Most kitchens are built on an exterior wall so that there can be a window over the sink.  Through various remodelings, some of these kitchens turn into interior rooms with either no window or borrowed light which means that the space can see natural light from another place.  This is less than ideal.  Also, even though everyone now is making the kitchen the focal point of the house, it still needs to have direct access to the outdoors for cooking out and entertaining outdoors.



This 1960’s ranch, with three bedrooms and hall bath (not shown) had a series of rooms along the back wall of the house and left the kitchen (A) ‘hanging’ between the living room (B) and a back door (C) on to a balcony.

The garage (D) with its tiny family entrance (E) brought family members across the dining room (F) [and the carpet] to get to the kitchen (A).

The front entry (G) was rarely used because it was far away from the pavement.

Across the back is a rather small family room (H) with a door outside and a dated and unused wet bar; a laundry room (J) that walks through to the ¾ bath (K).  The owners had no idea why there should be a small shower in this small bathroom.

The kitchen (A) is divided into small pieces that don’t provide efficiency in cooking. The back part of this kitchen had a small table in the corner and a door to the outside onto a balcony with no stairs down to the yard.

The homeowners wanted more backyard access and a better kitchen. They liked the idea of ‘open concept’ but didn’t know how to achieve it.  They wanted their family room to have more use and came up with the idea of a sun room for their many plants.



I claimed more room for the family entry (E) by adding IN to the existing space.  This is an important function and it needs to relate to the kitchen.

We bumped out 6 feet for a conservative kitchen addition (L).  Three nice windows over the sink visually connect the kitchen (M) with the backyard.  A generous island is the spot for dropping off groceries and keeps visitors on the non-cooking side of the kitchen.

The family room (H) changed into a sun room by adding a tile floor, additional windows and a glass door out onto a new deck (N).  This deck steps down onto a brick terrace (O) and then back up again onto another deck (P) that is an extension of the balcony.  This offers great circulation between the house and outdoor entertaining.

The ¾ bath (K) was converted into a better ½ bath (Q) that backs up to a new laundry room (R).

The dining was shifted over to ‘tuck’ into a corner and visually enlarge the living room.

B&A 20902

MARCIA LYON is a professional remodeling designer and freelance writer, producing projects locally and several other areas across the US and Canada. Like Creating Spaces on Facebook! Reach Marcia at; or phone 515-991-1300.   Her website is



B&A 20901

There are all kinds of duplexes – up and down; side by side; identical on both sides; different on each side.  Both units have their own front door and when they are combined to make one, which front door is used? Combing two into one makes for some big decision making. How do you deal with a single-family home with two kitchens? One of the biggest challenges is how to balance everything and make a flow plan that makes sense.


This 1955 duplex had one two-bedroom unit (A) and the other unit had one bedroom (B).  The styling was quite nice and looked very much like a single-family home. Set on a corner lot (C), there was only street parking on the front and side. The family(s) parked (D) on the backside of the house and entering the basement, used the stairway (E) to access the units.

The current homeowners bought this split-personality home some 20 years ago and just lived with its combined quirks through the years of raising their children.  Heading toward retirement, they felt that it was time to give their home a big RE-THINK, so it could serve them into the future.

They lived primarily in the two-bedroom side (A) but using the bedroom (F) and the spacious living room (G).

Visitors were confused what front door to use [there were three!]. The front door (H) was the most visible, but the family was more often near the other one (I).  The third door (J) was on the side of the house facing their neighbors and wasn’t visible from either the street or parking behind.  Clearly entry identity was an issue.

The used the other two bedrooms (K&L) but only two (M&N) of the three bathrooms (O).

The kitchen (P) in the B unit had been used for many things but not a kitchen.  When the children were small, that seemed OK.  The kitchen (Q) in the A unit and the living room (R) were the two main rooms used.   They had developed a nice stone terrace (S) for entertaining, but when strangers used the (I) door, it felt wrong.

The homeowners requested a screened porch be added somewhere.


The entry identity was the first job to be tackled. Door (H) seemed the easier one to get to from the street, so we added a porch (T). We created an entry (U) just inside by adding a coat closet and defining the space.

There was a need for an office (V) somewhat away from activity, so we created one here, consuming some of the living room (G) space.

The remainder of the second kitchen (P) worked well as a main floor laundry room (W).  We added some extra closets (X) in the hallway.

Bathroom (N) got re-configured to have a large more contemporary shower.

Bathroom (O) was turned into a large linen closet (Y).  Bathroom (M) stayed the same.

No changes in the side entry (J) or the bedrooms (F, L &K) or the living room (R).

The kitchen (Q) was updated, moving appliances and changing the peninsula into an island.

We added the screened porch (Z) just outside the kitchen, adding a glass door for access.  This porch was connected to the new front porch (T) with a bridge, making a good traffic connection. A door out from the screened porch, with steps down and a walkway connects to the stone terrace (S). Now the outdoor areas connect with the indoor areas with a good flow.


MARCIA LYON is a professional remodeling designer and freelance writer, producing projects locally and several other areas across the US and Canada. To reach Marcia email: ; or phone 515–991–1300 Find her book on remodeling design The Essential Planner for Home Remodeling.







When you need to create a specific space, try to do it in such a way that the next homeowners can repurpose it.  We crave large spaces, but the new space should not ‘dwarf’ existing spaces and throw the floor plan out of proportion.  Existing spaces ideally will get modifications to improve flow throughout, resulting a balanced and pleasant over all house.



This vintage home had some great, light filled rooms and decorative amenities. Starting with the spacious foyer (A) that has windows on two sides and a beautiful staircase.  The living room (B) is unusually large.  There are windows on every wall possible, detailed woodwork including a beamed ceiling and a fireplace (C) on an angle.  A traditional solarium (D) served as the art space for this artist until it became too small. Also, the homeowners wanted a visual separation from the living room.  The kitchen (E) had been remodeled in the early 80s’ and now seems confining.  It is open to the dining area (F) and enjoys the windows beyond.  This space is also confining since the bar stools back up to the dining chairs.  In the corner is a desk (G) which seems to work well.  The beautiful angled fireplace (C) is open on this side, but it no one really has a view of the fire from this side.  An expansive deck (H) is used often for grilling out and entertaining.



In our planning session, we determined that it would be wise to add two stories and create an up to date master suite [not shown].  This will look well balanced on the exterior.

A 16-foot addition (I) was designed to provide lots of work space and storage of art pieces.  It has a glass door (J) to the new deck (K) for fresh air breaks; a counter with cabinets and a large sink; and shelves.  The art space (L) is not closed off with a door but takes advantage of the fireplace (C) by building a bench (M) opposite from the hearth as a transition space resulting in a pleasant little nook. The windows (N) in the back of the living room are fitted with stained glass panels, sharing light and art for both spaces.

We also extended the dining room (F) 4 feet (O), adding windows and a built-in cabinet for a coffee bar and dish display. There is a new door (P) for access from the kitchen (E) to the new deck (K).

We took this opportunity to reconfigure the kitchen (E) to enable more than one cook.  There is a narrow and long pantry (Q) next to the relocated door.  The new island is larger and reoriented so that not only can people back up the stools but can gather around it when it is used as a buffet counter.  All the appliances are within the L shaped work area.  We added a window above the relocated farm sink.

Looking at the floor plan as a whole, it looks as if it should have been designed like this originally and each space compliments the next.


MARCIA LYON is a professional remodeling designer and freelance writer, producing projects locally and several other areas across the US and Canada. Like Creating Spaces on Facebook! Reach Marcia at; or phone 515-991-1300.   Her website is


21908  BEFORE.jpg


21908  AFTER.jpg




21730    Non Addition

CREATING SPACES tm           by Marcia Lyon21730 AFTER21730 BEFORE

We really don’t need duplicate living spaces.  In the old days, we wanted a ‘formal’ space for visitors that was always tidy, and a family room that could be chaotic and no one would see it.  Our lifestyles have changed and many people opt for one larger space that would accommodate both functions.



The front of this ranch home had a narrow concrete porch (A), with the front door (B) on the side, not visible from the street.  This door brings people into an entry (C) that is essentially a hall.  The next path is typically through a narrow passageway into the breakfast room (D). The other option is to go into the living room (E) which is around the corner and not seen from the entry.  The living room has a niche for the dining room (F).  A small deck (G) is visible from the dining room but is only accessed from the family room (H).

This family room (H) is about the same size as the living room (duplicating spaces) but it is difficult for furniture because a huge fireplace (I) is in the corner with sliding glass doors on the opposite wall.  Next is a deep closet (J) and a long counter (K) which separates it from the kitchen (L).  It is most certainly open to the kitchen, unfortunately the kitchen is poorly laid out.  It has a tiny island that is not much bigger than the range in it.

The kitchen is a straight shot form the garage (M).  This family entry area is crammed with too many things.  There is the door to the basement stairs, a tiny coat closet and an “To Go” shelf.  We also have the washer and dryer right there in front of a cramped half bath (N).

The homeowners decided to have a larger living space and a big kitchen that is oriented to the outside. They entertain frequently and desire a layout with a great flow pattern.



I started to un-scramble their space by re-orienting the front door (A) to the front, and bring people into a real foyer (O).  This foyer is open to the expanded living room (E).

I improved the family entry (M) by relocating the laundry to its own room (P), closer to the bedrooms. This freed up space in the family entry for a bench and place for shoes.  I expanded the closet and added one for cleaning supplies (Q).

The kitchen (R) was relocated to the back of the former family room (H).  It is aligned properly to enjoy the fireplace (I) while cooking or hanging out at the island. The closet (J) is converted to a pantry with a door activated light switch, and it stores food and the bulk items we all buy now.

The dining table (S) is in the kitchen with ample space around it. That way, more people can hang out in the kitchen and the table will actually be used now.

A larger deck (T) was constructed, all on one level.  The outdoor access is a pair of French doors (U) and is centrally located.

Lots of windows in the living room [including new windows (V) on either side of the fireplace] fill this area with light.


MARCIA LYON is a professional remodeling designer and freelance writer, producing projects locally and several other areas across the US and Canada. Like Creating Spaces on Facebook! Reach Marcia at; or phone 515-991-1300.   Her website is




21702    Expansion into Garage

Lots of times a house seems to have plenty of space, yet it doesn’t “flow” or “feel right”.  Traffic needs to accommodate the functions of the family.
We are affected by volume of spaces.  Big isn’t always better.  If there is a view, find a way to capitalize on it. These are blanket statements but they are valid.


This semi-split level house was a work in progress for the owners.

There was a lake view (A) that the elevated living room (B) presented well, however, the main ‘working’ part of the house had no view at all.  The seldom used deck (C) off the equally seldom used dining room (D) was rarely accessed.

The active part of the house comprised of the kitchen (E), dinette (F) and the family entry (G), directly off the new and enlarged garage (H).

Off the family entry is the laundry room (I) and a tiny office (J) that was not used.

The front entry (K) is pleasant and offers a nice entry into the house for guests.  For the family, this entry functioned primarily as a hall to the living room (B) and access to the basement stair (L).  The stair in the living room (M) leads up to the bedrooms.

A half bath (N) is well placed in the active part of the house.

To these homeowners, improving the kitchen and the family entry were their main priorities. To them, the view (A) was good enough from the living room (B), but I wanted to find a way to improve that.


It was a challenge to find the additional space needed to improve this plan.  When I asked the husband if he would give up five feet of his garage (H), I was surprised and pleased.  Husbands rarely will do that and it was the key that helped solve several problems.

The five-foot invasion (O) allowed us to shift some functions, gaining space for a new walk-in pantry (P).

The office (J) was expanded and a sink added to make this space a craft room for the family. Two glass pocket doors allow borrowed light into the family entry.

The family entry (G) gets a second closet, a “To Go” shelf and a chair.  The family calendar can be located above the shelf.

The laundry equipment moved slightly and the additional five feet (O) allows the laundry room (I) to have two windows; lots of counter space with a sink; wall and base cabinets for storage; and an open hanging space for laundry fresh out of the dryer.

The kitchen (E) is modified to put the sink on the outside wall, beneath three windows (Q). [Ah! A view!]  The new pantry (P) is just a step away behind a pocket door and has its own window. The refrigerator is next to an end wall, and the range is on its own wall, with counters on either side. The centerpiece of this kitchen is an expansive island, offering prep space for several cooks, a buffet surface, a place for meals, and an ideal homework place.

The homeowners wanted the dinette (F) area to change into an elevated lounge (R).  It will be a great hang-out place for the kids.  The dinette was no longer needed with the addition of the island, plus the dining room (D). It was opened up and will be used regularly, as with the removal of the wall, the connection with the kitchen is strong.

The homeowners wanted to add windows (S) up high in the dining room to share more light.  The light from the sliding glass door in the dining room will be appreciated in the kitchen.

The deck (C) was expanded and angled out toward the lake view (A).  To draw people out toward the view, the angled part of the new deck has a charming pergola (T). The deck is more accessible and inviting from the kitchen, making grilling out easier.


MARCIA LYON is a professional remodeling designer and freelance writer, producing projects locally and several other areas across the US and Canada. Like Creating Spaces on Facebook! Reach Marcia at; or phone 515-991-1300.   Her website is




CREATING SPACES tm           by Marcia Lyon

This project is located in Buffalo, NY



Many older homes have a master bathroom that is small and seems like an afterthought.  These tiny spaces often have to accommodate two people, sometimes at the same time. Home buyers now look for quality of space and a bit of luxury in a master bath.


Just off the master bedroom (A), this master bath (B) was typically small and cramped with barely room to turn around.  The only closet (C) in the master was almost cheating with the second rod behind the first.

The hall bathroom (D) was linear in design and had two sinks, which were not really needed. This bath consumed more space than it should.

My challenge was to improve the two bathrooms within the existing space, and of course, save the homeowner as much money as possible.


I claimed the two existing windows for the new master bath (E) and added cabinetry and an expansive granite counter below.  I don’t believe in buying two sinks and cleaning two sinks if two people don’t get ready at the same time.  A mirror (F) is only needed above the sink for teeth brushing and face washing.

A storage closet (G) has shallow shelves and door shelves for the small items needed in a bathroom. The lower shelves are deeper to accommodate towels.

There is a good volume of space around the toilet (H), avoiding the old feeling of being squished.

The new tile shower (I) is spacious with a bench, and it benefits from the adjacent window.

The windows and doors were not changed, resulting in cost savings.

Behind the existing sliding closet doors is a real walk in closet (K) with no hidden clothes.

Now the master bedroom (A) has an up to date bathroom and the bonus of a walk in closet.

The hall bath (L) is condensed to contain only the essentials.  Since there is no longer a window in this bathroom, we added an operable skylight (M).