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Another Feel Good Flash Makeover Has Wrapped – Here’s How Lowe Transformed This Empty 2 Bedroom Apartment Into A Cozy, Kid-Friendly Oasis

Hey friends! Lowe here — again! And this time, I’m popping in to say we’ve wrapped up Jem’s Feel Good Flash Makeover *cue the celebratory bells!*. 

In case you weren’t here when we first started, I’m a lover of all things decor (the weird decor, the cute decor, and the cheap decor, too). And I got the amazing opportunity to share a bit of that love with a sweet family of three that was transitioning out of homelessness. Thanks to the collab between two women-led teams I’ve admired for ages (Pen + Napkin and Emily Henderson Design), I met Jem* and her two young sons. They secured an apartment after going through a time living in their car and then a shelter and temporary housing. But when they first moved in, they didn’t have much. There were no tables, no chairs, no mattresses, and certainly nothing to make things feel cozy. 

Pen + Napkin’s mission is to turn empty houses into homes for families like Jem’s, though. So that means we HAD to make things cozy. In my original moodboards for the apartment, I layered in things like art, throw pillows, rugs, and more to get that warm look. I wanted to add color and vibrancy while ensuring each piece was kid-friendly and fun. For the living room, I focused on making the space feel open and inviting with a great spot for family dinners and games. For Mom’s room, we wanted to really hone in on the relaxation factor with calming colors and a few luxe touches. And finally, for the boys’ domain, making things feel styled but not too precious was a top priority. I wanted everything from the feature wall to the bedding to be poppy and bright. Plus, the two little ones love all things related to planes, cars, and trucks. So we needed some of that, too.

The Original Moodboards

And after sharing those plans and moodboards with you all, words of encouragement (and the most generous donations) came pouring in. I was floored to read everyone’s kind messages and suggestions. Even those who weren’t able to contribute financially shared about Jem’s story as well as Pen + Napkin’s mission (which by the way, the folks at P+N regularly do home makeovers for families transitioning out of homelessness so if you’re able, please consider donating whenever you can ^_^).

In the end, we didn’t quite reach our $3K fundraising goal, but we got so so close and SO many lovely people purchased items from our decor registries. (I’m still trying to figure out who donated what so I can say thank you personally, but I’m not savvy at all when it comes to figuring out things like that. Also maybe the names are private?).

It was amazing to watch items get crossed off of the list, from things like the canopy bed we got for Jem to the impossibly cute green bedding we found for the boys to the sweet toys we used to fill in a DIY bookshelf. 

Let me tell you, though, I’ve never furnished any space in such a short time period using pieces mostly sourced from online. So I was not prepared at all to receive so many packages in the weeks leading up to the apartment install. Actually, thinking about all the boxes that I had to go through, store, and eventually, transport to Jem’s still gives me just a little bit of anxiety. But of course, that’s a great problem to have!

Rug | Sofa | Ottoman | Side Table

As for the actual installation, we did a lot of pivoting from the initial plans. But that’s something I was completely prepared for. I’ve learned that even when you have an unlimited budget, sometimes the item you have your heart set on is out of stock; sometimes things break. Overall, decorating can just be unpredictable. But usually, I find that having a bit of flexibility can create an even better, finished room. 

In this case, for example, we weren’t able to get the navy blue sectional that I had my eye on. It just wasn’t available when P+N founder Catie took me to the magical world that is the Poly & Bark outlet store. But instead, we ended up finding the most gorgeous warm brown, chestnutty leather couch and ottoman that will likely last for years and years to come because the quality is just that good. I also had plans to get a small circular table for Jem and her little ones but we found one that was much more substantial also thanks to Poly & Bark. No matter how rough playtime, study time, or dinner time gets, that mid-century modern beauty will not be moving (I know because I accidentally tripped over it, and the table didn’t budge).

Chair | TV Stand | Dining Chairs | Table

Another pivot was changing up the art. I had plans to do fun mini gallery walls in each room, but as I’m sure everyone knows, art ain’t cheap to put it plainly. So to make sure the walls still had some pizazz, I dug into the hoards of decor that I’ve been keeping for just such an occasion. Simple nature prints helped the living and dining space feel cohesive. A few wall hangings added some geometric intrigue to the faux entry situation. And for the boys’ room, we let the wall decals be the main focal point behind mattresses that were generously donated by Tuft & Needle. If we’d had more time I would’ve LOVED to do some art DIYs to finish off each space but alas.

Circle Serve Board | Stoneware Canister | Soap Dispenser | Wooden Cookbook Holder | Basket

One thing I realized during this process is it truly was a flash makeover. I think I’ve always taken for granted how much time you need to turn a blank canvas into a home. In my own apartment and in the projects I’ve done, I’ve always been lucky enough to work at my own pace. Deadlines were few and far between, and I could do everything mostly by myself because there’s never been a time crunch. That was 100% (not even an inch) the case this time. Not only were we all trying to furnish Jem’s home as quickly as possible because we didn’t want them living without for any longer than they had to, but we also only had TWO days to get everything built, hung, cleaned, and mounted. I was optimistic (foolishly optimistic, some might even say unrealistic) about finishing up until the very last moments. But we seriously ran out of time, and that felt pretty disappointing. If I could change anything about this process, it would be that.

Bed Frame | Airplane Wall Decals | Sheets | Quilt | Pillow Sham | Shelves

Tent | Flag Garland | Rug

However, there was also no way in heck that I would’ve been able to install everything myself. Assists came from everywhere. 

My boyfriend loaded up his van multiple times to cram in copious amounts of furniture, rugs, and more. Then he made the drive from my apartment all the way to Jem’s and didn’t complain once, not even when his contact literally fell out on the freeway.

Emily’s team (hi Ryann, Jess, and Mallory!!) came out on both install days to build beds, style kitchens, and just lend their expert design eyes whenever it was needed. Jess even made a last-minute trip to Target and completely saved the day with the cutest decor finds that brought in some much-needed spice and transformed every single room.

Bed Frame | Rug | Mirror | Accent Table | Dresser

Pen + Napkin powerhouse Synthia — who is somehow managing design school, work, and interiors — literally was a Godsend throughout it all. She came to IKEA with me, and we shopped until the store kicked us out/closed. And then on install day, Synthia kept everyone in good spirits and singlehandedly built Jem’s IKEA dresser. And dressers are verifiably the hardest thing you can build from IKEA (lol maybe not verifiably but I said what I said). 

All in all, this was the biggest team effort project I think I’ve done. It was certainly the most meaningful. Jem welcomed me into her house, she told me her story, and she trusted me to transform her space. It’s a major thing to be responsible for something so precious. I remember on the first day of the install, Jem handed me the keys, and she only had the one set. So it truly felt like she was entrusting me with something major. The pressure was there, and it felt like a lot of pressure if I’m being honest. But it also felt soo special to have her trust. 

Shower Curtain | Faux Plant | Metal Bath Wastebasket | Yellow Towel | White Towel | Tray | Bathmat

Hand Towel | Wood Bathroom Tumbler | Soap Dispenser

It was special to have everyone’s trust actually. And I cannot thank Catie and Emily enough for giving me the chance to be part of this makeover. I can’t wait to see what the next designer comes up with!

Now the best part – the before and afters!

*Design and Photos by Lowe Saddler of Hot Sunday Home

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2 years ago

While in many ways, this is a story of limitations and obstacles, and the transformation is perhaps not the most eye-popping makeover ever, what you have accomplished here is beautiful beyond words. After surviving homelessness with two kids, this mother must be grateful down to her toes for the solid foundation and sweet touches you’ve provided to turn her empty apartment into a home. Thank you, Lowe, for leading the effort to make an incredible difference in these people’s lives.

2 years ago
Reply to  Diane

So well said, Diane! Lowe, I hope you’re proud of yourself for making this family’s home safe and comfortable and listening to their needs and priorities. I’m sure those sweet boys will have the walls filled with art in no time!

2 years ago
Reply to  Diane

Agree! The main elements of the design are all there, and are all practical and sustainable. I think some other quick help makeovers might have dedicated more to styling but less to thoughtful furnishing that will serve the family well AND look great in photos. Well done.

2 years ago

This is a beautiful apartment thanks to a village. Congratulations to Jem. I hope this just is the continuation of something beautiful that she has already started in her own life.

2 years ago

Cute and so helpful but shoes left lined up in main area… must be a better solution at ikea

2 years ago

A calm, comfortable haven is always a good thing. Thank you for helping to make ‘home’ a reality for this family. Keep up the good work!

2 years ago

I remember starting over in a bleak apartment with barely any furniture and a young son. It took a lot of will to push through the despair and land on my feet. I can only imagine how much of a boost you’ve given this mother and her children.

2 years ago
Reply to  Ann

This is such an important point. To come into a home that feels like a HOME is everything for a family that has been through a long, difficult transition. You have given them a space that is cozy and warm, and hopefully in living there they will fully realize that they are deserving of this comfort and calm. Really lovely transformation.

2 years ago

I love this SO MUCH. Honestly, more than most makeovers I see online.
I love how the base is obviously not high-end – the bathroom counters and shower, the kitchen, the AC unit in the wall, the window shapes – like, this isn’t a million-dollar home that’s remodeled, right. BUT – you made something that’s fairly basic and accessible and in a whole lot of apartments look sleek and welcoming and fun and not cluttered and appealing, using pieces and decor that’s actually accessible (no 15K couches or 3K tables!) and it looks AMAZING.
I love this, and I love that she and her kids get a great place to come home to. Good job.

Lacy Ellsworth
2 years ago
Reply to  Ros

I also appreciated the use of affordable but quality pieces. I find it so aggravating when expensive, but impractical furniture is put into a home like this when that money could be stretched so much further. However I also love it when people in need are given nice things. We do a lot drives at my church, and I just don’t like giving second best to people who never get the best. I just think there’s a happy medium and this hit it. I also really appreciate your tone and how you talk about this family. Yes you sacrificed for them, but you weren’t demeaning at all, and you fully recognized the blessing it is to get to serve others.

2 years ago


2 years ago

Feel Good Flash Makeovers are my favorite. And you did an amazing job, Lowe!

2 years ago

Your generosity of spirit and deep desire to help this family comes through in every design choice. And, giving them a beautifully painted canvas and leaving room for them to add in the final details may be an unintentional gift. They can slowly personalize to turn this from a living space into a home. Lovely.

2 years ago

The before and after pictures at the end say it all. You created a real home. Bravo! And bravo to the family who lives there for the work they are doing!

2 years ago

My goodness. Yessss. Good stuff, Lowe! 👍 It’s a LOT of wotk sourcing, hoarding (I mean storing) everything until it’s time to install and coordinating everything! I’m sending you a hug. 😘 Jem and her boys will be in snuggle heaven now and they can add their own bits n bobs as they find their way. This has provided the foundation for them to build on. xx As I’m ploughing along doing the same scurrying for my mentee’s Safe House Room Makeover, it’s a heap of work, but the momentum stays, because the motivation is to help provide a cozy, home for the recipient. It’s a 24/7 driven obsession. I have sleepless nights, dreaming up ideas for the art projects we’re doing, to put her stamp on her space … this afternoon on my dog walk, I collected gum nuts for a wall hanging we’re ‘building’ tomorrow. We sawed the branch from the side of the road and lugged it home on Wednesday!! Literally gettin’ down n dirty for this! Ha!🤣 Stock supplies are massively, frustratingly low and then the wharfies went on strike?! Gah! 😳 It’s amazing how, as people hear about the project, it gains support and helpers.… Read more »

2 years ago

It looks wonderful. It’s even possible that by “running out of time,” you’ve left some space for this family to hang the kids’ art and the mom’s photos, making it a real home. It just struck me, if there were a way to set them up an account somewhere to fund framing and photo printing for them, if that was something they wanted, I’ll donate. xoxox.

emily jane
2 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Although I understand the frustration of running out of time and thus not being able to complete the vision you had for the space Lowe, I also agree with Lisa (above). The space you (and all of your supporting cast : ) gifted this family is perfectly poised to receive -well, THEM… Thank You for sharing the journey with all of us!

Lisa, what a grand idea!

Jennifer Barguiarena
2 years ago

What a beautiful space you have created for a family to build a home! And I agree with other comments that leaving just a little space for the family to personalize with some art created by the kids is perfect. I can’t wait to see more of these make overs!!

2 years ago

Thank you for all your effort! Sounds so stressful but you all did such a great job! The teamwork is what really makes it the best.

Roberta Davis
2 years ago

What a nice homey place! I’m sure it feels good to do something like this for people who really need it. I echo the thanks for making a difference in people’s lives comment by Diane!

2 years ago

Looks great, and, sure, a little unfinished but that’s actually perfect! Now the family can fill in the empty spaces over time with things they choose and love and really make the space theirs! It’s not picture perfect for a blog but it looks like it’s perfect for this family and that’s what’s most important. 🙂

2 years ago

This was so beautiful and moving! You gave them such a wonderful home to start their next chapter. I agree with everyone – you met their practical needs AND made it lovely and cozy – ready for them! I wouldn’t want to move into a packed show house staged for the internet – it would feel like there’s nothing left for me to do to “make it mine.”
This is honestly perfect! Well done Lowe and team! Your generosity of time and talent is really inspiring!

2 years ago

I can imagine how much less stress the family will have when they look around and realize people did this for them. Wonderful job!

2 years ago

Lowe, I hope we get a tour of your apartment here some time. It looks so interesting.

2 years ago

Loved seeing this finished space! What a great makeover.