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.
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!