Whole House Renovation

Dining Room E-Design: Part of a Whole Home Refresh

Dining Room Concept: Part of a Whole Home Makeover

A past client reached out to me last fall seeking help with planning cosmetic updates to their home, the updates would apply to the entire main floor and above grade lower level, similar to a split level style of home. The house located in a suburban subdivision had the original builder standard finishes which were looking dated and lacked any architectural features or character. One the of the most obvious challenges with the house’s design was that it was mostly open concept but with awkward transitions from one space to the next, ie; a change in flooring that didn’t align with any walls or doorways and tall vaulted ceilings comprised of varying angles and bulkheads with no trim work, symmetry, or alignment with doorways, walls or windows. Sometimes it takes a set of fresh eyes to point out design challenges or ‘flaws’ that exist but you didn’t know or understand how they were negatively effecting the space or how they would impact your attempts to improve or decorate them.

An master design plan would need to be created to address these challenges while incorporating a new kitchen, all new flooring throughout, fireplace makeover, staircase updates, entry way updates, lighting updates, as well as proposed new built-ins and millwork. After assessing the floor plan as a whole, I developed design concepts for each room/area. This post is a glimpse at the proposed design for the dining room.

Existing photos of dining room below.

The dining room posed a challenge that I see often with builder homes - a lone room that’s located off the main entry/foyer making it islolated from the rest of the layout. In this case it had an awkwardly small half wall separating it from the front ‘hall’ and was not directly accessible to the kitchen nor open to the living room. Although it had tall arched windows and a partially vaulted ceiling (more odd angles) it was small in size and could only accommodate dining seating for 4 or 6. Because of this, my clients always used the large open concept, eat-in kitchen for all their entertaining while the small dining room was used only as overflow seating (usually for the kids). They love to entertain and host larger gatherings, they also love to read, have family game nights (board games) and occasionally work from home.

Design Concept: My recommendation was to continue using the large extendable kitchen table for daily meals and entertaining, and make the small front dining room more useable and beautiful for day to day use by designing it as a library slash dining room - a place for their book collection, a place to do homework or work from home, a place to play board games and it would also be wonderfully flexible for entertaining - to set up a bar and appetizer buffet or coffee and deserts. Stylewise, i was striving for a timeless blend of contemporary with traditional arts and crafts references and a practical mix of high and low.

Dining Room Option 1

Dining Room Option 1

Concept Option 1 : First, I addressed the physical details of the space. To add architectural interest I proposed eliminating the small half wall and building out a double thick, double wide entry trimmed out with new, substantially sized casing. Adding partial height panelled wainscot with a simple cap would add character to the room and a nod to the craftsman style the homeowners were hoping to evoke, painted in a fresh warm white along with all the other new trim throughout the house. To minimize the visual busy-ness of the angles at the ceiling line, and not draw more attention to the colonial arched lines of the windows I opted to keep the paint colour above the wainscotting a light neutral,,,this keeps it low contrast and thus doesn’t draw your eye to the irregular ceiling line as would happen with a dark wall/light ceiling paint colour. The room gets lots of daylight and so the goal was to just enhance the volume of ceiling height but not emphasize the opposing angles and arches.

In addition to the new millwork the room would feature new wood flooring in a medium rich brown to replace the broadloom, a new large contemporary conical pendant, a pair of glass and bronze wall sconces, a traditional wooden pedestal table (with extendable leaf ) modern club-like upholstered arm chairs, and a richly coloured, patterned wool area rug. The light grey paint colour is a sophisticated and fresh compliment to the warm wood tones of the floor and furniture pieces.

Dining Room Option 2

Dining Room Option 2

Concept Option 2: This concept is a variation of the first, but the subtle changes offer a distinctly different look. The cased entry into the dining room would be built with an approximately 16” wide nib wall on the one side to allow for wall-to-wall book shelving across the back wall of the dining room. (From the foyer looking in - this would be the wall on the right hand side.) In lieu of panelled wainscotting around the room this tall wall-to-wall shelving will add architectural character and create a library for their book collection. Topping the units would be articulating traditional brass library lights, highlighting the wall of books and emphasizing the ceiling height. In this scenario I opted for lush forest green velvet modern arm chairs with brass capped feet,, which really amp up the cozy factor and evoke that library mood. Again a large scale conical pendant light adds simple contemporary form and creates wonderful atmosphere suspended low over the table. The earthy colours, natural wood, millwork and built-ins are a subtle reference to the arts and crafts aesthetic these clients love so much but without trying to inject arts and crafts details in a home that’s not built in that style. Additionally if space allowed I would add a built in window seat.

Both concepts offer solutions that are easily attainable with light construction work (not extensive) but the net effect will add distinct purpose and function to the room while creating a beautiful and inviting view to guests. Adding character through new millwork and builtins gives a high-end custom look to the interior without a high-end investment. The isolated nature of the room (from the rest of the floor plan) now becomes an appealing feature as a respite for homework or intimate cozy game nights or small dinner parties. On top of all that its also sure to make a stylish first impression.

The Australia Project - The Evolution of a Space Plan

Design Plans and Kitchen Concept for the Australia Project, by Carol Reed Interior Design

While its not out of the ordinary

for me to travel a few hours drive to a clients weekend retreat or summer cottage, or even have the opportunity to fly back and forth to work on a project in Manhattan… being asked to design a whole home renovation on the other side of the world is not a request I get every day.  In addition to my full-service projects I've always oferred a selection of limited e-design services for homeowners across North America but I limit this type of consulting to single rooms only.  Last year I made an exception when I took on the whole home re-design of a residence in Australia, as a hybrid full-scope/e-design.

One of the homeowners whom I knew from Toronto is an expat now living in North South Wales, Australia.  She’s a newlywed (married an Aussie!) they're first time homeowners of an older style bungalow in need of a modern overhaul. They both travel a great deal for work so embarking on a home renovation would require the ability to do much of the consulting virtually - and this is where I came.  We knew each other when she lived in Toronto and she has been in some homes that I had designed, there was the comfort level of working with someone from home, and knowing I had experience in long distance projects.  They reached out and a couple of skype meetings later we began the process of re-designing their forever home.

Kitchen and Dining Before.

Before we could delve into new finish materials, design details or furniture, we had to start with reworking the floor plan.  Here’s a look at the floor plan I started with. Its single storey, with no basement, and an attached garage (to the left side of the house), the back of the house and balcony overlook a beautiful green conservation area.  The windows across the front and sides of the house are partial height, the windows across the back extend to the floor.  Lengthways from one end of the house to the other, the ceiling slopes up to a centre peak.

The house was very divided with lots of interior doors and there is no basement or attic space.  The main objective was to update all the fixtures and finishes as well as create a more open concept  living, dining, cooking space. A dedicated storage room had to remain as well as a home office large enough to accommodate two workspaces.  Lastly a new master suite was on the must have list.  As for finishes, they wanted sleek, modern, all white, and natural wood floors with the addition of colourful artwork and accessories.  

When I first reviewed the plan and the exterior photos, my instinct was to move the kitchen and dining areas to the back part of the house so they could enjoy the view and direct indoor/outdoor access.  Below is a look at the final layout we arrived at….

The new plan provides them with a long open concept great room, with slope cathedral ceiling and views overlooking the conservation area.  New retractable doors will allow them to have an expansive opening to the exterior and new sliding doors directly off the kitchen so they can access the bar-b.   The den has ample room for both of them, an oversize sliding glass pocket door allows them to close it off when they have company.   The laundry is combined with the storage room and will have a futon for overflow guests who need a place to crash (beyond the two spare bedrooms).   The main hall bath gains a vanity with storage and a tub shower combo, the master ensuite gets a sleek walkin shower with trough drain and floating vanity and the 4th bedroom was converted into a maser walk-in closet.

I know from experience often the first reaction people have when they see floor plan is to critique it, and often wonder "why is that so big, or why is that so small" or think "what if we move this here and that there?".  I think that's natural and expected, especially if you weren't part of the planning process in getting from a to b.  Its the reason I don't ever present a client with just one layout - because even if they love it, they'll wonder if they are overlooking any other possibilities. There are some Designers who believe its best to present one solution only, but this method never served well for me despite how confident I might be with any given plan, I believe clients have expectations of being offered choices.  I like to present only the best options and let them be involved in making choices from there.  There is never just one way to slice up a space and the possibilities can vary greatly in budget and personal preference.  Below is a glimpse of where I started reviewing layouts with them and where we ended up at the final new layout. 

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The first concepts were based on their idea of moving the laundry out of the kitchen and into the main hall bathroom (stacked units) in lieu of the existing shower stall.  Besides the obvious disadvantages to this placement, it had some benefits worth considering.  (At this point we weren't exploring the master bedroom changes until the living areas were determined.)

This concept was the least amount of change, but still offered lots of improvement with a new centre island kitchen opened up to the living room.  Initially this was the extent of the renovation they had envisioned before contacting me - a new kitchen with a bigger opening to the living room.

Some more walls came down in this layout to further open up the kitchen, dining and living rooms and get more exposure to exterior views and light.

Next even more walls came down.  Sections of the centre wall needed to remain as its the main supporting wall.  Although not noted in this sketch the laundry would again be in the bathroom. What was lacking at this point was a larger home office (Study) and the laundry situation was still being debated.

The next three concepts explored the idea of placing a stacked washer dryer to replace the hallway linen closet, allowing us to add a larger vanity with storage into the main hall bathroom with the tub/shower combo. 

This one was getting there but the main concern was still the Study was too small, and ideally I wanted to explore the idea of putting the kitchen along the back of the house instead of the storage room….

This was getting really close to where we finally ended up but the need for a larger laundry area was being realized. 

And this was the


final layout.  The laundry was combined with the storage room, and also a futon for the occasional overflow of guests. When we began the space planning the intent was that all the windows and exterior doors in the house were being replaced and the exterior re-clad in a new finish.  We intended to work with all the existing window locations as is but the homeowners were also investigating if they could increase the amount of windows across the back living room wall.  But because of the bush fire hazards in their area, their local by-laws (and property insurance) restricted them from changing their window configurations/sizes at all.  Which meant this kitchen plan, requiring modifying a window to work with the fridge,,,was out.    

So one more round of tweaks led to this final layout below (also shown earlier in the post)…...  

 The final kitchen layout ended up being a U shape with centre island.  After the engineer's review, we had to also incorporate a supporting stud wall immediately to the left of the sliding doors beside the fridge so this area got squeezed a bit smaller.  This new plan gives them one large living and entertaining space with cathedral ceiling, direct access to the balcony and wonderful views.  The double office has lots of natural light, and its wide entrance flows off the main room, and their bathrooms and closet space were upsized and enhanced. 

So I hope you enjoyed this peek into the space planning process and how we arrive at any particular final floor plan with a client.  Taking the client thru this process assures them they have made the best possible decisions and they move forward with confidence, even if the scope of the renovation doubled (!).   Following this space planning we developed the details for the kitchen and baths and selected all the new interior finish materials and fixtures compiled into a set of working drawings (which involved working in metric and learning some new jargon!).  I''ll share more of the design concepts in another post.

 G'day ; )

All drawings and images by:  Carol Reed Interior Design Inc.