That Sentimental Feeling

Weaving nostalgic items into your home décor

By Shelby Deering | Photographed by Kaia Calhoun

There are some homes you walk into and you can immediately sense the emotion and heart behind every design choice. Heirloom objects hang in places of honor, and practical, everyday items somehow find their way into the décor, too. Every piece has a story to tell, a nostalgic tie to the family who lives there.

Coelle Smith has curated one of those homes, a place teeming with pieces that are both beautiful and meaningful. A self-described budding interior stylist and the owner of Coelle Hope Photography (Hope is a nod to her middle name and her grandmother’s name), Smith moved into her 1958 ranch-style home in 2017, sharing it with her husband, Chris, and three boys, Julian, 5, Rivers, 3, and March, 2.

Nestled in the Nakoma neighborhood, Smith especially loves her 2,400-square-foot home’s “open layout, cozy bedrooms, cute fenced-in backyard” and “how bright it is with all the windows.”

That light illuminates Smith’s treasures—the portrait of a golden retriever that once rested on her grandparents’ mantle, which now acts as a playful heirloom in a room shared by two of her sons. A full-length mirror from her father’s childhood bedroom is now in her bedroom. Her children’s artwork is proudly framed and attached to clipboards, ready to be switched out when artistic whims change.

Smith even looked to the past when hiring contractors to renovate her home. The kitchen cabinets were painted white by Higbie’s Perfection Painting, friends of hers since attending high school in New Glarus. Sherven Custom Works, another high school friend, installed the tile flooring, subway tile and renovated a bathroom. Smith’s old pals at Hutch and Hide crafted a reclaimed wood vanity and custom shelves.

Through the renovation process, Smith held steadfast to her roots and to the bones of the home. She says, “We wanted to stay true to the era and style of the home. However, we felt we could give the home an updated, modern feel. For example, ranch-style homes were originally designed to open up to outdoor living space typically in the backyard. We kept this idea of softening the transition from inside to outside in mind, always adding windows and light when possible.”

Several vintage finds are prominently displayed. Sifting through local stores like St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill and Odana Antiques, Smith has lovingly showcased pieces like a mid-century chair, reupholstered and now used for story time, old-school Oriental rugs and other furniture. She cleverly blends in new items as well. Smith says, “I shop at a wide variety of places—national retailers, small and local shops and makers, as well as vintage. I’m always searching and love the original look that multiple sources bring to a space.”

As she shares on her Instagram page, “I love mixing what people already own into their newly-styled spaces. The sentimental pieces, the gifts and the things they have collected over the years—the unique touches that tell their story.” In her own home, Smith has made this an artform.

Coelle Smith’s tips for creating functional, beautiful kids’ spaces

  • We keep activities incorporated in our living areas in a way that is appealing to all family members. We keep toys and puzzles in baskets that fit into the sideboard that sits under our TV. Our son’s guitar hangs on the living room wall to encourage him to practice. Children’s books are found on the shelves in the main living area so we can read together easily.
  • If you have small children or pets that might be a little too interested in plants, try faux or hanging plants. Greenery does wonders for a room.
  • Removable pillow cases on throw pillows. This way, they can be washed or drycleaned when dirty, and they’re easy to switch out for a new look.
  • Stop making the beds! Use just a fitted sheet and a couple of blankets folded on the end of the bed.
  • Set crayons out in a basket to encourage creativity.