Part 2 – Ratliff Residence, Pennsylvania – Upper Floor

Part 2 – Ratliff Residence, Pennsylvania – Upper Floor (Demo 2)
Part 2 – Ratliff Residence, Pennsylvania – Upper Floor (Completed Concept Design)

  • John Brown


    This is the completed concept design for the Ratliff residence, upper floor.

  • Doug Roberts


    John — I like your concept of putting the two bathrooms and the laundry room close together, as it keeps all of the plumbing concentrated in one area. On the downside it does mean that guests have to walk past the study to get to the guest bathroom, and there is no noise buffer between the study and the guest bedroom. I also like that by using the bump-out at the top you were able to get a good size laundry room while keeping the edge of the hallway lined up with the railing.

    I read your comment about the wall on each side of my study not being the same length, and tried to decide how best to fix that. The simple fix would have been to make the guest bathroom to the right of the study smaller, but I felt that it was already as small as a 3-piece bathroom could be. As my guest bedroom was larger than it needed to be, I decided to move the guest bathroom into the north corner and put the guest bedroom closet to the right of the study instead, as this would still provide a noise buffer between the study and the guest bedroom and could be sized appropriately to make the right wall of the study the same length as the left wall. Unfortunately, the total width of the newly positioned guest bathroom plus the doorway into the guest bedroom would have resulted in the right wall of the study being shorter than the left wall. Putting the guest bedroom doorway on an angle would have been an easy solution to the problem, but I knew that if I did that I would undoubtedly incur the “wrath of the slugs” ;-). Accordingly, I decided to make the left wall of the study shorter by reducing the size of the master ensuite, which meant replacing the soaker tub with a shorter standard tub. I felt this was a good solution, as it had the side benefit of making the hallway into the master bedroom a little wider and the Ratliffs were not looking for an “over the top” ensuite anyway.

    As the guest closet is narrower than the guest bathroom that it replaced, these changes resulted in the study becoming wider than it needed to be. Accordingly, I decided to shift the master ensuite over to the right to transfer some of the extra width to the master bedroom and to make the left study wall line up with the laundry room wall on the other side of the hallway.

    [As an aside, we were at the zoo the other day and I read a quote (I forget from who) along the lines of when you tug on something in nature, you will find that it is connected to everything else. It seems that the same can be said about home design, as making one little change can have quite the ripple effect through the entire plan.]

    Finally, taking into account the comments made by others about increasing the connection to the outdoors, I added extra windows for the master bedroom, guest bedroom and guest bathroom, replaced the master bedroom’s centre window with a set of french doors and added a front balcony overlooking the tree-lined street, which would be incorporated into the roof of the front veranda.

  • Brad W


    I think having the extra space or bump out over the main entry at the side is certainly a good idea.

    Conventional wisdom (Slow Home wisdom?) would locate the guest bedroom at the back of the house as many of you including John have done. In this case, you are allocating prime real estate in the house to a seldom used guest bedroom. I disagree with that.

    Much better to allocate that space to the study – not only do you have desk and shelving space, you have a comfortable space to sit, read and relax. You have quiet privacy if required. Finally, on resale the home can be listed as a 3 bedroom residence.

    I posted a design late last night to illustrate these ideas and have posted a revised plan here – the revision changed the guest ensuite to a family bath to facilitate conversion to a 3 bed home.

  • James Scott


    More great ideas, I like the use of the bump out in Bard W’s design for the guest room and the openness of MichaelG’s design.

    Has anyone considered a Murphy bed so the study works double duty as a guest room? I felt that this could really open up this space.

  • Brad W

    James – I toyed with having the study and the guest room share the same space. I thought of using a sofa bed but a murphy bed works. Having the guest room and study share space ensures that the room is well used and it does allow other rooms additional elbow room. Good idea.

  • John Brown

    A very nice and thoughtful revision to your plan. I very much appreciate your zoo story and the idea of the interconnectedness of elements in plan. That is one of the key concepts that we try to impart to our first year architecture students at the University. That can be a difficult task. The fact that you made the connection on your own (at the zoo) is remarkable.

  • John Brown


    You make a good point about locating the rarely used guest room at the back of the house and the study in the center away from the view. While your plan makes a great study it also reveals that the cost to the guest bedroom is pretty significant in terms of light. By using the cantilever for that room you quite correctly showed a window only on the side. This would only be about 1′ wide which is to narrow, in most jurisdictions I believe, for egress in case of fire. This means that you couldn’t call it a bedroom.

    This exploration certainly points to the idea of combining study and guest room in some way doesn’t it.

  • Doug Roberts

    I agree that it would make sense for the study, which will be used regularly, to have the better view, light and fresh air, although putting the guest bedroom in the middle, close to the master bedroom, will result in both the Ratliffs and their guests having less privacy. If the Ratliffs don’t have guests staying over very often, then I could see putting the study at the back. Otherwise, I would keep the guest bedroom at the back to maximize privacy. Better yet, I would put the guest bedroom in the basement so that the entire second floor would be the Ratliffs’ private space.

    On the issue of creating a combined study/guest bedroom, my strong preference would be to keep them separate, even if this means that the guest bedroom will not get used very often. If the study will be used regularly by the Ratliffs then it would be very inconvenient for them to lose access to it whenever they have guests visiting. Keeping the two separate would allow the Ratliffs to have full access to the study at all times, and would make their guests feel less of an inconvenience to their hosts, and therefore more welcome. On the other hand, if the Ratliffs are constantly besieged by mooching friends and relatives, then making their guests feel welcome may not be a priority and combining the two might make a lot of sense. Actually in that case I would recommend that they just have a study, with no bed, sofa bed or Murphy bed anywhere to be found, and direct such friends and relatives to the nearest (or furthest, if desired) good hotel.

  • Brad W


    John – I believe I have addressed both your concerns regarding the middle guest room. Additional light is addressed by adding a pair of skylights above the bed. Egress is solved by a notch in the side of the building. This widens the west facing window.

    Doug – As to your privacy concerns, I think daily use and enjoyment are far more important but then it would be up to the client to decide. The rooms are separated by two bathrooms in my plan and moderate sound proofing measures would be taken during the renovation to mitigate bathroom noise anyway.

  • Brad W

    Correction – east facing guest room window. (not west)

  • leo


    It’s funny how you think you have a good idea, and then when you flesh it out, it really doesn’t look any different from the others. This is my attempt at using James’ Murphy bed approach, which I believe is very “Slow” in its philosophy.

    I would have preferred to have the ensuite on the opposite side like Michael G’s previous design, but I think the plumbing considerations of having all the bathrooms, the laundry, and the kitchen all on the same side probably trump the aesthetic considerations. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I used a tub in the master enuite, but that was more for sizing purposes. A large shower would be more appropriate I suppose.

  • leo


    Not sure if the last image went through. I’ll try again.

  • Terri

    I understand your logic to have an open study using that more open space at the top of the stairs. Doug chose to make his study open too, and I said I should have done that. I had the time this morning to revisit the plan and made a couple of changes to address your points (laundry position and narrow study). I realized the only way to deal with the study was to open it up and build in a desk unit for two people

    Today I see that your study’s overall dimensions is similar to mine (11 x 7.5 ft,) but your desk faces the window and mine doesn’t. I find side light better when I’m at my computer.

    Some interesting ideas presented late yesterday and again today. Good ideas regarding the larger front and rear windows and the placement of the study. I like Doug’s balcony to the front off the master bedroom. If the study takes the back space, as Brad showed, then the larger windows wouldn’t be wasted. But for a guest bedroom, I’d save my money.

    I think that Brad makes a good point about having a nice space for the study. If it’s used as much as I use mine–everyday, because I work from home–then it would be great at the back of the house, looking over a garden.

    Regarding combining the study and guest bedroom, if the Ratliff’s have grown children who visit, then they probably would not like a combo set-up. I have this conflict every time my son returns between school and work terms. But I digress…

  • Terri


    Sorry, meant to post my revised plan.

  • leo


    Ok, here’s my final iteration. I think. Forgive me, it’s my first go around.

  • leo


    Nice plan. The second guest room is cozy, but I don’t think that is inappropriate.

    While it is certainly client dependent, my suggestion would be that there are too many things in your ensuite. If two people are sharing a washroom, I think counter and drawer space take precedence over having both a shower stall and a bath, especially when both of these functions can be combined into one fixture (I know there is some argument about that.)

    I would also play devil’s advocate about connecting the laundry through the closet (It seems like a popular idea on this thread). Laundry spaces tend to be damp and humid; do you really want to connect that to your closet? Perhaps it would save on ironing, but my personal preference is to not have closets combined with laundry or washrooms.

  • James Scott

    Hey everyone,

    I think Doug Roberts is lonely and needs all of us to ‘drop in’ for a week or two.

    Hey Doug, do you have Ginsu knives?

  • leo


    My version of Terri’s plan.

  • Mr. brownnoser

    I was impressed by John’s solution not only because it works well, but by the way he showed us the ease in which he came to it. There is a mastery in such ease, it shows a fundamental understanding of the space and architecture. I humbly tip my hat to you Mr. Brown.
    A relevant quote by Frank Lloyd Wright: “”Think simple” as my old master used to say – meaning reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms, getting back to first principles.”

  • John Brown

    I like the revision you made to the study. Turning the desks reduces some of the width required in the room as the doorway shares the chair space. I agree with you about trying to get the desk perpendicular to the window whenever possible.

  • John Brown

    What I like about your suggestion to Terri’s concept is that there is now one long line of wall for the bathrooms and guest bedroom. It does make the width of that bedroom pretty tight. One option would be to have a larger opening to the study with a sliding door. That way the head of the bed would be in a tight space but the rest of the room could be opened up if it felt too claustrophobic.

  • Terri

    I like the idea of a Murphy wallbed for a combo study/ guest room. I know my guest room as I planned it would benefit from something like that.

    I agree with you on the master bathroom not needing both a tub and shower, as most tubs can accomodate a shower. I had the space to provide for both, so I did. But counter space instead of a shower would suit me better.

    Also, you make a pretty good point about the laundry not being connected to the closet.It’s close enough that that wall could be closed and it wouldn’t require much extra walking.

    Regarding your revision of my plan…nice work. I’d just like to point out that the entrance to the guest room is in an awkward location. Also there’s no closet in the room.

  • Terri

    Your idea to improve Leo’s revision to my plan is great. I like the sliding door idea.

    It’s amazing to me that even through this medium (the web) in which communication can be misconstrued, we are all able to share varying opinions on the subtleties of deaign. There’s always something to consider fresh.

    Thanks again for this forum!

  • Doug Roberts


    Terri and Leo – here is another possible layout for the guest room in Leo’s revision of Terri’s plan that may address both the tightness concern raised by John and the entrance location and missing closet concerns raised by Terri. I ran across this option the other day while looking at floorplans in a new downtown Calgary condo development and had never seen it before.

    James — No I don’t have any Ginsu knives, but if you are coming to visit I do know of a good hotel on the other side of town ;-)

  • leo

    I like it, Doug, very elegant solution

  • John Brown


    A very nice solution.

  • James Scott

    Doug, you’re the best!!! LOL

    I definitely agree with the use of pocket and/or sliding doors. This could really open this space right up. Possibly some of the doors can be glazed allowing the light to pass through yet maintaining privacy.

    Initially I thought Doug’s idea left the guest space too small, but I’ve also read repeatedly that our bedrooms are too big as they are.

    Some great ideas.

  • Elva

    The only problem with Doug’s idea might be with making the bed. Just a thought. It reminds me of bedrooms in cottages when I was a child, whwere the bedroom was big enough for a bed plus about 2.5-3 feet on one side. At least in Doug,s you have space on both sides and can walk out one doorr around the end through the other to get to the other side to tuck the sheets in.

  • MichaelG

    Some great ideas here, a lot of ‘wow, why didn’t i think of that!’ Of course it depends on how often they’d use guest room and the study. If they can deal with a combined bedroom/study space, then perhaps something like this?
    Sofa-beds have come a looooooong way in recent years.

    But my favourite would have to be Brad W’s comment from yesterday, “given the chance I would have located the study on a new third floor in combination with a rooftop deck”. Yep, me too!

  • John Brown

    Elva and Michael G,

    Re: Making the bed in a tight space.

    The image Michael provides of a corner bed in a millwork frame reminds of the bed in of Richard Neutra’s VDL II house in Los Angeles. To get around the issue of making a bed that is placed against the wall, Neutra put a hinge on one corner and wheels on the others so that it could be easily rotated out to be made up. Very clever.

  • Terri

    Catching this thread the next day, but I feel the need to comment as it was Doug’s revision to my plan that got the discussion on bed’s in tight spaces going.

    Doug’s image brings a new meaning to the word bed-room. Elva makes a valid point about making that bed. Many years ago I was forced to put a bed wall to wall to wall with only 3 ft of walking space in front. (It was during a cold Edmonton winter with no insulation in upstairs bedroom.) When a critical friend made an unkind comment, I said it was fine and reminded me of my fun days with a van (only those born before 1960 will relate). But making it was not so fun. Now, a hinged/rolling bed–fantastic!