Let's discuss unconventional house configurations

No matter what a house looks like on the outside, there are certain conventions which are followed as to the interior layout. When I was a kid, I remember once going to a family friend’s house and noticing that their kitchen and living room were upstairs and their bedrooms were downstairs. It is almost always the opposite. To this day, that was the only house I’ve ever been in where that was the case.

Also, I’ve never been in a house with two basements (one below the other.) Why don’t more houses have extra underground levels? Beyond the fact that it’s easier to build up than down (if that’s even true?)

I’ve never seen a urinal in a home bathroom. This is unfortunate, because urinals’ efficiency (for males) is totally unequaled. One could be installed in conjunction with a toilet. And yet they don’t seem to exist.

You frequently see finished basements, but you rarely ever see finished attics. Why is this? I think it would be awesome to have a finished attic.

These are just some of the unusual house configurations that I somehow feel compelled to bring up. Does anyone have any answers or any other input about this?

It is easier to build up. To build down first you have to dig, and I would imagine in many places the further down you go the more likely you are to run into water. Most people are not willing to pay the extra to have another basement when adding a second story would be cheaper.

I do know of homes that have urinals in them. My guess would be they are not standard because most people find them ugly.

My guess here is that you need some space to put insulation and such and that is usually the attic. If you finish the attic you need insulation above that space between you and the roof. Our attic has a solid floor and we could use it as a space but it is either hot or freezing up there.

When homes are built people have to pick and choose what they want to put their money into. Custom options and floorplans cost extra and most people don’t care enough to pay for things like that. That’s if the owners are even consulted, in many cases the builders put up a subdivision and the buyers just choose things like tile and paint colors or maybe have a few choices of floorplans. It is more cost efficient for the builders this way. If you want a custom home built you have to pay more.

My in-laws bought a house a few years ago that has no right angles… anywhere. Every room is odd shaped, with acute or obtuse corners. One bathroom is triangular.
Its very disconcerting, but it has a window wall (obtuse angle in the middle) with a great view.

My college apartment had a finished attic for a living room. It was nice because you could carry on up there without too much noise for the bedrooms below. It was cold in the winter, unless you had five or so people up there, in which case it got realllly hot. Lots of windows to open in the summer, though. We slept up there when it was hot. And I just liked it because I thought the slanty walls and high ceiling were funky and bohemian. And our friend who smoked could crawl out the window and onto the roof to have a cig.

I’ve seen photos of a home with the living quarters on the 2nd floor and the bedrooms on the ground level because of the view. The mountain view from the upstairs living room was amazing.

I’d love to see what a geodesic home looks like on the inside.

I’ve been in houses with the living areas above the sleeping areas – but they’ve either been built on hillsides, with the entrance on the higher level and the house going downhill, or they’ve been beach houses.

They’re usually on the first floor because that’s more practical – there’s more traffic between these areas and the outdoors.

One of my friends from high school had a round living room in her house. I liked the way that looked but most people didn’t. I have also been in a owner-built concrete earth-sheltered home. It was really nice both inside and out.

My uncle’s house in Germany was built on a steep slope and the main living area was on the second floor for the house. From the street, the house was visibly two levels, but from the back yard you could walk right into the main living area. On preview, just like Twickster described.

I think one reason few people build very unconventional homes is fear that the resale value will be lower than for a conventional home. No one likes to lose money.

I’m not sure what you mean by finished attic. Houses with a half floor at the top are quite common, with either dormers on the sides or a mansard or gambrel (ugh) roof for more usable space up there. More common than finished basements, I’d wager, at least around here. I don’t see how those wouldn’t qualify as finished attics.

One house that I was living in had an unusual setup.

If you walked into the kitchen and looked around you’d see the normal kitchen stuff. Counter tops, sink, plenty of room for a table and chairs, 'fridge.

After a moment it would sink in. Something was missing. Something major.

The stove/oven. :confused: The stove was AWOL!

Until you walked into the next room, an entrance room from the driveway with a big (in terms of width and depth) utility sink and a decent amount of counter space. And there sat the stove, merrily seperated from the kitchen and the rest of the house. (This room could be shut off from the rest of the house by two doors.)

The reason? When the house was built, the husband was a fisherman and the wife didn’t want to have the fish he brought back smelling up the rest of the house. Therefore that entrance room from the driveway was setup intentionally so that the fish could be brought in, cleaned, and cooked with a minimum of impact on the rest of the house.

Makes sense when you stop to think about it, but if you didn’t know the reason behind the configuration it could definately throw you for a loop.

<< No wanna work! Wanna bang on keyboard! >>

My bedroom where I’m posting from now is a finished attic. I love all the angles, and I love having one big room. The actual, unfinished area of the attic opens up from my room on both sides. When it’s really hot, it gets unbearable up here, but otherwise it’s my favorite part of the house.

A friend of mine in high school lived in a fricking palace, five storeys in the best part of town, which happened to be a mountain. Two of those storeys were below street level, as the house was downhill from the street, if you will. IIRC, neither storey was entirely below-ground – I think the lowest storey had a back door opening onto the yard – but they functioned as basements.

My first thought was “because if it were finished, it wouldn’t be an attic; it would be an upper storey.”

A couple that we know just purchased a lovely house with the bedrooms downstairs and the living areas up. It’s built into a hillside, like twickster described.

I was also recently in a ranch home that seemed odd to me. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, and then I realized that the unusual part was that the front door opened into a hallway/foyer type area, like most homes, only you had to walk all the way back through that hall to get to the living areas. The two bedrooms were in the front of the house, and the living room/kitchen/dining room were in the back. Once I realized this, it was pretty obvious that the reason was to take advantage of the amazing view from the back of the house in those areas where you are spending more of your awake time.

Was this in Rochester NY? Way back when I still lived there, my fiancee of the time and I looked at a rental property on the beach next to a resteraunt that had 2 bed/bath on teh ground floor, a spiral staircase up and the kitchen/living area on the top floor, with a nice deck and a ramp to a small round deck cantilevered over the beach…I really regret not renting the place!

Many older homes had finished attics, the lovely queen anne victorian my great grandfather[or great great…] had a beautiful finished attic with a full bath, dressing room with huge cedar closet and a large general room he used as an office with a killer propane burning heating stove that had lots of glass panels in it.

The summer house my grandfather/grandmother had also had a finished attic, IIRC it was build in about 1920.

A house that some buddys of my first husband rented had a finished attic, it was built prior to WW1…so perhaps most houses built after WW2 didnt have finished attics?

Actually, I have an odd theory as to why most homes have the living rooms in front, and the utility functions in back…

Prior to the early parts of this century, homes were built with large front yards, and the utility crap [hanging laundry and the like] went on in back. People socialized on front porches, and the whole social life went on in living rooms, salons and dining rooms, not in kitchens and in the back yards.

After ww2, we shifted and got very casual, having picnics in the back yard, so people moved the homes foreward on the building lots having a small front area, and the porches moved to the back of the house and people took to socializing at BBQs [if you remember back yard cooking parties took off in the 50s]

We really hadn’t started shifting to having an overlarge kitchen/dining/family area on the back of the house and for the most part eliminating the formal separate dining and living rooms other than as smaller remenants, being not really used other than occasionally until the 70s.

I happen to like having a nice big country kitchen complete with a nice pseudo-livingroom/family room at one end, and a nice back deck. I am a very private person and detest the idea of sitting outside where people can watch me…back yards with tall privacy fences and lots of trees to screen me from view make me happy=)

My mother tells me that the house we lived in when I was born didn’t have an oven in the kitchen at all. The woman who lived there before had remodeled the kitchen the way she liked it–which meant no stove, because she never baked anything. There was also a circular power source on the countertop, that you could put a blender, a mixer, and something else (I forget) into. I guess it was all “edgy” and “modern.” The garage was in the basement, too.

The house we lived in after that–while I was a child–had a master suite that took up the whole second floor of the house, and was open to the living room below–a big balcony looked over. I spent a lot of time tying parachutes to my dolls and throwing them over.

Actually, it was in a very pastoral part of Syracuse, NY. Looking back on it, I remember that when you walked in, immediately there was a staircase that you could go up to the kitchen and living room area, or turn right and go into the bedroom area (which was several bedrooms around a central den-type room that (I can’t believe I remember this) had a Chicago Cubs-themed pinball machine which you could play indefinitely.

Why “ugh” for gambrel but not mansard? I like gambrel roofs. If ever I build a custom house it will have a gambrel roof.

The coolest unconventional feature I saw was a 2 story house with the laundry area upstairs. Saves dragging clothes up and down…

Re finished attics: In some jurisdictions, finished attics are a code violation because there is only 1 fire exit, being the stairway. In some of those, so long as the finished space wasn’t used for sleeping, you could do it. Those wind up as hobby rooms, typically.

I knew a guy who lived in a finished silo. He had three or four levels. Each room had it’s own level. Very cool. But lots of work to get from room to room.

I just find them ugly, too reminiscent of a barn for my taste. Even though nearly all the barns here have plain gable roofs, “gambrel” and “barn” just go together in my mind.

Mansard, on the other hand, I find very attractive. It only really works with very large or very small houses, though. Middle of the road homes look a bit odd with a mansard roof. Not to mention that being nearly flat on top, they’re not very well suited to winter climates. Still, there’s a fair number of them here and they’re all pretty.

All opinion, of course. I’m sure some people feel just the opposite to be true.

(for those of you wanting pictures, here’s a couple sketches of a mansard roof and a gambrel roof I just found online)