Remodelers Corner: A Room Undivided

Ryan and Sue Ness envisioned an open floor plan when they decided to remodel the main floor of their Rochester home last year. “We knew going in, it was going to be a big job,” Ryan says. 


Standing in the way was a long, load-bearing wall that separated their kitchen from the living room.  It had to disappear without a trace of its prior place. Overhead, the homeowners also envisioned a single ceiling stretching across their two rooms. That meant hiding the main beam holding up much of the home’s interior.

A year later, the Nesses enjoy a renovated kitchen and living/entertainment space. In addition, the decor throughout the main floor is new, and the master bathroom has been redone, along with other touches.


The wall stretching down the center of the Ness’ 1960s-era house was not just a room divider. It also was holding up the ceiling overhead. 


Last year, the couple turned to Elias Construction of Byron to figure out how to demolish the wall and, at the same time, support the ceiling and its frame.  (The home’s roof is braced independently.) The simplest solution, a single beam in place of the wall, would prop up the frame from below, but it also would interfere with creating an open living area from the adjoining rooms. Elias and his crews looked in the rafters and found a solution: They could insert a 20-foot-long beam into the attic and support the ceiling frame from above rather than propping it up from below.  

“Instead of a wall under (the ceiling structures), there is an engineered beam on top of them,” company owner Mickey Elias explains. The joists for the ceiling “now are . . . hung underneath the beam” using mechanical fasteners. 

“This was the first large-scale beam we’ve built in like that,” says Elias. “It’s much more time-consuming, but certainly is a cleaner look,” he says. The technique hid the large beam and, at the same time, gave the Nesses a level ceiling throughout both parts of their large living area.  It’s as if the rooms had been designed as one living space.


While that big beam did its job out of sight, another large structure is a central feature of Ryan and Sue’s remodeling project that’s meant to be seen. The couple installed a “ginormous” 8-foot-long island in their kitchen, Sue says. Able to seat as many as 10 people, the granite top on the island acts as the house’s main dining table and gathering spot. In daily life, it’s used for chores ranging from food preparation to paperwork.

Cramped and outdated, “Our kitchen was in need,” Sue says. The remodeling project gutted and rebuilt it from the frame up. The Nesses also replaced major appliances. Among innovative solutions, they installed a microwave oven at one end of the island. 

The couple and the contractor also coordinated the decor to complement the other improvements. New granite countertops along the kitchen walls matched the “sienna beige” pattern and coloring in the central island’s top. The backsplash on the walls also was kept simple with a “straw-colored” tint of ivory to avoid any clash with the countertops.

The new kitchen cabinets predominately are white, but Ryan and Sue also added different textures and splashes of darker color in both the kitchen and the living room. For example, three wooden lamps suspended over the island lend an interesting retro element and, Sue says, they serve to “offset the hard look of granite.”

The Nesses replaced the kitchen’s tile flooring with oak, tying it into the hardwood floor in the adjacent living area. Down the hall, the house’s main bathroom was extensively remodeled with wood-look tile and a combination bathtub/shower. Elias Construction also found space for a pocket door for direct access from the master bedroom. 


Last year’s renovation was the most extensive fix-up of several that Ryan and Sue have made to their rambler. The previous work was a revamp of the lower, walk-out level. After seeing those results, “It kind of motivated us to do the upstairs,” Ryan says. 

Elias Construction started the remodeling in August 2016. The work was completed in 11 weeks. The Ness project was among 10 remodeling projects featured in the Rochester Area Builders 2017 Remodelers Tour in September. 

Bob Freund is a Rochester-based writer who is a regular contributor to Rochester Women magazine.