BEFORE AND AFTER: Creating Zones In Open Space Living

PRELUDE: She was scared, thrown away and hungry. Her hair was matted, she needed a bath and was living off scraps that would, every now and again, fall from the hands of one of the student’s rogue playtime snacks.

Clearly, she was abused, dropped off on the side of the road near my little country school like a busted up old chair that wasn’t needed anymore, hiding on the treelined edge next to the pasture where the cows stayed out all day… but they were even taken to shelter at night.

She was alive enough to spend her days running from screaming children who swore to their unbelieving teachers they saw her but too far gone to trust any of them enough to prove to their teachers they were actually right.

Until 5-year-old me devised a plan.

The way I staked out the swings near the pasture after my schoolmates went home for the day (my mom was a teacher there and stayed late). The timing and patience I practiced as I watched her come out from the bush. The bold faith that she wouldn’t attack me as I neared her. The determination and speed of how I chased her when she turned to run. The confidence I had as I wrestled her to the ground with the swift ease of a cattle rancher on a mission. The ache I had for her to trust me. The ease with how I got up from our tumble, backed away slowly and began to walk back to school.

The way she followed me, step by step, back to my mom’s classroom.

The rest, my friends, is history. I took her home and the next 15 years she was the happiest pup on earth, my best friend and my only sibling.

I’ve always had a knack for taking things that were broken, needing attention or help and making them whole again as best as I could. IDK if it’s because I’m a maniac control freak, hell bent on saving the world one needy animal and rosewood mid-century credenza at a time, but I prefer to think of it as my contribution to making this often ugly world suck a little less.

I am soooo positive, right?!?! (Smiles awkwardly, looking around for nods of confirmation… )


Thanks, Hill.

That’s at least what motivated me when we were looking for a new home. Like any level-headed adult human being, Laura was primarily drawn towards houses with a strong foundation, a good roof, recent electrical, plumbing and A/C upgrades.

I was looking for trash.

Okay, that’s a little harsh. I was looking for an opportunity to improve a formerly well-loved home that needed “help” but had so much potential if only in the right hands. One that simultaneously would be a solid investment that would add value to not only the immediate neighborhood but to all of Atlanta by providing longevity and enjoyment for not only our little family but also today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders. REALLY NOT A BIG DEAL.

We actually put an offer on the very first house we saw. It was perfect but, in the end, didn’t work out because of life. After that, we went through several emotional ups and downs expected with house-hunting in a city with a housing shortage—we even wrote a handwritten letter to one seller, painting images of our future family living out our glory years in their home. Yeah, it went to someone else 75K over ask.

So, when I came into what is now our home, with its faux Venetian plastered bathroom walls, 7 different types of flooring, 90s wet bar in the living room, billiard room where I later learned many a drug deal went down and NEW PLUMBING AND ELECTRICAL, we made an offer day of and closed on that bia two weeks later.

And I got to work.

The house was built in 1935 and over the years had additions that were done with great quality… and other parts (really more surface) that were pretty darn shoddy—which, again, I loved.

Let’s just get into it.

You walk into the craftsman bungalow straight into the living room, which was a problem for me because I think it’s so important—if by all means you can—to create an area where you can come into your home and breathe—drop your keys, mail, bags, etc. Somewhere out of the kitchen and off the dining room table. So we flipped the layout of the room, defining the living room with a rug, dividing the living room and “foyer” with a sofa, and adding a runner in the “foyer” behind the sofa, instantly creating two spaces. BAM. Insta-foyer.


​​AFTER: Shots of the living room layout swap and creation of new entryway.
 Another shot from the kitchen, where you can see I was getting fancy with my bowls, but also the foyer entry in the distance.

You should be sensing the original theme of this house, that being named “Space Define Me No More.” It means that neither time nor space was defining anything in this house. It was just one big free for all. I am being a little hard, as there were defined spaces, but they ran together in a way that made the open space feel cramped and confusing. IDK just look.

That space behind the kitchen peninsula is the dining area, and the cabinets that jut out from the kitchen made up, literally, the biggest, brownest wet bar I’ve ever seen. The peninsula completely cut off the room at its heels. We changed it. Also, you can see below, there were four bar stools crammed into that peninsula that literally jammed up against the chairs at the dining room table behind it.


​I walked in and immediately knew exactly how this needed to be reconfigured. Sometimes, it takes me a while of living in a space to figure out what works flow-wise, but this… this came quick.

The huge wet bar and peninsula came out, (added a little bar cart area sized appropriately for the space) and were replaced by art and a 7-foot floating island in the kitchen. We also reconfigured the stove, and wrapped the beams in cedar. Lots of folks may think you need to add more furniture to divide up large, open spaces like this living/dining/kitchen room, but really all you need to define it is breathing room around each area. Seriously, white space is your friend.

The original kitchen was a great space. We moved all the cabinets to the ceiling for a custom look, refaced the uppers and rebuilt the lowers, built in a counter depth fridge to continue the custom feel on that side of the kitchen and replaced the flooring throughout to match the rest of the house. We went for a two-toned kitchen because I was craving it bad 3 years ago, and I have to say, I love it still today. I really, really wanted to do brass hardware but couldn’t convince Laura (even tho she admits I was right today) at the time… it’s okay, stainless is good for the house and neutral enough for the next buyer since this won’t be our forever home.


The kitchen after I got my dirty hands on it.


That, my friends, is the main area of the house. I’ll be posting more on smaller rooms we’ve redone over the last couple of years to catch you all up on the current sitch. Get ready for Transformation Tuesdays to be… like… a thing.

And just for the sake of bringing this blog full circle, this house was actually very well loved throughout its history. What I saw when I came in for the first time, fresh out of a harrowing commute from work, was a happy house, filled with light and in need of someone to bring it back to its prime—to restore it to the charming craftsman it was when that great foundation was poured in 1935.

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