Turning a Once Cookie Cutter House into an Unique Home

Carrie Waller and her husband John have called this home in Lynchburg, Virginia for three years. The couple live on one those blocks with about 40 identical town homes so their goal was to make it stand out. And they’re attempting to kill the “cookie cutter” syndrome with vintage light fixtures, reclaimed wood pieces and second-hand mid-century furniture. Carrie recently quit her corporate job to pursue full-time freelance work as a writer and designer and so that she could focus more on her DIY and lifestyle blog Dream Green DIY.  And like many designers, her home is her canvas. Carrie is always looking to bring a little character into her space. When out thrifting, she can’t resist a conversation piece whether it’s a brass giraffe or a dusty neon sign or broken clocks or bird-shaped perfume bottles. Although she only has about 1,400 square feet to work with, every room is filled with treasures that recall favorite memories. Thank you, Carrie and John! And a big thank you to Mallory Benedict for the lovely photographs. –Amy

Image above: The living room is the one room in the house that I’d consider “finished.” The only splurge was the couch, which everyone assumes is from West Elm but was really a budget buy from Haverty’s – I’m happy to let them assume that it’s from the former. The rest of the room was put together using thrift store and Craigslist finds – from the coffee table and lamp, to the art and accessories.

Image above: Come visit and you’ll find that Ginny the cat always seems to be lurking around the corner.


Image above: This dresser originally had a sad light wood finish all over. My husband and I sanded it down, painted the outside of the piece a glossy white and then restained the drawer fronts a dark walnut color. A herringbone stencil down the middle drawers completed the transformation. The finished piece was actually featured in Better Homes and Gardens this past July.

Image above: The Eames reproduction side chairs came from Overstock.com, while the dresser-turned-TV-stand, clock and lamp all came from a local estate shop in town. The wall color is “Halcyon Green” by Sherwin Williams. Our shag rugs (we pushed two together to get a massive rug for under $200) are from Lowe’s.

Image above: With lazy summer evenings in mind, I wanted to create a portable game table. So I picked up this Moroccan style piece from Home Goods and added a checkerboard pattern to the top using painter’s tape and white spray paint.

Image above: This 1960s ceramic lamp is a hand painted treasure snagged from Estates & Consignments locally. My husband wasn’t so sure about the height and bold colors, but I managed to convince him to give it a shot, and now it’s a show stopper in the room.

Image above: I’ve always been a big fan of Joy Cho, of Oh Joy!, especially her wallpaper collection. The only problem is that the designer price tag per roll is out of budget. Luckily, they sell $5 samples online, so I ordered a set and put them behind frames as an homage to my favorite patterns.

Image above: I feel like it’s bad luck to toss out fortune cookie fortunes, so we keep them rotating in this little glass dish picked up during a recent vacation to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

Image above: One of the first DIY projects my husband and I tackled were these oak shelves. Now they showcase my other projects, like the toy horse I painted white to mimic porcelain, the painted tree branch and the gold urchin made from toothpicks and a foam ball.

Image above: When we were planning our wedding, we decided to collect mismatched china rather than rent the standard white plates. Now, we let the memories carry on through the plate wall in our dining room. The china cabinet was a wedding gift from my grandparents and the chandelier is from CB2.

Image above: I know bar carts are super trendy right now, but this consignment find is a permanent fixture in our house. I picked it up for just $50, and have filled it with more thrift store finds, like the glass decanters and faux wood ice bucket down below. The framed Toulouse-Lautrec print above is another estate store find.

Image above: I found the frame leaning on top of the china cabinet at a yard sale, but it needed a little personality. So I painted the cardboard insert with chalkboard paint and gave the frame itself a fresh coat of gold paint. The candlesticks are from Estates Revisited downtown, and the white ceramic planter is from eBay.

Image above: The tea cups were given to me by my grandmother, and the tree slice was handmade by my dad for the centerpieces at our wedding last year.

Image above: One of the first things I did when I moved into my husband’s then bachelor pad was paint the kitchen cabinets. The layout was great, but the peach white washed finish left everything to be desired. We sanded, primed and then painted everything with two coats of Valspar’s “Mudslide.” As a temporary fix for the tile-less backsplash, I painted it mint to complement the rich new cabinet color.

Image above: I had seen chalkboard calendar decals on Etsy, but the $60 price tag was out of budget. So I bought a can of chalkboard paint, some thin automotive masking tape and made one myself for something like $15. We use this piece every single day. The frames are from Target, the dutch oven is Crate & Barrel and the glass containers are from Hobby Lobby. The salt and pepper shakers were another second hand find from an antique mall in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Image above: The 1970’s bed was one of the few pieces of furniture my husband had before I came along, and I love it. The bedding is from IKEA, the bookshelf is from Crate & Barrel and the painting is from Goodwill. The wall color is “Victorian Pewter” by Olympic paint.


Image above: I have a pretty extensive collection of jewelry, so I made two organizers using old frames, window screening and peg board to keep it all within easy reach.

Image above: Grace Kelly and Edith Head are two of my biggest muses, so my sister bought me this costume sketch from eBay to celebrate that fascination. The “W” is a vintage sign letter bought from the sfgirlbybay Etsy shop. The wall color is “Icy Mint” by Valspar, my favorite in the whole house.

Image above: I’ve slowly repainted all of the bathrooms in our home the same Sherwin Williams “Zircon” gray color. The valance is from Curtains, Blinds and Bath locally and the brass birds were a consignment store find from Richmond, Virginia.

Image above: The basket-turned-towel-storage was a Pinterest-inspired project that has served me well over the last couple of years. The art is a collection of Paris postcards put inside a $10 IKEA frame.

Image above: Of all the DIY decorations recycled from our wedding, these paper pinwheels have to be my favorite. I hung them en masse in my studio and can’t get enough of the color, the pattern and the memories. The Parsons desk is from Overstock.com, the ghost chair is from Amazon and the shelving unit is from IKEA. The wall color is “Icy Mint” by Valspar, with a painted band of “Behr Ultra White” at the top for a faux crown molding effect.

Image above: I went to school for art and one of our assignments was to recreate a famous work. I chose a Paul Klee painting and the piece, now framed in our bedroom, has since dictated the wild range of colors in the space. The wall color is Olympic’s “Victorian Pewter,” the rug is from CB2, the chair is from a thrift store in Charlottesville, Virginia and the lamp is a Ross find.

  1. Beautiful, nothing cookie cutter about this house now!

  2. Peter says:

    The dresser is such a great idea! I have an old clunky 60’s dresser from Sears. I think that’s just what it needs!

  3. Lena K. says:

    I’m so glad to see this home featured because Lynchburg, Virginia, is such an unexpected gem that’s totally worth a visit for D*S readers traveling through central Virginia. (I actually like it even more than the more popular Charlottesville!) I recommend the houses in the Rivermont district as well as the revitalized downtown for people who like looking at beautiful old homes.

  4. grammarguy says:

    It’s “a unique” not “an unique.” When the U is pronounced like Yoo, it is treated more like the consonant sound of the Y.

  5. Jo says:

    A stunning house with lots of personality. So much inspiration here. I love it.

  6. Kat says:

    So pretty – love all the colors- and unique details:)

  7. Sue says:

    I could go on all day about what I like here. One thing I know is next time I am at the Goodwill I am looking at the paintings.

  8. Not only is this place lovely, but those are some quality DIY projects you have sprinkled throughout. My favorite detail is the dining room wall with that awesome arrangement of plates. And brown is the perfect background color for that. Oh, and the paint in your office is also excellent. I hope people don’t miss the crucial detail that you brought the ceiling color down onto the wall. Love!

  9. Mai Autumn says:

    This is the most gorgeous house I’ve seen in a while! I can only hope I get my little house to look this inspiring someday :D

  10. Amy says:

    I love everything about this. Even pieces that I would other wise not consider my style seem perfect in this space.

  11. This is one of my favorite Sneak Peeks. Love the colors and all the thrifted finds! That IKEA basket/towel holder is so smart!

  12. Catherine says:

    Grace Kelly and Edith Head !! Love! I want to live there!

  13. Betsy says:

    I’m loving this house! Pinned multiple images for future inspiration!

  14. You’ve inspired me to store my earrings in the same way!

  15. C says:

    I love the colors in this home, so inspiring and warm. Thanks for sharing! I also love the goodwill painting…is there any name behind the frame of where it’s from?

  16. Nicole says:

    Agree with Sue on the Goodwill paintings! This is a great space, and looking at it gives the impression that she lets her personality shine through. I love her detailed descriptions of each special item!

  17. JJ says:

    What color paint is the brown in the dining room? Totes gorg! Perfect for my bathroom.

  18. Georgina says:

    Wonderful home! I love all the color combinations and eclectic – original and beautiful. Great eye for hidden treasures :-)

  19. Shalini says:

    Love this home… beautiful and so unpretentious. I think icy mint might be my new favorite color now, needed a cool, summery color inspiration for my guest bedroom :-)

  20. VR says:

    Great colors… Dying to know color in living room

  21. Hey, everyone! Thank you SO much for the warm response!! You all have made my year with your support…As to your questions, see below:

    Living Room: Halcyon Green, Sherwin Williams
    Dining Room: Caravel Brown, Olympic
    Goodwill Painting: Was done by an artist named Carlton Sturges Abbott


  22. love the eclectic style! The birds caught my eye..I sold the same style brass birds at my shop a few months ago :)

  23. Ellie says:

    Love your house! You gave me some inspiration for our new home. Random question – where did you purchase your ceiling fan from? I really like the style and we’ve been looking. Thanks!

  24. This is one of my faves in a while – And the kitty photo-bombing the entryway shot is too cute!

  25. Sarah says:

    I love how this home is filled with beautiful colorful moments. Each piece seems unique yet they all fit together seamlessly.

    Love it

  26. Gerda says:

    I love the splashes of color everywhere. You have given me quite a few ideas on how to brighten up my living space – thanks!

  27. Love Carrie, and love this home!

  28. Thank you, Ellie (and everyone else too!) for the amazing support!! The ceiling fan is a Harbor Breeze model from Lowe’s. Good luck tracking down the perfect one =)

  29. Pat says:

    Fresh and modern! Love everything about it, especially the “plate wall.” How creative is that!

  30. Sarah says:

    A beautiful, elegant house just oozing personality. Love it.

  31. Grace says:

    Love the chalkboard idea! The house in general is so clean and fresh looking. Great post!

  32. Carla says:

    Gave me lots of inspiration!!! Thank you!

  33. Bryson Kaleb says:

    Gorgeous home! I love all the splashes of color one can see throughout the house.

  34. salima says:

    I absolutely love your home. All your individual pieces make it so unique. I particularly love the black and white photograph of the tree above the sofa in the living room. Would you mind telling me where you got it from, or if you know where the picture was taken?

  35. eva says:

    Thank you!!!! My husband wants to move me into a cookie cutter home and I am reeling at the idea. However, with your spark and inspiration, I believe I can do it. Thank you so much!

  36. Lovely post and so interesting to make a sneaky peek into your stunning and funky home!


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