a study in CONTRASTS »

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My House – From the Outside in

I love old houses. Love, love, love, love, love them. So when it came time to move to Indiana, it was a no-brainer that we’d look for an old house with lots of character. After all, the house we were moving out of had been built in 1849 & we loved every soft-edged corner of that place. After showing us quite a few houses, our realtor sent us a link to a house in the middle of nowhere. Our first instinct was “No way” but the more we looked at the pictures, the more we thought that just maybe we should check it out. You know, just for fun. When the day came for us to tour the house, we fell in love. It was 100% perfect. Well, except for the fact that it was 25 minutes to town. Considering I was raised right in the middle of said town, that was a pretty big deal to me. Ask anyone who knows me & they’ll tell you that I’m in no way, shape, or form a country girl. Still, I couldn’t get the house out of my head. We were trying to find something 10-15 minutes outside of town anyway, so really, what was another 10 minutes? As you can guess, we couldn’t resist & bought our big, Victorian farmhouse in the middle of an Indiana cornfield, complete with an awesome, red barn. It’s a mile down a gravel road that gets maybe 5 cars down it a day, and that’s including mail delivery. It’s a lovely place though & such a great piece of land on which to raise two wild boys.

Some cool history about our house…

It was built by United States Senator Silas Peterson in 1880 & we’re only the fourth family to own this house. The previous couple who owned the home before us, saved it from being torn down & rehabilitated the entire house from top to bottom. Their redecoration included returning the home to it’s original Victorian Italianate design aesthetic. This included lots of floral wallpaper & intricate, hand-sewn, floral carpet as well. It was filled with gorgeous antiques & novelties. They actually used to give tours of the home & we even have pictures of tour buses pulled up to the house, along with a register signed by the over 3,000 guests who toured our home during the time the previous owners lived here! How crazy is that? They were kind enough to leave us a lot of historical pictures & documents to the house, along with photo albums & descriptions of their renovations. I’ll be including their pictures as I give you the room tours. It’s pretty fascinating to see how much work they put into the place.

Of course, this had to be a home that felt right to us & our (at the time) 1 year old son, Jack. So, down came the wallpaper & out came the fancy carpet. In it’s place are crisply painted walls filled with lots of artwork & photographs & a mixture of hardwood & lushly carpeted floors that are perfect for the numerous wrestling matches that take place in the living room. I figured the best place to start with my home is from the outside, yes? We just had it repainted last year & I absolutely love it. It’s not a huge change, but just enough to make me happy. The landscaping is this year’s project (& probably next year’s as well), so it’s still a mess.

The home with it’s original owners. I still can’t believe that’s my house they’re standing in front of. Crazy.

Here’s what the house looked like when the owners previous to us bought/saved it…

…and here’s how it looked when they were finished…

…and here’s what it looks like after our renovations over the summer. I took this last month, so it’s not as pretty as it should be.

The accent colors on the house before we repainted it were burgundy & hunter green. Unfortunately two of my least favorite colors in the whole world. I think they remind me too much of high school & college. We were originally going to just paint all of the trim white for a clean look, but the painters urged us to consider doing something in an additional color to bring out the detail of the trim. Of course they were right. We still kept it simple though & just went with a slightly darker grey than the house. I’m constantly updating the color schemes in our house, so we thought it best to not mess with it too much outside, lest I change my mind in a year. My husband loves me, but I don’t think he’s going to climb on a 30 foot ladder just because I want a new trim color. Alright, he probably would, but still. I decided to have a little fun with color on the front and back doors. I’ve wanted a boldly colored door for forever & now I finally have it. I was torn between orange & yellow (see?) but ultimately, I have a deep love for yellow, so it wasn’t too much of a decision. Of course if I lived alone it’d be hot pink, but I digress. We also had to have our metal roof recoated & we ended up going with white because it was a greener option. With the white roof, you can see our house for miles now. People must think we’re crazy, but that’s ok.

Here are a couple before & after details…

Here’s a small portion of the decorative trim around the top & windows…


So that’s the outside & all of the history that goes along with the house. Next week we’ll head inside & you can see with your own eyes all of the florals that co-existed in one house.


Family portrait by Gail Werner


Carol Fitch - BEAUTIFUL! How cool is it that they gave you the photos and documents! I can”t wait to see the inside!

Stephanie O'Connor - Can’t wait to go inside!

Hollie - I can still see the light fixture in pink neon!

Gail - You know me…I always LOVE learning more about your house! Eeek! Bring on the interiors!

amanda - So, i found your blog through Gail’s blog…and now I might just be stalking you! I LOVE your house (and style). We renovated a 1920’s house and now live in the city. I’m with you though, love old houses and love the history! Can’t wait to see more!!

Johne596 - Awesome article post.Thanks Again. Much obliged. keabceecaebe

About Me

I bet you’re wondering who’s behind all of this? Totally logical question. I’m April Cochran-Smith & I’ll be your guide here. I live in a Victorian farmhouse built by a US Senator in 1880, my favorite band is The White Stripes & I’m a sucker for a cute dress. Want more? Ok, I’m married to a total smarty pants & we have two of the cutest boys ever. I know everyone says that about their kids, but I mean, c’mon, look at these two!

I also have two dogs & one indestructible fish. I’m originally (& still) a photographer & do mainly wedding photography at Pure Photography. If I wasn’t a photographer, I’d be an interior designer, graphic designer or shop owner. I still haven’t given up on any of those things, really. My hair has been every color found in nature along with a few that aren’t.

I was raised by my grandma & grew up with an appreciation for dressing up, especially for special occasions. If you ever see me at a wedding/baby shower/dinner party/etc, the odds are I’m going to be overdressed & I’m ok with that. Being raised by your grandma will do that to you. Do you want to take a little fashion guided trip into my past? I promise I’ll make it quick….


1. Here I am in my most favorite dress of all time. I called it my party dress, even though I’m pretty sure I never actually wore it to a party. It had a full skirt with layers of ruffled slips underneath. Now do you see why I loved it so? I wore that thing all. the. time. It was eventually sold in a garage sale, much to my chagrin. It’s probably a good thing though, or I’d probably still be trying to fit into it.

2. Ah, the knickers. My grandma made these red knickers (that’s what she called them) for me & I have to be honest, I really wasn’t a fan at first. I mean, it retrospect, they, along with the jacket & black newsboy cap I used to wear with them, are pretty sweet, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be wearing at the time. My grandma made me so many clothes growing up. I tried to keep this picture simple, or I would’ve posted the lavender suit that she made for me, along with coordinating shirt & vest. I wore it when I was 4 & we flew to California & then I also wore it to my 5th birthday party. Maybe you’re starting to understand why I love clothes so much & am generally overdressed?

3. Oh man, the teenage years. This is me when I walked into my surprise 16th birthday party. I thought this shirt & these Guess jeans were awesome. Not to mention my little Sam & Libby flats there. Seriously though, could those jeans be any higher? Even though I really loved fashion then, I was so scared to step outside of the norm. Don’t get me wrong, I did it on a fairly regular basis, but still not as often as I would’ve liked. I remember putting together these awesome, wild outfits the night before & then waking up the next day & grabbing something safe & boring to wear. Stupid peer pressure.

4. My twenties. The era of a million different hairstyles. This is my interpretation of Meg Ryan’s hair before it turned into the haircut every soccer mom sports. Have you ever seen her in Addicted to Love? Man, I loved her hair & her style in that. That movie was a few years before this picture, but I know it was still influencing me here. Note the leather pants? Good times.

So, you know, the past is the past & all of that, but it’s definitely influenced who I am today. I haven’t taken a good picture of myself lately that fully represents my style, but this one from last month is pretty close. I did the photo-a-day challenge last month & used this for one of the images. I love this polka dot shirt & the Nars Heat Wave lipstick.

Here’s where I was fashion-wise over the fall. That rabbit print dress on the left is one of my all time favorites. Throw it on with a pair of black tights & some motorcycle boots & you’re good to go. The black suede wedges, tuxedo jacket & Topshop scarf on the right are 3 staples in my wardrobe. Excellent investments!

To show the other side of my wardrobe, here I am in Washington DC over the past weekend. Gap raincoat & my old, beat-up, red Converse. Yep, I could totally wear this every day (except I’d get bored, of course).

Oh & that yellow bag that’s in the above 3 shots? That’s my Epiphanie camera bag. Probably my best investment ever. It looks & functions like a purse, but is actually a camera bag. It’s absolute perfection.

Gail - YEAHHHHH for starting this new venture, April! SO proud of you!


One way or another, you’ve stumbled upon my little blog here. What’s it about? Well, the header up there pretty much sums it all up. This isn’t strictly a fashion blog or a food blog or a home design blog. It’s a little bit of everything. The name came about because I actually lack a concrete, discernible, style. My online biographies always read as follows:

I love vintage & modern, vivid colors & sedate neutrals, sequins & sweatshirts, classical music & garage rock. Basically, I’m a study in contrasts.

It’s true. I’ve never been able to settle on a style that I feel defines me. Some days I like to wear all black & the next day I could just as easily put on a cream, tulle dress or a neon pink cardigan & be equally happy. I’d like to think I’m not alone in this feeling, that there are other people out there who vacillate between so many different styles, but I don’t see it often. The good news about this, in relation to the blog, is that even if you don’t like what I’m posting one day, the odds are good that you may absolutely love what pops up the next!

You can look forward to lots of posts on what inspires me in addition to the following:

  • Fashion – “what I wore” personal style posts
  • Home Design – follow along as I re-decorate (again & again) my 1800’s Victorian farmhouse
  • Food – favorite recipes, especially cocktails
  • Party Planning – I throw at least a couple of parties a year. Come watch as I stress out & try to figure out the perfect way to put it all together
  • Guest Posts – This will be a little ways in the future, but I’m working on getting some posts up about a variety of different subjects. I’m really looking forward to these!

Of course there’s a lot more I’ll cover, but I think you get the idea. Check out the next blog post to find out more about me…

Family portrait by Gail Werner

Hollie - So awesome!!!! It looks great! and I can’t wait to see more…