Karen’s Urban Cottage
Name: Karen Marsh
Profession: Full time: Java Developer, Hobby: Owner of vintage store MackeyBlue
Location: Hoboken, New Jersey
Size: About 1,150 square feet
Years lived in: 8
I first met Karen after I was browsing in her store, MackeyBlue, and both my husband and I were eyeing a gigantic old canvas map of Italy that hung behind the cash wrap. We must have been on our way somewhere and couldn’t browse further but a day later I called her from work to inquire how much that map was selling for because it would look just perfect in our home. Too late, the map had sold and I vowed to myself to not hesitate next time I spotted a treasure. Karen herself has similar thinking and loves the hunt for vintage treasures so much that she not only opened her store but has furnished and decorated her whole house with her finds!
Remember the Vintage Pharmacist’s Cabinet? That was from MackeyBlue. I think the newest items in Karen’s home are all in the kitchen which was beautifully renovated by her architects who also happen to be her brother and sister in law!
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My style: Urban, Cottage, Industrial, Vintage, Eclectic, Bohemian, Comfortable.
Inspiration: I get inspired by color palettes, objects and textures. I love botanicals and flowers and gardening elements. Wood, metal, and industrial furniture; Blue and green hues; I never know what might catch my eye. I’m sort of all over the map. My motto is if you like it and it speaks to you and it’s within your budget, get it. Somehow everything will eventually flow together. I’m also a bargain hunter and I like to find eclectic treasures. Most everything in my house was acquired by me attending auctions, going to flea markets, garage sales, finding objects on the street, etc. If I happen upon an item but it’s expensive, I almost always wait for something else to come along. It usually does and it’s often better for less. This has been a lifelong hobby and how I started my vintage business MackeyBlue.
Favorite Element: The extra long sofa that I had reupholstered. It’s kind of mod yet antique and nice and roomy all at once. I bought it at an auction for $12 with no idea how I was going to get it home. I managed to get it in the car with a bit hanging out the back and had to get help at 1am to get it in the house before a rainstorm hit. Who knew it would be the perfect thing?
The big windows that let in so much natural light in every room including the bathrooms along with the skylight in the stairwell. My brother Brian and I spent many hours refurbishing and replacing them. It’s so nice to have a view in every room.
Biggest Challenge: : Renovating the house from top to bottom was the biggest challenge and it’s still not done…it’s been an adventure and it’s almost there.
What Friends Say: It’s comfy and cozy and they like being in it.
Biggest Embarrassment: I’m afraid to put holes in the finally perfect walls to hang art. What if I change my mind or put the nail in the wrong spot?
Cooking is not my passion, décor and gardening are. Yet one of the big renovation projects in my house was creating this amazing kitchen. So friends and family come over and cook in my kitchen and I provide the kitchen and all the serving plates and bowls and accoutrements as well as herbs from the garden. Everyone loves to be in the kitchen and I love having everyone over. It’s a win-win.
Proudest DIY: Going to home depot and buying huge tarp and going up on roof with bricks and roof tape at 10pm to tape a tarp down to stop the leaking in the house before the next big storm. It worked!
Hanging a new light fixture: when I finally turned the switch and saw the light go on – wow!
Gutting the kitchen and finding appliances that fit through my 28 inch hallway. It didn’t leave much choice and we had to remove handles, etc. to get them through.
Biggest Indulgence: My Kitchen. Having a sister-in-law as an architect helped a lot. The design incorporated all my ideas and then some. Also having the opportunity to act as the GC (with lots of advice from my architect) allowed me to shop around for every item and get the lowest of the low prices. It made the project quite affordable considering what I got.
Best advice: Go with your gut. Trust that you know what you like and that there is a reason you have to get that thing even if others think you’re crazy. Bring it home and it will find its place. When renovating, if you’re willing to put in a lot of hard work and are patient and persistent anything is possible. Homes take time and are ever evolving.
Dream source: Me….aka auctions and flea markets. I love the thrill of the hunt, the possibility of finding a treasure for nothing, never knowing what you might find.
Resources of Note (furnishings, hardware, appliances & materials):
Paint & Colors:
All Benjamin Moore
Trim/Molding/Bead Board/Doors throughout – Decorator White
Living Room – Sag Harbor Gray
Hallway – Woodlawn Blue
Kitchen – Pale Avocado
Downstairs Bath – Carrington Beige
Upstairs Bath – Marilyn’s dress
Master Bedroom – Pale Sea Mist
Front Bedroom – Covington Blue
Study – Dill Pickle
Architect – Mowery Marsh Architect, Hoboken NJ
They designed a bright beautiful kitchen that brought together my different styles. It’s comfy classic, yet fresh and clean. All the cabinets were custom detailed to meet my specific needs. We worked together on the fixture and appliance selections for a seamless integration. In the end, the space is more enjoyable to live and work in than I could have imagined.
5 Small Flush Mount Light Fixtures; Cabinet Hardware – rejuvenation.com
Butcher Block Counter – Johnboos.com
Green Tile Back Splash; Farm House Sink – Water Works
Refrigerator – Amana
Stove – JennAir
Dishwasher – Bosch
On the shelf above the stove is my first metal globe. I found on the 450 mile yard sale. Metal globes and old maps are another love of mine.
The green metal floor lamp with unique green silk shade was acquired at an auction for $3. The lamp was falling apart. I took it to a lighting store and they put it back together for me. And the shade happened along and became an ideal pairing.
Textiles are another thing I fancy. I’ve collected pillows from trade shows with my Mom and quilts from all over. The yellow afghan was knitted by my Grandmother many years ago and the quilt on my bed was found at my first Brimfield outing, now a yearly excursion with my girlfriends.
Curtains in the bathrooms and kitchen were created using silk scarves from the 30s.
The groovy marble table was found by a friend on the street in NYC. When she moved to a studio, she had no room so she gave it to me.
I missed out on an antique iron bed at an auction and waited two more years before another that suited me came along. To convert this one from a double to a queen I mailed the rails to loadingdockantiques.com and voila!
We hung the long white beveled mirror I found at an auction in the center of the wall rather than over the sink. I think it works although some find it odd.
The walk in closet was custom built and installed by my brother Brian and Dad. We moved the wall over a bit and what was once a closet you could barely get into became a bright, spacious walk in.
I found the chifferobe at a garage sale my first year out of college and I had no way to get it home so it sat at my parent’s house and my sister Julie restored it. Years later it’s a great functional piece used as storage for all my supplies.
The botanicals on the desk were acquired at a paper auction. I got so scared bidding on them because they were a bit pricey that I didn’t win the lot. My heart sunk into my stomach. I was so dismayed I went over to the winning bidder and bargained with her until she agreed to sell them to me. Now I just have to get them framed.
Images: Sparrow King