Homes of a certain age (and this can even include those beloved Mid Century ones) can feel cramped and boxy. A dining room that’s cut off from the kitchen that’s cut off from the living room that’s cut off from the entry hall can make an otherwise large home feel smaller than it really is.
Times have changed and open plan living is the only way to go.
The instinct of many homeowners who feel their home lacks space, is to build an
extension. Maybe this is a good option for many older properties but lack of space isn’t always the problem – sometimes it’s just an outdated use of existing space. Truth is, we no longer live in a world of sun porches, dining rooms, narrow hallways and living rooms
anymore – we live big and we love our light open spaces. Often times, homeowners can open up and re-imagine the space they already have at less cost than adding square feet.
How to begin and who do you talk to?
Older homes (and by older we mean any house built more than 25 years ago) need the helping hand of a professional contractor with experience in home building and remodeling. Knocking down walls and remodeling any home is not a job for even the most experienced DIYer. To begin with, do your research and narrow your selection down to those local builders with the best reputation and recommendations. They will help you through the entire process from having plans drawn up and getting permits to the final, beautifully finished result. A quality builder will want to spend time with you and learn about the way you live. Often, an architect will be involved and they should ask questions
about your needs and goals for this project. Which parts of the home get the most sun? Is one side of the property more noisy than another? Are you looking to squeeze in a laundry room or an additional bathroom? Start making a list and feel free to dream. This is a major project and a big commitment.
What do most people wish for?
When it comes to open plan living, most homeowners are looking to combine their kitchen and dining area along with a large inviting living area. Second in order of importance is the addition of a bathroom, mudroom or laundry room – and this is also the time to think about replacing any closet space that you might lose in the remodeling process. The goal is to open up your space and with that comes bringing in more light.
This is an opportunity to open your living space to the outdoors. Do you want to add windows or French doors? These are considerations that your architect can help with, so don’t be shy about asking questions.There are three main considerations that can have a huge impact on costs and timing:
1.For kitchens and bathrooms, it will always be more cost effective to keep these near to their current location so you can use existing water and drainage lines; the same applies to gas supply lines.
2. Load-bearing walls are more expensive to knock down than those that are not structural. The whole purpose in living ‘open plan’ is to knock down some walls, so be prepared to dedicate a good portion of your budget to structural work.
3. Wiring, lighting and heating are other items affected when removing walls. Ductwork and electric lines will need to be relocated. This not only requires some ingenuity on the homeowner and architect’s part, but it can also eat up a fair chunk of the budget.
Open plan living reflects the way families live today. If you’ve made the commitment to update and remodel, be certain to work with a good builder and architect. List your priorities and stick to your vision and your budget. The final outcome will open your eyes to life without walls.