Interpreting a floor plan is a lot like visiting someone’s
house for the first time: First you need to find the front door. Then imagine
standing there. This not only helps you orient yourself to the plan, but it may
reveal critical details about its nature. Are you standing on a porch? That’s a
great situation if you like chatting with neighbors, or supervising kids
playing in the front yard. Front Porch and Entry
Here’s a home (plan 430-166
) with a front porch that’s 21 feet long
and 6 feet deep, big enough for two chairs and a table. Six-feet is considered
the minimum depth for a usable front porch.
The next thing to do is “walk” in the house. What do you see
from the entry? This is the all-important first impression that your house
creates. Most people can’t “see” a house in three dimensions from a
two-dimensional floor plan, often because they can’t imagine ceiling heights
and don’t know how to read symbols for interior walls, half walls, columns, and
beams. [We’ll tackle that in another post.] But it’s not that difficult to
figure out the basics, the so-called sight lines. Can you see through the house
to windows or patio doors in back? That’s a nice situation – it’s going to
make your house read larger. You also want to make sure that you aren’t looking
into a messy kitchen or a bedroom with an unmade bed from this spot. Here’s a thoughtful
plan that’s oriented around a killer diagonal view from the entry, straight
through a great room, the back porch, and an optional pool beyond. That’s going
to impress.Mudroom and Garage Entry
The reality, of course, is that most homeowners enter their
home on a daily basis from the garage or side door. Find the garage; it’s
usually denoted with two big spaces (or one) that show where cars park. It’s easy to
find a garage that faces the street; the wide doors are a dead giveaway. But sometimes
the garage is hidden in back or around the side (like plan 51-1132 above
), and you wouldn’t know it by
looking at the front elevation.
Above you see a large side-garage configuration (plan 929-988
feet wide, with two bays big enough for parking and unloading SUVs, two
designated storage spaces, and easy access to a utility room (for dropping off
dry cleaning and bulk purchases) and the kitchen. You’ll need a big lot to fit
this 73-foot-wide home and side driveway.
Mudrooms are another space worth identifying on a floor plan.
They are called out more often these days because their growing popularity –
and usefulness. They are an ideal place for a busy family to deposit dirty shoes,
backpacks, and computer bags. Bigger mudrooms may even have storage space for
bulk items and seasonal decorations. Here’s a large plan (928-13 above
) with a family entry
connected via a covered walk to a detached garage. You enter the house to a
large mudroom/utility space with plenty of space for washing, folding, and
storing clothes. Kitchen and Great Room
Now find the kitchen. Check to see how it’s oriented to the
other rooms of the house. Most modern home plans feature a combined
kitchen/family room so that cooks can do their thing and still be part of the
family action. You want to check the position of several things in the kitchen.
The first is the location of the sink, since you’ll spend a lot of time there.
You want a nice view from the sink, if you can get it. Here’s a tight floor plan (929-1013
, above) with a very functional kitchen that serves as command central, looking out
across the great room and into the backyard.
The kitchen needs to work for you. That means the sink needs
to be in close proximity to the refrigerator and the oven, also known as the three items that form the hallowed kitchen work triangle. Imagine taking spinach from the
refrigerator, washing it in the sink, and cooking it in a pot on the oven. This
process, which you’ll repeat over and over, needs to be as easy as possible.
Check to see whether there’s plenty of counter space next to the sink, the
refrigerator, and the oven – the places where you are most likely to prepare
food. Also, figure out where the microwave or convection oven could go. You
need to place to sit hot dishes that you take from these appliances. Here’s a
kitchen (plan 927-981
above) with a carefully aligned work triangle and plenty of counter space.
Another critical thing to check for in any plan is the interior
volume. Even professionals sometimes have trouble imagining what some plans
will look like once their built; and that’s often because of the volume of
interior spaces. Ceilings taller than 9 or 10 feet are often called out on the
floor plan. Carefully check two-story plans to see if they have space open to
the first floor. That’s going to mean very tall ceilings (about 18 feet or
more) in the foyer or great room. It may give you an opportunity for a great second-floor
balcony. Plan 927-4
above is a good example with a second-floor landing big enough for a
desk. Master Bedroom and Bathroom
The next thing to check – and maybe this should have been
the first thing – is the location of the master bedroom. Is it upstairs or on
the first floor? Most people go into a new-home project with a preference. They
may be tired of climbing stairs and want the master down. Or they may want it
on the second floor so that they can be close to where their children will
sleep. The location of the master bedroom is also influenced by the size of
your lot and local custom; obviously master bedrooms are more likely to be
upstairs in narrow home plans. The size of the master bedroom may also be a
concern, especially if you want to escape and nurse, watch TV, or drink coffee.
Is there enough room for two chairs and a table? Where would you put a TV? Will
you be able to see it from the bed or the chairs?
Examine how the master bedroom connects to the bathroom. Walk-in closets and a dressing area may sit between the two spaces. That’s a good arrangement if one spouse gets up earlier or gets home later than the other; he or she can dress or undress and shower without waking a spouse. In the plan above, you can enter the bedroom from two doors. Check to see if there’s a shower, tub, or both in the bathroom, whether there’s one lavatory or two, and whether the toilet is compartmentalized or out in the open. Here’s a 2,300-square-foot plan (929-750
) with a master bathroom that has it all.
The number and location of bathrooms is another key concern when reading a floor plan. Do you want your children sharing a bathroom or do they each need their own? The bigger, the more expensive the home, the more likely secondary bedrooms have their own bath. Another benefit of bedrooms with dedicated baths is that they could be used by a snoring spouse, in-laws who come to live with you, or guests. Think hard about whether secondary bedrooms need bathtubs as well as showers. Maybe an old-fashioned shower/tub combo good enough? It certainly saves space. Back Porch and Patio
Another major consideration these days is the back porch. You need to determine whether the back porch is covered and how much space you have to work with. You probably want enough room for a sofa, coffee table, and chairs. But you may also want space for a grill, refrigerator, and maybe even a fireplace or fire pit. Some recent plans now call out fully articulated outdoor living rooms, like plan 132-221 above