Interior Design

House architecture means different things to different people. In one sense, it can be described as the method by which living space is enclosed to provide maximum utility to satisfy the needs of the occupants, together with maximum amenities to please the senses, on the selected site within the budget available. Utility requirements and budget allowances of the occupants vary as does what aesthetically appeals to them. House designs, therefore, also, will vary to meet these needs, tastes and budgets.

People generally possess a certain natural appreciation of beauty. This sense of appreciation can be, however, increased substantially by exposure to and study of beautiful things. Without study a person can enjoy music and art, but the enjoyment increases when he or she knows more about them. The same principle applies to architecture.

This country has experienced an era of horrible community planning and massive construction of ugly, poorly designed and poorly constructed houses. The fad house of today and yesterday will be the eyesore of tomorrow if it is not already. When the shine of newness wears off, the blight of ugliness shows through.

Fortunately, people are becoming more aware .of the need for good community planning and the merits of good design. It is hoped that the future will be brighter than the past in this regard. If this guide makes any contribution toward that end, then the efforts of the author will be well rewarded.


A good way to think about the interior layout of a house is to divide it into zones. The private/sleeping zone contains the bedrooms, bathrooms and dressing rooms. The living/social zone consists of the living room, dining room, recreation room, den or enclosed porch. The working service zone consists of the kitchen, laundry, pantry and other work areas. In addition to the three zones are circulation areas consisting of halls and stairs plus guest and family entrances. The three zones should be separated from each other so that activities in one zone do not interfere with activities in another. Figure 3.1 illustrates typical zones for various house types.

The private/sleeping zone should be located so that it is insulated from the noises of the other two zones. A person should be able to move from the bedrooms to the bathroom in this zone without being seen from the other zones.

In a two-story or split-level house, this can be accomplished by put ting this zone on two separate levels or floors. In a two-story house, it is easier to isolate the zone visually than it is to keep out the noise. Noise transmission from the working and living zones to the private/sleeping zone through the floor and ceiling is one of the major disadvantages of a two-story house. Another common layout mistake is to place the bath room at the head of the stairs, clearly visible from the downstairs.

The working/service zone is the nerve center of the house. From here, all the household activities are directed.

Making the kitchen efficient and pleasant is discussed later. The relationship between the kitchen and the rest of the house, however, is the most important key to good interior layout. From the kitchen, it should be possible to control both the guest and family entrances, activities in the sleeping/private and living/social zones, plus activities in the porch, patio and backyard areas. As difficult a requirement as this may seem, it is not impossible. Illustrated are a series of basic layout plans that accomplish these goals quite well.

The guest entrance should lead into the center of the house. From here, there should be direct access to the living areas, guest closet and guest lavatory. A noise and visibility barrier should exist between the guest entrance and the sleeping/private area.

The family entrance ideally should be from the garage, carport or breezeway into the kitchen or a circulation area directly connecting to the kitchen. Traffic from this entrance, however, should not have to penetrate the work triangle of the kitchen. A hallway or small room (called a mud- room in some areas) at the family entrance prevents a lot of dirt from being tracked into the house. An alternate, but not so satisfactory, location is a family entrance from the backyard or driveway into the kitchen. The main problem in this situation is carrying groceries from the automobile into the house without getting wet in inclement weather. The circulation should be such that it is possible to move from the work/service zone to the private/sleeping zone without going through the living/social zone.

If the house has a basement, it should have a separate outside en trance. The inside entrance should lead into a circulation area that, in turn, has access to the private/sleeping zone and the living/social zone and both the guest and family entrances without creating traffic through the living room or the kitchen work triangle.

House zones: Zoning: One-Story House

Zoning: Two-Story House—First Floor

Zoning: Split-Level House

There really is no such thing as a perfect layout. Individual sites, family needs, individual preferences and budget all must be considered, priorities established and compromises made.


Here is a list of some of the most common floor-plan deficiencies:

1. Front door entering directly into the living room.

2. No front-hall closet.

3. No direct access from the front door to the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms without passing through other rooms.

4. Rear door not convenient to the kitchen and difficult to reach from the street, driveway and garage.

5. No comfortable space for the family to eat in or near the kitchen.

6. A separate dining area or dining room not easily reached from the kitchen.

7. Stairway between levels off a room rather than off a hallway or foyer.

8. Bedrooms and bathrooms located so they are visible from the living room or foyer.

9. Walls between the bedrooms not soundproof (best way to accomplish this is to have them separated by a bathroom or closets).

10. Recreation room or family room poorly located.

11. No access to the basement from outside the house.

12. Outdoor living areas not accessible from the kitchen.

13. Walls cut up by doors and windows, making it difficult to place the furniture around the room.


In the Golden Age of Pericles, home was only of secondary importance. The affluent family might have eight or ten rooms grouped around the courtyard, one side of which contained the living rooms used primarily by the women. Meanwhile, the men would be on the way to the forum for public debates, sporting events and other entertainment that could consume most of the day.

Contrast this to the tower houses in Afghanistan centuries later (and similarly in other houses of central Asia) where the “living room” was at the top of the building. In all probability, these rooms were converted from watchtowers to living areas after the Mongolian invasion in the fourteenth century. Remodeling and good use of existing space was as much a family concern then as it is in America today.

Still another example of a different living room was in the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Italian house, which actually was a house and business combined. The shop was on the first floor arid bordered directly on the street. Upstairs, one room was set aside for living and dining and the rest for bedrooms for the family and help. Often these homes would be multistoried and its owner a person of affluence and respect. During this era in Poland, middle-class houses were very similar but slightly smaller in area, with the living rooms always on the upper floors.

During the seventeenth century, the New England living room was the main room of the house—and living room it was! It was the center of all family life and activity. It served as the kitchen, dining room, bed room, sitting room and storeroom all at once.

A document of the period describing a typical Colonial home in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in the mid-1600s shows this inventory of furnishings in the living room:

One table, three benches, and one stool; one bed with a small bolster; one set of curtains and bed hangings; one mattress and a feather pillow; one straw sack and a woolen pillow; one white blanket; one pair of sheets; one green carpet; one other bed and mattress; one complete set of curtains and covers; one hemp mattress; one feather cushion; one pair of old sheets; two old blankets; one red carpet.

There also must have been some fireplace equipment and cooking utensils, as well as dishes, pewter pieces and candlesticks.

By the eighteenth century, the finer homes in the Colonies were modified to the point that all those functions were moved to a room separate for each function. There were nearly always four rooms on each floor and an exact center entrance. The living room could be either to the right or the left but was firmly established by now as a special place for reading, needlework, family get-togethers or company. With the exception of a few refinements, such as adding the fireplace, the living room remained very much the same for almost two centuries.

During the past several decades, however, the function and status of the living room has undergone an almost imperceptible change. The realization that the living room does not retain its exalted place as the family living center is just beginning to dawn on our society. The old “front room” no longer is in the front, figuratively and often literally as well.

Today, the family room, the patio and the kitchen are more lived in and much more likely to be the locations for relaxing and entertaining. As these areas grew and developed, the size and importance of the living room diminished proportionately.

But the living room has survived our sociological change and still maintains its importance. Millions of Americans find the “living” room indispensable. They are the ones who lay great stress on the furnishings and functions of this inner sanctum. No doubt, graceful living still is very much a part of the cherished traditions of many families.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose philosophy was that the whole house was for living in, was well ahead of the times. In one of his houses, the ground level was no longer the main floor but instead was designed for bedrooms and the children’s playroom. The living area of the house was on the upper floor, where the rooms all centered on a large living room. This in 1905!

As is the case with the other rooms in the well-planned house, the size and use of the living room should be determined by the size and makeup of the family and, thus, by its needs. If there is also a family room, this, too, must be considered in relationship to the living room.


The old rules governing where the living room should be located within the house have all but been discarded since the family room has become so overwhelmingly popular. This is almost certainly attributable to the population explosion and the trend to having larger families directly after World War II. The children of these families now are of parental age and, because of new population philosophies, are not quite so inclined toward reproducing on the grand scale. For this reason, it is remotely possible that the family room will diminish in importance in another decade or two, but most probably it will be modified rather than disappear entirely.

In either case, the living room will live on and several basic rules about its location should be applied and adhered to.

The location should be appropriate to the house and the family. It should not be a passageway for traffic, but normal circulation should be easy. The room should be in a position to supplement the dining and out-door entertaining areas. Very often, one end of the living room is the dining area, so it must be adjacent to the kitchen-service area.

In the “old” days, it was simple: The living room was the front room and that was that. It should not necessarily follow that the living room will lose its status by being located to the side or the back of the house. Perhaps the view is better or it is quieter there. If there is a large family room (and large family), however, the current tendency is to give that room the location with the best view and accessibility to the most attractive outdoor area where the patio usually is located.

It is not enough to just “have” a fireplace in the living room. It should be well located, out of the way of traffic and with allowable space for chair groupings. Other personal requirements, such as ease in bringing in wood and/or other types of fireplace fuel, must be considered, as well as the disposal of the ashes.

The sophisticated refinements that can add to the enjoyment of the living room are a matter of personal choice once these basic requirements are met.

Size and Layout

It is more difficult to recommend specific room dimensions in a living room than in a bedroom. The bedroom serves a very clear function; the purpose of the living room has become more vague and varied. Consideration of proportion has replaced size in fulfilling the purpose of the living room for each particular family. Shape and layout with special-interest considerations also are every bit as important as square footage. Figure 3.2 shows sample living room designs.

Several good general guidelines can help develop the coordination of the living room and its usage with the rest of the house. For example, in a three-bedroom house, the living room should have minimum dimensions of 11 by 16 feet or at least 170 square feet. The recommended dimensions, however, are for a room 12 by 18 feet. In any case, the width never should be less than 11 feet.

Square rooms make good furniture arrangement difficult and tend to be uninteresting as a result. If there is a dining area at one end of the room, dimensions may go up to 16 by 26 feet or more. A maximum width of 14 feet is recommended for furniture arrangements at the proper distance across the room. Where there is necessary traffic through the room, a width of 15 or 16 feet could conceivably be utilized to advantage by routing the traffic outside a conversation circle made with the furniture.

Ideally, no traffic should pass through the room; the room should be a dead-end area. Good planning places the exit at only one end of the room. This now is modified somewhat by the widespread use of glass doors that open onto a porch, patio or lanai. Even so, their placement should not set up a cross-traffic pattern.

In general, one wall should be allocated for the fireplace and perhaps bookshelves or built-in cabinets, one long wall for the large divan, one wall for the entrance (archway or door) and the fourth for windows or sliding doors. There may be various combinations of these to some degree, depending on individual taste or necessity.


Storage for this room or area should include a closet outside the main en trance for coats and other street clothing, umbrellas and raincoats. It should be spacious enough to accommodate guests’ clothing, particularly Outerwear.

Living Room Designs.

Many living rooms have or need storage space for books, radio, stereo, records, newspapers and magazines, ashtrays and coasters and stationery and writing equipment. The television set no longer holds as much sway over the environs of the living room as it once did. An interesting survey has revealed that in two-thirds of the more affluent homes, there is no TV set in the living room. It had been transferred to the recreation room, family room or bedroom.


Cross-ventilation in the living room is desirable but, where there are large glass doors that slide open, not always necessary. Ventilation areas should exceed 10 percent of the floor area. Proper ventilation is very important where there is a fireplace, for both proper draw and fresh-air circulation. A door may be considered part of the cross-ventilation system because it, too, creates desired air circulation.


In newer houses, baseboard and other similar types of heating units do not interfere with furniture arrangements. In older homes, the forced hot-air unit or the cold-air return duct should not be blocked by large furniture pieces such as chairs, divans or chests. New and attractive metal coverings for the old cast-iron steam or hot-water radiator enhance the room and do not interfere with the heat. But these heating units should not otherwise be blocked if they are to perform well in their old age.

The thermostat never should be placed close to the fireplace for the heat causes it to fluctuate and send improper impulses back to the furnace.


Natural lighting can be achieved best by correct and attractive window treatment. Unfortunately, this cannot be a 24-hour-a-day arrangement.

The newest innovations in artificial light add tremendously to the aesthetics of the living room. If they can be incorporated into the room while it is in the building stage, even the most sophisticated arrangements and fixtures are not extremely costly.

Cove lighting usually is mounted on a wall and directs light upward to the ceiling where it is reflected back into the room. Soffit lighting is used in the underside of any architectural feature, such as the area over a mirror, a corner niche or a beam. This type of structural lighting can be very flattering, particularly when combined with amber-, pink- or blue-toned lighting. These mood effects are restful and low key but do not meet the needs of the family scholar who desires an easy chair by the fire. A lamp should be strategically situated on a table or stand to provide quality lighting.

In general, living rooms have a low intensity-to-brightness ratio (i.e., the difference between surfaces) because of furnishings such draperies, rugs and upholstered furniture, and tend to look dull. Specific lighting such as at the side of a chair or on a desk not only provides the proper intensity of light but also enhances the mood and atmosphere by creating centers of brightness. An attractive lamp also will add to the decor.

Adequate electric outlets should be readily available in the living room so that there is flexibility in arranging furniture and lamps to serve the seating plans. Nothing detracts more from good decor than lengthy wires running along the floor.

Conversation Areas

The ideal conversation area is a circle approximately 10 feet in diameter. Furniture groupings should be arranged with this in mind. The family and/or guests are more comfortable when seated within this range for most people like to congregate in small groups whether in a large or a small room. Within the 10-foot-diameter circle, they can see each other easily and communicate comfortably without shouting. A large room may require several conversation centers of this size if this principle is followed. At a party, where guests tend to stand around to converse, even less space is desirable. The ideal diameter of a standing conversational circle need only be about 6 feet. A living room more than 22 feet long by the correct 11-foot to 14-foot width mentioned previously provides for several seating and standing circles of conversation and activity. When the living room has a fireplace, it should be the focal point of furniture in one of the conversation circles.

Munching on hors d’oeuvres and fondue, finding elusive ashtrays or circulating from one conversation group to another takes maneuverability. The living room should provide this.



Sometime around 40 B.C., Gaius Sallustius Crispus wrote that the war with Catiline was “on behalf of their country, their children, their altars and their hearths.” Note that he did not say on behalf of their bed chambers, grape arbors, the atrium or the arena. His priority after God, country and the family was the hearth.

After 20 centuries, people still are fighting for exactly the same reasons, the only difference being that the hearth now is called the kitchen. It remains, still, the “heart” of the home.

History provides very little documentation on the evolution of the kitchen. We do know, however, that its metamorphosis must have taken place very slowly, until the comparatively recent revolution in kitchen equipment. Oddly enough, most of what we do know has been revealed through the art of particular periods. Paintings, sketches and frescoes reveal that Egypt had its kitchens on the side of the courtyard away from the rest of the house, complete with drains for the removal of water. The water closet was installed next to it to make use of the same amenities. The early Romans had an oven of sorts that has become one of the most important of all archeological finds — other remnants have been uncovered from Scotland to Iran.

During the Middle Ages, a fire in the living room served to heat the house and poor families did their cooking there. This was not a separate room but an area important chiefly because of the fire. Those who could afford it had a brazier, a large metal pot that held hot coals for cooking. Only the very wealthy had a kitchen, which was a separate building slightly removed from the castle. Even so, that kitchen and the ones we know today bear little resemblance to each other.

As the kitchen moved into the house, the servants still had to carry in the firewood and water and to prepare the food. Cleanliness was not a requirement. The floor was hard dirt, packed down and often slippery with fish scales and stray entrails that the dogs or chickens walking around underfoot may have overlooked. The dogs and chickens also contributed somewhat to the slippery conditions. Lack of ventilation didn’t help any.

To eliminate the considerable amount of smoke, holes were cut in the roof. An enormous roast would be slipped onto a metal “spit” that was supported by hooks and this would be constantly turned for hours by a servant. After awhile, both the meat and the servant would be covered with smoke and roasted.

In the wealthier homes, the chickens were parted from their feathers in a separate room called a scullery, where much of the food preparation was performed. It is interesting to note that we “regress” in our cooking habits by cooking on spits in sophisticated electric ovens and gas grills or broiling meats over a hibachi, which by any name is a brazier.

The Renaissance period found the kitchen demoted to the cellar or the lower region of the house. These areas in a palace or mansion were cold, damp, dark and enormous. The food was brought up by the back stairways or, later, sent up by small lifts. During this period, the kitchen just barely could be considered a part of the house.

This is quite different from the home of today. It is impossible to imagine a house without a kitchen. The preparation of food has become only one of its many functions. It is a gathering place for the family and most likely the place where the family eats. The kitchen is often a laundry center. It also can serve as an “office” or business center for family financial planning. The kitchen can be a marvel of versatility, constituting the major part of the work area in the average house. As such, it deserves the greatest attention in planning.


The location of the kitchen in the house should be planned to fit into modern family life. Whether it should be located in the front or the back of the house should be determined by style, site, view, exposure or other variables. It should have direct access to the dining area and to the front or guest entrance. Access to an outdoor eating area, patio or porch should be from the kitchen and/or dining room. If there are children in the family, the kitchen should be located adjacent to or provide a good view of the play area. The kitchen entrance also should be close to the garage, breezeway or carport.

If there is a family room, the kitchen should be open to it wherever possible. Like the play area, the family room should be within the view of the parent for safety’s sake. Furthermore, recent psychological studies of children’s play habits have proven that small children want and need to have the parent within their view. Space for extras, such as storage, utility cabinets, an eating area, laundry facilities, a serving counter or a planning area with a desk, should be incorporated whenever possible.

What a kitchen should not be is a main thoroughfare for the rest of the house. Any traffic through the house should bypass this important work area.

Size and Layout

The size of the kitchen depends on factors such as the space available, the number of people in the family, the kind of equipment desired and what activities other than those directly associated with food preparation will be carried on there.

The MPS regulations for houses with a floor area of less than 1,000 square feet are a small kitchen of 8 by 10 feet to 10 by 10 feet. The standards for houses with 1,000 to 1,400 square feet are 10 by 10 feet to 10 by 12 feet. Liberal standards for houses over 1,400 square feet in area are 10 by 12 feet and more.

Ten percent or more of the cost of a new home is spent on the kitchen. After years of careful study and research (by an astronomical number of independent groups with a variety of motives), certain basic requirements emerged: adequate storage, appliance space, counters and activity space all carefully arranged with maximum efficiency in mind.

When kitchen layout finally caught up to the progress made in kitchen equipment, the term triangle emerged. This layout has yet to be improved on. The triangle is applicable to each of the five basic kitchen shapes: the L shape, the U shape, the corridor (gallery) shape, the broken U shape and the straight-line shape. Other good kitchen shapes are possible and, as long as there is sufficient wall space for appliances and the necessary cabinet and counter space, the all-important work-center relationships then can be accomplished.

There are three essential work areas of use and activity. These “centers” are the refrigerator area, the sink-wash-preparation area and the range-serve area. The centers can be arranged in any logical way, deter mined by the space available and the personal preference for one particular center over another. A fourth separate center often is added, for “planning.” This usually includes a desk for menus, cookbooks, stationery, a family activities calendar and the telephone. Generally, this area is located outside the triangle.

However the kitchen is arranged, work should flow in a normal Sequence from one center to another. Ideally, no traffic should move through the work center. Properly establishing the location of the windows and doors and the traffic pattern ensures efficient use of the centers. The counters of two or more centers can be combined, but dual-use counters should be wider wherever possible. Figure 3.3 illustrates sample kitchen designs.

A kitchen comes alive when it is more than just four walls and a model of efficiency. It should be bright and well ventilated, warm and inviting in winter, cool and beckoning in summer.

The amount of wall space available for cabinets in the kitchen is affected by the placement of the windows. Most building standards require that the glass area should equal at least 10 percent of the floor area of the room; 15 to 20 percent is preferable. At least one section of a work counter should have a window over it with provision for controlling direct sunlight. Many people prefer to have a window located over the sink. (For reasons of both safety and good housekeeping, the range never should be located under a window.) The window should be as low as possible to the sink to form a neat panel of light.

If the kitchen is part of a dining unit, the windows need not be in the kitchen work area but should equal at least 10 percent of the total area. For the best ventilation, windows should be placed away from exterior corners. The window-over-the-sink concept still is the best plan, aesthetically and otherwise. The average kitchen ventilation is achieved with one or possibly two windows and the “backdoor.”

Artificial as well as natural ventilation should be provided for the kitchen. In cold or inclement weather, windows cannot remain open. The MPS requires the installation of a kitchen ventilation system when a kitchen does not have the required natural ventilation: “Air shall be exhausted from kitchens directly to outdoor air by a range hood or by a ceiling or wall fan.”

Fan installation is more flexible when the kitchen has the required 10 to 15 percent window-area ventilation, but the fan above the range must not be more than 6 feet off the side of the center line of the range itself.

Range hoods are desirable and now are being installed in at least seven out of ten homes (possibly a conservative estimate). A fan that exhausts 300 cubic feet of air a minute completely changes the air in the room every four minutes. In one hour, the air is changed 15 times, the rate considered necessary for good ventilation.

Even though a kitchen may have an air conditioner, it still must be properly ventilated, for the primary function of an air conditioner is to cool. Many people confuse air-conditioning with ventilation. Air- conditioning helps ventilation by removing moisture and by circulating the cooled air, but it does not actually ventilate.

Kitchen Designs: Parallel-Wall (Galley) Kitchen; Single-Wall (Galley) Kitchen

“L” Kitchen; “U” Kitchen: The total of the three sides of the work triangle should not exceed 22 feet.

Broken “U” Kitchen: The total of the three sides of the work triangle should not exceed 22 feet.

Counters and Cabinets

Cabinet space should be planned with care and thought. Little extra effort is needed to make the difference between good utilization of space and expensive waste. Some common and glaring errors found in a sampling of kitchens (in mostly smaller homes) are insufficient base and wall cabinet storage, too little cabinet space, wasted wall space, no counter be side the refrigerator and insufficient space in front of the cabinets and appliances. All these can be avoided with good sense and effective utilization of space. Cabinet-space needs depend on what and how much is to be stored. Food, utensils and dishes should be stored where they are first used.

The most common base cabinet is 36 inches high over a drawer and two fixed shelves. This is not, however, storage space at its best for it is difficult to reach far back. The ideal arrangement includes drawers of the proper size for the items to be stored and with adjustable dividers. Corner cabinets are difficult to utilize unless they are equipped with lazy Susans (turnaround shelves). A recent refinement in cabinet height is to adapt it to suit the owner, who may be taller or shorter than average. This can be a resale hazard, however, and should be considered carefully.

Kitchen storage is judged as adequate or not by its “base cabinet frontage,” the length of accessible cabinet space in total. Space under the sink, although useful, is not included in base-cabinet frontage because it does not have multiple shelves. Turnaround or lazy-Susan corner cabinets add extra storage space equal to an additional 6 inches in base-cabinet length. General recommended standards for base cabinet frontage area are: minimum, 6 feet; medium, 8 feet; and liberal, 10 feet. The standard counter width is 25 inches.

Wall cabinets should be installed 15 inches above the countertop of the base cabinet. This provides sufficient room for blenders, toasters, mixers and all the other luxury-items-turned-necessities that the modern homemaker enjoys.

Wall cabinets over the refrigerator or oven range surface (stove or built-in) are not easily accessible and should not be added when frontage measurements are taken. Naturally, everyday dishes would not be stored in these. It bears repetition that cabinets are not desirable over the sink. Cabinets over the range should be separated from the surface by a hood (and fan) or some type of insulation. The MPS requirements are for installation at least 24 inches above the surface. Anything closer than that may be permitted, except over ranges, if it does not interfere with the use of the countertop. Wall cabinets should be located above the counter for each “center,” as discussed previously.

Quite possibly, there never will be a family that has “enough” cabinet or counter space. Fortunately, the new concepts have taken kitchen planning a giant step toward narrowing down the number of people who feel that their kitchens are merely adequate.

Various research studies have indicated that (in small houses, particularly) two-thirds of the kitchens have too little counter space, which also indicates too little base cabinet space. More than half of them had insufficient counter space beside the refrigerator and range and little or no counter space on either side of the sink.

Frequently, counters are used for more than one function and, in combination, save space. Whenever two (or more) counters are combined, this counter area should be equal in length to the longest counter plus one foot. Whatever the combination, it should not reduce the recommended base-cabinet frontage. In case the homemaker has grand illusions of infinite cabinet and counter space, he or she should remember that any exceedingly liberal dimensions are self-defeating and result in excessive walking and excessive work.

At least 15 to 18 inches of countertop should be on the handle side of the refrigerator (this is the counter that most often is missing). At least 2 to 3 feet of countertop should be on each side of the sink. On each side of the built-in range and oven should be 1 to 2 feet of countertop. In addition, another 3 to 4 feet should be available for general food preparation, mixer, toaster and other small appliances.

A wide selection of kitchen countertop material is available (some of them are discussed in more detail later in the guide). The most common ones in order of cost are:

1. Stainless steel.

2. Ceramic tile set in mortar.

3. Ceramic tile attached with adhesive to wood.

4. Hardwood-laminated.

5. Melamine-laminated (Formica) with molded edges.

6. Melamine-laminated (Formica) with stainless steel or cut melamine edge.

7. Vinyl.

8. Laminated polyester.

9. Linoleum.

10. Tempered hardboard.

Stainless steel has excellent durability and is impervious to moisture (although it does stain, most stains can be removed with cleanser or alcohol). High heat from a pan will mark it but not damage it. Sharp knives will scratch it but not cut into it (many scratches can be removed with fine steel wool). It is not affected by sunlight. Stainless steel makes a poor cut ting surface, however, for it dulls knives, will dent, is noisy, conducts electricity and may be a shock hazard.

Ceramic tile is hard and durable. It is not affected by heat or fire. Sharp knives will not cut it. It is very stain-resistant and the color is not affected by sunlight, but it will crack when a heavy pan is dropped on it.

Because ceramic tile is so hard, it will dull knives and break dishes and glasses. The grout between the tiles will stain.

Hardwood usually is used for only a portion of the countertop. It makes an excellent cutting surface and is difficult to damage. When it becomes dented, stained or burned, it can be refinished. Hardwood must be cared for and kept dry or it will roughen and become difficult to clean. In addition, sunlight will change its color.

Laminated melamine, of which Formica is a popular brand, now is the most popular counter surface. Its surface is smooth, hard and durable. It is easy to clean and it resists stains and wears very well. It will scorch from cigarettes and hot pans, however. Sharp knives will cut it and it will dent or crack when struck by a heavy object. Laminated polyester is less durable than melamine but has similar properties.

Vinyl makes a smooth, quiet surface. Some foods stain it, however, sharp knives cut it and it is highly susceptible to heat damage. These characteristics limit its use as a kitchen countertop material.

Linoleum was, for many years prior to World War II, the most popular kitchen countertop material. It provides a smooth, quiet, resilient surface, but it will stain from some foods, detergents and bleach. Alkalies damage it and it will mildew if left constantly wet (from a slow leak in the kitchen faucet or water under the dish drain board). Sunlight tends to fade it. Today, its use is usually a sign of cost cutting.

Tempered hardboard is inferior to laminated hardboard and also is used as a cost-cutting substitute.

Inadequate Kitchens

Many kitchens suffer from one or more of the following inadequacies (listed in order of most common occurrence):

1. Insufficient base cabinet storage space.

2. Insufficient wall cabinet storage.

3. Insufficient counter space.

4. No counter beside the refrigerator.

5. Not enough window area (at least 10 percent of the floor area).

6. Poorly placed doors that waste wall space.

7. Traffic through work area.

8. Too little counter on either the right or left side of the sink.

9. No counter beside the range.

10. Insufficient space in front of the cabinets.

11. Distance between the sink, range and refrigerator too great.

12. Range under the window (unsafe).


During the second half of the eighteenth century, the concept of the dining room evolved, particularly in Italy, Germany and France. The dining room was not always properly allied with the kitchen; instead, it became a separate room for dining.

In 1877, the Domestic Encyclopedia, published in New York, printed a list of no fewer than 200 items that it considered indispensable to a “modest” household. In the dining room, it said, “the table should ex tend to 12 places: a coffeepot of Britannia metal, a steel carving knife and a brass bell are recommended.”

The question in the 1990s is not what to put into the dining room but whether to have one at all. If space permits, a dining room is a room de sired by many homemakers. The trend, however, is toward “space in which to dine,” for the separate dining room now is considered an amenity and not really necessary. Now Grandma sets a table for 12 or more comfortably on Thanksgiving in space which for the rest of the year serves as a living area for her sewing, bridge and social activities.

Acceptable alternatives to the dining room are dining areas, extra- large kitchens that provide space for family meals, sometimes the family room or living room and the patio in season. A common compromise is a dining “L” between the living room and the kitchen. This usually is furnished with a drop leaf or some other expandable type of table, several chairs and, if possible, one other piece of furniture, such as a serving cart, cabinet, hutch or lowboy to provide storage space for linens, dishes and silverware.

The priority of requirements for the dining room or dining area is identical. Access from the kitchen service area to the dining table should be short and direct. At least 10 to 15 percent of the floor area should be given to windows to provide adequate light and ventilation.

Window placement usually is standardized. Often a window is placed on each of two walls that form one corner of the room. Another wall contains the door or opening. One wall should be “free” to ensure that not all of the wall area is cut up, thus precluding good furniture arrangement.

The size of the separate dining room or area obviously depends on what circulation exists through the room, as well as its function for dining. The MPS minimum room sizes are set forth in two categories: separate rooms and combined rooms.

According to MPS specifications, for separate rooms in a house with two bedrooms, the dining room must be 100 square feet; 110 square feet for three-bedroom houses; and 120 square feet for four-bedroom houses.

When the living room and dining area are combined, the required size in a two-bedroom house is 210 square feet, 230 square feet for a three- bedroom house and 250 square feet for four-bedroom houses.

When the living room, dining area and kitchen are combined, the required size in a two-bedroom house is 270 square feet, 300 square feet in a three-bedroom house and 330 square feet for four-bedroom houses.

Because the ideal seating room is a clear 3 1/2 feet all around the table and invariably other furniture is in the dining room, a 10-foot by 12-foot room scarcely suffices. Assuming that there also is some traffic, a better minimum would be 12 by 12 feet. There are no minimum requirements for view. If there is a good one, so much the better. Figure 3.4 illustrates sample dining room designs.

Dining Room Designs: Minimum-Size Dining Room; Recommended Size Dining Room


One of the basic human needs of people everywhere and in every time is sleep—that blessed time that “knits up the ravel’d sleeve of care” while refreshing the physical machinery of the anatomy.

This need has been satisfied in many ways and styles throughout history, fluctuating from the comfortably simple to the uncomfortably stylish, from the practical to the profane. It is interesting that a little of each of these qualities remains today, but basically the twentieth century bed room gradually has evolved into a haven for rest and relaxation.

The caveman improvised with piles of leaves and straw or the more fortunate threw down some fur hides in a spot sheltered from the elements but probably near a fire. They simply made “bed room.” The evolution of the separate room in which to sleep came slowly and with it, the idea that beds should be elevated from the floor. Although some Oriental cultures still rest on comfortable mats on the floor, these mats are in a bedroom. Other cultures, such as ours, have gone from “caves to waves” with the latest innovation, the water bed.

Considerable evidence exists that very early civilizations slept on ornate beds made of choice woods, precious metals and even ivory. After 1000 A.D., man began to see the bed as something more than utilitarian and began to devise means of warmth and sometimes privacy, which in it self did not seem to be of prime consideration until later. When curtains were first placed around beds (alone or in an alcove), this was to provide warmth. The idea of privacy seemed to follow and became a fringe benefit.

The Middle Ages shows the greatest advance in the separate- bedroom concept, with one or two exceptions. In Cairo, with its Moslem “citadel arrangement,” separate “sleeping” quarters were on upper floors for the harem but were not bedrooms as such. Contrast this to the bedroom of a wealthy French home in 1550 that contained among other things: “chairs upholstered in morocco and petit point; two wooden bedsteads with any number of pillows, mattresses, quilts and blankets; a Turkish carpet; a framed oil painting; a walnut chessboard with its pieces; tapestries and, in the dressing room next door, a wardrobe and four chests” (from a document of the period).

In Germany at this time, there was the canopied bed. The hangings served to ward off drafts, because, it is thought, night clothing of that period was not warm. The hangings also provided some privacy from the personal servants who slept in the same room, as was the custom. From this point on, the history of the bedroom up to today is one of familiar documentation of social and economic growth—in a word, refinement.

Still, there remain vestiges of centuries past, when literature tells us of the great Bed of Ware in which:

Four couples might cosily lie side by side, and thus without touching each other abide.


From the area with fur hides, to the alcove with draperies and finally to the comfort and privacy of today’s bedroom, one thing constantly re mains true: People sleep about one-third of their lives. We still scatter fur rugs on top of the wall-to-wall carpeting and we drape the windows and occasionally have bed alcoves or canopy beds. Today, however, we also are concerned with how the bedroom function is applicable to that two- thirds of our lives when we are awake.

A bedroom is no longer just a place in which to sleep or dress. It is a place where one enjoys reading or lazy contemplation, a place to unwind and relax during the waking hours. For children, it harbors games, books and other treasures.

The number of people in the family usually determines the number of bedrooms in the house that they buy. Other variables are the number of adults and children, what their particular requirements in a bedroom are and the inevitable budget. As construction costs have escalated, the size of the bedroom has diminished. The most important consideration, therefore, still is that of its main function: to accommodate beds for sleeping and to allow for their use and care.

The maximum number of persons to a bedroom should be two. Three bedrooms for a family are considered minimum, with two-bedroom houses becoming obsolete. Usually, the better the house, the more bed rooms there are. There also may be a guest room, but such a room, per se, is rare today and usually doubles as a study or den.


Location of bedrooms shares equal importance with size in good planning. The relationship of the bedrooms to the other areas of the house and to each other varies with the style of the house.

Whatever the plan, however, bedrooms should be reached directly from a hall, be removed from the living/social zone and the working service zone and be directly accessible to the bathroom without observation in ordinary circumstances.

When these basics in good planning are achieved and finances allow, more sophisticated considerations can be made. Such considerations would be of a more extraordinary nature, such as locating the bedrooms in the “quietest” part of the house, completely withdrawn from the street noises. Some homeowners want the adult bedroom/bath area segregated from children’s noises. This usually is provided for when the proximity of parents to very young children no longer is a necessity.

Even something as clinical as the MPS has, as one of its objectives, privacy and “the interior arrangement of rooms, particularly with reference to access to bathrooms from bedrooms.”

Sunshine is desirable, psychologically and aesthetically, but because so many variables are involved when determining the best use of the sun, it is almost impossible to set guidelines for this utilization. A good generalization is that the best position for the house is a location on the site so that as many rooms as possible face south. A site that has the street on the north side is ideal. Because the south is the only elevation that has sun at all times of the day and year, it allows some degree of control. Of course, the homeowner should not despair if he cannot orient the house and bedrooms to this. There are ingenious architectural methods of including and excluding the sun regardless of ideal orientation.

Size and Layout

In the last analysis, bedroom size is determined by the makeup of the family. The square footage will vary in each room, but the need for space for adequate movement and circulation is a minimum requirement no matter what the size. This also is true of clearances, general outlines of closet, window locations and entry. A bath in the master bedroom suite requires a wall interruption of its own, for example. Figure 3.5 illustrates sample bedroom designs.

Bedroom Designs: Minimum-Size Bedroom—Single Bed; Recommended Size Bedroom—Single Bed

The minimum bedroom size allowable under MPS specifications is 80 square feet or 8 by 10 feet. This applies to two-, three- or four- bedroom homes. Usually, only one of the three bedrooms in the average house will be that size. Children’s room dimensions of 13 by 14 feet or 11 feet, 4 inches, by 17 feet have proven to be suitable for both boys and girls with a large number of playthings and possessions.

Some guidelines regarding room size beyond the minimum 8 by 10 feet are: small, 10 by 11 feet (either size room can accommodate one bed); medium-small, 10 by 12, providing minimal space for two beds (medium room dimensions are considered to be 10 feet, 2 inches, by 14 feet or 11 feet, 8 inches, by 12 feet, which, in either case, is 140 square feet, providing adequate space for two beds); above-average, anything over 170 square feet, such as a room 12 by 14 feet, 2 inches; large, 190 square feet, such as a room 12 by 15 feet; very large, anything over a room area of 220 square feet, with dimensions such as 12 by 18 feet, 4 inches, or 15 by 14 feet, 8 inches.

As the size of the room increases, problems of layout decrease. There is more uninterrupted wall space in which to place furniture and allow for windows, doors and, in some cases, radiators. The wall area or usable room perimeter length has to accommodate the bed or beds and usually a chest of drawers, a dresser and a chair. Other furniture often includes one or two night tables, a dressing table and perhaps a desk and a chaise.

Doors should be placed so that they open back against the wall and they never interfere with other doors. They also should be placed so they do not interfere with beds and other furniture.

Window placement should take advantage of good, natural light and afford cross-ventilation, leaving enough wall perimeter for large furniture. Electrical outlets should not be located directly behind furniture, except to illuminate a night or dressing table.

A single bed may be placed with one side along a wall because normally only one person occupies it and arises from it, but the double bed requires space on both sides to rise from it and make it. Space between twin beds is necessary for the same reasons. Twin beds pushed together to utilize one headboard are popular and in layout arrangements should be treated as a double bed or queen-size or king-size bed.

Additional space must be allowed for making the bed and for cleaning under it. Specific clearance distances for use and circulation, there fore, are as important in planning the layout as are furniture dimensions. Clearance space around the bed should be a minimum of 14 to 19 inches on the side and 2 feet at the foot. Space between twin beds should be from 18 inches to 2 feet. Twin beds require 9 feet, 8 inches, to 10 feet of wall space. If there is a night table on either side of a bed, the space between the bed and the wall should be from 18 inches to 2 feet.

At least 2 1/2 feet of clearance should be provided in front of the dresser or chest for pulling out drawers. Space for dressing between the bed or other furniture and a wall should be 3 to 4 feet. The space and floor area required for dressing should be convenient to the closets, dresser or chest and dressing table/chair and as near to the door of the room as possible. This allows for the most efficient use of the traffic area.

Traffic routes ordinarily take up about 3 feet of space. The average adult generally needs an area of 42 inches in diameter for dressing. Some larger new ho accommodate this with the luxury of a dressing room in combination with the bedroom and bath.

The minimum code requirement of the MPS for the window area in relation to the bedroom area is 10 percent. In a 10 by 12-foot room, this would be 120 square feet, with a glass area of 12 square feet. Thus, a 3 by 4-foot window would satisfy the requirements but would scarcely provide adequate light under the best conditions. More windows are preferred, because they often are used as much in daylight hours as at night and thus should provide an atmosphere of comfort, quiet and illumination. This is best achieved with glass areas in excess of 20 percent of the floor area, if possible. At least one window should be not more than 3 feet from the floor in case of fire.

Windows should be placed to provide for the best use of light, sun and ventilation. They should be located to allow free wall space for the furniture and the doors. The increase in popularity of bedroom air conditioners might be a factor where window planning would be affected by installation of a cooling unit.

Ventilation must be planned in the treatment of the windows just as carefully as the other broad considerations of view, uniformity of light across the room and appearance. The ventilation area should exceed 10 percent of the bedroom area. The MPS requires that windows should provide natural ventilation with a net area of not less than 4 percent of the floor area of the room or space. This barely provides what health authorities believe is adequate ventilation for sleeping purposes. Fortunately, this minimum is almost always exceeded in newer houses. Some of the more expensive homes today feature entire bedroom walls of glass that are designed to slide open with screen protection, providing excellent ventilation.

For the best ventilation, windows should be placed away from corners on as long a diagonal as possible with one another when in adjoining walls. Cross-ventilation wherever possible is most desirable. This does not mean that the windows must be on two sides of the room. A door or correctly situated window in another part of the house can provide this ventilation.

The trend toward using room air conditioners and central air-conditioning is having a profound effect on the whole concept of ventilation. While air-conditioning does not provide fresh air, it cools and circulates air to produce the proper effect. Where cross-ventilation is achieved by mechanical means, often extra windows can be eliminated, thus producing more usable wall space. It is extremely doubtful, however, that the hum of the air conditioner is the death knell for the window. Fresh air and light continue to be as much a part of the house as the foundation. They actually become substance when a house is built around them.

Once the type of heating system has been selected, the only other consideration is the location of the radiators or grilles. Care must be taken that beds or chests are not placed in front of any heating unit for proper convection and maximum efficiency.


The decor of the bedroom is important to its function as a place of rest, whether it is a refuge for one hour or replenishment for eight. Proper lighting enhances the desired climate of relaxation. At the same time, it must illuminate different areas more than others, with the criterion being how much light is needed. There are three general sources of artificial light in a bedroom: the ceiling light, which should be of low intensity, brighter intensity lights for the dressing table or, if there is none, for the dresser-mirror and a light for the night table or tables (about 60 watts if two are used simultaneously or 100 watts for one bedside lamp). A switch control at the room entrance should turn on one of these sources. Different intensities of light make the room more interesting and attractive. Glare and reflection are eliminated and the walls and draperies have a softer glow.

General Electric research recommends about 40 lumens per square foot for the bedroom. (A lumen is the measurement of the amount of light emitted by a source, i.e., various types of bulbs or fluorescent rods.) For comparison’s sake, the kitchen should have 80 lumens, twice that of a bedroom.

In the more sophisticated and expensive houses, use of structural lighting, such as soffit lighting, luminous ceiling panels or lighting under valances, is both attractively decorative and functional. Lighting can be controlled by dimmers to achieve the proper intensity desired at any given time. Diffused lighting, which is flattering to the room and its occupants, directs light to the ceiling or uses one of the many new types of diffusing materials with structural lighting.


If there is any single indication of how civilized we have become, it is in our total dedication to the shrine, the closet. If we were to judge its importance by the interest and concern shown in closet space by the average person, rooms would be closets and the closets would be rooms! It is the one thing that there is “never enough of,” if universal complaints are any evidence. The MPS minimum closet refinements follow.

Each bedroom should have at least one closet having a minimum:

1. Depth, 2 feet clear for required area.

2. Width, 3 feet clear.

3. Height, minimum: adequate to permit 5 feet clear hanging space for at least the required width; maximum: lower shelf should not be more than 74 inches above the floor of the room.

4. One shelf and one rod with at least 8 inches clear space over the shelf.

Bedroom closets serve primarily as clothing storage but also store hobby or special articles, books, radios and built-in TVs. The children’s bedrooms, ideally, should have clothes closets with movable hooks and shelves, a rod that can be elevated as children grow and clothing becomes larger, plus storage for hobbies, games, books and equipment.

General bedroom storage includes space for bed linens, blankets, extra pillows and towels. More often than not, a linen closet is located in the hall near the bedroom that proves satisfactory. Occasionally, there is room within the confines of the bedroom for built-in storage. If this is possible, the storage room volume of the drawers may be substituted for a maximum of 50 percent of the shelf volume. The wardrobe closet and the walk-in closet are most commonly found in the average-size house. The newer and larger homes are incorporating both features into a dressing- room area, obviously a luxury.

Good closet planning utilizes every square inch of space while allowing room for movement. The wardrobe closet is shallower than the walk- in and takes up more wall space, but it is not always possible to have the depth necessary for the walk-in. The deeper the closet is, the more space is wasted because of the traffic movement.

The following statistics are a composite of studies on what makes ad equate, well-organized closet space for a medium-size bedroom:

• Depth—for a closet having a rod running parallel with the opening, the inside dimension should be 24 inches.

• Width—an arbitrary recommendation is 48 inches of rod space per person for hanging clothes. This is calculated from the average rod space per garment of 2 inches for a woman’s garment, 2 1/2 inches for a man’s and 4 inches for heavy clothing.

• Rod height—64 inches for adult clothing; for robes and gowns, 72 inches. (In the children’s bedroom closet, for those under 12 years of age, 48 inches.)

• Shelves—at least one shelf 12 inches deep, for hats, purses, folded garments and other bulky apparel. Sometimes shoes are stored on this shelf. In other cases, a shelf the width of the closet is installed 6 to 8 inches off the floor to hold shoes, as does the space underneath.

The distance between the top shelf and the clothes rod should be at least 2 1/2 inches to allow for ease in raising and removing the hanger. If any kind of hooks are used against a wall (for hanging jackets, robes, etc.), they should be 6 to 12 inches apart. Built-in drawers or pull-out shelves add more usable closet space and are an asset to achieving an uncluttered look in the room.

If sliding doors are used, half of the closet can be exposed at once. Swinging or hinged doors (either singly or in a pair) expose the entire closet at once, but they open into the room and take up space. Care must be taken that they do not hit the furniture or another door.

Bedroom closets should have an electric light installed, preferably one that automatically turns off and on as the door is closed and opened. To avoid a fire hazard, the light should be placed so that flammable material (i.e., plastic cleaner’s bags) cannot come in contact with the bulb.



The bathroom for washing is recorded in history as far back as 5,000 years ago in Eshnunna (a Sumerian city), as well as in early Egyptian history and in early Greece and Rome.

Washing, except for the hands and face, was unpopular during the Middle Ages and in the l600s and 1700s, many thought it was unhealthy. In the early 1800s, the bath and bathing came back into fashion and most substantial houses of this period had bathrooms.

The toilet (non-plumbing varieties) had almost as long a history as the bath in some cities, but in general, the necessary function was performed outdoors, away from the house. Chamber pots and outdoor latrines were the American answer to the problem until the late 1800s, when a version of the water closet that first had appeared in England almost 300 years before was designed by an English engineer, Thomas Crapper. Called “Crapper’s Valveless Water Waste Preventer,” it became popular and the bathroom as it is known today came into existence.

The American bathroom continues to grow in size and splendor. It has become a major selling point in new homes and next to the kitchen is the most important interior influence in selling houses. Features that were considered major luxuries and that were found only in expensive custom homes are becoming commonplace. These include partitioned toilets, twin wash basins and sunken or square tubs.

Number and Location

No universally accepted formula exists to establish the number of bath rooms and lavatories considered adequate for any given house. Such things as regional customs, social status, ethnic background, size, shape and layout of the house, as well as the individual family size and habits, must all be taken into consideration.

In most areas, the minimum acceptable standard for a three-bedroom house is one full bath with a tub and shower combination plus a lavatory.

New houses still are being built with one bath, but it is likely that these soon will be obsolete. Many three-bedroom houses have a bathroom off the master bedroom, another full bath off the hallway in the bedroom area of the house and a lavatory near either the front or rear entrance.

Another minimum standard is a bathroom or lavatory on each floor. If there is a maid’s room or guest room, there should be a separate bath room in that area, too. Custom-built luxury houses often have a full bath room for each bedroom.

Interior bathrooms are growing in popularity as more people become accustomed to them from using them in hotels where they are the rule rather than the exception. Interior bathrooms offer many advantages.

Ventilation must be mechanical and, therefore, does not depend on an open window that is drafty and must be kept closed during many types of weather. Cold and dirt will not come in through windows and no curtains, shades or blinds are needed. Additional wall space is available for cabinets, mirrors and towel bars.

A bathroom located between two bedrooms makes for nothing but trouble when there is a door directly into the bathroom from each bed room. Cracks around the doors let light and noise into the bedroom when the bathroom is being used by the adjoining room’s occupant. In addition, it is easy to forget to unlock the adjoining door when leaving, thus locking the other user out.

Entrances to bathrooms should be private. It should be possible to get from each bedroom to a bathroom without being seen from another area of the house, especially living areas where guests are entertained. The soundproofing of the bathroom can be accomplished in several ways. If possible, walls between bathrooms and bedrooms should contain closets that make excellent sound barriers. If this is not possible, the wall may be soundproofed with an extra layer of Sheetrock, staggered studs or insulation bats nailed between the studs—or ideally, all three of these methods.

Size and Layout

The minimum size for a bathroom containing a 5-foot tub and shower combination, a basin and a toilet is 5 by 7 feet or 35 square feet. This size will allow the toilet to be on the wall opposite the tub rather than between the tub and basin, which is unsatisfactory. This also will allow the door to Swing in without hitting a fixture. A 6 by 8-foot or 48 square-foot bath room is much better and the addition of even a few more square feet improves the room substantially.

By increasing the size still further, a separate toilet compartment can be created, two sinks can be built into the vanity counter and a separate dressing room or a dressing table included. Figure 3.6 illustrates sample bathroom or lavatory designs.

Ventilation, Heating and Windows

The bathroom requires the most heat and the best ventilation of any room in the house. It is equally acceptable to build a bathroom or lavatory in a central location without a window or on an outside wall with one or more windows.

Ventilation of an interior bathroom or lavatory must be accomplished with a mechanical ventilation fan ducted to the outside. This fan should be wired to the light switch so it automatically goes on when the room is in use and turns off automatically when the lights are turned out. The fan should be of sufficient size to change the air at least 12 times an hour or better, 15 to 20 times. Ideally, there should be an intake vent too, but a satisfactory intake can be accomplished by cutting an inch off the bottom of the door. Because this is so much cheaper, it is the method commonly used. Combination electrical fixtures are being marketed that include the ventilation fan, a radiant heater and a light.

Natural ventilation and light are supplied from windows when the lavatory or bathroom is on an outside wall. Because windows usually are kept closed during cold and inclement weather, a ventilation fan should be placed in an outside wall location as well.

The window location is very important. When over the tub, windows produce drafts and radiate cold that feel uncomfortable to a wet body in the process of taking a shower or bath. These windows are difficult to cover because the steam from the bath or shower wets the blinds, shades and curtains. Windows directly behind toilets also produce uncomfortable cold drafts and interfere with privacy. The best light and ventilation comes from a single window away from the tub and toilet that is airtight, opens from both the top and the bottom to provide ample ventilation and has a good screen.

Keeping the bathroom or lavatory sufficiently warm may require auxiliary heat. This can be provided with an electric heater or infrared light in the ceiling.



Accessories and Storage

Besides a toilet, bathtub and shower and basin, every bathroom also must have a medicine cabinet with a mirror, towel racks, toilet paper holder, soap holder, glass and toothbrush holder, linen storage space, dirty laundry storage and hooks for clothes.

Ceramic tile fixtures on a ceramic wall are excellent. They should be installed to withstand 300 pounds of pressure. The more towel bars there are, the better. At least one for each person using the bathroom plus one extra is preferable. There should be a soap holder at the tub and sink and in the shower. A shelf on brackets also is a handy extra. The toilet paper holder should be on the wall at the side of the toilet and not behind it.

The door should have hardware with an emergency device on the out side to permit entry if a child locks himself or herself in or an adult has an accident. An important safety feature is a firmly anchored grab bar in the shower stall and tub enclosure to help prevent falls. Another safety feature is a lockable medicine cabinet to keep children out. Medicine cabinets should be at least 20 by 30 inches.

A linen storage closet may be in the bathroom or in the hail directly outside. A hamper for dirty laundry can be either built-in or freestanding, if there is room. There also must be ample storage for medicine and beauty aids. This can be on shelves in the vanity or medicine cabinet or on bracketed shelves. If space is lacking, these items will end up on the windowsill, toilet-tank top, bath tub edge and vanity countertop.

A nice luxury is a full-length mirror. Two installed on opposite walls permit visual inspection of the entire body.

A discussion of the various types of counter surfaces that are available appears in the section about kitchens in this section.



The family room as it has come to be known in twentieth-century America is almost totally peculiar to our culture. Furthermore, its conception took place little more than 40 years ago. Its progress and popularity are well documented since World War II. Before that, only bits and pieces of information hint at how this addition to our life-style evolved.

However farfetched this idea may appear, some students of architecture feel that the concept is traceable to medieval days when a feudal castle had a primitive tower for its fortification, referred to as a “keep.” The ground floor was used to store food and supplies and usually had no windows. Near the walls of the castle were the crude homes of the dependents of the feudal lord. Whenever there was a threat to these peasants, they would take refuge inside the castle walls and would receive food and sup plies from the keep.

During the Renaissance period, the tower disappeared, but the court yard was retained and took on a great deal of splendor in the wealthier houses. The life of the home centered here and again it was a place for gathering and being supplied with food and drink. The French courtyard also was the heart of what might be either an elaborate or a simple house.

In the more affluent ones, a second courtyard within the servants’ quarters also accommodated the stables and storerooms and connected to the other yard for servicing.

Although the tower was gone, the term “keeping room” remained and spread. Its final distillation was the large room with an enormous fireplace where the “stores” were kept and the family gathered for food and warmth—”keeping” warm also may have contributed to this designation. The Pilgrims had their keeping rooms, not so much as a nice idea but as a necessity.

The heart of the home has changed little throughout the centuries except for refinement. The old country kitchen still was the center of activity while the food was being prepared. While Mother cooked, other family members might be reading, doing schoolwork, playing games or working on needlepoint. It was not such a giant step to the family room of today.

Many things converged at once to stimulate the mushrooming popularity of a special room where games, recreation or hobbies could be pursued. The returning war veterans were marrying and quickly establishing families, larger families than had been the average for many years. They needed room. Then, too, was the trend toward building houses all on one floor (the “ranch” and houses without basements). Many hobbies that had been carried on in basements had to be pursued in a room on the main level.

In homes with basements, these areas were partitioned off and refinished into attractive family centers for the ever-increasing popularity of games, new hobbies and the trend toward more home entertaining. It was then only a step up to move this center to a room of its own on the same level as the living quarters and, at the same time, to expand its functions.

The family room is alternately a den, a study, a sometime guest room, perhaps a library or a hobby center. Whatever function it serves, it is an asset.


Wherever is a question of space and finances. Many homeowners in older houses still used the cellar area where there is the most available space. Others have converted attics and garages or added a room to the house. It is difficult to say what the ideal location is for the family room in circum stances like those because, obviously, the best place for it is where space is available.

The MPS offers some minimum specifications for these rooms:

“Finished rooms in basements or below grade...are considered habitable rooms and shall comply with building planning standards in the same manner as rooms above grade. When acceptable to the FHA field office, ‘recreation rooms’ in basements, auxiliary to the living unit, may be permitted with reduced ceiling height, light and ventilation and outside grade standards.”

For the new homeowner, the options are quite different and there now are criteria for the best location as the family room relates to the rest of the house. Because the family room carries a minimum of through traffic, that does not have to be a prime consideration. Most planners and builders feel that the family room should be in the kitchen area, away from the sleeping area and separate from the living-dining area. This is especially desirable if there are teen-aged family members.

With small or preschool children, the family room might be better situated near the children’s bedroom yet linked to the kitchen for better supervision by the parent and for better vision of the parent by the children. On the other hand, small children don’t stay small for too many years, something that should affect plans for the permanent location of the family room.

How much entertaining the adult members of the family will do in this room is a factor in its location. If entertaining is frequent, the family room would best be near the kitchen. Usually, the larger the family room, the smaller the living room. One is informal, the other formal in use and furnishings.

Under ordinary circumstances, it is more practical to locate the family room in the rear of the house. This allows for more privacy and places it in the patio or outdoor entertainment area while at the same time situating it near the kitchen. This is also a good arrangement if a sink or wet bar is to be installed in the family room.

Size and Layout

A good size for a small house is approximately 12 by 16 feet to 13 by 18 feet, but, whatever the room area, the smallest wall dimension should be no shorter than 101/2 linear feet. There is no maximum size and a larger home conceivably could contain a family room of 16 by 26 feet, 18 by 30 feet or more.

Recreation or family-room layout depends solely on the desires of the family. Except for the usual windows and doors, there is nothing used as standard procedure. Many homeowners plan for a fireplace first and fit the needs of the family’s pursuits around it. If there will be much reading or studying done in the room, bookshelves may be built alongside the fireplace or in another place. If the room is to serve as an occasional guest room, provision should be made for a studio or convertible-type divan, figuring in plenty of space for when it is open as well as closed. There also should be some type of chest for clothing, either freestanding or built-in. It need not be large and can be utilized daily, guests or not.

For the music buff, an entire area might be devoted to a stereo set, its components, records, tapes, compact discs and other equipment. Built-in shelves and cabinets are helpful because they allow for better furniture arrangement. A TV set is nearly always found here. Other things that might be planned into the layout are a hobby center or a sewing area. A poker or pool table might be another consideration. In short, the layout takes on the “character” of the family.

A clothes closet should be included in the overall plan for the family room. The dimensions of the average-size bedroom closet are adequate as a guide. If a larger closet is possible, some of it should be for clothes and some for shelves or built-ins. Many people prefer to have the TV set and VCR encased in the closet. Or, in lieu of shelves, the space could hold the card table and folding chairs for the bridge-playing family. Small power tools and equipment also can be stored here, leaving the work center with an uncluttered look and free from danger to potential users.

No attempt will be made to recommend cabinet size or counter space.

The cabinet or unit is best built to suit its use. Measurements and guides are available at any reputable hardware or lumber store to aid in the tailor-made family room. Stamp albums, music albums, photograph al bums, cassettes, paintbrushes and canvasses, clipboards, file cabinets and paper—each has a particular dimension and can be housed neatly with little forethought.


Good lighting is always a minimum requirement for health, safety and efficient use. Each area should have its own lamp—one or two for close- intensity work. A cove light over work or game areas produces good quality lighting. Thoughtful lighting can be the “frosting on the cake” in the warm, friendly, truly recreation-oriented room.



The word patio is derived from the Latin patere—to lie open. It is defined by Webster as a courtyard or inner area open to the sky, common in Spanish and Spanish-American architecture, or a terrace.

In America today, where we have become geared to leisure time—long weekend-holiday entertaining, the patio has become an integral part of the house although it is actually outside the wails. Almost every house has a patio, whether it is an elaborate terrace, a side porch, a slab of concrete in the back yard or 100 square feet of grass with a grill. This area is affectionately referred to as the patio and we cherish and care for it as though we had given birth to the idea.

Not so. Although the patio of today bears little resemblance to the original, with the exception of its outdoor location, it is not new. History records one patio-type area as appearing in Iran during the eleventh century. In upper-class houses, there was a courtyard (or sometimes several), with rooms opening off it. The Spanish adopted this concept and improved on it by giving it more importance, usefulness and attractiveness, the idea probably having been carried to Spain by the Moslems. By the fifteenth century, the house and its galleries and porticos surrounding the

square central patio had become both very ornate and very popular. The Alhambra in Granada is a classic example of this structural architecture.

With the migration of the Spaniards to Central and South America came the patio. Here, as early as the sixteenth century, houses were built with two arcaded patios. In the poorer colonies, of course, the house had none. In the West Indies, the patio was the heart of the house, with galleries, arcades and screens. The tropical sun is bright and hot and al though air has long since eliminated the use of screens, they still are often kept for decorative purposes.

Gradually, the idea of the patio crept into our architecture and culture and perhaps it does bear more than a little resemblance to the first patio by being the warm-weather center for family-oriented activities of a festive nature. The twentieth-century American patio comes in all shapes and sizes and is all but gift-wrapped, so much do we revere it. It is an area that the homeowner usually “designs” for himself or herself to fit individual needs, whims and pleasure. Anything goes.


Certain basics are recommended for patio location. The south side of the house usually makes an excellent location. The patio also should be removed from the noise of the street by locating it in the back of the house.

This ensures the necessary privacy. The most important consideration is that there is direct passage from the service area to the patio for serving. The fewest steps from the kitchen for the transporting of food, drink, dishes and other cookout supplies should be the top priority. If this area can be “tied” to the house by extending the flooring material of the terrace to the interior of the house for an indoor-outdoor effect, so much the better. Slate flooring, for example, often is used. Glass doors ordinarily are installed to achieve the proper effect and provide good access.

There also should be a walk or some kind of passage from the front of the house to the patio so that the guests can carry their offerings of potato salad and watermelon to the patio without going in the front door and through the house. The food then can be transferred directly into the kitchen or service area until it is served. Serving food outdoors is pleasurable and cookouts are one of America’s delights, but they do involve work. When things are carried out, they also must be carried back in, so patio placement should be considered carefully.

Size and Layout

Some patios have clearly defined areas for different functions: the cooking area, the eating area and the relaxing or sunbathing area. There is no hard and fast rule for arrangement. Sometimes it is dictated by trees or the landscape, the view or simply by the number of people in the family. An adjacent swimming pool can influence the setup. The arrangement is purely individual and the possibilities for making the area a haven are endless.

Because the patio is an outdoor area, the elements will affect its use. The rising and setting of the sun cannot be controlled, but the sun’s rays can be controlled. Sunshine is welcome in the sunbathing area and undesirable at the picnic table. Usually, shade trees are sufficient for control, but manufactured means, such as trellises, ornamental “roofs” or awnings, are both attractive and functional. The awnings can be permanent, such as the new plastic ones, or the familiar temporary canvas ones that also are practical and colorful. Aside from being assets, the primary function of any of these is to ensure that anyone using the patio always can be able to move in and out of the sun as he or she pleases.

Occasionally, wind control is necessary in certain areas of the country. The erection of screens, such as dense plantings, certain types of fencing or a combination of both, usually eradicates the problem adequately; where practical, glass also may be used.

The kind of material selected for the “floor” of the patio most frequently combines durability with economy for the average homeowner. Concrete fits these specifications best. Patterns can be created with it; it can be colored or not, yet it provides an even, long-lasting surface for the least amount of money. There are variations on using concrete, such as adding pebbles or other decorative material to the surface, but these add to the cost slightly.

Brick makes an attractive patio flooring but takes more time and money. Used brick is slightly cheaper and very effective. Brick flooring also can be carried into the house area as discussed previously. Slate and flag- stones are among the more popular surfaces used. They are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors and can be installed by the homeowner.

One of the newer types of surface is the round wooden block. The blocks are literally sliced from the tree trunk. They are treated to resist rot, moisture and insects and are very attractive when set into the ground. Some kind of “fill” is necessary to go with them because of their circular shape.

Where the architecture of the house or the slope of the land is a factor, a popular patio is the wooden deck. Quite frequently, this is an extension of the living room, although it also may be an integral part of the family room or kitchen, for it extends across the entire side of the house. Frequently, glass doors are a companion feature.

On occasion, there is a need or desire for a raised wooden patio deck at ground level. Interesting patterns can be formed, either in sections or as a whole. This deck must be set on top of some type of footing and must have some space between the boards for drainage. Otherwise, it would be impractical.

The more expensive types of patio flooring are ceramic tiles (usually near the pool), terrazzo, slate, unglazed quarry tile and a number of new types of composition materials. All these require expert if not professional installation but, where finances allow, will repay the owner in beauty and “mileage.”

Ingenuity has provided more surfaces for patios than could be listed. They run the gamut from old railroad ties to the large discarded spools from the telephone company.

Occasionally, a homeowner may wish to have the patio entirely screened. There are, however, other methods of insect control besides this one, such as special electric light bulbs that repel insects and a particular blue type of light that attracts them “to death.” Careful placement of either of these two types of lighting can achieve the desired effect of an insect free area, for evening entertaining in particular. Homeowners should invest in this type of control because much of outdoor living takes place in warm weather and in the evening, both of which beckon the uninvited bug.

The patio area should be properly wired both for pleasure and for the insect control via electric light bulbs. Electric outlets help provide far wider and more versatile use and, ultimately, successful entertaining. Lo cal building codes should be followed carefully regarding the installation of electric outlets for the patio and pool area. Many cooking appliances, such as the electric barbecue spit, are popular. A popcorn popper, deep fryer or stereo all enhance a party when the electric outlet is situated near the cooking area. “Mood” lighting becomes possible with the imaginative use of different colored bulbs to achieve softening effects. Skill in their arrangement can set a charming scene.

A more practical aspect is easing the care and maintenance of the patio area. Electrical outlets can be used for the hedge trimmer, garden edger and other electric tools. Good lighting is necessary for walks and garden steps and filtered floodlights can achieve a beautiful environment for safety and many hours of enjoyment.


The porch has been on the architectural scene for centuries. In the equatorial regions, it appeared on the larger buildings above and around the entrance and was supported by ornamental brackets. In ancient Greece, even a simple hut would have a porch added to the front. In the Orient, the porch was a natural because of the projection of the roof so commonly found in the architecture of the houses and buildings. The porch then was under the overhang rather than being an addition.

The Renaissance period brought the wide use of porches, particularly by the French and Italians. These porches did not, however, always enhance the architecture. It remained for the English to refine the porch into a structure for the protection of the front door. From there, it was but a short step to its obvious place at the backdoor. The porch really came into its own in the United States during the nineteenth century. Then, porches were grand, long, wide and popular. There had been porches in colonial architecture, of course, but the emphasis was else where.

Millions of older Americans living today would have been appalled and unbelieving if, when they were children, someone had told them that porches would all but disappear from houses by mid-century. But it happened, for several reasons, and the front porch has approached obsolescence.

The great housing boom, the population explosion and the mushrooming development of the ranch—split level community conspired to eradicate the porch from the drawing board. As if that weren’t enough, the trend toward outdoor living and entertaining was growing. The disappearance of the porch was in direct ratio to the appearance of the patio. The small, token porch, usually formed from the deep overhang above the front door and the one- or two-step concrete slab just below it, is about all that remains.

There are exceptions, of course. In the larger or more expensive homes, the “side porch” (covered or not) off a living, dining or family room is not unusual, nor is the sun porch. Often these have to double as patios where lot size and other considerations make it necessary or just desirable. In Hawaii, the lanai, a covered patio (or an open porch), continues to be popular.

Many young people who are seeking the most house space for the least amount of money are buying older houses and remodeling them. When finances permit, the first thing to go usually is the front porch. Again, there are exceptions and occasionally, a young family will discover the joys of sitting, rocking and watching the neighbors or cars go by. Another exception is the beach house or summerhouse, particularly in the northern areas of the United States. Here, the screened-in porch is common and popular and frequently doubles as sleeping space.

The FHA has revised its minimum qualifications to include among others: “Unless otherwise acceptable to FHA field office, floor of...porch shall be at least 4 inches below floor of dwelling; least dimension of porch, 3 1/2 feet; to be considered a protected entrance, least dimension of porch, entrance hood or extended roof overhang, 3 feet.”

It is unlikely that these dimensions will be extravagantly exceeded for some time. Because styles in architecture, as in other art media, have a way of coming full circle every now and then, however, it also is unlikely that the porch will ever disappear completely.



Running water always has been a prerequisite for washing clothes. To the American homemaker, “running water” conjures up an image of the stainless-steel sink or a sparkling porcelain washer and dryer standing side by side in all their glory. The source of water is at one’s fingertips.

Running water to the primitive woman and up to colonial days was just that—water running in a nearby stream or brook. It could be said facetiously that the source was at her fingertips, too, but any resemblance to today ends there. The garments of the era were brought to the stream, immersed in the cold water, pummeled, pounded and rubbed with coarse sand as a washing agent. Great improvement was made over this procedure when water was heated in large pots over the open fire and the homemaker discovered that this was a more efficient and pleasant way to. keep the family smelling fresh.

The next refinement was to bring the tub inside a wash house structure and place it on a low table near a small stove that heated the water. First the scrub board was used, followed by a crude hand-operated wringer. It is difficult to comprehend what the invention of lye soap must have meant unless, perhaps, it is compared to the corrugated scrub board’s relation to the automatic washer.

From the washhouse to the wash or laundry room was a relatively short step. The washing machine often was in the cellar with a floor drain improvised for the waste water. Indoor plumbing “elevated” the washer to the big kitchen where water could be heated and would not have to be carried so far. Water also could be disposed of at the sink. Today, because it is filled with and emptied of water at precisely the right temperature and time, the automatic washer can be installed anywhere in a house where the plumbing is accessible.


The average house contains four general areas in which the laundry facilities may be installed: the kitchen or service area; the “first level” or utility room; the bedroom-bath area; an attached garage, enclosed porch, basement or other type of utility space.

The location is determined by space, practicality and preference, not always in that order. In new houses, the kitchen is a commonly used location. Because the automatic washer and dryer are compact and attractive, they fit in well with the decor of any kitchen. The plumbing already is there, as is cabinet space to house the necessary laundry supplies. Occasionally, these machines have to be installed under a counter, but the front-loading machines eliminate this difficulty. The countertop serves as a useful holding and folding area. Homemakers with young children seem to prefer to have the laundry in or near the kitchen and convenient to the service entrance to save steps when supervising the children. Careful placement of the machinery should eliminate the necessity of traffic through the kitchen “triangle” work center. Machines also should be out of the way of the kitchen to dining and living room traffic. In the newest houses, these appliances also are frequently found tucked into a closet- type space behind folding, sliding or, more commonly, shutter doors.

The attached garage can provide an excellent utility room situated between the garage and the kitchen and easily accessible to both. Many homemakers prefer to have the laundry clutter completely removed from the kitchen, but they like the other advantages of the first-level utility area. The attached-garage arrangement provides easy access to the back yard play area and if there is no dryer, to the clothesline. The plumbing already is installed and usually a toilet and sink can be found here for added convenience. When the children come in from play, they can shed their muddy clothes within inches of the washing machine. The mudroom-laundry room is very advantageous to busy homemakers.

Owners of larger, more expensive houses often enjoy the luxury of having a separate utility room off the kitchen, with its own lavatory, counters, cabinets, appliance, iron, ironing board and perhaps a sewing machine.

The subject of placing the laundry facilities near the bedroom- bathroom area is controversial. Some feel that this is the ideal location because this is where the soiled clothing and linen emanate from and have to be returned to. A combination washer-dryer is particularly adaptable to the smaller area. The availability of the plumbing makes this a suitable location. Others feel the noise, dirt and odors emitted from the laundry require a location away from this area.

Where space is limited, other possibilities for installation can be considered. In general, these would be in the attached garage, an enclosed porch, the basement or any other usable space that is available in any particular home. Even the space under the stairway has been utilized where plumbing makes it feasible. The attached garage is close to the kitchen area and provides an adequate solution except in very cold weather. An enclosed porch is slightly preferable as a general rule because it frequently receives some heat.

The basement is a good solution for laundry placement; in fact, many homemakers choose this location. Space here is not in short supply as it is upstairs and soiled linen and laundry supplies do not interfere with the aesthetics of the home decor. Many new houses with basements have a walk-out entrance. In a multilevel house, a clothes chute from the bedroom-bath area to the basement is desirable.


The size of the laundry is not so fundamentally important as are the other room sizes; efficiency and location are. The neat, compact washer and dryer can be housed within a very small space. Nevertheless, it is advantageous to have some counter space and shelves. Warmth and attractiveness cannot be measured but are very important.

Each homeowner probably will tailor his or her own area to individual specification. Because washers and dryers come in standard heights, this and the attendant countertop height do not need to be considered. In general, the shelving should not exceed 24 inches deep nor be too high, so that there is easy access to supplies. Boxes of soap powder always should be stored off the floor to eliminate any absorption of dampness, particularly in a basement area.

There are some non-automatic type washers in use and these require a large tub or two. This necessitates a larger area in which to work. A space roughly 7 1/2 by 8½ feet is adequate.

Proper ventilation in the laundry room or area is important both within the room and for the dryer. The dryer vent, whether it is for an electric or gas dryer, removes moisture and humidity to the outside and is necessary and highly recommended. Counter surfaces and flooring should have finishes that withstand high humidities and moisture from liquid supplies, which occasionally get dropped or spilled. Where the walls are covered or decorated, these, too, should be moisture-resistant.

Most new houses come with the necessary water hookups for the automatic washer and provide for the elimination of waste water. The same applies to wiring. In most new houses, the wiring provides for the necessary outlets and electric lights. Good artificial light is also a requirement. A well-lit laundry room is attractive and makes the usual laundry routine not only more pleasant but also much safer.


The days of storing everything in the basement or attic have long since passed. In some cases, even the basement and the attic are gone. Literally dozens of storage areas, however, can be found in today’s house. The basement and attic still are popular but do not seem to evoke a vision of mysterious trunks, old letters, dust and cobwebs any more.

Storage has become a complex problem and each family’s needs are individual and should be considered carefully. Convenience, accessibility and organization are the objectives. “Everything in its place” is fine, but the place must be provided and planned so that the family can live a well- ordered existence.

Indoor Storage

Still, the basement is one of the best and most popular storage areas be cause it provides a lot of leeway in arranging for storage of large articles. This is possible only if the basement is dry and well ventilated. Good lighting on the stairs and near the door to the outside is necessary. The MPS requires that basement storage space have: “artificial light pro vided; natural light and ventilation provided; when basement area is divided into separate spaces, required area for natural light and ventilation provided for each space; if heating equipment is located in enclosed space, combustion air provided.”

Basement storage in general often houses skiing, skating, archery, fishing, camping and other types of sporting equipment. Seasonal items, such as suitcases and trunks, Christmas and other holiday decorations, screens, storm doors and summer furniture, also are found here. Occasionally, there is a pool or Ping-Pong table and several bikes. The basement is also a favorite spot for unused furniture, children’s toys, frames, old clothes, family treasures and just junk.

Regardless of the bulk or variety, if things are properly stored to utilize every available space, there is that much more living space within the home. Wall shelving, units combined to form a wall, racks and cabinets are ideal.

Utilizing existing space in a house always is more economical and easier than building an addition. The attic makes an excellent storage area and where existing conditions permit, it can be attractively remodeled into a bedroom, a study or a hobby center in combination with storage. Lockers and cabinets fit ideally under the lower portions of the roof. Closets for items other than clothing need not be at regulation height to hold storage shelves.

It is cheaper to provide electricity and plumbing to the existing attic than to put it into an addition. Heating problems are minimal because of the warmth of the house. The MPS states, “if mechanical equipment such as an attic furnace is installed in attic space, access opening shall be of sufficient size to permit removal and replacement of equipment.”

The FHA lists minimum guidelines for “Attics and Spaces Between Roofs and Top Floor Ceilings”:

1. Provide cross-ventilation for each separate space by ventilating openings protected against the entrance of rain or snow.

2. Ratio of total net free ventilating area to area of ceiling shall be not less than ‘/150, except that ratio may be 1/300, provided:

a. A vapor barrier having the proper transmission rate not exceeding one perm is installed on the warm side of the ceiling; or

b. At least 50 percent of the required ventilating area is provided by ventilators located in the upper portion of the space to be ventilated, with the balance of the required ventilation provided by eave or cornice vents.

3. Attic space that is accessible and suitable for future habitable rooms or walled-off storage space shall have at least 50 percent of the required ventilating area located in the upper part of the ventilated space as near the high point of the roof as practicable and above the probable level of any future ceiling.

Stairways for accessibility and safety, according to the MPS, shall be provided by means of conveniently located scuttles and disappearing or permanently installed stairways with a minimum opening of 14 by 24 inches. Obviously, much more space than this is desirable if the attic is to be utilized as a room for daily use rather than just for storage.

Outdoor Storage

Outdoor storage sheds have been increasing in popularity at the same rate as homeowners have acquired sophisticated equipment for the care of their homes and environs. Houses without basements are another cause contributing to their growth. Proper care and storage of expensive equipment, such as yard tractors, power mowers, snow blowers, leaf compactors and garden tools, ensures its long and efficient use. When other space is nonexistent, it often is necessary to house valuable bikes and other sporting equipment in an outdoor shed. A handyman may construct one of wood fairly inexpensively or assemble a precut one that is slightly higher in initial cost and upkeep. Perhaps cheapest in the long run is the popular steel shed that is dotting the landscape in ever increasing numbers. It is attractive, practical, inexpensive and requires little attention. It provides good space without taking up too much of the yard area. Besides the previously mentioned equipment, it may be necessary to store patio furniture and game equipment such as badminton or croquet sets, the inevitable grill or hibachi, tree sprayers and ladders. The list expands with each subtle change in our technology.

Garage Storage Area

The garage is a logical place to find extra storage space. The first garages were built solely to house the automobile and protect it from the elements. Today, that is only one of its functions. The newest ones are attached directly to the house or with an open or enclosed breezeway.

Garage storage is particularly desirable where there is no basement to solve many of the storage problems. Many garages built in the past decade or two usually are longer and wider than is necessary for car space, allowing for adequate traffic and movement around the car. This also provides space for closets and shelves along the sides.

The MPS recommends that any mechanical equipment installed in the garage be located to eliminate the possibility of damage by vehicles. When laundry equipment is installed in the garage, adequate space must be provided for its use. Other than laundry equipment, the most frequently stored mechanical equipment in a garage is the freezer. The MPS caution also should dictate freezer placement. Locating the laundry equipment in the garage is not uncommon and usually is done when the house is a small one. Climate must be favorable, of course. The home maker would hardly enjoy having the wash or washer freeze halfway through a cycle. The equipment should be enclosed within doors, such as the shutter type, that fold back and use minimum space. The garage should be easily accessible to the service area of the house so the laundry and the supplies can be carried directly to and from the kitchen.

The garage is an excellent storage area for unused equipment, in-season or out-of-season garden tools, storm windows, ladders, a work bench, fireplace wood, bicycles and baby carriages. When there are rafters or some type of a ceiling, overhead garage storage space can be utilized. If the owner of the house is a sailor, this is an excellent area for storing the mast or portable hull. It is not at all uncommon to find an en tire boat stored in the garage or carport alongside the family car.

Other Storage Areas

There is a variety of other types of storage space. These usually reflect individual preferences and are unlike the usual storage areas, placing then in the frill or luxury class. Personal specifications make any generalization impossible except for the basics of accessibility, efficient planning and good lighting.

The cedar closet, while admittedly a luxury, is fast being phased out, even where money allows. About 75 percent of our wardrobes and furnishings today are made of synthetic materials and fabrics. Furthermore, the moth has been conquered outside the environs of a cedar closet—even wool has been fabricated to be completely moth-proof. Rugs may require storage space, but pre-treating with moth repellents eliminates any special storage requirements. Except for those purists who like the odor and the nostalgia of a cedar closet, the best storage-protection against moths is the average bedroom closet.

A wine cellar is the ultimate in storage considerations and is fast growing in popularity as the wine rage sweeps the country. The wine cellar may range from a very small closet to a small room. The MPS has no basic requirements listed in its code. The “cellar” may not be in the cellar at all, but wherever its location, the prime concern should be steady temperature. The connoisseur will, in all likelihood, establish his or her own perfect temperature with some type of cooling equipment. Proper lighting arrangements are necessary for reading the year and other fine print on the labels.

The old root or vegetable cellar below ground or cellar level has all but disappeared. Some houses built in the nineteenth century or before still have them, but they are rarely used for food storage anymore.


The automobile has revolutionized life in America during the past 70 years. A majority of families owning houses also own two or more cars. Americans like their cars and they like to keep them under cover in garages and in carports. Their desire to do this varies from area to area. In many northern parts of the country, any house without a two-car garage is substandard. In parts of the West and South, the demand for garages and carports is more flexible and often a one-car carport with an additional parking area for the second or third car is acceptable. Figure 3.7 ii lustrates sample garage or carport designs.

The garage that is built to MPS standards serves only to shelter the car. These standards call for a one-car garage or carport to be 10 feet wide and 20 feet long, measured from the inside of the studs and door to the edge of the opposite wall, stair platform or any obstruction, whichever is the narrowest dimension.

To build a garage to these minimum standards is false economy. For only a small additional amount of money, the garage can be built about 3 feet longer and wider. It then becomes a truly functional area of the house. Here is the cheapest and most convenient place to store all of the paraphernalia of outdoor living. If built even bigger, the garage can house the laundry and drying equipment and also serve as a workshop and a place for the children to play on cold or wet days.

The choice between a carport and a garage is influenced mainly by local custom and climate. Some carports are so elaborate that they cost almost as much as a garage. Others are very simple and consist only of a roof extended from the house supported on a few columns or a simple wall. A carport is a good choice when it fits into the neighborhood and the prime purpose will be to shelter the automobile from the sun and rain. It also is desirable when the house is so located on the site that a garage would block the breeze or appear to crowd the house.

A garage can provide shelter from the cold, ice and snow in the northern climates. Even in the South and West, garages are selected by many who wish to completely protect their automobiles and also make use of the other advantages of the garage.

There has been a definite trend away from the detached garage and toward an attached garage or carport or, if detached, to a structure connected to the house by a covered breezeway. Furthermore, as more and more activities center around the automobile, the entrance from the garage or carport has become the principal entrance to the house. Modern house design is taking this into consideration and making the entrance from the garage and carport into the house conveniently accessible to the various areas inside. An entrance that brings traffic through the work area of the kitchen or the living room is poorly located.

Often the site dictates where the attached garage or carport will be located. If there is a choice available, however, it should not be on the south side blocking the sun; the west side is often a good location because the garage will protect the house and yard from winter winds.

Garage doors come in several types, the most popular being the over head door that is raised and lowered on a track and is counterbalanced with a spring to make it easier to handle. The minimum acceptable width is 8 feet, but 9 feet is much better. On a double garage, a 16-foot door is the minimum acceptable size. These double doors tend to be heavy and hard to open and close. Two single doors, 8 or 9 feet wide, are a much better arrangement. The minimum height for the door should be 6 feet, 4 inches. This will prove inadequate for a station wagon with a rack of lug gage or some recreation vehicles or trailers. A better height is 7 feet or more.

Automatic door openers and closers are very appealing. These de vices open and close the door by power from an electric motor. They can be controlled with switches on the inside or outside of the garage or from a radio transmitter in the car. A small door from the garage to the back yard is a great convenience. At least one window is desirable for light and ventilation, especially if the garage is to be used for a work, play or laundry area. Some garages are built with some unfinished storage area under the roof eaves that can be reached via pull-down stairs or a ladder.

The wall between the house and an attached garage should have a one-hour fire-resistance rating. This is required by many building codes.

In some of the northern parts of the country, garages are heated. The system usually is designed to heat the garage to just above freezing rather than to 70 degrees. If the garage is insulated, a lot of heat is not required. Care must be taken to insulate all water pipes so that they will not freeze. If a hot-air system is used, no cold-air return into the garage should be installed for this would provide an inlet for fumes into the rest of the heating system.

A good garage floor is a concrete slab. It should be 1 or 2 inches above the driveway level to prevent water from running into the garage. The floor should be pitched either to a central floor drain or to the drive way to allow the water from melting ice and snow to flow away.

The garage and carport should be lit and should have electric outlets. The lights should be controlled from both inside the garage and inside the house. The garage light switch should be located at the front so it can be turned on without walking into the dark garage.

It is dangerous to have a driveway that enters the public street at a blind curve. A driveway that slopes upward to the street also may be dangerous, especially in the winter.

Although separate garages once were very common, it now is recognized as inconvenient to have a garage that is detached from the house with no connecting, sheltered accessway.

Garage and Carport Designs: Minimum One-Car Garage; Recommended One-Car Garage With Storage; Minimum Two-Car Garage

Recommended Two-Car Garage With Storage; Carport

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