How One Family is Renovating Their 1931 Farmhouse, Louisa May Alcott style

Everyday Homes

March 1, 2019

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A home is more than four walls and a roof: a home is a place that beckons us to belong. It gives us grounding and wings. It’s a place we know intimately and where we find the deepest comfort. It’s a place that’s hard to explain, but one that our feelings confirm.


There was a time when I felt guilty beautifying a house when there were some without one. I knew that happiness was ultimately found beyond the beauty and size of a house. However, I’ve since realized that beauty doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to be selfish.  

These walls are the ones that define the space where my children will grow up. They are ones we see daily, and they will define us deeply.

Caring about my home, and desiring for it to be beautiful, is one way of caring for my family.

And if you look at the world around us—the plants, animals, seas and seasons—you will see that beauty and organization are near to the heart of God.

I believe that houses have a style, and not every house fits or appreciates the same design.

I knew we would style this home differently than our previous home, a 1991 cape cod.

And our home isn’t huge. It’s 1500 square feet, a 1931 farmhouse with one bathroom, no master bedroom, limited closet space, no pantry, and quirky old house features like a large landing area at the top of the steps that lead to the second floor.

But we love that as an old farmhouse, it’s full of so much character. We want that character to shine. So we exposed the hardwood floors and the brick chimney. We bought an old farm sink that fit the age of our home. We found antique furniture and kept our design simple.

Because the house isn’t large, I have learned to be thoughtful about the way I use each area, and I try to keep our belongings minimal, though with six of us, we inevitably fill the space easily.

I like using baskets and crates for toys, books, blankets, and crafts. This allows for things to “sit out” in a clean and organized way. My goal is for every toy to have a home, so that when the girls clean up, they know where the item belongs.

I also homeschool our four girls (our very own Little Women!) so the girls and I are active in this home every day, strewing messes and magic wherever we go. There are times where this is stressful, but I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be with my girls every day, and this home is such a haven for our adventures.

From the kitchen, we have tossed together ingredients and filled our bellies every day. From the couch, we have read poetry and Scripture, laughed over stories, and journeyed to The White House via Google Maps. From the table, we have shared meals, painted pictures, solved math problems, and watched Cardinals fly to the bird feeder.

These spaces are ordinary, but they are sacred, because in them we are creating memories, and the memories are shaping us.

When we sold our first home, we knew that for our family, our next home would need to include having some land to roam. My husband and I both come from small farms, and we wanted the same for our girls. This home has truly fulfilled that desire. In the summertime, we spend more time outdoors than we do indoors.

Beyond the walls of the farmhouse are five acres of land that are a truly an extension of our home.  This land includes a modest garden, trees, a chicken coop, a gambrel barn, an old summer kitchen, a granary, and a garage and workshop.

We have chickens that inhabit the coop, goats and cats that find shelter in the barn, and we’ve turned the granary into a playhouse. My favorite of them all, however, is the old summer kitchen. We renovated the small space and turned it into a little schoolhouse for our girls.

We use the schoolhouse during the warmer months, and in the colder months we move our studies inside. The schoolhouse also gives me extra space to store books and craft supplies year-round, for which I am especially grateful.

My husband is a carpenter by trade, so we are able to restore the house on our own. We have uncovered and sanded all the floors. Upstairs, I painted the floors, and downstairs we left them in their original pine color and gave a few coats of polyurethane.

We painted the kitchen cabinets and updated the hardware, put in new countertops (laminate that looks like concrete!), and found a beautiful old farm sink on Craigslist.

We opened up the staircase and part of a wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and we added barn beams for support (and aesthetics!). While a completely open concept didn’t seem to fit our old farmhouse, we did work toward a bit more connection and exposure between the spaces.

Outside, we have added a garden, removed dying trees, insulated and finished the summer kitchen, and fixed up some of the animal spaces amongst other projects.

The tasks are endless. Our home is not finished. But we are taking it slowly and enjoying the process, making financially-wise decisions, and making sure to be certain of our wishes for the home before diving in.

Finding time to work isn’t always easy, of course. My husband works a full-time, physically-intensive job, and I homeschool and have a part-time editing job as well, so we are busy. We take advantage of weekends and time off to tackle projects, and we have learned to embrace living in the unfinished stages.

One thing I love about an old farmhouse is that it has a story.

The oldest building on the property was built in 1910, over 100 years ago. I love knowing that this land, this home, had been loved for years before we were even born.

It reminds me that a house is temporary, but it also convinces me that homes matter—because souls exist within their walls. And those souls, surrounded by flesh and full of energy and hopes and dreams, will go out into the world and spread the ideas that were poured into them within the home.

My deepest prayer is not that my girls will always stay here, but that it is here, in our home, that they will discover love, beauty, comfort, truth, and safety, and that those discoveries will give them wings to soar.

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