Creative Wonders

New York Mom’s Thrifted ‘French Country’ Home Proves You Can Find Beauty on a Budget

BY Louise Chambers TIMEMarch 3, 2023 PRINT

A stay-at-home mom who found her penchant for design while raising three young children has made her house a home, full of affordable thrifted gems, combining French, English, and traditional design.

Originally from New Jersey, Leah Kroeber, 48, lives in New York with her husband, and three children aged 22, 18, and 14. She was inspired by the American designer Charles Faudree to start playing with different decor styles at home, eventually settling on the French country style as her favorite for its warmth and liveability.

Kroeber told The Epoch Times: “My goal for my house was that people could come into it and say, ‘Wow, this looks beautiful,’ but they’re not afraid to sit down. They’re not afraid to put a drink down on the table, thinking they’re going to ruin something.

“It’s cozy but elegant,” she said. “To me it’s timeless; I think that if I didn’t touch one thing in this house in ten years, it would still be appealing.”

Epoch Times Photo
Leah Kroeber in the main family living room. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)

Kroeber enjoys layering a room with color and texture and says that combining different fabrics and prints has become one of her specialties. She also loves collecting ironstone, chinoiserie, and French pottery from the 1870s to 1930s but will also buy reproductions since “not everything has to be an original.”

“Creating a home is not a quick process, it takes time to discover your likes and needs,” she said. “A collected home takes years and is work constantly in progress.”

Epoch Times Photo
The main family living room. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)

The Kroeber family bought their house, a former “spec house” or show home, from a housing development.

“It was comfortable, my kids could live in it too,” Kroeber said. However, according to her, the house lacked charm. She thus stripped back the American country influence of the home’s first owners and began integrating French country style with some new furniture and decor pieces.

Through this process, Kroeber realized how much she loved decorating.

Epoch Times Photo
A corner in the main family living room. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)

“We’ve been here for about 21 years, so we’ve done a lot of work,” Kroeber said. “I started to realize, also, that I didn’t have to be a millionaire to have a home that was collected and have beautiful pieces in it.”

Walking into Kroeber’s foyer, visitors will see antique lamps beside new artwork on the walls.

She has also added vintage wallpaper and art to the dining room. Meanwhile, her kitchen, which was remodeled 20 years ago, has stood the test of time.

“I was very pleased with the cabinetry that I picked because it seems to be timeless,” said Kroeber, who taught herself to cook when her kids were young, and briefly ran her own baking company along with doing private catering in homes.

Epoch Times Photo
The dining room. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)

In the family den, Kroeber has added a traditional French country sofa and coffee table and a re-upholstered chair.

“This fireplace was old and it doesn’t work, but I just put decor in there, candles,” Kroeber said. “It’s mixing the old with the new, that’s what I love.”

Kroeber also has a special area with decorated plates that were all mainly bought from Etsy.

Epoch Times Photo
The den. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)

Throughout the home, Kroeber combines fresh with fake flowers to enjoy floral displays year-round including English roses from her newly-planted rose garden. She loves to collect art, picking up unique pieces for as little as $50 a painting and has rescued Victorian window valances from a home that was being torn down to be cleaned and hung in her bedroom and dining room.

“I’m not spending trillions of dollars on this stuff, it’s just collecting and putting things together,” Kroeber said.

The main living room was “a challenge,” Kroeber said since its rectangular shape made placing furniture tricky. But after living in the space and trying out multiple combinations, the room finally became her favorite space in the home.

Epoch Times Photo
A part of the main family living room. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)
Epoch Times Photo
The foyer. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)

As the cozy French country home came together, the kids encouraged their mom to use her photography skills to start sharing her handiwork on her Instagram account: @thefrenchcountryfarmhouse.

Kroeber told The Epoch Times, “It was actually my daughters who convinced me … when I started the account, I had eleven followers. Now I have over 30,000. Something clicked.”

Since being on social media, Kroeber said she has not only been able to develop relationships with others but it has also become a platform for her to share her interest in cooking, homes, and decorating with others.

“I’ve met so many really, really good people,” said Kroeber, who sometimes “treasure hunts” for home decor items from her followers’ stores and collaborates with home decor companies she has connected with online.

For those who ask Kroeber how she manages to create a home by staying away from trends and purchasing what she likes, she said it is about staying “true to yourself,” and buying the pieces you love for your home which makes it all come together.

“I also say if you are into collecting something in particular, display it correctly. Don’t clutter it all into one cabinet or a table. Spread the collection throughout your home,” Kroeber said. “It is more visually appealing and each piece can be enjoyed.”

Epoch Times Photo
A part of the kitchen. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)

Such a carefully-curated home requires an equally careful cleaning regime, but organization is second-nature to Kroeber. She has a “system,” but also “likes playing around with the decor,” and uses moving things around as an excuse to keep things tidy.

“We have five people who live here plus two dogs, a cat, and two guinea pigs, so you’ve got to keep a clean house,” Kroeber said. “I don’t look at it as a chore, I look at it as a labor of love.”

Epoch Times Photo
A part of the main family living room. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)

The family are self-professed “homebodies,” but share their special home as often as they can by throwing dinner parties almost every weekend and hosting holidays at home.

“None of my kids are going away to college, they want to stay home,” said Kroeber, for whom “home” means “love.”

She said: “The home itself … I just embrace it. It’s like a warm blanket on a cold day, you don’t want to leave it. You just want to be here, you want to just take it all in.”

Epoch Times Photo
A part of the den. (Courtesy of Leah Kroeber)

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Louise Chambers is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.
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