Living With Kids: Barb Perez

April 17, 2012

Barb and her husband, Vinny, have spent their marriage traveling the world, ultimately planting roots in Annapolis with their young son, Ben. And luckily for this home tour today, they sent back more than a postcard or souvenir tee shirt! Their house is full of bits and pieces, both over-sized and carry-on packable, that tell a story in another language. It’s so wanderlust-inducing that I bet you’ll want to hop on a plane tomorrow. Enjoy the tour, Friends!

Q: Tell us about the family who lives in this out-of-this-world home!

A: Our happy little family consists of my husband, Vinny, our almost 14 month old son, Ben, our two spoiled beagles, Lincoln and Ike, and me, Barb. I own a home staging business, which I absolutely love. I spent a very long time working in sales and account management positions in the corporate world while very much desiring to pursue my passion in home design. I finally took the plunge and couldn’t be happier! Vinny works in the IT field, although he plays a big role in the day to day operations of my business, Wall to Wall Home Staging. Ben is the joy of our lives and is a very active and energetic toddler! And, our beagles….well, they lead a glorified life…essentially they are waited on, take frequent naps throughout the day and sleep anywhere they desire in the house. And, they are rewarded with long walks and lots of treats and affection.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: When I was in college, I sometimes babysat during the summer and on breaks for a family who lived in our neighborhood. I loved their home; it was such a charming cottage on the water. What struck me about the neighborhood was that all the homes were so different. Some were large – heck…some were really large by my standards – and yet some were charming and small. Some were cottages, some were super modern, and some were Mediterranean in style, and so on. Each house was so unique and so different, and yet all blended well together. There were trees and water throughout the neighborhood. The neighborhood is a peninsula surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay, the Severn River and Lake Ogleton. I remember thinking to myself “I would love to live here one day.” And, voila….dreams do come true!

When my husband and I were looking for a home in Annapolis, we kept coming back to this neighborhood. We both really loved the water and the trees. It was as if the beach and the forest were peacefully merged together. The neighborhood has the feeling of being in the country, yet we are only a few miles away from downtown. The neighborhood is tranquil and charming, with beaches, a marina, and lots of wildlife around, especially deer!

One Sunday while taking a drive through the neighborhood, we noticed a For Sale sign on a wooded lot. We called the number on the sign and found that an independent builder bought the lot and was planning to build a house. He had already drawn up plans and invited us to have a look. We really liked what we saw and he agreed to let us make some minor changes to the plan and allowed us to choose all finishes and fixtures. So that was it! And, we were there with the builder every step of the way!

Q: On first glance, it’s apparent that world travelers live here! Tell us your travel tales, and are there any plans to head out again on the horizon?

A: Ahhh…traveling. Yes, it’s something that Vinny and I absolutely love to do! When we met, it was one of the things we quickly learned we shared in common. We’ve traveled to Europe (England, France, Italy, Greece and the Greek Islands, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Holland), to India, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, the Caribbean and the West Indies, Canary Islands, Turkey, Morocco, and Tanzania. And, of course, we traveled throughout the good ‘ole USA!



Our most favorite trips have been our honeymoon trip to France and Italy, our trips to Turkey, and our safari trip in Tanzania. When we decided to go on safari, I had absolutely no idea how much I would love it! It was an amazing experience – to be in the Serengeti watching lions, elephants, giraffes, and other incredible animals only feet away. It was fascinating to me! I could watch the animals all day and never be bored! And, the plains of the Serengeti are so vast and endless – and so undeveloped – like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Since we’ve had Ben, it’s fair to say that we’ve slowed our traveling down a bit. We did, however, head out to Montana with him last summer. He did great on the plane rides and during trip and really proved to be a born traveler! Since our Montana excursion, we’ve taken a few other small trips, and Ben just rolls with it. I am itching to travel to Sweden and Norway. We’d also like to spend more time in Italy, and make our way to South America, particularly Chile and Peru. And, believe it or not, my husband has a desire to visit Antarctica someday! I have to admit that I’m not quite there yet!

Q: What’s the strangest item you’ve carried back home with you, and from where?

A: The strangest item we’ve carried back home with us was a large round sink from Marrakech, Morocco. We were shopping in the souks when I spotted this fabulous pottery. We spent a lot of time browsing in this souk and talking with the owners, who were also the potters. They had these incredible sinks that were rich in color and pattern. Right away I just knew I had to have one! My husband thought I had lost my mind! He insisted that we’d never get it home in one piece and I insisted that we could and would! The owners wrapped it well, and we managed to put it in the bottom of my suitcase. For once, I was thrilled I didn’t travel light and take the smaller suitcase!

We stuffed clothes all around it, and that sink went from Marrakech onto a four hour train ride to Casablanca with us, then onto a boat ride to Lisbon and back to Annapolis….and it made it all in one piece! We decided to use it in our first floor bathroom. The tricky part, however, was finding a drain that would fit it. Apparently, sink drains are much larger in Morocco than they are here. Who knew?

Q: What’s your absolute favorite country’s style with which to furnish your home?

A: Wow, this is a really tough question. I generally enjoy every place we visit and can usually always find something interesting to bring back and incorporate into the decor of our home. I suppose if I had to pick one country whose style is my absolute favorite, it would be Turkey because I just love their rugs and other textiles. The textiles are full of rich colors and vibrant patterns, which I tend to gravitate toward. I also love their pottery, glassware, and our course, their bath towels!

Q: If you could pack up and move tomorrow, where would you go?

A: As I’ve mentioned, Vinny and I love to travel and have been to some really fantastic places. We love not just seeing the sites, but really understanding what it is like to live in a place and understanding how their culture came to be by interacting with the locals as much as possible. History is much more fun when you see it rather than just read it in a classroom! Often, while we are traveling we talk about what it might be like to live in that state or country. And, while it is enticing to think about living elsewhere, we both really do appreciate having a home with roots. So, the reality is when it comes to moving that would be a really huge decision for us because our home is our sanctuary. And, home is currently where our immediate family lives.


That being said, the one place that we do consistently enjoy visiting is the Napa Valley in California. We love the climate and the lifestyle. And Vinny is very familiar with the area as he grew up just outside of San Francisco. After all, how can you go wrong with tons of great restaurants and all the wine you can drink? Italy would be another possibility for similar reasons.

Q: What are your tips to combining styles and ending up with a well-styled home…and not just a hodge-podge of furniture from different places? You must have a serious skill with editing your purchases and identifying what will mix and what won’t match at all, right?

A: Some of the best decorating advice I was given years ago is to just buy what you truly love and the mixing and matching will fall into place. Most of the time that advice has served me well. But I will admit that I’ve made some mistakes with pieces or colors over the years. I suppose that’s par for the course. Fortunately, I now have a staging business, so when I have a mistake piece or accessory, or just decide to change things up a bit, I can always retire items to the staging inventory. But before I started my business, I would always just sell a piece that I had outgrown or didn’t want. So, I never really felt stuck with something.


I am always changing things up. I truly consider my home a work in progress. It’s always evolving. Our life is constantly changing so we are always working on some project that will help improve the way we use our space. I believe that by combining styles, a home truly becomes interesting and unique. I’ve always gone for a more collected verses cohesive look in my home, which lends itself well to a broad mix of furnishings and accessories. I love mixing old with new, combining different styles and finishes, and incorporating pops of color and lots of textures for warmth and dimension. I would describe our interior style as Global meets Boho meets Vintage.

I love to scour flea markets, vintage shops, estate sales and yard sales for furniture and accessories. Even when we travel, we often seek out a flea market or vintage/antique shops. And, Craigslist and eBay are two other terrific sources for finding interesting pieces at reasonable prices.


My tips for combining styles and ending up with a well-styled home would be to first buy what you truly love. If every piece is amazing on its own, then the whole look in a home will be interesting and amazing. Second, try not to have too much of one style: really mix it up. Doing so will again make the home far more interesting. And, try to have some vintage in each room. Vintage pieces truly add charm and character to a home.

Lastly, edit, edit, edit. My experience is that a well styled space is usually well edited! We have lots of treasures that aren’t out on display in our home. They are packed away for later use. It’s okay to store, rotate or get rid of items if there isn’t a good place for them, or they don’t fit in the overall decorating scheme. I feel that I am always editing! Fortunately, I am not a pack rat – in fact, truth be told, I’m a bit of a neat freak! – and clutter makes me crazy, so I am constantly getting rid of things if they don’t have a place or a purpose in our home.

Q: If you could only keep three items in your home, what would they be? (Besides your family and the furry ones!) What makes them so special to you?

A: If I could only keep three items in our home besides family and our dogs, I would first keep our personal photos of family and friends. Second, I have a box of mementos from my childhood, teenage and college years that I’d keep; it’s filled with artwork, letters from my grandmother and friends, diaries, reports, awards, yearbooks, and so on. And, lastly, I have a box filled with every letter, card and note Vinny has given me since we first met. All the things I’d choose to keep represent personal memories from my life, and are probably the only irreplaceable items besides people and pets.

Q: Your son is still young; do you see any areas that will need to be re-arranged soon? What’s your basic philosophy on living with kids?

A: My basic philosophy on living with kids is still evolving. We have made changes around our home to accommodate our son and integrate his belongings into our space. For example, we just added a small play area in our breakfast room for him. We found a small vintage table and two children’s chairs. We have books and some of his favorite toys on the table for him to play with.


We’ve also added some baskets and vintage boxes on wheels in our family room to store his toys. And, since he loves to open cabinets and drawers, I’ve made space in a few of our lower kitchen cabinets for his toys. I’ve recently added wooden fruit and vegetables, board books, and some other goodies for him! He really loves opening the cabinets now!


I’ve done the same thing in the bottom drawer of my nightstand. It’s now his drawer, filled with books and little stuffed animals for him to play with. Certainly, as he enters new phases of toddler-hood and beyond, we will definitely have to continue to make changes to accommodate him. Fortunately, my husband and I enjoy change, so it’s not too difficult for us. And we definitely believe that children and a lovely home can coincide!

Q: If you could change anything about your home, what would it be?

A: If I could change anything about our home, I would like to have a slightly larger kitchen. While our kitchen is very functional and efficient and has lots of storage space, I wish it was just a tad larger. It’s true that when you’re entertaining, everyone flocks to the kitchen! And, it can sometimes feel a little crammed.


So, since enlarging our kitchen isn’t an option, then I guess we’ll just have to work on being better prepared when we have guests over!

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: I wish I had known to trust my passion for interior design sooner. Like many people, I listened to the traditional or conservative advice and went for a business degree since it would set me up to get a good job, which supposedly equals a happy life. While I benefited greatly from all of my experiences, I have come to realize that ultimately, living your passion in a balanced way leads to true happiness. I am happy that I have found a way to express my creative talents through my own business so that my art and my vocation are one in the same.

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Thank you, Barb! Once again and with yet another distinct decor style, we’re hearing that brilliant “buy only what you love” and “edit, edit, edit” advice. It must be true!

Did you love this tour as much as I did? I feel like I just took a mini-tour around the world, and I’m sure Barb and Vinny’s guests feel the same way after spending time in this well-traveled home. The story of their Moroccan sink made me smile and wonder if you’ve got a similar story; is there something in your home that made its way across the world to get to you? I’d love to hear about it!

P.S. — You can find all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. If you’d like to share your home with us, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sandra April 17, 2012 at 8:30 am

There IS something that we dragged across the world. I was lucky enough to live in Cape Town, South Africa for two years. This was before I met my husband. Had a great, great time and also travelled a lot through Zimbabwe and Botswana – overland safaris by canoe and land rover and foot.

When we were dating about a year I wanted to show him southern Africa so we travelled there for six weeks. While in Zimbabwe, he found a fab drum. It was about 48″ high and weighed, I guess, about 40 pounds. Solid. Very solid.

Remember, we were travelling in a land rover at this point. A smallish one.

So we packed up this drum and dragged it through another week of travel in Zim and Botswana. Then home on the plane – quite the special item!

Despite the dormant termites that awoke after the drum was in our home for a few months (dealt with that quickly – heard munching one morning and found a pile of sawdust underneath!), it has had a place of pride in every home we have lived in.

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2 Laura April 17, 2012 at 8:35 am

Great home tour! And I love that they like to travel so much! I was wondering where they bought their entertainment unit and bookshelves in their family room? love them!

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3 Barb Perez April 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Hi Laura,

Thanks so much for your comment – so glad you enjoyed the tour! We bought our bookshelves and entertainment unit from Crate and Barrel six years ago. Perhaps they still have them or might have something similar.

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4 Alise April 17, 2012 at 9:24 am

I went with my parents to pick my brother up from his mission in Budapest, Hungary. He fell in love with a set of colorful Hungarian china. My Mom encouraged him to get 8 place settings since he wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon. We still had several countries to go on our 3 week trip and he didn’t feel safe leaving the china in the car so at each hotel we went those heavy boxes were hauled up and down stairs, much fretting was done over their safety! The china made it home intact and 10 years later my brother and his family are still enjoying his reminder of his 2 years in Hungary.

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5 kalanicut April 17, 2012 at 10:40 am

Inspired by my earlier years living in Denmark, I bought a beautiful, big wicker bike basket while in Latvia in 1999. It’s the kind with the hooks on the backside so you can easily take it off and carry it with you to do your shopping, then just pop it over your handle bars and ride away home.

I packed it into my backpack, wrapped clothes all around it and amazingly it got home safely in one piece. Then it took me years to get the right bike to put it on, taking it with me from one home to another. Happily, for several years now it has enjoyed a place on my big, black cruiser bike and holds all the drinks, backpacks, jackets & camera for rides to spend the day at the beach and other adventures. In all these years I have still never seen one like it here in the States so I am so glad I got it!

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6 Mallory April 17, 2012 at 10:57 am

I love that sink! This house is such a great example of beautiful worldliness mixed with a real comfortable, lived-in feeling. At this point I don’t have any decor travel stories, but hope to someday. Thanks for the inspiration.

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7 elz April 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I love these tours. So interesting.
I have a few things that have traveled to be in our home: 1) an antique wardrobe and desk from Britain. We lived in Britain when I was growing up and my parents purchased the wardrobe and desk at antique auctions. Decades later they offered them to us and I snatched them right up!, 2) My husband has a large wooden statue that he brought back from Haiti while serving in a UN mission there years ago, and 3) a Mexican tiled mirror that we brought back from our honeymoon in Mexico. Of course, after going through the trouble of wrapping it and hauling it through the airport, our flight, we found about a million of them in the markets when we got home…sigh.

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8 Sarah April 17, 2012 at 9:58 pm

I have a decorative ceramic plate that I brought back (in my carry-on I think!) from Spain. Since then, two people have brought me plates from Turkey and Portugal. I have these three arranged on our fireplace mantle. I think they’re pretty much the only nick-knacks I own!

I really liked the rugs throughout the house. I would love to have a nice area rug one day.

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9 mom in mendon April 18, 2012 at 12:41 am

Since we’re spending the year in China, this is inspiring to me. What can we bring home and how can we incorporate what we already have? Thanks.

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10 christy April 18, 2012 at 5:41 am

This is my favorite living with kids tour yet. LOVE her style. We’ve dragged home precious pottery from all over Europe!

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11 Danielle (elleinadspir) April 18, 2012 at 6:36 am

That sink is amazing!!!

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12 Jenny Bell April 18, 2012 at 7:20 am

I love your living with kids project. Not to be critical, but most of your families have only one or two small children. I would love see to a family or two like mine. I have three boys, 10, 9, and 6. I love seeing great ideas on life with elementary school kids that doesn’t sacrifice style, but inspires learning. Our house is full of monsters, robots and lego projects. I am always looking for ideas on how to incorporate design with older kids interests. Thanks for a great blog!

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13 annalisa April 18, 2012 at 9:50 am

Staging! Ding ding ding…I think I just discovered “spring staging” instead of the traditional “spring cleaning”…this post has totally inspired me on how to change the pesky chore and turn it into an exciting project!! Smiles!!

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14 bekah April 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Hi! My husband and I were Peace Corps volunteers in East Timor. When the country erupted in violence in 2006, we were told that we would be evacuated immediately. We could pack only one small bag, and were instructed to leave the rest in our homes (packed in bags) for Peace Corps officials to gather and ship to us later.

Since we couldn’t bring much, we had to leave our traditional textiles, or “tais,” behind. We trusted that they would get back to us. But after a few months passed and the bags didn’t arrive, we gave up on ever getting all of our things back.

Eight months later, we received a notice to go to the freight area of our local airport to retrieve some packages. Imagine our surprise when we arrived and saw our two duffle bags! Not everything we had left was included – some CDs and books and other “American” things were missing – but the tais were all there. A bit musty, but nothing a little fresh air didn’t fix. We’ve got one decorating the top of the piano now!

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15 Rafael April 19, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Wow!

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16 Susie April 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm

This home is absolutely lahahahalovely. Its yummy and comfy and my goodness what talent behind the design. This is definitely a post I will be revisiting often and Pinning.

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17 Susie April 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm

ps I didn’t read all the post…..yet…because I was to busy sinking in to the photos, but dang what kind of camera do you use?? Thank you

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18 Rebecca Slaughter June 7, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I would like to know what paint colors you used. I love the creamy one and the spicier one in the dining room as well. Can you share your colors?

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19 Barb Perez August 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Hi Rebecca,

I am hoping that you’ll see this because it’s been a while since you left your comment – I’m sorry that I didn’t see your comment sooner. Anyway, I am happy to share my colors. The main wall color throughout the first level of the house, including the dining room is called Blonde, by Sherwin Williams.

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