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Just when Sarah Sherman Samuel’s interior design career began to take off in 2017, she made a choice that could potentially disrupt everything. Samuel and her family decided to move from their 1,400-square-foot bungalow in Los Angeles to Michigan in search of more space, less miles between them and family, and the opportunity to design her dream home. She found just what she was looking for in a 1980 postmodern house in her hometown of Grand Rapids, a city that has proved to not only be perfect for the Samuels but for first-time home buyers.

Realtor.com recently shared its list of the best markets for new buyers and Samuel’s town, where the median listing price is $260,000, cracked the top 10. The analysis weighed factors like the share of 25- to 34-year-old homeowner households, the number of active listings, the ratio of listing prices to gross incomes, and even the liveliness of an area to land on the following ranking: 

  1. Irondequoit, New York
  2. Benton, Arkansas
  3. Winterset, Iowa
  4. Newington, Connecticut
  5. Council Bluffs, Iowa
  6. Cheektowaga, New York
  7. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  8. Moore, Oklahoma
  9. Mattydale, New York
  10. Riviera Beach, Maryland

While Grand Rapids might not be the very top market, there’s a thriving design community there (one of its nicknames is the Furniture City) and, as we’ve learned from Samuel’s various renovations in the area, a ton of cool fixer-uppers. If you can’t yet envision yourself in the Midwestern hub, never fear. Below, we’re looking back at some of the designer’s most memorable Grand Rapids projects that prove you can do anything with a little potential.

That Time She Tiled a Screened Porch

After tearing up the green Astroturf to expose the decking on her porch, Samuel applied lavender tile from Concrete Love directly on top of the wood planks using Liquid Nails. 

That Time She Made a Bunk Bed Arch Out of Plywood

When her son, Archie, requested a dark green bedroom, Samuel went above and beyond by first building a bunk bed structure (complete with an arched threshold and velvet curtains from Amazon) and creating a circus-inspired ceiling that she painted by hand. 

That Time She Assembled Kitchen Cabinets in One Night

Samuel used her “phone a friend” card when she decided to add a kitchen to her downstairs guest quarters. Instead of assembling all of the IKEA frames solo, she ordered pizza and invited friends over. Everyone grabbed one cabinet to work on and, a few hours later, the hardest part was done. 

That Time She Used Flooring as Wall Paneling

The latest hack we’re stealing from Samuel comes straight from her new dreamy HQ in Grand Rapids. For a dose of warmth, she placed Stuga’s white oak floor planks on the walls around a built-in L-shaped bench.