For their north Spokane home, J.D. and Shannon Morscheck wanted to tackle decorative updates at a pace of one do-it-yourself project at a time.
Self-taught and with her flair for decorating, the couple have crafted an affordable system in the past six years while involving their three young kids. She usually sketches out her idea for each project, and he researches how-to tutorials.
Work has ranged from a living room’s elaborate built-in shelves and seating area to a remodeled fireplace. Shannon Morscheck, 34, also documents the projects on her blog, livingwithlady.com, and Instagram at @livingwithlady, which has 30,000 followers.
“It usually starts with me drawing something out because my husband is visual, as I am,” she said. “If I draw it up and show him, he gets onboard faster, and then the kids can kind of see what it looks like.
“I’ll use painters tape so we visually can see how big it is. My husband’s the numbers guy, so he’ll make sure the measurements will work out.”
The couple give small jobs to the kids – Gwyneth, 9, Calvin, 7 and Franklin, 3 – perhaps removing tape or using scrap wood for a mini project.
J.D. Morscheck, a Gonzaga University finance professor, has shown the two older children how to use some tools. He credits his wife’s brainstorming.
“Typically, she’s the idea generator,” said Morscheck, 37. “She’ll say, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if?’ That’s kind of like when the light bulb goes off in my brain, ‘Oh, you’re going to be building something.’
“She makes a pretty accurate drawing roughly to scale. Then a lot of times, we’ll use masking tape and put it on the wall to get a visual representation. If it’s outdoors, sometimes we’ll use cardboard to kind of mock up how big it will be and where it will go.
“It helps you see problems that might come into the building process.”
The results have created a cozy farmhouse feel for their home. For their first job, they designed a sports-themed room for the eldest son.
To the master bedroom’s long rectangular space, the couple added barn doors to one end that can close for a small office. Other work has included creating a larger back porch with a pergola.
As a front porch feature, they built a large bench swing, which cost them roughly $200, she said. “Sold online, they’re anywhere from $800 to $2,500 or more.”
A wall mural using pages of books and a board-and-batten design for a fireplace were created near the kitchen.
The living room’s update includes an electronic system that hides a large projector TV, but the screen can descend when a button is pressed. When the TV is hidden, visitors only see the shelf built-ins, decorative pieces and a padded bench area with pillows.
“I try to make our home aesthetically pleasing but functional,” Shannon Morscheck said. She finds ideas on Pinterest and Instagram. “Like in the living room space before, that was a big empty space that was hard to decorate.”
This summer, the family finished the latest project of repurposing an unused formal dining room near the front door. They created built-in wooden lockers – floor-to-ceiling – so each family member can separately store coats, shoes, backpacks and daily supplies.
“We had used it as a catch-all until I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. “I wanted to make the room functional.”
The room’s remodel took them about three weeks. They used plastic drop cloths to create a paint room, from ceiling to floor, to spray-paint the lockers a hunter green. She wore a painter’s protective suit and mask.
They also created a built-in desk area across the same room that has a butcher-block counter. She incorporated parts of dressers bought online for the drawers.
“For the built-in desk areas, we used our own pulls to make it look custom,” she said.
Her husband loves the organization and function of the new space.
“That room was unused square footage,” he said. “To know now our kids have a place to come home and put their book bags away or get ready in the morning, it was fun to add such a benefit to the kids, the house and organization.
“That study desk area is a great idea. Now the kids have a place to go and sit to do homework instead of using the kitchen table.”
Among their different projects, some have gained more attention from her Instagram followers than others.
“I’d say the living room built-ins generated some of the most interest,” she said. “This book wall created a lot of attention, as well as the board-and-batten because it probably cost under $100.
“Then our porch swing has been popular; I see a lot of people duplicating that and then sending me pictures.”
She’s hoping her descriptions, photos, videos and follow-up discussions with others online will make them feel more confident and inspired to attempt similar projects.
The couple met as University of Nevada, Reno students and previously lived in Reno. He started calling her “lady” in college, and the name stuck. As a former high school teacher, Shannon Morscheck doesn’t have formal design training but enjoys decorating and sharing ideas.
Her husband is still part-owner of a Reno arbor business he started 12 years ago. While he’s familiar with tree-trimming, Morscheck doesn’t have formal training in construction.
“I’m not a trained carpenter,” he said. “I take time and guess and check. I obviously enjoy it.”
“I read the tutorials, and then I’ll try it out. I’ll attempt, for example, different methods of putting together the frame for the TV cabinet out in the garage. Once I know it works, like with scrap wood, then I’ll apply it to the real thing.
“There are so many blogs and videos on what screws to use, what nails to use, what joints to use.”
But he agrees that finishing projects can be challenging around young kids.
“The trick is try to involve them or at least keep them busy with small tasks,” he said. “They’ll help us mask off something or clean up tape off the floor. That helps to keep them busy and involved.”
They do the projects mostly during summer breaks and in stages. They also find good stopping points so they can run off to soccer, summer vacations and other activities – even when it’s tempting to finish.
“Every project has been that way, to complete it in stages and then live our lives,” J.D. Morscheck added.
The couple also stay on track by thinking about the bigger picture of creating their dream home, Shannon Morscheck said. Meanwhile, she brings in some income from her social media work, such as attracting shoe and clothing retailer Zappos and other sponsors.
In addition to DIY projects and home decor, she shares lifestyle tips on her blog. She also suggests where to buy supplies if people want to create a similar look.
“It’s a two-way street where I receive just as much joy reading and responding to the responses on my blog and Instagram as I do creating the content.”