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Sarah Susanka: Creating Open Living Spaces


We’re delighted to have architect and author Sarah Susanka as a guest of Marvin Windows and Doors at this year’s Remodeling Show. Here are some tips from Sarah’s latest book, “Not So Big Remodeling,” written with Marc Vassallo.

1. Two Become One. Make two smaller rooms feel more spacious by opening a shared wall to create a framed opening. This is most effective when it provides a wide connection between spaces while maintaining the differentiation of each room.

2. Columns Instead of Walls. Columns allow for differentiation of places with minimal view obstruction while providing the structural support of a load-bearing wall. Particularly effective where the kitchen connects to adjacent spaces.

3. Let There Be Light. Increase the size of existing windows or place them adjacent to perpendicular walls and ceilings, allowing those surfaces to act as giant daylight reflectors. Bringing in more daylight is one of the best ways to increase the apparent size of a home without adding on.

4. Look to the Ceiling. Unify a remodeled space by creating a spatial theme with varied ceiling heights.Use lowered ceilings over subordinate spaces, higher ceilings over the more important rooms.

5. Use the Floor. Differentiate activity areas in an open space with a change in floor material or level.

6. Connect With the Outdoors. No matter what climate a house is in, it will feel several times larger if the location of the doors and windows draws in the surrounding views and allows easy movement to outside.

7. Bring the Inside Out. Create another room by sheltering an exterior sitting space with a widened overhang or new section of roof. The addition of a screened porch can also serve as an excellent connector between inside and out.

8. Increase the Apparent Size. Differentiate surfaces with a beltline or headband — a continuous line of trim that divides the uopper part of the room from the lower part, such as a chair rail, wainscoting or molding that ties together the tops of all windows and doors. Make the area below the line darker than the area aobve, and the ceiling will look higher, making the whole room seem bigger.

9.  Create Visual Vitality. Make a living space come alive by accentuating a focal wall with a saturated paint color.