A Bright & Beautiful Bungalow From An Ohio Trio

A Bright & Beautiful Bungalow From An Ohio Trio

Sarah Rae Smith
Dec 11, 2009

Name: Matt Graber and Amanda & Phil Johnson
Location: North Canton, Ohio
Size: 1600 square feet
Years lived in: Just under 2 years

Matt and Amanda are siblings that not only harbor a creative eye for design and decorating, but also manage to live under the same roof. Amanda's husband Phil keeps everyone in line and they live quite happily, in their Midwestern bungalow home in Northern Ohio. You'll find bits of vintage and kitsch with a twist of graphic modernism and best of all light and open spaces which are the result of a great deal of hard work.

Some people might think a brother-sister-husband living arrangement is a little crazy, but this Ohio trio is happy to report they get along quite well (for the most part and to most people's astonishment) and make good use of their time collaborating on creative projects. Matt is working as a graphic designer and Amanda is an interior design student, who in her spare time runs the vintage Etsy shop half caf and the blog Here's Looking at Me, Kid. Her husband Phil is a school teacher and don't forget their little dog Archie who watches over everything.

Since the purchase of their home virtually every surface has been renovated, restored and remade. Walls torn down, floors removed, fresh paint applied, and new baseboards installed—the works. Even if many hands make light work, there was still enough to go around. The pictures speak for themselves as their light, bright and open spaces make vintage feel clean and modern feel lived in. We hope you enjoy their work as much as we did! Enjoy the tour!

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our style: Matt's style is graphic modern with vintage elements. Amanda's style is eclectic vintage with a bit of kitsch. Phil just goes along with whatever! The style of the house is a collaboration between the two of us siblings.

Inspiration: We can't help but be influenced by all of the inspirational interiors found on design blogs like AT. Sometimes we get ideas from the homes we see online, and sometimes they just motivates us to keep working hard. Also, in our hunt to for unique items for our home, we tend to find cool things that we weren't really looking for, which in turn inspires the rest of our home.

Favorite Room: We love the living/dining room area. It's a place everyone can gather to be together and still do our separate things. There is a lot of tabletop space for our activities, like computer gaming on laptops, crafting, working on school projects, and eating lots of food.

Favorite Element: We might as well face it. We love watching television. One of our great joys are classic movies and having movie watching marathons. We only have one living area, unlike homes which are fortunate enough to have a formal living room as well as an informal living room. So we only have one spot for the television, and if it's not easily viewed, the design of the space just wouldn't be functional. That being said, our favorite element would be the fireplace wall. It visually separates the dining area from the living area, while also housing important functional elements. We were able to build the wall around ductwork and load bearing beams. We also implemented a pvc pipe for transporting wires from the television to the adjacent media cabinet. (Head over to Unplggd to catch a behind the scenes look at the install!)

Biggest Challenge: We're fresh out of college (Amanda's still in college, actually) and have little to no funds at all. Everything we do has to utilize all of our available resources, like family friends with extra construction materials, thrift stores for furniture, and freebies like the industrial pieces we acquired when the local Hoover Plant closed down a couple of years ago.Also, living and working in a construction zone is a major challenge. Since Matt moved in almost two years ago, there has always been a part of the house under construction. It's difficult to entertain friends when the only bathroom available is up a flight of stairs which are barely passable.

What Friends Say: "Where do you find all this stuff?" and "When will it ever be done?" The answers are "I use my super secret thrifty powers!" and "Never!"

Proudest DIY: Pretty much everything in this house has been a DIY. The house began as a traditional Midwestern bungalow, although without the desired architectural elements, such as wide baseboards, trim, and beautiful hardwood floors. We ended up replacing almost all of the trim in the house, but the first major renovation was knocking out the walls between the dining and living rooms and then ripping up the carpet and damaged wood floors which were underneath. They were replaced with new wood floors which we laid after rebuilding the fireplace. It had been adorned with traditional cherry wood mantle with a ceramic tile surround. We made it larger, to facilitate the air ducts and support beams, and turned it into a great design element with a coat of paint. The T.V. is mounted on a rotating arm which is sunken into the wall. The wires go through the wall and come out at the base, where they connect to the media equipment in the cabinet.

Besides this area, we are also working on the kitchen. We drywalled the previously laid in ceiling, put in recessed lighting, painted the cabinets white, put up a tile backsplash (which is still a work in progress), and gave one wall a coat of blackboard paint.

The office also received a makeover with new lighting, fresh paint, and new hardwood
flooring. This area is still pretty new, so we're still feeling out how we will decorate and such. The carpet upstairs was ripped up to reveal the original wood flooring. Also, the stairs leading up to the 2nd level were all carpeted when we moved in, but right now we're working on refinishing them to match the rest of the house.

We wouldn't be able to do even half of the work on this house without the expertise and help of our father. He is one of those guys who literally does it all. He's a great help and is extremely generous in the time that he has put into our renovation projects.

Our Indulgence: Hardwood flooring. The house was move-in ready with carpet, but we just adore the look of hardwood. Now I don't think we could ever live somewhere without them.

Best Advice: Feel out your space and let your imagination run a bit before making any design commitments or rushing out and buying new furniture. Don't worry about living in a stark space for a while. We had been living in the house for close to a year before we even hung much of our art on the walls. We slowly collected lighting, furniture, and accessories throughout the past couple of years, and while nothing is perfect, it's much more personal and lively than it would have been if we had rushed to fill the space with whatever we could find at the time. Sure, we would love to be able to afford a nicer sofa that fit the space, but that will come in time.

Found Treasure: Most of the furniture in the house was found at thrift stores, on Craigslist, or on ebay. But the found treasure that is most valued would be the old barnwood from a family friend. We were able to use the wood to build the dining room table and the top of the coffee table in the living room.

Had Forever: The burlap curtains in the dining room are from Amanda's dorm room 6 years ago.

Dream Source: A warehouse full of eclectic furniture and accessories. Covered wall to wall with beat up industrial signs, MCM furniture for dirt cheap prices, vintage textiles, and unique tchochkes. That would be a dream come true!

Reality Source: Thrift Stores and Craigslist.


(Northeast Ohio really has a great supply of thrift stores and antique malls with affordable prices. We're always on the lookout for possible new additions to our home, even if we don't really need anything at the moment.)

Furniture: The Salvation Army, Goodwill, Craigslist, eBay, Ikea, the orange shelf is from cb2, the living room side table is from Urban Outfitters.

Accessories: Thrift stores, Antique stores, craft shows, Etsy, some pillows are from Dwell Studio and Urban Outfitters.

Lighting: Recessed lighting from Home Depot, Dining Room lighting was from a garage sale, office lighting from cb2, living room lamps from eBay, Phil and Amanda's bedroom light from Ebay, Matt's bedside light is from Target.

Rugs and Carpets: Flokati rug in living room is from Ebay, Phil and Amanda's bedroom rug is from Urban Outfitters, Matt's bedroom rug is from Ikea.

Beds: Phil and Amanda's bed is just a frame from Sam's Club. Matt's bed is from Ikea.

Artwork: Living room and entryway art was all found at thrift and antique shops. Dining room poster was from the Hurricane Katrina Poster Project. The signs in the office were from local antique shops. Art in Amanda and Phil's bedroom are from Etsy, with the exception of the flock print which was from 3 Potato Four. Matt's posters: from Vahallas Studios, Cleveland AIGA (promotional poster), Scott Hansen, and antique shops.

Flooring: Lumber Liquidators

(Thanks, Matt, Amanda & Phil!)

Images: Amanda Johnson

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