Friday, October 07, 2005
Customize House Plans: Considering public & private space is key to floor plan design
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
If you stop to think about it, it really makes sense: There are places in your house meant to be public and there are places meant to be private. When thinking architecturally, there are actually three levels of interaction in your home, and they need to be identified and appropriately designed in your remodel.
The first is public spaces. These are spaces in your home where anyone (including strangers but excluding burglars) is welcome. These spaces, for example, would be your front porch or your entry hall. Here you would interact with the FedEx person or your next-door neighbor. It is not restricted, and it is the appropriate place for strangers and acquaintances to approach your house.
But seldom do you invite the FedEx person into the family room. The family room, kitchen or back-yard deck could all be considered semiprivate spaces. They are entertaining areas and gathering areas but only for those you consider friends, family or invited guests.
Then there are the rooms you hope your guests don't see. These are your private spaces. Only family or very close friends are invited into these spaces, which include bedrooms, personal baths and back-of-the-house areas such as laundry rooms, mechanical rooms and storage rooms.
In a well-designed home, these areas are arranged in a logical sequence from the most public to the most private. For instance, you would not want guests to go through a private space such as a bedroom to get to a semiprivate space such as a TV room. Or you may prefer to provide a powder room rather than have guests use a personal bath.
The level assigned to a given room may vary from family to family. In some homes, an office is a private space, used to pay bills, study, read, etc. In this case, the office could be on the second floor attached to the master bedroom. In other homes, the office may be used for business purposes, and people other than family members may need to access it. Here the office should be placed adjacent to the entry of the home and/or have a separate entry of its own.
We recently worked on a project that centered around the idea of creating a more logical flow of public and private spaces. In the original floor plan (Image 1), you'll notice that the front door, which is the main public entry, was not centrally located and was adjacent to the bedrooms. That put very public and very private spaces together. In addition, the view upon entering the front door was straight down the hall and into the master bedroom closet�a very private space. The front door was so awkwardly placed that people generally used the side door, which opened into the kitchen, normally a semiprivate space.
To help create and delineate a flow of public, semiprivate, and private spaces (Image 2), we closed off the kitchen, moved the front door to a more naturally public space, and created an entry that transitioned into the living room rather than the bedrooms.
Whether the changes are subtle or more dramatic, understanding and addressing the public or private use of each space in your home will help your home function at its best. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.