John & Laurel’s Handcrafted Homestead
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Name: John Trefry and Laurel Watson
Location: Lawrence, Kansas
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years; rented
When I first visited John and Laurel’s house less than a year after they’d moved in, I was struck by its warmth and homeyness, qualities that brought me back for a tour. John is an architecture instructor and founding partner of the work.group and Laurel is a psychology professor, but the two somehow carve out time to dote on their home with restoration projects, artwork, an incredible garden, cooking, and overflowing love for their trio of cats, Talula, Anastasia, and Frosti.
You’ll see the product of their handiwork at every turn. Laurel’s canned goods preserve the garden’s abundance into the winter months. A blanket being hand-quilted by John is draped over the guest bedroom bed frame. Artwork and homemade cat toys stud the house with color and loads of character. And this is all done not by shopping, but through a love of making and a love of the home.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: We don’t really have one specifically. It seems like most of our stuff is from the ’30s-’60s. Maybe people like the stuff that would have been in their grandparents’ houses. Laurel likes Art Deco a lot. John likes sturdy things that are beat to hell (like the office desk).
Inspiration: We are inspired by making a place to live that is meaningful to us. Everything we surround ourselves with is either something that has been part of our family, a gift, or something that fit the particular place or time we discovered it. We don’t acquire place-holders. We like things to be the right thing. Also, we never buy new things. John: I don’t care to support the continued manufacture of products whose superior doubles are already in existence, sitting in a junk shop somewhere.
Favorite Element: Laurel likes having a sunny garden here. John likes the interesting things in the old house: push-button light switches, old wood trim, and odd upstairs space like the spare bedroom dormer. We don’t have a favorite part of our belongings, just the whole thing together!
Biggest Challenge: It has been a challenge settling into a rental house and making it our own. We owned our own house in Atlanta for years and did a lot to make it work for us. It has been a challenge over the years to find the pieces of furniture that work best for us, that are made out of real materials, and have a history to them. We have made our own things when we couldn’t find the right thing for a purpose.
What Friends Say: People usually just say it seems like ‘us.’
Biggest Embarrassment: Cat fur, old upholstery.
Proudest DIY: Laurel stripped and refinished the buffet and china hutch outside in the middle of a Georgia summer. They were both glossy Barbie doll pink originally.
Biggest Indulgence: We don’t feel especially indulgent.
Best Advice: Patience, and not caring what you think other people would like.
Dream Sources: We really have everything we need. John would like to have a place again to make more built-in things. We would love to have all of our books out.
Resources of Note:
The two chairs were John’s grandparents’. The daybed/couch was bought used on Ebay a long time ago. The wardrobe is Laurel’s mom’s. John made the bookshelves. Many of the plants are gifts too. Our old neighbors gave us a jade plant that is 40 years old.
Refinished family heirloom furniture (see above). Framed print by Dan McCarthy was a wedding gift. Little sewing chair was found on the side of the road and reupholstered.
Canned food from Laurel’s garden! Lots of cookbooks. It’s a rental house so that kitchen is pretty jacked up.
Our iron bed was Laurel’s mom’s. The chest and desk were Laurel’s that she has had since girlhood. The spare bedroom iron bed was a find when we moved to Oregon. We had to get angle iron cut because the bed didn’t have rails. The dresser in there was Laurel’s mom’s as well.
The cat-shredded yellow arm chair was a gift to Laurel from John. The desk is an old chemistry lab bench. The framed painting was by one of John’s students at Georgia Tech. The desk lamp was a cast-off from the plant neighbors.
Thanks, John and Laurel!
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