VIEW OUR NEW SECTION:   Archi-torture


MARCIA LYON is a professional remodeling designer and freelance writer, producing projects in [insert your city] and several other areas across the US and Canada.

See more of Marcia work listed on




This project is located in Bondurant, Iowa.

If it is in your area, and you would like more information, please contact me.







 Got that "closed-in" feeling? Is there no visual connection to the outdoors? Are your home's spaces getting smaller and smaller as the walls seem to be drawing near? Many houses make us feel claustrophobic, and that is due not only to few windows, but the volume and quality of spaces.





 This four-square farmhouse featured beautiful woodwork and trim, along with details that included a window seat (A) in the dining room (B) and built-in cabinets with columns (C). In general, the room sizes were generous. The big problems were the kitchen, the busy family entrance, and the fact that traffic through the front of the house had disappeared years ago because the driveway led to a detached garage.


 A ramped entrance was desired to accommodate a relative who visited frequently. The family considered this a prudent addition, since they intended to live in the house indefinitely.


 A old side porch (D), which preceded a miniature breakfast nook (E), had been closed up and used as storage. The nook's table also was used as a makeshift desk and to hold other kitchen items. Consequently, all traffic funneled through the back door (F), which used the basement stairway landing. Some coats were hung on hooks and further constricted the passage. Other items entering the house -- backpacks, shoes and boots -- made it into the kitchen (G) and, more often, all the way into the dining room (B) where they were heaped over the window seat.


 The dining room was the most-used room after the kitchen. The living room (H) utilized only one side because it was too long to use as a single seating area. The front porch (I) was sealed off and not utilized at all.


 I questioned the many doors (J) on the first floor, and the homeowners explained that they liked the ability to zone areas for sound and heat. I acknowledged that everything doesn't have to be wide open, and that what works should stay in place.


 The office (K) in the back was used every day to handle the dealings of the family's farmland and workshop (L). The path from this office -- through the dining room and kitchen -- to the back door was well-worn. When we discussed moving the office to the front porch (I), it was determined that the visual connection to the workshop was more important.




 The back door (F) was simply too abrupt and close to the basement stairs. So we added 6 feet (M) to create an entry and continued that all the way across the back to add space to the kitchen. There was room enough to add a coat closet and a place for shoes and boots. A new, short flight of stairs (N) was added into the office that created a direct connection to the back door from the office.


 Thinking of the outside, and how the addition would be roofed, we added 8 feet (O) onto the driveway side of the house. This provided enough room for a new side door (P), "to-go" shelf and a closet. Space was also available for a daily dining table (Q) with views to the side and back. French doors (R) open to a new deck (S) with a ramp to grade for accessibility.


 Now the kitchen (T) is greatly improved with the additional space. The L-shaped counter is open to the back-door entry. The refrigerator stayed put, and a closet-style pantry holds all the dry food. The large eat-on island has even more storage and serves as a snack bar and buffet surface. It also is the grocery-receiving surface, no matter what door they come in from.


 The unused front porch (not shown in AFTER drawing) was utilized by enclosing the entire space. Three-quarters of it became a craft room; a first-floor laundry room took up the remaining quarter. Now there is even less traffic going down those tight, dark basement stairs (U).

This project is located in Dexter, Mich.

If it is in your area, and you would like more information, please contact me.







Remodeling projects always start with some kind of catalyst: family structure change, discomfort or dissatisfaction with the house, or simply the desire to upgrade without moving and loosing the established equity.





This remodeling project started with the desire for an attached garage. Traffic problems abounded with the existing split-level house, and the rooms seemed small and disconnected. It was also time to move the master bedroom (A) away from the kids and "graduate" to a master suite with a private bathroom and walk-in closets.


The layout was just like every other home in the neighborhood, however this house was built on a double lot. This offered opportunities for additions and greater options for attaching a garage. But how do you improve everything without tearing it all down and starting over?






We determined that the bedroom floor (B) could be left alone. The plan was to add a half story over the new garage (C) for a separate master suite (not shown). By putting the garage at a 30-degree angle, the connecting piece can be quiet interesting.


The front of the house was entirely reoriented. It is natural for family and guests to park in the driveway, and with the drive swung farther out to the side, a new front entrance (D) made sense. The new front entry is significant, with a porch and foyer addition (E). Traffic can go directly to the living room (F) or the kitchen (G).


The living room (F) now uses the entire living/entry space. A single window in the original plan was transformed into a charming window seat (I). The stairs (J) are now open with a railing. A new double-sided fireplace (K) divides the living room from the more private kitchen and dining areas in the back. Two comfortable chairs flank the fireplace on the kitchen side, creating a hearth area (L). There are lots of visual connections between the living room and the back area, so nothing feels disconnected.


A pantry closet (M) floats, creating a walkway from the foyer (N), bookshelves (O) on the hearth side, and a to-go shelf (P) facing the living room. The half bath (Q) is expanded to add the laundry equipment, which is concealed behind a pleated blind when not in use. This laundry is nicely located near the bedrooms and close enough to activity areas when changing loads.


The dining area (R) is open, fresh and expandable. A bump-out (S) was designed to recess the buffet/china hutch.


The kitchen (G) is open and efficient. The spacious island serves to define the space, offer another eating surface and function as an all-purpose workspace.


A glass French door (T) opens out onto a deck (U) for outdoor cooking and entertaining.


The stairway (V) to access the master suite above the garage is nicely tucked in its own unique corner. It has a window on the landing for a quick look at who is approaching the entry.


The door to the garage (W) is handy, with lots of maneuvering space. Another all-important to-go shelf mounts to the wall beside the door and doubles as the phone's home. A decorative mirror hangs above it. The busy activity calendar is close by, but tucked in the alcove under the stairs -- just a few steps from the phone.


The overall result of this remodeling is a truly custom look with common spaces that work quite well for this family.

This project is located in Nevada, Iowa.

If it is in your area, and you would like more information, please contact me.



[JOB NUMBER  2426]




Disabilities are as diverse as the people who have them. A different design approach would be used for someone with a degenerative disease than what would be appropriate for someone with a stable one. The degree to which someone is disabled is also varied -- not everyone is in a wheelchair. What is important in remodeling for a disabled person is to meet his/her objectives and expectations of living in the house, while maintaining a functional home for the rest of the family.





The husband of this couple was left with a permanent yet stable problem with his legs. He navigated fairly well around the house using a single crutch, but negotiating a full flight of stairs (A) every night to get up to bed was more effort than it was worth. The family made a compromise by designating a part of the family room (E) as a bedroom (B). Makeshift curtains were added to divide the space visually, but not audibly. Another problem was that the only bathroom on the main floor was a tiny half bath (C) with no bathing facilities.


Many other problems with the house affected everyone. The side door (D), the main family entry, was constricted and consumed valuable space in the family room (E). Bulky cabinets and a closet surrounded the recessed interior stairway (A).


The kitchen (F) was antiquated, and the table in the center was more of a barrier than an asset. Even though a pass-through window (G) visually connected the kitchen to the family room in a small way, the feeling of isolation in the kitchen was paramount.


The living room (H) was used for company, but the preferred space was the family room (E) in the back. A wet bar (J) built in the '60s protrudes into the space. The family didn't use this feature and wanted to eliminate it in favor of a family computer area.


The homeowners were greatly worried about resale. The formal dining room, although rarely used, was a feature they thought they had to retain. They were reluctant to remove corner cabinets (K) even though that particular style didn't match their more contemporary style.


I asked how long they planned to stay in the house, and they responded, "Indefinitely." I pointed out that they might not be the only people with the desire for a first-floor bedroom, and perhaps that room could be converted into a den if it wasn't needed.





We compromised in the old dining room (I): leave the corner cabinets and close off access to the foyer with a wall and a closet (L). This change is not irreversible, and it will make life much easier for the time being.


The bathroom (M) simply expanded into the living room in an area that was difficult to furnish anyway.


To make the connection to the back part of the house seem more intentional, French doors (N) were placed in the alcove.


The next move was to modify the family entrance. Even though the space between the house and the garage (O) was tight, we put the steps there (P), on the (BEGIN ITAL) outside (END ITAL) so that people could enter the house at the main-floor level. A ramp on either side of the exterior landing provides an alternative to the stairs.


The door (Q) was moved closer to the kitchen. A new coat closet (R), positioned perpendicular to the outside wall, greatly improved the family room for furniture arrangement. An essential "to-go" shelf was placed on the outside wall with a mirror above.


The wall between the kitchen and the back part of the house (S) was opened up using a flush beam. All appliances are positioned on one side (T) so that traffic can pass on the other side of the island (U) and not interfere with cooking. The island provides the eat-in feature. The dining area (W) is "flex" space, meaning the table can expand or contract as dining needs change.


The wet bar (J) was disassembled and replaced with a walk-in pantry (X) and a computer desk (Y). Since the desk is not against the wall, the desk-user can watch TV or interact with others.




With Marcia Lyon