New look for an older house. A Southwest family remodels to fit its changing needs

`OUR house was getting too tight. The kitchen was too small. The family room was inadequate. The children needed better quarters. We were cramped and needed to expand,'' says Kay Morse, explaining the need to remodel their 25-year-old Phoenix house, an ``old'' place by Sunbelt standards. The Morse home is a typical Southwestern structure. It's low and sprawls over the desert terrain, with red tile roof, green wood trim, and adobelike stucco walls. Most of its rooms are oriented to the pool and patio areas, but the family had literally outgrown them.

``We faced the choice of moving, or of fixing up what we had to fit us better,'' Mrs. Morse continues. ``We loved our quiet neighborhood with its good neighbors and good schools, and its nearness to our work. And we felt spoiled by our great views of Camelback Mountain. So we opted to stay put and remodel, making sure not to change the basic character of the house. We wanted it to look like what it is.''

John Morse, who with his wife heads Morse & Associates, an interior design firm, drew up plans for the renovation, taking every family need into consideration. His plan pushed out many walls and reorganized much of the space.

The result? A larger kitchen, a bigger dining room, and a family room that had doubled in size. The new quarters for the children, now on the side of the house opposite the master bedroom, reclaimed space that had been occupied by a utility and storage area and a playroom. There's a new bedroom for both 10-year-old Elizabeth and eight-year-old Tyler, as well as a small bath for each child. ``Children, too, like privacy,'' their father says, ``and separate baths will be even more important as they get into their teen years.''

Tyler's room sports bunk beds and walls covered with blue denim. His bathroom is tiled in a colorful array of scrap tiles, all sizes, shapes, and colors. Elizabeth chose a feminine look for her domain.

``When we moved into this house eight years ago, one child was two and the other soon-to-come,'' Kay Morse explains. ``It seemed right then to have the bedroom and nursery next to our bedroom, so we could give proper care. Now that they are older, that closeness wasn't so necessary.''

In the wide hallway outside the children's rooms is a built-in hobby/study area with shelves, counter, and desk space. Later, a computer station will be added, to be used by both children and parents.

The renovation also gave the children their own marble-slab kitchen counter for making cookies. A microwave oven fits into the end of the counter at a height accessible to them.

The enlarged family room, with its vaulted ceiling, has at last given John Morse room for a prized item - a big, ornate billiard table. The new kitchen has given Kay Morse custom-built cabinets, counters with butcher-block tops, and Saltillo Mexican tile floors that extend throughout most of the house. They can easily be cleaned with a damp mop.

MRS. MORSE also has new shower stalls designed with curved ceramic tile and no glass doors to keep clean. The new bay window in the living room was another pet project of hers. One day it will provide space for a baby grand piano. For now, it surrounds a bridge table and four chairs.

The messy rehab took six months to complete and cost almost as much as the couple originally paid for the house. It added 400 square feet, bringing the total size to 3,600 square feet.

``We endured the plaster dust and construction crews for four months, and spent the final two months in a rented, furnished condo,'' Mrs. Morse says.

``Even so, when we finally said, `Out! Enough is enough!' the library remained to be finished,'' she confesses. ``It will eventually get fitted with bookshelves and drawing boards and easy chairs.''

Outdoors, they added a new gas-lit fire pit of lava rocks, ``for sitting around and talking on cool evenings, not for cooking.''

When the Morses moved into the house eight years ago, they added the master bathroom, a tennis court, and a garage.

``But the family changes and evolves, and it took us a while to figure out what was now lacking and exactly how to remedy it,'' Mrs. Morse remarked.

``We've also thought about the time when the children will be grown and out of the nest, and we figure that what is now their wing could easily become general guest quarters, or even closed off entirely from the rest of the house.''

As for decoration, the Morses say, ``Our Southwest look is different from most. We find that our clients find Country French and English Country antiques quite compatible with Southwest interiors. And we, too, find them to be entirely harmonious.

``We also use a lot of texture, leather, and a lot of cotton prints and raw silks in vibrant colors. We go to Europe on regular buying trips to find the right antiques for this climate and environment, and we think the European-Southwest mix pleases many people.''

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