Chalk It Up
Paint your way to French cottage style by following the lead of a Texas shopowner who puts a creative spin on everything she touches.
Paint your way to a French cottage look by taking cues from a Texas shopowner who puts her creative stamp on everything she touches.
If anyone could make a mid-century ranch look like an old French cottage, it’s Karla Ritchey. A former consumer science teacher and owner of a home decor shop, Lady Butterbug Shoppe, she bought her Dallas-area house a decade ago and immediately set about orchestrating its transformation. “I like to buy houses and re-create them,” she says, noting this is her third home in the McKinney, Texas, historic district.
That’s not to say it was an easy task. The home had sat empty for a while and needed some structural work as well as cosmetic updates. “The entire house was blue—walls, ceiling, trim, carpet—and the kitchen had copper-colored appliances,” recalls Karla, who gutted the kitchen and removed a wall separating it from the breakfast room to open up the space.
The new kitchen has a mix-and-match vintage appeal thanks to several freestanding cabinets and cupboards, a display-case center island and a fully functional antique stove. Even the custom cabinetry has unique detailing, including sliding glass doors, wood appliqués, stenciled designs and decorative knobs. Paint was key to the home’s fresh new look. “I’m passionate about painting,” Karla says, noting that she took up the brush at age 12, when she painted a timeworn bedroom suite.
Karla painted her home’s walls, floors and just about everything in between, much of it using the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint she sells in her store. The paint is known for its ease of use on myriad surfaces, so it was especially helpful on the wood throughout the home because the previous owner had covered oil-based paint with a layer of latex, which peeled right off. The Chalk Paint adhered to the surface and covered the mess, but Karla did leave a bit of the peeling finish for decorative effect in a built-in cabinet. Although she once adored darker colors, including browns and greens, these days she favors a lighter look. “I don’t think I will ever go back to color again,” Karla says. “It is so clean, peaceful and spiritual now.”
Her home may be tiny, but Karla’s artful arranging maximizes the space. For example, in a petite porch off of the master bedroom, she topped a long, low storage unit with a mattress to create a comfortable guest retreat. And, she has a unique talent for concocting distinctive decorating moments throughout her rooms. “I like the whimsy of using something in a way you would not see usually,” she says, adding that she has handily made slipcovers from bedspreads and curtains from tablecloths.
Because she employs a neutral white-based palette, Karla relies on texture, such as natural shells, wasp nests, antlers and stones, to add interest. Collections, including pottery, silver and teacups, provide color or shine here and there.
Still a teacher at heart, Karla shares projects through a blog and leads painting workshops at Lady Butterbug Shoppe, so named to incorporate a nickname and to reflect her propensity for fluttering from one project to the next. “I love to re-create things and make something artful,” Karla says, noting that she expresses her creativity through sewing, painting, cooking, gardening and more. “My home was a clean slate; now every inch is covered in beauty. I find that to be really rewarding.”
Above: Creating a dynamic display is all about balance—here, colorful Old MacDonald canisters find a counterpoint in the red cookware on the top shelf, and utilitarian car oil jars are interspersed with delicate floral-motif pitchers. Left: Although this finish was the result of acrylic paint peeling away after being applied atop a layer of oil-based paint, you can achieve a similar look by painting a French blue base coat and then dry brushing over it in random areas with gray or ochre paint.