working with your house

Marian ParsonsDecorating, My House137 Comments

Every home has a personality.  It might be quirky, conservative, playful, regal, humble, sleek…  The home brings something to the table.  While there are some homes that need to be stripped to the bones and entire reworked, most homes just need for you to cooperate with them – let them be what they are and bring out their best qualities.

As I’m working on this new home, first of all, I’m falling more in love with it every day.  I was admittedly a little disappointed that buying an old house wasn’t going to happen at this season of life, so this house felt like a compromise.  A really good compromise, but a compromise non-the-less.  As our family and belongings have populated the space, I have come to realize I was selling this home short…misjudging it simply because it was young.

One of my wise readers put it well, “All old homes were once new.”

This house is already blossoming just by adding some texture, warmth, and personality.

I’m also realizing, though, that this house is not my last house.  I know that’s an obvious statement, but don’t most of us pack up our belongings and plop them into a new house, expecting it will all work?

What I mean by that is I need to decorate it differently.  What worked in my last house won’t necessarily work here.  Stacks of ironstone look simply like white dishes when put into new maple cabinets with glass shelving and a lit interior.

I need to work with this house, blending my style in gently and thoughtfully.  It’s not an old house and I don’t need to try to make it look like one.  It’s not a farmhouse and I don’t need to try to stuff it inside of that box.  Doing that to this beautiful home, which can stand on its own two feet quite well, would be a disservice.

That being said, this home has a lot of features that echo those found in old homes – the arches, the transoms, the back stairs.  I can highlight those traditional features and still embrace the newness of this home.

And working with the house might mean selling some of my most beloved pieces.  This house seems to favor woods sporting a warm patina and antiques that have a European style.  My more primitive, farmhouse pieces, like the blue step-back cupboard in the dining room, my pie safe, and the cream hutch, all feel a little out of place.

Maybe painted walls will help.  Maybe they need a fresh coat of paint.  Maybe they just haven’t found their perfect spot.  Or, maybe I just need to sell them and find something better suited to this home.  We’ll see.

Here’s what I’m learning, though…I’m not going to fight this house.  I’m going to work with it and let it be what it is.  I’m going to find a happy compromise that merges my style with the style of this home.

I can already picture it in my head and, it might take some trial and error, but it’s going to be really fun to see how it turns out.

So, how about you?  Are you working with the style of your home?  Are you fighting it?

working with your house

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137 Comments on “working with your house”

  1. I am with you I love the old farmhouse pieces and soooooo wanted an old farmhouse however, when my husband and I married we sold my small 1200 sq ft house and built a new 2 story 3200 sq ft home. I tried so hard to make this home old for the longest time and packed it full of old farmhouse treasures. It has never worked just right. I am coming around and learning not too small, not too snippy and not too busy. The new of the house just can’t handle it. A large home looks messy if I trip all the vignettes to fill it up. You have an eye for design and its coming to you much sooner Han it occurred to me. I am now having a huge estate sale to get rid of he chippy goodness in lieu of something that “goes” with the size and design of my home.

  2. I totally agree. Allow the house to speak to you and decorate accordingly. I think it will be a more sophisticated look. When I saw your white cupboard in the living room it looked sad, out of place. My guess is that a primitive piece or accents will work on a limited level, but a finer quality will work best with your new home. It will be fun to watch you sort it out. You do have a nice mix of pieces so it is not that you don’t have things you can use, but I see you selecting carefully, and not fighting the house, but embracing its character. It is a lovely home.

    And, why should not the front door be a prelude to what is inside the home. If you will continue to love and use blue, should not the door be a blue… something deep and rich, that holds its own against the beige siding? You have a whole yard of green.

    1. We are finishing a new build. It is semi custom, some things fall,within builder guidelines, some are purely us and amaze the builder. But I do that, I ask the house to speak to me.
      I go out to the cosmtruction site where stacks of sheet rock are at the ready to go up next week over insulation and stubbed in utilities. I raise the lift gate and rummage thru selections We have made and samples of surfaces and swatches of selections yet to be made.
      The challenge of the moment is curtains. Another is fine tune of the kitchen cabinets and details.
      They say we have about 6 weeks to being done so my strategy is to try to run ahead of the train, presenting before selecting are due so we are ready and settled with a few ideas by the time a decision is due.
      So I love MP reports everyday. It’s true, a certain dining table I had hoped to use may not work, will need to be sold. My heart hurts a little but I would rather move on to what it should be than try to force a table that does not work just to validate having loved it and held on to it.

    2. Marion, maybe you’ll be using some of those primitive pieces in another room, or your new office???

  3. Have you thought about staining the maple built-ins a richer, warmer color? I was wondering if that would help bridge the gap between your style and the house’s.

    1. I thought this, also, even though I paint everything white! I do leave the insides of my white painted cabinets unpainted because rich, warm wood is a such nice contrast for ironstone.

    2. I would have to strip them down to stain them and that’s honestly more than I want to get into. I’m planning to paint them to get the look I want. The maple cabinets are awesome, but they look a little too modern for my style.

  4. Most people today live in newer style homes built within the last 30 years (from the 70’s and 80’s being the oldest). Not much style or charm but liveable nonetheless & most homes from that era need updating. Your home has fabulous bones & seems charming and well planned layout wise. Your forte’ is paint! So once you are settled, get out the paint and make it your home. We moved last year to a new house with good bones, and it has been a challenge to make it charming without any vintage qualities or “patina”, but your idea of European furniture style is perfect. You might consider concrete or butcher block counters again. The blog blueeggbrownnest focuses on her new house with vintage style. Once you are settled, this house will tell you exactly what it needs.

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I completely agree with you – we need to honor the home’s inherent style. When we bought our home a subdivision rancher, I tried to force it to be a Tuscan Villa (oh my!) but now 14 years later I am (more gently) making changes that make the house shine and sing! New wall color (who knew I could love grey??) new wood floors, base and trim that isn’t ornate and over the top. Even tho’ all the furnishings and fixtures were beautiful, they didn’t compliment a 1980’s rancher so when I began to change to work WITH the house honestly, it felt like the house sighed and said “finally”. Now I LOVE my home! Thanks again for helping us “see” our homes and love them!

  6. Marian, I think this post will resonate with many of your readers. I, too, have fought against the look of our new, 2-bedroom, “flatlander” apartment in the Pacific Northwest, wishing it was the large, two-story, mountain home we left. It took me over a year to figure out that our darker, heavier, mountain-style furnishings don’t work in our new digs, and that it will be years (if ever) before we can move back to the mountains. I have been slowly changing over our furnishings for smaller, “fresher” items that can brighten our space on a grey day (of which there are many). After 4 years here, I am finally making a light-color slipcover for our heavy, green, “mountain” sofa, as my husband won’t let me get rid of it. I think the issue is that some people have to go through a “mourning process” after a move to a different home, and my husband is taking longer than me to work through it. It doesn’t seem that this is an issue for you or your family. Or, if it is, you have worked through it faster! Enjoy playing with your new space.

  7. Homes are like bodies, you have to know and understand what works with them instead of against them. If you want them to look their best, you must appreciate their uniqueness and highlight the positives. Just because I really like the look of the latest trend in clothing doesn’t mean it’s a good style for my body type. I’m glad you’re embracing your new home and this new chapter in life. You don’t have to give up your style, just maybe a little tweeking and expanding your decorating horizons. Enjoy the journey.

  8. I have lived in 100 year old homes and I have lived in 20 year old homes. All of them had their inherit charms and pluses. What I liked about the old homes were the creaky floors, the nooks and niches and the indefinable charm. What I like about the new homes are plumbing that works, closets that mirror our lifestyle of today, heating and cooling that is efficient, windows that work.

    Your new house is so similar to the one I live in currently. The built in bookcases and fireplace in the living room are almost the same. The staircase is similar. I have painted every wall, almost every cabinet (except the kitchen, it needs it so bad) and updated the kitchen and bathrooms. I find what works in my home is unpainted pine and painted classic furniture. Your country french will do very well in that house and you really need to think large scale. The house can take large pieces of furniture.

    At 66 I don’t even think this is the last house I’ll live in. I have moved 8 or 9 times in the course of my lifetime with the longest length of time spent in a home is 10 years. Next will be a small cottage – when the grandkids don’t want to come stay over and a flight of steps is not manageable. But until then, this is home.

  9. Excellent comments so far from everyone.

    Yes, it is funny, I am spending today (kind of rainy out there) getting out my paintings and hanging them after living with blank walls for 9 months since we moved! Wow, it is SO true, what works in one house doesn’t work in another! My paintings which seemed HUGE in my old house seem TINY in this one. Of course all the room layouts, nooks and crannies, etc. are different, lighting is different, etc. I have hung a few pieces and made those nail holes (!!) and already realize that they some of them are in the wrong spot. But, I pretty much have to try something in order to know that, live with it and see how it feels, and if necessary, get out the nail hole filler and touch up paint.

    Trying to marry the various things that you love when they are different styles is also a challenge. Some things work well, others don’t. It is also fun to have a new house that needs to be different so that you can showcase items that were hidden away in other homes! Like the big old Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt from 1934 that some of my ancestors sewed, it’s out of the closet and hanging as an entire wall feature in this house.

    This is my 9th house, but with each new one we stay longer in it, and we absolutely LOVE this one, in a charming small town.

    1. First of all everyone, excuse me for being such a “glutton” and commenting so much. I live alone, am retired, and too much time on my hands. I enjoy reading MMS blog and the comments.

      So here I go again…I moved to my little “beach” bungalow almost 3 years ago and when my brother gave me his collection of seaside watercolors and I hung them up the house came alive!!!! Notice how when Marion hung Eulalie over the fireplace mantelpiece the house warmed up. And when Marion mentioned she’s going to hang the antique bird cage high on the wall…yes! Soon, very soon, it’s going to come together – the marriage of the new home with MMS. Marion is not a one-style artist. We’ve seen her evolve from what she had when she began this blog — out of necessity – into bringing acquisitions ranging from primitive, antiques, to contemporary pieces and even a touch of industrial, and made them all work together with color, texture, etc. This is exciting watching her evolve even more and demonstrate to homeowners that they don’t have to spend money shopping for a whole new living room right off the showroom floor. They have an option. Yup. She’s been blessed to bless others.

  10. We moved. We thinned out years of collected treasures. We bought a few things to fit the new digs. I gave beloved items to my sister in law…..I go visit my old stuff there! Worked out perfectly. Life shouldn’t be stagnant.

  11. I actually love what you are saying in this post!! While I love some aspects of the current trend in farmhouse decor, I know much of it would just look silly in my two story traditional style townhouse. I think if a house has “good bones” you can adjust your style with the house and make it a comfortable home for your family.

  12. I never looked at it that way – work with the home! Thank you – I believe that has been my problem for the 10 years I have lived in this house. I am going to take your advice and start working with it. While it is not my forever home in my mind, it might have to be – so in order to be happy – I need to work with it. Such great advice.

  13. Your ceilings are higher so the cupboards don’t look right..also all that distressing isn’t seen anywhere else in the houses finishes , so of course it will look messy or just inappropriate at this time…NEW VIBE

  14. I highly recommend painting the walls and cabinetry before getting rid of your beloved decor. It is hard to match up décor to that color stain that is currently in the house. Once everything is painted I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that most of your décor will work just fine!

    1. Nancy, you are right. Marian, paint the built-ins white and the walls a light blue. Get some seagrass-type rugs. Prop a tall painting on the white cupboard. Throw a couple of old quilts over the LR furniture. Find a peel-and-stick product to put over the fireplace surround. I agree with everything you said about working with what you have. I think it will be gorgeous when you finish; it will simply take time.

    2. Yes, I’m not going to make any rash decision about selling pieces and, I agree, painting the light maple will make a huge difference in the feel of the room. Still, though, I’m not sure if primitives hutches and pie safes are right. Antiques, yes, but maybe more pine and European pieces. I already have many pieces that work, so it’s just a matter of swapping out a few.

  15. Houses do have a personality, and I have to say I love your built ins and kitchen cabinets just the way they are. That being said, that is MY preference, and of course you need to do what will work for you. I love reading about your journey and wish you much happiness in your new home.

  16. I think u should give it sometime and settle in some more before you get rid of some of your awesome pieces ! They might have not found there perfect spot yet. We moved two years ago from a tiny flat ranch into a much larger newer home. Also wait to see after your paint n hang some pictures n items on the walls!

    1. I agree completely! Wait and see! Once it’s gone… I think if you remove the carpeting-that I know you love-maybe just in one area,( the downstairs rec room?) and replace with hardwood to your taste the furniture will fit in better. Or (hee hee hee) when your parents move to an old farmhouse in your area, you can give it to them and ‘visit’ it!

  17. Agree with you…..take your time….open your mind. It will come. If u get something wrong u can always change it

    I love European antiques

  18. You’re a smart gal to know the new house needs its own style decor. Our old house was totally old-world in style and decor. But the new house (we’ve been here 2 months) is modern and sleek. I realized right off the bat, my old world style was not conducive to the new house. So I got rid of almost everything and have enjoyed the process of learning a newer, sleeker style. Each home speaks and when we listen, it works beautifully. Have fun!

  19. We are in the process of downsizing and eventually moving to an Independent Living space….this may take a year…or more….LOL. Always moving forward to get the job done. My craft/sewing/painting room is the biggy. What to keep and what to give away. Closer to the move, we will have an estate sale….my boys don’t want anything….no worries…someone will!! One drawer, one cabinet at a time….we’ll get there. Love the house you have, this is fun watching how your place is coming together.

  20. Marian, I so look forward to these posts from the Midwest! So true, all you said…we have to not overthink it. And YOU KNOW what you like! We have moved 6 times, and are in our ‘girls are both at private colleges so we needed more money’ home. It is a bit more transitional than I have had in the past, but I have enjoyed the ceiling heights and oddly placed windows. It really is organic…letting your gut tell you what that house will be when you make it yours. Our place looked so much more modern – and I loved it – when we moved in, but my stamp brought out a different side to the home! Enjoy the energizing process. And we miss you over here.

  21. I am glad to hear you coming around to this thinking. Your new home is really, really lovely. And very different from your prior home. I was wondering how your pieces would work in this home and glad you are giving things a little time to see how they work. I do think painting the walls a different color from the yellowish creamy beige could make a big difference. Give it a little more time before you let go of your treasured pieces though, no rush to make those decisions.
    I went through the same thing when we went from a century old home with original wood work and moved into a almost new home built around 2008 that is full of golden oak cabinets. And floors. Things I had in the other house just didn’t work and are still in boxes. I need to just let them go.

  22. As ive been watching you, I’ve had that same thought. Your style is impeccable and it worked for the “older” home. But this place needs something different. Maybe Cabinets with legs that dont sit on the floor. I understand the carpeting delima but your style is sooo hardwood floors. Im interested to see your compromises as this house evolves. Marion this story is gonna reach out to a lot of women who want things one way but have to tweek thier style to suit the house and the needs of a family. I cant think of God using someone more perfect for the job!

    1. “Amen” to that Holly. God gave Marion a ton of creativity and I think He just blessed her with a new “opportunity” to stretch that creativity even further thereby, as you mention, “reach out to a lot of women” who maybe don’t have the finances to remodel or refurnish.

  23. We moved into a much bigger home and the previous owner had an Italian vibe going on. Not only do I not have an Italian bone in my body- it just did not go with the house. Bright white melamine kitchen cabinets with that dark gold hand done paint finish? Yikes. I really didn’t enjoy the space until I did what I thought was right, both for the house and for me.
    I have the sweetest old hutch that was my grandmothers from the 1930’s. I had it repainted (long before I knew about milk/chalk paint) and refinished and now its a sweet yellow piece that is in the boys room filled with my sons toys from years gone by. It’s precious. Grandma would never have envisioned her hutch in a bedroom but its’ perfect. So maybe you need to go shopping in your home first and see if things need a new place to shine.

  24. Glad you recognize that. You realize you need to honor the house. Your chippy stuff is great but I agree it doesn’t mix well with the new house. And that is ok. You will find the balance between what your house wants and what you want. Good Luck

  25. So glad you are coming to this realization so quickly and the above comments suggest also and I have had to learn myself. When I had to leave (very painfully) my hundred year old two story home full of antiques and old-time charm and character, it was a shock me and my desires and aesthetics to live in my one-story 10 year old home. And yes, I did have to grieve through that. No more 10 and 11 foot ceilings, everything antique and collected through 22 years there, anything vintage and shabby just added to the charm. Not to mention 1 1/2 acres of huge oaks and space for 22 cats outside and 3 dogs~that wasn’t going to be possible in a small yard in town.

    So now, I am enjoying central AC/heat, lovely new bed and most furniture, bought slowly one at a time, and smaller place to clean. Only one piece of antique furniture looks right in here but I am being pickier and still making and beautiful little home here. I found that many antiques collectibles and pretties I had before simply looked “old”, dingy, and tired here and shabby, rather shabby chic. Sometimes those few things I carried over here simply looked sad and pitiful and bacteria-laden . But a few things do look shabby chic and vintage which I enjoy and also new and lovely looks pretty too. It is just knowing the difference of how these things relate to new surroundings and not forcing them to stay. And getting over wishing they would. It may be a process–but it can happen. Learning to see beauty in all types of things and appreciating what you have. Letting go of the past and those blessings and being grateful for the new things that God is giving us. Certain things and places and relationships are meant to be for a season in our lives and then He allows and moves us to something new and we trust HIm and and are open to the good, the bad, the ugly and then more and different blesses. That’s peace and it is wonderful…

  26. I agree with so many of the comments. I moved from a 1930 farm house to a 1966 suburban ranch and it was a bit of style whiplash at first! It turned out to be really fun using my things in different ways, in different rooms and in different arrangements. I let some stuff go that just didn’t work and it was ok. I don’t miss it. You will have a ball just letting the house tell you what it needs and probably surprise yourself, too!

  27. I totally agree. Any home can be made to feel warm and inviting. We just have to let it speak to us so we can give it the right touches that will connect us more fully to it. Your new home is lovely and I like the way you internalize your perceptions of each space you encounter . I know it will be beautiful once you put your magic into it.

  28. As you say, things are still evolving, there are paint colors to change, re-arranging to be done, AND this is not your final house. Please find a place for those few beloved pieces you have, even if it is an attic space. You may be living in a farm house again in the future and wish for them. Kids also grow up and scour their parent’s attic for items to go in dorm rooms and first apartments. We just took a small trailer full to my oldest daughter for her little toddler’s room. So fun to pass it on, and now I have more attic space! :).

  29. Learning to let go & let our minds grow can be so difficult. I tell people we tend to keep our minds in tiny square boxes. We must remove the boxes & let our minds stretch out into the big wonderful world. How would we ever know what is really right for us if we don’t allow ourselves out of the box. Allow yourself the honor of growing. There is great freedom in getting out of the little box. As baby birds do, let your mind & new ideas fly………

  30. Just more mountains for you to move! Seems we are always challenged to go where we would not have thought to go! He gifted you, and He will guide! And it will be Mustard Seed
    beautiful!

  31. I think paint will help you decide what to do next. I think staining or painting the built-ins too.

    I’m sure you’ve got it in your head, can’t wait to see how it goes.

  32. I like your idea – I was just looking at pictures of an older Tutor home that a movie star bought and totally ruined by making the inside modern. They striped the special parts out of the house and made it look like all other new homes- such a shame! Better to work with the home you have.
    You are encouraging me to work with my home as well. I need to throw out a lot of stuff to fit my newer smaller home.

  33. Our builder reworked a floor plan to make the spec house we bought an open concept. By doing so, he took out all the storage and closets (except the bedroom ones and one small walk-in in a guest bath) in the house. Picture no coat closets, no linen closets, and archways instead of walls to put cabinets on. The day I walked in, I knew the archway between the entry hall and the dining room needed a wall. He also loved plantation blinds so left the windows without outer frames and molding. But, he put in old world cabinets in the kitchen (like Habbersham) and I’ve been working off their design to change the house slowly over the years. This post made me realize how disjointed everything gets when the concepts are continually at war.

  34. Hi Marian, I think we moved in the opposite direction, we went from a house that went well with a classic Belgian country style (boxwood in the front yard, linen curtains, elegant wooden pieces) to a Swedish country home that asks for a somewhat more humble rustic style. It isn’t always easy and I need time to make this shift. I don’t like valances, but they are the best option for my kitchen window. I’m making mistakes because I haven’t been living here long enough to ‘feel’ what the house needs. That’s why I decorate on a budget now. If it works it works. If it doesn’t work, I live with if for a while and change things in a year or two. The kitchen was sunflower yellow, now it’s very similar to your choice for your kitchen, it’s still not what this kitchen wants, but it’s a little bit better. It’s about accepting that it will take time. The easiest rooms in the house? The ones we completely stripped, where we started from scratch :).

  35. you are so on target! We had a 1941 cape cod 1 mile from the beach in virginia and then moved to san antonio , texas. Talk about different. I went from cool beachy tones to warm southern, ranch tones. So for 2 years (mostly because we were so tired from the move and preparing that old house to sell) I did nothing but paint the kitchen walls and take down the old pink miniblinds. The 90’s were calling and they wanted them back. Then I came across your blog 2 months ago and Lord have mercy the floodgates just opened. I watched your video series about finding your design style. Like 3 times! It made me sit back and reevaluate my style, this new house, and what would really work. In 2 months time I had taken everything off the walls, painted a fresh coat in each room, and finally painted some interior doors and the fireplace a dark brown/black woody color (in chalk paint of course!), reworked some things I already had, got rid of stuff that was never going to work, and bought a select few new items. It was exciting starting fresh! I just embraced all the newness and the new flow of creativity and inspiration just keeps coming! Don’t limit yourself or your new home! Go for it! Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  36. The maple built ins in the kitchen….need top doors off, wooden shelves to replace the glass ones, and painted (or stained darker, as someone mentioned above). Maybe paint or paper the interior to set off your pretties better. The glass shelves are just a no.

    I also think the white, chippy cabinet in the LR would look much better once the room is painted….but….I think the carpeting is what throws it off a bit. Carpeting is new…chippy is old….they seem to thwart one another.

    I’ve successfully pulled off farmhouse style in 1970’s houses, european houses, houses with NO personality, 1980’s houses, and now…my beloved renovated and remade ranch made into a farmhouse (original floors, foundation, and studs ONLY!). But it does require rethinking your things and figuring out what works…and doesn’t….in the newest home. You can’t take what worked in one house and force it to work in the next. 🙂

    1. Also….my 1940’s bedroom suite looks the very best in our current home. It was built in 1959, and has the original wood floors. The people who renovated it….opened the ceiling to the roofline…which is amazing! It’s the smallest master br we’ve ever had….which goes so well with our full bed! The room soooo reminds me of my grandma’s bedroom….which was similar in size and flooring!

  37. Something tells me that the living room carpet may not be around for a very long time. Your going to have a good time with your lovely new home, whatever you do. Enjoy!

  38. Give it time, I do believe it is the carpet, and the size of the pieces. Your blue hutch looked so big in your Pa home, now looks smaller. Paint your butlers pantry blue like the hutch. Try it, it’s only paint. You have great ideas, trust your instincts. I liked your idea you had on IG stories with built in shelves in the dining room for your ironstone. One step at a time. Enjoying the tours.

  39. I love the maple built ins! I know you want to paint them but I would leave them till the last they add such a nice wood/warmness to the room. However, having moved just about 2 years ago now, I am slowly replacing and adding to my furniture to dress my house to her potential. I think most of your things will fit in once the walls are painted…not a fan of brown/tan/beige either. It is a beautiful home and it will be fun to see how you dress it!

  40. Thank you for this post….I have ‘come out swinging’ in the last year after fighting with my home to fall into a cookie cutter style….I have come to realize I am not cut from a cookie cutter, I need to put my own stamp, in my own style into my home and I am loving the shopping, the DIY’s, the Art, the furniture and how it is all coming together! There is no label I can put on it except the one I coined. ‘Comfy (vintage), Blue Jean Cottage’…..no mater where you land Marian….you will put your stamp on it, in your own style….that is what I love and learned from you and am loving watching it unfold! You inspire….

  41. I was thinking about the same thing yesterday after reading the porch intro. It probably won’t be your last home, and you may not be able to use everything of yours the way you want to. But, it will still be your style. I have lived in actual farmhouses and now have a 3 bedroom ranch with a wonderful family room addition. But I had a hard time when we first moved in finding what looked best. I’m still trying after 8 years, but hey, life is all about change, RIGHT? And, I’m still hoping to find the right house for my forever home.after all, I do have some things stashed away in the basement .

  42. I have a similar love-hate relationship with my house. We downsized into a newer ranch style, and bought new furniture to go in it. It goes with the house, but it doesn’t go with me! I’ll be watching here as you go through the changes your house calls for, hoping for inspiration, as it’s too expensive to start over!

  43. I really appreciate this post! We seem to keep buying houses built in the 1970’s instead of my Dream “old home”, and our recent move to WA was no different. And while some of the plainer style is familiar, I’m grappling with 8ft ceilings instead of vaulted and a totally different style of home (had a two story, now have a split level/raised ranch). This makes me feel better about the struggles I’ve had making some things work, and knowing others just won’t. Or maybe just being patient with myself as I rethink how they can? I appreciate you writing about this topic!

  44. This is a really interesting conversation…….I wouldn’t get rid of anything yet. Paint first, change out your fixtures, then if you really love your primitives, PUT THEM OUT !!!!!! I don’t think you will be happy making this house someone else’s style, what you love. I remember your previous home before pictures and the magic you worked on it……..give it some time. Go with what you love, or you won’t be happy.

  45. A good friend of mine gave me some good advice before I moved into my last house…she said “live in your house a while before you go out and buy a bunch of furniture and stuff to fill it. You need to feel the energy of the house.” That turned out to be really good advice for me because it allowed me to be patient and wait for inspiration. And you are admirable for making that compromise for your family! You are so very talented and I know you will make it a beautiful space that feels like you in no time!

  46. My husband and I built our current home about 9 years ago. At that time I did not know my decorating style and so I picked very neutral bones. Wood, neutral tile and carpeted flooring and many tones of beige walls. White painted trim, doors and cabinets. Now as I live in the home I feel like my style is developing. We have made many changes already in paint and flooring and replaced a lot of our old furniture but I have done it slowly as I am inspired by the space. I would refer to my style as modern, casual, farmhouse.

  47. It’s a really nice post with so much useful information. I think so many people are trying now to copy the popular “Fixer Upper” style, windmill pieces, clocks, galvanized – that all the houses look the same to me. I like letting the house tell you what it needs. Great post!

  48. Oh my! I love this post and I hope a lot of bloggers read it! I have seen ladies recently put shiplap walls up in homes and it doesn’t go with the homes style at all. The farmhouse look IS IN, but is not suitable for some home styles. I feel like you, you need to adjust to your homes style. I see ladies calling their homes
    Farm house style and it looks nothing like a farmhouse! I also noticed in my area people putting metal roofs on their homes and it looks ridiculous on a split levels, and beautiful homes like yours. Keep your things someplace and see what will work slowly. I feel like one other reader, you may like an outfit, but it does not mean it will look good on your body. If you want a farmhouse look, get a house that looks like it is a farm house! (Not you, but those going for that look).
    Blessings

    1. Shelly,
      I have noticed the same thing in my area regarding metal roofs. It looks beautiful on craftsman and older farmhouse homes but it does look strange on newer homes which I have seen many people do.

  49. I too am trying to redecorate my home and letting it speak to me . My living room is traditional and does not look it’s best with more casual or vintage looks. After 14 years I am going more with its style…and appreciate the airiness and some of its features. In 1955 apparently people would drive by the home while it was being built as it was new and modern. It was my husband’s family home so not one I would dreamed of. So it will be fun to watch your transformation of your home.

    1. I’m using vintage maple furniture I inherited from my parents and while it’s not my “style” (whatever that is) I’m making changes with not only decor items to set on the maple furniture but with paint!!! It’s going to make the world of difference. And I’ve even made slipcovers (after watching MMS videos) for the sofa, love seat, and arm chairs! You can do it! Choose “your” colors!

  50. I’m a firm believer in listening to the house…..except mine. I’m fighting mine. I will beadboard it into submission. If I listen to my home (and I have, but we disagree) I’d be going to Rooms to Go and plunking “furnished rooms” in it. That’s not the way I want to live…..so I’ll fight the good fight and fill my home with classics, subway tile, beadboard, crown molding and wood floors. After that’s done, I’ll have another conversation with my house and we’ll see what it has to say then.
    I admire you and am glad you are taking the time to have a conversation with your new home, maybe your convos will go better. And thank you for allowing multitudes of strangers into your home!

  51. I thought this, also, even though I paint everything white! I do leave the insides of my white painted cabinets unpainted because rich, warm wood is a such nice contrast for ironstone.

  52. Marian, thanks for sharing this… working with what you have, that is. I only have two issues with my place. I have to work my ‘big ideas’ into a small home… 400sf to be exact! But, I’m workin’ it! Also, my kitchen has dark cupboards, which I would love to paint white, however, I rent. Soooo, I’m going to wait a bit, and ask my landlord if I can paint them. In the meantime, my open shelving has wood that compliments the cupboards, and I’m incorporating a white island and white baker’s cabinet (hoosier)… yep, it fits well in my tiny kitchen, too!

  53. I’m fighting my house! It’s the ugliest 1970’s monstrosity. I hate that style. So why did I buy it? It is in the best area I could afford and there is only storage rooms downstairs and the living and bedrooms are upstairs – so I feel safe (and being a woman on my own that is important). Another reason I bought it is that it has all day sunshine – and as our climate is cold in winter that was another necessity (I’m in New Zealand).
    So I’m left with a safe, warm, UGLY house. A house that 6 months after buying I haven’t even moved into yet. I can’t imagine myself living there. But I am renovating it into my style, adding panelling to the walls, antique lighting and vanities, interior plantation shutters on the windows etc. I am secretly worried it will turn out to be one sorry mess ….

    1. Did you say plantation shutters? You won’t be sorry. I love, love, love mine, which were already installed in my home when I moved in. They add such character to both the interior and exterior of your home! Enjoy.

  54. “I believe your home tells a story about who you are and who you aspire to be. We represent ourselves through the things we own. I don’t believe in trends. I believe in collecting things that you connect with. We should surround ourselves with things we care about, that have meaning.” – Nate Berkus

    I’m already loving how your home has transformed into one that looks like your specific family lives there, Marian.

  55. Your post is so right! I have collected beautiful vintage furniture and finds for years, and I finally have an adorable cape cod where they look right at home. My style never worked quite right in the newer homes we had, no matter how hard I tried to make them. Love reading your story, and congrats on the move to the Midwest. I live a few hours from you in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. It’s a super cute little college town loaded with antique stores if you ever decide to road trip for fun finds!

  56. The upside to a newer home is that the mechanics are likely in good shape. Your new home is likely well insulated, and the wiring and plumbing are fairly new. When you buy an older home, you often have to spend time and money on things like fixing roof leaks and old plumbing. Ask me how I know…I love my old farmhouse, but I am learning to accept imperfection and to be patient with the process. This is my eighth home. I find that it is best for me to live a while in a house and listen to what the house wants.

  57. I really fell that you have to live in a house for awhile to see what will work and what wont. Sometimes preconceived
    notions from before you moved in just won’t won’t work in the long run. Live in it for awhile and it will speak to you
    in unexpected ways that might surprise you.

  58. I get this! I love the farmhouse style. But my home is southern traditional. I have pillars in the living room and a grand fireplace as well as French doors. I’m realizing I can do comfy traditional with a French twist and it works much better. This even allows me to slip in a couple of heirloom pices that have long been in the family without them looking out of place.
    And who ever mentioned scale was right. I think part of the key here is that the scale of rooms in your new home is much different than the scale of the home you just left.

  59. Moving presents many surprises. It’s all exciting and then desires of what was emerge unexpectedly! Take the carpet up in the living room and much of your fab furniture will feel right at home 🙂 Settling in takes a lot if time! Be at peace with your gifts thus far.

    1. I am going to lose the vote on pulling that carpet up. It is very comfortable, so we’re going to keep it. I will be pulling up the carpet in the dining room, though, and eventually the home office, stairs and hall. That’ll be down the road, though.

  60. There is a children’s book I love. It states, “my house is me and I am it…it looks like all my dreams”. I have worked to have my home style reflect me & my family. It has grown layer by layer to represent all of our layers. It is constantly evolving…just like we are. Let yours do that too. Don’t rush it.

  61. I live in a A frame, 1 1/2 story, ranch house with Spanish ‘overtones’ built in 1964. No way is it going to blend into farmhouse style. That style is very prevalent and pretty but this house doesn’t speak farmhouse language. It’s not going there. Not that some nice old pieces wouldn’t fit in here, they would, but they will be nice old Spanish looking pieces of furniture. I want furniture and paint colors that would work in a California, Spanish Revival home blended with a Mid Century Modern Ranch. That’s a tall order and I haven’t figured it out yet but I’m surely going to try.

  62. I think your new home is gorgeous. While it is beautiful now, I can’t wait to see how you personalize it.
    I especially can’t wait to see the boy’s rooms. I am looking for inspiration for a bedroom for my grandson. I want him to always have a room at Grandmama and Pop Pop’s house. So, one of our guest rooms will be his room and looking forward to turning his nursery into a big boy bedroom.

    Marian, thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos of your new and beautiful home!

    P.S. I am still so in love with the bird and bee painting….so if you decide to sell…..

  63. The Lord led you to this house and with your talent, you will make it into a home just like all the rest. You have some beautiful pieces and if you love them, they will fit somewhere. You bought a beautiful home. Enjoy each day and have fun – it will all work out. Moving is like having a baby, you forget how much work it is. LOL

  64. I completely understand that! The maple is beautiful but not my taste either, I’d be planning to paint or stain them too. I’m sure they’ll be beautiful when you’re done!

  65. Agreed – paint is needed before any decisions are made about the furniture. In addition, I think the carpeting really gives the house a “new” vibe but I think you can fix that by layering area rugs on top of that. Very common trick done in old houses and it adds such warmth to a room. I have seen area rugs on top of area rugs.

    And I can recommend some really pretty blue & white rugs just announced by Dash & Albert!!

  66. I lived in a split entry for 13 years and never could figure out how to decorate it. Then I bought I remodeled farmhouse. All of a sudden, decorating was easy. The house told me what would look good. I’m back in the split entry due to a divorce, and I’m lost again. The only thing the house is saying is, “I’m a boring rectangle.” There are no nooks and crannies to fill. No obvious style. The only thing I know about my decorating style is that I don’t like fussy. Anyone have tips on decorating a house that’s completely devoid of architectural interest?

  67. I’d rather match what goes with me and brings joy to my heart, than match the house and makes the house look good. However, I hate seeing an old house totally stripped down to a modern vibe, even if that’s what make the owner happy. So…

    I guess that there’s a fine line in there somewhere.

  68. The thing that I’d change in the LR are the cabinets on the left side of the fireplace. Ack! The lack of symmetry would bug me to no end. Why do people do that? Asymmetry = modern. Every time I sat in that LR, I couldn’t rest because I’d be thinking, “Man, I’d like to rip out those cabinets.” The right looks airy, while the left feels heavy. I’d take off the cabinet doors and install shelves to match the right side. The room is screaming for proper balance (or is it just my sensitive ears). The fireplace should be the focal point in the room, with the side shelves in supporting roles. But the way it is now, the eyes want to travel to the right, because it seems like the focal point should be somewhere over there and not include those “after thought” cabinets. The room look “off” because there is *almost* symmetry and balance, but not quite. I bet if you take care of it, some of your pieces will feel more at home there.

    1. Yes, that bugs me, too! I see that they wanted to provide a place for a TV and closed storage, but I wish it was symmetrical, too. It would be a pretty expensive changes, thought, so it won’t happen for a while! I’m hoping paint will really help lighten them up.

  69. Sorry you are losing the carpet vote. I think the carpet and wall color are making your chippy furniture look dingy. Also, as many others have said, the scale is so different the furniture is lost. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

  70. I think you should paint the maple cabinets at the bottom of your stairs Flow Blue. It would be a pretty pop of color.

  71. Your house looks a lot like my new to me house. I love it, but sometimes I miss the little cottage we moved from. I’m very interested in what you do to the built-ins because mine are almost the same, except mine are cherry. It’s beautiful wood, so I don’t want to paint, but they are a little fancy for me :-). I eagerly await your future posts.

  72. Or a pretty green like in the painting of Eulalie! Oh the joy (and sometimes frustration) of possibilities! I’m looking forward to watching your choices unfold!

  73. First, congratulations on your move. Your distinctive style shines through even in the beginning. It will be beautiful because it will be your style however you do it.i really enjoyed your article. For me I am fighting my home because I rent and can’t change anything about it. I can only put my items in it. I like that you say your house may not be your last house. I truly hope that is true for me too. It gives me peace that I can enjoy the things I like about this house and know that some day I will not have to live with what I don’t like. I hope to learn from your posts how to look for and make the best of what I have now.

  74. I’m enjoying watching your decorating process. Once you live in it a while you will be on a roll your ideas are amazing, n like most of us, we r never ever done. Part of the fun

  75. It’s definitely the carpet throwing out the furniture in the living room. Even the French chairs don’t look right. If you’re losing the carpet battle then I suggest keeping the majority of your previous pieces away from that room. Some ironstone on the shelves perhaps and quilts, but otherwise leave space. The white cabinet is much too small and appears too shabby compared to the rest of the room and the sofa.
    It’s reminding me of Myquillyn’s last rented house and she seems to have done the swap the other way round to you; moving from a more cookie cutter to a place where unfinished fits in.
    Maybe it’s about making the living room you with colour but not so much with furnishings, then creating an office space or maybe bedroom that is more the old house style, where you can keep some of the chippy pieces and feel more you. The kitchen as well I can see much more can be achieved with your style, and the colour can then be what links the two rooms, whilst the furnishings soften and modernise more as you move to the living room. Maybe try to bring in some copper or copper colour to the living room to carry through from the kitchen pans. Something for the soft furnishings perhaps.
    I’m looking forward to seeing the house evolve.

  76. Your post today articulated the struggle I have had with our house. I have been thinking about this very thing recently and realize that I’ve been fighting the style of our home for years. We have a 1960’s ranch but my style is definitely not post modern! I have been hanging onto an antique dining set that is beautiful, and most likely valuable, but so out of place in this house. It was my mother’s and sentiment has made me keep it. Although I know it doesn’t fit here, I had hoped we would move to a house where it would fit. That has not happened in 10 years and certainly is not in our immediate future. I definitely need to embrace the bones of this house more especially as we are buying some new furniture pieces soon. I can’t wait to see how you merge styles in your new space.

  77. We’ve moved a lot with my husband being active duty, and I’ve always found it a fun challenge to take a house and make it my own into a warm inviting home no matter how temporary. Your new home has beautiful bones, and I’m excited to see how you add your charm and style. Best wishes!

  78. I agree with letting the home speak to you. After two years in our new to us house I find that is demanding a more rustic/cottage/primitive and dare I say it? Farmhouse feel. In this house, my fancier, more elegant pieces do not work and have been slowly sold on Craigslist. I am relishing adding in chippy paint and older, character pieces with some beautiful colors. It has taken two years of evolution and listening to get to this point and I am grateful I didn’t rush it. Enjoy the process with your new home! Isn’t this what we all love? Decorating and letting out creative juices flow! So exciting!!!

    1. Tanya, It’s taken me about as long as it’s taken you and it is an “evolution” as you so well put it. I too am glad I didn’t rush in…except I did hit every wall in the house with color swatches and then decided to stay with the original paint. I then had to match the original wall paint which took me about 3 trips to Home Depot.
      You keep “enjoying the process” as well of “decorating and letting out your creative juices.”

  79. I haven’t read all the responses, but one thing I’m wondering about is how the weather, where you now live, will affect the colors you chose? I too live in a cold snowy climate and the “cold” colored paints are not something I use. I prefer a warm cozy feeling to fight off the cold gray skies we often have. I’m not sure how much sunshine you have where you now live, but this is something that you may find affecting your decision making on colors! Enjoy your new home! I look forward to watching it blossom into your personal style! 🙂

  80. 1. I’ve never seen so many comments since you moved into your new home…or did my staying up all night make me hallucinate?
    2. You’re thinking is solid about your style and letting the house speak to you. I was all sold on Country Rustic French when I moved into my 1955 built cottage but the light Pergo flooring throughout plus the light teal paint on the walls with white moulding and trim kept talking a different language to me. I had to reach down deep to come up with the beach/coastal cottage direction I’m now moving in.
    3. There are some things I had to let go of as you have already mentioned you may have to do.
    4. You’re wise in waiting until the paint is on the built-ins.
    5. This move can only increase your following, as I think it already has.
    6. I can hardly, but will, wait to see you unpack your business boxes and merchandise and where you’ll set those up and when will you be up and running again.
    7. I like that you had so much help from your new church family on moving in day. A true blessing.
    8. So, when does your folks arrive??? Let the painting begin!

  81. Yes, yes, yes! That is such a breath of fresh air to hear. I agree that each house has its own vibe and you are obviously in tune with that, which is what separates trendy from something that has staying power. I don’t think it ever works to go against the house, and you are still adding your style but working with the house, and that will make it amazing. With the current *trend* to rip everything out and go with the latest and most common finishes, I especially loved seeing the Persian rug in the bathroom and hearing the comment you made about the “beautiful” bathtub. So many do not see what they have and instead jump on some trend (free standing tub) instead of using what they have. That one statement piece made such a huge difference, and I find that inspiring. Love seeing what you are doing with the new house:-)

  82. Remember, this is for you, not for us. When we bought our 1857 farm, it had been vacant for years and was not considered habitable. I had to go “off the grid” for awhile to remove others’ expectations. It allowed us to focus on this farm and our personal adventure getting to know her. During that time, we fell madly deeply in love with the old barn, the apple orchard and every nook & cranny of the farmhouse. I understand that your home styling is part of your business, as is this blog. Just know that you are writing this story and the pace is yours.

  83. It’s the carpet, it has to go. That carpet would make a 100 year old farmhouse look new. Wall-to-wall carpet sucks the charm and warmth out of any space. I know your family likes it, but they love you more. I think you won’t feel like the space is “you” until it is gone. Just my humble opinion.

    1. I am totally with you on the carpet and, if I was the only one who lived here, I would rip it out. I’m not, though, and this is a home for our family. Maybe down the road we can replace it with hardwoods, but that won’t be until the boys are older and Jeff is also on board.

    2. I disagree – wall to wall carpeting can warm up a room like nothing else. Especially in a colder climate.

  84. If you are patient and give it the opportunity, the house will tell you what it wants… It’s a process. Just allow it to happen.

  85. So agreed with what you wrote in this post. Not rushing things and giving your house time to speak to you and getting to know its personality first is wise. Its a beautiful home but its a totally different style home than your previous PA house. Some things just aren’t going to work in this house and it will some trial and error along the way.

    I think you are right about using more European/French style décor in this home. Trying to force it to be something it isn’t just wont look right and the pie safe and hutch that fit right into your PA home so beautifully definitely doesn’t look the same in this house. I think focusing on pulling up carpet from the dining room/home office first is more a priority than in living areas. I have to laugh because back in the 60’s everyone was covering up their hardwoods with wall to wall carpet. Its funny how trends go full circle.

    This house is perfect for this season in your life with growing boys. Being in a nice family neighborhood is perfect for your family. I do see you down the road in a farmhouse style home maybe after the boys are older or ready for college.

  86. Thank you so much for this post. I have struggled with this since the “farmhouse” style hit. I have always loved the primitive hand-made antiques but no matter how I try they don’t work in our 1953 classic home. I have antiques but use Eastlake, French and English antiques.. I have a Walnut Simple eastlake (no spoon carvings) cylinder desk with a glass door hutch/bookcase in my living room that would look amazing where your white farmhouse cupboard is. I love your style and now I will be able to use your ideas and they will fit my home. Can’t wait to see how this unfolds.

  87. You don’t have to strip to restain those cabinets. A simple sanding followed by gel stain will do the job. You would have to paint it on and leave it like paint but a good quality stain would work well. I recommend General Finishes gel stain. They have great videos on their website with their recommended process. And I think your primitive furniture looks great in the house.

  88. Yeah, i know there are products like that, but it doesn’t soak into the grain like a stain, because the existing poly prevents it from doing so. In that case, I prefer paint.

  89. You are so gracious! I’ve been reading your blog long enough to realize how talented you are and that you’re very capable of making this house beautiful! Sometimes I cringe at the comments.

  90. I live in a mixture house/ 1/2 old farmhouse/ 1/2 addition which is newer built in the 90’s/ sort of to match the farmhouse….all wood floors,..
    I have orange wood in my house and for my tastes, the orange wood has to go. Orange wood/was it ever popular….in the 70’s maybe? or 80’s? I don’t really like it now at all in my house,….
    so I sure agree with you Marian, on the painting of the cupboards and
    built ins,…that definitely will be a good thing…PAINTING, yes.
    I am stuck with orange wood/floors and BEAMS. 8 inch square beams with KNEE BRACES. oh my goodness. southwest cowboy saloon/ maybe more barn style. that are heavy and weigh down the space in my dining room, kitchen and living room. ALL MEN LOVE IT…but me, (sorry husband who carefully made them all)/to me
    ( after living with them for almost 30 years it is yuck……lol !!!…WOOD is beautiful, YES, but this is NOT my style, I just ignore that they’re there when I can and have tried everything AROUND them…..I’d like to “white wash” them…they’re not the smoothest/but not bad either….what do you think of mms paint on beams…to lighten them up….to help lighten up my kitchen and dining space/open concept but a huge back covered porch that makes the space a bit less sunny even though big enough windows and 2 sets of french doors. hard to imagine unless you see it maybe, but trust me/it’s dark and needs to be lightened up….painting walls?check!
    painting orange wood? CHECK!
    So ! I’m looking forward to seeing what the maple will look like after you paint it…and how you do it…maybe that will help me fix the ORANGE HEAVY beam dilemma!?! …will keep watching for sure!
    p.s. Good luck with your house, be brave for all of us watching,
    I look forward to seeing the transition and see how to’s on painting that orange maple wood…wonder if that’s the next step!

    1. Joan,
      I feel your pain! We have a cape style home we built in 1992. In the family room we have wainscoting and crown molding stained in a orangey provincial stain. In the kitchen we have stained crown molding with the same. Yes, men love stained woodwork. I have fighting my hubby on this for years.

      Marians woodwork is maple and is lighter than the orangey woodwork you and I have. I am waiting to see how things turn our in hers too. My hubby has agreed FINALLY to painting it which is no easy task with all the prep work but first we are finishing up a master bath reno where we took out an old 90’s jetted tub (nightmare to clean) and did a large walk-in shower with bench in its place.

  91. I agree with many here that you should take your time and move slowly with changes. Your sectional is an excellent starting point in the family room.

    Hubby and I live in a small townhouse in a large metro area. (about 950 square feet) We bought a foreclosure about 7 years ago and were able to pay cash. It was a very plain townhouse, but that was a good thing, in my opinion. It did not have a lot of weird things that needed to be undone! We painted all walls white, replaced the plain late 1980’s oak woodwork with new pine molding, painted white, replaced hollow doors with solid paneled pine doors, painted white etc. We installed a charming IKEA kitchen–white cabinets, glass fronted cabinets, butcher block counters etc. in our tiny galley kitchen. (This entire gut job cost us under $5,000, doing ALL the work ourselves.) We also replaced all the flooring–carpeting upstairs and solid flooring down.

    I feel that we worked with this simple little place by making it a simple farmhouse/cottage style but with modern comforts like a sectional in our living area. It’s honest and straightforward, furnished simply but charmingly. I have a couple small collections, but we de-cluttered big time when we moved in. It is never going to be a large, grand place and I am perfectly happy with that. You do have to listen to your house!

  92. I totally get “listening” to your house. I’ve been fighting ours for the past year. My husband was determined to buy a mid-century modern retirement/forever house. My first thought was I could decorate around anything. Then I hated trying to bring mid-century into our decor because I don’t like it! Then I realized that I really love certain things about this house, so I need to go with those things, but be true to how we live and our “style”… I can tell this will be a slower process than I thought, but I’m becoming more comfortable with my choices. I know it is stressful for you and your family to move, but I am selfishly excited to watch you transform your new house into a home!

  93. I know the subject of the living room carpet may seem like a “lost issue” & greatly respect what the rest of your family wants (& applaud you for putting the family vote over your interiors business & blog followers)…but I’m wondering if by some chance the touch under-foot of a great quality rug with softness, durability and charm could some how turn the family vote around? I can just picture your Dash and Albert rug entry in a large size pulling together your new, magnificent living room. I just had to say this because every time I look at your new house that’s what I think!

  94. Do you know what house I keep thinking of when I read this post? That beautiful Virginia Manor house/Retreat that you shot some of your furniture pieces at… It definitely had more of that old European/Swedish feel with a relaxed grandeur that your new house could handle, with it’s lovely arches and built-ins.. and two-story foyer! Even the color scheme in that house was so gorgeous and would work with existing flooring. Anyways, just a thought! I still go back to those posts for inspiration, and thought maybe you could too! (Orrrrr maybe I’m just completely missing the point of this post 😂)

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