Michelle's Craftsman Farm House

Michelle's craftsman farm house is the result of an amazing transformation over a 3 year period. We are very happy to share with you our interview with Michelle. Her semi-rural Chicago area home has a wrap around porch on 3 sides that includes three seating areas (shown below). Her story is nothing short of amazing. About Michelle: Michelle is a multi-talented lady who has a background in architecture and horticulture. She loves to sew, bake and enjoy the outdoors.

In 2005 Michelle's husband decided they needed to work on their 1960's colonial style home.

What began small turned into a major transformation of their home resulting in a 1910 pseudo Craftsman farm house.

Michelle's background in Architecture enabled her to not only design her home but also act as General Contractor.

Michelle authors Big Black Dog, a beautiful blog that journals her cooking adventures.

Craftsman Farm House wraparound porch
After the remodel - notice the 3/4 wrap around porch

Before photo
Before the remodel

What a Wraparound Porch
on This Smaller Home

Look at this gorgeous wraparound on this smaller home
For a smaller house, (1225 square feet) this home has a wonderful and spacious wraparound porch. Family Hom Plan 57894

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Jot down the plan numbers you see with some of our pictures and go here.

Learning More about Michelle's Craftsman Farm House

We enjoyed interviewing Michelle and want to share her story with you.

Mary: Please set the stage and tell us a little bit about yourself – did you grow up in a craftsman farm house and how did you become blessed with so many talents?

Michelle: I grew up in MI and graduated from University of Michigan. I have had many 'careers'. First, as a showing artist doing mostly major galleries.

Then I worked as a teacher both public and private. Also ventured into computers and the legal field and finally into horticulture.

I was married in Tampa, FL and have been married for 25 years to a wonderful man that will never understand me!

I should not say he does not understand me but rather that he does not understand how someone can stay home and have perfectly fabulous, exciting days which is exactly what I do!

"In 2005 my husband decided we should do some work on the house which turned out to be the understatement of his life. What started out as a very simple remodel, snowballed into a huge project."

Mary: Your craftsman farm house is stunning. You mentioned that your home has undergone an amazing transformation from a "real dumpy 60’s colonial" to a "1910 pseudo Craftsman farm house".

What was your inspiration for a Craftsman farm house and how did it all come together?

Craftsman farm house side view on porch Michelle: In 2005 my husband decided we should do some work on the house which turned out to be the understatement of his life. In July and August we completely remodeled our big barn and then in October we built another barn.

We built the second barn because we needed the storage space and it worked out well to store all of our furniture and belongings during our home remodel. And yes, my clothes were kept in a barn for 3 years.

Then in November 2005 I started designing our home. My husband bought a computer program, "Punch! Home and Landscape Design", and with the help of our General Contractor and our local building department, I designed our home.

I studied architecture in school and I knew what I wanted. I also did tons of research on the internet and at our library.

I have always loved Craftsman Architecture and I tried to put as much Craftsman influence into our home as I could.

Being I was working with an existing 2-story structure, compromises had to be made. But I'm very happy with how it turned out.

What started out as a very simple remodel, snowballed into a huge project.

I tried to keep a lid on it but once my husband got involved it was out of control. We ended up doing a complete renovation of our home and gutting every room, plus adding a 22 foot 2-story addition with full basement, tore off the existing roof completely changed the pitch and added a huge wrap-around porch.

Lovely sitting area
Craftsman Farmhouse Far West Porch
Notice the Lloyd Flanders exterior couch, weathered rocker and end table that Michelle made from a large floor urn and a thick piece of round glass.

Mary: I think the idea of a craftsman farm house conjures up pictures of country living, the line, flower and vegetable gardens and quiet clean living. Is this a good synopsis of where you live?

Michelle: Our property is in what I call a semi-rural area. There's a huge horse farm across the street (not a craftsman farm house), a small horse farm right next door and there's about 200 acres of County Forest Preserve along our North border.

But we have stores in the next village and a major tollway within 5 miles. Although we do live in a rather secluded area, it is not inconvenient at all.

tablecloths on line And yes I am one of those people that still hang wash outside, even in the winter. And we do have a small vegetable garden which I would like to enlarge. And of course my herb garden is quite extensive.

Mary: You have an awesome craftsman farm house wrap around porch that goes around 3/4 of your home. In what ways do you use your porch? For quiet time? Entertaining?

You mentioned that you have various setting areas. We'd enjoy hearing more about that.

Pink rose Michelle: Because everything was so hectic for so long with our construction and this is our first summer being in our newly remodeled home, so far I have just used our porch for quiet time.

Although we do occasionally eat outside and we do have a very comfortable exterior couch that is perfect for an afternoon nap. And I have been known to even sleep outside at night, although I usually have one of the dogs with me, just in case the coyotes get too close!

Mary: Do you have some tips to share for someone who wants to take their plain porch and turn it into a craftsman farm house?

Michelle: Absolutely, make sure your porch is big enough.

There is nothing worse then building a porch and it is too small to comfortably fit furniture with ample room to walk around.

Measure your furniture and then add at least 2 1/2 to 3 feet and this is how wide your porch should be. And remember that a rocking chair requires more space then a stationary chair.

Sitting area with rocking chairs

Michelle's Craftsman Farmhouse north porch faces the forest preserve. Notice the comfortable exterior rockers.

I think one should decorate their porch like you would any room in your house with tables, chairs, couch, end tables, and plants. You have to make it comfortable or you will not use it."

For instance I love my little bistro table but the matching chairs were so uncomfortable. I bought two white exterior chairs that were comfortable.

There's just so much available now for exterior decorating. I love the exterior rugs and I even have an exterior floor lamp.

Lovely bistro set
Craftsman farmhouse near west porch
Morning coffee and afternoon lattes at the bistro table - the cute blue-checked cushions are a flea market find.

Mary: Your life seems so rich and interesting. Would you describe your typical day?

Michelle: Of course the first thing I do is have my coffee. As I'm drinking my first cup of coffee, I check my day book and plan my day. I like to squeeze in at least an hour a day working in my gardens or sewing.

Sometimes I can squeeze them in and sometimes not. Then I open the barns for the day and take care of the animals and get them set for the day.

If I have time I will work in my gardens and check the bird feeders and bird baths and fill if necessary. It's usually between 8-8:30 by now and I'm ready for my second cup of coffee which I sip while checking e-mail and twitter.

But lately I have been ignoring my computer and having my second cup of coffee on the porch. Since we furnished the porch, I have not used our patio at all. My husband relaxes on the patio but I prefer my porch.

Michelle's original lemonade cupcakes The rest of the day until about 4:00 depends on how many appointments I have or what I’m baking that day. Of course my schedule is seasonal.

For instance in the winter I spend much more time on my computer doing research and of course I bake every day. There is nothing better then to warm up the house with sweet baking.

This is our first summer in three years that we have not had crews of men here working, I take my time with just about everything! And I do not miss the buzzzz of saws at all! But at 4:00 pm I am done for the day and usually pretty tired too. And it's time for my afternoon latte!

Mary: Can't imagine not asking you about your baking and cooking. Your blog reveals your culinary and gourmet talents. How much time do you spend each day in your wonderful craftsman farm house kitchen?

Habanero gold jelly canned by Michelle

Michelle: How much time I spend in my kitchen baking really depends on the weather the season. For instance beginning in August I start canning but I mostly do that at night when it's cool. Even with the air conditioning, it is just too hot in the kitchen to can during the day.

In the winter I bake almost every day. Although I enjoy eating there is no way we can possibly consume all that I bake so much of what I make I take to our police or fire departments. Oddly enough, they never turn it down!

Mary: You mention that you are a horticulturist. How do you incorporate your love of plants into your craftsman farm house? Do you have some tips for landscaping around your porch for our readers?

Plant in Michelle's yard Michelle: One thing that most people do not understand is that at least 20% of your property value is landscaping. And if you have large, mature trees they can add up to 30-35% on to your property value.

We are very fortunate to have many 200-300 year old Oaks on our property. The Oaks add such a serene atmosphere, not to mention the gorgeous fall colors!

When you are planning your landscaping think about the seasons. Consider plants and trees that are going to look attractive in several seasons, not just summer.

And don't think that every plant has to bloom to benefit your garden. Frankly I prefer gorgeous foliage over a bloom any day.

Also pay attention to height, you want to vary the height of your plants, some low, medium and tall.

And always remember that in nature there are no straight lines, so when planning your garden bed do not make a rectangle. A curved edge garden is much easier to plant and will accentuate the blocky, straight architecture of your home.

Beautiful Craftsman farm house

Michelle's cat tinker Mary: Thank you so much, Michelle for allowing us learn about you Craftsman farm house transformation and fantastic wrap around porch.

You accomplish so much every day - and with such grace and beauty.

We would enjoy having you come back and visit when you decorate for the autumn and winter seasons.

We dearly appreciate Michelle and her craftsman farm house. Her blog, bigblackdogs.net, no longer appears to be available.
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