Holly's Sophisticated Fifties Homage

Holly's Sophisticated Fifties Homage

Ronee Saroff
Apr 13, 2010

Who Lives Here: Holly Czapski (of Re-furnish.com and FabricList.com), her husband, and two teen/tween children
Location: Arlington, Massachusetts
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 10

When homemaker and fabric aficionado Holly Czapski was ready to decorate her cozy Arlington colonial, she turned to her favorite resource: Good Housekeeping books from the 1950s and 60s. The retro look could have easily gone kitsch, but in Holly's capable hands, the end result is both whimsical and refined.

Holly may credit the inspiration for her decor to vintage homemaking guides, but it was really her love of textiles that served as the jumping off point for the design. Working with a limited budget, the self-taught upholsterer chose a range of funky, affordable fabrics that could be used in quantity throughout the home.

The furniture and accessories are a combination of hand-me-downs, thrift store finds, and unfinished wood pieces, but Holly's personal touch is everywhere. All of the slipcovers, cushions, pillows, lamp shades, duvets, and window treatments were made by hand at her compact, but efficient sewing station. The sconces were eBay finds, which she wired herself. The bed frames were custom built to fit below windows or in narrow spaces. (The "captain's" bed in her son's room is actually a vintage dresser tucked beneath a wall-mounted frame!) The only new purchase was the living room sofa, which she deftly slipcovered in a coordinating fabric.

On the first floor, Holly maximized space by creating a series of small, functional zones. The bright, citrus-y color scheme reflects light but is grounded with more sophisticated taupe, black, and gold accents. To address the low ceilings, she emphasized vertical lines wherever possible: the chains on the sconces, the cord from the pendant lamp, vertical stacks of framed art, the tall bookcases that go all the way to the ceiling.

She expanded the openings to the small 10x10 dining room and added a sliding glass door to increase light. In the kitchen, she painted the original dark wood cabinets white to match the new cabinets (opposite), but she chose simple hardware and finishes in keeping with the home's character. A wall-mounted faucet keeps the sink deck clear. The new kitchen peninsula is outfitted with extension drawers to take advantage of every inch and keep the family's art supplies at the ready.

Whether arranging cans in an open pantry or placing a salad bowl on a pedestal when not in use, Holly has made the most of this small home and, in the process, managed to make even the ordinary, everyday items look special.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My/Our style: Vintage but not ironic. It's an homage to mid-century homemaker sensibility.

Inspiration: Better Homes and Gardens decorating books of the 1950s and 60s.

Favorite Element: Most rooms have more than one built-in, so the space is used very efficiently.

Biggest Challenge: Putting function first while making it have some style.

What Friends Say: People like the colors.

Biggest Embarrassment: There is a little gap between the baseboard and the wood flooring in the dining room, and when my kids were small they "fixed" it by stuffing a tan plastic shopping bag into the gap. It's still there.

Biggest Indulgence: Repainting the walls until the color was right. After a certain point, my husband just stopped asking what I was doing with more paint.

Best advice: With any room, start with the fabric. And pick one you can afford to use generously, even if it's $4/yard cotton duck (like in my daughter's room).

Dream source: A better department store in 1960. Or Samantha Stevens's house.

Resources of Note:


    • Doors and window sashes throughout the house are in Martha Stewart "Twine"
    • Trim throughout the house is Benjamin Moore "White Dove"
    • All paints are Benjamin Moore, including the Martha Stewart colors


    • Elkay sink
    • Chicago wall-mounted faucet
    • Bosch dishwasher
    • Armstrong Marmorette linoleum (no-wax factory finish) in "Yellow Straw"
    • Wall color is Martha Stewart "Cornmeal"
    • Cortelco corded wall phone with bell ringer from Smith Gear
    • Mexican folk crafts from Nomad in Cambridge, Massachusetts


    • Green fabric is a poly blend called Groupie made by P. Kaufmann
    • Pillow and furniture fabrics from Fabric Corner in Arlington, Massachusetts (toile is discontinued)
    • All slipcovers, cushions, throw pillows, sconces, lampshades, and curtains made by Holly
    • Lamps from eBay, thrift stores, and yard sales
    • Shaker style coffee table, window bench, and computer desk available unfinished from The Mill Stores
    • Bookcases from the Bookcase Factory Outlet in Somerville, Massachusetts
    • Silhouettes by Jean Comerford
    • Wall color is Martha Stewart "Mesa"


    • Table bases from Eastern Bakers Supply in Boston, Massachusetts
    • "Sylvia" pendant from Moonshine Lamp and Shade
    • Chairs are "Americana" by Community, through Peabody Office Furniture
    • Roman shades, chair cushions, and framed still life paintings by Holly


    • Dressers and settee from Goodwill and the curb
    • Bookcases from the Bookcase Factory Outlet in Somerville, Massachusetts
    • Bed frame built by Holly
    • Valances, settee, headboard and lampshades upholstered by Holly in Country Living by Waverly
    • Table from The Mill Stores
    • Lamps from eBay
    • Mirror frame from Pearl Art and Craft
    • Tall dresser painted in Benjamin Moore alkyd high-gloss enamel in "Tawny Day Lily"
    • Wall color is Benjamin Moore "Linen White"


    • Vintage walnut under-bed dresser from thrift store; Bed frame built by Holly
    • Wall color is Martha Stewart "Sandcastle"
    • Hanging lamps assembled from hardware store parts
    • Duvet cover, pillows, lamp shades, and roman shades made by Holly
    • Maps are decoupaged on Masonite


    • Wall color is "Southern Pink" by Martha Stewart
    • Curtains and slipcover made by Holly in cotton duck fabric from Dharma Trading


Thanks, Holly!

Images: Ronee Saroff

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