Thanks to Repairs and Renos, This Midwest Family Farmhouse Got a New Life
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Name: Jessica Youngquist and boyfriend, Austin (We currently don’t have any pets, but we do have lots of cows across the street. 🙂 )
Location: The Midwest
Size: 2,800 square feet
Type of home: Farmhouse
Years lived in: We started working on it in March of 2020 and moved in early July 2020. We’re renting to own.
When Jessica Youngquist and her boyfriend, Austin, decided to move back to Youngquist’s Midwestern hometown in 2020, they didn’t initially plan to live in her family farmhouse. The property — which her great-grandparents built in the 1920s and put a large addition on in the 1940s, and which her grandfather grew up in — was a lot of home for two people (five bedrooms!) and required numerous repairs.
“My dad and uncle [had] just bought this home a few months prior to keep it in the family, so it was sitting empty,” explains Youngquist. “We actually had no intention of moving into this house with all the work it needed, but after weighing our options, we decided to go with it, and I’m so glad we did.”
With help from Youngquist’s father, the couple got started on fixing up the home in March 2020. “It took about four months to make the home livable,” Youngquist says. They repaired walls and ceilings, replaced windows and doors, even dug around the foundation because of basement leaks. They also made design upgrades along the way, including removing laminate flooring and restored the white oak hardwood below to its former glory.
“If you asked me two years ago if I could refinish hardwood floors, tile a backsplash, or repair holes in the wall, I would’ve laughed,” Youngquist says.
The home — and Youngquist — have come a long way. “Truly, bringing life back into my grandfather’s childhood home is such a bittersweet feeling,” she says. “This house needed so much work, and little by little, we are getting there. It feels like an entirely different house already. It’s so clean, bright, and inviting. I couldn’t love it more.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My style: I have a hard time really pinpointing my style. Since we’ve moved in, my style has already evolved so much, and I’ve been trying to incorporate the new with the old. I love both modern and Scandinavian touches, as well as some mid-century modern and traditional furniture pieces. Comfort is always a must with my style — especially in our living room. It’s all about finding the right balance.
Describe the “Before” of your home. When we first got the keys to our house, it was extremely dark: dark curtains covering every window, dark brown glossy paint on the walls, bright blue walls in a couple rooms, mouse holes in the ceilings. The floors were covered in an orange laminate that had water damage in spots. It was not inviting and 100 percent not my style. The trim varied from a golden oak to a cherry stain. There were also no ceiling light fixtures in a handful of the rooms, so that was something we had to address.
I love bright, open, and airy spaces. I also love letting in as much natural light as possible. This house was honestly the furthest thing from my style, so it’s been a long process trying to get it there.
Biggest challenge: Our budget and time frame were definitely our biggest challenges. When we moved in, the entire house needed major attention. It was dark and cold, had a strong odor due to sitting empty over the winter, and simply just needed some love. We needed to move in within a few months, so initially we had no intention of doing all the work that we did; we thought we would paint and do some minor repairs for the time being.
However, while sweeping cobwebs and dust off the ceiling in the kitchen, mouse nests fell through, and it was then that our budget-friendly kitchen renovation came into play.
Everything for this kitchen was picked out on a whim. I had no idea what I was going for, but knew that things needed to be ordered ASAP due to the ongoing Covid pandemic and supply chain issues. We ordered cabinets from Lowe’s and purchased butcher block for the countertops and floating shelves. We also saved some money by opting for vinyl flooring instead of tile — the kitchen and bathroom are the only rooms in our home that don’t have hardwood floors. With these cheaper finishes, I was able to install a backsplash, range hood, and pendant lighting. We kept the kitchen layout mostly the same since there is a pantry off the kitchen, which allows for additional storage. We also took out a pocket door, which widened the doorway to the dining room. My dad built us an island to give us more counter space as well. I refinished the countertop — it was an old wooden top off of my great grandfather’s desk that I painted and epoxied.
Describe the process. It took about four months to make the home livable. We did almost all of the work ourselves with the help of my dad, who is the best handyman and the person I’ve learned everything from. We hired an electrician to come in and replace all of the outlets, install new wiring for ceiling fixtures in rooms that had no lighting, and rewire the entire kitchen, allowing us to have pendant lights as well.
We started by gutting the kitchen and ripping through lath — it’s so much more work than ripping down drywall. It’s heavy and dusty and very time-consuming. We also gutted the bathroom, but this was a little easier because it had been updated in the past and had drywall instead. We then started repairing issues with the plaster walls and filling nail holes throughout the rest of the house. We repainted everything: ceilings, walls, trim, and doors. The doors are not in the best condition, but are usable for now — eventually I’d love to replace them. I spray-painted doorknobs, air vents, and register covers.
Truthfully, nothing was easier than I expected. Renovating a house is seriously so much work. The work seems never-ending, but it is so rewarding and worth it in the end. I also underestimated how long a renovation takes. Once you start a project in an older home, it opens up a can of worms and can lead to a lot more projects down the road. That’s what we realized with this renovation; we went from just paint and minor repairs to completely gutting the kitchen and bathroom — which I’m so glad we did. That extra time and money invested was 100 percent worth it in the long run.
What repair work did you complete on the home? We replaced boarded-up basement windows, replaced a couple exterior doors so the house is more secure, added an air supply vent to our bathroom, and dug around our foundation to help with leaks in our basement. We also had to purchase and install a new water softener — it’s a must with country living.
Proudest DIY: My favorite element of our home is definitely our hardwood floors. I love taking something so worn and damaged and making it like new again. These floors were definitely needing some TLC and we were able to incorporate more of our style by refinishing them. They also had been covered for the last 10 years or so with a laminate flooring, so I was very eager to rip those up and see what we were working with.
I had never refinished floors before moving into this home. My dad was there for the bedroom floors and helped teach me how to properly use a drum sander. I took on the rest of the house by myself. Austin was there to help, and we knocked out three huge rooms over a couple weekends. Drum sanding takes a lot of patience, but it’s so satisfying to see the layers of dirt and grime being removed and fresh, natural wood showing through again. I wanted to keep the look of the natural white oak floors, so I opted for a whitewash stain and a water-based polyurethane. This combination brightened our house up tremendously.
Biggest indulgence: Our kitchen ended up costing the most. Although it has some cheaper finishes, it still is one of my favorite rooms in our house. It’s clean, functional, and really portrays my style.
What are you most proud of? I’m proud of our entire home. It’s been a work in progress, but we have come a long way in such a short amount of time. Truly, bringing life back into my grandfather’s childhood home is such a bittersweet feeling. This house needed so much work, and little by little, we are getting there. It feels like an entirely different house already. It’s so clean, bright, and inviting. I couldn’t love it more.
Do you plan to do more? Our list seems to be never-ending. We’re currently living on our main level. We have an entire second floor that needs to be completely remodeled. I’m hoping to start on that project this year. There are four bedrooms and a bathroom, so it will require a lot of time, labor, and money. We also will eventually open up our staircase, which will help the house flow, and change the layout on the main level, which I’m really excited about. We plan to attach our garage at some point.
We also have to finish tiling our fireplace surround in our living room. When we refinished the floors, we found that the previous owner had ripped out the original tile and covered the existing concrete with laminate flooring, so this will be a project that will be happening soon.
What have you learned about renovations, your home, and yourself over the course of your work on the house? If you asked me two years ago if I could refinish hardwood floors, tile a backsplash, or repair holes in the wall, I would’ve laughed. Truthfully, I started this entire renovation with the mindset that I needed someone to do it for me, that I wasn’t capable or that I didn’t know how. That changed for me when things weren’t getting done on my watch — I was tired of waiting for things to happen, so I started making them happen. I’m proud to say that I have finished so many projects on my own. You will never learn if you don’t try, and I’m so glad I found that courage within myself. I use DIY as an outlet — to let my mind escape. It’s almost like a therapy session — seeing the before and afters make my heart happy.
PAINT & COLORS
Chairs — World Market
Pouf — Target
Floor lamp — Target
Sectional — West Elm
Coffee table — West Elm
Soup bowls — Target
Pitcher — Amazon
Terracotta planter — Amazon
Bed — Cymax
Nightstands — Target
Sconces — The Home Depot
Light fixture — The Home Depot
Towels — Target
Bath fixtures — The Home Depot
This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.