Design Hints

Revisiting the Past

Get helpful hints for rethinking the possibilities when it comes to decorating with and reimagining antiques and salvaged goods.

It's no secret that Norman, Indiana, homeowners Debbie and Jerry Loper cherish the old and the antique. Together, the couple restored two log cabins from the 1800s, first into a bed-and-breakfast and then into a welcoming and comfortable home for themselves. Even if you're not quite ready (or willing) to tackle a full log-cabin renovation, Debbie's advice can still inspire you to turn old items into something new -- albeit on a smaller scale -- or enhance your timeworn treasures in creative ways.

Get on board: Rethink the purpose of ordinary household goods. As a complement to the home's wood walls and floors, Debbie reimagined a handful of old wood cutting boards as a valance over her kitchen sink. Nearby, a black ladder suspended from hooks on the ceiling beams functions as a display rack for wire baskets and other kitchenware.

Take it outside: Vintage pieces that you love don't necessarily need to remain indoors. To dress up an outdoor nook where one of the cabins meets the new addition, Debbie placed a glass-doored cabinet against an exterior wall and filled it with small decorative accents, giving it new life and interest.

Paint away: When Jerry's mother was downsizing to a smaller home, she gave Debbie and Jerry two old cabinets that had been in her basement for years. Debbie repainted the lime green pieces dark red and stacked them on top of each other -- "When she came to our house, she didn't recognize them," Debbie recalls -- to create a tall pantry that now sits in the dining area.

Reuse fashionably: Scraps of vintage fabric and buttons can add detail to otherwise so-so pieces. For twin lamps on her master bedroom vanity, Debbie covered the cylindrical shades with old ticking fabric and glued vintage buttons on the top and bottom to finish the look.

Hit the highlights: Even if you don't want to alter an antique piece, try showcasing it in a favorable light. Atop a great room cabinet, Debbie nestled her collection of kerosene lamps in a bed of white twinkle lights to cast a glow on the glass lanterns. A similar radiance illuminates the shelves installed high on the master suite's sitting area walls.

This home was featured in the July 2012 issue.

Written by April Miller
Photographed by Bill Mathews
Styled by Gloria Gale