Even if your home is relatively new, you can still infuse it with the charm and character of an older one. This homeowner shows you how.
Loretta Kilheffer knew where she wanted to live. Being near her extended family was a priority for her, and there was one house in the neighborhood that she and her husband had long admired from afar. It had her name on it, but what it didn’t have was the vintage charm she was looking for – so she created it herself.
“We knew what city we wanted to live in and we knew what schools we wanted our children to attend, but at the time there weren’t too many houses on the market. Even though we don’t have any historical homes in our area, my husband and I did what we could to make our home feel like it had the charm of an old cottage by adding wood floors, wainscoting and lots of antiques,” Loretta explains.
The home, built in the mid 1970s, is a typical ranch style: single story with four bedrooms, a large family room and a large kitchen—the perfect size for her family, husband Jesse and their three young sons: Cody, 13; Brandon, 11; and Peyton, 8.
The ranch-style architecture was turned into Loretta’s beloved cottage style with some clever adjustments. “We designed the outside to resemble an old cottage, with a winding brick pathway, a reclaimed brick porch with rail, climbing pink and white roses above the garage, old French urns at the front of the path and a pair flanking the front door with topiaries, and a wraparound wood fence to mimic a fence I saw in Cape Cod on one of our travels. We also added a new roof, paint and shutters,” she says.
To achieve the interior look of a cottage affordably, the homeowners rolled up their sleeves to do as much of the work as they could themselves. “It was great that the previous owners didn’t do a thing to it, because I got to go in and make the house exactly how I wanted it,” Loretta says. “My husband and I did all of the woodwork and painting ourselves. We scraped the ceilings, painted, added white wainscoting, white beadboard, French doors, new windows, new hand-scraped wood floors, white subway tiles, marble to the bathrooms and, of course, antique chandeliers.”
Finding the right antiques to fill her home was not a problem for Loretta. As the owner of Full Bloom Cottage, a home décor shop in Brea, California, and a vendor at the nearby Country Roads Antiques store, she has become an authority on the subject. In addition to her those ventures she is a consultant for women who want to go into the antiques business, helping them to open their own stores successfully.
“Being in the business of antiques, I get to change my home all of the time, but there are a few of my favorite pieces that have stayed with me: my large gray bookcase that was salvaged from an old hotel in New York and my antique Italian macaroni-beaded chandelier in the dining room,” Loretta says.
Color played an important part in the transformation as well. For the family room, Loretta chose dark gray paint for the walls, which is a striking color against the white wainscoting and dark walnut stained wood floors. “The contrast between the dark paint, white wood and white furniture is so calming to me,” she explains. “White linen slipcovers are a staple in my home. So as you walk in, you see a large white linen sectional. It’s so easy to remove the slipcover and throw it in the wash. I custom-designed it to fit my room. I have an antique wood mantel that has the original chipping paint. On top of it, I display my old trophy cups, French leather-bound books and old oil painting of the ocean.”
Loretta describes her decorating style as a cross between classic and romantic. “I love old French furniture, but I also love the rustic patina of old primitive pieces and the look of architectural antiques,” she says. “I wanted my home to have the feeling of a romantic cottage near the ocean. I love gray and blue, and, of course, white—white goes with everything. I drew my inspiration from French and Swedish antiques. I love the simplistic look mixed with beautiful carved furnishings. Everything has to be beautiful and functional.” Some of her favorite pieces are her antique chandelier, her French Tremeau mirror and her grandmother’s tufted chair.
Looking at the clean, bright rooms one wonders how Loretta keeps her household so neat and organized with three young sons living there. Her explanation is simple: “I don’t. Because every mother knows this is an ongoing process; everybody has daily chores.” Her own mother was an early role model for how to decorate the family home. “Growing up, my mother liked to decorate the house, but she did let me decorate my own room,” Loretta recalls. “I must have started at a very young age, because from what I remember I was always changing my bedding. I love textiles, and that was the easiest way to change a bedroom.”
Creating an English Garden
Loretta put as much attention to redesigning the outside of her home as she did the interior. “We are in the process of a backyard remodel,” she says. “We are installing a swimming pool that looks somewhat like a large pond in Europe. With old architectural pieces, tall green hedges and low boxwood hedges, my side yard is my English garden. I love roses, so I have a lot of the David Austin variety. I also have a hydrangea garden with low, formal boxwood hedges. In summer, the front of the home has more than 1,000 Cecil Brunner roses growing over the garage, and the pathway has a low boxwood hedge with white roses growing along the front of the porch.”
Once the exterior modifications are done, will that be the end of the renovation road for the Kilheffers? “A home is a never-ending project,” Loretta says. “We still have things that I would like to change.”
By Meryl Schoenbaum
Photography by Mark Tanner
Styled by Jacqueline deMontravel