Episode 19

In Consideration of Walls

Published on: 1st July, 2020

I was copied on an email recently from a client to a contractor referring to me as “Katharine who is-oh-so-fond-of-walls”. Was I supposed to see that? I don’t know. The truth is, I am fond of walls.  

Walls form our spaces, create privacy, allow differentiation, block sound. In this particular case I am really failing in my attempt to persuade this young couple that opening up their long living room wall to the long central hall in their new-to-them but classic 1920s house will not create the space they think it will and certainly won’t be worth the money. Open plan is so overrated and misunderstood. I would have thought that after many people spending weeks and weeks in their homes with their families, all on zoom calls and trying to stay out of each other’s way, would finally result in an appreciation in walls, doors, and the need for varied “public” spaces in the home. Unfortunately, carefully curated photographs on Houzz and Pinterest create this illusion that removing the walls in your home will result in an impressive space.  I made a video about my warnings over open space last year, see the link here

Don’t get me wrong, I love a kitchen open to living and dining space. I understand that that is the heart of the home. But those big open spaces need to be balanced with public spaces that can be closed away, what Sarah Susankah calls “away spaces” in her book the Not So Big House. Just opening up walls randomly isn’t going to create useful space, especially not combining a living room with a center hall that contains a radiator, coat closet and stair to the second floor.  

Here is a link to my rant on YouTube about open spaces: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed2Y7ShExbY

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Thanks to Ray Bernoff, the editor of the show. www.RayBernoff.com

Music at the beginning and end of the episode is Blueberry Festival Footrace by David Fisher and performed by Hanneke Cassel www.hannekecassel.com

Cover Art by Sam White www.samowhite.com

This podcast is a production of dEmios Architects. We've got a log of exciting events coming up, including Reading with Architects (book discussion) Saturday Morning Coffee Chats, how to get going with your home renovation zoom classes and a monthly artist chat- learn more at www.demiosarchitects.com

Email questions for future episodes to thehousemaven@talkinghomerenovations.com

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About the Podcast

Talking Home Renovations with the House Maven
the professionals discuss all aspects of home renovations
Are you planning a home renovation and worried that you don’t know what you are doing? Talking Home Renovations with the House Maven is an educational and entertaining podcast that will ease your fears. Join architect Katharine MacPhail as she interviews contractors, vendors, other architects and homeowners and gathers tips and cautionary tales about home renovations. Learn about materials, what to expect, what to avoid and how to make the most of the money that you will spend on your renovation.
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About your host

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Katharine MacPhail

Katharine White MacPhail, Principal at dEmios Architects in Arlington, MA has been working on residential projects of all sizes in the greater Boston area since 1996. Her mission is to help people learn about, plan and complete their home renovations and additions. She does this through traditional architectural services, Ask an Architect design help line, the podcast Talking Home Renovations with the House Maven, and through Home Renovation zoom classes. Her specialty is transforming the older homes so prevalent in Massachusetts, bringing them to the next level without sacrificing their character.
Katharine is a registered architect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a Leed Accredited Professional. She received a Master of Architecture from Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in January of 1996. While at SCI-Arc, she pursued projects and theory related to the study of the architecture of the"everyday". Katharine also holds a BA in Art History from Mount Holyoke College where she fell in love with classical antiquities and later completed some graduate work in Historic Preservation at Boston University before pursuing a career in architecture.
Katharine is also the co-host of live simulcast/podcast Context and Clarity Live, a podcast related to the business of running a small firm.
Katharine serves as the Secretary for the Boston Scottish Fiddle Club and plays with the Boston Scottish Fiddle Orchestra. She is the manager for the all-female Celtic string quintet Scottish Fish.