For the past several months, I had mentioned to my husband, Chip, that I really wanted a garden out at our farmhouse. In my mind I envisioned a box with a few tomatoes, herbs and greens. I had this perfect picture of a simple little white garden that I could tend to every so often.
I first got into gardening last year, and to be completely honest, I still have no clue what I am doing. However, the concept of bringing something to life and watching it thrive is appealing to me. (Perhaps this is why I have four kids.) Anyway, Chip took the boys for the weekend, and they set out to surprise Mom with a garden. They left early in the morning and got home late in the night. Nothing meant more to me than the fact that my boys were creating a space where I could do something that I enjoy.
On the day of the big reveal, I was shocked to find that the size of the garden was about 15 times bigger than I had imagined. Forget a family garden — this thing could be a community co-op! After I told them how much I loved it and how amazing it was, I pulled Chip to the side and kindly asked him what he was thinking. Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “Joanna, if you are going to do something, do it right the first time and make the most of the space you have.”
My vision all along was to keep the garden small because I don’t really know what having a green thumb requires yet. Chip’s vision never factored in my lack of ability. He wanted to create a space I could grow into with no limits. My sweet husband was right on.
This is a good way to approach the spaces within your home. When you set limits on your spaces or allow your rooms to set limits on you, then you are not maximizing your home’s full potential for your family.
I always tell women to take it room by room; if not, you will get overwhelmed. Since I am currently right in the middle of our farmhouse renovation, I am doing exactly that. I am studying each space and making sure that I make the best use of each room. I could easily let the limits of this smaller space get to me, but instead, I want to take on the challenge.
This farmhouse is the smallest house we have lived in with our four kids. What sold us on this place was the spacious outdoors, even though the inside was so much smaller than what I was used to. I will miss having a large kitchen and laundry room. To stay within budget, I had to work with what we have. So when I was thinking through my kitchen design, I had to stop thinking about how tight things were going to be. Instead, I had to keep saying to myself, “How can I make the most out of this space?”
Since I enjoy cooking, and I love to entertain, I have a lot of dishes and serving pieces. I tore down the main wall that separated the kitchen from the living room so the space would seem bigger. Now that it is open, there is room for a large antique piece that will serve as my island. In its current state there is no shelving, but I am going to have shelves and doors put on the island so it will hold all my serving dishes. The last thing I want is for a large piece of furniture to just take up a ton of space. I need it to work for me and serve a purpose.
There was no laundry room in this farmhouse, so the challenge was more than just a lack of space — the issue was how in the world we would create space out of nowhere. Since Chip and I wanted to turn the attic into livable square footage, we had to build a stairway in the middle of the house. Dead space bothers me, so every time I thought about the useless area under the stairs, I would try to come up with a purpose for it. You guessed it! The dead space will soon become my laundry room. I have convinced Chip that I will actually stay on top of the laundry now because I will have no choice. Yes, it is tight, but when I get to slide the barn door across the track and see the laundry room underneath the stairwell, I will feel more pleased about the creative use of space rather than dwelling on the idea of a small laundry room.
Whether you are renovating or just simply recreating some of your spaces, have the same mentality my husband did with the garden. Look at every space as an opportunity to create an environment that helps you and your loved ones thrive. Identify the room you want to tackle and define its purpose. Ask yourself these questions: What feeling do I want to create? What ways can I help the space come alive? How can I maximize the space so it reaches its fullest potential?
Once you have done this throughout your home, you will start enjoying it more. There will be no more “favorite room in the house” because every room you walk into will be as inspiring as the one you just walked out of. Whether inside or outside, don’t be limited. Instead, get inspired to create purposeful, creative spaces that everyone will enjoy.
I can’t wait to do my first load of laundry under the stairwell and plant my first seedling in my pasture of a garden. As with anything else, there will be some challenges, but I can’t wait to finally call it home sweet home.