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A question of proportion


Houses evolve as families grow or new homeowners take over and customize the home for themselves.

Often people feel that they need more space, and the simplest solution is to add a big room on the back of the house. The problem is that usually a room is sacrificed to access the space, creating an awkward, unusable space for a hallway.

I like to use a more delicate approach and modify the house resulting in a much smaller addition, or bump-out or no addition at all.


This home had an addition. A big family room (A) was added to provide the kind of space the homeowners wanted to live in. The former living room (B) became a dining room that was the size of two of their bedrooms (C & D) combined. 

This four-bedroom house had only one bathroom (E) and a half bath (F). The third bedroom (G) was as small as the other two, however, bedroom (H) was considered the master bedroom because it was larger. There was only one closet and no master bathroom.

The kitchen (I) was an alley kitchen. The breakfast room (J) was actually the “prime space” of this house because of the amount of natural light coming from two directions.

I can only assume that the wasted space (K) was originally the dining room, and sacrificed as the entry to the family room (A).

There was an attached garage (L), which was never used as a garage because it was too narrow. Opening car doors while inside was a challenge.  This space was just used as storage. The connection to the house (M) was at the door and stairs to the basement.

The prime concern to these homeowners at this time was the kitchen. The loved the breakfast room and didn’t like the dining room or the wasted space between the kitchen and the family room. It just felt “weird” and they didn’t know how to fix it. They were ready for a new kitchen and didn’t want to simply replace the cabinets.


The thing that was bothering me the most was the out-of-proportion dining room (B). It wasted more space than the wasted space area (K).  I chose to extend the kitchen (N) into that space, narrowing it and making it more of a proper dining room (B).

The flue (O) had to move. The furnace has already been replaced with a side-venting flue, so it was only the water heater in the basement that needed the flue. They decided it was time to replace the water heater with a tankless one and relocated the flue.  The wall (P) moved enough to allow a two-foot counter, 2.5-foot aisle space, an island and another aisle space. What remained were one-foot-deep cabinets along the wall of the basement stairs. We intentionally extended the kitchen and island into the wasted space (K) to connect more with the family room (A). 

The front counter with the sink angles toward the entry and is open to the breakfast room (J). The kitchen no longer feels confined.

We then added a closet-style pantry (Q) and a vacuum closet (R). We claimed the back on the unused garage (L) for a laundry room (S), conveniently located off the kitchen. We insulated all the walls for sound. The remainder of the garage continues to function well for storage (L).

The master bedroom (H) was improved with some bathroom re-arrangement. We transformed the half bath (F) into a three-quarter-bath (T) by moving the door and adding a three-foot square shower.  Then, the hall bath (E) and bedroom (G) gave way to a master bath (U). We did not move the toilets, saving a bit of money  The master shower is 5’ by 5’.  The door to the master bedroom (V) was shifted and we were able to add a walk-in closet (W).

Now the entire house works well and has all the amenities that families are looking for today.

 Marcia Lyon is a professional remodeling designer and freelance writer, producing projects in Western New York and across the U.S. and Canada. Reach her by email: or call 515-991-1300.

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