Marsi & Robert’s Bright and Tidy Southern Ranch

published Aug 6, 2012
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: Marsi and Robert (and dogs Molly & Dodge)
Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Size: 1350 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years; owned

Marsi and Robert were never supposed to call this house home. No, the plan was to buy, renovate, and sell … but then the housing market tanked, and the couple was faced with making this little “temporary” house their home.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

And make it their home, they have! The industrious pair have not only poured hours of hard labor into renovations — they’ve also put lots of thought and energy into making this little 1958 ranch sing with personality. Pulling from both of their design interests, they incorporate some mid-century staples with lots of heirlooms and family pieces. Marsi’s a whiz at scouring thrift stores and estate sales (just see her etsy shop!) so it’s no surprise her source list includes the Salvation Army and the Chattanooga Airport, among lots of other random places!

(Image credit: Sarah Dobbins)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Currently we skew midcentury modern with a few traditional and cottage elements thrown in the mix. Our style is constantly evolving, in large part based on the architecture of the home that we are in at a given time (our current home is a 1958 ranch). Somewhere down the road we see ourselves ending up in a little cottage in a southern coastal town, which no doubt will bring about some changes. That being said, we have many pieces that we love, which will always be a key part of our varied designs.

Inspiration: We find inspiration in so many places — from 1960’s design books to the landscapes and cityscapes of the deep South. As much as we appreciate clean-lined modern design, we are also influenced by the eclectic, brilliantly colored, turn-of-the-century homes so often found in southern coastal cities and small towns.

Favorite Element: It’s too tough to choose just one. The LCW (first Eames chair in the collection, a gift from Robert’s family), the living room tables and stereo cabinet built by Marsi’s grandfather and father, Marsi’s grandparents’ 1960 JBL speakers, and the pillows that Marsi and her Mom made together during their first sewing lesson. Notice the common thread?

Biggest Challenge: This may come as a surprise, but our biggest challenge was finding the right coffee table. We spent years looking for just the right table, but everything was too high, too low, too short, too ugly, too expensive, or just not the right shape for our long narrow living room. Marsi’s father Mike offered to build one for us. On his last visit, we jointly designed a coffee table that was just right for the room, and Mike built it. A family collaboration, made even more special because it’s built from a family friend’s walnut tree that was felled by a storm.

What Friends Say: “You guys always find the coolest stuff!” or “Will you come help me with my house?” (We used to renovate as a profession, and actually have done some work for friends and family.)

Biggest Embarrassment: The light fixtures. We originally purchased the house with the intention of doing a full renovation and then selling the home, so we chose sort of generic light fixtures to appeal to a larger number of potential buyers. When the real estate market crashed, we chose to stay in the house but never changed out the lighting (with the exception of adding the Nelson bubble lamp, which will be go with us to any future homes).

Proudest DIY: We’re not very crafty, but are quite handy, so we’d have to answer the house as a whole. We closed off a doorway, enlarged another to expand the view from the front to back of the house, moved kitchen cabinets, installed wainscoting, tiled the kitchen and baths, installed new fixtures, painted every inch of the place, and landscaped.

Biggest Indulgence: Our Eames dining table and chairs. The set was our first major purchase as a couple (before we even lived together), and is still our largest furniture investment to date. We drove to Nashville to buy a George Nelson bench, but instead came home with the table and chairs, which had been part of a modern furniture exhibit at the Frist Museum.

Best Advice: Don’t be afraid to design in a way that makes you happy. Your home should be a reflection of yourself, even if it doesn’t follow the latest trends. Don’t limit yourself within a design bubble.

Dream Sources: Estate sales, small town antique stores, Pre-to-Post Modern (in Nashville), Etsy, Craigslist, thrift stores, used bookstores.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Trim Paint – Behr Ultra Pure White High Gloss Enamel
    (All other colors are by Sherwin Williams)
    • Living Room & Hallway: Pure White
    • Kitchen & Dining Room: Sea Salt (Walls) and Vanillan (Cabinets)
    • Master Bedroom – French Gray
    • Master Bathroom – Dover White (Walls)
    • Guest Bedroom – Sherwin Williams colormatch of Olympic Paints color Birdsong
    • Guest Bathroom – Frosty White (Walls) and Rare Gray (Trim & Wainscoting)
    • Exterior Doors & Adirondack Chairs – Rare Red
    • Exterior Siding – Analytical Gray
    • Exterior Trim and Cedar Shakes – Adaptive Shade


    • Blu Dot Animal Sofa (large) – (ours was a floor model in local store)
    • Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman – Craigslist
    • Vintage George Nelson Bubble Lamp – Craigslist
    • Cabinet in corner behind Eames lounge chair- Salvation Army
    • Eames Tandem Chairs – Chattanooga Airport
    • Walnut end tables and stereo cabinet – made by Marsi’s grandfather
    • 1960 JBL Speakers – belonged to Marsi’s grandparents
    • Coffee Table – made by Marsi’s father
    • Gold Dream Tree – HelloVictory
    • Pillows – made by Marsi & her mother
    • Papercut Medallion Curtains – Urban Outfitters
    • Lavender Paper Mache Bird – (ours was a gift)
    • Dress Form – Antique store in Sparta, Tennessee
    • Painting over Eames airport chairs (on left) – Gift from artist Patrick Bates
    • Painting over Eames airport chairs (on right) – Chattanooga artist Joyce Wesley
    • Air plants – CTSairplants
    • Glass cube shelves – Urban Outfitters
    • Woman shopping painting – Chattanooga artist Judith Mogul
    • “Cat Canaries” & “Badger Babies” prints – Australian artist Sam Battersby


    • Eames dining table and DCW chairs –
    • Eames LCW – gift from Robert’s family
    • Mark Rothko print – gift from Robert’s family
    • Bar – made by Marsi’s father
    • Cowboy painting – Colorado artist Linda Loeschen
    • “Guy Eating” painting – Chattanooga artist Lydia Randolph
    • “Crows in the Corn” Woodcut – Lookout Mountain, Georgia artist Fannie Mennen (rescued from a house fire by a friend)
    • Trojan Horse – estate sale


    • Porcelain Tile flooring – Crossville Ceramics
    • Solid Surface countertops – Ameristone
    • Flower painting – artist Maggie McLaughlin
    • House salt & pepper shakers – West Elm
    • Air plants – CTSairplants
    • Brown birds wedding cake topper – Middleburg
    • L.E. Smith Moon & Stars Canisters – Salvation Army
    • Cathrineholm Pot – eBay
    • Dansk Ice Bucket – eBay


    • Cotton Canvas Window Panels – West Elm
    • Turquoise Chenille Pillows – Urban Outfitters
    • Bed, Ship wardrobe, Dresser – given to Marsi by her parents
    • Woman with flowers needlepoint – antique store in Dunnellon, Florida
    • Seaside painting – thrift store
    • Globe and dove – estate sales
    • Wooden Deer Sculpture – Atlanta antique store


    • Sleeping Fox Pillow – Urban Outfitters
    • Eames-inspired storage unit – made by Robert
    • “Happiest Day of My Life” painting – Lisa Bartlet
    • Eames armshell chair – Craiglist
    • Cavalier Fine Furniture Bedroom Suite (made in Chattanooga) – inherited from Robert’s grandparents
    • Chenille Bedspread – estate sale


    • Rug (guest bath) – West Elm
    • Porcelain tile flooring (guest bath) – Crossville Ceramics
    • Vanity, countertop, sinks, toilets, plumbing fixtures, floor tile (master bath), wainscoting – Lowe’s and Home Depot

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Marsi and Robert!

(Images: Sarah Dobbins)

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