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Posted on Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 8:11 a.m.

Creating a family entry in an older house

By Marcia Lyon

Editor’s note: Marcia Lyon will be in the Ann Arbor area Dec. 1. To arrange a consultation, email her at or call 515-991-1300.

The way we enter and leave our houses have changed through the years.

Older homes used to be accessed frequently by a walkway from the sidewalk in front. Guests and sometimes family would park on the street, making the front door the primary entrance.

As cars gained more prominence in our lives, garages (initially detached) brought people to the back of the house, placing emphasis on a back or side door.

Frequently the side door would enter on a stair landing. Both of these entrances were rarely equipped with adequate coat storage, or the backpacks kids use, or the common practice of leaving shoes by the door.

Consequently, our entrances are clogged with stuff and frequently this stuff is dragged into the kitchen or dining table.


The old air-lock entry (A) was congested with three doors. This home is not in a cold enough climate to warrant a vestibule. The homeowners wished open up the entry, both spacewise and visually.

The living room (B) featured a large bay window and a fireplace. Neither of these were centered and, with the shape of the room, furniture arrangement was a challenge.

The formal dining room (C) was never used except for access to the backyard (D). A very nice solarium (E) just beyond the dining room (C), was not insulated and had to be accessed through a sliding glass doors. The homeowners had already started work on insulating the crawl space and replacing the windows.

The family entry (F) is off the driveway onto a stair landing. To the right is the basement stairs and straight ahead were a few steps up to the kitchen (G).

Although this kitchen was large, it was not very efficient. The refrigerator was recessed, which was a cool move, but the closest counter was the small island. The previous homeowners had already opened up the kitchen to the dining room. A half bath (H) had the door opening into the kitchen.

Essentially, the homeowners wanted to improve the front entry, add a family entry with storage and improve traffic flow. Even though they were insulating and adding heat to the solarium (E), they weren’t sure how they wanted to use this new space. They also wanted to begin landscaping and begin to use their backyard.


The front entry (A) was very tight, leaving just a few things we could do. We removed the second door and cut back the wall to expose some stairs. By adding a new hard surface flooring (hardwood), front to back, the entry is more defined, as is the pathway connecting the front and new back doors (J).

A new kitchen (K) is moved over leaving space to create a family entry (L), complete with a shoe tower, a "To Go" shelf and an ample closet. This new, extra wide hallway is also home to a full size stack washer/dryer (N) and clean up sink. The existing half bath (H) is now perfectly placed.

The new full glass back door (J) with a side light brings in lots of light and is the family and guest entry to a new deck (O).

The kitchen (K) was moved over for several reasons — the new family entry (L); to provide an efficient and spacious alley kitchen. This location is better to maintain contact with those in the living room (B) and/or the solarium (E). Note that there is a desk in the kitchen for the family computer; a closet-style corner pantry with counter and cabinets on both sides; and a huge eat-on island. The homeowners didn’t want a dining room but I advised them that the solarium (E) could be used.

Marcia Lyon is a professional remodeling designer and freelance writer, producing projects locally and several other areas across the U.S. and Canada. You may reach her at or at 515-991-1300. Visit to find information about her Consulting Service or to purchase the book "The Essential Planner for Home Remodeling."