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Archive for Saturday, October 4, 2008

Creating a cozy cottage effect using a gift for thrift

October 4, 2008

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Walls and furniture painted white brighten the living room of Patty Kerr's Firestone Park bungalow in Akron, Ohio. Kerr's home is the embodiment of frugal fashion.

Walls and furniture painted white brighten the living room of Patty Kerr's Firestone Park bungalow in Akron, Ohio. Kerr's home is the embodiment of frugal fashion.

— Patty Kerr doesn't need a lot of money to decorate her house.

All she needs is imagination and effort - and a whole lot of white paint.

Kerr's Firestone Park, Ohio, home is the embodiment of frugal fashion. She has given the house a romantic style with the help of hand-me downs, flea market purchases, trash finds and other thrifty sources.

It's a cottage look, complete with lots of old-fashioned fabrics in muted colors, floral-pattern china and furniture that's been painted white or a soft color and distressed. "Just old and comfortable" is the way Kerr described it.

Kerr said she fell for the compact shingled bungalow the first time she stepped inside for a Halloween party 13 years ago. "I felt so good in this house," she remembered.

A month later, it went up for sale. By Jan. 1 she had moved in.

And with that move, Kerr discovered a passion for beautifying her surroundings.

She had been a homeowner before, when she was married, but she said she had no interest in decorating back then. After her divorce she dabbled in gardening and antique collecting as an apartment dweller, but it wasn't until she bought the little house that she found herself delving into those interests.

"I never really knew what my style was till I just started doing it," she said.

As a single mother with a son who's now a young adult, Kerr has had to stretch her money to feather her nest. But she hasn't let that get in the way of creating a home she loves.

She takes pride in pointing out her thrifty finds. The side table next to the sofa was rescued from a curb. The corner hutch in the breakfast room came from some neighbors. The table and chairs were purchased for $35 from a friend, and a small cupboard in one of her two bedrooms was a surprise. She'd considered buying it at a neighbor's garage sale, and after the sale, he brought it to her.

Kerr can tick off the origins of many of her lamps, furnishings and garden accents. "It's fun, because you remember everything," she said.

Ugly upholstery or worn finishes don't deter her. She'll toss a bedspread or other covering over a sofa or spruce up wood furniture with her favorite decorating tool, paint. She'll cover a chair cushion in fabric from a thrift-store blouse.

She even joked that she could disguise the appliance box that holds a stove she's storing temporarily for a friend. "I can just throw a doily over it and put a candle on it," she said.

Kerr's living room walls have changed color at least four times, and she's considering yet another transformation from white to barely-there taupe on the walls and a sky blue on the ceiling.

"Everybody says, 'Don't sit still. Patty'll paint you,"' she said with a laugh.

Paradoxically, one of the rooms Kerr liked least when she bought the house, the kitchen, turned out to be one of her favorites.

Originally it was dated and darkened by wood cabinets, open display shelves and knotty pine paneling in the eating area. But when she painted it all her signature white and got a new vinyl floor, the room took on a cheery, retro feel.

Suddenly the shelves were ideal for her extensive collection of old china and glass, and even the old linoleum countertops with the metal edging looked hip. A friend covered the ceiling in embossed wallpaper to give it the look of tin, and she had a window replaced with French doors for access to a screened porch and the garden beyond.

It's not a big house, but it fits Kerr just fine.

"It's just my haven," she said. "I feel so blessed."

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