Planning your family’s home

The one-cook kitchen. A small, hard-to-clean bathroom. A garage too crowded for cars. Think hard enough, and you’ll probably find a quirk or two-or several-in your home’s floor plan. Bring these troubles to the drawing board when you design your next house. By tweaking a stock floor plan, you can eliminate problem spots before they’re built.

Look at how a new home can best serve your family. If you’re in for a lifestyle change-say, having children-visualize how a reorganized home can simplify your life. To help you get started, check out the following family scenarios.

Mom and dad with small children Many young families struggle to make the most out of tight floor plans. They want to create a safe environment for little ones, while accommodating their own busy lives. Here’s a room-by-room rundown.

Kitchen

Plenty of work space, including two sinks and nice spans of countertop, will help the cook (or two) make sure little mouths are fed.

An open kitchen/family room arrangement and windows facing the backyard will let you keep an eye on children during meal preparation and cleanup.

Make sure an island or peninsula separates the family room from the work core to help keep curious hands away from hot pots and pans and other kitchen dangers.

You’ll likely eat most of your meals in a breakfast or family room next to the kitchen. Make space there for a table and chairs; it is unsafe for children to perch on stools pulled up to an island.

Family room

Trading in a living room for a larger family room probably makes sense. Chances are, you’ll spend most of your time together in the more casual space.

Bedrooms

The closer your room is to the children’s, the better. You’ll want to be nearby to help them through the morning routine; they’ll want you nearby in case of bad dreams. Plan logical spots for beds and other furniture.

Remember valuable closet space.

Bathrooms

The family bath should have a lowside tub for bathing young children. Although it’s wise to plan a 36inch-high vanity for adults, 30 inches is more appropriate for children.

Mom and dad with teenagers

When the kids reach their teens, everything changes-meal times, privacy needs, and recreation space. These tips may help smooth the ride through the tough transition years.

Kitchen

Kids’ appetites aren’t curbed once they hit the teen years; if anything, you’ll need more kitchen work space, a large pantry, and an additional freezer.

Plenty of space eases the work of multiple cooks, especially if your children are taking over some cooking responsibilities.

Because it can be difficult to get together for mealtimes, an eating island or peninsula is the most convenient setup.

Family room

Keep the living room or plan a den so you have your own place to read and catch the news.

A recreation room gives the kids a place for rowdier fun.

Even if your children don’t cook, plan on a family room adjacent to the kitchen as a spot for them to hang out and update you on the day.

Bedrooms

The master bedroom doesn’t need to be as close to the others as when your children were young-stereoblasted rock music reverberating against your wall proves it. Site your bedroom at a different end, or floor, of the house, and treat it as a private retreat. You might even try to include a sitting area.

See that your children’s rooms provide suitable conditions for doing homework by setting aside space for a desk or planning built-ins. Also remember your kids will need room to store their worldly possessions, both in the form of display shelves and adequate closets. Many secondary bedrooms provide little closet space, so you may need to maximize what space there is with a closet organizer system.

Bathrooms

Plan two sinks in the family bath if you have more than two children.

A tub/shower combination or shower works best as kids get older.

A couple

Before kids, after kids, or no kids at all, couples have special needs too.

Kitchen

A small kitchen may serve you fine, considering you’re preparing smaller meals and not bumping into kids. But if you sometimes cook for guests or participate in a gourmet club, a large kitchen may better suit your entertaining needs. In that case, two sinks, large runs of countertop, and space for food storage is essential.

You may find a formal dining room more useful than other families, but for daily meals, still plan for an eat-in kitchen or breakfast room.

Family room

If you’ve owned homes before, you probably already know whether you are family-room-type folks. Entertainment centers and overstuffed chairs are at home here. But others may choose to invest their square-footage budget elsewhere.

Locate the family room near the kitchen for convenience.

Bedroom

Only one bedroom in the house is truly important-yours. Especially if you’re an empty nester, you may want to locate it on the home’s main floor. Be sure closet space is plentiful and that there’s space for your bedroom set.

Secondary bedrooms will likely become guest rooms. Double suites (master and guest) often work better than the standard arrangement of master and secondary bedrooms. The extra suite, equipped with a bath, will provide guests a comfortable space of their own. Because they only visit once in a while, try to plan zoned heating and cooling-so you can shut the unit off or turn the guest area’s thermostat down to save on energy.

Bathrooms

Equip the master bath with two sinks to best serve your needs during the morning routine.

If you enjoy a deep soak in the evening, count on a large tub. Or, if vou don’t like that form of bathing, you may simply want a shower-perhaps with two showerheads.

All families

Some planning issues apply to all family situations.

Working, sleeping, and living zones should be separate. Locate the often-noisy family room away from the bedrooms.

Square footage should be useful. Plan rooms spacious enough to handle furniture groupings, but not so large that you lose out on intimacy. Lofty foyers and expansive living rooms are classic space wasters.

Furniture arrangements must fit well into the plan. For example, make sure the master bedroom has wall space well-suited to a king- or queen-size bed and nightstands. See whether the family room includes a spot for the TV away from the glaring sun. And throughout the home, keep traffic paths from crossing through conversation areas.

Because so many of us need a place to organize paperwork and tap into the computer, a home office is a floor plan priority. Your work style dictates whether to incorporate the office into the center of the home or separate it from the activity. A kitchen desk area-equipped with a computer and storage files-may work out if you want to keep an eye on your kids. A more secluded office will serve you better if your job requires fewer disturbances. Also decide whether vour family will share one computer; if so, you may need to schedule time slots to give evervone a chance to use it. Otherwise, plan a separate computer spot for your children or mate.

It’s best to locate a laundry room close to where dirty clothes are generated. If you or vour children often come home dirty from work, school, or sports activities, put this room near the garage or back door. If this isn’t an issue, design a laundry space close to the bedrooms.

A garage with three bays works best for most families. Park the cars in two of the spaces; plan for storage or a workshop in the third. The garage should be near the kitchen to ease carrying groceries from the car. Also, work with the design so the garage is positioned at the side or the rear of the house. A flat garage door shouldn’t be the front facade’s dominant feature. Some fine points in a floor plan are easy to overlook. Study your plan for details, such as steps up and down between rooms, window and wall location, ceiling heights, and placement of electrical outlets.

A kitchen that steps down into a family room may seem harmless enough, but it means children and guests will take many spills through the years. Avoid such hazards.

If you’re unaccustomed to visualizing a blueprint in three dimensions, hire an architect or designer to walk you through the plan or plans you like best.

Most professionals who design modest-size homes for a living can provide "walk-through" consultatons for $100 or less.

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