FARGO — When Tim and Amy Paul first toured their current home in Moorhead, Minn., it wasn't love at first sight. The three-bedroom, 2.5 bath 1960s rambler-style home needed some TLC.
While the previous owners had knocked out walls, giving way to a more open-concept layout on the main level, their Realtor mentioned an idea that quickly became the selling point: installing much-needed built-ins for the living room.
"It wasn't a functional living room before," Amy says. "Where to put a couch was an issue. We knew before we bought it that built-ins were a must."
With help from Smart Spaces in Fargo, the Paul home soon had a more useful living room and the Pauls were able to focus on design style.
Taking on a semi-modern theme with gray walls and white trim, the Paul home emits character with worn, rustic accents. This theme is present in the kitchen with wood slab countertops and a 1980s Amish-crafted pine dining table gifted from relatives and complete with "all the character flaws," Amy says.
Next to the door rests a wooden dish for keys, adorned with dried yellow leaves — a detail as intricate as the petals themselves.
"The planter above the shoe shelf contains rosemary because its scent has been associated with assisting memory," Amy says. "It's a pleasant fragrance as we pass through the garage door."
Amy describes the home as "pleasantly imperfect, purposefully functional — everything is there for a reason."
The biggest inspiration — nature — is obvious throughout the home. Since she was young, the federal employee dreamed of working in or owning a flower shop. When her temporary full-time job ended in 2015, she called up Kimberly Hess from Prairie Petals and took a step toward her childhood aspirations.
"I worked there for a handful of months and it was dreamy," Amy says. "I was going to bed, dreaming about flowers, waking up just really pumped."
In April, Amy finally launched her own side business called BENEgrows.
"Bene means 'good' or 'well.' Every uplifting, positive word leads with 'bene' — beneficial, benevolent, benefaction," she says. "When you combine them — BENEgrows — goodness grows, kindness spreads."
In her home, her passion for plants is evident and her mantra is unique: Just because a plant is dead doesn't mean its usefulness has withered away.
"There's always a purpose," she says. "You hang it while it's green and it dries that way. It browns and spots in different areas, but I think it gives it character."
Even in spaces like bathrooms that often lack natural light, Amy has an alternative.
"If it doesn't work to have a real plant, then artificial works," she says.
Having lived in their home since May 2015, the Pauls have found many ways to decorate their functional, but stylish built-in cabinets along the living room wall. Live and dried branches and leaves fill vases. Pine cones serve as tangible reminders of the couple's adventures while also welcoming nature indoors.
"The rocks around our home are pieces I've collected from various outings — hikes, lakes, the spot in Duluth where Tim proposed and our dog's final trip to the cabin before he passed," Amy says.
A vintage globe representing the couple's passion for travel and adventure fits perfectly in a built-in cubby. Amy points out coins from Tim's recent trip to Montreal atop a chest that stores spare blankets. "Instead of shoving them in a drawer, I'd rather have them out. It triggers where we go next," she says.
A door off the dining room leads to a three-season sun porch where a large, hanging fern greets you. A wicker couch and chairs face triple sliding glass doors that welcome sunshine.
The home has three bedrooms, and a large, black and white map of Duluth from the late-1800s steals the show in one guest bedroom, reminding Tim of his roots. "A lot of streets I recognize," he says. "It's fun to look at for sure."
The room also acts as Amy's office. "I keep my desk in (the closet) and roll it out when I work from home, so it's here and really handy," she says.
An elaborate bouquet sits atop a wicker barrel in an adjacent bedroom near the door. "That's one of my favorite spots to put a bouquet so our dining table can be used and left open," Amy says. "This we see every time we walk to our bedroom."
Among their list of future projects is the idea to add even more greenery to the room.
"It has a south-facing window, so I'd love to go crazy in there with plants — get some shelves and cubes galore and make it a little jungle with a gallery wall of all our travels," Amy says.
With the basement currently covered in '60s wood paneling, the long-term goal is to remodel it, creating another living room for future children. But for now, the space is home to a wood shop — perfect for painting, building and crafting during the winter — and Amy's floral work room.
Tucked in a corner, Amy's floral room is filled with shelves of vases, pots and mason jars in many sizes, shapes and colors. The working countertop is bathed in sprigs and stems, ready to create a bouquet at a moment's notice. A small cooler sits on the cooler for storing to fresh arrangements.
The backyard is home to hydrangeas, lilac bushes and more.
"Some of the plants came from a bridal shower before we got married," Amy says. "I had everyone bring a perennial."
A large, lush vegetable garden produces tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes and onion, while a raised bed bears herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, chives and various leafy greens.
Not all homes come with good neighbors, but the Pauls got lucky; they share a gate with their neighbors so their goldendoodles can play together and have more fun to run. Their 11-year-old goldendoodle, Millie, doesn't complain.
Just as their plants and the floral business continue to grow, the Pauls hope their home will continue to evolve with them, providing a stage for nature and memories for years to come.
"In Italian, 'mi sento bene' is 'I feel good.' And I think that's just a fun place to be in life," Amy says.