A BHG Editor Enlivened Her Midcentury Modern Home with '70s Style

Featured in a 1974 issue of Better Homes & Gardens, this renovated home gets its second act.

As an editor, I love an "old house meets new owner" story. But mine was feeling less fairy tale and more "delusional woman buys crumbling box"—until I stumbled on shots of my own house in a 1974 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. With a flood of new inspiration, I set about helping her flaunt, rather than hide, her age.

I was scouring the BHG archives one day looking for vintage shots of mushroom lamps (a day in the life of a market editor) when I found myself staring at my own living room. Some things looked different: The carpeted floors are now hardwood, and the original tongue-and-groove ceilings are painted white. But it was unmistakably ours—documented in the prime of its groovy '70s phase.

Take one look at the house now and you can probably tell my husband, Chris, and I are very much into the era—the fashion, the decor, the music—so stumbling upon the 1974 feature shortly after moving in was like finding a ready-made mood board filled with inspiration.

1974 bhg magazine spread home interior
Marty Baldwin

A little backstory: We first toured this house when it was mid-flip with a local contractor who planned to renovate and sell it. I immediately fell in love with those tongue-and-groove ceilings. I paid no attention to the holes in the subflooring, the exposed studs, shredded insulation, nicotine-stained drywall, or Chris, who was looking at me like I was crazy.

Built in 1956, the house had reached the point of disaster—a total gut. We made an offer the next day. I loved that we'd get the strong midcentury architecture but with a basically brand-new, updated interior.

As the story of an old, neglected house often goes, right after we moved in, we found out the place needed even more work than expected: replacing the roof and skylights, installing new HVAC, evicting and relocating opossums—you name it.

vintage eclectic design living room
Kim Cornelison

Those major repairs left us with less fun money for decorating, so shopping previously owned became my solution. But somewhere along the way, secondhand stopped feeling like my only option and became my first choice. The pieces tend to be unique, affordable, well-made, and sustainable. Thrifted finds like the replica LC4 chaise and Wassily chairs in the living room—two iconic midcentury designs—are some of my favorite things. (Though my most cherished secondhand find is our rescued Staffordshire terrier, Milly.)

The entire house is a friendship of old and new: the mixed glassware in our kitchen, the clothes in my closet, the Joni Mitchell vinyls that have a home next to Kacey Musgraves. Oh, and the chairs—all 28 of them.

Lauren Bengston

It's one thing to love a home for its history. But discovering you and your home share a history in the BHG family? That's kismet.

— Lauren Bengston

Chris usually lets me have free rein with decorating, so I'll jump on a project as soon as an idea strikes. It's not uncommon for him to come home from a weekend trip to find the kitchen completely wallpapered or a room painted an entirely new color.

Case in point: my spontaneous paint job on the living room wall. Inspired by the bold stripe between the living and dining rooms in the home's 1974 magazine feature, I painted a graphic stripe around the fireplace in a similar tone (Sherwin-Williams Marea Baja). I filled white wall space with a closet shelving system I spray-painted to mimic the look of brass, and pine boards I stained a walnut tone have a high-end look for a fraction of the cost.

Add some leather sling-back chairs to the mix? Absolutely. (Ours are camel-color, and we layered them with sheepskin for a softer look.)

When we moved in, our contractor gave us a collection of vintage photos of the house from the 1950s. Now they make a nostalgic gallery wall behind the sofa. The living room shelves display my favorite local art, collections, and petite LED lamps controlled by timers.

kitchen with backsplash and open shelving
Kim Cornelison

Then there was that weekend I decided all the happiest homes have quirky lights over their kitchen sinks and installed a domed pendant similar to the one that hung over the dining table in the '70s. I installed the diamond geometric wallpaper above the backsplash to blend with the dark cabinets. Mismatched serveware adds personality.

orange entry into dining room table
Kim Cornelison

Chris takes it all in stride—though after my fourth Facebook Marketplace purchase of a "new" (to us) set of chairs, I've been lovingly forbidden from trying to squeeze any more seating into our 1,700-square-foot home. But it's not so much that I have an obsession with chairs; it's more an addiction to giving something preloved a new life—an addiction to the thrift.

Lauren Bengston

I love the thrill of the thrift. Every room in this house is a mix of new and secondhand, splurge and save.

— Lauren Bengston

The authentic Marcel Breuer Cesca chairs in the dining room were a Facebook Marketplace steal at $125 for the set, but they needed lots of TLC. I shined the chrome with aluminum foil and water, cleaned up the cane backs, and reupholstered seats in a durable bouclé fabric. The tulip table and George Nelson saucer pendant add soft curvature. Ribbon art by Angela Chrusciaki Blehm ties to the bar area's orange walls.

orange bar area with credenza
Kim Cornelison

Plug-in sconces with amber LED candelabra bulbs emit a moody glow that emphasizes the warmth of the orange wall (Benjamin Moore Baked Terra Cotta). The credenza was a free find on Facebook.

kitchen pegboard wall hanging pots and pans
Kim Cornelison

I borrowed the pegboard idea from Julia Child to organize cookware without hiding all their fun colors. Milly looks identical to one of the dogs in the peel-and-stick wallpaper, so I put it up just for her.

angled ceiling bedroom blue wall
Kim Cornelison

I had paint left over from the living room stripe, and it was the perfect hue for this accent wall in our bedroom. Velvet curtains in the same tone add dimension to the wall and create the illusion of a headboard. To help the two nightstands—one from my teenage bedroom and one a thrifted find—work together, I painted them the same olive green.

Lauren's Tips for Scoring Secondhand Finds

I've learned a lot in my young career of buying secondhand. These are the rules I try to stick to.

1. Know Your Skills

Light wood scratches or bad hinges don't scare me. I know I can fix dings with a wood stain marker and easily replace hardware. But when it comes to intricate woodwork or a needle and thread, count me out. If fixing a piece will give you a headache or cost more than it's worth, it's likely not the one.

2. Factor in Transportation

Sure, that hutch is $40, but you're going to need a U-Haul to get it home. Worth it? Maybe. I've rented my fair share of moving trucks (I never should have sold my pickup), but if the extra cost and logistics exceed the value, walk away.

3. Have Patience

The best part about secondhand is you can buy it right then and there, no supply chain delays. But if you don't love it, don't buy it. It's worth it to wait for the right thing, and there will always be another dresser or chair to consider. Nothing is worse than finding the piece you really love after buying one you feel "meh" about.

Updated by
Joseph Wanek
joseph wanek headshot

Joseph Wanek is a senior stylist and producer with more than a decade of experience in the business of publishing and commercial photography. His area of expertise is prop styling for home and garden photo shoots. Wanek's work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Do It Yourself, Design Sponge, DSM Magazine, and more. He has styled photography and video for major brands such as Walmart, Lowe's, Proctor and Gamble, and 3M.

Wanek started his career in newspaper journalism and photography but after working with magazine publications, his passion for home design evolved into his current profession as a prop stylist. His love of gardening, plants, and all things outdoor living has been featured in newspapers, magazines, and digital publications.

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