When DIY means ‘Discover In Yourself’
Tarah Wolff, owner of the monthly-updated Grandma’s House DIY blog (grandmashousediy.com), has a story full of triumph, turmoil, and renovations.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Tarah was homeschooled and spent time between her grandparents' dairy farm and her parents' golf course.
But the restoration bug caught Tarah early. “I owned a house before I bought my first car, when I was 19,” notes Tarah.
No wallowing allowed
With big dreams of renovating and restoring homes, she co-signed on the loan of what she knew could be a beautiful home. The first restoration taught her a lot of tough lessons: She learned what not to do, and also how important it was to have a business partner you could trust.
After six years of renovations, splitting time between her family home and the restoration, she decided it was time to go home.
“Minnesota had been hollering me back for years—it was way past time that I listened.”
Life took some unexpected twists and turns when she got home. Her parent’s business was sold, her family became divided, and she lost her two grandmothers all within a few years. However, when most would wallow, she kept going.
Moving on, moving home
It all started with furniture.
While cleaning out her grandparents' farmhouse, Tarah discovered that she couldn’t let go of the beautiful pieces of furniture her grandmother had—instead, she decided to restore them.
Tarah said working on these pieces gave her purpose again and helped her realize she’d like to give renovating another try. She looked at a few properties, but then realized the perfect one had literally been right under her feet.
In April 2014, Tarah found her way back to her roots and purchased her grandparents’ farm.
Now began the adventure of restoring the century-old farmhouse. Renovating this home meant preserving the memories of not just the 50 years her grandparents lived there, but also memories of her mother’s childhood and her own. Tarah’s mother, aunt, dad, and brother helped with the renovations but it was Tarah’s restoration.
“With almost nothing hired out, I managed to finish the electrical and plumbing in December 2014. (And passed inspection—PHEW!!!)” she says.
Then, she got married the next year and moved into the house with hopes and dreams of a life together restoring the rest of the home.
Sad ending builds a new name
Unfortunately this part of the story had a sad ending, so she picked up the pieces to continue alone. This time, however, she was able to do it the way she wanted, and in doing so found her independence.
“These labors transformed me just as deeply and completely as all of the transformations I have created along the way.”
That year she christened the home to mark her new beginning with a combination of her grandmother’s names: “Storyhardt Farm.”
Present day Tarah has found her other half—Lodi—who adores her quirks, celebrates her achievements, and shares her dreams. Striving to inspire and teach others, Tarah’s blog is full of DIY’s, restoration hacks and real life.
“You can do anything you put your mind to, male or female. Houses, furniture—none of it cares how old you are, how strong you are, or whether you know the difference between a reciprocating saw or a jigsaw.”
Through hardships, family deaths, and even divorce Tarah persevered and in restoring her family’s old home, she found she was restoring herself.
“It felt as though my life, finally, clicked into the place it was supposed to be and so much of it is due to this little home of mine,” she says. “Having this place to take care of because it takes such good care of me is the happy story of my life.”
About the author
A successful small business owner and advisor, Jessica Dilger writes from “Shoo Fly Ranch,” a homestead acreage in southwest Washington state where she lives with her family, 30 or so chickens, 14 cows, and two goats named Ben and Jerry.
Take a tour of Tarah's Grandma’s house: