Notes on interior flow and traffic in and around a home

Originally appearing as a Quora answer by Benjamin Schmidt.

Families must consider is whether the kitchen will be open and used as a community space or closed and used for household staff only. This means no seating in the kitchen, and a minimum of two doors, one of them leading to the dining room via butler’s pantry and one for the rare owner/guest use. The flow of a staffed kitchen should move efficiently with cooking and preparation on separate sides of a central island or galley. That said, the dining rooms should have a minimum of two access points as well, the butler’s pantry for preparation and presentation of food, and another for the removal of used dishes. Having staff backed up/running into each other with clean and dirty plates getting mixed up is a terrible embarrassment and is alleviated with the second access point. The final access point is a truly public and grand affair.

Regardless of whether it is a public or staffed kitchen, one must have a vegetable sink as well as a washing sink. In homes with occasional staff, this increases flow greatly. An island should not be too large to the point where one cannot reach across with ease, but it should not be so narrow that items could be knocked off.

Another focus point is the placement of bedrooms. Placing a guest room near the master bedroom is far too intimate. Even in the smallest of houses, there should be ‘wings’. Sleeping is a private affair, but the guest wing and master’s wing are not to be shared, even if the separation is a hallway. Optimally, the guest space is in a separate structure or on a different floor. Children’s wings need to have quick access to the au pair suite (preferably the au pair is within the children’s wing, with wet bar and private bath in addition to a children’s powder room) optionally, the children’s wing (or at the least, a nursery), will be near the master bedroom. It is not uncommon to find a nursery within the master wing, which can be converted to a private office, a walk in closet, or an exercise space once the nursery is no longer practical.

Mitigate the risk of a ‘maze-like’ master wing by incorporating a central master’s foyer, to which all rooms link, be it his and her bathrooms (both with direct access to the master bedroom), dressing rooms, closets, offices, nurseries, gardens, wet bar/kitchenettes. Rarely, a staff bedroom will be incorporated into the master’s wing.

The most accommodating children’s wing will have shared workspace with items that promote creativity and productivity, a playroom with physical toys and games, a powder room, a dry bar, and a viewing room. These rooms can be used even after the children have grown up and left the home, as the playroom can be converted to a music room or art studio. The only changes over time should be the furniture scale- think lower tables, smaller chairs for younger children. The key to a great home is going to be it’s ability to adapt to the changing family. Once the kids are gone, there is no longer need for a children’s wing but simply more guest rooms.

A family must make a decision based on personal preference when it comes to shared spaces for children. Age can make the difference. Let’s say you have a < 12 month old, a four year old and an eight year old. These ages seem to distant to coexist comfortably in shared bedrooms. The < 12 month old should be in a nursery space, either near the parents or the au pair. The four and eight year old could share a bedroom, or at the very least, a jack-and-jill style bathroom, but consider this: as they grow older, having to share a bathroom will become time consuming and annoying. Furthermore, once they’ve moved out of the family home entirely, you’ve now two guest rooms that must awkwardly share a bathroom, limiting the overall privacy. Imagine this in the case of two guests that do not know each other. Children’s bedrooms should be treated like en suites: full bathroom, sitting area/desk space, bed, closet. Older children may have larger closets.

A formal stairway should be presented to the guest, but should not directly lead to anything except a second story landing. A second stairwell near the mudroom or kitchen can double as a private owner’s access to kitchen or restricted to staff use. A third or fourth set of stairs may be incorporated depending on the size of the home.

A service entry is not limited to the structure itself, but a separate service driveway should exist as well. Florists and ambulances may use the semi-private motor court, but other services including catering and parcel delivery shall use the service entry, so include sufficient space for large delivery trucks to turn around. If landscaping work is contacted out, be sure to have related vehicles parked curbside. If you’re planning a large event, the flow of traffic at this time is extremely important. Leading up to the event, many vehicles will be entering and leaving.

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