Elizabeth Millen's "The Little Room That Could"
by Elizabeth Millen
Photography by Elizabeth Millen & Jacie Elizabeth Millen
I’m Elizabeth Millen, the founder and working owner of Pink. The “Little Room That Could” is a 12’x8’ room in my house, nestled between the kitchen and the laundry room, and it is legendary. I think it was supposed to be a breakfast room, but never had the architectural flow to pull it off. For reference, I live in a typical Hilton Head style home built in 1976 in Hilton Head Plantation. I can’t remember what we used this room for the first nine months we lived here. The people before us kept their dog kennels in there. The house was in need of remodeling, but we had no money for that. However, a need arose, and the “Little Room that Could” became space for a home office—where Pink Magazine was born.
I purchased a desk, a large iMac computer, a printer and a few office supplies and reported to work each day to this room in my house that became the headquarters for the start up of Pink. About six months in, the magazine had grown to having several people working in this room and a few at the dining room table, too. I decided Pink needed an office outside of my house, as it looked favorable of becoming a full-fledged, viable business.
When we finally remodeled the house a few years later, I decided to make this room a library/office space. I love books, especially in cozy spaces, and needed a place to house them. I turned the three-sliding door pantry into a built in desk/work/storage space, bought beautiful dark wood bookcases, added two comfy upholstered chairs and the room became a cozy, out-of-the-way spot to have coffee, read, and relax. Everyone loved what the space had become.
After Hurricane Matthew hit, everything changed. With two huge trees through the roof, the house had to be emptied for the rebuild and most of the furnishings and contents were severely damaged and wet. We were out of the house for 14 months. When I moved back in, I had changed, too. I was now single and an empty nester. I decided to turn the room into an art studio.
Turns out, I didn’t do much art, actually none, and the space did not recover its former cool vibe. Basically, the art studio turned into a junk room that kept getting junkier by the minute. I’m embarrassed to even show you the before picture because it looks like a hoarder was inhabiting it, which is so far from who or how I am. The room became an albatross.
I function best in spaces free of clutter and offer a creative, yet organized feel. I’m a person who needs order to function—it’s the Virgo in me. Needless to say, I was so over the art studio idea and ready for the room to return to cozy library status.
As you may imagine, the creativity that it takes to envision the magazine can translate into having an eye for design. I enjoy decorating but I’m a firm believer in two heads are better than one. Creativity feeds on other’s creativeness and grows into something better than you can ever imagine alone. That’s how this project became a giant rolling snowball, fueled by the hearts of many. Inadvertently, a whole team of people came aboard and turned this project into a mission. Meet the team:
Wolfgang Brinsa, the owner of Magnolia Upholstery and one of our favorite customers (he is one of the kindest men ever) has advertised with Pink for 10 years. The fact that we have not done a project together in several years was the catalyst to this room’s makeover. He was the first person I contacted to get this makeover ball rolling. I needed two chairs upholstered, and I wanted to showcase Wolfgang’s talent. He said yes!
The Litter Box Thrift Store was my next stop. I needed two matching chairs that would fit this small room but still be comfortable. I also wanted the chairs to be of good quality; it’s what I look for when thrift shopping. The current fabric on a piece isn’t a factor at all. I am a fan of recovering quality, old furniture, as opposed to buying new cheap, chain store stuff. As such, I decided to ask The Litter Box Thrift Store to be involved in the makeover, as well. I found two beautiful, matching chairs there for $30 each. What a find! Wolfgang picked them up, I took him the fabric, and before I knew it, the makeover was under way.
Since the entire house was painted a year ago, I picked fabric to go with the new gray walls, which is a vast departure from the golden biscuit, bagel or some high carb color it was before. It was already lighter and brighter, and I liked it. But the pictures show the walls are blue now. Colorado Gray by Benjamin Moore to be exact. Here’s the story of how this room took on a life of its own to become my favorite room in the house:
Enter Regina Maguire Kirschbaum: Regina is something else. I say that because cool is too much of an understatement. Being a hugely talented jewelry and fashion designer, coupled with immense style and creativity and a deep connection with the spiritual and universal energy world, one could say Regina moves through life on a high vibration. This transplanted New Yorker couldn’t be more enchanted or thrilled to now call the Lowcountry her home, and she has found another niche to keep her energy level in sync with who she is by helping others celebrate who they are. Long story short, already a good Pink customer with her jewelry and clothing lines, Agabhumi, she called to market her new business, Refabby Regina: Redesigning You and Your Home. I immediately enlisted her to be a part of the room makeover, and I am so glad I did.
Regina brought an element of creativity to the room I would have never dreamed of. I had preconceived notions of what the room had been. She didn’t. We met in the cluttered space and had a brainstorming session—ideas were flying. I was telling her everything I loved about the old library space, and I mentioned, “This is the room Pink was started in.” That was a game changer. The creative sparks reeled.
There were just two key elements that had to be worked into the room, and other than that I was open for anything. The two things were: The newly recovered, now awesome chairs; and a large piece of art by artist Betsy Barrett-Hails. As we talked more about the space, I kept throwing in ideas that could work in the room and Regina was the mastermind at how they could work. For instance, once we got on track to honor Pink’s beginnings, I brought in the large metal printing plates I had saved from the first issue fifteen years ago. She thought they were fabulous and came up with the idea to have them flank both sides of the double window like sconces.
Enter Kevin Lawless, a well known Lowcountry metal artist and welder extraordinaire. Who better to come up with a way to mount large metal printing plates covered in ink than an iron artist. Kevin is the owner of Iron Art and was more than willing to get involved in the project. He came over and figured out a way to mount the plates, introducing an industrial feel. In addition, Regina had taped off the wall where the piece of art would hang and asked Kevin to design something to hold books. At the time, I had a small piece of furniture in there with Dr. Seuss like curves so we decided to continue that whimsey.
Betsy Barrett-Hails: Betsy was the cover artist for the June 2019 issue of Pink. I saw the original works of this piece at Artfields Art Week in Lake City, SC this past spring. I love a lot of art, but only three pieces in my life have brought me to tears and this was one of them. This piece spoke to me on so many levels—to me, I am the little girl in the painting. I had to have it. The original is huge—48”x48”—and really too large for the room. Betsy had a special reprint done just for me in a 38”x38.” It is perfect and brings me great joy, memories, connection and solace.
Picture This Gallery: Everything was on a tight time deadline. Mira Scott, artist and owner of Picture This Art Gallery stepped in and helped get the canvas stretched and framed in only three business days. She worked with Betsy in getting the canvas here and didn’t make me feel bad for having such a short time frame, or complain once about the get-it-done-now stress factor. As always, she did a fantastic job and was a pleasure to work with.
The Paint and Paper Tiger: I ran into Ruthe Ritterbeck, manager of Paint and Paper Tiger (for more than 30 years) and longtime friend. I told her about the project and she offered up the paint. The room is so small I only needed a gallon for the walls and a quart for accent. She had everything mixed and ready for pick up. Regina and I looked at the chair fabric to choose the colors. The wall color is Colorado Gray and the accent color is Persimmon, both by Benjamin Moore.
In front of the paint store (on a Thursday) I met Roger Garcia, a professional painter. Although I had thought of painting it myself, I decided to hire a professional, and I'm so glad I did. He was at my house on Saturday morning, did a great job and was done in two hours.
Populating the Room: Regina was now equipped to showcase my life. She designed the room for everything to have purpose, meaning and function…and it does. She did some shopping for the room, and we also went together back to The Litter Box for more fabulous finds. We found the round table to place between the two chairs and the lamp. It’s truly amazing the things you can find at our Lowcountry thrift stores for a fraction of the cost.
Regina taught me how to put effort into making something perfect for the space. For instance, she found the little gray ottoman/table to serve both chairs. The band around the middle was a light wood tone that did not go in the room. She had me paint the band in Persimmon and voila! Fabulous. We put creative sweat equity into a few pieces, modifying their color. Again, this is something I would have not considered on my own. Regina provided me with guidance and “permission” to get creative, and it made all the difference in the room.
Refabby Regina Speaks Out: “The redesign of a home office isn’t work, it’s pure joy. I love these projects, and this one was a perfect chance to bring a workspace back to life in a home nearly destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. Taking the time to get to know Elizabeth and how she works in her home office, what the tools of her trade are, and what inspires her to be creative is how I began. It’s so much fun to uncover the special items that make people smile, reflect, and generate a productive day at work, at home. Adding whimsy, without clutter, to lighten the workload is key to my styling. When we smile and laugh we can accomplish the tasks at hand so much more efficiently. Creating a space that flows, checking my Feng Shui chart, and capturing the spirit of my clients is all part of it.”
“Elizabeth’s office presented the chance to highlight the concept of Pink Magazine’s creation. I gasped with joy when she showed me the printing plates from her first issue! Bringing in the marvelous artist, Kevin Lawless, of Iron Art, added the touch of functional whimsy that has become my signature. Kevin’s bookshelf set the stage for a collection of books and personal artifacts to define this amazingly creative woman.”
The Results: When Kevin and his crew delivered the custom made bookshelf everything started falling into place. The shelf is one-of-a-kind fabulous! It offers whimsy and stability, creativity and utilitarianism. I love it! I have never had a room that is more me, or built with such love. Every person involved in the process worked wholeheartedly. Regina went above and beyond to ensure this room offered positive, loving energy, honoring my past, present and future. It is beautiful and fun all at the same time. Each thing you see has meaning behind it. Plus, Regina included elements of protection and guardianship throughout the room, whether it be certain gemstones, moonlight soaked crystals (yes, I put them outside on a night of a summer full moon), and books that have meaning to me, representing times that hold special memories.
Functional, fun, and fabulous! That’s the finished product by Refabby Regina. This room and I are one. Mission accomplished!
A huge special thank you to my talented cast:
Magnolia Upholstery & Fabric Gallery: Wolfgang Brinsa is the owner of Magnolia Upholstery, specializing in residential and commercial upholstery, including headboards, window treatments, slipcovers, re-upholstery, marine and more. Stop by 21 Mathews Drive, Hilton Head Island; 843-681-6777.
Refabby Regina: Stage it. Sage it. Sell it! Regina Maguire Kirschbaum offers services in redesigning your home, maximizing your own furnishings and minimizing your expenses. Contact her at 203-984-6664.
Iron Art by Kevin: Kevin Lawless is the Lowcountry’s only full blacksmith shop with welding and fabrication. Kevin is a graduate and a teacher at SCAD and specializes in handmade smokers, sculpture, railings and wine gates/gates. Contact him at 843-301-6128.
The Litter Box is a popular thrift store that supports Hilton Head Humane Association. Go shop at 46 Old Wildhorse Rd. On Hilton Head Island. 843-842-MEOW (6369). Donations are graciously received.
Picture This Art Gallery is owned by artist Mira Scott. Visit her gallery and frame shop at 26 Palmetto Bay Rd, Hilton Head Island. 843-842-5299.
Paint and Paper Tiger is a local Benjamin Moore paint store located 117 Mathews Dr., HHI. 843-681-5626.
Roger Garcia provides professional painting, power washing and repairs. Call 843-227-0232.
Jacie Millen: Much gratitude to my daughter Jacie for helping with all the extracurricular painting projects. You did a great job, and as always, there with a smile when I need you.images/The_Magazine/2019_Issues/9_September_19/Makeover-0919.jpg