decisions decisions… looking at options for Kim and Scott’s renovation

In the last post you got a first look at Kim and Scott’s new home. While they met with a couple of contractors to get an estimate of the cost, a better understanding of the scope of the work and more ideas about what might be dragging down their second floor, I was putting together plans of what they might be able to do with their space.

This is the plan of the home in its existing layout:

1739 N Richmond existing_FINAL blog ready

A big challenge when turning a multiple unit dwelling into a single family home is how to transform the entry so that you don’t feel like you are still walking in and making a choice between which ‘not an apartment anymore’ you are going to. They definitely wanted to open that space up… make it feel more comfortable – like it was one purposeful space, not remnants of the old use – so that you could walk in and take a breath and not be jammed in a tight uncomfortable entry vestibule. Now that this is a house for one family there should be one entry that is warm and welcoming… just the very first beautiful hello as you arrive.

Kim knew for sure that she wanted to open up the stair area and see some of the stairs, not have a wall hiding the whole staircase. We would open that area up as much as possible, add a coat closet, and try to have a place for a cool statement piece of furniture – a side table, a bench, a hutch – something as a focal point and a resting place as you enter.

We also looked at some options for what to do with the teeny tiny third bedroom on the first floor. We all agreed that the opening should get larger, but should it stay a separate room? Should it be a totally open area and more like a nook off of the living room?

We looked at five options for the first floor entry and living area:

options layout

At this point we were guessing that the bump out on the first floor in the middle of the living area was probably a chimney (ever since we discovered the top of it during our field trip to the attic)… so we thought we might have to live with some kind of wall in between the two spaces. Also since we weren’t sure what was inside that ceiling I didn’t know whether they could totally open up that wall… still waiting for demo to begin to know for sure…

Once we were able to look at the options on paper, Kim and Scott decided that they wanted to make the opening to the third bedroom as large as possible, but still have a door of some kind so that it could be closed when they wanted and to give them more flexibility with the space.

So which option did they choose? None of them! Somehow this always happens, but I kind of love it. It ended up being a little of one and a little of another… Really, looking at different layouts isn’t an attempt to ‘get it right’ or ‘know’ exactly what the perfect solution is (for me at least), but it’s a great tool to use as part of the journey in finding out what the space needs to be and see what’s possible. Looking at these plans really helped Scott and Kim and myself have a great conversation about what they need, how they live, what they like and don’t like… and discover what the perfect solution for them would be. We combined a few different elements from the different plans together, plus some contractor insight about the potential instability of pocket door hinges over time, and below is the final plan.

1739 N Richmond after_FINAL blog ready

The entry is being opened up as much as possible and we are leaving the side profile of the stairs exposed. We opened the sun nook entry up to about four feet, this element was a balancing act between wanting a larger opening to let light from that room to come into the living room and also wanting a long enough wall to house a larger piece of furniture with their TV and entertainment equipment against. They also went with a barn door to give them some flexibility with that space. They can keep the door open most of the time and it will seem like an extension of the living room instead of an entirely separate room with a door and frame, but they will have the ability to close it off if they ever want to. Also, after meeting with the contractor and seeing what was underneath the ceiling (coming up in the next post) we found out that we could conceal all of the structure within the walls, so no clumsy bump out walls dividing the living and dining rooms, great news!

For the upstairs the big two elements are demolishing the wall that divided the newly appointed studio and seating areas, and tearing down the wall between the upstairs living space and the stairs. We discovered that at some point in time the chimney downstairs was ripped out and then framed back in, but the brick was still safe and sound on floor two and that would stay – but be exposed, definitely a good choice. Both pretty easy, the biggest decision was whether to leave a half wall against the stair or go with a railing… decisions decisions…

The kitchens were the same on both floors, so that gets ripped out and turns into the master bedroom on the second floor. Easy peasy. That small room off to the side – closet/laundry room – perfection!

I think the new space will look fantastic and you won’t even know this building was once a two flat – bravo Kim and Scott!


  1. It appears that you have the living room and dining room on the wrong floor! :) I can’t imagine running dishes upstairs to the dining room.

    1. oops! :) you are officially my best reader, thanks for pointing that out Heather! thank heavens it was only a photoshop mistake, I would have laughed to go in and see the furniture actually in the wrong floors, haha :)

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