kimchi & kraut

Passive House + Net Zero Energy + Permaculture Yard

Architect vs. Client


Can they both be right?

During the design phase of our build, a clash of ideas occurred over a relatively small detail in the plans. I thought revealing it here might prove helpful to other homeowners about to embark on the design phase of their own build or renovation.

Our overall floor plan is divided down its long, East-West axis, separating the public (kitchen and family room) from the private (bedrooms and bathrooms). This is straightforward, and nothing that hasn’t been done countless times before by other architects and builders. Sounds simple enough, but debate arose over how to transition from the public space to the second bedroom and bathroom, which are both just off the kitchen.

This is what our architect initially proposed:

2016-08-17 21.58.01

Our architect was clearly going for maximum efficiency in terms of space planning. In addition to a straight, open line from kitchen to bathroom, this design put the doorway to the second bedroom just around the corner, mostly out of sight. The architect believed, and rightly so, that this was the most efficient use of the limited space in this area.

Nevertheless, in my own head, I always assumed that there would be a “jog” (we worked hard to eliminate as many hallways as possible, but I suppose there’s no denying that’s what we’ve ended up with here).

This is what I was picturing:

bathroom - bedroom version 2

As a result, I argued for the second design, believing the jog/hallway offered a level of privacy to those using the bathroom lacking in the original drawing. This is a polite, civilized way of saying it. A friend put it more bluntly: “Why do I wanna make eye contact with somebody who’s just taken a dump?”.

Crass, to be sure, but his comment does get to the heart of the matter: If you’re standing in the kitchen as someone exits the bathroom, won’t this be an awkward situation for everyone? And how uncomfortable will it be for the person in the bathroom if they have the “bubble guts” when they know people are congregated in the kitchen?

Why not, as depicted in the second version, move the wall between kitchen and bathroom a little to the right, thereby eliminating any direct sight lines from the kitchen into the bathroom? Doesn’t this layout afford someone in the bathroom a much higher level of privacy and, therefore, comfort?

If the client (in this situation, or one like it) can acknowledge that the second layout is a less than ideal efficient use of the space, should the architect (in this situation, or one like it) acknowledge that the trade-off — between efficiency and privacy — is worth it? Or should efficient space planning be understood as an absolute and be applied accordingly?

It would be interesting to know what decision other people would make in this situation. In addition, if clients (or architects for that matter) have struggled with similar situations regarding a balance between space planning efficiency and other needs or wants — and how they resolved the problem.

In our case, we’ve opted for privacy, but we don’t pretend our choice is perfect. This raises the question: Can architect and client both be right (even if it’s for different reasons)?

What do you think?

Places Journal (Client and Architect)  

Life of an Architect  

Reasons to Employ an Architect  

Coffee with an Architect


There were also selfish design reasons for the jog/hallway — e.g., artwork that will be featured on the hallway wall (seen as you exit the kitchen and head for the bedroom or bathroom), in addition to artwork that can be viewed as you exit the bathroom sink area (on the new wall between the kitchen and the bathroom). I also thought that by not being able to see directly, or easily, into the bathroom and the bedroom from the kitchen that it might add a little ‘drama’ to the floor plan, if only for first-time visitors — ‘Hmmm, wonder what’s back there?’ At any rate, I think I’ll always enjoy this effect (along with the added privacy).

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