Julia & Her Home
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t—you’re right.” That's a phase that professional vintage hunter, Julia Leenig, refers back to time and time again when setting goals and making dreams come true. We think she must have been thinking many positive thoughts when conceptualizing her St. Louis-based home décor store, Future Ancestor, because the result is a beautiful space full of unique vintage and handmade items. It's no surpise that her home is also chock-full of amazing vintage finds that are sure to have you yearning for some vintage pieces of your own to add to your home.
Julia opened the doors to her home to show us the inside of her beautiful abode that she shares with her husband and two children. Our conversation with her taught us that no matter what decorating style you prefer, if you only bring in items that you truly love into your home, they will all go together in their own way. Read on for more home and life inspiration.
When and why did you launch your business, Future Ancestor?
My husband, Brian, and I started Future Ancestor on a total whim one day out of our apartment. We loved hunting for treasures for our own home, but we didn’t have the space to house everything we found. We needed a way to support our hobby and to allow for a more economic way to cycle through our own style without feeling wasteful, so we started selling on Etsy. I remember those first listings so clearly—shot with posterboard and bedsheet backgrounds and horrible lighting on a cheap camera. It was purely a hobby for years before we finally got the guts to take it more seriously and open our storefront in 2014.
What are a few things you always consider before adding a new piece of inventory to Future Ancestor?
I’d like to say our buying process is that well-thought-out, but we truly just buy what we love. Quality is a big factor for us, but we don’t expect or promote our vintage items to be perfect. If we’re strongly drawn to it, chances are it will come into the shop. As for our other goods, we source them from makers that we feel good about supporting. We don’t care about big names (in fact, the opposite) and prefer to work with people who are like us—just starting out, passionate about what they do and have a great eye for design.
Got any tips for sourcing good secondhand treasures?
If you see something you love, buy it. Even if you don’t have a spot for it! Nothing will haunt you more than the vintage you didn’t buy.
How long have you lived in your house, and how did you find it?
We’ve lived in our house for three years now. When we decided to go all in with Future Ancestor, we knew we needed to leave Chicago to go closer to family, and St. Louis is only a couple of hours from our hometown. It’s a perfect size area for us and gives us (mostly) everything we could want. We knew we wanted an old house and an opportunity to rehab something, so when we found this 1887 charmer (although at first, not so charming), we went for it. It’s been a process getting it to our liking and there are still so many little things we’d love to update, but this house is pure blood, sweat and tears and will always be so special to us. We’ve always known that we won’t live here forever, but it’s been a great place to start our life as a family.
How do you take your coffee?
When I’m being good, black. When I need some love, with cream.
Can you describe a favorite memory or two since living in your home?
Right after we bought our house, we immediately started tearing it apart. Brian and I literally walked around the house with hammers and crowbars and ripped out window treatments, laminate flooring, closet doors...it was crazy. The two of us painstakingly pulled thousands of nails out of the floors by hand to cut down on the cost of the floor refinisher. I’ll never do that again.
Of course, bringing our youngest home from the hospital was also a special day. The grandparents left and here we were, the four of us. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. We also have been adamant about making our own traditions and not traveling for every holiday. We want our kids to experience Christmas at their house, Halloween in their neighborhood and summer in their own backyard.
What's one design rule you love to break?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a rule, but I can’t relate to sticking with a theme. Some people are so strictly mid-century or bohemian or farmhouse that they pigeonhole themselves too much into one particular kind of design. If that works for them, go for it, but I find it easier to stick with timeless elements that you won’t grow tired of as quickly. Our style changes and evolves and I enjoy finding a way to mix in different elements that make me happy. Mostly, we reach for minimal, clean lines for our big pieces and add in trendier items here or there. Our general mentality is, if we only bring in the things we truly love, they will all go together in their own way.
Inspirational quote that you come back to over and over again?
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t—you’re right.” Mentality is everything.
Who do you love to follow on Instagram?
Can you share your formula for the perfectly styled surface?
Something horizontal plus something vertical plus something interesting will usually get you close to where you want to be. Also, don’t be afraid to leave some empty space.
Mid-Century Highboy Dresser (similar)
Favorite local weekend activity: go!
When we get a day off together to spend as a family, we like to just hang around the house or go on a walk. We’re super introverted and our job requires us to turn on a level of personality, so when we get a break, we pretty much go into hiding. If I’m feeling social, I like to meet friends for dinner and drinks, usually at a new restaurant in the city.
What TV shows are you obsessing over right now?
We recently binge watched "The Americans" and it was the perfect amount of '80s fashion, family drama and history. I’ve also always been a lover of old shows—"The Mary Tyler Moore," "I Love Lucy," "The Dick Van Dyke Show." I don’t get a ton of time for TV, so when I do, I don’t like it to be too serious.
What is your favorite piece of décor in your home?
The rocker in the nursery is by far my favorite piece of furniture. Not only is it beautiful and obviously holds sentiment, but my husband found it on some random porch in Chicago when I was pregnant. He knocked on the door and paid the guy $25 for it. We were so happy that day.
How would you describe your personal style?
Similar to our home, modern, yet classic, and not too fussy. I’m not afraid to try a trend, but for the most part, I stick to neutrals and like to invest in items that can stay in my closet for a long time.
What's at the top of your bucket list right now?
I dream of travel. With two small kids and a young business, it’s really not in the cards for us right now. I always tell my husband that we will have Christmas in Paris with the kids someday. I really hope that happens.