The Wallpaper in This Home’s Pretty, But the Bathroom’s Green Tile Is Next-Level
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Name: Susannah Watts, husband, and three kids
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Type of home: House
Size: 1600 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years, owned
Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Our firstborn was born with only half of a heart and would need three open heart surgeries within the first few years of life. After doing research and finding out that long-term survival chances were better at sea level, we made the decision to leave Denver and move to Michigan where we had friends/family.
Having always loved design, furniture, and architecture, it was a bucket list dream to gut a house and renovate. We took all of our profits from our Denver house sale and poured it into a 1950s ranch. In a neighborhood where people were tearing down nice houses to build even bigger houses two to five times the size of ours, we committed to keeping a small footprint and re-using what we could from the house (which was not much… a few windows/doors/roof). I drew out the new interior and exterior design on some scrap paper, and my husband did a rendering in Sketchup for the contractor. We put the cabinets together ourselves for our IKEA kitchen. We tried to save money where we could and used Semihandmade fronts in many of the rooms and bathrooms. We did a mix of high and low for finishes budget for budget purposes.
My husband is a lover of modern minimalism and I’m a lover of modern eclectic maximalism… which I rein in for the sake of our marriage. Over the next few years, we finished the inside with a mix of vintage, repurposed, and custom furniture designed by me and made by local craftsman (walnut dining table/tiled TV room credenza). While there were many design features we wanted to do, we nixed them and we stayed under $140/square foot. I justified the money by saying that if I ever opened my own interior design company, I could use my house as my portfolio… never really thinking that I would actually start a business, because I had spent so much time in school to become a nurse anesthesiologist. A bad job situation here made it an easy decision to go part-time and spend other time doing what I love.
After working with a builder on some projects, I opened up Swatts & Co Design Studio… we went from a 40% chance of our daughter dying before the age of 4 to having a thriving and active 5 year old along with the chance to work together doing something we love.
Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Modern, vintage, eclectic, surprising, functional
What is your favorite room and why? Probably my girl’s bedroom because it’s so peaceful but full of surprising texture.
What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? Our dining table—I designed a table made out of a holey walnut slab, and had a local woodworker fill the holes in with resin.
Any advice for creating a home you love? Take your time, shop vintage, don’t be afraid to reupholster, and don’t be afraid to break all the rules.
This submission’s responses were edited for length and clarity.