A Vintage Expert Found a Way to Decorate Every Inch of Her Small Lakeside Retreat
Jeni and Joel Maus, the thrifting aficionados behind Found Rental Co., perfected their Lake Arrowhead hideaway with one-of-a-kind finds.
When it comes to buying, furnishing, and even painting houses, Jeni Maus is an act-now-think-later kind of person. It’s a tactic that serves her well—most of the time.
Maus has honed these speed-round, impulsive skills on buying trips around the world, from Round Top, Texas, to Belgium, where she’ll snap up shipping containers full of chairs, tables, and accessories for Found Rental Co., her Fullerton, California–based home staging, prop, and event rentals business.
“On my first buying trip to the Brimfield Antique Market in Massachusetts, my husband and two kids dropped me off at 5 a.m. and picked me up at 6 p.m. I spent $6,000 and couldn’t burn through that money fast enough,” she says.
Even the decision to start the company was made in minutes. Her husband, Joel, was a wedding photographer. She had furnished his studio with a few of her own vintage pieces to use as props. A wedding planner stopped by to pick up a photo album for a client and asked if he ever rented the furniture for events. Light bulb illuminated, they scoured the Internet for vintage event rental companies and found nothing.
“We decided on a name. I walked up the street to get a business license,” Maus says. “Joel built a website with our first 88 pieces, some from our own home. Our good friend had a wedding-planning blog and she wrote a story about us that went out at 6 a.m. on a Thursday. By 9 a.m. that day I had 21 emails. That was 11 years ago.”
Late last spring, with two kids in college and a calendar of events cancelled due to quarantine, the Mauses turned their attention to home-staging, and a search for a small weekend getaway in Lake Arrowhead, about an hour from their home-base in Orange County. A real-estate agent friend of theirs texted her about a home she was showing that day, and they jumped in the car with their dogs to go house hunting.
“We put an offer in on one of the houses we saw that day,” she says. “Shortly after that, we were in escrow.”
Then, the same realtor friend called with a potential staging project for a house that was about to go on the market—also in Arrowhead—and you can see where this is going.
“That was the house for us. We got out of escrow on the other one, thank God, and bought this one before it went on the market. It was like a little dollhouse and we loved it. Of course, I talked Joel into buying it by saying, ‘We don’t need to change a thing!’ Then I changed some things.”
The plumbing, electrical, and kitchen had been remodeled, but they pulled out the built-ins, changed the surfaces, and painted the interior white. Then, after crowd-sourcing opinions through an Instagram poll, she painted the exterior deep charcoal.
“I’d never posted a poll before about anything,” she says. “I’m not sure why I started with the exterior color of my house, but I did. We painted two sides to start.”
She hated it.
“I hated it instantly. I was in tears. And that’s when I learned that I married a saint. He said, ‘It’s just paint. We’ll change it,’” she says. “We’re the perfect match because I’m high stress and high energy and he’s pretty chill. I mean, he never sits down or sits still—he’s just more chill about it.”
The following week, they were back up at the lake with several gallons of Benjamin Moore Simply White. Problem solved.
Because their cabin is only about 800 square feet, with a single downstairs bedroom and an upstairs sleeping loft, every corner and stick of furniture needed to make a big impact. The light fixture in the living area was made out of an old lobster trap Maus found years ago. The couch was custom-made to fit the narrow room, and Maus’s seamstress made all of the bedding. Vintage paintings and decorative objects adorn the walls and shelves. And the RH table in the corner, well, that’s a story in itself. “I saw it on the RH site and I knew I wanted it, but there was no way I was paying $2,800. I started calling around to the outlets to see if any of them had it. In the meantime, Joel was back in the workshop starting to make a replica for me,” she says. “I said, ‘Oh, that is the sweetest thing ever. But I’m going to hop in the car and drive to San Diego to buy it for $700.’ To me, six hours of driving and $700 is a steal.”
How They Got the Look
Haus of Maus Vintage Shopping Tips
Overpriced and overpicked, antique fairs and swap meets can be some of the hardest places to find a bargain. Jeni Maus shares tips for finding things to love in a changing vintage marketplace.
- Take It on the Road. “I’m always looking for thrift stores around me wherever I am, on vacation, a work trip, on a road trip,” says Maus. “I literally search ‘thrift stores near me’ and there’s always something.”
- Forget a Shopping List. Don’t go into a shop, flea market, or antique store with the intent of finding something specific. “I keep my eyes and my options open,” she says. “And I never, ever think, Where can I put this? If I love it, I buy it, and surely I will figure it out.”
- Use Your Gut as Your Guide. “If I take a second look at something, I buy it,” Maus says. “If I take too much time contemplating an item, then I know I should walk away. Don’t overthink things. You either feel it or you don’t.”
- Save Your Searches. On Craigslist, Nextdoor, or Offer Up, save your searches, and widen your search radius to 100 miles. “When products are added like ‘vintage leather chair’ or ‘chippy paint,’ I get an alert. And I’ve driven 8 hours round-trip just to get a great deal.”
This Came from the 2021 Waters of the West Issue—Read It Here!
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