Part 2 – Wong Griffin Residence, Texas

Part 2 – Wong Griffin Residence, Texas (PDF)

  • Grace

    I find alcoves very comforting, which is why I would press for a U-shaped kitchen. It would give compression in that area of the plan. And it makes for a very efficient kitchen with lots of counter space.

  • Trent

    I like the revised plan, all the original stairs were just crazy and totally redundant. I think the new plan is a much better use of the space and will be a very comfortable living space.
    I also like the asymetry of the fireplace millwork.

    I’m really enjoying Slow Home -look forward to it every morning.

  • John

    In the revised plan, I didn’t see where a television would logically be located. There needs to be comfortable seating (probably a sofa), and the TV should not be facing a window. I know it’s not fashionable to take this into consideration, but look at the statistics about how many hours the average family spends watching TV.

  • Meg

    I like the new common entry space. The bench area will be perfect for stroller stoage. Brad W talked in the Virginia townhouse exercise on Monday about the entrance from the garage to the house being on the driver’s side of the car and this solution also achieves that nicely as the stairs will lead up from the left. Having siad that the clients will probably go and reverse in – can’t win.

    I like the shelf that’s been incorporated at the entry because it’s lovely to be greeted by a little ‘genkan’ (in Japan every home has an alcove to set the tone of the house and aid in the psychological transition from public to private). A small drawer or further surface underneath would provide storage for keys and post which are important functionally when entering and leaving but not taken care of very well with just a closet.

    I would change the location of the kitchen. It would be fine where it is save the fact there are probably children on the way and when that happens you’re doing bottles, mashing, doing laundry etc (ie spending more time in the kitchen than previously) and as soon as that baby starts to move it will be very hard to keep an eye on them, particulary outside if the kitchen is in the far corner of the house as suggested. Having the kitchen near the laundry also makes sense, and nearer the outside to carry food out. Echoing Grace’s comment about alcoves the place next to the stairs could be made into a really cozy refuge with sectional seating on three sides.

    So I’d go for living room on the left, U-shaped kitchen in the middle with opening oriented towards the laundry. I agree with Grace again here, U-shaped kitchens in my experience are the best for working quickly in and restricting access for young children. Islands tend to become a race track. Consideration would have to be given to the view coming up and down stairs and from the refuge area. Finally dining on the right.

    Another advantage I see of having the kitchen in the middle is that some space could be dedicated to what I call ‘stuff central’. This is the space where you get everything ready when you’re going out and tends to be at the bottom of the stairs. The clobber you need to assemble before going out with young children is considerable (bottles, food, nappies, toys etc) and it really helps to have a dedicated area to collect stuff on the way out and dump stuff on the way in. Much of the stuff comes from the kitchen so again having the centre of gravity near the kitchen is useful for families.

    I like the idea of taking away the wall at the top of the entrance stairs to improve the entrance view but thinking young children again there needs to be some way of restricting access to the stairs. Maybe some glass could be used here.

  • Trent

    I think a tv could be located in the millwork beside the fireplace or on the other side of the furnace exhaust chase. One might have to arrange furniture a little different if you have a tv to watch.

  • Brad W

    John – We are on the same wavelength again this week. I really like the way you opened up the stair and your kitchen design.

    I think if I was the client I would chose a combination of the plans presented. I like Louis’s landscaping and deck, my lower entry/utility level and John’s kitchen design.

    Is architecture really better as a team game?

    I have included my plan from yesterday with furniture and a few minor tweaks.


  • John Brown

    John and Trent,
    I was thinking of placing the tv on the wall to the right of the opening into the laundry and guest bath.

    The sofa I am proposing isn’t a sectional that wraps around the corner. The right cushion extends out to make a lounge piece that is very comfortable to use while watching TV. I have included a picture of what I was thinking of.


  • John Brown

    I agree with the idea of design as a collaboration – particularly when the client is involved in the process.

    I see from your furniture plan that you were dealing with the same issue of the dining room. I felt that the space in front of the fireplace was too big so I added the small seating area and shifted the table in front of the stairs. This does make the living space at the back a little tight, however. Thoughts?

  • Brad W

    Meg – In John’s plan the entry from the garage is on the right. The driver has to cross in front of the car to get to the entry. I see that as less desirable because of all the stuff that tends to accummulate at the back of the garage (in front of the car). And since I harped on that on Monday, my plan yesterday had to put the garage entry on the left. :)

    Of course, the car will probably end up being parked in front of the garage making entry via the deck a consideration and why having the kitchen at the back (see Louis’s design) maybe the better choice. And this is what I find very interesting about the design process – how something like a car can affect architecture and how important it is to understand how a client or target demographic will use the space.

  • Brad W


    One of the issues with these exercises is the scale. How big is the space? Without dimensions it is hard to say.

    I thought your furniture placement was fine – I was more concerned about the door to the bath/laundry room on the side wall. It limits what you can do – for example, where does the TV go? ( I know TV is a bad thing but a kid has to have cartoons and Dad has to watch sports.:) )

  • Brad W


    One other point about the dining room – I like having room around the table. People are going to gather about the kitchen anyway, holidays mean expanding the table so everyone can sit together and, most importantly, highchairs and other kid stuff has a place without tripping over it.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Last week’s By Design had an interview with Sara Susanka. She talked about a growing desire for a bath in the mud room.
    In this case, I’m not sure there is much outside place to play that would be muddy, but it is another point of view to think about.

  • Paul C

    Maybe a little off topic but, I wonder if you could comment on the designer’s role as it relates to proposing solutions to a client. For example, with respect to the location of the kitchen in this particular exercise. The client has indicated their preference was to have the living space adjacent to the outdoor deck. While this approach is fine as Brad’s version and your proposal demonstrate, there are also valid reasons and good solutions demonstrated to have the kitchen close to the outdoor space. Thoughts or comments?

  • Terri

    I felt that John simplified the space nicely–especially that entry area and putting the laundry on the middle level. This space also has a “loftlike” look.

    However, as Meg has detailed so well, family living –especially with little ones–involves some planning. She’s right about the island being a place to run around. I have a fireplace that is central (a divider basically in an open plan) and the grandsons love to run around it–much worse with slate hearth edges for them to crack up on!

    But of course they grow up fast, and soon enough this space will be a sanctuary for the adults who use it (should they stay put long-term)…

  • John Brown

    Excellent question.

    When asked about this by clients I like to tell them that my job as a designer is a lot like being a chef. But in my “restaurant” everyone walks in with their own ingredients and our job is to pull them all together into a meal that works. This means that the clients needs (ingredients) are fundamental to the design of the house but that they come to a designer for the expertise in how to blend everything together by adding a few new things, emphasizing one element over another, or relocating one need into another place. The key issue is that the whole be equal to more than the sum of its parts (like a good soup).

    I have found that if you can articulate the various options and speak to the various strengths and weaknesses in each, almost every client will feel comfortable making the choices that fit their needs the best.

  • Louis Pereira

    ^ that reply just made me a little hungry right now. When’s lunch?

    John – A number things i like about your solutions are the Kitchen (layout,size), the MW with FP, the partial wall removal at the entry stairs and the laundry at the main level.

    As for the placement of the kitchen, my entire approach was predicated on maximising viewsheds to each space on the main floor. For this reason (and the fact there would be less elec/plumbing disruption), i would maintain the Kitchen in its current location. I know from personal experience (having a 3 and 5 yr. old) how important it will be for the client to have views to each of those rooms. Kids can and will raise your anxiety level, so it is necessary (especially in this case) to allow them to freely access that outdoor space. It gives you time to yourself or to talk to your spouse, while still having a level of comfort knowing they are visible from the inside.


    Thea – If you’re lurking, great job BTW on the graphic you posted yesterday. Also, you touched briefly on topic of proxemics. A great book to read on this is “The Hidden Dimension” by Edward T. Hall.

  • Louis Pereira

    Planned Parenthood – A designer’s version…


  • Thea

    hhahahah a bath in the mud room, that’s a very funny thought! What ever happened to hosing off in the yard? Playing in the sprinkler to clean off was one of the best reasons to get muddy!

  • Thea

    thanks for the book recommendation, this Edward T Hall guy looks great!

  • Doug Roberts

    Further to our discussion yesterday under Part 1, given that the basement is only accessible from outside the unit, and therefore is not likely to be used for anything other than storage, I decided to explore the possibility of creating a partially sunken living area at the back of the main floor, which would:
    1) transition easily to a more private grade-level terrace and garden;
    2) have a higher ceiling, allowing for oversized south facing windows/doors to the terrace and garden; and
    3) be accessible directly from an opened-up entry hall.

    Opening up the entry hall to the living area would allow:
    1) guests to be brought directly into the sunken living area without having to be taken up 6 steps and then back down 3 steps; and
    2) the door to the guest bathroom to be relocated into the entry hall, where it could be easily accessed from both the living area and the front and garage entries.

    The small flights of stairs created by sinking the living area would also come in handy when the homeowners have toddlers, as it would give them a relatively safe place to learn to climb stairs.

    The washer and dryer could either be placed in the large closet off the entry hall which occupies the space where the garage steps used to be or, better yet, relocated upstairs when the second floor is renovated, given that 90% of all laundry would be generated upstairs.

    I liked John’s idea to open up the wall between the kitchen and the stairs leading down to the front entry, as it would improve the sightlines between the kitchen and the living area. I have also added a bit of a home administration area in the middle as a place to put the family computer, pay bills, do homework, etc.


  • Terri

    Louis, I loved you “Eye on the Kids” annotations! I have only one ammendment: The toys should be scattered throughout the space from front to back and outside too!;)

    Doug, I like your idea of the sunken living room too. The only thing is, now there are two sets of stairs to choose from if one is going from kitchen/dining to bathroom/garage. Seems a little too much redundance in such a tight space.

  • John Brown

    I also like the idea of lowering the living room floor in order to reduce the height difference between the exterior terrace and the living room. However, I think that in this case it would be an expensive thing to do as part of a remodel and could also reduce the viability of the basement unit.

  • Brenda

    I just wanted to comment on how dynamic and fun the posts regarding this plan have been. There are elements I like or want to research from almost every contribution.

    The site is becoming more exciting and it’s growing each week!

    Congratulations John! (and slowhome)

  • Louis Pereira

    Terri – i actually considered doing just that (toys everywhere) including a whole wall of toy storage in the garage, but alas i dared to dream of a tidy uncluttered house.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    I have been thinking about all the options presented.
    I am partial to the dining area in closer proximity to the kitchen than the “living room”.
    I like Terri’s suggestion of a closeable quiet area.
    I like the extra touches Louis added to extend the living area out into the deck.
    While it would be nice to have the laundry closer to the bedrooms, I think keeping them on the entry level would get my vote; simply for keeping the noise further from the living quarters.

  • Tony

    john, i love your new plan with the kitchen at the front. I never would have thought of that. However, I would make the furniture at the back of the house face towards the same wall at the fireplace and put the TV on that wall and leave a walking space behind to access the laundry and powder area. i dont like to look at that slider door from the couch. other than that I love it and i have been practicing in paint shop so maybe i will try a post next time although it is somewhat scary for me!

  • Elizabeth

    Hi, First-time responder, but long(er)-time lurker. This is a fascinating site, thanks!

    John, your design is a big improvement, and I have a couple of questions.

    I wonder about positioning the kitchen sink at the “front door” window. You’re basically looking into your neighbour’s living room window just a few feet away. So, although it’s nice to get the light, feel of outdoors etc, I don’t think I’d use this window as one you just stand in front of (like you do at a sink). What do you think?

    Also, wondering about putting the stove on the island. If there are little kids, I’d keep the stove away from where there is an eating bar, so children can sit there, and be away from pot handles, hot elements, steam etc.

    Sorry I’m late with this. And thanks again!

  • John Brown


    Sorry for the oversight with the missing scale. I don’t know how it got dropped from the drawing. It has been corrected and will be on all design project drawings from now on.

  • John Brown

    Thank you for the comment. It is great to hear from a “first timer’.

    With respect to the kitchen window and the stove location, you bring up good points that would need to be resolved with the client during the detailed design. At a concept level a designer typically tries to get the big moves sorted out – where do the major elements go, what is the spatial feel of the house, how does the inside connect with the outside, and how does the circulation work. The next stage, which would typically start next, is to start refining the details within this broad concept design.

    Your questions are exactly the ones that the designer would start to discuss with her clients at that time.

    With respect to the window there are several options.
    1. Depending on the actual view, it may be acceptable as is.
    2. Patterned glass could be used to allow light while maintaining privacy.
    3. The sink could be moved to another location in the kitchen so that the window is less about standing and looking out.
    4. If upper cabinet space is a real issue then the window could be re-framed into a very short opening that sits in between the counter and the underside of the upper cabinet.

    With respect to the location of the stove or cooktop, you bring up a very important point. Depending on client preference the island may not be the best location. Some people like it because it allows you to look out when you cook, provides more work surface for preparation, and keeps the mess around the kitchen sink at the back of the kitchen away from the island. But the issue of little hands and hot surfaces is a constant consideration as well. In my experience the preference is about 50-50 amongst our clients.