1925 vs. 2012: Which Floorplan Wins?

by Lark Turner

1925 vs. 2012: Which Floorplan Wins?: Figure 1
“The Amsterdam” house, built in 1925. From the Grolier Club via WSJ.

When it comes to floor plans, we’ve made some improvements in the last century.

That was the conclusion of two analysts brought on by the Wall Street Journal to evaluate the floor plans of a 1925 house and a 2012 home built to look like an older home.

The 1925 house, called “the Amsterdam,” had this floor plan:

1925 vs. 2012: Which Floorplan Wins?: Figure 2
The Amsterdam house plan. From the Grolier Club via WSJ.

The 2012 home was laid out like this:

1925 vs. 2012: Which Floorplan Wins?: Figure 3
A 2012 Plan.

The WSJ’s evaluating architects, Matthew North and John Brown of the Canadian firm Housebrand, noted some big differences between the home’s conveniences. Here are a few:

  • The old house’s entrance is tiny, with no place to greet guests, throw a coat or pull on shoes; the new house has ample closet space near the larger front entry.
  • Unsurprisingly, given the technological advances over the past century and the evolving use of kitchens, the old home’s kitchen was dark, cramped and lacking in storage when compared with the new kitchen, which has a big center island and lots of light.
  • The old house lacks a master bedroom that makes a statement to buyers, not to mention closet space, while the new house gives owners a suite all their own.

Intrigued by this idea, UrbanTurf will be executing a DC-oriented concept in the coming weeks.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/in_a_floor_plan_face-off_between_new_and_old_which_century_wins/8045


  1. Eric said at 8:57 pm on Monday January 27, 2014:
    The 1925 house does have a coat closet located in the entry vestibule. The 1925 house has no location for a television in the living room, and the scale of the dining room is too large in relation to the living room. The open kick back stair is a great feature, and the kitchen could easily be updated to meet modern needs (ie. reorient the egress points to free up wall space). The 2nd Floor of the 2012 house consists of a significantly stronger diagram.
  1. Kes said at 9:11 pm on Monday January 27, 2014:
    The 1925 house has no laundry room at all.
  1. Jay said at 12:40 am on Tuesday January 28, 2014:
    There's a great book called "Small Houses of the 1920s," that illustrates similar floor plans, which served as a model plan for my current house. Having grown up in a 1920s, 9,000' sq house, I was challenged to build a house with the charm of my childhood house, yet within the confines of a traditional DC neighborhood & a much smaller lot. My point is, that old is not bad. My architect was able to take a small house design & "breathe." We still retain a formal lifestyle, yet our house is a delightful hybrid, at 2,800' sq. There's no need for sweatpants in the public areas of the house.
  1. McKite said at 5:28 am on Tuesday January 28, 2014:
    Envelope: the 1925 has a living envelope. It zigs in and out. It makes inside layout partially visible from the outside and, thus, appears more alive. The 2012 plan is cheaper to build, but it's a box. Stairs: in the 1925 house the stairwell to the 2nd floor, the private part of the house, is in the back of the house. I find this more appropriate. In the 2012 plan, the first thing you see as you enter is the way up to the private part of the house. The way down in the 1925 house greets the visitor, though, which isn't better. Downstairs bathroom/powder room: I like neither design. In the 1925 house, it's right next to the kitchen and in the 2012 plan you have to go through what I think is the mudroom. This is where your guests go; it should afford privacy (sound and sight, say via a turn and or 2 doors) and be presentable at the same time. Kitchen: Where in the 1925 kitchen do you put the fridge? Visitors have to pass through the kitchen on their way to, say, the living room, yet it's a working kitchen that is meant to be separate from the entertainment areas of the house. In the 2012 design, the kitchen layout reflects the social habit to congregate in the kitchen, family and guests alike. As such, it has overcome the thinking that only domestic staff work in the kitchen. Flow: Neither design reflects today's lifestyles of the average middle class household. In the 1925 design you must go through the kitchen to get to entertainment areas. The BF room, which is where the family would have most of its meals, is separate from the kitchen, as though only your domestic staff would prepare the meals. Both houses have secondary entrances from where the family parks their cars, which makes the primary entrance a feature for visits and Halloween mostly. Both houses have dining rooms and living rooms. Clearly a personal preference, but I would have neither. The 2012 design has the kitchen-family room arrangement, which is more realistic to see ample use, but you have to choose carefully how to equip the family room if you also want to use this space for entertaining. In the 2012 design, the dining room is in one corner, opposite from where the life of the house will be. This space would probably be better used as office, computer room, TV room, homework room for the kids, where the family can somewhat observe from the kitchen-family room area. The 2012 design could make room for a 3rd BR above the entrance if the MBR was accessed from the center hallway. Who still shares BRs today? Form Factor: although not significantly different from one another, the 1925 design is longer or less square. This is generally better for bringing natural light to all places. Having said that, the 2012 design brings light in from 2 sides in each room except the kitchen. The 1925 design has a lot of infrastructure along the outside walls. However, I bet the 1925 house feels more comfortable due to envelope, more noticeable transitions (steps, archway, etc.) and maybe even through smaller size in some areas.

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