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First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

Posted by TheCatsMeowth (My Page) on
Sun, Aug 19, 12 at 0:39

This is my first floor plan using Chief Architect, so there are several imperfections where I’m still getting used to the software. I didn’t know how to save the file as a picture that could be uploaded, so I juswt did a screen shot. If the dimensions aren’t big enough, please let me know how I can fix it.

On to a little background about myself. I’m 25, graduated from college debt free and have had a good steady job for about 2 years (what I consider to be my permanent job). I have a few other side jobs for extra income (I figure while I’m young, I might as well pay off as much of the house as possible). My significant other still has several years of school left and doesn’t have a good credit score or any significant income, so I’ll be doing this build with the help of my parents as co-signers. I still have about a year before I plan on breaking ground. I’ll be using the time to pay off the land, save the downpayment and perfect the plans. I’ve chosen a contactor and bank, and am still working on finding an architect.

My original plan was to be my own GC, which turned into doing as much of the DIY as possible, which has now turned into having the GC build the first floor and second floor master suite. The rest of the second floor will remain unfinished (with some basics put in like framing, electrical and plumbing), and will be a future DIY project once the initial build is done and there’s no concern about delaying construction.

If there’s anything that can be cut to reduce space, I’d love to hear all suggestions. I’d like to have the unfinished portion be around 2500 sq feet. This is what I had before I added the porches/balcony, and somehow the living space jumped by about 200 sq ft. I’m not sure if there was something that I didn’t mark as livable space earlier or if I just accidentally marked something wrong.

Here’s some additional information about the land and current plan. The land is .58 acres in a residential neighborhood on a corner with one side opening up onto a dead end street.

--To save on costs, I’m sticking to as few corners as possible, so I’d like to avoid anything jutting out/in (I’ve seen this is common for foyers and breakfast areas). I’m curious to know how much cost will be added for the large porch in the front though.

--I don’t like the idea of the garage being in the front of the house (garage with a house attached… ). It’s current location has it opening up to the dead end, allowing for a short drive way. The downside is that it takes away from my backyard space.

--I’m limited in the width of the property. To allow for a porch and enough distance from the neighbors, I’d like to have a maximum of 48 ft as the width. The length is where I have plenty of flex room.

--I have the kitchen on the ‘street’ side rather than the neighbor side to allow for more windows and natural light. I also like the side entry from the porch into the laundry room/half bath to allow kids to run in and out without tracking dirt throughout the house.

--The den can be converted to a guest room/spare kids room which is why I have a full bath next door.

--The first floor bedroom is my guest suite/in law suite which can also be used as the master in times of injury, pregnancy, etc…

--I’ve never cared to see stairs right as I enter a house, which is why I have my stairs in the back. I’ve always liked the idea of coming downstairs into the kitchen for breakfast or into the living room on Christmas morning. Having them at the back allows both of these scenarios. Basement stairs will be directly under the 1st floor stairs.

--I’ve struggled with the living room. I don’t like having the tv above the fireplace (don’t like looking up), but I don’t know how well two focal points would work (TV and fireplace). I went with the corner fireplace and extended the wall to have a larger hallway, but I’m not sure if I like this arrangement yet.

--I grew up with a larger sunroom and have always wanted another one, so I’ve added a small sunroom/sitting area. I’m still not sure about the connection to the living room though (if it would be better to leave it open for example).

--I have no vaulted ceilings and haven’t decided on how high to make certain areas. I’m leaning towards 10 for public areas and 9 for bedrooms.

--I want separation from the kitchen to the dining room and I used a pantry to create that. However, it’s left extra space. I’m not opposed to having a second pantry, but I want to use the space as efficiently as possible.

--The plan doesn’t really show it well, but the kitchen island is a half island/half bar (I haven’t quite worked out where everything will go �" stove, refrigerator, etc…)

--The laundry room is pretty small because eventually I will have a larger laundry room on the second floor in the unfinished section.

--The second floor stairs are to the attic (I don’t like the pull down stairs). The entire section is over the garage so that I can enjoy the outside view from the master suite and have some separation from the future kids rooms in the unfinished portions. I know this will require extras insulation/sound proofing, but think the view of the woods out back will be worth it.

Finally, thanks to everyone that took the time to read this and is offering insight. I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s suggestions and input!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

Here's the second floor

RE: First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

Here's a close up of the first floor

RE: First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

If this is your first floor plan, then I'd say that you probably have another 50 to go as you work out the room arrangements, the balancing of different desires, the obstacles that arise from one feature causing problems for you in the roof lines or elevations, etc.

Right now I'm wondering why you've chosen 24" entry ways into your kitchen?

I also see that your master closet gives you a 15" aisle between opposing hangers which means that you're going to have to do a side-ways shimmy into the closet and when you turn around to face the other direction you're going to have to forcibly move clothes with your body. The point here is that most people's bodies are wider than 15".

Your toilet stall is 24" wide. For many people that is going to translate into their shoulders touching the walls as they sit on the john. (never mind code compliance)

I can't figure out where your 2nd floor is - it looks like it's directly over the garage and why two adjacent flights of stairs there.

You have a lot of space devoted to single purpose hallways.

Here's what I suggest. Save this plan as Plan #1 - Variation #1. Tweak it in all sorts of ways and save with each variation. This way you can go back to look at, or copy over, things you like from one plan to another plan. Run up 30 variations on this plan. Now shelve this plan and start Plan #2 and try to find new ways of achieving your ends. Then do Plan #3 until more and more aspects start clicking for you. Basically you're in training and you shouldn't, in my opinion, be thinking about building the plan that you've uploaded. Unless you're training for pole vaulting or hurdle jumping, you're going to have a tough time entering and exiting your kitchen.

Also, spend more time looking at plans to see how their designers are dealing with space allocation issues. Look up Summerfield's plans that are regularly posted in this forum for a masterclass on good design principles.

I don't mean this comment to be overly negative for I think that you're embarking on a journey that can be very rewarding and I think that you should continue but you need to get a better sense of how space in a home relates to the size of the human body.

Good luck.

RE: First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

AlexHouse -
This isn't quite the first floor plan, it's probably the 20th or so. It's just the first one done not on paper and that I felt was closer to what I'm striving for and therefore 'worthy' of being posted on the site. I've been looking at plans for about 8 months, following this forum for about 4 months (slowly learning from summerfield and many other great posts here) and will still continue. Your comment isn't overly negative at all! It's exactly the type of feedback that I was looking for. While the 3D views certainly help me see how they relate to the human body (at least better than my paper drawings), they're still a bit misleading and I'll continue working on that.

Excellent suggestion for saving variations! I already have a few and will continue!

Kitchen entry - I overlooked it and will definitely expand. I read that 3 feet for hall space was normal, 4 ideal, should I stick to that or somewhere in the middle for the kitchen? Right now it's pretty flexible by shrinking the island and that spare area across from the pantry.

Master closet width - I never considered the aisle width. I can easily expand it and take up more space in the master. Right now the width is 5'3". How wide to avoid the shimmy?

Toilet - Another measurement I didn't consider. It seemed that since the program doesn't allow the toilet to be right up against the wall, it was automatically putting in the code requirements. I'm pretty small, so on a 3D view it didn't look bad to me. I'll definitely expand it and look into code requirements.
Second floor - The second floor is directly over the garage. I decided to put it here for various reasons. I wanted to take advantage of the view of the backyard wooded area rather than just my neighbors and garage (which would have been the view above the main portion of the house). I also wanted some distance from the kids rooms, but still be on the same floor if needed. The kids floors will be added later in the unfinished area. The second set of stairs (in an enclosed room, if that makes sense), go to the attic. I don't care for the pull down stairs.

Hall - I can reduce the wall on the first floor to shorten the hallway, leaving the living room more open, but I don't see how I could reduce the hall space to the master.

RE: First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

I wanted to take advantage of the view of the backyard wooded area

If your best views are in captured from where you've placed your garage, then I'd rethink the placement of the garage.

What you have going on now is your bedroom above the garage having the best views and down on the first floor your garage blocks those views from much of the principal living area. Most of the time you spend in a bedroom is sleep time or relaxation time, meaning that you're not really in a position to savor those views except for fleeting moments when you pass by a window in order to leave the room. Meanwhile, down in your kitchen and living room you're actually in a better position to enjoy the views as you cook, wash dishes, and generally go about doing things in your living area.

You've chosen the most technically challenging (speaking in relative terms) location on the 2nd floor on which to form your beachhead leading to future expansion. You have the insulation and noise aspect of the garage to deal with whereas the space above the living space is sitting there, ideal for use, and it's doing nothing.

I'm worried that you might be traveling down the road of false economy with your plan. Have you checked with your zoning board, your building inspector and your property tax people to see how they would treat your plan? Secondly, if you're forced to sell on short notice, that attic space is going to give you zero added valuation no matter the potential that is there.

RE: First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

As mentioned in the first post, I hate the 'garage with a house attached' look. Here's why:

- No wrap around porch
- A blocked view of the front of the house if you approached from the east.
- If I reversed the garage to the west side, I'd have to add a longer driveway that I don't want, and would have to deal with an even narrower house.

This is my favorite plan with a garage on the back that I drew some inspiration from:

While I haven't shown specific plans (since they're still a huge in progress work) to the bank and contractor, I've discussed it with them and there have been no objections.

Proper insulation and soundproofing takes care of most of the noise aspect from being above the garage.

I don't see the space above the living area as useless. As soon as the house is built by the GC, I'll be going into that section and finishing it myself, being able to take as much time as I want. I'd like to do this with the entire house, but feel that it's too much to take on completely in a reasonable amount of time.

While I'm considering resale value as I go, I don't plan on ever leaving. I've scouted this land for 2 years. I've lived in the neighborhood for 7 years off and on and everything is ideal (proximity to family, job, good schools, entertainment, shopping, etc....).

RE: First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

Think of a person as a 30"x30"x 72" cube who needs a minimum of a 36"x36"x84" space around them if they are going to be moving through that space. 48" is better. 60"-72" if it's a traffic path through the home, depending on how much traffic. You can always twist the body and scoot past in 24" like between a coffee table and couch if the obstacle is knee height, but that isn't comfortable passage way for normal walking gait.

Comfortable seating space for an adult is 24" if they are comfortable touching other humans, 30" if they want to be relaxed and comfortable but separate, and 36" for curling up in a chair. Comfortable conversation distance to talk to someone is no more than about 10' away. Any further, and it's psychologically isolating, not intimate. This is why the trend towards a "great room" (impressively large ampitheater/TV viewing space) and a den (intimate/conversational/cozy) is making it's way into current designs.

Humans psychologically feel a room is comfortable and spacious if the ceiling height is approximately 1.5 -2 (9-12 feet) times their average height. It's the reason that a 9' ceiling feels so much more roomy than an 8' one, even if it's only 12". Lower ceilings, like the 8' "standard" that enclose people trigger the "nest" effect on their psyche if the rooms themselves are not too proportionately large. Large rooms with low ceilings (caves) are as psychologically uncomfortable as are ones with ceilings that are too tall (caverns).

People need the sense of shelter, and a too tall ceiling doesn't provide that. The "sweet spot" is 1.5 to 2 times the average height to keep the feeling of spaciousness without triggering the feeling of unease and isolation than an exposed animal on the savanna feels. It's a biological response. Humans are fringe dwellers of the savanna. They like the shelter of the nearby trees, but the clear view of the open space. (A not too tall ceiling with great windows to a yard.) That's the best of both worlds. It's also one of the reasons that humans typically plant trees around the perimeter of a lot, leaving the open center for grass.

Reading Homework

Here's a list of books that I suggested on another thread that will help you to understand space and the human response to organizing shelter in that space. You could probably omit the books on Shingle style, but I find they are one of the most appropriate home style responses to today's demands for large homes. Shingle style manages to produce a large enough home for today's lifestyles without looking so large, which is no mean feat.

Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Places by Toby Israel

Shingle Style Architecture for the 21st Century [Hardcover] by E. Ashley Rooney

Shingle Styles. Innovation and tradition in American architecture, 1874 to 1982 by Bret Morgan and Leland M. Roth

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Cess Center for Environmental) by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein

The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live by Sarah Susanka and Kira Obolensky

Creating the Not So Big House: Insights and Ideas for the New American Home by Sarah Susanka and Grey Crawford

Designing Your Perfect House by William J. Hirsch Jr. AIA

What Your Contractor Can't Tell You: The Essential Guide to Building and Renovating by Amy Johnston

What Not To Build: Do's and Don'ts of Exterior Home Design
Sandra Edelman (Author), Judith Kay Gaman (Author), Robby Reid (Author), Clarke Barre (Illustrator), Dan Piassick (Photographer)

RE: First Floor Plan " Review Please!

Also, it is MUCH MUCH easier to plan a small single floor plan and just add on a wing later than it is to plan to add on a second floor later. Even a small two story that is planned to add on a later two story addition will be easier and cheaper to construct as a phased build than trying to do a room over a garage and then rip off the roof of the existing house to add that second story. Think of the house as building blocks, and if you need to build small, build small in a way that it's easy to add on another block down the road. Like a story and a half that already has head height room upstairs in attic and was built with proper live loading in mind for the joists.

It will be virtually impossible to get a loan for a home that you plan to have the second story unfinished. Banks want something that has good resale ability in case you forfeit on the loan. That means something not too quirky, and in line with the size and amenities of the rest of the neighborhood. If the rest of the neighborhood is 4000 square foot 5 bedroom homes, then you're gonna find it tough going to get approval for a loan for a 2 bedroom house. From both a zoning standpoint and a lending standpoint.

At this point, your best bet is to educate yourself as much as you can and go through several hundred floorplans and save money. The more money you have to put down on a build means the less bank involvement means you can do something that is more suited to what you actually want rather than what some banker wants to see. If you amass enough money to do an all cash build, that would be the best scenario for zero input from a "resale" value standpoint. Even so, things happen and you may have to move one day. Keep that in mind before designing a huge loft bedroom that is only accessible from a single spiral staircase for instance, or other "interesting" but unlivable elements.

RE: First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

Hollysprings - Thanks for the dimensions and book recommendations. I'm currently rereading Designing Your Perfect House by William J. Hirsch Jr. I was leaning towards 10 ft for the kitchen/living and possibly dining, 8 for den/bathrooms/laundry and 9 for the guest bedroom and master upstairs.

I'll call my contractor this week and explain more of what I'd like to do. Perhaps I wasn't clear previously. The rest of the neighborhood isn't 4000 sq ft+. At 2500 sq ft I'll fit right in. I don't want a single story home since expanding out would just be a waste of the lot. Many, but not all, of the surrounding homes are 2 stories as well.

I plan on roughing in the unfinished area upstairs - electrical, plumbing, windows - and plan on finishing it over 2-3 years (max of 5 years). Since the second floor is closed to the unfinished portion, that follows code and shouldn't be an issue. Perhaps if I were in my 40's/50's, finishing the second floor would be more unrealistic....

If I were to move one day, it wouldn't be for another 7-10 years. By that time the second story would be completely finished and resale wouldn't be an issue.

RE: First Floor Plan �" Review Please!

I've read of some others that finished off the first floor and did the second on their own later. One is 'homeagain' on this site. Is there any way to contact specific people?

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