1950's ranch remodel- should we make open floorplan?

kelliaOctober 11, 2012

I'd finally picked the cabinets and counters for our kitchen remodel. Now, dh thinks we should either take the wall out or make it a half wall so it's open between the kitchen and living room. We have a 1950's ranch with the typical floor plan- walk in the front door into the living room, walk through into the eating area with kitchen to the left, with a big wall dividing the kitchen and living room.

I'd like an open floor plan, but am worried since the house isn't huge like we see in the magazines it will just look cramped. He was thinking of putting an island or bar where the wall is, so I'm also afraid of losing cabinets when we take that wall out.

What do you think? Is it worth it? Has anyone done this and do you have pictures? I've looked online but can't find any for houses that are only 1400 sq feet! Thanks for any advice!

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Can you post a floor plan? That will help us know.

Here are some things to think about. Is the wall load-bearing? Do you want people to see into the kitchen first thing when they walk in the door? Do you like having people watching you work, or do you prefer some privacy? Will you have enough cabinet space if you don't have the wall?

For me, the answers meant that our wall stayed up.

I recommend that you mock up layouts with and without the wall and see how it looks. I couldn't make our kitchen work well without the wall, even if we had left a half wall up. Also our wall included a brick fireplace (in addition to being load-bearing), so it was just not worth the effort and cost to take it out given that open floor plans drive me nuts anyway.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:21PM
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I love my open floor plan. When we have guests, I can talk to them and be in the kitchen without feeling isolated.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:26PM
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I suppose to be fair I should add that in our neighborhood, the houses where people have torn down walls to create a contemporary-looking open floor plan (if they didn't tear down the whole house) do seem to have a higher resale value than the ones with the original rooms intact. Of course this could be because everything looks fresh and new... Anyway, just because I don't like open floor plans doesn't mean that other people don't.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:26PM
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We have a 1951 rambler (ranch) and we are about to massively transform it. We are keeping the galley style kitchen, but opening the load bearing wall to the living room to have a small bar area. We are adding a dining room off the back of the kitchen with cathedral ceilings and a wall of windows. We are moving the stairs to the basement out of the kitchen and into the main living space. We are also putting a new master bedroom, bath and walk in closet off the back. The small room that is a little bedroom is going to become the new library/tv room. It shares the wall with the kitchen, but will be separated by the new staircase to the basement. The load baring wall will also be removed there so the whole living area will be open. We currently have 1125 sq feet and with the addition, we will have about 1600. the kitchen will also be open over the staircase into the library, think half wall of cabinets and I will be able to see the kids in there. There will be lots of light pouring into the house and I just cannot wait! Construction starts Monday!

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 5:51PM
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A vote for no-ditto what northcarolina said. You might wind up with a fabulous kitchen and no other real living rooms. No place to escape to. All your clutter and mess will be right with you and any guests. Imo, natural light, and it's daytime light only, is overrated. So what, you do have electric lights which can be cranked up way high.

I am in favor of open kitchens when you have a relatively big house. But again, there are many fans of open kitchens. I just wonder what those folks feel like five years after they dispensed with a living room and dining area just to have a bigger kitchen. The jury is still out on that one.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 6:37PM
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a 1400 sq foot home is not a large family home.Therefore when the mix of 2 to max of 4 people reside there,it is more cramped to be moving through"rooms". By opening it up, the together and open feeling is an enhancement many times.If the family members depend on privacy and strict zones for activities,this is not the home for them anyway. Be realistic. An open environment that promotes flow and movement can be very positive-when selling time comes-not every buyer will want the plan,but not every buyer will want the home anyway. If you are concerned about storage-start scrutinizing the hidden spots avail-is there a garage wall?-you can do shallow tall storage between studs-or even carve out space from the garage,sometimes.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 7:32PM
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I've got a 1952 1,000 SF ranch we've been living in for about a decade and we are tearing the wall down between the entry/living and the kitchen as part of our remodel. Initially, I liked the separate rooms and enjoyed that for a while. However, the LR is small and dark and tricky to work with. Things were always just awkward. We decided it will actually become more functional with the wall down and give the ILLUSION of space, anyway. Also, the back yard is on the green belt and one of the things that sold us on the house. We want to bring the light and views into the house more.

We haven't finalized layout but will likely be going with a peninsula with some seating that can swivel into the LR or look over the counter into the kitchen and out into the back yard. I was a bit worried about the beam, though a few neighbors have done that and it actually looks great. We found out we could do the beam in the ceiling and my partner got it done the day after he got the engineer's drawings. It was so simple - and dust free. With our short ceilings, I think it will work well, though again, I like my neighbors' beams.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 9:21PM
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I vote for tearing down the wall! Though, it is difficult to say 100% without seeing the plans.

My current house is a similar ranch style and taking down the wall has made our small space feel huge! Now we always have people are always commenting on how big they think our house is.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 10:09PM
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I have been agonizing over this decision for our small ranch too! I think it really depends on how you use the space, how much you entertain, whether you need to see kids playing, etc.

I agree that it would definitely make your space read bigger but think about whether it works for how you/yours function in the space. I was really appreciating my wall tonight as I was cooking dinner and listening to the debate in the kitchen while my son had his piano lesson in the living room...

I too would love to see people's before and after pics of small ranchers with remodeled open plans..

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 11:50PM
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kitchen_maman, why are you bothering to keep the house? It's going to look like a cat stuck his head in a tiny box and can't get out. There's a big cat body behind the box.

At least in my imagination. [LOL]

I didn't take down the wall that would be between the dining room and living room (load bearing, don't want people looking into my mess,) but I did take out the wall between the kitchen and dining area. The kitchen and DR are along the living room, with the load bearing wall between them.

So I opened up my 1974 2400 SF ranch (after a fire, 28 in a nice way, but still have some front door privacy. That, 4 sliders, and 5' tall windows bring in a lot of light.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 12:44AM
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Have you checked out the before and afters at www.housetweaking.com? It is a blog run by a woman who is in the process of remodeling her second house, a small 50s-era (I think) ranch. They opened the space--walls and ceiling--up beautifully.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 7:24AM
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Don't know if this does anything for you or if it would work for your space, but it's been my inspiration for a modified open floorplan:

Here is a link that might be useful: Removing Kitchen Walls

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 9:16AM
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Currently selling my 1950's 1500 sq ft ranch that I just finished renovating. My construction would not allow me to open up the kitchen to the living room (the basement stairs are between the two so it was impossible). But I did open up both ends of kitchen to the adjoining rooms (a little den and the dining room) and the change was amazing. I originally had intended to put a half wall back between the kitchen and the den but once it was open I knew I had to keep it that way and changed the kitchen layout to work around the opening.

I vote open it up.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 11:30AM
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CEF, even dumping $300,000 into our house, we would have to spend more than twice that to get what we want elsewhere. It is expensive in my neck of the woods! We are in an awesome neighborhood, with great neighbors, amazing school system (to stay in this school system we would have to pay double AND remodel) and we are very close to metro, shops, DC etc. we love our house and we want to make it ours! Our kitchen will only be about 120 sq ft. Same size. The four of us fit here perfectly. :)

I hate needing lights during daylight hours so lots of natural light appeals to me. we also have a very nice back yard and look forward to the views. I used to really like separation. Now, I like a little, with some more open spaces. Our living area is actually large compared to the rest of the house. Just because you open it up doesn't mean you will lose the other spaces. I think it really depends on how you want to live your life in your home. What is important to you won't be important to others. I think if you live your personal life in a way where you are always saying "gosh, I wish this were more open so that I could (fill in the blank)" then I think it you should really consider it. I don't think you need a huge house to make yours more open. JMHO.

I am considering posting updates on the small house forum.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 3:25PM
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Noise is a potential big problem, too, especially with the current predominant style of stone surfaces and no curtains or other sound-absorbing materials. Would conflict between kitchen noise and TV or stereo be irritating for anyone?

That said, if you want it open, why not cut the difference? Put a good-size window or opening in that wall and fit in some charming glass doors, really good quality and style (like French doors but short) that would look great both open and closed, maybe over a display shelf spanning the wall below, or a really great looking cabinet. You could leave the glass clear to see through all the time, put shirred red-and-green fabric panels on them at Christmas, use frosted glass or go shoji style etc., etc.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 5:06PM
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I thought of the housetweaking blog too; her remodeled open space looks great. My husband and I just moved out of a ranch with a very open plan, and skylights - we loved it, and I thought the open space worked great, even in a small home (1200 sq. ft.). Actually, I think it made the home feel larger. (DH had vaulted the ceilings too, before we met.) We had a half wall, a foot higher than counter height, between the kitchen and dining spaces. That helped block the kitchen clutter, but keep the open feel. We sold it this summer, and got three offers in the first week - so others liked it too! When we were looking at new homes, I remember disliking the ones that had a completely separate kitchen.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 6:57PM
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