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Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:27 a.m.

Make an older house more livable by maximizing space and adding storage

By Marcia Lyon

Spaciousness in an older house is great, but doesn’t always work for furniture placement or traffic patterns. There are ways to maximize these spaces and add storage.


A central entry house looks good on the outside but rarely works on the inside. This front door (A) enters right into the living room (B). There is no place for coats, no durable surface, nothing that establishes a traditional entry. This central entry makes furniture arrangement difficult and creates dead spaces (C).

The dining room (D) is rarely used and is mostly a walk-through space. As a result of that, plus the fact that there is no storage space, the dining table is usually overflowing with mail and stuff.

The spacious kitchen (E) is large enough to accommodate a small table (F) where meals are taken.

The driveway (G) and detached garage is on the right side of the house. The family entry (H) is actually a stair landing. People go up some stairs and then encounter a door. There is no place for shoes, storage or even turn-around space.

The homeowners wanted to improve both entrances and improve the traffic in their home. The felt a disconnect with the back yard. Grilling out required that food and people go down the steps and out the side door (H) and around to the backyard.

They wanted to add a sunroom so they can live surrounded with natural light and house plants.

Even they couldn’t imagine how it could happen; they wanted to add a half bathroom on the first floor.


We started by moving the front door (I) and creating an entry (J). On the outside, we added a porch (K) with columns and a pitched roof, to clearly identify the entry.

The box bay window (L) was made into a window seat. We kept hard surface flooring from the entry to and throughout the back area. The reduced living room (M) is more efficient for furniture, even though traffic will pass through it.

We strategically moved the kitchen (N) to the other side, primarily to have a line of sight from the front and all entrances. The sunroom (O) had to be built on the left side, and it has a good relationship with the kitchen.

We needed to create a convenient and efficient family entry (P). This new entry comes off the back of the house past a grill deck (Q). This is the new, more direct way out to use the backyard.

Note that there is a “To Go” shelf right by the door. This entry is separated from the kitchen by a broom closet (S) and a cabinet and counter (T). This counter is important to keep the ‘stuff’ from being dumped on the island (U).

A new half bath (R) is off this family entry, easily accessed from outdoors and the house.

The kitchen gets a great closet type pantry (V) to store food and take the load off the cabinets. The family entry has a coat closet (W), plus a tower of recessed shelves for shoes.

We improved the side entry/stair to the basement by moving the door from the top of the stair and adding a light filled landing (Y).

Marcia Lyon is a professional remodeling designer and freelance writer, producing projects locally and several other areas across the U.S. and Canada. Her new book on remodeling design, “The Essential Planner for Home Remodeling,” is available at You may contact her at or at 515-991-8880 to set up a consultation.