HOW TO: Design the floor plan

HOW TO: Design the floor plan

Here’s one way to design the floor plan…

First, make some design control decisions:

  1. Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you want.
  2. Decide if you want a great room for the kitchen and living room, or if you want them separate.
  3. Decide if you want a separate formal dining room or one integrated with the great room.
  4. Decide how many floors you want, including the basement, and on which floor to place each room.
  5. Think about flow patterns, how you get from one room to the next.
  6. Think about the general exterior shape you want for the house.  Is it a cost-efficient rectangle, with no or only a few bump-outs?  Or does it have a more complicated shape?
  7. Think about going in and out of doors, and looking through windows.

Work on the flow concept:

  1. Begin on paper rather than with software.  It’s much faster and easier this way.
  2. Don’t think of the actual walls of the house yet, just think of conceptual units.
  3. You’ll need to do this many times, so start with a fresh notepad.
  4. Your going to draw separate boxes per room, with lines connecting the boxes to indicate flow between rooms.
  5. Start with a single box for the living room.
  6. Then draw another box for the kitchen and another for the dining room/area.
  7. Connect these three boxes with lines, indicating the flow between them.  If you can’t get directly from one to another, then don’t draw a line between them.
  8. Make sure none of the lines cross!  So far, with only three rooms, this should be easy.
  9. Slowly add other rooms, at one box per room.
  10. Also add boxes for exterior doors and windows.  Remember, every bedroom needs egress (emergency exit) through a door or window.
  11. Also add boxes for stairs that connect floors, and even boxes that appear on multiple floors for rooms that are multiple stories high.
  12. You want to end up with a drawing having all the boxes in place.  The lines connecting boxes represent common walls with doorways (or exterior windows, or a maybe kitchen-pantry pass-through).  None of the lines can cross, because you can’t have three sides to a wall!  Also, your exterior features like doors and windows must be around the border of your drawing (unless you want a hole in the middle of your house, like a courtyard).
  13. Each time you finish a version of your drawing, consider the size of each room.  Perhaps you’re now drawing boxes of different sizes, roughly representing the room size.  Perhaps you started with only legal egress windows, but now you have lots of them, thus forcing particular rooms to the outer walls of the house and on particular sides.  It’s all a topology game!
  14. Eventually, you’ll have a few versions you like.  Now you’re ready to try to draw it formally.  Just be prepared to discover that things don’t quite work out for one or more of the versions.

Design the formal floor plan:

  1. Purchase or download free floor plan design software.
  2. Try to convert one of your box-and-line drawings to an actual rough floor plan.  You’ll find that you need to stretch and alter things.  But don’t worry too much about exact fit yet.
  3. Add to the drawing additional room features.  For example, don’t forget to have a closet in every bedroom, a coat closet near the entry door or mud room, closets in the bathrooms, etc.  This may cause severe modifications to your box-and-line drawing.
  4. Cobble all the box-and-line drawing boxes together, with “real” walls of the proper type (such as straight walls, if you want them straight).  Pay attention to the exterior shape of the house

Put a roof on it:

  1. Now, all of a sudden, you’ll discover how the roof controls the shape of the house.  If it’s too difficult to put on the roof, then you can’t afford that floor plan.  Roof design is going to be tough enough that I’m breaking it up into a separate post.

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