Adam Henry, Pennsylvania

Adam Henry, Pennsylvania (PDF)

  • James Scott

    Good morning Team,

    House A


    Two functional baths
    Great southern exposure for both bedrooms
    Good overall use of windows
    Separate spaces for both occupants


    No closet in front hall or bedroom 2
    The living room, dining room and kitchen are closed off from each other
    Wasted space with pantry and nook
    Poor east and south exposure for kitchen, dining and living areas

    House B


    Three bedrooms and two baths means space for guests and better resale value
    Great storage considering closets and third bedroom
    Front entry can act as a patio during the hot summers
    Separate living and sleeping wings
    Good connection to the terrace


    House seems to be overly focused on terrace resulting in a lack of perimeter windows to light living and sleeping spaces
    Terrible layout of the closets and bathrooms makes furnishing bedrooms difficult
    Wall creates disconnect between living and dining space
    Wasted nook space in already too small of a kitchen

    Both properties propose terrific opportunities, but I feel Property B would provide equal comfort for both occupants whether renovations were made or not.

    Something also draws me to the general shape of Property B. Possibly some of the professionals can educate me why on a subconscious or instinctive level we may feel more comfortable with one layout over the other.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    I’m all for property B.
    Better daylighting.
    All on one floor, even though adam probably doesn’t need it, it is nice in case Judith has a desire to help out with household duties.
    I think the biggest downside for them would be the limited size of the bathroom. If the time comes that Judith needs wheelchair access, there is not much that can be done easily. Navigating to the toilet would be very difficult.

  • Grace

    Although the closet situation in A is puzzling (can there really be only one closet in the entire house?) and I love sheltered outdoor rooms as in B, I’d opt for A because of the privacy it affords Adam. If he’s been living alone for all these years, no matter how wonderful Judith may be, he’s going to need a nice getaway and he has it in the newish master suite. She also has a more conveniently placed bathroom in A than in B. In addition,there is far less renovation to be done in A, maybe some wall removal/modification in the living areas.

  • Robert Bierma

    So does Adam plan to make any renovations now or in the furture? Also what parts of the house does he find most importand? an example of why i ask these questions is, does he value cooking. if so property A has a much nicer one. But if he plans to renovate i think property B has a greater potential. This same logic i believe could be used on many of the rooms, or even the whole layout. Personally i think B is the winner though because even if it is laking in some areas it has so much more potential if renovated. most of the porblems it has could be fairly easily fixed with a well thought out renovation and i would says for a resnobale amout as well.

  • Adam G

    I’d advise B.

    I like A, and I take on board Grace’s comment about Adam needing a getaway. However that stair up is a problem. Grace is 70 now; however steady she may be, the time will come when internal stairs will be a real issue.

    [incidentally I'm assuming that the stairs in B lead to some kind of basement that Grace doesn't need to access. Am I right to think that?]

    The other points that I really like about B are the potential for modification and its advantageous use of external light in the main living areas. True, the bedrooms don’t get quite the same level of light, but then day-to-day living is what the living room is for, and that gets the benefit of southern windows and the terrace. Even the kitchen area gets a good dose of light.

    B, for my money.

  • Adam G

    One other thought that just occurred to me; Grace probably has a fair amount of posessions that she’s bringing with her, and so will Adam. The extra room in B could come in quite useful for storage, depending on how much each of them are bringing with them.

  • Grace

    LOL It’s Judith who’s moving in, not Grace!

    I thought the stairs went to Adam’s private suite; all the better for his privacy if Judith can’t manage the stairs 8)

  • Doug Roberts

    Wow — Adam seems to have an affinity for homes with very unusual floorplans! I agree that it all comes down to whether he has the stomach and budget for extensive renovations. If he does, then he should buy Property B, as it has way more potential than Property A. I could see:
    1) eliminating the third bedroom and using the freed-up space to create better bathroom and closet configurations for the two remaining bedrooms and a small sitting/tv area for Judith; and
    2) enlarging the kitchen (eg. a spot for a fridge might be handy) and turning that entire wing into one large open living/dining/kitchen space.

    If he doesn’t, and just wants to buy something that he and Judith (sorry Grace, you will just have to find your own place ;) ) can move into, then he should buy Property A, as its current configuration would appear to be more suitable for their current needs.

  • Brad W

    Property B. Like James I was initially drawn to the overall layout of the property. Yes, the home requires a new kitchen and new bathrooms. I would think about scarificing the middle bedroom creating a wheelchair accessible bathroom and more private space for Mom. Property B has a simple flow. Love the terrace and the entry. Fantastic opportunity here.

    Property A. Awkward flow. Bedroom 2 is small. No living space over looking the backyard. limited storage. Split level.

    So Property B – clear winner.

  • Volker

    I’d recommend B

    Perhaps as mentioned before by the other, the bathroom is not perfect, the kitchen would need some redesign but I believe that it is a nice idea to have the “Living” and “Sleeping” nicely devided. As a matter of fact House “B” got 4 perhaps even 5 areas that are almost seperately accessible from the entrance – this way it will be possible for the two living there to have there “personal part” of the house. If enough money is available, I’s suggest to redesign the bathroom – get both an en-suite-bathroom of proper size (my first time to recommend something like that!) and an additional small guest bathroom accessible from the main entrance.
    The Living / Dining / Kitchen area would need a redesign too, but it is working this way too. While the left part of the house is the “private” part the rght part is the “public” part, where they gather together, meet with friends and so on.
    I really like the south-facing terrace – nice place to extend the living room and a nice add-on for the masterbedroom.
    For me it is hard to judge a house from just looking at the floor plan – at first the windows might seem to be a little small but then you don’t know perhaps they go all the way down to the floor. Back in the 60′s some of the modern orientated architects did some nice work using bigger windows then the regular CC-house we usually discuss here (really looking forward to talk about case-study-houses).

    James, I thought about teh question you came up with – I believe the main reason for like or dislike is mostly about your experience, creativity and knowledge – while architects learn how to read plans, learn about pro’s and con’s for different layouts there main advantage is the knowledge about so many good or bad layouts, world famous houses and so on. Everybody else just got to rely on it’s experience and feelings. As a matter of fact, I think I prefer B because it reminds me on those Roman’s Villas from my Latin-school book. They used to arrage the rooms around an enclosed small court-yard, a private outside space. The more you travel around and see different countries, the more you see different solutions – people in Italy, Germany, England, China, Egypt live different – some prefer more private space (more bathrooms) – less living space (because the spend most of the time oustide – Italy is so beautiful and warm) – special rooms for their digital equipment and so on. So I believe it is all about your own experience, your own wishes and what lots of people have told you (still it is up to you to rethink their ideas)

  • Louis Pereira

    John – It’s an easy choice again this week…House B hands down. I love that ‘H’ configuration and the fact it has been ‘untouched’. House A has been, shall i say, deflowered with that 80′s addition.

    - 60′s construction better than 50′s
    - Closer to grade (stronger connection to exterior spaces)
    - Generous Entry
    - Less stairs to negotiate
    - Less work required to make the communal spaces work better – i.e. new kitchen or addition and partition removal.
    - a great washroom renovation is all that’s req’d in the private wing.
    - and so on and so on…

    Adam better buy it before i do…

  • Terri

    I agree with Grace. Plan A offers Adam much more personal privacy. With that south-facing addition being a storey up, it looks like there’s also potential personal space in an above-ground room below.

    Even though A’s entry and lack of closets left me scratching my head at first, I found that a fairly simple reno (moving the entry to Judith’s room to the south end with bathroom also accessed over there), I was able to create a wall of closet space against that bathroom wall, which could be used for coats as well as pantry. It looks straightforward to opening up the living/dining/kitchen space–just removing the pantry and moving fridge to the end of the cupboard run (North end) and turning the island. A closet at the back entry is also possible without impeding movement to the terrace. A window should be installed on that wall to allow more morning light into the kitchen area.

    Plan B does have an attractive entrance and courtyard, but it would take much more renovation to make it as comfortable, since the two bathrooms and odd closets need reorganizing (one bathroom more to fix than A).

    As for B’s kitchen area, it’s similar to A, once that wall between living and dining is removed; however, the side entry door will always be in a more awkward position than A’s. Also, the windows in the kitchen and dining are considerably smaller and don’t take advantage of other light sources besides that courtyard. A has nice big windows.

    B’s courtyard tends to offer a more insular world, whereas A offers better street awareness with the living room facing it. At the same time, the back yard in A is both bright and private–the main two best points about B’s courtyard. Further, a kitchen is not my preference for front exposure (like B has).

  • Paul C

    A lot of great comments and the B plan is very compelling however assuming for the moment that no MAJOR renovations are desired my recommendation would be property A.
    Notwithstanding the corner pantry the overall kitchen is better. Nicer bath for Henry. The space(s) available to Judith (bath/hallway) maybe better suited to accommodate accessibility requirements should they become an issue in the future. A simple addition (nothing major) of a window or larger opening in the “nook” would make the outdoor space more useable. Judith’s bedroom looks onto the outdoor space. Is there a window missing from the front wall of her bedroom? The dining space/room is somewhat enclosed and it could be used as a study for Henry. The narrower building would suggest maybe a smaller property which could require less maintenance. Downsides with A is the location of the living relative to the kitchen and the lack of front entry closet. Oddly enough that was the one feature (closet) that made it hard to select a plan. A substantially renovated B in the kitchen/dining/living wing and bathrooms has a lot of potential, would be quite nice and would swing my vote however given, that may not be part of the selection criteria, option A would be my suggestion.

  • John Brown

    As many of you have pointed out, I think the key issue in this decision is whether Adam is buying to live in as is or is this a house being bought for potential.

    I agree with the comments that plan for B is really seductive because of the courtyard and the potential of the two wings. I believe it was actually designed by an architect. At the same time it has some major functional drawbacks that would make it tough to live in.

    For those of you who chose B, would you change your recommendation if Adam had maxed out his budget with the purchase and would have to wait for 5 years before undertaking any renovations??

  • Brad W

    Still property B. The main bathroom only requires the sink to be moved and it is acceptable. For less than 10K, the layout could really be improved. Property A is going to require some work as well.


  • Jim Argeropoulos

    I’m not sure I’d change my mind. 5 years goes by relatively fast. The current condition would have to be pretty poor for me to change my mind.

  • Louis Pereira

    Still for me, assessing each house by its floor plan, House B is far more flexible, and if it looks anything like i would expect a genuine mid-century modern, professionally designed house to look like (not to mention the exterior), than that’s enough for me. It would have to be on the verge of collapsing for me to choose A.

    If the plan is any indication, i would bet it was properly sited and designed to suit the site – something that was foreign to 50′s tract home development. I consider things like ‘original’, ‘designed by an architect’, to have more intrinsic value.

  • Tina

    Property B – no contest!

    I also have my mother living with me, so I looked at these plans with much interest. Mom really needs plenty of storage space, a private bathroom, and lots of sunshine. Separation between the living space and her bedroom is also critical, or Adam will feel he cannot entertain without imposing on Judith.

  • Paul C

    I know you posted your earlier question to the B voters, however as an “as is A” supporter I would like to add my two cents. If Adam and Judith are inclined to wait 6 years to get a superior home, then I would recommend he/they buy B now. In the 5 years leading up to the start of the renovation they would be able to gain an excellent level of understanding of their surroundings, which in the end would translate into something truly special and would be worth the wait. Who wouldn’t want 4-5 years to mull over design possibilities? Mind you, one element that was not part of the selection criteria and was maybe the most important. We have all heard it before but location would obviously be a critical factor in this decision.
    Have a nice Saturday everyone.

    John, as a suggestion/question, I am wondering if any of the WWWTH or design project segments going forward will focus on the exteriors of homes? For example, the over abundance of little roofs for the sake of little roofs and the nature of faux finishes is worth demonstrating don’t you think?

    And lastly just to pass along some overdue recognition John. This is a tremendous site, I enjoy it daily and look forward to and wish for its continued growth both in contributors as well as challenges. Thanks very much for making it possible.

  • Cat

    House B. I wouldn’t put anyone over the age of 2 in that little bitty bedroom in house A. It has no closet, and it really seems too small for a free-standing closet. House B has the flaws with the tight bathrooms and odd use of space in the kitchen. So, if it were me, I might still be looking. But if I had to choose between A or B, I’d choose B. At least then I wouldn’t be arrested for being cruel to the elderly by forcing them into that bedroom.

  • James Scott

    Good morning everyone,

    Some great comments as usual.

    Regarding John’s question of the 5 year wait, I think that B still has the edge. More storage, seperate public and private spaces, and a more intersting feel to the home overall.

    Regarding the smaller kitchen, there are only 2 occupants. If a few kids and a partner were added to the mix that could put more pressure on that space but I’m sure it’s adequate for 2 people. As well I don’t believe that the Adam or Judith have been desribed as the entertaining types.

    Volker, thanks for the feedback, you make some very good points. When you described a few cultural influences it made me wonder when will the true vernacular styles of the North American homes finally appear. Visiting my family north of Toronto where the urban sprawl has been destoying the community for the past 30 years (imho) I feel it better get here soon. I almost feel ill when I see what the builders are hammering out these days and what they do to the landscape. I would hardly call these “solution homes”.

  • Kath

    I’ve been avidly lurking on this site since the G&M article and I want to compliment John and the regular posters here for their lively (and civilized) discussions.

    This exercise is of such interest that I had to overcome my shyness and add a comment.

    I do agree that, from strictly a design point of view, House B is the winner. It would be an exciting property to work on, particularly for a couple or a small family. In that case a five year wait for renovations would pass quickly and allow for better planning. It’s not unlike the situation my husband are in if you substitute ten years for the five.

    However, the relationship of Adam and Judith has an entirely different dynamic. Adam, especially, is accustomed to living on his own. In observing friends of mine in the sandwich generation who have had a parent join the household it is absolutely imperative that the house allow for individual (ie separated) zones of privacy in addition to shared spaces. To me, House B, with its bedrooms in such close proximity, would not allow a sense of private space for either Adam or Judith without significant renovations being undertaken immediately. House A, defective as it is, would have to be my choice under the circumstances.

  • Joan

    I have a question about House B. I lived in a larger version of an H-shaped home, and we didn’t like it for several reasons. The terrace was intended to be for a hot tub, and the roof extended over that space with a skylight. It was beautiful to look at, but was a dark wind tunnel, and was a most unappealing place to sit. The width wasn’t sufficient to allow in much light. In House B of this exercise, I would be interested to know if there is a roof overhang, and what the seasons might bring that space when it’s snowing, or raining.

  • Grace

    John, I hope you’ll let us know Adam’s decision and his primary reasons for it!

  • John Brown

    Welcome to the discussion. I am very glad that you decided to participate in this exercise. I think that your observation about how Adam and his mother would probably like to have some privacy given how long they have lived apart is a really important consideration. Property A made it to the short list precisely because of its atypical separation of bedrooms and the potential it has to accommodate two fairly separate lives.

    Outside of that critical issue I think that Property B is a better house than A. The public/private distinction that the H plan offers is quire nice, as is the entry and the courtyard terrace. It becomes even more superior if you consider their potential for a remodel. I agree with all of the points made for property A house.

    In the end, however, I don’t think the choice is as clear cut as the majority of the discussion would indicate. My personal inclination would be to go with Kate, Paul, and Grace and have Adam strongly consider property A because of its bedroom organization.

    As design consultants helping Adam with this situation I think we would need to present the organizational benefit of property A as well as the physical design pros and cons for each property (as Tina describes the situation with her own mom, other concerns might outweigh the need for individual privacy) to help him make this rather difficult decision.

    I think the exercise points to how inadequate the typical house plan designed for a nuclear family is when it needs to accommodate a non-traditional family arrangement – adult children, aging parents, two adults co-owning a house, single parents, or even the potential for a renter to help offset costs to name just a few.

  • John Brown


    How unfortunate that the potential of your courtyard was diminished by a roof. While this would work well in a climate where you want to shield from the sun and sit in the shade, it sounds like yours was not one of them. Orientation also plays a major role in the discussion. A north or east facing courtyard wouldn’t typically be as nice as a south or west courtyard.

    In this particular situation, Property B did not have a roof over the terrace.

  • Belle, Toronto

    John – I am very late in posting a response to this choice. I agree with many of the previous posts. At first I thought A was a better choice because of the distance between the bedrooms and the privacy it provides. However, after looking at the plans several times I finally came to the conclusion that I think B is a better option for Adam. With the change in living situation for two independent adults we do not know how this will work out for them, early riser vs late riser, early to bed, how their social lives affect the other etc. With three bedrooms, albeit small ones, it does give options on how to use the rooms without making any renovations now. It also gives opportunity for making an attractive house in the future and if the living situation were to change for whatever reason, the house has 3 bedrooms rather than 2 which would make the house more desirable to a larger number of people. Although after saying that, our reality of family is changing.