One of my very favorite things to do for clients is look at their preliminary house plan and tweak it to perfection! When I posted the before and after tweak of a client’s plan a couple of weeks ago, I received so many questions, I decided it was a good place to pic up on the blog!
So here is my list of the 5 most common mistakes people make in a house plan!
Balance Between Open Concept vs Choppy
I KNOW that open concept is the way to go! And for the most part I agree! But there are some things to consider!
- Traffic Flow
So, before you choose a plan with no walls at all, take a few things into consideration.
Take this plan as exhibit A.
- No Spot for Stuff! You walk in to the dining room, which is relatively common. But imagine yourself walking in. Or even better yet, imagine a guest walking in. You say, “Come in! Can I take your coat?” … Then What? There’s nowhere to put it! There is literally no wall for a table of any sort!
- Not Very Zen – There is one VERY WEIRD and POINTLESS wall between the dining room and living room! All the sudden this overly open concept has a rude interruption! It’s almost like a cubicle in a work space!
- What About Your Kitchen? The kitchen has ONE wall for storage or definition! I know it feels open and clean but this stage in planning is when you need to be thinking about where your stuff will live too! Your collection of Teapots passed down from you grandmother? Sorry, it has to go to the attic now! And since you only have 4 upper cabinets in your kitchen, no more room for all your coffee mugs, so you may as well give up coffee! But thank heavens there a weird division between the dining table (which you never use) and the family room!
I get it! I understand totally the appeal of an open concept! But the key is to make it open, yet still functional!
- Place For A Cozy Nook! In this plan, you still walk in the dining room on the left, but this time when you take your guest’s coat or bag, there’s a charming little nook, nestled in the curve of the stairs on the right! We’ve found the perfect chair with a special upholstery to display perfectly paired with the round table your grandfather made for you years ago. Maybe you even find an old hat rack to add to this vignette! So charming yet so useful!
- Perfect Definition! The dining room does have 3 walls of its own, so there’s no need to pack up your teapot collection after all, but the good news is, there’s no need for a cubicle to be erected in the middle of your family space!
- 2 Walls For The Kitchen! Even better news! Your kitchen has 2 full walls of storage, which adds soooooo much functionality! Your coffee addiction can live on!! BUT, it’s still completely open to the family room! Best of both worlds!
Go With The Flow
One of the first things to consider in a house plan is how it will flow. When you are looking a house plan imagine yourself as one of those tiny little people on your map that can be inserted into the map as if you’re suddenly standing in the middle of that street! Imagine yourself walking in the front door, then going through the home. Imagine your family doing the same! How does that look now? Where does traffic get clogged up? Where do you see room for improvement?
Take this plan as exhibit B:
We’ve ALL been in this house! It’s like the preliminary plans of “Open Concept”! The kitchen is still clearly defined as such, BUT we’ll get crazy! And make one wall half bar that is open to the family room! Here’s the problem:
- Bar Obstruction! Your bar area is just a huge peninsula the protrudes out from this new half wall! Yes, you can peek around into the family room, but now your entire kitchen has this massive obstruction that breaks up the physical flow of traffic!
- Tiny Breakfast Nook! It seems you’re going to need to stay in the tiny animated person form from the map, because (between the back door and the bar obstruction) that’s the only size table you’re going to be able to cram into the breakfast nook!
- Waisted Square Footage! With this kitchen floor plan, you have a huge space equaling quite a bit of under utilized square footage in the center of your home, THE KITCHEN! I know this may seem like great room for cooking! But really it just means more space to travel between the sink and the fridge and stove, with no room for food prep!
Even sticking with the same overall floor plan, this one can be tweaked to perfection! Here’s how…
- Updated Island! Keeping the open concept, let’s commit fully to the idea of a wall-free island. Even more seating is created, plus a full view of the family room!
- Built-in Breakfast banquette! A great solution to a tight space is to take full advantage of the walls/corners in the space! By building in a corner banquette for your breakfast table, you can push the entire concept (table and seating) as far into the corner as space will allow! Not to mention how cozy the little nook becomes!
- Smart Utilization of Precious Square Footage! By fully committing to a “for-real” island, you have create the possibility of shortening the obstruction a bit in order to clear some much-needed space for the breakfast area without loosing any seating or storage in the kitchen itself! AND that unused square in the middle of the kitchen, all the sudden is completely functional!
It seems we’ve begun to use the size of our pantry as some sort of measuring stick for how AMAZING and enviable your new home is! I don’t get it! I’m all about storage, but all that food storage seems a bit unnecessary. I mean, think about it! Since it’s not 1880, we have full access to any pantry items we need down the street at the grocery store! So, unless you live in a frozen tundra, 20 minutes from the closest form of civilization (I legit did this, for a time in my life), there is really no need to stock up for months in your larger-than-life pantry! Let’s return to exhibit A:
Not only is this pantry ginormous, but it gets its own window! If your house is borderline mansion and you have windows to spare, sure! Throw one in that huge pantry! But if you live in the space that most of us consider “normal”, don’t place a highly coveted form of natural light in the middle of your silly pantry! Please!
How about a wall of cabinets and even drawers rather than a pantry!?! If we can open our minds up for just a minute and enter the current century, it’s really all that’s needed! It’s basically a huge wall of pantry space covered by pretty cabinet doors! THEN, look what you get! A new form of natural light flooding into your kitchen, plus and entire wall to do with as you please! I’ve got to say, I recommend a Baker’s Cabinet such as this one:
Built right into this wall, is a secret little workspace, that houses ALL you need for baking happiness! So much more functional than a pantry!!
Then finally! Remember that awkward wall between the dining and family rooms? How about centering up the space and adding a pair of french doors or sliding barn doors for separation between the two spaces? Simply open up when you want the open concept and close when you need to divide the space! And more importantly add tons of functionality to your kitchen!
Exhibit C: HUGE and unnecessary pantry:
I don’t know about you, but I definitely spend more time in the utility room than in my pantry! This pantry is the size of a galley kitchen! It does, however at least have a “prep area”.
What if we re-arranged within the same square footage?
Just by moving the powder bath to reutilize half of the old pantry design, we open up the utility room considerably! Your pantry still has a “prep” area but is reduced to a more appropriate size! Problem solved!
Out With The Formality
We all love and daydream about living at Downton Abby, But AGAIN, in the real world, how often does your family sit down for dinner in the “Formal Dining Room”? It’s time to reconsider the formality and wasted square footage of this space!
Not that I’m totally against having a room all on it’s own (possibly absent of any sort of electronic or media) but what if…
Instead of a big table to fill up the space you create a library with a few cozy spaces to sit? Imagine yourself with your morning cup of coffee, relaxing by the front window. Or snuggling up with a book on a rainy day! Or sitting with a friend or two in a more intimate sitting area for a nice and needed conversation.
No Cookie Cutters!
If you’re going to the trouble and expense of building a brand new home, make sure and add at least one special detail! I mean that one space, that people will say, “Wow! How cool, unique, cozy, thoughtful, useful!”
For instance, I love to make a home super functional and fun for guests to feel welcome and comfortable! In the above plan, I changed to idea of a butler’s pantry (another outdated concept) into a drink station, and wine storage room of sorts. Imagine inviting your guests in the front, walking them straight into this neat little walk through and opening a mini fridge full of refreshing drink choices, or glass of wine. And on their left they find cute little bowls, baskets and jars full of special treats for them to enjoy!
Here’s an example of a drink station! Housing everything you need for a nice refreshing drink for you and a guest!
Incorporating a special area tucked into a cozy corner, like this one, is a great way to make your space special!
Talk about being the hostess with the mostest! I LOVE this concept of a kitchen bar at a window that can be retracted and double as an outside bar as well!
In almost any plan it’s possible to find a small spot under a window that would be perfect for a simple window seat filled with fun pillows!
Finally, I want to leave you with a house plan that seems to hit all 5 points listed above!
- Open Vs. Choppy – This plan seems to perfectly balance the open concept with division of space. With an unobstructed view of the family room from the kitchen and vice versa, I’m confident zen would be achieved, the kitchen has two full walls to define and offer storage, and finally just to the right of the door, you’ll find the perfect little spot to set belongings!
- Goes with the Flow – Imagine yourself walking through this space. I think you’ll find the paths are easy and the square footage is optimized!
- Pantry – I do love the pantry in this plan! A walk through gives better access for several to be working in the kitchen simultaneously and still offers an appropriate amount of pantry storage.
- No Formal Dining – If you are trying to keep the square footage to a minimum and still accommodate all of your “want” list, creating one dining space that is an extension of the kitchen is perfect! and a 10×13 space is a great size for functionality as well as offering different options for design, if you decide a large table is unnecessary.
- So Much Character – I love the possibilities this plan offers! The master closet has a large built-in under a large wall of windows! I’m drooling over this idea! And the idea to have an optional covered pool cabana via dual purposing the 3rd garage stall is just brilliant!
What are the special touches you’ve incorporated into your home? I really would love to see what you’ve come up with!
Happy Friday! Jenny