A Dated Southwestern Farmhouse And How To Fix It

Hey Everyone,

Happy Easter and Passover!

As many of you stated emphatically that you wished for me to move into the interior of last Wednesday’s post, here it is!


First, more words from Leah.


Some commentary by me is interspersed and there is more at the end. If it’s interspersed, it will be in this color and italics so it will be clear that it’s me talking.


Dear Laurel,

Thank you in advance for any insights you can provide for our dated southwestern farmhouse.

As you probably already realize, we don’t want it to scream out the typical “southwestern.” In other words, no Navajo blankets, cowhides or horns. And, definitely no Georgia O’Keeffe prints. In other words, none of the trite southwestern decor one frequently sees.


I would like to do things as nicely as possible without going crazy on the money.


Our total budget for everything is about $100,000. We are thinking about 25k for furnishings and hoping that the rest won’t be more than 75k, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking?


And, please note that we want to try to pick furnishings and fabrics as kid proof as possible.


Please forgive the interruption, but EVERYONE wants their homes to be as practical as possible. I realize that this isn’t your business and you don’t know what other people are telling me. But just know that is the one thing everyone mentions as being a necessity. Sorry. As you were.


We do want the decor to be fun and as well as comfy in rooms that look lived-in, if you know what I mean.


We pretty much have to redo the entire house, but over time. It won’t be in one fell swoop.  There will be a laundry/bathroom, three girls’ rooms, one boy’s room, our room, kitchen/dining, living room, and a computer room/library that goes out to the backyard.


I am not against DIY, we are both pretty handy.


front door living room - dated southwestern farmhouse


That is the front door and what will be the living room.

This is reminding me of the post where there is no actual entry into the house. There are some excellent ideas they could incorporate.


We have had to use it as our bedroom since we only have two bedrooms and the four kids are in them. Obviously, this isn’t ideal, but for now, it’s the best we can do.


small living room dated southwestern farmhouse

We’ll be discussing the peeling finish on the floors later on.

living room - brick fireplace - dated southwestern farmhouse
People have been coming through our side door. I had also tested painting the fireplace white, but now we are thinking of just pulling out and building a nice one that doesn’t overwhelm the room.


Yes, I would definitely pull those suckers out.

But, here’s a post about painting brick.

That looks like a wood burning stove instead of a traditional fireplace? Is that what you prefer? Is it heating the house?


You can get some very cool mantels on Etsy for only a few hundred dollars.


There’s a link to one of them on the hot sales page. (see link below or in the main menu) And then you’ll see the rest.

And, before I forget. One Kings Lane is having a massive DOUBLE DIPPING sale. Most of their site is on sale and most of it is then subject to a further discount with the promo code on the HOT SALES page, as well.  It’s only for a few days, however.


dated southwestern farmhouse

Then, next to the living room is my son’s room and the hallway with a small bathroom.

In addition to the pretty mantel, I would, cover up the brick on the banquette and then put a slate top on it and on the firebox surround.


dining room - sitting room dated southwestern farmhouse


Which then leads into a weird room that was used as a TV room by my husband’s grandma.


Most of all the furniture you see was given to us or from Ikea until we figure out what we were doing with the house. I am thinking of using this room as a computer/library room. Who knows?  I want to build floor to ceiling bookshelves along the wall where the couch is.

Hmmm… a little funky configuration here. Did they remove a wall? This seems like it should be the dining room. (before the door area) Or rather a keeping room. For those that don’t know. A keeping room is more of an all-purpose room that can be a dining room, but is also a sitting room. There is an excellent example of a keeping room in this post.


We haven’t touched anything in the house since we moved in.


A door opens to the backyard but it was never finished. The orange chair is sentimental to my husband (I think we will have it reupholstered)

I would think about putting the wall back or adding one with a doorway on the right. That looks like it should be a small office or computer area.

From the doorway by the couch you go into the kitchen.

pantry - dated southwestern farmhouseAbove is the pantry/laundry area.

Southern Utah country kitchen before

Here’s the kitchen eating area.

kitchen - dated southwestern farmhouseAnd — the ugh – kitchen.

I hear you honey.


dated southwestern farmhouse - side door

This also where the basement door is, which we use as a playroom. To the right is the door to where our three girls sleep. Once we build new bedrooms, this will become our master bedroom.

And that is all of the interior.

Thanks so much,



Phew! This is quite a lot to tackle for one post. I have decided not to discuss much in the way of furnishings, but instead focus on the house itself.


I’m going to begin with some generalities concerning budget and time-frame.


First of all, I’m concerned about the “over time” issue.


And, here’s why.

This is a small home and there are six people (most under the age of eight) living in it, plus, from the looks of things a creature that eats from a bowl sitting on the floor.

Let’s face facts.

No matter what, this house is on the funky side and is not ever going to be anything but a little bit quirky. However, that is part of its charm. Therefore, I would spend the money fixing what’s there, not totally tearing everything out. And especially, not over time. The stress will not be worth it.

Of course, I don’t know what your financial situation is and that kind of stress can be really bad, as well.



The other thing that’s super important is also not to upgrade too far for the area, as we discussed last Wednesday.


In other words, we’ll have to save the Lacanche for the next house. ;]

Another idea. And, this is just me thinking out loud. Does each child need a separate bedroom? I realize it would be easier to make that decision if it was two boys and two girls. How is it working right now with three girls sharing a bedroom? I’m not saying not to add-on three more bedrooms. It’s just something to think about if maybe two will be adequate and then put that money into other things.


So, let’s jump in with the cosmetic changes that I think would be appropriate for this dated southwestern farmhouse.


For now, we’ll skip the kitchen but get back to it later.

Let’s begin with the hardwood floors.

They are obviously not in great shape. There are places where things have been patched and a lot of rough spots. But, the thing that’s disturbing me the most is that the finish is peeling off.

Remember this post where we talked all about hardwood floors and various finishes. Plus, the one cleaning product that will ruin them?

Yes, that one.

I am thinking that it’s possible that there was at one time a waxed finish or else a cleaner with oil in it and then the floors were refinished. And yeah. The poly didn’t stick. Therefore, you will need to consult with an expert floor guy to see what your possibilities are.

Of course, you’ll need to find out if you don’t already know if the paint has lead in it and if there’s asbestos anywhere.

One area where people sometimes get hung up is the trim. (mouldings)

Here’s one of my favorite posts about mouldings.

Sometimes it is better to just rip out what’s there and start over rather than get involved with a lot of intense sanding and noxious paint stripping.

I would keep the casings and baseboards very simple.


The ceilings


We were just discussing ceilings.

I am seeing a lot of cake frosting. I would get rid of it, either through sanding/skim coating or with the application of 1/4 inch sheet rock. That’s something to discuss with the builder.

We already discussed the windows in the previous post. I do feel that some changes in the placement/size will help to make the front facade and rooms more cohesive.

In the early stages of planning, an over-all feel for the house as well as a color scheme should be discovered. I love going through Pinterest for ideas and inspiration.

Okay, let’s talk about this kitchen!


If the kitchen is gutted and replaced 100%, it’s going to be at least $40,000 including appliances. So, I don’t see that happening.

I could see keeping its retro feel but updating it and making it more sophisticated. Therefore, let’s talk about ways to achieve that.

Let’s begin with the kitchen floor.

kitchen - dated southwestern farmhouse
One option would be to keep it just as it is, but paint the cabinets a fresher white. And, of course, change the hardware. There are some beautiful pulls and knobs at Rejuvenation. I would do a combo of both pulls (drawers) and knobs (doors).

The floor could also be painted with a special epoxy floor paint.  Remember when William McLure painted his kitchen floor?

Eclectic mystic home - linoleum kitchen floor - best kitchen floor - Apartment Therapy photo - Bethany Nauert

Or, it could be a checkerboard floor.


lonny cream kitchen checkerboard floor - Dee Murphy - West Village Kitchen

I do recommend doing a linoleum or vinyl that’s speckled. Trust me on this. I had a vinyl black and white floor for 16 years and it is not easy to maintain.

They could also put in a hardwood floor to coordinate with the other floors.

Or, it could be some other patterned tile. There are many on the market.


Southern Utah country kitchen before

For the eating area, I would paint the paneling to match the cabinets.

I think that the ceiling would look great with anaglypta wallpaper, painted a glossy white, like I had in my old kitchen. You can see it in the ceiling post.

Other possible changes.

rejuvenation - subway tile
I think that tiling the entire back wall with white subway tile would be cool. I believe that’s a doorway that was covered up.


Somertile white glossy subway tile - on OverstockSomertile white glossy subway tile. This is an economical version.


Or, instead of the tile, how about some between the studs storage!

For more clever kitchen storage ideas, click here.


Of course, the lighting needs to be redone.

Here’s a good post about kitchen lighting.

And, another kitchen lighting post with some good ideas.


I would definitely replace that thing in the middle with a couple of semi-flushmount schoolhouse fixtures.


Birch Lane Heritage Sudbury 1-light semi-flush mount schoolhouse style lightThis is a classic one from Birch Lane


There are many others to choose from, as well.

Rejuvenation has some lovelies

(they’re also having a 20% off your order with code: EVERYTHING)

Schoolhouse Lighting


I would change the sink and faucet, as well. And, probably the appliances. I would definitely do a counter-depth refrigerator.



For the Love of a House

And I would change the counters, too. I’m thinking that soapstone would be a great look for this kitchen.

Okay, I think I’ve done run out of steam. haha So, I’m going to throw it out to you guys. I know that some of you have some great ideas and I’d love to hear them.




Please check out the glorious HOT SALES. Special weekend!


100 Responses

  1. A very inexpensive way to update the kitchen is to just cover the walls with beadboard from Home Depot and paint the cabinets a bright white. Change the knobs and drawer pulls. I did that in an old house with a kitchen about the same vintage as yours. I painted the walls Benjamin Moore Mushroom Cap, which is the perfect cheery yellow and it will go with your existing floor. In about a day or two and with very little expense, your kitchen will look completely different.

    1. Hi Allie,

      Painting the cabinets white is a great idea. “Bright White” makes me nervous. But, that can mean different things to people. It’s just that the kitchen area is on the dark side. I always caution everyone to test. If only I headed my own advice! (for myself) haha

  2. I actually think the kitchen is pretty cute. Painting the units and panelling will really freshen it up – I might go for a pretty pastel green or aquamarine. I agree about replacing the tiling, flooring and worktops – I wonder if a simple square white tile for the splashbacks might be more in keeping with the retro units than a metro tile? And don’t whatever you do fill in the window above the sink – if the view is horrible put a pretty curtain up and keep it soft and light.

  3. I just saw a house go up for sale where I live, that is exactly the style that is perfect for this old, simple and unpretentious house. When looking at the scale of this house in the post, the biggest danger is in trying to make it look like a more modern house and doing massive overkill on it. These old houses need to stay quirky, like Laurel and many others have posted. Don‘t spend tons on money…keep it real.
    Here is the link to the sweetest house, built in 1905 and used to be an old firehouse. It is fabulous …and retained the old bones and a non-kitchen kitchen.


  4. It took a bit of back and forth to the old post with the exterior, but I think I figured it out. Left to right across the front of the house is living room, kitchen, dining nook, laundry entrance (under the carport). So I’m guessing “grandma’s tv room” is behind the kitchen. If a kitchen gut is ever considered, I wonder if they could open into it, and create a family room back there? Looks like they would have backyard access too.

    If it’s feasible, I would close up the tiny window among the cabinets, and add one in the breakfast nook, to create more symmetry on the exterior. If they are adding on, I wonder if the carport area could become the bedrooms? Then, you could make the existing laundry area a mud room, with access to the kitchen and two bedrooms off it. I would make those the kids rooms, and take the bedroom and bath at the back of the house (behind the living room) as the master suite.

  5. Love all of the suggestions – one thing we did to update our old kitchen without replacing the kitchen cabinets – we used the original drawer fronts and had new drawer boxes and drawer glides installed by a cabinet maker/finish carpenter. It was life-changing – the drawers opened all the way to the end of the box giving us more usable space in them and we weren’t always fighting with ancient sticking glides. The cost was very reasonable. We ended up doing this in all of our bathrooms as well so we could repaint and use the old cabinetry.

  6. I’m going to second the warning to be prepared for lead, asbestos, and other unfriendly materials. Abatement is worth doing right if you find it.

    I am curious about the little pantry area. I wonder if smarter storage could be added to give more elbow room for the kitchen. I like the banquette idea and you can do it without covering the windows. Definitely upholster it in Sunbrella. The Very Good Boy will absolutely climb on the banquette while attempting to herd his flock. Agree about using base cabinets for it and turning it into storage. I also agree that if it’s sheet lino, the floor might be worth keeping or painting. It’s a sturdy, environmentally friendly material and it’s always more economical and green to not throw something out.

    I think the cabinets look like they’re in fine shape from the outside, which means it’s cost effective to paint them and focus spending elsewhere. I would get rid of the little cornice board over the window though. It’s so twee. I actually love the paneling (with new paint) but agree the covered door needs some major love. Contrasted material would be fun like the tile you suggest. The paneling carries some of the cottage feel to this house and finding more places for it or wainscotting would help. Also, the more fabric and trim that can be added, the less stark the whole thing will be.

    I know you’re not talking furniture yet, but that table has so much potential. I’m thinking about that rad red table you used to inspire someone’s house. Paint the table something fun and then get the chairs upholstered like parsons chairs and that’s one fewer new thing to buy.

    Her kitchen looks like it’s about the same size as mine (except I don’t have a breakfast area) so I’m really concerned about counter space. I wonder if there are some creative ways to add bonus counters that would work for this kitchen. Pull out islands, a butcher block cart, a drop-down or lift-up leaf maybe attached to the outside end of the cabinets? Something.

    I think with the landscape out there style-wise she should think about high contrast and bright colors. I know you added the no southwest, but some native cultures have really smart black and white patterned baskets which would be an easy way to work in the local color as it were (and support actual native artists!) without committing to trite. I live in Florida. Everyone wants to put shells on everything. I get it. If I see another beige and white and surf blue house… We get it. The beach is pretty.

    But if you do a base of black and white and then pops of the colors of, say, Moab one at a time in each room, the style will make sense without feeling like a local costume. Funny enough, they’re not so different from fall in New England. Reds and oranges and indigoes.

    Adding some green, especially living green, in every room will help it feel less like the desert. As I said before, her local County Extension Office can help with selection advice for indoor and outdoor.

    My only other question is, what about that basement? Currently, they’re using it as a playroom, but could it be turned into bedrooms? A basement bedroom seems less than ideal but it could be neat for the right kid. Depending on the size, you could partition it for all three girls while having a common area for play and weather emergencies. Maybe put in some tunnel skylights to provide natural light? That said, if there’s room on the lot, adding square footage is probably a wise investment.

    Best of luck. This is quite a project. I think it will be well worth it.

  7. Dear Laurel,
    Your knowledge and your generosity with that knowledge astound me. Thank you for this blog; it’s wonderful.
    But. Soapstone. I have soapstone countertops in our 1830 Greek Revival in NJ and I love them. (I actually pet them. Don’t tell anyone.) But I don’t have children.

    Soapstone is impervious to ALL substances, including oil, but it is relatively fragile for stone. It will chip and scratch. If you are someone who is cool with that (I am), then OK. But I would still not recommend it to a busy family, as it takes a little special care.

    As to oil being absorbed — no. Oil may darken the surface, but it stays on the surface. We oil our counter tops because we love the smooth darkened look, but our cleaning ladies can remove that oil in minutes with whatever nuclear cleaner they use. Nothing penetrates the soapstone itself, and even scratches and chips are fixable by sanding or, even easier, oiling.

    Thanks again for sharing your humor and your knowledge! — Ailsa

    1. Thanks so much for your review of soapstone Ailsa. I only go with what I’ve heard and/or read and I’ve heard both views. I bet that your home is gorgeous! Love Greek Revival!

  8. I second the over time questioning, esp in an older home. Please read up and educate yourself about lead in older homes. Dont listen to contractors who aren’t dead serious about containment. You cant live in a home in which you’re going to be disturbing lead paint. You should move all your stuff out because if containment gets screwed up, at least your stuff is ok. Sorry to be such a downer, but HGTV has got everyone thinking they can just tear down walls and sand old painted surfaces and it’s so far off from reality.

  9. First of all let me say that although opposite of the beautiful Maine landscape, the region you have moved to is a beautiful inspirational region. Those mesas and bluffs at sunrise and sunset are truly breathtaking. I have camped in Capitol Reef and Torry and often fantasized living there. That said, I lived in San Francisco in a Victorian cottage for over 30 years. It was a one bedroom home with a total living area about 500 square feet plus a basement office and laundry room. We raised our daughter there, made the dining room into her room through early college years.

    We had an eat in kitchen and often hosted dinners for 8. Family and friends have many fond memories. I definitely attest that there is something to be said for small house living. However, you have 4 children so there is obviously more of a challenge. I agree with many of the recommendations for modest upgrades to the kitchen, ceilings, floors, lighting and painting with the budget you are working with for phase 1. I also love Laurel’s curb appeal recommendations. Terraces and patios expand a small homes living areas to enjoy in 3 seasons. You need a gathering space larger than the kitchen. I recommend that you add a master bedroom and bath first so you can reclaim the living room for family and friends to gather. Before adding any more rooms invest in a addition plan that incorporates halls and traffic flow to the new addition. An additional bath might be more useful than 3 more bedrooms. consider one larger bedroom for the three girls and a bathroom with 3 sinks and mirrors. Best wishes for your new adventure.

  10. About 20 years ago, I moved from the northeast to a small rural town in the west. I understand the culture shock : ) .

    We finished building a new house and while our island is marble, I have Formica’s “Basalt Slate” in a matte finish, which looks like soapstone, on the perimeter countertops. The price was right, it’s tough, and it’s incredibly forgiving when family members set down plates and glasses with too much energy : ) . And vinyl plank flooring has worked well for us — easy to clean and, again, the price is right. Good luck, Leah!

  11. I favor the shared bedroom idea for the girls and definitely need another bathroom…
    Love the idea of a banquet next to the kitchen!
    Since the house is modest size& looking, I would keep the trim simple.
    Once the addition is completed, I hope Leah can pursue her desire for Parisian style decor. You never go wrong with traditional styling.

    1. Hi Dawn,

      Soapstone can absorb oils and appear mottled as a result. But maybe different varieties of soapstone react differently. Not sure. Or, maybe your soapstone IS oiled and you don’t realize that.

  12. Guys ~ I hope that most of you will see this comment. There are a bunch of comments in the cue and some of them have a LOT of links. I would prefer that you not leave links because it is extra work for me. I have to relink them to open up in a new window and I have to make sure that it is a link that’s safe for the website, as well.

    If you feel strongly that it’s extremely beneficial and relevant, then one or two is fine.

    Thank you ~ Laurel

  13. Hi, I am wondering about the comment about soapstone staining…I have soapstone, and as a stone, it is not porous, so I am wondering how it could possibly stain? I absolutely love mine, and have had it for about 3 years now. As a softer material, it can scratch or chip, but stain? I have never seen that, at least not yet.

    1. Hi Dawn,

      Soapstone can absorb oils and appear mottled as a result. But maybe different varieties of soapstone react differently. Not sure. Or, maybe your soapstone IS oiled and you don’t realize that.

  14. Laurel and Leah,
    Bless you for taking on this project! I think it can be charming. Here’s my best advice and what I have done several times: hire an architect. You will be so glad you did many times over the fee. Trust me,
    please, on this advice.

  15. This house has some nice bones! The original windows and interior doors have tons of character. I hope they’ll keep them. I liked your suggestions, Laurel, for the kitchen. I would also paint the cabinets and consider keeping the floor if it’s in decent shape. It’s hard to tell from the photos.

  16. I’ve read your blog for years, and totally enjoy it. I’ve never commented on any post, but this one really “rings my bells”. I love the way you are trying to help someone who has limited funds do a project which is more humble than many of the posts in the past. (However I totally LOVE reading about those fabulous mansion-like places.) It’s great thinking how a new coat of paint and new placements of windows will help the project.
    My idea: A PORCH! A relaxing front porch with a few chairs and a table, capable of having a quiet decompressing time after a hard day….. It will also add some needed shade in the Utah summer.

  17. I like everything that Laurel said (of course). I have just finished a DIY skim coat and paint on my living room to get rid of orange peel. If your ceilings are 8 feet or higher, go for the sheet rock!!! I did totally close off the rest of the house with plastic drop cloths that I taped ALL THE WAY around the doorway and window into the rest of the house, otherwise dust would have been intollerable in the rest of the house. As it was, it was a LOT of work and will probably be much easier to sheetrock over. (My ceilings are 7.5 feet tall so I think I made the right call).

    Also, Laurel did a great post on Ikea kitchens, was that an option for you? What about ready to build wood cabinets? I had a rental once that was gross white painted metal cabinets and I think yours might be the same so I bet you want to totally replace them.

    If your kitchen/dining area floor is flat, you might think about a resin epoxy as an economical and freeking durable finish. It would level to flat so you wouldn’t see the texture of the linoleum through the paint, and you can marble it or do all sorts of fun things in it. You could even do the counters and save a lot of $$ – MDF is about $30 for a sheet, and the resin is about $300 for enough for your kitchen. (I used it on my mom’s kitchen counters while she was on vacation – it was a LOT of hard work but they look great, you can take a hammer to them, and you can put a hot pot off the stove on it). Worth a google 🙂 Probably worth hiring a contractor.

    That’s my two cents, good luck!

  18. Hi Laurel- Can you please explain what you mean by “coordinating” some new wood floors? Do you mean trying to get a similar wood and interweaving it in to the existing wood floors? Or is it actually legal in the design world to make two different wood floors work?

  19. This post makes me happy because this kitchen is quite similar to our kitchen, except with that 1970’s checkerboard type parquet floor. We already installed a semi-flush schoolhouse light (to replace a complete lack of center ceiling lighting). Having the cabinets repainted and new counters installed may be in our future.

    Laurel, I’m curious of your thoughts on the scalloped wood valance above the sink in a kitchen like this. We have the same trim on what is clearly a separate piece that could easily be removed. I’m kind of torn—our house is 1890’s. Perhaps removing the trim would make the kitchen look a bit more “vintage timeless,” but maybe it’s silly to fight what the kitchen is, and will just make it look remuddled. I know you can’t give specific recommendations but I’m wondering what you think about the trim in this kitchen, if it were able to be removed.

    I also love the idea of between-stud storage. Sadly, our tiny kitchen doesn’t have the wall space but I have a crazy idea about a “secret” bar in the wall of the dining room. Just be sure you check the wall for electrical wiring, plumbing pipes, etc. first!

  20. Perhaps you can resolve a marital spat. You suggested smoothing over the “cake frosting” on the ceiling. Our new house has a lot of that, too, and it’s original (1914). Dear husband insists it needs to stay, because “character.” I have a feeling this is like painting wood trim. Luckily the trim is mostly painted already… It’s better than the popcorn ceiling, but still attracts dust!

  21. I built a million dollar house two years ago, and found myself economizing as labor going through the roof in our hot housing market. For stone counters and vanity tops I went to a stone fabricator (not a slab showroom), and found remnants from other people’s jobs. I picked a honed solid black granite for our vintage-style kitchen and I have one seam, from where two remnants were joined, which I was able to put in a logical location. I have never once noticed that seam. For my daughter’s attic suite, I ordered a vanity from Signature Hardware, and then picked out a beautiful honed white marble remnant for the vanity top. I saved about $5,500 by the time I had done the kitchen, butler’s pantry and that vanity. The fabricator was happy to sell those remnants and get them off his lot. It was a win/win, and my initially-skeptical builder has now gone back to them twice for other jobs. For a house the size of what is being discussed in this blog post, there is no reason to go to a stone showroom….go straight to a fabricator. The fabricator will also have corian and other manufactured stone remnants. Most of what they have available will be classic colors, and then some speckled colors, and a few crazy pieces from people who “had to have something unique.” Just stay away from browns, yellows, purples and speckles.

  22. It looks like the pantry/basement entry area butts up to the fridge. They might be able to take down the wall to make a largish island with additional storage.

    I agree with the other comments about saving money by having some of the kids share rooms. I personally feel it can be character building, as it was for my brothers, or me when I shared with cousins as a kid, and even for my husband and myself today, lol! We recently moved into a home that gives everyone their own room, but I miss the years of walking past my boys’ shared room and hearing them talk late into the night.

    Maybe have the two youngest girls share a room. The basement as a family room, in addition to your living room and office, allows enough breathing room for everyone.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I believe that the pantry/basement entry area is off of the eating area. There’s an image that shows the doorway and back door. But, thank you for the terrific ideas and more votes for shared living space!

  23. As someone who’s lived in an old farmer-built “cottage” for thirty years, I agree that the kids grow up faster than you can imagine and they don’t all need their own rooms. My girls grew up in a 9×11 room with one closet (and shared it again when they came home as adults in transition) and it made them closer (mostly). The things I wish we’d done as soon as we bought this house (we rented it for ten years @ $450 a month) was refinish the floors, rip out all the moldings and replace with something simpler, and fix up the bathroom. Everything else could and did wait. I planned my tiny kitchen on graph paper at soccer fields for years. We finally redid the kitchen with Ikea cabs 24 years after moving in, 14 after we bought it. We have done it all to this house and we’re still doing it.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Amazing how many people are sharing stories of shared bedrooms for their kids! It’s not about money either. We had some neighbors who built a HUGE mansion that was literally a stone’s throw away, but on the other side of a large hill. Their living room was the size of a football field!

      They had two sons. One is my older son’s age and they were friends, although not close friends. And the other son only a year younger. They actually shared a bedroom, but used the adjacent room as their playroom.

  24. First, I have to commend them in taking on this house due to the sentimental value.
    When I first viewed it I thought they would need to put a lot of money into it. But I have found from experience that some of the best design elements can be because of creativity due to budget constraints.
    I agree with your thoughts on sharing of bedrooms. I know it’s nice for everyone to have their own bedroom. But I’ve always thought of that as a luxury not a necessity. I think some great life skills come from sharing a room.

    1. Hi Mary,

      It’s true. They’ve done studies regarding children who share rooms and it creates a special bond like nothing else. I did share a bedroom with my much older sister for five years before she went to college. And, my boys shared a bedroom too.

  25. Hi Laurel,
    Wow, by the end of your post I could really see that house coming alive. No house too grim to save, yes? My first thought on seeing the pictures was that a house fire would not be a bad thing.

  26. You are welcome. The families visiting the reservation on the food run seem to gain so much from the experience. And wow at all the possibilities for the house suggested, pretty amazing.

  27. It would be easier to comment with a floorplan. Considering the restricted budget, I would leave the fireplace alone for now, save perhaps a new insert or mantel, and focus on the basic floorplan and structural upgrades.

    Whatever you do this is an ambitious project and I would seriously consider renting a modest place or buying a camper to sleep in during the renovation. It will be healthier for all of you (who knows what is hiding once you start tearing things up), especially for the children, and it will be nice to have a place to go that isn’t filthy and dusty (no matter what you do, it gets everywhere).

    I agree that going up rather than out might be a solution worth looking into if the footings can take it, and if you are facing replacing trusses and such. I wonder if it would be possible to add a short clerestory along the ridge-line with windows and create a sort of kid’s sleeping loft area, sort of shoehorned partially over the back of the home. The chimneys would be affected, but it could give it a sort of contemporary farmhouse look, sort of along the line of the Australian farmhouse pictured by one of the commenters on the previous post. Could also provide some nice ventilation for the whole house.

    This could provide a nice blend of New England and Western sensibility and incorporated the nice characteristics of the house, and perhaps provide an opportunity to open it up a bit, if desired.

    This is a fancier version of what I envision:

    A more modest version, with cross section: https://www.pinuphouses.com/clerestory-house-plans/

  28. I can’t see sinking 100K (or even 75K),a ton of sweat equity,and months of dirt & dust into this project.Especially with 4 small children. How much would some basic repairs (under 5K),cleaning & painting of property garner for these owners if they resold this summer? Sorry to sound like a financial advisor 😉

    1. Hi Varya,

      That’s a good question. I believe that because the home was built by their grandfather, that they wish to live here and make it work for their family.

  29. Hi,

    The one end of the kitchen looks dark, where a door was? If it’s not going to be a door, can they put a window there with a nice sill to put a plant or two? Maybe then can get used cabinets to put below the window (paint them to match other cabinets etc)? Or for ease of use maybe a small cart with two shelves and a block top to put under the window? This would maximize storage space, add light, and add some useful counter space.


    1. Hi Emily,

      I believe there’s a room there, and I kept looking for what it was, but couldn’t find it. But, I’m curious what it is and if anything could be borrowed to extend the kitchen as a possibility. Probably not, but it’s a thought. Important to remember that there is a large pantry area that does extend much of the kitchen. It’s difficult to get a lay of the land from the images.

  30. I can say (unfortunately) from experience, that overdoing and adding too much space can really be a bummer long term. My two daughters have now moved out and it’s just my son and I. IF I had added on more modestly I would be able to keep my house, but alas, it’s not possible, and I will not get my money back out of a house that is in the backwoods of Arkansas. I overdid and regret it ALOT.

    Laurel, I LOVE all your ideas. Frankly, that fireplace, although large has a cool funky vibe. A definite place to save money is keep it. In addition, basements are a great way to make space and add a bedroom or at the least a family room.

    I LOVE that tongue and groove plank everywhere and that kitchen is quite quaint, but I’m a cook and it would be a problem for me. Love the idea of making the entire area a kitchen, but understand there are budget constraints. I do think galley style kitchens can be very practical. Looks like the wall with windows can maybe have a cabinet added to the end for more storage. Soapstone would definitely be divine. I have it and used M. texiera and had a great experience and my soapstone is fantastic. In addition, if and when you wanted to expand the kitchen the soapstone could easily be refabed and you could add marble to the spaces that are new. So at least redoing countertops now wouldn’t be a complete bust if you decide to add more to the kitchen later.

    Lots of white paint and some sea grass rugs with beautiful and practical slipcovered furniture, and I think you will have a space that is timeless. I’ve reupholstered things and were able to rejuvenate long and forgotten pieces. It was still expensive but I got what I wanted. I can understand nothing cheesy southwestern, so keeping it slightly rustic and cozy would be the best bet is my 2 cents, and that’s probably all my advice is worth. Lol!!

    Good luck. I love the house. I think it’s going to be fantastic. I also love the book called “the not so big house”. It’s got great ideas on how to make a small space practical on a budget. It helped me a lot with prior projects. What a blessing to get some help from Laurel…..and I love how she chooses projects to help people.

    1. Hi Genie,

      Thanks so much for this most wonderful comment. Lots of great advice and especially the cautionary warning about adding on too much. Kids grow up soooo quickly. And then, they leave. It’s important to think ahead to 10-15 years from now to see if what works for today will still work. Lots to think about.

  31. Can the fridge move where the chair and radio are, and made to look built-in w/a cabinet above? Then extend the counter and storage around the boarded-up door.

    Take the doors off the two cabinets flanking the sink and get rid of the soffit. When you replace the cabinet hardware, don’t forget the hinges.

    Banquet is a fantastic idea. Put the table on wheels.

    A real sheet linoleum floor (not vinyl). To me, the kitchen begs for a vintage look: not the diner look from the 50’s, but a kitchen from the 20’s or 30’s.

    Best of luck to this family!

    1. Hi Therese,

      That’s a good question. I’m not sure if there is room because of the eating area. But, photos can be deceiving. If it’s possible, that’s not a bad idea.

  32. I’m a builder, actually started in Utah too! I hate to be contrary but I would do the addition first – if the house doesn’t function for the family (and it can’t) it will be just lipstick …… It will take half the budget but doors, traffic-flow and the carport can be adjusted. Also, the sheet-rockers can easily switch out paneling while they’re onsite.

    The hardest part will be re-trussing the roof as a shed-roof won’t work with existing 8′ ceilings but it would still be a ranch, just 14-16 deeper.

  33. Dear Leah,

    I grew up in a 550 square foot trailer in a small town. My mother made our home cheerful by sewing curtains and finding money for my sister and me to choose our own bedspreads from the Sears catalogue, but small is small. I’ve been watching old family movies the last few days, and what strikes me is how happy we were. We played outside, went on a lot of picnics, and moved the kitchen table into the tiny living room every Sunday for a prime rib dinner. We were happy.

    If I were you, I would add a bedroom to give your husband and yourself some privacy, add a couple of inexpensive bathrooms in recognition that your girls will be pre-teens soon, fix your wood floors if it’s possible and not too expensive, find inexpensive ways to make your house fun and cheerful (Laurel’s given you some great ideas) and not worry too much about anything else. Your new life is a big adventure. I hope you enjoy it!!!!

    1. Hi Tsippi,

      Oh, how I love this comment! Thank you for the reminder that people and being together are the important things in life. And now, you’ve made me hungry!

  34. Could the potential computer room/library be turned into a playroom and bunk bed room for the son or daughters so they could move the parents into where they already plan to have as the master? Then at least they would have a living room without a bed in it! Hope I read everything right.

    1. Hi GGG,

      That’s a very good question. It’s off of the kitchen and also, there’s a door to the back yard which might be off-putting. Plus, I’m not sure if there’s a physical door into the kitchen.

  35. Keep it simple. Dont over do, its not that type of house. Decide what is most important to you (listen to your heart) and put the money in there (maybe its fixtures, and or floors). Other things you can skimp on. Do it now, dont put it off.

  36. Hi Laurel. Happy Easter and Passover to you, too! What great ideas you have given to Leah. What a challenge they have before them. Regarding the kitchen, I would like to offer a couple of other options.

    If the homeownwers use cool colors on the floor and cabinets, I would suggest wood for the counters. I like the warmth wood brings to a room. Especially with white cabinets. And rather than painting the paneling the same color as the cabinets, maybe use sage green or medium blue color on the cabinets and a neutral color on the paneling. Based on that orange chair, I’m guessing they like color.

    And speaking of that chair, if they choose the right colors for the rest of the stuff in that room, maybe they can skip reupholstering since hubby is sentimental about it. Maybe one of the darker blues you mentioned in a previous post on the walls of that room? Not suggesting they center the plans for the room around the orange chair, but perhaps it becomes just one element of a welcoming room.

    Because the house is small and you’re suggesting paint rather than replacement, the kitchen can be fun, especially since they can repaint again or replace later. Heck, an old farmhouse with all of its quirks and charm can have unexpected and fun elements all over.

    All the best,

  37. Dear Leah, I used soapstone in my first renovation of our farmhouse in Maine. I eventually had to tear it out because it stained so terribly. Ditto slate in the mudroom entrance. Please consider something else. I think your kitchen has lots of charm potential!

    1. Hi Josie,

      The soapstone should be oiled and then any discoloring will be minimized, if it appears at all. But, actually, some people love that aged, mottled look. I’m one of them. And, I’ve had clients who love soapstone and slate, as well.

  38. So sad that Leah is rejecting the southwest culture. Ralph Lauren uses Navajo rugs, and many have been popular lately with the grey trend, for example the Two Grey Hills pattern. Full disclosure, I am a coordinator for Adopt a Native Elder, a 4 star Charity Navigator non profit.
    You can see the 75+years and older elders we assist at http://www.anelder.org. We welcome you and your children on a fall or spring food run to Navajo Mountain in Utah to see how significant their weavings are. Anyone can buy a rug on the website, and see photos and videos of these lovely people. We have a huge rug show Veterans Day weekend at Deer Valley in Park City-come on up and meet 35 or so weavers. You are more than welcome to come.

    1. Hi Deb,

      Well, Laurel does editorialize most Dear Laurel letters to some extent, even the real ones. So, that was one place where I put those words in, but based on what she had written me about missing her New England roots. However, it’s possible that in time, she will learn to love a new culture along with some of its native design elements. Or, she might not.

      Thank you for the kind invitation.

  39. I like the farmhouse table, chairs and bench in the eating area. Hope everyone’s enjoying Easter and Passover.

  40. Another “Whew!” Leah, your head must be spinning with the possibilities! My two cents from experience. I would first paint the kitchen, eating area and laundry area – the workhorse rooms. The previously suggested new knobs/pulls, white paint, school-house lighting and the counter-depth fridge plus butcher block countertops such as IKEA or even Lowes formica (yes, I know) are quick fixes that would bring some physical and visual order to the most used area of the home while you assess needs, room flow and make a plan. If you need more fridge space, I would seriously consider a counter-depth “refrigerator only” with the freezer located out of kitchen. Second thing I would do is to replace the bed in the living room with a Murphy-style bed and add two comfy chairs – a quiet place for you without looking like a bedroom 24/7. I have been through four and am now experiencing another “live-in” renovation/remodel on a tight budget and I find a light colored, decently lighted kitchen/eating area and one quiet space to call my own for the needed mental break helps me keep my sanity, focus and sense of humor. I am excited for you!!!

  41. Wow, what a project, Leah! Bravo to you for taking this on to be close to family. I can feel the memories in the house of a simple, hard-working life. A few things to consider from my current experience renovating a house in the middle of nowhere: do you have a back up heating system if you lose power? You may not want to rip out the wood stove insert and brick, but replace the insert with something more up-to-date, either wood or propane. Paint the brick, top it with slate, add an attractive mantel and style the upper area and it could be an attractive and functional focal point. What condition are the windows in? That may be an expense. My biggest concern in the kitchen is the lack of counter space for cooking, especially for a family of six. How can she add more counter space, Laurel? It doesn’t look like there is an exhaust fan in the kitchen either. What about the bathroom? I’m guessing that will require some expense to be more functional for a family this size. From my experience your first expenses will be updating systems, improving weather tightness and making the house more functional, as Laurel suggested. After that, lots and lots of paint. Hats off to you and keep us posted!

    1. Love your ideas Marsha! And, would also love to do a post about your fixer-upper with the killer view of the mountains. Opposite side of the country.

      I agree that the counter space in this kitchen is inadequate for a family this size. If those windows weren’t so cool in the eating area, I would’ve suggested using the entire space for the kitchen and then making the keeping room more of a dining room than anything else. And I considered options and couldn’t come up with anything feasible. It appears that the fridge is in the corner, so even the back wall won’t work. This is an apartment-sized kitchen suitable for maybe a family of one or two, not six.

      However, of course, a total kitchen redo, especially in a house this size would be most disruptive. UNLESS, they could turn the basement into a temp kitchen. OR, the keeping room could be a temp kitchen.

      Six months of noisey-dusty hell. That’s what we’re talking about.

  42. People worry too much about separate bedrooms for each kid. IMO. One nice girls bedroom would be better than 3 cells. Kids learn to get along with others if they have to share.
    I wish I had a picture of my previous neighbor’s girls room. It was quite large, a sitting/play area and attached bath and one wall had 3 beds with half pony walls between each. I don’t even have the vocabulary to explain it, they did have a decorator and architect, it was really nice. I don’t remember the closet, that could be a challenge.

    1. I am trying to imagine three teen-aged girls. lol But, I agree on the separate bedrooms vs. sharing. However, every family and situation is different. That is the lesson I learned from my own “marching to the beat of their own drum” (sometimes literally) family.

  43. Good morning…the kitchen reminds me of my son’s kitchen. He and his new wife are living in the bungalow that my husband grew up in. His parents did not do anything to the house (or at least not that I could tell!!!) for the last 50 years. Kitchen had similar cabinets but not white (kind of reddish wood of the era) and the same crazy light fixture. I used the last photo image (with the soap stone counters) as my inspiration though I couldn’t get them to go with the cute skirted sink. Anyway, we took all the doors off and sanded off 50 years of kitchen gunk, smoke (2 smokers x 50+ years), added flat molding go give the cabinets a shaker look and spray painted them BM White Dove. The molding was a deal breaker and totally changed the look of the cabinets. Molding makes it sound expensive but it was CHEAP 1/4 inch thick flat molding from HD. We added new school house pulls and knobs. For the countertops, we used a soapstone imposter (laminate), new drop in sink, faucet and added headboard backsplash. I cannot tell you how much better it looks and with a little styling, could be “blog worthy” 🙂 Sadly, my son is not too interested in my design help from his mom so for the sake of the relationship, I have stopped intervening!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 Anyway, I am here to tell that it can be done!

    1. Hi Ann,

      I love the moulding idea and also had moulding put up on our MELAMINE cabinets with ugh, oak bottom thingy, which you can see here. Unfortunately, it’s an awful photo and not the original paint job that was gorgeous!

      My son would also not be that interested. But, he did appreciate the rug I gave him.

  44. Waterlox will adhere to those scuffy floors after they are sanded and wiped. My floors had oil soap, wax and 40 years of nicotine to keep at bay. It worked. Also, check out P Allen Smith’s painted floors.
    The pantry idea is fabulous!

  45. I love the idea of doing “cheap and cheerful” renos in the kitchen. With a large family, storage is likely at a premium. If you & hubby are handy, the kitchen windows are screaming “banquette” to me and you could use big box cupboards as the base so you have storage underneath for toys, extra dishes or even overflow non-perishables. Keep your existing kitchen chairs, but paint them a bright colour that complements a kitchen rug, tea towels etc. Sew (or have someone sew) a thick cushion for the banquette with a sunbrella fabric that can be wiped down (or slipcovered for washing). Another option for that back wall where the doorway is filled in is to smooth the entire wall (i.e. mud/tape around where the door was filled in) then paint with magnetic chalkboard paint. Kids can use it to draw or hang artwork, you can use it for your family calendar or grocery list. You could even install a pot rack or a couple of pretty shelves toward the top if you need more storage with “art zones” midway down to bottom. Agree with Laurel’s suggestion to paint the paneling, paint the cubpards, change hardware, lights and appliances. Even inexpensive laminates are really good looking these days so it’s a budget option if you need to spend your budget elsewhere. I’d be tempted to do the kitchen asap so you have one room that is done and functions well to inspire the rest. Good luck!

    1. Terrific ideas. Thank you Elizabeth! Love the idea of the kitchen banquette. Whenever I did cushions or an upholstered banquette, we had the fabric laminated. Whatever lands on the floor will also land on the banquette.

  46. Hi laurel, my third attempt as the page keeps reloading.

    My suggestion is to go up into the attic space for bedrooms. Adding some dormers windows would improve the outside facade as well.

  47. I’d be knocking down some walls. Especially the kitchen one. Open up things. Get rid of the hardwood floors and get some nice wood laminate. Tons of beautiful high end laminates out there now. Six people and a dog would have the hardwoods ruined within a week. Could they add another level for bedrooms. Could be they need a new roof so put another level on. Kids won’t be little very long and need their space, so might as well bite the bullet now and just do it. If they wait it will cost more in a few years. Pull out that wood box and knock out those bricks and just put a nice gas fireplace there. That monster that is there right now takes up a heck of a lot of space! They could put a modern linear in. Everything doesn’t have to scream farmhouse. You can mix things up. I almost feel that eating area was an addition at one time. Could they push that wall out and make it bigger. Such a huge undertaking! Maybe lead paint, and likely electrical and plumbing needs upgrading…?

    1. Some great ideas, Colleen. I’m not sure about exchanging hardwood floors for laminate, however. While I hear you on the practicality issue, I still believe that genuine wood, at least in this climate is still the more desirable material.

  48. I think the real goal of this first go around is to make the family comfortable. As long as the windows are functioning, they can wait. Mom and Dad sleeping in the living room can’t. And living with an alternate entry will get old.

    Without a plan, it’s hard to make suggestions about additions. But if you are hiring a contractor, think about making the addition for the final size of what you want the space to be, but only finish the spaces you can afford to finish now. If you can swing that with the bank.

    The other nice thing about bedroom additions, is that It limits the pain of disrupting the existing living spaces.

    I know these thoughts don’t speak about style, but a big family in a two bedroom house is a big problem! I’m speaking not only as an architect but as the youngest of a family of eight!

  49. Whew! I hear you Leah! It’s a tough job but I agree with Laurel….you need to do quite a bit now to fix up what is existing without worrying about spending the $ on additions. Her ideas are great and I think it would be a tremendous help to add the new windows so the exterior looks more inviting and to deal with the floors (painting wood floors is a really great idea as is painting the linoleum and creating a pattern or border). Paint will be your best friend in the kitchen along with inexpensive lighting, new knobs etc. Once you are more comfortable with the existing space you can spend the $ on an addition.

    1. Thanks so much Sharon! They do need at least one more bedroom, just so that they can get out of the living room. It’s only a two bedroom home and there are six people. But, of course, only they can decide what is the best way to spend their money.

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