Spaces for the things you love

By Christa Gala CorrespondentMay 14, 2012 

Quality Design and Construction was entrusted with creating a dream music space for Sarah Morgan and Geoffrey Simon that measures 40 feet by 22 feet.

In marriage, there’s compromise — and that’s never been more evident than when we look at where we live and how we use our space.

A marital deal

A few years ago, Sarah Morgan and Geoffrey Simon moved from Rockville, MD to Raleigh to be closer to Morgan’s parents who are in their 80s. It was hard for Simon to move, so his wife made it a bit easier.

“The marital deal here in my taking Geoffrey away from his home in DC was that we would build the long-awaited music room,” says Morgan. “Geoffrey always wanted to build his own music room and this home on Lake Wheeler Road had enough land.”

Morgan and Simon hired Dave and Peggy Mackowski of Quality Design & Construction in Raleigh to build the space. “From floor-to-ceiling it’s about 24-feet tall, but the second-story level is just a balcony that goes all the way around,” explains Simon, a professional recitalist and church musician, who did some of the work himself.

Acoustics was a big concern. “That’s what generated the dimensions and the shape of the ceiling,” says Simon, a keyboardist. “I told Dave the best acoustics for music is a room shaped like a shoebox — twice as long as it is wide with hard surfaces. He figured out how to curve the ceiling, which I wanted. You can’t bend half-inch drywall around curves but you can bend quarter-inch drywall. So there’s a truss system up there, about 118 trusses and he used quarter-inch drywall in two layers.”

The room measures 40 feet by 22 feet, cost roughly $250,000 and took about a year to build. “I use it almost every day,” says Simon. Adds Morgan: “The intention was not only to hold the prized objects of the instruments and the books but also to be a recording space and a performance space.”

The couple hosted a big party New Years Day 2011 to celebrate the music room’s completion and has hosted recitals for local music organizations as well. The finished project reminds Morgan of the 19th century European music salons, where people gathered to hear new music.

“That was part of the inspiration,” says Simon. “The idea now is filling it up with people.”

The growing garden

Mark Megalos compromised, too, for his wife, Betsy. A forester, he sacrificed several big pine trees and hardwoods in their Cary yard so Betsy could expand her fruit and vegetable garden. Her venture now encompasses a part-time business, Megalos Gardens, and has taken over the front and back yards as well as the garage of their home. But he gets his pick of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Betsy, a horticulturist, started planting on the half-acre lot of her suburban home in 1990. In the front yard, she grows tea plants, blueberries, strawberries, herbs and a variety of vegetables. She also grows plants that attract the good bugs, so she can practice natural pest control. And in the back yard, she’s experimenting with plant propagation, composting and enhancing native bird and reptile habitats as well as dabbling in a bit of micro-animal husbandry with guinea pigs and rabbits.

“It’s part demonstration garden, part personal food and herb production garden, a teaching site, an office to work on designs and consultations and, finally, a place for growing plants for seasonal resale,” says Megalos.

In 2005, the couple converted the garage into an office/classroom with bathroom and storage closet that serves dual purposes. “It includes a seed germination shelf and some garden business storage,” says Megalos. “The conversion was the most cost-effective way to increase our home value by creating a heated, plumbed and wired living space. It has multi-uses; it can serve as a guest room when not in other use and someday it could be a mother-in-law suite or income-generating rental.”  

The couple did the work themselves and added a private porch to the garage. “I can store potting and transplanting materials out of sight and within easy reach,” says Megalos. “The little porch can also be wrapped in plastic to serve as a mini greenhouse on cold nights.”

“I grow many culinary varieties of vegetables — rare even at farmer markets — tomatoes for canning, cucumbers to pickle, peppers to dry and eat fresh, eggplant, squash, spinach, carrots, brussels sprout, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, edamame, popcorn and sunflowers,” continues Megalos. “I value our last year’s crop [of cucumbers] at several hundred dollars if we bought them locally.”

Up next: a few more trees lost so Betsy can grow asparagus. But husband Mark is fully on board. After all, it’s pretty cool having your own farmer’s market.

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