Part 1 – Wong Griffin Residence, Texas

Part 1 – Wong Griffin Residence, Texas (PDF) | Part 1 – Wong Griffin Residence, Texas (JPEG)

Part 1 – Wong Griffin Residence, Texas (Full Symbol Library)

  • James Scott

    Good morning John,

    Can you confirm the path the stairs take from the main floor to the second floor?


  • John Brown

    The main floor is six steps above grade. The left side of the main stair case rises up 1/2 a flight from the front door. The stair to the second floor rises up beside the powder room with the landing above the entry.

  • Brad W

    1. Moved the bathroom to the entry-level grade.
    2. Borrowed space from the garage for entry closet (space used by the stairs in the original design)
    3. Entry from the garage at grade level and on the left.
    4. Provided enlarged laundry space.

    Now the kitchen – this is an experiment putting the kitchen at the front of the house. Alternate designs would show the kitchen located at the back and in the middle of the space.
    I thought the front would be the most controversial and the back the most conventional.

    Certainly two problems with the kitchen at the front 1. you cannot see the backyard and 2. distance from BBQ.

    Regardless, I think getting the entry space right is important here. We reduce the number of stairs which creates space for other uses.


  • Grace

    I’ve made a bit of progress with paintbrush, but not enough to even switch the furniture from vertical to horizontal! But I can try to explain what I would like to do.

    1. within the entry, half bath, laundry room space: per your hint, door to/fro garage is moved over to the common wall between the units, opposite front entry. The space can be arranged as a mudroom/laundry with access to half bath and guest closet. I don’t know if having the half bath down a half flight of stairs is a problem; if so, we could break the wall into the current laundry and have the door to the bath from it (so instead of opening up to the living space, it is around a corner.) I prefer it in the complex of useful areas down the stairs. Those areas can be arranged in such a way that guests are spared the horror of the laundry/mud room!

    2. I would make a big country kitchen where the living room currently is. A U-shaped kitchen would fit around the window looking out the the entry access. Put a couple of cosy wing chairs aside the fireplace and a big dining table and chairs between kitchen and fireplace.

    3. the rest of the L-shaped space is the living room, with access to the deck, plenty of wall space for tv, shelving, etc.

  • Grace

    P.S. I see that Brad has had similar ideas!

  • Thea

    Could you note the north arrow please, I can’t find it.

  • John Brown

    Nice plan. In my experience I don’t think there is a problem with the kitchen at the front.

    One question – are you proposing to drop the floor of the guest bathroom. It originally is accessed directly off the main floor.

  • John Brown


    I believe that Paintbrush does not have rotation or mirroring features. However, unlike Microsoft Paint, you can open two files at the same time and cut and paste between the two.

    To that end we will be uploading to the drawing list for this project an expanded template file that includes each element in multiple orientations. That should make things easier. Please let me know how it works and if you have any other technical concerns.

  • John Brown

    Thank you pointing out the oversight. How embarrassing. North is to the left and we will be updating the drawings shortly.

  • Doug Roberts

    Hi John

    Is there a basement in this townhouse? If so, I presume that the stairs leading to the basement are directly below the stairs that lead to the second floor (ie. on the left side of the guest bathroom) If there is no basement, then can you tell me why the main floor is so far above grade?

    The reason I ask is that you indicate in your video that the homeowner would like the rear deck to be level, or close to level, with the main floor, to provide an easy transition from inside living space to outside living space. However, given that the main floor is 6 steps, or roughly 3.5 feet, above grade, I am concerned that a deck that height would give the homeowners no privacy at all. What good is it to surround your yard with a 6 foot fence if your deck is 3.5 feet above grade? The only thing your neighbours might not be able to see is what shoes you are wearing! We had a similar situation at a previous house and after our neighbours installed a swimming pool our raised deck started to feel like a grandstand overlooking their pool. We replaced the raised deck with a grade-level stone terrace and a pergola, which gave both families much more privacy and allowed us to be IN our garden, rather than floating above it.

    If there is no basement, and assuming that the budget would allow it, I would love to look at creating a sunken living space at the rear of the main floor that would allow an easy transition to a very private grade-level outdoor terrace and garden.

  • Brad W

    John – Yes, putting the guest bath on the entry grade would be my first choice. It would be interesting to explore an alternative design where this was not possible.

  • Terri

    A technical question regarding Paint. Yesterday I modifed the Virginia townhouse plan (I used another site visitor’s plan to start since it was closest to my idea, and I’m pretty clumsy with Paint). When I tried to upload I got the message that the file was too large. What did I do wrong? Any ideas?

  • Louis Pereira

    Doug – I completely agree with your point on the height of the main floor and don’t believe there is a basement in this case. As a house designer, it absolutely my biggest pet peeve and it is certainly the worst situation about this house. Unless you’re in a flood plain zone or Robinson Crusoe, why on earth does do you need to be perched up like that!

  • Paul C

    Depending on exactly where in Texas this home is, it may be due to flooding concerns. (i.e. Hurricanes) or high water table.

  • Volker

    Doug and Louis – I have noticed your discussion about the reasons for having the main level raised – perhaps it is just to avoid people on the street to be able to look straight into your living space. Usually it is a nice idea to get some natural light into the basement too. But then when looking at the backyard and talking about raising the sourrounding wall approx. 6′ above the main level – it seems to me like the worst idea, looks more like a prison yard to me.

  • John Brown

    There is a basement in this townhouse. I believe the main floor is raised up so high to reduce excavation costs and because the project is based on a British rowhouse model in which the lower level had a separate entrance. While this is not the case with this basement, the “brand” of the project resulted in a raised floor plate.

  • Louis Pereira

    John – I’m confused now…Where are the stairs to the basement on this floor plan?

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Brad, I like your start, but I think it needs more to define the spaces.
    I admit having the same first thoughts, but got further than relocating the garage entry and dropping the bath to the entry level.

  • Louis Pereira

    As much as i don’t like an elevated main living space, there are some fantastic opportunities here, especially for that outdoor space.

    In the interest of time i’ll keep the narrative short and let the graphic illustrate the intent…


  • Terri

    Louis, Interesting graphic images of garden plans. I noticed on your plan a closet just inside the front entry door (to the right–under stairs) where I believe the down stair case is. But even without it, there seems to be lots of cupboard space–something the homeowners said they needed.

  • Louis Pereira

    Thanks Terri – I asked the question about where the stairs were to the basement but didn’t get a response yet. i had a hunch the stair-run would be there but like you said, we could simply leave that opening as is to make it work…

  • Tina

    Louis, I really like how you’ve opened the entire house up and added lots of storage, too. I would like more light in the living room, but many townhouse developments restrict modifications to the facade. Very nice job.

  • John Brown

    Louisa and Terri,
    Sorry for the confusion. The stair to the basement is actually outside of the unit.

  • Tony

    Louis’s drawings always look so professional… fair! when I get better at paint brush i will put up my ideas if no one laughs! i am having troubles draing it out, but I thought it might be cool to put an eating bar along the windows looking to the back terrace – do a long galley style kitchen with an island, the dining room where the fireplace is and the living room at the front – like where Louis’s is. what do you think?

  • John Brown

    I am glad you are trying out paint brush. I know it isn’t the easiest program to use. The most effective way to learn about design is by drawing – even if you don’t end up posting it. However, I would really like to see what you are doing. Please don’t be shy about uploading your drawing onto the site.

    I like your idea of an eating bar against a window. You may remember that there is one in the Evergreen Gardens Residence Case Study. However, if I understand your design idea correctly for this particular house, would the eating bar along the windows at the back not interfere with the access to the deck?

  • Thea

    In the Spirit of having a little western light at the dinner table (and the simplicity of leaving the kitchen in situ) I came up with this plan. It leaves the table a little squished and the living room strange to furnish. How deep is that living room? I read recently that you can read fine facial features when you are more than 8 feet away from another person, and at 10 feet you unconsciously raise your voice to be hear. Just some interesting thoughts when designing living spaces.


  • Thea

    ps. For those that find the Paint program cumbersome, I just did a quick sketch over my computer screen and worked on trace paper. Then I took a digital picture. If you have trace on hand, it is a super easy way to get your thoughts into graphics.

  • Paul C

    My compliments to you on your sensible combination of time honored hand drawing and state of the art technology. I think that’s great. Sometimes ideas can be flushed out faster by hand then by mouse. I am betting however that John will likely place the living room adjacent to the deck (as per the homeowner write-up) We’ll see.

  • Terri

    I’ve put together a crude drawing with Paint. I wanted to try and not move the kitchen to the front, so I had to cheat and extend the dining area by tacking a sunroom onto the back of the unit. I also inserted a fridge and pantry into a space that is probably a supporting wall (moving a wall back), so this area would have to have the appropriate post and beam structure around it. The wall between kitchen and living room is not full height, allowing openness.

    Also, I saw that the clients would like a private space, so I put it in that corner of the living room where the small window is, accessed through sliding french glass door.
    The patio is two levels with privacy fence on top level.

    I hope I can be forgiven for the awful drawing (some lines got lost in translation making the ends of the kitchen counters a little “speechless” while the sink on kitchen west wall almost disappeared!)


  • Terri

    I guess those counters got finished afterall. The square rectangle in laundry room is a possible laundry chute (depending on upstairs layout, of course). I feel sorry for the person hauling down laundry.

  • John Brown

    As Paul said, congratulations on combining hand drawing and digital technology. It worked remarkably well. I think that hand drawing is the best way to go with these exercises. It may be a little more difficult to upload to the site (a digital camera seems to work well if you don’t have a scanner) but it is a lot easier than using Paint or PaintBrush. Did you have trouble printing out the pdf file? We had thought that would be the best way for people that want to hand draw to get the base drawing and the templates.

    Please let me know so that we can make any possible adjustments.

    In terms of your design, I really appreciate your desire to keep things simple by maintaining the kitchen in its current location. I would suggest revising the layout slightly to make the space more usable (your U shape was so big it would take a lot of steps to move between appliances) and create a bit more separation with the guest bath. I also moved it over slightly to make more room for the living room seating.

    You are very correct about the sensitivity of distance and I think your sofa (facing the fireplace) was a bit too far away. The hatched area in plan is then left over and could be developed as an open office/library or perhaps another seating area.


  • John Brown

    Your drawing is not crude. Well done. I have made a few suggestions on the attached drawing. I like the idea of some kind of study space and think that you could expand the width so that the new wall lined up with the existing. It will feel cleaner and more organized. It is also better to put the living room furniture on the other side of an “imaginary” circulation zone that runs along that wall.

    I also think you could move the kitchen over slightly so that you don’t have to go to the expense of an addition. That would probably kill the budget.

    In particular I am interested by your ideas for the entry. I think there is an opportunity to clarify it slightly and make it work very well.

    If you look at your original scheme,the closet looks like it is sitting in the bigger space like a piece of furniture and both exterior doors open onto the side of it. This isn’t ideal. If, on the other hand, you make the closet slightly shorter and line it up with the guest bath walls you can detail the space between the closet and the bath as an opening in a wall. This subdivides the entry into two (which I think is nice) and probably eliminates the need for your new wall into the laundry area. What do you think?

    Good work.


  • Thea

    Thanks for the crit! I find it difficult to use accurate scale when drawing by hand. You can get the general idea expressed, but it is difficult to see if your ideas will really work.

    As for printing the PDF, I didn’t print it. I traced over my computer screen. It worked pretty well.

  • Terri

    John, Thanks for your informative feedback. I had thought that the study wall should align with end of stair wall as you suggest, but was reluctant to give up living room space. I also played around with the idea of a kitchen island, but thought it looked too small–I’m not sure of dimensions. And the hall cupboard looked “clunky” to me–I think your idea does make it more streamlined.

    Trying to execute the plan was a very good way to really envision the space. Thanks again for these exercises!