Little Known Secrets On The Design Process


Hi Everyone, before we begin, please a gentle reminder to read the post first if you wish to make a comment.

And, also, please try to be kind. Kind is not giving advice that’s not asked for. Thank you.


This is part II of the kitchen renovation post.


It is a continuation of my design process. Only now, we’re going to go downstairs.

Part of the downstairs design process is tied to the upstairs.

Yes, the new staircase. However, I have had some revelations recently about that.

Since I’m masochistically putting my home out there a second time, please be mindful.

Okay, if you think the kitchen is fraught with challenges, the downstairs is even more so.


However, before I go on with the design process, the upstairs is nearly double the size of the downstairs.


Therefore, many of your beautiful ideas are impossible to implement. We’ve been through it all before.




Sorry to shout. It’s just that we’ve been over that countless times.

One of the design process secrets is to “explore the possibilities!” And, I have turned this place inside and out, exploring for the last 22 months.

This post, written shortly after I had gone to contract, is a great place to start.

And, this post shares previous iterations of the downstairs redesign.

(There’s also some super chillaxing music to listen to instead of beating Laurel up.)

And, you can get a glimpse inside of how my design process works when working with a challenging design. It’s fun to look back and see how the space and ideas take shape.

Most of the earlier iterations are far better than what is currently here. However, time and desire to create have left me with more chances to improve the design.


But, let’s first look at how the downstairs was when it was first renovated back in 1978.


lower level Boston Apartment - before renovationOkay, the renovators were young and didn’t have a lot of cashola. I get it. Besides, Back Bay wasn’t the neighborhood it is now. It had fallen into decay and was only beginning to be returned to the urban paradise it is today.

See where it says common area? Above that are my den, second bathroom, and part of the entry. The kitchen only begins about a foot into where the tub is. So, it is not the same footprint as one might assume.

Laurel, why is the door to your bedroom across from the janitor’s closet and perpendicular to what looks like the back door of the house?


Sweet, isn’t it? And yes, that one is a bloody great question.

The reason why is because that was the original door into the original KITCHEN of the home back in 1880. It is still there because, in all these years, no one has bothered to change it.


Don’t people disturb or wake you up sometimes?


Oh man, yes! And they scare the crap out of me, too. Because of some weird fluke, when I’m downstairs, and the back door opens, it sounds like MY FRONT DOOR UPSTAIRS IS OPENING! Of course, they’re not trying to disturb me. However, the walls are paper-thin. That one is easy to take care of with soundproofing sheetrock.


So, yes, we are going to move that door!

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves with the design process.


We need to look at the downstairs as it currently is.


114 Comm Ave #2 Garden Level existing plan


I understand that owners, maybe a couple of decades ago, created this change. The super smart thing they did was enclose the killer spiral staircase. The bedroom sits directly under the living room without a door to close it off. That’s not exactly private. But, now it is if guests are staying in the den.


However, what about the huuuuuuge closet looming in the back?


Yes, it’s ridiculous. It’s like another bedroom; it’s so large. The same owners used it as a dark room. Okay, that makes sense, but it’s not working for me.

And, of course, neither is the spiral staircase. Yes, they are slippery, and yes, I’ve had some run-ins with them and got a nasty bruise on my shin once. It was my fault. I was running to get to the oven timer before it went off. Silly girl.

Anyway, it has to go.

If you missed the last post about the proposed new stairwell and railing, please check it out here.

So, moving along with the design process, I know I MUST move the door into the apartment’s downstairs area. And, yes, I’m not allowed to eliminate it. It’s the law.


I’m going to gloss over some of this because if I write it ALL out, you will be bored to tears, and then you will want to choke me. Please listen to those beautiful strings again if you feel any homicidal urges.

Here are the basics, and a lot of this is good to know if you’re ever considering renovating your place and need a new staircase.


basic staircase design


My treads must be 10″, but only 9″ will be shown in plan view because of the nosing. Please see the graphic above, or just nod your head, yes, even if you don’t understand. When I did this graphic, I thought I needed to have one more step than I will need.

However, there must be a minimum of 80″ headroom. Plus, in my case, there’s a 15″ floor joist area. So, it’s 95″ we need to clear.

The max height of the risers is 8.25.”

124″ divided by 8.25″ = 15.03 risers. So, 15 risers, 16 isn’t necessary.

However, there is always one more riser than a tread because the first step down is from the top of the floor, and then the treads begin. Therefore, I will need 14 treads.


Okay?  I hope you’re still with me because we’re getting to the enjoyable part of the design process secrets.


According to calculations, we need 11.5 risers. However, the contractor can fudge the headspace. Since it’s currently open, he has to build it and can make it less than 15″ for the first step. Then we’ll be well below 80″ once we hit step 12.

I could also make the treads a little shorter. I’d rather not do that.

So, let’s assume our treads are 10″ ( 9″ in plan view). 9″ x 11″ = 99″ Therefore, our stairwell must be 8′ – 3″ long.


However, that’s much better than I initially thought, which was 120″ long!

The beauty of this is that we should be able to clear the doorway and moulding ENTIRELY.


Laurel, what on earth are you talking about?


Oh, sorry. I’m doing what some of you do to me. I’m describing something like you’re standing right here with me. Hang on a sec.


bad spiral staircase

Do you see how the railing overlaps the door casing and extends beyond it? Horrible. I would’ve gotten a big fat F if I did this in design school. My new design takes the stairwell and railing just to the left of the door casing. Of course, the floor will be filled in. They can use the flooring for the part of the stairwell to be created.


And, now for the really fun part of this design process.


We have to look at what’s going on in the bedroom.


114 Comm Ave #2 Garden Level existing plan
I have considered many options, but the best one is to start the staircase upstairs nine feet from the wall. But, since the first riser will be buried in the 15″, we can move that wall back about 6″.

And, yes, that means that green wall next to the spiral is moving over four feet. But, that’s fine with me. And, the 9′-6″ will still easily accommodate a queen-sized bed and nightstands.

Actually, I like making the room a little smaller. I prefer smaller bedrooms. Cozier. My bedroom in Bronxville was a little over 13 x 13.


Before last week, let’s look at the most recent iteration of the downstairs design.


design process - Comm Ave #2 Garden Level Dec 2021-no furniture 12.21.21I did this in January and was very happy with it.

Yes, I know my address is there. Please don’t write me as several have: “you might want to think about removing it, just to be safe.” Umm…Safe from WHAT? The most dangerous person to me (and by a wide margin) is ME.

Remember when I was whisked away in an ambulance after I attempted to cross the street?

Oh, and remember the time I came close to decapitating myself?

Yes, indeed. If I wish to stay safe, I guess I better keep my address a secret from myself.

For the love of God! It’s a public freaking record! If you want to find my address, just google Laurel Bern address in Boston. You’ll find it in 20 seconds. (or less)


Sorry. I’m just tired of being treated like I’m a clueless dolt. Mind you, I am sometimes, but that’s my problem.


Anyway, let’s return to the design process and more secrets.


Last week, I took another stab at my downstairs. I’m not sure why except it’s a lot of fun.

I found some discrepancies because I should’ve just blocked out 99″ instead of putting in each stair. At that tiny scale, it’s easy to be off by an inch. But, here’s another important thing.

However, here’s something I just realized.


Winders (the three pie-shaped steps) do not save space. They only save space when needing to turn. (three steps instead of one). But, if you don’t need to turn just yet, you can get four steps in the same space that three winding steps take up.

So, I went back to the “monkey-board.”


And, then, I realized I could do a straight run of 11 treads and then simply turn the last three and be done with it.


straight run stairs into curved - original source unknown


Remember this lovely from the fall of 2020? (you’ll see much more about my spiral too!) 

Going back to the lovely staircase above. It won’t be this narrow, but this gives you a better idea of what I’m talking about.


And, yes, I plan on creating a little closet in that location.


I know you guys get all goosebumpy at the thought of using that hidden space underneath the stairs. Me too! Hey, maybe I’ll tunnel back to the bedroom.


Okay, it’s time to see what this looks like in the floor plan. There are four variations on the same theme.


In this case, Yes! I would love it if you could tell me which one you prefer.  Or, you can mix and match./>


Comm Ave Garden Level July 26, 2022 new plan! - design process


Above is number one or A


So, I’ll briefly go over what’s going on.

You walk into a lovely little entry. To the right is the bottom of the staircase, like the one pictured above; only my walkway is much wider.

One thing I’m exceedingly mindful of is how furniture will be moved in and out. The existing exterior doors on this level are all super narrow at only 25″! I know! But, that’s what they are. I actually made my new entrance door a little wider.


However, the halls are all at least three feet wide and, in most places, wider.


Please notice the larger bathroom with this design and vanity for two. ;]

A kind reader pointed out that if I want a partner, according to Fung Shui, I need to live as though I already have one.

So, I’ve started buying shaving cream and boxer shorts. ;]


Comm Ave #2 Garden Level July 23, 2022 new plan!Number B is quite similar. However, by moving the opening to the bathroom to the right, I can center the vanity and still have sufficient space to come in without gouging out my hip bones. Even so, if I end up having a vanity made and doing something like this, it would be great to do one with the canted corners like the Bronxville Bathroom.


BTW, I’m going to put smaller versions of all four on one board so you can compare them more easily.


 Level July 23, 2022 - large hall - design process


#C Takes some space from the bathroom but gives the hall a feeling of spaciousness.


I love the wider French doors.  However, they do not have to be pocket doors; they could even be bi-fold French doors. Of course, most of the time, they’ll be open.

Although this one’s kind of impractical, I do love the spaciousness, and drama of the larger doors.


One thing I want to be sure to do is to make the entire bedroom suite private from the upstairs, should I have guests.


Therefore, the entrance to the bathroom is on the bedroom side, not the staircase side.

However, if you go to version number one, it would be possible to do both a guest door and bedroom bathroom door. Still, I’m not sure if it’s really worth it.


design process - Comm Ave Garden Level July 26, 2022 new plan! with double vanity


#D marries both the open and more closed versions.


I also added additional storage in the bathroom. That would be if I did console sinks. I love those, too. I will most likely do some hidden storage in the walls with custom mirrors.

And, below is the graphic with all four designs.


four floor plans design process renovation plans

Now, to really make y’all really crazy, I could also do a no-turn or winder straight run of stairs. Here are two versions of that.

Comm Ave Garden Level July 27, 2022 straight run stairs

Above is B with a straight staircase


design process Straight run stairs Garden Level July 27, 2022 - large hall

And above is C with a straight staircase.

I do prefer the winder. It’s prettier and more interesting. However, a straight staircase would be easier to build.

I’ll look forward to your kind thoughts.


Please remember, no elevators!




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133 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel,

    I cast my vote for C with the winder stairs. I love the elegance of the larger Foyer with the piece of furniture and your decor per Melissa’s comments above. It seems like the Walk-in closet is bigger in this layout as well. I agree with the other person who mentioned not having “crashing doors.”

    I look forward to seeing your progress on this.

  2. It’s interesting that people have such strong opinions about various design plans, based on their own experience. I don’t mean that in a snarky way, in case it comes across as such.
    But everyone really is different. Some people want a separate bathroom from their spouse, while others are fine with an open toilet in a shared bathroom. Some people have been hurt on winding stairs, others on straight stairs, and some have never had a stairs incident.
    I say all this because if I were you, I would grow weary of the warnings and the “you shoulds”!
    I can’t wait to see the finished design and hear your reasoning behind the decisions.
    A case for the winding stairs (haha) could be that since you’re mostly going from the bedroom/bathroom area to the upstairs and vice versa, the winding stairs would be convenient in that you wouldn’t be making a turn around the hall to get to the stairs.
    You’ll be turning whether you have a straight or a curved staircase; the difference is whether you’re turning on the stairs or in the hall.

  3. Hi Laurel,
    Thanks for letting me ramble.
    My first place was a 2 story condo with a powder room under the stairs…supplied with shaving cream, of course 😁 It came in very handy. Great for your son, and future grandchildren, too.
    You could use your 1st floor entry / back door as your laundry area along with a fridge, coffee bar and microwave.☕
    Put in a masterchest for towels, boxer shorts, etc.
    I vote for flipping the potty and shower. I like the wall to wall vanity, whether it has one sink or 2…very elegant.
    I’m sure whatever you do will be fabulous!

  4. So much fun. The toilet is not a problem because it’s off center to the doorway. AND even if it was centered with the doorway, it’ would give you a lovely view of your bedroom and perhaps even glimpses of what’s outside your window. There’s nothin’ like having something lovely to gaze at when taking a poop!
    Speaking of which, I love the extra linen closet borrowed from the hall closet, but I wonder if you’d enjoy having art on that wall to stare at instead of a closet door. My vote goes towards A or B. I prefer the turned stairs because they look more elegant and you are likely to be going up and down them more often between spaces than between entering and exiting your apartment. The main difference between A and B is the type of doorway for your bathroom, it seems. If the toilet “issue (non-issue in my mind)” is prominent, then B is likely to block more of the view while inside or outside the bathroom. “A” would feel more open and less private because a sliding door doesn’t usually hang out in the half-open position, whereas a full door often does. There’s my three cents (inflation).

  5. I like D the best.

    It’s fun to have you lay out these options and ask us to tell you which one you like best.

    First time commenter, several month reader here. 🙂

  6. I’m late to the party – but I prefer the winding staircase with floorplan A. Wide hallways are nice, but if it comes down to a wide hallway or a more spacious master bath, I’d take the space in the bath, hands down. I think using a wardrobe or chest in the entry, instead of built-in closets, will give a more spacious and intentional feel to the entry. As for C and D – well I would not want to be the person who has to squeeze between the toilet and the vanity to use my sink! Plan A looks amazing all around – can’t wait to see the progress! All the best of luck

  7. Hello Laurel,
    A guys perspective.
    If you are clumsy like me. Then it doesn’t matter if it’s a straight staircase or curved. What will be the safest to move things up and down. That’s what’s important. And always hold onto the handrail.
    As far as pocket doors go. I would do it in that space. There are beautifully made solid pocket doors out there and then there’s just crap! And, remember everything only as good as the person who is doing the installation.
    Hide the toilet. Nobody want to see it.
    Single sink. More counter space. Plus your single.
    I married and blessed to have my own bathroom. I enjoy my bathroom nice and clutter free.
    Also the less doors in the house the better. All that unnecessary opening and closing. And they take up possible art space.
    Love your designs and aesthetic.

    John Adrian
    Just a guy

  8. Love this insider view into your beautiful home and design process. Thank you for sharing. All these layouts would be amazing. I can’t easily envision the differences but vote for straight staircase (have both now, more falls by far on curvy) and double sinks. I’m always pre-treating stains or hand washing my far too many pieces of clothing. Speaking of which – what I really want to know – how do you live with 18″ of hanging space? Seriously impressive!!

  9. HI,
    These are all good options Laurel and show how detail oriented the design process is in order to have a good result. Some people have talked about pocket doors but from my experience, they mess up the ability to have a light switch where you want and expect it to be as you move from space to space, (you can’t put an electrical j-box in the void for those who don’t understand that) and I would find that annoying all day, everyday. I think A or B with regular doors is good use of the space.
    Also, in my design practice, we are getting away from double vanities and doing a single larger sink (even for couples!) with storage on the vanity (honestly can’t think of anyone I want to be in the bathroom with at the same time!) or just leaving it open with lots of drawers for all the stuff. Double vanities do work in kid’s shared bathrooms though…
    Thanks for sharing all of this!

  10. I am totally enjoying your journey, and the proof that taking your time on such a project is wise. I choose Bathroom A. Since your laundry will be in this room, you will be glad to have extra space there, rather than in the hallway. If you choose/are able to move the toilet, you could leave the vanity in place, but flip the other parts. That would put the toilet right next to the entrance. A knee wall there would be good, but doubtful there is room, so perhaps a screen of some sort. Re the vanity, a single sink allows much more counter space. If you use cabinetry, build all the way to the wall. If furniture, a small linen closet in the corner which uses the corner space. Re the closet, like the suggestion to combine. With the entrance from the hall (another pocket door), it will save steps and give you a corner in your bedroom without a door to deal with. I love your under-stair fridge and microwave!

  11. What a gracious response. Thank you for opening yourself and your process to our scrutiny. I’m learning a lot.

  12. I enjoy your posts but tend to skim through as they can run astray from the title that drew me in. This may be why you get many comments from people who didn’t seem to read the entire post like myself. I am constantly deciphering medical research for a living and appreciate those that get to the point simply and quickly. I like option c with the straight staircase. A stair runner is easier to lay on a straight staircase and I prefer the wider hallway to move furniture through if necessary.

  13. I’m enjoying reading all the comments. Thank you for clarifying that the main entrance is on the first floor. In light of that fact, moving furniture up or down the stairs is a mute issue. Therefore, the winder stairs isn’t a problem. Looking at the picture of your living room in a previous entry, I’m wondering if you could make your stairwell opening a little bit longer, perhaps giving you room for one more step. Could it extend nearly the full length of the wall between the doors? I don’t know the height between your first floor and basement but if it is 8 feet, typically you would have 13 steps.

    I still like C with the winder. C is the only option where you don’t look directly into the bathroom. As I continue to review the drawings of the bathroom, there is one change I would make. If it were me, I’d go with a single sink. I don’t think having a second one so close to the toilet will work very well. I’d always be backing into it. I would center the sink and if this bathroom were for two people, each could keep their things on one side or the other.

    I know in our household, we always use the bathroom separately. It’s the one room where I want my privacy. Especially as we get older, the attraction of sharing the bathroom loses its luster.

    I hope you don’t regret sharing this process with us. It’s the best entertainment I’ve had in a long time.:)

  14. I would likely choose C. I don’t like a pocket door in a bathroom . have had them and they don’t muffle enough sound for my highly sensitive hearing plus they sorta rattle. I like the feeling of C that the washer and dryer aren’t actually inside the bathroom even though it makes the clothes closet smaller. my favorite thing is the coffee maker and microwave under the stairs. I always wish i had that when we have guests. Forgive me if you’ve answered this already but wondering if you actually use the bedroom level entry frequently? kinda cool for sneaking packages directly into the closet for when Mr. Shaving Cream & Boxers moves in.

  15. I love the thought process you’ve laid out…it’s so helpful for those of us who are dreaming about what we’d like to do “someday” but haven’t the foggiest idea where to start.

    For what it’s worth, we have an old house (1880’s farmhouse that has been added onto without much direction) with a staircase very much like what you’re intending with the corner at the bottom. It works but is a beast to get beds/furniture up to the bedroom. Food for thought, no doubt you’ve already considered it, but I learn as much in your comments as I do from your blog – perhaps someone else will be reminded to consider it as well.

    109* today in the LC valley (border of ID and WA) – hope you’re cooler on the other side!

  16. OFF TOPIC: I watched a Hamptons cottage tour recently, and the owner raved about his “Pietra Cardosa” countertops.

    They are black/dark gray and he claims they don’t stain or get glass rings, plus they feel amazing.

    I’d never heard of that stone, but it might work for your kitchen.

  17. Hey, Laurel. Love love love your beautiful home and so enjoy following your design ideas and updates for it. Great idea moving the laundry into the bathroom, having access to the sink for pretreating or whatever. Very fun and practical, especially when you have guests staying upstairs, to have a little fridge and microwave under the stairs! Love it all.
    Truthfully, my main reason for writing is that I just found One Man’s Folly at my library’s used book sale for 50 cents. Made my day! I love his work (thanks to you!) and like Mr Gatewood, I love Italian Greyhounds. I thought you’d appreciate my excitement.

  18. I think it’s funny that people keep saying straight stairs are safer when all the injuries I’ve gotten were on straight stairs. I feel that having a curve or bend at the bottom slows people down (like a traffic roundabout does) and makes them safer. Straight staircases scare me! I wonder if there are actual statistics for which kind of staircase has more injuries. I wonder if injuries on stairs with a curve at the bottom are more likely to be people who are new to the stairs.???

    By the way, I think your design (in any iteration) is awesome. I looked at the original floorplan and the current floorplan and my mind was a blank with no clue what I would do with such a space. Then I saw the next drawing and squealed because it makes so much sense and is so interesting!

  19. Hello Laurel, my vote is Option B with the straight staircase. Seems more functional for moving furniture, and can still be beautiful. I’d remove one of the two closets at the entry and put in a bench with storage underneath – a drawer, or cabinet or open space with a shelf, for shoes and boots. Panel or wallpaper the space above the bench and add hooks for coats, umbrella, etc. Add a cabinet above to the ceiling, leaving enough space to sit on the bench to put on and take off your boots. Design the cabinet with an open 10-12” cubby at the bottom for hats, gloves, mail. Super functional and still has storage. Bathroom: I’d run the counter to the wall add an electric outlet, and slide a stool underneath – if there is enough width between the counter and the toilet. Voilà, a makeup space. I might still consider running the counter, and maybe the entire cabinet to the wall, even if there’s not enough space to sit there. You could add shelves above the countertop for pretty things, or add a third mirror with space behind for makeup or other items. Or, have the plumbing installed for the 2nd sink, but leave it hidden behind the wall for a future buyer, or yourself if desired. Design the vanity cabinet so it could have doors and a sink added later, but for now a stool underneath and you have your makeup space And you have the double sink resale issue settled. Then wherever you can find the space in your bedroom suite, I’d have a makeup area, table, desk, with an electric outlet. If you don’t yet, you will soon need a lighted magnifying mirror, and it’s a lovely option to have a tiny space to sit and try to disguise the wrinkles. It’s fun watching your progress, so many terrific ideas. I just moved into a condo and am trying to be creative in finding storage solutions

  20. Not sure you need any more votes, but I like B with a straight staircase. I like that simply because the larger bathroom creates a feeling of luxury, and looking at what you want to do with your kitchen and other areas, it seems a larger bathroom would give you more room to play with the design elements you love. Also, taking furniture up a straight staircase seems a lot more friendly to all involved. Having a fridge and microwave on the bedroom level is great… No running up stairs at night to get the drink or make the popcorn to munch on while you watch a movie in bed!

  21. How did you know that I am a worrier? 🙂 Thank you for responding, and have fun with your project. I know how much harder it is for us to design for ourselves. I love your work!
    Myra Ephross

  22. PS I was just looking at your bathroom layout. If you move the double vanity on the wall towards the entrance an additional 3 feet, you would be able to put a partial ceiling height wall between the vanity and the toilet area so the toilet is not the first thing you see when walking into the bathroom. The wall at the far end of the vanity will give some privacy to the toilet area and privacy is always desirable in master bath. This change would allow for the shower to be much wider than it is now… always a plus! The wall with the vanity abd toilet would be extended 3 feet and the entrance wall and door would line up with the closet on the opposite side. You could use a single door to the area rather than the double door to make room for the vanity, though I know you like the double door, I think that the larger bathroom might make you happier in the long run. This floorplan would make your master bath a lot larger, with more toilet area privacy and a larger shower. The wall over the toilet could have a “head knocker” cabinet for storage of toilet paper, etc. The roomier bathroom has more floor space to make it comfortable for a couple. In the laundry area, if you use a side by side washer and dryer, you can have folding space on top of the washer and dryer if they are front loading, and multiple cabinets overhead for laundry items and extra storage etc. As I said before without knowing structural limitations I do not know if this reconfiguration will work for your bath but from your drawings, I believe that it might work, just going by your floorplan.
    Regards again, Myra Ephross

  23. Hi Laurel,
    Please keep in mind that these thoughts are just from a short glance at your floorplan. My concern is that your staircase is on the narrow side ( as are many in older homes) and you may have some difficulty getting some pieces of furniture upstairs if you have to make a turn. From the graph it looks like your staircase is 3 feet wide? If you can remove the upper portions of wall near the staircase, and find another means of support, if needed, for that portion of your ceiling. Perhaps a couple of attractive pillars holding up the joists for the second floor if necessary? If the staircase was visually expanded by getting rid of those short sections of wall, you would have a nicer and more open feel to your staircase. As it is, I think you might feel “closed in”? The opening from the top of the bannister handrail and the ceiling will also give movers more options to get items moved upstairs. I have run into this issue on renovation jobs and wish that I could have torn down a small bit of wall near the landing. Also 8.25 in risers are a bit high, if you can somehow get them down to 7.5″ you will be much happier. Though as is you could have buns of steel! 🙂 How tall is your ceiling? I hope that there are no areas of low ceilings above the staircase. Staircase design is so difficult when working with the limitations of existing space. You have some interesting options depending any limitations you might have with existing architecture. I have probably missed something that makes these suggestions impossible, I know whatever you decide, your home will be gorgeous and comfortable. Regards, Myra Ephross

    1. Myra,

      Please try not to worry. Everything you are concerned about has been covered, considered and reconsidered dozens of times. There are codes we must adhere to. The drawing is conceptual. It’s not a working drawing. It would’ve been done differently.

      I currently have an 8.25″ high riser on my horrible spiral. The height of the risers is not an issue for me. This is a luxurious staircase for Boston. The old ones have higher risers and many are infinitely more narrow, more windy, rickety. I stayed in such a place when I came to see this one. I wrote about it here. I had to make two trips up 80 steps.

  24. First, thank you. I love really all of your designs and the fact that you are taking us through the process. As to my favorite, I vote for a real bathroom door because sometimes you don’t want hear what is going on in there. As a lover of pocket doors, i recognize that they are not great a blocking noise. Second, i wonder wouldn’t a guest possibly be using the bathroom also? Is there an upstairs bathroom that i missed or forgot about? If not, then i would want a door separating the bedroom from the hall. In other words, i would want to be able to separely close of the bathroom and the bedroom from the downstairs entryway/staircase area. Sorry if you have alread thought that all through. When your choices are all good, you cannot lose.

  25. Thank you so much Laurel for taking us on this journey with you! The finished product will be fantastic due to your creativity, skill and superb taste. For what it’s worth, here’s my 2 cents. Forgive me if I repeat previous comments. After walking through your space and going up and down those staircases in my mind – design C with the straight staircase is my favorite. As I imagine walking up and down the stairs multiple times a day, the curve of the winder gets in the way. The straight stairs are more open and simpler. We all know you will choose beautiful finishes for the doors, railing and whatever lies at the back wall, so maybe there’s no need to be as fancy. Re bath, personally I have no issue with an open toilet, but option C’s entry seems to not head straight into the “head”. In our master bath I opted for double vanity, one side sink in a base cabinet, center row of drawers and other side just a slim vanity drawer with an open space below for a stool. I use this “dressing table” or whatever it would be called all the time. Even though my guy and I share the bath, the extra sink would have been a waste. Re doors, check out a company called Milcasa. They make hinges that allow doors to go completely flat. I also have no door on our master and I love the open feel. Your french doors would give you privacy when desired. Again, many many thanks for taking us with you, I can’t wait for the next installment! xoxo

  26. I would suggest option A:

    1) more bathroom space for two individuals – think resale and/or future partner.

    2) I’ve had bad luck with pocket doors – all three of them are noisy and get stuck, but perhaps when the house was renovated (not by me) the doors were not installed properly?

    3) I like the idea of a furniture piece unless you really need additional closet space. Adding a mirror above the piece, with sconces or buffet lamps, would help reflect light back into the hallway.

    4) A straight staircase would allow you to admire the items mentioned in #3 as you descend the stairs! And this wouldn’t be about guests. It’s about you enjoying your space.

    5) But if a winder is what you really want, then do it!

    Thanks again for sharing! It has been fun to join along in the reno process.

  27. Nobody does details like you do!
    My vote is A. Or the B/straight stair version.
    I think the most space in the bathroom is the best. It’s nice to have more spacious halls, but adding the space in the bathroom will feel better bc, that’s where you will actually be living and breathing. Pocket doors are not the best…but they do remove that big object from the traffic path and that’s a big deal, too.
    Whatever you choose, they are all good options and will make your life so much better. Goodbye spiral stairs. (I had one once and it’s a pain.)

  28. I agree with the winder. A few decades ago I lived in a three story townhouse and took several tumbles on the staircases. The winders slowed my fall. End of story, bathroom and kitchen designs are fantastic! Every one of them!

    1. Well, there you go. Thank you, Dot. All stairs are inherently dangerous. I’ve tripped many a time on a straight run of steps. However, I’m a klutz, and clumsy too. Plus, my years of ballet training render me incapable of looking down when I’m walking. Therefore, for safety’s sake, I need someone to hold my hand at all times. ;]

  29. They’re all beautiful but C with a straight stairway has my vote. It’s the simplest and most roomy feeling.
    Can I make a humble suggestion? Could you build in a bookcase in your bedroom making use of the space under the stairs. Just seems like a perfect spot right near your bed and could be useful as well as lovely.

  30. Your visions are inspiring! As far as the bathroom space goes, that”s a personal preference. The stairs however, please a winder…straight staircases …I can’t like them1 (My personal preference lol)

  31. It is such a treat to watch your layouts evolve. I can’t thank you enough you sharing your hard work and expertise. Without a deep dive into your functional preferences and goals for your home, I respectfully offer thoughts that coincide with my own aesthetics and comforts.

    There are 4 elements of A that appeal to me.
    1). The longer counter sink, that allows more space between the R sink and potty.
    2). The pocket door. Smallish spaces really benefit from them.
    3). The large wrap-around w-I-c. When dressing I like everything all together.
    4). Since, the space lacks windows (except for the bed area) for visual interest and light, the winders and antiques will add lots of charm.
    Just one more, if I may. Tuck the potty away if at all possiblei
    I have no doubt that whatever you choose will be oh so pretty!

  32. Dear Laurel, I am gob-smacked following all these machinations of the design process. You will never get any suggestions from me because what you do is so far above my level…honestly, calculus is easier for me to understand than architecture and space planning. It is all going to be breathtaking when completed. I hope you show us the progress in the actual construction.

  33. I love designs “C” and “D”. If you’re looking for a bit more privacy in the bathroom, then “C” would give you that, as well as a more spacious feel in the hallway. I love the idea of French doors in the hallway, and the winders at the bottom of the stairs would be perfect! I had a staircase rebuilt and added winders halfway up and at the bottom and they made it so much prettier, and for some reason the climb up the stairs felt easier.

  34. Well put Rachel. Totally agree on the sink (just one), the toilet, the stair, etc.
    Laurel, I’m sure you will weigh all of this and come up with something as fabulous as you are.

  35. This is so exciting! I love that you are sharing the process with us. I cannot wait to see the final result. You are so very talented.

  36. Hi Laurel,
    “Buying shaving cream & boxer shorts”. That made me snort laugh. 🤣
    I’m not going to pick a favorite layout. I know you’ll do what’s best for you. But as some other readers suggested,
    hide the toilet.
    Which brings up another question, do you have a bathroom upstairs? Or a powder room for guests upstairs?
    I apologize if you’ve mentioned it in the past. My memory isn’t what it used to be.

  37. Please do the winder. I’ve had two knees replaced, and winding stairs are very manageable. You’ll enjoy the winder later because of the little bit of drama each time you see it. I like the idea of hiding the toilet. We had a bathroom with the toilet right inside the door, seeable from the hallway. Drove me crazy. After living here 15 years, I finally convinced my husband to remodel the bathroom and move the toilet so it wasn’t noticeable from the hallway. We both love the way it turned out.

  38. You have spent many hours on this, it’s hard to think anyone would be able to contribute anything you have not already considered and discarded…but here goes, (bless your heart). I prefer the straight stair, sure safety, but mostly $, if it is the more simple that means it is the least expensive.

    As a chronic remodeler I have learned to spend the $ where I get the most bang. And you can design a straight stair that would probably take my breath away anyway. Along that same thought, I would put neither a nice piece of furniture or closet doors in that entry space. Rather build wall to wall cabinets above, an open space with a lovely counter and drawers below.

    A lamp can go there and you will have LOTS of additional storage. Linens and other can go in that and you can eliminate the linen area in the bath area. (Use a beautiful wall rack for towels inside the bath area, put extras out in this new built-in)

    And that built-in will look stunning as you come down the stairs. I would probably lean toward “C” with straight stairs. And with linen closet out of bath, you can move down W/D and make the shower longer, so a much wider shower entry door) assuming that’s not a load bearing wall in current drawings. (between shower and W/D) And you can also have a bigger area for W/D.

    I have a small W/D area and I prefer machines side by side (not on pedestals) and I had carpenter make wood tops with 1 inch ledges that fit together and flush with walls. I use that space constantly for drying delicates and other stuff, and no more laundry or other stuff falling beside or behind machines. You know what you need for closet space, but consider eliminating closet in bedroom by fireplace and use that space in the main closet. That gives you a nice corner for a chair and “art” and so forth in your bedroom.

    As for the two sinks… I don’t see two people standing there at the same time, no matter HOW much they care for one another. We have two sinks in our bath but they are NOT side by side, but on opposite sides of a wall open on one end so we can talk to each other if necessary while doing those “things” people do with floss and so forth in private. That’s my two cents and going back to my first statement, you have probably considered all this and discarded. I LOVE remodeling and it is so neat that you are sharing all this. We get to enjoy all the benefits without all the $ and angst remodeling entails. Thank you!

    1. Hi Rachel,

      There are some wonderful ideas and I like the way you describe them. The shower I would like to keep as is. There’s some beautiful tile in it and it’s actually quite luxurious. I’m not fond of the floor, so hoping to change it. It’s not hideous, just not what I want for this old home. The bathroom is way too contemporary with horrid white LED lighting. I look like a ghost no matter what.

  39. I think C best suits your aims and design sense. Given that it’s a secondary entrance, I would go with closets but I think that would leave you wishing you’d created instead yet another elegant space with lighting, wall treatment, and a beautiful antique. C would create an entrance worthy of your talent. Also because I like the winder. We have our first straight staircase here and I find it to be more dangerous. Anything slips, and it doesn’t stop until it hits the bottom.

    The wall-to-wall vanity is my preferred arrangement because I thereby avoid retrieving dropped items or cleaning tight spaces. I also would say that my favorite master bath and closet layout had only one entrance and I could dress after showers without entering the bedroom.

    I look forward to posts outlining your process. The stair railing post had many comments suggesting a more traditional banister with wooden spindles. I like your design because while the stairway of the original single family home would have had such, your space is obviously an adaptation and classic updates are my preference. An attempt to recreate such a staircase that would clearly not be original to the space would not be fitting.

  40. Hi Laurel,

    I love what you plan to do with your place! I vote for version B (I like it’s layout the best) with the straight staircase (for the safety reasons cited by others). And thank you for the opportunity to provide some very minor tweaks for your consideration:
    1. If you have the space, I too suggest a side by side washer and dryer with space above for hang drying. I find I often I have more hang drying of clothes than clothes that go into the dryer.
    2. I like the idea of getting a vanity that can accommodate two sinks, but consider installing only one sink. The prior owner of my house did this and I love the long countertop. If you wish to, you can always have the countertop cut for another sink to be added later on.
    3. It looks like you plan to have a glass shower door. I’m currently planning to take out a bathtub and put in a walk-in shower in my own home, and based on one of your blog posts, I plan to have a drapery-like shower curtain to give it the unbathroom look. I personally think showers with curtains are easier to clean and no matter where your plumbing is, you can access the controls from outside the shower. And, with a curtain, you have even more space for hang drying your clothes. But, whether you go with a door or a curtain, I highly recommend a thermostatic valve for your shower.
    4. My final comment concerns the closets on the left hand side of your new exterior doorway. I love the closet idea—I think they make excellent use of the space. However, to give you even more versatility with that space, I would suggest you take out the divider and make the two into one long closet with double doors that open and come together in the middle. I’m not sure I’m describing this clearly. Home Depot calls them interior french doors.
    Please feel free to adopt or reject any of the above suggestions! Best wishes and good luck with your remodeling!

    1. Hi Carol,

      I have those kinds of double doors in my closet upstairs. And, I had them in my old townhouse. My reason for dividing, is that one would be “the laundry” and the other a regular closet with hanging space.

  41. Amazing. So much fun. Thanks for letting us say our favorite. 😀
    If you want pedestal sinks, then D is my favorite since it is a winder and also gives you:
    A) room for a long mirror or art on the wall across from the entry door.
    B) room for art on the wall across from the bottom of the stairs. C) room for art on the wall in front of you as you turn the entry corner
    D) more shelving in the walk-in closet.
    E) Space between the studs to the left and right and behind the sinks for hinged art/mirror as well as the large niche storage.
    F) Enough linear wall footage without sink plumbing pipes for the pocket doors you want.
    G) An armoire instead of closets in the entry for beauty, and because He might have a lovelier home, and then you can take it with you. 😉

    If you want sinks in a cabinet, then D is my favorite for the same reasons as A except for no niche storage. Plus, the bathroom area feels more spacious for two people than C.

    “buying shave cream and boxers” hahahaha omw hilarious 😀

  42. It’s true that winder staircases are more interesting but, to me, the interest comes with the last portion of the staircase being more open with spindles rather than wall. It will also help with moving things in and out sometimes; you can lift things over the railing. I think all of your renderings have pros and cons as you have mentioned. I’m partial to C with a straight staircase. I would always vote for a pocket door over a regular one since it’s a cleaner look and I can imagine that you will be leaving them open a lot. Is there a reason you didn’t switch the toilet and vanity? I love to see a mirror when entering and it would be so nice for the toilet to be a little more hidden. I love hearing how your mind works during this process. It’s very helpful for all of us no matter what our project.

  43. One more thing, I’ve lived in four houses with the master closet adjacent to the bath and at least two where it was a step or two away. It’s really nice to go from getting ready in the bathroom to dressing without opening the bathroom door. If you can find a design that passes muster without crashing doors I think it would be worth it.

  44. Dear Laural,
    I will speak to you like a mother…the winding staircase is a serious safety issue. I don’t care what you do with the rest of the place but safety first…that is number 1 rule for any venture.

  45. I agree with Laurie. Is there a way to enclose the WC? Could it go where the shower is and the shower move to the WD/Linen. Could you fit the WD in a tall cupboard in the corner at the end of the vanity? I am looking at plan A as my preferred choice. Love the new stair options – select the safest option!

  46. What thought & imagination you’ve put into your project ! I vote for switching the shower and toilet locations -you’ll enjoy seeing beautiful shower wall materials – not toilet.
    Straight staircase. Larger, well-organized closets. Wide hallways when possible. French gracious to the eye…
    Whatever you decide, it’ll be wonderful!

  47. I like C with the straight staircase for practical reasons of safety. The winder is charming, I agree, but your home oozes charm already with the wainscoting and trim. Focus on that in your downstairs instead.

    I like the widened hallway to give the area some space. Giving up some bathroom space is reasonable if it opens up the entire area and still preserves a nice large walk-in closet.

    I, like others, prefer the vanity to be wall-to-wall because the open areas on each side of the vanity seem like wasted space, and in my experience, having walls gives you a place to hang your hand towels.

    I’m wondering if you would want to have a door going in to the bedroom (a pocket door would do) as I prefer having the option of “closing myself in for the night.”

    A thought about the entrance door: given the winter and rainy weather in Boston, you might consider a space for boots or shoes. I don’t know what that would look like with the furniture you have near the entrance, but I’m sure you will come up with something.

    Thank you for graciously allowing us to share our ideas and opinions with you. You must have thick skin! 😀

  48. I am having so much fun with your remodel, dear Laurel.
    I’m on team C just because I like the feel of it. Others have articulated the details of “why” for me. I had a similar situation with a glass shower door that was crowding the toilet a bit so used hinges that let the door swing both ways. Works great! If you go with the curved stair I don’t think you need such a pretty entry as it will only be a pass through when one actually uses that door. As such, maybe the closets would be the better choice. What a brave woman you are to share this with us, thanks for the distraction today and good luck

  49. Love following your design process. 1. As you are no longer in 30’s or 40’s, stairs should be #1 safe and functional. My son tripped and bounced down on angled stairs carrying his infant daughter. She was fine, he had many bruises. 2. Enclosed toilets: if EVER you have a bone break or serious illness, open access to a toilet (perhaps using a cane or walker) beats privacy. 3. Consider a place to hang out-of-dryer garments. Such as ‘B’ using non-stacking W/D with a rod overhead. Damp dry dedicates can finish, you can use the appliance tops for folding, then close the doors for desired ambiance. Just a couple of thoughts…

  50. My vote is for A – I love the winder staircase, the elegant entryway, and the spacious bath. Thanks for having the grace, good humor, and thick skin to put your designs out there so those of us who aren’t design professionals can benefit from your expertise. And as for the people who are STILL bringing up elevators and acting like you’re some kind of dilettante who is firmly in her dotage, rather than a competent adult and trained designer, well, bless their hearts. Reading comprehension is a dying art.

  51. I vote for option D – the bathroom and laundry are more functional and work together better; the walk in closet seems better, and the hallway is generous and wide. But you always know best – will be delighted to see what you pick!

  52. After reading other comments, looking a Plan C, I’m wondering if you could put a pocket door on the bathroom so you wouldn’t have the entry interfering when you need to get in the linen closet. I also like my bathroom vanity wall to wall. This allows for electrical outlets on both ends. You never have enough of them in the bathroom! I understand everyone’s concerns about the winder stairs. I’d worry about them much more if the wind were at the top of the stairs than when it is only 3 steps at the bottom. I can fall down straight steps just as easily – I’ve done it many times. Stocking feet, hurrying and steps don’t mix well.

  53. I like A. Bigger bathroom. Also the entry w the pretty furniture piece seems important. Is the washer/dryer already down there? And are the doors big enough to get it through if it breaks?

  54. I love your designs and I like plan c the best, however, we don’t know how you live in the space. Is this mostly a private entrance or do guests use it also. If it’ was my private space I would elimate the closest by the stairs and make it one large master suite. If others use it I like that it seems more like two spaces. Love your patience with the process. I would be making many mistakes

  55. Hi Laurel, I really enjoy watching your process and learning from your expertise! I am older than you, but I had to have two completely surprising total knee replacements, so I know that hips and knees and backs can be a problem later on. And I have become klutzier as the years go by, regardless! 🙂 Even though I love the looking of that charming winder at the end of the stairs, I wonder if it might become a problem for you in the future.
    I, too, am a bit confused as to whether this will be a main entrance- probably just not paying enough attention! But in either case I like the piece of furniture in that lower hall as you enter rather than more doors. I know you would make it beautiful regardless, but unless more storage is pivotal, the spacious feeling as you walk in that lower entry would be so much nicer.
    I am also another (probably annoying) vote for hiding the toilet somehow. I’ve had it both ways, and believe me, once I had it hidden I will never go back unless I’m dragged kicking and screaming! It’s just ugly and gross, not to mention the practicality of having it closed off. I know it would be hard to fit in, though.
    Your home will be so gorgeous when you are finished! Living in the suburbs in California we almost never have ANY charm that isn’t added on in our homes. So watching you redesign your beautiful Back Bay charmer is a vicarious thrill for this California designer.

  56. Love the aesthetics of the winder staircase. I know the challenges of remodeling and the constraints that come with it. Have you considered a built-in for the linen closet with drawers on the bottom and a pretty glass upper cabs? It would eliminate a door. Since the head of your bed is up against the common area, you might consider building a new wall up against existing one for extra sound proofing. If you can’t afford the space, turn the 2 x 4’s the other way; the wall is less thick but you can add styrofoam sheet insulation instead. I have a teeny mudroom where I shoe-horned in a stacked W/D. Went w/Miele. I’m pleased with both function and appearance. As for your entry, armoire vs closets, think about storage for things like where to put luggage, etc. Good luck! I’m sure whichever option you chose, you’ll make it lovely.

  57. As a mid-50s woman who just had foot surgery living in a home custom built in the 1960s with tons of closets and a single vanity tiny en suite bathroom, may I suggest you think about removing one of the two new closets on the bedroom side – perhaps the one closest to the stairs and bed, in favor of the added floor space? Lots of closets and cozy are lovely but over time, you might find you are happier with one of the plans you have for the slightly larger bathroom space and the extra nook being available for a chair or just space to maneuver instead of two more closets on the bedroom side. We have two bedroom closets and another large closet just outside our bedroom door, and a linen closet in the hall too. All of your plans are lovely, as always- just a practical suggestion for something to think about that I currently wish I had – less cozy with fewer closets, wider halls, and more floor space in the bed and bath to get around easily. You never know what life will throw at you. One can always pare down the “stuff” one stores, but trying to remove closets and create more floor space is another matter. Just an idea to think about if this might be your forever home or at least a long term home. I work as a real estate and estate planning lawyer, so not a real estate sales expert but I do see a lot, and I would venture to guess the absence of one closet shouldn’t harm your resale value in any way, if the idea of more floor space sounds appealing to you. You will know what is best for yourself, and your work is so incredible, whatever you do will be lovely! I have quoted you, your ideas, guidelines and advice to many over the last three years – including more than one contractor (one of whom now looks up answers to his clients’ questions about lighting, crown and wainscot on your site!). You’ll do a great job, whatever you decide! Best wishes.

  58. Dear Laurel,

    There are merits to all the designs; however, you do not want to know how breaking my leg in multiple places on a winder staircase at 31 changed my life for the worse, especially as I aged. No winders. Looks must be secondary to safety.

    Aside from that huge caveat, I think the way the multiple doors in the bathroom function needs to be thought through. Opening and closing all those doors would drive me nuts if I had to constantly juggle what was open against what was closed (if that makes any sense).

    It is more than exciting to see your process.

    Straight staircase though. I am the same sort of danger to myself that you are.

  59. First, I love what you have created with so much functionality consideration. No one has previously mentioned the two small closets that open into the bedroom, so I will. I think both closets should open in the opposite direction. The small closet next to the main closet could become part of the large closet and would be used for more hanging space or a built in vanity with shelves above. So, if there is a “Mr” in the future, there is more space in the main closet. The other small closet could easily open into the hallway by the staircase and could even be a floor to ceiling built.

    1. Hi Sarahfina,

      I have already thought of that and it didn’t work for me, as well. I would never use a vanity. And, I don’t require massive amounts of hanging space. I also tried adding another closet adjacent to the stairs, but it didn’t look right. And besides, I’m just dying to use that space underneath the steps.I love that. I wish I could do it in the bedroom too, but the nightstand will be in the way. I guess I could do some “hidden storage” there, for things I don’t need very often.

  60. Both versions are beautiful, as are all your plans. Having lived with a triangular landing at one of my houses, I will mention that it can be a bit tricky when carrying anything downstairs because if your foot hits the narrow edge of the triangle you can slide off and fall. Just something to think about.

    1. Hi Tracey,

      No thinking is necessary in this case. The Boston building codes have taken care of that. The walk path must be the same width as the straight stairs. As for falling off. I already have 14 consecutive skinny-winny, slippery AF winding triangular stairs that I’ve been up and down 100s of times now. Usually, I’m successful.;] A small suitcase is a major challenge and takes at least two minutes to go up with it, one step at a time. Step. Turn. Step. Turn… It’s as awful as it sounds.

      I try to avoid carrying things in two hands so I can hang on for dear life with the other one. I usually just grab onto the center pole.

  61. I had to go back to last weeks’ post to read all comments based on your opening remarks, thanks for the giggles. My two cents, design for you! Live in what you love is what I am doing for my first house (bought a year ago at age 50). I waited just in case I got married (and I really couldn’t afford it back then)but heck, I don’t know if I want to get married now. I have had my share of long term relationships but living for the what ifs
    is no longer floating around my head. Love the beauty you are sharing as you have provided much knowledge and inspiration to me.

  62. Winders, please!! Looks lovely and leaves a little more space in the living room. The winders in my parents’ house made no difference to the utility of the eventual stairlift. I imagine Laurel would move the toilet if she could, but it would be nice. The two sink vanity in my opinion is totally unnecessary. I had to make that decision in my master bath renovation. If my husband and I could not manage face-washing and tooth-brushing at separate times, I would worry for my marriage. The more spacious vanity top was worth it. The next owners of the house can easily change it if they want. I can’t visualize the tradeoffs in spaciousness between the bathroom and hallway; that must be up to Laurel. Smart that she is doing a wider door, I’ve always put in wider ones when I could.

  63. Yay for the double sinks! My husband and I sometimes use them at the same time. I would never go back to one sink. I like a toilet in its own closet, and definitely prefer to keep the toilet out of view of the doorway, in either case. I like a large shower with two shower heads and built-in shelves. I think the winder staircase is charming.

  64. My vote is A. I love the pocket doors and the larger bathroom. Whatever you do it will look fabulous! All the best and glad you are feeling better!

  65. Amazing plans and so thought-out for function. I love that. I like C with the winders. Thinking about usage, most of the time you’re going to be approaching the stairs from the bedroom inside the space. You’re not going to be using this door for guests. This is the back door of your home.

    So I would want the winders to be right there as I come through the French doors to go upstairs.

    I also like that in this plan your main closet is bigger without a cutout for linens taking up space in there. I love big walk-in closets, probably more than you do.

    And having the stackable washer dryer in the bathroom is great, rather than by the back door. Having a dresser by the back door is important because I don’t think you plan to have any sort of dresser in the bedroom itself if I recall.

    I do notice that the toilet has stayed in the same place in all of these plans. Is that because it is just too expensive to move that plumbing? I also love my water closet that gives the toilet privacy. I know you will be dealing with any of the situations about the shower door and the toilet being close together etc. I’m not worried about that, it’s just nice to have the toilet tucked away.

    Oh and Laurel, have you considered putting in an elevator? **Ducks and runs**

  66. Meant to add, I really liked your new kitchen. It made me get out my new kitchen plans and try to some outside the box thinking. I didn’t get anywhere but I appreciated you walking through your thought process, it’s very instructional.

  67. I like C the best. It feels more open and feels like it reduces the hallways. I can imagine the natural light making its way into the stair area. I like the winder at the bottom. Not only is it more interesting but it creates a sense of privacy from the entry. It also creates a nice traffic flow from the bedroom to the stair.

  68. “Of course, the floor will be filled in.” That is hilarious you have to say that.

    I’m a dunce in this department but I can see this is not a main entrance and you do not need a coat closet.

    I like the winder staircase. I LOVE the new kitchen with a larger refrigerator.

  69. Straight B. The bathroom seems spacious and you don’t have to close the bathroom door to open the linen closet. I lived in houses with winders and straights and I prefer straight, more elegant and easier to carry things up and down. Nobody ever fell on our winder – top and bottom turns. I’ve been happily married for 30+ years and never wanted to go elbow to elbow with the hubs in the bathroom. Do people really use the double sink together?

    1. Hi Janet,

      We did, but then again, we’re no longer married. lol. A double sink is also handy if doing hand washing. However, that’s not a frequent occurrence. It would be fine with one or two sinks.

  70. Laurel, I have full size double pocket doors on my 1st floor laundry room and they look fabulous…so I hope you will do those (I can send a photo if needed). I also like the smaller bathroom in C & D and I agree that moving the toilet would be a good idea -but of course sometimes it isn’t possible. I’m torn about the staircase -I like the winder but I’m thinking that the straight run might be more practical for “aging in place”.
    I know what ever you do it will be incredible!!!

  71. Laurel, I love how you share the nitty gritty of your design process. I don’t necessarily understand everything fully, but your info and diagrams are fascinating.

    I vote for the larger bathroom. It will be much more pleasant to use, and IMO a more generous hall is not worth the trade off. I also agree with two sinks instead of one. Even if you don’t have a partner, you and a guest who was a close friend could wash and cream your faces at night or put on your makeup in the morning while chatting. I’ve had convivial times with my sisters over our double sinks.

    Although I agree that the turn in the stairs is prettier, when it comes to stairs, my vote is for practicality first. Negotiating a turn while carrying anything bulky is far more difficult. I suspect in the long run that you might be happier with straight stairs, since you have the room.

    Love all the closets you’re planning! The fact that each one is fairly small means, perhaps, that you could devote one closet to purses and shoes. What a luxury that would be!!

  72. I like version A for these reasons:

    1) AS you enter the downstairs foyer, having an area for a beautiful piece of furniture is more interesting than looking at more doors.

    2) Your bathroom is larger. You’re using space for the bathroom and not the hall. You’ll be able to move around easier (especially if there’s a second person ). I know the larger interior hallway looks more inviting but you just walk through the hall. You won’t spend 30 minutes in your hallway.

    I’m enjoying your process. Enjoy!!!!!

  73. I’m late to the game in this but wonder why you wouldn’t put the sliding doors at your bedroom wall.

    1. Hi Susan,

      You’re not at all late! The post was only published hours before your comment. I could put doors there, but if I do closets there, it’s a lot of doors. Plus, I want to keep the bedroom AND bathroom private from the upstairs. So, I feel that a door closing off the entire master bedroom suite is the way to go.

  74. Hi Laurel, Thank you for letting us see the nitty-gritty of the design process. I have a few thoughts on stairs and bathroom possibilities. If it were me, I would prefer your early design with the straight/landing/straight turn, where there is a turn but no winders. I think if you don’t like the spiral you have now, you will regret keeping winders at the bottom. For me walking up the spiral might be ok, but coming down would be an issue (having to switch sides to get to the wider part of the stair, but maybe that’s because I have large feet!). Here is my suggestion: keep the straight/landing/straight stairs. If you want the wider entry with the new exit door, maybe get rid of the closets in that entry. In the bathroom, since one of your designs shows moving the toilet, why not convert small closet next to the shower into a toilet enclosure. That would then give you loads of room to have a double vanity and maybe even some extra bathroom storage. I have a straight/landing/straight staircase now and I like it better than spiral, winders, or a straight run of stairs! Thanks for letting us see the process!

    1. Hi GGG,

      I most likely won’t do the winder unless necessary. However, there’s a big difference between, three winding steps and 14 in succession. The other thing is, there’s a 12″ walk line and that walk line’s step width must be the same as the regular step width. That’s to avoid the problem you mention. The thing that irks me is that my hideous spiral is so far off the beam, code-wise, it’s not funny. A 24″ wide straight staircase with a 9″ tread would be 100 times better. I wouldn’t do 24″ wide, but I wish I could do 30″ or even 32″ wide. That is more than enough!

  75. I prefer Plan C with the straight staircase. I know you like the curved stairs, and that would be lovely too. The straight staircase seems simpler to me and the passage way looks roomier to me. I know that whatever you choose will be gorgeous!

  76. Yes! I came just to say this! No matter what iteration you choose it will be beautiful, but if there is the possibility of a Mister in your future, you MUST relocate the toilet to the area labeled linen/wd area. Having a separate w/c area has saved my marriage and I wouldn’t live without one now! You can put a linen area where the current toilet is. PLEASE, I BEG!

  77. “C” with winder is my favorite for the same reasons that Susan has stated. I, too, have a concern about the shower door. After using the shower, it would be a hazard leaving the door open to allow shower walls to dry. My personal preference is a single sink in a furniture-style vanity but that is based on my aesthetic, not function. Laurel, the bottom line is it will be beautiful and functional whatever you decide. I so admire your attention to details!

  78. I love C with the straight staircase. It feels more open to me and easier to move things up and down when necessary.

  79. I love A. The bathroom seems more spacious and I like the idea of the pocket door-you’d probably leave it open most of the time and wouldn’t have to deal with closing a door to get to the linen closet. I like both stair ideas.

  80. I love looking at all the options and appreciate that I don’t have to make the decision! Just a thought, one of my pet peeves is when doors can potentially crash into one another. I like the pocket bathroom door in A for that very reason. Also, do the dark black lines mean load bearing walls? I was wondering if you could eliminate a door by having the top smaller closet in your bedroom open to the large closet? Good luck! Can’t wait to see what you decide.

    1. Hi Rhonda,

      I concur on the doors crashing into each other. Of course, we’re looking at all of the partially open doors which is looking like a sword fight. haha. The big dark wall at the bottom is definitely a load bearing wall. The closets could be combined.

  81. I like the straight run stair for safety reasons. I’m older and worry about paramedics trying to get someone out of house. I would rather see a shower with pretty tile than a toilet when entering the room. I enjoy your info and sense of humor. Thanks

    1. Hi Barbara,

      The reason the toilet hasn’t moved is that we don’t know if it’s feasible to move it. However, I’m working on a new design with the toilet moved to a different wall and in a closet, too. Although, I’m laughing as so far, it’s pretty much just been me here.

  82. Staircases have gotten some bad press lately (Ivana Trump/Bob Saget). Hence, for safety concerns, form must cede to function….plan C with straight staircase.

    1. Hi Gemma,

      Of course, whenever something like that happens to a celebrity, it makes people understandably nervous. However, statistically, the bathroom, I believe is still the most dangerous spot in the house. As for me, everywhere is dangerous. haha.

  83. Question- and forgive me if you already answered it- will this be your main entrance? Will people come in that door (love the new location)? If not, then I’d put in closets- always need more closets/pantries/shelves/ storage. If it is your main entrance, then it does feel it needs a statement entrance with a piece of furniture instead of a row of closets. Same for the curved staircase. I love the curve- but curves can be more expensive (to say nothing of the Ivanna Trump disaster) and therefore if this isn’t your entrance, a nice straight staircase feels fine…plus you could make the door to the lower level hallway blend in with the wall and hardly noticeable- you’re a genius decorator! As for the bathroom hall area- it is dark back there and therefore spacious hallways feels lighter- Again,I’m no great decorator, but what helps me is to create spaces that mimic what I’m thinking of…boxes or screens to move to get a sense of how those hallways would feel if the bathroom was smaller or larger. Honestly, whatever you do will be absolutely beautiful. Also, I’m ordering the shaving cream and boxer shorts as soon as I hit post comment!

    1. Hi Sharri,

      No, this is the downstairs entrance. The main entrance is off of the kitchen and living room, upstairs. One other point about closets is that there is a huge double closet in the den, and a linen closet off of that. Then, the huge double closet in the entry. Half of that is going to be utility/pantry. In addition, just outside the proposed new doorway. See where there’s a bank of closets. Well, #2 is mine. In other words, I have an abundance of storage in this place. But, yes, it’s nice to have good closet space, no matter.

      I’m a strange woman. I don’t have a lot of clothes, don’t want a lot. My hanging space, not including coats, of course is basically nothing. I mean, one tiny closet of 18″ would more than suffice. Of course, I realize that’s highly unusual. I also don’t own a lot of shoes, either. While I love pretty shoes, they don’t love me.

  84. Hi Laurel, great to see your thinking on these different versions. My fav is C with the straight staircase. I think that the view coming down the stairs, focused on that back wall could be striking. I don’t know if you are doing a piece of beautiful furniture there or lovely detailed built ins, but either would interesting to look at. If the stairs turn, as you said, you could have double doors to look at but if the doors are open, you’ll be looking at a view of a small wall with a door on either side. Also prefer the little bit of additional privacy that the straight stairs give. Either way, I’m sure it will be fabulous!

  85. Hi Laurel. I’m glad you’re taking your time on your plan. My rule is no big decisions in life until I’m comfortable with them. Anyway, I’ve had large bathrooms and small bathrooms, and I much prefer small ones, as long as there is enough counter space. Small bathrooms are easier to decorate; leave you more money for nice finishes — which pop in the smaller space; are quieter — since there is more fabric per square foot; are much easier to clean; and are easier to repaint. As a bonus, your small bathroom plans remove the closets from steam, lint, and dust that congregate in bathrooms. I’m also a fan of straight staircases, since I find them safer. A bonus in your apartment is that the straight staircase would be less expensive, leaving you money for other things. So, I’m voting for “C” with the straight staircase. I do have one question: How often will you enter the apartment from downstairs? I’m assuming not very often. It seems like many of the comments here are hung up on first impressions through that door. Thanks for bringing us along on this ride!

    1. Hi Tsippi,

      I’m with you on the bathroom size. I don’t need a large space. I’m pretty much a get in, get on and get out kind of gal. The space in the hall is not tremendous. The center portion is only about 7 x 7. However, I’m going to continue to work on this.

    2. Hi Tsippi,

      Well, I come in that way whenever taking the trash out and often if I’m coming from the south. So, maybe 1/3 of the time. But, if my son comes, he’s usually able to park behind the house and comes in that way, and other friends visiting, as well. The bedroom entrance is so, so bad. But yes, the new door is the “back door.” But, I want it to be just as lovely, of course.”Great point about saving money with the straight run. Yes, probably a lot of money. Plus, because of the codes, it’s probably even a little small, as is. I’d rather have the space, particularly as that’s the entrance, as well.

  86. Well, at least you will know you thought it through. No matter what you decide, please be sure and insulate the wall between the common area and your bedroom wall to help with noise. Good luck with your project.

    1. Oh yeah…It will be sound as a drum. They make insulating sheetrock. I need to look into it further, but I think we can do a great job with that without having to build out.

  87. Oops! My mistake! I didn’t look carefully enough at door placement to realize that you won’t be looking straight at the toilet from the bedroom!🤦‍♀️ But I still think more privacy would be nice, especially when your Mister shows up! Best of luck, Laurel!

    1. Hi Rosanne,

      Of course, anything can be done, but moving the toilet might be problematic. Everything is wildly expensive, and frankly, toilet open, closed. For the time being it’s just me, here. I was married for 27 years with an open toilet. I know, we’re no longer married. I can assure you that had nothing to do with it. haha

      And, there is a full bathroom upstairs. That was definitely something I needed to have for my new apartment. Fortunately, that one doesn’t need to be redone, but it does need a shower curtain.

  88. Beautiful designs, Laurel! Here are a couple of thoughts:
    1. Will you be coming and going mostly on this garden level? If so, it seems like you would want a closet to the left of the entry door, for coats, hat, sunglasses, boots, umbrella, etc. Even more so if guests will be coming and going on this level (but I’m guessing guests will come and go upstairs, right?).
    2. You’ve created a nice, spacious bathroom! But have you considered that the toilet is what you’ll see from the open door of the bedroom? I would prefer a little more privacy (and a better view!), even when home alone. And, if/when a Mister enters your life, you may really wish for more privacy then! Can you scoot the shower toward the large walk in closet to carve out a tiny niche for the toilet? We have a curtain hanging at the opening of our tiny wc, and it provides just the privacy we need!
    Best wishes, Laurel! I’m so happy for you! Your place is beautiful, and these renovations you have planned will make it absolutely stunning!!

  89. I like C with the winder. It would improve the way guests enter, moving them into the room to go upstairs rather than stopping them in front of the door. The winder also makes more sense when coming from the bedroom. You don’t have to go around the stairs to go up. The location of the bathroom door is better, too. You aren’t looking directly into the private area of the bathroom from the bedroom. I like the wilder door for several reasons. It makes the entire lower level feel more pleasant, spacious and inviting. Moving furniture both into the bedroom and especially upstairs will be much easier. Furthermore, going from the bedroom to upstairs is more direct. The foyer feels larger, too, because the hall becomes part of it. At the same time, you don’t lose any privacy in your bedroom or bath. There are a few things I would consider changing to Plan C. First I would make the large closet clothes bar an L shape like shown in A. Second I wonder if the shower door should slide instead of swing. Sometimes in tight spaces, it helps with traffic flow. And finally I wonder if you need a coat closet by the entrance. Could you add a small closet next to the bathroom wall and still have room for a table by the door? I like the warmth a table adds, so I hate to see it eliminated. These are just my thoughts and observations, take what you want and leave the rest. I know whatever you decide to do will be wonderful.

    1. Hi Susan,

      Those are all great suggestions. Currently, there is no door on the shower. Yes, water gets everywhere! I have the choice of a closet or a beautiful armoire. This isn’t the main entry, however. That is upstairs adjacent to the kitchen. However, there are times when I, or others will use this door. The front door is one floor above this in nearly the same location.

  90. Hi Laurel. One of my garden design tutors had an interesting suggestion for choosing between plan options – she said at some point in the process she would blur her eyes slightly or look out of the corner of her eye and see which option felt calmest. When I do this with your plans I alight on C or C straight. When I ask myself why, it’s because I feel like I can breathe better with the greater sense of openness. That works for me too because I don’t need a large bathroom. And because having the vanity flanked by walls gives me a sense of enclosure and makes me feel safe (and safe from breaking the things I’d otherwise knock to the floor because I’m a total klutz!!). The hardest choices are the ones where all of the options work, as they do here. I can’t wait to see what you decide.

  91. Laurel, I’ve so enjoyed following along! You’re exactly right that you need to live in a space for awhile before embarking on a renovation. I think I like option D the best–I like the winder staircase, and I also like the bathroom vanity going wall to wall. Console sinks are pretty too, but counter space is really nice in a bathroom. Is there a way to reconfigure the space to have an enclosed water closet? I love not seeing the potty in the middle of the bathroom. And along with that double sink, it will be nice to have the private water closet when your prince shows up!

    1. Hi Laurie,

      I agree wholeheartedly about hiding the toilet. I discussed moving the toilet with the contractor and at this point, he’s pretty sure it’s doable, but not sure what’s involved. It could be very expensive. That is something to find out sooner rather than later. So, great point.

  92. I like A. The bathroom seems best this way. I think the winder would be more pleasing to see and use. Coming into the space already headed into the room. Versus coming down the stairs straight at a wall.

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