An Easy Renovation Idea To Increase Your Home’s Value

Hey Guys,

I’m in San Francisco for the Design Influencer’s Conference.

Today, I went out with my good friend, interior designer Deborah Von Donop of DVD Interior Design, and we had the best time traipsing up and down the hills. Of course, Deb being a relative “homey” is someone I get to see in New York. You may recall a beautiful garden show in Greenwich, CT we attended last June.

However, while beautifully balmy when I arrived yesterday, today was a different story.


It was quite chilly and WINDY. But, that’s San Francisco. It’s not our bitterly cold winter of the northeast. But, we needed our heavy coats and a hat.


photo of San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

This is a photo I took near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

And yes, we climbed up to the top of Telegraph Hill and winded our way down Lombard St. So, get ready later on for more images of this stunning city. It’s changed a lot since I lived in Palo Alto in the mid-1970s.

This post is a continuation of Syd’s open floor plan, where all of her walls are currently gray. On Wednesday, we looked at some ideas I had, but I came up with those ideas before I knew the layout. So, let’s see if any of that works.

But, mostly, I want to share with you an easy renovation idea that I’ve done many times for clients.


And, what is the easy renovation idea?


It’s creating some small wall additions to create some separation of space. But, not so much that it compromises the open feeling. We’ve already touched on this idea in this post about open concept floor plans.


Sometimes, in our simple renovation, we’ll also move doorways a foot or two. I always loved designing these kinds of improvements. I found making these small tweaks would make an incredible difference to the overall plan.


Fortunately, Syd had a scale drawing the first floor of her home.


However, it is only a photo. So, I made the image to appear at 1/8th scale on my laptop. I did that by already knowing that the kitchen counters are about two feet deep. Plus, some of the room measurements. Then, I used my scale ruler to measure out the rest of the walls and furniture.


Syd floor plan before - reversed

Above is the floor plan that Syd sent me.

Just one problem.

It’s the reverse of her home.

So, I took a screenshot of it. And from there, I was able to reverse the image.


floor plan before

There, that’s better.


In the next image, is where you will see my easy renovation idea.


The new small walls are in the medium blue color. The existing walls are in black.


Floor plan no furniture - easy renovation


You walk through the entrance, and immediately to one’s left, I created a completely enclosed room. Right now, it’s an office. And, there are some other things in that space, as well.


In my renovation plan, I created two small walls, one longer extension, and a French door.


I think having the ability to enclose this room adds value because a prospective buyer could see this as a great getaway space. Or, it could also serve as a guest room.

Moving on. We come to a staircase. Right now, there are two half-walls used as railings. The first one, I would replace it with a wooden railing and newel post.


Sage Design - beautiful staircase white wall paint

Sage Design

Maybe something like the one above. It will only go up a few stairs, and then the spindles will disappear into the wall.

On the dining room side, I would turn that side into a full wall. For more great staircase ideas, please check out this post.


I extended the wall entering into the living room by about two feet.


For the living room, there are no architectural changes. The only one is the fireplace moulding.

The most significant change is the kitchen area. There, I put up a wall; with a pass-through. But, there could also be an interior window in that opening.

And then, I yanked out that island. Instead, I  put in a long counter.


Of course, Syd will most likely not do even half of this.


But, let’s say that she was just moving into this home or wanted to do a renovation increase its value for resale.

I do believe that these changes will do that. And, if nothing else, make the home more appealing.


Now, for the furniture layout.


Floor plan after easy renovation idea - small walls


When we come in, there is a small console table on the right with a table lamp.

The living room layout is pretty much the same. However, the sectional is smaller.


Serena and Lily Barton Sectional

The Serena and Lily Barton Sectional is one of many smaller sectionals that might work. It is currently on sale, as is all of their upholstered custom furniture. (this is the right-facing sectional)


Serena and Lily Barton sectional - left facingSyd would need the Serena & Lily left facing Barton sectional.


Serena and Lily Spruce Street Sectional Sofa

The Serena and Lily Spruce Street Sectional Sofa is another favorite of mine.


LR_Spruce_St_Sectional right facingAll of Serena and Lily’s sectionals come in both right arm and left arm facing. This version is right facing. It’s called that because the shorter piece is on the right side when facing the long side.



The small Reese coffee table would look fantastic in this scheme.


You can also the small Reese Coffee table on the Hot Sales page in the second widget. Yes, it’s on sale, and it’s over 40% off! It also comes in a lighter cerused oak finish.


I did add a sofa table behind the sectional with two table lamps. That way, I could forgo an end table. But, I did put a small floor lamp on the fireplace end.

And, I added a task lamp next to the leather chair.


Of course, Syd will most likely not do even half of this.


But, let’s say that she was just moving into this home or wanted to do a renovation increase its value for resale.

I do believe that these changes will do that. And, if nothing else, make the home more appealing.

Initially, as I was planning this out, I did have two small walls separating the dining area and living room. But, I found it challenging to make it all work and flow nicely. Therefore, in the end, I left it out.

However, I love the idea now, of the two sconces with the china cabinet on that wall.

Of course, there would be chairs around the table. And, we could put two extra chairs flanking the doorway.


Could we do the demi-lune tables, like we did in the mood board from Wednesday?


There might be room flanking the pass-through. But, right now, I left the tables out.

My motto is: When in doubt, leave it out.


Valley Wallpaper Serena & Lily


Valley Wallpaper Serena & Lily


What about the wallpaper, Laurel? Can you still do it? I don’t see a natural place to end it now.


Well, yes, you are right about that. But, I think if Syd did the dark green walls, in this case, it might be interesting to do the wallpaper on the pass-through wall. And, maybe also do it on the china cabinet wall.

Or, she could just do it on the pass-through wall, only as a cool accent.


Benjamin Moore Pale Avocado Kitchen
I am seeing painting the kitchen in Pale Avocado from Benjamin Moore. It is the same color I have in my kitchen (above). And, it is one of the Laurel Home Essential Paint Color Collection colors.

And, it is included as one of 16 of my favorite Benjamin Moore paint colors.


On the back wall between the living and dining areas, I would do a stunning art gallery wall.


For some free art wall templates, please go here.


Also, please check out a fabulous art gallery wall for cheap.


And, the ultimate art gallery wall hack.


Well, I think these ideas will make this home more cohesive.

I think one of my favorite parts is creating a real room by the front door. But, I also love enclosing the kitchen. How do you feel about that? Do you prefer your kitchen, dining, and living/family room to be all one room? Or, do you prefer having some separation from your kitchen?

I will see you most likely on Wednesday this week, due to the conference.

In the meantime, please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!



21 Responses

  1. Since the dining room is still pretty open to other spaces, including a living room that’s more TV room than formal entertaining space, I would rather leave the kitchen open but forgo the island for a big, cool “chef’s table” that could be used for extra (seated) prep space, homework, and big dinners. I feel like with a strategic “un-kitchen” per your instructions, that could work to make a big open and warm family home. Formal entertaining can always be done at a restaurant.

  2. Good Morning Laurel =
    I have designed 3 homes with open concept and it works for me. I would not want a frame out opening into the kitchen. I would feel like I was the waitress taking orders and would need a sign saying, “kitchen closes at 7:30 p.m. No more orders after 5:00 p.m. I realize it isn’t for everyone. If space allows, I spec 30” deep base cabinets. Makes work space so much bigger.

  3. Love the idea of the front room, i LOVE kathleen’s comment I think it’s SO spot on:
    “”This would accommodate those who stop by for a short visit, but you do not want them in the back of the house. I would have some lush plants in the room. “”

    I’ve been literally stuck for months trying to figure out how to make my formal living room into exactly what Kathleen said above. It’s right off the entry and I’m dreaming of a dark, moody, gentlemen’s club type feeling there. Haven’t figured it out yet.
    Regarding closed off kitchens, I’m an agent and the only time that is a desirable feature (in lower Fairfield County) is when the kitchen is large enough to also act as a gathering place—so that even though the kitchen is completely separate from a family room, you’d still have the option of ppl in kitchen with you at an island and kitchen table, hanging out, or the option of moving them away into the family room. It is always a negative with buyers when they feel like the kitchen is small and there isn’t easy flow to family room, as the kitchen is considered a living space to be shared by all.

    When you’re entertaining everyone always wants to help, and talk to you while you’re cooking or even just making small apps. The pass through would make the hosts feel like their guests are ordering from a takeout window. (My mother in law has this set up in their toll brothers 55+ community townhouse, I’m not sure she’s a fan.)

    Ive seen homes that combine kitchen and family room while keeping a sense of separation by adding a few steps down. This sounds so super 80s but a “sunken” room off the kitchen does give some definition to each space, especially if there’s trim/framing around. That’s obviously not possible here but I was thinking combining kitchen and dining area and framing off (not closing off—just making a defined entryway) the family room might be more conducive.

    In suburban house living you also need to consider outdoor entertaining. Kitchen closed off from easy access to the yard, is a huge bummer. Bigger bummer if you have kids.

    As an agent and a mom who lives in a house with kids, who entertains, I would advise against closing off THIS particular kitchen. Only bc it would make it feel smaller than it needs to. Otherwise in a big ol’house, a separate Large kitchen with an island and kitchen table and WALLS and doors to the yard is just so dreamy.

    just my 2 cents!

  4. Hi Laurel, I hope you have a wonderful trip! I love the color boards and furniture plans for Syd. Creating a room in the front area would create a quiet spot away from the open plan and make everything look more crisp and neat upon entry.
    Like Kate, even a semi-enclosed kitchen would not sell well where I live. Since they may be moving, I would hold off
    I wish we could see the well-loved dog! His bed (with a new dark cover to blend with the floor) could be tucked between the tv and the fireplace, his crate hidden in the new den (Pinterest has lots of dog crate hacks to make them look like furniture!), and the stair-gate hidden in the closet (or behind the new bigger hall to the powder room. Both Ballard Design and Ikea have drapes that match your color palette, green velvet solids, and prints.
    Syd’s home will look great with her new grey walls!

  5. Robin, you and I share the same thoughts on a kitchen. Plus, if one does not have a good exhaust system all of the odors and grease gets into your soft furnishings. Also, I do not like folks telling me what I should be doing while cutting a turkey or preparing a dish. I definitely need a glass of wine when that behavior begins!

  6. Thanks, Laurel, for another instructive post. We learn so much from you!

    Where I live, your idea for the Flex Space is terrific. This floor plan is common here, and that room is often a messy office and seldom an inviting sitting room. Often when the owners answer the door, they begin by apologizing for the mess. You’ve got a wonderful solution.

    Real estate is local, and here, we are still removing the walls between kitchens and living spaces. Pass-through’s particularly get rolled eyes and long sighs and “How much will it cost to remove?” Here, a kitchen with an island that flows openly into the dining area is more valuable than a kitchen that is closed to the dining area.

  7. The first thing I noticed on your floor plan was that you had enclosed the kitchen and my immediate response is Hallelujah!!!! I am so ready to go back to the kitchen as a separate room. More counter space, more storage and no worrying about grease or odors in my upholstered furniture. I do have a peninsula in my kitchen that seats 2 or 3 which I love. And when we have family over, yes everyone hangs out in the kitchen but behind the peninsula and out of my work triangle. Remember that? The “work triangle”? I notice a lot of the new kitchens seem to have put the refrigerator in a different room altogether or on the opposite side of a looong island.
    If anyone can return us to sanity, I knew it would be you Laurel. Thank You!

  8. Hi Laurel,
    San Francisco is always so pretty. Hope you’re having fun.
    Per usual, I love all your suggestions. I’m just wondering if the additional counter space added between the kitchen & dining space was meant to accommodate barstools.

  9. Love the furniture arrangement. I have a similar room with a corner fireplace. I so want to add lighting behind the sectional but there are no outlets close by. I would like to have an electrician install a floor outlet but am scared to decide where to put it in the beautiful hard wood floors because that is a permanent solution. Any suggestions or reassurance should be appreciated.

  10. Hi Laurel, Glad you are having such a nice trip!! I just love how you addressed Syd’s home and wish her well. You totally transformed the staircase into an architectural element and with the changes to the walls throughout, the design feels so sophisticated and well planned. With regards to open or separate kitchens…I’ve been thinking (obsessing) about this but am hesitant. I don’t know if the entire wall that separates the dining room should go or do a half wall. We moved here in 2015. The kitchen,(crappy) cabinets and counter, needs to go. It has a huge peninsula with seating for 3, no table. When entertaining people want to have a drink, eat and schmooze in the kitchen and I want them to do that but the layout doesn’t work. The dining room seats 6. If it’s family, we divide up. Our guests are usually herded down the hall to the living room while I remain at the stove. In my head I want a space for people to relax and socialize and I can enjoy being in the same space. This house was definitely designed for another era (late 50’s). So open or separate? I’m leaning towards combining the spaces in some way. Thank you for an inspiring post!

  11. Such a stunning picture of the bridge! G It’s frame-worthy, and great inspiration for a color theme – complete with accent color!

  12. I love this color palette and the new enclosed front room. I’ve gradually incorporated more greens and blues into our neutral palette and it’s such a welcome change (thanks to your influence!). Guess my opinions are mixed on Syd’s kitchen…and that’s from living in an open floor plan for 3 years now. No doubt the kitchen is the dominant room in our home – friends and family always hang out around the island. So it’s nice to have that space naturally flow into the living area. But sometimes I miss the separation. Can’t leave out dirty dishes, it’s noisy with tv and clanging pots. And besides weirdly feeling like I’m cooking in my living room, the biggest adjustment is less storage. We added extra cabinets in our garage for lesser used serving pieces (like the punch bowl, which is so 80’s but I can’t part with it!). So it’s starting to work for me now…just miss the feel of a real kitchen. Thanks, Laurel, for another inspiring post. You’ve been a favorite source of ideas for me as I’ve created “home” from our house, and I hope you have a great time in SF!

  13. I would say definitely yes on creating separation in the flex room. To each their own but in my old east coast neighborhood with lots of 30+ year old center hall colonials, local contractors were kept busy knocking down walls and pass throughs to open up the kitchens to the family rooms. And with one particular floor plan, owners went to the expense of relocating the laundry room which were awkwardly built between the family room and kitchen. Personally, as someone who loves to cook and entertain, having the kitchen open to the family room was a non-negotiable for me when we moved west. I like to be part of the action when we have a sporting event on TV or we have friends/family gathered. I’m not a hired cook that should be neither seen or heard. I’m the hostess with the mostest! Plus, the island makes a great serving area for appetizers and buffet meals.

  14. Our kitchen is completely separate, and generally I love it that way. It does make it a bit of a challenge to keep an eye on my youngest child but that won’t be an issue much longer. I like being able to contain the kitchen noise and mess without it bleeding into the living areas as much. BUT, it’s a very small kitchen and I do wish there was a little seating space, for sitting down while cooking longer recipes, or a space for someone else to sit and keep the cook company. Maybe we can add a little something to it someday.

  15. Did you consider the sofa/sectional on an angle to face the fireplace? It looks like there may be enough space to pull that off (unlike the situation you had in a previous home), but it may be awkward as it wouldn’t square off with the dining room. If that was done you’d probably want to extend those foyer walls a bit more.

  16. I like closing off the front room with the french doors but I wouldn’t close off the kitchen, especially if she is looking to resale. It seems to me that the same furniture layout would still work with the kitchen open. So many people look for open floor plans that it doesn’t seem practical to close off the kitchen. But I agree it makes sense to enclose the front room because it makes that room far more practical and the space easier to use.

  17. How about the same floor plan, but if there are two bathrooms there – master bathroom and powder room (this could be even more fun) how would you decorate them?

  18. I sit here with a very dated looking home wondering why it seems so much easier to tell someone else what they should do with theirs rather than working on my own!
    Laurel, as I need doors and separate rooms for my psyche, I really like your changes to the kitchen and entry. The asymmetry of the family room makes me crazy so I would rip out the fireplace and square the walls. Knowing major renovations were probably not an option I moved forward in my ideas.
    I considered defining the entry with this and that but decided it was just too narrow for that approach. Then I thought why not consider the entry area and room as one space. So instead of standing in the doorway, visitors can be invited into your “parlor”.
    But here is where I most assuredly depart from most others’ thoughts. I think the tv should be moved into that room. In my family we do not watch a lot of tv, and I do not like it competing with conversations. I would put it on the wall adjacent to the windows and would paint the walls dark as you suggested along with art to help the tv disappear. I would use 4 chairs in the room. Two would be by the windows with a small table between them. The other chairs could be arranged as allowed by the space. This would accommodate those who stop by for a short visit, but you do not want them in the back of the house. I would have some lush plants in the room. The chairs could easily be moved for better viewing of the tv when needed. I would put 4 decorative coat hooks behind the door. I would also put a table with lamps where you positioned one in your layout. Perhaps a patterned rug could be used in front of the door and a sisal rug in the room itself. But maybe I have just lost my mind, and this is all crazy talk. It is 3 am!
    Laurel, I was thinking one could put a deep etagere against the wall between the family room and bath/closet area. While it would not add 2 feet like your extended wall would, there are some that are 16.5” deep.
    In the family room, I would put a beautiful table in the corner opposite the fireplace for playing games, writing, reading or snacking. If rectangular, it could be angled a bit to accommodate my need for symmetry. I like the way you have arranged the furniture and totally agree with putting wall up along the staircase in the kitchen area.
    My other thought is to use reflective materials in your decorative items as well as mirrors to bounce the light around the house.
    Thank you, Syd for sharing your dilemma with all of us. Laurel, just delete the post if it has made you cringe and/or laugh. Who knows, maybe later today I will work on my home decorating plan!
    Oh, Laurel, thanks for that peaceful photo.
    I like Tom’s Guide for info. Here are some links for TV placement considering size of tv and room.
    This page has a quick video about room size;,news-24708.html,news-24719.html

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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