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Name: Amina and Victor, my 3-year-old, 70-pound, German Shepherd, mastiff, Great Dane, chow chow, beagle, husky, hound pup (I’m out of breath).
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Size: 1800 square feet
Type of Home: House
Years lived in: 2.5 years, owned
The Little House on Washburn was a gem that had so much hidden potential. I went into my house search knowing that a home renovation was my most likely route to getting my dream starter home, as a move-in-ready house in the location I desired was going to sit outside of my budget. And, in all reality, my specific vision for my home really required a blank canvas that I could make my own; my designing heart needed an opportunity for creativity!
The 92-year-old house had sturdy bones, unique character, a fun neighborhood, and great potential, if you could see through the roughness. I ended up closing on the house and working with one of my good friends, who happens to be a general contractor, to start on my home’s transformation. During the six-month renovation process, the entire space was completely transformed and it was so fun to be able to pick out everything I wanted and had imagined for my home. From the home’s layout, paint colors, tile, cabinets, floor color, etc… I was able to create my reality, based on my vision. I love looking back at pictures to remember where I started and see what it has become.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: My style is a blend of so many different things. I’d say, for the most part, the house is mid-century modern meets Scandinavia with a flair of urban modern. My bedroom has a bohemian vibe, while the basement has an industrial touch. Throughout the entire house you can find plenty of greenery to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside and give the house some natural element touches.
Inspiration: My inspiration for my home is equal parts decor/style and the desired “feel” I want my home to create. I want the space to be inviting, comfortable, and stylish all at the same time. I think there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that you need to get right to achieve that goal. Lighting, as an example, is huge for me. I use both day-time and evening lighting. I make sure that I have the right amount of light throughout the day to invoke a different coziness for each hour. The flow from the kitchen to the living room allows for both deep and light-hearted conversation. To add to the overall effect, I typically have music playing in the background, use diffusers and candles to fill my home with lovely smells, and crackling fires during the winter as an added auditory feature. Between the decor and all of the sensory elements, cozy is what my home is called. And that is the best compliment I could receive when anyone talks about my space.
Favorite Element: A friend of mine gave me the most thoughtful and beautiful housewarming gift that is now hanging in my dining room. Kelley, from Winston and Co. took the old wood from the demolished walls on the main level and created a beautiful woodworking masterpiece. This artwork is made with wood that is almost 93-years-old. I love how this wood ties nicely in with both the floors throughout the main level, and the mantel, to add this natural and honoring element to the space. If I ever move, I’ll have to leave the artwork here in its home where it belongs and can only hope that the home’s history will be carried on by the next homeowners. This piece is a constant reminder of all of the hard work that went into this house to make it a home that I am so proud of!
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was finding smaller scale furniture that fit my house. When you go into a store, most of the items are huge and the store has tall ceilings that make it hard to realize how big the piece actually is in comparison to your space. You get excited about something only to realize that a piece won’t fit! I had to put a lot of painter’s tape on the floor to get a good visualization of the space’s dimensions. Needless to say, the filter button became my best friend online. Along those same lines, finding a cute, non-custom, affordable bathroom vanity less than 24” was a challenge. I laugh now, but I think I purchased three to four items to use as a “coffee table” before I found the right one. I tried a traditional coffee table, an ottoman + tray, nesting tables, and a bench until I finally found cute little side tables to use as my main coffee table. Stores do have more options now for small-scale furniture, but sometimes you have to think outside of the box to find what you’re looking for in a smaller space.
Proudest DIY: One of my favorite DIYs has been creating the light fixtures in my bedroom. I loved the table lamps that I originally had in the room, but the base was so big that it took up almost the entire tabletop. I thought about hanging a sconce on the wall behind the bed, but it wouldn’t have looked great with the offset symmetry of the window so I decided to think vertically. I saw some beautiful solar outdoor light fixtures at Target on sale, but didn’t have a good spot for them outside. So, I decided to change them up and use them indoors instead! I measured the length I wanted the light fixtures to hang and then cut the lamp’s cord and tied a loop at the end. Next, I wrapped rope around the cord using a hot glue gun. I found some battery-operated puck lights and used super glue to attach them inside of the light fixture. After installing some hooks into the ceiling and hanging the rope from the hooks, these hanging lights are now one of my favorite parts of my bedroom. I absolutely love the texture of the rope and the pucks give off the perfect amount of light for the evening before calling it a day.
Biggest Indulgence: I think it’s important to spend money on big ticket items i.e. a couch or dining room table (and this will look different for everyone’s unique values). That said, it’s difficult to indulge after you’ve spent a loooooot of your money on a down payment and construction renovation. Sometimes patience was the key that I didn’t always have. One of my biggest indulgences was my sectional on the main level. It was a little challenging to find something that created a decent amount of seating and was small enough not to interfere with the walkways, but after a lot of saving and a lot of research, I was able to find a beautiful West Elm sectional the fits the space so well and is definitely a possession that I’ll keep for years to come.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? One of the most unique spaces of my house is actually on the outside. I have a pretty big backyard, for an urban city lot, with an interesting layout. On one side of my house, my property line has views into three different neighbor’s yards and on the other side, one of the “walls” of my property line is actually “sanctioned off” by the neighbor’s garage and fence, both of which sit significantly higher than my yard. Given this scenario, it has been challenging to style my outdoor space when I can only control what my yard looks like.
In the spring of 2020, after brainstorming with my concrete guy, I ended up adding a concrete patio in the backyard. We followed that with a cement stadium bench on the high-grade property line to create a natural-looking separation between my yard and the neighbor’s. I then finished off the yard space with a beautiful custom cedar fence around the perimeter and panels that created a faux hedge above the stadium seating, which add more greenery and privacy to my backyard urban oasis… and of course, bistro lights followed by the addition of a little outdoor kitchen and pizza oven!
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? One of my favorite items is my birdcage light fixture hanging in the dining room. That was such a great find that I wasn’t even looking for and it adds such a fun metallic element to the house. I love the shadow design the wires create on the ceiling when the light is on. I also love the blinds and drapes I purchased for my window treatments. I’m a big fan of textures and I love how they bring the space to life by adding a different element of dimension to the room(s).
My last favorite (although how can you choose) items are the tiles from Mercury Mosaics that I used in front of my fireplace, my kitchen backsplash, and in my basement shower. The tile is created with clay from Minnesota, fired in a kiln less than 10 minutes from my house, and beautifully hand painted by local talented artists. There is something special about knowing not one piece of those tiles is the exact same to the other or any other home in the world.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: The key to maximizing space and organizing, especially in small spaces, is to think vertically. Think of non-traditional ways to hang items and use every square inch of your house where it makes sense without, of course, cluttering. One of my favorite space-saving tips that I’ve done in my bedroom is to get rid of the bedside lamps and hang the light from the ceiling.
Other items I’ve purchased for my smaller kitchen are towel hooks that hang on the base cabinet, an expandable countertop shelf rack, and an under-the-cupboard paper towel holder. There are a lot of space-saving kitchen options out there now if you’re willing to do the research! I also try to display some kitchen items throughout the house when they’re not in use to save cupboard space. For example, I love beautiful cheese boards and stack them vertically against my backsplash or use them under decorative accessories on the sideboard and dining table. My cake stands are also used to elevate items throughout the house as well. You really have to think outside of the box in non-traditional ways when you’re living in a smaller space.
One last fun space that I created is my Zen Nook as I like to call it. I have this space upstairs in my office that could technically be used as a closet. I didn’t want to close the space off with doors because I felt like my office would feel too small. Instead, I added a daybed, plenty of pillows, and a little stand inside with some calming accessories; adult coloring books, a Bluetooth speaker, diffuser, and a Himalayan salt lamp. When I’m working from home, I love to lay in this nook for 20 minutes or so just to take a break and reset during the day.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? My decorating M.O. is to keep things fairly simple and neutral and change up the smaller-scale and cheaper things when you’re itching for something different or new. It can be a lot of work and a big commitment with both time and money to go find a new paint color or buy a new piece of furniture when you get sick of something. Change out the small things. They’re cheaper, easier to store and you have more variety when you want to spice up your space. I always change up my pillow covers, throws, dishtowels, and have seasonal bedding. I’m a big fan of textures. I have lighter linen fabrics in the summer with some velvet and chunky wool during the winter months. I also love artwork and have some oversized frames hanging in the dining room. I search all of the beautiful prints on Etsy, buy the digital print, and send the file to my local UPS store to print and fill my frames depending on the season and the trend. Generally speaking, if you keep the big time-consuming and expensive items more timeless, then you can update and change out the smaller-scale things to stay more “on-trend.”
One simple last tip is to plan ahead and shop at the end of season(s). I really dislike buying items full-price so I’m always going to the store or searching online for seasonal items the day after any holiday.
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.