Intriguing Floor Plan Redux

When we were first married, my husband and I lived in an apartment for seven years. When our son started walking, we started looking for a house, figuring he deserved a back yard.

Our budget was very limited, but our aspirations and criteria were not, so we looked at a lot of houses before we found an acceptable one we could afford. (It’s a good thing our real estate agent was a friend and colleague, as we pretty much wore him out.)

In the process, we saw quite a few houses that had what we had seen described in one real estate ad as an “intriguing floor plan.” The sort of thing where you have to go through somebody’s bedroom to get to the kitchen or through a bathroom to get to the bedroom. As I now find I have previously written, the phrase “intriguing floor plan” became part of our family vocabulary.

Last Sunday I had a book to return to the library, so I planned my walk to pass the library and go on beyond it for whatever distance was required to ensure that I’d walked two miles before I got home. As it turned out, I walked about 2½ miles, but this did give me the opportunity to scope out a house under construction on Fairhope Avenue.

This house has been under construction for over a year, and at times it has appeared that no progress at all was being made. That alone made me curious about it. From inspection, I concluded that what is being done is being done very carefully and very well, and the result will no doubt be of outstanding quality.

But it is clearly a “bespoke” house, as it does have some peculiarities. It is entirely surrounded by a porch, and most of the downstairs rooms open onto this porch. The front room, which is at least half of the first floor, I take to be an open-plan great room/kitchen/eating area. The back part of the room, which I am assuming will be a kitchen (since there isn’t one elsewhere) has a large bay on either side. One appears large for a breakfast room, small for a dining room, and the other appears too small even for a breakfast room, so perhaps it will just be a large window seat.

On the left behind this main room is a short corridor opening onto a powder room and a bedroom with bathroom en suite and a rather small reach-in closet. To the right is a longer corridor with something on the right (pantry, perhaps, or laundry room—I forget). Immediately behind the front room, between the two corridors, stairs lead across the width of the house to the second floor. At the end of the right corridor is what must be the master suite. And this is where the intriguing part begins—not so much with the arrangement of the rooms (floor plan) as the floor itself. Because this room is down two or three steps from the front of the house. The steps are semicircular, like steps into a wading pool.

The effect will probably be rather glamorous, and indeed the entire suite seems designed more for glamor than function since there are windows (some of them French) on two sides and openings to the corridor and bathroom and huge walk-in closet on the other walls, leaving wall space only for a bed and nightstands; it’s hard to see where any other furniture might fit.

But it’s upstairs that things get really weird. The second floor occupies only the back of the house because the great room has a beamed cathedral ceiling. At the top of the stairs is a single bedroom, with walk-in closet and bathroom en suite. But both bathroom and closet are up several steps from the bedroom! These steps, too, are arcs of a circle. One can only imagine the architectural compromises that this layout represents, but it certainly seems very impractical.

I suppose the best conclusion that can be drawn about the prospective owners is that they are very young and don’t expect to grow old in this house, as it is certainly the antithesis of handicap-accessible!

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