Input Home Tours: Plants and made-in-Fort Wayne spirit create a cozy 'nest' on Rudisill Blvd.

As more residents hunker down at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, we're seizing the opportunity to explore some of the coolest and most interesting living spaces in Northeast Indiana as a part of our new Input Home Tours series.

This week, roommates and best friends, Fort Wayne’s famous “Bravas Hot Dog Lady” Katie Jo and October “Tobi” Newson, give us a tour of their artsy, eclectic home filled with local spirit: The Crow’s Nest on Rudisill.

Roommates and best friends, Katie Jo and Tobi Newson, share their intimate, artsy Fort Wayne home.

Who lives in your home?

KJ & ON: Katie Jo, October "Tobi" Newson, and her pup, Jake. Bff’s and roomies. Katie Jo and Tobi Newson have lived at the Crow's Nest just shy of a year and a half.

How long have you lived in this home?

KJ & ON: Just shy of a year and a half.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves: How long you’ve lived in Fort Wayne and where you work around town. 

KJ: I have lived in Fort Wayne since 2015. I moved here looking for a place to call home, and I most definitely found it! For work, I spent a few years managing the Bravas Food Truck, and currently am the Marketing and Booking Manager for Affine Hospitality. I get to work promoting some of the best local food providers in town! Junk Ditch Brewing Company, GK Baked Goods, and Affine Food Truck. 

ON: I moved here 7 years ago, moved away for a couple of years, and moved back in 2018. I currently work as the Marketing Manager at Harley-Davidson of Fort Wayne.

Do you work from home?

KJ: Currently, yes. I do most of my work from home, except when I am out documenting the delicious food being served at Junk Ditch or GK Baked Goods.

ON: I do for now.

Tell us about your space.

KJ & ON: Our house was built in 1935. It is a multi-family home, and our unit is upstairs. It has two bedrooms and one bathroom.

Tobi Newson works on embroidery at home.

What inspired you to move into this home, of all places?

KJ: We were inspired to move in by the owners, my best friends, Cory Allen and Kody Tinnel. Tobi and I were both looking for a new space in Fort Wayne, and this was the perfect place for us! I knew I wanted to stay on the South side of town. Plus, knowing our landlords has been an awesome experience.

ON: When I moved back to Ft. Wayne in 2018, it happened in a hurry, and I landed in a home I didn’t love, alone. Meanwhile, our friends, Cory and Kody (affectionately dubbed The Boys), purchased this home and renovated it. The space became available at just the right time, and Katie and I moved in! 

A variety of art, mainly from artists the roommates know, decorates the wall.

Tell us about your neighborhood and what you love about living there.

KJ: I love the uniqueness of all the houses in the neighborhood. We are close to some great local businesses, and I have really enjoyed getting to know some of our neighbors! Plus, we are so close to downtown Fort Wayne! 

ON: I love the diversity in the ’07. Being close to Downtown and Foster Park. I love walking through the neighborhood and looking at the unique homes. Plus, there are SO MANY DOGS!

A variety of plants fill the living room as their dog Jake sits on the rug.
During COVID-19, at a time when so many Americans are spending more time in their homes than usual, have you found yourself making design updates to your space? If so, what are they?

KJ: When we first went into quarantine, we got to work making our space just what we wanted. Lots of furniture moving and making it a place where we could have lots of space for our plants!

ON: Oh yes! We’re both the type to constantly move things around to make the best use of a space and make it as homey as possible. We move our furniture around constantly—usually to accommodate new plants or art, and most recently, to make space for both of us to work from home. Living in a small space requires a certain fluidity to not feel cramped.

How would you describe your design style?

KJ: We have an eclectic and sustainable design style. Most of our furniture was either thrifted or gifted to us. We have lots of local art on the walls. I love that we can support our friends AND have beautiful art to look at all the time.

ON: Eclectic with bohemian flair.

Floating shelves are a feature at the home of Katie Jo and Tobi Newson.

Floating shelves are a feature at the home of Katie Jo and Tobi Newson.

Where do you find your design inspiration?

KJ: I am inspired by my community and have loved handpicking the art that is on our walls. Cory and Kody made this duplex a great blank slate. They installed some great shelving and lighting in the living room, and the kitchen was remodeled before we moved in. I love the subway tile in the kitchen and all the light it gets! We are pretty sustainable and do our best to keep things out of the trash, so you’ll find a lot of items repurposed in our home.

ON: My friends are the biggest source of inspiration. With very few exceptions, all the art on our walls was created or gifted by people we know and love. We both moved into our home with several houseplants, and our collection has grown quite a bit over the last 18 months. Most of our furniture was free or thrifted, which contributes to the eclectic vibe.

An orange chair from their friends/landlords is a feature in their living room.

Have you faced any design challenges in your current space, and if so, how did you overcome them?

KJ: We don’t have much space, so any time a change is made there is lots of discussion about how to maximize. Recently, we moved some things around in our living room and were surprised by how much bigger the space looked by moving things around and removing a small table in the corner.

ON: We have a pretty small space for two people and a pup. I have a lot of hobbies, and some of them—thrifting, camping, and photography, especially—can take up quite a bit of room. Luckily, we have a basement where we’re able to store the things we don’t use on a daily basis. 

What is your favorite room/space in your home? Tell us about it.

KJ: I love all of it. It is so small that I really consider it all one space. The living room is where most of our plants live and where we spend time together binging “New Girl.” I spend A LOT of time in our kitchen and enjoy making delicious food for us to enjoy. It gets the most light, too, and I love being in there on a sunny day, cooking up something from our patio garden or making our juice for the week.

The kitchen is filled with natural light at the home of Katie Jo and Tobi Newson.

The kitchen is filled with natural light at the home of Katie Jo and Tobi Newson.

ON: Our living room is just so magical. It’s a cozy sanctuary that's equal parts museum and botanical garden. We don’t own a TV, so there’s not a screen as the central focal point of the room. No matter where you sit, you have a great view. It’s so easy to just sit and relax and to be inspired in this room.

A variety of art, mainly from artists the roommates know, decorates the wall.

What is your favorite piece of furniture or décor in your home? Tell us about it.

KJ: The coolest thing in our house is our Dirt Wain bucket! We compost with them, and I am obsessed with the work they are doing to better our community! Plus, they make it so easy to keep food waste out of our trash!

ON: As much as I love everything we own, I’d have to say my favorite is my bed. It’s the only piece of furniture I invested a lot of money in, and it’s the piece of furniture I spend the most time on. Not only is it incredibly comfortable, but it’s also adorned with my grandmother's quilts, which are my most prized possessions. (It’s Jake’s favorite piece of furniture, as well.) 

Hanging lights in the living room are a feature at the home.

What advice do you have for others looking to update their space in Fort Wayne? Any local shops or resources you would recommend?

KJ: I would encourage anyone looking to update their space to take inventory of what they have before going out and buying new! Sometimes, it just takes moving some furniture around and wiping down your baseboard to make a space feel like new! I also love local shops, like Fancy & Staple and Bellazo (Wabash), for when I want to get something new for our home.

ON: When in doubt, get a houseplant. Nothing makes a house feel like a home more than some greenery, especially in the winter. I recommend McNamera and The Honey Plant for houseplants. Fort Wayne also has so many incredible artists, many of which take commissions and/or sell prints. I’d also recommend second-hand stores, yard & estate sales, and the Facebook Marketplace for gently used gems. 

Plants are hung using extra support closet hangers in front of a window in their living room.

Any fun tips or tricks for home updates on a budget?

KJ: Check with your community before spending money on something you need. A lot of the times, people have extra furniture, and are happy to find it a new home! Also, we love finding new uses for stuff that would normally go in the trash or recycling. House plants don’t have to be expensive! There are a couple of Facebook groups where you can swap propagated plants for free. Check our Honey Plant or McNamara if you’re in the market for inexpensive starter house plants.

ON: For those interested in houseplants: Ask friends for propagations. Most common houseplants are easily propagated and can thrive for months in a jar of water. Katie and I have gotten many of our plants from swapping propagations with friends. Cut up magazines and make collage art for your walls. Use what you’ve got, and put a bit of yourself in everything you own. There’s no right or wrong way to do it!

A plant holder from Sarah Gaines and decorative fans from a garage sale hang on the wall at the home of Katie Jo and Tobi Newson.

Last but not least, tell us what you love about Fort Wayne and why you are choosing to make your home here?

KJ: I love Fort Wayne, because I have found community in Fort Wayne. The people here have made me feel so at home! It is also affordable AF! Living a couple blocks from places like Bravas, Foster Park, Banh Mi Pho Shop, and Utopian Community Grocery is amazing. I look forward to getting to know more people from Fort Wayne and growing my community even more!

ON: I am not from here, nor do I have any blood-family around for 1,000 miles, but I returned to Fort Wayne because of the vibrant community that welcomed me here with open arms. I was lucky enough to meet people like Katie and The Boys who have been a huge support and become my chosen family. I love the local Nature Preserves, food scene, and art culture. Oh, and the cost of living can’t be beat.

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