Planning the Cottage Interior: The First Floor!

It’s been a minute since we checked in on the old Bluestone Cottage, hasn’t it? This time of year always feels especially warp-speed-ish. I can’t be the only one who feels like this. It’s like October lasted 10-15 minutes, November went on for roughly the blink of an eye, and now it’s basically 2015, which more than likely means another year has gone by and, once again, I failed to make good on any of my resolutions. I have still used my gym membership exactly once, my email inbox remains a total disgrace for which I have yet to devise an effective system, my body has still never been cleansed with juice for multiple days…WHERE did 2014 go? I guess for 2015 I’ll just roll over everything from 2014 and maybe add “avoid attacks by swarms of leeches,” just to feel like I have new and accomplishable goals. Anyway, not the point. Ignore me.

I kind of wish things were moving faster in renovation-land, though.

Good News:

1. The cottage is still standing.

2. I’m still alive.

3. My house is also still standing.

4. Spoiler: the framing at the cottage is pretty much DONE. And has been for a few weeks.

Bad News:

1. Ideally, the next steps would be running the new HVAC system, roughing in plumbing, diving into the electrical, insulating, and starting the real fun of new walls and fixtures and finishes and all that jazz. Unfortunately, I need gas to do the HVAC, and the gas line running from the main at the street to the house needs to be redone. For reasons that are almost too complicated and definitely too annoying to even really get into, I’ve been trying to get the utility company to do this for about 6 weeks at this point, and I really don’t know when it will happen. It’s mega-annoying. It’s also probably the worst time of year to try to be booking the plumber, since winter usually means burst pipes and emergencies and everyone trying to get their heat systems working at once, and I’m not really an emergency. Anyway. Hopefully the next couple of weeks will see more progress than the last few have!

2. It is COLD outside. And without a heat system, the inside of the cottage is exactly as cold as the outside. Which makes it a very difficult place to work. Hence the lack of progress. I’m trying to muster the strength to go over there for a few hours for a good pre-plumbing-extravaganza-clean-out, but I’m a wimp. I really just need to bundle up and bring a little space heater and completely dissociate from my body and it’ll all be OK. Or I’ll die. One of the two.

3. The exterior of the cottage is close to complete-ish, but not quite there. The windows all still need lots of work, some of which might be above my skill set and necessitate the abilities and tools of a professional. There are still a few things I need to paint, but I’m worried it’s too cold. Maybe we’ll get a warm day when I can bang it out.

4. The stall caused by the HVAC/plumbing stuff at the cottage has forced me back inside my own house, thereby forcing me to confront all the work that I still need to do. Progress seems freakishly, comically slow and drawn-out. There is still no library, no pantry, nary a wall has been painted since the dining room, and I’m getting antsy and impatient. I’ve been chipping away at some stuff, though, so my goal is to check some big items off the list before the cottage consumes me again. If our own house was even a little less under construction, I think I’d feel a lot better, but right now the amount of stuff left to do is kind of overwhelming and the house is a damn mess.

SO. I haven’t really been sure how to blog about all the new framing work. It’s hard to just show pictures of it happening because it won’t make a ton of sense, and the pictures themselves are sort of hard to decipher. I’ll be back in a separate post to talk about the process of it all, but I figured a logical place to kick this thing off would be reviewing the floor plan. We’ve already done a pre-demo tour of the upstairs and the downstairs, but I know that it’s difficult to understand the space as a whole without seeing it all laid out! Hopefully this will help. This post is kind of long so I’ll save the second floor plan for next time.

Sound like a plan? GREAT.

Oh, FYI, my SketchUp skills are really elementary and these renderings were just for my own reference, the building department, and for me to help explain stuff to Edwin as we actually built it. None of the furniture is even remotely what I see in here; it was just helpful to have a sense of how things would fit. So ignore the ugly.

1STFLOORBEFOREANDAFTER

The bottom of the picture is the front of the house, just in case that wasn’t clear!

So—some big changes! Pretty much the only thing I was sure about when I bought the house was that the wall in the front had to go. It created this small, awkward room at the front of the house that just felt like completely wasted space. This house is really just too small to have some sort of entrance space like that, or a sun room different than the living room, or whatever. In the new plan, the wall gets blown out and the space becomes part of the living room.

Naturally, everyone who looked at the wall prior to demo said it didn’t seem to be load-bearing, but as a few readers guessed the first time I mentioned taking the wall out, it was load-bearing! That doesn’t mean that the wall can’t come out, it just means that a beam needs to go in its place to carry the load. I know that sounds like a huge deal but it really wasn’t.

frontview1

This is just a section cut showing how things look when you take the front wall of the house away, and the effect of removing that first interior wall. I know this living room looks very stupid and ridiculous in the model, but it won’t be in real life! It’s a nice size, but I didn’t want to make it too big…since the ceiling height is so low, I think it would feel really strange if the room was too expansive. Like someone’s finished basement. This feels right for this house, and it’s plenty big for a normal couch, a couple chairs, and a credenza or bookshelves or something. I intentionally designed it so there would be multiple possible/practical furniture layouts, which is sort of a luxury for a relatively small space.

One of the most significant changes to the first floor is shifting the through-traffic to the left side of the house instead of sort of awkwardly cutting through the center. It’s obviously a very simple plan but I think it will work a lot better, especially with furniture. Wouldn’t it be annoying to get from the living room, through the dining room, and into the kitchen with the old plan? Once you put a dining room table in the middle of the room? I like this much more.

iso

You might notice that a window disappeared in the living room area! I really resisted moving or replacing any windows, and ideally would have done it before the house was painted, but I wasn’t sure about the interior when that was happening and it ended up falling right in the middle of that wall. I’m still considering whether I should put a couple small windows back on that wall…the large windows in the front let in lots of light, and that view on the side isn’t nice, so I’m sort of inclined to just patch in the clapboard outside and call it a day.

I went back and forth on putting a half bath in this house, but it’s one of those modern conveniences that people like, should increase the property value, and shouldn’t cost a ton to do. That small space before it I’m picturing as a small coat/storage closet. I know it’s sort of a strange arrangement to walk through to get to the bathroom, but I think it makes the bathroom feel a little more secluded and out of the way than having a door right in the living room. It also preserves that wall in the living room as a place you could put a couch on or a sideboard or whatever. I think if I buy or build a wardrobe thing with doors, it won’t feel awkward.

The dining room is staying more or less the same, except for the wall to the right of the chimney (elegantly represented here by that square pillar thing). I went back and forth on this, too…pre-renovation, it had been opened up as kind of a pass-through bar thing, which was sort of nice for the amount of light it let into the dining room. I know opening up spaces like that is popular with modern renovations, but I don’t really like seeing it in old houses, so I decided to close the wall back up! I think aligning the doorways and creating a straight shot from the front door to the back of the house will actually make the house seem more open than it was before, even though it’s really more closed up. Anyway, I like the idea of building some kind of storage into that space, like an old china cabinet/hutch situation. Maybe I can find something good salvaged, but if not I wouldn’t mind trying to DIY it. I’ve never built cabinets before!

kitchenbeforeafter

The “before” rendering of the kitchen is pretty generous since there weren’t actually cabinets or a sink when I bought the house, but I think this is similar to how things might have been set up. In any case, the big decision in here was whether or not to cover over the old basement stairs. Those stairs were originally on the exterior of the structure, but the addition of the kitchen brought them indoors. Maintaining the original stairs would have meant either boxing in the opening with walls, a banister, or devising a clever trap door solution…all of which were not really ideal solutions in my mind. I didn’t want to make the kitchen feel smaller with more walls and the trap door makes the basement sort of lousy as usable space (since access would be a hassle) and means that that area of the kitchen couldn’t really be used for anything else. I asked Edwin for a separate quote to add new basement stairs stacked under the original staircase and it was $800, plus another $400 to frame in the old opening and do some significant repair work to the existing joists under the kitchen floor, some of which had rotted due to water damage. It’s another one of those costs I wish I could have avoided, but that price seemed really reasonable and entirely worth it. The kitchen can be so much nicer as a result! So in the new plan, I have the fridge and some tall pantry-type cabinets on that wall, and a straight run of cabinets (lowers, but no uppers) with the stove and sink opposite. I think the kitchen is going to be great! I love a good kitchen renovation.

I hope that clears up the first floor! I’ll be back with second floor plans ASAP and we can all find out together how many horrendous SketchUp models we can look at before our eyes start to bleed. It’ll be fun!


129 Comments

  1. This is so well thought-out. And you are right that the dining room would’ve been annoying the way it was. I know because our has has the dining room at the center, with kitchen, hallway to bedrooms/bathroom, and large open centered archway to living room all off of it. The dining room continued to be awful wherever I put our rectangular table- all the furniture was basically pushed to the edges to allow passage. Fortunately I found a nice 45-inch round Danish table on craigslist, with two large leaves we can put in when we need them. Still not ideal, but it works pretty well.

    Anyway, I love that you are thinking through all these things for the house’s next owner. That person will be lucky lucky lucky!

    • Thank you, Lesley! I feel like I’m going to be jealous of this person when all is said and done! And then I’ll go back to my construction site house and drink about it. :)

    • Yep, you can bet the farm you are going to be jealous! – the bane of a flipper, who as you usually has a million to-dos at their own house. I think it’s just part of it-is-what-it-is. I LOVE what you’ve decided, and it’s going to look so great! It does sound like you’ve reached that inevitable stage of overwhelm and lack of control (with the gas people) – it happens. Other flippers out there? Tell him! It’s ok. Don’t run from it. My dad used to say, you can go over it or under it, but through it is usually the best. I don’t have a blog, so I don’t know how that might help/hinder, but FWIW, one thing that helps me when I get stuck is to do something (or several somethings) totally creative and fun! Like you built the bench. Chipping off on the list is valuable, but sometimes doing an art piece, or building a piece of furniture – anything that’s not really logical at this particular time, but just feels good – will give me the energy to get back to the drudgery. Good Work!

      • Thank you, KathyG! That’s helpful to hear right now! I don’t easily overwhelm I don’t think…I’m fine with it all (this is what I signed up for!) but it definitely is frustrating. And you’re absolutely right about the small project thing. Some of what I’ve been up to sort of kind of falls in that category, and it does feel good!

  2. Many grand Victorian homes had an ensuite cloakroom/vestibule and powder room – (the home I lived in as a kid did – one of Nicole Curtis’ house had that, too, though I forget which one…). It’s actually a good use of space. There doesn’t seem to be much storage space in the house so having some sort of closet or built in space to store coats and stuff in that space would certainly increase appeal/value.

    • It’s not a grand Victorian, but my sisters working -class Edwardian home has a walk though closet access before the bathroom. So you walk from Dining room > tiny space with closet door on right > into bathroom. The bathroom had to be completely re-build due to many horrible updates (that raised the floor and lowered the ceiling over 18″). When the walls were gutted we found framing for another door into the tiny in-between space coming in from the ground floor bedroom also.

  3. As someone with both a father and a mother-in-law who can’t walk up or down stairs, a first floor powder room was a non-negotiable for us while house hunting. Kudos to you for including one – it means whoever lives in the house can entertain disabled guests and not worry about them being able to use the restroom. For people who want their friends and family to enjoy their home, a first floor powder room is very important.

    • That’s a good point, Sarah, and admittedly not something I’d really thought about! Thanks for bringing it up!

      • You will have to make sure the access follows the appropriate guidelines for required door width and arc sweep though.

  4. I think your new configuration is really brilliant. So happy you’re sealing up that opening between the kitchen and dining room. I tend to be a purist in these matters as well, especially when it come to these god awful rectangle cutouts.

    One suggestion I would make is to rethink your range/sink placement so you have a bit more counter space between your sink and stove. I do a bit of design work, and though I usually work with an architect specializing in kitchens, I’ve learned throughout the years what works and what people look for. Perhaps you don’t want the range in the sightline of your dining room, which I get, but for prep purposes you want at least 36″ between stove & sink.

    Great work!

    • Thanks, Andrew! The kitchen is still a little while off, so I’m definitely still considering options! I do feel like, though, in small spaces it can be REALLY hard to achieve that 36″ ideal that you’d find in new construction, especially while avoiding ending up with some other really awkward layout decisions…and it’s OK. I’ve lived and worked in plenty of kitchens that fall wayyyyy short of that standard, and I’ve never felt like it was a big deal! Also keep in mind that there’s over 6 feet of prep space on the other side of the stove. The kitchen has three windows and three doorways, so the options are a bit limited! But I totally hear what you’re saying…I’ll keep mulling.

  5. You have a plan and aren’t looking for suggestions I’m sure, but could it be an option to move the powder room to the middle where the coat closet is and then do a closet that opens to the living room? It would create a larger storage space and make the bathroom easier to get to.
    Love how it’s looking though! Don’t worry about the sketchup, it’s a great tool even to just get the point across to whoever needs it!

  6. Hey Daniel, off-on-a-tangent thought that struck me while I was reading this was that if I ever saw you walking on a street, I’m totally going to embarrass you and myself by doing some kind of gesticulating and screaming at you excitedly – but as I imagined this however wonderful but unlikely event – we live on different continents – I felt certain that I’ll not scream Daniel but Manhattan-Nest!! So, perhaps, in the interest of making people look less crazy and actually building your own brand name – maybe time for a new website name? http://www.Daniel-Kanter.com

    Thanks for all the fun!!
    Hugs to the dogs! :)

  7. Looks great! In the kitchen, would you consider wrapping the counter around on the left side (closest to the dining room) so that the window is over the counter, rather than being half over the counter and half over the wall? You could tuck a few bar stools under the L-shaped part of the counter, or have more cabinets there–I’m just trying to think of how to make the window placement not awkward.

    Can’t wait to see the upstairs!

    • Yes, this! Even if it’s not a full-depth counter under the window (maybe with an angled or rounded corner?), it would be a natural spot to drop keys or mail or whatever.

      • Good idea! A less-than-counter-depth return under that straddling window. If it’s done as a narrow extension of the countertop itself with no cabinet below, it wouldn’t interfere with the sightline from the front of the house to the back wall. It just becomes a floating landing strip, anchoring the window above.

      • I’ll think about it! That space is only about 2.5′ wide, so not really big enough for 2 barstools. The window placement doesn’t honestly bother me that much!

  8. I am a residential architect and I can really appreciate the way you made the powder room private. So many homes end up having the powder room off of a public space and its inevitably awkward. Also, considering the scale of this house its not a far journey to the coat closet from the front door. Kudos for considering the ceiling height when deciding the room width, many do not. I vote keeping the range out of sight from when you first walk in.

  9. I’m so glad you are adding a first-floor half-bathroom. We don’t have one in our house (built 1922) and while I’m sure that was normal when it was built, we really need one today! Eventually we’re going to close in a little of the living room to add one – I hope it won’t be too awkward, but the convenience will outweigh any minor aesthetic/flow issues, I think. I do like your solution to enter through a coat closet, that seems to make it more private. People don’t want to do their business all up in your business.

    • I don’t blame you! I’m so excited for my house to have two bathrooms…luckily the space is already there, I just need to renovate it. It’s amazing how often Max and I both seem to need/want to be in the bathroom at the same time…makes me crazy! I blame his extensive beauty routines.

  10. I really like that area before the half-bath. It gives some separation so if you are eating in the dining room or hanging out in the living room, you don’t feel so exposed using the bathroom. A nice hutch in there would be a great butler’s pantry situation or a place to store linens. I also like covering up the pass through. I like them better if they are looking in on a family room situation (that way you can be part of the party if you are stuck in the kitchen) but not as useful looking into a dining room. Great work! I’m so excited to see more progress!

  11. I really like the idea to stack the basement stairs under the original staircase, and also the addition of a powder room on the main floor. This little cottage is gonna function so much better with those changes! Good choices. :))

  12. I love the solution for the basement stairs. That was the part of the kitchen that I was most worried about. The old space was so scary (and we never did get pictures of more than the top of the stair down – it makes me curious what’s down there LOL.

    I’m impressed about the half bath but wonder if you need to place a window in there?

    The cottage is going to be so cute!

    • I’ll take some pictures of the basement when I have a little more progress to show! Right now it is BAD and scary and too dark to photograph!

    • I’m really curious about that basement too. Are you going to properly finish it, or just clean it up a bit?

      Also, I agree with maybe putting a small window in the bathroom for ventilation. Or if you skip the window and put a vent in, make it a good one! I’ve been in several windowless bathrooms where the fan/vent was a joke and it’s positively awful.

      • I won’t fully finish the basement, no. But I do think that some thorough cleaning and paint will make it just fine! It’s not a bad space, really…just dirty and overrun with old mechanical systems that are getting removed.

  13. welcome back..and totally agree about how time just flies this time of year…2015 indeed.

    love love lowers and no uppers….very english…just makes a small kitchen look huge…..as long as there is storage somewhere else of course….and I was wondering about that space beside the bathroom…good idea about the closet because it looks like it will be straight into the living room from the front door and those coats have to go somewhere…

    fingers crossed you get that gas line soon.

    take care….happy holidays!

  14. I know you said the framing was pretty much done, but I’m going to throw my hat in the ring for POCKET DOORS for the coat closet/powder room situation.

    Also a question: is the chimney only for the furnace or something? There don’t seem to be any fireplaces. Did there used to be fireplaces?

    • That powder room wall actually isn’t framed in, so it’s still an option! I love pocket doors. I’d be down.

      The chimney would have originally had a wood stove that heated the house (or whatever the structure was originally…), but that’s probably been decommissioned for a while. It was being used to vent the boiler when I bought the house, but it’s a big code violation and safety issue because it isn’t lined, so the new furnace will vent out the side of the house. I like having the chimney, though, just for some added texture and character since there is so little original left in the house. I think a little exposed brick will go a long way.

  15. Yippee!!! Thanks for updating. Everything looks so amazing and well thought out. The powder room is such a great addition tucked away for privacy.. something I really value as a visitor in another house. Fingers crossed you can get some heat into the place.

  16. I like the Sketch pictures. Helps make clear the thought and logic behind what you do, which is I think as valuable as your mastery of pretty. It can be so easy to be blinded by nice light, wood floors, and pretty paint – I like to see the underlying concepts. Thank youl

  17. The vestibule preceding the powder room really elevates your thoughtful design. I can envision a beautiful and useful coat closet with doors in that space.

    And keeping the range out of the long sightline as you have is best. In a small kitchen, a couple of steps this way or that to get to the main prep surface is inconsequential.

    • Thanks, Holland! That’s exactly how I feel about the kitchen…I’d rather have the stove and sink out of sight and relate well to the windows and stuff than worry too much about how many inches I have between stuff. In a space this small, I don’t think it matters that much!

  18. Oooh, I love floor plans! I know we all can’t help ourselves, but I have to say my one suggestion… What if you left off the wall/door at the beginning of the coat closet? If you are planning to put a furniture piece (wardrobe) there anyway, you wouldn’t need to close the area off with a door. Then opposite the wardrobe (the shared wall with the LR) might be a nice place for a mirror or key-drop shelf. Kind of a “delayed foyer” if you will. Maybe then it’s less strange entering the bathroom, since you wouldn’t be going through an enclosed closet (but the bathroom’s privacy is maintained – love that thoughtfulness).

    • Definitely an option! I do think it’s probably redundant to have both a door into the closet and doors on a wardrobe type of thing inside the closet. I still want a wall there, but I can definitely see it just being a doorway without an actual door.

  19. Daniel, I think a half-bath is a great addition, but I’m a little concerned about the need to walk through a windowless closet space to get to a windowless bathroom; it seems claustrophobic. Would you consider putting in a small high window, maybe with frosted glass, for some light and ventilation? And good luck with the gas company–I hope they get your line fixed soon.

    • Ditto to this, the difference between bathrooms and storage spaces with natural light and those without feels enormous to me! I don’t know if it’s feasible, but what about adding a window to the half-bath and a transom window above the doorway between the bathroom and storage space?

      • trotula—thanks! Unfortunately I think the ceiling height in this house is too low for transom windows, but I’ll measure my door collection again to make sure. I LOVE transoms but I think maybe for a different house. :)

    • I agree that perhaps some sort of natural light might be a good thing in this space. At least a small window.

    • I’ll certainly consider it, yes! It wouldn’t be a huge deal. I don’t personally mind a half bath without a window at all, but natural light is always nice too. :)

      • Maybe installing light sensors for the toilet/coat storage area would be an idea? Then it wouldn’t feel like going into a cave. I agree that a window isn’t essential for the space to function. Love your plans!

      • What about a frosted window in the bathroom door with a small window in the bathroom itself, light would filter through. Think the detective door, you could hand paint “w.c” on the door. I see big honking knobs on black sliding doors. Love the plans, really appreciate your work on these posts! 2″ marble hex floors, a wall sink with metal base. Just love it all!

  20. where have you been?! I thought maybe that house ate you or something.

    • Oh…around! I did go down to DC for a full week for Thanksgiving…my parents just moved, so instead of getting any work or blogging done, I just unpacked and reorganized their new apartment like a lunatic! My friend from SF came to visit right after I got back to Kingston, so the past couple weeks sort of got sucked into a black hole. It happens this time of year!

  21. Happy to see an update!
    I love the tucked away bathroom and storage addition is a major plus when it comes to a
    smaller home, you can never have enough really. I would make sure there are cable outlets on all walls that a TV can possibly go. Nothing more frustrating than wanting to move things and cannot because of the location of outlets.

  22. I really like the plan overall and especially the powder room. However I’m not too fond of the kitchen’s functionality.

    Most people end up working between the sink and the stove to prep for cooking so having at least 36″ would be ideal there for a one person space. I understand trying to avoid having sink and stove visible through from the front door and dining, but if you think about how the kitchen is used it also seems like people coming from the dining room have to walk to the very end of the kitchen, past the stove to put their plates away which also means while somebody is cooking others would be getting in the space to access the refrigerator and the sink. If you don’t allow for these additional people in the kitchen you’ve designed a “one butt” kitchen, which with as small as the space is having a well planned layout can make it feel larger when in use vs. small if you have no room to work around other people. I would consider looking at other options in the layout to provide more work space and allow more than one person to work in the kitchen at the same time.

    If you have no uppers does the sink really need to be in front of a window? I know it is the norm, but often when prepping you spend more time in one place than the sink, especially now that most have dishwashers, which I’m assuming you’ll have.

    Since you’ll always see the kitchen at an angle when walking in or standing in the kitchen I don’t think you need to worry about symmetry either.

    • Ooh, or another option on this theme could be to make the cabinets also go along the wall on the right, forming an L with the long run. Then you could put the stove there, put the sink in the middle of the main run, and avoid the problem of seeing either stove or sink from the dining room. I have a small kitchen, shaped similar to this, that is made vastly more functional by virtue of having the sink and stove on different walls with cabinets and a counter connecting them. It also makes it easier to have two people working in the kitchen at once–one person doing prep near the sink or washing dishes, the other at the stove. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

      • I like that idea. Here’s a quick sketch – requires reducing the pantry space some, but will improve kitchen function more and allow people to access fridge without bothering the cook or same with the sink, plus prep space is in front of the window. Much nicer than looking at the wall. If DW is on the left of the sink then one can load and do dishes and another can cook. Or 2 people can both prep on each side of the sink and still have access to the sink.

        Sketch: http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z178/lyfia/Capture-3.jpg

  23. I love seeing your posts in my feed! I got a good chuckle out of your approach to working in the cold. “I really just need to bundle up and bring a little space heater and completely dissociate from my body and it’ll all be OK. Or I’ll die.” Pretty much how I feel every time I have the leave the house these days.

    I think all of these decisions for the layout are very smart and it’s a definitely improvement to the overall space. I would argue that if you’re going to be repairing clapboard to patch the old window anywayyy, why not go ahead and make another hole and just move the window over so the bathroom has some natural light. That is probably way easier said than done, but there you go.

    I’m also intrigued by the bathroom-closet-built-in storage situation. I’m sure you will knock it out of the park.

    • Ha, you make the house sound like it’s made of legos! Putting a new window in would be a tad more complicated than that, but not terrible either. It’s definitely something I’ll consider!

  24. The new design is great. DH did say that the wall looked load-bearing, and I’ve learned from many years that DH has a bad habit of being right. I’m glad it was semi-simple to put in a beam, and I’m even gladder that your solution of putting basement stairs under the existing stairs is okay with code (and feasible, since apparently it won’t be undermining the support for the stairs). That was the best solution–and it’s great that you found it workable–I think your re-design is marvelous (well, okay, except for the kitchen–but everyone else has already mentioned the problems with workability there).

    The coat closet thing is nice–but if that were my house, I might want a little office area there. Not much–and probably I would have DH design it so that most of it folded up out of the way and closed up to look like a shallow armoire when I had people over–and I might even ask him to make me a fold-out solution to create a place to hang coats when I was entertaining (but to hide when not entertaining). I don’t know that you will want to do that yourself–but it might be something to consider making possible for the people who move in. A little private workspace right off the bathroom would be great for some people.

    If you are working in the cold–I hope you will buy some heated socks and gloves (Amazon sells these for hunters) and perhaps a coverall. When DH works outdoors in the winter, he has these, and he comes back in quite overheated sometimes–so maybe it will help to keep you warm. I look forward to seeing the second story!

    Oh, DH says “nice hammer” (on your “About Me” page–are you sure you don’t need to alter the text–as you aren’t really in the apartment that often anymore–well, still, nice hammer).

  25. Do you think the fridge and the pantry could be moved to the back wall of the kitchen(which is now empty)? Then you could add a tiny kitchen table and chairs–always good for breakfast.

    • Hmmm…I think trying to make the kitchen eat-in is a little ambitious! I think it would just be too many things going on. That wall isn’t really empty, since you need a few feet to maneuver in front of the doorway to the basement stairs, and the cabinets on the adjacent wall will come out 2 feet, so we’re really only talking about 3 or so feet there, which is about the width of a fridge, so there wouldn’t be room left for other storage.

      • What about a small (narrow?) island for additional prep? Not the same as a little breakfast table since there probably wouldn’t be room for stools, but it’d get the “I need my 36 inches of prep space!!!” people off your back. ;)

  26. Definitely like the passageway off to one side.
    I agree about increased counter space between sink & stove.
    SOME source of natural light in the bathroom, please.
    Forget the gym membership; go ahead & get carhartt overalls, cover your head & work out the way you usually do.
    PICS sometime, please. And enjoy your holidays in the midst of it all!!!!

    • Ok, I’m retracting my comment about the window in the powder room. I took some time & thought about the powder rooms in many of the houses I’m in regularly, and it’s about half & half. As long as the artificial light is good & it’s in a light color. Otherwise,with the lower ceiling it’d be claustrophobic. I’m sure it’ll be lovely.

  27. As a professional designer, I am wholeheartedly on board with all your layout plans. Flexible living room layouts? Merciful and kind. Circulation space on the left all the way back? Should have been like that all along. Moving the kitchen stairs? Completely worth the cost. Coat closet, even though you walk through it for the bathroom? DEFINITELY a great plan. I’d suggest making it a framed closet, not just a piece of furniture – the sides of furniture take up a surprising amount of otherwise-useable storage space – but it could be great either way. This is just awesome planning, if you ask me.

    SO glad you’re posting again! It is amazing how much I miss your posts when there’s a long stretch.

  28. Would it work to put the refrigerator in the middle of that wall and put thin cabinets on either side? Maybe with a tiny section of countertop, just enough for a coffee area or a radio? I’ve got a small set of cabinets like that, and the little bit of extra flat space is useful.

    • It’s possible, yes! I do like the idea of keeping small appliances off the main stretch of counter space.

  29. So glad to hear you’re still alive and your houses are still standing. It was great to see a floor plan, but I agree with some of the other commenters that a window in the bathroom would be nice. Of course in an old house a bathroom with no window is better than no bathroom on the ground floor!

  30. Daniel everything looks great and well thought out. Keep sink under window and stove where it is. No one works on a 36″ cutting board. There is enough space on other side. (And I cook for a living). Half bath does not need a window. Why? To look at that view? To cover it all up with a window treatment anyway? The closet you describe sounds great. So happy your able to move staircase to the dungeon. Happy Holidays to you and Max. Stay warm don’t get sick again.

  31. I saw this right after it dropped into my mailbox earlier today and love where you are taking this.

    I will agree with the others that the stove needs to be moved down to the left to create a bit more space
    between it, and the sink. If you must, don’t be afraid to nix that left back window in the kitchen to make it work. I would also rethink about nothing above, at least some shelves, and I’d also recommend a small to medium sized cabinet on at least one side of the stove for spices and such since they prefer being in a dark, coolish place anyway.

    Otherwise, this is looking good, at least on the main floor anyway. Can’t wait to see how to approach the upstairs.

  32. So this is probably just me, but I’ve been picturing a simple kitchen like the Plain English kitchens when you describe wanting just lower cabinets. It seems like a fitting look for a simple Victorian era cottage. (And how cool is the Shaker peg hanging system for uppers? http://www.plainenglishdesign.co.uk/shaker-style-kitchens.html) But a couple questions as someone who loves to cook and currently has horribly tiny kitchen. Have you considered splitting the pantry cabinets so that you could box in the frig in between them, and build the cabinets all the way to ceiling height? In small kitchens that space above modern cabinets is super useful. Also, cabinets reaching to the ceiling is more appropriate to the era, and the sides of refrigerators are just ugly. And I’m totally with all the people who have advocated for a window in the bathroom, but also you seem to have a big blank wall in the kitchen, so a window there would be nice too.

    • Good suggestion about boxing in the fridge between cabinets!

    • Yes…LOVE that kitchen, and definitely a similar vibe to what I want in here!! Very simple, classic, unfussy, ya’know. Peg system is so cool! I’ve never seen that! Definitely agree about the cabinets surrounding the fridge, too.

  33. Sorry one more thought. The sight line fom the front door to the back kitchen wall is awesome. My girlfriends 1860 house goes straight back. Love it. Seeing the light from the window at the end of that run is the best. To see half an oven in that run of cabinets not so much. Keep it visually clean just as you have it.

  34. As someone who owns a house in which the door to the bathroom comes straight off the middle of the very small dining room, wise move on toiler-door-placement. It is truly weird having someone hop out of their chair and walk literally two steps to the bathroom when you’re all having dinner. Hi! We all saw you go to the toilet-room! Which is right next to where we’re all sitting! Don’t feel awkward about that! Hi!

  35. Looks great! I vote for a window in the bathroom.

  36. Horrendous SketchUps?! Soooo much better than what I’ve been able to do. Like, to the point that I’m dying for you to tell me your secrets! That program is a total mystery to me.

    • Thank God I’m not alone! I consider myself pretty clever but Sketchup stumps me for some reason…

      • Ha, thank you guys! Basic stuff in Sketchup is very simple once you get the hang of it, but I don’t find the interface intuitive at all! The best thing is to watch some youtube tutorials for basic renderings…once you know what the tools do and how they work, it’s not so bad!

  37. I love it all! Is there room in either the coat closet or the powder room for a stacked washer/dryer? Having laundry on the first floor is such a luxury (mine is in the basement and I hate it).

    • Or even better, put the laundry on the 2nd floor, so the laundry is on the same level as the bedrooms. You can mitigate the risk of water damage with a pan and a drain. Our last house had laundry on the 2nd floor (stacked in the bathroom). It wasn’t elegant, but it made laundry a breeze.

      • So, originally I was actually planning to do laundry in that space, but unfortunately unless it’s literally in the bathroom (and you lose the closet entirely), the machines just take up too much space! Laundry machines (plus the space to maneuver around them, plus a little space for some sort of storage…) are really huge. There isn’t really space upstairs, either. So as much as I fought it, I think basement laundry will be the best thing! I know that’s not ideal, but I’m going to clean up the basement and I think it’ll feel OK.

      • Given the size of the house, and the fact that there actually IS a basement, I agree that the laundry is best situated there. Mine’s in mine & it’s just fine. My neighbors have their laundry on the 2nd floor & while it is nice-looking, it seems out of place to me. I’m sure you will come up with a plan that puts your average basement laundry to shame. I know no-one, I mean, NO-ONE who has a laundry like you have in your own house. It’s GORGEOUS but certainly nothing that the average (or even exceptional) buyer would expect.

      • Here’s something right away on the basement laundry–I’m also gonna go measure the actual footprint of my actual tiny shower stall (which could also be fitted with shelves as a linen closet were there another bathroom in the house) later in case it could fit in the half bath/closet space).
        My washing machine is in the basement of the house and the basement is humid in the summer as many are. Turns out the humidity messes with the water level sensors of the washing machine every summer and I have to have that part replaced 2 or more times every summer and only in summer following a particularly humid stretch. The company (a major chain which shall remain nameless) is cool with that since I purchased a 5 year protection plan but it sure is a pain to have no use of my machine when it goes until the time I can schedule a repair. I’m not sure if this is true for all newer washers with this type of sensor, but apparently they are telling people to move their washers out of the basement.

      • The outside measurements of my bathroom shower stall are 30 x 33.5 inches. It works fine.

      • Then I vote for a built-in laundry shoot, so the owners don’t have to lug a heavy basket down two flights of stairs!

  38. > I’m chiming in to agree with others about a window – even a ‘clerestory’ window that doesn’t open – in the bathroom as well as tortula’s suggestion for a transom above the half-bath door to light the closet area.
    > clerestory window(s) along one or the other long side of the LR? Yeah, maybe not period unless they were sectioned leaded glass or something but wide windows, around a foot deep high up on the wall wouldn’t affect furniture placement, right?
    > I understand the tall pantry cabinets next to to the fridge as an alternative to upper cabinets, (plus you can’t have too much pantry space.) However there’s a “tunnel” effect when the pantry is next to the entrance, 18-24″ deep and about the same height as the entrance. There would be a nicer, more open feel if the cabinetry next to the fridge was only counter height. So to get some pantry space back, how about putting a full height rolling pantry at the end of the counter next to the sink – something about 12″ wide max. That would give you a lot of storage yet not take up as much of the room visually, (I think)

  39. Nice to see an update here and fingers crossed for the gas company getting their act together.
    The money for the stairs is well invested. Our house had a trap door that covered the stairs to the basement and it was the first thing we changed. ;-)))
    Regarding the bathroom, I also would give some serious thought about a window – windowless bathrooms are a pain regarding mould etc., but more than that, I would really think about installing not only a half bath but also add a shower. This reeeeeaaaaaly improves the value of the house, and if you go through the hustle of having pipes and drainage etc. done, a shower is only a small piece to add with a lot of value. If two people working outside of home live in the house, it will really ease the morning routine. I would rather sacrifice the “cloakroom” for that, because how many times do you entertain guests vs. have the hustle of organising in the morning? ;-))) Privacy in the bathroom can also be achieved by better insulation and placing the WC behind a small wall not much higher than sink level at the end of the room. And the coat closet could be integrated in one wall.
    Another thing that caught my attention is the window situation in the dining room. Any chance to have larger windows? With the existing windows, can you look outside when seated? Because, spending the best time of the day (dinner) or entertaining in a smallish space off the stairs without much connection with the outside is really sad. Otherwise it is a great spot for the dining area and will give the staircase a very different feeling.
    And the idea of a view right across the house is really nice – we have the same idea for our house, and NO architect has understood the sense of it so far …… see, how genius you are? ;-)))
    Looking forward to the plans for the second floor

    • Thanks, Isabelle! I thought a lot about putting another full bath downstairs, but ultimately I think it’s too much for this house! The space it would take up is too valuable…the whole thing is only 1300 square feet.

      People have suggested enlarging the dining room windows, but they’re actually one of my favorite features! I love how tiny they are…I think making them bigger would lose a lot of character. I think the dining room will end up feeling cozy and intimate rather than sad, but I definitely understand your concern!

      • Wait, wait, what? 1300 sf? Duuude, my 1927 three bedroom house is 1150. No wonder you have room for a second toilet! Luckily whoever built this house was a master at efficient layout and it feels much bigger, especially the ktchen.

        Since the fridge will be on an internal wall, have you considered recessing it between studs? It gains you several inches, but most importantly means it doesn’t stick out past the cabinet next to it.

      • WOW, thanks for answering my comment. 1300 squarefeet is a good size family house here in Europe ;-))))) Our hous is currently MUCH smaller. ;-)))

  40. Dare I say that I LIKE powder rooms/half baths/toilets without windows? Windows make me feel vulnerable, no windows make the space feel cosy and private. 3 points though, to which I’m sure you’ve already given thought: 1) some sort of electrical extractor/ventilator might be necessary. 2) Downlights in the cloakroom and the toilet to avoid gloominess and 3) make sure you don’t skimp on acoustic insulation on the wall shared by the toilet and the living room so that the flushing of the toilet can’t be heard.
    Wish I had your Sketchup skills (sigh)

    • I agree, with the house next door SO close the window would probably be covered all the time anyway.

      Daniel, as others have said great, thoughtful layout. I wish the builders of my Mom’s and sister’s places thought about the 1/2 bath placement…it’s awkward to say the least.

      • Thanks, guys! If I did put a window in, it would definitely need textured/frosted glass or a curtain or something. This conversation is so funny…I feel like the vast majority of powder rooms don’t have a window! I’m surprised that this is the thing so many people have zeroed in on!

      • It’s regional. Outside of the US all rooms have windows, including toilets.

  41. Our local utility company stalled for months on completing our gas hookup. They even accidentally gave us a phone number at which to reach them that went to a phone sex line! True story. We didn’t make any progress until I started tweeting them. Then they completed the install without telling us (we only found out because we happened to walk around the house one day and see the final piece that had been missing). Best of luck and maybe try Twitter.

    • Thanks, Michele! That’s a good tip. Hopefully it won’t come to that. Basically what happened is that it took talking to a bunch of people over many weeks to finally be told that I needed to fill out this specific form to have the gas run (everyone else said it would just be replaced and insisted I didn’t need to do anything…SO MADDENING), so now that I’ve done THAT, hopefully something will happen soon! They won’t turn it on until the equipment it’s running is installed anyway, but it would be so frustrating to have a whole heat system installed with no means of powdering it!

  42. Your readers sure have a lot of expertise to offer!
    If you make changes to your plans based on their suggestions, it would be cool if you featured those changes in a blog post.

  43. Have you visited the Just Beachy website/blog. She has just finished building cabinets for her dining room and did a fantastic job.

  44. Here is the link to the Just Beachy website (the name has changed)
    http://chriskauffman.blogspot.ca/2014/12/from-sketch-to-reality.html

    • Wow, wow! Those look wonderful!! The lower cabinets are very similar to what I’m thinking both for the dining room and the kitchen. I’ll have to poke around the site a little more! :)

  45. I agree with Meredith above, ditto from beginning to end.

    I’m a tiny bit annoyed that by your dimensions, your cottage is actually way bigger than my three-floor rowhouse. THIS IS BALLS. (For me.)

    Not sure why everyone’s so intent on a window in the powder room looking out onto the side of another house – natural light is great in a main bathroom, but no one’s doing their makeup in this one. Apparently these princesses have forgotten you’ve got a budget to stick to!

    • Thanks, Sarah! That’s so interesting about the dimensions!! How is that possible? It’s funny…this house really isn’t actually *that* small (especially by any non-American metric…), but I think the combo of low ceilings and no attic and no land on either side and partial basement make it seem small. Or something. I like to think of it as “quaint”…hopefully some buyer will agree! But you’re right, actual square-footage-wise, it’s not all that tiny.

      The window thing is sort of surprising to me, too! It’s not really a huge cost thing (I’d probably just buy a cute little old window and frame it in myself), but I’m trying to think of half-baths and I honestly can’t think of any that DO have windows. Full baths, yes, but…the house I grew up in, all of my friends houses, restaurant bathrooms…no windows in any of those powder rooms! Not one!

      • There was a window in the powder room of my dc house. BOOM.

        I’m being a creep! <3 u

      • Well frig, I wish I had such faith in my own DIY capabilities…I take it back, then; if it’s not a budgetary restraint, go for it. If you scored a cute leaded glass one from a salvage yard or put a new one in with some privacy glass or even a translucent 3M vinyl film on plain glass, it’d be nice for sure to grab some extra natural light to spill into the dark closet area. It’s just that ground floor bathrooms with clear glass make me feel uncomfortable de-pantsing, esp. at night. (I am bum-confident, but I also watch horror movies.) As others have said, a clerestory window would also solve this.

        On a separate note, the person who suggested they’d rather have a closet IN the powder room than adjacent must never have heard of toilets puffing invisible poop water into the air every time they flush with the lid open.

      • Our half bath has a window. It’s very short in height but long in width, and it’s up near the ceiling (which are only 7ft ceilings). When you stand up, you could put your chin on the window sill only if you’re tall. It’s textured, frosted glass. No way anyone’s going to see anything, but I *LOVE* having a window to crack open to let some air in, because my husband often leaves a major stink and I hate being stuck in there with it!

        Plus the bathroom in a previous apartment that had no window had mold problems from the trapped air, which was awful.

  46. Hi Daniel,
    Lovely job so far. Thank you for showing us—great fun planning and discussing options with others.
    My suggestions:
    1) I would not put a window in the half-bath–put in larger mirror framed appropriately and have good lighting there and in the closet before the half-bath. I think people like privacy more than windows.
    2) I would rethink the kitchen with the option of changing windows here to facilitate the functionality of the kitchen. I agree with keeping the sight line from the front to the kitchen free.
    3) I agree with Davidah- build a closet for a stacked washer’/drier upstairs.
    Take care and Happy Holidays!

  47. PLEASE do not do a walk through closet. I’d much prefer a closet in the bath than a closet I walk through to the bath.

  48. Thank you for posting when we’re in the time-warp season! It all looks fantastic to me, and it is a delightful post considering all the circumstances getting in your way. Do that house just as your instincts tell you to, and enjoy the process of making it better than it was; the next owner will have that satisfying option to ‘make it his/her own’ by adding that window or making some of the other changes suggested. Do fun little things at your own house and look for your own joy for the rest of the year. Bravo, dude! Happy holidays!

  49. Nice! I wonder if there’s room under those stairs for a pantry that opens into the kitchen?

  50. Your plans are so smart and well thought out.

    I especially like that you’re adding a half bath to the main floor – very nice for visitors, esp elderly ones.

    My half bath doesn’t have a window. You could have a light switch near the front of the closet, that would also turn on the bathroom light. Of course, then there will be pranksters who will shut the light off on the hapless visitor enthroned in there. (I know from first hand experience.)

    • Lol, never a good idea to have the bathroom light switch OUTSIDE a windowless bathroom. :) You could consider motion-detector light switches (with timer auto shutoff) in the closet and bathroom, if you want to save your guests from two light-switch actions.

  51. In the country where I come from ( India) most of the houses don’t have upper cabinets and we still manage to prepare delicious meals. It feels so much open and airy to have no upper cabinets.

  52. So glad you are back. I missed you. Even though I rarely comment, I read everything very closely. I am so obsessed with the minutiae of old houses and I love reading about other people’s hard work. So keep the blogs coming even when there doesn’t seem to be much to say.

    Did you find a place for the laundry? That could go in the closet by the downstairs bathroom. And you could still have hooks or something on the facing wall for coats. And, btw, I am on the side of making the bathroom more private by putting it behind the closet. There was a Sarah Richardson downstairs bath that had a walk-through mudroom similar to this. It was Sarah’s House Season 4.

    • Thanks, Carolyn! Forgot to mention—laundry is actually going in the basement. I originally planned to put it in that space, but I think it’s too small—you really want a couple more feet to be able to maneuver around the machines (which are huge!) with the doors open and all that.

  53. Is there no laundry in the cottage? Or is it located in the basement?
    If there isn’t, I would nix the coat closet and put it in that space. :)
    And…. as someone who cooks a lot, I would scoot the stove down further from the sink. I’ve observed that most cooking seems to naturally happen between the stove and the sink and since you have all that space to the left of the stove….. that would be fabulous. There is never enough countertop in any house.

  54. I like the idea from E. Here’s a quick sketch – requires reducing the pantry space some, but will improve kitchen function more and allow people to access fridge without bothering the cook or same with the sink, plus prep space is in front of the window. Much nicer than looking at the wall. If DW is on the left of the sink then one can load and do dishes and another can cook. Or 2 people can both prep on each side of the sink and still have access to the sink.

    Sketch: http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z178/lyfia/Capture-3.jpg

    • Tight squeeze to the basement door with all your laundry baskets, storage boxes, etc…

      • Amanda it is 3 ft – could probably get some more out of it too at the expense of pantry space.

  55. Lovely so far.
    Except … think of entering the house during a blizzard … your boots and coat and hat and scarf and gloves are snowy and dripping wet, and your arms are filled with provisions and your hands filled with mail. I agree that the sunporch/mudroom was extravagantly large compared to the size of the house, but having a dedicated landing/launching space *really* increases the livability of a small house. It’s my #2 priority [after the second toilet], and I’d never again live in a house without. I spent a long time in a 92 sq m flat in Beijing with 2 children, 2 shifts of daytime domestic and a work at home spouse. The thing that made such a small space liveable [besides the domestics] was the “shoe room” off of the entrance. There wasn’t too much to it – about 4sqm, but it had a cupboard for shoes and another one for coats. The top of the shoe cupboard had a flat spot to drop the keys and groceries and enough wall space to put the family calendar. The coat cupboard had just enough space that everyone could hang one coat, and a little spot above for hats/gloves/bike helmets and below for umbrellas. The only thing that would have improved it would have been if the floors were tile/lino/stone instead of wood.

    Best of luck.

    • I hear you! I really just don’t think there’s space for some kind of separate room, but I do envision that wall adjacent to the door being used as a kind of landing zone—perhaps some coat hooks, boot trays, a console table, that kind of thing.

  56. so jealous! love your arrangement too….

    I wonder if you explored the idea of shifting around the plan so that the powder room is on the left, closet on the right and opening to DR in the middle? the straight shot view (which I LOVE btw) could be kept by sealing the original kitchen opening and enlarging the pass through to be a doorway (effectively switching the kitchen entrance to the right side of the brick) and making the staircase more accessible from the LR

    Though, this would mean crossing into and through the LR to get anywhere which makes for a pretty awkward and annoying traffic pattern…and perhaps there’s logistical reasons that particular plan wouldn’t be feasible (I have a tendency to look at floor plans and envision how I would change them, and it’s fascinating for me to see the difference in someone else’s vision!)

  57. Love everything you’re doing/have done. Been following you forever. I’m helping a friend plan a reno. What software did you use in your renderings? Thanks!

  58. I did not read all 127 comments so forgive me if this was mentioned… why not break up the closet and the bathroom, having the pass through between them?

    • Hmmm…if I’m understanding the question correctly (forgive me if not!), that would put the back of the closet right up against the stair banister, which I don’t want to do! The old banister and stairwell is one of the few remaining old/original parts of the interior, so definitely something I want to showcase in the renovation! Hope that makes sense!

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