Home design - 3 story townhouse

I’m planning on building a 2 unit residential building with 2 attached 3 story townhouses.

The units would be sold individually. Each unit will be about 18-20 feet wide with a one care garage on the main floor.

Out the back of the property there are phenomenal views of a bay and Mt. Rainier in the distance, with only a small park between the bay and the property. Because of trees in the park that we can’t trim, the third floor views will be the best by far.

The most common design approach would be to put an open kitchen/dining/great room on the second floor, and 2 or three bedrooms on the third floor.

But I’m reluctant to waste the killer views on the top floor on a bedroom. To me it seems the top floor on the view side of the house will be where the homeowner’s will want to spend most of their time.

So I’m toying with the idea of ditching the open “great room” idea, and putting kitchen/dining/on the view side of the 2nd floor, and putting a living/family room with minimal kitchen/bar facilities on the top floor.

This would mean putting the bedrooms on the front of the house, on separate levels, one on the second floor, and another on the third.

Is it crazy to not have a combined open kitchen/dining/great room?

Love how you are maximizing the views. Why not just flip so living space is all third floor and bedrooms on second?

If I were townhouse shopping, I’d prefer to enter some sort of vestibule which led one way to public space, another to private, and would want beautiful views in both living space and my bedroom, if possible, and a balcony. And the kitchen not be the focal point.

Open floor plan is never my first choice, but working with the views would be my priority.

My architect friends could make this work, but I lack the visualization skills.

Fun project.


Is a small elevator cost prohibitive? Friends used one in a multilevel design, and it’s so practical. It works as a vestibule/entry.

I would not have the kitchen and the living room on different levels. I prefer an open concept. I migrate between the kitchen and the living room when preparing meals. I don’t spend all my time in the kitchen.

My current townhome is on the second and third floors of a building. The master bedroom has the killer view. I think it’s fine this way. I wouldn’t want the kitchen/living room on the top floor.

Two sets of stairs if possible. One that will take guests from the first floor directly to the 3rd with no 2nd floor landing. And another stair case that goes from the 1st-to-2nd-to-3rd. I always think of the Cosby show’s two staircases when I think of a dual staircase home. Try to position one set on the side of the building where the garage door opens, and the other on the rear of the garage level floor.

It would add a little more expense, and space might be too narrow to allow. However, if it is possible, it would provide privacy for the bedrooms, while allowing direct access to the public areas of the home from the garage/front entrance.

If there’s not much overall square footage, I’d go with the open floor plan. The problem with putting the kitchen/living room on the top level is that buyers will balk at carrying groceries up another level. Also, guests would have to go past the bedroom level to the living room.

Maybe a rooftop deck for the views? With a deck off the second level living area and stairs from there to the rooftop deck.

I’ve considered this too, but think people will be turned off by the idea of schlepping their groceries up two flights of stairs.

And an elevator probably isn’t cost effective at our price point.

Is there a way to tweak the design so you enter from outside to second floor? Is a design possible that allows someone to park and unload groceries at the second floor level, rather than first? It would have to be a creative design I can’t quite imagine.

My BIL and his wife are renting a house while looking for their next home. It’s a tri-level and the walking up and downstairs constantly is annoying them to no end (and they’re in good health). So do whatever you can to minimize that.

It’s a nice idea to have the main public space on the 3rd floor, but I think it’s probably not particularly liveable. You’d have not only the grocery schlepping up all those stairs, but also people banging around upstairs while people downstairs are trying to sleep.

I’d just go with the public space on the 2nd floor, and orient the master bedroom so there’s a sitting area by the window for the owners to chill and enjoy their views in private. And maybe install electric/automatic drapes/blinds.

My friends did something in their project new to me: floor to ceiling windows creating a wall of glass on the “view” side, on all floors. The staircase is situated so you see the view change as you move up or down.

Same house that has the elevator, but a project with practically no budget constraints. I keep wondering what the cost conscious adaptation could look like.

This upside down house design is quite popular with shore houses. I have seen it at the Jersey shore and also on Long Island. People don’t seem to mind the schlepping upstairs with groceries etc. But they usually have all the living space on the upper floor together.

Dumb waiter from parking level to kitchen level?


While a people-sized elevator would break the budget, a dumbwaiter elevator isn’t nearly as expensive - especially on a new-build. Looks like $3000K-$7500. And they can be used to move laundry between floors.

Another vote for flipping the floor plan and having the bedrooms on the 2nd floor and open concept living on the top. Put the master on the park side on the 2nd floor.

Also was thinking of the dumb waiter for groceries.

You are already not going to be appealing to an older buyer with a three story condo and I don’t think younger folks will mind the walk up for the view!

My H built many three level single family homes in a beach community on narrow lots. Bottom floor was usually garage, laundry and sometimes an extra bedroom. Most common layout-Front door was on the side of the house. 2nd floor with living space with open concept and the 2nd and third bedroom. 3rd floor was master suite with views. He also usually put a rooftop deck but know that with the flat roof it was difficult to waterproof. Some houses had a 3rd floor family room space. He only built one with an elevator. He never had an issue selling but it was a beach community and most houses were bought by young retirees or as a vacation home and most of the builders used similar layouts. He always put a balcony or deck on both 2nd and 3rd levels.

THis is a common dilemma in Jersey shore homes. Many of the newer houses are being built so the bottom floor is garage/basement/storage, the second floor is bedrooms and the third, or top, is kitchen and living space. Many of these places have small elevators.

I don’t know if it would be a popular in a permanent home. When you are in a vacation home, you have a different mind set, and you may not be cooking and schlepping as much. You want to relax and enjoy the views, in a permanent home you may be busy with chores, home stuff etc and not sit and relax as much.

Can you do a small deck on the third floor if is bedrooms? I also don’t know that I would split up kitchen and living area. Even if you don’t want an open plan, you may still want the bring food from the kitchen to the living room easily.

Your design is exactly what my husband’s cousin and her husband did. They have a house in Manhattan Beach, CA. Initially, all the bedrooms were on the top floors, but about 8 years ago, following the example of nearly all their neighbors, they flipped things and now the public rooms are on the top two floors, so they get the ocean views. (They are on a hill leading down to the water.) The value of their home went up considerably when they did this.

As far as the schlepping goes, you could easily do a dumbwaiter if an elevator isn’t in the budget.

I am not a fan of open concept kitchen/living spaces, so your proposal would suit me just fine, but I suspect I am in the minority. It’s important to remember that people always congregate in the kitchen, so it does make sense to have a mini kitchen/bar area on the same level as the great room.

In our coastal community, upside down (living area on top) is very popular. I have put in a dumb water in my build that was 3 stories. Have the dumb waiter go up from garage, through a laundry/linen storage area on 2nd floor with bedrooms and land in kitchen or pantry on top floor.

Personally, I do not want to live in a 3 story house but it would be nice for a young couple that wants views

Who is your market? Rent to vacationers? Sell as condos?

@coralbrook - I was just thinking of that dumb waiter! It was so much fun (once it finally worked).

OP, it sounds like your ground floor is really just the garage; no living space? So no matter what, groceries have to go up at least one flight. Is the laundry on the ground floor? I get the impression it’s actually a two story home with the garage underneath.

I agree with others that the kitchen/dining and living should be on the same level. A lot depends on your market - younger couples, small family, older couples, singles? Is there likely to be much entertaining?

If the bedrooms are on the top floor, a sitting area with a bay window would be lovely. I’m not so sure about a balcony or roof deck. With Seattle area weather, the residents wouldn’t be sitting outside for quite a bit of the year anyway. I can picture waking up and asking, is the mountain out today?

Are the trees likely to grow?