Space design befuddled by ‘booby traps’

Architect advises minimum dimensions for accommodating hallways, toilets, sinks

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I often get calls from nice folks who've drawn up their own plans and want me to check them for problems. Some of these designs are wonderfully creative, yet virtually all of them are sabotaged by the same basic shortcomings: People never allow enough space for hallways, staircases, kitchens or baths. Stairs are undoubtedly the biggest booby trap for neophyte planners. Even a relatively steep, straight stair climbing your basic 9-foot-high story requires a bare minimum floor area of 3 by 10 feet–and this doesn't include the top and bottom landings or the thickness of the enclosing walls. L- or U-shaped stairs need even more room. Yet people routinely show me designs for second-story additions in which the entire staircase is miraculously packed into a linen closet. They're usually crestfallen to learn that, in fact, the new second-floor bedroom they thought they were adding will only be replacing the one wiped out by the stairs. Kitchens are typically overcrowded as well. The a...