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Story: The beauty of custom built-ins

Jean Patteson

Sentinel Staff Writer

August 6, 2009

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The home purchased by Shelton and Betsy Granade near downtown Orlando a couple of years ago was beautiful, with large rooms and custom detailing. But it was also rather bland.

Enter Nancy Short, interior designer, bursting with ideas for adding warmth and drama to the family room, dining room and kitchen.

"I suggested doing built-ins to create functional but decorative focal points in each room," said Short, owner of Nancy Short Interiors in Maitland.

With custom built-in features, "You get exactly what you need," she explained. "You are able to transform a space and make it your own in terms of color, fit, details and storage requirements. You also add to the home's resale value."

Short met with the Granades, toured their home and discussed ideas for fitting the rooms with built-in shelving, cabinets and a banquette in the kitchen's breakfast nook.

At first, Betsy Granade was "super-nervous" about making the changes. "But the look was not ours. It was too traditional," she said. "And we wanted to maximize our storage."

So the go-ahead was given for Short to sketch designs and get price estimates from several cabinetmakers. The project was awarded to AWR Cabinets in Sanford.

Short and AWR's project manager, Lance Tucker Warren, met at the Granade home to take detailed measurements, note requirements for TVs and other electronic equipment, and select materials and finishes.

"It was challenging, but the overall concept was fantastic," said Warren. "Everything worked so well together."

Once the homeowners approved the final drawings and the wood, tile and color samples, work began on the transformation.

Family room. Initially, the room featured a formal white fireplace, pale-tan walls and a scattering of small-scale furniture. The remodel focused on the fireplace wall, creating floor-to-ceiling shelves and cabinets of dark wenge wood backed with striped zebra wood. A flat-screen TV was installed above the fireplace, which was faced with a mosaic of cinnabar-toned glass tiles. Spice tones also were selected for the floor rug and accent pillows, which featured an Oriental print from Schumacher. The result is an inviting, well-balanced room that features large twin sofas, rich colors and striking accessories.

Dining room. This spacious room had a rather blah brown-on-tan color scheme and two problematic niches in an end wall. Tall and arched, the niches were too shallow to serve any useful purpose -- until the custom-designed built-ins were installed. These feature racks for wine bottles and the couple's Waterford crystal glasses, shelves for displaying framed menus from memorable dinners, and lighted display areas in the arches.

"It's the first room you see when you walk in the front door," said Short. "I was looking to make an elegant statement with the built-ins."

Dining chairs upholstered in paprika-colored Kravet fabric and an oil painting and vase in shades of jade introduce contrasting colors into the room. The unusual chandelier features real wax candles fitted with electric bulbs.

Kitchen. Before the remodel, a glass-topped table and four wrought-iron chairs were crammed into the compact breakfast nook. To maximize seating and facilitate traffic flow, Short designed a snug, three-piece banquette. Covered in durable outdoor fabric and backed with plump cushions in warm browns and reds, it creates an inviting seating area. The two large windows were finished with an upholstered cornice with decorative nailheads and natural woven shades.

The remodel, completed earlier this year, is "gorgeous," said Betsy Granade. "We're really enjoying living with the changes."