Transforming the First Floor – Goals and Design Plans

31 Mar

After the second floor was framed up, the guys began framing the first floor. Not nearly so much involved here, inasmuch as our design goal was an open floor plan. Before we get to the update on first-floor framing, it would be helpful to describe our design goals here, since they will completely transform the space.

The goal of the first floor design was to recreate the house to reflect how we live. We don’t do a lot of sit-down dinners in the dining room, but have friends and family over quite a bit. They all make a beeline to the kitchen and hang out there or in the back patio. On a day-to-day basis, our routine involves cooking in the kitchen and hanging out in the too-small living room, notably skirting the unused dining room as we move between the back and front of the house. This made no sense.

To provide the context for the limitations of the house “as-was” and the intent of the renovation, the “Before” and “After” designs of the first floor are pasted below (arranged in a regrettably non-intuitive order):

As shown above, in the lower, “Exist’g First Floor Plan,” there were elements that made sense in 1925, but weren’t working for us. These elements included the following:

  • The entry from the porch poured directly into the living room, without any transition
  • The lack of a coat closet on the first floor (there actually was one in the original house, and many of our neighbors still have theirs). In the 1990s, the owners demolished this closet (but not the closet door) to create a hallway between the front of the house and the kitchen (a traffic pattern we liked quite a bit, but it did come at the cost of coat storage for us and our guests when we entertain). You can see the closet door in the Existing Floor Plan drawing below, and in line with, the wall separating the dining room from the living room.
  • A dining room we didn’t use (but in which lived our beloved cherry dining room table, which now has found a new, awesome home at Stephanie and Eric’s down the street; we have visiting rights)
  • No fireplace. We totally dig our wood-burning, glass-melting, kick-ass fireplace outside, but have always wanted a fireplace inside.
  • Kitchen space that didn’t take full advantage of the back of the house – the southeast corner was basically a dead area
  • A kitchen island that everyone always gathered around when we had people over, but that was too small for both entertaining and cooking (which we would typically be doing at the same time). As seen in some of the “Before” pics in the Kitchen Demolition post (, we also had kitchen cabinets over the island, which hung down at eye level. As a result, you could quickly tell who was having conversations across the island because they’d be bobbing up and down and back and forth like sparring partners in a boxing ring to look at each other around and under the cabinets. Another view of the hanging kitchen cabinet conundrum is seen here, from preparations for the rockin’ 2009 Thanksgiving Eve Party (which ushered in the now-hallowed tradition of stoking the outdoor fireplace so hot we can melt beer bottles):

All right – enough of the old house layout nostalgia. On to the new house.

As seen above, in the “Proposed First Floor Plan” drawing, the renovated space will have no dining room. But wait – that’s not all!

Included with this special house renovation offer are the following additional features – but only if you act now!

  • A small entry vestibule that provides a transition from the front porch to the living room; the foyer is defined on the bottom by custom cabinetry that forms a knee wall and on the top by a beam above. This design approach defines the area without enclosing the space, which would be crazy in a house this size. Plus, the cool knee wall serves another purpose . . .
  • An open-faced gas fireplace ( that will live in the knee wall. (More on that when we get to mechanical elements of the house reno, as well as installation of quite a bit of cabinetry.)
  • A coat closet (woo hoo!) at the east end of the narrow vestibule
  • Reorientation of the living room to have furniture along the east wall, rather than in the middle, as we had previously, due to the AV components being installed below the stairs. Some friends have called the new living area a Great Room, since it will be much larger than our previous, too-small living room. But, let’s be clear – this is not palace on a postage stamp in the suburbs; we’ve got a small townhouse in Old Town. There’s no way we’ll have a Great Room. So, we’ve dubbed the new room a Good Room . . .
  • A combination kitchen counter / dining area that serves as a transition between the Good Room and the kitchen. We’ll be able to use this for additional food prep space during parties, but also for food service during the same, and for dining when we have friends over for a casual dinner. It also, most importantly, will serve as an ideal gravitation point when friends and family drop by – a superior solution to the head-bob-inducing kitchen island area.
  • A larger kitchen (thanks to the bumpout) with more counter space
  • A wet bar with wine cooler below and beer tap above (with a line to the repurposed refrigerator in the basement)

All of this is manifested in the 3D renderings of our new space below. (These were developed by our previous architect in SketchUp, a free, but powerful CAD/CAM package available from Google – highly recommended!)

This is a view from the new landing at the bottom of the stairs. The built-in bookcases on the right mirror another set at the front of the house at the end of the knee wall that defines the entry vestibule.

A niche will now house AV components, so the furniture can be located against and perpendicular to the east wall, opening up the space and allowing for enjoyment of the fireplace (which is to the left in this view). We’ve taken great pains to protect and preserve the original newel post and staircase, since these are the only remaining elements of the original house (and also served as grounding for the design of the house, so we didn’t get too contemporary, and tried to maintain fidelity to the original essence of the 1925 structure).

A view of the dining peninsula and bumpout kitchen. (The oppressive extent of cabinetry in the 3D rendering will actually be punctuated with stainless steel for the range and refrigerator on the right.)

Um, we won’t be installing these light fixtures, but we are seeking cool pendant lights to hang from the bulkhead over the dining peninsula.

A view north from the kitchen. One of the many changes since this rendering is the reversal of the location of the wine refrigerator and sink / faucet at the wet bar. Also, although not evident from this rendering, the wet bar cabinetry and pantry (between the wet bar and door) will be the same wood and finish as the kitchen cabinetry.

Another view to the north and the Spark fireplace – and another change. The closet shown to the right of the door will not  be built. This was getting too cramped, so we’ll have a console table there. As with the wet bar and pantry area, the cabinetry for the bookcase and kneewall will be identical to the kitchen cabinetry.

The pocket door to the right leads to the powder room (holy crap, this is going to be tiny!) and the stairs to the basement.


Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Design


2 responses to “Transforming the First Floor – Goals and Design Plans

  1. mom

    March 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Mention that NEWEL POST one more time…….


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