Old Stuff, New Ways of Using It

We probably are no different from most other middle income couples who remarry in their empty-nester years. Christian and I both owned homes, and we both accumulated way too much stuff during our separate family-raising decades. Some of it is easy to part with, but a lot of our furniture and décor either comes with some kind of emotional attachment or cost us too much to just yard-sale it or give it away.

Thus, deciding to buy the house and move to Harpers Ferry was the easy part. The harder part has been merging Christian’s more traditional style (leaning modern) and my more vintage style (leaning cottage) into a single 1920s craftsman-style house.

Neither of us have ever lived in a home more than 40 years old, and a lot of our stuff in its current state doesn’t fit the the style of this place. Our challenge has been to repurpose – or reinvent – as much of it as possible. The attic guest suite has been our first achievement of this goal.

As an aside, let me just say that if you want to test the viability of your relationship before saying the I-do’s, then helping pack up your partner’s entire house and loading it onto a moving van is a fantastic way to do it. You gain invaluable insight that you may not otherwise see until well past the honeymoon:

  • You get a look at everything the other person owns, as well as learning how they think about their stuff, their attachment to it, some of the history behind it, etc.
  • You see how the other person handles major stress (and how you interact with each other under stress).
  • You learn how much the other person is able to push through exhaustion, pain, discouragement, frustration, etc.

Obviously, Christian passed the test, and I must have passed too when we packed up my house. Neither of us backed out of the engagement!

Now back to the topic at hand…  In decorating our new home, including the guest suite we refer to as Inez’s Sweet Retreat, our philosophy is to respect the age of the house. We are not freezing it in a particular era, but we are using some late 19th and early to mid-20th century vintage décor, often with a more modern take.

The attic is the only space in the house where the wood trim has been painted, so it provided a perfect opportunity for the romantic pastels and cottage look I love. I have been able to replicate some of the look of the master bedroom in my prior home.

While furnishing it as much as possible with things we already owned, we also knew the suite needed a fresh, new look. Here’s how the space looked when we moved in:

Attic as it looked when we moved in

Starting with a fresh canvas was key. We repainted the walls a calming pink, with a light gray inside the dormers. Then we bought new carpet (on sale!) along with extra thick padding to help with soundproofing.  A queen-size box springs wouldn’t fit up the stairs, so we bought a Leesa mattress in a box and hauled up a platform base that Christian already owned. We ordered custom-made blinds from blinds.com (also on sale).

Everything else was repurposed. Here are some examples:

This nice wooden chest of drawers was in a bedroom in Christian’s old house.
Thanks to some Annie Sloan paint it fits the look of the room better now. (Christian couldn’t bear for me to paint the top surface, though.)
This was my bedroom in Charlottesville.
Iron bed in Inez's Sweet Retreat, Rockhaven B&B, Harpers Ferry Airbnb
For now I am reusing my old bed pretty much as was, except for the new mattress.
TV stand in Inez's Sweet Retreat, Rockhaven B&B, Harpers Ferry Airbnb
And my iron sewing machine stand now holds the TV.
My slipcovered white love seat in my Charlottesville living room.
Love seat, Inez's Sweet Retreat, Rockhaven B&B, Harpers Ferry Airbnb
We didn’t initially plan to put the love seat on the third floor (which was no easy task), but it works so nicely for our guests now. (We were challenged to arrange furniture all around the edges of the suite in a way that directs guests away from low slanted ceilings. We also pulled it out away from the wall and at an angle toward the TV.)  
And last, these 19th-century windows hung in my screened porch in Charlottesville.
Kitchenette entrance with vintage windows, Inez's Sweet Retreat, Rockhaven B&B, Harpers Ferry Airbnb
Christian stacked two of the old windows to add more vintage charm and also to guide guests away from bumping their heads as they enter the kitchenette. 

I think we accomplished a nice balance of romantic cottage style without going off the frou frou deep end. Plenty of couples have come to stay, and it’s often the male who first comments about how pretty the room is. (Yes, they actually say “pretty.”)  I suppose the guys who just can’t abide the pastels self-select out and stay somewhere else.

We’re happy that we didn’t need to start over from scratch, because it made opening the Airbnb guest room much more affordable. Plus, we get to keep the stuff we like and had fun together working through the challenge of making it all fit. Christian says that being able to reuse our stuff is a little like life. You keep the old stuff – all the experiences, both good and bad – but you perceive them today in a new context, fitting them into the way your life is now rather than the way it was.

That’s life in our Magic House. Come see us sometime!



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