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meghnjosh_gw

Should I open up the wall between my living room and family room?

meghnjosh
12 years ago

Here's my dilemma:

We moved into our traditional center hall colonial a year ago. The rooms are not very large and are laid out in typical center hall colonial fashion. Meaning, when you enter into the foyer, there's a formal living room on the left and a dining room on the right. If you walk further down the foyer, there's a family room on the left and the kitchen on the right. This puts the living room and the family room back to back with a wall in between. Currently, there's no doorway connecting the living room and the family room. If you need to enter either room, you need to go down the foyer. I hope it makes sense. This makes the layout really chopped up and everything's very boxy.

We are not formal ppl and at present, we don't use the living room at all. Its just a wasted, decorated space. We spend all our time in our small family room which we use primarily as a TV room. I've also noticed that when we entertain, everyone gravitates towards the kitchen or the family room. And no one wants to stay in the living room.

I am struggling to find a purpose for the formal living room and have now started toying with the idea of opening up the wall in between both the rooms to make it into one open concept room. If not taking down the entire wall, I am atleast considering putting in a very large doorway (maybe even an archway) of maybe 11 to 13 feet feet width. We have large gatherings (I am talking about 30+ ppl) a couple of times a year and I don't know how I am going to accomodate so many people in this house. I am thinking that if I open up the two spaces, then there will be a better flow and more people using both the rooms.

My biggest concern is

1) losing the identity of two rooms and having only one large room. It would work for us but in the area where I live, every house has a separate living room and family room. I worry about it from a real estate standpoint and am afraid about it hurting future sale of the home. For this reason, I want to keep some kind of separation (hence the thought of putting in a doorway rather than taking down the whole wall) but at the same time, creating an open floor plan of sorts.

2) I am worried if it will go against the integrity of the design and architecture of a traditional center hall colonial.

3) I am also worried about decorating two rooms which are now open to one another to make them look cohesive and flow together, losing wall space, how to position furniture etc but this is something I can eventually sort out, I guess.

I am looking for any advice, thoughts or insights. Should I do it? Will it hurt us from a real estate stand point? Would really appreciate all your suggestions and help. BTW, I have no idea how to post pics or I would post some of my home. I found a link to a blog which explains what I am thinking of doing. This is NOT my home. I am not sure if its ok to post a blog link here. But here goes...

http://www.chattingatthesky.com/2009/11/23/because-the-room-is-done-now/

In the above link, they have almost taken down the entire wall. I am not planning to do that - More like put in a giant archway or doorway of about 13 feet wide. What do you think?

Sorry for the long post and Thanks in advance :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Opening up the wall

Comments (33)

  • nanny2a
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If it were my house, or I was in the process of purchasing one like yours, I would prefer to have the wall removed to allow for more usable living and entertaining space. Just because it's a center hall colonial doesn't mean it can't have a more open floor plan. I see no purpose in having a "living room" that's never used! That's valuable real estate which you could adapt to better suit your lifestyle. The sample photo is an excellent inspiration idea, and I'm sure you could adapt yours to suit your living style. Just be sure to check and see that it's not a load bearing wall, and if so, have it professionally renovated so you don't have any future structural problems.

  • palimpsest
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    A very large archway between rooms would be a way to join the rooms in a traditional way. The 1840s houses on my block have large openings with pocket doors in between that could be closed off, but you could get the same traditional feel of paired parlors without any doors.

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  • pps7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think it's a great idea!!! I was going to say what palimpest said- alot of traditional homes in our area have pocket door separating the livingroom and family room.

    We pretty much had the same floor plan in our previous house and used the living room as an office.

  • scanmike
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My home was built in the early 1900's. We have a foyer that goes straight thru to the kitchen and off of it is the living room. There were three archways that once held french doors to keep heat in the room. One of the archways opens into the dining room and one into the sunroom/tv room. After completing most of the house, we decided to open up the archway that led into the sunroom. We only opened up half of it and had two columns to keep it in keeping with the style of the home. It was the best thing we did as it makes the room more open. Go for it!
    Not the best photo, but you can see the sunroom/tv room in the background. Ignore plastic tablecloth on leather sofa...new kittens (lesson learned-leather and cats don't go)

    {{gwi:1678497}}

    Opened up room. If we had done this to begin with, we would have taken it down to the floor, but we didn't want to have to replace the floors or patch the floors. It works for us this way and was a welcome change.



    O

  • jan_in_wisconsin
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We had a previous new construction home, built in the center hall colonial style, but we opted to have one great room, versus the two smaller spaces, for the same reasons you mentioned. It worked great for our family and for gatherings to have a nice sized room like that.

    In our present home, though not a traditional colonial style, we opted for a large front-to-back great room instead of two separate rooms. We love it. We can see our front, back and side yards from the same room.

    Do consider how you'll use the room and where the furniture could be placed in advance of remodeling. In a room that size, you can have more than one seating area. We have a primary seating spot by our television on a long side wall, and we have a secondary seating area near the fireplace on the shorter back wall of the room. There is also room for seating by the front windows.

    It works great functionally, as we can easily get to the foyer or kitchen/dining area. We did use large cased openings between the great room and foyer and the great room and kitchen/dining spaces. There is no cased opening between what would have been separate living and family room areas. It now really has the best of both worlds - the feeling of openness, but not in a completely open concept home. A large space can still feel cozy.

    With the way you describe the needs of your family, I think you're on the right track to making your home more practical for your life.

    Hope this helps,

    Jan

  • susanilz5
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If your considering moving in just a few years and your worried that making the changes will lower the value of your home, call a local real estate agent explain your concern and ask for an opinion.

    If you plan on staying awhile, do what works best for your lifestyle. And I agree that the inspiration pic is wonderful. If your going to remove a wall, take it all down if possible, make it one large room.

  • vampiressrn
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I can't speak to the architectural integrity of your home, but if you entertain a lot, the open floor plan is fabulous.

    I love to entertain and bought my home because of the openness between the kitchen, family and living rooms. I turned my living room into a Tiki Lounge and also have a round table to do some serious card playing in there. My kitchen has a overhang bar and an island. I have a large family room where I have 6 recliners and the TV. It is easy to see between these three rooms. Typically groups congregate in the Tiki lounge, and then also there tends to be groups that stick around the kitchen sitting at the bar and standing around the island by the main food offerings. Another casual group kicks back in the family room in the recliners. I think the openness makes everyone feel comfortable and not confined. People tend to linger around where you have food, so I usually have something appropriate in each area.

    At your next party, you might try putting some great appetizers in the living room area and be sure your seating areas are conducive to conversations (usually group of 2 to 4). Be sure your lighting is comfortable and sometimes low level music can encourage grouping. You also want to be sure there are enough side tables for people to set their drinks and plates.

    I say...go for it!!!

  • jamaraz
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I am in the process of doing this exact same thing right now. My layout is exactly the same as your layout. I had planned on opening the wall 10 feet but I ran into a major vent issue when we opened the wall. The shafts(?) that went upstairs to my kids rooms were right in the middle of the wall. My contractor moved him the best he could but the opening is now 8 feet. Smaller than I had planned but it looks good. There is seperation of the 2 rooms but the flow works so much better this way.

    I would advise against taking out the whole wall. Some of my neighbors have done this and personally, I don't like the way it looks. The room ends up being an odd shape and most people end up having 2 furniture groupings like they would if there was some sort of wall there anyway.

  • yborgal
    12 years ago

    If you remove part of the wall and leave a wide opening, could you leave the LR as is? Then turn the family room into the DR and make the DR the new family room?

    I can see the area to the left of the hall being a more formal spot and the 2 rooms could work nicely together.

  • awm03
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    How about installing French doors between the LR & the FR? That way the rooms are tied together visually through the glass, and light can pass between the rooms too, but you can still shut the doors to close off noise and maintain a bit of privacy.

    {{gwi:1678499}}

  • DLM2000-GW
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We are also in a center entrance colonial and have French doors between our living room and family room. It makes for such a nice flow in the house, you can circle around through rooms in many ways - nice for parties. Having the two distinct rooms is nice, too.

    Living room looking into Family room - the doors are open 99% of the time
    {{gwi:1678500}}

    Family room looking through to living room
    {{gwi:1678501}}

  • lynninnewmexico
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The consensus so far seems to be to go for it and I agree. I like the idea of opening up the family room to the living room with an archway between them or something similar to Scanmike's beautiful reno. My only other suggestion is to keep your center hall. I always dislike walking directly into a room; a hall or foyer is much better. And, as suggested several times here already, be sure to check what's in those walls you want to knock down BEFORE you continue your demolition plans. Several years ago, when we were planning our total kitchen remodel, our original plans called for knocking down an interior wall and expanding our kitchen out two feet further. Thank goodness we found out before we ordered the new cabs, that there were many pipes in that wall supplying our under-the-floor hot water radiant heat and the entire layout had to be changed . . . they were just too hard and expensive to try to move.
    I hope that you take Before and After pics of your reno. I'll bet it turns out wonderfully!
    Lynn

  • tomorrowisanotherday
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    dlm2000's french doors are what leap to my mind as a solution. I would talk to a real estate professional and/or appraiser before you knock out the entire wall, though. Eliminating a living room, even though it's infrequently used, may reduce the value of your home. I know everybody says that the LR is useless, but I do love ours. That's where the piano is and I use it as a get-away for ME. If I did not use it that way, I'd have my home office set up in there. It does not have to be wasted space :)

    I discovered that if you want people to gather in a certain room for a party, you have to put the booze and the food in it!

  • awm03
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Yes, I like having a LR for a retreat too, a place read, listen to music, or get away from TV noise. That's why I like the idea of French doors -- you can open them to combine the rooms or close them to create a quiet space.

  • bumble_doodle
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Our 1966 center hall colonial sounds similar, minus the extra wall to create the FR. LR on the left, DR and kitchen on the right. Because the LR is basically half the house, that's where we spend most of our time. It's great for entertaining large groups but it's still cozy enough for just the two of us. In fact, our FR - located on the other side of the kitchen - is basically just used as a walk-through to get to the mudroom and garage.

    When we bought the house everyone told us the LR would never get used because it's the 'formal room'. Well, we're not formal people and decided to live in our home in the way WE wanted to. :)

    My sister's LR has a wide opening between two living spaces, one of which is decorated formally. It never gets used. Except to showcase the Christmas tree.

    I say go with your gut and do what works for you and your family.

  • jejvtr
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Meg

    You have valid points and concerns - Keep them in mind before making a decision. I love the blog you linked and the space is beautiful. Sometimes a picture can make one loose their concerns for their own space. Analogous to bringing a picture of a haircut to the salon believing the stylist can make one look "just like that" - Not so easy

    Awm is the only poster that hit on one of my biggest concerns with open concepts - noise - Not sure of the age of your home, or if you are fortunate enough to have plaster walls -(a wonderful sound deadening product!) - when you remove walls, GCs typically replace with 1/2" sheet rock - add that to no insulation, and typically plumbing runs behind them you have a recipe for lots of noise - bouncing and pinging.

    Additionally as awm points out - there is no retreat type space. If you entertain 30+ a few times a year, I would not recommend a floor plan around that. I am from a huge family - 1 of 9, my dear grandmother had 34 grandchildren and nearly that many great grandchildren at the time of her death. She lived in a very modest 2 bedroom, 1 bath home on a lake. Sundays many relatives descended upon her humble abode - my most treasured childhood memories. As an adult it simply baffles me how we all fit in her place.

    I live in a modest 1930 Dutch Colonial -and did a large renovation. We had several opinions to "take down that wall" - and chose not to - You listed most of the reasons.

    Best of luck to you

  • lynninnewmexico
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    French doors that can divide the two rooms is a good idea. I have them here in four places: double French doors can close off the study/library from the foyer; another double set can close off the dining room from the foyer; a third double set closes off the dining room from the family room and a fourth can close the living room off from the kitchen. BUT, while they're great for letting in light and expanding or closing off rooms when needed, they're lousy in blocking out sound. If that's ok with you in your circumstances, French doors ~or even better ~ pocket French doors might work wonderfully for you. With them, you can place furniture against those walls on either side of the doors. Just one more idea to consider.
    Lynn

  • teaforwendy
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We have a 1928 center hall colonial with one big living room, rather than it being split up. Otherwise our floor plan is the same. One more thought for consideration if you are opening up the LR/FR - we are putting an opening from our Living Room (what I think would be your family room space) into our breakfast nook/kitchen to improve flow for entertaining. Because of the age and style of our house there a zillion windows or doorways and one more looks completely fine in this style house, imo.

    I also vote for French Doors. Pocket doors woudl be great, but won't work if there is ventilation, plumbing, electrical (unless you move that too).

    Scanmike your sun porch is great! We are doing something similar, but there are two sets of french doors flanking our fireplace so those will be our openings into the new converted from screen porch space.

  • meghnjosh
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks for all your replies. I couldn't check last night and I just got back from work and I am so excited to so much response :) This is my first time posting a query !!!

    I am going to sit and read thro' each post slowly now. I just wanted to post and let you all know that I didn't just disappear after asking something....Will come back with a more detailed post soon :)

  • Oakley
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    What are the deminsions of both rooms? I love the french door idea, but I'd stand between the rooms first and get a general idea on whether they'd be in the way of furniture arrangement. If they wouldn't be a problem, I'd definitely do the french doors and keep them open when you have guests!

  • bronwynsmom
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I was going to suggest just the kind of thing that you see in scanmike's second photo. You will probably have structural issues in that wall, as it is likely the load-bearing wall positioned over the beam under your first floor, and the half-wall and column solution is a good way to solve it. It opens and connects the spaces visually without creating a room that is out of scale with the rest of the rooms in the house, and is compatible with the style of your house.
    Most people tend to gather in groups of three to five people at the most, and you rarely need a huge open space unless you give costume balls on a regular basis. (If you do, however, please invite me!) I think that connecting the rooms with volumes of air and light can produce linked spaces that are much easier to furnish in a family-friendly, human scale way.

  • kjmama
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Don't know if we have talked earlier, but we had this same problem.:)
    Here is my posting, if it helps

    Here is a link that might be useful: one or two living rooms

  • scanmike
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Bronwynsmom has a point that I forgot to mention. When we initially started renovations, we didn't open it up partly because we thought having a quiet room would be nice and also because a steam line ran through the wall to the right of where my mom is sitting. HOwever, two years later we changed to a hot water system and we then didn't have to worry about contending with the pipe if we ran into it. We did support the ceiling (sorry don't know the details of that). Even though the btm walls are there the room is more open to conversation and light. I also agree that having a huge living room ,while it's good for parties, is hard to decorate. I have friends who have that and they do end up with two separate seating arrangments. We all agree in my home that it was one of the best decisions we made. We have contemplated opening up the other side that leads into the dining room (where the kitten is walking into). Not sure if we are up to it though. This house was the money pit!

  • meghnjosh
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Ok I am back.....

    Wow, I just read thro' all the responses and you guys rock !!! I love this forum :))) So far the consensus seems to be to open it up. To answer some of your questions....

    oakleyok: The rooms are small. LR is 13 x 18 and FR is 11 x 18. So if we open it up, it will prob. be around 24 x 18 which I think is a nice size....Not too big nor small...

    bumbledoodle & jan in wisconsin: Thanks for sharing :) I am glad you love the openess....Its very affirming. We currently have a full set of furniture in the LR(Sofa, loveseat, 2 chairs, coffee & end tables). In the FR, we have a loveseat, 3 accent chairs and the TV which is currently on a console. One wall in the FR is dominated by a brick fireplace, similar to the inspiration photo that I linked. So I guess we will have two separate seating areas, even if we open up the rooms. Prob. one will be near the fireplace and another TV watching area....

    lynninnewmex, nanny2a & bronwynsmom: Yes, I def. plan to check with an architect if its a load bearing wall or not. I've read (in cote de texas's blog) that if you put in a doorway, it wouldn't cause an issue to the structure as opposed to removing the entire wall. Is this right??

    palimpset & pps7: Thanks for letting me know that traditional homes have open architecture...I never knew that. I didn't grow up in this country, so a lot of it is new to me......Now I feel better that I won't be really messing up with the integrity of the house :)

    Scanmike: Thanks for sharing your pics. You have a beautiful home. I really love your sunroom..I wish I had one and also some new kittens :)

    susanilz: I think we'll be here for atleast the next 5 yrs...Maybe 10 yrs...I don't have the energy to move anytime soon...So I guess, it makes sense to make it into something functional for us....

    vampiressrn: We don't entertain a lot...But def. a few times a year, we have large gatherings for 30+ ppl....Maybe we'll be more prone to entertaining with an open area...I am feeling really pressurized cos we're having a formal gathering of nearly 50 ppl...Its a prayer meeting, so everyone will be sitting together in the same space unlike a party where ppl can move around...

    Initially, I was considering putting in only a regular doorway (with a french door or pocket door). But after committing to hosting such a large gathering, I am really at a loss on how we're going to accomodate everyone. This was the trigger to everything.....

    jamaraz: Thanks for sharing your experience...I am scared about the unknowns...Sometimes I think I am opening up a can of worms :)

    monablair: I am not sure it would work for us. Like I said, the FR has a fireplace and has a very cozy vibe..Maybe I could place some seating around it and have some bookshelves against the adjacent wall to create like a reading/library room (similar to the little reading nook in Somethings gotta give)....I love my books :)))

    awm: Thats exactly the look I wanted initially. But somehow DH is against the idea of french doors or pocket doors. He wants a more open feel I don't know if I should really listen to him. He doesn't hang out obsessively in design forums like I do, KWIM :)) He's pretty clueless when it comes to design.....

    How wide do you think that opening is in the pic?? I initially did want doors. But I am not sure how wide the opening would be if we put in doors(like I said, we're trying to accomodate nearly 50 in one space) Also, with french doors, I am thinking if it will hamper the space/furniture placement when we open the door.

    tomorrowisanotherday: Yes, I really don't want to lose real estate value...I will have to somehow figure this out and make it work....

    dlm: Thanks for sharing your pics :) Your french doors are so gorgeous...I don't have any in my home and I really love the look of one :(

    teaforwendy: We do have a door connecting the FR to the breakfast nook & kitchen. Its not as open as I would like it to be but I don't mind it too much for now...Maybe it could be a project for the future......

    kjmama: Yes, we did talk before :) Infact, I searched and pulled up your thread yday to get more ideas. How's the doorway working for you?? Are you done with decorating? Any pics to share :)

    Please keep the ideas coming...Right now, I am def. leaning twds putting in a doorway...Our "handyman" is coming to take a look tomorrow...But I need to check with an architect about the load bearing aspect of it before we start on anything....Will keep you all updated and will also, try to figure out how to post pics meanwhile.....

    Thanks once again :)

  • aktillery9
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If anyone says tear down a wall I just want to scream "GO FOR IT" You have a lovely home.

    Good luck!
    Amy

  • meghnjosh
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sorry I missed responding to you....

    My house is nearly 40 yrs. old....I don't think the walls are plaster. Its a great point you bring up about noise...It never even struck me...Will keep it in mind as I mull thro' things :)

    I understand about fitting into a small space :) I grew up in a highly populated country where there's always severe space constraints...My childhood "home" was a 600 sq. ft. 1 bdrm apartment in the 3rd floor...I had such a wonderful childhood and loved that little space :) I can live in a small space...But like I mentioned in my initial post, it bugs me that we never use the LR...It feels like such a waste of space right now.....

  • bronwynsmom
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Oh...I also wanted to suggest that if you are considering French doors, think carefully about where the doors will swing into the room. We have a pair of doors between two rooms (they were here when we got here) that are creating a problem because they get in the way when they are open, and so we have to keep them closed, which defeats the purpose of opening two rooms to each other.
    I don't think the architect that renovated this house had ever thought about where the furniture was going to go! So we will probably remove them.
    And, yes, no matter how you open the wall, you should have an engineer or architect examine the structural issues, just to be sure what's in there, and that you don't compromise the integrity of the wall.

  • bonnieann925
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We have a center hall with a front to back living room on the left. It used to be a "dead end", meaning one door in and that was it. We added a sunroom behind it and opened it up with a French door. Now there is great circulation and the room gets used when we have parties.

    Re: sound issues. That's definitely something to consider. I like the privacy that our living room affords me to read, relax, and just have quiet time. We have a piano in there also, as someone else mentioned.

  • bcgcsmom
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm also fairly new here and first time posting. We have a 10-year colonial in a cookie-cutter neighborhood of colonials. 95% of them have the living room/family room open. We have a wall which is one of reason's we bought this house.

    Our family room is in the back of the house and very open with the kitchen & breakfast room. Because of this, its nice to have a separate living area on the main floor. I knew we wouldn't use a formal living room, so we made ours a study.

    Is your family room large and open, or small? If its small, I'd take down the wall. If not, it can work either way. The separate room helps with noise and keeping my kids and all the neighbor kids from racing around the house in circles. It also helps us with furniture and tv placement in the family room.

    I must confess that when I'm in neighbors' houses, I also enjoy their open circle floor plan. Guess I'm not much help other than saying to figure out your family's needs. I love Scanmike's room with the 1/2 wall.

    If I had to make the purchase decision again, I'd still buy this house with the wall because this is my escape room but only because the back of our house is so open and large. Hope this helps.
    Jen

  • dawnp
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Double French Doors!

  • kjmama
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    :) Well, I hate to say that we still have not moved in yet. But in our visits and work there, I do like the decision we made. The back room is lighter and I like the access.
    If I've showed you these already, sorry, but this is all we have taken. Good luck.
    New doorway on left - this is the front room
    {{gwi:1577039}}

    Looking from front door to new opening, again front room
    {{gwi:1577037}}

    Back room looking out new doorway
    {{gwi:1577041}}

  • kjmama
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Meghnjosh
    Just wanted to follow up with you. We have finally moved into this house. I do really like the doorway. We totally use this front room, mostly because of the sunlight, I think... just drawn there. But we probably wouldn't have without the doorway. It is where we head in the morning. We haven't really decorated yet, because we don't have flooring yet - LOL But I think the back room will be cozy too.... so far we haven't used it... hopefully we will soon.
    What did you decide if anything?