The ‘Great Room’ – Making separate spaces into one big room |

The ‘Great Room’ – Making separate spaces into one big room

When we are developing a budget for a project a question I frequently hear is, “Can I save some money if I do X, Y or Z?” It’s a good question. Before answering the question I consider where a good division of labor makes sense.

In other words, if an owner can perform demolition of the space before the crew starts the project or perhaps do some painting after we complete our work, then I know the schedule will run smoothly and there is an opportunity for them to save money with “sweat equity.”

It also depends upon how skilled they are and how much time they have available to complete the work.

On the other hand, I avoid mixing responsibilities in the middle of the project for the sake of maintaining clear boundaries about who is responsible for what and when it needs to be done.

Each project should have only one project manager who organizes all the players. This guarantees the project will be delivered on time, with proper workmanship.

If a problem needs to be addressed later, there’s no question who is responsible.

This kitchen remodel offered an opportunity to remove a large brick fireplace that dominated the kitchen and living room. The fireplace had an obsolete woodstove insert on one side and a wall oven on kitchen side.

One side of the fireplace was flanked with a pass-through with annoyingly low upper cabinets blocking the view and the light from the kitchen window.

The owners wanted to open things up into more of a great room feel and were willing to do the labor of removing the brick fireplace. We checked the structure carefully and guided the process while the young owners did the brute labor of removing the brickwork.

Since a beam rested on the masonry fireplace, we looked for a way to support the structure without a heavy look. The solution is a Fiberglas load-bearing column that accents the end of the peninsula of cabinets.

The 6-foot column sits on a custom-built pedestal to be just the right height to support the beam. Painted white, it adds a touch of class and looks great.

The new kitchen is a modern mix of maple shaker cabinets with stainless steel appliances and light colored counters. The countertop material is Caesarstone, one of the popular quartz-based solid surfaces, with a tile backsplash and whimsical pebble accent strip.

We installed a Kindred stainless sink with a Grohe single handle faucet. Solid counters allow for undermount sinks, which makes clean up a snap.

The kitchen layout is a U shape with a large peninsula countertop which is a useful space for a multitude of family projects. Built-in bookcases face the living room under half the peninsula, leaving the other half with knee space for stools.

The cabinets include special features such as a built-in wine rack, and glass inserts in the upper cabinets that match other living room furniture glass.

We removed a lowered soffit from the perimeter of the kitchen to make room for 42-inch upper cabinets for maximum storage. A warming drawer is built into the base cabinet below the microwave, which is handy for heating bread or keeping dinner warm when a spouse is working late.

The beautiful madrone flooring was carefully protected during the remodel and we were able to patch where the brick fireplace was removed. The madrone wood provides an interesting variation of color and tone. I also like using local materials when appropriate.

The benefit of opening up the space is multiplied as the living room; kitchen and dining areas are all improved. The main public living area of this home has been effective upgraded for years of living enjoyment. I suppose there will be a day, say about the year 2025 when another builder (hopefully not me!) will suggest putting in more partitions to divide the space to meet the lifestyle of the day.


Andrew Wright, C.R. is a 2004 Contractor of the Year award winning remodeler and a member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and the National Kitchen & Bath Association. He may be reached at WrightBuilt Home Remodel & Design at 272-6657.

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