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Reconfiguring Interior Space
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Reconfiguring interior space helps keep a house looking fresh, vital, and up to date with family needs and changing styles. For example, let?s visit the home of interior designer, Cheryl Van Duyne, A.S.I.D.

The baby pictures lining the hallway of the 1988, three-bedroom, five-level home are Van Duyne?s grandchildren. Since her son married and moved out, Van Duyne has converted his former 12? by 17? bedroom into a library/study/guest room. More hideaway than public, the room opens near the side of a massive desk that overlooks the room?s generously upholstered chairs, queen-size sofa bed, and large screen TV. Bookshelves filled with assorted books and knick-knacks line parts of the walls adding a sense of coziness besides access to reading.

The Van Duynes often sit in this room?her husband at the desk working and watching football games while Cheryl sews by the light from a lamp or the nearby window. On the opposite wall, a door leads to a full bath. Quiet and isolated is this room, accessed only by stairs coming up from the kitchen and down from the third level.

Still, it?s a work in progress, according to Van Duyne, although now, the room is multi-functional where before it was used only once or twice a year.

Another reconfiguration project included the space of a small bedroom, a walk-in closet, and master bath converted to a closet room, exercise area, and expanded bath?that project won the Design Ovation Award from the Dallas A.S.I.D. in 2000.

?People love their bathrooms,? says Van Duyne. They can spend untold amounts of time relaxing in their bathtubs and preparing their toilette. Needless to say, Van Duyne wanted a beautiful bath. Already, the room boasted an unusual linear floor plan where all the plumbing?the tub, sinks, toilet, and shower?lined up along one wall. Across from the third story window, the tub?s location was bright and ideal. But the commode in the middle of the traffic pattern between the two sinks just had to go. In its place, Van Duyne designed storage cabinetry. She relocated the toilet?necessitating the only major plumbing construction in the project, i.e., running water and sewage lines under the floor?to an enclosure that once was part of the walk-in closet. Van Duyne added a bidet and built-in cabinets for storage; but the focal point is purely decorative?a lighted full-length display case with mirror backing.

The other half of the former walk-in closet was converted into an exercise area big enough for two pieces of equipment?a treadmill and a cycle. Van Duyne put mirror in this space as well.

?People use mirrors a lot, especially in work out rooms,? said Van Duyne. ?They really need a mirror for the right form and to open up space.? Also in the room is a ceiling fan for air circulation and a TV on the wall.

It took serious space planning to convert the bedroom into the closet and have it come out the way she wanted. Van Duyne needed to design every inch of drawer space, hanging bar space, overhead storage, and floor storage.

?It?s all problem solving,? said Van Duyne. ?It?s all spatial relationships, space planning. You pretty much need to start that way and get your spaces correct. And then you add the beauty of it?the texture and the color and the fabric and the accessories. That?s pretty much the way the design process works.?

Using that process, Van Dune reconfigured her attic space into an office.

?I had commercial space for a long time,? said Van Duyne. ?But I worked at night, and I had to get into my car and out of my car at weird times. I didn?t like doing that. So, I looked at my home and thought?where could I put an office? We had an unfinished attic of about 450 square feet used for storage. It was just a big open space?wooden floors.?

The project, which began at the drawing board, took about two months to complete. Heating and air conditioning ductwork were run up through the wall space, and an extra air conditioning unit was installed outside. For walls, Van Duyne put sheet rock over the contours of the sloping interior, which ascended up about 12 feet at the room?s tallest spot. Then she textured and painted the partitioning white and laid down white carpet.

Originally in the room was one light bulb (light bulbs are now referred as lamps, according to Van Duyne). So, Van Duyne drew an electrical lighting plan, which included color corrected fluorescent lights (eliminates green and red) for under counter lighting and Capsulite lamps, a clear white light, for down lighting. As a rule, Van Duyne, wants to establish true coloring; for instance, she designs only during daylight hours with the shutters open to get the truest rendition of color.

?There?s not a lot of strong color in my house, ? said Van Duyne. ?I love color. That?s one of my strong points in what I do. But when, I?m at home, and this is my workspace, I don?t want a lot of distracting color. When I?m working on a project, I like to be just absorbed in that color and what I?m working on. And another thing, I like all colors. So, it?s hard for me to decide which colors to put in my house.?

?I?d say that 75% of the people I work for?maybe more than that?like lighter rooms and more neutral back ground,? Van Duyne said. ?I like them (light hues) cause you can play art against it, and it really makes the art pop.?

?But I have one client who likes strong colors,? Van Duyne continues. ?And I have done houses for her, and they have sold. So, to play it safe for resale?doesn?t apply here.?

?Still, it?s all individual planning,? Van Duyne said. ?I did a home office for one of my clients who needed a small office for her papers. So, I took a nice size closet and completely built it out?mirrored walls?put in new, corrected fluorescent lighting so she would have good lighting.? And this small space suits the client?s needs just as Van Duyne?s own spacious office suits her business.

Despite their individuality, home offices, to be successful, need to fulfill certain basic needs.

?Whether it?s personal or for business, we all have to have telephones,? said Van Duyne. ?Most of us have computers. We all have storage space. We have to have good work surface. And we have to think about all these things in relationship with how they?re used with the human form in the middle of them, i.e., reaching space and the comfort of furniture and chairs is very important.?

Good lighting is one of Van Duyne?s major requirements along with durability of surface and accessibility to storage area because when we need something we don?t want to walk to another room.

Interior design is an art and science, according to Van Duyne. In designing any room, one needs to use all the space they have for space is a home?s interior frontier. Ultimately, design is always a work in progress?because new needs evolve into new design concepts. And reconfiguring for new design brings new life into the home.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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