Interiorssneak peeks

Making It Work In A Bare-Bones Texas Home

by Maxwell Tielman

If you are lucky enough to find the home of your dreams straight out of the gate, something that fulfills all of your practical and aesthetic needs and then some, you are most certainly in the minority. For most, the “perfect” home isn’t so much found as it is created, the product of an indeterminate mixture of time, trial and error, and “making it work.” For Anna Tovar, an artist and stay-at-home mother in Denton, TX, finding her own brand of perfection meant learning to go with the flow and accept that things take time.

Anna and her husband Luis came to Denton as students at the University of North Texas. They stayed, however, because of the town’s laid-back charm and creative energy. As far as their home search went, a good neighborhood — something with trees, parks, and a good elementary school — took precedence over things like square footage or amenities. “When our house went on the market,” Anna says, “we just jumped on it.” The home itself is a decidedly simple postwar construction. Built in 1962, it had what Anna describes as a charmless, “boxy” feeling. “There wasn’t any inherent detail that made each room interesting,” she says. “It was all sort of bare bones, and not in the great, minimal-Scandinavian way, but in the this-actually-feels-like-a-box kind of way.”

Faced with a small budget and the arrival of two children (a son, Axel and a daughter, Eden), Anna and Luis knew that getting things to where they wanted wouldn’t happen overnight. “We’ve lived here for five years,” Anna says, “and I feel like we just really started liking our house this past year.” The couple tackled most of the (numerous) home renovations almost entirely on their own, gaining quite a bit of DIY knowledge along the way. Furnishings were thrifted, acquired as hand-me-downs, or purchased on the cheap. White walls and inelegant accents were spruced up with color, bits of collected artwork, and thrifty strokes of genius (like wall decals made from contact paper). The half decade of hard work and diligence has most definitely paid off, though — the house today is a fabulously personal family home, one that can sustain the rambunctious activity of two kids, two dogs, creative parents, and the occasional picnic on the living room floor. —Max

"Our living room is by far where we spend the most time," Anna says. Anna made the coffee table the week before her daughter, Eden was born. Couch and curtains from IKEA. Vintage rocker.
Alternate view of the living room. "The brass side table, yellow ceramic lamp, and vintage basket are all from garage sales in our neighborhood," Anna says, "which I totally love because it makes me feel more connected to the people around me." Rug from HomeGoods.
Alternate view of the living room. "We just recently installed the book shelves on the other side of our living room," Anna says. "Since the room is long and narrow, we had a hard time making the space feel cohesive, instead of two separate spaces making up one room. Now we have a lounging/TV-watching side, and a reading/playing side. I didn't realize how much of an impact the shelves would make on the space, but they really made everything feel like it made sense." Oil painting by Anna. Shelves from IKEA.
Alternate view of the living room. Vintage chair from a local thrift store. "I just love it," Anna says, "because it came from one of the local universities so it feels extra 'Denton' to me."
The kitchen. The cabinets were painted white several years ago, with vinyl tiles, concrete countertops, and backsplash added more recently. "Working on this room has made an enormous impact on our affections for our house overall," Anna says.
A collection of succulents sits on the kitchen windowsill.
The dining room. "Our dining room table and chairs were an unexpected gift from my in-laws," Anna says. "When we were still in the process of buying the house, we knew we were going to need a lot more furniture, so we were hitting up thrift stores to see if we could find any good deals. We scored big time when we spotted the Broyhill Brasilia bedroom set that is in Axel's room. We didn't have a house to set it up in yet, so we stored them in my in-laws' garage. When my father-in-law got home, he thought that his dining room furniture had fallen apart. I hadn't made the connection, but their hutch and dining set were also Broyhill Brasilia! So when we moved in, my in-laws very generously offered to give us the set. The bottom half of the hutch is now our TV stand, but we still love (and probably always will) all of these pieces."
The master bedroom. The room receives a lot of natural light, so Anna and Luis decided to go bold and paint the room a dark color. "We are so pleased with the overall feel it gave the space," Anna says. Bed and chair from IKEA. Comforter from Crate & Barrel. Walls painted in Behr's "Antique Tin."
Alternate view of the bedroom. "We still haven't found our ideal night stands," Anna says, "so I covered these inexpensive stools in fabric, and they are a great place saver for the day we find the ones we love."
"This rug was in my parents' house growing up," Anna says. "Yes, it's sentimental, but I think it goes well with the overall feel of the room."
Axel's room. "We just recently redid Axel's room and he thinks it's totally awesome," Anna says. "I made those little embroidery hoop paintings to represent his heritage (Mexican, Texan, and Swedish)." Vintage bed and quilt. Yellow pillow from Target.
Alternate view of Axel's room. "The geometric pattern on this wall is done with black contact paper," Anna says. "Axel assumed it was painted on, and I didn't correct him because, so far, he hasn't peeled off a single sticker!" Fox watercolor painting by Anna.
Alternate view of Axel's room. Vintage dresser.
Eden's room. "My sister-in-law lived with us for a while before Eden was born," Anna says. "This was the color she picked for her room, and when the time came to convert her room into a nursery, I decided to simply paint the top third white. I'm really happy with how it turned out." Crib from Walmart. Jute rug from IKEA. Sheep pillow from Gingiber. Sheep print from Society6. Wall color is Behr's "Indian Ocean."

Suggested For You


  • I also live in Denton. Love seeing a home that sounds like it could be in my neighborhood look so good! Gives me hopes for what my place can become.

  • I love the mix of newer and collected pieces. I love the color in the Master. When I lived in California, I painted my master bedroom almost the exact same color. People thought I was nuts. It was 2001 but once it was done all my friends went gaga over it. I loved how it made the white vaulted ceiling seem even higher and kept the room cool in the summer.

  • We’re in the process of buying a boxy, utilitarian 1960’s house out of necessity, complete with cracked terrazzo and brown carpet floors. I’ve been busy gathering ideas on how to work with our new space and this has definitely given me hope that I can overcome the ugly and make it awesome. Great job!

  • This is a beautiful home. I understand the frustration of having to be patient with putting a house together, as I’m completely starting over from scratch and I don’t have the luxury of spending thousands of dollars at a time for decor. I was amazed and encouraged when I read you’d pieced this together the way you did. Bravo.

  • I crazy love that masked bandito poster/art in the living room! Great style all around!

  • Honestly this might be one of my favorite homes you’ve shown. It reminds me a little of my own house, except 10 times more put-together. I could move right in.

  • It certainly doesn’t look like a ‘bare box’ kind of a home! It’s an inspiration to those of us who live without period features or other architectural interest!

  • Love the simple sconces by the bed. Could you tell me where they’re from? its exactly what I’ve been looking for…thanks!

  • I love this home!So much “created” character! And the arrangement of plates in the dining room is truly awsome .
    Thank you for sharing.

  • I love the way you have incorporated IKEA pieces into your home along with vintage ones. Beautiful home.

  • i live in denton!! i love seeing a home from this amazingly original and eclectic town.

  • What a great home. Looks lived in and loved. Very nice job mixing new and old. Congratulations!

  • I’m sorry about this but I’m really struggling with the new website layout. I love reading through the sneak peeks and it’s one of the things that made me a regular visitor to Design Sponge. I particularly enjoy nosing through the comments afterwards and seeing what other people pick up on that I might have missed first time round. Whereas before I could do a quick scroll up to the picture being referenced I now find it super frustrating clicking through ALL the pictures again one at a time just to get to the one I want. Your previous design had everything I looked for in a good website/blog :- comfortable colours (I loved the textured grey – white is so much harsher to look at for any length of time), simple user interface and considered content – so much so that I showed DS to my web developer boyfriend as an example of someone who had got web design absolutely right. I know things will always change over time and can understand the need for extra ad revenue and don’t have an issue with this, especially when it funds such a dedicated team of talented people but there seem to be a number of user experience issues (the moving arrow clicks I know have already been mentioned) that have put me off looking in on DS so much since the changes. I really hope you guys won’t take offence at this as I have so much appreciation for what you do!

  • I have to say…I sort of love that there is a Walmart crib in this house. I love seeing a house that looks great but doesn’t feel unattainable. Great job!

  • This home sings to me. I love all the original wall painting ideas (the tape design!), and also how they blended very affordable ideas with what they already owned. Bravo!

  • I love this home – especially the living room. That rug is gorgeous – I want one!! Does anyone know what search terms would point me in the direction of similar rugs?

  • Anna created beautiful things and spaces but is most of all, a beautiful person. I think that everything she touches just may turn to gold. I plan to one day have everything that could possibly be for sale at annatovar.com Also, this article was such a perfect reminder to be patient and enjoy the process! It might be our dream house, one day….but it’s so much better when you took the time to make it home.