The Best House Floor Plan For Work-From-Home Parents With Young Kids

In the past, I used to think the best house floor plan for a family with young kids was all on a single floor. The house would have 700 or more square feet per person and be spread out over a large lot. However, with many parents now working from home, I've changed my mind.

My original thinking was that with a house all on one floor, there would be fewer to no steps to trip over and cause potential injury. Further, parents could more easily keep an eye on their kids if the floorplan was more open and on one floor.

However, I live in San Francisco where land is extremely expensive. Thus, having a good-sized home all on one floor is uneconomical. As a homeowner, you would be foolish not to build at least two levels or more if you can afford it.

More Levels The Better For Work-From-Home Parents

If fewer levels are more ideal for a family with kids, then one could posit that having a home on two levels is the next best thing, followed by three levels as the third-best choice and so forth.

However, after visiting a potential forever home multiple times for possible purchase, I have come to realize the best house floor plan for a work-from-home family with young kids is actually on three or maybe even four levels!

Let me explain with an example and floorplan of a 4,200 square foot home on two levels and why it's not ideal.

A Two Level Home May Not Be Ideal For Work-From-Home Families

Below is the floorplan of a 4,200 square foot home. It has six bedrooms, six full bathrooms, two half bathrooms, an open kitchen/living/dining room upstairs, and a second living room downstairs.

It is on a large 9,200 square foot lot and is newly remodeled. The home should be able to comfortably house a family of five or six (two or three adults, two or three children).

This is NOT The Best House Floor Plan For A Work-From-Home Family With Young Kids
Entry is from the second level

My Dream Home! But The Floor Plan Was Not Ideal

When I first got to the home, I immediately fell in love with it. The remodel was done extremely well and my kids had a blast running around everywhere. It's rare to find a home with such a large useable lot in San Francisco.

Originally, I thought this two-level home was ideal compared to our multi-level home. I just had to buy this house. My real estate FOMO was off the charts!

But after each successive visit, the desire to own the home waned. Not only was the price astronomical, but we also realized the home's layout was not ideal for the two of us working from home with a toddler and a 5.5-year-old.

For their asking price, we felt like it was missing one level or an additional wing. Even though this house was 1,200 square foot larger and $2+ million more expensive than our home, I'm not sure we would trade homes, even for the same price!

Here are five reasons why the house did not have the best layout for work-from-home families with young children. If our kids were teenagers, the house would have been a better fit.

Not Ideal House Floor Plan Reason #1: Primary Bedroom Shares Walls

Notice how the primary bedroom upstairs (2nd level is the main level) shares not one, but two walls with the two other bedrooms on the floor. Sharing walls is not ideal if you want more privacy. The sound from watching TV or taking work video calls will easily bleed through the walls, especially if there is a vent. As a result, your own relaxation or conference calls will be affected.

If you have guests or an au pair staying in one of the bedrooms, the layout may also feel too close for comfort. At least each bedroom has its own bathroom, which prevents any awkwardness of coming out of the room naked and bumping into someone.

Hence, the best house floor plan has bedrooms that don't share walls with other bedrooms.

Not Ideal House Floor Plan Reason #2: Family Room, Dining Area, Kitchen Are One

If you have an open kitchen that blends into the family room and dining area, you end up just having one large room. It looks and feels great. However, if you're working from home and can't deal with distractions, then this one great area effectively becomes only one room.

As a result, the house actually gets smaller with an open kitchen, not larger. Sure, one of the solutions would be to wear headphones to drown out the noise of playing children. But if you are easily distracted visually by someone else in the room or your kid running around, it will be difficult to concentrate.

Therefore, it may be better to have a house floor plan consisting of a formal dining room that can be closed off.

open kitchen and living room look great, but it is not the best floor plan for work-from-home parents
Open layout looks great, but offers less privacy and functionality

Not Ideal House Floor Plan Reason #3: Bedrooms Above Playroom / Living Room

Notice how the primary bedroom is directly above the second living room/play room. As someone who likes to take afternoon naps, having my kids screaming with joy right underneath isn't great. The downstairs living room also has a huge TV on the wall, which may also disturb bedroom occupants upstairs.

Therefore, the best house floor plan does not have bedrooms above a busy area. Instead, bedrooms should be above the least used space in the house.

To reiterate and explain further, entry to the home is from the second level and you walk down the stairs to the first level given the home is on a hill. Below is a picture of the phenomenal play area/second living room. However, it's right below three bedrooms.

great play area, but right below bedrooms, which makes the layout not ideal for work-from-home parents

Not Ideal House Floor Plan Reason #4: Bedrooms Above Bedrooms

A bedroom above a bedroom may actually be worse than sharing walls in terms of noise pollution. Given every person has to walk around their bedroom, foot noise is unavoidable, especially if you have thin and creaky floors with no sound-proofing layer.

In this layout, all upstairs bedrooms are above either the lower living room or another bedroom. Hence, noise will likely be constant.

Ideally, you want to have a floor that contains a kitchen, living room, and/or dining room in between the bedroom, which will act as a sound buffer. Further, if you have a home on two floors, ideally, the bedrooms on both floors will be on opposite ends of the house. If you have a home on three floors, the rooms can continue to zig-zag.

Not Ideal House Floor Plan Reason #5: No Door At The Bottom Of The Stairwell

If you work from home and have little kids, you want to confine them to a certain area of the home while you work. Kids naturally gravitate towards their parents for fun, love, and support. Wherever I go, my kids follow! Hence, having them out of sight on a different floor enables you to work more efficiently.

In this home's layout, there is no door at the bottom of the stairwell to confine, or at least, slow down the kids. As a result, if the kids are playing downstairs, they can easily “escape” and run upstairs to see what daddy or mommy are up to. Not only that, given there is no door at the bottom or top of the stairwell, sound travels much more easily throughout the house.

No door at bottom of stairwell is not good for noise prevention and slowing down the kids from running up and down the stairs and disturbing work-from-home parents

The no-door issue was our biggest epiphany after visiting the home for a fourth time. Our current home does have a door at the bottom of the stairwell. As a result, it adds a layer of privacy and significantly dampens noise. Even though our kids can now open the door, just having the door mentally helps them stay downstairs while one of us is working upstairs.

Multiple Floors Is A Better Floor Plan For A Work-From-Home Family

If you can own a large, one-storied home sprawled across an acre or more, then having only one floor for a work-from-home family works. Having different wings designed in a hub and spoke layout works well. However, due to economics, most homes aren't built this way.

Below is a two-story home I could live in. Even though it's only on two floors there are bedrooms at the ends of each home. Further, there's this office/gym room to the left on the ground floor near the pool. Not bad! Alas, this 7,000+ square foot home probably costs over $15 million in Oahu.

Amazing house with a great floor plan

Consider Each Floor As A “Unit Of Privacy”

Instead of one or two floors, it's better to have three or four floors in your house if you plan to work from home with young kids. This way, you have more areas of privacy. Rooms count as one unit of privacy while floors count as another unit of privacy.

Other units of privacy include decks, where you can rest or work outdoors on a nice day. Another unit of privacy is a nicely finished garage, which we currently use as our playroom. Another unit of privacy is the pool or hot tub, where you can take conference calls or just relax.

The final unit of privacy is the back or front yard. In the home above, you've got a backyard, the public beach, and endless miles of ocean. Sweet!

Safety From The Stairs Abates As Kids Get Older

The biggest downside to owning a home with three or more floors are the stairs. Stairs add more risk to everyone, not just young children and elderly parents or grandparents. Therefore, if you're older, the ideal home layout should also have bedrooms and bathrooms on the entrance floor.

For kids, a home with multiple floors becomes less of a danger issue once kids are about three years old. By this age, they will learn how to more safely navigate the stairs. Just make sure to be vigilant in guiding your kids up and down the stairs before age three.

Three floors consisting of a ground floor, second floor, and third floor might be best for a single-family home. Having decks off each floor and a nice back or front yard are also great features to have in the post-pandemic work-from-home environment.

Four Floor Home Is The Maximum

Four floors is doable too. But any more than four floors might make the house feel too vertical. It's cumbersome enough to climb up three flights of stairs, let alone four. But again, it depends on the layout.

If you can enter the home from the ground floor where there is the kitchen, living room, dining room, and bedrooms are located, that feels pretty good, even if there are two floors above you and one floor below. The split down and up is nice. However, if the home has three floors above the ground floor, then that might feel like too many floors for some people.

Related: Why Remodeled Homes Will Sell For Greater Premiums Going Forward

Silence And Privacy Are Golden For Work-From-Home

As someone who does 99% of his writing at home, I need silence to think and write. It's the same thing with reading.

Whenever I hear my kids running around and squealing, all I want to do is stop what I'm doing play with them. Being in a different room on a different floor while working or napping is, therefore, the best solution. If you've ever flown Business Class upstairs on a Boeing 747, I think you'll appreciate the privacy of being on your own floor.

Here is a sweet clip of my boy when he was 3.5 years old. All he wanted to do was play with daddy at 2 pm. But I woke up at 5 am and all I wanted to do was sleep! Although I was exhausted, of course I ultimately agreed to play with him. These are the precious moments parents will cherish forever.

With work-from-home here to stay, I suspect well-laid-out-homes with three floors are going to be more desirable going forward. Not only are homes with three floors more suitable for juggling work and family life, they will likely appreciate more in value as well!

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CrowdStreet. A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends.

Reader Questions And Suggestions

Readers, what do you think is the best home floor plan for a work-from-home family with young kids? We know the desire for bigger homes has permanently increased. But what else am I missing?

For more logical debates on some of life's greatest dilemmas, pick up a hard copy of my upcoming new book, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom. The book will not only help you build more wealth, but it will also help you think things through and make more optimal decisions.

About The Author

22 thoughts on “The Best House Floor Plan For Work-From-Home Parents With Young Kids”

  1. No sqeaky noises at all and very little noise and voice transmission from the upstatirs neighbors. The installation was a bit more elaborate than just the clips and channels. I’d have to go back and review the specs. We had the added challenge of slighly below 8 foot ceiiling height. The sound proofing did lower the floor another 1.5 +/- inches but thankfully, my client being on the shorter side, he didn’t mind in return of hardly hearing his neighbors talk and walk above him.

    A signed copy from the Financial Samuai would be very cool! Thank you for offering and happy 4th!


  2. As a professional Interior Architect/Interior Designer working and living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I mostly design remodels. Ultimately, the spaces need to fit the needs and requirements of the users as best as they can while mitigating any short comings. You probably heard of the terms “Form follow Function” and not the other way around ;)

    Regarding sound proofing, I have some experience from a past project in a Victorian condo here in SF where we used a professional accoustical engineer to come up with the best solution within our budget (not cheap however at $70K for the whole conod ceiling and walls). Double layer of drywall or foam insulation won’t really do much in terms of mitigating sound trasnmission, just FYI. We ended up using drywall over metal channels attached on spring isolators. I don’t have currently access to the specs but it was a similar product to this:

    Anyway, I don’t have any kids. Nevertheless, this is super helpful information and input from all of you with kids. I will make sure to take your above points into consideration next time I have a client with kids.

    On a different subject and main reason I ended up on this page, Sam, I am a huge fan of your newsletter and your website so full of great insights, good lessons and advice. Spot on, plus since we both live in the SF Bay Area it makes your input all the more valuable.

    Thank you!

    1. Fascinating spring clips! I wonder if it’ll make squeaky noises? :-)

      I did install clips to my ceiling and side wall for my new remodel at my rental property. It lowers the ceiling by about an inch to provide more sound buffering. But there’s still sound when someone walks upstairs. Added insulation to obviously. Better than nothing!

      Thank you for reading, sharing, and subscribing to my newsletter. If you pick up a hard copy of my book, I’ll sign it next time we meet up!



      1. Sam,

        No squeaky noise with those spring isolators, etc. But sounds like you found a less expensive but workable solution for at least some sound proofing. I’m sure your tenants are grateful for it.

        Congrats to publishing your book, BTW! I ordered your hardcopy book via Amazon over the weekend. Can’t wait to get it totday. And yes, it would be fun to meet up and get it signed, since we are both living in the SF Bay Area and I’m in SF typically once a week.



  3. Your observations are spot on. A huge factor for my family when moving was the layout and while we explored various properties I was shocked at how much of a difference the layout made. Our eventual purchase was an 1850sf townhouse and while it was smaller than other homes with 400-500 more sf of space, the space we have is more usable. For example:

    Our first floor with a garage and den make for a great home gym and office. The second floor includes an open floor plan kitchen/dining/living room as well as a separate room that functions as a combined playroom/guest room and a full bathroom. The third floor contains the remaining three bedrooms and two full baths.

    The separation of floors makes the den perfect as an office (with its own patio I might ad) and is arranged so that the den is beneath the couch in the living room rather than the playroom/guest room or office. On the top floor, only the two smaller bedrooms share a wall. The primary bedroom has its own bathroom and it is the closet on the far side of the bathroom that shares a wall with the other bedrooms closet which really minimizes any noise from that child’s bedroom spilling over.

    I’d like to believe that I recognized a good purchase opportunity that will pay off in a future sale, but regardless the layout makes the property a great fit for a family with a parent who works from home and we’ll enjoy it for years to come.

  4. We are empty nesters and just moved into a one story home we designed on rural, wooded land that we have owned for many years in MN. The home was designed to age in place with wider hallways and doors including walk in showers. It is 1900 sq feet, 2 bed and 2 bath. Instead of a 3rd bedroom, we did a pantry/office as I work from home a few days a week. This is probably too small for many on this site but is all we need. I so do not miss the stairs and basement we left behind.

  5. Child gates and door locks can break up a smaller space to keep a toddler to certain areas… That’s what we do.

  6. I’ve been to a lot of open houses over the years and I’ve always found it interesting how different one layout can vary from the next. I used to think I wanted a house with all the bedrooms on one floor. Now that I have very noisy kids, I like layouts that are much more divided and split up. Once I’m an empty nester I anticipate I’ll like a much more consolidated, flat layout without stairs.

      1. Hah! This is such a good idea. I was just looking up fancy condos in SF tonight. Those with tons of amenities. But it’ll be another 10 years until I can empty nest.

  7. Your post makes a ton of sense, as it is really hard to work and concentrate with screaming kids in the house. The other big point of the post is that larger homes are going to become more valuable over time.

    And real estate in general will permanently become more valuable overtime as well. Stocks are almost like a joke compared to real estate.

    Look how easily stocks lose their value. At least with real estate, we can enjoy the home.

    1. Yes, I much prefer real estate over stocks. Stocks are fine, but you’ve got to remember to sell to enjoy the profits from time to time.

      With your house, you never need a reminder to enjoy it!

  8. cork works very well for sound proofing, 1/4 inch under layer below the new floor and i could not hear the dryer underneath me any more.
    might fill up the hollow doors, too. i drink enough wine.
    different styles for different times in your life.
    i get alot of steps in, because i am always forgetting something on another floor.

    1. Good to know before the ceilings go up. You can also do soundproofing by adding another layer of Sheetrock after a gap with some clips. We did that for the ceiling and hallway wall for my remodel project downstairs. Not too much extra.

      But I think one can cut open a wall and blow sound insulation material as well.

  9. In the northeast many homes are two floors with a basement that eventually gets remodeled. The basement would usually be a rented apartment, but post COVID my parents moved to the basement to live and work with the kids taking the bedrooms upstairs. Whole floor to buffer any sound pollution. You can additionally add sound proofing when remodeling the basement.

  10. Have garden offices (called Shoffice in the UK…shed + office) taken off in the U.S.? It helps solve the problem of noise/privacy and is a more affordable solution than extending your home or buying a bigger one. There’s some pretty funky designs out there now.

    1. Those look beautiful! Hugely helpful for privacy and sound insulation, especially if you need peace and quiet to work.

      Cheaper, but then you need enough land to build a shoffice. And land is extremely expensive.

      Hmmm, we might have to look at flattening some land and building a shoffice down our hill!

    2. I live in a less dense area close to a large Pacific Northwest city. Shoffices, as you call them, are hugely popular here. There is an abundance of properties where the homeowners added a 2nd story above the garage, for example, to function as guest quarters or stand-alone office. I am lucky enough to own one of these. Our main house is 2400 sf, and my stand-alone office is 1100 sf split between two levels.

      This might be my forever home, but if circumstances force me to sell then I expect a post-COVID premium for a stand-alone office building!

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