New Home Tips, Trends, and Ideas - Raleigh Custom Home Builders

Two Story Great Room Vs Adding a Bonus Room

Posted by Penny Hull on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 @ 04:09 AM

Two Ways to Organize Your Home Layout:

One of the most frequently asked questions about new home floor plans is: can I add a bonus room upstairs, instead of the two story living room?

For most floor plans, the answer is YES. See two versions of the same floor plan built in Raleigh, NC.

The first has a two story great room. The second has an upstairs bonus room. Which layout would you pick for your new home?

Great Room Floor Plan | Raleigh Custom Home Builder

Side-by-Side Photos of the same Great Room:


Great Room Layout #1: Two Story Ceilings with curved window wall


Great Room Layout #2: Bonus Room above the great room

Two Story Great Room | Raleigh Brick Homes

Bonus Above the Great Room | Raleigh Brick Homes

While each of these great rooms has a two sided fireplace that looks into the sun room, the first photo has an entry cut-out on each side of the great room.

The first version has a larger built in bookcase, wainscoting above the fireplace, and hardwoods throughout.

Transom windows give the second version more natural light and the full wall makes space for additional furniture and storage.

Great Room Layout #1: Two Story Foyer Overlook and Great Room Overlook


Great Room Layout #2: Two Story Foyer (but no overlook to the great room)

Two Story Great Room | Raleigh Brick Homes

 Bonus Room Above Great Room | Raleigh Brick Homes

A two story ceiling calls for a hallway overlook along the great room. A single story ceiling makes room for a bonus space upstairs.

Upstairs Bonus Room

By keeping the downstairs great room to a single story ceiling height, you're able to add a second story bonus room with loft style overlook. The bonus room still gives you the second curved wall of windows, just in a separate space:

Upstairs Bonus Room Plans | Raleigh Brick Homes

Upstairs Bonus Room Plans | Raleigh Brick Homes

There are pros and cons to each layout. Which version of this floor plan is your favorite, the two story great room with huge window wall OR a bonus room above, which adds tons of square footage in a usable space?

See the Cotswold Floor Plan here.


bike trail guide


More Side-by-Side Photos of The Cotswold:


Great Room


Master Suite

Master Bath

Sun Room


Tags: design tips, two story living room design, raleigh nc homes

2014 Custom Home Design: Debunking Myths About Two Story Living Rooms

Posted by Penny Hull on Tue, Aug 26, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

7 Myths About Two Story Living Room Design

How to Design a Two Story Living Room

2014 Two Story Living Room Designs

Floor plans with a two story living room continue to be a top request for 2014 Raleigh custom homes.


While two story rooms are not for everyone - they tend to be a "love it" or "hate it" home design - we've put together a photo gallery of two story living rooms.


These living room design pictures - with decorating tips - will show you how to take full advantage of a two story design.



Myth 1: Two story living rooms can feel too open

Two story living rooms should take advantage of their square footage - not get lost in open space.

One way to avoid the appearance of too much open space is to create distinct lines of sight in each direction.

For instance, from every angle, there is something to view in this two story living room. This space feels warm and full - with a balcony overlook, open loft, and archway to the kitchen.

Two story living rooms

An intricate window design with center fireplace creates the much sought-after "wow" effect, with an added sense of coziness.

2 story living rooms

Myth 2: Two story living rooms waste square footage

Some claim that two story living rooms waste space - but that is a personal preference.

If you hate the two story design, talk to your builder about floor plan modifications. Most floor plans with a two story living room can be easily converted to include a second story bonus room or additional bedroom.

What is your lifestyle? Do you love to entertain and host events? If so, a impressive two story living room could be a non-negotiable design feature.

The Summerlyn, a floor plan by Frank Betz, easily converts into a 10' first floor living room with second story open loft/bonus room. See a photo of the two story version of this home, below. Click here to see a comparison of two versions of The Summerlyn - one with a two story living room and one with a bonus room above.

Two story living room designs

Myth 3: Two story rooms cost too much in heating and cooling

The number of windows in your home - often blamed for inefficient heating and cooling in the two story living room design - will influence energy consumption.

However, modern technologies and building techniques will increase the energy efficiency of your home, making the choice to add windows - and two story spaces - stress-free.

In fact, most two story living rooms do not call for a significant increase in the number of windows on your home. Remember, the bonus room or bedroom above would still need windows!

Learn more about green home building techniques - such as spray foam insulation - here.

Living room two story

Myth 4: Two story rooms are all built to a standard height

Vaulted living rooms are also considered "two story" rooms by many architects. A vaulted living room can be a good compromise for those who want soaring spaces and a one-story focal wall. 

Two story great rooms

In this version of The Beaufort, a Frank Betz floor plan, a two story foyer leads into a two story living room with vaulted ceiling design.

Two story living room ideas

Myth 5: The walls of two story living rooms are too tall and wide

Crown molding is a great way to delineate the space of a two story wall.

If you place wide trim about two-thirds up a wall, your eyes will pause at that mid-level height.

Your walls will seem more balanced, without losing out on first impressions the dramatic height of the room will create.

Two story living room designs

In this home, wide molding designed into an archway serves as a space divider.   Adding a row of artwork can have the same space-dividing effect.

2 story living room designs

Myth 6: Two story walls are too difficult to decorate, creating a stressful experience

Two story walls give you more options for decorating, which can be daunting at first.

Before jumping straight to ornate chandeliers that can fill the space, consider what types of use want to get out of your two story living room. 

In this custom Stanton Home, a large built-in entertainment center stretches across the widest wall in the room. This entertainment center is designed to draw your attention - and would look out of place against a large lighting fixture.

Two story living room layouts

Myth 7: Two story fireplaces are intimidating 

There are two ways to "ground" a full-height two story fireplace design.

2 story living room design ideas


First, considering mounting a piece of art - or even a mirror - about two thirds the way up the fireplace.

Make sure the art is the same width as the surrounding stone, brick, or wainscoting.

Many modern home designs incorporate a wall-mounted TV outlet in the fireplace surround, so a flat screen TV could serve the same purpose.


Second, you could place a tall piece of furniture or vertical piece of art on the opposite wall.

This will de-emphasize the fireplace by giving it a counter-point, so you can avoid covering up any of the hand-crafted stonework.





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Contact Stanton Homes for floor plan ideas, to get a new home cost estimate, or find out more about building a custom home in North Carolina. 

Tags: two story living room design, two story floor plans, two story home design, 2014 new home design