For Jodi Mockabee, the rocks and twigs her kids drag inside are welcome treasures that often find a home in her decor. She's even a bit of an instigator. The tree-trunk stair post in the living room was all Jodi -- a statement piece about decorating with things you love instead of caving to trends. Connecting with nature was a big reason she and her husband, Jason, bought their lofted ranch in Sonora, California. It was a fixer-upper, but something just clicked. "It seemed so peaceful," says Jodi, who nudged Jason along on a mostly cosmetic remodel. "His exact words up until a week into the remodel were: I hate this house, but I love the mortgage."
Now it's all love -- airy and open but warm and rustic, plus a big yard with woods behind for the family to explore. "We see sunrises and sunsets from the living room, and we can head out the back door for hikes and come back with a piece of wood for the kids' nature shelf," Jodi says. "This house, this location is us."
Jodi and Jason Mockabee (with kids Elias, Everett, Carter, August, and Scarlett) quickly put their stamp on their 1960s fixer-upper in Sonora, California.
Speed Up the Timeline
Not wanting to rent or live with construction, the Mockabees committed to an unthinkably fast DIY remodel. Jodi sketched designs ("over and over until they felt right," she says) and pinpointed materials while the house was in escrow. Their budget: not a penny over $15,000.
The bulk of the remodel went toward reconfiguring the kitchen (the fridge moved to where a pantry was) and opening it to the living room. A table instead of an island gives the family a dining space. It's also where Jodi homeschools the three older kids. Laminate floors (and in some places plywood planks) were a budget-minded compromise that Jodi now likes because they're so easy to live with. Along with having a handy cousin to help, Jodi says the key to the two-week turnaround was not overthinking. "I'm a quick decision-maker," she says. (She's also willing to pull near all-nighters painting.)
The family's love of the outdoors shows in the living room. The shelf is a piece of wood collected on a hike. The end table is a tree trunk; Jodi used an ax to strip the bark before sanding it.
Barter for Goods and Services
Jodi, a photographer, traded a few photo sessions to get what have become her favorite features in the house: the bed in the master bedroom and the tree-trunk stair post. The craftsperson who built the bed from Jodi's sketches did it in exchange for her taking his engagement photos. Another craftsperson installed the tree trunk in exchange for a family portrait. "I don't know why, but I knew I wanted a tree right there -- something tall to anchor the room," Jodi says. It's bolted to the ceiling in case the kids try to climb it.
Cinder-block walls that made rooms feel like a basement were the home's big quirk. Drywall was too expensive, so Jodi hired a plasterer to skim-coat the walls to create a smooth surface that she thought could look modern- industrial. "I was terrified, but we all ended up happy," she says. The only downside: Patching a nail hole requires a plaster kit. "The shelves in the living room took a few years to get hung," she says.
Jodi drove two hours for the $80 metal lockers (rusty, just the way she likes them) in the entry. Jason retrofitted the insides with shelves to hold the kids' shoes. The wooden rocker in the living room was a Craigslist bargain at $40 and a favorite spot for the kids to pile on Jason's lap with a book.
A salvaged door in the entry, fashion accessories displayed as art, and touches of nature create quirky, one-of-a-kind character.
Convert the Garage
About a year after finishing the remodel, the Mockabees found out they were expecting twins. That surprise addition led them to convert the garage into a bedroom for the two older boys. While they were at it, they used some of the garage space to create a front entry. The timeline and budget this go-around: three weeks and $4,000. Using salvaged windows freed up money for laminate flooring. Bunk beds ensure there's floor space for Carter and Everett to play.
Create a Hybrid Look
"The house is a marriage of Scandinavian and midcentury modern, which I like, and rustic cabin, which Jason likes," Jodi says. She whitewashed the master bedroom, including the plywood plank floor -- their $300 DIY alternative to hardwood. Then she warmed it with wood. Part of a split-rail fence from a trash pile became a window valance.
"I've never had the means to just walk into a store and purchase whatever I want, so I've learned to get creative," Jodi says. She built simple wall-mount desks, including the one in the master bedroom, above, from wood left over from other projects. "I like to get things done," Jodi says. "It's either I teach myself or I wait on Jason -- and then he ends up with a mile-long list."
Scarlett's bedroom has a similar airy feel; Jodi simply painted over the raw cinder block for now.