Love vintage finds but have no time to dig? Let Stylish Patina do the hunting and gathering for you.
“Every home should tell a story,” says interior designer Kelly Millspaugh Thompson. “Your home is a reflection of you. It shouldn’t just be put together from a page from a catalog.”
Thompson’s home furnishings store, Stylish Patina, certainly isn’t. The majority of the pieces she sells have been salvaged, rehabbed and reincarnated as one-of-a-kind treasures. Hers is the story of that savvy and insightful brand of decorator—the one who knows how to pluck a hidden gem from a dusty flea market and turn it into a conversation piece.
Tucked into a side street in Falls Church City, the 1,800-square-foot shop has soaring ceilings and is jammed with a quirky blend of things you might find in your grandma’s attic. Display shelves house delicate gold-rimmed cocktail glasses and reproduction apothecary jars. Dining tables show off silver-plated place settings and tiered servers. Ladylike settees are tucked between architectural pillars and plantation-shutter screens.
And the line between old and new is blurry; you’ll need to look closely to figure out which pieces are simply made to look antique, versus those that actually hail from a bygone era. “It’s a little bit of everything: vintage and modern, old and new,” Thompson says.
The shop, which opened in March (it shares a block with ArtSpace Falls Church and Pizzeria Orso), is, in fact, Thompson’s second retail outpost. Her other space is a converted barn in Frederick, Md., which sells similar merchandise, but is open to customers only on the third weekend of every month.
To stock both locations with unique décor and statement pieces, Thompson scours auctions and estate sales from North Carolina to New York. Her constantly changing inventory includes both raw antiques (ready for your DIY touch) and pieces that have already been refurbished and ingeniously reinvented.
The latter don’t stay on the retail floor for very long. Take the elaborately carved armoire panel that Thompson transformed with a fresh coat of chalk paint and repurposed as an elegant console table top. It was snapped up by a client for use on an episode of HGTV’s House Hunters.
Salvage and novelty items—an old hotel railing that’s been upended and used as a ladder-style shelf; Gatsby-era tennis rackets; a hefty mercury-glass pendant—are similarly resurrected as fun and functional décor. The shop is also sprinkled with modern elements such as girly painted bowls, wrought-iron decorative hooks, letterpress coasters, Archipelago candles, pressed-glass votives and an armload of gift-worthy books—making Stylish Patina a destination for hostess and birthday gifts as much as it is for rustic dining tables and chaise longues.
Thompson wasn’t always in the design business. Prior to launching Stylish Patina, she was an executive at Hooked on Phonics, a company that produced workbooks and other materials to help kids learn to read. But when the company was sold in 2010, she had her excuse to pursue a new career path. She now consults with individual design clients, runs the two retail outlets and teaches furniture-painting classes (at both the store and the barn) using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, as well as other eco-friendly milk paints and finishes.
She also has amassed a stash of antique wares—everything from place settings to room décor—that she rents out for weddings, parties and photo shoots. (At press time she had plans to open a third, warehouse-sized space in Falls Church for this part of the business.)
“I’ve always loved finding old pieces, refreshing them and mixing the vintage with modern details,” Thompson explains of her personal aesthetic, which she cultivated growing up in a 1938 Tudor-style home that her parents restored in Falls Church’s Broadmont neighborhood. Weekends with her family were spent at flea markets and estate sales—and roller-skating around her house while her parents had wallpaper-peeling parties.
Today she lives in Sleepy Hollow in a 1940 Dutch Colonial that she is rehabbing with her husband, James, a commercial real estate broker (they met at the dog park and now have four dogs). It’s the second home she has renovated in Falls Church.
Houses, like furnishings, are simply more interesting when they have a layered history, Thompson says. And that’s something you seldom find in a catalog.
- Buy things you love. Choose a statement piece with special meaning and build the room around that piece.
- Avoid clutter. Ditch anything that you don’t need, use or cherish. If you haven’t used it in a year (or you didn’t know you had it), get rid of it.
- Tidy up. Baskets, trunks, hooks and crates add texture to a room and make great hiding spaces for the stuff you use every day.
- Accessorize. Tentative when it comes to color and pattern? Start with neutrals—sisal and jute rugs, beige or gray upholstery—and then dress up the room with interchangeable items such as patterned chairs or accent pillows.
- Be realistic. Where do you spend most of your time? How often do you sit down at the dinner table? Design a home that accommodates the way you live.
- Be yourself. Look for furnishings that speak to who you are and what makes you happy. Catalog spreads may be gorgeous, but they are impersonal.
410 South Maple Ave.
Falls Church, VA 22046
Adrienne Wichard-Edds also wrote this issue’s feature story on screened porches.