Click here to sign up for our newsletter!
Decorating
 Hunting for Treasure
Cherished keepsakes and new collections combine in this story-filled home.
If your dream cottage would be a blend of charming pieces from hunting treasures from the past and fresh accents from the present, then you’ll find Kristin Bauer’s home in East Brunswick, New Jersey, enchanting and inspiring. Kristin, an art teacher and realtor as well as an interior stylist, and her husband knew they had... Keep Scrolling
Written by Meryl Schoenbaum 
Additional reporting by Tiffany Jansen
Photography by Ryan Liu
Styling by Kristin Bauer


Kristin starts with a neutral foundation, color expresses her vibrant style
Feeling Blue. While Kristin starts with a neutral foundation, color expresses her vibrant style. “We have the gray walls, a gray ottoman and a dark leather couch. I wanted a pop of blue, so we bought those chairs at Pier 1, and I found matching pillows for the couch … because it would look odd if you didn’t have a touch of blue on the opposite side.”

If your dream cottage would be a blend of charming pieces from hunting treasures from the past and fresh accents from the present, then you’ll find Kristin Bauer’s home in East Brunswick, New Jersey, enchanting and inspiring.

House on the Hill. “On the right side we have a double porch, and we also have a balcony on the second floor,” Kristin says. “The house is actually three stories, but you can’t tell because the third story is the finished attic, and the windows are on the sides of the house.”

Kristin, an art teacher and realtor as well as an interior stylist, and her husband knew they had found their dream home on their first visit. “When we bought the house two summers ago, it was listed as an 1800s home,” Kristin says. “We fell in love with its character immediately when we saw it. We put the offer in from the driveway and said, ‘We’ll pay full price! Take it off the market!’” In researching the historic home’s timeline, Kristin learned that it was once owned by the Herbert family. “They basically settled the area that’s now called East Brunswick,” she says.

Laying the Groundwork

Luckily, even though the home was more than a century old, it did not need any major structural renovations, and the new homeowners didn’t want to disturb the architectural integrity. “It only needed minimal work,” Kristin says. “We had to redo the downstairs bathroom, lay in all new carpeting, paint everything and redo the kitchen a little bit. It was more or less all cosmetic, nothing structural, because I didn’t want to mess with the structure; it is so old and I wanted to keep with the original footprint of the house.”

Organizing Outerwear. The backdoor entry is a stylish landing zone where everything can be styled and updated for the season. “All those pieces on the wall are interchangeable. The throw on top is striped now, but throughout the seasons I change that. You don’t have to worry about cushions; you can just swap out blankets on top. For winter, I’ll do a plaid or a checked throw.”

Designing the Rooms

After the minor renovations were done, the stage was set for decorating, starting with the color scheme. “I always start with a neutral palette,” Kristin says.

The new living space was also an opportunity for Kristin to try new décor. “My style has changed so dramatically,” she says. “My first house was all black and white. It was very glamorous. Something just switched in me. I started introducing a mix of new with old—I can’t even name what my style is. It started as farmhouse, but there are some pieces that are very French country and some that are more modern. I like mixing new with old but having it look cohesive. So I can go into a Pier 1 or Pottery Barn, but I can also go to a mom-and-pop shop down the street and find something that would work perfectly with it.”

The wooden banister
Treasured Timeline. “The wooden banister is original to the home, but if you look closely, all the little spindles are different. So I call it the timeline of the house, when children shoved their heads between them. As people used the house and the house happened, things got replaced. So I will never paint over that. I don’t ever want to change it because to me it’s literally the timeline of the house.”

When it comes to sourcing room elements, Kristin enjoys the journey. “I like the discovery; that’s the most fun to me,” she says. “So I’d much rather go to a place and find something accidentally than run a search online. I like the hunt because I think it becomes more fun, like a treasure hunt.”

Dining table with a washed-out wood tone
Color Contrast. “I wanted a dining table that was more of a washed-out wood tone because it’s better to have contrast against the dark hardwood floors,” Kristin says. “So this is actually a reclaimed-wood table. I would never buy new wood because I don’t like the look of it. We got the sign above the table with our last name from a company called Walls of Wisdom. We liked that it looked kind of weathered. It went well with the farmhouse vibe.”

You may also enjoy Tips for Blending Different Styles.

view of window seat with pillows


Curated Collections

Keep your keepsakes on display and under control.

Kristin has amassed many cherished pieces over the years, and she loves to showcase them throughout her home. Her collections include her grandmother’s teacups, old seltzer bottles, milk jugs and wooden trays. But she cautions that collections can spiral out of control if they are not carefully curated and stored. Here are her tips.

  • Don’t clutter. The minute a space starts looking crowded, it will look like it was done too purposefully. Less is more.
  • Buy new “old” pieces. Try to find some pieces that may be new but have an element that’s antique-like. For example, my lanterns have a brown tone to them. So if I buy a new brass lantern, I can go to the antiques store and get a 100-year-old piece of brass, and they would look like they go together.
  • Display vintage photographs. We have elements from my grandparents all throughout the house. There’s a black-and-white photo of my grandmother. She was a model—probably in the 1940s.
  • Blend old and new. All my seltzer bottles are on a shelf and the little gold tray is from World Market. So that was a new find I mixed in with the old.

Turning the Tables

Kristin finds that having serving trays handy suits her lifestyle better than side tables would. “We always use little wooden trays throughout the house,” she says. “I’m an avid tea drinker and the teacup [in the master bedroom] was my grandmother’s. We had all these little teacups from my grandmother and [her tea kettle] kind of fit that time period more so than if I went out and bought a new one. I don’t actually use it—it’s more decorative—but it looks so cute when you have your actual teacups with it.”

“I love faux greenery because it’s so easy to swap out when you want a different look.”

sunny view of dining nook with round table, two chairs and bench seating

Related Reading: The Designers’ Guide to Decorating with Antiques

With her talent for creative styling, Kristin found alternate ways of achieving the comforts of home. “In our living room area, instead of coffee tables I’d rather have something that’s more comfortable [like an ottoman], because then you can use it as extra seating when you have a party and just simply remove the tray … So the trays are kind of quick tables when you need one or can be removed when you need the area for sitting. For the one in the living room, I try to leave a little bit of space for people to put their drinks, but I always add some flowers.”

Hats Off to Storage

Kristin has a clever way of managing storage in the master bedroom that’s also decorative. “I use small hatboxes to store clothes. It’s just extra storage, but no one would know,” she says. “I’m actually keeping shorts and bathing suits in them.” In the makeup area, a little table adds a touch of glamour to the otherwise farmhouse-style bedroom. On top of it are small candelabras. “They’re nicer than having two lamps, and we have the recessed lighting above so we don’t really need to have bedside table lamps. I like the French country look, so anywhere that I can sneak in extra candelabras or chandeliers, I’m all for it,” she says.

Tablescape with a combination of old things and new things
MIXED PLATE. “This is my favorite tablescape I’ve ever done. And it’s all completely a combination of old things and new things, which is what I love,” Kristin says.

sunny corner with an "antiques" sign

For more kitchen ideas, peek here

white kitchen counter iwth vignette of wooden and copper tools and accessories

Vintage Kitchen Collections

“Because the kitchen is so white and gray and very bright, I think adding copper and wood gives a sense of warmth to the room.” Old milk jugs and seltzer bottles look right at home in the historic house. “My favorite thing in the kitchen is my collection of seltzer bottles,” Kristin says. “The cake in the cake holder is actually fake; I put flowers on it to make it look like a decorated cake.”

This was a giant iron structure that we found. It’s an old greenhouse, and we use it to create kind of an enchanted dining area,
Al Fresco Ambience. “This was a giant iron structure that we found. It’s an old greenhouse, and we use it to create kind of an enchanted dining area,” Kristin says.

“This is my favorite tablescape I’ve ever done. And it’s all completely a combination of old and new things, which is what I love.”

This was a giant iron structure that we found. It’s an old greenhouse, and we use it to create kind of an enchanted dining area,

Hidden Gem

Kristin’s art studio, where she is creating drawings for her towel line, is a room that’s hidden in the stairs. After her grandmother passed away, the family had to sell her home. “I was trying to take pieces of the house since my grandfather built it by hand,” Kristin says. “What you see sitting on top of the bathtub, acting as a table, is actually one of the windows from their house and a tool that my grandfather used to build it. I like having it and the tool there because it’s my creative space, and what better thing to have [for inspiration] than a piece of my grandfather’s home that he built.”

“ You wouldn’t normally see a lantern in a bathroom, but mixing things that don’t necessarily fit the space actually ends up working really well.”

 Kristin’s artwork and a  bathtub
Creative Space. Some of Kristin’s artwork and a  bathtub, topped with a window from her grandparents’ house and her grandfather’s tool, are displayed in her studio. The room is adorned with touches of faux greenery.
Faux florals in the bedroom, where you certainly don’t want a bug crawling on you.
Sweet Retreat. Kristin loves to add floral displays throughout the house. “I use faux florals in the bedroom, where you certainly don’t want a bug crawling on you. I attached the greenery to the bed with zip ties.  Faux greenery is so easy to swap out when you want a different look. But in the rest of the house, 90 percent of the arrangements are fresh flowers.”
Precious Jewels
Precious Jewels. “My grandmother is in all of these pictures, so those are some of her necklaces that I inherited. I wear them, but I like to have them out, or I’ll hang them on something just because they’re so pretty,” Kristin says. “She collected crystals and was into diamonds and everything sparkly.”
Outdoor lanterns work really well in the bathroom
Bright Idea. “Outdoor lanterns work really well in the bathroom,” Kristin says. “We have one in our kitchen as well. Mixing things that don’t necessarily fit the space can actually end up working really well.”

To see more of Kristin’s home visit her on Instagram: @thebauerfarmhouse 

Of course, don’t forget to follow us on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest to get your daily dose of cottage inspiration!

you might also enjoy...
CB Giveaway