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Farmhouse Update: How to Design A kitchen With a Load Bearing Post And Beam In The Middle + 4 Unique Options

Here’s a challenge that came up again that I feel is worth discussing. How do you design with a random load-bearing post in the middle of a room, specifically the kitchen? It is HARD. One of the reasons we didn’t originally put the kitchen in the corners was because of the load-bearing post, and so ARCIFORM integrated it into this walk-through cabinet pantry, thus hiding it. Great. Done.

When we were first considering moving the kitchen into the corner (upon your suggestion) we were chastized that “the house will fall down” without the post. “Structural engineers” can be such buzzkills. So I started researching how to make that work – how to integrate a post with an island, as well as how to make a horizontal beam over the island work (with two different ceiling heights – we are vaulting part of the kitchen, but can’t vault the other side because the second story is above it). Here is the rendering of the post in the island before we “designed it”.

While we could have made it work, it was a bummer and a challenge. Since we had a structural engineer already doing the whole house, and since we had to add a beam anyway, we upgraded to a stronger header that could span the entire width, eliminating the post. This is likely a 3-5K dollar change for us (nobody really knows), but that felt worth the sacrifice to get a completely open – non-post interrupted – kitchen. But what if you aren’t already re-engineering your house? What if you HAVE to have that post? Here is what we came up with …

Keep It Looking Architecturally Accurate

This house in Malibu that we also shot for the book did a great job of letting the ceiling lead the way in where and how they placed their posts. It looks totally intentional and original. As you can see the beams (horizontal) run into the posts (vertical). It cuts into the island just slightly but it totally works.

Heft It Up – Make It Bigger And Create A Feature Out Of It

design by garrison foundry | photo by beatrice pediconi

Now this solution works because that brick is really pretty and it feels substantial – like there is no way that it couldn’t be there. It’s almost like you dared to put your kitchen here, so you had to work with what the house originally intended. And it works! Not sure this brick would have worked in our farmhouse, but it def works here.

Give It Purpose – Add Storage/Display

source unknown

If you do want to chunk it up, you then have an opportunity to add storage in it or instead of it. Now I saw a few versions of this that were of varying success, but you can see how it could work.

design by doherty design studio | photo by derek swalwell | via est living

Take this one. Cleary way too modern for the farmhouse (and also not technically load-bearing) but with the right materials would be such a functional and beautiful way to create “a beam”.

Make It Part Of The Kitchen Island Transition

design by low design office | photo by chase daniel

I know that a lot of old houses have this problem – the kitchen was built small and closed off and when opening it up you likely have a load-bearing post to contend with. Now if you are already re-engineering your house there is almost always a way to get rid of it, but yes it can cause you to spend a lot of money, have to spend more on engineering (and larger beams, headers or footings – sometimes upgrading to steel) and of course, delay permitting. If you aren’t already needing a permit and just doing cosmetic upgrades, then consider working with it to save likely thousands. These examples TOTALLY made them work.

via devol

I mean I love basically every deVOL kitchen ever and this wood beam is good. Pick a really beautiful piece of wood with not only add texture to your kitchen but also a heck of a lot of soul.

design by amy trowman design | photo by margaret wright

This one is a little smaller and more rustic but still totally looks awesome. Plus the wood helps to balance the white kitchen with an otherwise wood-filled home. Win-win.

Ok now for our ideal solution for the farmhouse…

As you can see now we have a more open kitchen, with the beam meeting the new load-bearing post hidden in the cabinetry by the fridges. Nothing here is designed but you get the idea. We are trying our best to keep it out of our immediate sightlines. Of course, we haven’t got the OK from the city yet, so stay tuned on that…


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31 thoughts on “Farmhouse Update: How to Design A kitchen With a Load Bearing Post And Beam In The Middle + 4 Unique Options

  1. We were in a similar situation – there was a random support post floating in the middle of our (my!) kitchen. I was working around a lot of windows and a doorway and adding an island – but basically starting from scratch on the kitchen orientation. Finally one day our contractor said, “Let’s just get rid of that beam”. That was the day I learned you can do aaaaaaaanything, there’s just a price tag on it. We ended up going back to the struct engineer and revising our permits with the County, and it was all totally worth it. Another funny thing about our contractor, anytime I would wonder to myself “can he do that?” (as in, him the person), I reminded myself he’s built houses from the ground up. So yes, you can do anything with a sufficient budget, and our contractor is a “yes man” through and through (with said client’s sufficient budget, lol).

    1. Yup, they are easily confused but technically columns and posts go up and down between floors and beams go side to side, like in a floor or ceiling assembly. I’m an architectural designer and even I sometimes say “beam” when I mean “column” 🙂

    2. I think they’ve conflated ‘post and lintel’ (which this is not) and beams. It’s certainly just a column. I’m admittedly biased as an architect but I’m surprised how many people can’t properly name a column. I once heard someone say “vertical beam” lol

      1. Haha, I was so confused for a while reading this post. Until I realized they were just calling it a beam.

    3. Oh my gosh. This was driving me crazy! YES, thank you, those are structural columns/posts!!!!!!! A beam supports and transfers loads to columns/posts.

  2. I personally like the look of all of the kitchens shown with the column/beam in the middle of the kitchen. i think there’s a certain charm to the look of having worked with the kitchen architecture. especially in wood or brick (wood being my fave). my favorite may be the first one marked “keep it architecturally accurate” by sfgirlbybay. sigh!

    1. Right? I really like the look of them, too, in wood or brick. To me they keep the history of the house alive, and they seem quirky and charming and not like a huge interference, especially worked into the end of an island. I would keep the beam and use the $ on something else!

    2. I totally agree! I love all the images showing either the wood or brick posts; so charming!

  3. I like it. Not everyone can afford to move a structural beam. Not everyone wants to throw away the money to move a perfectly good structural beam for aesthetic purposes. This post is great for showing us ways to do so while keeping the beam intact and saving money.

  4. If the problem is your house ends up getting an additional point of architectural interest, that’s pretty awesome. I’m drawn to the chunkier wood or brick columns (not so much the thinner ones.) What a beautiful way to add charm. I’m a fan.

  5. The illustrations have arrows pointing to the “post” but labeled as “beam”. For example, the first one shows “annoying but important beam” – I believe that should be “annoying but important post”. I love you all – I go here everyday and learn a lot but I do hold you to high standards.

    1. Yes, that confused me too. She kept talking about a beam, but kept showing photos of columns and posts.

  6. Love the post! I feel like the kitchens with the post have more “feels” (only way I can describe it 😅)

  7. FWIW, I have a mid-century ranch house. When we remodeled almost 30 years ago we were faced with a load-bearing pillar at the corner of our kitchen island so I had the architect design a modern sculpture for it. He came up with an off-balance wedge, about 14 inches at the top, with a little pediment that’s kind of askew as a kind of hat:), clad in the same wood as the flooring, and a little “bite” out of it black in the same laminate we used for the cupboards. I have never, ever regretted the decision.

    1. Lisa, that sounds incredible! I would love to see it! What a clever solution to the problem.

  8. Thank you! We are in the middle of this EXACT situation. The ceilings are low, too…and are a prohibitively high cost to raise. (We also live in the Portland area.)

  9. I love love love the one with the storage tucked into the brickwork column! 💗
    The ones with columns/posts, seem more charming and soulful to me, like the house is speaking of its history, even when they’ve been added and aren’t original! Ha!

    Your rendering pic of the column tucked away next to the fridge has those clean lines you’re looking for, so it looks much like your conundrum is solved?

  10. So good! We also have a load bearing wall we want opened up. Previous owners had opened it, and kept walls to hide the post on each end of the cabinetry. However, we want to extend the cabinetry beyond that end into what is now the nook. We have yet to bring in the structural engineer, but that’s the next step. Our 100 year old kitchen is small, so that extra cabinetry will be worth it. We are hoping a new header will be the solution, but that will come down beyond the ceiling height, which is yet another design dilemma. We’ve talked about lowering the ceiling from the current 9’ to 8.5’, but the existing original windows and trim would then butt up against the ceiling. It’s still 5” of trim, but I’m not sure having the trim against the ceiling will look great. I need to sort through images, because I’ve certainly seen many kitchens with various beam options. I’m guessing many of them are solutions dealing with similar problems.

    1. Ooooh, I’m super-wary of ever lowering a celing.
      Nothing wrong with different ceiling geights when it speaks to the history if the building.

    2. 8′-6″ is not a bad ceiling height in and of itself, but your trim butting up against it will make it feel much squatter. I would just let the beam be a beam and leave the rest of the ceiling as-is – no need to conceal all the structure.

      1. Emma, I agree that the structural beam will be better in my kitchen than the ceiling dropped down to meet the trim. The beam might be in a somewhat awkward spot, but I’ve looked at a lot of kitchens that have them.

  11. Sorry, no. Just spend the money and fix the problem on the front end. Every one of these would be better without.

  12. Keep the beam! I think there’s something powerful about visually honouring the old bones of the home that was before. I love it.

  13. Don’t use brick for anything– you are moving to Portland, there could be an earthquake. I have a farmhouse in PDX and I am going to be spending $$$ to retrofit for this reason. Don’t add brick on the west coast anywhere!

    1. If anything they’d just be adding face brick over the column, as a veneer – highly doubt anyone is actually making NEW load bearing masonry these days.

  14. Love your final rendition! If the city nixes it, I’ll suggest, at the risk of boring everyone to death, to rethink the whole thing, and do a half wall with support beams hidden in columns on each end–location: it would separate the living room and kitchen. You could still see over it into the living room, but it would allow lower cabinets on the kitchen side, and a small lower cabinet library, or a grounding element for a couch, on the living room side. Meanwhile, major changes on the kitchen front: the island is flipped around in this scenario so the barstools are toward your back windows, and–though I hate to disturb your new adorable breakfast nook by the family room, you would actually move the nook against the back wall by the windows, so it would be a part of the kitchen.
    Just an idea, as the support beams hidden in the columns would absolutely be able to support the weight of the second floor. You would have two of them, so no issues.
    Anyway, like I said, I love your current plan, but if you are in despair if the City of Portland says”no way”, the above is just an idea.
    Will love to see the result!

  15. I don’t like how you are pushing this old house so much in a 2021 ’corset’. Especially the windows in the ceiling. I also do not like kitchen islands. I would recommend to keep more of the ’bones’ of the house intact.

  16. Have you seen how Natasha Habbermann used a cedar beam that was a salvaged telephone pole in her carriage house and then wrapped the cross beams nearby in cedar planks to match? Looks awesome! Not in a kitchen but was the first thing I thought of for your space.

  17. It doesn’t really seem like this kitchen is your style anymore… seems basic. I think your more whimsical, british granny look is so amazing!

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