When Jim Morford, a Lower Valley farmer, built his 1,800-square-foot ranch style home in 1983, he probably didn’t consider that he and his wife, Tish, would eventually be facing an empty nest. But beginning last year, the couple’s children had begun flying off to their own life’s adventures, and the Morfords felt this was the time to make some changes themselves. They completely remodeled the main living space of their ranch house to make a modern and functional kitchen/great room, where their growing extended family could gather.

Although Jim built the original structure, he and Tish were wise enough to know that blowing out a large part of the home without the help of professionals could have caused a disaster of huge proportions. Hiring an experienced architectural draftsman, contractor and interior designer, the Morfords saved not only headaches, but time — and probably even money.

Before knocking down walls or tearing out cupboards, they employed Marty Schoolcraft, a Yakima architectural draftsman, to draw up the plans for the great room.

“The Morfords had some idea of what they wanted,” Schoolcraft said. “They wanted to open up the space, but didn’t know how to do it.”

Before creating the preliminary design, Schoolcraft studied the home’s structure. He kept in mind what his clients envisioned, while considering the integrity of the original house. When the Morfords saw Schoolcraft’s drawings, they couldn’t believe how he’d merged the old with the new.

Since Tish and Jim had hired Eric Clark of Clark Custom Remodeling several years earlier for a bedroom suite addition, they were confident that he and his crew could easily handle the second, much more complicated project. To create an open concept floor plan from the original rabbit warren of rooms with partitions dividing them, Clark removed a fireplace on a central wall that took up most of the living room. Ceiling beams, pantry, sunken floor, breezeway, laminate counter tops and white cabinet doors all bit the dust as well.

As the construction phase roared into gear, the homeowners suddenly realized that they’d need to start making important décor decisions, including what flooring, paint, lighting and furnishings to use. Tish admitted she was a bit overwhelmed.

“I was having a panic attack,” she said. But an Internet search led her to local interior designer Tanna Barnecut, and Tish hired her to help.

She and Jim were especially thrilled to find a decorator who specializes in space design. Coming onboard mid-construction, Barnecut reassured her clients that what appeared as a cold, cavernous barn, could indeed become a contemporary, open concept room, including many functional areas within the larger space.

Four months later, the remodel was finished and the Morfords love the results.

The home now encompasses about 3,200 square feet, with a kitchen Clark updated with custom alder cabinetry, granite countertops, neutral tile floors and stainless steel appliances. His crew also enlarged the kitchen’s island and created a bay window kitchen nook with a built-in bench. Tish is pleased with her new pantry cabinets that she’s filled with her home-canned peaches and tomatoes. The two tractor seat stools at the kitchen island have become a favorite of their grandchildren and are subtle reminders that this sophisticated home is on a working farm.

To separate the centrally located dining area, Barnecut suggested a custom-made area rug with a dark brown border, made to fit Tish’s grandmother’s antique dining table and matching chairs. Clark’s master carpenter, Leon Aussink, built the adjacent granite-topped buffet, with its two tall ripple-glass fronted cabinets that display the family’s china. Three fruit paintings by local artist Marcia Blevins hang between the cabinets, pulling all of the design elements together and making this space perfect for family celebrations.

The living room probably best showcases Barnecut’s design expertise. The Morfords made it clear that they wanted a spot to relax that was warm and inviting. The bisque wall-to-wall carpet helps delineate the area. Barnecut created a neutral palate with gray rustic stones for the floor-to-ceiling gas fireplace, alder woodwork and brown-toned furnishings. But Barnecut also convinced Tish that the room needed a signature piece to make the décor “pop.”

“Tanna found a large cross-section piece of broadleaf maple wood in Seattle,” Tish said. Then Barnecut collaborated with Yakima artisan furniture maker Nate Sabari to make it into a fabulous coffee table. Although it took three men to haul the heavy table into the house, it makes an amazing focal piece for the room. Tish gave the living room her personal touch by hanging a fun montage of framed family photos all taken from the back. No matter how perfect a home’s decor, if it doesn’t include an element of the owner’s passion for the life they live, it’s just a room without a heart.

With the help of the professionals who listened to what their clients really wanted, Tish and Jim Morford have beautifully reimagined their home, making room for a very happy future.