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Originally published Friday, September 28, 2012 at 8:00 PM

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Preserving Grandma’s memory in a contemporary world

Dark wood paneling and orange shag rugs first to go in remodeling project.

Scripps Howard News Service

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Dana has fond memories of her grandmother’s house and the time she spent there as a child.

Years later, she and her husband, Simon, bought the house and faced a dilemma: How could they renovate what was a distinctly dated family room, while still preserving Dana’s precious memories of Grandma?

This space was a well-preserved relic of the 1960s, complete with pristine parquet flooring, popcorn ceiling, wood paneling and orange shag rugs and curtains. It all looked like it had been installed yesterday, but, in fact, this room was more than half a century behind the times. Everything had to go, except for the stone facing on the fireplace, which the homeowners loved and wanted to preserve.

We had a big job ahead of us.

This family-room flashback had to travel 50 years into the future while still paying homage to its past. We began by tearing down the old ceiling and adding recessed lighting fixtures. Although we were keeping the stone fireplace surround, I definitely wanted to get rid of the dated built-in ledges, so we scored around them and then carefully broke them off with a sledgehammer.

Not the easiest job in the world, but we got lucky! All three ledges broke off cleanly and we were able to camouflage where they had been.

In the original design, the fireplace surround extended into an attached planter box, which had to go. Once again, that sledgehammer came in handy.

A new hardwood floor was laid over the old parquet. Wood paneling was such a big thing in the ’60s and ’70s, so we worked hard to give it a more modern edge. We covered up the old paneling with a fresh coat of ivory paint but resurrected the wooden element on one feature wall.

That wall is undoubtedly the foca poit of this space. It’s constructed from stunning rectangular wood-projection blocks that give the surface a wonderful textured look. Recessed-ceiling lights cast a warm glow down this wall, with more lighting installed under two shelves that hold family photos and art pieces. The bottom half of this wall features a row of cabinetry, topped by a counter that flows right out into a peninsula-shaped table.

Four comfortable — yet very stylish — bar stools with wooden-framed backs and legs provide a great place to play family games, or catch up with friends over a glass of wine.

We found a vintage, globe-shaped lighting fixture online, had the wiring updated and suspended it over the tabletop. The light adds the perfect finish to this side of the room, and the cabinetry gives Dana and Simon lots of valuable storage space.

Across from the media center we laid down a patterned area rug. This is relaxation central, featuring a comfy sectional sofa, a traditionally inspired wooden coffee table and one of Grandma’s chairs — recovered and ready to take on the next 50 years. A vintage-looking, three-drawer chest with a scalloped front and a couple of storage ottomans, for extra seating, were added to the mix.

I kept the palette fairly neutral, with dark wood flooring and cabinetry and creamy walls, draperies and rug. I chose accents in teal blue, a color that really brings a modern flair to this space. A photo of Dana’s grandmother was enlarged and printed four times in different colors, then framed and displayed as a kind of modern-day pop-art collage.

While selecting furniture and accessories for the family room, I was really conscious of the need to preserve a midcentury flavor. I wanted this space to remind Dana of the happy times she spent there as a child, but also wanted it to be comfortable and functional for the two grown-ups who live there now. They’ll be equally at home relaxing in this room after a busy weekday, or hosting friends and family for weekend functions. Either way, this modern-day makeover boldly moves into today, while tipping its hat to yesteryear.


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