Refreshing Spaces: An Eye For Re-Imagining

It can be a challenge to mesh your beloved possessions with the desire to live in a comfortable, well-coordinated home.

For some, the solution is a complete overhaul: purchasing costly new furnishings and reluctantly chucking out old favorites to make room.

But for Judy Karem, owner of Refreshing Spaces, home is just as much about the pieces you love as it is the walls themselves.

Rather than redecorating, Karem re-imagines a room, rearranging the furniture to create harmony and maximize living space in a way that makes the most sense for its inhabitants. “I’d just go into people’s houses and move things around to make it work better,” explained the former designer of her propensity to refresh friends’ homes whenever she dropped by for a visit.

With 35 years of design experience under her belt and a little more time on her hands, Karem saw the opportunity to take something that had been a lifelong hobby and turn it into a business. “I love the name of this business, Refreshing Spaces. I take what you have, and I create a new look.”

Dining room before.

Dining room before.

One need only step inside Karem’s own home of five years in Hurstbourne Acres to see how her handiwork can transform a home’s interior. The front room, a combination dining and living area, features a prominently placed dining table with artfully mismatched chairs, deep red walls and artwork with complimentary red hues, strategically placed to break up the room. On the other side, a cozy seating area includes mounted collections of china and cigar-band plates, as well as a custom-built perch by the window for her Scottish Terriers to sit. In the heart of the room rests a cozy fireplace, Karem’s favorite feature and the focal point of the space’s decor.

Stepping into the kitchen, a room that was formerly half-carpeted and painted an unpleasant yellowish shade, the homeowner’s distinctive style becomes even more apparent. She had the partial carpet removed and replaced with a dark tile, a selection made as much for its ability to disguise the evidence of foot traffic as its visual appeal. Both walls and cabinets sport a creamy neutral color, the perfect backdrop to offset displays of numerous collected pieces. Blue and white china plates pop on the walls just above the cabinets, while Scottish Terrier-themed drawings in various sizes and styles add visual interest to the space by the table.

“Something I learned long ago from another designer is when you have collections, put them together,” noted Karem. “When you group things, its interesting,” she continued as she revealed a washroom nearby, tiled and color-coordinated in black and white, and filled with a myriad of Scottie memorabilia, from photographs to dolls and small figurines. Atop the classic color palette, the tiny room entrances rather than overwhelms, drawing one in to investigate the nuances of her collection.

Down the hall, a small bedroom reserved just for her three Scotties serves as a testament to her love for her pets, and also to her ability to re-imagine an interior to suit specific lifestyle needs. Once serving as an office while Karem worked from home, the room had recently outlived its usefulness and often sat vacant. Meanwhile, the dog-lover struggled to keep her three pets occupied and well-behaved whenever she had to confine them, so she transitioned the office into a stylish pet bedroom, complete with cushy bedding and a window-height platform for squirrel watching.

The home office found its way into a much more accessible, well-lit space inside the house’s large, window-lined den. Resting just behind a couch that once was pushed against the wall, the office nook confines the clutter of business papers and notes while offering a workspace with clear views of the television, fireplace, into the next room and the backyard. Easy chairs near the mantle create a cozy spot for a shared glass of wine by the fire on cool nights. “It’s just making little vignettes of things that go together, and then making use of the windows that you have,” Karem noted. Nearby, the bedroom is kept simple around an oversized, elegant bed that had been kept in storage. An extra bedroom was converted into a spacious walk-in closet, complete with hang-space, shelving and a chest of drawers, creating the ultimate dressing space in her customized home.

Although she is pleased that her own place, a work in progress for years, is now almost complete, Karem is eager to take on new projects. “Everything I do is space planned and designed around convenience,” the local businesswoman affirmed. “I don’t care how much money you have or how much stuff you can buy, if you don’t know how to put it together. …I can see how to use space. It’s just little bitty things.”

You can reach Judy Karem, owner of Refreshing Spaces, by calling 502.499.3039 or emailing

Photos by JAMES EATON | Contributing Photographer