What makes a great floor plan?Renovations, Tips and Advice, New Homes
A client recently asked me – What makes a great floor plan? Is there such a thing? I replied, “A beautifully designed home starts with a beautifully designed floor plan.” But what are the factors that contribute to a great floor plan? Can you renovate an existing home to have a great floor plan? Or is a great floor plan only for new builds?
The reality is there are many factors that need to be considered and understood when creating the perfect floor plan. And the perfect floor plan that suits your lifestyle may differ from what would be suitable for someone else.
Training and experience factor heavily into the ability of your professional to create the perfect floor plan. Architects are qualified professionals who possess a wealth of experience creating functional floor plans for all types of building structures whether that be for new homes, renovations or commercial projects. Design flair added into the mix then transforms the functional into fantastic!
So let’s take a look at some of the things that go into making the perfect floor plan …
A lot of people think of floor plans in terms of how the internals of the house are planned out. The reality is though, that your internals will be (or at least should be) planned around external factors, elements such as:
Breezes can come from any direction; however, each part of Brisbane, or any region for that matter, will have a prevailing breeze. The direction of the breeze in relation to your particular block of land is important if your home is to take full advantage of natural cooling. Planning for cross flow ventilation can dramatically reduce your running costs and keep your home wonderfully comfortable inside. By understanding how natural ventilation works it’s possible to design the home so that the rooms that most need cooling are able to take full advantage of what breezes your block experiences.
Sunlight has an impact on your floor plan in two ways. Firstly in terms of making the most of the natural lighting and to further reduce your power consumption. Secondly in terms of protection from glare and heat.
Most people would agree that natural lighting is far preferable to electronic lighting. So understanding firstly the direction that the light will come from at various times of the day and different times of the year is important. But you also need to understand how to create floor plans that really take advantage of that natural lighting in the rooms and spaces that need it most.
Given the sub-tropical climate that we live in, and the high temperatures that we can sometimes experience, it’s also important to understand how to create floor plans that reduce glare and excessive heating. Outdoor living spaces are very popular in Queensland, however, these must be carefully planned to ensure that they remain comfortable during the hotter months. And it’s not just outdoor spaces that need to be considered. Direct sunlight on brick walls can turn the average home into an oven. Careful planning and design skill can help avoid this problem.
Some homes are blessed with all round stunning views, but most homes are not and will often have a single preferred outlook. It’s therefore important to consider this when designing your floor plan. Which rooms do you want to take advantage of this view? Which views are less desirable? Less desirable views might be a good place to situate laundries, bathrooms, toilets or spare rooms, where outlook is less important. Conversely, living rooms, kitchens, outdoor entertaining areas or even master bedrooms are areas that are better suited to taking advantage of desirable views.
External noises are not a factor for every home, but for some, it is an important consideration. Busy roads, nearby schools, shops or sporting fields can all potentially impact on the acoustic comfort of a home. For homes that are close to a source of noise, an effective floor plan should focus on eliminating or reducing the noise intrusion.
Of course, the external spaces around the home should not be considered in isolation. There needs to be a strong connection with the internal spaces of the home if the home is to feel balanced and complete. A well-designed floor plan will make this connection in the most suitable, user-friendly way.
Once the external factors have been considered we are then able to plan the internal layout of the home. Potential considerations here are quite lengthy, so we will touch on the basics.
An obvious first consideration is what rooms are required? How many bedrooms are needed? Will the home have more than one living area? Does it require a home office, a home cinema, a formal dining room? These are just some of the many questions that need to be answered before a floor plan can even begin to be sketched out.
Following on from the number of rooms that are required is a detailed understanding of how each room is to be used. For example the design may call for an additional bedroom, however, the owner of the home may envisage using this space as a sewing room or part-time home office. A dining room might also serve as a space for children to do their homework. The true intended use of each room must be considered if the floor plan is to achieve its full potential.
Once you understand the number, type and purpose of each room, you now need to consider zones within the home itself. This is crucial and unfortunately an area where many homes fall down. In its simplest form zoning considers things like keeping living areas away from quiet areas or zoning bedrooms together. But beyond that, zoning comes down to understanding the connection different spaces have to one another and how the occupants of the home will move from one space to the next. The art of blending and complimenting zones is often quite complex and is extremely important when renovating an existing property.
Acoustics is really a part of zoning, but it’s worth noting it separately because it plays such an important role in the liveability of any home. All homes have areas that are often noisy – living rooms with people talking, televisions playing, devices operating etc – and areas that are designed to be quiet for relaxing, quiet conversation or sleeping. Zoning these areas in such a way that they are kept separate is important, but not always the entire answer. Cleverly designed floor plans might also contemplate sound dampening barriers such as the placement of walls or screens to reduce unwanted noise in other areas of the home.
Nothing will destroy the enjoyment of a home faster than a floor plan that makes movement within the home more difficult than it needs to be. Access from one space to the next needs to be planned, as does access to external areas of your home.
Function and Aesthetics
The form of the building must be a synthesis of functionalism and stylistic influence. When we design, our focus is on who will live or work in the space. What are the personal traits of those who will use the space? What are the inclusions required so that the area is an enjoyable and functional zone? Taking into consideration these influences we can explore the concepts of differing floor plans through our sketch design phase.
While developing the floor plan, thoughts move towards the materials and finishes which will complete the home. We consider these options within the context of the overall design framework to ensure each component of the floor plan provides solutions and a liveable context for the homeowner.
Every line has a three-dimensional meaning, so being able to interpret the floor plan and zones into a 3D representation ensures the design flows and is functional.
Many homes suffer because the floor plan is the only consideration. Good balance and proportion come from thinking three-dimensionally in the design process. So form can follow function along with the aesthetic appeal, which is vital to you feeling comfortable in the space.
Great floor plan
Whether renovating an existing home or looking to build your dream home, a great floor plan will ensure your enjoyment of the home will last for many years to come.
In all honesty, anybody can create a floor plan. You can even go online and find programs that allow you to design your own. But a truly great floor plan requires the input of professionals. If you are looking at renovating or reviewing a builder’s floor plan, make sure you keep these things in mind. Our advice is only a phone call away.
Originally published June 01 2015, updated September 12 2017.
DION SEMINARA, DION SEMINARA ARCHITECTURE
Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 20 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.