By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

In the past few weeks we have looked at defining your public and private space and improving the overall flow of your home. These are fundamental design principles for any home, whether it’s new construction or a complete remodel.

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This floor plan shows circulation shortcomings: ineffective flow, misuse of space, and little connection between the kitchen, family room, and backyard pool.

In an older home, however, if these fundamental design principles were not followed in the first place, you may have quite a job incorporating them into your remodel. The answer may be to rearrange things.

“Things” may be as simple as the front door. In our column about public and private space we used an example in which those spaces were much better defined by moving the front door. It was a simple rearrangement with a dramatic impact.

“Things” may also be entire rooms. For instance, people often desire to add a master suite to an older home. One way to accomplish this is with a large addition. But reconfiguring interior walls and even plumbing may be more economical than doing new construction. Maybe you have more bedrooms than you need or a large room that could be trimmed. A little reshuffling may give you that master suite without adding a single square foot.

You may get your dream kitchen the same way. In some older homes, the kitchen is relegated to the back of the house or another remote corner. By moving it, the kitchen can become the heart of the home and serve the family in a much more productive way. If you already have plans for a complete kitchen remodel, you can actually relocate the kitchen with minimal extra cost.

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By moving the garage from the back yard and opening the kitchen to the family room, the square footage was reduced, but the circulation, flow, and livability significantly improved.

Clients often tell us they would like to make changes, but they can’t because of a bearing wall. This is the tail wagging the dog. Yes, you need to support the roof, but you don’t necessarily need a wall to do it. A couple of columns and a beam may do trick and leave you much more flexibility to rearrange the space. You may find this well worth the extra expense and mess.

One word of caution before you start rearranging: Have a master plan. We’ve talked about this before and can’t emphasize it enough. You may not be able to complete a remodel in one go, but you do need to consider what your whole house will look like when you are finished—particularly if you are going to be moving around rooms. You would hate to remodel your kitchen and a year later decide that’s where the staircase to your new second story should be.

But Don’t Hesitate To Shake Things Up. Anyone Can Have A Series Of Nice Rooms, But If You Design Your Entire Home With Good Flow And Appropriate Public And Private Space, It Will Better Serve Your Needs, Provide A Sense Of Order, And Will Ultimately Stand The Test Of Time. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Rearrange a home’s rooms for better use of its space