Against the Grain

Winslow TaftGraphic Designer Winslow Taft takes a hint from a fallen tree and goes eco-rustic retro with his 1920’s Crestwood cottage.

Written and Photographed by Graham Yelton


This story might never have come to pass if it weren’t for a large tree and an April thunderstorm. Not an uncommon tale these days, but for Winslow, it turned out to be his lucky day. “I was planning to renovate the whole house. And the fallen tree just sort of helped it along. It kept me from having to do it all on my own.” The house was definitely a fixer-upper. Winslow, not one to shy away from a serious project, began renovating the house himself, one room at a time. He was halfway through with the second bedroom when the tree fell.

Insurance money trickled in and Winslow began work with architects, Marshall Anderson and Kris Nikolich at at Design Initiative. “Basically, we wanted to keep the footprint of the house as it was, and figure out some modern touches to add into it. We also needed to figure out how to fix some issues with the house.” There were some issues. The water heater sat in the corner of the dining room. The kitchen, which was also the laundry room, had no counter space and overall the house had little natural light. The goal was to open up the tight spaces, give it clean lines and install larger, more modern windows; a necessary splurge to give the space a new vibe. Unconventional and cost friendly finishes, such as plywood, were used in the hallway and as kitchen countertops.

“We were looking for parts of the house that I could finish myself. I abhor drywall work, so finding a different wall surface in the hallway was preferable. Plywood proved to be an easy solution and a major design element. I also have a bit of a love affair with plywood that stems from my affection for modern bent ply furniture. And the use of simple materials in unusual ways. Marshall Anderson, of Design Initiative, came up with a brilliant installation plan that gave it uniformity and a custom fit and I love little details like that.”

Winslow’s talent for up-cycling and patient bargain hunting, might be the most impressive part of this renovation. Every appliance, light fixture and piece of furniture has a story. There is at least one piece in each room, that he made himself or took existing parts and recycled, like the dining room table or shadow boxes in the hallway. The shadow boxes were initially built-in drawers in the original house. “They were obviously made by the previous owner using recycled materials and I couldn’t just throw them out.”

For this reason, the house may never be “complete” in Winslow’s eyes. There is always a project in the works. Regardless, the home is so full of curiosities and cozy places to sit that it’s become a regular spot for friends and dogs. The dining room is a perfect place for a competitive game of cards and old fashion cocktails. The large sliding doors open up the space to a chaotic burst of color in the backyard. Winslow has the same resourceful approach to his garden as he does in his home and it has paid off. On a tight budget, Winslow managed to revive the cottage without wiping out it’s past, instead celebrating it.


Living Room

The aluminum coffee table is from a government surplus auction at Oak Ridge, where the original atom bombs were made. The wood table next to the sofa is a Winslow original, made from a slice of a downed tree in the neighborhood and a mix of oak dowels and repurposed chair leg parts. The orange chairs in the living room came from Urban Suburban and were recovered. The oversized wooden floor lamp is custom made from Plenty Design Coop. Most everything else is from Atmosphere Home Essentials.

Main Hallway

The little shelves between the boxes were made from scrap wood from his dad’s wood shop. The exposed beams are original to the house, sans the drywall. The tulip chair and stool are from Atmosphere.


The desk in the office was purchased at the Oak Ridge Auction and  Winslow replaced the laminate top and drawer fronts with wood. It is paired with a custom chair from Plenty Design Coop. The cabinets are Ikea, same as the base cabinets in the kitchen. The large poster art on the cabinets is by Ana Benaroya, who is an illustrator that is a regular contributor to mental_floss.


Bedroom & vestibule

Black leather chair is family antique. As is the low dresser and cabinet in the little vestibule between the bedrooms. “My grandparents had great midcentury pieces. Especially my grandmother, she had great style.” Cow photo is by Cary Norton. Artwork is Melinda Clair. Lighting is Atmosphere Home Essentials.


Dining Room

Winslow got a bargain on a broken Calligaris table, but was able to make a new base for it. The wooden chairs were found at the thrift store, and the colorful plastic ones were a gift from a friend. Artwork is Paul Cordes Wilm.


4 Responses to “Against the Grain”

  1. Unkle Fields says:

    Did the liquor come from old still left by previous owners in backyard of possibly front.

  2. Shirley Taft says:

    Dear Nephew Winslow,

    Lookin’ really, really good. Would love to see it in “house”. Don’t know when we will ever be down there.

    Wishing you the best.

    Aunt Shirley

  3. Will says:

    There is nothing better than a creative person breathing life into an old house. That’s a home.

  4. Marcia edmundson says:

    great to see you and your house. laura sent this to us. We’re so happy to count you as “one of ours”.
    Very creative. Love to you and ALL your family. Marcia & John, Creekwood Drive

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