Living With Kids: Sunshine Burns

February 5, 2013

By Gabrielle.

It’s probably pretty difficult to be in a horrible mood when your name is Sunshine, don’t you think? It’s probably also next-to-impossible, if your name is as bright as the sun, to have a home that isn’t filled with its warmth. And this is just one reason why Sunshine’s family is a lucky bunch! The others — and there are many! — can be found throughout her interview. She is a gracious Southerner who is in love with her life, from hunting to hospitality. It is always good to spend some time with others who are madly in love with their lives, and Sunshine is one of those people. I can’t wait for you to get to know her. (Another bonus to her name: When you email her in the early hours, it’s practically obligatory to begin with “Good morning, Sunshine!” Which makes my day.)

Q: Before we get into your house, we must begin with your name. Sunshine. It’s happiness, through and through. What’s the story behind it?

A: I’ve probably been asked this question by half the people I’ve met! Always followed by, “Is that your real name?”

Before I was born, my mom had a quick stint as an Avon saleswoman. There was a model in the catalogue named Sunny who inspired my name. That nickname never stuck and instead I’ve always been called Shine. My name feels unique to me, and itʼs nice that people can usually remember me because of it! There may have been a day or two as a child that I wished for another name, but really I’ve always been fond of names that are a little bit offbeat.

Q: Now, please tell us about the rest of your family. Who lives in this sunshine- filled home?

A: My husbandʼs name is Peter, and together we live here with our three children: Bright is seven, Decker John is nearly five, and our baby girl Chapel is two. Then there is a pack of beagles, a few chickens, and our mama cows and their calves.

We homeschool, I work out of the house, my husbandʼs office is here, and we are now writing a blog together — so our home is really where we spend our days! I am literally living with kids twenty-four, seven!

Q: How did this home become yours?

A: When we were first married, we lived in North Carolina where Peter worked in the corporate world and we fought rush hour traffic every day. We made the tough decision to move to Tennessee, which was home for me, even though it meant leaving his family and the friends we had made in Charlotte.

Moving to Tennessee gave us the opportunity to live a different style of life and, for him, to start a custom home building business. We built our home with the help of my father while we were still living out-of-state. It was a bit tricky building before we had children, trying to imagine what life would be like in the future with kids!

Our property adjoins my parents’ farm so our children have easy access to adventures in the woods, creek, and barns. Being just down the road from my parents is the most valuable thing about living here. Neither my husband nor I grew up with relatives in-state, so having family close by is a blessing for us all!

Q: What makes your home a refuge for you and yours?

A: Since we spend so much time together, it is really important that each of us have spaces of our very own! We donʼt have a designated playroom, so each childʼs bedroom has their own toys, books, a sofa for reading, a place for their art, and other special treasures.

When number three was on the way, we decided to give up our office space to become the nursery instead of having children share bedrooms. We remodeled the master walk-in closet to create a small office, just large enough for a desk and chairs.

Our home is constantly changing and rearranging to keep up with the seasons in our lives. I think itʼs important to be flexible with our spaces. Itʼs about making our house work for us.

Q: You live in the South and love it! What are your favorite regional ideals you’d like to share with the readers?

A: Ah! Yes, we are Southerners, through and through! We love living near Nashville, which is booming with talent and Southern soul. The food, the language, and the way we dress is all part of Southern culture. I have friends who buy hair bows in mass when they visit!

We hunt and fish and do a lot of outdoor living. We just started a fun site called Our Southern Roots which gives us the opportunity to share how our family interprets Southern living. We hunt, have a kennel of hunting dogs, cook, entertain, work on the farm, and play. Itʼs important to pass on these family traditions, and homeschooling gives us the opportunity to really work on these projects together.

Most dear to my heart is Southern hospitality. Having people in our home, feeding them, and visiting is a huge part of our life. I love that hospitality doesn’t necessarily mean throwing a dinner party; it can mean lemonade on the porch swing or soup in the kitchen. We want everyone who enters to feel welcomed and comfortable. Most Sundays we have a full table for lunch after church, and during the week people stop by to say hello and shoot the breeze, or pop in and end up staying for dinner. Itʼs small town living at its finest!

Q: How would you define your personal style? Have you seen it evolve a little or a lot since the addition of children?

A: My style has changed so much! After college, I spent time working with an interior designer who followed all the rules. Looking back, her designs were stuffy and boring. But for a period of time while we were building and decorating our house, I was still very aware of those rules and wanted to be sure my selections were appropriate. Now I laugh at that and choose things based on what I love! I am still sort of un-doing and replacing the more traditional and formal selections I made in the past. Our home is evolving all the time.

My post-children style is definitely more fun. Itʼs freer and actually much more of a reflection of who I am and who our family is. My personal style is classic with a lighthearted and casual twist. A formal light fixture painted chartreuse, kids’ art in the guest bath, a huge funky floral painting beside our grandfather clock, picture frames in gaudy gold paint. I want there to be something fun in every room — something unexpected, happy, and personal.

Q: You’ve got a lot of green and red in your home, yet it doesn’t look like Christmas. Yellow and lots of patterns, too. What’s your color secret? How do you make it all work together so seamlessly?

A: I love color and pattern — polka dots and stripes and animal prints — the more, the merrier! Iʼm slowly changing my walls to neutral whites and blacks, realizing that not only are those colors clean and bright and spacious, but they make my tired furniture pop a little better. The clean and neutral background makes the layers of color and pattern work together.

Iʼm inspired by some great bloggers and designers who happen to be Southern too: Mayme Baker, Jamie Meares, and also Aussie Anna Spiro. I love their happy colorful interiors that are sometimes a little bit crazy. I think the secret to making all the colors and pattern work is choosing things you love. Youʼll be drawn to items with similar themes whether you realize it or not! I donʼt want to take decorating too seriously. And nothing is permanent; I move paintings and furniture around constantly!

Q: Design-wise, what are your favorite items to add to a child’s surroundings to make for a magical childhood?

A: Our children are book lovers, and so I love creating special spots for them to snuggle up in a corner with a book. Iʼm crazy about small child-sized chairs. They are all over the house to encourage impromptu reading.

When the tooth fairy visited for the first time, we painted a tiny sparkly fairy door by the baseboard in the corner of our oldestʼs room. We have a big slide behind our yellow couch, cardboard box houses that stay up for weeks at a time…itʼs fun to include special details in the house that are clearly just for them!

My childrenʼs most magical memories will probably be playing in the woods. Itʼs amazing how creative children are with dirt and sticks and bits of grass. There is nothing I can design that comes close to what their imaginations can create!

Q: What’s your mess philosophy with three little ones?

A: Children fill the house with laughter and joy, but they also bring a whole lot of stuff! Iʼm constantly editing, and I crave uncluttered spaces. I like to keep collections and displays in hutches and cabinets where they are behind glass doors. We’ve got to have room for living and space for all of the books, papers, toys, and stuff that are a part of our days.

I’ve declared that I am no longer picking up the childrenʼs rooms. Iʼll help them reorganize or sort through their things when we do a major clean-out. But they need to be able to handle the day-to-day pick up themselves. We simplify by keeping only the toys they are currently playing with in their rooms; the rest are stored in the attic for rotation.

When the mess is overwhelming me, Iʼll set the timer for five minutes and shout “five minute clean-up!” Then everyone runs around putting the clutter back where it belongs.

Because we are here all the time there is never a break when the house is clean, quiet, and picked up! Sometimes I long for that day, but I’ve been warned it will come much too quickly!

Q: What do you hope your design and daily style choices will teach your kids? Are there moments when you can see the effect it all has on them, in terms of color or organization or art displays?

A: They are all into pattern mixing, and they’ve been known to come up with some pretty crazy outfits! We joke that Decker John likes to wear as many combinations of stripes as possible. Our daughter, Bright, spends hours each week decorating her dollhouse and actually tears out magazine pages to use as inspiration. The older two are both very specific in how they like their rooms arranged and their closets organized.

I hope that they are learning to take pride in our home and the importance of taking care of the things we’ve been blessed with.

Q: What is your favorite part about living with your kids? What do you already miss?

A: I love the life and energy that kids bring. While the fast pace and unexpected twists they bring to every single situation often ruffles my feathers, it is a wild ride I wouldn’t want to miss!

I miss the sweet baby voices that my older two are already outgrowing, and I do miss that feeling of having everything checked off my to-do list!

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: …how to loosen up! Parenting is hard work, and I have to remind myself all the time to relax, let the little things go, and focus on whatʼs really important.


Thank you, Sunshine, for your joy. It’s contagious. I love how you’ve embraced your Southern culture; you know how I love when you love the place you live! And I also enjoy that simple reminder at the end of your interview: Parenting is hard work. Loosen up. A giant yes to that!

Friends, are there traditions and customs specific to your area that you’ve loved passing on to your own kids? Or are there some that you completely avoid? I’d love to hear how you’ve embraced your local culture!

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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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1 CeeBee February 5, 2013 at 10:25 am

Now this house really feels like living WITH children. Love how kid-friendly yet beautiful it is!


2 Andrea February 5, 2013 at 10:38 am

I absolutely love this home–it’s so vibrant, and I love the color choices and combinations. I’m inspired.

Sounds like a fun, down-to-earth family.


3 Shannon { A Mom's Year } February 5, 2013 at 10:44 am

What a sweet home! I love all the books and animals and musical instruments. And I think that 5-minute “Room Rescues” have single-handled preserved my sanity all these years.

I’m from the the upper midwest, but I cherish visits to my best friend’s family in Atlanta and St. Simon’s Island. I love Southern food and hospitality and how they love their mamas!


4 Christine February 5, 2013 at 10:51 am

Lovely! What is the gray paint color on the shed? I would love to paint my house that color. I love the green door with it!


5 Sunshine February 5, 2013 at 11:31 am

Christine- Our barn is Char Brown (porter paint) and our green door is Paradise (sherwin williams)… It is a fun color and is actually on the front door of our home as well!


6 becca February 5, 2013 at 11:55 am

LOVE! Such a sweet house. I adored the colors. I am a color person myself, and just painted our open living room/dining/kitchen. It is fun to dream up ways to organize and paint and make your house, your home. thanks so for sharing. PS I want one of those labs featured on Sunshine’s blog. Really do! Those beagles are super cute too! Love it all. xxoo


7 christie elkins February 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Yay for Tennessee! We live in East TN, about 40 miles north of Knoxville. LOVE Nashville. We homeschool and hospitality is a key ingredient in our household as well. Do you just love living in the South? I think it makes us extra special ;)


8 Shannon Bradley-Colleary February 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Oh Gabrielle I really do need the beauty of your site to elevate my dopamine. And I love the elderly chair people. Something to look forward to.


9 annie b. February 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm

gorgeous home!! what is the grey paint colour on the wall (picture of your daughter playing at the kids’ table)? i am in search of that warm/rich color for my walls :)



10 Sunshine February 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Thank you for your kind words! The kitchen paint is Sherwin Williams Urban Bronze!


11 MelissaM February 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Sunshine, you are a beautiful women and mother, and your home reflects that about you. Gabrielle, thank you for sharing this lovely and inspiring home!


12 Sunshine February 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Thank you for your encouraging words dear friend! I hope you caught a glimpse of your beautiful portraits in these photos!


13 Rebecca Alexis February 5, 2013 at 1:13 pm

LOVE! Such a happy home & I love the name Sunshine. So perfect for the way the house is pulled together.


14 Fabricotti February 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I love these posts! So inspiring. This house is so homey and warm. Great furniture and just the right measure of whimsy! Iris xx


15 Lindsey February 5, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I actually know someone named Happiness, which is quite possibly the only name that could rival Sunshine in the cheerful department! ;) That light filled house is positively palatial compared to our European city apartment. I love that her children’s books are so prominent a feature in their rooms! xo


16 Amy February 5, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I love her gray walls! We’ve been talking about painting some of our walls gray, but I was nervous to go too dark. But I’m totally inspired by how her home still looks bright and happy.


17 Sunshine February 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Amy- Take the plunge! :) They looked horrible until the job was totally finished, so don’t get nervous when the paint first goes on the wall! We used Sherwin Williams Urban Bronze, in case you need to pick up a sample!


18 margaux February 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm

oh, i love the name sunshine and her daughter’s name bright! how lovely!


19 Barbara February 5, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I love Sunshine’s house! And I want to know where she got that wooden slide. I’m looking for something like that–a non-plastic, indoor slide. Thanks for sharing, Gabrielle!


20 Sunshine February 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Barbara- That slide was a lifesaver during my son’s toddler years on days when he couldn’t go outside to burn off his energy! :) It is from ikea, the same one is still available!


21 April Louise February 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm

A great child friendly home :)


22 Jennifer February 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm

beautiful and inspiring! thanks for sharing!


23 kelly thompson February 5, 2013 at 3:01 pm

i love the wall in the hall with gold circles- what is that?


24 Sunshine February 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Kelly- Aren’t the polka dots fun! They are Avery round kraft paper labels. Super easy, fast and cheap! Peel and stick! I have a post about doing the walls here


25 Kara February 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm

This series makes me SO happy! I love seeing and hearing how other women still have beautiful homes while raising their children.


26 Danielle February 5, 2013 at 3:34 pm

My children would love to live in your home! It’s warm and beautiful, with unique and carefully curated pieces. You put your furniture to use and I can tell that your children enjoy your home. Sometimes I see homes in this series that are perfectly styled (when my home was featured I was embarrassed at our imperfect mess), but the reality is we LIVE WITH KIDS! Bravo for incorporating parenthood into your every day.


27 Carly February 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Wow! What an inspirational family through and through. And Sunshine just has a perfect sense of style. Thank you for sharing. I loved the part about Southern Hospitality, and I LOVE the kids sofas. So sweet.


28 Jan February 5, 2013 at 6:25 pm

What a bright and cheery home! I love the part about Southern hospitality, and think we could all learn a little more about opening up our homes for impromptu visits and gatherings.


29 Kate February 5, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Hi Sunny,
I really like your twist on traditional with a slightly period/modern touch. I used to work for Lonny Mag and could totally see them photographing your dining and children’s rooms!
Plus, I love your name (my blog is called Sunshinelady, so it figure)!


30 Grace February 5, 2013 at 9:46 pm

I love all the yellow! My friend just had a daughter and her name is Sonny Indiana. Love her kids’ names.


31 Amanda February 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I love the tall polka dot mugs! And I think I spotted the children’s book Lissy’s Friends; I teach preschool and my students love it!


32 Diana February 6, 2013 at 9:32 am

Love the bookshelf in Bright’s room! Was it a custom piece, or is it available for purchase somewhere? My parents always called me Sunshine when I was growing up :).


33 Sunshine February 6, 2013 at 2:06 pm

We found Bright’s great bookshelf at pottery barn kids about six years ago! I just looked and it seems they have a similar (bit smaller) one available now. You must have been a cheery little girl to have such a happy nickname! :)


34 Matilda Magazine February 6, 2013 at 9:47 am

I love your house & your kids’ names. We just started a magazine for expecting & new moms with a focus on baby names. Let me know if I can interview you about their names & more.

Designmom, I would love to interview you too for the magazine!

If interested, you both can email me at info @


35 Sunshine February 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Aren’t names fun! I’d love to chat and the magazine looks darling.


36 Melanie February 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm

pbi: my six-month-old daughter’s name is Mathilde and she smiles just like the little one on the cover! Wonderful name for a magazine!


37 Analia February 6, 2013 at 10:45 am

This is one of my favorites! Beautiful and I love how she says that “parenting is hard work, Loosen up”.


38 Sunshine February 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Aren’t names fun! I’d love to chat and the magazine looks darling.


39 rue du chat qui peche February 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I love this post. Lovely home…
I am really interested in homeschooling. My eldest is in a montessori school, and my youngest is still only 19 months. But I am contemplating homeschooling the. I would love to read more about it.


40 Jean February 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Okay, so since you are so generously sharing paint colors (-: what is the color in the room with the dog picture?? (I believe it’s your son’s room??) THANKS!


41 Sunshine February 7, 2013 at 8:49 am

The brown walls in his room are Dover Beige, porter paints. :)


42 Dervla @ The Curator February 7, 2013 at 8:42 am

I love the idea of having little chairs everywhere to encourage reading! While I’m in a small apartment and that’s not happening, i still love the sentiment. Beautiful home.


43 aimee @ smilingmama February 7, 2013 at 8:54 am

We have nearly the same hutch as that top photo in our dining room. I do believe you’ve inspired me to paint it! I’ve been feeling weighed down with it but love its shape and the storage it offers–a paint job might just be the trick! Any tips?


44 Sydney Psychologists February 8, 2013 at 8:41 am

Wow, I love it! What a happy sweet home. Sunshine, you really are a gorgeous woman, wife and a mother. Thats why your home reflects everything about you. So inspiring! Thanks for sharing your beautiful home.


45 Melanie February 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm

This is a beautiful home! Please come and decorate for me :-)

Thank you, Sunshine, for sharing the paint colours — Urbane Bronze is *exactly* what I have been looking for for our own living room.


46 Sunshine February 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm

:) glad to help! and I’m glad you caught that it’s urbane and not urban bronze! happy painting!


47 Emily February 9, 2013 at 8:14 am

I just adore these posts so much. I’m a young college grad, no kids on the horizon just yet, but I so appreciate the advice and knowledge these women share through your series. It is truly something I cherish reading each week and is one of my favorite series on the web. Thanks so much, Gabrielle!


48 Bethany Faulkner February 9, 2013 at 5:33 pm

You’ve always inspired me! Wish we lived closer and our boys could run around in the woods together as you and I sip on lemonade! You’re life sounds wonderfully clean, in full color and put together – as it always has! Congrats on the post!! Miss you!!


49 Jenny February 10, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Beautiful home, Sunshine! And I have to wonder where you are, because we live in Nashville. I am a transplant from the Chicago area, and after living here for almost 20 years (I moved here when I was 19) I can’t imagine living anywhere else! We love Nashville so much! Thank you for sharing your home with us. I think our kids and dogs would get along. :)


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51 jackie May 5, 2016 at 5:41 am

I love all the yellow! My friend just had a daughter and her name is Sonny Indiana. Love her kids’ names.


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