When author Jackson Pearce is not writing, she enjoys tackling DIY projects, such as tiling the backsplash and installing a farmhouse-style sink in her kitchen, or building a “chicken fortress” in her Decatur backyard.

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“There were lots of odd challenges with this renovation, since it was bigger than anything we’d taken on before,” she said.

Updating her home is meditative, and it fuels her creative process, too. In her book “Ellie, Engineer,” the title character is described as being equipped with a tool belt, an imagination and “ready to build anything.”

“Doing all of these renovations definitely helped me hone in on what skills I wanted Ellie to have and what things I wanted her to be able to teach,” she said.

Jackson Pearce, an author of middle grade and young adult books, has taken on DIY projects since purchasing her Decatur home.
Photo: Text by Marena Galluccio/Photos by Christopher Oquendo


Residents: Jackson Pearce, fiance Nelson Dean and pets Alcott, a cat, and dogs Kipling and Franklin. Pearce is an author of middle grade and young adult books; Dean is a history teacher.

Location: Decatur

Size: 1,200 square feet, three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths

Year built/bought: 1955/2017

Architectural style: Ranch

Renovations: In the kitchen, she replaced the blue tile counter with Ikea butcher block countertops that were stained. The blue tile backsplash was removed and replaced with marble subway tile from BuildersDepot.com. “I’ve never done that before and I was really nervous about that. While definitely (one of) the more time-consuming jobs, it was definitely one of the easiest jobs,” she said. “It’s literally just playing Tetris.”

Also in the kitchen, the fluorescent lights were swapped out with recessed lights, the cabinets were repainted and updated with new hardware, and a farmhouse sink found on eBay was installed. She updated the basement stairs by pulling up the carpet, adding molding to fill the gaps between the stairs and the wall, repainting them and adding a runner. “It was a really tedious project, but they look great now,” she said. The sinks were replaced in the bathroom. Outside, the deck railing was rebuilt.

Interior design style: Fresh and friendly, as described by Pearce.

Favorite interior design elements: Artwork with a “side of whimsy,” Pearce said. The home has pieces from local artists, including Cat Lanta medallions, a robot statute from Michael Klapthor, pet portraits and a giant “B” from a Borders bookstore sign.

Favorite outdoor feature: The chicken coop, which used a plan from TheGardenCoop.com.

Resources: Furniture from Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor.com, as well as outlet finds from Anthropologie and Grandin Road. Art from InkyMixtape and Rifle Paper Co. Shower curtain from ModCloth. Paint by Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams and Behr.

Tip: If you have an older desk or purchase a used piece, consider replacing the top. On her metal desk in the home office, she replaced the top with a piece of wood that she stained. “It’s a really big desk, which is nice, because I have a lot of things spread out sometimes,” she said.

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