Three years of house hunting led Ebonee Mashae to a 1930s bungalow in her Central Florida hometown.

By Grace Haynes
January 17, 2021
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I love the charm of where I live," says fifth-generation Floridian Ebonee Mashae (@eboneeshae). "When I started looking to purchase my first house, I searched for probably three years. I had always wanted to live in a historic area of my hometown, but those properties kept flying off the market," she says. As chance would have it, while she was on vacation in New York (and far away from her real estate pursuits), a listing unexpectedly popped into her inbox. After just one tour of the inviting 1,200-square-foot 1930s bungalow, Ebonee was sold and put down the deposit for her dream first home. The founder of the lifestyle blog Living Shae brought the dated interiors back to life with savvy DIY projects, passed-down pieces, and budget-friendly finds. Here, Ebonee shares her hard-earned advice for first-time owners.

Credit: Ebonee Mashae

Give Yourself Permission To Take It Slow 

"For anyone buying a historic home, begin with updates that could save on energy costs in the long run. Upgrading the electrical box was one of the first things I did," Ebonee says. She believes in tackling projects at your own pace. "Work on one room at a time. Save up for the next project, and make sure that space is done before moving on to another," she says.

She repainted the fireplace bright white so it pops off the cream wall.
| Credit: Ebonee Mashae

Refurbish Secondhand Pieces

"My mom promised to pass down her armchair [shown at far right] whenever I got my own place," Ebonee recalls. "I reupholstered it in white to match my aesthetic and made it the center of the reading nook, which is the coziest corner in my whole home. My mom is a teacher, so I was brought up on books."

Left: Ebonee created a gallery wall of local artwork overlooking the reading nook. | Credit: Ebonee Mashae
Right: A gray settee (from HomeGoods) turns the entry into an additional hangout spot. | Credit: Ebonee Mashae

Patience Pays Off

"I had my eye on a particular basket pendant, but it wasn't in my budget. Then I found this old Asian fish basket at an antiques store and turned it into a light fixture. It makes a statement right when you walk through the front door," Ebonee says. Some of her best design tips involve out-of-the-box thinking. "Wait until furniture and decor items are on sale; you don't have to buy everything brand-new. You can usually find a duplicate for a lower price or get crafty and make things yourself. I also do a bit of thrifting and collect plenty of hand-me-downs from my mom. A few of the other places I like to shop are Pottery Barn, HomeGoods, Hobby Lobby, and local boutiques," she notes.

Left: She repainted her guest bedroom three times before choosing the color, Sherwin-Williams’ White Duck. | Credit: Ebonee Mashae
Right: “Sherwin-Williams’ Sea Salt paint looks like the ocean and blends well with the coastal elements,” says Ebonee of the guest bath’s walls. | Credit: Ebonee Mashae

Enjoy the Process; Forget Perfection

"In my guest bedroom, I continued the coastal-boho  look with a trio of baskets, a painting of a beach scene, and a carved oar scored at HomeGoods," Ebonee says. She learned from experience that it takes time to make your home feel right for you. "Not everything has to be perfect all at once—that's something I had to keep telling myself. Appreciate the time you have, and soak it all in because you're never going to have your first home again," she says.

Left: A console in Ebonee’s dining room offers storage and a stage for her collected pieces. | Credit: Ebonee Mashae
Right: She anchored the mantel display with a map of her hometown from the 1800s. | Credit: Ebonee Mashae

Ebonee's Paint Picks

"I really love a neutral backdrop for my house, especially since I have texture in my furniture and accessories. White Duck is a shade that complements the decor, and pulls everything together. It also adds warmth while giving spaces a light, airy feel."
Living, dining, and guest rooms: White Duck (SW 7010) by Sherwin-Williams
Fireplace: Extra White (HGSW4005) by HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams (sold at Lowe's).
Guest bath: Sea Salt (SW 6204) by Sherwin-Williams