Design Master Class: Linda Zoffer makes a living room do double duty

The News & Observer / November 29, 2014

The challenge

The owners of this 1970s home in Chapel Hill wanted their small kitchen and adjoining family room to do double duty. By day, the space is home to a professional day care center for five lively preschoolers, and the owners asked for lots of color, whimsy and kid-friendly materials. After 5 p.m., they wanted a space that would be comfortable and inviting for adults. They asked for better lighting and audio-visual appointments, as well as more storage and open floor space. And it all had to be eco-friendly. See the result on page 2D.

Super space

To begin, everything was a dull grey-beige from the walls to the laminate countertops to the vinyl flooring and carpet, as well as most of the furniture. What the space had going for it were three large skylights, which bring in lots of natural light throughout the day. The owners insisted on keeping the fireplace, but the large wood-burning stove that jutted out into the space had to go.

To create a soothing background, the walls were painted Benjamin Moore’s #764 Crystal Springs, a light blue, and the trim and fireplace surround were coated in #846 Come Sail Away, a soft, foamy green. We chose an eggshell finish for the walls and semi-gloss for the trim for easy cleanup. We installed oak floors throughout the space and added a wool carpet in stripes that pick up the color scheme of greens, blues and natural tones to anchor the seating area in the family room. It’s a cozy spot for building block towers and playing games.

We kept the existing kitchen cabinets, but replaced the appliances and swapped out the laminate for green granite countertops. The owners’ Cathy Kiffney ceramics were placed on and above the backsplash around the room. Small sculptures created by the couple’s two daughters sit atop the upper cabinets, drawing the eye up and through the space. Under-cabinet lighting added needed task illumination.

Fabrics for the new family room furniture are eco-friendly – wool, cotton and recycled polyester that have already survived magic marker and chocolate! Orange-shaded wall sconces stand out against the blue walls and provide a playful touch; recessed cans on dimmers and a table lamp offer additional illumination. A collection of mix-and-match pillows (including a custom design that is a takeoff on the tea party from “Alice in Wonderland”) were placed on the new sofa and armchair, and cushions that match the pillows were added to the refinished kitchen stools. Window treatments were kept simple – soft roman shades with wood shutters below.

We positioned the new television above the fireplace to free up an antique armoire in the room for storage of toys and games. We added new audio components, too: tuner, disc player and additional speakers were placed in the ceiling for surround sound – an asset during daily “music time” with the children.

A large deck accessible from the revamped space was added in the privacy-fenced backyard to allow for outdoor fun.

The result is an inviting space for preschoolers and adults alike.

Terrific trick

Extra space is always needed for children’s toys. In a small room, think dual use. Two large ottomans built on casters and covered in a recycled vinyl conceal toy storage. Opened and closed several times during the day, they are moved around the room or completely out of the way of active children. In the evening, they become comfortable footrests or tables when the family uses the room.

(Not) by the book

Proper height for artwork? Inspiration came from the couple’s Alice In Wonderland pen and ink drawings by Leslie Udry, as well as the colorful Cosecha embroideries from South Central America. The artwork was rematted, custom-framed and some put at a child’s eye level, to help them to learn about and appreciate art.

del ZIO Designs Interiors, LLC

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