Thursday, February 4, 2010

Flashback: Our Hole in the Wall

I've already shared with you some of the major tasks we've taken on outside our house (sprinkler system and sod). Now I'm going to reveal the most drastic change we've made inside our house since we moved here. So get comfy and settle in for a long (but hopefully interesting) read!

First of all, our house does not have what you would call an "open" floor plan. The rooms are small and divided for the most part. However, the walls that separate our entryway, living room, dining room, and kitchen don't go all the way up to the ceiling, so that makes it feel a little less claustrophobic.

Even so, we knew right away that someday we'd end up doing something to open up the living room and dining room to each other. ("Someday" happened about 6 months after we moved in.) These are the few pictures I took shortly after we moved in. As you can see, the wall behind the couch made these two rooms feel very enclosed and very disconnected. It was pretty much impossible to have people over and be able to utilize both the living room and dining room at once, which was kind of frustrating.  Oh, and we couldn't watch TV from the dinner table, either... we love our Wheel of Fortune :)


It would have taken some major renovation to remove the wall completely, because it's also connected to the archway between the dining room and entryway, which is connected to the archway between our entryway and living room. Confusing. So anyway, we decided the easiest way to open up the space would be to make a window opening in the wall. 

The whole idea made me a little nervous, and I wanted to know exactly what it would look like. Luckily for me, Luke is an architect, so he has access to a sweet design program called Revit. He was able to draw up a rendering of our rooms with a window opening, and this is what ended up sealing the deal for me:

Cool, huh?

We didn't want a wimpy window, so we settled on an opening that was 5' wide by 3' tall. Rather than centering it in the wall, we decided to center it with the light fixture in the dining room. I pretty much let Luke take over the details of measuring and determining the exact placement of the opening, because he’s just really good at that stuff.

Once the outline (and placement of wall studs) was determined by a pencil line and some painters tape, there was nothing left to do but bite the bullet and CUT A FREAKING HOLE IN OUR WALL. Can you tell this is when I started getting really nervous? If we screwed this up, it wasn't going to be an easy fix. Needless to say, I let Luke handle this part too, because I had no experience with such things and didn’t want this to be my practice. Here he is, cutting out the drywall by scoring it several times with a utility knife and a straightedge.

Then, it was time to do cut the drywall on the dining room side. This is when we really started to get the full effect. Just look how excited Luke is!

Once the sheets of drywall were finally removed from both sides of the wall, this is what remained:

While it was tempting to just stop there with the "jail cell" look, we thought it best to get rid of those studs. :) But first, we infilled between the studs with 2x4 blocking at the head and sill. Then we created the jambs by building out from the closest stud still inside the wall cavity. THEN, it was time to cut the studs out with a reciprocating saw. (Using a hand saw would have created too much torque and taken much longer.)  I was in charge of holding the stud from vibrating so much while Luke sawed away until his arms were sore. This was probably the scariest part because of the potential for the drywall around the opening to crack -- and we did NOT want to have to replace/patch that, especially because of our textured walls. Anyway, after a lot of swearing sawing and breath-holding, this was the result:


You probably can't see it in the picture, but there are three holes cut in the 2x4's up in the head. We ran allthread through these holes up through the top plate of the wall and secured them with nuts, in order to create tension and prevent the head from sagging (because we didn't have a true header).

Finally it was time to frame it out. We used oak veneer for the head and jambs because it was free from Luke's dad (yes, we're cheap and will take any breaks we can get). But we used 3/4" solid oak for the sill because we wanted to create a sturdy ledge. 

We found trim and decorative corner blocks at Home Depot to match the existing trimwork in the rest of the house. We also lucked out by finding a can of stain in the basement that the builders used for the trimwork. Score!

In the midst of all this, we were also planning an open house, so we were on a tight deadline to get the window done. All in all, it took about a week from start to finish, since we mostly only worked on it during the evenings. We managed to get everything done just in time for the open house except for setting the nails and filling in the holes (which we didn't get around to until weeks later, for some reason).

I'm sure you're ready to see the end result now, so without further ado, I present to you our window opening (which we affectionately call our hole in the wall):



Not too shabby, eh? Notice how Phoebe manages to get into the pictures...

I'm really happy we decided to do this -- it's made a huge difference in many ways:
- Opening up the space and letting more natural light through
- Allowing people to hang out in both rooms and still have a conversation
- Leading us to utilize the dinner table much more now that we can watch TV while we eat (such a bad habit, I know)
- Creating more functional space as a leaning ledge that's wide enough to sit drinks or decorative accents on
- Increasing the appeal of the house if and when we sell it someday. I have a feeling the wall initially turned off potential buyers (before we came along) because of how small it made the rooms seem. 

Well, I think I've patted myself on the back enough. (Luke actually deserves a lot of the credit for doing most of the hard work while I "supervised" and handed him tools). Now I need to give YOU kudos for making it to the end of this post! I'd love to know what you think of the transformation. I left out a lot of details (and yet this still turned into a novel somehow), but if you have any specific questions about how we did something, ask away!


Kelly@TearingUpHouses said...

I didn't know your boy was an architect? How did I miss that? Fist bump, Luke.

Where'd he go to school? You know I started in the Kansas State program before I transferred? I lived in Kansas City for a few years (off of Harrison downtown). Go Epperson House.

I know quite a few people still practicing there. Small world!


Mrs. Chic said...

Your Hole, looks great - your right it really does open up both rooms and lets alot of light in. AND your right perfect tv watching... Great to have an architect around!

micah @ the yellow front door said...

I love that you are married to an architect... his handy skills are welcome at our house anytime!

The hole is brilliant.... looks like it was always there!

Danielle and Clint said...

WOW! It really opened the space up! Good job!!

Anonymous said...

That looks great! Definitely more functional now, and don't be ashamed - you're not the only ones who watch TV during dinner ...

Lauren @ withTWOcats said...

Looks great! We did something similar in our living room and it made SUCH a difference.

Amanda said...

You're right, it really makes it seem so much bigger! I also have the bad habit of setting my laptop on the dining table and watching Hulu while I eat dinner if I'm alone, haha.

I think the thing I like the most is how you put the frame around it. It just makes it feel so much more finished.

Amanda said...

You're right, it really makes it seem so much bigger! I also have the bad habit of setting my laptop on the dining table and watching Hulu while I eat dinner if I'm alone, haha.

I think the thing I like the most is how you put the frame around it. It just makes it feel so much more finished.

dolores @ "Welcome to My Humble Ablog" said...

Kudos for taking on such a 'hit or miss' project! The 'hole' really does give that open space vibe. And the trimming is flawless!! Both of you did such an amazing job; it looks fantastic.

I have a similar 'hole in the wall' in my living room/family room but unfortunately I have the jail cell look...posts not wall studs (I hope!) which will soon be getting axed.

Sharon@Sharon at Home said...

WOW ... so much light, so much space. What a fabulous addition (or deletion!!!) Well done.

Struggler said...

Congrats for taking on such a scary project! I'm so pleased it turned out well. Plus, you'll save a tonne of money in not having to buy art for the 2 sides of that wall! :)

Krysta said...

Stumbled over from Micah's blog! Thanks so much for sharing this project. It looks amazing. I plan on opening up the wall between my kitchen & dining room, and I'll definitely be using this as a guide when I get started!!

Amanda said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone!

Dolores - Looking forward to seeing how your window turns out!!

Struggler - Yes, we already have enough other blank walls to worry about!

Krysta - Thanks for stopping by! Good luck on your own window opening - feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have any questions, I'm sure my hubby would be happy to lend some advice. :)

Sarah @ Hennessey House said...

wow! what an impact it makes! and how great to have such a handy husband - mine will barely pick up a paint brush ;)

Danielle @ Transforming Home said...

Wow - what a project! Looks great!


Anonymous said...

That looks amazing! I love the trim too. Such a great little detail.

The Brick Cottage said...

It looks awesome! How great to have such a handy hubby that was so careful to remove the wall (I can't imagine what a mess we would have ended up with trying something like that!).

Kristi W @ Life at the Chateau Whitman said...

Wow, what a cool idea! You guys did a great job. I love how it opens up the living space so much more.

Meg said...

Wow, what a big difference! It looks so much more open and...dare I say happier?

micah @ the yellow front door said...

Did you know this is featured on Better After today?

Kathy said...

I liked the transformation. It's very cozy and modern to look at. Yesterday, I'm also feeling dreamy when I've noticed my brother's fabulous and newly-grouted Sarasota tiles. Thanks for sharing the incredible post, Amanda!

roofs fort worth tx said...

The blog was absolutely fantastic!Some people have a knack when it comes to home decor. They can throw just about anything up on the walls, and it looks great! With so many home decor styles to choose from, there must be something all of us can do to make our homes unique and beautiful.


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