Alexis Garrett has an Art Barn and a Surf Shack in her backyard, a laundry truck in her mudroom, vintage French linens on her master bath windows, a gasp-worthy collection of Milk Glass, and a variety of breakable treasures everywhere else. She and her husband also have two young boys. These facts might seem completely incongruous at first glance, but they somehow fit together in perfect harmony in the Garrett home. How does Alexis live with kids? Beautifully.
Q: Tell us about the family who lives here.
A: Myself and my three guys: my husband Ross, our three-and-a-half year old son Henry, and our seven month old Conrad. Oh, and our 11 year old black lab! I am a “retired” interior designer and my husband works in surf media. As of late, if we aren’t playing at the beach we are looking for the perfect Westfalia Van.
Q: I love the story of your home! Living in a tent for a year and then holding your wedding there is incredibly romantic. Will you tell everyone its history? Is this your forever home?
A: Ross bought our house when we were just dating. We met when we were teenagers, so we knew each other pretty well right away. There were many homes that he was looking at but the one we live in now was most definitely the biggest disaster. There were four grown men living here, with mattresses on the ground, a jeep on blocks in the backyard, and no trash pick-up. You get the picture! Being an interior designer, none of those things bothered me. I loved that it was a blank canvas.
There was a great big backyard with fruit trees and a wall in the center of the house that could be opened up to transform it entirely. In fact, our great room was originally four rooms: a kitchen, kitchenette, living room, and small bedroom. The house was unlivable as it was, so to save money Ross was between his parents’ home, my little house I rented with my girlfriend, and a tent in the backyard. So we didn’t stay in the tent every night, but there were many late nights working on the house and sleeping in the yard.
Looking back, it really was romantic. I don’t know if I would have thought of myself as the camping type but I was so crazy about Ross I would have slept in a van if that is what he was doing, which is actually really funny because sleeping in a van is all we have been talking about lately!
The remodel took about nine months because it was done after work by us, Ross’s parents, and our good friend. In May of 2005, Ross proposed and we decided to have our reception in the yard. Our home has been the backdrop for most every important event in our life together, so is this our forever home? I don’t know, but I do know that it would be like losing a part of our family if we left.
Q: You’ve got such a skill for decorating like you’ve been collecting treasures for years and years, and they just belong together. What’s your secret to not looking cluttered, but rather curated? And did you grow up with this skill or learn it from your family?
A: I guess if there is one thing that I think is really important with collections is to keep them together. If you have an amazing antique doll collection and they are beautifully displayed on a big dresser in your guest room, that is charming and stylish. If you have a doll on every table and every corner of your house…well…that’s creepy.
I have been collecting for a long time. Since I was a little girl my favorite thing to do with my grandmother was to go “junking.” She would look in the PennySaver every Friday and plan out her weekend mornings. Not only did she love the hunt, but she is incredibly knowledgeable about antiques. At an early age she taught me how to read the bottom of a cup and saucer and how to tell if something is new or old.
Q: What are your favorite things to collect?
A: As you can see I have a thing for Milk Glass. I think I got my first piece when I was 15. I am very particular about Milk Glass, though I love pieces that have a geometric pattern. I also collect tins, fabric, quilts, vintage paper, old rubber stamps, number 5s, old black and white photos of people I don’t know, and most recently I have added Milk Glass chickens to the list.
Q: What’s your philosophy on breakables and babies and little boys? How do you honestly live with kids?
A: I probably have four or five things in my home that I would cry if they broke, so those things are up higher than 40 inches! Other than that, the things in my house are supposed to be lived with. The things on our tables are not worth any money; they just have a fun story or are beautiful to look at.
Q: Your favorite space in your home…
A: Gosh, I guess this depends on my mood. It has been a long day so far, so I guess right at this moment I would have to say our bathroom. Sitting in my tub with a hot bath and a cup of tea sounds pretty good right now!
Q: I think it’s safe to say that we all need an Art Barn in our lives! What treasures do you keep out there? What do you make?
A: I make all sorts of stuff. When my first son was born I started making these gigantic elephants out of vintage quilts I’ve collected. I am always sewing on paper, and most recently I’ve been making stamps.
Q: When does your home work best? What’s your hands-down favorite time of day, and in what room are you spending it?
A: One of my favorite parts of our home is the light. All the windows and french doors in our house are either on the east side or west side. Because of this, the sun meets me in the morning in the kitchen and, as the day goes on, the sun traces the top of our house. Before bath time, we are usually running around the backyard playing superheroes as the sun drops behind the fence.
Q: How have the boys affected your style?
A: I think the only thing that the boys have done for my style is made me much more relaxed. I remember being so worried about things being in their place or the house being picked up. It is just impossible to have your house look good all the time when you have two boys and a dog. Plus, who cares, really? Which brings me to the gated area in our living room; it is a huge eyesore but it has saved me. It is really to keep Conrad in and Henry out. It is so nice to have a safe place for the baby so that I can do my thing.
Q: Does your DIY craftiness seep into all areas of your life? What has been your most enjoyable and rewarding project to date?
A: Having kids has taken my love for DIYs and magnified it. Some of the most adorable projects are centered around kids, no? Just a couple days ago, my son and I turned our very neglected raised bed into a monster truck rally. Extremely dirty, but worth every bit of mess!
My worst DIY experience was the tree I tried to make in my son’s room. I was envisioning Anthropology’s home section and it looked like bad daycare decor. I loved making Henry’s felt wall but I think most rewarding would be the wings that I made in December.
Q: What’s your best advice on being creative and staying true to your style in renovations and decor choices?
A: Take your time. Don’t settle on something because you need a coffee table or you hate that a wall is bare. Every piece that you bring into your house should be really special. We finished a major addition on our house over a year ago, and we are still finding pieces to fill different spaces. I could have gone out and bought it all at once, but I guarantee I would be tired of things by now and wishing that I would have waited for the perfect piece. Our home tells a story about our life together and so does our furniture.
Q: Do you and your husband both share the same aesthetic and approach to getting projects done?
A: YES! I feel so lucky. We have a good friend who has been very inspiring to us, and he told us early on that you should only own things that you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Ross and I have really stuck by that; we purge at least a few times a year, and the house always looks so much better when we do.
Q: How would you finish this sentence: If I had only known…
A: I have a deep love for interior design. I could spend three hours straight, right now, moving accessories around in my house. I have spent time thinking about a new theme for my coffee table books. Strange, I know! But I know that this season of my life isn’t about that. When I have friends over to my house, beds aren’t made, laundry is usually piled on the sofa, and life is happening.
I love my home, but it is just the backdrop. What’s really important are all the people living inside its walls.
Thank you, Alexis, for taking us on this gorgeous tour in between taking care of your busy boys! I love how you describe your home as “just the backdrop.” Brilliant and oh-so-true.
Friends, I’m curious: how do you live with treasures and young ones? Is everything safely out of reach, or are you just hoping everything survives the day? I’d love to hear about your philosophies and what works best for your families!
P.S. — If you’d like to share your home with us in my Living With Kids series, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!