Part 2 – Lin Lee Residence, Upper Floor

Part 2 – Lin Lee Residence, Upper Floor

  • John Brown


    This is the completed concept design for the upper floor of the Lin Lee residence.

  • Brad W

    John – I really like the way you approached the segment today. Your design this week is very well done, in particular, the placement of the the bed in the master and the segmented family bath. A small detail that was difficult to get right was the loaction of the door into the side bedroom – not obivous given the demo plan. If I was to point out a concern it would be with the size of the shower in the master bath.

    I am encouraged that, yesterday, I ultimately arrived at a similar plan.

  • Belle, Toronto

    I do like the plan a lot, particularly the master suite. The bedrooms are all now quite separated from each other. One question. The main bath has a couple of pocket doors and I wonder why you designed it this way? This is not a criticsm in any way, its just unusual.

  • Volker


    nice plan John,

    i’d just suggest some minor changes – for some reasons I prefer straight running walls (trying to avoid those 45-degrees) and so I did some changes to your bathroom – I’d recommend to leave the bathtub without a door – if use it might make the room too small to actually enjoy your bath – while not used it makes the room look bigger.
    Did some changes to the masterbedroom – bathroom as well, turned to toilet, added some storage space, resized the shower…
    As I said, nice place, just some little ideas that might be helpful or nice.

  • Terri

    John, I enjoyed the approach you used to explain your plan today. I think you’ve done an excellent job at reconfiguring this floor, particularly by expanding that master bath into the 4th bedroom (previous) space in order to have a good layout. I think that bath’s components are just fine the way you laid them out.

    With the main bath though, I agree with Volker’s comment re: the tub–it is rather closed in. It would have been ideal if the tub could have gone at the window end of the room and the shower where the tub is, as usually eyes are closed a lot during showering and open during bathing–might as well have some light while bathing. Plus, having a fan going while showering is normal, and having to run a fan while bathing is a drag.

    I like the configuration of the new bedroom above the study. Using some of the master bedroom space for the closet was a stroke of mastery!

    Regarding the new entry into this room, I feel that putting the doorway out to the end of the balustrade doesn’t really accomplish much spacewise in this room, yet it would effectively make the upper hallway just a little darker. I realize that the light can’t filter as much with a linen closet half blocking it, though.

    All in all, a nice solution, keeping costs down, too!

  • Terri

    Volker, I like your new entry into bedroom two. It feels more spacious this way, IMHO.

  • John Brown

    Sorry I was AWOL yesterday – had a bit of an issue on a jobsite to take care of.

    I use pocket doors when the swing of the door would make the space feel too small or if it impedes too much into a space. Bathrooms are usually small spaces to begin with and adding a series of extra doors can make it feel really tight.
    With that said there are some compromises – pocket doors are sometimes a little flimsy and they are difficult to lock. They also don’t give as much of a sense of privacy. I once lived in a house with a pocket door to the guest bath and most people did not feel comfortable, even though it could be locked.

  • Murray



    John, I am also a fan of your new approach to presenting the floor plan after an explanation of the practical and conceptual bases.

    Here is my go. When the main floor was presented last week I immediately thought the front entrance was awkward, so I moved the front door to the location of the former living room window. This led to me altering the staircase.

    I like the double high foyer so I left it, more or less.

    I also figured the master bed should go in the same position to take advantage of windows and 45 degree walls.

  • John Brown



    I know what you mean about the shower. As you know it is a hard bathroom to work out because of the angle and the fact that the headboard backs against it. I wanted to try and keep that wall free. I think that Volker’s addition of a sound cavity wall is a good one.

    In reviewing your last plan from yesterday (I attached it to this post for everyone’s reference) I like your version as well. Particularly the upper laundry room. I had not considered that. An earlier version of my scheme had the same layout for the master closet but then I thought it was just too big for most people. It would be up to the client to decide whether they would prefer a larger closet or a sitting area.

    The only concern I have with the plan is the tight space on the left side of the bed resulting from the collision of the angled headboard wall with the bathroom wall.

  • John Brown

    Great idea about the detailing the angled wall like a big headboard. I wish I had thought of that one! I agree with you about the 45 degree angles. I had to sallow hard when I started drawing up this plan.

    I agree with you about the bathtub in the family bath. It is much more open this way although it does reduce somewhat the double duty possibilities of the bath. We have done similar designs for a number of clients with teenage children. It provides privacy and convenience without having to have two separate ensuite baths.

  • John Brown

    An interesting idea. Moving the stair certainly opens up the front entry. The upper floor plan that results is pretty simple and clear. It minimizes the circulation problems in the old house. It also nice to have the master closet behind the headboard although moving the plumbing to the other side of the house would be quite expensive.

  • Daniel

    Why was no value put on the “open to below” space that existed in the existing plan? I took particular interest in this exercise because I am currently in the design phase for a new 2000 sq ft two storey home. One of my required elements was some two storey areas as these make interesting areas to live in, both upstairs and down. All of the designs that catch my eye have some aspect of this. Filling up every inch with rooms seems like a good move for a developer but strikes me as being suboptimal architecture; especially filling in an existing open space in the context of a renovation.

  • Brad W

    John – In an initial version of my plan, I had borrowed space from the master for the bedroom closet as you have done. That is probably the best way to go in reducing the master closet size. I would try and keep the direct line between the bath and closet. The angled wall is not ideal but resulted because I did bump the master bath into the old bedroom space – a good idea BTW.

    One other thing John – is the location of the master toilet going to create plumbing problems? The downstairs plan is quite open.

  • John Brown

    Thanks for the question.

    I have absolutely nothing against double volume spaces and higher ceilinged rooms. They are a very important part of the repertoire of good residential architecture. In this case, however, as with many cookie cutter houses, the two story space is really only designed to impress. The formal living space is not a primary living space. It is a showoff room at the front of the house. To make it double height is a waste.

    Although I would not normally advocate filling in a space like this even if it was bad, I think that in the context of the overall house, the additional second floor area allows the upper floor to work much better. In my opinion, this increase in the livability of the house more than outweighs the loss of the two storey space.

  • John Brown

    I understand the rationale for the closet There are always tradeoffs. In terms of the toilet, in my experience I wouldn’t be too fussed about relocating it. Most floor joists are deep enough to accommodate moving the drain a little bit.

  • Brad W

    Daniel – A large two storey space is fantastic. In the current design exercise, I just do not think the size and location of that space made it worth keeping.

  • James Scott

    Sorry I hadn’t contributed a plan the past few weeks, holidays you see.

    I agree with Murray’s movement of the stairs. If the renovations are this extensive than that should not be out of reach.

    On the note of the double high space, my brother-in-law had one of these beautiful cookie cutter homes in Princeton, NJ. You know the kind, new roof in 3 years, new windows after 5 years…

    Anyway, the main entry has a two story space that encompasses a formal living space and tends to back onto the dining, informal living and kitchen spaces. I tell you the amount of noise that traveled through this open space between the two floors was incredible. No sense of privacy and no space to get away from the noise. An expensive house, in a very expensive neighbourhood that really was just a disappointment.

  • John Brown

    Welcome back. I hope you had a good holiday.

    You make a very good point about the potential for noise transmission through the double volume space. In a poorly designed house, this can easily happen and I would imagine that it would be the case with this house.

  • MichaelG


    Reposting my attempt in part 2, as it looks like I’m the only one that added a play/media/study room to the second floor. This is my own personal preference. The Lee’s did ask for larger bedrooms for the kids, but maybe they’d like the concept of bedrooms for sleeping, and a more public room for play and study. I have a 2 year old now and another in the planning stages, and this is what I want to incorporate into our family home when we decide to stop being nomadic and settle somewhere. When I was a teenager, as soon as I got a TV and later a computer in my bedroom, i only really left it for food and bathroom. Put the entertainment in a more public space, adopt a no screen in bedroom policy… forced socialisation! Perhaps I’m being too naive?

  • John Brown


    You make a good point about the bedrooms. There is actually a tradition of favoring more public space over private bedrooms.

    In the turn of the century Gamble House by Greene and Greene Architects in Pasadena California, for example, there are very modest bedrooms and an enlarged upper floor hallway in which the children could play. We have done similar things. Properly scaled and located, these spaces can be great. Unfortunately, the cookie cutter industry has warped them into “bonus rooms” above the attached garage that are usually too big and awkwardly proportioned to be of much use.

  • MichaelG

    John, what would you consider good examples of that? Something a bit more contemporary than the Gamble House?
    I’m not that familiar with American Arts and Crafts, never actually seen one in real life myself. I’m not sure how many there are outside North America.

  • MichaelG

    oops, to quick to write that…
    I’m not sure how many there are outside North America.
    I’m not sure how many Arts and crafts homes there are outside North America and the UK.

  • Belle, Toronto

    My original question about the pocket doors was a bit ambiguous. What I really meant was why the bathroom was designed with the doors instead of leaving the space more open?

  • John


    Think about the “small bedrooms and large common area” approach from the perspective of your kids. That arrangement MIGHT work prior to their teenage years, particularly if they’re close in age and the same sex. You could reasonably hope that they’d get along, have common interests in playtime activities, and have an overlapping set of friends. As they grow older, you can’t reasonably expect any of that.

  • John Brown


    Sorry for the confusion. The intent behind the design of the family bathroom was to make it usable by two or more teenagers/ adults at the same time. This is accomplished by placing the bathtub, the shower, and the toilet in discrete rooms accessible from a separate vanity area. Someone can then brush their teeth while another showers. Two people can shower at the same time in the morning. It is a way that we have found in our practice to avoid the other solution which is a separate bathroom for each bedroom. It takes less space, requires fewer fixtures, and saves money.

  • John Brown

    I don’t know of any historic architecturally designed arts and crafts bungalows outside of the US and UK. Sorry. I will see if I can dig up a more contemporary precedent tomorrow.

    You may be right but I do know that a lot of our clients are concerned about allowing computers in their teenager’s bedrooms. They want a more public space for the computer so that they can keep an eye on it.

  • Louis Pereira

    Great solutions everyone! – (second AND main floor…)

    John – Your finesse and adeptness at resolving the issues with this house, especially addressing that 45 degree angle, really shone through.

    Also, in the (too many) weeks i haven’t been able to contribute to Slow Home, i’ve been so impressed by the quality and advancement by my fellow Slow Home ‘Slugs’ ( Get it?…I like that nickname)…

    What we’re witnessing is an upward momentum in the pursuit of great residential design – for everyone. Slow Home is arming the general home owner and buying public with a knowledge that has an incalculable worth.

    Keep up the great work!…

  • John Brown


    Slugs? I am missing something… it must be Friday.

    It is really great to hear from you. I agree with your observation about the quality of the design work and discussion that people are bringing to the site. Everyone is doing a really great job.

    I am sure I speak for all of us “slugs” when I say how much we miss your witty comments, thoughtful designs, and great precedent images.

    Thank you for continuing to check in.

  • Doug Roberts


    John B — I like your idea of a compartmentalized family bathroom. The family bathroom in the plan I posted on Wednesday already had a separate toilet room, so I added an extra door to allow the tub/shower area to be closed off from the vanity area. You did a commendable job of working the master ensuite into the triangular space behind the headboard to keep all of the second floor plumbing in one general area, although as I mentioned before I am not a big fan of having a second floor bathroom directly above the kitchen, and I would be concerned about noise from the shower disturbing someone trying to sleep on the other side of the wall — the headboard wall would need to be insulated for sound. I also like your idea of taking space from the master closet to create a closet for the new West bedroom, as it makes that bedroom closer in size to the opened-up North bedroom (and we all know how important it is to try to treat children as equally as possible). However, as Terri pointed out by making the space at the North end of the staircase part of the West bedroom, you have cut off the only source of natural light for the foyer — I chose to install the door further back, leaving the angled window open to the foyer — otherwise I would recommend installing a Solatube or skylight above the foyer.

    MichaelG — I like your play/study area at the top of the stairs, open to the foyer. I agree with the concept that bedrooms should be primarily for sleeping, and therefore kept reasonably small, and that playing, studying, watching TV and using computers should be done elsewhere. My initial reaction when I heard John say that the clients wanted the childrens’ bedrooms to be bigger was “Why?”. Having said that, I am not sure about putting the family bathroom over the garage. I forget where this house is located, but if freezing weather is a possibility, then I would prefer to avoid running plumbing above an unheated space.

  • John Brown

    I understand your concerns about the bathroom above the kitchen. If the plumbing is not installed really well there are problems with noise below the bathroom. Volker’s solution of a double insulated wall for the master bedroom seemed to address the issue of sound from the shower.

    I take your point about cutting off the natural light into the hallway. I had not considered that. I suppose a skylight should be added if the clients didn’t want the angled wall in the bedroom.

  • James Scott

    ‘Slow Home Slugs’ I like it!

  • Doug Roberts

    John — My primary concern with having a bathroom directly above the kitchen is not noise, but rather the possibility of a toilet leak or overflow, which can have particularly nasty consequences when it happens over a kitchen.

  • John Brown

    I see. Good call. I was thinking of some of the houses I have been in where the plumbing and insulation have been so bad that you could hear the toilet being used.

  • Terri

    Slugs…never thought of them as being that bright, but hey, what do I know? They do get around…found one on a raspberry cane the other day…They’re tenacious creatures, slow and steady–yay team!

  • Grace

    Louis–I’m not getting the ‘slugs’ allusion. What am I missing?

  • Paul C


    Great ideas and discussion everyone!
    Sorry for the sluggish posting to this exercise. Very busy these days. I did want very much to complete the overall exercise though. In keeping with the main floor concept (which I attached again for ref) I wanted to minimize the addition of floor space or the disruption of what I believe to be the likely mechanical/structural components. Simpler.

    Who knows, this alternate approach may leave some monies for the basement :-)

    SLUG = SLow home User Group maybe?

  • Paul C


    Louis, your “tag” got me thinking…SLUG is cool. Although, in keeping with the design school theme how about PUPIL?

    First draft below

    Upset with

    John, we are going to need t-shirts, every great school has them…

  • John Brown

    Nice plans. A great way to end of the weekend. I respect the fact that you elected to rework the front living space into a usable space and then keep the two storey volume. The only thing that seems a bit out of scale on the main floor is the dining room.

    I very much like the upstairs. Moving the master the front of the house results in a very powerful plan that gives three good size bedrooms without sacrificing the open space to the living room.

  • John Brown

    Your are full of good ideas today. A T shirt is a great thing to work on. You are right – every school has one. Maybe we should have a contest?

    Thoughts everyone?

    - I will post this again in tomorrow’s discussion so it won’t get lost in the shuffle.

  • Grace

    I like your plan very, very much, Paul. I wonder if you could reorient the kitchen island to run parallel to the counter along the outside wall (shorten it if necessary). Then the dining table could be moved up to allow reading chairs to flank the fireplace.

  • John Brown

    I think that is a very good suggestion.

    Not only does it allow you to move the dining room up a bit, I think that it actually better orients the island. Almost all of the schemes for this exercise had the island facing the garden doors (resulting in the side of the island facing the living area). Paul’s design actually allows the island to be turned to more properly, I think, face into the space.

    Paul, what do you think?

  • Paul C


    Thank you very much for the feedback. I believe you mean something like these fireside options. I like the suggestion as to some extent (with some minor tweeking to the island) it may have more to do with furnishing choices than a fixed element and to me that would be optimum. Spaces that can be flexible are ideal. I must admit to demonstrating a little personal bias in some of these kitchen/dining spaces. I am simply a big fan of oversized kitchen tables in family homes. I believe they can offer so much more than simply meeting the dining requirements and in this home I would go so far to suggest that the kitchen/dining space is really the “living” room. The living room is more a parlor. That said maybe the basement would need to be developed at some point to have a little more lounging about space.

    John, I think a contest would be a great idea.

  • Grace

    Paul–I like option # 1. The island can shield kitchen messes from the dining room. I agree with you about large/long tables. I think the table here could be longer and the chairs could snuggle up to the fireplace a bit more.