New Adventure: We're Giving Away a House!!!!

A Beautiful Mess makeovers a house for HFHS Elsie and I are super excited to share a new adventure with you today. We are proud to announce that ABM will be giving away a house this year! Let me explain more:

We've purchased a small house within our hometown, Springfield, MO. We will be updating the house with renovations + a major decor makeover, and we will share the whole process on the blog with you. Once we have completed the makeover, we will be donating the house and everything inside to our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

A Beautiful Mess makeovers a house for HFHSYou might be thinking right about now, "What?!?!?!" I know, we might be totally crazy. But let me back up and tell you how we came up with this totally insane plan and what our goals are.

HallwayLiving and dining roomHere you can see the hallway, living room, and dining room. We took lots of before photos and video that we'll share later in the process. 

This past summer, while Elsie and I were flying home from Costa Rica, we talked about the state of our little business, our big goals and what we'd like to do next. 

A passion we kept discussing was a desire to give back and be a part of our local community. We used to own a small retail shop in our hometown, and although it made sense for our little company to move on from our local shop over a year ago, we've often missed the local aspect. We like being involved in our community because we love where we live. We also really wanted to find a way to use our business to give back to our town. Lots of businesses we look up do charity work or give back in some way, and we felt that it was time for ABM to make this kind of commitment as well.

Another thing we discussed was that we had heard from many of our readers, over and over again, that you want more inspiration for small spaces. Elsie and I have already shared our personal homes in our latest book, and we've shared about our studio house on the blog as well. So, we wanted to find a way to makeover a smaller home, but how could we do this? Could we just invade someone's home? Or buy one? We didn't want to buy a house that would ultimately just sit empty, and we didn't envisions ourselves in the house flipping business. 

Second bedroomBedroomHere's a peek at the two bedrooms. I think we have some carpet removal in our near future (There's beautiful wood underneath!)

While we talked all this through and allowed ourselves to dream big, it finally hit us. What if we bought a small house in need of repair, gave it a big makeover, and then somehow donated it to a non-profit, maybe Habitat for Humanity?

We had a lot of questions. Could we afford to do this? Would we seem totally out of our minds if we did? Would our readers enjoy seeing this? We didn't know. But we immediately fell head over heels in love with the idea. It felt so right, and we were SO excited to explore the options.

So, when we got home from our vacation, we thought about the idea more. We ran some numbers. We started looking at houses in our town that might work for this type of project. We had a couple of meetings with our new Habitat friends, and discussed the project with them to see if it was a good fit for their goals as well.

And about two months after coming up with this insane plan, we signed the papers for our new "project house." 

BathroomLaundry room
Here is the bathroom and laundry room. I have a feeling the bathroom is going to end up being the most expensive remodel in the house. Just a hunch. :)

As you can see from the photos, we have quite a bit of work to do. Our goal is to give the house a major interior makeover, share projects on the blog with you, and then donate the house. We hope to accomplish this within the next six months. 

Inside the house we'll be updating the living room, dining area, kitchen, two bedrooms, laundry room, and a bathroom... which is basically the entire house! We're excited by this challenge and totally stoked to do a little painting, tiling, and create lots of projects to share with you, and then give it all away to support the Habitat mission.

KitchenHere's the kitchen. Love all that counter space. It just needs some TLC and it'll feel so much fresher and more functional. Also, to add a dishwasher or not to add a dishwasher? That is the question.

Another thing I'd like to note about this process is that after we donate the house, HFHS will likely make some updates of their own. Habitat for Humanity strives to build or renovate homes they work on so they are as energy efficient and “green” as possible. So some updates they may choose to make could be replacing windows, siding, or updating some of the heating and cooling systems. We're super excited to learn more about HFHS and their process through our work with them on this project. 

To be honest with you, I've felt incredibly nervous to announce this project with you all. Elsie and I are super proud of this project, and we can't wait to see how it goes. But, I was raised with the mindset that when you do a "good deed", you don't go around telling everyone about it.

For this reason, we considered keeping the purpose of a house a secret. But this just didn't feel right as we always try to be really open and honest with you guys about whatever we're up to. And we figured that you would find it sort of odd if we started renovating a home and sharing it with you, but not disclosing whose home it was, or why we were doing the renovations in the first place.

One of the things we love about blogging is sharing our life and business journey with you. This is a very happy part of our life this year and we're looking forward to being open and honest with you about it! 

And the truth is, it's because of you and your support that this project is possible! And I mean this from the very bottom of my heart. Every time you support ABM by reading the blog, sharing our content, buying an e-course or product we create, downloading one of our apps, or all of the above, you enable us to keep growing. You are the reason a family in need will be helped toward home ownership. We're incredibly grateful for your support! 

Thank you for reading. We hope you love following along with this crazy house project because the truth is, it's your project too. High fives all around. 

We'll be updating you on the house project periodically as things happen (we've already started some of the major renovations, as you can see in a few of these photos). Feel free to let us know if you have any questions or if there's anything about the process that you want to know more about. Maybe we'll blog about it. :) 

A Beautiful Mess makeovers a house for HFHS  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support. We love you guys! xo. Emma, Elsie and the ABM team.

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions. *Habitat homes are sold to qualifying families at a reduced price with a zero-interest loan. Mortgage payments then go into a revolving fund that allows Habitat to build additional homes for families in need.  To learn more about Habitat for Humanity or to make a donation, visit

Make a Collapsible Playhouse

Make a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteWhat is it about cardboard and wrapping paper that is so bewitching to a kiddo? I remember forsaking all other toys any time a big ol' cardboard box entered my childhood home. If you had given me the choice of a fort made of cardboard and duct tape versus one of those Fisher Price playhouses, I would have chosen the shoddily assembled cardboard version every time.

Recently I've noticed the same tendencies in my own child. I've been saving recycled toy ideas to make for Lucy on my Kiddo Activities and Kiddo Pinterest boards, arming myself with project ideas to encourage this make-do mentality in her play some day soon. I can't wait until she's ready for scissors and glue, but in the meantime, I thought she'd really enjoy a Mama-made playhouse—and boy, did she ever!

Make a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteWe don't have lots of space in our home, so I knew I wanted the playhouse to be easily disassembled and stored behind our big dining room cabinet when not in use. Originally I was thinking I'd use tempered masonite because it's inexpensive, thin, and lightweight. But in the end, I decided foam board would be the quickest/easiest material to work with since all I needed to cut it was my trusty X-Acto blade. A foam board playhouse certainly won't last forever, but if Lucy plays with it often enough, I'll definitely consider using these pieces as a template for a masonite version that she can use outside too.

Is this playhouse recycled? Well, no, it's not. But it sure was cheap and lots of fun for both Lucy and me, so I'd say it's a big win!

Playhouse Building PlansI drew out the measurements I used so you can make your own cardboard playhouse without all the guess work. (Click to print.) But if you are working with smaller pieces of cardboard or an actual box, why not come up with your own design?

Make a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteIt's very helpful to have a t-square when marking out the measurements for each panel of the house so you don't have to measure down from each side of the board to get straight lines. I also don't recommend using a marker as I did, but I wanted the photos to show the lines clearly. I'd use a pencil instead so your lines won't be visible if they don't all get cut away.

Make a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteI used household objects as guides for the round shapes in the playhouse like the window, the arched doorway, and the doorknob. After cutting out the door, you'll want to cut away a little extra around it so that it will easily open without getting stuck inside the opening where you cut it from.

Make a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteOnce all of your pieces are cut out, you're ready to slide it all together! I was able to assemble the entire house without any assistance, though it would have been nice to have some help standing up the two sides of the house while I slipped on the front or back panel.

Make a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteMake a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteI used white duct tape as a door hinge, but I recommend using duct tape to wrap where you will be taping first, so if the door pulls in the wrong direction (which it will if kids are using it), the tape of the hinge won't pull the outer layer off the foamboard.

Make a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteMake a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteI think Lucy's favorite part of the playhouse has been filling it with all of her toys, and then throwing them out the window and into a basket she has placed outside the house. Her poor Teddy sure has been through a lot since I built the house! But at least I can testify to the fact that my toddler is quite the baller. 

Make a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masoniteWe loved the simple white style of the playhouse, but decided to jazz it up a little bit with the addition of paint, gingerbreading, shingles, and a little more detail drew on with a Sharpie paint pen. There are so many ways you can go with this—it's really a lot of fun!

I used this pink floral spray paint for the gingerbreading and door, and used a regular brown spray paint (I believe Rustoleum brand?) for the shingles. I used hot glue to hold the shingles in place and rubber cement for the gingerbreading.

Make a collapsible playhouse out of cardboard, foamboard, or masonitePart of the appeal of a white foam board playhouse is that you can decorate it however you want! I plan on getting inside there with Lucy and some magic markers and letting her interior design the joint to her heart's content. -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella and Valentine from the Signature Collection and Pearl from the Fresh Collection.

ABM Studio: The Styling Room

ABM prop storage and meeting roomHere's one more fun space from the ABM studios that we wanted to share with you guys. We call this room the styling room, but we really use it for a whole bunch of different things. We store lots of styling props in here as well as miscellaneous kitchen gear that doesn't fit in our kitchen. If you would've told me two or three years ago that (1) I wouldn't be shooting everything in my own kitchen, and (2) would have a whole wall of cute props to choose from for my recipe photos, I would've laughed in your face! So I have to admit this room is a little slice of dreams coming true. Not to get all gushy, but thank you guys so much for making this possible for us.

Annnyway, we also use this room to have meetings, phone conferences or just for another work space if some privacy or silence is needed.

You want to see how this room started out????

The styling room beforeOh yes, that is a chimney that leads to nowhere. Old houses are always full of funny little add-ons or stories from things that once were. Apparently this house had a fireplace at some point, but it doesn't anymore. We did add our own faux fireplace though.

The biggest surprise in this room was underneath the carpets. We found asbestos tiles, many of which were cracked or in disrepair. We had those professionally removed and had (laminate) hardwood floors installed. 

We also painted almost everything black. If you want to see more "before" pictures click here

ABM prop storage and meeting room    Here's what the room looks like currently. I love the drama the all-black walls and ceiling add to the space. Sort of reminds me of my living room. Josh built the custom shelves to organize our styling supplies. And we added this small table and four chairs to the center for anyone to use when they are utilizing the room. 

This room is located directly above the kitchen, so it's a quick walk up the stairs to grab items I need when I'm cooking.

ABM meeting room  ABM prop storage and meeting room       ABM meeting roomABM prop storage and meeting room     ABM prop storage and meeting room      ABM meeting room To the far right in the above photo you can see the enclosure around the stairwell. Keeps us from falling. Also we keep meaning to paint that stairwell rainbow... Should we do it? It's white currently, and it's hard to keep clean.

ABM prop storage and meeting room  ABM prop storage and meeting room ABM meeting room    This room leads directly into our two office areas. Even though this room was originally a bedroom, we are thankful for the extra storage space and a quiet spot for phone calls to happen. Thanks for letting me share! xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions. Source: Table and Chairs/Amazon, Rug/West Elm, Light Fixture/DIY.

Winter Basics Dreaming

Chicwish wish list2The cold weather is in full force here in my hometown. And it's got me in the mood to give my wardrobe a little makeover, so we teamed up with our old friends at ChicWish to put together a little wish list for the changing seasons. I'm on the lookout for cozy sweaters, longer (but still cute) skirts and cool-girl boots. You know about cool-girl boots? It's a thing. You don't even have to be a cool girl to get some (thank goodness!). I am obsessed with matching basics with a few fun pops of color or patterns. I eventually want to be that woman who has a closet full of clothes that all match each other and all fit her perfectly. I've cleaned out my closet. I'm working on identifying staples I'm missing (or if I have one that doesn't fit well anymore). I'm thinking about trying out some version of the whole capsule collection thing in 2015. Which is just around the corner-can you believe it!? So, finding the perfect mix and match basics is high on my priority list this season. xo Emma

Emma's Wish List: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14


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