Dayle’s Living Room + Kitchen Remodel – Part 1

Dayle from Calgary writes

“Hi John and Matthew,

I would really appreciate some design advice on our main floor living room and kitchen. We love our bright infill home in Richmond Park but there are some obvious design flaws.

I attended your Furniture Layout course but I am still struggling with how to make the fireplace a focal point in our living room. I feel that it is positioned right in the main circulation space. I have thought about purchasing a sectional to open up the room but I’m not sure if that would allow for enough seating when we entertain and I worry that it would lead to too much empty space in front of the fireplace.

We are also planning to renovate our kitchen this year so we would be open to any suggestions. Not having the proper working triangle has been a struggle. ( Although, I don’t think the kitchen is wide enough to solve that problem.) We also have 2 deep corner units that are not our favorite option.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and advice! Please let me know if you would like any more information. (We have a Cad file of our floor plan if you like using that.)


  • Gary

    The video is marked private…this seems to b happening more often..always look forward to the new posts!

  • John Brown

    Hi Everyone,
    Sorry for the hiccup. Our webmaster is away for the next few days. We will have things up and running as soon as possible.

  • Louis Pereira

    I think the white elephant in the room is unfortunately the original spatial planning and circulation of the main floor.  The solutions regrettably would be an expensive retrofit, although I hope the attached can offer some useful solutions.

    The core is the crux of the problem here with circulation on all sides around the stairs, kitchen, washroom and closet.  Circulation areas such as hallways, corridors and aisles, should never just serve this exact purpose.

    This revised version attempts to concentrate the main circulation routes along the upper half of the Main Floor. The result creates a very open plan while allowing a lot of natural light and visibility between all main living spaces.

    By shifting the stairs to the west wall (I know this is a drastic), it allows for a much wider and better functioning kitchen. A galley style kitchen means there are no ‘deep corner’ conditions; and as a ‘double’ galley it offers 2 efficient working triangles w/ approx. 42″ aisles on each side of the island.

    I welcome any feedback…

  • Elizabeth

    Louis, yes when you see the huge tracts of land devoted to hallways, it’s disheartening. I like(!) your rework, but not sure about the sink being in a whole different zone than the stove and fridge. Or is that a sink on the island? Maybe some perpendicular counter including sink differentiating kitchen and living area, like there is on the dining side? Or instead of the one on the dining side?

  • Louis Pereira

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Great feeback, thanks! 

    Yes, that is a (prep) sink in the island.  The re-work i’ll admit is similar to my own place.  I estimate the width of the floor plan is approx. 17′ wide inside-to-inside. Mine is actually less.  Unlike this plan however, we have our ‘main sink’ in the middle of the island.

    Although we thoroughly planned our kitchen and have lived with it for over a year now, I still question whether we should have placed the larger sink on the other side like i did on Dayle’s plan.  The reason; when preparing food you don’t want it around dirty dishes and splashing water etc.  A great functioning kitchen ideally has 3 zones; Cleanup, Food Prep and Storage. Having 2 separate working triangles for two people as I proposed here, allows each to be perform main kitchen duties (cooking/cleaning) simultaneously without interfering with one another.  The cleanup area has a counter and a large sink for staging dirty pots/pans after cooking or as well as dishes/cups etc. after dinner.  This same area would also be used for storage of dishes, cups, flatware – i.e. next to the D/W

  • Louis Pereira

    Oops…i didn’t respond to your other comment regarding reversing the eating counter.  The Living Room is small as it is in my opinion.  Flipping or adding another perpendicular counter on the south end of the Kitchen (creating a U shape) would make it too cramped.  Moreover having a counter on the right side provides additional seating near the Dining Room for larger dinner gatherings.

  • Bradw

    Nice. Too bad thirdstone did not do the original work! 

  • Srdan Nagy

    HiSo, here are my two options:
    Option one just corrects necessary issues.  I don’t believe that original layout is too bad… but it has some issues… The main problem are the stairs from the basement that use part of the living room as circulation, despite the hallway that remains unused. What I suggest is to redo just the last few steps so that the staircase connects to the hallway. A wall is created to better define the living room.
    other issues remain, I am not fun of the powder room between kitchen and dining room…. and living room is still a bit tight…
    So this is where option two comes…
    A backyard door is pushed froward to line up with the rest of facade. a space that is now open to basement is covered with clear glass floor… that’s a conversation peace… :) 
    powder room is facing the hallway, much more appropriate…  


  • Srdan Nagy

    Hi Louis, an interesting proposition… Like your idea, still is that a bit too big intervention…. Hmmmm moving the stairs (+redoing the basement and first floor) moving the central supporting wall…. why bother, just demolish the whole house and start from scratch… it would be cheaper and better…. 
    Just one more comment, kitchen is really interesting, but I have to say it works better in LGhouse… there it is fantastic, but here… it is a bit too big comparing it to other spaces like living room and dining room. I just don’t see the reason to devote such a big percentage of the space for a kitchen…. still an interesting proposition….


  • Elizabeth

    Good reasons!

  • Steve

    I really like Srdan’s suggestion of adjusting the basement stairs — this allows the center of the livingroom’s furniture grouping to be closer to the fireplace.  I’d keep the openess of the current plan by replicating the railing rather than adding a wall.  The fireplace would have much more presence in the room if it had a larger surround, perhaps like this Neutra example.
    My plan for the kitchen remodel starts by adjusting the guest bath to free up enough room for a pantry closet and therefore also another counter in the kitchen.  Much more counterspace here, plus a lunch counter and bar to replace the cabinet removed from the livingroom. 

    Have fun with your projects, Dayle!

  • Bradw


    I think you nailed it. Changing the stairs is the key and getting rid of or modifying the main floor powder room is a close second. 

    And you are right getting rid of the opening to the lower level makes sense expanding the small living space. The glass might be a bit extreme but I like it.

  • Srdan Nagy

    Hi BradWThank you for the comments, I appreciate it. That small intervention to the stairs really did miracles.
    Regarding the opening to the basement, It is OK in state it is in today. At least it lines up with the backyard doors, and thus creating a single line of definition  for the living room. Still it makes living room a bit narrow.
    So solution I did tries to deal with that… 

  • Louis Pereira

    This is kicking into second gear now.  Glad to see everyone put their game-face on for this one.  Excellent solutions from SN and Steve!

    Regarding the size of kitchen, it all depends on the homeowners wishes.  Some of my clients insist on having the space and functionality because they’re passionate about food – as is the case with our own family. And in the spirit of the Slow Home principles it’s an attempt to counteract fast food and fast life and the disappearance of local food traditions. 

    SN’s thoughts of ‘why bother’ are warranted nonetheless, so in the interest of minimal intervention i tried looking at a similar approach by intervening even less.  So no changes to the footprint, fireplace, stairs or patio doors.

    I like Steve’s solution to integrate the fireplace as part of the Living Room as well as a Television (notice however that the photos indicate there is no TV currently used for this space – perhaps intentional?). So i tried providing more seating but maintained the use of the double patio doors.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi I like SN’s idea of moving the staircase landing area as it’s less drastic. But I think (at least part of) the original problem was seating arrangement around the FP, and if there is any way to get even a gas FP on the opposite wall as in Louis’ first plan, I think it would be well worth it. 

  • Elizabeth

    Sorry, I do not mean to add a second FP, but to move the existing one or demolish existing one and put in a new one. Yeah!

  • Bradw

    You should consult a reputable HVAC contractor as to the cost and viability of moving the fireplace location.

    For the sake of argument let’s say that the fireplace could go anywhere, where would you put it assuming everything else stays the same? If you locate it on the opposite wall where the couch is, where do you move the couch? It goes without saying that the corners are out. The only possible location might be at the end of the kitchen and then you can keep your current furniture arrangement.

  • Elizabeth

    Brad, good question. Once considering a move, what are all the possibilities? If the stair landing is moved around to the hallway, the fireplace could go at the end of the kitchen and maybe even use some of that “deep corner unit” space for some of the FP’s depth. 

    If using the opposite wall, the couch could go at the end of the kitchen, couldn’t it? Not many options here, that’s certain. 

    Any chance of squaring off the back-door notch so there is a small “entranceway” outside the living room area to house the shoes and hooks for coats etc.?

  • Bradw


    Be careful what you wish for as small changes have a nasty habit of becoming bigger but yes, the notch can be squared off – you will need to build a foundation under the new wall, structure and insulate a new floor and rebuild whatever deck is existing outside. It is a pricey few square feet but it is a nice idea.

    Maybe the fireplace could be installed in the back wall of the house and direct vent. You would have to fill in the opening to the basement and change some of the glass but it is an option.

  • Bradw

    One out of the box option would be a fireorb in the back wall. Probably too big but cool design –

  • Eric S.

    Hi Everybody,

    Sorry about the video being marked private. I had to pop away suddenly last week as my wife and I had an early arrival of our baby boy. It’s our first.
    I will be checking in over the course of the week between changing diapers and learning how to be a dad to see that the website is running smoothly. Thanks for your patience.

  • Elizabeth


    Yipe the fireorb is watching me! Cool!

    Thanks for the cautionary advice about what to wish for! Pricey$ Actually, that would likely not be the first thing on my list. I’d plan earlier to get rid of the “open to below” feature. I guess it’s there to bring natural light to the basement? But if lighting the basement results in an awkward and difficult-to-furnish living room, I think the sacrifice is too great. Plus the noise from whatever goes on down there.

    But if you expand the floor into that area, you have this odd setback in the living room. doh! It looks as if this “open to below” thing takes up almost as much space as a stairway, and there’s already an awkward stairway placement. Wish I was better at this stuff.

  • Louis Pereira

    Brad – I had a similar thought regarding the orb…It made me consider a revised furniture arrangement in the Living Room with this option.  However. I’m not certain what the implications are from an HVAC point of view…
    Another option would be to make use of the ‘half-wall’ along the light-well into the basement. What if you add a fireplace there with an exposed upright flue, thereby maintaining views and natural light entering into the living room?…You could simply direct vent up and out (east) since joists are likely running east/west.
    I’ve given up on the idea of a Fireplace along the west wall.  It was a blatant error to place it there in the first place, so perhaps it can be retrofitted into a closet for the back door entry.

  • Louis Pereira

    Congratulations Eric!

    You’ve proven your mastery of the web.  Now you just need to master that poopy diaper thing!…Have fun!

  • Bradw

    Terrific news Eric! Soon you will learn to function without sleep – until then we will struggle along…:)

  • Bradw

    Optionally, we could set the fireplace and millwork back into the living room nook.

    I think the orb is sadly too large – at 42″ in diameter plus a 12″ clearance from combustibles like furniture – it is great in the right space.

    On the web site a green orb is available which is ventless but I am not sure this is legal in   every province or state.

  • Louis Pereira

    That’s right.  Extending the millwork and fireplace by cantilevering into the nook could work as there is so much space to do this.  It would also expand the floor space of the living room.  Just need to ensure it wouldn’t interfere with the east window

  • Louis Pereira

    Brad – Further to your suggestion…This concept is of the fireplace and millwork recessed into the nook.  The millwork is elevated off the floor line and functions as a guard as well as storage.

  • Bradw

    Very slick Louis! Your drawing makes it easy to visualize the space. 

    A final modification of this concept might be to “float” the fireplace/millwork off one or both side walls. 

  • Louis Pereira


    I agree about the suggestion to ‘float’.  I would separate (4″) on the right side only (by the patio doors). This way you could hang off the east wall and rest the fireplace portion on the ‘false’ flue directly below…

  • Srdan Nagy

    Hi Louis,Just one more suggestion. Why not move patio doors to line up with rest of facade (like I did in my second option), then move the whole fireplace element (that is really great) so that the front lines up with the edge of the opening to the basement. This way whole element is hanging above the opening. As that peace of the wall (separating the opening and patio door is removed, one would be able to observe the fireplace element from all sides. 
    hmmm… I really like this, I’ll will try to make a simple 3d presentation of this today or tomorrow…. if that is OK with you……


  • Louis Pereira

    HI Srdan

    Yes!…if you have time, please do.  I would be very interested in seeing the result.

  • Dayle

    Wow, thank you very much everyone for your generous design advice.  I really like the idea of rotating the stairwell and the creative fireplace solutions.  We’ve got some major decision making to do now….!

  • Kathie Strome

    I love the idea of rotating the staircase entry creating wall space for furniture placement.