A DIY Renovation Filled This Family's 1920s Craftsman with Farmhouse Charm

·6 min read

There were many things to love about the craftsman bungalow on a busy street in Troy, Missouri—Luke and Lisa Bass just had to see beyond a kaleidoscope of colors splashed on nearly every surface.

"Every door had a different color on each panel, the kitchen cabinets were sponge-painted blue, and the bathroom tiles were all different colors," Lisa says. "Even the trim was painted something goofy!" But beyond the color cacophony was a sturdy, stately house, and many elements, such as the hardwood flooring and kitchen cabinets, were solid and worth saving.

At 1,600 square feet, it was sized just right for a young family. "It was in good condition," Lisa says, "just not aesthetically. When it was built in 1925, it was a nicer house, but over the years people threw linoleum and laminate and cheap things in it. We added back in the nice stuff." She and Luke turned back the clock by building tables; sewing slipcovers and pillows to plump up chairs and sofas (see her blog farmhouseonboone.com for plenty of sewing tutorials); and quieting the trim, doors, and walls with soft white or pale gray paint. Now, it's an old-timey house with a (re)new(ed) lease on life.

Adam Albright

The Bass family (Lisa and Luke and their five children) have lived in their Troy, Missouri, bungalow for about 10 years, working steadily to restore and refresh the nearly century-old house for modern-day life with a busy family. The porch now has greater presence, thanks to wide wood steps (which cover the old concrete ones), simplified support posts (the old Craftsman columns were crumbling), and plywood skirting to conceal the foundation (it replaced busy-looking lattice). Lisa stripped at least three layers of paint from the original front door to reestablish its warm glory.

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Galvanized metal bins and buckets make rustic and weather-resistant containers for annuals, and perching petunias on an old stool gives them a little height and prominence.

Putting plants in cool containers means they can move around as needed to a sunnier spot or to the porch for repotting or dividing.

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Plywood replaces the wood lattice that used to skirt the house; it even wraps the sides of the wood steps for a sturdy appearance. The porch was revamped with new deck boards—the old ones weren't worth saving—and a porch swing, which Luke and Lisa put together themselves. Lisa stitched pillows to soften the seat.

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Luke and Lisa downloaded free plans for building the swing from ana-white.com. Lisa took the instructions to Lowe's and had someone there cut all of the pieces for 25 cents a cut. Cheap and easy!

"If I see something in a store, I wonder how it was made, and I like to do it myself. There's hardly a spot in the house where I haven't put my own personal stamp."

—homeowner Lisa Bass

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In the living room, Luke, Lisa, and her cousin Eddie Holt (a contractor) installed a wall of shelves and cupboards. For the bottom portion, they installed stock upper cabinets "because they're only 12 inches deep," Lisa says, "so they don't come into the living room too much"—but still offer plenty of storage. Lisa sewed slipcovers to unify the mismatched Craigslist furniture finds and to ensure that eliminating spills is just a laundry load away. "If you saw what my furniture looks like without slipcovers, it's hilarious," she says. "They would definitely not be in a magazine."

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Plates and pitchers from Lisa's collection of ironstone gather on this little dresser—an antiques shop score—in the dining room.

A favorite fabric can dress up almost any surface. In the Bass home, swaths of linen drape over the dining table and dresser, and a linen scarf hangs in the entry. Sew your own, as Lisa does, or display your fave vintage or store-bought fabric.

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Because the front door opens directly into the living room with no transitional space, Lisa created this landing spot with a vintage mirror, wall hooks, a bench softened with hand-sewn cushions, and an antique crock.

Related: 15 Stealthy Ways to Fake an Entryway in a Tight Space

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"I love these sorts of features in old homes," Lisa says of the doorway between the kitchen and dining room. She and Luke assembled the dining table themselves (they downloaded the plan from ana-white.com—it was the first project they ever built), and they hung two vintage-looking pendants from the ceiling.

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The palest gray (Benjamin Moore Gray Owl 2137-60) tints the walls throughout the dining room, living room, and kitchen, giving the deep baseboards and wide window casings clean, crisp prominence. Lisa sewed the tumble of pillows on the dining room window seat, mixing large with small, squares with rectangles, and big buffalo checks with narrow stripes.

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Once bright blue, the cabinets blossomed with coats of white paint. The new apron-front sink and faucet from Ikea required shortening the cabinets and adding support, "but I wanted that nice big sink," Lisa says. A curtain conceals where a dishwasher would normally go—"we needed more storage for bulk grains and a grain mill," Lisa says (she grinds her own wheat), "and that was more important than a dishwasher."

For that farmhouse flavor Lisa adores, she and Luke kept the kitchen clean and crisp in white (paint on the cabinets, subway tile on the backsplash, quartz-surfacing on the countertops, and a clutch of Lisa's ironstone collectibles). Lisa updated the cabinet knobs, pulls, and hinges with a shot of black spray paint. The hardware now looks like a rich iron rather than worn brass.

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Beautiful blues make many appearances throughout the house, whether on vintage plates in the kitchen, as stripes and checks on pillows, or in blankets on beds.

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This beautiful bath started nearly from scratch—the couple took the room down to the studs to coax it into the current century. They tiled the walls and floors, sheathed the ceiling in beaded board to hide its popcorn texture, replaced the window, and hauled in a heavy claw-foot tub from Craigslist.

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The vintage sink with its built-in backsplash and drainboard, "is the best find of my entire life," Lisa says. "I was driving down our street, and there it was at a garage sale for 35 bucks!" Her cousin Eddie custom-crafted the base to fit the sink, and Lisa filled out the rest of this little corner with a new faucet, a shapely mirror from Craigslist, and iron hooks discovered online.

Adam Albright

Though Luke and Lisa didn't make these shelves, other artisans did—they came from hartandhess.com, a site where craftspeople sell their wares.

Adam Albright

Handmade pillows on the master bed—the lumbar in front and the pair behind it, which combine grain sacks, ticking, and darling ties—mingle happily with purchased pillowcases.

The dresser, another treasure from a garage sale, was teal before Luke stripped off the paint. "I just love the wood," Lisa says. Planks of white-painted plywood mimic shiplap on the walls, creating a charming backdrop for the iron bed and garage-sale sconces. (The pair was just $5!)

Lisa created this cotton throw from two pieces of double gauze and crocheted lace, which she sandwiched between gauze layers as a feminine frill. Find a tutorial for how she did it on her blog, farmhouseonboone.com.