A woman Ann and Russell Mullins never knew led them to their North Augusta home.
The woman was looking calmly out of an antique portrait that Mrs. Mullins picked up at the Salvation Army. When she took the painting to be cleaned in North Augusta, Mrs. Mullins noticed a sign for a yard sale in Oak Creek subdivision -- another place where the veteran bargain hunter hoped to find a deal.
Next door to the yard sale on Whitewood Way was a yellow stucco house for sale.
"I walked in the door, and I looked to the right, and I looked to the left," Mrs. Mullins said. "And then I looked up."
To the right and to the left of the home's entrance are the formal den and the formal dining room, where carved white molding sets off rosy pink and teal walls. The ceiling of the foyer rises into the second story of the house and features another of the home's intricate details -- a recessed setting with flowing molded designs around the hanging light fixture.
Mrs. Mullins was delighted with the original owner's decorating, and after she and her husband purchased the 3,000-square-foot home she accented it with her own mixture of Oriental and antique eclecticism.
From the front den on the right side of the house, French doors open into a less formal living room, dark and cozy with burgundy and forest wallpaper, natural wood and a green marble fireplace. Another set of French doors leads farther back into a light and airy sunroom with tiled floor, white wicker furniture and a mural of garden flowers painted along the bottom of the walls.
On the other side of the house, the crisp, clean lines of white trimwork contrast with gleaming dark wood furniture. Oriental touches accent the room: a simple arrangement of silk irises on the table; a large, hand-colored silk painting from China inside a gilt frame; Japanese dolls in silk kimonos.
The painting was one of Mrs. Mullins' bargains -- she watched it sit at Rich's department store for years while she worked there as a store detective before retiring. Originally priced at $600, it was educed to $100 after a customer broke the original glass -- and that's when she snapped it up.
"It's like it was waiting for me," she said.
The home is full of such bargains -- antique knickknacks, furniture and a collection of dolls discovered at flea markets, estate sales and antiques stores. Shelves in the den hold mainly Oriental figurines picked up at discounts, including a tiny replica of a Japanese shop with a note still attached to the bottom written by the original buyer, who sent it back to the United States with a description of buying eels in Japan.
"I love when there's some history attached to things," Mrs. Mullins said.
An entire room on the second level has been used to display the antique-doll collection she's building. A day bed in the center of the room, covered with a dusky rose-printed comforter, allows the room to be used as a guest bedroom. But the main focus is the array of dolls lining the shelves along the walls and sitting on rocking horses or antique carriages. German bisque dolls from the 1800s, dressed in white linen and lace, nestle together in a cabinet. American dolls from the 1920s and 1930s, including a collection of Shirley Temple dolls, are clustered on other shelves.
The doll motif is carried over into two more bedrooms on the upper level, decorated for the couple's grandchildren when they visit. Leslie's room is a confection of white furniture and pink accents, with dolls piled on the bed and sitting in the rocking chair -- an "excuse to decorate" for Mrs. Mullins. The 12-year-old girl is losing interest in the dolls now that she's more focused on sports, the grandmother says with a grin. Four-year-old Casey's room, with creamy walls and green accents, is decorated with stuffed bears, including standby Paddington, and a "Paw Paw" bear outfitted in straw hat and clutching a string of fish.
The master bedroom, by contrast, is sparely decorated, with unbroken lines of graceful, dark wood furniture. Lace curtains accent the rosy walls, and the bed coverings are white, with an embroidered comforter and white eyelet-edged pillows. On one wall hangs the antique portrait that brought Mrs. Mullins to the neighborhood. Restoration uncovered the date of the painting: 1876.
Even though the woman in the portrait, Louise Adams, isn't part of the family, Mrs. Mullins has started calling her Aunt Louise. After all, she is responsible for finding the family home, Mrs. Mullins said, laughing.
"My husband said, `You're not going to hang that in the bedroom!"' she said. "But it I like the way her white dress complements the white accessories in here. It matches."
Reach:Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.