The first order of business when planning a renovation is space planning. I love this phase because it's the time to toss all those crazy ridiculous sounding dreams into a pot, stir it around and see what you've got. At this point your house could be anything. If you have a good imagination and a vision for your home this becomes a very exciting time.
First you have to decide how much of a change you want or need to make. Do you plan on just refinishing your floors and knocking out the wall between your kitchen and dining room? Or do you want a full gut of the home and a brand new floor plan? Depending on the answers, your space planning may turn out to be very simple or very complex.
A quick side note. Many people don't really understand what the term "gut rehab" means. I see real estate listings and advertising all the time that says "Gut Rehab - all new kitchen" but in fact the only new things are the cabinets and appliances. That isn't a gut, that's an update. I know update doesn't sound as impressive but using the wrong term is misleading. A gut rehab means that you take out the guts of the house; the plumbing, heating, AC, electrical wiring, and the old walls all get replaced or updated. Makes sense right? Ok now back to the fun stuff.
In our case, we knew that we wanted to change this building from two apartments into a single family home. That meant moving the stairs, changing the entry, getting rid of the second kitchen, and changing around the general layout. We weren't planning on a full gut, but with all of the problems in the home we knew our project would be on rather large. We also knew we wanted to add a third floor and finish the basement. We had talked a little with our architect about how we like to spend our time at home and what types of spaces we would like to have in the house. Below are the sketches from his preliminary space planning attempts.
Here is the first option. In this case the stairways are located going across the width of the house. It kind of chops up the floor plan and separates the back of the house from the front. Below you can see option two.
In option two, the staircases are moved off to the west side of the building. We decided to use this stair location because it really opens up the space and allows for greater flexibility with the floorplan.
Interestingly, of the above plans, the only floor where the room sizes and locations stayed relatively the same was the second floor. The basement, first floor, and third floor all changed dramatically due to our predictions of how our lifestyle would translate to the space. For example, my husband does not see the point of having a formal living room. So as a compromise we decided to shrink down the living room space and to make it more of a library/sitting room. One of my wishes was for a sunroom with lots of windows looking out into the back yard. Since the existing back porch (used in the above plans) was in bad condition we decided to tear it down and expand the footprint of the sunroom which would serve as an informal living room on the first floor.
Some spaces needed to be changed for practical reasons. For example, having the laundry room in the basement did not seem utilitarian to me. I don't want to lug all of my clothes down three flights of stair in order to wash them (as an apartment dweller I have already had this experience and it's not fun). So in my case, the second floor becomes the best place for a laundry room. Another example of practical planning was the expansion of the kitchen area. I come from a family of serious cooks and one look at the little kitchen in the above plans convinced me that we needed to allocate more space for cooking. We decided to annex the dining room space shown above as a kitchen expansion and relocated the dining room into the extra space left over from shrinking the living room.
My space planning advice for other renovators is this: think creatively and make the choices that will work best for your lifestyle. Make a list of must haves and prioritize your other wants and needs. When in doubt, think about whether your decision will add value to your home.