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Carefully Knock Down Those Walls and Open Up Your Space

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We often speak of removing barriers. It may be something in your psychological makeup that blocks your success, or rules that prevent you from participating in one thing or the other.

But when it comes to remodeling a room, removal of walls is a tricky deal. Here we're talking about impediments that are made of brick and mortar and situations wherein the integrity of your home is potentially at risk.

First, you'll need to determine whether it's structurally harmless to remove part or all of a particular wall. You may require an architect to ascertain this information, but if that isn't possible, definitely consult with a knowledgeable builder or a structural engineer if you have any doubts. Know that there can be structural engineers who can also prepare plans for city permits, and you should expect to pay hourly for such services, if not a lump sum.

Let's talk about getting rid of a common wall between rooms. If you leave the header in place and remove just a part of the wall, you'll be safe. One main reason for removing a wall between spaces can be to achieve visual freedom. Opening up two little rooms delivers the sense of greater area.

An added purpose is often to increase function. In the pictured example, we view a design solution that introduces the notion of thickening up a part of a wall as a way to provide greater use. The heating ducts have been stashed in this partial wall, and that's sometimes a reason to retain the header and partial wall near the ceiling.

With a depth of 15 to 18 inches, you might create display shelves, as seen. Useful storage for books, household files, family photographs or the good dishes could be included. An under-counter wine chiller, ice maker or beverage refrigerator could be tucked neatly away in such a configuration and face the dining area for practical access. Before you purchase, you'll want to hear the motor for any of these appliances in order to be sure they're quiet enough to be used in open space.

In this sleek design solution, a minimal burner has been incorporated at the end, one that burns bioethanol and thus eliminates the need for venting.

There are no restrictive electrical cords, gas connections or chimneys necessary. This burner can be installed virtually anywhere. Such burners are made of high-grade stainless steel and are guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Perhaps a thickened storage wall such as this one could also be used between two small bedrooms to not only open up the room for two or more children but also to give a sense of individual space to each child. You might include storage cubbies or drawers up to a height of about 36 inches above the finished floor.

Another way to create a bedroom with semi-privacy might be to leave a header and some of the wall and install an easily pulled floor-to-ceiling privacy curtain. Think of the cubicle curtains in a hospital as an example. Of course, there's no auditory privacy, but when kids share a room, sometimes all you need is the impression of private space for each one. Check with a local drapery fabricator to access minimal tracks that attach to the ceiling and allow a lightweight fabric to be pulled smoothly and rapidly to one side.

You might use same concept between a living room like this one and a dining area or the front entry adjacent to a living room. Portable folding screens are another ancient way to provide flexible and partial closure between rooms. We find older homes and apartments were designed with more compartments in a reflection of how people lived in other decades.

The notion of opening up living room to dining room to kitchen began in the later 1950s and has steadily morphed into the creation of the "great room." Our era of nesting and often combining several generations in the same home is steering us back to clever ways to once again personalize larger spaces. A divider can be used to augment a couple of small rooms or to cozy up a much larger space into areas that feel good to the end user.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at christinebrun@sbcglobal.net. To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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