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GREAT WIDE OPEN

Cop-turned-attorney Tom Burton and his wife, Lisa Flynn, knew their Clarence home wasn't right for them -- or for their style of entertaining. So when it came to renovating, they weren't timid.

"We knew from day one that we were going to knock all these walls out," says Flynn, the petite news anchor/reporter for WIVB and its sister station, WNLO.

One large, light room has replaced the formerly choppy corridor of small laundry room, kitchen and dining room.

"It's going to be a great party kitchen," Flynn says, serving gourmet sandwiches and sodas on a summer afternoon. "That's what it was designed for."

It was also designed for Burton, who uses an electric wheelchair since a paralyzing accident in 1993. "We do a fair amount of entertaining," he says, "but it was hard for me to get situated or not run over people's feet.

"We wanted a set-up that would allow me to see and communicate with everybody. I still have the senses of vision, hearing and speech; I wanted to emphasize what I could still do.

"We decided to make sure there were no walls in between."

Designer Karen Fick helped create a space where necessary accommodations to life in a wheelchair became part of the room's inherent beauty. Gleaming red oak floors are rock solid, smooth and level; the wide-open traffic pattern is perfect for parties and gives Burton plenty of space everywhere in the kitchen.

"Tom and Lisa wanted it to feel warm, open, inviting, kind of exciting," says Fick, "something that made people want to come in and stay in this area."

Burton says the room holds 25 comfortably. "I call it a 'Cape Breton' kitchen," he says, recalling his many Nova Scotia friends who supported him after his accident. "It's big enough to have an army of people pile in and stick their finger in whatever you're cooking.

"And my prima donna doctor and lawyer friends all like to show what they know about cooking. You've got to at least grant them access."

For the Burtons, entertaining is fun and informal, and parties -- such as a ritual bouillabaisse party, or their recent fifties blast for nearly 500 guests -- are a Burton/Flynn staple.

"It was hard getting him out of his shell," Flynn jokes about her gregarious husband.

"Yes, I'm pretty shy and unassuming," Burton says, laughing. "She had to drag me forward out of the mire."

CHAT

Attorney Tom Burton calls busy interior designer Karen Fick "the princess." "She deals with guys I would have been wary of when I was a cop," he says admiringly, "and she gets things done." A lifelong Buffalo resident, Fick holds a design degree from Buffalo State College.

H & D: Do you know that Tom Burton refers to you as "the princess?"
KF: Oh, yeah. But I must tell you that one of my other clients calls me "the goddess of color," because I only give one choice for the room color. No alternatives.

H & D: What color is Tom and Lisa's kitchen?
KF: The walls are burnished misted jade. I invented the trim color, Karen Fick No. 1, which is a non-blue, non-yellow, non-red white.

H & D: I thought so.
KF: It reflects what is around it, so it looks different in every job we do. Karen Fick No. 2 is whiter.

H & D: What's the most important party feature in a home?
KF: A welcoming environment, so that guests can let their hair down and be themselves.

H & D: What's the largest party you've ever had?
KF: Ninety guests. Which pales in comparison to the Burtons' 475.