The Dos and Dont’s of Designing a Floor Plan

The Dos and Dont’s of Designing a Floor Plan

May 29, 2024

Creating a beautiful and functional home starts with a well-thought-out floor plan. Whether building new or renovating, having a clear design strategy is key. In this article, Gray Houghland of Houghland Architecture covers essential dos and don’ts for a successful home design, ensuring your space is both practical and timeless.

DO work from the general to the specific.

Good design should start with a big idea, a guiding principle, or a general objective. Once this guiding principle is established, steps can progress with more and more detail. If home design proceeds from the general to the specific, the result will be a successful, beautiful home rather than a collection of rooms. Working with a knowledgeable architect to design your floor plan will certainly help.

Rough sketch of house

Residential architecture specs

DO start with movement, light, and stairs.

Start with planning how to enter the property (driveway location), identify the location of the front door, and then once inside, move throughout the house. These concepts are more important, at least in the initial design, than the location of the laundry room. This movement will be influenced by where there are views, where sunlight enters a room, and the efficiency of flow throughout the home.

In planning movement through the house, you will, perhaps subconsciously, be planning the separation between public and private spaces as well as the privacy from neighbors and adjacent site conditions. Stairs are also a critical part of the movement throughout a house and have a large impact on a floor plan’s efficiency.

Lighting design in architecture plans

DO design in both directions.

Unfortunately, it is a customary practice to develop a floor plan from the first floor to the second floor then place a roof on top of that – only to discover that the end results are that of an unorganized trainwreck.

A better approach is to start from the top with an idea of the overall shape of the roof and then design the house underneath it. This is not to say the roof cannot be modified during design, but it is critical that the rooms be grouped in ways that create a pleasing roof and building shape. The next time you see a house you love, take notice of the roof shape. It is likely a roofline that is fairly simple.

Roof lines of house

DON’T let current trends have too much influence.

Be careful with the plethora of house images available these days on Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, etc. These platforms are designed to transmit current trends – quickly and briefly. The timeframe on a house design should be measured in decades or more, so don’t get caught up in all things trendy. Think instead about the basics – movement, light, shape, quality, and function when designing your floor plan. Such characteristics will outlast those that are less timeless.

To balance the social media trend, gather inspiration to guide your design. Turn to history to see what qualities appeal regardless of the style. Look at houses from multiple time periods and various sources to identify meaningful themes that keep reappearing. Once such themes are identified, you are on your way to developing an enduring, classic design.

Book of guide to American Houses

DON’T neglect to match program and budget.

Before the design process even begins, it is important to align the client’s program (list of desired rooms and features) with their general budget. There is no way to sugar coat this … if the program and budget are not in sync, the problem will not be solved, and the desired result will not be achieved.

The willingness to scale down, if necessary, is an important part of developing a successful design. And if adjustments to the program are made early in the process, the result will be a favorable outcome with grand results.

DON’T get lost in the details.

Outstanding design is a balancing act of proper perspective and the countless influences and requirements that go into a house. Try not to let the small details get in the way of the big picture. For example, don’t let the desire for a secret kitchen door into a scullery prevent you from having a view of the lake from the kitchen!

Designing a home is an exciting journey that starts with a solid floor plan. By focusing on key principles like starting with a big idea, emphasizing movement and light, designing from the top down, and staying mindful of trends and budget, you can create a timeless and functional home. Apply these tips to achieve a space you’ll love for years to come.