Two-story House Plans

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Two-story house plans mean staircases, of course. But beyond this purely serviceable function, staircases can also lend character and set decided atmosphere. Think of the wide and massive central staircase in Gone with the Wind, or the tightly wrought iron spiral staircase in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, for a quick start.

Two-story House Plans: the Staircase Factor

In the traditional domestic architecture of the Tidewater South, a two-story house means a central staircase in a rectangular footprint with an exterior chimney at each end. There are countless minor variations, but that's the theme. Because the Georgian architecture of the 18th century proved so functional and versatile, it has come to predominate even now.

Nonetheless, other period layouts in two-story house plans are also common enough. The narrower footprint of city houses in colonial days led to the development of what's commonly referred to as a town house, with its side hallways and staircases. Toward the middle of the 19th century, both society and architectural styles loosened somewhat--Victorian Gothic, Arts and Crafts, for example. This is particularly evident in the modernistic style that arose after World War I. Much more variation in staircase placement was part and parcel of a more creative and free form approach to floor plans and interior design.

At the same time, remember that the central hall motif, partly inherited from the old great room with the massive central fireplace of medieval Europe, had and has a structural rationale. You'll notice that staircases in two-story house plans always run along bearing walls or some other weight-bearing element. This is true whether they run around the corner of a room, in a hallway, or as a self-contained spiral. The issue is structural support, and that will always be important to house plans and construction.

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