Some of you know that in another chapter of my life, I spent A LOT of time renovating homes. I'm no design expert, but I sure know when a space makes me feel happy and healthy. This time of year with winter settling in, I'm so grateful to have a snuggly nest, a warm fire and lots of natural light to flood the house with cheer. "Farmhouse" style, as it turns out, is definitely my go-to for health and wellness!
The first property my ex and I owned and renovated was an old Swedish Farmhouse I called "The Beauty Queen" built by a cooper (barrel maker) in 1886, in what was then (now Longfellow neighborhood), the edge of Minneapolis. The house was so big that it had been converted into a tri-plex for a time. I loved the idea of converting it back to a single-family home, but in that neighborhood, it was more practical to convert it into a spacious upper and lower duplex.
The main floor of the house had soaring ceilings with double hung windows nearly as tall. Between the double hung windows were picture windows topped with brightly colored Swedish glass squares. These giant windows were all adorned with wide painted woodwork with corner rosettes. The entire main floor, having been the home's original entry, parlor, sitting room, dining room, study and kitchen was grand with light and views streaming through every window. Despite the fact that the floors sagged away from the fireplace and chimney (as most do in these old houses), the house had an energy so engaging and positive.
Every home we owned and renovated in Minneapolis after "The Beauty Queen" (another duplex and two single-family homes) was from the Craftsman Style where oak floors, quarter-sawn woodwork, and grand buffets rule. While I respect the woodworking craftsmanship needed to create those beautiful details, living in a dark home never brought me the same joy as the duplex with the high ceilings and white painted trim around huge windows. I am a homebody, and really don't feel balanced if the home has oppressive features.
When we bought the farmhouse I now live in, "The Beauty Queen" was my mentor. I wanted to recreate a sense of light and positive energy in this space like we had in our first home. So, then, what are my go-to moves to create a happy well-designed space?
#1 - Paint it all a monochromatic, matte, slightly creamy white. Whites on the creamy spectrum are warm, while too much gray might feel cold.
#2 - Add as many large windows as possible
#3 - Let nature and the outside in with very few window treatments
#4 - Absolutely no wall-to-wall carpet - it pulls energy from a home and hides dirt
#5 - Use recycled materials to give the home a unique feel
#6 - Be thoughtful about lighting, but keep it soft and quiet (This includes outdoor lighting that might impact neighbors. High intensity white lights indoors or out are a no-no in my book.)
In terms of interior design details my rules of engagement are:
#1 - Use natural and neutral colors mostly. Too much color creates visual noise.
#2 - Avoid synthetic, instead use timeless, natural fabrics (wool, cotton, down) for pillows, throws and bedding.
#3 - Instead of "collectables" or "knick-knacks" find things from nature that provide interesting viewing - nature made can often be more interesting than man made.
#4 - That being said, art is a must! If you can afford art to decorate, buy from galleries and artists, if not, buy art pieces from thrift stores or make your own.
#5 - Fill the home with plants in neutral pots. Green is the color of life signaling optimism and cheer, plus plants help purify the indoor air.
#6 - Get creative with furniture. Found and repurposed pieces are more unique than a matchy matchy set - again, think thrift stores!
#7 - Use what you have available, recycled, upcycled, found or salvaged
Although I am not too enthusiastic about renovating anymore, I do miss this aspect of city life. Jeff and I almost always had a project going on, and it was highly unlikely that somebody we knew wasn't also knee deep in a bathroom, kitchen or landscape project. This old house will always have projects, but I am grateful that most of them are already complete so I can snuggle in and hunker down with just small crafty projects for the winter.
May your space bring you joy!