Glance at any house built during the 1980s and you'll see the large "great room" that dominates most of the first floor. While that design works for many people, it does not fit well in an older home or a new home with a traditional setting. Here's how to create a cozy environment without giving up the large spaces you crave.
The scale of your rooms can be determined by several factors--the size and shape, ceiling height, use of windows, etc. In a kitchen and family room, for example, some people make the mistake of using as much space as possible without segmenting it for different uses. The room then may become a large rectangle without any charm.
The solution is to add a few niches that can be separated by architectural elements, furniture, or even paint treatments. A half wall can separate the main television area from a computer and homework station, for example. Both areas are technically in the same room, but the wall helps define each as a separate space.
Another option is to separate the fireplace seating area with furniture or a unique paint treatment along that wall. Or, if your roofline allows, make the ceiling above the fireplace higher than in the rest of the room.
In the kitchen, the island can have columns that flank the seating area and give the subtle feeling that it is distinct from the cooking area. The adjacent breakfast room can remain open to the kitchen for functionality, but have columns or a partial wall defining it.
The Architect's Role
The architect's role is crucial in this process, as he or she should have the expertise needed to find balance among all the spaces. As you plan a new house, spend some time thinking about the scale of your rooms and how you can effectively blend space and function.
About the Author
Allison E. Beatty is an avid old house enthusiast who has been renovating houses and writing about them for more than 10 years. She contributes regularly to national newspaper, magazines, and web sites. She lives in an 1888 Victorian era home.
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