Welcome to the next installment of our Home Tour series, where we step inside the spaces of some of our favorite design-world friends to chat all things decor and learn how they’ve turned their house into a home.
This week, we’re so excited to step into the historic Michigan home of LeeAnn Arens of @homewithknives, which she shares with her husband, teenage son, and two young daughters. We’ve been major fans of LeeAnn for awhile now, obsessively following her adventures in decorating, renovating, and DIY-ing her endlessly charming 1940s home. With her eye for curated, thoughtful design, we love the way she’s turned the house into a comfortable yet elegant home for her family—and we know you will too. We’ll let LeeAnn give the full tour!
Tell us about your style! How would you describe the look of your home and your aesthetic?
Our house is a 1940s traditional. Keeping true to the bones of the home, we have styled it with a modern traditional interior. And I lovingly write “we,” but it’s me. My husband has no style and he would agree with this statement. I’m all about form and he is all about function. We make a great team now, but in the beginning we had our design disagreements. I always have a difficult time explaining what I personally like, because I love almost all design styles. I do gravitate towards an eclectic look or a modern vintage one, but I have an appreciation for all design.
What made you choose to move into this home? What were you looking for?
Our home has had three previous owners and they all took great care of this little gem. Our house actually has a name that’s recognized by the long-term residents of our town. It’s the “Hafer House,” named after the original owners who built it and who also had a local hardware store. While the home has fun little details like coved ceilings and arches, it has been updated as well. The last owners spent a pretty penny updating certain spaces like a new 2.5 car garage addition with two extra bonus areas. It’s the best of both worlds.
My husband and I both appreciate older homes. We love homes with character and really enjoy the craftsmanship and details inside an older house. That being said, we also appreciate modern amenities and updated mechanical aspects like newer wiring, plumbing, and air conditioning.
When we were shopping for homes, our house hunting list consisted of: older home with character but with modern updates, a basement for storage, a large garage, a great yard, and bonus room with separate entrance to serve as guest or office space—and this house had it all. I initially found it on an app and while it was priced above our budget, I still sent it to our realtor as an example of the style of home we were looking for, just in our price range. As fate would have it, the owners had already decided to drop the price significantly, putting it within our range.
What has the process been like designing your space, and making your house feel like a home?
Much to the chagrin of my husband, my style has definitely evolved several times over the course of living in this home. I joke, but it really has been a learning curve when it comes to deciding on what I love, what is functional, and what actually works in the space we have. Since I like a lot of different styles, it’s been a process for me to find and hone the aesthetic and feeling I want my home to portray. When I started viewing this as a learning process and realized it takes years to cultivate a home, it helped me become more intentional. I try to curate items I love rather than ones that will “just do for now.”
We have to ask about your rugs! What rugs do you have from Rugs USA, and what made them the perfect fit for your space?
I have had four rugs from Rugs USA: the Braided Texture Indoor/Outdoor rug in gray, the Chunky Loop Jute rug in natural, the Native Collage rug, and the Oriental Classic rug in multi. Currently I have the Native Collage in my girls’ room and the Oriental Classic in our family room. Rugs USA is my go-to for stylish affordable and durable rugs!
What are your favorite things to do at home with your family? Is there a particular space you all like to gather and spend time in?
We all enjoy doing projects. Whether it’s building something, cooking, brewing beer or kombucha, or art projects—one of us is always involved in something. Our home has enough space where we can do our activities in different parts of the home or all be in the hub—currently the eating nook area off the kitchen. Since covid, the nook area has served as our eating space, virtual classroom, art table, and so on.
What is your most treasured item in your home?
I have a hand-carved wood screen that my mother gave me. My family purchased it when we lived in Korea. The pieces that evoke a memory and feeling are priceless to me.
Let’s talk projects! What DIYs or renovations have done in your home? What’s next on your to-do list?
I think we’ve refreshed most of the rooms in our home. The house didn’t need any big overhauls, just restyling. Every room in our home was painted a banana-cream-pie yellow color. It wasn’t a horrible color and I am particularly fond of pie, but when it’s in every room, it’s just too much. We spent a lot of time de-yellowing the house. With the styling and the addition of wall moulding to certain rooms, the spaces feel more elevated. It’s still a work in progress. I would love to renovate the kitchen, but it looks like we will be moving this year. So now we debate whether to update the kitchen for resale or just enjoy the time we have left in this home (i.e. no big headache projects).
It’s not always smooth sailing when it comes to decorating, especially with older homes. Can you talk about some challenges or any weird design quirks you came across?
Thankfully our home had been well-maintained before we purchased it. But when remodeling the older areas, you most likely aren’t going to find a perfectly plumb square wall. Also the layout of our home isn’t the best and we always debate about keeping true to the home versus moving walls and opening things up.
Do you have any design tips you’ve discovered while decorating that you’re willing to spill?
Creating mood boards is extremely helpful in designing a space. You can get a solid idea of the look and feel you want to evoke and it can help your home design be cohesive.
What do you love most about your home?
I like to think that houses are their own entity and homeowners are the caretakers who have the privilege of looking after it for a while. I love that we had the opportunity to add to our home’s history. I love that this home welcomed our two youngest children into this world. I love that we added to its joy and I love the memories it gave us. I am a nostalgic person and when we do move, it’s going to be so bittersweet. I’m grateful we had our years here and I hope every family or person who comes through these doors will feel the same.
All photos courtesy of LeeAnn Arens.