Started by Mark_Chenail, October 25, 2006, 12:46:35 PM

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John and I have been developing some dogtrot designs and we would like your comments and suggestions.  There are two designs here, one is 16x30 with two small cabin bedrooms, a full bath and kitchen and a large central dogtrot that could be open to the elements or enclosed with glass doors.  The second design is 18x36 with a small cabin bedroom and a larger master bedroom.  We also are developing a 20x36 with variations that will have two full sized bedrooms.  John and I would appreciate your comments and suggestions.  More detailed plans and elevations can be found on the PlanHelp website at the following address:

The 1630 DOGTROT

The 1836 DOGTROT

mark chenail


I would like to see second bath , living-room added on kitchen side and kitchen moved to north side of house for winter heating , taller ceiling for cooling  ,provision for hot tub  in  dogtrot , covered front porch on south side ,living space around 1000 sq ft without counting dogtrot , doors that offer theft protection for the dogtrot and plan for harvesting rain water. ;)


Slow2run:  At this time  we can only provide that model in HOT PINK or  CHARTREUSE.  Please  specify your color choice and we can ship it out today by UPS. ;) ;)    
mark chenail


Mark, I like your work so far.

I've been toying with a warm climate design that has a wider un-floored breezeway for possible auto parking.  Back wall is wrought-iron grillage with bug screen.  The front wall includes lockable garage door ... or perhaps swinging wrought-iron barn doors.  A walkway would be provided connecting the two living areas around the parking area ... perhaps of (shallow) decking.


   I'm unfamiliar with the dogtrot design.    Is it to allow ventilation?    
  Is the dogtrot for more temperate climates?  In northern climates we survived summer
months on the front screen porch.

  With no living room where does the actual living take place?  

  Are the dogtrot doors open during the day and then closed in the evening?  Are the door
openings screen?

  I think it would be a great design for a pool house.  
    . . . said the focus was safety, not filling town coffers with permit money . . .


Dog trots are pretty well known in the country south--or mid-south.

And a pretty easy way to add on to a log cabin.

I'd hate to have that house in the city.  But here it would be fine.


Bayviewps:    Dogtrots are primarily a southern united states house form.  Traditionally they had one room on each side of the open dogtrot.  One room was for sleeping and the other was usually a kitchen living space.  The open dogtrot was used as a communal sitting, dining, work space.  It was shady and cool and provided natural ventilation if the house was oriented to the prevailing wind. Usually the dogtrot was open at both ends.   As the years went by, many dogtrots were enclosed and made into more formal interior spaces.  Some dogtrots were also built as two story structures.

My design is meant to be enclosed with doors, which of course could be fitted with screens for summer use.  In colder climates, the doors at each end could be closed and the whole place heated with a wood stove in the dogtrot.  In the larger 20x36 version, John and I are developing now, there is provision for a small utility closet for a furnace.  Of course you could just leave the dogtrot wide open in the traditional manner and it can of course be as wide as you like.

The dogtrot is certainly not a particularly practical design for urban life, but is ideal for rural areas, particularly those with hot tropical climates.

Heres a few historical examples:

A two story dogtrot:

Another two story with the dogtrot enclosed for more space:

mark chenail



Mark,I like the Dogtrot design its center breezeway  offers passive summer cooling for the Dogtrot and side rooms without using electricity , as long as  the house is oriented North and South to catch the prevailing winds .With the East Texas summer lasting from April to October and the hight cost of electricity,  passive cooling can help me  keep some of my money in the bank.

I view the Dogtrot the way it was originally used before electricity here  in Texas ,  a  year round patio, green house and recreation area ,used from grilling to bathing (hot tub), visiting  family members ,neighbors or Texas Rangers  on patrol would sleep in the Dogtrot.
I think if the Dogtrot  was designed to have glass walls between it and the kitchen/livening room and windows  for sun light in its roof you could have a year -round tropical garden ,at bed time just walk through the garden to your bed room or jump in hot tub first,in the cold months just close off the ends of Dogtrot with hard doors in summer use screen doors

So how much money would passive cooling save? Do i want an tropical garden/ hot tub between my living room and bedroom this winter? What do you want a two or three bed room house to look like  ,can it have most of the bells/whistles?

Can it be design for all 50 states ? How should it be designed ?Who wants to design this house,what will it cost to buld? If you want to live in this type of house how would you design it


   Interesting design.

  There seems to be a lot of traffic in the open area.

  May I suggest slightly changing the design, allowing more wall space.  More wall space
may be beneficial for placement of furniture, etc.
    . . . said the focus was safety, not filling town coffers with permit money . . .

John Raabe

Here is the floorplan of the 20' x 36' Dogtrot Mark and I have been working on:

This design could be easily extended in width to 38' (or more) as Bayview has done to add more room to the main living area.

For Planhelp members the 3DHA files for the Dogtrot designs are here.
None of us are as smart as all of us.


Bayviewps:  Thanks for your suggestions.  I like the bath/utility configuration, but there doesnt seem to be a kitchen or is it in the room marked dining?  The dog trot can be as wide as you want it to be and it is intended as the main living and circulation space.  I wanted to keep the footprint relatively small, but of course it can be as big as you want.  If it were 36' deep, you could have 3 12' wide bedrooms and a large kitchen dining room and bath/utility space on the opposite side.

slow2run:  Yes I designed this house with the intention that the dogtrot would be used in much the way you describe.  Historically the dogtrot wasnt just a breezeway but a vital center of the house.  The enclosed rooms were really just for bad weather and very specific uses, like sleeping and cooking.  I think its an ideal form for a vacation house or a large family as it can be expanded in many directions.

Keep the comments coming.
mark chenail


Hi Mark,

Very nice designs!

Some comments and suggestions:


I loved the central pergola.

The rectangular shape gives more wall surface, to irradiate accumulated heat, and a lot of air pathways facilitate heat loss by convection.

Very good ventilation pattern, that permits cross flow not just in the dogtrot, but also in the kitchen and the bedrooms, specially over the beds.

A pier foundation would also allow massive air flow under the floor.

The closets between the bedrooms improve acoustic privacy, a common problem in open plans.

The bathroom close to the kitchen simplifies the building process.

I would like a design like this in the hottest areas, with hot summer nights, and would include a light colored roof  (common in the Bermuda, as they know that minimising heat gain is very important) and porous ceiling, so the hot air masses can go away (it is good to think about the air flow considering the stratification according to temperature). See the draw.

If it is a design for hot and dry I would include an internal small fountain or aquarium, as well as rainwater harvesting system.

For hot and humid, lots of insect screen, good overhangs  and dreinage, a second bathroom window and maybe an external shower.

I like the space for washer machine in the bathroom.

The enclosed bed would be good if you have cold nights, and I would like to be able to seat and eat in the kitchen in this situation.

See the white roofs and ventilation overtures over door and windows:

Orientation and landscape make all the difference, as you can see in this page, with great info about passive cooling and ventilation:

Good luck,




  In my example the kitchen would be in with the dining area.  I wasn't working up a
detailed plan.  Actually, I was trying to illustrate less doorways to the central area.  I am
also suggesting a porch for shade on the southern side.

  Again, the dogtrot - central area in Johns plan seems to have quite a few doors . . .
Wouldn't this create traffic congestion?

  And of course, room size- square footage is determined by the homeowner needs,
personal choices.
    . . . said the focus was safety, not filling town coffers with permit money . . .


Bayview:  Yes I see your point about more wall space.  The dogtrot really is a big porch.  Its meant to be open at both ends and in traditional dogtrots there are no doors at all.  Just a cool shady place to sit and work and sleep.  The 1630 plan was meant to give as much living space as possible in a very small footprint.  John and I realized early on that 16x30 was a bit too small and that is why we went on to design the 18x36 and the 20x36.  But as you say it could get as big as you want or can afford.   In the original plan, the bathroom door was in the dogtrot so it was closer to the bedrooms.  Your little vestibule for the bedrooms cuts down on doors but it also takes floorspace from the bedrooms and make for some tight corners. Living in a wheelchair, I am very conscious of tight corners like this and much prefer a straight on entry.  I also try to minimize traffic through the kitchen for the cooks sanity.  But as you say, its really a question of each to his own taste.  None of these plans are meant to be engraved in stone. ;)
mark chenail


  Good point!  Many times on designing and building a small home we sacrifice
accessibility for portability.  We sometimes forget about the physically challenged.
  My parents retired to a split level home.  It was great when they were physically able to
climb the stairs.  But what a mess when they got older.  My father was wheel chair bound
for a few weeks before he passed away.  What a problem with doors and the bathroom
  Someday we all will face challenges.  Can a small home be designed with the
handicapped in mind?
    . . . said the focus was safety, not filling town coffers with permit money . . .


Of course it can.

Takes some thinking, though.  I've done some thinking for years--ever since a neighbor of my aunt had to turn the dining room into a bedroom because that was downstairs, when the man--roughly my aunt's age--had a stroke--no good bathroom downstairs, though.  

Look at what Mark's designed, look at plans on the web or in those periodicals in the magazine sections of the bookstores.

Run a search on Universal Design Houses (or Homes, or house or home  ;) not to mention accessible design) Here's one link from the AARP, giving some guidelines--door and hallway widths, for instance, and telling us why everyone needs good lighting, door handles that are easy to turn with wet or soapy hands, etc.

And there are some houses here, but they range from sub-800sf (which does absolutely nothing for me!) to mini-McMansions.

A lot of links here--including to some house-plan sites.

Here's a design, allegedly suitable for an RV or addition.  Overall site seems to have once been for turtle rescue, though.

some of their propaganda--

QuoteHygieniCare Independence RV/ Home Addition "The Freedom Machine" features the All-In-One Bath, a 4' wide travel ramp / home connection bridge, and optional SureHands Ceiling Track Lift System. The ramp allows wheelchair access into this go anywhere RV. Pull it behind your van and set it up wherever you travel. Or use it as a portable accessible home addition at a fraction of the cost of institutional care or accessibility home revisioning.


JCL, thanks for the link galenfrysinger in Bermuda!  A person could get lost for hours looking at all the pictures & info of places throughout the world!   :)

I like the dogtrot designs - nice concepts - especially for the family get-a-way.  You can always close that area in if you decide you want to, but a nice area for get-togethers, sleeping outside but still protected.

You will know the truth & the truth will set you free


AMANDA:  To quote Will Smith ..... "I GOT TO GET ME ONE OF THESE".  That Turtle Home all in one bathroom is the niftiest thing I have seen since sliced bread.  No bigger than a good sized bathtub and absulutely all anyone could want in a bathroom disabled or able bodied.  Think of the space savings in small apartments or houses or on airplanes or trains.  Handicapped accessible bathrooms on train cars or in compartments now occupy even more space than this unit.  And you could really make your own by simply configuring and tiling a bathroom space in a similar way.  A standard wall hung toilet under a tiled platform seat, a corner sink close enough to reach and a standard showerhead and drain all in a 3x5 tiled space with  a large swing out glass door.    I dont see a price listed in the website and Im sure they arent cheap, but dang    sometimes you got to splurge and treat yourself right. ;D

BAYVIEW:  I always design with the disabled in mind and really dont see any reason why ALL houses ought not to be designed that way.  Its really just a matter of a few very small details that make all the difference.  In bathrooms its a matter of space, but considering the shameful trend toward enormous spa bathrooms in even modest homes its not such a big deal.  A clear space of 5x5 to turn a wheelchair is really all thats needed.  Doors should be at least 32 inches wide but 36 is better. The price differential there is negligible.  Windows slightly lower to the floor, the same for placement of light fixtures and plugs. In kitchens, the lower counter height can make things awkward if other family members are taller and of course upper cabinets are all but useless.  John is always chiding me to include them because I never think of them, but I always provide a tall pantry cabinet and lots of lower drawer space.  You have to think a bit about traffic patterns and no tight corners and narrow halls.  The house needs to sit low to the ground or you need to provide sensible and UN-obtrusive ramping.  But none of it is complicated or expensive and it makes life easier for everyone.  Think how often you have been impressed when viewing a house by the nice wide doorways, arches and views.  Or the spacious bathroom where you dont bang your hip on the sink as you climb out of the tub.  Or the nice wide hallway that let you bring grandmas big dresser into the bedroom without taking out a window or cutting a hole in the wall.  Small details easily included in any house design but in 10,20,40 years when you are old and gray you wont regret the few extra dollars  you spent on those small features.

Keep the comments coming folks.
mark chenail


My comments.  Mark, I really like the first one you posted.  I was going to say to make the closets take up the whole wall between the bedrooms, but in the one that John posted later on, I like that 2 closets are dedicated to the master.

On the 2nd one you posted, would it be possible to rotate the bed so the headboard was on the other wall and still have it in the alcove there?  That would give a foot or so to access the bed from either side.

Just my 2c.


Amanda, you find the most interesting things!


"One must have chaos in one's self to give birth to the dancing star" ~Neitszche


Silhanek:  If by the second one you mean the 1830 where there is a queen sized bed in the alcove, you could indeed turn the bed 90 degrees and have some space on both sides.  The amount of space would depend on the size of the bed.  The alcove is 5' deep and 6'10 long.  A queen sized bed is 5' wide so that would leave about 11" on either side, pretty tight.  A fullsized bed is about 52" wide so that gives a bit more space.  You could shorten the closet a bit and make the alcove wider also.  It would be just as easy to upgrade to the 2036, which has the double closet and the wall space for a queen sized bed in between or if you wanted to save a bit of money just widen the  1830 to 2030, adding the extra 2 feet to the front of the house and configuring the bedrooms like the ones in the 2036.  Its really all cut and paste to suit the clients individual needs. ;)  
mark chenail

Ailsa C. Ek

I was digging back throughthe old posts and found this.  Love it, especially the 20 * 36.  My daughter, who was looking over my shoulder, says the heck with closets, bed alcoves on both sides of the dividing wall!  I haven't measured, though, to see how one alcove with bunk beds in it, and one with a queen-sized bed, head to the wall, feet pointing outward, would work.


Alisa:   Sorry I didnt notice your comment earlier. Ive been laid up with bronchitis.  In all the variations of the dogtrot that I posted, the beds are meant to be built in.  The bed in the back bedroom (the one at the top of the plan is meant to be built along the short end.  It could be a double bunk though you would have to change the window placement.  Maybe two small porthole or barn sash to light each bunk.  Your plan to eliminate the closets and use the area between the bedrooms to create two bed alcoves, one facing into each room would work as well but you would have to lengthen the room to 14' instead of 12'. A standard bed needs about 6'8" and wiggle room if the alcoves were end to end. If you werent concerned with the symmetry of the plan you could always steal the two feet from the dogtrot or expand the building to 20x38 or 40 and get a bit more room on the kitchen side as well.   I am very fond of alcove beds. Part of it is my french heritage, but I agree with Thomas Jefferson view that they are the most practical solution for a modest house.
The nice thing is that if they are true cupboard beds, you can close the doors and not make the bed and the room can be used as a sitting room or study.
An excellent solution for studio apartments and the old fashioned bed/sit flat.
And if you build them high enough off the floor you can get a bank of good deep drawers underneath and not even miss the closet space. :)
mark chenail

Ailsa C. Ek

Hi Mark!  Thanks for the reply, and I hope your bronchitis is better.  I love your designs in general, and this one is quite neat.  One thing I am wondering about this house - dogtrot houses are traidtionally year-round houses down south, right?  Are they used in areas of the South where it gets hot in the summer, but also drops below freezing regularly in the winter?  If so, how are the bedrooms heated?