Few families could handle living in seven houses in nine years, but for Anissa and Brian Zajac, each move brought them one step closer to the home of their dreams. And as a bonus, the quest provided the namesake for the couple’s interior design and remodeling company—House Seven Design—while catapulting Anissa to fame as an influencer on Instagram, where she has more than 200,000 followers. For Anissa, however, the 1946 Cape Cod in Meridian Hills where they currently reside wasn’t exactly love at first sight. “I hated it,” she says with a laugh. It took a little convincing from Brian (who loved the place from the beginning) and a whole lot of creative vision to transform the latest house into one the couple never plans to leave.
Surprisingly, neither the moves nor the business were ever in the master plan for the Zajacs. Anissa has no formal design training, and Brian’s professional background was in the restaurant industry. While staying home to raise their three young girls (now ages 5, 10, and 13), Anissa found herself rearranging furniture and switching up artwork in her previous houses as a creative outlet. Her blog was born, and Instagram followed soon after. Friends noticed her natural eye for home design and wanted to hire her, yet she was hesitant. At the same time, Brian started to do trim work and other small tasks around the house. His father and grandfather loved woodworking, and he learned the craft from them. But after a 70-hour week at his day job, he rarely had the energy to devote to side projects. Eventually, though, a scout at HGTV came across Anissa’s social media posts and asked the couple to film a pilot for a show about remodeling. The episode never aired, but it gave Anissa the confidence to pursue design professionally. House Seven took off.
As for the series of moves, the Zajacs tried their hand at suburban living in several northside outposts and never felt satisfied. They found themselves spending weekends downtown or in Broad Ripple, eager for more culture, diversity, mature trees, and walkable amenities. Both loved Meridian Hills, and they thought it might be a better fit for the life they wanted. “Living in the suburbs, we felt like we were in this hamster wheel, this same old, same old existence,” Anissa says. “It was more than just, ‘We want to live in a new neighborhood.’ We wanted to change the trajectory of our lives.”
The 3,200-square-foot Cape Cod (four bedrooms, four bathrooms) that immediately captivated Brian required an interior demolition down to the studs before Anissa felt the same way about it. They spent several months doing extensive renovations before moving in. “Everything on the main level was blown out and rebuilt,” Brian says. “We completely reconfigured the layout.” The dated entryway felt dark and closed off, so they took down a wall, relocated the closet, and Brian laid washed brick in a herringbone pattern for the new floor. White board and batten provided texture and interest and immediately brightened the space.
For Anissa, their renovated home needed to be comfortable, but also inviting. She describes her design style as “rustic modern” and draws nearly all her inspiration from nature, whether it’s a piece of funky driftwood or the rich green of a fiddle leaf fig tree.
“My aesthetic always starts with a canvas of white, black, and wood,” she says. “I think you can have a monochromatic room, but if you don’t have any warmth in it from natural, organic elements, then it feels very sterile.”
One specific natural element causes a stir on Instagram each time it’s posted: the cut logs stacked in a nook on the back wall of the living room next to meticulously decorated shelves.
Commenters insist the house must be overrun with bugs from the wood or that the drywall will be damaged irrevocably, but Brian and Anissa have never had any problems with it. Along with being the background for the perfect #shelfie, the logs are also functional—the family uses them regularly to fuel their fireplace (a cozy, welcome sight near the front door).
In the kitchen—one of their favorite rooms in the house—black soapstone countertops contrast with white cabinetry. A classic farmhouse sink and white subway tile backsplash suit the rustic side of Anissa’s aesthetic. One big advantage of being a social media influencer who posts every day is that brands such as American Standard provide free faucets and other materials in exchange for exposure on Anissa’s Instagram feed.
The large island is a preferred hangout spot when guests come over (and it’s a great place for Anissa to sit and catch up with Brian while he cooks dinner). Their girls are often nearby, doing homework in wishbone chairs at the eight-seat farmhouse table. Just off the kitchen, the back room of the house includes shiplap, a cozy nook to watch TV, and the other big statement-maker: a sliding barn door that conceals the laundry room and is an original House Seven design.
While their to-do list is far from complete (future plans include a “cocktail pool” and two-story garage/workshop combo), the Zajacs are looking forward to a little holiday downtime, pausing the renovations, and filling their home with family and friends. Even during this interlude, however, it’s safe to say that thousands of Instagram followers will be watching it all for design inspiration.