On the outskirts of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Emma O’Connor lives with her husband, Brandon, and their three children in a renovated farmhouse built in 1906. For their first home purchase, the property ticked many of their priorities as a growing family coming from a one-bedroom city apartment.
“Logistically, this home checked most of the boxes we were hoping for in our current season of life,” says Emma. “Our home’s location is a fairly short commute to work for my husband, but it’s also near many nature preserves for the little ones and I to explore.”
Emma’s goal in moving into a historic farmstead was to restore what had been covered or lost over years of previous residencies, bringing back as much of the building’s original character as possible. “After receiving the keys and before moving in, we painted the whole interior of the house, removed carpet, patched some walls, and refinished the hardwood floors on our upper level.”
With the help of her parents and friends, the renovations took Emma and Brandon all of two weeks. A few months after moving in, they renovated their kitchen. Since then, they’ve slowly added peg shelves, refinished the stairway, added an antique bathroom sink, installed new light fixtures, and planted numerous outdoor perennials in the garden, including stone paving a new walkway.
“The house feels so different since we’ve gotten the opportunity to be stewards of it,” she says. “All of the designs and renovations were mindful of and carried out on a very tight budget. When we have the opportunity and resources to design another home, I would like to design it more slowly and intentionally. Home takes time, and that’s the beauty of it.”
Emma is drawn to a mix of styles for their home’s interior, fusing an English cottage with colonial design. “I love the warmth and comfort that English design brings to a space, and I also admire the simplicity and functionality of colonial design. I think the two can pair so well together. Both styles give an ode to antique pieces and a feeling of a collected lived-in home.”
Complementing the quintessentially rustic charm of rural living, Emma marries the textures and colours of flowers and foraged foliage with her favourite indoor pieces, including their green velvet chairs, a painted taupe cabinet in the living room and a china cabinet in the dining room. “When designing a space to feel like home, I like to consider all senses— sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. It’s the string of little things together that make a space feel special.”
“Nearly all the pieces in our home are found second-hand through antique shops, thrift stores or Facebook marketplace,” she says. “Antiques have beautiful character and patina that you just can’t replicate. All aside from the dining room hutch [cabinet] were collected before moving into our first apartment together. I love the memories they hold and will continue to carry as our family grows.”
“My biggest hope for our home is for it to feel like a peaceful refuge for my family and those we welcome in, where we can slow down from outside bustlings and cherish the time we have together.”