If you will indulge me, I would like to write a little about one of my favourite pass times, designing and drawing my dream home. You see, I have put an awful lot of thought into its layout and design in terms of how it would work practically for my family, and I thought it would be interesting to describe my own plans as an example of how you can design a house to suit your own needs, rather than simply on aesthetics.
Where to start? With my favourite room, and the hub of my imaginary house, the kitchen!
I’ve written before in this blog about the importance of the kitchen to me as a centre of activity and life in the home, and I always start drawing new floor plans around the shape of the kitchen. I would like it to have an island with the hob integrated in, so that I can cook whilst looking out on the open plan living area, and chat or watch TV with the family whilst preparing dinner. Some stools on the other side of the island would make it sociable, so it will need to be a wide island to keep your company away from the hot pans. Also, if there were a drinks fridge and glasses around there then people can get their own drinks without getting in the way of the chef! I would like a tall fridge and integrated ovens in the cabinets, as I’m tall and bending over with a hot dish is recipe for disaster. I’ve also had an idea for the storage arrangements; to keep only crockery in the kitchen, and a few things you use all the time like salt and pepper, and keep the rest of the food in a walk in pantry, a la Hobbit. (I basically am a hobbit.) Therefore, the pantry needs to be very accessible from the cooking area, as well as dark and cool to keep food fresh as long as possible.
The dining area is the next obvious point of discussion, as the kitchen would look out at it. I don’t see the point of a formal dining room because you rarely use it so you’re wasting space, and whilst you have stools by the island you don’t need a ‘breakfast nook’ or whatever, so one big round table will do for all meals. My parents have a round table that can be expanded when they have guests and this is what I’m visualising here. I also like the idea of plenty of light and a skylight over the table would be stunning. I like skylights that descend through the upper floor to pour light on the rooms below, and if it’s a large one, why not have a window into a bedroom higher up? How quirky!
The living area needs to have a fireplace. We had a fireplace in one of our houses when I was a child and the whole family fell in love with the sound of its crackle. Equally, it should be a sociable space, with plenty of seating for guests, and not all of it aimed at the TV, but facing inward too, to encourage chatter. My friend’s parents have a gorgeous, huge coffee table that takes up much of their lounge and it’s always scattered with games and books and mugs of tea. I disapprove of the mess but love the versatile space. A lounge should also have lots of books and pictures and points of interest so shelves are important. In our house, we use a projector against a wall to bring the cinema home. It cost £300 (we already had speakers) and we’ve only been to the cinema twice in the three years since we bought it, for big blockbuster releases, because films are now just as good at home. So a blank wall is also important- maybe above the fireplace?
I would also like a sun room, since we’re talking dream house. My fiance’s parents have a conservatory with a low wall at the base to retain heat and comfy sofas, shades for when it’s hot, and a heater for chilly days. It’s an all year round sunny space to sit with a cuppa and your magazine or chat with the family and I love it. I think a second sitting area is lovely, especially when you have different groups about; if your children have friends over, or your grandparents want to sit and chat quietly but your cousin wants the football on. I usually draw it close to the lounge so it’s not too cut off from the main action and no one feels like they’re missing anything.
There should be a downstairs toilet, vital for visiting grandparents who aren’t great with stairs, and ideally a downstairs guest bedroom in case they would like to stay over. It also keeps the upstairs rooms private for us, in case the bedrooms upstairs are messy or we just want some alone time away from hosting. I also draw them an en-suite to the guest bedroom with a walk in shower for convenience (and they can be so stylish when done right). Bathrooms and W.Cs should always have a window (for fumigation as well as to let steam out).
I would like a study, for paperwork and writing, and my other half has a painting/gaming room, so either two extra rooms or one with dual purpose is required, but definitely enough space for two desks and a large gaming table, plus lots of storage for all his games.
We’re not done with the ground floor yet. I’d like a utility room. It’s annoying when the washing machine’s on its spin cycle and you find you have to turn the TV up to ‘too loud for an elderly person’ just to make out the dialogue. With a utility room you can shut away the noise and any drying underwear from guest’s eyes. It also makes a great room for the cat’s litter tray and bowls so the kitchen doesn’t smell of cat food, or the other thing. A cat flap in the utility door to the garden means they can come and go all night and you can shut the door to the rest of the house if you would rather they keep to themselves (or you have food cooling on the side in the kitchen and still want to see it in the morning!) As someone who is still adjusting to life with cats without a utility room, this sounds like heaven.
I love stairs with storage that pulls out to reveal a shoe rack and a rail for coats. It’s just a million times better than rooting around on all fours for something in the dark. Highly practical! And we want proper stairs, none of this floating step nonsense when you think your foot’s going to go right through the hole, or stairs without banisters- just plain dangerous! I’m also not a fan of spiral staircases- the problems that come with having long feet and bad balance I’m afraid.
Upstairs, the master bedroom should make itself known by having plenty of wardrobe space, a dressing table for make up with good natural light, and an en-suite for private showering away from the rest of the family. Adults get en-suites, children learn to share!
The master bathroom can make up for being shared by having a bath as well as a walk-in shower, and maybe a double sink and big mirror if the family is large. We haven’t started ours yet and can’t yet decide whether one child will be enough.
There are some gorgeous ideas for children’s bedrooms on Pinterest, and I do think that you can be very creative with storage solutions and incorporating their favourite stories into the decoration of the room, but until you know the child, this is very hard to guess at. At the start anyway, I would like a nursery with calm colours (not just blue or pink but a nice mixture of lots of colours) and a big comfy armchair for story time.
A balcony is a lovely idea but who wants to sit on a balcony without a drink in hand, hot or alcoholic, and are you really going to traipse upstairs with that? Doubt it. So I prefer the idea of a veranda. Admittedly, it’s an American style rather than a British one, but if it’s covered then why shouldn’t we have one even in drizzly England? I have some Mediterranean heritage and we both enjoyed our holidays to Greece and Italy so I’d like to bring in some of the feel of those holidays in the furniture and colours we use out here. I would like a garden big enough for my partner to kick a ball about with any future offspring, for flowers to grow, our cats to explore, and to be able to experiment with growing veg, or herbs at the very least. My other half will want a greenhouse too, as he cultivates an ever expanding carnivorous plant collection. (More on that if you want.)
In dreamland, (and aren’t we there already?) I’d like the outer walls to be thick, packed full of natural insulation to reduce our heating bills to nothing, and the tiled roof to be made of solar panels (see photo) so that our electricity bills are reduced too. Just because a house is modern and ego though, it doesn’t mean it has to look like an office block. I prefer stone walls and wooden beams so your home feels cosy, contrasted with lots of natural light from skylights.
I know that this was a very long post and that my requirements, although practical, are quite different from a normal house (so basically I’d have to self-build to get what I want) but thank-you for sticking with me and I hope this has given you some ideas about how you would layout your own dream home, without reference to what is expected in a modern floor plan. I’d love to hear about your ideas if you fancy sharing them in the comments below.