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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Living Room Design: Opening up living space helps entertain guests

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer


After 30 years of marriage, Perry and Linda Cunningham had finally made it to their dream neighborhood.

The problem was the 1920s craftsman-style house they bought was not meeting their needs.

With just the two of them, they no longer needed multiple small bedrooms, and they needed a gathering space for when the children and grandchildren came to visit.

The kitchen, dining and living rooms of this 1920s craftsman-style home were opened up to make a family gathering space. (see project)

What started as just a kitchen remodel soon morphed into an entire main-level overhaul.

"Even before we sat down with our architects, we knew we wanted to open up the main level," Linda Cunningham says. The original house was divided into small rooms: a small bedroom off the entry (that she says was virtually never used), a small dining room off the kitchen, and a living room.

"There was no space to circulate," Linda Cunningham says. "And we didn't have a room that wasn't crammed when the family came to visit."

To open up the small space, they took out two walls: one between the kitchen and the dining room and one between the dining room and the front bedroom.

The load bearing wall was replaced with a beam, and columns were added down to the basement floor to carry the redirected roof and floor loads.

Arches (based on the original arch between the dining and living rooms) now divide the new, opened-up spaces in the great room.

"I love that now when people are here, whoever is in the kitchen making the meal — and that is usually me — isn't cut off from everyone," Linda Cunningham says. "Now, there is connection and conversation. They can sit at the table and talk while I cook."

The ease of entertaining isn't the only lifestyle change gained from this remodel.

"The 1,000 square feet on this level is now our primary living space," she says. "The only TV used to be downstairs in the family room, so we would go downstairs after dinner and watch TV. Now that the upstairs family room has a flat screen TV, we pretty much live up here."

The Cunningham's bedroom and another family room are downstairs. She says that area is next on the dream remodel list.

While Linda Cunningham loves the convenience of her new space, she says her absolute favorite part is the small window in the back of the house that they doubled in size.

"Now when you walk into the house you can see all through the house and out that back window," she says. "You can see all the planes and angles of the design intersecting, horizontal intersecting with vertical and all the colors of the different rooms. It's like art to me."

The Cunningham's worked with interior designer Susan Taggart to design the color scheme.

"She is well-known for her use of color," Linda Cunningham says. "She was wonderful to work with. She was so bold with color and we trusted her design sense. We ended up going with all the colors she chose for the house."

She says she couldn't imagine doing the remodel without professional help. "It may seem like another expense that you don't want to add to your budget, but really you can't afford not to," she explains.

"We figured we are spending too much money on this to not have an architect and an interior designer. It costs too much to not get it right."

Professional designers are paid to think about the little things.

"We benefited from hiring professional designers for every step of the way even down to the cabinet designer," she says.

"We lost a whole wall of upper cabinets with the remodel. Kent Jackson, the cabinet designer from Teerlink Cabinets, was genius. We ended up with more cabinet space than we had before."

"But that is what you get by using a professional designer or architect," she says. "You will get more space and better things." As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at ask@renovationdesigngroup.com.

© 2009 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.


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