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A Designer’s DIY Renovation in Tennessee

A Designer’s DIY Renovation in Tennessee

Tennessee farmhouse exterior
Written and photographed by Holly Thompson

It was on a whim that we decided to buy an old house in the country and do a DIY renovation. It’s not that our current house wasn’t good enough. It was a tidy brick Colonial-style home in suburban Franklin, Tennessee. We loved fixing it up and erasing the telltale signs of a 1990s development house. We even landed a feature in American Farmhouse Style!

After six years in the house, though, we got antsy. It was time to adopt a real, live old house in the country and bring it back to its former glory.

Tennessee farmhouse renovation living room
Photo by Jay Winter.

Meet the Designer

My name is Holly Thompson, and I’m an interior designer in Franklin, Tennessee with Holly Thompson Homes. I specialize in high-end custom kitchens, but my roots are in DIY renovations with reclaimed materials.

Working on my own home with reclaimed materials is still my favorite thing, but designing fancy kitchens isn’t so bad, either. My husband Dave often works as my project manager for large design projects, but he is also a licensed Realtor and contractor. We have a design studio on Main Street in Downtown Franklin. Here, we meet with clients when we’re not on-site at our projects. I’m also a grad student, working on my master’s degree in Interior Design. 

Tennessee farmhouse exterior

A 1920s Bungalow

Sometimes I dream about moving into the country into an adorable fixer-upper. In this dream, fixing up the house with a DIY renovation is completely painless and doesn’t cost very much. That’s what I was thinking when we found an old house in the Tennessee countryside that was begging for some love and attention.

This house is a mix of styles. It was probably built by a local builder from scratch rather than from a plan book, and it’s 100 years old. It’s in an adorable country location, and has quite a bit of original charm. It was also cheap, adding to its appeal. Cheap enough to look past the 1960s-era remodel with its fake wood paneling, layers of peeling wallpaper, patchwork of carpet colors and mismatched vinyl floors. 

Tennessee farmhouse interior renovation

On the plus side, the original fireplaces, doors, and built-ins were there, preserving quite a bit of charm. It also has high ceilings and hints of beadboard under the painted-over wallpaper. We bought it and started peeling off the layers of junk, wondering why we were dumb enough to move into a dump in the middle of nowhere when we had a perfectly good house in Franklin. 

A few coffees later, we decided to get over it and “own” this blessed disaster that we’ll be calling home. We’re DIYing a lot of this project with budget-friendly materials, reclaimed items, and a few splurges where they matter. The idea is to make this DIY renovation authentic to the home’s old roots, yet livable for a family in the 21st century.

Tennessee farmhouse renovation living room

What is Farmhouse Style?

Farmhouse style is all about being authentic. This house may not actually be on a farm, but it can be authentic by being the best version of what it is. If you can determine what your house is (or sort of is), you can come up with a much more cohesive design for it. Some houses have been stripped of features throughout the decades and some never had those features at all. The good news is that you can easily fix this, whether through a DIY renovation, contracted renovation or other upgrades.

Tennessee farmhouse renovation

You can create authenticity by adding features, especially those that are vintage or reclaimed. What makes it farmhouse style is the lived-in, casual, made-to-last feel. Farmhouse style can also be modern, rustic or traditional. Farmhouses of the past were whatever style the owner liked. They were personalized and real.

I’ve been writing articles for American Farmhouse Style for the past couple of years, sharing design tips and DIY ideas. Now I’m doing a DIY renovation on a house with all kinds of opportunities to demonstrate these in real life.

We’re going to renovate this house through mostly DIY methods and share tips and tricks along the way. We’ll cover how to decide if you should DIY your projects, plus the best way to get a designer result on your own. We’ll go over how to get that authentic farmhouse style, plus where to save and where to splurge. 

See Also
Masculine Guest Room design for vintage farmhouse

Holly Thompson renovating

My previous articles were often about giving newer homes authenticity. We talked about how to add charm without breaking the bank. We discussed whether granite countertops are still in style and whether you should DIY your kitchen. We talked about how to choose the perfect sofa.

This time, we’re going through an old house in the country, project by project for this DIY renovation. We’ll talk about how to find existing charm and preserve it and how to add charm where it’s needed. We’ll talk about what to do with your outdated bathrooms and even how to create inexpensive countertops that look like a million bucks. We’ll talk about how to update without losing the original feel of the home. 

Tennessee farmhouse exterior

Every square inch of this house is in desperate need of some TLC. We’re going to dive in and get started with this DIY renovation, and hopefully not regret leaving our nice suburban home for a fixer in the country. Come join us!


Holly Thompson designer
Photo by Angela Talley.

Holly Thompson is the lead interior designer at Holly Thompson Homes in Franklin, Tennessee. She loves making houses the best version of themselves. She is married to Dave, who is a contractor, realtor and often works as her project manager. They own a fixer upper in the country, plus three kids and three cats. In her free time, Holly is working on her master’s degree in Interior Design and writes articles for American Farmhouse Style. In the rest of her free time, you’ll find her antiquing at estate sales, flea markets, and shops. All of those times involve coffee, to which Holly attributes her success in staying awake.


For more DIY renovation stories, check out Our Farmhouse Renovation is Underway. And of course, don’t forget to follow us on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest to get your daily dose of farmhouse inspiration! 

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