Monday, February 25, 2013

Opening Up Spaces

Here’s a question I ask a lot.
“What’s your house like?”
And here is the lead-in to every response,
“So, you walk in....”

Try it yourself. See if I exaggerate.

Some people answer with the precision of a compass. Others gesture, indicating something this way and that. It’s always about how people live in their space.

This is where I focus: making better spaces for living.

Any design solution worth your time and money should be carefully customized to your lifestyle. There really aren’t any rules. But, there is a general framework I use in space planning. Here it is broken down into five action items:

1. Open Space
2. Share Space
3. Blend Space
4. Personalize Space
5. Color Space

For now, here are a few thoughts on the first item.
Open Space

When I walk in to a home, I see through walls. I look to create views to other spaces, and remove obstacles that are not integral to privacy or function. The goal is not to fashion everything as an open loft, but to improve your experience of the space. Sarah Susanka uses a design rule she calls “Light to Walk Toward” in her Not So Big House series. Her example of adding a window at the end of a hallway alleviates the dead-end effect.


But, imagine an apartment building, or a structural condition where this is not an option. Instead, I often try to redirect circulation through space, connect previously isolated rooms and create views through new openings. These solutions give a sense of depth and movement without changing the footprint or exterior shell of your home. Often, I use color to highlight this movement through space. We’ll talk more on color later.

Josh Kuchinsky Photography

In this home, the entire approach to the living spaces has been redesigned. The original Powder Room of this Masonry Tudor was visible from the Front Entry. As a part of the Kitchen renovation, a series of small rooms were connected to create the new, larger Kitchen.

Credit: J. Abbett

The Powder Room was relocated to an adjacent space. We replaced all the windows but kept their original dimensions and locations. Now, the former Powder Room window is a feature in the new Breakfast Area. 

Altogether, this new view from the front entry is much more appetizing. 

Open Space also allows you to live in square footage that was either underutilized or closed off. Replacing walls with half walls or railings, removing doors to attics or basements and incorporating once closed-off stairways into the living space are all examples of recapturing space for living. 

This 19th century Victorian has been completely updated to suit modern family life. Within a warren of back rooms, the servants’ staircase was steep and dark. Now, open to the Kitchen, the staircase is sleek and sculptural.

Josh Kuchinsky Photography

In my own home, I have taken the doors off linen and pantry closets. Keeping it all tidy is a worthwhile chore. More than being motivated by the fact that everyone can see our stuff we get to live in the found space. In a kitchen, open shelving and glass fronted cabinets similarly create the experience of found space.

Here is a colorful kitchen where the stored items are contained and orderly adding texture and interest without clutter.



Open space transforms your home without adding square footage. It maximizes your
experience of space. It reinvigorates. It simplifies.