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Smaller Home, Bigger Style, Smarter Living

Written by Karen Marley
Imagery by Sandra Kicman

Nicole Gavigan, Managing Partner of HGB Design Group, was given a challenge. Find a home that is: 1) half the square footage of the homeowner’s current residence, 2) older with interesting architectural design elements, 3) able to absorb the oversized furniture pieces scaled for large spaces, and 4) located in the same school district.
    The homeowner with this challenge was not a client … it was Gavigan herself. “I was looking for certain character elements,” she explains. “I wanted a fresher, lighter appearance and environment but also needed to keep things familiar for my kids.”
    Even within Buffalo’s tight housing market, Gavigan found an older home with the external character she desired. The interior, while not thrilling, had the ceiling height necessary for her key furniture pieces – two large-scale China cabinets, a dining room table, and a sideboard. With plans for an interior re-design, she bought it.

That Was Then
With 3,800 square feet, Gavigan’s original old Tudor home was vast. There were five bedrooms, a fully finished basement, an array of designated rooms (a bar room!) plus an expansive grand space with a turret.
    Gavigan explains, “It was large, heavy, and dark. A bit Gothic.”
    The newer home, at 2,000 square feet, offers a mere three bedrooms but a much smarter design. Gavigan says it is brighter, fresher, and more exciting. Achieving this, however, required a creative overhaul.

This is Now
Gutted to the studs, the kitchen now basks in an entirely new layout. More wall space and a higher ceiling give breathing room to a small footprint. A tiny breakfast nook off the kitchen is now an open pantry housing cookbooks, platters and cooking apparatus for Gavigan, who loves to cook. Instead of a traditional backsplash, Gavigan selected a chic, vinyl-like wallcovering in a tile pattern for a fresh complement against the grasscloth wall covering throughout the rest of the kitchen.
    Upstairs were four bedrooms and a single bathroom. A small bedroom separated the master bedroom from the bathroom, which was adjacent to the bedroom closet’s back wall. Gavigan had an imaginative and resourceful vision that rendered a luxurious master suite.
    First, Gavigan connected the master and small bedroom thus converting the tiny bedroom into a lavish walk-in closet. Second, she sealed off the old bedroom door, eliminating the hallway access point. Lastly, she demolished the old bedroom’s closet but kept the opening to create direct access to the bathroom. Now she had a decadent master suite with a private bath entry. The kids, meanwhile, enter the bathroom door through the hallway.
    Bathroom space was recovered by exposing the brick chimney that runs up through the house’s center, and removing the stand-up shower. A double sink vanity was installed providing additional storage.
    Gavigan tweaked the upstairs to create another exciting space – a cozy attic family room and hangout for the kids. Originally, the attic’s entry was enclosed creating an awkward alcove near one of the kid’s bedrooms. By removing the entire entry, the exposed stairway beckons you up to the comfy getaway.
    “You never feel closed off or removed like we did in the old house,” says Gavigan. “The kids call it their lair! It’s their favorite part of the whole house.”

Fresh Design
And what about those oversized furniture pieces? The dramatic table and sideboard are at home in the dining room where a flourished wall covering creates fresh, visual diversity. The china cabinets flank the living room entry; a perfect fit for the room’s elevated sophistication. Silk drapes, a creamy linen sofa, and velvet sea-foam colored chairs offer both comfort and formality.
    If you are seeking better energy and higher style in your house, try looking at less. Gavigan’s gorgeous new home shows you just how spectacular that strategy can be. 

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