Big family in a small house, part 3: Floor plan

Did you miss the beginning? Start here:

Unlike many families, we had the privilege of laying out the floor plan in our house. We built it ourselves – with our own hands, that is; not in a call-the-contractor sort of way. We built this part of the house with a future addition in mind, so this is not the final structure; it’s temporary, but not short term. We wanted to keep the cost low so we started small while trying to plan for the most efficient and practical use of the space we were creating.


First, we planned just 3 smallish bedrooms. We knew this would be tight but we felt that we could get by with 3 for quite some time, and living areas were a priority to us. In our home, bedrooms are used primarily for sleeping, dressing, and quiet time. None of these activities requires a tremendous amount of space. We strive to live together as a family so we didn’t see a big need for a lot of private space in our home.


We have only one bathroom. We really would love to have another half bath, but simply couldn’t find a good spot for it without encroaching upon the main living areas. The second toilet simply didn’t make it to the top of the priority list. This was a tough decision, and we regularly question the wisdom in it, but usually agree that we made the right choice. Usually these questions arise early in the morning.


We have a 6×12 laundry room, which also contains a huge upright freezer and pet supplies. This works, but not very well. The freezer crowds the walkway badly, but we live with it because the freezer space is important to us.  Eventually we hope to move the freezer outside the back door.

Incidentally, we don’t keep any dirty laundry in the laundry room. I find that this is a recipe for disaster: out of sight, out of mind. I keep all the dirty laundry in my bedroom in two small stacking bins: one for lights, and one for darks/brights. We reach the point of overflow at just 2 loads, and this is a good thing. When things overflow in my bedroom, I see that they are taken care of promptly. Keeping up with the dirty laundry is not a problem in our house. Clean laundry, on the other hand…

Living Areas:

Our living room, dining room, and kitchen are one long open area. We wanted to keep an open feel to the house that would allow guests and occupants to move freely. We didn’t waste any space on hallways, and we didn’t break up the open living areas with walls. It’s not a very large area, but it feels much larger than it would have if we had divided the rooms. We think it works very nicely.


We also invested in a deck in front of the house. On nice days this gives us a significant amount of additional space, since it’s half the size of our house. The children often play out there, and the older ones love to go out and just gaze at the view or watch birds and look for deer.

I mentioned above that we intend to add on someday. We built this house for expansion: there are door headers hidden inside the walls to make it easy. Some of our interior walls were built to be temporary: those dividing the 2 children’s bedrooms are only 8 feet high and don’t reach the vaulted ceiling overhead. This adds to the open feeling, and when we add the Bedroom Wing those walls will come down to give us a nice big formal dining room.

There are wide door headers, big enough for double doors or a sliding patio door, on the end of the living room and another similar header on the exterior wall centered between the children’s bedrooms.  We haven’t decided where we will add on first, but one of these will probably eventually lead out to another deck while the other will open into the Bedroom/Bathroom Addition.

cont’d here: Big family in a small house, part 4: Entertaining Guests


  1. I find all of your posts so entertaining! You write the way I think, and I always get a laugh. We have 5 kids, the oldest is 6.5 and only one boy (though he is our second). Many people tell us we’ll have to move if we have any more, but let me tell you we could fit at least 3 more sets of bunkbeds in the rooms we have before we ran out of space (and that’s with everyone in their own bed….currently 2 of our girls end up sleeping together on either the top or bottom bunk anyway).

    Anyway, in the future I hope we can move away from the city/suburbs some and build our own house, ourselves, like you’re saying you did. My hubby is already pretty could at home improvement (adding walls, closets, doors, etc), but I don’t know how we would go from that to building our own house. I don’t know what your husband does and if it’s building then obviously that answers this question, but how would you go from some advanced knowledge to building a house?? I’ve always wondered how it would work!

    • Katie,
      Perry worked in construction for several years so had some firsthand experience. My dad also did construction for many years, and my brothers, cousins and uncles have varying levels of knowledge and experience. When you’re part of a big family tree, you often find that an expert on nearly any topic is just a few branches away. 🙂

  2. pretty neat, but I think I would have put the bathroom closer to the master! With soundproof walls on the master bedroom side, of course!

    Also, we have only 3 children and their rooms are on the other side of the house ( we didn’t get to create our own floor plan-blessed you!) Our room is immediately off the living room. I don’t know what we would do if a new baby showed up…there is no room for even a bassinette in our room nor in the living room. Even if we put baby in the other room with the children, it would wake them up before we had a clue!

    ( I’m stlll praying for one anyway! LOL! Big sister wants a roomie too since her brothers share!)

  3. This is so inspiring! I’m all about kids sharing rooms…learning to share, not developing a sense of entitlement to “personal space,” constant accountability-the inability to hide anything. We have have a 3 bedroom house and desire to last here as long as absolutely possible. You have certainly stretched my idea of just how long that can be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Mom of Five says:

    Wow, I am very impressed by your creativity. Due to my husband’s new job we moved from a 2000 sq. ft. home to a 1000 sq. three bedroom apartment in another city. We had to sell half of our posessions and half of our clothing.

    Now, I can see that it is possible to live comfortably in a smaller space, it just takes more creativity, constant picking up and continual sorting and elimination (give-a-way, throw-away, or sell) of items.

    My husband will now be transferred to work at a new location in another state and we will be moving into a 1500 sq. ft. home with a huge yard. It will be a luxury!!!!

    Small spaces are doable, but only with some type of yard to play in. On some days it gets sooo hard with no yard, because days have to be planned with trips to parks when there are countless things to do inside. Did I mention I have no washer and dryer hk/ups in this apt. either.

    Our 10 months here have been a learning experience. We’ve learned to be content with what we have (most of the time!) and have really learned alot about being creative with organization.

    Thanks for your post. You’ve encouraged me greatly and your joy and satisfaction with your life is contagious.

  5. Thanks for these posts! I’m expecting our 7th blessing and needed some ideas! I love the floor plan in the pic up there. Our home is similar in square feet to yours I believe, but to get to this point, over the years we’ve added on where it was the easiest and cheapest, but not always the best logistics! Everything shoots out from the living room, and you have to go through a bedroom either way to get to the bathroom. LOL It works for us though, until the Lord provides otherwise!

  6. Susie,
    Our table is one of the few (or only?) pieces of furniture that we bought brand new. I found it many years ago at a Penney’s scratch-n-dent outlet, and bought it because it was very large, solid wood, and marked down from over $1200 to $225. It was quite a large investment for us at the time, but we had already had 4 children in 4 years and thought it might come in handy someday.

  7. Yes, in England the “wash-room” is just that, a room with a sink. The ‘toilet’ is just that too, a tiny room with just the toilet. Though the ‘toilet’ can often mean what we would call a full bathroom too. ‘Bathrooms’ also exist in some homes – a room with just the bath – and maybe a sink too. The neat thing about breaking up the whole area is that various people can use them for their specialized uses at the same time. Very very handy.

  8. I’ve just re-read “What Katy Did”, and what struck me was their use of old-fashioned ‘washing stands’ in the bedrooms – no plumbing required, and the option of several sponge-bath stations in the house. This still leaves the out-house type ablutions un-catered for, but might ease some pressure in some houses… if there’s room for another article of furniture in the bedrooms 🙂

  9. We also have 8 children, the youngest still in diapers. I can’t imagine life with only 1 bathroom. Our bathrooms are tiny and very simple, but there are times when all 3 are in use and the children have been known to go to the neighbors! I vote for that when adding on. You can make it a small European style “water closet”.

  10. I grew up with three sisters, so four girls in the family. We had a small house and one very small bathroom. The small house never bothered me but the bathroom always seemed in an issue especially once we were got a little older. I can’t imagine how you all do it with one bathroom. Everyone used to tell my dad they felt sorry for him with one bathroom for us four girls and my mom. When we were in our teens he threatened to put up an outhouse but never did. 🙂 I think now most people have become spoiled with large houses and several bathrooms. We just assume houses should be that way. 20 or 30 years ago most people including large families lived in homes that were small with only 1 bathroom.

  11. Wow! I love the explanation. Such good ideas. Way to plan ahead… I’m just so impressed. 🙂

  12. that is nice! your family will feel very proud and accomplished with this achievement. 🙂

  13. that is amazing!!! how did you do that? what are the resources you used? congratulations on what you have accomplished!

  14. Wow!
    I have a little off topic question.

    What do you do for a kitchen table? We have five children and are having a hard time finding something to work for us.

    Thank you!

  15. Thank you for this series! We live in a 1200 sq. foot house with no intention of moving and every intention of filling our quiver a bit more and I am always looking for ideas on how to make it work.

  16. Wow! I think it’s fascinating, especially that you have only one bathroom!!! I’m an only child, so I can’t even imagine!

  17. I was part of a large family that grew up in a small house and it has so many benefits! I think it is nice to have space and two bathrooms is for sure top on my list, but if I was building a house, I may choose a small house too with lots of closets in it!


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