I hear what you're saying, but this house does have a lot of positives. It is in a great location in a very stable neighborhood with great school in a quiet and well maintained area. Unfortunately, there are only 2 houses for sale right now in this entire neighborhood, and out of everything for sale right now in my town, this is by far the best one that I can afford in my price range. I could wait, but with my luck, I'll miss out on this one and then nothing else will come up.

People I trust their opinion have all told me they like the house and think it would be a really good buy. I mean the storage option aren't ideal, but going from a 1300 sq foot to 2300 sq foot house -- I think I might be surprised just how much room there really is.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 11:25PM
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So it sounds as if you would be gaining in overall square footage, but dealing with smaller rooms. That's something you have to think about--can you live with that?

Another thing to think about--just because a room has a label, does not mean that you have to use the room in that way. Would it make more sense for you to use the living room or dining room as a family room, in order to get the larger room size that you want? Then you could plan a kitchen remodel a few years after you buy, where you could incorporate part of what is now the family room into your kitchen.

Could you put extra shelving in the garage for storage? Buy a large storage piece for the family room?

Growing up moving all the time, thanks to a parent in the military, we had to live in houses that were either supplied by the military or what my parents could find in a quick day or two of house-hunting. You can make a house work for you, without remodeling, if you are inventive and willing to take a few risks.

My parents once took a large walk-in storage closet by the front door and made it into my dad's office. They gave up the master bedroom once and put all four of my brothers in there, with two sets of bunkbeds. They turned a dining room into a family room, and bedrooms into home offices.

Every single house we lived in had some wonderful advantages. Every single house we lived in had some horrendous features. There was the house with the laundry chute that Mom loved. The house with the parquet floors and skylight and bannister that swooped up to the second floor, where the hallway was lined with storage closets. That was also the house with the french doors in the living room that let in every single puff of a breeze. That room was freezing in winter. There are trade-offs to everything.

Look at the rooms in this house as spaces, not rooms with functions that you cannot change. What *could* you use each space for, so that you could live the way you want to?

It sounds as if the house has enough of what you are looking for that researching how to eventually make it into what you want is worth taking a little time to do. Run the kitchen by a free kitchen planner at a big box store. Consider what would change if you could put a wall up between the living and dining rooms. That sort of thing.

And if the answer to that is that you can't rework the functions of the rooms to meet your needs, then keep looking for another house that does.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 9:01AM
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At first from your descriptions the floor plan sounded like the one house we had before, but looking at photos in your recent posting, the location of rooms, door/ window openings, traffic flows and the room sizes are quite different.

We always believe there are always some areas in a house we need to compromise, but we only buy a house we like. You would live in the place day in day out, you have to really like the place, whatever others say does not count.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 11:49AM
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Don't be so desperate for a house in this neighborhood that you settle for a characteristic you don't like that's not changeable for a reasonable amount of money. There will be more houses that come on the market.

OTOH, don't be so picky that you pass up a house that's got all of what you need but just most of what you want.

I tried to figure out a floor plan from your description and the listing photos, but couldn't quite do it. If you can sketch out a rough floor plan, scan or photograph it, and post it here, that would help. We could make suggestions about repurposing spaces to accomplish your objectives. For example, your wrapping paper and cleaning supplies/tools could be kept in a closet in your office instead of in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 1:05PM
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Ok, here is my rendition of the floorplan working from memory of the 2 times I went to the house:

The living/dining area probably isn't that big in reality, but it does take up a lot of room when you first walk in the house. I couldn't quit figure out the bathroom/laundry area either, but this is pretty close.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 10:37PM
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Where is the front door?

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 8:19AM
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The floor plan plus the listing photos help a lot. Here's my take on your concerns:

1. Two formal rooms: The advantage to this (or idea behind it) is that one you use for company and one is the family (read: messy) area. What I think is odd is that they didn't make it deeper, as you've got a courtyard-type area between the breakfast area and master bedroom, but with no doors opening onto it.
2. small pantry (lots of stuff): I think you could put an armoire or some cabinets in the breakfast nook along the "courtyard" wall to hold them. And it sounds like the pantry might be big enough for your kitchen stuff, but not the rest. You could keep everything else in your office closet.
3. walk through laundry to garage: Probably need a photo of the laundry room showing where the appliances are to judge this.
4. baths and kitchen dated: Changeable. In the kitchen, you could gel stain the whitewashed oak cabinets and put laminate counters on for not much cash. And new bath vanities can be had for $400 or so, if you go with nice-looking stock ones from the big box stores.
5. Smallish bedrooms and closets: Sounds like larger spaces are more of a want than a need, and you can live with this.
6. Family room size: Try posting in the Home Decorating forum the floor plan and what you'd like to fit in there, and ask for help with furniture placement. They might be able to figure out how to make it work.
7. Patio roof: They used 6x6's, which is good, and it does look solid. If you don't like the corrugated metal roof, you can replace it with sheathing and shingles. Not a huge project.
8. Curb appeal: I'm not fond of split finishes (one on the front and one on the sides and back), but it's pretty common. Do the other houses in the neighborhood have similar finishes? I actually thought the front of the house looked nice (and I don't mind stucco), but then I haven't seen it close up, and you need to have a house that matches your tastes. Bricking the whole thing is certainly possible, but would be expensive.

So in summary, trying to put myself in your shoes, I think the biggest outstanding issues are whether the living and family room spaces will work for you and whether the exterior finishes are ok with a paint job. Everything else seems like it's changeable or livable.

Here is a link that might be useful: Listing photos

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Remember too, it is an asking price. If you think you'd NEED to do some work to live there, but could love it otherwise, make your OFFER and see what is countered. If this house were $X less, would you buy it? (And, how low would it need to be)? Every house has compromises--when you read on the building a home forum, you find there is no perfect plan for everyone or anyone.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 12:30PM
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I looked at your street view. It looks like your neighbors have brick houses. Painting the stucco to some shade of tan would help your curb appeal. Rocking or bricking the entry might be a less expensive option than bricking the whole house. I'd be tempted just to repaint the stucco and spend the money elsewhere.

I know someone who has a walk through laundry room like yours. She hates it. There is no place for laundry baskets, or a trash can. That may not be as much of a problem if it is an adult only house. With kids, there is tons of laundry.

It bugs me that the house is 13 years old and the only apparent update to the house is the teak flooring. I'm not counting the back patio because it looks functional, but unfinished. If you unexpectedly needed to sell the place in two years, you would take a hit or need to do some updating. Things that are catching my eye in this area in addition to those already mentioned are the lack of appropriate curtain rods, light and plumbing fixtures. They are little things that add value to a house.

I think the extra rooms give you quite a few options for storing your kitchen extras. I think you can keep your kitchen cabinets, but just stain or repaint them for an update. If you were to replace them, you could hang the old ones in the garage. You could also have cabinets added to the breakfast nook.

Overall, I think the interior of the house looks nice. There are a lot of windows. The house looks like it gets a lot of natural light.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 1:56PM
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Cmarlin, the front door is to the right of the bump out where the dining room is located. There is also a coat closet there, but I couldn't figure out how it worked with the bedroom closet, so I left it off. I so wish I was able to get a copy of the floorplan.

Adellabedella--I understand what you are saying about the lack of updates, but surprisingly, this seems to be the norm in my area. I have probably looked at every one of the couple hundred MLS pictures in my town, and I wasn't really impressed with but a few of the homes I saw. Even the very expensive homes didn't really have great finishes and so many of them were decorated in, at least in my opinion, the most horrible of styles. I am in the New Orleans suburbs and honestly there is just not that much money here as compared to other areas. There are a few enclaves here and there where there is some affluence, but my town is mostly solidly middle class, paycheck to paycheck people. So in actuality, the finishes in this house are not that bad for the area. The floors are a great upgrade as they are beautiful in person and I'm sure cost whoever put them in upwards of $10K.

I also would love to slowly add my own style to the home. I am not in love with ceramic tile countertops, but this countertop looks to be in great shape and didnt really bother me that much. I think I could definitely live with it for a while. The cabinets are nothing special, but they are OK and I actually like the color. They aren't as washed out looking in person.

For the exterior, a paint job would definitely be in order. The sides of the house are in red brick. I wonder how much it would cost to leave the area around the entry stucco and just brick the front of the garage? At the least I would repaint in probably a neutral tan sort of color or maybe even a subtle blue gray like BM Stonington or Coventry Gray.

For the interior, my first priority would probably be to add propery drapery to the windows in the formal rooms and the family room/kitchen. I know this alone could easily cost in excess of $1K, and that is if I go with a Pottery Barn type drape. I was thinking maybe simple panels of lined silk in the formal living/dining with some nice substantial rods, and a lined linen in the family room. I really like Pottery Barn's lined linen drapes that come with the stitching that allows you to insert the hooks. I would also change out the Hollywood-dressing room globe fixtures in the bathrooms. I would love to do sconces on either side of the mirror in at least the master.

Next I would probably focus on the master bathroom. Don't really think I need to move anything or change any plumbing, but I would love an old fashioned small marble hexagon on the floor and some new vanities with marble countertops.

As to the price--I really don't think I will buy the house if they won't come down off of the list price. If I could get them down to under $225K, I probably would buy.

I really just wish there was a least another one or two homes that I could consider so I don't feel like I'm settling for the first thing that comes along.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 8:15AM
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If you really like the neighborhood, ask your realtor to see if there are any expired listings there. Or leave notes in all the mailboxes saying "I'm looking for a house in this neighborhood." There might be some people that would like to sell, but were waiting until things pick up more before they list. You could push them off the bench and open up some more possibilities.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 9:21AM
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