A Bright Renovated Minneapolis Home

arch floor lamp

rattan side chair

Rattan chair: IKEA // Roman shades: Home Depot // Fringe pillow: Anthropologie // Floor lamp: Target // Blanket ladder: Erin’s own DIY

Erin & Her Home

When you find out that Francois et Moi blogger, Erin Francois, studied interior design in school and dabbled in commercial design after that, it’s almost as though all of the pieces to this creative puzzle fall into place. That said, you really only need to peek through the front door of the renovated Francois abode to be certain (beyond the shadow of a doubt!) that Erin’s got a special talent for homemaking, renovation and design.

We recently caught up with this mama-to-be, and though we knew there would be talk of designing and crafting, we were surprised to learn a few behind-the-scenes tidbits, too. For example, did you know that Erin loves to play French music at home, or that she and her husband treat their viewings of “The Bachelor”/”The Bachelorette” as an oh-so-sweet date night activity?

We can’t wait for you to take the tour of this light, bright renovated Minneapolis home and to peruse Erin’s full interview below because it’s full of whimsy and candid insight that will have you feeling at least one to two degrees closer to this creative powerhouse. Take it away, Erin!

curved archway

Let’s start at the very beginning! Take us through the process of renovating your home. How did you set (and keep to) a budget?

The initial renovation budget was set back when we made an offer on the home, as we needed to make sure that after closing, we would still have enough in savings to do the work the home needed. Our home is actually a duplex where we rent out the upstairs apartment. Because it was our first home, we figured a duplex property would be a good investment, both in the short-term (the renter covers a large part of the monthly mortgage payment), and in the long-term, when we move on to the next home and rent out both units.

The initial renovation budget covered our main floor kitchen, the apartment kitchen and fresh interior paint throughout. Since that first renovation push, we’ve slowly been updating the rest of the home as the budget becomes available. Recently, we’ve tackled the backyard and nursery. This year, I’d love to get my hands on our bathroom, as well as new paint on the exterior of the house. All in good time, though!

I think the key to setting and staying within an outlined budget is to really do your research up front. If you can, try to get two to three quotes for contractor and trade work and make as many of your material, appliance, lighting and furnishing selections toward the beginning so you have a realistic ballpark of what everything is going to cost. Compile budget numbers in a running spreadsheet along with a column that tracks what has been paid for and how much is left in the budget. Don’t forget to account for tax and shipping costs (if applicable)!

As with any renovation, surprises and added expenses are always going to come up, so it’s also a good idea to plan for 5 to 10 percent in contingency or miscellaneous costs to make sure you’re covered.

What’s the first impression you hope visitors take away from your home after stepping through the door?

More than anything, I want people to feel good when they’re in my home. For me, that means creating a relaxed and welcoming space with great natural light and an uncluttered, thoughtful design sensibility.

round coffee table

Coffee table: Erin’s own DIY

What rooms did you choose to renovate first, and why? How did you prioritize?

Our priorities were to renovate the main floor kitchen before we moved in and to get the upstairs apartment ready to rent right away. Both kitchens were original to the 1930s home. They were bleak, bare, dishwasher-less spaces, outfitted with one electrical outlet each. One! In an effort to save on cost, we repurposed the first floor cabinets in the upstairs kitchen (they matched what was already up there). Thus, we ended up renovating both kitchens at once. Looking back, we were probably nuts for doing this, but doing so helped us save on electrical, plumbing and stone countertop costs by bundling both kitchens into one job.

What’s the key to a perfectly styled coffee table in your opinion?

I think the key is incorporating an interesting conversation piece in the mix, whether it be an interesting stack of books, an unusual vase or travel souvenir. Fresh blooms and candles never hurt either!

abstract painting

Bookshelves: Target // Artwork: Erin’s own DIY

Best money-saving tips for a renovation: go!

Labor is expensive. It’s often 40 to 50 percent of the overall budget, so make your money go a little further by tackling some of the work yourself. Demolition, plaster patching/sanding and painting are all dirty jobs, but they’ll save you tons in the end if you do them yourself!

When did you launch your blog, Francois et Moi? What do you hope readers take away from the site?

Francois et Moi launched at the end of October 2013 and, at its very core, is dedicated to helping others love their home through DIY. The biggest thing I hope readers take away is that turning your home into a place you love doesn’t have to be an overly complex, insurmountable or crazy expensive ordeal. It’s more a matter of tapping into that ingenuity, fearless can-do attitude, and sense of humor we all have inside us to make it happen.

blanket ladder

Turning your home into a place you love doesn’t have to be an overly complex, insurmountable or crazy expensive ordeal. It’s more a matter of tapping into that ingenuity, fearless can-do attitude, and sense of humor we all have inside us to make it happen.

gold mid-century chandelier

Light fixture: Schoolhouse Electric // Dining room table: antique heirloom // Dining room chairs: Target // Dining room china hutch: from the IKEA Hemnes series (specific model unavailable) // Dining room rug: Overstock // Live Edge Walnut Bench: Erin’s own DIY

How did you get into interior design and crafting?

I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember! My mother is also very much into crafting, sewing, etc., so there was lots of encouragement and supplies close at hand for me to experiment with as a kid.

I went to school for interior design, and practiced commercial design in my early to mid-twenties. When the economy plummeted at the end of 2008, I was laid off and ultimately decided to move over to the product side of the industry to manage a trade-only fabric and wallcovering showroom for a bit better work/life balance. During that time, I started my blog, Francois et Moi, as a creative outlet. In its infancy, it was a broad mélange of anything I found inspiring: recipes, newlywed adventures and—most importantly—DIY projects and crafts. Over time though, I’ve narrowed my scope to focus specifically on all things home DIY and crafting-related.

eclectic dining room

Tell us about a few of the DIYs we see in your home.

  • Live Edge Walnut Bench: A trip to Big Sur, California, for my 30th birthday a few years back inspired the creation of the dining room’s walnut bench. The bench—which was originally created as a sit space in the entry—is really just a marriage of a cool repurposed slab of wood and a pair of steel legs that we found on Etsy.
  • Danish Modern Coffee Table: The inspiration for this piece came from my love for Scandinavian design paired with my nearly non-existent budget for a new coffee table. I sourced the top from a pink kids’ table I found at The Salvation Army. I gave it a fresh coat of spray paint and a new pair of Danish style legs for a whole new look.
  • Brushstroke Art: As a DIYer, it’s often tough for me to get rid of things for fear that they might come in handy in a future project, and this large-scale brushstroke art piece is a prime example. Against my better judgement, I had a big, inexpensive framed art piece of London’s Tower Bridge from IKEA that I’d been moving around with us since college and mostly just kept in storage. When we finally bought a house and had lots of bare walls to fill, the lightbulb went off to finally make use of this old piece by painting over it, and using my College Art 101 skills to create an organic brush stroke design on the canvas. I love being able to use materials I already have on hand to make new pieces for my home.
  • Repurposed Kitchen Sink Doors: Although I don’t have a specific tutorial for this project on my blog, one of my favorite elements in our main floor kitchen is the pair of slatted sink cabinet doors that we were able to salvage from the original kitchen. We refinished them with new paint and hardware to match the new cabinetry. I love how they give our inexpensive cabinetry a custom look, as well as help pay homage to the home’s 90-year-old bones.

Do you play music at home? Who are your favorite artists?

Stacey Kent is one of my absolute favorites to have on in the background during the day, particularly her Raconte-Moi album, which is completely in French.

handmade glass pitcher

Tell us about your wedding!

My husband, Ken, and I were married four years ago in my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, and held our reception in the courtyard of Fitger’s, a 130-year-old brewery, overlooking Lake Superior. At the time, it was kind of an unconventional place to hold a reception, but we both love this brewery and its proximity to the lake, so we went for it anyway!

Our intent was to host a simple summer gathering with a relaxed, but thoughtful tone. The brewery’s distressed brick exterior created the perfect backdrop for white tablecloths and mercury glass décor, while oversized café lights dressed the courtyard, providing an ambient glow as the sun went down. We were concerned that the weather might not cooperate, but it was a beautiful night—no wind or mosquitoes to speak of. We really lucked out, and I have such fun memories of that day!

white lamp

Rug: West Elm // Table lamp: Target // Duvet cover: IKEA

What TV shows are you obsessing over right now?

I’m a pretty hardcore “The Bachelor”/”The Bachelorette” fan. It’s one of my biggest guilty pleasures that I’ve roped Ken into, too, over the years (he’s going to kill me for telling you that!). Each season, we fill out brackets making our predictions for the show and make every Monday night into a little date night of sorts.

I’m also very much into “This is Us.” I can’t get enough of the intricately woven past-and-present stories of this endearing family. Every week is a heart-warming/heart-wrenching tear-jerker, and I can’t get enough!

rattan side chair

More than anything, I want people to feel good when they’re in my home. For me, that means creating a relaxed and welcoming space with great natural light and an uncluttered, thoughtful design sensibility.

wicker tray

Dresser: IKEA

Go-to maternity outfit?

I’m all about smart, casual comfort these days! Though I don’t know what I’d do without maternity jeans and leggings, I also try to incorporate non-maternity pieces into my look whenever I can, like my vintage velvet blazer and stretchy turtleneck dresses.

What are your favorite spots to visit around Minneapolis when you just need to get out of the house?

I love to get lost in thrift and vintage stores in Minneapolis. We’re lucky to have so many fantastic ones here! My faves are Hunt & GatherMidtown Antiques and Arc’s Value Village.geometric pencil holder

mud cloth pillows

You’re expecting your first baby—congratulations! What are you most looking forward to?

I just can’t wait to meet this little girl! Who is she? What will make her laugh? Where will life lead her?

What are you nervous about?

It’s a nerve-racking thing when you find out you’re going to be someone’s mom for the first time, but the more she begins to wiggle, kick and hiccup inside me, the more those nerves begin to turn into excitement!

rolling desk

Table lamp: IKEA // Desk chair: Lamps Plus // Faux Sheepskin: IKEA // Desk: IKEA + CB2

Do you like working from home?

I do like working from home, especially now that we have the dedicated space for it, but the most challenging thing is being able to leave work at work, because in a way I always feel like I should be working. Also, as a home DIY blogger, our house ends up being a revolving set for photographing blog posts. I just wrapped up a holiday shoot in our dining room, where I pulled nearly everything out in order to create a different look and feel altogether. After the shoot, the furniture managed to make it back into place, but the art and décor is still in boxes in my living room. Needless to say, I’ve put the blinders on until I have a block of time to put it all back!

white kitchen

Kitchen cabinets: Home Depot // Brass hardware: Home Depot // Sink faucet: Amazon // Hand towels: IKEA

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?

Croque Monsieur—a simple, French comfort food classic!

When you eat out, where do you usually go?

We try to eat at locally owned places whenever possible. Our favorite dinner spots are St. Genevieve and Bar La Grassa and I also love Patisserie 46 for the croissants and macarons.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since undertaking a full house renovation?

My biggest lesson has been learning that sometimes you just can’t take it all on at once, whether it be for budget restraints or simply trying to live in your home amid renovation. We did a massive renovation push right when we purchased the home, and slowly, but surely we’ve been tackling the rest. Our current projects have been designing the nursery and incorporating a Murphy bed into our home office. I’m dying to get my hands on our bathroom sometime soon, too!

white subway tile backsplash

It’s a nerve-racking thing when you find out you’re going to be someone’s mom for the first time, but the more she begins to wiggle, kick and hiccup inside me, the more those nerves begin to turn into excitement!

maroon maternity dress

See more renovation projects like: How To Keep Your Cool Throughout A Home Reno Project and A Two-Toned Blue-And-White Kitchen Remodel.

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Author: Carrie Waller

Carrie is the writer, stylist and photographer behind Dream Green DIY, and also is the features editor for Glitter Guide. Follow along on Instagram!

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