These Self-Taught DIYers Revamped Their Suburban Home with Major Farmhouse Character
Every nook, cranny, and corner in this handsome house has been painted, papered, paneled, or otherwise prettified by Brad and Holly Lauritzen. It's been so masterfully transformed into a modern, merry farmhouse that it's hard to imagine it began as a blank "builder special" in suburban Austin.
Brad and Holly have revamped every house they've owned in their 15 years of marriage, tackling projects big and small themselves, with Holly serving as designer and Brad providing the building skills and brawn. "We never had it in the budget to pay out the things we wanted in our home," Holly says. "If we wanted it to look a certain way, we were going to have to do it ourselves."
A puny 10×10-foot concrete pad covered by a roof was the only patio to speak of when Brad and Holly (pictured with their five kiddos above) bought their suburban-Austin spec house. "But the yard fanned out pretty wide and was great for entertaining," Brad says. He hired professionals to enlarge the concrete slab to 12×42 feet and got a friend's help to set the 8×8-inch posts, but otherwise he learned on YouTube how to frame, build, and finish the expanded patio and roof. Cushy chairs, a sectional sofa, and an oversize coffee table feel like a living room, but lush plantings, including a wooden "wall" of potted succulents Brad built out of 1×6s and trim boards, are reminders that they're in the great outdoors.
It's no surprise that greenery sprouts all around the back porch, but it's just as important a design element in the home's interiors. "Natural greenery, a clean white palette, and black touches are my go-tos for farmhouse style," Holly Lauritzen says.
Brad credits YouTube videos with showing him how to frame and build a giant back porch, apply shiplap and paneling to walls in nearly every room, lay sheet-vinyl flooring, and construct beds and tables of all sorts. "You can find a tutorial about anything on YouTube," he says. "I'm a visual person so if I can watch somebody do a task, I can follow along."
Holly finds ideas and inspiration in retail stores both high and low, from memories of her grandparents' small-town Texas farmhouse, and from Instagram. For almost five years, she has been sharing the couple's projects and progress on their website, ourfauxfarmhouse.com, and on Instagram (@ourfauxfarmhouse).
Graced with a 22-foot-high ceiling and open to the kitchen, the living room presented a few design challenges: making a voluminous room feel cozy, providing seating for a family of seven plus guests, and tying it to the adjacent kitchen. Holly started with the massive mantel, layering large-scale art to suit the soaring space—the "home" sign is 5 feet tall! An 11×14-foot rug anchors a sprawling sectional and two caramel leather chairs so kids, parents, and guests have somewhere to sit. The palette of rich neutrals with black accents and white walls appears here, in the kitchen, and throughout the house for a cohesive scheme.
Holly is quick to proclaim that truly anybody can do what they do. "I know other people think they can't do these things, but if you take it step-by-step, you'll be amazed," she says.
"The skills and know-how I have now, I didn't have when we got married," Brad says. "I've cultivated them over the years. I'm just a very thrifty guy who tries to be as resourceful as possible."
With sturdy cabinets and new appliances, the kitchen had good bones—it just needed farmhouse flavor. The Lauritzens sheathed the island in shiplap, swapped out the pantry door for a much more handsome model, and installed a vent hood trimmed in stained wood. But the biggest eye-catcher is the pseudo-cabinet X-front boxes atop the upper cabinets. Brad built them himself and topped them with crown molding.
The buffet in the kitchen boasts counter-to-ceiling subway tile, an outdoor sconce, and handcrafted shelves laden with canisters and baskets. Brad made the shelves by bending flat steel bars with a vice clamp and hammer into brackets and securing 2×12s on top. The shelves are stained for a weathered appearance and a protected surface.
The hall bath was once outfitted with a pedestal sink. Brad and Holly replaced it with a vanity base from Home Depot's clearance section, brightened with gray paint and retrofitted for a vintage-look sink. ("I had to cut the vanity top at an angle and brace it underneath so the sink can sit in there," Brad says.) Floral wallpaper wraps around three walls, while the fourth is lined in shiplap. Floating shelves provide a spot for storage and display.
Holly likes to take at least one wall's look up a notch in every room. Favorite custom touches include wallpaper and paneling. "Our farmhouse vibe is definitely more modern. Ours has cleaner lines and simpler architecture additions. We let the feature walls do the talking," Holly says.
What was once an unused, awkward spot at the top of the stairs is now a useful oasis. "With five kids, especially with the pandemic, we need more learning spaces, more desks for computers," Holly says.
Brad painstakingly installed 6½-inch-wide strips of MDF on the office wall in a herringbone pattern, beveling the edges to define each board and painting the whole assembly deep gray.
Projects abound in the master bedroom where Holly and Brad laid a sheet-vinyl floor that looks like wood; commissioned a stunning sliding door for the bathroom from Porter Barn Wood; elevated standard IKEA nightstands with new trim, pulls, and paint; and constructed a bed that's nearly as eye-catching as the grid-paneled wall behind it. That feature wall cost about $150 in 1/8-inch hardboard, MDF, construction adhesive, finishing nails, and paint—money well spent.
Wood paneling of any kind, such as this 20 1/2-inch grid, adds old-fashioned architecture to a room. The Lauritzens used 1/8-inch-thick panel board, MDF, and a bit of patience to design, cut, and install this feature wall.
The game room is the place for crafts, homework, and any fun the kids can dream up. The room had no storage when Brad and Holly bought the house, so Brad installed a closet system on one entire wall, stocking it with shelves for books and games, buckets for toys, and a double rail for four barn-style doors to mask the mess.
The older boys share this bedroom where symmetry rules the day. The room also repeats decor from elsewhere in the house: the same-style desk chair as on the landing, a match to the living room rug (only smaller), and a striking feature wall of black-painted boards and battens.
The younger boys' bedroom may include the most fanciful bunk bed ever. Built by Dangerfield Woodcraft as an Instagram partnership, this set of bunks mimics the design of the Lauritzens' house; it also serves as regular sleeping quarters for two youngsters with a rolling trundle bed underneath for a guest.
A common color combo for farmhouses is white and black. They're high-contrast classics that play nicely with other colors. Holly partners them with natural greenery and warm wood tones.
Brad and Holly started on their farmhouse journey because their decorating dreams were big—but their budget was tiny. "If you break down a project and do it yourself, you can have all the elements of a designer home for one-tenth the price," Holly says.