This Nashville Home is Shabby Elegance at its Best

Tour a historic home beautifully decorated with unique flea-market finds

The chandelier's French provincial style nicely compliments the home's vintage decor
The chandelier’s French provincial style nicely complements the home’s understated elegance, and the mirror frame displayed on barn wood is a pretty focal point.

Moving from the arid climes of Arizona to bustling Nashville, Tennessee, Melissa Lewis, interior designer and owner of Found Interiors, was happy to discover the city’s many flea markets.

Unique pairings make up the vintage decor of the living room where industrial features like a bookshelf made of old gates are paired with more feminine elements like the leopard print stool.
Unique pairings make up the living room. Melissa says she enjoys the mix of industrial features like the bookshelf made of old gates, with more feminine elements, such as the leopard print stool.

“It wasn’t easy finding antiques in the deserts of Arizona,” she admits, recalling with a laugh how she carefully boxed her treasures for the move. Nothing was left behind, especially not her cherished chandelier. “I was afraid potential buyers would think it came with the house!” The chandelier fits her aesthetic of gilt accents and shabby elegance.

The vintage decor of the home is complimented by a gold and crystal chandelier in nearly every room
Nearly every room in the home features a gilt chandelier. This chandelier was saved in the move to Tennessee.

But it was in Franklin, a suburb just outside Nashville, where Melissa embraced her passion for flea-market finds. From historic bricks reassembled to adorn her fireplace to antique lanterns hanging above her kitchen table, her décor embraces a mix of old and new. “It’s hard having your house look like a model home, where people are afraid to touch anything or sit down,” she says. “The old and imperfect pieces make people feel more comfortable.”

Historic bricks were reassembled to adorn the home’s fireplace, which is juxtaposed with the footstool’s audacious leopard print pattern.
Historic bricks were reassembled to adorn the home’s fireplace, which is juxtaposed with the footstool’s audacious leopard print pattern.

Piecing It All Together

Many of the unique fixtures and antiques in Melissa’s home have their own stories to tell. The kitchen’s exquisite lanterns, for example, hail from New Orleans, where Melissa had discovered them in a tiny, humble shop off the beaten track. “It made no sense to buy them. They weren’t even electrified! I just knew I wanted to bring them back to life,” she says.

The best vintage decor pieces, Melissa says, have a history, like these antique pendant lanterns hanging above the dining table
The best pieces, Melissa says, have a history, like these antique pendant lanterns hanging above the dining table.

One of the home’s most striking design features is a once-bare wall leading to the basement that was revived with a hodgepodge of gorgeous paper cut silhouette portraits. Displaying a collection together, Melissa says, creates a powerful vibe.

A true statement in vintage decor, this gallery wall of paper cut silhouettes and cameos is an inexpensive and eye-catching way to fill up wall space
The gallery wall started out as a jumble of paper cut silhouettes and cameos featuring the same color scheme: black, white and gold, with a few minor exceptions. This was an inexpensive way to fill up wall space, but for many visitors this area of the home is the most eye-catching.

But in many ways, her home also celebrates incomplete items in various states of disrepair. A lone Corinthian column leans in a corner of the house, while in the same room pieces of discarded crystals from chandeliers long gone rest in an ornate silver cup. Hanging on the wall in the dining room, a broken mirror charms many a guest to the home.

A Corinthian column leans in the corner while an old French frame encircles mini cameos, adding to the room's vintage decor
A Corinthian column leans in the corner, which Melissa says is the best place for columns, because corners help bring out their interesting dimensions. An old French frame encircles mini cameos, while a lamp made from an old iron grate helps illuminate the ceramic deer head resting on the table. Behind the table sits the top of an old doorway that Melissa admired for its chipped paint and rustic feel.

Melissa had seen the mirror crack and break one day, as it tumbled down off a shelf in a flea market. She repurposed the frame by attaching it to a section of barn wood. “I enjoy seeing two pieces not meant to be together suddenly brought together,” she says. “If something really speaks to me, I’ll find a place for it and a way to use it.”

The chandelier's French provincial style nicely compliments the home's vintage decor
The chandelier’s French provincial style nicely complements the home’s understated elegance, and the mirror frame displayed on barn wood is a pretty focal point.

Simple Treasures

Sprinkled throughout her home, numerous gilt frames and vintage sign holders in tarnished silver add pops of understated elegance. Sometimes the sign holders feature old book pages and postcards from Melissa’s adventures. Other times, they are left empty on purpose.

In the dining room, an elegant mirror frame has been attached to some barn wood to create a beautiful display. Sometimes ornate frames can be more interesting than the art, Melissa says.

The vintage decor is completed by these dainty, tarnished silver signs and faded books.
These dainty, tarnished silver signs and faded books add an element of history.

Atop a low chest of drawers in her bedroom, empty picture frames seem more enchanting than the art work they might display. Meanwhile a large bookshelf houses several old metal sign holders, which came in a box full of similar items Melissa bought from a flea market for only five dollars. Unique pieces add character to a home, she says.

The vintage decor of the bedroom features a French cornice hanging from the ceiling as a sort of canopy for the bed.
The guest bedroom features a French cornice hanging from the ceiling as a sort of canopy for the bed. It has been draped with white linen fabric Melissa found.

A New Life

With her own home, Melissa tries to think outside the box, and many of the items in her home she has repurposed, fixed or made herself. An old sack meant for grain covers an antique bench in her master bedroom. Meanwhile, vintage metal signs now feature old book pages and postcards she collected on her adventures. And a table, once another color, is now white. “I liked its silhouette and lines,” she says, but the original paint job failed to complement the home’s color scheme—white, black, gold and silver. “Paint is your best friend! It’s amazing what can be done with it!”

A chair in the French provincial style completes the vintage decor of the bedroom
A chair in the French provincial style provides cozy seating in a corner of the room.

“Don’t be afraid to break the rules,” Melissa says of decorating. Besides, she insists, repurposed pieces add character to a home. “I never settle for something as is.”



A Historic Home Meets An Eclectic Touch

Expressing your personal style doesn't have to be at odds with respecting the historical details of your home.

Like other residences designed by Arthur and Nina Zwebell, Jennifer’s complex features a beautiful central courtyard with a fountain. She can view the courtyard with its olive trees and succulents through French doors in her living room.
Like other residences designed by Arthur and Nina Zwebell, this complex features a beautiful central courtyard with a fountain. Jennifer Laskey can view the courtyard with its olive trees and succulents through French doors in her living room.

Expressing your personal style doesn’t have to be at odds with respecting the historical details of your home. From selecting daring yet authentic paint colors to accessorizing with all manner of vintage finds, you can create a home that fits the aesthetics of both you and your home’s era, as Jennifer Laskey’s historic Los Angeles apartment proves.

The home is decorated with antique and vintage pieces Jennifer has collected from a variety of sources, including flea markets, antiques stores, eBay and Craigslist. An avid collector, she knows the pieces that will work best for her home.
The home is decorated with antique and vintage pieces Jennifer has collected from a variety of sources, including flea markets, antiques stores, eBay and Craigslist. An avid collector, she knows the pieces that will work best for her home.

Completed in 1928, the Andalusian-style courtyard complex was designed by famed architects Arthur and Nina Zwebell.

Jennifer, a long-time fan of 1920s and ’30s Spanish-style architecture, was drawn to the townhouse because of its original features, including a grand tiled staircase, 22-foot beamed ceilings in the living room and elaborately carved dark-wood doors.

“I hate when people will redo a bathroom or a kitchen or change windows or anything like that,” she says.

“This was pretty much untouched, which a lot of people don’t like because they want the modern amenities, but I don’t care about any of that and just really want originality.”

When she moved into the apartment, Jennifer undid a number of modern upgrades and added vintage pieces both reflective of the apartment’s late-’20s history and her own eclectic style.

Jennifer worked to enhance the period beauty of the living room. She added gold leaf to the fireplace to give it a dramatic feel befitting a home built at the start of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Details, from the tile to the flooring to the woodwork, are all original.
Jennifer worked to enhance the period beauty of the living room. She added gold leaf to the fireplace to give it a dramatic feel befitting a home built at the start of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Details, from the tile to the flooring to the woodwork, are all original.

Builders-grade medicine cabinets, mirrored doors, screens, light fixtures and more were taken out. Fans, though practical, were removed from the sweeping ceilings in the living room and equally beautiful ceiling in the bedroom, replaced with more-authentic-feeling fixtures.

A favorite upgrade, and a standout in the living room, is the newly gold-leafed fireplace.

“[I]t has a really cool fireplace that’s got original Spanish detail and the top of it was just white, and I don’t know if it was originally gold-leafed or no, but it was something that I could imagine there being that the architects/designers were very ornate,” Jennifer says. “I sourced a painter to do it, it’s just a little detail, it was a really expensive little detail, but I just felt it would be the most amazing detail, so I did that.”

Jennifer selected the striking red wall color to complement the home’s Spanish architectural style. The bookshelf goes with the desk in the loft but was too large for the space, so it gives an industrial punch to the dining room. A mix of vintage finds dresses up the room.
Jennifer selected the striking red wall color to complement the home’s Spanish architectural style. The bookshelf goes with the desk in the loft but was too large for the space, so it gives an industrial punch to the dining room. A mix of vintage finds dresses up the room.

Jennifer used paint to complement the townhome’s striking original details. The dining room was painted in a deep red with an uneven, aged plaster  effect.

Newer doors were treated to gold, white, navy and olive green finishes to give them an older European-influenced appearance.

The work continued onto the patio, accessible via French doors from both the kitchen and dining room.

Electrical was added and Moroccan-style bronze light fixtures were installed.

The area was completed with a large daybed with matching ottoman and an ornate vintage mirror.

The daybed on Jennifer’s patio was a dream purchase, scored on sale after months on her wish list. The new piece is complemented by a mix of new and vintage finds. Electrical was added to the space, and Jennifer installed the bronze fixtures.
The daybed on Jennifer’s patio was a dream purchase, scored on sale after months on her wish list. The new piece is complemented by a mix of new and vintage finds. Electrical was added to the space, and Jennifer installed the bronze fixtures.