Split Decision

Tips for opening up compact, confined spaces in an existing home.

"When we first looked at this house, one drawback was the kitchen and family room," explains Courtney Schaeffer, speaking of her home in east Memphis. "They were totally separate. The kitchen was chopped up, and the family room was dark." And for her husband, Fred, the arrangement just wouldn't do.

"The main thing Fred wanted was a modern family room that flowed into the kitchen," she says. Lucky for Fred, his wife could see the possibilities in this older house. As an interior designer, Courtney knew the house had potential.

Coordinating After Construction
Opening up the wall separating the two rooms was their first move. It had a doorway leading to the kitchen, but the wall was otherwise unnecessary. "It also made the stairs awkward because you had to turn to avoid the wall," says Courtney. However, the wall was load bearing, so she worked with their builder to remove enough for a cased opening without eliminating the lateral support beam.

Once the construction was complete, the Schaeffers found their space had been reborn. The next step was cosmetic. Courtney and her mom, Carol Covington (who is also a designer), used all their design tools to make the two rooms look and feel like one. For example, the kitchen's hardwood floor was stained the same color as the one in the family room.

Natural light made a huge impact on the new design. The bay window in the kitchen brought a lot of light and depth into the space, even with its location in the adjacent room. Recessed can lights, tucked into the ceiling beams, provide generous lighting in the evening.

The white-washed cypress walls in the family room went unchanged because Courtney thought they contributed warmth and character. "I love the texture," she says, knowing her antiques and rustic accessories would fit right in.

Canvas-covered chairs contrast with the crisp white sofa, softening the room while keeping it comfortable. "Fred's farm table and my collection of biscuit barrels and horn cups [on the mantel] inspired the rustic setting," she says.

Although his wife had the vision to see the rewards of remodeling, Fred is the one who encouraged the change. "This is exactly what he had in mind," says Courtney.