The Old House We Love to Live In

We moved into our 150-year-old home in Charleston, Illinois in the fall of 2013.

Right now we are looking forward to Spring (but also wishing for some late February snow).

Here is a shot of the exterior of our house from last Spring with the dogwood tree (aka Harper’s tree) and the groundcover on our hill in bloom.  Every year we add more drought-tolerant perennials with the hope that one day the steep hill will be covered in color.  I really enjoy mixing different heights, textures, and colors to create a patchwork of lovely for all to see.  I grew many of the plants from seed and some came all the way from our last home.  We love to garden. We moved from a typical Chicago postage-stamp lot to a huge yard that hadn’t been tended to for decades.  There are always so many projects going on at once. It is a lot of work, but is so rewarding each year.

In the fall of 2015, we painted our house in Sherwin Williams Dark Knight, with a slightly darker custom-mixed trim in a glossy finish.   The house had been white with (decorative) green shutters for at least 100 years so we get lots of double-takes from passersby.  It took courage to go for the dark color, especially since we are a relatively new family to a very small rural community, but I am so glad we took the risk.  The house looked disjointed before, starting out as a Carpenter Gothic in 1864 and then being morphed into a more Georgian Colonial Revival style in 1920.  I think the dark color solidifies the look.

Since we moved here we have made many changes.  Here are the most recent shots of the house interior.

Take a look at our Holiday House Tour for even more photos.

To see what the house looked like before we moved in check out the  “before and after” post.


Front Door

picture of front door

This color is Sherwin Williams “Nervy Hue,” isn’t that a perfect name!  The doorbell is original and in perfect condition, the door plate and knob were eBay finds (We ordered many and tried them and resold the rejects, it was hard to find the right fit.  Who knew antique door hardware was so complicated?!) and the mail slot is a reproduction from Signature Hardware.


picture of foyer

It is so nice to come home to this front door and staircase!  You can’t beat carpentry from 1864.
The majority of the house interior is painted with Sherwin Williams Extra White.  I wanted it as simple and as bright as possible.

picture of foyer

Here we are peeking into the office/guest suite.

picture of stairway and hall

The dining room is straight back from the front door.

picture of hall and stairs

We love the nook under the stairs, it’s a great hiding place!

The interior of the front door is in its original wood finish.  It shows a lot of wear, but I would rather not paint it.  The exterior of the door had so much damage and patching that it had to be painted.

picture staircase

The stair treads were painted when we purchased the house.  Having the floors refinished was the first thing we did before moving in.  The refinishers were not excited to strip those stairs and sand so much of them by hand.  They show 150 years of wear. I wouldn’t have been happy using the stairs every day with that beautiful wood being covered by paint.  I love this staircase.

picture living room

Here we are looking into the living room from the foyer.

picture living room and chandelier

Here you see the living room and our Clive chandelier by Crate & Barrel.  The couch is from Crate & Barrel too, but was from a sample sale, so they never carried it in the store.  Growing up in the same town as the founders of Crate & Barrel, and having parents that were diehard customers created my love for the company.  We always knew people who worked there and as a child I was enamored with the tape machines at the checkout counters (push a color coded button and a dampened perfect sized piece of tape shoots out).  As an adult I was able to style many Crate & Barrel Furniture print ads at their corporate headquarters.  Of course it was the only place I registered when I got married. I have also always been a huge fan of The Land of Nod, even before C & B purchased the company.

picture living room and french doors

French doors are so pretty and are a great way to close off parts of the house.


Living Room

picture living room

Everything in the living room, whether it’s from a thrift store, is a hand-me-down, or purchased new (very rare!), is special to me and is what makes the eclectic combination work.  I love combining colors and textures to tell a story.  Steve painted the piece above the sofa and the abstract pillow and the kitty-cat pillow are my mom’s needepoint handiwork.

picture living room

The mohair chairs are a favorite find from a used furniture warehouse in Chicago.  The Rya rug was a purchase by my parents in 1972 from the Chicago Merchandise Mart.

picture mantle piece and artwork

The painting is by Lonnie Holley, an “Outsider” artist and musician from Birmingham, Alabama.  My grandmother painted the portrait of me when I was 12.  I think it’s fun to have a portrait of the “Lady of the House” in the living room.

picture hutch and piano

My mother-in-law learned to play on this piano when she was a child in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

picture Lonnie Holley artwork

Another Lonnie Holley painting hangs over our Arts & Crafts sideboard.


Family Room

picture family room

I had to find a great storage solution for our vintage Lundby dollhouse, board games, puzzles, and toys in the family room.  I am a huge fan of the IKEA Billy shelves and have been buying them for years as our spaces have grown.

picture pendant ceiling lamp

Our pendant light from Crate & Barrel sometimes doubles as “The Death Star” in paper airplane battles.

picture family room guitars and toys

Guitar wall hangers are a perfect storage solution and they are inexpensive. We used to have guitar stands all over the floor to trip over.

The vintage Fisher Price Little People were mine as a child. Is it obvious I come from a family of savers?

picture family room picture family room record cabinet

Our IKEA Ektorp sofa was a $80 Craigslist find with a new slipcover.

picture family room record cabinet

Steve and I joined our record collections when we got married and his old record cabinet can’t take the weight anymore – we need a new cabinet, especially since our vinyl collection keeps growing.


Dining Room

picture dining room

Tall, old windows throughout the house offer lots of light.  I prefer keeping them bare so we can appreciate the architectural details each day.

picture dining room

My kids have this whole dresser (from my tween 1980s bedroom) for their craft supplies. It’s full! Harper’s artwork is hung on the left side of the wall and Trixie’s is on the right.  I love seeing their skills develop with age.

picture ginger jar lamp

I love Ginger Jar lamps, they remind me of the preppy 1980s.

picture artwork picture dining room

The built-in hutch is the perfect place for my mismatched collections.

picture dining table

Mixing antique wooden chairs I have picked up over the years with new pieces is just my style.

picture storage bench

Kids need lots of storage!  The bench and the baskets are perfect for coats, backpacks, hats, shoes and everything else.

picture antique door hardware

More antique hardware on the back door from eBay.  The backplates are from England and the knobs are American made circa 1894 by Lockwood Manufacturing.

picture dining room table and runner

I wanted a huge white dining room table, so we joined our desktops from our old house.  The runner fabric is by Jane Dixon and was made by my seamstress (my mom).

picture dining room and antique chandelier

The chandelier was in the crawl space under the house in bad condition.  It is brass and I hope that someday we can have it sandblasted but for now some white spray paint works and one of Steve’s coworkers rewired it for us.

picture dining room



picture kitchen counter

The previous owners updated the kitchen.  I am a white kitchen kind of gal, but after painting the wooden cabinets white in our last house, I haven’t saved up the energy to start that big project again.

picture kitchen cabinetspicture kitchen cabinets

I would also like to get busy replacing the backsplash!


Office/Guest Suite

picture home office and guestroom

Our new puppy Poppy is a bit camera-shy.

picture home office and guest room

Having a special place to work is very important to me.  I also love having a private space for guests to sleep with their own bathroom.

picture home office and guestroom

The awesome wall hanging is from my mom’s 1980s digs.

picture guest bath

With a lot of determination, Steve was able to scrape off the old vinyl that was covering the wood floor in the bathroom.  Some of the wood was rotten, but our refinisher fixed that up with some antique wood he had in the rafters of his garage.

picture guest bathpicture home office and imacpicture home office and imac

My trusty old iMac, long may you run!



picture curved staircase

I never get tired of these stairs!  There is a story about that stairs, though I’m not sure if it’s true.  The people who bought the house in 1920 bought it for the land only, (they were going to tear down the house!) but once they saw the staircase they decided to remodel the home instead of rebuilding.

picture curved staircasepicture staircase and landing

The back staircase to Trixie’s Room is part of the 1920 addition to the house.


Upstairs Landing

picture second floor landing

It is great to have a landing that you can use as an overflow play space.  I have rearranged a bit since these shots were taken a couple of weeks ago, things are always in flux.

picture second floor landing interior transom

Looking into the master bedroom.

picture bedroom golden doodle    picture staircase

I love the curved wall along the stairs and the simple light fixture.


Master Bedroom

picture bedroom

We painted our bedroom in Sherwin Williams Window Pane, the same color as our bedroom in the previous house.  It is very calming.

picture bedroom

I have great plans for new bedside lamps, window treatments and artwork in our bedroom.

picture white linens

I am all for white linens!  Three European square pillows work well as a headboard on a king-size bed.

picture printed pillow cases 1990

These printed pillow cases were purchases made for my dorm room in college in 1990.

picture bedroompicture bedroompicture antique dressers

These matching vintage dressers belonged to my grandparents.

picture antique dresserspicture dresser, antique table scarves

Antique table scarves from my grandparents’ cover both dressers.

picture antique table scarves


Master Bath

picture master bath

Dark gray paint and white trim helped to modernize our bathroom.

picture jar of shells

Shells or coral in the bathroom are a welcome addition to a home so far from the sea.

picture master bathpicture vintage bottles

Vintage Chicago druggist bottles are from my grandparents’ home.

picture master bathpicture bowl of shells

This mini seahorse keepsake is one of the strangest things I have inherited from my grandparents’ house.

picture shower stall

I always choose white towels, you can’t go wrong.


Upstairs Hall

picture upstairs hallpicture upstairs hall


Harper’s Room

picture boys room solar system mobile

Harper’s room has lots of space. That is, space to play and outer-space, mixed with family heirlooms.

picture boys room rockets picture lamp

Super fun pendant from The Land of Nod.

picture wall art letter H

This mixture of pieces that create Harper’s art wall are dear to my heart. Since he is 6 now, I don’t know how much longer he will want it up in his room.

picture boys room dresser

My childhood dresser has been perfect for my kids.

picture bookshelves toys

Star Wars Legos and board books are Harper’s favorite things.

picture boys room decor

These paper rockets were a great kit from Zulily.

picture boys roompicture boys room play teepee

The playroom is right off of Harper’s room and leads to Trixie’s back hall.

picture play room

Harper’s doll was a great find!  You can read about it in this post.

picture boys room picture antique luggage

My grandparents’ old luggage stores many of Harper’s goodies.

picture hallway

Looking back through the hall to the master bedroom.



picture playroom

The playroom joins Harper’s room and the back hallway that leads to Trixie’s room.

picture play room blah blah dollpicture play room

This old cabinet was something my grandparents picked up along the way.  Turquoise blue with a red interior makes it bright and fun for a cabinet filled with books.

picture aqua blue cabinetpicture playroom

A whole collection of costumes is stored in a closet behind the curtain. It also makes a great hiding place.

antique toys

So many knick-knacks with special meaning in this old soda crate.

picture play roompicture vintage cardboard picture records

Vintage records that my mom listened to as a child.  Some of them are cardboard!


Back hallway

picture play roompicture reading nook

The kids love to chill out with a book in the back hall.  I revolve the book selection – right now we are getting ready for Dr. Seuss’ March birthday.

picture reading nookpicture miniature animal toys

Looking from the back hall to the upstairs hall, which has been redecorated since I began editing this post a couple of weeks ago – it’s hard to keep up!

picture miniature animal toys

These little animals are another of my many collections from childhood.


Trixie’s Room

picture girls room and antique chandelier

When we first did a walk-through with the realtor, Trixie was determined to score this room.  It has its own small staircase and a view of a huge tree out the rear window.  The room had to be painted her favorite color (Lemon Chiffon by Sherwin Williams).

picture girl's room

This dresser was a “junk store” find in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood from long before it was gentrified.  I miss those shops!

picture girl's room

Trixie loves her hand-me-down Japanese jewelry box from a family friend and my old piggy bank.

picture antique leaf chendelier

Trixie’s chandelier has been through many facelifts since I first dug it out of a Chicago dumpster about 20 years ago.

picture girls room

Because she decided to put her bed in front of a window the headboard was a must.

picture girls room

The curtains my mom made show a redheaded girl on a horse, perfect for Trixie.

picture girl's room

Now that Trixie is in 5th grade, this old desk from my childhood comes in handy.

picture girl's desk

When Trixie was 7-years-old she asked for a typewriter for her birthday.  My mom gave her the one she got when she graduated from high school.


Back Porch

picture enclosed back porch

Our back porch is great, but we will have to wait until spring to start using it again full time.

picture enclosed back porch rattan chairpicture enclosed back porch

Skateboards for everyone…except me.

picture umbrellas and kitten



picture snow falling in front of house

We’ve only had one snow this year so far. I ran out as soon as the ground was covered and started shooting.  I am still hoping for more so we can go sledding like we have every year we’ve been here. Our old neighborhood had no hills and there are plenty in east-central Illinois!

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