820 sqft Semi-Detached House, Louisiana

820 sqft Semi-Detached House, Louisiana (PDF)

  • Charles Crawford

    I’m not sure if it’s the worst part about the design, but the first thing to jump out at me about this plan was the storage situation. In addition to the issue of extra-deep bedroom closets that John pointed out, there are simply no common, interior storage spaces. I suppose there might be some shelving above the washer/dryer, but where would one plausibly put a vacuum cleaner, for example, or coats?

  • Joanne

    I think the door opening right into the living room window is the worst part of this house. I couldn’t stand living here.

  • Carson

    My vote is for the small window in the front bedroom. It feels like a cheap motel because the window is right beside the front entry.

  • Sandy

    I think the closets are the worst. Why wouldn’t they just run back to back along the whole length. That way each bedroom would get double the hanging and no wasted space in the front.

  • Louis Pereira

    The suggestion to have the storage units back-to-back really stood out for me. i think they should have planned for a better or more efficient sharing of the ‘common party wall’ – i.e. Kitchen, W/D and Mech. rooms. I see this as the biggest fundamental error.

    I personally don’t mind having the doors to the W/D and Mech. room facing the Dining Rm. Make them flush bi-fold doors with simple pulls to blend with the walls. In fact the Dining table also provides additional layout space for folding clothes, ironing etc.

    Next vote for me,would be the placement of the Main Entry Door – shifting this, as well as the covered porch where i’ve shown now opens into to a central corridor dividing the communal and private spaces, while creating a better traffic pattern.

    The results are these two sample layouts which, work better in my opinion…


  • Ersi

    There are several things that irk me about this plan, some of them already mentioned by John and earlier readers. But the one on the top of my list is/are the placement of the W/D and the boiler/HVAC system opening right into the living area. Very awkward.

  • Ersi

    I see Louis has already redone the plans. I vote for the second version, and right now I can think of only one change: sliding doors to the back patio.

  • Louis Pereira

    Ersi – I had similar thoughts about the sliding patio doors. Ideally, it would be great to have the entire wall open up into the back porch, allowing you additional Dining Room space. I would also be leaning towards the Option 2 layout.

  • Randal

    I agree with Ersi about the washer/dryer and the mechanical equipment. It feels like a cheap apartment.

  • Rhonda

    I like Charles comment about storage. Coats, vacuums, toys, where does any of it go? To me that would be the worst because your house would always be a mess.

  • Louis Pereira

    Rhonda | Charles – Some additional storage solutions…


  • Ira

    For me, the worst part of this house is the shared back yard space. I can’t imagine ever going out there except to take out the trash. What a waste.

  • Paul Cameron

    Where to begin? Unfortunately, there are so many choices for “worst” element. I think the overall plan itself has a major flaw. One of the biggest challenges inherent to attached housing is to create a home that feels and behaves as a separate unit even though it is attached.

    The placement of the main living, noise generating spaces as mirror images alongside the paper thin party wall would be my
    choice for what’s the single thing wrong with this plan. Techniques should be employed to increase the buffer between units. Such as backing closets/storage or utilitarian spaces along this wall. In addition, by relocating the living/kitchen/dining spaces to the outside, the amount of windows (light) into these spaces could be increased. (i.e. corner windows) It could also further separate the rear yard outdoor living spaces.

  • Grace

    Wonderful suggestions, Louis!

  • Chantal

    I think the worst part of this house is the kitchen. In such a small place there shouldn’t be so much wasted space. Also, there is hardly any counterspace to work on. You would probably end up having to add a small rolling table, but I don’t think that still be enough or look very good.

    Really bad house but a great exercise!

  • James Scott

    I’m guessing that this design is designed around a fairly tight budget, there are no frills at all.

    Maybe this is bad karma, but I see placing the bedrooms, utility closet and washroom on the common wall. A small mini hallway could be the access from the living space to the private spaces.

    The front entrance could open into the main space from the back of the porch either in the middle or closer to the inside corner. Depends upon the aesthetic of the front elevation I suppose.

    The exterior storage would separate the two units and create privacy. There should still be adequate means for access the terrace from the kitchen and living areas. There is also more available wall space for windows, more light can mean more spaciousness.

    As a frill I would create a wall of floor to ceiling storage in each room with space for the head of a bed. This may also help as a sound buffer between units.

  • Louis Pereira

    Thanks Grace!


    Paul – i agree in many respects. That’s why i think it’s important to have thing’s like WD, Mech. Kitchen and Media millwork along the party wall to create that buffer.

    I considered reversing the plan to have the bedrooms along the shared wall, but there is an inherent risk in that also.

  • John Brown

    Thanks to everyone for submitting such thoughtful comments. After reviewing all that was said my conclusion for the TOP 3 THINGS WRONG WITH THIS HOUSE ARE (and it was difficult because there are so many to choose from)………

    The front door opening directly in front of the living room window.

    The absolutely horrible storage situation. This includes the general lack of storage space, the poor design of the closets, and the thoughtless location of the washer/dryer and mechanical closets.

    For the worst thing wrong with this house I am going to echo the comments of Paul Cameron. He stepped away from the criticism of the individual elements and reminded us to look at the house as a whole.

    Paul observed, quite rightly, that “the overall plan itself has a major flaw. One of the biggest challenges inherent to attached housing is to create a home that feels and behaves as a separate unit even though it is attached”.

    This house fails entirely to do this. Even a ‘no frills’ house, to use the comment from James Scott, should have dignity and grace. It should enable and uplift the quality of the lives of its inhabitants. In the end, I sadly don’t see how this plan does this in any way at all.

    Paul, thanks for your insight.

  • Tony

    I guess its too late to comment…..sorry! I don’t check the site until I get home from work.

  • John Brown

    Good Morning Tony,
    It is never too late too comment. I will postpone my summary until a little later in the evening next week.

  • Tony

    Ok John, then in that spirit i will add my late comment…..the worst part of the plan for me is the inhumanity of the design. A low income duplex in Louisiana – I am thinking New Orleans perhaps? It has been designed and built, but people still have to inhabit it. Someone made some money making it some how…..? I feel sick about the lack of storage (people do have stuff), the lack of privacy front and back (it feels about as private as a bathroom stall with no walls…..the public nature of all of it) It does not feel fit for living. I am sure if anyone with any design skill was handed the same parts that made up this house, it would be different, and maybe the world would be a bit better because of it.

  • John Brown

    Well said. Add in the environmental cost of creating this kind of schlock and the fact that so many of these types of houses were specifically built to be sold with toxic mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them and the whole thing is bordering on the criminal.

    To see another dimension of this problem, check out last night’s special report on the CBC TV news. The segment is called – Florida Foreclosures. “Neil Macdonald reports from Cape Coral to track the rapid slide of real estate values in this destination state”.


    Scroll down to the Monday March 30 entries.

  • Paul Cameron

    Hi John and Tony,
    A possible alternative attached:
    Comparable to the “shotgun” style house, spaces have been stacked
    Kitchen table could double as floating island
    Living spaces along outside wall to permit windows
    Closets backed along party wall to minimize sound transfer
    Stacked washer dryer to reduce floor space required
    Mechanical separated, tankless hot water heater and air unit in attic
    Rear yard deck separated for privacy


  • Louis Pereira

    ^Great plan Paul!


    Tony – i totally agree and echo John’s reply. One thing i stress in our design studio is that ‘good design should be accessible to all’

  • John Brown

    I missed seeing your plan when it first came out. Very nice.

    I think it confirms Tony’s comment that a little care and skill can go a long way in creating a better place to live – regardless of price. Your plan is the same size and has the same features as the original. There would be some additional cost for the bigger windows and the additional closet doors but these would be pretty modest upcharges.