When we bought our 1917 Craftsman bungalow over 2 years ago, it needed lots of love to make it our own. We were going on our 3rd year living in a rented farmhouse 8 miles outside of town and ready to commit to a house that we loved. Lena was 12 months old and I was starting to feel the cabin fever of being a stay-at-home mom in the middle of “nowhere.” We had been casually searching the market for a home to buy in and around Bluffton, OH– a quaint college town where I spent most of my years growing up (we joke that it’s actually the real Stars Hollow). I was excited to move into a community where I could walk to get groceries or coffee, be right around the corner from friends and for our kids to experience living in town to learn a sense of community. But Bluffton is a difficult market to buy in–people love to live here, so you are either buying flip houses or $200k+ homes, which wasn’t a great starter home budget for us. When I knew this house was going for sale I immediately told Tyler, “THIS ONE.” We knew the owners and they graciously let us go through it & eventually call it our own. It had all of the original character and charm of a traditional Craftsman and needed just enough renovating that it made the perfect project for us to start with.
When you first stepped in, it felt small. It is a 1500 sq. ft. house and all of the dark moldings and woodwork didn’t let you forget it. The first room that you walk into is a traditional sitting room with an open staircase and a built-in that was added to the classic Craftsman doorway casing sometime after the house was built. There were drop ceilings in both of the living spaces hiding cracking plaster, but the floors & staircase that continue onto the second story were in beautiful condition.
I know this is going to break (certain) hearts everywhere, but my first instinct was to paint all of that too-dark woodwork. Most of it hadn’t been touched since the house was built, the varnish was wearing off and other parts of the house (kitchen, upstairs bedrooms, bathrooms) already had painted trim, so the house felt mismatched. It was either refinishing all of the woodwork or putting a fresh coat of paint on to brighten things up. I personally need a light and bright space to live every day, so I went and bought all the white paint. I wanted the trim to pop & our “character-rich” (read: uneven) plaster walls to have subtly. We used Benjamin Moore Advance semi-gloss in Simply White on the woodwork throughout. It’s a self-leveling Alkyd paint that goes on like oil-base but cleans up like water-based paint. It was worth every gallon, hands down. I also painted the walls Simply White in a flat finish to achieve the all-over white effect without feeling too sterile and to avoid different white paints competing with each other.
If you have never done a paint project like this, just be prepared: you will go through more caulk (old house = trim popping away from everything) and paint than you will ever imagine. It’s totally worth it–but not for the faint of heart!
From your first step into the house, you can see nearly the entire first floor. Painting all of the woodwork transformed your first impression when walking in the door; this room really sets the perfect tone for the rest of the home: bright & cozy.
The drop ceiling that was covering cracked plaster had to came down and Ty installed can lights, drywall & crown on the ceiling that matched the rest of the house. This by far was one of the messiest projects–dust and dirt from a plaster ceiling everywhere, had to tape this room off from our wandering toddler, I was pregnant and couldn’t help, which led to a lot of lone-man hours (thanks baby!). But this has been one of my very favorite things that we have done.
The seamlessness from the ceiling & all-white palette allows your eye to rest on the most flattering features of the house–the original woodwork & beautiful finishes.
For only spanning 1500 sq. ft. there are 21 windows throughout the house which makes all the difference when that natural sunlight pours in. On the main floor, most of the windows are original with large, imperfect glass panes & a weight system allowing them to open and close. I added bamboo roman shades throughout from Blindster to add warmth and texture to an all-white palette.
There were two sets of French doors that had been put into both entries to this room, but sadly, having glass doors for little kids to play with got old. We removed them and consequently, it increased the flow in and out of this room to the dining room & living room. We have them stored away for the next owners to enjoy.
The hard finishes in this room have been done for awhile, but it has taken me quite some time to figure out the floor layout that works for our family in the main living areas. Since we have one large room separated by the built-in, the sitting room threatened to feel as though it was just an oversized entry with too-little room for furniture but big enough that it needed to be filled with something. Then when you consider the fact that the room is all windows & doorways (plus a radiator beneath the large window), it was tricky finding the right fit.
I ended up keeping this room true to its roots & made sure it felt conversational and inviting when you sat down. I used a pair of spool chairs that I found years ago, refinished them with new paint & upholstery and paired them with a modestly sized love seat I scored on Craigslist. The coffee table, console table & side table are enough tabletop space to hold books & coffee cups while their leggy structure keeps them from feeling bulky.
When it comes to styling with objects & wall decor, there is a fine line between balanced styling and clutter. The built-in holds a mix of various objects so I opted for lighter, substantial items on the wall to keep the eclectic feel contained to the built-in while adding interest to the surrounding walls.
With little kids in our home & friends who also have little ones, everything in our house can either be wiped down, thrown in the washer or is unbreakable (and if it is, it isn’t precious to me). But I tend to be drawn to rooms that are light, bright, and have approachable sophistication. I find this balance best by mixing classic & modern pieces. This means opting for a coffee table that can be climbed on (in lieu of glass) and choosing higher-end feeling armchairs (white washable denim) or a glass side table, which are usually less of a victim to toddlers. For rugs, I have found that jute, sisal or wool work best for durability and comfort in our house. In this room, I opted for braided jute.
I know… you are probably wondering: how does a house look like this with two little kids? It doesn’t. Ha! The reality is that my coffee tables are rarely styled for a longer duration than nap time & our kitchen table is usually a catch-all. But personally, I think clearest & work the best when I am in a space that is uncluttered, so although our house doesn’t typically look picture perfect, this isn’t too far off from reality. We have toys in two rooms of the house (Lena’s room & our TV room) and we play in those rooms, which keeps cleaning things up relatively simple. I do keep books stowed away in baskets in every room of the house so Lena can sit and read with me while I work or read myself.
This room is one of my favorites in the house because when you first step in the door you are greeted with an inviting room that really captures the design aesthetic I’m drawn to and the overall feel of our home: bright, beautiful and unfussy.
I think this little house is a good example of how small spaces can still be packed with character and intentional design. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your home cannot be what you imagine it to be because of square footage or budget restrictions–you can make your home inviting and reflective of who lives there once you put your mind to it.
I will be sharing the rest of our house in the coming weeks. You can sign up to get the posts straight to your inbox in the sidebar –>
PS-anything that is underlined (paint, side table, coffee table, etc.) contains a hyperlink to the site where I bought it from. Happy shopping!