Trash into Treasure

885 0

Step into a home that doesn’t follow any refined design rules

Story by Gloria Gale    |    Photography by Matt Kocourek

If Henri Matisse and Frieda Kahlo met for cocktails at Dee Dee Walters’ home, these two masters of the art world would likely be right at home. Since color and curiosity are the foundation of their work, Walters spares neither.  

In her own home, filled with an innate sense of style and unabashed verve, Walters kicks it up a notch. 

The suburban house Walters built 30 years ago showcases not only her flair for architecture but her confident sense of using what she finds. 

“Everything here has been scrounged or repurposed from flea markets and tag sales — you name it. Junking is my jam — I like scrounging to see what I can turn into something unexpected.” 

It comes as no surprise that Walters once owned Flash from the Past, a vintage clothing/antique store in Westport.   

Although her shop closed, her ‘boho’ style plays out in her house, a modern-looking 2-story where Walters unabashedly says, “Nothing matches. That would present problems for me.”  

On view… styles from the past

In the living room where she and her boyfriend, Kirt inhabit most of the time, the home is filled with novelty. “When we entertain, it’s important that people feel comfortable — not parked in the kitchen.” 

To that end, she’s guided by two pioneering 20th Century architectural styles: Art Deco and Industrial Modern.  

Glass block, heightens the Art Deco element on studio and dining room windows. While Industrial-modern pipe railing is used instead of traditional spindles on the first to second floor stairway.  

Besides these contrasting architectural elements, Walters blends so many other disparate decorative objects it bears studying the look.

“It’s like a contemporary craft museum,” she often hears. “That’s what I want people to notice.”

No idle hands in this house

Two differently styled sofas, one gray upholstery fabric, one mustard-colored linen dominate the living room space leaving plenty of artwork and curiosities to fill in around the perimeter. 

“I’m into decorating with Buddhas at the moment.” But handcrafted Mexican pottery mingling with small objects like totem candlesticks or other attractions steal your attention. 

“For example, a modernistic floral painting on display over the fireplace was inherited from my mother. She loved it; I love it. It looks contemporary but it’s not — it’s from decades ago.” 

A step away from the living room in the adjacent dining room, an original 1940’s Lalique chandelier hangs squarely above the table. 

Walters says it always elicits a ‘Wow!’ “This was also my Mother’s, just like the intricate French Galle glass light fixture hanging in my studio. Each of these glass Art Deco pieces are showstoppers in their own right.” As is the glass-topped dining room table surrounded by vintage Thonet chairs she upholstered in African mud cloth.  

Throughout the years Walters kept the oak plank flooring on most of the first floor but used black and white linoleum squares on the kitchen and her studio floor. “It’s a classic look that will never go out of style.” 

This kitchen is a good example of not upgrading appliances if it isn’t necessary. Walters’ original Sears, stainless steel double oven doesn’t need replacing. “It’s 30 years old; even has a griddle and it still works just fine.”   

To decorate the basically white room, her collections of colorful Hall pitchers, stacks of painted china and wooden folk art add personalization. 

Considering Walters is an expert scrounger, turning broken china, porcelain cast-offs or various trinkets into mosaic plaques, it’s worth a peek into her first floor studio. 

Boxes, overflowing with china novelties, is her garden!  She’s a pro at nipping, sanding, grinding and adhering shards onto particle boards. The sound of a busy artist doesn’t bother Kirt.

 “He’s an artist too so he knows that I have to be busy with my hands. He paints but also is an expert remodeler. He completely rebuilt the master bathroom which is a great example of his skill.”

A walk-around on the second floor gallery yields two more bedrooms, one of which now houses Walters’ sewing room — another creative spot for her to work on her crafts. “I like it because it’s different, kind of like a French studio tucked away where I can work on soft goods instead of my mosaics.” Walters wanted to do something dramatic in the guest bedroom so she painted it a wild, deep orange color — “To us it’s exotic and not ordinary.” 

Stroll anywhere in this house, especially outside, when the weather permits, and there’s more ways Walters expresses herself.

Just because you may catch the two relaxing outdoors on a sunny day doesn’t mean the wheels aren’t turning. You can bet an idea is perking. That’s why a decorative touch showcasing a mobile  livens up the deck.

Smiles are welcome in this atypical suburban home. Walters parting comment is her mantra: “I’m never idle for long. If there’s room I will fill it.”

About The Author