Past meets present: Second annual Girlchoir Tour of Kitchens set for April 17

April 7, 2010 11:06:00 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


After a popular debut last spring, the Columbus Girlchoir Tour of Kitchens returns Saturday, April 17, with impressive examples of how three homeowners have expressed themselves in one of the most important rooms in any household.  


Materials and decor blend the past with the present in two antebellum homes on tour, while a newly-built Southside kitchen melds touches of the past into its modern-day design.  


The fundraiser organized by the Girlchoir board of directors will feature kitchens in Belle Bridge, the circa 1856 home of Dr. Albert "Chance" and Gail Laws, at 200 Fourth Ave. S.; Corner Cottage, the circa 1833 home of Jennifer Locke, at 304 Fourth Ave. S.; and the 2009 home of Danette and William Starks, at 221 Seventh St. S. 


"Last year was very successful, not just in the number of people who came through, but in building awareness of the Girlchoir," said Girlchoir board president Jim Mauldin. "It was a great success for the merchants who were there, too, from the food vendors to floral designers and kitchen professionals, so we felt like it was a win-win all the way around." 


As added highlights on the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. tour, florists Ivy Cottage, Joy''s and Noweta''s will create arrangements for the homes, and ticketholders will be treated to appetizers provided by The Back Door, The Grill and Huck''s Place. Frye Tile, The Granite Guys and River City Stone will be on hand to answer questions and offer kitchen design advice. 


Tickets are $12, available at the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center, Rosenzweig Arts Center, Military Hardware, Pizazz, or from any Girlchoir member or board member. Tickets may also be purchased at the homes on the day of the tour. 


Proceeds help send the senior Girlchoir, under the direction of Dr. Cherry Dunn, to events such as this past summer''s Crescent City Festival in New Orleans, and to perform in North Carolina this summer, Mauldin said. 


"The board is committed to keeping costs low so that no girl who has the ability and desire will be prevented from participating," added tour publicity chair and board member Bridget Pieschel. "And this year we''re thrilled to be having the tour as part of Columbus'' annual Spring Pilgrimage of homes. We want everyone to enjoy touring these beautiful kitchens and meeting Girlchoir members who will be helping as hostesses at the homes." 




Everything old is new again 


For the Laws family and Locke, the challenge was to create 21st century comfort and convenience without forfeiting the character of homes built 150 to 177 years ago and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Both houses are also on the 2010 Spring Pilgrimage tour. 


Locke''s cozy Corner Cottage is one of the oldest structures in Columbus. The two-story home was originally a two-room dwelling, with other rooms added later, producing intriguing details that tell an architectural tale.  


Simplicity was the guiding concept when Locke updated the kitchen about three years ago. 


"The kitchen joins into a den; it''s all one big room," she said of the warm, inviting space she created. "The interesting thing is that a lot of the woodwork in the kitchen is indicative of the 1850s; I tried to match up woodwork to the old as much as I could and use all the old doors," added Locke, who serves as tour co-chair with Margaret Mauldin. 


Fisher & Paykel appliances sit atop heart pine floors dating back to the 1800s. Locke took care to choose fittings that don''t look overtly out of place with the rest of the house. One of the home''s six fireplaces is in the kitchen. Its exterior is still the original handmade brick.  


"I tried to keep to the period as much as possible, yet still make it comfortable," she shared. 




At Belle Bridge 


Only a short stroll from Corner Cottage stands stately Belle Bridge. A high-ceilinged profusion of color greets visitors to the Laws'' sunny kitchen there.  


A graceful Asian-influenced design reminiscent of Blue Willow covers the walls and is echoed in the draperies. A fireplace opposite the entry stands as a focal point. 


"I love burning a fire in cold weather;" said Gail Laws, who credits Meredith Andrews of Columbus for help in decorating the spacious kitchen. 


A "cookbook desk" and bookshelves fill one wall, and a large round table flanked by tall windows makes a charming entertainment corner. "If there aren''t too many of us, we''ll just sit in here; for larger parties, we use the formal dining room," said Laws. 


The custom-built hanging rack above the kitchen island is filled with copperware and ranks as one of Laws'' favorite features, as do the leaded glass-fronted cabinets and walk-in pantry. 


"And I love the hot lights on the stove," she said, showing racks that can be lowered under overhead lights crowning the six-burner gas stove top. 




Present day design 


A few blocks from the antebellum past, the Starks'' two-story white brick home built in 2009 boasts a refreshing architectural design. 


"We had toured a coastal living idea house when we were in Gulf Shores," said Danette Starks. "This was the house plan basically we used, with a few modifications." 


The young couple looked at several Columbus neighborhoods when relocating from Starkville, but Southside was at the top of their list. 


"When we saw this lot, we knew the plan we''d seen would accommodate it," remarked Starks. 


With three children, ages 14 months to 5 1/2 years, the family designed an efficient kitchen suited to the bustle. The past is incorporated with hand-hewn headers, one over the entryway from the kitchen to the dining room, timbers Danette''s grandfather had used to build his barn in Bartahatchie. William''s father, Paul Stark, helped oversee the completion of the home. 


"Our floors are re-salvaged pine," Danette noted. "They actually came out of an old warehouse in South Carolina; we got them in Indianola, and Joe Clark in Columbus refinished them for us. 


"We love our neighborhood, the proximity to church, the sidewalks, the shopping ... It seems to us kind of the new urbanization; we were excited to be able to build the house here."  




A joyful noise 


Encouraging support of the Columbus Girlchoir through the tour, Pieschel said, "The Girlchoir is one of the most positive representative community groups we have. Girls from 9 to 18, from a wide variety of public and private schools, including homeschooled, come together weekly to learn about music, leadership, self-esteem and cooperation." 


Jim Mauldin added, "Dr. Cherry Dunn, the choir founder and director, has done a fabulous job preparing the girls, broadening their horizons and making a good presentation for the city. And we really appreciate our Junior Girlchoir director Tina Morgan and accompanist Rachel Delk, too." 


The Girlchoir''s spring concert will be May 11 at First United Methodist Church''s Artz Fellowship Hall in Columbus at 7:30 p.m. The performance is free, but any donations toward choir expenses are greatly appreciated. The junior and senior choir will also perform May 2 at First Baptist Church during the 10:30 a.m. service. The junior choir will sing at Mt. Zion Cumberland Presbyterian Church April 25. 


For more information about the 2010 Tour of Kitchens, contact Pieschel at 662-574-4293.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.