Before Pattea Torrence began restoring the Old Edna town site, she tackled a project on a smaller scale: a revamp of her family’s 1930s Shell Beach home.
Today, the house is what you’d expect from this designer, innkeeper and former antiques purveyor, known for her rustic-elegant, cottage style. She and husband Jeff Kocan scrimped on their wedding and sacrificed their honeymoon in order to purchase the petite, 1,200-square-foot bungalow as newlyweds in 1996. This was a couple years before their son Kienun was born and four years before she purchased the Old Edna town site.
They loved the charm of the home’s steeply pitched roof, and its location just a block from the ocean. But it was in need of a refresher, so they undertook a remodel as soon as they moved in. Under Torrence’s supervision, contractors remodeled the kitchen and the home’s single bathroom. Other cosmetic improvements included a restoration of the original oak floors that were hidden under several layers of carpet.
Torrence put the finishing touches on the space. As one with an aversion to anything mass-produced or generic, she found inspiration at antique stores, yard sales and thrift stores. Many pieces came from her former antique store at Old Edna. In the petite dining room, for instance, there is one sideboard from the 1930s and another circa 1910, both with her signature white painted and distressed finish. “People say, how can you paint an antique, but I still love the look of white painted furniture, especially in a small house,” she said.
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Torrence maintains she has never purchased an off-the-shelf curtain panel. Instead, she has used everything from duvet covers to vintage linens. She views window coverings as an opportunity to “play with light.” In her kitchen, an antique lace panels casts a speckled glow over her kitchen. In the master bedroom, custom drapes lined in a “sunset” pink bathe the walls in a rosy blush.
The couple saved money by repurposing whenever possible. Old cabinets removed from the bathroom became a kitchen island. They retiled that bathroom with remnant pieces from a tile store Torrence once worked at. They saved whatever they could, including the home’s original crystal doorknobs.
Torrence’s art collection is eclectic and varied, including many pieces handed down from her late father. Torrence never uses glass on art, preferring to appreciate details without glare and reflection. And she often foregoes the frame, especially when the piece sports vintage nails and time-tested handiwork.
Vintage mirrors are both a decorative element and a design trick, meant to make small rooms seem larger. They also amplify light in the home which, like many old homes, tends to be dark. She layers the mirrors, mounts them inside vintage frames, and attaches them to the backs of bedroom doors.
Shine and reflection come in other forms, including collections of silver and crystal that add refinement to a backdrop of timeworn, vintage furnishings. The living room coffee table, a white painted wooden base topped with glass, is airier than a solid table. Many doors have glass windows, including the front door. Torrence considers this “more welcoming” than a solid door.
Colors are light, subtle and mostly neutral. She prefers to add interest by playing with heights and textures, and inserting elements of surprise and whimsy. This is true even with her holiday decorations. She uses vintage birdcages to display candles. Bare branches leaned against a wall are simple yet sculptural. Centerpieces are homemade creations, usually constructed from stacked platters, cake stands, candles and greenery. An old dress form paired with wooden wings becomes a Christmas angel, which she sometimes strings with lights and positions in the front window.
One departure from the neutral scheme is the kitchen. “Jeff wanted the blue in the kitchen, the floor and the tile on the backsplash; I’ve grown to like it,” said Torrence, who noted that Kocan helped facilitate every phase of the project.
Today, with most major projects at the Old Edna town site complete and her son on the threshold of adulthood, Torrence has more time to spend at home. She has returned to nesting, picking up where she left off nearly two decades ago. “I’m basically a home body,” she said. “The house has been waiting for me. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, but it’s time.”
Home decorating tips
- Instant curtains: With a set of clip-on rings, nearly any fabric can become a window treatment. This includes vintage linens, duvet covers and tablecloths.
- Forego the frame: Next time you find a great unframed piece of vintage art, consider leaving it that way. Old nail heads add character and interest. And glass can often obscure texture and detail in a piece of art.
- Play with heights: Varied heights creates a more appealing vignette. If your items are all on one level, try raising the focal point of your display on a cake stand, a stack of books, or another type of platform. Or bring in an arrangement of flowers or greenery to add height as well as texture.