Guest architect:

Gary Snider

Bloodgood Sharp Buster Architects



Q: What are the best types of floor plans for active adults?

A:Active adults are not a monolithic target market. As with any group, there are many layers, all with various lifestyle needs. However, there are a few general rules to follow when designing homes for active adult communities, such as including lots of natural lighting, focusing on the outdoors when arranging room views, and creating fewer rooms but with more space. Below are three plans that increase in size to show what features and spaces should be included as square footage grows.

Plan One: 1,275 square feet--42 feet wide

1. Orient all major daily living spaces to the rear yard, especially when you offer premium views. Covered porches should be at least 8 feet deep.

2. Separate the master suite from secondary bedrooms. Add some form of feature to isolate the entry. In this smaller plan, an angled entry and dropped ceiling are enough. Don't forget to carry the trim and drywall detailing through to this transition space.

3. Offer a full shower in lieu of a tub. In larger homes expect to offer both.

4. Offer a larger great room instead of smaller, chopped up spaces. Informal living spaces should flow together to create a sense of openness.

5. Provide a large, bright dining space, even in small plans. Consider a country kitchen. This approach includes the kitchen and dining in the casual living area; it is the activity center of the house, after all.

6. Open up the plan as much as possible in smaller houses, using half walls as dividers. This increases the sense of space and adds to the easygoing nature of the layout.

Plan Two: 1,656 square feet, plus a 252-square-foot guest cottage--46 feet wide

1. Include two dining areas--one formal and the other a light-filled casual area adjacent to the kitchen.

2. Courtyards, integrated patios, and exterior rooms can expand the livability and "entertainability" of homes. Use casitas, detached garages, and architecture to define exterior "rooms" and courtyards.

3. Position secondary bedrooms so they can serve multiple uses. This third bedroom can flex to a den, bedroom, or even a formal dining room.

4. A casita serves as guest suite, so secondary bedrooms can be located off the same hall as the master suite.

Plan Three:2,096 square feet, plus a 243-square-foot guest cabana--44 feet wide

1. Buffer the master suite from active areas of the house by accessing it though the quiet, more formal areas of the plan.

2. Develop a stronger definition of formal and informal zones of the house. Add formal dining rooms first as square footage and price points increase.

3. Offer fewer, bigger rooms for the square footage. Active adults want a lot of space, but not necessary a lot of rooms.

4. Consider an interior courtyard as the primary outdoor entertainment space. It is more private than rear yard space, works well with both view and non-view oriented lots, and adds to the perceived space (and value) of the home. And it is not just for the Sunbelt--courtyard spaces with landscaping, lighting, and outdoor fireplaces offer a wonderful escape for northern climates as well.

5. Offer a full bathroom adjacent to every bedroom. This allows privacy for guests.

6. Detached guest quarters can also serve as an artist's studio, home office, or in-law suite. Pushed to the front of the plan, it helps frame the entry to the courtyard and defines the courtyard space.

[Initial publication date, July 2001]