The Floor Is Open


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When Ryan and Lauren Daniel moved into their Vestavia Hills home in 2010, they were delighted with the location in this leafy subdivision off Rocky Ridge Road. From the start, though, they were already making plans to update the home to create a brighter, more contemporary aesthetic.

The sticking point was the main downstairs living area, which felt boxed in with walls that didn’t need to be there. “What is now one big space was once five rooms,” Lauren says. “So we had a formal living room, a dining room, a den, a laundry and very small kitchen. It was very tight.”

Three years ago, they decided they’d waited long enough and brought in Clint Lovette of Lovette Construction to discuss a vision that would change the entire feel of the downstairs. Lovette saw tremendous potential. “The original floor plan had a lot of square footage to play with, but it was separated in a way which made it seem very choppy and small,” he says. “This was a great candidate to do an open floor plan because of the square footage available to us.”

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With walls coming down, Lauren realized she had enormous design options—which was both exciting and a little bit daunting, particularly in the kitchen. She credits kitchen designer Jennifer Thompson of Creative Cabinets & Design with helping her to find her own vision and execute it without feeling overwhelmed.

“I explained to Jennifer that once I made these choices, I was probably going to be living with them for the foreseeable future, and I had to get it right,” she says. “But the thought of walking into a hardware store with an infinite amount of choices paralyzed me.” Thompson sent her to Houzz.com, the web-based platform for home remodeling and design ideas, and suggested that Lauren just start clicking on kitchens and kitchen elements that she liked.

“So I did—I went through and clicked, ‘I like this, I like this, I like this,’” Lauren says. “Then she took my Houzz folder and drew what she thought worked well given my likes and our space requirement. It was shocking to me what she came up with, because she came back to me with all these things I hadn’t even realized I liked. But once she brought it and put it on paper, I said, ‘Yes, that’s it!’”

Her husband, Ryan, meanwhile, had an ingenious idea of his own for the kitchen: hiding a large, combined pantry and laundry room behind seamless paneling where it’s invisible to the naked eye when the “door” is closed. Other things are cleverly disguised, too—from the television and microwave down to the paper towel holder, built right into the island.   

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“I’m a big proponent of hiding things,” Lauren says. “A microwave’s a microwave. It’s not pretty. I want to hide my coffee maker; I want to hide my television when it’s not in use. And then I like a countertop that’s clean, which is just easier without clutter.”

Next Lauren took inventory of the rest of the family’s new space and realized they didn’t have to break the bank to furnish it beautifully. For the chairs that seat four at the island, she liked a particular style she kept seeing at more expensive design stores, but Thompson suggested she check World Market, where she found a set of similar bar chairs that were very reasonable. Stephen Vincent of Vincent Furniture made them a new dining room table to fit the space and her style. Lauren later pulled some end tables her grandparents had given her out of storage and asked Vincent to refinish them in a way that picked up on the finish of the dining table.

“We’ve really enjoyed it, and we’re able to utilize our space so much better than we were before,” Lauren says. “We pretty much live down here.”

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