'The Vintage Penthouse in the Heart of Durham'

February 2020 Issue


Meet the Home Owner:

When I decided to bring back The Curated Home Tour Blog I knew that Ellie Snow's Airbnb in the heart of Downtown Durham would be on my list to shoot. It was actually the very first space I shot after the decision and I am so excited to finally share this gem! Remember that this is an active Airbnb, so you can visit it for yourself and enjoy a night - or a few - in this beautiful time capsule in the perfect location in downtown Durham, NC.


What made you select this home or Durham?

Honestly it was pure luck - my office is in the same building and my husband got permission to take a look at the penthouse (for fun) before it went on the rental market. We immediately saw its potential and were thrilled when we got permission to turn it into an airbnb! 

How has the Airbnb process been like?

I really love it. Most of my work-work is on the computer, so it’s fun to have a project that gets me off the screen. Of course the best part was decorating it, but running it is really enjoyable.

Is this your first Airbnb? What made you start?

Yes and no. We rented our home off and on for a year to pay for a trip to Asia. But this is my first time creating a space specifically for airbnb.

What do you love most about this home?

I was much more bold in this space with color and style than I am at home. Since I filled it with mostly vintage finds, there was some luck involved with how it turned out in the end. I had to make compromises on my original vision. I love how it feels like a lucky accident in some ways, and all the color makes it feel comfortable and homey to me.

How did you get your start in design?

I majored in printmaking in school, and afterward I had a couple short stints with interior designers before working full time as a graphic designer (which I’ve done since 2007). Interior design has been a fun side hobby/interest.

What is your design philosophy?

I am not sure I have one! But, I know it’s really important to me to reuse as much as possible - so with interiors that means using vintage when I can. I love to honor the roots of a space, which means maintaining historical details, even if they aren’t old enough to exactly be “historical.” And lastly, I think space and light has a huge impact on how we feel, so it’s important to have a space that makes you feel good. You don’t need a big budget to do it. There are so many ways to make space special for free, even.

Who or What is your biggest design inspiration?

My family. I was lucky to grow up in several really great and unique places. My mom’s parents had a home filled with things they found on their travels, lots of pattern, and family photos everywhere you looked. My dad’s parents taste was more formal but their house was filled with DIY projects and my grandmother’s own artwork. My parents’ homes have lots of sentimental pieces, are very comfortable and lived in, with lots of plants. I think the way they each live(d) led me to pay attention to space and detail.

Why is creating a beautiful home important to you?

It’s a mental health thing! I get a direct, daily dose of happiness when my visual environment feels good to me. I notice the light, the interplay of color, and it affects how I feel. And I get so much satisfaction from hunting for beautiful things and good deals. These days I think about how the environment affects my kids, and I want them to feel comfortable, safe, and cozy at home. I also want them to grow up with an appreciation for art and old things!

What was your biggest challenge in this space?

Budget, definitely. I had such a small one and the project ended up being almost three times what I wanted to spend. I’d never furnished a place from top to bottom at once, and I just underestimated what it would take to feel complete. In the end it’s not a project about profits, though. It was a creative exercise and one of my favorite projects ever. I had so much fun with it.

What is the process when selecting your pieces?

I made a pinterest board and had a pretty clear “look” I wanted to achieve. Sometimes I’d pull up my pinterest board while I was shopping to see if the piece I liked was really a good fit. It’s easy to get distracted in a thrift store! I also took photos of what I’d already purchased to make sure things were jiving. I had to do most of the shopping before my lease started, so those two things were vital. 

What is your favorite piece in this space?

There’s a small rug in the bedroom that I will someday steal for my own. Lots of pinks. It was a good find.

What are your favorite shops to source from?

I found a lot of the stuff in the penthouse at Trosa and Leland Little. I also did a day trip to Richmond, bought some art and rugs on ebay, and filled in some holes at IKEA. My personal favorite place is The Ivy Cottage in Wilmington. It can be pricey, but I always find something I love there.

If your house was a drink, what would it be?

 A manhattan. 

Any advice for anyone wanting to create a home they love?

I’d start paying attention to what you like in other spaces, and be patient. One trick with buying vintage is being willing to purchase what you love when you see it, versus “I need a dresser this week.” I can’t resist a pretty rug or painting at a good price - I worry about where I’m going to put it later.

Describe the perfect night for one who stays at The Vintage Penthouse.

Check in is late afternoon, so bring drinks and a snack and enjoy it outside on the deck if the weather is nice, or inside if it’s not. Stay for the sunset! It’s the best sunset spot. Then I’d head downstairs for small plates and drinks. My favorites are Littler, M Sushi, Mateo, Alley26, Kingfisher (which is kind of like the penthouse in bar form), and Viceroy. I love hitting up 3 or more in an evening to get a taste of everything. In the morning, I’d start with coffee at The Durham while you wait for a table to open up at Jack Tar. Get the crullers. Afterward, some shopping... a few favorites are Everyday Magic, The ZEN Succulent, Vert & Vogue, Letters Bookshop, Chet Miller, and Indio. 


Mention this Home Tour when scheduling your stay at the Vintage Penthouse during March 2020 and enjoy 10% your purchase. Must message Ellie before purchase and stay anytime between March 1st - March 31st.


Thank you for coming along with us on our Curated Home Tour! We hope that you have enjoyed this read and are inspired. Like what you see? Follow us at @curatedhometour and keep up with Ellie and her Vintage Penthouse on instagram @thevintagepenthouse. If you would like to see other Curated Home Tour Features click here. Subscribe below to receive updates on the March Issue, news about the shop, giveaways and upcoming events. If you think that your home would make a great addition to our "Curated Home Tours" please contact us!

Thank you for your never ending support!

Until the next home,



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