Tweaking the Floor Plan

I love old homes. But of course, a home built 150 years was laid out for a completely different lifestyle and purpose. Our house didn’t even have bathrooms when it was built. And it didn’t have any closets when we purchased it. Yes, there had been some layout tweaks over time, but even those were somewhat puzzling.

Here are the original floor plans from Day 1:

The immediate issues were:

  1. the kitchen was located in a hexagonal-ish room with no built-in kitchen cabinets at all — admittedly, hard to do in a room with few 90 degree angles
  2. the bathroom upstairs was super small and basically non-functional — not to mention that it was built on an old porch, which was suffering structurally
  3. no “master suite”
  4. no closets at all
  5. compartmentalized rooms with little flow

From my very first visit to the house, the wheels starting turning as to how to make the floor plan more functional for us. Or more functional, period. Something that is never far from my mind is resale value. The new layout would also have to be marketable — what would a typical buyer expect to find inside this home? Thankfully, I think our goals were similar to what I hear buyers ask for all the time — open living/entertaining area and convenient bedroom-bathroom situations.

At the same time, I didn’t want to rob the house of its historic qualities either. The original layout is an “American town house” according to the HDLC guidelines — designated by its long narrow shape and a side hallway, as well as verticality (two stories in the front) and a double gallery (balcony up and down). As a preservationist at heart, I very much wanted the house to retain this floor plan and feeling. Here is what we came up with:

This configuration solved the above issues like so:

  1. we switched the kitchen and dining rooms — the kitchen could now be in an actual rectangular room and the dining room in a hexagonal space, which is much more workable
  2. the bathroom upstairs would be relocated to the front of the house between the two bedrooms, where it could serve both as a “Jack and Jill” bathroom; the old bathroom would become the very first closet this house ever had
  3. the master suite will eventually be on the first floor, at the back of the house, with the laundry room becoming a closet and 3rd bathroom; the existing bathroom will serve as the powder room and accommodate the laundry and/or storage
  4. as you can see in #2 and #3, closets are happening!
  5. now that the kitchen has moved in-between the living room and dining room, there is much better flow, further aided by opening up the walls a bit — a large cased opening between the living room and kitchen and just a floating fireplace stack between the kitchen and dining room

Some of these changes are already in action, while some other will have to wait for subsequent renovation phases. I expect that our full vision will be realized in a couple of years. So far, every change feels like a step in the right direction though — almost like the house should have always been this way!

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