From Outdated to Outstanding: Inside a Rancher’s Modern Makeover

Barbara Cooney, owner of So So Spiffy, transforms a 1964 rancher into a serene retreat that recalls a cool, California aesthetic.

Barbaras gallery wall features a variety of styles and pieces by local artists and artwork purchased during travels The portraits are fun she says I dont know the people in them but I am so curious about their stories I like to conjure up a narrative behind the faces and it makes the art come more alive for me The chairs and coffee table are So So Spiffy designs a preview of Barbaras indoor furniture collection coming fall 2024 <br>Photography by Jean Allsopp

When Barbara Cooney and her husband, Jobay, first spied the brick ranch-style house that would become their family’s new home, Barbara was intrigued. Even though it had wall-to-wall carpet, linoleum floors, paneling, and dated fixtures, she saw the potential. “I loved the floor plan and the kidney-shaped pool,” Barbara says. “It had a groovy vibe, and it spoke to the 1970s home I remembered from my childhood.”

Theres plenty to love about a ranch style house This one just needed a few exterior updates with a modern twist Cedar boards on the front are replicated in the new pool cabana

Vibe aside, Barbara had no desire to turn the clock back to the disco decade. Instead, she aimed to create an airy, modern home that recalled West Coast style—another aesthetic she was introduced to at a young age. “I was born and raised in Birmingham, but I have some eclectic relatives,” she says. “One of my aunts lived in Palm Springs, and her style really made a big impression on me. When people walk into my house now, they tell me they feel like they are in California.”

To achieve the airy, relaxed look, Barbara worked with builder Chris McFarrin to redress the interiors and façade. “We kept the same floor plan but bumped it out a few feet here and there, raised the ceiling in places, and updated the kitchen and baths,” she says. In addition, some walls were removed, windows and doors were relocated to modify room access in places, salvaged doors were retrofit for new doorways, and hardwood floors discovered beneath those top layers of carpet and linoleum were refinished.

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“I’m not an interior designer—I’m a stager. Birmingham has so many great, qualified designers that do interior elevations and finishes. I prefer to focus on the furnishings and accessories.”

—Barbara Cooney

Living room
Taking advantage of unused attic space Barbara had the ceilings vaulted and raised wherever possible This living area overlooking the pool exudes a West Coast vibe with its pale finishes neutral upholstery and desert color scheme Barbara and Jobay added the corner bar for entertaining

Once the framework was in place, Barbara set about filling the new abode with furnishings both familiar and new—much like the approach she takes with her staging business. “My own home has items that are personal to our family, but I believe any house needs a good mix to feel welcoming and comfortable,” she says. “In my work, if it looks like a staged home, I haven’t done my job.”


To cultivate that lived-in look in both arenas, Barbara and her team shop for new furniture at market, buy antiques from auction, and procure vintage finds and accessories at fairs such as Roundtop in Texas. Just this past April, she even launched her own So So Spiffy line of outdoor furniture. (Her indoor line is debuting fall 2024.)

The outdoor furniture line features four collections that offer weather-proof seating and dining options in addition to occasional tables. All of the transitionally styled pieces are equally at home in traditional and contemporary settings, as well as in Barbara’s own backyard.

Pool and cabana
In the garage turned guesthouse Barbara removed the dropped ceiling to expose the rafters painting them black An accent wall of wallpaper by Windy OConnor adds to the graphic scheme Though Barbara deals with a lot of neutral upholstery in her staging business she likes to add flair in her own spaces with pops of color such as the hot pink ottomans

Spiffing Things Up

When Barbara Cooney began her staging business, So So Spiffy, she started with one house. “At that time, I just moved everything out of my own home,” she laughs. “My family wondered what happened to all of our furniture!” Before long, her client list grew. “Two houses turned into four, and four turned into eight, and so on,” she says. That was seven years ago. Now, she and her 20-plus-person team that includes Lucy Gaede, Wendy Henry, and Jenn Larson (in the Austin, Texas, location) have the inventory and capability to spiff up to 30 houses a month with everything from furniture to art to lighting and even the sheets on the bed. With so much turnover in staging real estate, the So So Spiffy team recently started hosting Shopping Shindig, a discounted resale event held once a month at their warehouse. And this past April, Barbara launched a So So Spiffy line of outdoor furnishings. For more about staging, Shopping Shindig dates, and So So Spiffy furnishings, visit

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Cathy Still McGowin

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