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Chat Plus: Finding the Right Balance in a Remodel

A tidbit left over from Friday's Real Estate Live chat:

Alexandria: We have a nice four-bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home, about 2,000 sq. ft., that was built in 1984. We bought in 1988. The family room and the living room are both about 19' x 11 1/2', in other words long and narrow. We have often wished the family room were about twice the width, but if we expand, the fireplace, now centered on one of the shorter walls, will be very much off-center. Do you think it's a good idea to add square footage like that, even if it throws off what was previously a symmetrical arrangement?
People around us have added on sunrooms and porches, and a few have expanded their family rooms, so looks like it's an okay thing in the neighborhood in general to add space.

Elizabeth: You happen to have hit on a long-running debate between my husband and me. He always goes for symmetry; I prefer asymmetry. A skillful design can make it look as if you always planned for that fireplace to be off-center. An architect, a good design-build contractor or an interior designer can help you pull together a remodel that works. Perhaps they'll balance the fireplace with a window or a bookcase on that wall that makes the whole space look planned. The other option would be to build a new fireplace as part of your remodel. That might seem drastic, but once you start cutting open walls, things don't seem quite as extreme as they did when the house was intact. And sometimes you can end up spending more money retaining old things--like a fireplace--than you would spend starting from scratch!

By Elizabeth Razzi  |  August 10, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Plus , Home features , Remodeling and repair  
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There are various ways to handle a feature such as the fireplace. One possibility is to introduce a short pony wall where the existing wall is between the two rooms and have it come about 3-6 feet into the enlarged room. It should be on the same wall as the fireplace and then you'll have more of a combined room or great room feel. The fireplace would still be "centered" on the half wall but the whole
area would be opened up and usable. The pony wall could be designed as a planter
or could have low half bookcases along one or both sides or even become a place
for a decorative vase or other piece of art if designed right.

Along the same lines as your reply, it is not difficult to either install a gas or electric fireplace in the corresponding place in the second room. Also a decorative non-fuctioning fireplace could be built to balance the existing fireplace that could house candles or a wood stove (non-working unless you created a vent to the outside, which isn't that hard to do compared with removing a
possibly load-bearing wall).

There are many great ways to knock a wall down and implement the architectural features
such as a fireplace. There are many great DIY web-sites out there with tons of great

Posted by: DadWannaBe | August 11, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

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