-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Feedback on new house plans (at last)

We got the most recent iteration of the plans for the new house from Eric back in August. Then life intervened and it hasn't been until yesterday that we had time (and the right frame of mind) to properly dissect them and discuss. Here, at last, are our thoughts on the final round of tweaks we want to make before progressing to the next stage of design.

Let's start with the ground floor.

Just to recap, this is what the plan from Eric looked like (click to make it larger):
ground floor plan

Overall we really like it, so rather than enumerate all the things we like, I'm just going to list the things we want to alter, room-by-room. To minimise the extent of the changes (so as not to affect the outside shape) we've tried wherever possible to keep within the existing dimensions. This house is already bigger in terms of floorspace than we'd first envisaged, so we didn't want to make it worse!

Entry hallway

We'd like to have a place to sit to take off dirty shoes, coats, etc. One idea to achieve this is to 'steal' some space from the lounge area, so there's a seating alcove on one side of the table in the hallway - ie:
changes to ground floor (entrance area)

This would give us a place to sit and help imbue an arts & crafts feel. I'd envisage the seat being a simple bench with a liftup lid for storing things, with a hat rack and shelves above. On the opposite wall I'd envisage there being coat racks.

Utility and Mudroom

We've always wanted to have a toilet downstairs so you don't have to go upstairs all the time. In Eric's plan, this was positioned off the central hall area, but we didn't like that for two reasons. First, it felt like it would be uncomfortable having the toilet so close by if we were using the central hall area for parties. Second, Dave was worried that it wasn't close enough to the outside, so he'd traipse mud through all the time. Which is a very good point, as that would drive me nuts!

So, we decided to move the toilet to the Utility and Mudroom area. This solves the problems, albeit sacrificing a sense of formality. It is also very practical in that part of our justification of having the "Library" wing is that we could convert it to a third bedroom if ever needed. If this happened, we'd want to put an ensuite in part of the mudroom area; so by putting a toilet and basin in we're already partway there.

We experimented with many alternatives for making this change. We wanted for the toilet and basin to be enclosed but not stupidly cramped. We also wanted the mudroom to still be a nice shape. This was the best layout we came up with:
changes to ground floor (mudroom area)

We could perhaps put a window in the wall above the WC sink looking onto the hallway. It could be obscured glass, or the type that's mirrored on one side and see-through from the other? Or, perhaps one of the stained glass panels? Either way, it would help make it feel less enclosed and let in some natural light.

The washing machine and dryer (on a shelf above) sit in the alcove between the outside wall and the back of the toilet. The laundry trough and bench tuck into the wall near the verandah door. There's still a nice big cupboard on the other side of the door for all my hobby and cleaning things. So, overall, the mudroom still has all the key things I wanted albeit a little more squeezed.

If ever we wanted to convert to an ensuite, we'd simply build a wall across from the verandah door to the toilet door. A shower could be put in the space where the cupboard is currently and voila, an ensuite. Hopefully we'll never need to do this but it's a useful option to have.


There's not much to say about the lounge. At one point we thought about changing the bay window to be more rectangular, but on experimenting we realised the curved layout looked a lot nicer. So, the only change we have to the lounge is to steal some space to allow for the alcove in the entrance hallway, as described above.

Central hallway

The only definite change we want to make is to remove the toilet and add an alcove for a bar. (See kitchen section for more details).

Overall, we like this space but are having trouble envisaging it. I'm guessing there will be space for big storage cupboards under the stairs (suitcases, Xmas decorations, etc), a bench perhaps, a grandfather clock in the centre, and so on, but I can't fully picture it in my mind. But, we're very happy with the concept of this space. It'll be wonderful for parties and entertaining, and even for everyday it'll be handy for working on hobbies where you need to spread out and want to leave it in situ for a few days, without it being in the way.

UPDATE: We'd also like to ensure there's a place for this sideboard somewhere in this central hallway. Perhaps it can go against the wall underneath the stairs?


Initially we loved the kitchen. But then, on reflection, we started to imagine what it might feel like to have to go into the pantry every time you wanted to open the fridge! Plus, it felt so big...

We've got some ideas to solve it though. First and foremost, the fridge. We want it to be fairly central and - now that we've decided to go with mains power as a backup - we'd like to have one of those large American style double door fridges (or at least plan in for the option!). We've found space for it in what was previously the downstairs WC. This also has the advantage of giving us a bit extra storage in the pantry, plus a roomy cupboard off the central hall which we could use as a built-in bar:
changes to ground floor (kitchen area)

We've also toyed with the idea of adding in some kind of island bench or butchers block on a trolley, perhaps even with a built in tub for washing vegetables (can easily empty the water into a bucket and toss onto the garden). This could live at the end of the table, perhaps, and be wheeled around as needed. Overall, we want to make the kitchen work areas feel a little smaller and closer together.

We also had the thought of making a kind of breakfast bar area, with two stools tucked under the bench, looking over the front window. I'm envisaging that the cupboards in this stretch could have glass doors, so it can act as a display area, and also to differentiate it from the "working" part of the kitchen. This could be where we store dinner sets and nice pots, etc - ie: things that you don't use everyday but that you'd use a lot more often if you had them easily to hand! Perhaps the corner could also function as a kind of kitchen "desk" area, like so many design books seem to recommend.

Screened porch

For everyday, we're more likely to have this set up as a kind of conservatory / informal lounge area than as a dining room, but that's just furniture. The only thing we want to change, as shown in the picture above, is to get rid of the cooking area. For outside cooking we'll use the BBQ so there's no need for this anymore. I can imagine myself filling this room with plants, to give it a feel of a real garden room.

Now moving on to the first floor. This is what it looks like overall in the plans at the moment (click to make it bigger):
first floor plan

Master bedroom

Overall we really like it so it's mostly just tweaks rather than anything major.

In terms of the balcony, at one point we wanted to make it more rectangular than curved. But now that we're keeping the curved bay downstairs we think it'd be better to leave it alone. We're not sure how big the balcony is. If it isn't already, we'd like it to have enough room for a few potplants, perhaps even a small chair (although the latter isn't that important).

We also thought it might be nice to add in another balcony area, a kind of narrow walkway above the middle verandah:
changes to first floor (balcony area)

There are already windows on both sides - one in the bedroom, one in the study. We would suggest leaving it as a window in the bedroom, but perhaps making the one in the study a glass door, or a sash window that slides open enough that you can easily climb through. Among other things, this balcony could have the telescope and serve as a kind of "tower room" in spirit. We'd like it to be wide enough to have a small chair - I'm envisaging it being about the width of a footpath.


Overall, we really like the way the room is shaped. It's got a nice feel, and would be fairly easy to split into two smaller bedrooms if it was ever needed. At the moment it's called a reading room but now we have the library this doesn't make sense, so we'd like to re-christen it as the Study. To reflect this, in the drawings we'd like to replace the double bed with a large desk, and perhaps also add some cupboards instead of only bookshelves (as we'll need somewhere to hide away all the computer stuff). Of course, it'll also still double as a guest bedroom, but we'll achieve that via having a sofa bed rather than a dedicated sleeping area.


Last of all, the upstairs bathroom. This is one of the most important rooms and the one we want to alter the most. There are two key things that are wrong about the current plan - the toilet needs to be in a separate room (I hate having it all in one), and there isn't space for an armchair. It sounds crazy I know but I've always wanted one... a comfy place to sit while chatting to whoever's in the bath, and also a place to put things, to sit while you're doing your hair, whatever. We struggled with this but finally came up with a layout that seemed to work, without taking up any more space:
changes to first floor (bathroom area)

The shower area has now moved to a smaller corner, and in practice would be open as a kind of wetroom rather than an enclosed cubicle. I'm envisaging that we might have glass bricks, or perhaps even some of the stained glass, as the partition between the shower and the toilet, so that light can still get into the WC area. Alternatively, perhaps there could be a skylight in the WC. There's a nice big basin with plenty of bench space beside it and a big mirror in the space where the toilet used to be. Importantly too, the symmetry of the upstairs landing is maintained, with the doors to the WC and the bathroom mirroring each other (and deliberately opening outwards to maximise the space in the rooms).

UPDATE: we now have another idea for the bathroom, inspired by Mum's comment, which I think I like better.
changes to first floor (bathroom area)V3

This layout has the advantage of a more spacious WC with it's own outside window and still gives us a nice shaped bathroom. The dotted line would be a solid wall but maybe made of glass bricks or (even better) stained glass panels?

The only downsides are small - we sacrifice part of the bedroom walk-in closet (but it's still pretty big) and have less bench space around the sink. As before, I'd envisage the shower area as being a wetroom alcove rather than a cubicle.

Note also the addition of two extra little windows - one in the WC, and then a matching one over the sink to make it appear symmetrical from the outside. I think provided we made these a different shape to the other windows (eg: diamond, circular?) it wouldn't ruin the outside appearance of the run of windows... it'd just be like punctuation marks either side of the big bay over the bath.


Anonymous said...

I'd keep the outdoor cooking area. Handy for wet or very hot days. You can still use the outside BBQ if you wish. Many times I have wished I had a set up like Eric has planned.

Bathroom - why not put the loo where it was in orig plan and just put it on outside wall with door into passage? Partition wall between it and bathroom - you can then have a little window in outside wall if you want for light (though watch it does not spoil symmetry and overall look from outside) and still could use glass bricks or whatever. Watch too the "balcony" between the two bedrooms. I see that as cutting in two and hashing up a glorious expanse of window up the stair case. I think it would spoil the effect from inside and unless very carefully treated, spoil the outside too. Otherwise, all fine though Ii would be trying not to lose too much onthe laundry area. could it expand just a little - another metre or such, build out to the eaves perhaps?

Unknown said...

Hmmm... thanks a lot Mum, all good points.

Perhaps there's a compromise on the outdoor cooking area, which is to invest in one of those amazing BBQs complete with hotplates etc, and have it on wheels. So, it can be easily moved into the screened porch if for some reason you wanted to be in there rather than on the verandah.

I agree about not skimping too much on the size of the mudroom, but I think this is probably OK (just). But it would be a lot better if we expanded outwards so that, among other things, there was space to hang clothes inside to dry. But if we did this then to keep the symmetry we'd need to make the library bigger too and also maybe extend the verandah on the main part of the house - I was just attempting to be good by not adding to the square footage! :-)

In terms of the upstairs bathroom layout ... actually we started with what you suggest, but decided against because it meant that it wasn't symmetrical in the hallway outside. We actually both really like our new idea for a layout, it has an interesting shape and is large but still cosy. If it's possible (depending on the roof shape) we'd just have a normal partition wall between the shower and the loo and have a skylight in the loo to bring in the natural light. It'd be a lovely surprise and would mean I'd be able to grow plants in there too!

I know what you mean about the new balcony between the bedrooms. I'm not even certain it'll be worthwhile, but it was an idea Pete suggested that felt like it might add an element of whimsy that's missing now we've lost the tower room. I don't think it would affect the view from the windows up the staircase because there's only a sequence of three moderately sized ones, so provided we made them high enough that the balcony wasn't cutting the view in half, hopefully it'd be OK? I'll leave it to Eric's judgement.

Anonymous said...

I like the new bathroom layout better. but - fiddle with - moving the door to bathroom over hard against the loo wall. Then you can move all the shower and vanity along a bit - and it will give more symmetry from outside int he passage thingy the bathroom and loo open off. Same sized bookcase etc each side of the doors. Then it came to me you could move that dividing wall over a bit to the left ie loo side - and move llover again. It will give you more room in that walk in robe becasue unlike you, I do not think it is as big as I would like!

you could still have the little widnow there, in the shower recess - should not matter as it will be high up presumably - as will the loo window be - and it could be a very nice feature. No need for either to open - make it porthole like - I think it would look great. Tile it like Dad did your "shelf" in your current bath surrounds.