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How to Remodel a Carefree 1920s Cottage

A designer with an eye for a find gives her humble 1920s house a clean and pretty look

Inviting Cottage

Photo by Mark Lohman

With its shady lot, off the beaten path southwest of Los Angeles, the clipped-gable cottage is a haven for designer Lizzie McGraw.

Read the story behind the A Designer's Casual Cottage Remodel Story

Back Porch Dining Room

Photo by Mark Lohman

Lizzie faux-aged the new back porch with old wicker and distressed paint.

Vintage Stove

Photo by Mark Lohman

The cottage came with a 1940s enameled O'Keefe & Merritt stove. Lizzie added the painted hutch and custom cabinets, just 16 inches deep to maximize floor space. An open shelf replaces upper cabinets, which would have "suffocated" the 6-foot-wide room, she says.

Salvage-Style Artwork

Photo by Mark Lohman

Original windows in the kitchen overlook the new back porch. Grocery lists go on the blackboard; Lizzie started collecting old signs years ago because they were cheaper than artwork.

Wall and floor tile: Royal Stone and Tile

Accent pillow: Dash & Albert

Cozy Cookspace

Photo by Mark Lohman

Lizzie enjoys a rare moment of down time. Working with her dad, an architect, she carved out space for the kitchen and finished it with flea-market cookware, salvaged brackets, and white Carrara countertops.

Ceiling light fixture: City Farmhouse

Hinges and pulls: Restoration Hardware

Area rug: Dash & Albert

Decorating With Antique Finds

Photo by Mark Lohman

Lizzie likes to rotate furnishings between her cottage and the home-decor store she runs nearby. She made the ottoman out of an old wood box and fabric patterned after vintage grain sacks. The festival sign, layered on blistered shutters, came from a store near Nashville, a favorite stop-off during cross-country buying jaunts.

Breezy Window Treatments

Photo by Mark Lohman

Gauzy curtains hang high, making the living room's French doors a focal point.

Sign: City Farmhouse

Sofa, chair, and ottoman: Tumbleweed & Dandelion

Cottage-Style Bath

Photo by Mark Lohman

Beadboard wainscoting, framed artwork found at a Paris flea market, and nubby textiles add to the layered look of the bath.

Paint: Behr's Ultra Pure White (beadboard and trim)

Toilet: American Standard

Relaxed Bedroom

Photo by Mark Lohman

A patinaed folding screen adds shimmer to a homey mix of beadboard, exposed beams, and chipped paint. Acquired as part of a bulk purchase from a Los Angeles dealer, it's said to have come from the Hollywood home of author Gore Vidal.

Reading Den

Photo by Mark Lohman

Lavish use of white adds airiness to the cozy den. Red accents help tie it to the rest of the house.

Front Porch Outdoor Room

Photo by Mark Lohman

Lizzie and her springer spaniel, Katie, find curling-up space on the diminutive front porch. A wall of shutters, painted a custom vintage green and dressed up with a stained-glass "window," suggests an outdoor room, finished with milk-bottle vases and a cushioned wicker settee.

Modern Function, Vintage Style

Photo by Mark Lohman

Vintage canisters and other flea-market finds reinforce the period style of new finishes and fixtures, like the marble countertops and the gooseneck faucet.

Faucet: Delta

Bedside Table Essentials

Photo by Mark Lohman

Beadboard and other paneling, along with vintage-inspired fabrics and a carefully edited tabletop, add character to the bedroom.


Photo by Mark Lohman

Climb-right-in seating is key to the cottage's seductive appeal. Easy-to-wash white slipcovers allow the household's pets to relax.

Chair: Tumbleweed & Dandelion

Painted Floor

Photo by Mark Lohman

A stenciled white-on-beige painted pattern adds subtle dimension to the floor in the living room. "To protect your design, put felt pads under the furniture feet," says homeowner and interior designer Lizzie McGraw.

Floor Plan

Illustration by Ian Worpole

Before the redo, the 716-square-foot one-story cottage was midway through a renovation but still had a rundown kitchen and bath and faulty wiring and plumbing. Along with interior walls, the homeowners built a new kitchen and bath and added about 148 square feet to enlarge the bedroom and put in a screened back porch that doubles as a dining room.