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Home Tour: 'Generic' Norwood bungalow transformed into airy, quirky retreat with some hands-on TLC

It helps to be this creative
Posted: 5:00 AM, Jun 08, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-08 09:00:19Z

CINCINNATI -- The first thing Emily Rodgers did after taking possession of her Norwood home last spring was rip out the carpet.

All of it.

She picked up the keys on a Friday, was at the house by 4:30 p.m., and by 8 p.m., she had uncovered the original hardwood wood floors of the 1921 bungalow. Her intuition that the house had good bones had been rewarded.

"It was really, really generic when I looked at it. Brown carpet everywhere, tannish paint -- there wasn't anything super attractive about it," Rodgers said. "But I could see the potential -- the moldings, the light through all these windows. Plants are my thing. … And I knew the street was quiet, well-loved. I knew I could do something with it."

Rodgers' transformation of the home into an airy, quirky, visually lovely retreat has earned her national attention. Apartment Therapy, a home design website, featured the bungalow last fall and a full article about the home is expected to publish this summer.

Closer to home, Rodgers said all of her friends want to use the space for bridal showers and other parties.

"They want the backdrop," she said.

The transformation began with the floors, which Rodgers refinished herself. She let the natural, honey-colored wood shine everywhere but the stair risers, which she painted a deep navy.

She hung the staircase gallery of art she'd always wanted. Then, Rodgers threw down vintage rugs gathered from eBay, Everything But The House and the collection her dad had amassed from his days as a rug salesman for Rike's department store .

The house is small -- 1,067 square feet -- but feels spacious thanks to uncovered windows and white walls. The only room in the house painted a color is her bedroom, which is a pale, dusky pink.

"I wanted it to be really romantic and ethereal," Rodgers said.

The house sits on a hill, and the master bedroom, with a wide double window looking out to the backyard, feels like a tree house. Like every room, the bedroom is filled with things thrifted, like the green floral chaise from Everything But The House, or hand-made, like the bed and headboard Rodgers built herself.

"My grandpa had a shop where he did woodworking, and I'd go there as a kid and he'd give me a block of wood to sand," Rodgers said. "I just like getting my hands dirty with things."

Although Rodgers' family lives in Dayton, where she's from, their influence is all through the house: antique furniture from her grandparents, thrifted furniture found by her mom at Goodwill stores, and plants in every room, some first nurtured by her horticulturally minded dad.  

Rodgers always has been creative and hands on -- she received her first sewing machine at 7 -- and first came to Cincinnati to attend University of Cincinnati's School of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning . Her house is filled with her creations, including macrame hangings and paintings. A picture of her 5-year-old dog, Gigi, hangs in the guest room.

Unhappy with the plain white tile of the fireplace surround, Rodgers hand-painted a black-and-white geometric print. Unless you're up close, it's hard to tell it's not custom tilework. The short-term solution  might become permanent.

"I'm all about temporary, but honestly, I'm not sure I'm ever going to replace it," Rodgers said. "I've fallen in love."

The windowless bathroom -- "It's a cave. I hate it." -- is her next project. She already has gathered her materials, including a pedestal sink and interesting tile for the floor, and plans to restore a window covered in a previous remodel or cut in a new one.

Rodgers had moved every year for a decade because of job changes, bad landlords and other renting perils before moving into the bungalow. After so much transience, she's happy to settle into Norwood, where she sees many of her friends looking for affordable homes.

After the bathroom renovations, she has other plans. The kitchen, though recently renovated, doesn't suit Rodgers' vintage aesthetic; at the very least, she thinks she might try painting the cabinets. She dreams about a deck in the backyard to replace the concrete patio. And she really wants a new front door -- and has since the first time she walked through it.

"It's just an odd size," Rodgers said. "These old doorways are larger than modern construction, so I think I'm going to have to either get something custom-made -- or maybe I'll just make it myself.

"Something solid wood, with a big window. I want more light."