This DIY Urban Farmhouse Mixes Modern Lines with Old-School Charm

A dig-in-and-do-it blogger transforms (almost single-handedly) her old house. The result? A mix of modern and charm that gives it new life.

The summer before Alison Allen headed to college, she learned a valuable lesson: how to paint. She set up a mishmash of secondhand bedroom furniture in her parents' garage, and a handyman neighbor walked her through the steps, starting with stripping the old finishes. In the end, she had what looked like a brand-new set of white furniture to show for her efforts.

That paint job inspired other DIY projects, which ultimately gave her the confidence to tackle a biggie: the Minneapolis house she lives in with her husband and their sons. Since moving into the 1910 house, Alison has DIY'd her way through plenty of quirks, cleverly problem-solved, and refreshed the old house inside and out to make it hers. She describes the home as a mix of Scandinavian, modern, and midcentury. She records her DIY projects on her blog, Deuce Cities Henhouse.

Alison and her husband found unexpected living space in the enclosed porch of their Minneapolis home. Inspired by a picture she saw online, homeowner Alison Allen crafted birch plywood hanging planters that reflect her love of Scandinavian style. She used a carpenter square to make angles and lines for the diamond-shape frames, a compass to draw the circular bases, and a jigsaw to cut the pieces from the ½-inchthick plywood.

Hanging Planter Inspiration

Before: Traditional Exterior

home exterior before, before image, home

Pine green and white paint dated the home's exterior. The green roof limited the homeowner's color choices, too. White trim around the windows faded into the white siding.

After: Blue and White Delight

home exterior, home exterior makeover, landscaping
Marty Baldwin

The couple sank money into a new roof and steps, then gave the exterior its "wow" with dark blue paint. A salvaged door adds to the curb appeal. Resin pots were a little blah and blendy, so Alison perked them up with white chalk-finish paint for contrast with the walkway and a metallic gold stripe for bling.

Rich Hues

living room, area rug, couch
Marty Baldwin

Alison resisted the urge to paint the home's original stained woodwork, but she did paint the walls deep teal in the living room. Artwork—enlarged images of a camera obscura project Alison did in college—plays into the moody wall color. A few touches of white (frames and curtains) keep the living room's dark walls from feeling like a black hole.

Creamy Blush

pillows, couch, furnishings
Marty Baldwin

Geometric painted pillows allowed Alison to bring in the blush pink she's been crushing on. She used different sizes of brushes and black fabric paint to make random shapes on white cotton fabric, and used a protractor to determine the angles for cutting the fabric.

Record Racks

wallpaper, cube storage, guitar
Marty Baldwin

Her husband's music room boasts album covers as art, thanks to inexpensive picture ledges. Furring strips attached with Liquid Nails to the back of bookcase are Alison's trick for getting albums to sit flush with the fronts of the cubbies.

Clean White

subway tile, entry, coat rack
Marty Baldwin

A small entry became a hardworking mudroom when Alison tiled part of the wall, added coat hooks, and dressed up a pair of chalkboards. An easy-to-wipe tiled wall (with dark grout that conceals dirt) makes this mudroom extra durable.

Use Every Inch

Marty Baldwin

Alison puzzle-pieced an awkward empty corner—a chimney and recessed area—into usable kitchen space. She started with two IKEA cabinets, and, with careful shelf cutting and mounting, turned this oddly shaped corner into useful storage.

Kitchen Revamp

white kitchen, kitchen, subway tile
Marty Baldwin

Existing granite counters sparked the kitchen's black-and-white scheme. The under-$2,000 makeover included sanding and painting cabinets, stripping cabinet hardware, and replacing a copper backsplash with white subway tile (Alison's first tiling project).

Dining DIY

dining room table, dining, chairs
Marty Baldwin

A drum-style pendant that gives the dining room a modern edge. Wallpaper scraps became an artsy backdrop in the buffet—just taped into place for easy in, easy out. From copper piping, Alison made a mod candelabra. She used tee and elbow fittings and lengths of pipe to create the geometric base; couplings top the branches that hold candles. After dry-fitting all the pieces, she bonded them with two-part epoxy.

Entertainment Cabinet

bedroom, small bedroom, wallpaper
Marty Baldwin

With no section of wall for a TV in the primary bedroom, Alison got creative, turning an old credenza into a flip-up TV stand. She replaced the top with a new pine top, which was cut in two sections. The TV is mounted to the underside of one side of the top and opens facing the bed for viewing.

Dead Space Redesign

shelves, bookshelves, chair
Marty Baldwin

Shelves turn a corner of the bedroom into a little library and camouflage the radiator. Alison turns the book spines toward the wall, preferring to see the textural (and neutral) look of the pages.

Sunny Bonus

interior door to enclosed patio
Marty Baldwin

The upper-level primary bedroom leads to a bonus room—a 7×11-foot sunroom that likely had been an open-air sleeping porch. A four-hour simmer in a pot of hot water (with a tablespoon of dish soap added) removed layers of paint from this door's original hardware.

Before: Little Function

home before, porch, home redo, home makeover

This small room was having an identity crisis, despite its great potential. Dark, long curtains emphasized the low ceilings.

After: Bright Purpose

small office, plant, area rug
Marty Baldwin

Alison floated a cabinet to counter the sunroom's slightly sloped floor. Her "fauxdenza" is a pair of kitchen cabinets topped with pine. Complimentary orange and blue accents keep the small space bold.

Bright Bunks

bunk beds, painted wall, area rug
Marty Baldwin

When a bloggers' challenge left Alison searching for a way to incorporate lemon yellow into a project, she made a geometric color band out of it. Cool aqua and navy tone down the neon hue in the smart design that climbs onto and across the boys' bedroom ceiling. Alison's aha use for picture ledges: slim bedside bookcases—perfect for a wall with bunk beds scooted against it.

Budget Artwork

bookshelves, painted wall, toys
Marty Baldwin

Alison planned the painted design to take the place of art above the short bookcase. Two yellow storage cubes reference the painted yellow triangles. She got crafty for the boys' budget moon art. To get the look, use a sea sponge to dab black paint onto white poster board and white paint onto black poster board. When dry, cut 4-inch-diameter circles from the painted poster boards. Arrange the cut circles on a piece of white poster board, overlapping some and cutting as desired to loosely represent different phases of the moon.

Gold Accents

bathroom, shower curtain, blue vanity
Marty Baldwin

In addition to paint (white on walls and blue on the vanity), a lot of elbow grease helped freshen the dated bathroom. Alison brightened the dingy grout with Tile Guard whitener. She had the vanity's dark blue paint color-matched to one of her husband's album covers. Gold spray paint and two coats of antiquing wax—one light, one dark (both lightly brushed on with a 2-inch round paintbrush)— gave shiny chrome fixtures a chic look.

Before: Cold White

home before, before image, tile

White walls, white floors, and white drop ceiling panels made this space look like an abandoned office: clinical and uninviting. Square mirrors mounted to the wall are a dated solution to visually enlarge a dark room.

After: Basement Nook

small living room, sofa, area rug
Marty Baldwin

The couple chose the sofa for its modern look as much as its delivery: It came flat-packed, a must for getting it down the narrow basement stairway. The swing-arm sconce is one of her from-scratch fixtures. She ordered the hollow pipes and other parts online at

White Pedestal

dining, chairs and table, wine fridge
Marty Baldwin

Alison designed the refinished basement right down to the glass-shelf niche in the bar area, previously a storage space with a tiny window. After contractors did the heavy work, Alison installed the cabinetry. She used a kit to make the two-light pendant.

All Dressed Up

garage, basketball hoop, garage doors
Marty Baldwin

The carriage house garage door is Alison's sleight of hand. She painted on brown rectangles and screwed on hardware and faux windows to dress up a basic aluminum door.

Woven Seats

Marty Baldwin

Alison is carrying on her grandpa's craft of turning old aluminum lawn chairs into macramé beauties. Alison's macramé technique combines hand-weaving and chain-stitching with a crochet hook. Each chair takes 200 yards of 6 mm macramé cord; Alison offers a tutorial on her blog.

Airy Privacy

fence, landscaping, hostas
Marty Baldwin

A horizontal cedar slat fence that Alison designed is a stylish upgrade from the chain-link that was there. Slats are spaced a few inches apart so the fence isn't a solid mass that closes in the yard.

Updated by
Jessica Rae Lemmo

Jessica Rae Lemmo has more than 10 years of experience as a photo stylist. Her work has appeared in Better Homes & Gardens, Do It Yourself Magazine, Kitchen & Bath Makeovers, and many others. From home staging to set design and wardrobe styling, Jessica brings beautiful imagery to life for her clients, which include Pella Windows, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Advil, and ESPN. She is also the founder and creative director of Alt Design Studio, an interior design and home staging company.

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