Oakwood family’s home projects storybook charm

With a down-to-earth style similar to Magnolia’s Joanna Gaines yet a refinement reminiscent of Martha Stewart, Sarena Kelley’s knack for designing comes quite naturally.

The 6,675-square-foot Oakwood home she shares with her husband Justin and daughter, for example, feels like an English hunting lodge.

Credit: Ashley Nicole Photography

Credit: Ashley Nicole Photography

The woodland creatures inhabiting the 1924 Craftsman and Swiss chalet home include the family’s three energetically affable Great Pyrenes. The 1-year-old dogs enjoy room to roam outside and inside the 1.5-acre property.

Kelley instantly makes visitors feel welcome with a bright smile and cup of herbal tea. In early autumn, one of her favorite areas is the back patio. Located off the breakfast nook, it projects a storybook whimsy perfect for gathering.

Credit: Ashley Nicole Photography

Credit: Ashley Nicole Photography

Her enthusiasm, too, to share ideas about design, gardening and entertaining is wonderfully relaxing.

Credit: Ashley Nicole Photography

Credit: Ashley Nicole Photography


Lovers of historical architecture enjoy and recommend Kelley’s Instagram page: _ALMOSTMARTHA_. She often writes about her many do-it-yourself projects.

The petite 32-year-old has posted videos of her doing electrical work.

As a photographer, Kelley’s IG images truly inspire. In one post, she writes about painting her dining room. The previously melon-colored wallpaper, she says, was lovely to see in person, but it was “nonphotogenic.”

Armed with Studio Green paint from Farrow & Ball Paint & Paper, Kelley painted over the wallpaper. While she admits some might consider this a no-no, she says it would have taken forever to strip the wallpaper in a home that is almost 100 years old. (And would have been costly, too.)

Of course, it greatly helps that her father owned a construction company. “I was always around builders,” she says. “I was born in Hawaii, and then we moved to Tahoe.” She has helped with her parents’ home renovation.

“When I was 11, I thought I wanted to be an interior designer,” she adds. But Kelley skipped that idea, realizing it would be more rewarding to reimagine her own home.

Kelley met her husband while he was stationed at Omaha, Nebraska, and the couple later moved to Australia. In 2015, the family moved to Oakwood. “We fell in love with its charm and quaint history.”

Although this is not the first Oakwood home the couple has purchased, it is quite possible they will enjoy, restore and expand “Shadowbrook” for many years to come.


As the Thanksgiving Day holiday approaches, Kelley is gearing up to host a celebration for her family and out-of-state relatives. Part of her plan, which includes brining a turkey for three days and baking pies, focuses on completing the renovation of a side patio.

As such, she sketches down ideas and turns to her extensive library for recipes and more.

Her decor will definitely bring in the elements of nature — whether they be flowers or herbs from the gardens or greenhouse.


Kelley is a big fan of YouTube instructional videos, and she has the determination to get missions accomplished without waiting for months for others to do the work. Saving money is important as well.

But she definitely calls in the professionals when a project is too big.

About the Author