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


A Charming Southern Kitchen

A century-old Tennessee kitchen's original charm is restored with the help of salvaged materials.

Charming Southern kitchen with brick walls
The perfect balance of old textures and new finishes, this kitchen is the heart of a Southern home.

Historic homes with decades of character are as highly sought after in the South as they are throughout the rest of the United States. But when period quirks negatively impact a space, it’s up to designers and renovators to reimagine the environment and find balance between modern sensibilities and old-fashioned charm.

Kevin Coffey of C. Kevin Coffey Dwellings & Design, and Amber Cagle of Black Dove Interiors worked their magic to upgrade this 1909 Tennessee kitchen with a dose of Southern cottage style. Here’s how you can get the look:

An apron sink adds a country touch to the space.
An apron sink adds a country touch to the kitchen.

Pair Aged Textures with Fresh Finishes.

The brickwork lining the kitchen walls is partially saved from an original fireplace and partially sourced from an architectural salvage shop. Brick adds warmth, texture and a sense of history to the renovated space.

Simple, white cabinets with bead board detailing contrast the heavy texture of the walls and complement the clean lines of the ceiling beams. As a nod to the home’s country cottage roots, two of the cabinets are faced with chicken wire for a farmhouse twist that allows the homeowners to display kitchen collectibles.

La Cornue Stove with custom made hood range
If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then perhaps this La Cornue stove is the heart of this charming Southern kitchen.

Mix Different Metals

In a room balanced with beautiful highlights, the La Cornue stove with its brushed brass accents delights the inner chef. Amber had the scalloped-edge range hood custom fabricated with a band of brushed brass to match the stove’s style. Crystal and brass cabinet knobs bring the gold hue throughout the kitchen space.

Amber also chose two antique navy lights to suspend over the center island. Their weather-worn patina adds to the space’s antique appeal and contrasts the newer gleam of the brushed brass accents.

Library ladder in the kitchen allows homeowners to reach upper shelves
The library ladder is an easy-to-use fix for reaching upper shelves.

Add Functional Elements

If you ever find yourself reaching for the step stool or searching for the nearest tall person to get something off the upper shelves, chances are you’ve thought there must be an easier way to live. Enter the library ladder and ladder rail. With pitched ceilings that add so much height to the room, shorter cabinets would be visually awkward and miss the opportunity for valuable storage space.

Everyday items can be stored below, with seasonal or occasional use items packed carefully away in the upper selves. When not in need, the ladder hangs on the wall and out of the way. When the homeowners are ready to retrieve special dishes, the ladder’s wheels are simply placed on the rail and can be easily rolled back and forth.

The Summer Issue of Southern Cottage MagazineThis story is adapted from an article by Kristin Dowding that originally appeared in the Summer issue of Southern Cottage Magazine. Find your copy to read the full story ! This issue is online and on newsstands today!

Tips & Tricks for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Miss Mustard Seed proves that paint, patience and a little bit of elbow grease can transform a kitchen.

Miss Mustard Seed's Kitchen Eating Area
Rustic textures, white paint and antiques with plenty of patina combine for an airy farmhouse feel.

There are some rooms that need a total overhaul, because they are dated, damaged or downright ugly. There are other rooms that need a makeover simply because they don’t reflect the personality and style of the family dwelling there. Such was the case with this kitchen.

It had great bones, nice wood cabinets, upgraded counters and birch floors, but it needed an injection of charm and personality. And the most budget-friendly way to do that was paint.

The cabinets were primed and given a fresh coat of a custom-mixed white paint, which immediately freshened up the kitchen and gave it more of a cottage vibe. Swapping out the traditional-style nickel hardware with some reproduction glass pulls further customized the cabinets.

Miss Mustard Seed's Painted Kitchen Cabinets
Can’t find the perfect color from the fan deck of paint swatches? Miss Mustard Seed recommends mixing a custom color that suits your space and your taste.
Miss Mustard Seed's Painted Kitchen Cabinets
Several shades of white, such as the creamy hue on the walls and a crisp color on the cabinets and trim, give the kitchen dimension.

The entire look was finished off with antique accessories, like ironstone pitchers filled with wooden spoons, an old grocery scale and linen textiles. These were all relatively small changes that made a big difference in the overall look of this space.

Painting built-in cabinetry is one of the most economical ways to update your kitchen, but it can also be an intimidating step into do-it-yourself territory for a novice. Understandable, because it’s a big project that involves dismantling the busiest room in the house. There is plenty of photographic evidence, though, that proves painting cabinets is worth the time and the effort.

Miss Mustard Seed's Kitchen Island

Here are some tips to tackling the transformation:

  1. Those who are brand new to painting furniture and/or cabinetry should test the entire process from start to finish on one door. It’s a great exercise to learn what works and what doesn’t before diving into the entire project. This is also an important step when working with unfamiliar products.
  2. Paint the cabinets a section at a time. It’s easy to get carried away and remove all of those dated, builder-grade oak cabinet doors at one time, but having the entire kitchen ripped apart can add more pressure to the project. It can also cause an issue if space in the garage or work area is limited. You’d be amazed how much space cabinet doors can take up when they are laid out to dry! The project might take a little longer to complete, but there will be some semblance of order while the work is being carried out.
  3. Always take the time to properly prep and prime all surfaces. We want to get right to the fun stuff, right? Yes! But it’s not fun when the paint is bubbling up over greasy build-up or starts peeling just days after the cabinets are painted. Take the time to clean the cabinets with a grease cutting cleaner, sand them with 80-100 grit paper to rough up the surface, and prime them with a quality adhesion primer.
  4. Use quality paint and tools. The old adage, “You get what you pay for” definitely applies to paint! A quality paint will go on smoother, require fewer coats, will be more durable, and will level out to hide brush strokes and roller marks. It’s worth the splurge! While a paint sprayer isn’t a required tool, it makes the work go faster and the end result looks more professional. A project can be completed, though, with a well-made 2 ½” synthetic-bristled, angled sash brush and a small foam or microfiber roller made for painting trim.
  5. Give the cabinets time to cure properly before heavy use. It’s exciting to get those freshly-painted cabinet doors hung as soon as they are dry, and that can certainly be done, but be aware that almost all paints require 30 days to fully cure. During that time, the finish is more susceptible to gouges, scratches, and dings. Let your family know to treat the cabinets with care during that time or, if possible, just leave them to cure in an out-of-the-way place before putting them into daily use.

By putting some of these tips to use, your painted cabinets will look like they were done by a professional. Your wallet will definitely know the difference, though!

For more information on painting kitchen cabinets (and many other things), visit

School Bus Boutique Gets a Romantic Renovation

Circa 1910 is a mobile jewelry shop that celebrates inner beauty.


Circa 1910 Mobile Jewelry Shop Marvin the Mini Bus
Enter the 1910 bus through an old farmhouse door with an antique doorknob that owner Kayla Derrick locks with a vintage skeleton key. The bus is affectionately named Melvin the Mini Bus. You can Follow Melvin’s adventures on Instagram @melvintheminibus

If you visit the small historic town of Beaufort, South Carolina, you may spot a charming, white-painted school bus parked outside a vintage market or festival. Beyond its front entrance with a refurbished farmhouse door, you’ll find a small shop on wheels, with jewelry on display that’s “heart- and hand-crafted” by circa1910 owner Kayla Derrick.

Kayla didn’t always sell her jewelry from the bus, but she felt the need to take her business on the road after not being able to afford a shop. “I also wanted to connect with my customers face to face,” says Kayla. That’s when she and her fiancé found an old school bus for sale. It was “a piece of junk with gum stuck to the floorboards” that broke down right after she bought it, but Kayla had a vision.

“We had to do it all on a budget,” Kayla says, so they poured their money and heart into the project. “All materials were vintage, antique, repurposed or found in trash piles. That’s what I do with my jewelry—I take dirty and broken vintage and antique pieces, like shoe clips, clean them up and combine them with gemstones to make new necklaces and earrings.”

Her business name refers to the year her grandmother was born. The month she got the bus her mother was diagnosed with cancer. “I saw her go through multiple surgeries. After seeing her crying in the mirror because she didn’t feel pretty, I knew I wanted to create jewelry that spoke to women … and jewelry is something that fits everyone. The idea is that you are beautiful the way you are.”

Kayla added wood-looking vinyl flooring, crown molding and 1870s porch posts with original chippy paint to give the bus character. A wall drying rack serves as a display shelf. She repurposed a vintage vanity and added crystal knobs. Her fiancé built a wood countertop, which she accented with tacks to look like tacked metal and acrylic paint to look like galvanized metal.

When Hurricane Matthew wrecked their town, they had to leave everything behind, including the bus. “When we got back, we don’t know how, but our yard had flooded but not our bus. I wanted to incorporate a memento, so I mounted some driftwood inside the bus as a reminder to always be thankful.”

Kayla DeVito is writer, photographer and sells circa1910 through Old Grace Gathering Co., a company dedicated to giving back to the community. See more on Facebook and Instagram.