Fond memories of Pennsylvania Dutch Country and nostalgia for the past inspire a Delaware couple to infuse their modern home with primitive style.
Inspired by childhood memories of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, a Delaware homeowner infuses her newly constructed home with character-rich details.
Nostalgia for Pennsylvania Dutch Country tugs at Renee Culver’s heartstrings, as she lived in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, as a child. Memories of the farming community’s historic houses and visits to her grandparents’ riverfront cottage continue to inspire her life today. “I love to recreate happy memories from my childhood. I wish I could be transported back to a simpler time,” Renee explains.
With those heartwarming experiences in mind, when Renee and her husband, Mel, purchased a newly constructed home in Bear, Delaware, their vision was clear: create a home rich with historic detail and filled with vestiges of the country idyll. Through the years, they refashioned the modern interior with a primitive country aesthetic that takes visitors back in time. “People are shocked when they see [the interior of] our home for the first time. The outside does not match the inside,” Renee observes.
To create the past-perfect sensibility and simple ambience that was lacking in the residence, the Culvers tackled many home improvement projects themselves. Fortunately, Mel is a contractor, and his skills came in handy when they installed moldings, replaced wall-to-wall carpeting with wide-planked hardwood flooring, added barn-board paneling, renovated bathrooms, created a new country kitchen and designed unique lighting fixtures that utilize found objects.
To make the living room and dining room appear cozier, the couple painted the end walls barn red and the other walls a rich coffee color. To build character, they incorporated architectural salvage, such as a pair of shutters rescued from the wedding chapel where they were married.
The home’s decor has evolved gracefully over time. Each room features an artful blend of new furnishings, heirlooms, antiques and collectibles. Simple valances dress windows, and braided rugs and runners adorn floors. Renee, who started going to craft shows as a newlywed, says, “I’ve moved away from mass-produced items and I now prefer unique pieces.”
Renee not only appreciates bargains, but also the new friendships she has formed with the sellers of some of her acquisitions. She recently found some treasures through several local online buying-and-selling sites. These virtual classifieds have yielded a cast-iron stove, the top half of an antique cupboard, and an antique pie safe.
When she is not surfing the web for items to add to her collection, Renee navigates the roads that gently wind through the Delaware and Pennsylvania countryside, seeking out Amish-made furniture, crocks, pottery, tools and wooden signs. She is drawn to older items with rich history. “I love to fill my home with pieces that are sentimental,
and I love to repurpose them,” Renee says. “I like when I can pick up a piece and say, ‘Where have you been?’ ”
During the holidays, Renee enjoys combining decorations, antiques and simple artistic touches to achieve a festively primitive look. Throughout her home, you’ll find multiple spindly twig trees decorated with spinner gourds and dried orange slices. Live and artificial greenery spills from china cabinets, cupboards, shelves and small displays. “Greens really bring the Christmas and winter look indoors,” Renee notes. “I leave my artificial greens out all winter—even after the Santas and trees are put away.”
During the holidays and throughout the year, Renee hopes her enthusiasm for decorating and filling her surroundings with sentimental treasures translates into a warm welcome for guests. “My home is my happy place,” she says. “I decorate with items that have been preserved from the past so they can be cherished by many for years into the future. I really do cherish all of my antiques and the story that each piece tells.”
To make the formal fireplace in her family room feel a bit more casual, Renee Culver mounted an old window, shutters and signs above the mantel and completed the Christmas scene with glowing candles, a homespun Santa and stockings, and a garland that coordinates with the towering tree.
Left: The exterior of the Culver home boasts a welcoming farmer’s porch and historical clay and hunter green color palette.Below: Holiday decorating is a family affair for Renee and Mel, sons Kyle and Sam, and Bingo the Bichon Frise; they use wreaths to adorn windows and red and green lights to make shrubbery merry.Opposite: This antique cupboard is slender enough to make room for the Windsor chairs in front of it, but its vivid red color ensures its status as a focal point in the living room. Never one to leave things unadorned, Renee takes advantage of the sifter and tobacco basket on the wall and the antique rake nearby to showcase festive flourishes. Use for type placement only
Left: In a living room corner, Renee creates an eye-catching vignette, from the open wall cabinet that coordinates with the wall colors to the space below the small side table, which combines various shapes and sizes of crates and tin containers with seasonal fare.Right: Architectural salvage and antiques distinguish the living room. Renee hung a door behind the sofa to recall the look of rustic paneling and repurposed a strawberry crate as an end table and a blanket chest as a coffee table.
Right: Renee couldn’t resist this antique stone grinder’s rugged simplicity and repurposed the relic as a conversation piece for her living room. During the holidays, she fills it with magnolia leaves and greens. A Shaker box mounted on the wall behind it displays a rustic wood candleholder.