Rearrange & Renew

This overcrowded great room gets a smart update that’s perfect for every day.
Amy Bickers Mercer

The existence of telekinesis is debatable. (If you believe you can move objects with your mind, raise your hand. Now raise my hand.) But here’s a power we absolutely don’t doubt--the ability to move objects in your mind. All it takes is a great makeover to prove that some people can look at a cluttered room and mentally clear it, leaving a long, empty space full of possibilities.

A Vision of the Future
Lindsay and Jack Stroker bought their Charlotte home several years ago largely based on its potential. It needed a substantial amount of work, but Lindsay was sold on revitalizing this classic. Even with her powers of visualization, she answers truthfully when asked if she knew how she would handle the long room at the back of the house.

“Not a clue! I just knew something had to be done. Prior to the start of renovation I was standing at the far end, looking into the then-empty, long room and realized the only way to live in this very unusual shaped room was to have everything in it,” she says.

Lindsay developed a plan based on what she wanted in the room: a good working kitchen with a small dining area, a second seating area around the fireplace, and a third area to unwind and watch television. 

 

Kitchen Clairvoyance
The area previously reserved for dining was turned into the kitchen. The former kitchen now houses the dining room. The location is ideal because it opens into the dining room on one side and a screened porch on the other. “The French doors are open to the porch 9 or 10 months of the year. Even if the temperature is in the 50s, it is likely that those doors are open to the outside,” Lindsay says.

A kitchen island is the perfect way to visually divide the kitchen from the rest of the room. Lindsay thought about how she works in the kitchen and had the essentials installed accordingly. “I chose to have the sink rather than the cooktop on the island so I could look out over the room. I spend more time at the sink than at the stove.” A small pine table and Windsor chairs tucked next to the island are a surprising--and more comfortable--alternative to barstools.

Mind Over Matter
No matter where people are in the room, easy interaction is possible. Lindsay says one of her favorite things is being able to talk to her family and guests while she’s in the kitchen area. “The acoustics must be good or it’s just the perfect-size room because I rarely have to raise my voice to be heard by someone watching TV,” she adds. The television is wall-mounted on a swivel so it can be viewed from the kitchen too.

During a typical evening at home, Jack and Lindsay make use of every area of this room. “We usually work our way across the room. Preparing dinner in the kitchen, sitting at the table. After dinner in the colder months we sit by the fire with the newspaper or books. Eventually, we end up on the couches in front of the TV falling asleep,” she says.

 

Past-Life Ponderings
Lindsay considers the space a keeping room rather than a great room, a term she thinks is overused.

“Centuries ago in this country a keeping room was the main room of the house with a large walk-in fireplace where they cooked. They also spent all their time in the room, and they slept there too,” she explains. “So, in my thinking, this room is more like that than anything.”

Repaired With Care
It may be all the rage, but going Green isn’t new. Just look at Lindsay’s collection of make-dos. Small household items, if broken today, would likely be thrown out. These items that date from the mid-19th century and earlier were restored. A glass base for something such as an oil lamp, after it was broken, was turned into the base for a pin holder. A porcelain spice container with a broken pedestal was given a new wooden base so it could still be used. A damaged claret glass was given a new base crafted from pine.

“Make-dos are old, broken objects that were important enough to carefully remake or restore to use again,” Lindsay says.



"Rearrange & Renew" is from the September 2008 issue of Southern Living.