Break through

The best and most cost-effective remodels often come from reorganizing what already exists
Peter O. Whiteley

In this Portland home, removing an interior wall between the breakfast area and the garage made it possible to create a bright and inviting family room (a new garage was built nearby).

The "borrowed" space, three steps above the kitchen, is organized around a new fireplace in the rear wall. Two sets of windows add balanced daylight, and thoughtfully placed downlights accent the room at night. Broad stairs and waist-high cabinets lead up to the family room from the kitchen/breakfast area.

Cheerful paint colors accent complementary white-oak flooring and rich fir cabinetry. Family room walls are painted a terra-cotta hue (Benjamin Moore, Spiced Pumpkin/034), while a peachy yellow (Pratt & Lambert, Peach/2075) brightens the kitchen/breakfast area.

Warm-toned fabrics are similar in color to the walls, and green concrete fireplace tiles act as a counterpoint.

DESIGN: Leon Burry-Trice, Burry-Trice Architects, Portland (503/241-2556)

INTERIOR DESIGN: Ellen Fitchen Design, Portland (503/294-0441)

Ways to unify

Visually link spaces that are open to each other ― but on different levels ― with color.

Repeat hues or patterns. The pale green concrete fireplace tiles pick up the color of the English stone countertops in the kitchen. The cabinet doors in the family room have wide frames and small inset panels, a motif that is mimicked in the kitchen.

Add variety. In the kitchen and breakfast area, the vividly stained modern wood chairs (by Dakota Jackson, www.dakotajackson.com or 800/776-9587) add interest while staying within the overall color palette. Kitchen cabinetry (by Simon, Toney & Fischer, 503/721-0392) is made of a South American hardwood called purple heart ― visible below the stone countertop ― which echoes the reddish chair color.

Use natural light. The ceiling is kept white to reflect more light and brighten the entire space.

More: 17 amazing Before and Afters