This Kitschy 1920s Sears Catalog Bungalow Has Two Mermaid-Themed Bathrooms

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A yellow kitchen with a 50s style metal dining table with red leather chairs

Denise Rodriguez, her husband, their three kids, and their four dogs have owned this kitschy bungalow for 22 years: We’ve always wanted to live at the Jersey Shore, but knew that we’d never be able to afford a “summer home.” So we took the plunge years ago and bought a run-down 1920s Sears Catalog bungalow and slowly turned it into our year-round vacation destination, complete with lots of colorful, vintage, beachy collections — from bathroom mermaids to candy-colored pottery — that add to the cheerful, eclectic vibe we were hoping to capture. Three kids and four dogs later, it’s still the perfect place to call home. The best part? Going from an over-two-hour commute to NYC when I was a college professor to a mostly work-from-home position post-COVID-19 as a co-director of a statewide nonprofit. I now get to enjoy even more time in our happy, tiny cottage.

One of Two Mermaid-Themed Bathrooms

I identify as a Latina woman, social justice leader, mother, flea-market enthusiast, dog-lover, vintage fanatic, part-time book worm, and wannabe decorator. My work is my passion, but it’s also emotionally exhausting, so surrounding myself with things that bring me joy and make me smile is a must. Also, as a confessed workaholic, making my home feel like a holiday retreat helps me relax. Must-haves include fresh flowers, lots of colorful quilts and pillows, fresh coffee in my favorite vintage basket-weave Glasbake mugs, lamps for soft lighting, and candles. Together with my many vintage collections, these elements create a sense of relaxed comfort that help get me through even the busiest and toughest days.

A Cozy Guest Bedroom That's Perfect for an After-Beach Nap

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or fewer: Kitschy, eclectic, vintage, colorful, cozy.

What is your favorite room and why? My kitchen. It’s got a great 1950s vibe, complete with an antique stove, Bakelite red pulls, Formica and chrome table, and shelves brimming with cookie jars, Jadeite, salt and pepper shakers, and more. It’s the perfect place to sit and do everything from hosting Zoom meetings to daydreaming over a cup of afternoon coffee.

A Restful Bedroom and Day-Dream Zone

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? For Mother’s Day, my oldest son and my husband gifted me these super-rare and ultra-amazing matching pair of vintage toothbrush holders. They totally capture my whimsical aesthetic and love of vintage and will be perfect in our tiny upstairs bathroom, which is a pastel treasure trove of quirky bathroom finds, including lots of retro fish and mermaids.

Our Buffalo-Check-Happy Laundry Room

Any advice for creating a home you love? Don’t follow any rules, and go with what you love. Also, be brave. We had collections before we had kids. I could have packed everything away, but decided to live on the edge. Sure, a few things have broken here and there over the years, but only rarely, and it was worth the risk to live in a home that reflects our style and brings us joy. As a consequence, my kids now practically have a better eye than I do and can spot a great addition to our collections when we’re out at flea markets or antique shows.

Our Cozy Living Room is the Perfect Reading Nook and Favorite Puppy Quarters

Thanks, Denise!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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