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Feels like Home

Valeria Jacobs and her husband are bringing their 1970s fixer-upper back to life, one colorful room at a time.

valeria jacobs standing in kitchen
Valeria Jacobs is in her happy place in her kitchen, which she and her husband, Paul, renovated themselves.

Valeria Jacobs considers her work as a content creator a pinch-me reality. With no formal interior design training, the mom of three (Domenic, 8; Fadrique, 6; and Eleanor, 4) never dreamed that decor could be her full-time job, but her knack for eye-catching and approachable home projects has earned her a well-deserved social media following (@rebeccaandgenevieve) and a whole new career as a home influencer.

elegant dining room with artichokes on table

Valeria got her start in the world of home design five years ago, when she found herself eager to start her own business. She’d noticed vintage rugs popping up on social media and the blogs she followed, so she decided to try her hand at selling them online under the business name Rebecca & Genevieve. Photographing the rugs led to her becoming a bit of an interior stylist, and Valeria’s Instagram account gradually gained a following of design enthusiasts. But her online community really exploded after Valeria and her husband, Paul Li, bought their house last year.

The couple had been looking for a home to buy in the Bay Area for years, but the market was tight. Valeria says, “I wish I could say that we chose the house because we saw that this was ‘the one,’ but in all honesty, it was the only house that we got an offer accepted and could afford.” Valeria could see that the 1970s house had potential beneath the dingy carpeting. “It felt right. The house was in very bad shape, but it was all cosmetic. It gave me the feeling that it could be something good,” she says.

family portrait in living room doing a puzzle
Valeria and Paul opted for a round coffee table to avoid sharp corners near their three young kids: Domenic, Fadrique, and Eleanor. Valeria uses museum putty to keep the gallery wall straight.

“We’ve been working little by little, but basically nonstop since we moved in.”

cheery dining room with herringbone hard wood floors
The floors in the dining room are engineered hardwood that’s designed to be installed as a herringbone.

Between the time of their offer and the closing, COVID-19–related stay-at-home orders set in. The couple found themselves with only 10 days to get the house ready for their family of five to move in. “We were rushing to remove the wallpaper and carpeting, and at least get the house clean,” says Valeria. After the initial whirlwind clean-out, the Li Jacobs family found themselves in the unexpected situation of being unable to bring in outside contractors and having time of their own to spare. They decided to do what they could themselves.

green living room with brick fireplace
To revive the existing fireplace, Valeria did a mortar wash on the brick and stripped the paint off the wood mantel.

They started with what Valeria deemed #bandaidrenovation: a $200 living room refresh, new paint everywhere, including on kitchen cabinets, and peel-and-stick marble paper to cover the dated countertops. Valeria shared it all—including her budget—because she wanted to show her audience how even a small amount of time and money could transform a space.

With the help of YouTube tutorials, the couple tackled bigger projects, such as designing and building custom bunk beds for their kids, creating an arched doorway, and eventually completing a full kitchen renovation (finished right before their Reveal shoot). With each project, she gained confidence in both her skills and her style.

Freed of the constraints of being a renter, Valeria leaned into vivid wall colors and wallpaper (sometimes both in one room, like the kids’ bathroom). She also paid attention to the humblest of spaces: Valeria has made over the insides of closets with cheerful floral wallpaper and even turned the under-stair space into a pantry you’d be happy to hang out in. “I like opening the door and seeing something unexpected,” she says. “And if it looks beautiful, I’m more likely to keep it organized.”

“Before this house, we rented, and we couldn’t do anything. Owning a home has given us all the confidence to learn new skills.”

Valeria says the house remains a work in progress, but she is amazed by all they have been able to do in such a short time. “Owning a house is like a dream come true,” she says. “Both of us are immigrants; we came here with nothing, and just seeing how much we have achieved, that’s the most amazing thing.”

moody clay wall guest bedroom
Valeria admits she’s often too impatient to properly test colors before painting a whole room, but in the case of the Canyon Clay by Sherwin-Williams shiplap in the guest bedroom, she got the color right the first time.

By Laura Fenton | Photographs by Alanna Hale

This article originally appeared in the Holiday 2022 issue of Drew + Jonathan Reveal, Drew & Jonathan’s home and lifestyle magazine.

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