Danielle lives in a barn built against bluffs along the Mississippi

Guest post by Danielle

Danielle’s an Audio Visual services manager at a university. She lives in this reworked barn near the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa. Her home tour is all about handmade and reused and her kitty, Jeebz.

My House

I love so much about my barn. The original wood and stone is still visible despite all the renovation. The house is completely covered in ivy, which I thought looked really cool when I moved in this summer, but it completely blew my mind when it started turning red and gold this fall.

Welcome to my home

I LOVE that it still has an open hay-loft type layout.

My "bedroom"

I think that all of the old-timey features that make this place completely unique fit in with my personality (out front I still have a hitching post — A HITCHING POST — for realz) since I’ve always wished I was born in my parent’s generation. There was much better music back then.

My home is homemade. Handmade. Hand-me-downed. Gifted. Thrifted. My furniture all came from consignment shops, garage sales, or was given to me by family members. It somehow works together. Maybe I LIKE to wear plaid and argyle together because it looks good to me, I don’t do it just to hurt your eyes.

I’m quite crafty. I love finding neglected stuff and churching it up to be my own (insert non-paid raving testimonial ad for Modge Podge here). I don’t aspire to own and display expensive pieces of art. I’d rather be surrounded by photos, concert posters, books, grandma-made afghans, sketches my dad did, and all my other little odd trinkets that spark memories of important people and places.

Light is challenging in our house. The kitchen faces directly east and has three tiny windows over the sink. The west side of the house has three sets of sliding glass doors (two of which go to absolutely nothing but the deck one story below which is ridiculous and awesome), but the backyard is right up against the bluff so it blocks a lot of the afternoon sun.

Back yard

This means I get natural light when the sun rises, a little when it sets, and not much in between. I have to make due with lots of artificial light.

This place took a lot of time to make it feel like my own. I painted, weeded, hauled previous resident’s shit to the curb, de-moused, decorated, and more. BUT for the first time in a long time, I’m OK with slowing down, taking time, and really working on something. Living in a big city, I definitely lost patience. When you work a lot, commute forever, then still try to make time to see friends/workout/relax, etc., it’s easy to put off at-home projects. It’s really satisfying to start with something that had potential, work at it, and end up with something where I can say, “Oh, you like that? I DID IT.”

Plant stand

Dubuque is an interesting community. I’m from a tiny town in central Iowa, went to college here, studied abroad, moved to Chicago, then found myself missing Dubuque, of all places, pretty terribly after a few years.


As a whole, the city is very blue collar. It used to have a huge meat packing plant (Dubuque Ham!), and still sees a ton of barge traffic on the river through its lock and dam. That said, it also has quite a blossoming art scene, started an independent movie theater, lots of local boutique restaurants with great food, and the city is currently completely gutting and revitalizing the warehouse district for commercial/residential use even though it’s been an abandoned (and kind of scary) part of town for years.

In Chicago, I never ever had to drive anywhere because public transportation was so great, but unfortunately Dubuque is less pedestrian friendly with all its hills. However, I only live a short walk from the school where I work and about a half a mile from downtown and the Riverwalk, so on nice days I still get to leave the car at home.


We future goals for my home include PLANTS! I. Kill. Plants. Some people say “anyone can have a green thumb,” or “this plant’s sooooo easy to care for you should try it,” but it doesn’t matter, somehow they all just die. But I’m learning. Plants clean your air, brighten up a room, and just look dang pretty. I did some research on what plants are OK for kitties, and so far I have two philodendrens and a spider plant that are all hanging nicely, as well as a tiny Tahitian bridal veil that I’m nursing back to health from one sickly little barely-rooted sprig. We’ll see how this goes.

A lot of people couldn’t understand why I wanted to leave Chicago (which is a great city, I know) and move to bumblefuckdubuque. I just love it. I can’t explain it. Choose to live somewhere that suits you and enjoy it.

I’ve loved these shops:

  • Handmade Market (once a month at Empty Bottle in Chicago) is where I get all kinds of great jewelry, candles, clothes, bags, etc., all handmade by midwestern artists.
  • Yarn Soup in Dubuque feeds my hunger for all crafts string-related.
  • Second Look Consign & Design is where I got quite a bit of furniture and accessories. It’s incredibly clean, and all their merchandise is nicely organized in mock living room/bedroom/dining room setups so you don’t have to spend hours scrounging through cluttered shelves of crap to find what you’re looking for.

Okay ENOUGH TALK! Show me the decor porn!

You’ve got a pretty offbeat home yourself, don’t you? Send in your tour! Submit now.

Comments on Danielle lives in a barn built against bluffs along the Mississippi

  1. What’s up with the guitar table? made or a unique find? are the strings “playable” or is there resin or glass over them? are they even strings or lines of paint?

    • There’s some photo descriptions if you go to the Flickr link. My dad found the table at a garage sale in Ames, where I’m from. It’s a real acoustic guitar, disassembled then covered with resin on the table base. Some of it’s flat but there are lots of parts where the curve of the guitar comes up and breaks the plane. Makes it a little difficult to set drinks on, but I still love it 🙂

  2. Your house is so. beautiful.! I love the autumn colours and the open space. Have found myself a new dream home-type. Where can I find us an old barn???

  3. Two things: 1) Your house is GORGEOUS; and 2) I am totally with you on plants. Anything that can’t remind me when it needs to be cared for has a tendency to get a little neglected under my stewardship.

  4. The envy is pouring off me in waves. Ditto on plants, I am terrible with plants. If only they said something, or had a little water meter that pinged when they needed more. Someone invent that and sell it for under $30.

  5. Any ideas out there for creative lighting? I was toying with the idea of permanently running white x-mas lights over the beams above the staircase, but that will forever scream “college” to me.

    • Hey Danielle, Have you looked at the rope light they have at home depot? You can run it along the stairs for a movie theatre like glow. I’m sure you could do the same and tack it to the less visible side of a beam and it would glow. (Or underside of railing etc.) When I’m out in IOWA…you’ll have to show me your barn and I’ll try to think of more lighting tips for you. 🙂 -Jax

  6. So no joke, for maybe a year now I have been fantasizing about living in a barn-turned-house. This home tour is kind of just what I needed to both give me a little taste of the awesomesauce and make me lust a bit more after the renovations.

    How did you find your barn, and was it already partly/totally turned into a house before you moved in, or did you do ALL the reno to make it livable?

    • i actually responded to an ad in the local paper for a 1 BR apartment for rent (not this house) but it was a little basement apartment in a drab building way on the west end of town. When I told the landlord no thanks, not my style, he said …well…I have this…other place. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s weird, but I’ll be glad to show it to you even though it’s not listed yet. I was intrigued by this and it turned out to be this place! The renovation was all done but the previous renter had left it in pretty sorry condition so I had to clean and paint a lot, but no hard labor really. So basically, I just got very lucky. I wasn’t set out to find something exactly like this, I just knew I didn’t want to settle in some tiny run-of-the-mill place. I looked for about amonth on craigslist and the local paper’s website and visited probably 5-10 places before I found it. I would say just be diligent about scouring ads and asking around town.

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