Space vs. Historic Accuracy

I’m taking a break from thinking about our garden apartment for a day because I’m currently preoccupied with our 1st (aka parlor) floor.

While we were at the house ripping out drywall Monday evening, we met a couple of our neighbors. (They’re very nice, by the way.) The gentleman had actually spent years restoring the rowhome 2 doors down and he invited us in to take a peek. It was BEAUTIFUL and he let me take some pictures. What caught my eye most what what he did with the front room on the first floor.

All the houses in our “row” were built at the same time and, originally, had the same floor plan. Over the years, owners have changed and updated things. We’re lucky that most of the original historic details in our home are intact, as is the floor plan.

Currently, our 1st/parlor floor looks like this:
1st floor current layout

There is a wall between the hallway & living room with an arch:


(please excuse the stuff, these pictures were taken before we moved in)




The home 2 doors down doesn’t have that wall. There is no hallway; you walk in from the vestibule (which they’ve added; ours doesn’t have) into the living room:

The home also didn’t have much of the original detailing intact, but our neighbor renovated it to look like the original period. The gentleman is also quite the woodworker, as can tell by all the details and paneling he’s added.

(Beautiful, isn’t it??)

This got me thinking about ripping out OUR wall. We would keep our current crown moldings intact, removing the wall below them. We would loose the arch & baseboard moldings.

In our home, the floor plan would look something like this:
1st floor no wall layout

The front room becomes much more open. I’ve never been a fan of hallways and typically prefer as few walls as possible. However, we loose an original arch and a wall that could be filled with art or furniture.

Basically it comes down to opening the space up or keeping the house true to it’s original floor plan.

What would you do??

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17 Responses to Space vs. Historic Accuracy

  1. Hi! I found you through CasaCara. My husband and I bought a rowhouse in Jersey City in January of 2008.

    Our wall had already been removed when we bought our house. Our house is only 17′ wide. I thin that was probably a big determining factor. In our row I’d say 25% have that wall removed. It really does open up the space nicely but I don’t know if I had the choice what I would do.

    How wide is yours?

    Either way, I’m really enjoying your bog and i’ll be following your progress. You should also check out the renovation section over at Good stuff.

    All the best- THL

  2. Duh, no already have Brownstoner listed…my bad!

  3. caitie says:

    plan what you will probably use the room for. make sure you don’t need that wall. i’d love to say you can plan around whatever you do- but it really sucks to need a wall and not have one.

    if all that works out- i say knock it the hell down. i’m all for original detailing but your house is already FULL of it. the openness will be such a welcoming and refreshing thing when you walk into the house. my favorite thing about my parents house was always the two front rooms -which are basically just one big room vaguely separated by some molding structure. it looks and feels wonderful to walk into

  4. Kim says:

    Hmmmm….. his house is gorgeous. I think I would love the wall ripped out, if it wasn’t going to mess anything up structurally or cause pain and anguish (mental or financial). Once you get it fixed up, it will look so awesome either way.

    Does that help? 😉

  5. cara says:

    My inclination would be to say leave it for now because it’s original. I like the arch. The ‘openness’ fixation is a recent phenomenon, and while I do believe some modern notions really ARE improvements on what the Victorians did, I’m still inclined to say, leave it, live with it, see how it feels, and in years to come, if you decide to remove it, you can do it then. Just my two cents; it is YOUR house. (Just realized the wild colors on the parlor floor were the previous occupants’. Look forward to reading about what you decide to do, color-wise.)

  6. Lily says:

    WWFSD? (What would feng shui do?)

    Honestly, I say ditch the wall, because openness is nice and it’ll lighten your first floor.

    But that’s just my opinion…

  7. AJ says:

    Knock down that wall. That staircase deserves to be seen from the living room. Once you restore that staircase to its original, beautiful luster – it should look remarkable. Any photos you want to hang up,etc could easily be hung on the adjacent wall, or even along the staircase bank.

    Enclosed spaces on the first floor could seem daunting to guests at first sight. Its best to open it up and simply make the place look bigger.

  8. Eva says:

    I’m in the minority here but I would keep the wall for now. You should really live in the space for a little while and let time decide if you want to take sometime like that down. What if you move in wish you had that wall there? Or the wall will slowly drive you crazy over the next year- then you’ll know you are making the right choice.

    While your neighbors house is gorgeous and that woodwork is to die for… your wall is historic and seems to be in good shape. I’d have a hard time tearing that out.

  9. Skip says:

    My vote stands firmly in the “knock-that-bastard-down” category. Firstly, because I think the open space is the way to go. Secondly, because hallways are for suckers. Thirdly, because its fun to go “smashy smashy” with a big f’ing hammer.

    But then again, what the hell do I know?

  10. AJ says:

    Make sure that wall isn’t acting as support for the ceiling.

  11. Emily says:

    I say leave it, at least for now. You can always take it out later if you decide it really has to go, but I like leaving historic houses as they are.

  12. MEA says:

    unless you want to putt something on the wall (TV) or against the wall (couch) im on the knock the f*er down team!!! I LOVE open floor plans!!!

  13. mrslimestone says:

    As you know, I have a similar set up. I really like having a hallway – not so much for the art hanging (I dont have anything up there now) but more b/c I like the flow. It just feels better to me to have a little area to hang coats and such that isn’t in my living room. For me, I loved the style of the house so I didn’t want to change some of the things I loved. Also a factor was our floors.

    That said, my last house was 13 feet wide so this was a huge upgrade in terms of width, I didn’t feel the need to rip out walls to make space. If you feel cramped now, go for it.

  14. L says:

    I think homes like this with the wall knocked out look strange, it just doesn’t look right. You don’t truly gain space, because you still need that floor space open for a pathway, you know? At the very least, like others have suggested, live with it for a while and see how you feel.

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