Where can I get architecture/floorplan ideas for an apartment?
November 22, 2016 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get architecture/floorplan ideas for an apartment?

I have a 2BR apartment and I'm interested in turning it into a 3BR. While I intend to eventually go see an architect or an architecture technician, I am interested in getting ideas about possibilities well before then. I wondered if there are any sorts of online sites -- sort of like Fiverr or eLance or something - where people might be able to give me some ideas of what might be possible. I'm not in a position to renovate immediately, so this would just help me in forming some ideas.

I have the suite floorplan and I know (from previous architect being here) what is load bearing and what isn't. I just keep looking at the plan and can't think of how to have a 3rd bedroom with a window, without losing my living room window, given that most of one side of my suite is windows. I'm not really keen on losing so much living space when I have a large bedroom. But then I can't see how one would carve up the bedroom without having the extra bedroom not have a window.

Before I ever did anything, I would go to an architect here and through the City and so on to get plans approved, so please don't think I am about to grab a hammer and go swinging. I was just wondering if there is somewhere that people could give me guidance on a floorplan and let me know what could be possible. I would like to figure out what is possible, because maybe there is no real solution and I will have to plan on moving in a few years. But surely people in big cities around the world go through this and I could work with those ideas. I basically have a concrete box, so theorectically it should be possible. I just thought maybe I need someone with an architecture background, because dealing with a wall of windows is not the same as having a house. Thanks.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This seems like a waste of time, because ultimately you're going to get better advice from someone who can come to your home and see what your constraints are with their own eyes. A rando on the internet could just draw up any old thing. This isn't only a problem in terms of code violations, it's a problem because the resulting plans may have no bearing on what your actual needs are.

There are a lot of home renovation blogs, though. What about looking on those types of sites for examples of renovations in multi-occupant buildings? Apartment Therapy is the first site that comes to mind, but there are many more. From blogs like this, you could probably come up with some inspiration for your own renovation, which will help you explain what you're hoping to achieve to the professionals you eventually bring in.
posted by Sara C. at 3:10 PM on November 22, 2016

If your apartment is in a larger building, chances are there may be someone in it who has done this already - possibly even in your line, with the exact same layout. Depending on how friendly your building is, you could try posting a sign at the mailboxes asking if anyone has done this, and if so would they mind talking with you, along with an email address. I've lived in some places where this would definitely work and others where it would be ignored - and I'm sure places exist where you'd get the side-eye for something like that, so YMMV. But it would probably give you the best chance of getting free ideas that actually work.

Another thought would be to bring in a real estate agent. They have a good eye for what is and isn't a good idea, and would be able not only to give you opinions, but also suggest contractors and possibly even an architect. You just have to be up front that you're not looking to sell now, and may need to promise that when you do sell you'll call them in order to get someone to come take a look.
posted by Mchelly at 3:18 PM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're planning on hiring an architect anyway, I don't see why you're not hiring one to give you ideas about solving your floorplan issues in the first place. That's like, the primary reason they exist. You can hire an architect to design something and then not actually build anything - it happens all the time for one reason or another.
posted by LionIndex at 3:31 PM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm guessing an architect or architecture technologist would want about $5k to draw plans. Given I don't know if I want to stay or not, that is a huge amount of money. I was hoping to somehow find out how people had worked with floor to ceiling windows.

Most of the units in my building have taken this same floorplan and *removed* the second bedroom. So there is no one with a third bedroom to ask.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:16 PM on November 22, 2016

I do fit studies regularly for clients who then decide to sit on the design and think about it for awhile...sometimes forever! The process is: come in and see the space, talk to you about your issues and concerns, look at all the structural elements and adjacencies and then develop an "as-built" plan. I take measurements, as many as necessary to address the issue (sometimes it's part of a home, sometimes the whole home). Then I draft that and create a few design options that show how a remodel or addition would fit into the space. If at that point, the client wants to move forward, we work together to develop and fine-tune the design to a level that the client can then get an accurate bid. And then eventually we get to construction documents and permits.

But the fit-study/schematic design is always the first phase of work. It costs something but not as much as a full design package let alone a full project. However, I do not recommend clients use it to get a bid. The bid won't be accurate.

I like Mchelly's idea to ask around with your neighbors to see if they've done any renovation work both to get some recommendations and maybe to see if they've done something clever to add bedrooms or divide up the space in another way.
posted by amanda at 4:22 PM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

If cost is a concern, ask to have an in-home consultation and pay for that. I bet, even in NYC, that would be affordable. The trick will be finding someone who is available – get a personal recommendation if you can and go from there. If you get a good feeling for the person and they seem to have good ideas then you can decide if you want to move forward with them to develop something further. If they think it's not really possible given your parameters then you've just saved a lot of wondering and headache and that's definitely worth the money!
posted by amanda at 4:27 PM on November 22, 2016

This isn't a direct answer to your ask of where to get a floorplan, but I think with the current floorplan in hand you might be able to get a rough sketch by talking to a general contractor.

Do you plan on doing the renovations yourself? I find that many general contractors, based on their experience of work, actually have a lot of good ideas as to general layout (and also are well aware of code requirements, as well as understanding which areas are load bearing and aren't). They might not be able to draw up accurate architect level floor plans for you, but it's likely you can get a sketch of what they think is possible. Same with design/contracting firms who may be able to do rough sketches with you as part of their initial bid and roll the cost of the actual permit drawings into the final renovation.

I've had countless meetings with my contractor, who I think has a good eye for design and also done several houses like mine to talk about spaces and layouts to get a sense of what's possible and what works. In a situation like yours, he'd be the first person I'd call - have him come over, we walk through the space, I tell him what I want, and he tells me what he thinks is possible and would recommend.
posted by Karaage at 5:05 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was hoping to do some of the work myself, if it just involves moving walls and things. Maybe this will help clarify why I'm not sure how to approach this....

One entire wall of my apartment is windows and sliding windows. There are only two concrete pillars. I guess what I'd like to learn about is how that giant space could be divided up, without only sticking to the pillars. Or I'd like to look at innovative ideas of how maybe floorplans might grab a window with a run down to it or something, if I carved up my master. This isn't a case of windows with spaces beside them. Basically, the entire south wall of my home is windows. I tried searching for stuff like this and I don't find any examples. Maybe 1960s-80s buildings like this are unique to Canada or something.

I interviewed contractors for a job about 2 years ago and many of them refused to take a job under $50k if I was getting permits. So I don't really want to have to go through that process when I know I'm not ready to do that.

Maybe I just need to go pay an architect or something, but I thought maybe there was some sort of place where I could see what other people have done or read more about it. But I'm not turning much up in the search, so maybe this is a really rare situation or something. Maybe it this sort of apartment design is unique to where I live or something.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:16 PM on November 22, 2016

They run wall framing almost all the way up to the window and then put a kind of gasket between the end of the framing for the wall and the window to tightly seal it (ideally, you'd want the wall to end right on a window mullion (the dividers between actual units) but you can go right up to the glass). It happens all the time in commercial construction at strip malls and such where spaces are redivided for new tenants and the square footages come out to odd dimensions so that the dividing wall lands on a window. It might be different for the type of window that you have, but it's a totally commonplace thing and a lot of architecture firms have the detail on how to do that already drawn and sitting in their library so that reproducing it for your project would take 30 seconds. I think you're blowing it way out of proportion. The detail might be complicated a bit if your windows are double-hung or something, and you might lose the window operation for that particular unit. It's not an ideal situation in any case, but there is a solution.
posted by LionIndex at 6:15 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks, LionIndex. The word "mullion" is super helpful to me and allowed me to pull up some photos. The gasket info is also helpful. My one wall of my suite is mostly sliding glass doors, so I have not seen anything like that online. But if things could be run up to a mullion, that might give me more options.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 6:29 PM on November 22, 2016

Surely somewhere there is an arch graduate student who could do this for a flat fee and get some experience or a school project done at the same time?
posted by jrobin276 at 6:44 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's other ways of doing it and products that will serve a similar purpose, so don't get tied into that one method - just know that it's a totally standard deal and nothing to worry about.
posted by LionIndex at 9:50 AM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

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