You Won't Believe This Dramatic Home Makeover


We teamed up with two super-star bloggers and transformed a home for a great cause.

Some people give money; others lend their time. But when Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, sisters and creators of the lifestyle blog A Beautiful Mess, started thinking about how to give back to their Springfield, Missouri, community, they decided to get crafty. The two paid $37,500 for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow-style fixer-upper and partnered with Habitat for Humanity for its make-a-difference mission: helping deserving families buy a home they can afford, to make a fresh start.

After kicking off the six-month-long renovation with a budget of $10,000, the sisters tapped Real Simple to do the decorating. RS filled the rooms with plush furniture and cheery accents to help make the space feel warm and welcoming. “All the ideas are easy and affordable, so anyone can use them in their own home,” says Larson.


Living Room: Before

Photo by Sarah Rhodes

Upon walking into the home, the sisters were greeted with mauve shag carpet and floral border, which did not elicit the welcoming vibe they desired. “The walls were a dingy yellow, so we had to freshen them up,” says Chapman.


Living Room: After

Photo by Matthew Williams

Ripping up the carpeting led to a serendipitous discovery: original 1920s hardwood floors that needed only a quick polishing. “We chose a quiet paint shade [Paramount White by Valspar Reserve] to let the poppy pillows and splashy artwork stand out,” says Chapman. A neutral rug grounds all that color. Even in a tight space like this, it’s easy to create a cushy conversation area if you stick with small-scale pieces that don’t crowd the room: narrow couch, clean-lined table, and nonbulky, open-frame chairs. Greenery adds dimension—RS sprinkled in plants of various sizes to help the room feel serene and lush.

To buy: Paidge sofa in Blue Stone linen weave, from $1,099; Arrow Border cotton kilim rug by Steven Alan, $749 (9 by 12 feet): Mid-Century Modern Balance 3-arm floor lamp, $375, Boja bamboo pendant lamp, $60; Storsele black rattan chairs, $119 each: for stores. Janlyn pillow, $44, Fiberclay prism pot, for similar pots. Tom Dixon Cast mini Jack in black, $70, Elizabeth Chapman art, for info.


Dining Room: Before

Photo by Sarah Rhodes

Just beyond the living room, the eating area contained more carpet, another border, and even a wall of wood paneling.


Dining Room: After

Photo by Matthew Williams

This central room is the home’s main hangout area, so RS set it up with ample seating: industrial stools, plus curvy bentwood-style chairs in metal, to balance the boxy wooden table. Soft neutrals call for a bold rug. This graphic black-and-white one has a flat weave, which won’t trap crumbs. Painted a bright mint green, the kitchen door pops. But the biggest wow factor comes from a lighting switch-up: clunky ceiling fan out, gorgeous globe lights in.

To buy: Saxon stools by Ampersand, $80 each, Vintage Inspire side chairs by TMS, $135 for two, Reade Stripe dhurrie rug, $495 (5 by 7 feet), Brass City Chandelier 7, $295, Go-Cart carbon rolling cart, $129, Limoncello drinkers (on cart), $55 each, OXO Good Grips Pro cookware (on pegboard), from $35 a piece, Enamelware kitchen set, $90; and ladle (on pegboard), $30: The LBA apron, $150, Creo mixing bowls (one shown, on table), $70 for four; Real Simple round dinnerware (on cart), $25 for a four-piece place setting:


Kitchen: Before

Photo by Sarah Rhodes

This room was a blast from the past, with its decades-old Formica countertop, laminate flooring, light fixtures, and cabinetry.


Kitchen: After

Photo by Matthew Williams

The original hardwood flooring extended into the kitchen, and the sisters left most of it exposed. But other original features needed help. Cracked, dated Formica counters were swapped out for plywood and dressed up with a coating of concrete—a project that entails sanding, mixing and spreading the concrete, more sanding once the layers dry, and adding a sealer. “Applying the finish takes time, but it’s a surprisingly easy DIY,” says Larson. “We’ve even done it over existing Formica counters.” Instead of replacing the dull plywood cabinets, which would have cost thousands, the sisters jazzed them up with crisp white paint and modern brushed-nickel pulls. Still left with limited cabinet space, the duo chose to max out a blank wall by hanging everyday cookware from a pegboard. To finish it all of, a mini version of classic subway tile gives the illusion of a larger cook space.

To buy: Chalked Clay urn, $24 (large), Fresco pull-down kitchen faucet, $199, Old Dutch International copper mixing bowl, $40, Washed Arrow woven rug by 4040 Locust, $29,


Spare Bedroom/Office: Before

Photo by Sarah Rhodes

The dark wood trim and molding made this 11-foot square room feel even smaller, so the sisters chose to brighten it up with more white paint.


Spare Bedroom/Office: After

Photo by Matthew Williams

Versatile furniture allows this space to function as both a bedroom and a workspace. With a pullout storage drawer underneath, the daybed can be used as a twin or double bed. (The base can extend to hold a full-size mattress.) Mixing materials elevates a monochromatic scheme. Here, a plush shag rug and a smooth leather pouf with a quilt-like matelassé coverlet. The accessories shelf, hung 28 inches from the ground, is just the right height for a desk when a chair is pulled up.

To buy: Linear Cityscape, by Daniela Butunoi, $89 (14 by 11 inches, framed), Acrylic-sided shelf, $189, Brass pencil holder, $125, Nuevo Max side chair, $159, Snow White rug, $583 (7 ½ by 5 feet), Moroccan leather pouf, from $450, Neon Dash blanket, $79, Hemnes daybed, $299, for stores. Marina white quilt in full/queen, $392, Patchwork lumbar pillow, $35, Black Mini Stick cushion, $82, Scandinavian Fir Tree pillow, $36,


Master Bedroom: Before

Photo by Sarah Rhodes

This space hinted at the hardwood floors that remained hidden throughout the rest of the house. All this room required was a quick floor polish and paint job.


Master Bedroom: After

Photo by Matthew Williams

Sometimes the only spot for the bed is in front of a window—and that’s OK. Embrace the setup and turn the window into a pseudo headboard by swagging lightweight curtains at the sides of the bed frame. A sleek, industrial-style lamp offsets the flowy fabric, and an accent wall painted the same shade as the kitchen door carries through the mint green scheme. The bed frame features rollout drawers on both sides—a clever fix when a room can’t fit a dresser.

To buy: Awning Stripes 2, by Kristie Kern, $179 (16 by 20 inches, framed), Ultramarine, $165 (8 by 10 inches, framed), Container Ship, by Jorey Hurley, $113 (10 by 12 inches, framed), Industrial Pipe table lamp by Kingstown Home, $175, Isabel one-drawer nightstand, $180, Broad Stripe dhurrie rug in coral, $58 (24 by 36 inches), Classic Core sheet set in full, $109, Tiki Toile gray duvet cover in full/queen, $198; and sham, $44; and Town and Country gray matelassé coverlet in queen, $280;


Bathroom: Before

Photo by Sarah Rhodes

Worn carpet and patchy walls (plaster plus drywall plus mirroring) made this room the most grim in the house.


Bathroom: After

Photo by Matthew Williams

Chapman and Larson had the entire area torn up and redone with a sleeker tub (the old one was missing a standard showerhead!), a vanity with storage, and new tile throughout. (On the wall, the tile even covers an awkwardly placed window.) Black-and-white herringbone floor tile turns an often overlooked spot into a high-style feature, and the wide-stripe shower curtain plays up the two-tone.

To buy: Threshold Color Block shower curtain, $20, Sea Salt Neroli soap bar, $8, Cherry Blossom Liquid Marseille soap, $25,