DIY : how this mom built her dream home on a budget

It’s early morning. Laura Opfel’s husband is at work, her older boys are at school, the baby is napping, and she has her Nikon D750 in hand as she photographs the inside of her Arizona home. Laura had always dreamed of owning a farmhouse. Someplace that shows personality — think slightly chipped white paint surrounding the exterior, with window shutters and a wrap-around porch. However, her community in Arizona has limited options available for this type of house, so she decided to think outside of the box to build her dream home. And thinking creatively is something she’s developed very well.

In just over a year, Laura has transformed her home and gained nearly forty-thousand devoted followers by sharing her projects and creative design techniques. “I was fixated on the idea that I could make this builder-grade home into the farmhouse I’ve always wanted,” Laura says. “It’s fun figuring out how to do that with three small children and a humble budget. While at first, I shared decor updates with my friends and family, I realized there’s a community of decor lovers out there who share and inspire and was encouraged to join in on the fun. A year later, here we are!”

Taken from Instagram: “…although I have held many titles, boy mom is my absolute favorite. My three sons are my entire world and everything I do, I do for them!”

Farmhouse items are popular on social media and on OfferUp. In the past, we featured Alecia Southerland, an incredible farmhouse DIY-er, and Shannon Bischoff, owner of a small business in Washington that sells farmhouse decor. There are over 40,000 items listed under the term “farmhouse” in their description on OfferUp right now, with millions more to be found when searching for related keywords like “chippy” and “old wood.” Laura gathers inspiration from a handful of other Instagram designers, mainly Liz Marie Galvin and Jessica Jelly, who are both fixing up their classic farmhouses and sharing the progress on social media to hundreds of thousands of followers.

Even though farmhouses are meant to be a nod to a more affordable life, the reality of owning one nowadays means spending more than you’d think. Finding farmhouse style houses may be difficult depending on your location, and how you design what you find will decide whether or not you’ve nailed the look. In her pursuit to find the perfect items, Laura quickly found that the best pieces can cost a pretty penny. “Markets are full of some amazing farmhouse furniture and decor, and they also can be ridiculously expensive,” she says. “We’re a family of five living on one income, so I can’t do that all the time. That’s one of the reasons I love OfferUp — it provides these pieces at prices that work for my family and me.”

When considering her favorite finds on OfferUp, Laura ponders over a long list of her purchases before landing on two things that tie for number one: her mantle and armoire. “I’ve been wanting a mantle for a long time,” she recalls. “This one took persistence. I submitted an offer and the seller said no. I waited a couple of weeks and checked in with a new offer, but he said no again. The third time, the seller told me that he wanted to sell it to me because he could tell I loved it. It was a little over $200 which is the most expensive thing I’ve purchased from OfferUp, but it was worth the investment for all that I’ve been able to do with it.”

Laura’s OfferUp mantle decorated for the holiday season. (Photo cred: threesonsfarmhouse)

“The armoire was an amazing find and I’m still so happy with it. I found it just by searching for the phrase: ‘cabinet.’” The seller brought it with her from France where it had been built inside her family’s French farmhouse; it was actually their pantry since they didn’t have built-in food storage at the time. I just love that even though it’s old, it’s still standing and is absolutely beautiful. I also only paid $140 for it, if you can believe it.”

Laura’s French armoire. (Photo cred: threesonsfarmhouse)

For Laura and her family, keeping a perfectly designed home clean requires compromise and understanding. For Laura’s part, she realizes that having a picture-perfect home 24/7 isn’t realistic, nor it is fair. “I don’t live in a showroom and I want my boys to be comfortable, so we’ve developed an understanding. I try to take pictures when the older boys are at school and their brother is napping, and I’ll clear some decor off after the photo shoot so they don’t feel like they have to be extra careful.”

Laura’s older sons know not to fiddle with a freshly decorated room before she photographs it. While she’s documenting her designs, they play in their rooms or the nursery until mom announces the area is reopened for play. “I still want my house to be lived in and to feel like a home, so I know that means sometimes it will be messy. I used to do #forrealfriday to show my followers what it looks like when it’s not photo shoot ready — maybe I’ll bring that back!”

Though Laura’s husband might prefer a more hands-off approach, he still likes to get his hands dirty and show his wife a thing or two about DIY. “He’s a good sport and he’s happy to help, but he has the ‘give a man fish, he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime’ approach. He prefers to show me how to mount shiplap, or how to use a saw, rather than just do it for me. And I like it, too! I love showing other women that they can do it without spending thousands of dollars and without an entire team behind them.”

Laura’s husband showing her some hammer tricks! (Photo cred: threesonsfarmhouse)

While Laura’s final design is always aspirational, how she gets it is just as impressive. It’s really about telling a story on how to shop smart and allocate your finances. “If you make smart choices, you can create a space you enjoy. That’s what I love about OfferUp! I get questions all the time about where I get the things in my pictures and I love telling people to try looking on OfferUp because it makes the entire experience more relatable. I’m sure I can have the same effect on my home with a Pottery Barn budget, but doesn’t that seem obvious?”

The hutch and the table are two more of Laura’s favorite finds. (Photo cred: threesonsfarmhouse)

If you love how Laura has managed to turn her builder-grade home into a farmhouse, you can head to her Instagram to keep up-to-date with her latest projects and #offerupfinds. If you’re considering changing your home’s look as the new year approaches, check out these stories for some inspiration:

  1. Victorian Gothic x OfferUp
  2. Mid-century modern x OfferUp
  3. Bohemian jungle x OfferUp


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