Name: Coni and Mike
Location: Monona, Wisconsin
Size: 2,500 square feet
Years lived in: 6, owned
Who lives here: the two of us, plus our cats Hunter and Izie
Coni and Mike are a power team of Midwest pickers. For them, finding vintage items and revamping, upcycling, and repurposing them is not just a hobby; it's a way of life. Coni sells many of the items in her design shop, Iconi Interiors, in Madison, Wisconsin. The couple's ability to think outside the box about old-time treasures also helped in the renovation of their 1957 ranch home.
Coni and Mike actually spotted their home on the way back from a thrifting adventure. When they checked it out, the house had a small kitchen and a few intrusive walls that didn't let sunlight from the back room permeate into the main living areas. They focused the renovation on opening up the kitchen. Strategic circular cut-outs in two walls added a more open feel and improved the sightlines throughout the house.
Their kitchen cabinets were repurposed from a local kitchen design shop that was replacing items in their display vignettes; that's also how Coni and Mike found their faucets and plumbing fixtures. "Every couple of years those shops will redo their displays," says Coni. Follow the "it can't hurt to ask" rule: get to know the staff and keep in touch, and often you can find some great buys.
Coni's specialty is looking at old items and thinking about what else they could become. In her home, a vintage stereo cabinet is transformed into a retro-cool bar; the top slides open, and stock metal trays from a restaurant supply store hold ice and protect the wood surface. Topped with glass, a 1940s dresser becomes an elegant sideboard. Art deco cabinets from a dentist's office are retrofitted to become a bathroom vanity. The makeover magic happens in the home's basement workshop, which also houses storage for items still on the to-do list.
Being green in how they furnish their home comes naturally to Coni and Mike. "It comes from having champagne taste on a beer budget," says Coni. "When I was 18 years old I couldn't afford new furnishings for my first place. But I went and bought a set of furniture from J.C. Penney and was making payments on it. Then I realized the quality wasn't up to par, and it wouldn't hold up. I thought 'What am I doing?' I returned it all, found furniture at a thrift store and decided to learn how to reupholster it myself."
When Coni and Mike met and found they had thrifting in common (among other things), they knew they were a match. The skill set has translated into a career as an interior designer for Coni—and into a warm home that is both green and has personality plus.
Our style: Eclectic. Modern. Fun. Warm. Unique.
Inspiration: I find inspiration from unique and unusual vintage finds, which create a one-of-a-kind decor. To me, that makes the difference between a house and a home.
Favorite Element: The entryway. We have a spiral staircase and double circle wall cut-outs.
Biggest Challenge: Champagne taste and a beer budget
What Friends Say: They tell us we have an extremely comfortable and cozy home.
Proudest DIY: Today I would say the dining room chandelier, which we made from the box spring of a baby's bed, a piece of glass, and crystals from an old chandelier. Ask me in a week or so, and it could be something completely different!
Biggest Indulgence: the kitchen remodel
Best Advice: Design your rooms to highlight the best focal point—for example, a window rather than a wall, or a fireplace instead of a television.
Dream Source: My collection of vintage decorating books, today's shelter magazines, Design Sponge and, of course, Apartment Therapy.
Green Elements/Initiatives: We have numerous refurbished vintage furnishings. In addition, our kitchen cabinets were repurposed from a display at a kitchen design showroom. The faucets came from a plumbing warehouse display. The vintage cabinets in some of our bathrooms used to be storage in a dentist's office or a barber shop. We have cork floors in the hallways.
Hardware: thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets
Furniture, accessories, and lighting: Iconi Interiors, thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets, and Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.
Flooring, rugs and carpet: Iconi Interiors, Sergenian's Floor Coverings
Tiles and Stone: Sergenian's Floor Coverings
Window Treatments: Pier One, Sergenian's Floor Coverings, or homemade
Artwork: Some pieces are from local artists. Others are from Iconi Interiors, thrift stores, antique stores, and flea markets.
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(Images: Therese Maring)