Courtney Allison’s Romantic Attic Renovation

Feminine florals and French accents create a charming space.

Courtney Allison's completed attic renovation

Attics are often overlooked and designated as a space for storage only, but you can transform your attic into a retreat full of charm and whimsy with just a few simple touches.

Our attic was once such a space. Back then it was nothing but a spot for wayward boxes. But with a bit of work and a touch of storybook magic, a charming spot for childhood relics and daydreaming was created.

"The narrow stairs are now covered in a simple white enamel paint that doesn’t mind a scuff or a bit of wear." - Courtney Allison #romantichomes

The narrow stairs are now covered in a simple white enamel paint that doesn’t mind a scuff or a bit of wear. During the warmer months, they’re dotted with books and jars of blooms. At the top of the stairs, a room with one-plank floors and walls and delicate French style sconces awaits.

An antique French daybed sits in the corner, along with baskets of fabrics just waiting to be reimagined and a childhood dollhouse being renovated bit by bit. The attic is much more than a spot for out-of-season décor and vintage dresses. It is a spot that invites quiet and serves as a getaway from the busyness of the house.

Here are a few elements that bring my attic to life.

An antique French daybed sits in the corner, along with baskets of fabrics just waiting to be reimagined and a childhood dollhouse being renovated bit by bit.

Darling Daybed

Covered in floral ticking stripes with a soft color palette and chippy painted finish, the antique daybed is a charming spot for a lazy afternoon. The muted color fits right in with the vintage style of the rest of the room, while adding that French charm I love.

The old teal velvet-covered chair was a thrift-store find years ago. A bit worn and faded, the velvet is not perfect and neither is the chipping gilded paint on the frame, but I love the simplicity of the style and that it is original. - Courtney Allison #romantichomes

Antique Chair 

The old teal velvet-covered chair was a thrift-store find years ago. A bit worn and faded, the velvet is not perfect and neither is the chipping gilded paint on the frame, but I love the simplicity of the style and that it is original.

Curvy and French, the sconces are a simple charming way to light the gabled eaves, and the chandelier light on the nightstand offers extra lighting for reading a book. - Courtney Allison #romantichomes

Romantic Lighting

Curvy and French, the sconces are a simple charming way to light the gabled eaves, and the chandelier light on the nightstand offers extra lighting for reading a book.

Courtney Allison is a blogger, editor for Romantic Homes Magazine and author of the book French Country Cottage. For more on Courtney, visit frenchcountrycottage.net.


Beyond the Sea

Warm sunshine and salty sea breezes on repeat—the lazy days of summer are just around the corner!

Whether you live in a coastal town, love to sink your toes in warm sand at the beach every chance you get or are just inspired by all things seaside, coastal style is fresh and vibrant—much like the sea itself. With saturated blues and greens mingling with crisp whites, fresh slipcovers, weathered woods in abundance, splashes of sunshine and natural textures woven through a room, you can easily create a romantic coastal vibe.

Coastal style is a relaxed, easy style to live with and enjoy—and this month is filled with that beautiful inspiration. From bedrooms designed in classic hues to Shabby Chic rooms filled with sunshine, get inspired to add a bit of fresh coastal style to your home this summer. If you’re looking to refresh your indoor and outdoor spaces, check out our beachy finds, along with plenty of house tours and other looks that can revive your home with a summery flair.

So, sit back and relax as you enjoy the summer season, and embrace the light and airy side of coastal style.


Romantic Homes Flea Market Guide

Our romantic contributors share their flea-market tips, tricks and favorite finds

Our Favorite Collectibles

The editors of Romantic Homes share the antiques and decorative objects that speak to their hearts.

Everlasting Faux Florals

When your favorite flowers are out of season, look for realistic faux florals that will last forever.

Courtney Allison's Marseille Meadow Wreath
The Marseille Meadow Wreath

I believe that a room isn’t truly finished until there is a bouquet of flowers included. From a grand arrangement to a simple floral wreath to an inkwell bottle accented with a single bloom, flowers just add so much romance and ambience.

But what do you do when your favorite flowers are out of season or too expensive to replace every week? A beautiful, realistic faux floral arrangement would be the perfect solution. Here are a few ideas and examples by Balsam Hill.

Courtney Allison's Brittany Rose Arrangement
The Brittany Rose arrangement

1. For a smaller arrangement for your bedside table or tucked into the bathroom, think of something soft and subtle with anemones, roses and ranunculus, and just a few pops of thistle to brighten.

With soft colors and an abundance of farmhouse charm, the Brittany Rose arrangement uses garden roses in a galvanized bucket for a look that is sure to brighten up your day all year long.

Courtney Allison's Chantilly Wreath
The Chantilly Wreath

2. The only problem with fresh-flower wreaths is they don’t last long. But if you love the look, why not bring in a faux flower-covered wreath to warm up your home? On a door or an antique cupboard, the Chantilly wreath adds cottage charm.

3. A wreath made with white ranunculus and pretty pops of purple, like the Marseille Meadow green wreath, is a wonderful choice and can be enjoyed in each season. Add a ribbon to dress it up a bit more–or leave it natural and enjoy.

Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Home

Step inside Rachel Ashwell's pretty and practical home.

Rachel Ashwell's blend of elegance and comfort is evident in her own living room.
Rachel Ashwell’s living room is every bit as comfortable as it is cozy. A colorful mix of paintings adds personality to the rough-hewn mantel.

Few homes in southern California have the architectural character or timeless appeal of older homes. If a classic style of home is at the top or your list of must-haves, you often have to search high and low for the right house.

Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic blue painted closet
In an old home where built-in storage options are few, a stand-alone closet offers valuable space and fits right in with Rachel’s time-honored aesthetic.
Laurence Amelie tutu painting above Rachel Ashwell's piano
The painting above the piano is by artist Laurence Amelie. In the foreground, a Hollywood Regency style tufted bench offers extra seating.

But when Rachel Ashwell, designer and founder of Shabby Chic, stumbled across this Brentwood house eight years ago, she fell in love with its quirks and knew it would be just the place to call home.

“The architectural style is a hodgepodge,” Rachel says. “It has a bit of a Southern feel, but it also has a Spanish, an English and an Irish flair.”

In the main living room, a large brick fireplace is the focal point of the room and sets the warm, comforting tone of the rest of the home. The fireplace is so large you can walk inside of it, Rachel says, which is common in Scottish or Irish houses. “It’s actually what drew me to buy the house to begin with.”

Rachel Ashwell's dining room and kitchen
The kitchen and dining area flow from one space to the other for an open layout that is perfect for casual, convivial entertaining.

Building Character

While the home already had many exceptional details, including arched walkways, beautiful balconies, and original doors and hardware, Rachel decided to restore some of the key design aspects to a more classic style.

“As often is the case, the baths and kitchen had been renovated, but in a slick and polished style, so I restored them and put them back to what I consider would have been the authentic style for the house,” Rachel says.

Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic Kitchen
White floating shelves against white tile, along with the farmhouse sink and painted cabinets, create a cozy kitchen space.
Rachel Ashwell's hutch is covered in whimsical wallpaper and full of mismatched dishes.
One of Rachel’s favorite feminine touches, floral wallpaper, adds whimsy to this antique hutch. She stores her collection of mismatched dishes inside.

For the kitchen, she found some white subway tiles from an old Belgian subway that offer just a slight hint of sheen and contribute to the simplicity of the space. Other elements that bring her kitchen together are dainty pendants above the farmhouse sink, simple white floating shelves neatly stacked with plates, and white painted barnwood-style cabinets. “It has the illusion of a funky little kitchen, but it’s a really good, functional one.”

When Rachel moved in, walls separated the kitchen from the main living room; she opened everything up so it’s all one large space. “It feels like New York loft living, and I have a lot of guests stay here, so I wanted it to have a feeling of a lot of space and not lonely with all these closed-off rooms,” Rachel says. Now with multiple seating areas and dining and workshop areas, it’s an ideal multipurpose room for everyday use.

Rachel Ashwell's Master Bedroom
Bedding in Rachel’s signature florals adds a playful pattern to her master bedroom.

Feminine Touches

A big part of the home’s charm—and what Rachel is very well known for—are the many floral designs in fabric prints and small-scale use of wallpaper patterns you’ll find throughout the home. They add a soft and sophisticated touch in her signature Shabby Chic style.

Rachel Ashwell's master bathroom wallpaper.
Wallpaper in a lacy blue print adds a touch of elegance to the master bathroom.
Rachel Ashwell's mix-and-match floral patterns
Rachel layers this bathroom space with mix-and-match floral patterns.

“I like to do the patterned wallpaper in these little nook areas,” Rachel says. “I tend to use vintage wallpaper.  Often you can’t find a large quantity of vintage wallpaper, so that’s why it’s confined to one space, but it’s easy to do.”

Rachel Ashwell's blue and white guest bedroom
The blue and white two-tone walls perfectly coordinate with Rachel’s Simply Shabby Chic bedding.

Another design trick for bringing in soft color: Rachel paints the walls white, but from the floor to about 3 feet off the ground, she paints it over with a light gray, pink or blue for a two-tone look. “It [adds] color in an unassuming, subtle way,” she says. “They did that a lot in Morocco, and that’s where I got the idea.” These small but impactful design details give Rachel’s home its personality.

Rachel Ashwell's gold and pink settee
An antique settee with gold trim and blush pink upholstery is an elegant touch.

Flea-Market Flair

Antiques add patina and character, and Rachel looks to flea-market pieces to create the look of timeworn elegance she loves. “Nearly all the cabinets, tables and chairs are flea market-found and refurbished to the point that they’re functional and clean, but I try to hold on to the authentic patinas and textures,” Rachel says.

Rachel Ashwell's office space.
Rachel’s office is in a nook off the dining area. Though small, the floor-to-ceiling windows ensure an open atmosphere.

She also mixes in a few reproduction furniture pieces from the Rachel Ashwell Furniture collection to achieve the style, scale and function she wants. Many of her antique pieces are recovered in machine-washable fabric for durability since they’re white. Her collections of antique dishes, trays, vases and containers decorate hutches, tabletops and shelves for a cozy, charming look. All the bedding, in fabric patterns or soft hues, is romantic and vintage inspired.

What is the essence of Rachel’s decorating style? “I guess I would call myself a bit boho, but it’s also very classic. I don’t like things that go in and out of style,” Rachel says. “My mantra is ‘beauty, comfort and function.’ Everything in my house needs to be inviting and needs to be useful. That’s where I start.”

Rachel Ashwell's Living Room Mantel
The wood mantel is raw and unstained, a natural complement to the painted bricks below. Rachel as styled it with an assortment of her favorite small paintings.

4 Elements of Rachel Ashwell’s Style

Want to emulate Rachel’s signature style? Learn how with her tips.

    1. Soft color: “My palette tends to be on the softer side,” Rachel says. From various pinks and raspberries to teal, the look is fresh and inviting.
    2. Eclectic: “I like things to be eclectic but not chaotic. I might organize it or give it a theme with color. Think expensive mixed with flea market and Target.”
    3. Glamour: “I always like a little bit of glamour.” These bits of bling can be crystal chandeliers or a rug with silver threading through it.
    4. Timeworn: “Embracing the beauty of imperfections and faded grandeur is a big thing for me. I don’t get too neurotic if something gets chipped.

Read Courtney Allison’s behind-the-scenes look at this photo shoot!

Rachel Ashwell’s Designer Secrets

Shabby Chic founder and Romantic Homes Columnist, Rachel Ashwell, shares the secrets behind her signature style.

Delicate and detailed, yet inviting and comfortable are the hallmarks of Rachel Ashwell’s signature style. Photo by Sarah Pankow.

Rachel’s signature Shabby Chic style is all about creating perfect imperfection. Here’s how she does it:

  • First, figure out how the room will be used and what it needs to fulfill that purpose. “The saddest thing is creating a space in a house that is never used,” Rachel says.
An inspiration book, complete with photos and fabric samples. Photo by Sarah Pankow.
Two large inspiration boards lean side-by-side against the windows in Rachel’s office nook.
  • Create an inspiration book or board. Rachel’s book for a project might include something like a picture of a pink blouse or some rose petals that speak to a palette or feeling, items that help tell the full story of what the house could be.
  • Evaluate what you already have and what can be repurposed.
  • Start visiting flea markets. Rachel keeps a master list of what she needs to buy for clients. It may take time to find just the right piece, but the end result is worth the time and effort.
Rachel keeps things simple with a soft, monochromatic color palette.
  • Don’t overcomplicate things. Details are important, but you can get caught up in them and never get anything done.
  • Less is more. Rachel was inspired by the recent bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. “Get rid of things that you don’t need,” she encourages with the caveat, “but be cautious because you could regret it later. There is a real emotional empowerment in not hanging on to stuff, things that don’t serve a purpose anymore.”
Two-toned walls are one of Rachel’s favorite ways to add color to a space.
  • When it comes to choosing paint or fabrics, Rachel doesn’t have particular favorites. “It’s how it looks or how it feels,” she says. “Try the paint on the walls to see how it works.” She does recommend avoiding creams or icy white wall paint; instead, Rachel says, “stay with pure, bright white.”

3 Musts for a Romantic Tablescape

Courtney's favorite ideas for dressing up the table for memorable meals.

I love to take the time to set an elegant, inspired table for guests to enjoy. So much so, that the menu is often runner-up after the flowers, place settings and ambience. Whether you’re setting a table for two or 20, there are a few things you can do to create an inviting and unforgettable table for your guests. A few sweet touches can make sitting down with company a magical experience!

Low centerpieces, like these arrangements of peonies, will never get in the way of dinner table conversation.
Although small, these blossoms make a big impact when paired with neutral napkins.

#1. Flowers

Whether it’s a garland of greens with flowers tucked inside, several small vases running the length of the table or even a single beautiful bouquet, you can’t go wrong. Think about your colors and what flowers are available during that time of year.

#2. Place settings

From delicate and detailed to vintage, create special place settings for each guest. I like to include a small sprig of flowers and herbs tied to a napkin as a welcome.

#3. Ambience

Lighting is key for adding ambience: candles on the table, twinkle lights in trees and LED candles in lanterns to light steps and paths. Add some music in the background, and enjoy a romantic evening.



Visit This Charming B&B in Capitola by the Sea

This California B & B draws inspiration from interiors all over the world.

The reading nook inside the Inn at Depot Hill
A plush chair, side table and lamp are comfortably situated in the reading nook. It’s the perfect place to relax with a good book and your hot beverage of choice.

Just south of Santa Cruz along the central coast of California is a charming little beach town called Capitola by the Sea. One of California’s oldest seaside towns, Capitola is known for its row of colorful houses along the water, beautiful weather and the Begonia Festival that has been enchanting visitors since 1952. Capitola is also home to one of my favorite bed-and-breakfasts, the Inn at Depot Hill, which is an ideal escape for a romantic getaway.


Located just a short minute walk to the beach, the Inn at Depot Hill was built in 1875 and was a working train depot until 1958, when the train line was discontinued. Over the years, it has changed hands many times and is now a charming and unique B & B that offers 12 rooms, each decorated representing a different destination from around the world.


The Delft Room honors its namesake with a blue and white color palette.
The Sissinghurst Room draws inspiration from traditional English gardens. Guests will find one right outside their door!


Once you enter the Inn at Depot Hill, the ambience of this B & B will instantly captivate you, from the Delft room with blue-and-white décor and an expansive space that includes a sitting room, fireplace and private patio with hot tub, to the Sissinghurst room that transports you to the English countryside with floral chintz fabrics and a private English garden inspired courtyard.

Elegant, yet cozy, the sitting area is perfect for unwinding after a day out.
A plush bed beckons sleepy visitors at the end of the day.


The Paris room, with toile-covered walls and an abundance of Parisian romance, features a sitting area and room that share a fireplace. Don’t forget to check out the library, which has shelves full of books and a small alcove for hiding away for a nap.

No matter which room you decide to stay in, each guest room offers a warm fireplace; some offer private hot tubs and courtyard areas for enjoying the fresh air as well.

For more information on the Inn at Depot Hill and to plan your stay, visit innatdepothill.com.