Interiorssneak peeks

Modern Meets Rustic in a 1900s Farmhouse in Bell Buckle, TN

by Sabrina Smelko

I sometimes fantasize about moving to the country and living in an old farmhouse that allows for a slower, more intentional way of life. (I’d have dogs and barn cats and may even raise chickens in this dream of mine!) As it turns out, this dream was a mutual one that came true for Elizabeth Ulrich, her husband Will and their three dogs, Nigel, Mumford and Topher. As she explains, “We stumbled upon the listing for this farmhouse on Craigslist, and less than an hour later we were touring the space and agreeing to the lease!” The creaking floors, the beadboard walls, the tall windows and all of the original architectural details sold Elizabeth right away, and — before they knew it — they were moved into this 2,520-square-foot farmhouse, just an hour outside of Nashville in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

Will is a teacher and runs a podcast network and Elizabeth is a stylist and interior designer who also owns a vintage prop house, Stockroom Vintage. They both work from home (when Elizabeth isn’t on set), so every room — from their bedroom, living room and even their kitchen — has to function as a clean, cozy, soothing workspace. But their home wasn’t always this picture-perfect. Every wall had to be repainted, the fireplace that was affixed with layers of crinkled tissue paper (eek!) had to be restored and the floors are still uneven, calling for wood shims under nearly every foot of furniture. It took a lot of work to fix up and it’s ever-evolving, but Elizabeth and Will like it that way. “We love adding pieces, changing up artwork and vignettes and keeping things fresh.” As part of this exercise in evolving design, Elizabeth plans to host styling workshop retreats at their home where fellow creatives will bunk up and come to relax, refresh and be inspired.

Though they’ve only lived in this rental home for just over seven months, it’s the perfect place for Elizabeth and Will, who love to cook, hang out in bed with their adorable dogs and go for lots of nature walks. And after such a long, cold winter, they’re looking forward to hosting many backyard summer get-togethers spent fireside (where’s my invite?!) –Sabrina

Photography by Alissa Saylor Photography

Elizabeth and Will keep their bedroom decor simple and airy in an attempt to keep the space feeling restful and calming. They painted the walls a true white but decided to add a warmer, deeper hue below the chair rail to keep it cozy.
The recessed nooks on either side of the bedroom mantel were initially a challenge for Elizabeth: She didn't know what to fill them with! The nooks now hold his and hers dressers, "which are a necessity because there are no closets in this room!" says Elizabeth. Even without a closet, the couple couldn’t resist making this room their bedroom because the windows allow views of both the sunrise and sunset, and from their bed they can watch deer, rabbits and the birds in the backyard.
Will made these hanging swing bedside tables after Elizabeth showed him an inspiration photo she’d found of similar shelves online. Although the nightstands look like they’re simply suspended by hooks on the ceiling, the boards are actually secured to the wall with hidden brackets underneath—a necessary addition for stability!
Elizabeth and Will love the additional texture that the rope adds to the overall bedroom look. Will is a former boy scout—an Eagle Scout, in fact—so his rope-tying methods are top notch!
Elizabeth and Will have a simple rule when it comes to their three small dogs, Topher, Nigel and Mumford (from left to right): This is their house, too. That means they're granted access to the master bed and all of the furniture. Shedding can be a bit of an issue, so Elizabeth uses an easy shopping strategy for furniture, rugs and textiles: match the colors to the dogs' fur when possible to hide hair between vacuuming.
This corner of their bedroom holds an oversized wicker peacock chair—a $10 find at the thrift store that Elizabeth had to bend, shove and force into her tiny car because the store didn’t offer holds and she wasn’t willing to leave it behind!
This collection of old snapshots from the wedding of Elizabeth’s parents and her late father’s surfing days are a treasured collection. The nook also holds some of her favorite knick-knacks: a few pieces from her collection of vintage suitcases and wooden crates, a few handmade brass bells and a tiny hanging ceramic heart made by friend and frequent creative collaborator, Morgan from Handmade Studio TN.
Elizabeth and Will decorate primarily with vintage thrift finds like this mid-century modern dresser, lamp, mirror and old tin box. The vintage paper-cut art on the mantel was a church sale find that Elizabeth and Will picked up on vacation in North Carolina.
Aside from her vintage finds, Elizabeth also collects handmade treasures from other Nashville creatives. She found this paper flower bouquet by Amaranthus Paper & Flora at Porter Flea, Nashville’s twice yearly modern handmade market.
Given the size of their bedroom, the couple wanted to create a seating area. This tiny table for two doubles as a workspace and spot to eat cinnamon rolls and sip coffee on the weekends--when they're too lazy to make it all the way to the kitchen table for breakfast!
Elizabeth rotates and changes the vignettes throughout the house often. This bedroom table currently holds a mix of found vintage bottles, stamps and an old guide to the birds of Tennessee, which comes in handy when bird watching from the window nearby. The tiny brass bell was a thrift store find.
The bathroom is long and narrow, so Elizabeth and Will kept any additional furniture slim and sleek and painted the walls in a light "greige" to ensure it felt light and open. Elizabeth doesn’t do much big-box shopping, but Target is her go-to store for inexpensive décor and textiles that she can switch out on a whim, like the rug, towels and cement vase shown here.
Because this is the home’s only bathroom, the couple does all of their primping and getting-ready in this space—often at the same time—so Elizabeth uses lots of functional decor, like this vintage milk glass mirror and lots of trays and re-purposed china (this tiny piece is actually an old butter pat plate) to corral toiletries, jewelry and the like.
One of the driving forces for their move to a farmhouse in the country was the couple’s desire to live a more intentional, slow life. Because she works primarily from her home studio, Elizabeth loves that the character of their 1900s home and the surrounding Southern countryside informs and inspires her creative work every day.
Because the kitchen already contained lots of white—the cabinets, countertops and white painted brick fireplace—Elizabeth decided that the walls could handle a bold, saturated color. This green hue reads as peacock in the morning and as a deep evergreen in the evening. While the couple wishes that most of the original beadboard walls in the house had been left untouched by previous owners and tenants, they didn’t have any qualms about painting over the beige walls when they moved in.
This old, worn farm table was a Craigslist find and is a favorite spot for guests who enjoy Will’s Cajun cooking. The table also serves as a display for the many floral arrangements Elizabeth brings home from the photo shoots she styles. This particular arrangement, which is housed in one of her many vintage enamel pitchers, was created by Jessica Davis of SOULflowers, a dear friend and collaborator.
This reclaimed wood mantel was one the first elements Elizabeth and Will saw—and fell in love with—on their original tour of the kitchen. The working fireplace is a definite bonus on chilly fall and winter mornings. Both the mantel and the built-in shelving house Elizabeth’s growing collection of vintage kitchenware and old cookbooks, some of which belonged to her great-grandmother.
This Johnny Cash quote is one of the couple’s favorites and is a nod to their love of Nashville’s heritage. The kitchen has become Elizabeth’s go-to spot for displaying her budding collection of vintage paint-by-number artwork.
Because kitchen storage—and storage in general—is sparse throughout the early 1900s farmhouse, Elizabeth likes to get creative with repurposing pieces as unexpected shelving. This vintage Cosco step-stool lends some organization to Elizabeth’s vintage cookbooks and Will’s many Cajun cookbooks. The old “Apartment for Rent” sign is a witty nod to the couple’s refusal to commit to buying a home just yet.
Elizabeth’s mom bought this antique buffet from England in an auction when Elizabeth was very young. When her mother grew tired of the piece and was ready to donate it to Goodwill, Elizabeth quickly snatched it up to accommodate her assortment of vintage Ironstone.
The living room color scheme was inspired entirely by a vintage portrait of a woman that Elizabeth bought for $20 at an estate sale. Elizabeth left behind three other portraits of the woman’s sisters because she didn’t have enough cash with her, a decision that haunts her to this day.
The chesterfield sofa and orange velvet chairs were Craigslist finds, and the large map of Europe, ladder and coffee table were all flea market scores. The table, which originally served as a chicken carrier, has been cleaned, stained a darker hue and repurposed as the coffee table.
The mirror on the living room mantel is one of the first and most treasured heirlooms Elizabeth acquired. Her parents found the mirror when they moved into the home in which Elizabeth grew up. The home, which was built in the early 1800s, served as the small town’s first telephone company and as a boarding house for school teachers before sitting empty for several years, at which point Elizabeth’s family purchased and renovated the home.
Elizabeth is a sentimental collector. In the living room she displays a photo of her parents at a 60s Austin sit-in to protest the Vietnam war, a framed woven textile made by a family member that is dated 1796 and vintage fishing buoys that she and Will picked up at an antique shop on vacation in New Orleans.
The home’s dedicated mud room and laundry room, which connects to the kitchen, is a landing place for muddy boots and coats after coming in from a walk to explore the countryside or the old barn in the backyard.
This vintage rolling laundry cart holds vintage tablecloths, aprons and cloth napkins. Not content to stick with typical laundry room decor, Elizabeth displays her collection of enamelware pots, a photo of her Opa and an illustration passed down from Will’s late mother of landmarks in her hometown of Bloomdale, OH.
Elizabeth and Will share this home studio space. She does design, styling and administrative work for her two businesses, and he records and edits for his Nerd Uprising network of podcasts. The room also doubles as storage for Elizabeth’s rotating selection of props she uses for creating design inspiration for clients and for styling her yearlong, daily Instagram project, 365vignettes.
This collection of artwork, vintage finds and foraged botanicals collected on walks above the non-working studio fireplace changes often. Elizabeth uses the space above the mantel as an ever-changing inspiration board.
Even though many of the home's six fireplaces are no longer functional, the couple loves the architectural details and interest they add to each room.
Elizabeth bought this desk (another flea market score!) because it reminded her of the drafting table her father, a furniture maker and designer, built for his office. The window looks out over a wooded area across the front lawn, which is full of migrating birds throughout the year.
This broken vintage record cabinet somehow found its way to the city dump. While on a drive, Elizabeth spotted it sitting among a pile of old televisions, loaded it up and brought it home to get a new coat of paint. She recovered the old, torn fabric covering the speakers with vintage roadmaps.

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  • Beautiful! Lovely colors! Very happy to see so many spaces from the middle of country lately!

  • I’d love to know the bedroom paint colours. It’s exactly what I’m hoping to create in my current bedroom.

  • I’d also love a breakdown of the paint colors. Especially the kitchen/dining, living room, and studio!

  • Here is the breakdown of paint colors by room:

    Bedroom: Valspar in Swiss Coffee and Stonington
    Bathroom Valspar in Portland
    Kitchen: Valspar in Slate Court
    Living Room: Olympic in Stormy Weather
    Mud Room: Valspar in Portland
    Studio: Olympic in Alpine Shadow

  • I can not put into words how dreamy your home is. Your hard work paid off! I don’t even know you, but I could not be happier for you, your husband, and three pups! Enjoy your house in the country!

  • Wow. My dream home…so clean and bright, but not the least bit cold. Beautiful colors throughout, and lovely personal collections/storied pieces. Great!

  • This has to be the perfect farmhouse! Thank you for sharing and hugs and kisses to your adorable dogs.

  • This is the most beautiful home I’ve seen yet. Every detail is truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing your home. Hope you enjoy the country life.

  • What a sunny, delightful, happy home. I am sure you regret not purchasing the sister paintings — Isn’t it poignant that they are now separated. The lamp over the little table in the bedroom — Is this something you purchased new? I really like it! Cheers, Lisa

  • Thanks, Lisa! It really does kill me that I couldn’t buy the other portraits. I’m super emotional at estate sales because I can’t imagine so many family heirlooms being sold and scattered–I feel a responsibility to scoop them up and treasure them as if they were my own.

    Aside from the lamps on our bedside tables, which are from Target, all of the other lamps in our bedroom are vintage thrift finds.

  • I love EVERYTHING about this house!!!!!! Especially that kitchen—what a dream!

  • That bedroom is gorgeous!!! I would love to know where that bedding is from, especially those cozy striped pillowcases!

    • All of the bedding is from Target, but the striped and floral pillows are handsewn with fabric from JoAnn.

  • Elizabeth, This is my dream home! What wonderful styling and use of vintage/thrift finds! Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll be using pretty much every room of your house as inspiration for my Brooklyn apartment :)

  • I love this place! I move countries often so I can’t indulge my inner ‘collector’, but looking at these photos makes me so nostalgic for poking around markets and junk shops. Oh, the markets in Japan…. you would love them. Rachel from Costa Rica x