By Gabrielle.

Do you have a friend who encourages you to be the happiest possible version of yourself? One who sees the wonderful in everyone, and then goes one step beyond to gratefully acknowledge all the wonderful? Maybe she’s an interior decorator, too, who doesn’t believe that a dream home has anything to do with the number of rooms or the number of zeros in the price tag, or even the delicious color scheme that’s the current rage on Pinterest. Perhaps, instead, she thinks the life you and yours live inside the home is the dreamiest part of all.

If you’ve got a friend like this, you are a lucky one! But no worries if you don’t, because I’ve found one for us all. Her name is Bethany. You’re going to want to keep her.

Hey! I’m Bethany. My husband, Paul, and I have been married for 11 years, and we have three kids.

I’m a stay at home mom and part time interior decorator. Paul is a cinematographer and photographer for an oilfield equipment company. He’s the one who actually took all these photos of our home that you’re seeing. I do the decorating and styling, and then he makes it look great in photos. Truthfully, he’s the one who has really encouraged me to pursue my art and to follow this path I’m on! More on that later…

Our oldest son, Charlie, in the second grade, is a Minecraft and Lego wiz.  He’s a quiet but funny guy that loves reading and writing and as the oldest, he is constantly challenging our parenting. Paul and I often look at each other in a panic because who really knows what they’re doing here? By the grace of God, Charlie manages to still be a great kid despite our many parenting fumbles.

Our middle daughter, Norah, is a firecracker who loves dancing, coloring, and fashion. When I found out I was having a girl, I think I was so excited to have this little doll to dress up and give her the girly room that I wanted to decorate. She quickly showed me that she’s her own person with her own opinions about things, which I think was a lesson I needed to learn early on. Around age two she fought me on every single outfit I picked out, and now at age five she dresses herself completely. It’s a battle I had to give up early on and I’m so thankful I did. She’s got a creative spark and I would never want to quench that.

Will is our affectionate, rough-and-tumble, little number three. We still sometimes accidentally refer to him as a baby, and I’m okay with that right now. I stay home with him and he plays hard, loves hard, and sleeps hard.

We live in Katy, Texas, a large suburb just west of Houston. This is the nearest we can live without being in the city. We moved here from the country, where Paul’s previous job was, so it still feels pretty big to me. There’s lots of traffic, it’s noisy and crowded, though I must admit I love having every convenience close by.

Honestly, it took me a while to get used to the busy-ness and the noise. But I have to say that I do love it. I’m so thankful that Paul can be home from work in 20 minutes and we can maximize our time together. He doesn’t have this huge commute everyday.

And, because we are so close to Houston and so many people like us move here for jobs in the city, Katy is incredibly diverse. We have at least six different countries represented on our little street! I grew up an Army brat. I moved all over the country, even overseas for a time, so I love that my kids get to experience, even in a small way, some of that diversity and a bit of the larger world around them.

We moved here about three years ago when Paul got the job he has now.  When I first walked in to this house, I loved the high ceilings and how open it was. I also loved the little bonus room upstairs with the nook that we’ve now turned into a library for our kids.

It never held dream home status for us, but honestly, I don’t think that’s what we were looking for. It is your basic suburban floor plan from about 15 years ago and it needed — and still needs — some updates.

Dream home for us, though, is really more about the life we’re living inside the home.

We were thinking about how could we make this house, even with its quirks and imperfections, really reflect our family and our life? How can we live close enough to Paul’s work so he can be home and we can be together more? How can we live in a house we can afford and send our kids to great schools? Those were the things we were looking for beyond the actual house itself. We knew if the price was right, we could change some things inside the house.

So, at first? Yeah, it wasn’t love at first sight. But we painted the cabinets. We painted every wall, ceiling, and almost every inch of woodwork. We changed out the light fixtures and many of the floors.

What is supposed to be the formal dining room when you first walk in pulls double-duty for us as a homework and craft room that’s also available as a dining room when we entertain.

Our master bedroom is also a home office. The house has become a place that feels like home, that feels like us and works for us. And now we love it.

I was inspired to start decorating after Charlie was born and I first became a stay-at-home mom. While decorating his nursery I just had so much fun getting creative with paint and color and pattern. I thought, “Why can’t I be this creative in the rest of my house?”

I started reading design blogs and realized I didn’t have to have specialized training or a degree in design to make my home how I wanted it — I just needed to take some risks, paint some walls, and experiment a little! So that’s what I started doing.

Our first home became like design school for me. I can’t tell you how many times I painted and repainted, how many times I rearranged furniture, and how many nail holes I put in those poor walls. It really was the training ground for me to discover my style and learn things like scale, contrast, and how to plan a room from start to finish.

During that time I had some friends and family members reach out to me and ask for help with projects in their own homes. My business grew from there, and so I started my blog as a way to share what I was working on. I do mostly consultations but also some more involved full service work. It’s slow and steady work, and I really only work outside of my house one day a week so that I can be home with my little guy the rest of the time…but I’m so thankful for the creative outlet it has provided.

Growing up and moving around a lot as an Army brat, I think I spent a lot of time just trying to fit in and make friends as quickly as possible. I never thought of myself as a really creative person. I liked to sing, but I was never great at drawing or painting or anything like that, and my goal was to definitely never ever stand out.

I met Paul in college, and even though he was an engineering major, he had all these crazy (to me) hobbies. He loved music and cooking, art, and videography. After we got married and he was working as an engineer, he kept up all of these hobbies and added a few more like drawing. I still didn’t really get it. His creative pursuits felt like a waste of time to me. Okay, except for the cooking hobby! I admit that I enjoyed and benefitted from that one!

Looking back, I didn’t always support him the way I wish I would have, but I’m so thankful his creative spark didn’t burn out. After working in a job for eight years that he didn’t love, he was offered the chance to pursue videography professionally. It was completely a dream come true, and now I’m so thankful for those years he spent mastering his craft even though it wasn’t his day job.

Even if it had come to nothing professionally though, it’s so much of who he is and how he expresses himself. I’m so grateful to have learned that now, as it’s something that has enriched my parenting and my own life, as well. Making time for pursuing your creative life opens up so much of yourself, and it’s given me this fulfillment that I never could have dreamed of.

I see a blank wall or an empty shelf as my canvas. I see a grouping of artwork or a client’s personal accessories and books as my paintbrushes. The thrill in seeing it all come together is really what keeps me going, and I’m so grateful to my husband for teaching me that. He’s so great at what he does, and he’s encouraged me to have confidence in what I do.

Because I’m not professionally trained, I can tend toward fear and comparison, but I just keep on going and working and creating, knowing that in that process, I am practicing my craft, my own art.

Since most of my work comes through referrals or through the blog, many of my clients have young children and are in the same season of life as I am. Often, they’re not interested in purchasing new furniture, but that’s totally okay because I love working with what someone already has. Maybe they just need some pattern and texture added in or to rearrange the furniture in a new way. It’s fun for me to think through all of those things with a client and consider how a space can best work for their family.

My biggest project so far was for a dear friend and client; I call it the Montgomery House on my blog. It was a custom home that I helped design from start to finish that had a farmhouse aesthetic with lots of craftsman detailing — a new home but with lots of old home charm.

She loves all things old and shabby chic, but she allowed me to inject some modern lines into the decor for just enough contrast that made it really something special. I had so much fun on that project, and of course working with a friend helped, too!

The most fun part of my job though, is when a room or home is completely finished and Paul and I go back together and take photos. It’s like a date for us because he loves making my work shine and I love getting to see him in his element. Sounds romantic, right? The idea of romance really changes once you have three kids, doesn’t it? Ha!

I started blogging as a way to show my work as a decorator. It was really going to just be before and after pictures, but I found myself wanting to share the real life moments, like the messes behind the pretty photos and the mechanics that go in to taking a photo like the ones you see here.

So I started writing some more personal posts that touched on those ideas, and quickly realized those were getting the most reaction. It dawned on me that you could find pretty house pictures really anywhere. I mean, Pinterest is a gold mine for beautiful homes that outshine my photos any day.

But the comments I was getting from my more raw and real posts were so kind and encouraging that I felt drawn more and more to share the real and purposeful side of my work beyond the pretty pictures. That’s been the best part of blogging for me: connecting with my readers in a real and meaningful way. My hope is that readers can come to my site and know my heart, not just see a bunch of pretty images.

I do struggle with balance sometimes since I work from home and a lot of what I do is online, like blogging and I also love Instagram. My little one naps in the afternoons so I get a lot done during that time, but it can be hard for me to shut it down when my oldest two come home from school.

I don’t really feel pressure to be relevant because I know the design world can be really subjective. Yes, there are certain things that work or don’t work aesthetically, but also everyone just has their own opinions about things. So my goal is to just stay true to myself on my blog, to post what I’m working on or what I’m currently inspired by, and not get pulled in different directions by trends.

I just always want to be myself. I try to just be honest and real, because that’s what I’m most drawn to when I read other blogs, design and otherwise!

My philosophy on design and living with kids is to let life dictate my style and my home. We let our books, the kids’ toys, their art, and the things we’re interested in decorate our home and make it unique. Otherwise I’m constantly telling everyone to “Put that stuff away” because it’s interfering with the aesthetic.

For me, especially in kid’s spaces but also in my living room since I stay home with Will, the toys, books, and art are the color. If I had a carefully well thought out color scheme, it would be ruined by mid morning when the toys are all over the living room floor. Of course, we have storage and there’s a time for keeping things neat, but I love living in a way that even the toys and books don’t interfere with the color and beauty of the home.

Books are really my favorite things to decorate with. I love to read and I love having books all over the house. For one, this encourages reading among our kids, but for another thing, books are full of real and natural color that don’t adhere to a color scheme or palette. They are like little purposeful works of art that you can pick up and read whenever you want.

This whole idea and philosophy has totally changed my life because I can look around even when things are not where they belong, and I still see beauty in the chaos!

My favorite part about living with my kids is those moments when they really pour their hearts out to you. For our kids, it’s usually before bedtime when we’re so dead tired and, honestly, it can be hard to be really ready for those moments, but we try to be intentional about them. Like I said earlier, Charlie is pretty quiet, but sometimes at bedtime he’ll just open up and want me to lay in his bed and talk with him. I love moments like that and cherish them so much.

This parenting thing is not easy at all, and I think the expectation, at least for me, was that when my kids were born they were going to be these little tiny fulfillments of my dreams. Or that they were somehow going to reflect to the world something I may be lacking.

I’ve put way too much pressure on my kids in the past to uphold my own image or my own reputation. I forget they are their own person, created with their own quirks and personalities, likes, and dislikes! I heap expectations on them they were never meant to fulfill.

I forget that when my kids make a mistake or pee their pants or cry all the way through Target, that this is just what kids do sometimes. This is not a reflection on me as a mother or on me as a person. I’m not saying I don’t discipline when needed, but it has been a freeing thing to learn this and calm down a little.

I wish I could have learned that sooner. It breaks my heart to think of the times I have freaked out over little things and overreacted because I felt like my image was at stake.

I hope my kids remember this home as a place we were together a lot. While their bedrooms and a playroom are upstairs, we keep a lot of storage for their toys and books downstairs. We only have one TV and just love time spent together in our living room, around the table eating dinner together, or in the backyard playing a made up game called football tag.

I don’t know this for sure, but I envision it will be the home they do a good portion of their growing up in so I want them to know and remember it as a safe place for their creative pursuits, their dreams, their anxieties, and their ups and downs in this stage of their lives.

I hope they remember that I was there for them through it all. But I hope they also remember that I was an example for them, exploring my own creativity, not looking to them to fulfill my dreams, but giving them the freedom to live the lives they were created for.

I really wish someone had told me — and I had listened sooner! — that creativity is a worthy pursuit. It’s never a waste of time.

I spent a lot of years just trying to blend in. Creativity gives me so much freedom, and where better to start than in my home? Especially as someone who feels a bit introverted, my home is my safe place, so it should be the place I feel like I can take some risks — like painting my hallway black! — and not feel the need to live up to anyone else’s expectations or rules.

Once I really heard that and started to believe it, I was opened up to a whole world of creativity I never knew I had in me.

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Thank you, Bethany! The story of how your husband’s never-ending pursuit for creative outlets inspired you — eventually! — to embrace your own, is my favorite.

It’s always inspiring to hear how our partners make us better, just by their quiet example. If anyone has their own partner-muse to share, I know we’d all love to hear about them! What makes them so uplifting?

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.