This home tour squeezes my heart in so many ways. If you only look at the photos, you’ll see nothing but happiness. Plus two of the best chalkboards I’ve seen! Read Lonnalee‘s story, and you’ll see much, much more. The subject has shifted a tad this week, Friends, from how she and her husband are living with kids to how the entire Anderson family is adjusting to their particular set of challenges, including Lonnalee’s illness and an impending arrival of a new baby. Life is messy. But sometimes it’s the mess that clears all the clutter away, right? Please enjoy the tour.

Q: Tell us all about who’s living in this well-loved home!

A: There is David, who works as the teaching pastor at a little neighborhood church down the street. There’s me, a full-time mommy and sometimes artist who makes paper flowers mostly for weddings and home décor. And then there are our precious little Mollie Lou who is four, and Ryle (pronounced like Kyle, but with an “R”) who is three. I am currently growing a third, and we’ve decided to wait until birth to find out if the baby is a sister or a brother. No pets. Ever.

Q: How did this house become yours?

A: I was pregnant with Ryle and we were in a 500 sq. ft. bungalow near Old Littleton, Colorado, a part of town we loved. Built in 1907, that house had so much character and was one of the first homes in the area. I loved that house. The second we had our daughter we realized how small it was. When I was pregnant with Ryle, it became even smaller (as happens to an ever-growing six foot woman!). I knew I would miss the simplicity of living in a small space, but it was time to go.

We lived in my parents’ basement about eight months while in search of a larger home we could afford in the same area. David had seen our house when he first started searching, but didn’t even show me because he thought I wouldn’t like it. After eight months in a basement, tons of home tours, and one contract falling through, Dave showed me the house in a moment of desperation.

“Well there is always this one.”

I was beside myself. It was a tri-level that had a red carpeted kitchen, green walls, blue shag carpet…on paper, it was all wrong! But when I saw it, I knew we could make it beautiful and wonderfully functional. I just felt it. So we knocked out walls, replaced floors, brought our colors in, and eventually we knew we had made the right choice. I even love the floor plan now!

Q: How would you describe your style? Do you gravitate toward homemade and re-purposed strictly because of money or because that’s just your preferred style? If you had a never-ending budget, would your aesthetic be different?

A: I think my style is certainly eclectic with a touch of rustic and industrial. I remember when I was making the lamps on our living room table, I told David that if we had tons of money I would be so bored! I think if we had more money, my stuff certainly would be different but I would be spending my time shopping instead of creating.

I love the rush of making something for nothing, or using an unusual item for decorating. The natural boundaries that money sets induces creativity and allows me to be content and thankful for what I have, instead of always looking out for the next best thing. I know many people with loads of money who are very content. I am just not sure I am wired that way, and am thankful not to have the tension!

I was raised by an eminently practical woman who also appreciated beauty, but function always trumped. She is incredibly creative and always enjoyed making things look nice on a shoe-string budget even if she had a pot of gold. She is one of those content people not driven by materialism. I so admire her.

Q: What are your favorite pieces in the house? The ones that make you smile every time you pass them…

A: I adore our kitchen bench seating and the big blue kitchen table. Growing up, I always was so excited to sit in a bench for a meal. Our neighbors had bench seating in their kitchen, and so I vowed one day when I was the Queen of a household (as my mom called it!) I would also have bench seating.

When I looked into building one in or buying one, I quickly realized I it would become a creative challenge. I found the majority of the bench on Craigslist for pennies, and had a carpenter add on to it in order to make it long enough for a large table. I had just enough saved up from Christmas presents to pay for the project. My husband painted it all white with some leftover paint we had. I was so pleased with the results! Then we had to replace the table we had with a pedestal table to fit the bench. I found that beautiful blue beat-up farm table for far less than we had sold our set. These are the things that make me smile every time I walk by…that and the neon pink crayon that made it into the final finish on the old table!

Q: What are your top tips when it comes to decorating on a budget?

A: When it comes to being thrifty, I try not to get my heart set on one option when I am looking to fill a space. And I wait.

For example, I knew I wanted a big statement piece on our dining room wall. I looked at large scale art work — I really wanted a big barn painting because my husband grew up on a farm — and photography, but nothing fell within my budget. I even tried creating something myself, but I am not a 2-D artist! I looked at big maps and mirrors, and they all ran too high for what I had in mind.

Finally, after a long wait, that beautiful old school two-sided chalkboard showed up at my local thrift store. Seven bucks. It wasn’t in my color scheme — yet! — but that would soon change! Pieces like that open me and my home up to new adventures I wouldn’t take if I only had my eye on one thing and wasn’t willing to wait.

Q: We need to discuss that wallpaper! Charcoal black! It is wallpaper, isn’t it? Also, do you have any decorating tips to make a dark-walled room seem brighter?

A: That lovely wallpaper is actually a chalkboard wall stenciled from a cardboard box with chalk pen. I am not sure I have the commitment in me that wallpaper requires. I wanted something bold, but also something I could change easily. I love that it is an open-ended statement. I could go even louder if I wanted, or tone it down. It stays for now, and everyone in the home loves it — especially my not-so-loud-loving husband!

As far as making a dark-walled room seem brighter, I’m not sure that is always the best option! There is something about all the light being swallowed up that makes it exciting. At least to me. Our upstairs hall is unapologetically dark brown, and I love it.

Q: What’s your reaction to clutter and messes? How do you navigate creating with cleaning, especially with your kids?

A: The answer to the question has many facets for me. At one time, I would have said keeping the house clean was massively important to me. But I have struggled with an undiagnosed neurological disorder that looks most like MS for the past few years, and it has changed my views on so many of my daily tasks and values. Cleanliness being one of them.

I would still say that by nature I love a clean house and actually enjoy cleaning, but I have to choose my battles when faced with limited physical resources. I always remember something my parents, who raised seven children, said while we were growing up: “Life is messy.”

My mom could keep a spotless house, but she showed me that embracing life is more important. With my ever-changing limitations, I have learned to let go of the standards I once held in exchange for more time cuddling little people and answering endless questions about sleeping on the clouds and when Jesus is coming back. Messy life is beautiful, too.

I must say here that my husband has also been faced with the challenge of shifting his value for order and cleanliness in exchange for our more often reality of messiness. I am so impressed with how he can lead our family joyfully and peacefully even when this is a large tension for him. When and where he is able, he picks up my slack along with the rest of my lovely family, but also has developed a good perspective and sense of humor when things are a little more than out of order. His flexibility in this has been invaluable to me, helping to relieve my burden. He’s a stud.

Q: What is your favorite part of living with your own kids? What has been the most difficult adjustment? And what do you miss already?

A: I just adore little ones! We were once trying for a crowded house overflowing with little ones until my limitations struck. Now we are learning to be content with our final little joy growing inside me, knowing the loving one in control knows best. One of the major blessings of being unwell is all the time I am available for cuddles on the couch. I will forever remember these precious little ones curling up with me to ask me questions or show me their creations or bother me for just one more book. Often they are little stinkers, too, because I haven’t had the energy to bathe them. I will remember the smell of outside all over them.

It is most difficult when I do not have the energy to do even the bare minimum of what is required. There was a time where I would pray for the strength just to get up and fill a bottle with water. I would get so frustrated thinking, “Why would you give me children I cannot even care for?” I’ve learned, though my anger may have hindered the process for a while, that there is so much more to the care a mom gives than even practical service. Though I wasn’t always, I am thankful for whatever measure of involvement I am allowed to have. Even some mom is better than no mom. The kids usually don’t care about what I can’t do; they are so good at just being happy with what I can do.

Q: What do you hope your children learn about decorating and making a house into a home from you?

A: I would love for them to embrace the fact that creativity and life is still beautiful when messy. That a home is for inviting others to know you and be known — not to entertain — and it should be set up accordingly. To me, a beautiful home is a blessing to have, but a peaceful home is much more important.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: I wish I had known that there is always peace on the other side of pain when I lean on the Lord. There is no need to fret.


Lonnalee, you’re just the loveliest! Thank you so much for inspiring us today with your cheery disposition…and your chalkboards! Your “chalk-paper” wall has me scheming and dreaming!

Friends, Lonnalee’s thought that “Even some mom is better than no mom” got me thinking. It’s such a challenge to live well with kids when you’re not feeling one hundred percent yourself, isn’t it? How do you cope, and on whom do you rely? I’m interested in what keeps you from pulling the covers over your head and giving up. Will you share your stories with the rest of us?

P.S. — You can find all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. If you’d like to share your home with us, drop me a note! I’d love to hear from you!