Classic Home Flaws And How To Fix Them


By James Roche, CEO of Houseplans 

There are a number of common problems we see throughout home layouts. Sometimes you’ll want to throw your hands in the air and give in, or you can learn from others’ mistakes and improve the spaces in your life. Here are some of our top tips. 

1. Flaw: Dead-end single use spaces like living rooms that stop a natural flow and create bottlenecks when entertaining. 

The Fix: Add a doorway so that you can move through the room without having to back-track and plan for flexibility. For example, a small living room or study might function as a temporary bedroom or build a fireplace instead of walls (above) to separate living area from dining/kitchen for open flow.

Folding window wall opens entire room to the deck.

2. Flaw: Not enough attention to indoor/outdoor integration and no easy connection to sheltered outdoor space or the back yard. 

The Fix: Add doors to a patio or porchthe outdoor connection allows a house to expand in good weather, connect to the site and landscape, and prevents it from feeling like a prison.

A livable front porch for curb appeal.

3. Flaw: Vestigial, non-functional front porches that are not large enough for sitting. 

The Fix: Make the porch at least 8 feet deep to allow for furniture placement.

A functional island that’s in scale with the kitchen.

4. Flaw: Overlarge kitchen islands that literally become the “elephant in the room.” 

The Fix: Analyze how much space you actually need for casual dining and food prep. If it’s a buffet island, space for six stools is usually enough.

A stairway doubles as a light source.

5. Flaw: The “Goldilocks Problem” is when entries, hallways, and family/great rooms are too big or too small or have ceilings that are too high. It’s all about proportion and practicalitya two story entry that makes you feel you have entered the bottom of a well does not make for a pleasant arrival and is wasteful. On the other hand, low ceilings can make smaller rooms feel cramped and are especially regrettable when stairs seem to disappear into them. A stairway should not make you want to duck before you take the first step. 

The Fix: Make room height proportional to room size and make the stairway a light source with a double-height ceiling over it and a window at the upper landing or high in the stair wall.

A great room with light from more than one side.

6. Flaw: Lack of daylight thanks to few windows or windows on only one wall, creating glare and a cave-like feeling and the sense that the room has been buried. A great room with only one window is a great mistake! 

The Fix: Don’t buy a house with a great room that only has one window. Or expand the great room to create a window bay so that you will have daylight coming from at least two sides. And consider wall-washing skylights, which can make a room feel taller and more spacious.

Efficient garage-to-kitchen access.

7. Flaw: Poor garage to kitchen progression. Circuitous routes from garage to kitchen make carrying groceries and other supplies more of a chore than necessary. 

The Fix: Straighten out and shorten the access route between garage and kitchen.

Under-mount sink for easy cleaning and maximum counter space.

8. Flaw: Sculptural bathroom or “vessel” sinks with numerous edges and crannies to clean with little or no counter space. 

The Fix: Use under-mounted sinks or integral sinks (that is, sinks that are integrated into the counter itself) to maximize counter space.

Replace shower tight tub-shower with a walk-in shower.

9. Flaw: Cheap sliding doors, instead of curtains, attached to tub-showers induce claustrophobia instead of cleanliness, not to mention bruised elbows. 

The Fix: Use shower curtains instead or replace the tub with a walk-in shower.

A simpler roof profile.

10. Flaw: Unnecessarily high or complex roof configurations with too many gables, hips, and bumps make for poor architectural proportions and increased potential for leaks. 

The Fix: Simplify the silhouette!

Invest in space and light instead of quirky features.

11. Flaw: Invest in space and light instead of quirky features and trendy gimmicks, cutting costs by lowering quality in windows, doors, hardware, and flooring. These features are the most visible and touchable elements of a home and establish its character so cutting here will have visual effect. 

The Fix: Reduce the square footage to lower costs instead of compromising on materials and fixtures.


12. Flaw: When building from stock plans, making modifications in the field without consulting an architect or designer. 

The Fix: Seek a professional’s help in making modifications to avoid compromising the original design.

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