Intelligent Traffic Flow

Intelligent Traffic Flow

TRAFFIC! Just hearing that word can make us cringe. The last thing we need inside our ‘home sweet home’ is issues with traffic! Whether we’re unwinding from the outside world or interacting with family members inside, we need our house design to foster tranquility.

Have you tried to enter your kitchen but been blocked because someone was opening the refrigerator door? Does creating a comfortable furniture grouping in a sitting area seem impossible? When you open a bedroom door, do you have to shut it before you can access the closet door?

Poorly controlled traffic paths generate irritation, frustration and potentially safety hazards. Since intelligently placed circulation routes are a major determining factor in how comfortably your new home will function, identifying, analyzing, and improving them in your proposed floor plan during the planning process will ensure your creation of a calming, stress-reducing new home design!

STEP ONE: Identify Traffic Paths

Draw in all the natural circulation routes

Since we naturally choose the shortest route as we move through and between rooms, we can harness this knowledge to identify traffic paths on a floor plan.

An easy way to do this is to place a dot in the center of each door, doorway, room entrance, hallway, and stairwell and then connect each dot to all its ADJACENT dots. The network of lines created represents exactly where you will naturally walk as you move from room to room in your new home.

Within a room, such as a bathroom, continue to draw the path from the entry door to each fixture; in a bedroom extend the path to the closet(s).

To mark a traffic path to a sliding patio door, you need to decide which side the door will slide open from – left-hand or right-hand opening. A triple slider may open from either end or the ends could be stationary, and the center panel moves. A 4-panel slider may have both middle panels slide open from the center towards each side.

Identify circulation between appliances

Walking between the sink, range, and refrigerator happens countless times during meal preparation, so identifying the route between them is crucial for our analysis. We will mark it on the plan, borrowing a strategy from the former industry standard Kitchen Work Triangle Guidelines. (Originally created for a one-cook kitchen and typically replaced now with a multiple-cook organizing strategy called Work Zones.)

To mark the appliance triangle on your plan, draw a dot at the center of sink, cook top or range, and refrigerator and then connect the three dots. If something (like an island or peninsula cabinet) prevents you from forming an actual triangle, move your lines around the obstacle, just as if you were walking in the real kitchen.

Indicate door swings

Most floor plans show the swing path of room doors open at 90 degrees. If yours doesn’t, or only shows them open 45 degrees add the full swing so you can see clearly the actual space they take when in use. This includes glass shower doors if you are using a swing style door.

STEP TWO: Analyze Traffic Paths

Analysis requires observing how the traffic paths intersect with open doors and their impact on furniture arranging.

PLAN #1 greets residents with traffic troubles immediately upon entering from the garage. Conflicting door swings interrupt flow. What if another person is coming through the basement stair door or changing laundry loads as you are entering?

A long trek is required to the front door closet to hang up coats.

Conflict between this major traffic path and the cook opening the hot oven door (safety issue) or using the refrigerator is inevitable and a recipe for intense frustration. Note when the freezer drawer is pulled out there isn’t enough space to stand in front of it.

​The direction the patio doors in the Dining Room and the Owner’s Suite slide open creates longer traffic paths and interferes with furniture placement more than if the opening direction were reversed.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Plan #1 - Troublesome Traffic Paths

This NOT-SO-Great Room functions as a giant hallway. Any furniture grouping will feel like an obstruction and it will be a challenge to fully relax in this thoroughfare room.

In the Owner’s Suite, the entry door is close to the noisy kitchen and television zone, inhibiting different sleeping schedules. The person accessing the smaller closet will block passage to the En Suite Bath. (Sliding closet doors would make more sense in this arrangement.) The En Suite Bathroom door conflicts with the shower door and crowds the person using the first sink.

STEP THREE: Improve Traffic Paths

Improve traffic flow by choosing the number and location of doors, openings, hallways, and staircases wisely.

Study Plan #2 embodies all the principles of excellent traffic flow, which are:

  • Use short & direct routes
  • Hug the edge or side of rooms
  • Create pools of uninterrupted space for comfortable furniture arranging
  • Don’t allow open doors to hinder passage
  • Don’t place a door behind a door (The ubiquitous coat closet positioned immediately behind an entry door is a typical bad example.)
  • Never allow a MAJOR traffic path to break the kitchen appliance triangle

Invest time and energy during the planning stage on anticipating your needs and ensuring the layout accommodates them. You will love living with the results every day in your new home!

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Plan #2 - Traffic Paths

Traffic & Appliance Doors

In preparation for assessing traffic paths, mark short, dashed lines on the floor plan to show all the appliance doors in their open position. Typical OPEN appliance door depths are:

  • Oven door (+ range depth): 19"-21”
  • Tall-tub dishwasher door: 5”
  • Standard microwave oven side-swing door*: 18”
  • Microwave with pull down door (like an oven): 15”
  • Over-the-range microwave side-swing door: 25”
  • Under-counter microwave drawer fully open: 15”

*Most side-swing microwave doors are ONLY left-hand opening and NOT reversible. A pull-down door style is rarely available unless the microwave is combined with another type of oven like convection and/or steam.

  • 36” wide refrigerator with:

Side-by-side asymmetrical fridge doors (not reversible):

  • 15” wide left-hand opening freezer door
  • 21” wide right-hand opening fridge door

Single fridge door – many stainless-steel single door refrigerators are not reversible even if the same model in other color choices is. You need to order either a right-hand or left-hand opening model:

  • Swing door identical to width of appliance
  • Pull-out freezer drawer 24"-26” (+ fridge depth)

Side-by-side symmetrical fridge doors (French Door Style):

  • Each swing door 18”
  • Pull-out freezer drawer 24"-26” (+ fridge depth)

Refrigerator heights and depths vary greatly, and the deeper models can have a negative impact on traffic flow. Be sure to note the total combined depth of the unit + the door thickness + the handle depth + manufacturer’s recommended clearances for ventilation in the model specifications or manual:

  • Front-loading washer & dryer swing doors 21”

Often the dryer door swing is reversible but most front-loading washer doors are not. PLAN # 1 reveals how a non-reversible washer door can become an annoying impediment to the transfer of clothes from the washer to the dryer, depending which side of the dryer it is installed on.


  1. Confirm the minimum door swing required for your refrigerator model to open wide enough for bins and drawers to be removed for cleaning. Many require a minimum of 118 degrees of door swing, which means placing the refrigerator approximately a foot away from a side wall. Built-in refrigerators usually have their bins removeable with the door open only 90 degrees.
  2. Locating a standard microwave in a base cabinet creates multiple issues: difficulty reading and pressing the keypad, bending down multiple times, venting clearances, and child-safety concerns. One of the most innovative appliances designed to solve all these issues is the microwave drawer. The higher cost is offset by the dramatic improvement in comfortable use!
  3. Most front-loading washing machines need the door left open for hours or even days, to dry out the rubber seal and prevent odors and mold build-up. As a result, if the laundry is located inside a closet, the closet door will have to be left open potentially blocking the traffic path it faces into. Pocket or barn-style sliding doors may solve this, especially if the machines are stacked.
  4. Floor plan drawings typically show laundry machines backed right up to the wall. In reality, plumbing and venting requirements often require the machines to be 4” +/- out from the wall.

TIP: Choose your appliances early in the design phase so you have accurate sizes, clearances, and door swing information to plan with.

Major Traffic Routes Verses Minor

The likelihood of circulation paths conflicting with room function is directly related to how heavily the route is traveled. The busy ‘Interstate’ highways inside the house are to and from the:

  • Family Entry – the exterior door located closest to the parking where residents enter and exit daily
  • Kitchen
  • Stairs going up to the bedrooms or down to a TV room
Nita Hull

Nita Hull is a Residential Designer, Consultant, and Space-Planning teacher passionate about helping people uncover and solve irritating design flaws before construction and create homes that flow.

Visit: Homes that Flow

What is a Woman-Centric Home Design?

What is a Woman-Centric Home Design?

“A guy must have designed this home. No woman would have designed it this way,” a comment overheard during a model home walk-through. The square footage was on par with nearby homes, as were the finishes chosen. Focused on construction efficiency, the builder was proud of his new model, having shaved days out of the construction timeline. But there were no windows in the bathrooms; when opened, doors blocked being able to walk by; and the bathroom linen “closet” was a joke. Gone was the decorative roof dormer with transom windows and brackets in the gables, the craftsman tapered porch columns had been replaced with simple 8x8 posts, and the uninspiring, raised 32-panel garage door was chosen by default.

Woman-Centric home design is rooted in addressing design-related issues women discuss with us, developing new, sometimes innovative solutions to those design challenges. Often, they deal with a home’s livability: making things easier such as a doorless shower (no door to clean!); giving back a little more time (e.g., a direct connection to the laundry room from your walk-in closet); and contributing to everyone’s well-being (increasing natural light levels). Just as frequently they address views and focal points, such as adding a gallery display to a hallway, reducing its perceived length; creating a small alcove at the doorway into your bedroom for visual privacy; and not entering your home from the garage just to be greeted by piles of dirty clothes strewn in your “laundry/mudroom.”

Woman-Centric home design appreciates both style and livability, form and function. Eliminating regrets is one way design is addressed. You love your new kitchen, until you realize there is no provision nor room for a pull out wastebasket drawer and you’re stuck displaying an unsightly tall kitchen wastebasket  that’s always in the way. Or the quandary of keeping kitchen countertops clean and uncluttered, while at the same time keeping small appliances readily available.

Inspired by women - what small appliances do you use most often? Wouldn’t it be great to have them ready to use, yet not cluttering your kitchen counters? Whether part of your walk-in pantry or a dedicated space just outside your main kitchen, a Small Appliance Center solves this dilemma elegantly!

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Appliance Center Concept

Design Basics has long been blessed by invaluable feedback from professional home builders and related tradespeople. Such feedback was, however, also a bit biased, though unintentionally, by the fact that it was mostly coming from men. Therefore, to achieve a more holistic view of home design and how people actually live in their homes, Design Basics goes out of our way to talk about every-day, real-world home design issues with women in the home building trades as well as female home buyers. Rather than being “sexist,” Woman-Centric home design is inclusive, soliciting and acting upon the design deficiencies and opportunities coming from all sources.

Back in 2003, our pioneering research into women’s preferences in the home uncovered the fact that women were primarily using four lenses when looking at a home’s suitability for her and her household. Other research shows women more easily get stressed than men and that women hold on to that stress more and longer than men. It’s no wonder then, aspects of the home and its design that can help her de-stress are design priorities.

In the Slater (plan #29333), the suite’s bayed sitting area, wet bar in the bedroom, sunset deck, plus two bathing options including a doorless walk-in shower in the bathroom can all help alleviate stress. (See also: De-Stressing Concepts in Bathroom Design; Is Your Home Stressing You Out?; I Need My Space!; Take the Stress out of Working from Home)

Entertaining is the second lens and is entwined with how she likes to entertain. Family get-togethers? Dinner parties? Having a few close friends over? The Slater’s open concept has a bit of formality with the columned, arched opening to the great room. A 10-foot high ceiling spans this area, including the dining and kitchen. And the rear patio has a roof overhead, so that the barbecue or study group plans need not be cancelled due to rain. (See also: Entertaining: Planning for Fun; Entertaining: Beyond Four Walls; How do You Like to Entertain?)

Slater - #29333

(Click on image to enlarge.)

While a home design may identify the intended use for a given space, you may envision that space differently. And some areas in a home can serve two purposes simultaneously. These are examples of flexible living, the third lens. If you work from home, the office suggested at the front would be ideal. Or perhaps you prefer the seclusion and location of the pocket office off the suite’s bedroom. Just as easily, that front office could be a spare bedroom, and the pocket office a second walk-in closet. (See also: Flex Spaces Save the Day!; Flexible Living: You Have Options; Flexible Living: Changing Households)

Slater - #29333 Alt Bath

Another example of flexibility are pre-configured floor plan options, such as the Slater’s optional bathroom layout with a larger walk-in shower but just one sink.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The Slater’s 12-foot-high ceiling in the suite’s walk-in closet is high enough for three hanging rods + shelves, providing LOTS of storage, the final lens. According to women we’ve talked with, the three keys to storage are: 1) dedicating adequate square footage, 2) locating storage right where it is needed, and 3) organization within storage – think garage or closet organization systems  and kitchen organizing amenities. (See also: Storage...Just Imagine the Possibilities; News Flash - Storage Sells!; Your Garage: Vehicles vs. Storage)

Join us next time for an in-depth look at Woman-Centric home design!

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Achieving a Quieter Home Through Design

Achieving a Quieter Home Through Design

Shhh... someone might be sleeping.

Accessing the Cabot Terrace’s (plan #42423) generous walk-in closet directly from the bathroom means fewer interruptions if the two of you have different sleep schedules. And the door to the bathroom being next to the door in and out of your suite means less disturbance when leaving early.

Yes, the design of your suite has numerous implications when it comes to peace and quiet. Where your suite is positioned in relation to other rooms, especially bedrooms, matters. The Cabot Terrace showcases the popularity of “split-bedroom” layouts, wherein your suite is well-separated from secondary bedrooms for maximum privacy at night. But the Cabot Terrace’s suite bedroom doesn’t share a wall with any public spaces inside the home, delivering true tranquility.

Cabot Terrace - #42423

Which “floor” of your home your suite is located on has further significance. In a two-story home, not having living space over your bedroom will help with noise. Conversely, if your bedroom is on the second floor, what space(s) are beneath it? (You might not want your bedroom directly above your media room!)

Hanna - #4081

Or consider the option of a “mid-level” suite such as that found in the Hanna (plan #4081). Ascending one-half flight of stairs brings you to the landing where double doors lead to your suite that’s on its own level! First and second floor noises tend to be less problematic for layouts with mid-level suites.

Popular for keeping everyone together and for their feeling of spaciousness, open floorplans do present challenges when it comes to sound control. Sound waves bounce back and forth against hard surfaces (flooring, walls, windows, ceilings). Noise also echoes in tall ceilings. Design Basics’ lead designer Carl Cuozzo notes that even in big custom homes he's designing today, buyers are opting for 10- and 11-foot high ceilings rather than cathedral and 2-story high spaces.

According to Cuozzo, "You still get the drama and taller doors and windows without so much echo and energy loss."

Focus on solutions that help control sound in such spaces – floor coverings such as carpet and pad or Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP), upholstered furniture, and drapes (as opposed to blinds) for window coverings.

As with bedrooms, the location of your home office (or area when your kids will be remote learning) is important. Up front near the entry may be convenient, but what about street noise? An adjoining bathroom is great, until clients and colleagues get to listen to the toilet flushing. If the laundry room is next to your office/learning center, will that restrict when you run the laundry? Locating the home office away from frequently used areas of the home or loud areas such as a media room is important. And, as described with the Hanna, there are designs such as the Manning (plan #2207) with mid-level dens accessed off staircase landings! Read more about home office design considerations in Take the Stress Out of Working from Home.


The Sunflower Creek (plan #42371) has the sink and dishwasher against the rear exterior wall; the big TV will likely go against the exterior wall of the Great Room; and upstairs, the washer and dryer set against an exterior wall to the front – all choice locations for reducing noise in your home. 

Sunflower Creek - #42371 ML
Sunflower Creek - #42371 UL

When considering home design, listen for how your home will live. What adjoins your bedroom? Your office? Our desire for serenity has lowered volume ceilings. Noise-making appliances and your media entertaining – where are those located? Know also that once you’ve identified the home design that works best for you, our Customized Home Plan designers can help you with any desired plan changes to achieve the peace and quiet you seek.

Be sure to catch the next blog post in this series on how quiet products complete a quiet home.

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Building a Quiet Home – Construction Aspects

Building a Quiet Home – Construction Aspects

Aesthetics… price… livability… there are many competing priorities when building a new home, and unfortunately, building a quiet home isn’t atop very many people’s lists. Yet, with many of the most effective solutions for reducing noise best undertaken during your home’s construction, consideration now can help avoid regrets later.

Essentially, noise either comes from outside of your home or within. There may be little you can do to minimize traffic or neighborhood noises such as lawn mowers, barking dogs, and children playing, but better windows and doors, air sealing, and insulation all contribute to reducing external noise entering your home. Double- and triple-pane windows block noise better than single-pane. Reduce air (and, therefore, sound) infiltration through extensive use of caulking, or opt for expanding spray foam insulation to seal joints and penetrations in and around exterior walls. Once the home has been well-sealed, you can specify sound-deadening insulation between the studs for a much more serene home. Alternatively, homes built with concrete exterior walls, and especially insulated concrete form (ICF) walls are inherently more peaceful regarding external noise than typical wood construction.

Equally important is reducing unwanted noise created within the home. We will deal with home design issues and choosing quieter products for the home in upcoming posts. For now, we will consider approaches for blocking unwanted sound, and for absorbing those irritating noises best addressed when building.

Whether it’s toilets flushing, the washing machine, media entertainment, or loud discussions, unwanted noise from adjacent rooms in your home spreads freely until those sound waves run into something. Think about the difference just closing your home office door makes. But did you know a solid core door will block approximately twice as much sound as its hollow core counterpart? Solid core doors are more expensive, so you may want to carefully choose where to opt for these. Additionally, weather-stripping around the door and adding a sweep at the bottom of the door to fill the gap between the door and the flooring will make noticeable differences.

The drywall on your son’s bedroom wall and the drywall on your bedroom’s side of that wall muffle noise significantly but that may not be quiet enough. Fortunately, several fixes are available. A double layer of drywall is one of the more common approaches. Rather than standard drywall, noise-deadening drywall such as Quiet Rock® and SoundBreak® XP® can be used. Between the studs and drywall, SOUNDSTOP®, a ½” soundproofing fiberboard tacked to the wall and/or ceiling framing studs and then covered by the drywall, is highly effective. 

SoundBreak XP - bedroom

Photo courtesy: Ask for Purple

Acoustiblok®, an 1/8"-thick, flexible sound proofing mat, which transforms and dissipates sound and vibration into inaudible friction energy, according to the manufacturer. Insulating standard interior walls with a sound-deadening insulation is another option. Along with any of these approaches, seal wall penetrations and drywall seams with an acoustic caulk such as QuietZone® Acoustic Sealant.

Sometimes the sound is coming between floors. Home theatres are popular in basements, which naturally tend to be darker environments. In a two-story home, it may be hard for your kids to get to sleep upstairs while the party’s still going on in your great room. And if there is living space over your garage, the sound of the garage door opener operating can be disruptive.

Some of the solutions used for reducing sound coming through walls, such as insulating the cavities, sound deadening drywall, or SOUNDSTOP and Acoustiblok sound barriers, can be used for diminishing sound travel between floors. And, as with walls, acoustic caulking around penetrations and cracks will help. Additionally, sound-dampening glue can be used under floors. Flooring material is also one of the more obvious areas where sound absorbing options come into play. Within a room, sound waves bounce off hard surfaces such as tile and hardwood, while carpeting and luxury vinyl products are much quieter. An acoustical underlayment can be added for an extra measure of quiet. Similarly, acoustical underlayment, carpeting plus pad, or luxury vinyl products, help absorb sound transmission between floors. If you do opt for hard surface flooring, heavy area rugs may help reduce sound.

Having the opportunity to consider spending a little more to achieve serenity is just one of the many benefits of buying a new home rather than a resale house. As we learned during the COVID-19 outbreak, peace and quiet in our homes is truly a blessing. Talk with your builder about the various soundproofing measures they recommend. You’ll be glad you did!

Next time – Achieving a quieter home through design!

Last week's post: Quiet Homes - Your Health Depends on It!

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Cover photo: <a href=''>Book photo created by Racool_studio -</a>

Perhaps the Most Overlooked Facet in Building Your Dream Home

Perhaps the Most Overlooked Facet in Building Your Dream Home

There is an under-appreciated aspect of our homes that is a critical component of our overall physical and mental health. One that can contribute to, or adversely affect, our enjoyment of our homes. It is the embodiment of caring for our families, or when ignored, can cause us great embarrassment.

No, we’re not talking about what your home costs or your mortgage payment, though both might be affected. This isn’t about cooking healthy, having a place for everything and everything in its place, or thoughtfully designed outdoor living space, even though each of those is a worthy goal. We’re not even talking about building a stronger/safer home or integrating the latest technology to make out lives better.

No, this is something far simpler and more obvious. Something to be carefully and thoughtfully considered in our home’s design, in how our homes are built, and in product choices made throughout the home. And it’s not something new. Perhaps you heard (or are old enough to remember) the Simon and Garfunkel singing about it in the mid-1960s?

The Sound of Silence

We long for our homes to be our retreats. We yearn for sanctuary, for extended moments of peace and quiet, for an escape from all that life is throwing at us. We want our kids to be healthy and successful. We treasure time spent in our homes with good friends. Still, amidst the myriad of competing goals and decisions to be made when building a home, scarce attention is paid to what we can do to achieve the freedom we seek from unwanted noises.

Loud and annoying noises bring about stress, and stress is a contributing factor in many physical and mental health maladies. Couple that with the difficulties in getting to, and staying, asleep, brought on by interruptive noises, and you have a glimpse into how noise affects our health, well-being, and quality of life. In fact, we at Design Basics discovered that “de-stressing” was one of the four primary lenses women use when evaluating a home’s suitability for her and her household and design our homes accordingly.

feet sticking out of bed

Since the majority of us retreat to our bedrooms for maximum privacy, lots of attention is paid to not only the location of bedrooms but also which areas adjoin the bedrooms, in terms of noise potential. Sound isolation can at least partly be achieved through good design, with further steps including additional sound-deadening measures undertaken during construction as well as selecting quieter products such as solid core doors, bathroom exhaust fans, and even cabinetry hardware.

Noise distracts from concentration, learning, and performance. With so many households involved in remote learning and working from home, this benefit’s importance should not be understated. Kids doing homework at the kitchen island or table? Maybe not if you have a loud dishwasher. Do you foresee the sound of Fortnite infiltrating your home office and competing with your ZOOM call? There are multiple ways to help soundproof that wall shared with your family room.

It’s Thursday, and you’ve been looking all week toward having friends over tonight. Dinner’s coming along nicely, but you can’t quite hear what’s being said over the range hood’s whirr. Tomorrow is the big presentation, and you need that blue shirt that’s in the wash. You find yourself wishing you had a quiet, relatively low-vibration laundry pair. You find yourself becoming quite self-conscious when you seemingly hear everything when guests excuse themselves to use the bathroom.

Our relationships are enhanced by the attention we pay to sound deadening in our homes. We make better decisions when we’re not stressed out. Life is good when we get a full night’s sleep. From reading to meditation, pursuing hobbies, connecting on social media, and even taking classes, the absence of irritating clamor is music to our ears. Now you know – taking a little extra time and perhaps shifting your new home budget a bit can help you achieve serenity.

Sound like a plan?

Read more about the importance of quiet homes: Your Health Depends on It!

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