On Crazy Ideas & Not Picking Up The Hammer

Obviously I’ve spent a lot more time in the Pink Parlor in the last few days than I have in the last few months, and usually when I spend a lot of time in one space, I start getting ideas.

You probably know me well enough to know that these ideas are rarely in the vein of, “Oh, maybe I’ll rearrange the furniture in here…” because a.) I don’t even have furniture in most of my rooms, and b.) that would be a normal, sane thing to think. As opposed to what naturally comes into my head, which is, “Oh, maybe I’ll knock part of that wall down.”

For example…


(Note: That wainscoting and trim is going to be white come Tuesday evening, and the walls– which I painted BMoore’s November Rain some time ago–are actually going to go a few shades lighter I think.)

I’ve been pondering the layout in this room. The small bedroom (#4) through that door will eventually be my home office. And it occurred to me that the setup is very similar to the way the living room, fireplace, and study were laid out at Memorial..


I could open the spaces up to each other a bit more in my current layout, if I do this…


Okay, wait a minute. Before we talk about hammers and drywall and smashing things, can we please talk about why the shit–out of 3000 square feet–the cat chooses to vomit on my unsealed hardwood floors? Ask me what I’m going to be doing tomorrow night. Oh, you know, sanding cat vomit off of my unsealed hardwood floors, which apparently act like a sponge when exposed to unsavory feline substances.


So anyway, here’s what the future office looks like…


That’s the view from the doorway, and then you can see from the other direction where the fireplace is located…


The door to the right goes to the downstairs bathroom (which you can enter here or off the mudroom/hallway) and having that more accessible doesn’t hurt my feelings.

On one hand, I think it makes a lot of sense to open the space up, but I’ve already got about 8 months of work piled on my other hand, so that part of me is saying that I should leave well enough alone.

The job itself would require:

  1. Knocking out the existing wall
  2. Moving any electric located in that wall  (3 switches and an outlet)
  3. Putting a supporting beam overhead because it is a load-bearing wall
  4. Patching up the drywall
  5. Rethinking the current fireplace mantel (which I’m doing anyway)

It’s probably about a weekend’s worth of work, but not something that needs to be done immediately. Don’t worry, I haven’t picked up the hammer (yet.) But as I plan out and finish up this space, I would like to make a final decision on if the wall stays or goes. Here is the list of internal arguments that keep running through my head whenever I look at the wall.

[On the fact that it will officially turn my 4 bedroom house into a 3 bedroom house.]

Me (pro hammer): I will never use this room as a bedroom, and I already have more bedrooms than I could possibly need with the three upstairs.

Me (pro sanity): The value of the house will be higher with four bedrooms.

Me (pro hammer): Why is this relevant?

Me (pro sanity): Good point. But it would make a good downstairs guest room with the adjoining bathroom…

Me (pro hammer): Once the master is done, there will be an entire unused full bath upstairs that guests can use. Plus I’m not turning this into a guest room, so it’s a moot point. Plus I’m planning on building an actual guest house on the property eventually.

Me (pro sanity): You could have three kids one day.

Me (pro hammer): Never.

Me (pro sanity): You could get knocked up with triplets.

Me (pro hammer): Then I would go live in the guest house, obviously.

[On the fact that there will be no door on the office.]

Me (pro sanity): You will not be able to just close the door on your office mess when people come over.

Me (pro hammer): This mistakenly assumes the rest of my house is not a complete effing disaster. You walk into my house, you see a mess. You don’t want to see a mess, walk into someone elses house.

Me (pro sanity): You may want to shut the door to your office for privacy.

Me (pro hammer): I live alone. In the middle of nowhere. More privacy is a little redundant at this point.

Me (pro sanity): Humor me, for the sake of versatility.

Me (pro hammer): Okay, fine, it would be nice to have the option to close the room off, but I could build custom doors for a wider space if necessary.

[On adding another project to the list]

Me (pro sanity): This is not necessary, may not add that much to the space, and just adds one more thing to the list.

Me (pro hammer):

Me (pro sanity): Plus it could make the room look a little unbalanced.

Me (pro sanity): Plus you know these things always escalate into bigger projects. You’re going to find an issue with rewiring or the subfloor or something and this is going to be a fiasco.

Me (pro hammer): Since when has the potential for a fiasco ever stopped me?

So, yeah. I really am undecided, but as you can see, I have the ability to talk myself into pretty much anything. What do you think about this room? Would you take out the door and open the space up, or leave it as is?

90 Responses

  1. I realize this might be even MORE work, but what about making the office opening match the arched one on the other side of the room?
    But…I also like the mantel, so I’m voting to keep that at the same time. Impossible?

    1. Nothing is impossible! Well, shooting lasers out of my eyeballs is highly unlikely, but other than that…

    1. I know, right? I’m not even sure if I want to, but I’ll still feel like I wussed out if I don’t. lol.

  2. I don’t see the benefit. I’m building a downstairs conservatory (future bedroom) with bath for the time when I can no longer scale the steps to the 2nd floor. It’s approaching much faster than I was expecting. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

    1. Ha. When the time comes that I can’t scale the steps I don’t think I’ll be taking care of this 6 acres of property on my own either…

  3. I vote to leave it, but I’m usually over-rational. You have bigger priorities, you can change it any time in the future and it sounds like it will require the same amount of work, whether it’s now or later. How about a glass door between the 2 rooms.

    1. It will be the same amount of work, right up until I replace the floor in that bedroom… that will be the point of no return. I’d say it’s at least 4 months down the road, though.

  4. I gotta vote pro sanity. I think that it’d look pretty unbalanced opened up that close to the fireplace and as a gal who keeps a pretty messy office I really can’t see the advantage in an office that open.

    Do you plan to move GIANT pieces of furniture into the office (thereby necessitating a large opening)? Probably not… and if so you could always just build it in the room.

    I’d say keep it as it is; pop a bookshelf on the other side of the fireplace and you have balance while keeping vintage charm and sanity (arguably equally as important). Besides, you can always change your mind later.

    1. The balance thing is definitely more of my worry! I might have to do a photoshop mockup (a better one) before I tear anything down!

  5. I had to make a decision last year about whether to kick out the wall between my main bathroom and one of my bedrooms to enlarge the bath and make MY bedroom bigger with a walk-in closet. I was advised by TWO different relators that I know NOT to eliminate a bedroom because it would definitly bring the market value down significantly.

    Add to that the fact that you have no idea what your future holds. You may have others come live with you or may decide to move and sell. Did you see yourself moving out of the Liberty House? If someone had told me ten years ago I’d be out on 3 acres by myself I would have NEVER believed them. I have moved at least three times since I was your age… You just never know, and the thing I have really learned? Sometimes you have NO control over the situation either.

    1. I see myself only willingly leaving the Liberty House in a body bag! lol. This house and property has everything I could ever want, and a lifetime of projects to keep me busy… you definitely can’t plan for everything, but I don’t think I would really be able to make this house my own if I filtered every decision through “what if things change” either.

      1. Yeah well I still, over ten years later, can’t even drive buy the house I had to sell in town. Thought I would always live there. It’s still my dream house. And I would be so happy still living there. But, it was not to be… You just never know.

  6. If it were between the kitchen and another room, sure, kill it. But what exactly is going to be better about having a big open flow into a room that’s kind of a dead end anyway? An office is a place to go to shut the world out and focus on paying those sweet, sweet bills. I’d be willing to bet that there’s a job in the shop that will be a better use of your time.

    1. Interestingly it’s kind of the other way around for me. Almost all of my waking hours in the house (that aren’t spent working on it) are at my computer, where I do all of my writing, photo editing, etc. So I kind of don’t want to be shut up in one tiny room for the majority of my time in the house. If it was more open I might feel more connected to the rest of the living space, and the office might feel more relaxed and casual than “crazy writer holed up in her office.” Which, is a lot of work to go through for something that is essentially semantics, I guess!

  7. Don’t eliminate a bedroom. It kills resale value. You could always install a glass panel door. You get the visual flow without sacrificing a bedroom.

  8. Another vote for leaving it be for now – for pretty much all the same reasons already mentioned.

    Love seeing how your mind works!

  9. As someone who has been knocked up with triplets (and the pregnancy was the easy part…), I can say that you cannot overestimate the value of a 4th bedroom. Or, a nice white room with padded walls. Either configuration is appropriate when one has 3 two year olds.

    Also, I might be old-fashioned, but I like the idea of doors and walls. Open concept might be de rigeur at the moment, but I think we’ll eventually gravitate towards a more conventional layout. Sometimes, you really want to shut out the world/mess/howling progeny.

    1. I can’t even… triplets? Sandra, you amaze me. The thought of running herd on just one two-year-old makes me feel, uh, ill-equipped.

      Unless life throws me a serious curveball though (and let’s be honest, there’s not a lot of years left for that) I’m pretty sure my only progeny will be the cat. And clearly he’s enough for me to handle! Come to think of it, I may want to keep the door just to shut him out. lol.

  10. Value= Money=Relevant. Find another project. You might enjoy being able to close the door and keep it extra toasty in the winter. Grand ole ladies like yours don’t appreciate their footprints messed with. There is an integrity to it as is.

    1. Ha. I don’t think finding another project is my problem.

      This old lady (the house, not me) has already pretty much been re-printed. In fact, now that you mention it this might be the only interior wall that hasn’t already been messed with or removed… that’s actually very interesting!

  11. Another vote for sanity. Leave it as is. In looking at your first photo, I realized that I have the exact same chandelier in my home office that was once the dining room. And I can’t wait to replace it. But of course, then I’ll have to replace the three other coordinating light fixtures at the same time, since I have an open floor plan. Grr. Focus. Focus on the task at hand and don’t listen to your whispering hammer.

  12. I’m in the “Leave it” camp. Or rather, if it were my house, I’d probably get rid of the door and continue the wall :o) but I’m weird and not pro open-concept at all.

    1. You probably would not want to only be able to enter the room through the bathroom though! lol.

  13. I also vote to leave it the way it is. It’s going to look very silly with the opening that close to the fireplace. Plus, I agree that there’s no reason to open it up…no one wants to look into an office from a family room (that’s why there’s all those closed hutches on desks and things). Open concept plans only work in some rooms and there are so many other much cooler things to do in this house!

    1. It’s more of the opposite, actually. I think I would like to look into the living room from the office (at the computer is where I spend most of my not-sleeping/not-building stuff time at home)!

  14. I could go either way but add to your list: patching in new hardwood floor if you do remove the wall. Of course, now would be the time to do that.

    1. Yeah, actually that’s why I’m thinking of it now… I’ve got the hardwood to install in the office, but I’m waiting until I tear that closet out, so I’ll want to do this door at the same time, if I go that direction. Once the floor is in, the wall stays!

  15. i say leave it for all the reasons mentioned above, but mostly for the balance issue. it would just be way too close to the fire place, and there are many other exciting projects to start and finish! 🙂

  16. Vote with Steve above for French doors rather than removing wall & keep a mantle. Tha way it can always be listed/used as a guest room/bedroom if ever needed by anyone. Any chance of making it a double sided fireplace with mantel on both sides? 🙂 Nice fire while working in your office…

  17. A bolt of lightning just hit my brain: hidden door. Make a built-in bookshelf on the left side of the fireplace, and a matching one on the right. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the builder what sort of trickery to cipher up for an opening mechanism. Mess hiding, storage space, conversation starter, functional door, flight of fancy… man. I should probably charge a fee for an idea that good.

    1. Oh my god, THAT is brilliant. I always wanted a secret door. And one of those paintings with the eyeballs cut out to spy through. lol.

    2. That was my first thought too!!! A super-secret door on the right with a matching built in bookcase on the left- that would be the coolest thing ever! I can’t wait to build my own house (well, design my own house- I’m not quite up to the challenge of actually building it)- a secret door/passage is on the top of my must-have list and you just can’t get that in a cookie cutter house.

      1. another vote for secret door! when you’re in there you could always keep it open so you can look out into the living room or you have the option to close it and maybe have a space heater in the winter or something.

    3. Secret door! Secret door! I always wanted to have a wardrobe with a false back into another room – of course, I would prefer a door to Narnia but I could pretend that the office was really a snowy forest!!!

    4. OMG – A SECRET DOOR!!! We want to do that in our Master Bedroom, so you do it first and then I can follow your instructions as you post them, mmm’kay?

      Seriously – I think this is the best idea yet – ha!

  18. Vote for leaving it. I think it would look unbalanced. Good spots for built in bookcases on office side, too!

  19. Always keep a main level bedroom. You’ll appreciate it when you get older and it helps with resale value.

    I totally dig the hidden door idea.

  20. Omg…secret door it is! I have decided for you. Or you have to make one somewhere else in the house. I have always wanted one, I have photos of several saved on my Pinterest. I just need to talk my husband into letting me do it. Sadly, I have to agree with those that recommend not opening it up. Well at least you have a few months to decide.

  21. +1 Secret Door. I think the fireplace (regardless of the mantel) needs some ‘space to breathe’ around it. Opening the wall up would make it end quite abruptly on one side, if that makes sense? Yes it looked great in your previous house but it seems like that was a very different style of house and fireplace.

    2x bookshelves (one secret door – or little passage by extending the back of the fireplace across on the other side) would make a lovely balance around the lovely fireplace focal point… plus theres always the technical challenge of how best to construct a secret door! 😉

    1. This is a really good point, and I’ve considered whether or not I really want to have an “office” (I’ve moved the theoretical location of it a couple of times). I think I want a dedicated working space, but I could still totally change my mind!

  22. Why would anyone consciously decrease the value of their house for a bigger doorway? And if this is one of the only walls that is original to the house, it really would be a shame. Plus it will look totally unbalanced to have the fireplace end with the wall. Better not to do it and have the option of doing it later after you have lived in the house for a bit and used it (so you can decide for sure if you feel it is too closed up), than to rush into this and make a decision you might regret. And anyway, knowing most people, how many use their offices all the time? Most people blog from their living rooms, kitchens, etc. You can take your laptop anywhere. But I am guessing only reverse psychology works with you?

  23. leave the wall. thats my opinion. but its your house and investment and time and money, i just dont see any benefit in widening that particular doorway at all.

  24. I vote you don’t open up the wall – the thing to remember when doing old houses is to pace yourself because trying to make it look ‘modern’, or work with modern living i.e turning a Vitoria parlor into a blown-out great room – may just look like a re-muddling mistake in 10 years or so.

    If you really want it open I would vote (like an earlier commenter) on adding in an arched doorway – but I think the room is starting to look pretty spectacular as is (except for that glass block door opposite;) – so I wouldn’t mess to much with it. – besides my offices always look messy – so I wouldn’t want it to be always be visible from my entertaining living room.

    good luck!

    1. I definitely think I’m going to finish off the room first (like actually put furniture in it) before making a final call… I may just love the way it looks and not want to mess with it!

  25. This line: “Me (pro hammer): This mistakenly assumes the rest of my house is not a complete effing disaster. You walk into my house, you see a mess. You don’t want to see a mess, walk into someone elses house.”

    makes me think of one of my more favored sayings: “If you want to see me, come on over. If you want to see my house, call ahead.”

    1. I love that saying! It’s so true, and I’m kind of unapologetically a mess… if I know you well enough to invite you over, you probably know this about me and like me anyway.

  26. I haven’t read all of the other comments yet so this might have been mentioned. But I am one that likes balance and symmetry.

    I wouldn’t like the fireplace at the end of a wall. I like the idea of wall and trim on either side of the mantle. Other than that, all of your other reasoning seems fine with opening it up.

  27. I remember your not being keen on the archways and the posted pix of other desires in decorating…you are comfortable with a more modern vibe. I say do what you really want, as did others to the house, and it will become part of it’s future story, however, I suggest waiting a bit since (1)you are looking at winter on the way and don’t know exactly what to expect with the house in that season, (2) the hidden/secret door gets my vote as well since is would provide balance and keep the clutter hidden. The office then becomes “private”, vs “closed off” and any 12 y/o, in a future family looking to buy, worth his or her salt would badger the parents into buying this house no matter what the listed price! Go for it…early spring next year! Can’t wait to walk through that hidden door into the office!

    1. Really good point on winter and general heating stuff. I don’t have a good feel for what it’s like to live in the whole house yet, instead of just in the kitchen.

      I really really love the secret door idea, but knowing me I’ll just leave it open all of the time (I’m not a big door closer in the house by myself) so if I do that I’ll have to be really savvy about how… it’s definitely got me thinking!

  28. I say take on the project. And while you are at it, you are going to need to do something different with the fireplace, as you mentioned. If you are going to be spending as much time as you say you are in the living room I would go for an even wider opening and either a two sided or wrap around fire place so you can enjoy that while working. Something like this:

    1. You’re right, It will definitely require doing something with that fireplace.I’m not sure if structurally a corner wrap will work with a brick fireplace, but I could open it up all the way through like the one in the master upstairs! Always worth considering.

  29. I like the idea of a glass door between the two rooms. Allows more light and openness, but keeps the ability to close it off if need be and you can still call it a bedroom if you ever need to. There are a lot more important things on your property to worry about.

  30. My immediate assumption was you were going to consider closing in that wall…

    Why have the office open to the living room, there goes Gracious Living 🙂 once you have finished the inside of the house. You might want to have those two separate purpose rooms separate.

    I would either (1) keep it the way it is and keep the door closed, or (2) close up the wall. If I kept it the way it is, I would paint the door and its trim the wall color, to make it less obtrusive, like they customarily did in older houses with doors in the living rooms or whatever they called those rooms then.

    1. Parlors! (I think that’s what they called them, anyway.)

      If I closed up the wall (and I wouldn’t mind less doors in the Pink Parlor, that’s for sure) the only access to that #4th bedroom would be through the downstairs bathroom… so I don’t think that will work. lol. It’s kind of a weird setup.

      1. Oh, I thought I saw another door in the office. It must have been just to the bathroom.

        Now I am thinking, if a secret door, why not a secret room somewhere, hmm.

  31. I very rarely comment – I prefer just being one of your silent stalkers…I think my last one was over some donkey-love. Yeah.

    Anywho – for what it’s worth. I am pro-sanity. If for no other reason, it gives you a door to your office AND somewhere to shove all your mess in those last 15 minutes you have before company comes over 🙂 But that’s just me 😉

  32. I say do whatever you feel like 🙂

    And on another note: make sure when you clean up the cat barf that you lightly sponge the rest of the floor too in order to raise the grain slightly everwhere so that spot doesn’t stand out after. Then lightly screen everything to knock down the raised grain. But you probably already knew that 🙂

  33. Wow, you are amazing. I check to see if you posted every day. I want to take out a small pantry wall in my kitchen but I’m scared. What if it’s load bearing? I don’t think I can handle putting up a support beam, etc. How did you learn to do all this stuff? When I grow up, I want to be you (sadly, I am way older).

    1. So here’s how you know about that wall… a load bearing wall literally “bears the load” from the roof down to the foundation. If you have a basement it’s easy to tell because load bearing walls are directly above the metal I-beam and metal supports (running in the same direction) and there will be a wall directly above that on your second floor (or potentially a kneewall in the attic).

      A lot of learning the skills was trial and error, and learning-as-I-went when I was building my last house with my ex. Plus I had to take a good 60 hours of classes for my contractors license!

  34. A lot of fussing for very little effect (and according to your own arguments, it would lower the value and versatility).

    Naw, leave it alone.

    Put your time and energy into projects that really make a (positive) difference. 🙂

  35. I’ve been down this road before and, for me, the deal-killer would be the floors.
    If you open up that wall, you’re going to have to have flooring where the wall used to be. You’ll have to take up boards on both sides, match them, replace them, and make the wall-hole disappear so it doesn’t look heinous and amateurish with an obvious patch-job when you’re done. So you’d get the incomparable joy of sanding the floors *all*over*again.
    Do you really want to do that? I wouldn’t. Arches are overrated. Doors are under appreciated.

    1. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but I haven’t put down the new hardwood in the office yet… it was carpet previously. So that would all just get wrapped in to laying the new floor in there.I don’t have to decide right this second what I’m doing with the wall, but once I start putting the new floor in, that’s the point of no return, specifically for the reasons you mentioned. If there was already matching flooring in that room, it would never have occurred to me to widen the doorway, because patching the wood would be such a pain in the ass!

  36. Yeah I was totally going to say hidden door through a bookcase too – can you imagine?! it would be rad.
    + You could put a cosy day bed in the office if you ever have kids to escape from.

  37. For the really tough decisions I always flip a coin. That way if it all goes wrong, I can blame the coin.

  38. Holy smokes, that’s a lot of opinions!!!

    Hi Kit, first time posting here. Discovered your blog about a week ago and I’ve been reading through from the start ever since. All I can say is “you go girl!!!”

    No one can tell me “can’t” either, so I guess that explains a lot!

    As for this doorway, I’m in with the hidden/secret door too! If you were to build out a little (say wall to wall shallow bookcase around your fireplace?) it would be even more awesome.

    Oh and I hope you get to see this in time, but a good old tip from Bob?? Norm?? (can’t remember). If you’re refinishing badly cupped/warped wood floor, make the first few passes of the sander at a 45° from the length of the planks. It’ll take care of the high spots much faster and once you’re back to going with the grain/planks, you’ll never see it.

  39. Reading over this post, it may be too long. I’m new to this so please forgive me. I’ve been following your work, off-and-on, for a couple of years now after reading one of your write-ups in Family Handyman. I love what you do and can identify with the things you go through, having reno’d my first home (a 2-family beauty I totally lost money on when the market for 2-family beauties went south), then designing and building my second home myself (with contractors hired to do the big stuff). The only problem I have is when I read your blog I get that itch to go out and find another big project. That’s when I go away for a while…

    Anyway, I finally felt passionate enough about one of your topics to post. The Liberty House is beautiful, BTW, I’m totally jealous not only of the house but also of all the great possibilities it represents. Your ideas for the living room sound good, but my vote would be to remove that doorway altogether. The whole thing almost looks like an afterthought to me. It throws off the balance of that wall. You have a beautiful fireplace trying to hold a prominent position right in the center, but unable to pull it off because there’s a 3’ x 6’8” hole on it’s right flank (or would it be it’s left?). Making the opening larger will only exacerbate the issue. Plus it always feels wrong to me to have a private space, such as a bedroom, opening directly onto a public space like a living room. Why not just close off that doorway and move the room entrance to the other side where the bathroom comes in now?

    I took the liberty (no pun intended) of starting with a floor plan of your house I knew I had seen somewhere before. After pouring through your photos in Flickr I finally found it (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kitliz/6987315252/). Then I sketched it up quickly in a drawing package I have, scaling things with the assumption that most of the doors are probably drawn as 3’ wide units. If you don’t have one of these packages I highly recommend them. You draw floor plans in 2-D but then you can take complete 3D walkthroughs of your plans. It is a cool, highly useful, and totally fun tool. I have used mine to design my own house, design a kitchen reno for my mother, and work out a complete remodel for my sisters basement. Here is what I came up with: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46926034@N07/8476588408/

    1. Mark – You’ve got a really great idea in your floor plan here, thank you for taking the time to draw it out for me. When I took a look at it, I immediately jumped up, ran over to the bathroom, and took a look at whether or not something like this would work. Unfortunately there are some things the quick floorplan of my house doesn’t show… one of them is that the original exterior walls to this house are 18″ thick (3 layers of brick with air gaps) Right where you’ve placed the door to the bedroom is one of those original exterior walls.

      I could potentially do something like this if I moved the door down another 18″, but I’d have to convert the full-bath to a half-bath (and there are a lot of reasons why I like having a full bath downstairs.) I think that’s a little more upheaval than I’m willing to cause for one oddly placed door (and it does kind of grow on you after a while.)

      1. Wow, 3 layers of brick! I’ve never tackled a brick home before, much less an old brick home, but that sure sounds like a lot of brick. I wonder if 3 layers was the norm back then or the builder had other reasons for doing this?

        Anyway, your welcome for the sketch. It’s my pleasure. I love re-imagining spaces and dreaming of what could be… Regardless of how you ultimately decide to work it I’m sure the room will be great when you’re done with it.

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