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Meredith Cushing's Craigslist-centric Cotswold home 

If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. Two years into owning her first house, Meredith Cushing would have to agree: "My house has been a labor of love. Little to none of what decorates the house has been left untouched. I like to make things mine."

Cushing and her husband went to law school on Long Island, N.Y., and moved to Charlotte about five years ago, residing in the SouthPark area before making the move to Cotswold. "We looked at a lot of homes," says Cushing. "We both work close to Uptown, and after living in New York, where everybody commutes like two hours each way, we wanted to stay close by. This area is close to everything, and since it's just the two of us and a little dog, we didn't need that much space."

Cushing, dressed in a camel turtleneck, a navy blue skirt, and a pair of killer knee-high boots to match, welcomes me inside her 1,700 square foot, bungalow-style house. Her personal style demonstrates a preference for a classic, contemporary aesthetic.

"You'll see that the rooms, like my clothes, tend to be pretty neutral," she says. "It's modern, light and airy, whites and creams with some color here and there." To the left of the entrance, one wall has been stenciled with a floral motif. "I never thought I was a fan of florals, but they do make an appearance in rooms throughout the house." She credits her mother as an influence. "My mom has really good taste. All her stuff always looks clean and uncluttered and fresh. We both have very similar tastes: neutral, not too fussy, and we let dogs on the furniture."

The downstairs office has been nicknamed "the bold room" for its bevy of bright oranges, reds and blues. The turquoise dresser, a Craigslist find, demands attention.

"This is one of my favorite pieces," Cushing says. "Like I said, usually everything I have is neutral, so I wanted to have a really bright piece. It was sad and gross and horrible and chipped and had many coats of polyurethane on it, so I just sanded it down and repainted it. Initially I wanted to paint it hot pink, but my husband wasn't so enthusiastic about that. He was even reluctant about the turquoise, but now this is his favorite thing in the house."

Cushing doesn't hesitate to sing the praises of Craigslist. "With a new house, a recent wedding, and student loans, I can honestly tell you that without Craigslist, we'd probably have an empty house. It's all been either re-painted or re-stained, but they're solid wood pieces that are going to last." An admittedly antsy person, she's taken advantage of her home-improvement projects to keep her busy on weekends. "I'd never done anything like this before, and I think HGTV and home-decorating blogs were a big help. It's easy to get ideas and find the instructions you need to do it on your own."

Cushing has also developed an artistic flair of her own: the colorful, floral-themed headboard in the guest bedrooms are her creations. "I drew them, I did the foam and the batting, and I wish I could tell you I upholstered them myself, but it didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Thankfully, I found a great upholsterer that does amazing work, inexpensively."

After dozens of weekends devoted to sanding, painting, and staining, one might suppose Cushing's work is done. Not so, she says. "The dining room's not done, and I still have to figure out what to do with the half-bath downstairs. Also, I've started painting a little myself. I'm hoping that if it turns out not to be horrible, then I can decorate the walls with something of my own." Without a doubt, Cushing is already well on her way to turning her house into a home.

If you're interested in being featured in our weekly Creative Living column, please e-mail kimberly.lawson@creativeloafing.com.

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