In Tucson, it’s easy to follow the decorating crowd to stores filled with southwestern style. But this homeowner didn’t let location stop her from staying true to her favored rustic farmhouse look.

By LuAnn Brandsen
January 07, 2019

What do you get when a farmhouse-loving Midwesterner moves to a builder-grade home in the Tucson suburbs? “You get busy,” says Natalie Kolter, speaking from firsthand experience. Natalie and her husband, Travis, started by layering in texture with shiplap paneling and weathered woods, then painted nearly every surface in versatile neutrals and whites.

The finishes help a mix of thrifty finds feel fresh. The decor in the home is scoured from garage sales, thrift stores, and antique shops for earthy, tactile, affordable finds. Natalie describes herself as someone drawn to rustic vintage elements and a mighty good deal rather than as a collector. Check out how she made her home into a farmhouse dream on a small budget.

Natalie persuaded an antique shop owner to part with a not-for-sale church pew for $175 that now resides in her entry. Admitting she might have gone a tad “shelf overboard,” Natalie built DIY shelves in nearly every room of the house, offering platforms for ever-changing displays. Natalie and her husband cut the boards to size, then she painted or stained them before sanding and wiping with hemp seed oil for a non-glossy finish.

Wood and lava stone beads are Natalie’s go-to accessory for quick pops of texture on side tables, shelves, chandeliers, baskets, and this thrifted cow skull (a $60 find). Old novels tell another tactile story at just 25 cents a tale.

Replacing suburban drywall with shiplap crafted from inexpensive plywood dramatically enhanced the living room’s farmhouse feel. The giant clock was originally a tabletop; Natalie added antiqued Roman numerals and rods to transform it into a timepiece.

Natalie sold her Target dining set after spotting this farmhouse table at Goodwill for $60. Serious sanding wore down its orange stain, making way for a dark-stained top and painted sides and legs. Another $60 scored her the chandelier.

After closing the dust-catching gap between the kitchen’s brown cabinetry and ceiling with wood boards and trim, Natalie brushed homemade white chalk paint over everything for a unified finish. Old silverware (found for $10 as a full set—in a velvet-lined box no less!) is left unpolished to allow its patina to shine. And with its shade lining and bulb removed, a thrifted lamp takes on a sculptural quality atop the family’s $50 upright piano.

The dining room’s cart was an unbelievable (and totally enviable) $25 thrift store steal. Travis made its tray from free palette wood; the crates are $4 garage-sale buys. Seltzer bottles (90% off at Michaels) introduce a little something new.

Transforming the laundry room’s brown cabinets and tan ceramic floor tiles was inexpensive but involved substantial sweat equity. Natalie painted over the tile work and then applied a stencil to mimic the look of trendy—and spendy—concrete tiles. A sparkling chandelier infuses unexpected glam, its $7.50 garage-sale price little more than pocket change.

At the entrance, a DIY barn door establishes a rustic mood. Its distressed planks (which are actually new pieces of wood) showcase Natalie’s strategic application of petroleum jelly wherever she wanted paint to ease away.

Natalie couldn’t be happier with the master bedroom’s clip-and-fold curtains. Hung from DIY drapery rods installed near the ceiling to make the windows appear taller, the washed 9x12-foot drop cloths hang so part of the fabric drapes back to hide the seam. Beside the window, a large mirror that Natalie framed leans against the wall.

Four leftover paint samples inspired the painted herringbone design on the wall behind daughter Brylie’s bed. The bed itself is grandpa Kolter's, making it a sentimental piece. Natalie painted it to match the rest of the room.


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