Who had the bright idea
of putting a wall here?
Sometimes your space just doesn’t work out, no matter how many times you move the furniture.
Sometimes you need to think a bit more radically. What if you just move that wall? Or take it out entirely?
Whoa. But this is the way the house came; it was built this way.
Sure, but your needs have changed. The house can adjust to you rather than you always adjusting to it. Imagine if that wall was moved three feet that way, or if it became a big open connection to the adjacent room, framed by two columns…
Opening up the walls in your house dramatically changes the entire floor’s light, traffic, and functionality. Under-utilized spaces become cozy extensions of the busier areas. Rather than always explaining why you don’t use the formal dining room, integrate it with your kitchen. Instead of filling a poorly-ventilated office space with to-be-donated boxes, make it part of your family room.
Natural light makes a huge impact when walls come down. Even a small exterior window will add life and energy to interior spaces. Rooms that only get evening sun can get a boost from morning light. Your light fixture options (or limitations) may be widened or resolved when natural light spills more generously through the house.
Where does your family tend to congregate? On the rough-start days, where are you most likely to hear ‘get out of my way!’ Is there an awkward in-between space where you have sort-of conversations with guests who are just stopping by (‘I can’t really stay’)? Opening up walls allows more generous ways to get from point A to point B, and makes for a welcoming, expansive feel.
Trends continue to de-emphasize the formal dining room as families and friends gather for meals more casually. Enter someone’s house today, and you’re likely to see that the first room beside the front door is an office, playroom, or study. Remove the wall between the dining or family rooms and the kitchen to accommodate birthday parties, the big game, neighborhood game night, or sleepovers. Your gatherings will no longer silo people into different rooms.
Removing interior walls can also lead to an enormous room that feels like an airplane hanger. Dividing it visually into cozy nooks and gathering spaces is the key. Kneewalls, alcoves, bays, trey ceilings, pilasters, and faux beams are all options for carving out loosely-defined areas from one large space.
Removing walls is not something to be done lightly. While not all walls are loadbearing, making structural assumptions could lead to your upstairs master bath quickly becoming your downstairs halfbath. Beams and posts, specified by an engineer, may be necessary. Any renovation job also tends to reveal surprises once walls are opened up, even for professionals. Framing may not tie in as expected, or follows obsolete codes. Utilities may have been installed according to some incomprehensible rationale, odd framing idiosyncrasy, or by an ambitious amateur. Moving walls requires disentangling these existing puzzles and rerouting them logically (not putting a light switch on the far wall, for instance, no matter that it’s easier than running new wire for placement at the doorway).
Finishing from a wall tearout is a last, crucial step. How will you match the flooring of the two rooms? The ceilings? End or begin the wainscoting? How will trim carry around the posts? The goal is for no one to ever know that a wall ever existed – that this fine, grand space was your intention from the beginning, so don’t end with a 2x4 transition strip!
A load-bearing wall
supports the weight of the
upper floors and roof.
It can be identified based
on how it relates to the layout
of the ceiling joists above,
and the basement beams
or walls below.