For the life of me, I can’t figure out Kimberly Taylor‘s math. Four boys plus one full chicken coop plus kittens and dogs plus a horse and sheep plus did I mention four boys just does not equal this elegantly ordered, white slip-covered home with glossy-worthy vignettes spilling from every cupboard and gasp-inducing views from every window! But if you ask Kimberly, it’s exactly the addition of her young men and their menagerie that makes the Taylor home add up to just perfect. Get ready to be inspired by her answers; I know I was!
Q: Please introduce us to yourself and your men!
A: My name is Kimberly Taylor. I am a food and lifestyle photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. I live on a little farm just outside of Seattle with my five men: Mr. Taylor, #1 (Riley), #2 (Noah), #3 (Owen), and #4 (Finn Henry). We are also surrounded by a menagerie of farm animals, from chickens and sheep to a horse, kitties, and three dogs.
Q: Tell us the story of your home, from where it sits to how it came to be yours.
A: Our home is a 1928 farmhouse that used to sit on ten acres which were used to breed thoroughbred horses. We bought our home ten years ago. Today, our property has an acre and a half that is part pasture, part gardens, part lawns. We also have a barn that was built around 1930, a chicken coop that my husband built me for Christmas the year after we moved in, and a playhouse he built for the boys. I also have a little retreat that is the perfect space to enjoy the quiet and either nap, read, or write — my airstream Mabel — another gift from my husband.
Our property sits at the top of a hill just east of Seattle with a view (more so in the winter) of the Space Needle. The house has been renovated a number of times, most recently by us when we did a major renovation on the main living space. As the entire house is rather eclectic, we decided to remove the kitchen and put in a new one that was better suited for the very open space that it occupied. The main floor of the house is where we do most of our living as it has the kitchen, dining area, and living room, all of which sit in basically one large open space. The house itself only has three bedrooms, so the two bigs share a room as do the littles. The bigs’ room is a huge dormitory-like space with exposed beams, huge windows, and an industrial feel. It really is perfect for teenagers with its own bathroom and fireplace.
One of the greatest things about our home is that there are always dreams and plans for things we could do. I am dying to put big black french doors in the kitchen that will lead to a gorgeous open deck with a fireplace. I think that if we had that, we would eat every single meal outdoors if it wasn’t raining!
Q: What makes this house feel like home to you? Please tell us the features that make you fall in love with your home every time you catch sight of it.
A: I would have to begin with the driveway. It curves in from the road and is lined on both sides by gardens that have beautiful blooms throughout the year. It is such a welcoming entrance to the farm. Next would be the windows on the house; they are gorgeous! They are the first thing I noticed when we came to look at the house nearly ten years ago, and I fell in love immediately. The entire front of the house is filled with these beautiful windows. One of my favorite things is to walk down to get the mail from the post box at dusk and look up at the house through those windows. It is often lit up from inside and it looks so warm and inviting, and my heart swells knowing that my loves are inside.
Q: What is your general philosophy on living with kids?
A: As our house is a fairly small space for six people, we don’t have any off-limits spaces. However, we also have a home filled with things that we love, some of which are fragile and not to be played with. Our boys know this and thus don’t mess with breakables.
However, our home is a place where I want people to be comfortable, so I don’t stress about things. Recently someone spilled a glass of red wine on my linen slip-covered sofa. She was beside herself with worry when I arrived home. But, for me, a sofa isn’t worth someone you love being so upset, so off came the covers, a little stain remover overnight, and — presto! — it was all fine.
We have a long farm table that has its share of bumps and bruises, but that gives it character in my opinion. We have marble on the kitchen counters and center island and, yes, it too has scratches and dull spots where wine or lemon juice has sat for longer than it should have. I guess when the years have passed and our children have moved on to their own adult lives, those counters and that table will tell a story of the family that was raised in this house and the fun times we had here. All that being said, I like tidy! So I tend to eliminate clutter. I also like clean, so I do spend time keeping things in order.
Q: What’s your favorite part of living with kids?
A: I think that my favorite part of living with my kids is the time we spend at our farm table sharing meals together. We eat as a family, and that is something that I really think is important. It is where we talk together, hear about what is going on with each other, and share a lot of laughter. My husband has a great sense of humor — we all do, really — and so many a meal is filled with some pretty hearty laughter. I love making big weekend breakfasts to share with my boys, or having a bonfire and eating our dinner and s’mores next to it.
On a side note, I want to say that I also really love individual date days with the boys. There is something about one-on-one time with each of them that allows me to really see their personalities and hear what is happening with them that they may not want to share in front of their brothers.
Q: Boys will be boys! Have they ever gone through that bull-in-a-china-shop stage where nothing in their path was safe? What do you do when things get too physical? Do you have areas where they can be crazy, or do you send them outside?
A: I have never been comfortable with boys being crazy in the house. I really do think that there is appropriate indoor and outdoor behavior. I have to admit, I do run a pretty tight ship when it comes to the boys. I also don’t believe that boys should fight just because they are boys. My boys will argue and they may occasionally thwack one another, but a quick end is put to it. They are welcome to disagree, but not to fight. And honestly, they really don’t. However, don’t confuse not fighting with #3 bossing and #4 whining in return; that can sometimes be a daily ritual! I do like them to work things out themselves, but they know that they aren’t allowed to be physical against each other.
When I find that the littles have a bit more energy than I can handle, I send them out onto the property to play. They often come in filthy dirty, covered in dirt or sand, but they are far more tired and calm then when they left!
Q: How does your home work best? Is there a point in your day that makes you sigh and think you’ve got it all figured out?
A: I have that feeling of “I am rocking this homemaking thing” at two times during the day. First is when all four boys and Mr. Taylor are off to school and work. The house is tidied for the day, the laundry is running, the animals have been fed, the windows are open, and it is quiet. At this point I would love to say I sit down with a lovely cup of tea and a book and enjoy it. However, that would be a rarity! I keep busy even when it seems like it is all under control. It might be a sickness!
The second time is in the evenings, after dinner when the dishes are done, the kitchen is clean, the boys are off to bed or doing their own thing, and the day is winding down. There is a sense of accomplishment knowing that you have completed another day with small victories, good food, and a content family. These times bring me great joy, and they are certainly not happening every day!
Q: Every photo looks like a scene from a magazine, but that’s how you live, isn’t it? Beautifully. What are your top three tricks for making a house a stunning home in every way? How do you get it to look like this and keep it looking like this? I mean, you have chicken! And all-white furniture!
A: I think a beautiful, rich home comes from the people in it being happy. I love a home that is lived in, well loved, and comfortable. I think one thing that I have learned is to only add things to your home that you really truly love. If you have an empty space, rather than rush out to find something to fill it, keep it in mind and then be patient to find something just right for it.
My second piece of advice is remove clutter. There is a difference between collections of things — like my camera collection on the mantle — and clutter. I have learned to really only keep things that matter and part with the rest. I am a great supporter of our local charity and drop bags (and bags and bags) of things there often. I also don’t keep every piece of paper, every broken toy, or things that we never use. The less clutter, the easier it is to whip through a room and do a quick tidy to keep it looking fresh. And trust me: I do a LOT of quick tidies throughout the day. There is something about an organized space that makes me very happy.
And finally, the white linens. Oftentimes I see a home filled with vibrant colors and think “Wow! I envy that.” But for me, our relatively neutral color scheme is soothing. White can be great if bleach is your friend. The linen slipcovers on the sofa are wonderful but they have spots that I can’t get out. I’m okay with that. (Okay, I don’t love it…but it isn’t the end of the world!)
A younger me would have been changing out the decor on a regular basis, what with all of the incredible inspiration online these days. But the older content and grateful me knows that I love the things I have, and that there is a time for decorating and a time for sitting in your decorated home and enjoying the people in it. That being said, I am always on the lookout for fabulous finds!
Q: How do you handle chores? Is there a division of labor?
A: This is where it gets creative! First of all, there are always things to do on a daily basis, like setting the table, clearing the table, taking out garbage, getting the mail, etc. I basically try to distribute it all evenly, but simply call on the boys when I need help. They are pretty great about coming when I need them.
Then there is laundry. I do the littles’ laundry as well as Mr. Taylor’s and mine. The bigs do their own. Finally, if I need any help with farm/animal/barn chores, I ask the bigs and pay them a certain amount per hour. A few years ago we started paying them for work, and in turn they pay for all of their own things. If they want to go out to eat, to a movie, or buy something, it comes from their wallet. We pay for certain things, but we really wanted them to begin understanding the value of money, and it has been eye opening for them. They now really have a respect for how long it takes to earn money, and they prioritize that expensive sweatshirt or pair of shoes based on how long it will take them to earn it. Also, it means that they are often willing to help me do outdoor chores when I need help!
Q: Have you always sought out beauty? (I can’t imagine you were ever a frazzled mother with a brood of boys! Were you? Tell us!) Did photography come first, or was it your love of beauty in all things home and family that made you an amazing photographer?
A: This made me laugh out loud. I recently posted about parenting and how I have had moments recently that I want to scream at the boys in that screechy scream, which clearly isn’t about them. But I have definitely had my frazzled moments! However, I have never been one to stay angry and tend to get past things very quickly. I also have the most incredibly supportive husband who knows exactly when my cup is absolutely dry and needs refilling. And it is because I am able to travel or even get out on my own for a day that I am able to recharge and feel motivated again.
Beauty. It is funny because I don’t see what I have surrounded myself with as beauty as much as it is comfort and warmth and welcoming. I often find myself working on something and saying to myself over and over “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be lovely.” Seriously! I talk to myself. A lot. I try to remember that beauty comes from inside and that happiness just exudes beauty, don’t you think?
As far as the photography is concerned, I think that the heart of my photography is based on the childhood dreams of what I wanted my life to be like when I grew up. I love capturing moments that speak to me, and remind me of the simple life my grandparents lived in a small town in the Midwest. I loved hobby farms and sweet groves of trees with a little farmhouse in the middle surrounded by corn fields for miles. Even when I travel I’m drawn to wise old faces with a sparkle in their eyes, or anything old or industrial, as it reminds me of my Grampy. I love things with a story, with depth, and capturing them with my camera is almost as good as getting to take them home with me. I find such beauty in things like farmers’ markets or the markets in Europe or India. I could spend days and days just wandering and making photos of it all.
Q: How do you take the best care of yourself and your family and your home?
A: Balance is such a tricky word, as there really is no right ratio is there? Some days I give it all to the house and my family, some days I have an entire day all to myself to explore or visit a friend or eat someplace I am excited about. Many days I do both, which is probably more balanced. I think it all begins with being happy with what you are doing. Life is simply too short to spend the rest of it doing something you don’t like, so if you aren’t happy, you really need to think about what it is that you could do to improve your situation.
I know that for my family, if I am happy then everything tends to have a positive spin on it: more smiling, more laughter, more silliness. If I am feeling like the resident indentured servant, then I know it is time for me to take a break, feed my family take out pizza that evening, and find a way to recharge. I don’t put too much pressure on myself to do everything perfectly because it isn’t possible. Some days I am good — really good — and some days I am definitely not. That is okay, because I can always learn from those days and be a greater mom and wife going forward. I try not to judge myself by how others are living (Or by the images on the internet! Holy cow!) but use my family as my meter for how it is going. They seem to be pretty good at keeping me in check.
Q: Please finish this sentence: I wish I had known…
A: I wish I had known how important happiness and joy are. When I was young, I spent so much time worrying about what others thought, rather than creating a life that made me happy. It really is true that it is what is on the inside that matters; if happiness is inside, beauty will naturally be on the outside. That is true for people…and for homes.
Thank you, Kimberly, for adding such beauty to Design Mom today! (Note to self: White linens and Bleach. Check.)
There are just some people out there living so intentionally and happily so that their lives should be documented to inspire the rest of us. Kimberly Taylor needs her own magazine. I’d read it daily, wouldn’t you? She imparted a lot of practical reminders about “rocking this homemaking thing” that I personally loved. My favorite: “Life is simply too short to spend the rest of it doing something you don’t like, so if you aren’t happy, you really need to think about what it is that you could do to improve your situation.” What’s your favorite take-away from Kimberly’s interview?