This 1930s Home in Memphis’s Historic East Buntyn Neighborhood Is a Must See

This 1930s Home in Memphis’s Historic East Buntyn Neighborhood Is a Must See

Inside the Memphis home of Meredith Olinger, interior design combines a love of color and pattern and displays the same creativity as the homeowner’s mixed media artwork. As a visual artist working with paint, wallpaper, and collage, Meredith made the natural progression from creating artwork to decorating interiors. “I work with pattern and make wallpaper that I use in my practice as an artist, and this naturally led me into an interest in interiors,” Meredith says. “I began looking at interiors and the use of pattern, and when I got my own house and walls, I started playing with that in my own space.”

Interior design has become a hobby and a passion of Meredith’s, and she views it as an extension of her art practice. Her 1930s neighborhood home is a showcase of her original ideas, with the walls as a canvas for her art. Color comes to the forefront with a palette of bold shades and muted hues thoughtfully chosen by the artist to set the scene. She says, “In my art, I am louder, and I am really drawn to red. I tried to quiet that in my house, so I worked with greens and blues that exist as foils to the red.” She drew the color inspiration from her artwork to inform her interiors, and elements of her interiors influence her artwork. “They are talking to each other all the time,” Meredith says of her interiors and art. In the dining room, the walls are covered in a block-print wallpaper she created by hand. Over time, the wallpaper made its way into Meredith’s collage pieces and artwork, and she began titling her newer pieces in reference to her home.

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This 1930s Home in Memphis’s Historic East Buntyn Neighborhood Is a Must See

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom house has a circular layout, with most rooms opening to another. The home is located in the historic East Buntyn neighborhood in Memphis.

Dining room with blue block print wallpaper

During the pandemic lockdown, Meredith created a block print wallpaper by hand. The month-long project transformed the small dining room into a character-filled space.

Art by Meredith Olinger

Meredith’s art informs her interiors and vice versa. This piece, entitled “Mixed Media with Dining Room Block Print,” features the block print wallpaper from her dining room.

Though the space now reflects Meredith’s style, she is quick to note that the transformation didn’t happen overnight. She and her husband moved into the home six years ago, and only in the last 12 months has it started to feel finished to her. Meredith reinvented the interiors gradually, beginning with the kitchen. She added paneled walls, removed upper cabinets, painted the existing cabinetry, and put in new countertops. Most impressively, she painted the existing tile floors. Meredith understands the costs associated with redesign, and the quote for new tile flooring would have blown her budget. Instead, she painted over the existing tiles with cement paint to create a work of art in an unexpected place.

The front room doubles as an entryway and living space, where Meredith and her husband recap their days over beer and music. Because green is a color that makes her husband happy, she chose to coat the walls and ceiling in green paint, and abstract art offsets the more traditional elements in the room. The second living room is painted blue, but the art is the main feature in this design. Her artwork hangs alongside pieces by friends, mentors, and local Memphis artists, including Vanessa Gonzolez Hernandez, a former classmate of Meredith’s, and Beth Edwards, Meredith’s undergraduate teacher. “It is a real big deal to have one of her pieces, and it is meaningful to have your mentor’s work in your home,” Meredith says of the Beth Edwards painting that hangs above her sofa.

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Living room with muted green walls and colorful art

Painted a muted green, the living room combines traditional elements with vivacious and colorful art. The piece shown here hanging by the doorway is an original piece by Meredith herself.

Living room in Meredith Olinger's Memphis home

Meredith’s revolving art collection complements the moody interiors while standing on its own. Her background as a visual artist led her to create the natural connection between art and interiors.

Colorful art displayed on traditional wooden chest

Meredith places another of her pieces above a traditional wooden chest to bring bold, bright colors into the living room. As you can see, the space opens into the dining room.

Gallery wall in Meredith Olinger's main living room

A gallery wall adorns the main living room, while a coat of bright blue paint works as a soothing backdrop to the many different art styles. Meredith admits that the gallery wall took time to perfect.

Blue living room with art

While the layout of the living room was left untouched, Meredith did update the ceilings from popcorn to coffered. She also installed a projector.

Open entryway with bench in Meredith Olinger's Memphis home

Open entryways lead from the living room to the kitchen and dining room and the master bedroom and bathroom.

Art displayed in white built-in cabinets

There is art everywhere you turn!

Master bathroom in Meredith Olinger's Memphis home

Meredith handpainted the walls in the master bathroom to give the appearance of wallpaper. She also retiled the space and (of course) hung artwork.

Open, airy kitchen with blue cabinets

The kitchen was one of the first spaces completed during the six-year renovation. Meredith’s goal was to create an open, airy space that capitalized on natural light.

Kitchen in Meredith Olinger's Memphis home

Although the mirror above the stove was a temporary solution, Meredith fell in love with its ability to open the space. Now, it is a permanent fixture.

Unlike some interior designers, Meredith doesn’t treat the art as a piece of furniture or a pillow. “Art is an investment, and it should be very meaningful to you,” she tells us. “Build your collection without thinking about how you will plan a scheme around it. I move my art around a lot; if you don’t, you will stop looking at them.” Instead, Meredith approached each room as a blank canvas and started with color or pattern to determine the design’s outcome — art was the final flourish.

Looking to London-based designers such as Rita Konig, Matilda Goad and Nathalie Farman-Farma as her muses, Meredith has determined that white, minimalist interiors don’t suit her personal style. Her decorating style and skillset continue to develop, and this is the first of many projects she plans to tackle. Next up? Meredith and her husband are moving again, so she will have another opportunity to personalize her space once more. “I love this house, and I thought we would be here until we busted out of it, but I am excited to take what I have learned and do things better, bolder, and quicker. Hopefully, the next house won’t be a six-year-long process.”

All photography by Stefanie Rawlinson


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