Space must flow

A Woodstock home was transformed through creative use of existing space.

A Woodstock home was transformed through creative use of existing space.

Good design transforms even uninspired architecture, converting dark, claustrophobic rooms into an open plan where space flows harmoniously, for example. It can reinvigorate a dead space, such as a front door entrance never used, or take an oversized room that fills empty and make it cozy and functional.

Opening up

Gabrielle Raven, a Woodstock-based interior decorator and designer, just completed a renovation of a 1970s, split-level house that was beset with challenges. The rooms were chopped up, small, and drab. The client wanted the house to feel less like the product of a cookie-cutter development and more like a classic Woodstock getaway.


Because the budget was tight, Raven stuck to the existing footprint, leaving all the existing electrical and plumbing lines in place. The dining room was cut off from the kitchen, but rather than remove an entire wall, which was structural and contained electrical wires, she made a large pass-through, “It’s the difference between $5,000 and $1,200,” she said. That created an open flow of space. To increase the light and further open the house to the view of woods in the back, she removed the old slider door and skinny side windows in the dining room and replaced them with the largest slider she could find. The pass-through and larger door makes it much easier to get food out onto the deck, which she also expanded.

The new eight-foot-slider was a bargain: Raven picked up a flawed door from the Door Jamb in Shokan, which cost a third less than the $3,000 price tag of a new door. The flaws consisted of some chips in the finish, which were easily fixed, she said. “When the budget is tight I go to the Door Jamb and find great bargains,” she said.

Raven painted the dining area a sage green, including the far wall with the fireplace, which was constructed of dark, dated red brick. She highlighted the mantel in pale mauve, a warm complement, and made the fireplace an attractive focal point by facing the hearth with bluestone tiles. The tiles of native stone not only lend a subdued, natural look, but also didn’t cost much–$5 a square foot. “A big piece of bluestone is expensive, but if you use veneer it’s very reasonable,” said Raven.

In the kitchen she kept the footprint of the old cabinets but changed the configuration of appliances, placing the fridge, oven, and sink in a functional triangle closer to the dining table. It had been on the far side of the room, with the cook’s back to the dining table. “Everything had been in the wrong place,” she said. She also added an island on wheels, which can be moved for parties, and a pantry with a double door on the back wall, creating lots of inexpensive storage space.