This North Carolina blogger gave her 1980s house a cozy remake using flea-market finds and achievable woodworking projects.

By Beth Eslinger and Lisa Mowry
May 25, 2021
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Jessica Russell of the Itty Bitty Farmhouse blog says any home has the potential to take on a farmhouse vibe. The secrets: good bones, a fearless attitude when it comes to making updates, and readily available materials and tools.

With rich wood tones, including the kitchen's butcher-block countertops, and a generous front porch, the 1,600-square-foot home near Hickory, North Carolina, provided the perfect canvas for Jessica's DIY upgrades. To strip away some of the '80s aesthetic, she removed wallpaper, refaced the dark wood cabinetry, covered dated flooring with luxury vinyl tile, and sprayed a rock wall white. Shiplap, open shelves, architectural salvage, and white furnishings contribute cozy texture and a bright feel to her home, which she's lived in for three years.

Jessica Russell sitting on porch
Credit: Brie Williams

Jessica fell in love with the front porch on this house, built in 1987. To add patina—and introduce the style developed inside—she decorated with flea market finds and antiques, including the authentic two-sided sign and an ice cream bucket, which reminds her of summer evenings with her grandparents. "The porch really brings that 'welcome to the farm' greeting," she says.

front door area with rustic bench and dog
Credit: Brie Williams

To create her farmhouse aesthetic throughout the house, and even outside her bedroom, Jessica layers wood tones and whites, adding in the chippy and vintage pieces for a cozy feel.

"I love white and wood tones because I feel that is always a clean feeling, but you can make it cozy or light," she says. To add depth, Jessica brings in texture through neutral fabrics and rugs, with pops of color coming through seasonal decor and plants.

Jessica has been shopping flea markets and yard sales since she was a child, and she started working on home projects as a teenager. An avid woodworker, she built the sliding barn-style doors, shelves, and laundry room countertops.

She finishes rooms using paint, statement lighting, family hand-me-downs, and more to create a home that's personal, cozy, and truly one of a kind. "I have found amazing chunky pieces of furniture along with truly vintage pieces to bring that down-home feeling," she says.

white living room with wood floors and fireplace
Credit: Brie Williams

A white palette allows for easy seasonal updates through textiles, plants, and other finds. Jessica decorates with washed-out rugs for their patina. She found this version at Boutique Rugs. On her mantel, she layered old windows with green glass bottles to contrast with the gritty rock wall. The number 3 throw pillow has sentimental value for Jessica—it was the number on several of her sports uniforms.

The living room's stone wall was an eyesore from day one. Jessica used her Wagner paint sprayer ($159, The Home Depot) to coat the rock wall with exterior-grade white paint. It took her three years to muster the courage to tackle this project, and she loves the result. "Never be afraid of what might happen. Go with your gut feeling—at least try," she says.

dining area with wooden rustic table and chairs
Credit: Brie Williams

The lighting in the dining area was Jessica's first project in this house. She swapped out the original fixture for a ladder bracketing a brass chandelier. "I knew I could come up with something creative with this," she says. She searched for months to find the perfect farm table. Collected chairs and other vintage finds add interest.

kitchen shelving with wording
Credit: Brie Williams

Just three pieces of wood and dowels create a plate display rack for a speedy art idea. Wall decals form the background (they represent her mom's pound cake recipe).

kitchen with white cabinets with wood top
white shelving in kitchen
Left: Credit: Brie Williams
Right: Credit: Brie Williams

Removing upper cabinets visually opened up the small kitchen. Jessica painted the lower cabinets with chalk-finish paint (using her sprayer for the doors and drawers and a brush on the boxes), then sealed the paint with wax. She installed luxury vinyl tile directly over the original ceramic floor tiles. She suggests searching how-tos before trying this intermediate-level project. Open shelves provide easy access to daily essentials and display space.

bedroom with collection of vintage items
Credit: Brie Williams

More shiplap adds texture to the master bedroom. The bed is another affordable find—just $10 at a flea market. Jessica's dad sandblasted the finish and powder-coated the surface with white paint.

Jessica Russell looking into shelf
Credit: Brie Williams

A vintage North Carolina antiques sign serves as a handy television disguise in the master bedroom. Jessica uses dowels to prop up the hinged sign.

To build wall texture, she mimicked shiplap throughout the home. For budget purposes, she had utility panels cut to 5 1⁄4-inch-wide strips at Lowe's. The 4×8-foot panels cost $15 vs. up to $10 for a shiplap board. To space the strips, she used a quarter-inch metal rod, which is much easier and faster than using a penny or tile spacers.

white bathroom with wood accents
Credit: Brie Williams

To give the bath character, she applied shiplap vertically and topped it with trim.

barn door into bedroom with dog
Credit: Brie Williams

A stained barn-style door (another DIY project) repeats the wood tones used elsewhere in the home and creates privacy for the guest bedroom when pulled closed. Jessica used a barn-door hardware kit to hang the unit and recommends this over a hack solution. A Shaker peg rail gives bonus storage. To build the bed frame, Jessica found two old doors with multiple layers of paint at an old house. She sanded and painted them and completed the unit using 2×10 and 4×4 boards.

door into laundry room with white rustic brick
Credit: Brie Williams

Jessica found the glass door at a local shop and added the "laundry" decal and a glass knob—it's now one of her followers' favorite projects. To add texture to the shelf wall, Jessica applied faux-brick paneling ($38, The Home Depot), treated it with lightweight surfacing compound, then sanded. Countertops and shelves are made from 2×10 boards.

Jessica Russell in work area with laptop and dog
Credit: Brie Williams

Jessica is never short on work space with this desk that stretches the width of the wall. The butcher-block countertop is from Lowe's, and she found the file cabinets at Goodwill. Black spray paint updates filing cabinets for a quick desk base. The sconces above the shelves are another Russell original: A remote device controls wireless puck lights.

locker with purse and boots
| Credit: Brie Williams

To remove the rust from the vintage lockers in Jessica's office, her dad sandblasted the finish, then she sprayed the unit with Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint in Linen White ($38, The Home Depot).

Comments (1)

Anonymous
May 29, 2021
And who cleans all of the open shelving??