Less Is More

Photography by: Dan Austin 

Jon and Sarah Bucklew make the most of their small space. With an eye for the minimalist aesthetic and a keen focus on craftsmanship, the couple has created an apartment that maximizes on style, in less than 900 square feet.

Home is where your heart is — unless you’re the Bucklews. Then home is also where your plants, big comfy couch, and Huckleberry the Great(est) Dane is. Jon and Sarah Bucklew, owners of Seventeen20 and founders of The Joinery (a modern food hall and craft brewery opening soon in Lakeland), have the home that every minimalist dreams of, complete with a massive leather sectional; open shelving; and crisp, clean lines. This dynamic duo has mastered creating a home that speaks for itself.

The Bucklews work better together, whether they’re running their furniture business, opening a food hall, or decorating a new home. At just under 900 square feet, this updated apartment would not be the same modern masterpiece without that creative synergy.

The Lakelander: What do you think your home says about you?

Jon Bucklew: I think it says that we are very organized, handy, and minimal.

Sarah Bucklew: I hope it says we’re happy, simple, orderly people!

TL: What is your favorite spot in your home?

JB: I have two. The first is right here at the countertop, because if I’m sitting here then I’m eating something that Sarah has cooked. The second place is where Sarah is [on the couch]. We don’t have a TV in the living room, but I splurged and bought a little short-throw projector. We put it on the floor so the whole wall becomes a movie screen. A couple times a month we’re able to kick back on our big leather couch and watch a movie.

SB: Probably the kitchen/living room area, because that’s where we spend most of our time when we’re home. We love cooking, having people over for dinner, etc.

TL: If I were a fly on the wall in your home for the weekend, what would I typically see?

JB: A lot of in and out for me. Most of the time I’m here for just a short window in the morning, and then throughout the day I’m in and out for like 10 to 15 minutes. Between the shop [Seventeen20] and the new project, I’m working days, nights, and weekends.

SB: Well, right now, a lot of busy-ness: cleaning/housekeeping, working on our computers/iPads/phones, leaving to work at the space or at our furniture shop, returning for lunch/dinner, etc. But normally, when our life is in its normal state, you’d see lots of napping on the couch! I LOVE long naps on weekends — like two to three hours!

If there’s one thing I learned from this interview, it’s that the Bucklews love to work. Before they started their furniture company, Seventeen20, their professional lives looked totally different, but they were still just as busy. Jon was working as a travelling musician while Sarah was working as a travelling software consultant. Once again, they’re moving in a new direction by opening Lakeland’s own food hall: The Joinery.

Their home feels like the perfect place to return to at the end of a long work week. The simplicity and organization of the home allows all who enter to relax and enjoy the beauty of the space. Not to mention their Great Dane, Huckleberry, who you can’t help but want to snuggle with.

TL: What’s one thing you think every apartment should have?

JB: Greenery and natural light. It brings so much vibrancy to the space.

SB: Plants! They add so much life, coziness, and beauty to a space. I do wish we had more natural light. It’s pretty dim, so I have to buy mostly low-light plants because of all the oak and camphor trees surrounding the property.

JB: I would also say less clutter. I think cramming everything you can into a small space can actually make it feel even smaller than it is. So I feel like the more you can take out of it, and only have the essentials, the bigger the space will feel.

TL: Where do you look for decorating inspiration?

JB: I get inspired a lot by the restaurants, hotels, and other commercial spaces I’ve seen in my travels, especially in Australia, Japan, California, and the Pacific Northwest—everything from the cladding on the exteriors of buildings, to the shelving or display tables at a cool shop, to the way the front desk at a boutique hotel is designed can inspire a new idea or direction.

SB: Everywhere, honestly, but certainly I love perusing online magazines/blogs like Dwell, Remodelista, Design Milk, Dezeen, and others. I think what happens most often is that I’ll see an image or read a story that inspires a certain feeling that I later attempt to recreate, often with the same colors or textures. The way a space feels is really important to me.

It’s so easy to get lost in the world of home decor inspiration (I’m looking at you, Pinterest). But with everyone going to the same platform for ideas, it can be difficult to have a home that feels like your own. 

In the era of unoriginality, the Bucklews have prevailed. Jon’s craftsmanship and Sarah’s eye for design have allowed them to create original pieces that are true to their style. Although their home decor is original, the simplicity of the space makes it feel familiar and down to earth.

“I think it’s super important to decorate/design for the reality of how you live. Don’t design for a minimalist if you’re not one. you’ll only end up frustrated.”

This red oak dresser has been with Sarah since she was a baby. It has been refinished several times, painted multiple colors, and even left completely natural at one time.

TL: What’s the best piece of decorating wisdom you’ve ever heard?

JB: Less is more.

SB: Design/decorate practically. I think it’s super important to decorate/design for the reality of how you live. Don’t design for a minimalist if you’re not one. You’ll only end up frustrated. We’re minimalists and can get away with having very little storage furniture, or I guess, storage period. But not everyone lives that way. If you design your bathroom as if you’re a minimalist but you have drawers and shelves full of products, it just won’t work, for example, to do away with a vanity and try to use just a floating countertop. I think you’ll end up discouraged and frustrated. Think practically about how you use your space, and design with that in mind. Like, if you have three kids, two dogs, and a cat, don’t buy a couch with white/neutral fabric that can’t be cleaned easily. You’ll either never let anyone sit on it, or you’ll be so sad all the time about how worn/stained it’s looking.

TL: Will your home decor have an impact on the interior design of The Joinery?

JB: I would say absolutely. I mean, I think in the same way that this apartment turned out similar to our last house, I think The Joinery will do the same. Because of what each of us brings to the table, we definitely have a distinct look/style. I think The Joinery will look and sound and feel like us, because it IS us.

SB: I’m not sure it will have a direct impact, but I’d say that where I am currently in terms of what I’m inspired by hasn’t changed very much from when we renovated the apartment a year ago, so in that way, yes. Expect lots of white, black, light wood tones, and plants!

TL: The two of you have talked about hosting and having guests over for dinner. Since you can’t host many guests in your apartment, is The Joinery a roundabout way to be able to host on a larger scale?

JB: I think by nature I’m a gatherer, and Sarah is a a hostess. I’m focused on how The Joinery will bring people together—vendors and guests—and she’s really excited about the experience we hope to create for them.

SB: I don’t think we would’ve noticed that before you said it. Yeah, something I miss about our old house was the ability to host a lot of people, and although that isn’t exactly the reason, I think subconsciously it  totally could’ve been.