When Mary West makes a goal, she sees it through. In July 2019, she set out to refurbish her 1950 bungalow on Fifth Avenue with a goal to have it done by Thanksgiving, which was exactly what she was able to accomplish.
“It has been really satisfying seeing this cute bungalow that I love come to fruition,” West said.
Up until last year, West spent her entire adult life caring for her family — first her grandparents then her parents. She traveled between Frankfort and Louisville often to care for them. Her Fifth Avenue home was more like a summer home at times, she said.
She bought the home about 20 years ago with intentions of always fixing it up. She started with making sure the bones of the home were stable. She replaced the roof, then saved more money and upgraded the electric.
After her father died, her last living parent, in May of last year, West said she gave herself a month to not do anything and then kicked it into high gear. With the help of friends, she was able to clear her father’s house out and sell it — all while working full time.
“My friends showed up twice a week to prop me up and keep me moving,” she said.
In July 2019, she started refurbishments on her home in the Thorn Hill neighborhood. She called her friend James Douglas, a designer at Bittners — an interior design firm in Louisville. Douglas was West’s prom date in high school.
“I called him and I told him I lost my mind,” West said. She told him that she had painted the inside of her home so many colors that it looked like Crayola threw up in it.
“It was my first time asking for help. I was lost. He told me I couldn’t say no to any of his ideas.”
Douglas did a walk through of her two bedroom, one bathroom home and provided her with a list of everything she needed to do both inside and out.
She started with painting the house.
“It’s like I turned the house inside out,” she said. “There’s color on the outside and the inside is painted white.”
The outside of her home is painted purple with yellow trim — an homage to women’s suffrage.
“The colors are for the suffragette 100 year anniversary,” West said. “This was one of my ways to celebrate, because we got robbed of celebrating (due to the pandemic).
“This is my gift for the ladies that came before me and fought for our right to vote.”
Near a peak in the roof are cedar shingles that provide a contrast to the purple and yellow.
A comfortable two person swing hangs from the ceiling of her porch while another single person swing is located across from it.
Inside, West placed new flooring throughout and painted the walls white. In the kitchen, she put in a recycled glass countertop, farmhouse sink and she purchased a new 50s style red refrigerator that pairs well with her 1949 Westinghouse oven. Douglas also had her expose part of the brick chimney in her kitchen.
She also removed a stairwell to the basement and installed a trap door to allow for more open space in the kitchen. The basement is mainly used as a mudroom for her dogs because it leads to the back yard. One of the last things she installed was plantation shutters, which she had been waiting on because her budget was running low. She was able to purchase them for 40% off during a sale at Lowe’s.
When she renovated her bathroom, she kept in mind the fact that she was going to grow old into the home and wanted to make sure it was handicap accessible. She installed a small sink to allow for floor space for a wheelchair.
The process of refurbishing her home included decluttering.
“When you’re in a small space, if everything in your home doesn’t cause you bliss, it will cause you stress,” West said.
West was able to declutter her bedroom to make it a sanctuary. She transformed the second bedroom into a dressing room where her stackable washer and dryer are located.
“Given my background in theater, I never really had a bedroom that wasn’t a dressing room,” West said. “Now, I have my dressing room fit for a Broadway star.”
Old steamer trunks filled with costumes are stacked in one corner, while a vanity is in another. A wall is covered with old family photos and pictures of movie stars that serve as inspiration.
“It’s the one room that isn’t minimal, it’s maximal,” she said.
In the living room is a sectional sofa with a large Andy Warhol style print of West in a formal dress and crown. The photo was taken during a Women’s Weekend event at Still Waters Campground.
“We kicked the men out,” she said. “They could stay if they wore a dress.”
Above a side table hangs an 84-inch by 53-inch portrait of her father when he was in the Navy. She found the frame for it at Goodwill for $10.
One of the things she splurged for was a table made of old skateboards. The table was made by Jeremy Vessels Art and Furniture Designs in Louisville.
“It reminded me of Marilyn Monroe’s lips,” she said.
The table sits in front of a banquette.
“I can recline there and read a book, or have appetizers,” she said of the sitting area that also serves as storage space. “It’s an extra sleeping space too. It is very comfortable.”
Outside, West called in help from her friend Andrea Wilson Mueller at Inside Out Design.
“I had a vision of what I needed,” West said. “I thought she would laugh at me when I told her my budget, but she didn’t. She said, ‘Mary, you’re going to have to control me,’ and I told her she had to control me.”
West said she spoke the same language as Mueller when it came to using native plants and flowers to landscape a home. Inside Out Design leveled part of the yard and installed a terrace and sunk two large timbers so that she could have a permanent hanging bed.
“I was able to get 50% more of the yard,” West said. “It was such a steep grade of a hillside.”
She also bought a cabana from Pier One during the store’s going out of business sale.
“I can have a staycation in my backyard,” she said.
West did run out of money for landscaping, but plans to finish it up herself. She said her friends have let her divide their plants and she collects seeds everywhere she goes.
“It really has taken a village for this place,” West said. “I just had to trust in the journey and stay the course, and stay stubborn and not let fear prevent me from achieving my goals.”