How a Landlord Made Her Husband’s Dated Utah Childhood Home Theirs

Inheriting a home that has been in the family for generations can feel like walking on eggshells. How do you balance all the ingrained memories with the need to make the interiors your own? For Sara Charlesworth, a content creator in Salt Lake City, Utah, there was yet another layer to the situation: the property was previously owned by her in-laws. Her stepfather had been skeptical about selling his beloved home to strangers, so the couple and their two young boys, with their tenancy almost up, took it out of his hands. “We promised to keep the character intact, even with renovations,” she says.

Sofa, Six Penny House. Upholstered Chair, Crate and barrel; Armchair, CB2.

Details like the 90s burgundy tile in the bathroom and the yellowish-pink wood cabinets in the kitchen were more traditional than Sara was used to, but she knew she couldn’t part with it all. So even though the playroom, for example, didn’t have the same thick door and moldings as the main living areas, making the fact that it was a late addition to the house all too much obviously, it has only made a few discreet updates. A salvaged fireplace mantel and dusty blue Sandberg wallpaper is enough to bring the space back a few decades.

kitchen overlooking the cloakroom
Cabinetmaking, Semi-handmade; Material, Rejuvenation.

kitchen with wooden island

Almost everywhere new but old hardwood floors (Sara got the cut wood from a local lumber supplier) got a fresh coat of paint – harlequin tiles in the kitchen to look like tile, terracotta red in the laundry room and a blue duck egg in the boys’ room – a clean slate that felt more European than American West. “The house was built in 1913, so going back to that time just aligned with the architectural style.”

hallway leading to the children's room.
To paint, Farrow & Ball; Wallpaper, Sandberg.

white bunk beds with blue duvets
quilts, Chamomile London.

Cosmetic upgrades weren’t the only changes the Charlesworths made. The kitchen underwent a complete renovation, prompted by the need for updated appliances (the oven was from the 90s). They had all the upper cabinets removed in favor of an extra tall marble backsplash. A much more chic option than the previous pine wood plank. The family still has plenty of storage thanks to the pantry and a row of cabinets along one wall, out of sight of the dining room. “We’ve always lived in a rental,” Sara says. “So cooking was our only madness.” Having both a trash can and a dishwasher was something the couple had only dreamed of.

dining room with sage green credenza
dining table and chairs, Leon’s House; credenza, Ikea; Brass candlestick, June House Supply; Cover, Lulu & Georgia.

butcher block counter with woven laundry basket
Candlestick, School; Material, Rejuvenation.

Throughout the house, the shared bathroom has undergone a similar facelift. White subway tile walls handle all the spills bath time contains and a skirted pedestal sink keeps all the storage under wraps. “We’ve never had a bathtub that didn’t have the paint chipping off the bottom,” Sara laughs. The floors, another checkerboard statement (this time in slate and cream) are an oversized graphic take on the original sea of burgundy squares.

bathroom with white walls and skirted sink
Floor tile, Original UK style; skirt fabric, Etsy.

Rather than use their leftover funds for another expensive master bedroom renovation, the couple have engaged in a couple of savvy do-it-yourselfers. The wavy headboard Sara had her eye on was off budget, so a Wayfair dupe and quick upholstery with a bouclé fabric gave a similar look for a fraction of the price. The standard bifold closet doors appear to be custom built-ins, but this is just a strategic location for the chair rail moldings. Above them, the brass bar above isn’t just for show, it’s a clothes rail to make planning outfits a breeze. The giant rug, a Sarah Sherman Samuel for Lulu & Georgia, gives the appearance of carpet without installation. “It boosts the comfort factor,” Sara says.

bedroom with wavy headboard
Bedding, The citizenship; sconces, Anthropology; Paint color, Cromarty by Farrow & Ball.

bedroom with gray-green walls
Cover, Lulu & Georgia.

There were a lot of nerves when Sara and Camden were planning the renovation, but when her stepdad finally saw the finished space, they realized they had nothing to worry about: he couldn’t have been happier . There’s a sense of relief felt by everyone involved (even though her sons were thrilled to finally have a bunk bed). Sara says, “After the renovations, we brought my stepdad back, and all he said was, ‘I’m so glad it’s you.’ It was the house he remembered, with just a few tweaks.


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