Atlanta firehouse gets a hot makeover

IKEA chips in to make crew feel comfy with new goods
By H.M. Cauley
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA, Ga. — Jack Harper, a medic at Atlanta's Firehouse No. 23 on Howell Mill Road, has done the math. "We work 24 hours on and 48 hours off, so we spend one-third of our lives here," he said.

So when Harper and his five colleagues are on call, they're also at their home-away-from-home in one of the city's oldest fire stations. Its main room: The giant garage that houses their two emergency vehicles. But on either side are the rooms where they eat, watch TV, cook and sleep. And what drab rooms they were, said firefighter Kelvin Jones.

"One day, I was at IKEA and started talking to a manager there about our place," said Jones. "I asked him to come by and see our station."

IKEA sent someone over to check out the station, and behold the result: a makeover plan.

"I started out just hoping we could get some new chairs to replace the stuff we had," said Jones. "You should have seen it --- old rocking chairs and pieces guys brought from their own homes."

What IKEA provided went well beyond Jones' expectations. "I was shocked at all they brought," he said.

The makeover started in the front room, where an old desk with a few drawers was replaced by a snazzy new desk, topped with several organizers and a metallic note board. Nearby are two new hanging cabinets. A bright red filing cabinet is stacked with black and white organizing boxes. Below the big-screen TV on one wall is another red storage cabinet. The seating area was brightened with four low-backed black chairs, each with its own bright red cushion, and two stacked tables. Behind the chairs, the windows have been re-covered with gray shades and topped with swatches of red and white fabric. The dark brown linoleum floor and wood paneling stayed in place.

On the opposite side of the garage is a break room and sleeping quarters. IKEA spruced up this section as well, hauling in a comfortable brown three-seat sofa and an overstuffed armchair. New artwork went up on the plain paneling. One end of the room holds workout equipment. Beyond that are single beds where the staff can catch a few winks in between calls.

"We had just acquired a nice couch with leg rests," said John McIlwain. "So we moved that one up to another room to make way for this one."

The experts left untouched the staff's eating area, dominated with one long table with two benches and a corner console for the TV. The adjacent kitchen has a tile floor, six-burner stove, double stainless steel sink and red cabinets.

The day the furniture was unveiled, representatives from IKEA, the Taste of Atlanta and Raving Brands showed up with food to celebrate the station's new look. IKEA representative Karina Gilpin estimates that the new pieces are worth about $5,000.

"There's a lot more work needed, but this is a great start," said Jones. "We live here every third day, so we want to do whatever we can to make it more cozy, to make it feel more like home."

Copyright 2007 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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