Jo Torrijos used a technique straight out of the “House Hunters” handbook when buying her Tudor revival home in Kessler Square.
Torrijos, a designer and furniture painter, had some cash from the sale of her house and Airbnb rental in Atlanta, purchased in 2008.
She was the first potential buyer to see the house on Edgefield Avenue when it hit the market in 2018, and she made an offer, one of about six that first day. She also wrote a letter to the homeowners explaining that she had renovated a similarly aged cottage in Atlanta and why she loved their house.
Maybe that’s what did it.
The house was built sometime before 1950 in Highland Park. The Bynum family bought it in 1963 and lived there until 1982, when they decided to build a bigger house, according to the real estate news site Candy’s Dirt. Buyers cut it in half and hauled it on two flatbed trucks to Oak Cliff, where they modified the front, adding bricks to the facade and ditching a porte cochère. A big kitchen/family room and a pool and two-car garage were added.
Torrijos loved the house’s details, a barrel-shaped hallway leading to the addition, eclectic antique doors added to the office, bathrooms and closets. Plus, the addition is perfect for Torrijos, her mother
and brothers, who love to cook and entertain. She relocated to be closer to them, and now her house is the family’s center.
The Edgefield house required very little before move-in, Torrijos says. She replaced well-used stainless steel countertops with greenish-black soapstone. And she had severe wall texturing sanded down.
After that, she moved in everything from the Atlanta cottage to see what to keep and what she needed to buy. That turned out to be a rough-hewn wooden table for the dining room, which she found at Lots of Furniture Antiques Warehouse room, purchased at West Elm.
Placing furniture, artwork and her collections was the easy part. It’s what she does for a living as an interior stylist.
Her treasures include vintage classroom maps depicting India, Australia and Italy, among others, and her aunt’s original paintings, which are mixed in with posters and photos. She groups small vintage medicine bottles with vases and jars of the same color. And her painted furniture makes it all pop.
Currently Torrijos is insulating the garage and converting it to a furniture-painting studio. She has the dream of someday offering classes to neighbors who want to learn furniture painting and other craftworks.
Here are Jo Torrijos’ home-styling tips:
- If you’re at all unsure about colors, start with white walls and work from there. You can always add wall color later.
- Put one thing on the wall and pull colors and textures from that. For example, she drew hues of blue and textures of wood and burlap from the map of Australia in her dining room.
- If you don’t have a lot of art or collections, start with books. Arrange your books in color order to come up with a scheme or find inspiration in a book jacket you love.
- Hit up thrift stores, Lula B’s, Dolly Python and Riverfront Boulevard for objects that inspire you.
- Not all furniture should be painted. Torrijos is a professional furniture painter, but she also has a mid-century modern desk from which she sanded layer after layer of white paint until, over time, she restored it to the blonde wood.
- n How do you know when to paint wood? Torrijos’ favorites are the cheapest, such as a $5 coffee table from First Monday Trade Days in Canton or a wood veneer bookshelf she pulled from bulk trash. She also repurposed a buffet, which she painted black and uses as a cocktail station in the dining room. When painting wood, use chalk-based paint and finish it with a coat of wax.