Monday, September 12, 2011

Oh Brother: You Need A Plan

This is where he does his best thinking....

The two weeks following the date of purchasing their fixer-upper, my Brother and his Girlfriend were thrust into a whirlwind of planning sessions and shopping trips. By the end of Week 1 I had helped them finalize the new layouts for the kitchen and bathrooms and by the end of week 2 most of the key materials and fixtures had been selected.  'Whirlwind' is an understatement.  If they expected any part of this house to be 'liveable' just 3 weeks after their upcoming closing (aka demolition day), they were already waaay behind schedule. 

The existing plans for the house are shown below, (click here for some before photos) without a doubt the best features of the house were the generous sized 2nd floor bathroom and the spacious sized 3rd floor master suite with its walk-out terrace and ensuite bathroom.  Even though the fixtures and finishes were beyond outdated these were fantastic spaces!  The not so great features about the house were the tiny galley kitchen and the awkward living room space with its multiple entryways and fireplace.

The main focus for the re-design would be to open up the main floor as much as possible and rework the 3rd floor ensuite (eliminating the party sized hot tub from the bedroom area).  On my first visit to the house, up on the third floor I immediately also wanted to mirror the closets on either side of the balcony doors which would double the closets space and create a dressing area.  I would then use whatever space was left over from the existing ensuite and hot tub area to design the new ensuite...

The homewner's proposed plans

When my brother sent me the base floor plans for the house he also included his own layout ideas for the two bathrooms, shown above.  I wasn't a fan of either of these layouts (sorry T), feeling like they didn't maximum the space. I didn't feel the second floor guest washroom really warranted a soaking tub and a seperate shower.  On the third floor, I didn't like the way the space had become quite narrow at the top of the stairs, really dividing the large open space in half and,, secondly the pair of vanities directly opposite each other just didn't have enough space between them for this to work.

Before I start space planning I toss aside any pre-existing proposed plans that are passed on to me by clients and I look at the space with a clean slate.  First I try to work with the existing elements as much as possible.   If I can achieve everything the homeowner is looking for and not have to do major reworking, that's ideal.  If that's not possible then exploring all possible options is the next step, which is where we started here.   I came up with at least half a dozen different layout options for the third floor and below is the final layout we all agreed on.

The Third Floor Master Suite

There are so many things I love about this layout,,the open area at the top of the stairs, the dressing area with double closets flanking the patio doors with treetop views.  The bench in the middle would be perfect for changing/dressing and above this would be a pendant fixture to highlight this area.  I love all the features that were accommodated in the ensuite while working around an awkward chimney wall.  Whenever possible I try to AVOID placing a toilet directly opposite the entrance door to a bathroom but in this case it was the least worst compromise that had to made to achieve everything desired.  We couldn't put the toilet in front of the chimney wall so that alone limited its location.  The benefits; a large walkin shower, a large soaking tub and a generous size double vanity.  Besides, I promised the toilet would be gorgeous one!  

There will be a glass wall seperating the shower from the bedroom area that I have to tell you, I was out-voted on, (hey, bottom line is its not my house).  I'm not a fan of these 'exhibition' style showers for many reasons but I've convinced these childless homeowners to at least consider a semi-opaque glass which will transmit light but still provide visual privacy.   And here I was worried about the toilet being in the line of sight from the doorway!! : /

Second Floor Bathroom

This is the layout I came up with for the second floor bathroom or what I would refer to as the 'family bathroom'.  Its located on the second floor which has 2 bedrooms, one of which will be used as a guest bedroom, the other a tv room/den.  I elminated the separate soaking tub my brother had proposed and opted for a combination soaking tub/shower unit.  By eliminating the separate tub, it allowed enough room to add a luxe 72" long double vanity - a highly desireable feature in any family home.   For overnight guests travelling as couples or visiting with children, the extra sink would be a luxury.  For guests, the tub would offer either a nice place to soak after a long trip or a rejuvinating shower, and for future resale, a tub in the main bathroom would be a feature all moms would look for.   I love that this bathroom is so spacious, there's actually room to add a piece of furniture, an attractive bench below the window will be a great sightline from the hallway and a convenient spot to sit and dry your toes.

The Kitchen

I presented the proud new homeowners with at least 8 different kitchen layout options and this was the winning plan.  Of course they wanted an island, (the number one request for any kitchen redesign I take on) and number two,,,they wanted it opened up to the dining and living areas.  By removing the wall between the kitchen and the old living room I was able to tick both these boxes.  Although not really a true island, its a peninsula configuration that's narrow at only 24" wide, I was able to provide some knee space at one end.  The addition of the peninsula has doubled the counter space the old kitchen had.  We also flipped the Living Room for the Dining room.  I particularly like the way the entire kitchen, dining room and outdoor deck flow, with access to the deck from both the dining room and kitchen.  Another great feature for entertaining is the small bar/servery area in nook right beside the patio doors.   

We opted for a straight-line kitchen (with the sink, range and fridge all in line) as opposed to putting the sink in the 'island'.  A straightline is one of my favorite kitchen configs, from personal experience I find it highly functional and from a space perspective its extremely efficient.  I prefer the sink in line with the fridge and range, it eliminates the constant drips on the floor from going back and forth from range top to sink.  As you can see the space is really tight in the dining room so we couldn't go with a deeper peninsula and in fact have plans to use a narrow dining table.  More on the kitchen design details in an upcoming post.

For any renovation, without a doubt the most important element is the space plan.  If you don't have a plan that works efficiently, it doesn't matter how much money you spend on finishes or fixtures, the end result will be an expensive mistake.  The bottom line is a poorly planned interior will negatively effect the value of your home.   The key is that a well planned layout doesn't cost more to build than a poorly planned layout (in fact most often it will actually cost less) but a poorly planned layout, for the same build cost, will have less value.   I'm relieved and happy that I've helped my brother and his girlfriend avoid some of the major pitfalls I see most diy renovators make with space planning, well at least on paper anyways!

Speaking of finishes,,,,,,,before the ink even dried on these final layouts, major decisions and purchases were made for many of the key materials for the reno such as kitchen cabinets, counter tops, flooring, backsplash, bathroom tiles and plumbing fixtures.  We squeezed in a showroom/shopping blitz before I had to catch a plane out of town (then literally, I abandoned them).  Here's a sneak peek at some of the initial purchases that will inspire the rest of the interior.

You may notice the lovely freestanding tub in the collage above,,,,and that neither of my bathroom plans called for a freestanding tub.  This is what happens when two excited new homeowners go showroom shopping without their 'designer',,,,, they see something and fall in love and its on SALE and now they must have it.  They email their 'designer' a photo declaring their new tub love,,,the designer tells them this tub is too big for their budget and their space,,,,,but they buy it anyways.  They are convinced I can make it work.  Sigh.  And so the changes begin....

All Photos, Plans, Images:   Carol Reed


  1. Such a big project! Nice tub, by the way :-) I think they made a *great* choice haha

  2. Oh, oh, oh! I can SO sympathise with your last comments! How often that has happened to me I cannot tell you! (I got a good chuckle out of reading your last paragraph.)

    A brilliant plan Carol - this is obviously your specialty! It is efficient with space, but also glamourous and practical.

  3. This could be a show!
    "Brother, can you spare a dime?"
    Cannot wait to see it all!

  4. Regarding your promise for a gorgeous toilet...My husband & I took a tour of an old home built in the late 1800's for a prominent family in Deadwood, South Dakota. It had a toilet made of milk glass. Very pretty!

  5. What a great post - love the plans of the before and after of the space. I love how you walk readers through your thought process of space planning.

  6. nice! love all the proposed revisions. the only thing I didn't see, and that a small part inside me always screams out, is to straighten out the wonky corner and closet of bedroom #2. I realize the hallway/landing is tight, so all the more reason for a little reframing to add some nice square angles for the closet partitions, door frame etc. and the world will be right again

  7. The stairs and some other details are not accurately or completely drawn in at this point - the second floor hallway is wider than what this shows, as it appears here to be only about 18" wide!. the main concern for this initial measure/planning was the bathrooms and kitchen. A second site measure was done about a week later so the plans could be completed and detailed further. That wall you mention is a load bearing wall and there are no plans to relocate or straighten it. But in person, I've walked that hallway dozens of times and have never even noticed that its angled, its just not something thats even noticeable. In this plan view it looks odder than it actually is. The staircases however have now all been replaced and slightly reconfigured because THEY had some weird angles...

  8. Great solution Carol...looks amazing...and so true about the drips on the kitchen floor...I can't even watch Brian clean up!


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