Home Style: Vintage Vibe

Written by Jennifer Kastner Lackey for Wrightsville Beach Magazine

Melanie Bowe’s Princess Place bungalow was in rough shape when she first saw it. Built in the 1940s on what was originally a landfill, the home needed work. But Bowe liked the proportions and could see the renovations completed in her mind.

“I knew I could add on if I wanted to and I liked the [through sight line] to the backyard,” she says. “It fit the bill.”

A five-month renovation opened up walls to lend the home a more flowing floor plan in some areas, while doorways were walled in to better define space and encourage gathering in others.

A rotted floor in the bathroom provided an opportunity to renovate and enlarge it by moving the linen closet, and a front porch was converted into a multi-purpose room. The small galley-style kitchen at the back of the home was turned into a functional laundry/mudroom and favorite napping area for Scruffy, Bowe’s Wheaten Terrier.

Perhaps the biggest transformation took place in the kitchen. New white base cabinets are now interspersed with salvaged and rebuilt vintage upper cabinets with glass hardware for a pleasing shabby chic look. A floating island in the center of the kitchen maximizes functionality and creates a landing spot for guests to visit with the homeowner, who loves to cook. French doors leading onto the covered back porch and spacious backyard bring in light and views all the way to the front living area.

Some things in the house remain unchanged, in keeping with Bowe’s love of all things vintage. She didn’t have the heart to paint the original wood mantle, and the hardwood floors just needed refinishing. A door casing in the hallway was stripped of decades of paint and then left to show the barely-there remnants (much to the consternation of the paint crew).

As the work progressed, the original owner’s ninth and youngest child paid a visit and was delighted with the renovation of her childhood home.

After renovations were completed, the interior decor quickly began to take shape. Bowe filled the space with objects obtained from years spent scouring antique markets in the United States and Europe. Each item has a memory attached, and guests are frequently entertained with stories of their acquisition. Whether it was negotiating for an elaborate gold side chair at a flea market in upstate New York or carting home a delicate crystal chandelier from the stalls in Paris, the stories of the treasures that make up the home’s interior are rich and the items filled with history.

The cheerful pastel color palette reflects a vintage vibe and helps to balance and lighten the more formal furnishings and ornate gold-framed oil paintings of still lifes and landscapes. Many of the ceilings are also painted just a shade lighter than the walls, helping to carry the eye through the small spaces and add depth. The open hallway is papered in a riotous floral print that adds interest as one passes through.

The cottage speaks of an era gone by, when people handed down furniture and searched long and hard for the perfect piece to fill a space, letting their interiors evolve over time.

“I really believe your home should be a refuge — an oasis,” Bowe says.

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