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.
Before: Traditional Exterior
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
With no section of wall for a TV in the master 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 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.
The upper-level master 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
This small room was having an identity crisis, despite its great potential. Dark, long curtains emphasized the low ceilings.
After: Bright Purpose
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 grandbrass.com.
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
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.
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.