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An Iowa Fixer-Upper Rescue

An Iowa Fixer-Upper Rescue

Iowa fixer-upper sunroom


See how this Iowa fixer-upper went from a rundown mess to a character-filled family home.

Iowa fixer-upper living room

Fixer-uppers can be daunting but also provide a wealth of opportunity. When blogger Erica Mueller of Our Forever Farmhouse moved with her family into their Iowa home, they quickly realized just how much of a fixer-upper it really was. “It needed a lot of work,” Erica says. “It smelled, it was really dirty ... we found water in the basement and there was even a snake [hibernating] in the walls.”

Five years later, the family has finally gotten to the point where the renovations are almost done. Things have been rebuilt, rearranged and repainted, and the result is a charming and welcoming home that’s becoming the “perfect spot” for Erica and her family.

apothecary chest and shiplap in Iowa fixer-upper
The vintage dresser that sits in the entryway, with its classic farmhouse décor, is a teaser to the light and bright character-filled style that fills the house.

Iowa Fixer-Upper Renovation Process

Erica’s guiding principle when designing and renovating the 1,300-square-foot home was to keep things light and bright. She did this by painting in warm, white tones, opening up rooms and making sure spaces were clutter-free. “It’s not a huge house,” says Erica, “so we wanted to do anything to make it seem a little bit larger.”

farmhouse dining and living room
Erica and her husband used to build furniture, and they built the dining room table and bench themselves. The planked walls surrounding the space provide the perfect touch of farmhouse charm.

Another important design focus was adding character. “[The home] was built in 1958, and there’s not really a lot of original character—so we’re always trying to add some,” Erica says. Planking the ceilings brought a rustic, down-to-earth vibe to the spaces, and keeping the original wood floors made sure the home stayed true to farmhouse style.

Iowa farmhouse dining room table
“We took out some cabinets to add these open shelves,” says Erica. With the white subway tile, off-white counters and planked walls, the space has the light, bright and open feeling Erica wanted.
Iowa fixer-upper living room
Unique vintage furniture finds, welcoming natural light and pops of green create a warm and inviting living room. “We kept everything light and bright in here,” says Erica. “We wanted to keep it nice and open.”

What’s Inside

The living room embodies that “light and bright” theme with white ceilings and walls pairing easily with the off-white sofas and fireplace. Warm touches of wood tie the space together and keep it from feeling too impersonal.

Erica took down the nearby wall to open the space to the dining room. She and her husband built the dining room table and bench: “We actually used to build furniture,” she says. A vintage chandelier hangs above it, and the glassy baubles and nearby mirror reflect the light that pours in from the windows.

The entry/laundry room has undergone another amazing transformation in this Iowa fixer-upper. “When we moved in, it was full of dead cockroaches and grasshoppers, and it smelled so bad,” she says. “We tore out a wall in between the two rooms ... and made it one large mudroom/laundry room/entryway. It’s been completely gutted.” The space now features a beautiful wall of built-ins, vintage furniture and a touch of Old World character, thanks to an exposed wooden beam and a set of white corbels.

rolling ladder in Iowa fixer-upper
The laundry room built-ins feature matte black hardware and a sliding ladder to access the top compartments. Altogether, the unit creates stylish storage and brings a dash of a modern farmhouse vibe.
entryway with shiplap and wooden bench
A vintage church pew, another one of Erica’s finds, provides unique seating in the entryway. Coat hooks hang above and are the perfect place for hats, jackets and anything else you may need for an Iowa winter.

The kitchen features budget-friendly updates that look professional but didn’t cost much, thanks to Erica’s DIY skills. Art Deco tile on the floor is a builder-basic brown tile that Erica painted and stenciled over. “It was a lot of work and a lot of days,” says Erica, “but was worth it.”

Two-by-six pine boards brought a welcome update to the kitchen countertops. Erica sealed and whitewashed them for a classic farmhouse-chic look. “I tell everybody, if you cannot afford new counters and you want new ones, these are the way to go,” she says. “Because I think it was only $60 to do them.”

Iowa fixer-upper sunroom
Erica painted the walls of the sunroom, which used to be the same cedar planks as the ceiling. Seating and a dining set make it an inviting indoor-outdoor space, and the outdoor dining table is another one of Erica and her husband’s furniture creations.

Sunroom Savvy

But the airy and welcoming design of Erica’s home doesn’t stop indoors—the home sits on three acres, and there’s plenty more great design to be found outdoors. The attached sunroom provides an extra sitting area during the pleasant fall and spring weather. The only updates needed were repainting and adding a barn door.

Iowa fixer-upper sunroom
Tip A corner shelf is a fun way to add architectural details while also adding another décor opportunity.

Outdoor Design

A back patio looks out on the pasture, where a few fun outbuildings sit. The greenhouse was Erica’s quarantine project, which she built for less than $300 with old windows she bought on Facebook Marketplace. 

Nearby is Erica’s she shed, which she uses as her office and as a place to create content for her blog and her Instagram account.

Iowa fixer-upper kitchen
The Art Deco tile and wood countertops were DIY projects that provided a top-dollar look for much less. Erica hand-painted the tiles to achieve their unique pattern, and she installed, whitewashed and sealed pine-board countertops that look more expensive than they are.
Iowa fixer-upper kitchen exposed shelves apothecary drawers
“We took out some cabinets to add these open shelves,” says Erica. With the white subway tile, off-white counters and planked walls, the space has the light, bright and open feeling Erica wanted.

Bedroom Wrangling

Erica and her husband share the smaller spare bedroom, while her three boys share the larger primary bedroom. But Erica likes the smaller space. “I love it,” she says. “I don’t think we’ll ever go back into the bigger one, just because I like how cozy it is in here.”

master bedroom Iowa farmhouse
Erica and her husband’s bedroom, though small, is the perfect size for them. “I think it’s meant to be just a spare bedroom,” says Erica. “But my boys needed the bigger room, as they all share one bedroom. So we took the little room, which I like because it’s cozy.” The inviting linens of the space boost its warmth factor.
kids' room in Iowa farmhouse
The larger bedroom in Erica’s home belongs to Erica’s three boys. A brick wallpaper gives the space some unique texture while allowing for changes down the road. Black-and-white patterns create a room that isn’t too busy while still being plenty of fun.

Erica’s Iowa fixer-upper home was a labor of love, but it’s become the ideal space for her and her family. And sometimes, that’s all that you need.

sliding barn door
The primary bathroom is calming and light-filled. Distressed tile plays homage to the wood in the rest of the home, while a simple vanity provides storage. The barn door, while stylish, also provided much needed functionality. “We took the door off and added a barn door ... doing that added three more feet of space in the bathroom,” says Erica.
farmhouse laundry room
This room serves as the laundry room, mudroom and entryway and is Erica’s favorite room in the house. “I would say it’s my favorite space in the house, when it’s clean,” she says with a laugh. She’s grateful for how it keeps the dirt out of the rest of the home and provides a space for backpacks, shoes and dirty laundry.

Looking for more Midwestern farmhouse inspiration? Don't miss "Lakeside Luxury in Minnesota." Of course, don’t forget to follow us on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest to get your daily dose of farmhouse inspiration!

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