Finding the flow: Simple changes add functionality

by RaeLyn Callaway

John and Leah Ashby have lived in Conway for 15 years, 12 on a quiet cul-de-sac in Windcrest Subdivision. Like many families, they recently contemplated selling their house and buying newer. They quickly realized they couldn’t replace what they had and decided to stay and do some updating.

“We love our house and our neighborhood. I guess our biggest concern was putting more money into the house than we could get back should we ever decide to sell,” Leah said.

Adding an accent color in the back of the bookshelves not only sets the shelving off but also highlights the fireplace wall. (Mike Kemp photos)

After setting their budget, we went to work. My goal was to maximize their budget and give them the most bang for their buck. The area of focus was to be on the living room and kitchen. The Ashbys wanted the space to be functional for entertaining and television viewing from the living area and the kitchen. Although they were open to each other, there was no flow, and the spaces were being defined by the flooring. Ceramic tile covered the foyer and kitchen floors, being interrupted by carpet in the living and dining rooms. The living room also felt smaller due to furniture and television placement and a protruding fireplace.

The first thing that needed to be done was to unify the spaces, which was accomplished by laying hardwood floors throughout. The new floor brings flow and continuity from the front door through the entire living area.

“I couldn’t believe how much larger it made the rooms feel,” Leah said.

By pushing the fireplace back to be flush with existing bookcases, we also added another 12 inches to the room. To add charm and texture, we used brick from floor to ceiling on the fireplace façade.

The original television placement was in the far corner of the bookshelves, which limited not only the viewing, but also how the furniture had to be arranged. Now, with the TV centrally located above the fireplace, it can be seen from the kitchen, and it allows for better furniture placement.

Although the kitchen had a wonderful bay window, the Ashbys were forced to walk around the kitchen table every time they walked through the room. I suggested replacing the existing countertop with granite and redesigning the bar area. This enlarged the bar, made it functional for family meals and got rid of the table that was always in the way. It also left the bay window open for two chairs, adding another television viewing area. A fresh coat of paint on the walls and trim finished off the space.

“I can’t believe, without structurally changing the house, it seems so much bigger,” Leah said. “It is definitely more livable and comfortable. I never want to leave. We absolutely love it.”

Designer tip: Many people too often assume they cannot afford granite. If your budget is tight ask your fabricator to see his “builder stock” of granite. This selection has many unique granite patterns and runs in the low to medium price range.