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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

BrennyAugust 8, 2011
I am looking for advice on what I can do with a long narrow space in the front of our house which acts as an eating area/hallway/entrance way. The area is approx 25 feet long and 8 feet wide, with ceilings that are not quite 8 ft. The eating area is at the south end, and the entrance door faces west so there is a fair amount of light. The area has just been painted and new hardwood floors installed (red oak). I am am looking for suggestions on how best to utilize this space. The house is an old cottage that we have been renovating for some time as you can tell in some of the pics....
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Bud Dietrich, AIA
Hi brennyhenny-

If I understand correctly, when one walks in the front door straight ahead is a blank wall. Turn right and it's the dining area, turn left to get to the living room. To get to the living room from the kitchen area means traveling in a clockwise loop through the hall. How does one get to the bedrooms?

My first reaction is that walking into and around the house needs to be fixed. I looked at your Ideabook and it seems that what you like is very different from what you have. So aligning the two makes sense.

First, is there any chance of opening the hall to the kitchen area and having a window directly opposite the front door. Something that would make the house feel and live larger.

Second, is there a chance of relocating the coat closet to some other area or replacing the closet with a bench and some cubbies? Something that would have a furniture feel rather than more painted drywall.

Third, I'd think of the entry / hallway as gallery, using architectural details to give it rhythm and scale. Maybe coffer the ceiling into thirds and carry that coffering down the walls. Something that would create rooms within the room and define areas.

Have fun and good luck! Hope you get a chance to post after photos when it's all done.
    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 3:34AM
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Hi brennyhenny, I was just wondering if the eating area to the right of the entry is your primary eating/entertaining area, or do you have a separate dining elsewhere? If so there are several options you could take regarding the orientation and dressing of the rooms. :-)
    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 7:37AM
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Yes, the eating area is our primary and only eating area. Access to the bedrooms and bathroom are at the opposite end of the kitchen. the whole home is approx 1,000 sq ft.
    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 8:06AM
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Awww pity I was going to suggest it become a breakfast/kitchen nook, I'll still put up my ideas (I hope you don't mind I took the pics and edited them with drawings, all be it crudely) I'll post up my ideas and hopefully you can at least see my vision for the space once I'm done ;-) I must say I love the floors!! :-)
    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 9:10AM
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Ok so here was my idea (I'm not a professional, simply a home owner with a vast amount of renovations across three different households so please don't judge too harshly :-P). So my first idea was the kitchen I was wondering if that beam and partitioning wall was load bearing and from the pictures I presume it is so either it would need to remain there or perhaps if the right supporting in joist work was implemented you could open it up, which lead me to my first idea I hadn't realized it was your primary eating area and had hopes of turning it into a breakfast nook similar to the one you have in your ideabook which you said you loved (I did too!! :-)). So my idea consisted of putting in a fitted cabinet that would measure between the space of the existing partition. It would if space permitted hopefully be a double door cabinet and shelf space and be aligned with the edge of the existing wall so it doesn't intrude on the kitchen area yet still seems part of it. Stools around the opposite side would permit a eating breakfast nook where the existing dining is.
The next image demonstrates the transition of elements from the entry hall (which is big-ish, and open at least from the pics :-S) Anyway, The wall that the door shares with the dining would be the perfect spot for a dark wood display modular unit, this ties in nicely with your love of dark wood and your could easily place any decorative pieces (such as the beautiful plants :-)) In the cubed storage and it would allow for a better greeting then such vast amounts of painted plaster walls (not that there's anything wrong with that, I just thought to liven it up? :-?) Moving on the small wall space you have between the door and the entrance into the lounge would be perfect for a bench or some form of seating, with a beautiful piece of art above the bench just high enough to be above the seated person's head and be reflected in the mirrored storage across the way. The existing unit can then be shifted to the wall
    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 9:46AM
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Oh! :-( There's a limit to the number of characters in a post! Half of my explanation was cut off, oh well I guess the rest was just basically going through what the pics displayed and choices I suggest... My final message, read that whatever you choose to do just make sure you're happy with it and that it's functional and comfortable!
All the best, cheers from Eddy ;-).
    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 9:52AM
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Any questions about my suggestions just post it here and I'll assist where and when I can ;-)
    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 9:53AM
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Hi there eddy_eww: Thank you very much for the suggestions! I really do like them, and some of the ideas (like the breakfast nook and moving the existing piece from one wall to the other and adding a mirror above it to open the entrance area and make it more inviting, brighter, and give it a larger appearance) we have played around with ourselves. I like the way you think! I also like the idea of the cube storage unit to use up the large wall space. I have been really racking my brain as to what to do with that area. My other idea was to hang a series of three vertical paintings to tie the eating area to the entrance area. What do you think about that?
    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 6:32PM
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Also, since we are looking at sort of a contemporary cottage theme, what type of furnishing would you suggest i.e table and chairs.
    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 6:34PM
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Hi there brennyhenny, I'm glad you liked the ideas, I like your idea about the paintings, here's one example of three artworks/photos across a bare wall that I liked:


Additionally it's very tricky to specify what sort of contemporary furniture should be used in the room as a lot of the time contemporary is a matter of personal preference. You appear to have dark furniture and that seems to complement the floors well, additionally for your dining if you wanted a more spacious feel try glass or opaque surfaces. Another thing to consider is size and shape, in your instance to help tie-in the space a round table would work as it mimics the nice arcs in the lead-lights of both the kitchen and entry doors. Alternatively you could use a straight-edged table such as a square or rectangle as you've got now because of the space (or combine the two and get a softened-edge rectangular or square-shaped table). The chairs should also somehow collaborate with the table. When all these elements become meshed together, it's tricky I know believe me, but once you've found a piece you love you will find a way to make it work! :-)

I guess if push came to shove I would go with a rectangular table with rounded edges, sturdy legs and frame, yet the surface material would be something like glass, I'd get chairs that were slightly curved in the backrest for comfort yet still sleek and modern/contemporary. The wall I'd go with the paintings in the three's alignment (as the cubed storage could be a little bit too space hungry) plus this way you could splurge and allow for the dining to take up more room in the entrance hall....??
    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 1:30AM
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Then again there is always the timelessness of chrome and glass, not particularly cottage contemporary, more apartment modern but you can see how the small tables and glass surfaces permit a larger sense of worth and space:
    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 1:37AM
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I really like the dining area solution with the cabinet replacing the blank wall separating kitchen and dining area. Maximizing any option for storage is never wrong!

For the dining option, consider a banquet along the exterior wall, a table of appropriate size and style to your tastes, and 2-3 chairs. Banquets can accommodate 4 (2 at each end, 2 on the back) with 2 on the outside, depending on dimensions. Houzz has some really snazzy dining banquet photos that make me want one! And what a space saver.

The entry will require some architectural construction. A wall of a series of floor-to-ceiling columns would create an entry. The cube shelving jutting out from the wall (only 2 units wide instead of 3) would create a good divider and a place to have a bowl for dropping keys, plants, etc. It's easy to anchor it by attaching it to the ceiling and floor. By being open, it would avoid the closed-in effect. A great rug in the entry would accentuate it's function -- you'd be amazed how much dirt that gets tracked in will stop at that rug!

THe mirror closet doors don't seem to go with your decor. Is it chic cottage? French doors with frosted glass is an alternative. (You can't get them with frosted glass so you apply a film on the inside to create the "frosted" look, or you paint the inside with a transluscent product.)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 4:50PM
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Hi Eddy: I really liked the pics in the link that you provided...also, the style of the room! It is very similar to our living room, just with the colors reversed (dark furniture instead of light and light floors instead of dark.....you get the idea). The table idea has given me some food for thought also. The glass would really open up the space with its transparency...creating the illusion of a larger space, which I like as our house is on the small side.
    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 7:51PM
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Hello inkwitch: I have actually thought of the frosted glass doors before, but not French frosted glass doors...very nice! Not sure what you mean by a "banquet". Could you possibly provide a link to a pic so that I can have a visual. Also, you mentioned a cube shelf jutting out from the wall to provide a separation...I am assuming you mean jutting out at a right angle to the wall near the entrance door? I also agree with a rug in area...just not sure where as I think a rug under the dining table would also be nice..but I do not want to chop up the space too much.
    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 7:57PM
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The DIY Homegirl
My thought is to use something to divide the space & clearly identify a foyer area. You could do this with a large piece of furniture perpendicular to the wall that has the front door (such as the bookcase suggested by eddy_ewww). I see you like plants too, so you could maybe do this with a "wall" of plants? Not sure how your lighting is for those though. Or maybe you could have something constructed as a semi-wall that would serve as a coat-hanging area combined with a bench and hooks? That would then free up your closet by the entrance, if you're storing coats there.
    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 8:24PM
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I like to suggest the cheap and functional fix over the intensive and expensive fix. First, I'm not a fan of the mirrored closet door. I had those same doors in my very small bedroom. I replaced them with white 6 panel bifolds. I was afraid that losing the mirror would make the room smaller, but it didn't- or if it did, I surely didn't notice because I was so glad to be rid of what I felt were tacky mirrors. It looks so much better and it's much more functional because I can get to the center of the closet, which you cannot easily do with those mirrored sliders. So I'd recommend that to start. As long as you have a good light fixture there, I think it should be fine. I would then suggest replacing the plants with a built in bench with cubbies for baskets beneath and hooks and shelves above for hats and coats. I don't know how to post links here but check out the Brady at Pottery Barn and that will give you an idea of what I am talking about. I'm thinking about a substantial piece, not just disconnected parts like the Samantha- and in white. If you are handy, you could easily build that yourself on the cheap. Then I would Board & Batten the entire front wall and around the eating area- also in white. Again, super cheap and all you need is a chop saw and a nail gun. It would look great with the chunky window frames that you already have! Then paint and hang a series of large art pieces above the rail. If you were to change your dining table, I would go with a dark wood like your coffee table and keep the rectangular shape. I personally would not choose a glass center because it seems like a pain to keep it clean and I'm a little bit (okay, a lot bit) of a perfectionist. I think these changes would fit with your living room style and be easy on the budget. Try the lumber and paint before you go knocking down walls and custom building (and upholstering) banquettes, which is a lot more expensive than you would think. You can always make the big changes later if the small
    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 8:45AM
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(con't) don't do it for you. Whatever you decide, definitely come back and post "after"pics. It's so fun to see the changes! Good luck and happy shopping!
    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 8:49AM
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I agree creating a seperation from the dining area would be nice. I would do it by hanging a huge old window with panes from the ceiling- authentic look window or one painted a cool color. Then I would add my rug, plants, unbrella stand, etc. to personalize the space. An entry table or shelving unit for shoes etc. might look nice at the base of the window. Would keep people from leaning against it and help reinforce the divide.
    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 12:00PM
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Congrats on the floors--they look great! I would also do the following: (1) See if you can tear down the half wall that separates the kitchen and dining area. This will open up the space immensely. (2) Expand the wood floors into the kitchen (if you haven't already; I can't tell from the photos). (3) Put a buffet/credenza by the kitchen door; this can double as storage for dishes and provide a place for you to put your keys. (4) Get a round or very narrow rectangular dining room table that is either glass; lucite; or white, whitewashed, or pickled wood. (5) Get a large, cheerful area rug for the foyer (see dashandalbert.com). (6) If you use a rug in the dining area, choose something that coordinates with the foyer rug and is super easy to clean since it's in the dining area. (7) Take out the mirrored closet and put in a cubbie area with hooks and a bench (see Better Homes and Gardens August 2011 issue--they have a story on an open foyer like yours). (8) Lighten up the look in the living room. The couches are nice, but replace the coffee table with ceramic garden stools, which can also double as seating (see West Elm, Ballard Designs, Z Gallerie). Get colorful pillows and an area rug. (9) Use large art on the walls throughout the home to make the space feel bigger. Hope that helps. GOOD LUCK!
    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 12:46PM
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debb v
I think I'd place a big heavy rug in front of the door. Maybe it could be offset leading guests in whichever direction you want to draw their attention, the kitchen or the living area. Match an area rug for the living room to bring them together. The mirrored closet doors are too cool for your space. Replacement doors are cheap and you could paint the entry door and closet doors something warm to match each other and coordinate with the rug. The desk as an entry table is a great idea to keep clutter out of site and being sure of always finding your keys. We've made a charging station in ours by running a multi outlet surge protector into the back of the drawer for plugging in phone and laptop chargers. Since it is so nice I'd place it on the wall where the plants are and put a bench/storage seat w/mirror over it next to the door. Let the plants divide the table and entry door by creeping into the room just a bit but making it easy to walk around them until you decide on whether you want a divider or not. You could certainly do a banquette with a new table and upholstered chairs that you can pull up in the living room when you have guests. I love eddy-eww's idea of cabinets between kitchen and dining if you have the space. It will look so much more finished when it has paint on the doors and trim work.
    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 1:37PM
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don't feel obligated u have to fill every spot. think functional over looks in the end is the functionality you have to live with.. it's like picking a mate lol
    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:20AM
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TM N55
First you live in a cottage and your kitchen cabinets and entry door windows set the tone for your space. More on the traditional side. The sketches shown above are excellent help in my opinion. Agree, loose the mirror bypass and do bi-fold doors. Tie the wood of the furniture together in all rooms. A nice rug for the front entry door is imperative, for defining and collecting dirt. The wall in the kitchen entry has a heater vent. IF you were to build a cabinet there, you'd have to have to build it so the bottom of the cabinet reaches to just the top of the vent. So what you store in that cabinet has to be heatproof. Also place a piece of granite on that overpass. You could also get a nice shoe rack for that space, and paint that half wall with chalkboard paint for family notes. Before the bypass door where the plants are, move the desk from the left of the front entry. You can use this as office space (kept tidy).
Then to the left of the entry door place a half circular table, open underneath. This is where you can place just about anything (seasonal) under it. Large enough to hold keys and purse of guests. Mirror above it on the wall. Change out the light fixtures for dining and to the left of the front entry and above the bifolds. These should be somewhat matching and this is where you need to really take your time. The light over the bifolds will be a secondary focal point. A bench with attached hutch would work well across from the bifold doors (extra storage). The first thing people see when they walk in is really the window in the living room. Solid color with sheen drapes and maybe a wing back chair (dramatic pattern) in that corner with a plant under the window may be a nice focal point. You may be able to find one that is slightly used and then reupholster it or wait for sales.
    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 9:45AM
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I love all the great suggestions here. I once had an small apartment the needed dividing and what we did back then was hang a 6 ft. horizontal blind from the ceiling. Leaving the slats open didn't make the room feel enclosed. I'm not a fan of either horizontal or vertical blinds but I must admit it didn't look bad at all. I saw vertical blinds used as a living room/dining room divider somewhere else too and it looked pretty nice. The slats on this one were 3 different colours if my memory serves me right. Mine was black as the entire area was black and white with just pops of colour here and there.
    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:27PM
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Interior Connections
Excellent ideas. On a simpler note, I suggest replacing the closet doors with something more visually interesting and warm such a darker wood (the same wood tone as the desk across from it). A skylight in the entryway would brighten up the space and I like the idea of the console/buffet with a mirror above it where the water cooler is. You could put a bench to the right of the door across from the console/buffet with a grouping of pictures above it to balance out the space. An open bench would still allow air flow from the vent in the floor. A big colorful picture or an interesting artifact above the desk would add visual interest. Good luck!!!
    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 9:49AM
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If possible, I would remove the closet, creating a clean, more formal wall facing the door-- where you could hang a large mirror (would make the narrow
space seem more open) over a console --possibly flanked by trees, like ficus, that would help to define the area as an entry and separate it from the dining area.

I would remove the water cooler and any other items that felt too casual.

Finally, the light over the door could be replaced with something more decorative/formal (realize that there is no room for a chandelier, but there are some nice flush-mounted ceiling fixtures-- And, a coordinating chandelier
over the dining table along with a rug under the table would better define the dining area--
    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 3:58PM
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A fun project. Some thoughts, remove closet wall replace with a armoire off center and to the right an occassional chair with a small tray on top for a candle, dish for keys etc.and add mirror over the chair, add a small chandlier in place of the ceiling light. Put a screen to the left of door going out or an open piece of furniture to give you a feeling of two spaces, angle your dining table if possible remove wall to kitchen and make an arch into the kitchen. Where the water cooler is put sofa style table to serve from, you could put your plants behind the screen. These are very quick thoughts hope a few stick and will help.
    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 4:53PM
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There are some good ideas here, though I tend to lean towards any removing of walls in a home that just had the hardwood floors redone. The biggest issue I see is the entry feeling smaller than everything else. The way to make it feel bigger is by adding light there, and subtracting it elsewhere. Remove the mirrors from the coat closet doors. Add mirrors and sconces to the wall across from the doorway. The sconces will serve as a transition feature: bringing a little outside in. Remove the plant across from the door and place a skinny legged bench under the mirror. Avoid any solid base bench. The goal is to keep it light and airy. Something with turned legs would reinforce the cottage feel. Take the entry table and turn it perpendicular to the front wall to separate the dining area. To bring it all together, paint it the same white as your cabinets. Consider adding a cap shelf to your half wall and encasing that akward, skinny bit in a column. Also consider adding a chair rail and paneling on the bottom half of the dining area, beginning with the half wall and ending with the back of the entry table.
    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 4:47AM
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Tend *not* to
    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 4:50AM
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Some great ideas here! The only one I wouldn't go with would be the more modern table and chairs. Go for graceful turned leg furniture, it will keep the cottage feel and also keep the space light. Also an area rug and lighting always zones a space, whether you choose to use a barrier with shelving, bench, table, half wall, whatever.
    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 7:16PM
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good ideas and I agree with many: replace the mirror doors, place a nice bench in your style (leather? woven rush?) where the desk/table is now and- placing a-- taller cabinet or open bookcase or even a nice buffet perpendicular to the door/next to the closet ( in the cornor of the eating area, facing the eating area) could give you a real entry and dining space with dining space features. for the living room area: art, color, soften the angles. Near the kitchen entry a lattice work frame with space for one to three plants would be nice and airy in that area. the small white upper cabinet looks...small and boxy there. Wondering if you can reoved it and add some decorative brackets and shelves? Something a bit classic maybe? Would give you a chance to add a plant to play off the other side of the door. Good luck!
    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 11:17PM
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    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 11:27PM
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what about something like this for your eating area...cozy but modern.
Nantucket Orange Street · More Info
. Where you have the water cooler you could put Ikea shelving units. They are only $70 a piece. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20213312/. Great for storing baskets, books, toys, etc. Where you have the long table by the door I like your idea of big art. Home Goods always has large pieces affordable. Lots of color would be my choice. To the left of the door you may want to hang a coat rack http://www.allmodern.com/Umbra-Sticks-Molded-Wall-Hook-in-Espresso-318211-213-UMB1530.html (lots of choices at this site) and a wicker basket underneath for flip flops and shoes as people come in.
    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 12:11AM
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