One Great Room

This first-floor transformation from cramped kitchen and dining space to airy great room began with the demolition of a central wall.

Jan McCollum thought for decades about taking down the wall separating her small kitchen from her dining room and family room. “I felt like I was in prison with that wall there,” she says, laughing. “Forever I kept looking at that wall and saying, ‘Someday….’”

But McCollum knew it was a support wall and assumed that removing it would be, if not impossible, then at least awfully complicated. So she tolerated it. Last year, though, something changed: After more than 40 years in this house perched atop Mount Washington, McCollum says, “I finally said ‘I’m not getting any younger. I want that wall down.’”


Sometimes a single change can make all the difference. McCollum hired Desmone & Associates Architects to remove the wall, creating one sprawling space that serves as kitchen, dining area and family room.

She was thrilled: While standing at her cooktop range, she can now see the entire, stunning view of downtown through her family-room window. She can interact with family and guests while making dinner. And that decades-long feeling of being cooped up in a tiny space is gone.

“It’s very different now,” McCollum says. “It feels like a whole new home, and yet, I didn’t have to pack up all my dishes and glasses.”
In addition to removing the wall, the designers introduced a unified scheme for the entire space. “They used three main colors,” McCollum says, “the greenish gray, the amber and the red-orange.” This coordinated palette visually connects the three areas, yet they retain the feeling of distinct spaces.

The locations of the dining-room and family-room furniture were swapped, effectively moving those two rooms. Older pieces of art and furniture took on new life in the freshly redesigned space, so McCollum only needed to add a few new pieces—a sofa and dining table. The support columns that had been inside the wall were covered to match the new décor. And the old spiral staircase, formerly with white railings, was painted a warm red-orange.


McCollum loves the new shimmering glass tiles, glass shelves and cabinets built around the bar in the dining area. “Before, I had a TV armoire instead of shelves, so it was closed,” she explains. “That was all taken out, and new cabinets were put in at the bottom, some with glass fronts.” This open display area echoes the openness of the entire space.

A few key changes were made to the kitchen: One countertop is now longer, and the oven was moved. Tiny downsides (slightly less space for kitchen cabinets) are balanced by big upsides (the brick floor was covered by corkwood with a heating element underneath, so the floor is warm all winter).

Also, the white kitchen cabinets were replaced with dark ones. “I’m glad my husband doesn’t remember that they were dark first,” McCollum says. “We made them white years ago, and now I’ve changed them back again.”

The redesign has given McCollum a living space she thoroughly enjoys. “I love the colors and the openness,” she says. “After 40-some years, you need a change.” It’s a treat, she tells us, when that change can combine a thoroughly new appearance with the history and familiarity of a beloved family home.