Our First Grown-Up House
Time for an Upgrade
Like many young couples’ first place, the rental house that Bryn and Matt Dunn shared in Orange County, CA, was a no-frills space full of hand-me-down furniture. So when Matt got an opportunity to move to Charlotte, NC, for his job, the couple took the cross-country leap, in large part because they could finally afford to buy a home of their own and furnish it with things they loved. “I was so happy to get rid of our matching bedroom set and beat-up yellow sofa,” says Bryn, a decorator and blogger. “I was ready to decorate for real.”
Feels Like Home
The pretty four-bedroom Colonial in Charlotte isn’t super fancy—in fact, many of Bryn’s favorite pieces came from Craigslist and flea markets—but it is the kind of place the couple won’t outgrow anytime soon. “Even though we didn’t have a lot of money to spend, I worked hard to make the house look pulled together and adult.”
The dresser, from the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, is one of the only pieces the Dunns kept from their California rental. It looks like wood but is actually stainless steel that Bryn spray-painted Satin Black by Rust-Oleum. The wood sunburst mirror by Bliss Studio was a splurge. “I eyed it for months,” she says. “Then I figured, most of what I buy is used or vintage, so it was OK to spend on something we’d have for a long time.” The lamp has a gilded driftwood base.
The Crate & Barrel sofa looks like linen but is covered in a durable linen-poly blend—Bryn made it look more luxe by upholstering the seat cushions with dark gray velvet. A custom tufted ottoman, upholstered with a cotton-linen fabric, is used as a coffee table and footstool.
“All the walls in our California house were beige, which felt very basic,” says Bryn. “I wanted this family room to be light and airy, so I painted the room bright white (Snowcap White by Valspar).” To create this display, Bryn used black and white Ikea frames with extra-wide matting, and spaced them about five inches apart.
The dining room in their last place was just a nook in an open living area. Bryn craved a more dressed-up space, so she painted the walls eggplant and added an antique-style viscose rug (joyandrevelry.com). The wood table and chairs were a gift from their neighbors, who were moving and no longer needed the set. Bryn added slip-covered host chairs from Ikea on either end. Bottles of wine and old glasses go in the armoire, a $200 purchase at an auction.
Draped in tiny mirrors and wood balls, this chandelier from Oly Studio draws attention to the ceiling, which is covered in a grid of decorative molding.
Instead of renovating the kitchen, they kept most of the features—laminate counters, vinyl floors, all the appliances—and just painted the cabinets crisp white (Snowcap White by Valspar) and the walls rich gray (Seine by Valspar). The 115-square-foot space is a far cry from what the Dunns had out West. Having all this space to cook feels so adult to me.
Bryn’s upstairs office doesn’t get much sunlight, so she did it almost entirely in creamy shades with a hint of pink to brighten up the room. The walls are Opal by Benjamin Moore, the vinyl rolling chair is from overstock.com, and the dining table turned desk, bookshelves, and cardboard storage boxes all came from Ikea. Office supplies are tucked away in a campaign-style dresser, which they found for $50 on Craigslist.
They look pricey, but these are actually Ribba frames from Ikea, spray-painted Premium Gold Metallic by Krylon. The prints are by blogger and jewelry designer Jess Lively.
Bryn had always loved the upscale look of grass cloth wallpaper, but she couldn’t justify the expense when they were renting. She took the plunge here but kept costs down by using it only on the walls of a small half bath. The ornate inlaid mirror is from Wisteria.
Bryn had a linen-poly-blend headboard made. She created nightstands by having skirts sewn (a zebra fabric by Kravet) to fit over Ikea Expedit bookcases, then topped each with a piece of glass. A friend painted the artwork, and the wall-to-wall Berber carpet is from a local discount carpet store.
The carved wood bench is another Craigslist buy. For a custom look, Bryn had it reupholstered in a combo of mint- and flax-color linen.