Timeless Plan Features That Meet Today's Needs

June 12, 2020 | By David L. Copenhaver, AIA

What’s “Old” is New Again

These unprecedented times have generated quite a buzz about how COVID-19 might influence future floor plan design. I’ve read lots of articles and social media posts about how “new” plan features will meet changing consumer preferences in regard to remote work, quarantine, multi-generational living and more.

During some recent conceptual design, I was studying some options for home offices and bonus spaces and realized my ideas felt oddly familiar. We’d actually designed very similar features in a home more than 20 years ago! Great design is always timeless, and the same is true for functional and flexible floor plans.

A Different Kind of Live-Work Balance

nullAlthough technology has revolutionized remote work capability in the last 20+ years, the best work spaces have true staying power. In the New American Home ’98, we designed separate his and hers studies, a luxury I’m sure many couples would appreciate right now. But even more fitting for today’s environment is that one office includes its own private, exterior entrance, allowing visitors to enter a side foyer and the office space without crossing through or past living areas. This layout is ideal for minimizing contact and ensuring social distance. 


Get Outside Without Going Outside

So much science has proven that indoor-outdoor connectivity is a key to personal health. During this extended time at home, I’ve taken every opportunity I have to get outside, even if it’s just to walk the dog for 10 minutes. We must have been ahead of our time because we brought the outside right into The New American Home by designing an integrated “green house” with tons of glass and skylights. Even on rainy days, this space allows homeowners to feel immersed in nature. Recently, I’m guessing it provided some much needed reprieve from long hours indoors. 

Dedicated Home School Space

I have no idea how working parents have been able to manage home schooling duties on top of their regular jobs. My hat is off to all of you! Still, as I continue to work with clients to design the classic “Texas Basement” loft spaces with as much functionality as possible, I’m reminded of what we did in The New American Home. The second floor recreation room was massive, offering plenty of square footage for kids to find their individual niches. The sloped roof added interest, and skylights introduced natural light that kept things feeling open. Not a bad way to spend a few “school” hours each day.

Multi-Gen Before It was Cool


Multi-generational floor plans certainly aren’t new, but architects are constantly studying better ways to make them work within the flow of the home. We recently incorporated a pop-top multi-gen suite in an innovative courtyard product in Austin, proving they can work even in narrow lot product. Similarly, in The New American Home, the second story included two full suites opposite of the rec room. By accessing the stairs through the home office entrance, a grandparent or boomerang child could come inside and head upstairs without crossing paths with anyone else. Outfitting the rec space with a kitchenette could create a very nice “apartment”, offering the kind of flexibility that is on everyone’s mind these days.

Beyond Trendy

It’s amazing to see that many of the “trends” we incorporated into our designs over the years have proven to be more than just trendy. These floor plan features are highly functional, especially today. Finding ways to incorporate similar features at a range of price points is a true challenge that keeps my job as an architect interesting. When we can show people how these sorts of features can literally improve their lives, we’ll win buyers for life!

Questions or comments? Email me to start a conversation!

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn. View that version here.