Part 2 – 2100 sqft house, Washington

2100 sqft house, Washington (PDF)
2100 sqft house, Washington (JPEG)
2100 sqft house, Washington – Upper floor (JPEG)

  • Adam G


    Question for the floor.

    I have more experience with English architecture than with North American. I know that, in the Victorian & 1930s houses that make up a substantial portion of their urban and suburban housing market, the bay windows that face out to the street tend as a rule to be covered up by curtains. Nobody wants the world looking in on their day-to-day. That said, those houses are often very close to the street; there’s very little front yard to speak of.

    Does the same apply in North America? If so, I wonder how the Great Room & Study would fare; those are the two rooms with the best light opportunities on the ground floor, but if they’re always covered up, I’d have thought that reduces their utility.

  • John Y

    I didn’t get a chance to comment yesterday, but I’m going to throw my top three complaints in here:

    1. The great room. The space is off to an OK start, but it’s really messed up by that monstrosity of a fireplace. It’s also more isolated than it needs to be — I’d like to see it open up into the eating nook a bit more (although I suppose that wall might be load-bearing).

    2. The master ensuite. Just an enormous waste of floor space upstairs.

    3. The back entrance. The eating nook is going to become the junk nook pretty quickly with that.

    I do think that loft area is larger than it needs to be, but I like the concept in general. Not as a computer area — there’s a study downstairs for that — but I think for a family with two relatively young children, it could be a nice play space and toy storage if it’s furnished correctly. As they age into their teenage years, you could convert it over to a space for video games, or whatever they’re into. It could be a real help with keeping the downstairs less cluttered.

  • John Y

    Adam G: In urban or semi-urban areas, like Alexandria VA where I live, that is often the case: there is little or no front “yard” (perhaps room for a few shrubs, but that’s all) and most of the victorians that I walk past have their bay windows heavily curtained.

    However, in newer developments like where I suspect this house is, there is generally a rather sizable front yard — lots tend to be narrow but deep — so that would be less of an issue.

  • Leo

    In general, North American front yards tend to be bigger than English ones, especially once you get into the suburbs.

  • Paul C


    I don’t mind the upper floor open space for the reasons mentioned by John Y. One downside is that it is one floor removed from a connection to the outdoors. However, had there been a basement in this home, this space is akin to a lower level recreation/play room. As mentioned yesterday my top three concerns remain, the poor entrances, the “carbuncle” corner fireplace and the amount of floor space within the master bedroom bathroom. I would add one more, that being the missed opportunity to provide a connection from the front room to the albeit small rear yard.

    John, I wonder what role, if any, context would play with respect to considering what’s wrong with this specific house? I have seen this type of floor plan before and it is typically part of a more (see attached) comprehensive form of development. (friends of ours first home was like this however it was more of a townhome) Further to the recent discussions on the attached garage, I wonder if for narrow parcels this is perhaps an alternative. Not saying it’s the greatest by any means but it is an alternative. The sad truth is however all too often this plan formula is reversed (there is no rear lane or communal greenbelt) and the garage depicted here is actually on the front of the home.

  • John Brown

    Adam G,
    That is a good question. I agree with John Y’s answer. I would say that there is usually at least a 20′ setback in most suburban neighborhoods (built since the 1940′s). This is typically far enough back that window coverings are only used at night.

  • John Brown


    Thanks for bringing up the context issue. You are correct in observing that the location of the house with respect to its neighbors plays a big part in determining overall livability. In the situation you have drawn the side yard gardens are a bit too tight aren’t they. However, as we discussed yesterday, if the houses were pushed to the lot line on the long side (and shared a party wall with their neighbor) the extra space could be added to the garden side.

    I have modified your drawing to illustrate what I mean.

  • Paul C

    Thanks John. Alternatively the gardens could be separated so as not to share the same property line. A great deal of design attention would need to be paid with respect to addressing the effect of what could be a two storey wall plus roof across the property line. Horizontal/vertical proportioning would definitely come into play. I think this is where (amongst other areas) cc homes typically fail. What could have been fails for lack of follow through. Well designed smaller gardens can be quite nice.

  • Terri

    Further to Paul C’s last comment, I’ve seen many small gardens that are private when the neighbour’s yard is not right beyond the hedge. But if these units are simply put side by side as suggested, it’ll be more of a challenge. You might have privacy in terms of sightlines but not for sound transfer. Staggering of the outdoor spaces might help, but of course that option involves more than one floorplan being used by the builder.

  • Paul C

    Terri thanks I appreciate the comments. Just to clarify, the drawing was intended more to depict maybe an alternative to the usual attached garage scenario on narrow parcels than an appropriate garden. I completely agree that when it comes to small spaces in general, be it a bathroom or outdoor garden much more design thought is required and again I think that is where cc homes typically fail. I think smaller spaces are far more challenging and more interesting to design than rambling rooms.