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Couple renovates old home with recycled materials

Lisa Bueligen stands in the kitchen she shares with Brian Steinkuehler in Fordville, N.D. The couple renovated the old home using antiques and heirlooms, refurbished cabinetry and old barn wood. Photo by Bianca Bina/Features Staff

In a home far from the hustle and bustle of the Grand Cities, Brian Steinkuehler and Lisa Bueligen have created an unexpected interior for their home in Fordville, N.D.


 Created with items collected from Steinkuehler’s family farm, Bueligen’s previous homes, family heirlooms and a number of area buildings and barns, the entire house has received a makeover true to the combination of style the couple shares, by way of recycling.


 Having only purchased paint, a few fixtures and drywall, the remainder of the home has been rebuilt and refurbished on a small budget using hours of elbow grease and (wo)manpower, though it’s not yet complete.


 “We took a break around Christmas time,” Steinkuehler says. “Then we started up again with the sheetrock in February and have just been going ever since. It’s time for another break.”


 Bueligen, known within her circle of friends for constantly staging rooms in her home differently every week, agrees it’s time to take a break, though she enjoys the excitement of it all. “We’ve spent so much time on this and not enough time on ourselves,” she says. “But we both love doing it, it’s so much fun. With summer coming around, we’ll spend more time working on the outside.”


 Before winter hit, the couple made headway on the kitchen and living room, with windows wide open for ventilation as they painted the kitchen a bright white, tore down outdated cupboards and made room for what were to bea couple of shelves above the counter and stove.


Plans, they are a’changin’


 As time and renovations moved on, and new discoveries around the old home appeared, ideas for the kitchen layout changed. A cupboard was found hidden away in the shed and was then refurbished for placement in the kitchen.


 New fixtures found around the basement, such as the metal filigree-designed door knobs, were then used as handles for cupboard doors around the kitchen and also placed in bowls around the house for decoration. One knob was used fora rolling cart the pair made of old wood to hold spices, baking ingredients and bowls, filling an open space between the cupboard and counter with perfection.


 But the building, removing and replacing of cabinetry wasa breeze compared to the demolition of a wall that separated the kitchen and living room and another separating the foyer and living room. Or the crafting of the kitchen counter.


 “I was on Pinterest one day, just looking and looking at ideas,” Bueligen says. “I came across these really cool dark wood counters and thought they were perfect. Then I thought I’d like to make a whole wall of horizontal wood.” And after talking with some Fordville-area residents who owned a dilapidated barn outside of town, Steinkuehler and Bueligen were given permission to peruse the building and take anything they wanted.


 Barn wood was removed and sanded, covered in a polyurethane coating and staineda dark mahogany. Each piece was then cut by Steinkuehler to fit the counter, replacing the home’s original countertop.


 The wood was used in its natural state with knots, flaws and notches of damage, weathered from the North Dakota elements, the remaining pieces placed on the wall of the living room that stretched from the front foyer to the far right corner of the large room.


 “It was easy to do,” Steinkuehler says. “It was just really time consuming. You’ve got to make sure everything matches just right. But Ithink it’s really neat to see the old knots and all the particular grains in the wood and know it stood out there all that time.”


 With plenty of stock to spare, the couple placed a few boards on the wall of a small nook in the kitchen to make a cohesive firstfloor design.


 The pair took vintage knick knacks from the barn as well, including leather straps from old horse bridles, which now hang on a wrought iron coat hook in the dining area, and chains and rope, which became a small swing placed in the corridor between the kitchen and bathroom.


Summer blueprint


 Steinkuehler’s job at Northern Plains Railroad isa mere three blocks down the street — a comfortable rush hour commute and a pleasant walk in warmer weather for Bueligen and her dog Scarlett to discover locomotive scrap for decorative placement in the house. As the train cars are being fixed, useless oversized screws, nuts and bolts are tossed aside, spiral pieces of metal are discarded after being created from sanding tools for the locomotive’s next transportation assignment. While the company sees these pieces of scrap as junk, Bueligen sees her next craft project or decorative addition to the side table in the living room, which she also built, sanded, painted and stained herself.


 Though the plans for indoor projects continue to increase, there is no doubt the couple will continue to make changes based on the gems found in sheds and barns in the area, and the design ideas that appear in the couple’s minds, oftentimes nudged by Pinterest.


 This summer, they plan to reshingle and repaint the house, while also sprucing the greenery around the home, replacing the old shrubs and adding new to create a welcoming landscape.


 And while there is plenty to do and endless supplies to keep the couple busy, Steinkuehler and Bueligen still look forward to adding some new objects to the abode.


 “I’d really like some new chairs,” Bueligen says. “These are fine for now, butI want some modernlooking chairs to match the rug I just got. We’ll get there, but we’ve got to take care of the rest of this stuff first. Even when we’re done, we won’t be done — I always think of something new to do and I’ll get sick of having something be the same for too long. It’s what I love.”