Name | Erin Francois
Business Name | Francois et Moi
Social Handle | @francois_et_moi
City of Residence | Minneapolis, MN
Number of years in current home | 3.5 years
Tell us the story of your home. To you, what sets it apart or makes it unique aside from the fact that you and your family are the ones who live in it.
What sets our home apart is that it’s a duplex. We owner-occupy the main floor of the home and rent out the one bedroom + den apartment upstairs. The units split in the entry foyer and are completely separate and self-sufficient.
As far as the home’s history, we know the home was built in 1934 as a duplex, but not much else beyond that. I’d love to know more about the original owners and the thought process behind building a solidly-constructed, charming duplex during the heart of the The Great Depression.
While opening up walls during renovations we found a newspaper in the wall dated 1937, and one of the headlines read, ‘Gang Smashes Vault, Carries Away $400’. We also found a brochure for professional landscaping services which I thought was interesting considering it was amidst tough economic times.
How would you describe your personal home style?
My style leans modern with moments of Nordic and Mid-century. The home’s architecture style is Tudor Revival and much more traditional. I love the way the our modern personal style juxtaposes the home’s early 20th Century charm.
What is your favorite space in your home?
My favorite spot is our living room. It’s THE spot we hang out the most together as a family (we don’t have a family room or den). Most everything in here is hardworking, but also fits our style. The furniture is stain resistant; we’ve eliminated most sharp corners, and incorporated lots of toy storage, etc. so that we can relax and play as a family in here.
Also, the room is east and south facing so it gets wonderful morning and mid-afternoon light, and it’s home to some of my favorite collected pieces including an antique Persian Rug (which btw is an EXPERT spill camouflage-er!)
If you could share one thing about yourself with readers that you've perhaps never shared publicly or via social media, what would it be?
Something I don’t talk publicly about very often was my struggle with post-partum anxiety when my daughter was born.
Even writing about it now, brings up tears because it was probably the roughest time in my life to date. As with many new mamas, my hormone levels dipped super low after having Sylvia. She had colic, and we later discovered she also had severe acid reflux, so if she wasn’t sleeping or eating, she was crying, often screaming. Literally morning to night.
I avoided going on anxiety medication for nearly 6 weeks post-partum in fear of how it might affect my breastmilk.
I was struggling to take care of myself, much less our tiny new baby. Every day was an intense struggle, and I had never felt so incompetent--so much like a failure
I began seeing a post-partum therapist, and ultimately went on anxiety medication, and within two weeks, I felt so much lighter. I could finally roll with the punches, and I started to find my new normal.
I don’t share this story very often because I don’t want to come off as ungrateful for our uneventful pregnancy and our beyond-incredible daughter. I’m sharing this because post-partum anxiety is so much more common than I ever imagined, and if I can help even one person to know they’re not alone, they’re not ‘crazy’, weak, or a failure, then it’s worthwhile.
What was life like for you growing up in your childhood home?
I grew up in Northern Minnesota, in a town on Lake Superior. We were very middle class—maybe even lower-middle class, but I had a wonderful childhood. My parents were both very involved and worked really hard to give my older sister and I every opportunity.
My mom was (and still is) an incredible seamstress and avid maker, so she was always sewing up clothes and costumes for my sister and me, especially on Halloween. I think I won the church Halloween costume several years running thanks to her.
My maternal grandmother was a fashion artist for a local department store back before photography was used in print ads. She was also very into making, painting, drawing, etc. too. I remember a vivid afternoon as a young girl, maybe 7 years old, sitting at her kitchen table surrounded by paper and massive box of art supplies and her teaching me how to draw facial features.
Needless to say, there were lots of opportunities and supplies close at hand for me to experiment with as a kid. I’m not even sure my mom and grandma intentionally encouraged my creativity, it was simply what they liked to do, so it was only natural to include me in the fun.
What does home mean to you? What do you want others to feel when they enter/spend time in your home?
For me, home is where I can decompress and recharge with my family. I want others to feel welcome and relaxed as they spend time at our place, specifically great natural light and an uncluttered, thoughtful design sensibility are two ways I try to achieve this.
I’d say my proudest (largest) DIY to date was taking on our fixer upper duplex. We jumped in right away with a double kitchen renovation, navigated the process of legally becoming landlords, and found a tenant in a matter of 4 months. Looking back it was a lot, but we didn’t seem to think so. It was a blast.
Do you think you've learned to embrace your story? Your home? Why or why not? Explain.
I think I learned to embrace my story or journey sometime in my late twenties when I began to really internalize the idea that there are so many ways to live a full life: all different kinds of American dreams and lots of ways to define ‘normal’.
Owner/occupying a duplex may seem unusual, but it’s our version of an American dream. We see it as an exciting stepping stone. A way to save for the next place, live in a Minneapolis neighborhood that would have otherwise been a financial stretch, and allow me to work part time when our daughter was born. Being that the duplex isn’t our forever house, I’m not sure I’ve ever really looked at our home situation as something to embrace, but rather to celebrate.
If there was one piece of advice that you could give to others as to how to embrace their home and their story, what would that be?
1. I would say try to focus on the positive trade-offs. By living in a smaller/older apartment or holding off renovating your kitchen, are you able to pay down your student loans faster, save for a house down payment or perhaps retirement? There’s a lot to be said for living within (or even below) your means to lay the foundation for goals that might currently be out of reach.
When we were first married, Ken and I lived in a fairly crappy 1960’s apartment for 6 years in order to save for a 20% down payment on a house.
2. Practice Gratitude Daily. Write down or discuss with your partner or a friend, one or two things you are thankful for. On freezing Minneapolis winter nights I often think just how lucky I am to have a warm spot for my family to lay our heads. It’s pretty crazy just how powerful gratitude and positive thinking can be.
Thanks so much, Erin, for sharing your home and heart with us.
Erin, a self-proclaimed Francophile, is an interior styling nut and DIY’er to the absolute core. She uses her background in interior design to create handmade, modern pieces for the home that add originality, beauty and functionality to the everyday and is drawn to visually clean and modern spaces that are softened and made approachable by handmade and imperfect pieces that add soul and affect how we, as homeowners, interact with and feel in our spaces.