Vintage Cottage Renovation

orange, green and yellow room
A creative vision and a one-of-a-kind renovation rescue a crumbling 1940s cottage with space-stretching moves and casual, eclectic style.

Before: Crumbling Cottage

Water-damaged walls, buckled flooring, crumbling ceilings -- this corner-lot cottage lacked charm and stability when it was rescued by its owner. Thanks to a creative vision and a crafty contractor who recognized its potential, it had the chance to bloom into a neighborhood beauty.

After: Sunny Outlook

This home demonstrates the power of curb appeal. A simplified crisp white color scheme, a wood Dutch door, and an expansive porch present a brighter, more welcoming face. Touches of landscaping give presence to the entry and play up the cottage's classic feel.

A Better Porch Retreat

Colorful containers and bold textiles aren't the only ways to make a porch sing. The homeowner added a party-ready touch by wiring it for speakers. Even if you don't install speakers right away, it's nice to have the option when you're ready to invest in a sound system.

Turn ordinary clay planting pots into works of art with just some masking tap and spray paint.

Porch Perk-Up: Painted Pots

Watch and learn how to turn ordinary clay pots into works of art with these colorful ideas.

Before: Lackluster Living Room

Time and lack of upkeep left the living room in disrepair. But a simple, easy-to-live-with layout offered a blank slate.

After: Old Meets New

Charming details give the living room a refresh without compromising its original design. Crown molding, reclaimed wood floors, and custom-fit doors flanking the fireplace elevate style and tie the space to its cottage roots.

Focal-Point Fireplace

A few character-boosting features give the living room's tired fireplace unfitted charm. Flat white paint, custom doors, and new tile on the hearth add unexpected interest, as does a revolving collection of art prints and antiques store finds.


Tip: A nonworking fireplace's hearth is a great place to splurge on tile that would be too costly for a larger installation.

Before: Drab Dining Room

Cornice boards on the windows and a narrow point of entry made the dining room feel theaterlike and closed off from neighboring rooms.

After: Inviting Space

The addition of white trimwork, soothing gray walls, and a wider, taller opening between the living and dining rooms visually maximize the space.

Before: Closed-Off Kitchen

At 12x12 feet, the original kitchen was cramped, closed-off, and uninviting.

After: Schoolhouse Charm

A drastic makeover injected the kitchen with light, warmth, and personality. Taking the place of a fourth bedroom, the extended kitchen is now 12x25 feet -- doubling its footprint and functionality.


The homeowner found the island's industrial-style legs in a barn on a family farm. The rustic top is a pleasant contrast to the white walls, subway tile, and concrete countertops and coordinates with the kitchen's open shelving.

Save Versus Splurge

In the kitchen, saving on inexpensive tile allowed for a big splurge on an apron-front sink. Accents with shine -- a new faucet, cabinet hardware, and stainless-steel appliances -- give the wood-and-white kitchen a modern edge.

Before: Trapped in a Time Warp

Floral wallpaper, Kelly green tile, and an awkward vanity were just the tip of the iceberg for this main-level bathroom makeover.

After: Classic Meets Contemporary

Working within the room's dimensions, the watermelon-color bath evolved into a fresh-faced retreat. White walls and wainscoting visually expand the space, while black-and-white wallpaper on the sink wall introduces a punch of pattern. Vintage wood flooring inlaid among the classic white hexagonal tile echoes the vintage wood floors in surrounding rooms.

Spotlight the Entrance

Bold, flashy hues are a popular way to wake up an exterior door, and the same rule applies indoors. In the hallway, a cherry-color salvaged door glides along barn-door hardware, sliding open to gray-and-white-painted stairs that climb to the master suite.

Before: Dark Upper Level

Originally the upper level was a dark apartment divided by a staircase. A low ceiling, wood-plank walls, and dated fixtures made the space feel cramped and cavelike.

After: Soaring Suite

Changing the pitch of the roof opened up a world of possibilities for the home's upper level. The contractor tore off the original roof and reestablished the roofline, creating a generous-size, light-filled master suite. Barn-style light fixtures, pops of color, and faux ceiling beams made from the original roof rafters play up the room's vintage farmhouse aesthetic.

Airy Retreat

A salvaged screen door, white paint, and whitewashed wood floors create an airy feel in the spacious master bath. Unconventional design choices -- opting for a mix of mirrors rather than one large mirror and using a media cabinet as a vanity -- elevate function and appeal.

Tip: Keep bath storage convenient. Swap out solid cabinet doors with glass-panel ones to quickly locate items and eliminate time spent searching.

Must-Read Renovation Lessons

Want to breathe life into an old home? The homeowner shares hard-earned tips from her home's makeover story.

Don't go alone. You need a licensed professional to manage the process and ensure quality.

Test your paint colors. Paint samples onto walls and take a peek at different times of day to see how they respond to light.

Wait to wallpaper. Wallpaper can be an expensive endeavor and is easily added after the dust of renovation has settled. Order samples and leave them up for a week or two.

Splurge appropriately. Whether it's windows or floors, decide what's most important to you and spend the money there.

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