Redesigning a home can feel intimidating, especially when trying to maintain its original charm. But with the right design elements, the end result can lead to the home of your dreams. For this Oxford, MS, cottage, Tara Engelberg, of Memphis-based Tara Felice Interiors, used vintage decor, bright colors and natural light to bring new life to the home’s living room, kitchen, dining room and bedrooms. The outcome brought bright and contemporary living spaces while still keeping the home’s original character intact.

Located off the main square in Oxford, the cottage is filled with Southern charm, which both Tara and the home’s owners wanted to keep in the updated design. “[The home] had such good bones and such a warm and inviting feel. I didn’t have a hard time envisioning the direction for it,” says Tara. “It was easy to work within the home’s architectural foundation, and I knew the client was looking to keep the cottage vibe but was also looking to modernize it.”

To bring modern charm to this older home, Tara used classic decor and materials in unexpected ways — a technique especially seen in the kitchen. “I think using materials that have been around for years and years but in a different way, or in a different scale, brings a room back to its glory days while allowing it to feel fresh and current,” the designer shares.

For example, new black-and-white hexagon tile flooring and a subway tile backsplash give the kitchen a vintage feel. Additionally, the original kitchen island was replaced with a larger butcher block-top island that gave the owners more storage as well as a space to eat and hang out together.

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Kitchen in Oxford, MS, cottage

The kitchen is a standout room in this Oxford cottage. “I believe [the kitchen] is the heart of any home,” says Tara Engelberg, of Tara Felice Interiors. “I try to create kitchens that foster a feeling of relaxed togetherness while being highly functional and pretty.”

Butcher block top kitchen island and bakers rack

The new butcher block-top island allows for more space to place a large bakers rack against the wall, which Tara stocked with simple and cohesive white cookware to keep it from looking too busy.

Tara also took advantage of the detailing in the home’s windows and the immense amount of natural light they provided. These were hidden elements in the home’s original design. “[The windows] were covered up with blinds and shutters, completely hiding not only the amazing view but the beautiful details of the windows, too,” Tara explains. “We removed the shutters and hung simple curtain panels to allow the windows AND views to shine!”

Another update included a change to the living room’s layout, as the room was small and the home’s front door opened directly into the space. “I like to have a moment upon entering a home to get my bearings and have that feeling of being welcomed,” says Tara. To create that inviting feeling, she rearranged the room and its furniture to create an entrance area that is inviting to visitors while still maintaining a cozy feel in the living room.

Den with natural light

Tara removed the shutters to take advantage of the surrounding views and natural light, drawing special attention to the unique detailing on the windows.

Living room in Oxford, MS, cottage

Tara admits designing the living room was a challenge, as the front door opened directly into the space. The layout of the furniture was reimagined to create an area that welcomes guests as they enter the home.

Fireplace and coffee table in living room

The living room is light and airy, serving as the perfect spot to cozy up after a long day.

In addition to providing modern updates, Tara also tells us that one of her top priorities was to make the home both functional and comfortable for the homeowners and their three children. “Comfort was (and always is) a priority for me. A room has to be as functional as it is pretty, hence my double entendre motto ‘design for life,’” Tara explains.

To achieve this level of comfort and function, each room’s design started with questions of how the space will be used and what function it will serve. For the bedrooms, Tara wanted to create customized spaces with personality. The children’s rooms feature fun patterns and art, while the master bedroom is a serene retreat with an overall neutral color palette with the occasional pop of color.

Bedroom in Oxford, MS, cottage

“Each child has their own room, and I tried to tap into their personalities and interests to personalize each space,” Tara says of designing the home’s bedrooms.

Young girl's bedroom in Oxford, MS, cottage

The patterned headboard and bright colors in this bedroom add glamour and elegance to the space.

Bedroom in Oxford, MS, cottage

The neutral color palette and warm feel of this teen boy’s room provide the perfect setting for homework or relaxation.

Master bedroom in Oxford, MS, cottage

Art from local Tennessee galleries is seen throughout the home, such as this Lisa Weiss piece from L Ross Gallery, which Tara says “incorporates the serene feel, neutral colors and modern vibe of the home.”

Desk in the corner of home's master bedroom

While this desk in the master bedroom is a great space for the homeowners to work, it is also beautiful enough that it stands alone as a great piece of furniture.

Pops of color and personality continue throughout the home, and although it can feel intimidating to include such bold design elements, Tara says moderation is key. “I believe every room should have something exciting in it — a focal point or something that makes you go ‘wow,’” she says. “But you can’t have too much excitement. Otherwise, nothing stands out, and [the room] just looks confusing.”

This ‘wow’ factor is seen in the home’s dining room. With bright orange grasscloth wallpaper, Tara tamed the room with oversized black-and-ivory wall art. She also used a wood dining table to ground the room, along with chairs covered in a French ticking stripe fabric — which again adds to the vintage feel of the home.

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Orange dining room in Oxford, MS, cottage

“I like to balance out excitement with neutral colors and textural elements to help ground a room,” says Tara of using bold patterns and bright colors in a room’s design.

Dining room with orange grasscloth wallpaper

The dining room’s chairs — covered in a French ticking stripe fabric — help ground the room and add the vintage appeal the homeowners were looking for.

The end result is a stunning Southern cottage with a modern flair that meets the homeowners’ vision while still providing comfort and functionality.

See more work by Tara Engelberg at tarafeliceinteriors.com. All images courtesy of Sélavie Photography.

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