I’m amazed any of our neighbors are still speaking to us. We’ve tried their patience sorely with our painfully slow renovation of the little cottage next door. But now, the eyesore of the neighborhood is close to becoming the sweet little cottage I envisioned.

Christened Mary Lou’s Cottage in honor of my mom, who lived there at the end of her life, this snug little spot has already become party central for our loud and raucous clan. Mom loved a good party, so her cottage seemed the perfect place for holiday and birthday celebrations.

My latest “win” is getting all three bedrooms ready for guests. I completed two of the rooms last winter, and I love them. But the third bedroom? Nope. I was using it as a junk room to hold all of Mom’s belongings that I didn’t know what to do with. Close the door, and no one is the wiser, right?

If it weren’t for a group of girlfriends who decided to come for a visit, it might still be filled with junk. I think most of us are like that. We turn a blind eye to things we don’t like in our homes until we have a deadline, like out-of-town guests or a party at our home. Then, it’s game on.

I got so psyched up about getting the bedroom in shape that I couldn’t stop there. I also had to rework the first two a bit. The beds, dressed in rich plaids, looked too darn hot for summer. So I replaced the heavy duvets with bedding made of simple, snowy white sheeting. Cool, light and bright, it’s exactly the look I wanted for summer.

The new bedroom is filled with family pieces. The nightstand was my mom’s, and the lamps belonged to Mimi, Dan’s mom. I have never been able to decide whether I love the lamps or hate them. I’ve kept them shut away in storage room prison for decades. I decided if I’m ever going to use them, now is the time.

Instead of using an antique bed, I picked a reproduction that looks a little like a classic Jenny Lind bed.

A striped chair in the corner and a fabulous new piece of art are also new in this room, proof that the best ideas come when you are drinking wine with your friends. When a neighbor dropped by for a glass of wine, of course the next step is to redecorate your house. We hauled the chair upstairs just to see how it looked, and it was perfect.

It feels great to have all the bedrooms done and ready for company. Next up for Mary Lou’s cottage? Creating an office space for Dan that is so attractive, he will want to move his messy desk next door.


This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at


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