Living With Kids: Julie Blackmon

January 22, 2013

By Gabrielle.

Julie Blackmon is a photographer. Correction: Julie Blackmon is an amazing photographer. And that’s one skill that contributes to a beautiful home, don’t you think? Having a refined eye that can edit mercilessly, arrange a room so that the sunlight dances through it, and ultimately create a space where both kids and adults feel comfortable. I’ve known so many friends who routinely take photos of their home to “check” how it’s living. Is it balanced? Are the colors and textures and patterns in harmony? Julie does it all perfectly. Just take a look. Friends, welcome to the Blackmon home.

Q: Please tell us who lives in this picture-perfect home.

A: Well, thank you for saying that, but it’s not so picture perfect. What you don’t see is inside the drawers, closets, basement, garage, or the broken skateboard parts scattered across our front porch. And then there’s always Photoshop! Really, we do love our house. I’m an artist, living and working from home, and I live here with my husband, WD, who’s head of English at Missouri State University, and my 13 year old son, Owen. We spend a lot of time at home, so we’ve really worked at making our house a place where we want to be. But our house will never look perfect. So if it does in these photos, it’s because my genius designer sister, Sharon Taylor, can stage anything.


Q: How did this home become yours? Do you remember the moment you felt like this was the one?

A: My dad used to take us on Sunday drives after church when we were growing up. He’d have us all cram in the old blue station wagon (with wood panel trim!) and drive us around after he took us to Burger King, always our first stop after church. Back then it wasn’t called fast food; we thought of it as a real restaurant.

But on the drive, one of the houses he’d always slow down in front of was our current house. It was the late 70s, and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils rock n’ roll band lived and recorded in this house. Their tour bus was sometimes parked out front, and it was a time when they really were rock stars at the height of their fame. We were so proud that real celebrities were living right here in Springfield, Missouri.

So, early on the house had a glamorous significance to me. About 15 years ago it went up for sale, and we bought it immediately. Years later, I actually spoke with the lead singer who told us some of his favorite memories were in this house, and that there was a certain magic about it he’ll never forget.


Q: You’re a photographer who uses your home as a backdrop for many photo shoots. Will you tell us about your favorite scene you’ve set up in your home?

A: Probably the shoot that stands out most is the shoot we did for the TIME magazine cover in our dining room. The story was about how paying kids to make good grades really works. So, for props, I had a big ten foot roll of white paper draped from the ceiling, a school desk, and a stock of 1,000 one dollar bills. At one point I had the kids throwing up the bills in the air. They loved that!And then to pay them for their time and efforts, I told the kids when we were done that they could keep a few. They paused and looked at me in wide-eyed disbelief…and then went into a high-speed pocket-stuffing frenzy.



Q: Does working in your home interfere how you live with your kids? Is there that “Stay out of the living room! We’re shooting tomorrow!” kind of thing happening?

A: Oh yeah, I’ve had to say (scream) that before. That never goes over too well. So I really don’t shoot inside our house so much anymore. I got tired of moving everything in the living room into the dining room or vice versa. Mostly I find my settings close to home, though. And, actually, our backyard was the setting for several recent pieces.




Q: As a photographer and most likely pretty visual person, what is your preferred aesthetic?

A: I think it probably does cross over. I always look my work in a way that if there’s some detail or prop in it that isn’t adding to the piece, I take it out. The same applies to my living room. If it’s a chair or a mirror or knick knack that’s not adding to the space, or its a distraction from something else, then I’ll take it out. I guess I like it when there’s a focal point — an area that your eye naturally goes to — and everything else in the room just works to sort of enhance that.




Q: Did that change with kids? How would you say they affected your style?

A: Yeah, it changed some, I’m sure. But I think too many parents compromise their living space because they think that’s what good parents do. And then the next thing they know, they’ve got a life-size hot pink Barbie tent in their living room for two years. I think it’s good to teach kids about keeping the living room a certain way; that their toys or games can come downstairs, but they have to go back up at the end of the day.

Q: What do you hope your children have learned from your home and the way it was designed for your family and lifestyle?

A: They have learned they better pick up their crap because I’ll either go psycho on them or I’ll silently throw it away. Ha ha.



Honestly, I wish that in everything I did I would think of how it would affect my kids, both now and in the future. But I just don’t operate that way. Maybe I should. But I think it’s okay for them to realize that they aren’t the center of the universe and that they are actually in your house. My parents never let me forget that I was living in their house. I remember them telling me that when I grew up and had a house of my own, then I could do whatever I wanted, but until then…

And as harsh as that sounds, I think we’ve done a 180 on that kind of thing, so that parents are now gearing everything around their kids. Mostly, that’s a good thing. But I think you can take it too far.

Q: What has been your absolute favorite part of living with kids?

A: Well, I can’t imagine life without them, so it’s hard to say. I just read something by Francis Ford Coppola when asked what advice he would give to an up-and-coming actor. And he told him the best thing he could do for his career is to get married and have children. That it would inform him about life and art in a way that nothing else could.

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

A: …to appreciate my mom and dad more. They both died young. You don’t know how much you appreciate them until you’re an adult doing what they did.

I think about how one Christmas when I was about ten, I told my mom I hated everything she’d gotten me. And there were nine of us, so I can’t even fathom how she even pulled Christmas off, only to have it followed by a moment like that. I so get it now. Just wish I could tell her.

—-

And this is why I love learning more about how you’re all living with kids. In between style and paint selections and whether or not that wall should be knocked down, there’s so much more to be learned. About living with kids, yes, but also about living in general. Thank you so much, Julie. For all of the above.

Her last answer got me thinking, Friends. When did you begin appreciating all the things your parents gave you? Do you think your children appreciate you? How do they show it? Your stories are always the best read of my day!

Photos by Adie Gateley. Styling by Sharon Taylor and Amanda Carter Gomes.

P.S. — Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. And if you’d like to share your own home with us, just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julie January 22, 2013 at 10:25 am

Oh, that last bit just got me in tears. I don’t know exactly when I started appreciating what my parents gave me, though it was pretty early on as I never took it for granted, all that we had. But I know I appreciate them as people/parents/grandparents more now than I ever have as my Mother is quite ill. We are living on borrowed time (according to doctors) with her and I am grateful for every day that I and my children have with both of them.

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2 Jessica@DesignersSweetSpot January 22, 2013 at 10:37 am

Beautiful house! Love the minimalism, it’s my decorating philosophy too. I can’t imagine life with out my kids either, and I agree that as parents we just have to set our boundaries and stick to them in regard to keeping all the kid clutter under control. Thanks for sharing!

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3 Shannon { A Mom's Year } January 22, 2013 at 10:38 am

I truly appreciate Julie’s honesty and frankness: “But I think it’s okay for them to realize that they aren’t the center of the universe and that they are actually in your house.”

I read an article once that said you should let your kids do whatever they want in their rooms, even if it means having food wrappers and dirty clothes all over because it’s their space. I cannot imagine doing that. One Direction posters everywhere, sure. But not complete, even gross, chaos!

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4 Jen January 22, 2013 at 10:43 am

I am a big fan of Julie Blackmon’s photography – what a great surprise to see this interview! As always, thank you for your peeks into beautiful homes. Bringing beauty really is a huge gift of yours.

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5 Design Mom January 29, 2013 at 7:55 am

It’s such a treat to feature her here!

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6 Lamchops January 22, 2013 at 10:46 am

You know, I have always thought that I appreciate my parents & the sacrifices that were made in me & my 8 siblings behalf. I do as an adult have more empathy for the difficulty that raising all of us was for them. Financially & otherwise. I think that for the most part my family was basically good. We have had plenty of challenges along the way though. I am not very close with my parents now. I have to say that I think that it is in part due to the fact that there has not been a real ‘connection” made in our relationship. Sad. It would be nice to have that. But I am very lucky to have a sister who has been more like a mother to me than my own as far as emotional support goes. So I would like to say that I appreciate my FAMILY!

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7 Meg January 22, 2013 at 10:53 am

Gah! You warned me but I still teared up! I still have lesser amazing moments of selfish childhood like that which I continue to regret (usually at 3 am when I’m trying to sleep).

I know I started to truly appreciate my parents when I had my own kids. I just kept thinking about everything they had done for us, and how it now held some context.

Also, as I paid my own way through grad school, I was able to better appreciate what my parents gave my brother and I by paying for our undergraduate degrees, minimizing our student loans coming out of University, and setting us up for success as young adults.

I continue to appreciate them when they do things like offer to help my family and I move across the country, either by driving our Uhaul truck, or flying with me and my daughters. I’m lucky to have wonderful parents and in-laws, and as they deal with their own health issues and aging, I try and remember that everyday.

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8 Mrs. LIAYF January 22, 2013 at 11:44 am

I never met my father and have never been close to my mother. She was adopted when she was 8 years old after being abandoned, and really had a difficult time forming relationships. She then became a single mom raising three girls, so I think that was very very hard for her to provide for us both financially and emotionally.

Although we have never been close, I appreciate that she tried very hard to provide for us in ways she thought we could blossom. While she didn’t hug and wasn’t the type to praise a child, she made sure I spent with my loving godparents and summers with my grandmother (her adopted mother), who was loving and caring in a way my mother could not be. When I began to read in Kindergarten she got me subscriptions to the “I Can Read” book series that came every month in the mail. She made books available everywhere in our home and taught all of us the importance of hard work and thrift.

Only now that I have 2 children of my own (and a loving supportive husband) do I appreciate how hard it was for her to raise 3 children on her own with her limited emotional abilities. We still don’t talk. But, she writes my 5 year old son a letter every month and includes updates about her life and tells him how proud she is of him – things would NEVER tell me when I was a child. It’s her way of connecting, and I’m glad that I have at least a glimpse into the kind of person she is inside.

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9 JR January 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Thank you for sharing your story, Mrs. LIAYF.

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10 Emily January 23, 2013 at 5:21 am

What a beautiful view you have of your past and your mother. It is truly refreshing to see someone that handles difficult situations with such grace.

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11 Katie B. of HousewifeHowTos.com January 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm

What a beautiful home, and yet not so staged that it doesn’t feel cozy. I love it — and those candelabras are making me swoon!

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12 Kelly January 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I was an only child in a very adult-centered household & family, so I relate to this very much and appreciate the thinking here. Now that I live in a very family-oriented, suburban area, I find my attitudes and decisions re my children and their place are a little at odds with some around us. So it’s nice to read of someone with a similar view.

And the fabulous house!! Swoon.

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13 Andrea Summerhays January 22, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I think I started REALLY appreciating my parents in the last couple of years. I now have four kids of my own and I work so hard to create a wonderful life for my kids that it drives me crazy when they aren’t grateful or helpful! Then I think back on all the times I ignored my own parents and didn’t show gratitude for all they did for me. Unfortunately its taken me longer then I thought it would to really get a glimpse into what my parents have done for me. They are phenomenal people!

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14 Andrea Summerhays January 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm

One more thing….I LOVE this house!!

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15 Summer January 22, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Just. bawled. my eyes out.

I was definitely a little brat growing up. I’ve since apologized, but… I hope they know how much i mean it!

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16 Design Mom January 29, 2013 at 7:50 am

I know what you mean, Summer. My apologies a dozen years after the brattiness never seem sincere. : )

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17 Karen January 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm

The first time I had an inkling was in college when I had to deal with a very messy roommate. As an adult, I try to remind myself every time we’re together to enjoy it and to let them know how much I appreciate them.

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18 Laura January 22, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I know this is a design blog, and I do enjoy these house tours. But every time I see one, I think, you know what would really be fun. A house tour of your average, messy, middle class, not looking like it was from a magazine house. Just for laughs. One of the reasons I enjoy the show the Middle is because their house is one of the few in tv land that looks like it is a real house for the family shown living in it. Maybe a house tour like that would help us all smile and make us feel better about our own houses sometimes.

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19 Wendy January 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I think that’s a great idea!

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20 Design Mom January 29, 2013 at 7:52 am

Hi Laura & Wendy! It may not seem like it, but I actually try hard to feature a range of houses. Some big, some small. Some heavily designed, some more homespun. Here are a few of the less-formally-designed tours. They might be just what you have in mind:

There’s the home-spun house in the hills.

The house with the green table.

Under construction.

Handmade.

Happily ever after.

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21 Adrienn February 4, 2013 at 7:29 am

Laura! Maybe looking at pictures of “real” houses would make you feel better about your own, but I think the whole point is to become inspired so you can actually implement little ideas here and there in your own house so you can enjoy being home even more.

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22 KatieB January 22, 2013 at 3:25 pm

For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this past year, I wrote my Mom’s and my Dad’s (2 very different, but freakishly similar) Manifestos. It was a list of the one liners and recurring actions that they threw at me for years hoping they’d stick. They did.

My Mom always used to tell us, “You’ll understand someday. Trust me. But not until you’re in my position.” But, why oh why, can’t we watch the Ms. America pageant?! Now, I understand.

She was, of course, so right. And the passing glance I share with her when she takes my baby from my arms to ever so sweetly show me how to best put him to sleep is all I need to say, “You were right Mom.”

I’ve always found it somewhat tragic that I won’t get to share those glances with her when I am in my 70s and 80s because she won’t be there. It must be lonely to not be understood by your children what it is truly like to live out those last years in a long, long life.

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23 heather January 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I love seeing real homes that are NOT in California or NYC!
My two kids are very little so I’m just beginning to realize the sacrifices my parents made. Beginning to understand the love a parent feels that can not be appreciated fully until one is a parent. I always ask myself how she handled all of the stiches and emergency room visits that came with four children!

She is ill now and on borrowed time so I am loving seeing how she enjoys her time with my kids and handles them like a pro. Hoping there is enough time together they will have some great memories.

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24 Ivy January 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Maybe I can’t read but I was confused during the interview that Gabby kept mentioning “children” and yet all I read earlier was that Julie had one 13 year old son?

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25 Lara January 25, 2013 at 7:54 am

She also has two daughters. I was confused too until I read an article about her and it mentioned she had 3 children and gave their ages. The daughters were both college aged.

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26 Ginger January 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I laughed at the “silently throwing things away.” That is so me at home too.

The other day I was putting my my son’s clothes away, and he says
“Mommy, thank you cleaning my clothes for me and putting them away, I know I get lots of clothes dirty.”
That made me tear up for joy!

Blessings,
Ginger

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27 Design Mom January 29, 2013 at 7:55 am

So sweet! Makes me tear up too.

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28 Bethany R January 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm

How beautiful! What a great perspective. Her last bit on parents put me in tears. : )

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29 Melissa w January 22, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I loved this house tour, but I especially loved the interview. I laughed out loud when I read, “they better pick up their crap because I’ll either go psycho on them or I’ll silently throw it away…” SO funny. I want to be her friend!
I love these house tours you do, Gabrielle! Thank you!

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30 Lisa Taylor Whitley January 22, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Thank you for your candid answers. I’m not sure if it was your intent, but I laughed quite a bit while reading your story.

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31 susan January 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Beautiful house! This is so crazy – but my living room is laid out EXACTLY the same way as Julies – the fireplace at the far end, the windows, the radiators, the entryways to other rooms – it’s uncanny. I have been struggling with how to decorate this room for sooooo long – the fireplace at the ar end and the radiators under the windows present quite a challenge. Thank you, Julie for showing me the way with your beautiful layout! I am wondering, what are the dimensions of your room?

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32 amyks January 24, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I certainly choked up on this one and Mrs LIAYF’s comment also affected me…
Beautiful house, and Julie must be a beautiful person, too!

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33 Lara January 25, 2013 at 7:56 am

Such a beautiful home. Although I agree with maybe seeing houses that aren’t picture perfect and look lived in, I also love seeing that it is possible to have a put together house with littles running around. It gives me hope.

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34 Christina Lembo January 25, 2013 at 11:51 am

So…. where is the kid’s room?

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35 Ali January 30, 2013 at 9:34 am

My favorite was this, “They have learned they better pick up their crap because I’ll either go psycho on them or I’ll silently throw it away. Ha ha.” Loved that.

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