When you and your family of five live in a 180-square-foot RV, any living situation that comes after that is a piece of cake.
This was certainly the case for Ashley Petrone, the blogger behind Arrows and Bow. After 17 months of RV living and everything that came with it, the family packed up their (admittedly minimal) belongings and moved north, upgrading to a 1,392-square-foot Spanish-style home in NorCal from the 1930s.
“We were excited; it was really fun to start with a clean slate,” says Petrone, who decorated the family’s new digs entirely from scratch. “It’s been cool to pick out things now that we have a shift in our mentality and the way we like to do things.”
Drawn in by the home’s old-school charm—peep the arched ceilings—Petrone and her husband, Dino, bought it as a fixer-upper. They got the keys at the end of August 2018 and had fully finished renovations by October; the result of diving headfirst into renovations and starting out with a clear mindset of exactly what they wanted from their new home.
“I love adding detail, and that was really what I focused on,” explains Petrone. “I wanted to make my house feel cozy and welcoming; minimal, but not minimal. Sometimes people think minimal is boring or sterile, and I don’t like that.”
After giving the whole house a fresh coat of paint and redoing the previously orangey-red oak floors so they were more modern, Petrone accomplished the cozy, minimalist feel by layering in details. She carefully chose warm finishes and scoured local thrift shops and garage sales for unique finds and old books that added charm (though she cops to finding some gems at Homegoods too), fully transforming the space.
What’s more is that she DIY’ed most of it with the help of her family. The fireplace that anchors the living room, for example, is the product of some faux brick found at Home Depot that she painted black for a high-contrast statement. The guest house in the back (which she and her husband plan to Airbnb) was completely revamped. She added board and batten strips to the outside, shiplap to the bedroom walls, and just recently finished updating the bathroom with help from her mom.
“That had been a long labor of love,” she says of the guest bath. “The bathroom in there was just crazy weird. It was about adding detail without ripping anything out—I wallpapered it, used leftover backsplash from the kitchen for tiles, and did a mini hexagon stencil over it in black.”
Read on to see how Petrone turned the space around in such a short period of time—all while admirably adhering to the principles of minimalism that she learned from living in an RV.
On decorating with three kids:
“Mostly, your mentality just has to shift. We have certain rules, like we don’t wear shoes in the house for cleanliness, but otherwise, we’re not crazy strict. I have to be okay if apple juice spills on the rug. It’ll come out! I try to think of that when I’m buying things; if I buy this white rug, am I okay with it getting dirty? If not, I won’t buy it.”
On the one rule of minimalism to follow:
“The biggest thing was, I didn’t want to come into a space and, just because we had more space, feel like we needed to fill it—we were perfectly content where we were.”
On the importance of doing (or at least, trying to do) some things yourself:
“If I don’t know how to do something, I’ll look it up online. It’s empowering to at least go for it and try it; for the smaller projects, what’s the worst that can happen? When you go into a DIY project, just know that there are going to be imperfections. What you’re seeing in a photo is not going to necessarily be the reality for everybody.”
On the one DIY everyone should try:
“I love painting, and I feel like that’s such a fun thing for people to do. It’s not hard, and everyone can at least give it a go. It’s such an easy way to save money.”
On finding inspiration for DIYs:
“I definitely say Instagram is a huge one. I’m super connected, so [I like] seeing other people and friends—I followed my girlfriend’s tutorial for the stencil. I love @helmick_hacienda (she’s the one who did the stenciling) and @brepurposed.”
On her favorite part of the home:
“Inside our kitchen nook, we have an arched cutout where we keep our mail. That was the one thing we left on the kitchen side that’s original because it’s unique and special.
“I also love where our sofa sits—it looks out on a giant arched window, and the view of the street with the big oak trees is so pretty.”