Decorating by Memory

How Valerie Sloan transformed a house full of junk into a home full of meaning.

Growing up in small-town Connecticut, teacher Valerie Sloane was raised with an appreciation for historic architecture. So when she set out to buy her first home a year ago, she went looking for a structure with some history. 

“When I first looked at this home, it was an absolute wreck,” Sloane says. “But it was built in 1904, so it still had a lot of original wood. I saw a lot of potential.” Sloane made an offer on the house the first day she saw it—even though the man who lived there was a hoarder. “It was wall-to-wall junk,” she says.

After a thorough cleanout and a few minimal structural changes, Sloane painted the textured wallpaper in the living and dining rooms lime green, offsetting the house’s original wood trim.
She began to fill her space with unique items from her travels. A whale skull found on a coastal Washington beach serves as a coffee table in the living room. In the dining room, a large vintage door acts as a dining table, flanked by New England church pews, which have been passed through many generations of Sloane’s family, dating back more than 200 years.
Throughout the house, clusters of collected objects—beach glass, bones, marbles, antique spools and china—add detail and surprise.

“Part of my style is not just being surrounded by the things that I love the look of, but things that have meaning to me,” Sloane says. “I look around my house and do not just see decorations, but memories that make up my character and life, and include shared experiences with people I love.”

Pictured above: Valerie Sloane’s dining room includes a vintage skeletal medical chart, as well as benches from her New England past.

A closeup of some of the knickknacks Sloane has collected over the years.

A wall of portraits (as well as a taxidermy squirrel) pop against the lime green walls.

Photography by Steve Korn.