When Heather first wrote to me, she mentioned an affliction she and many of her design clients suffer from called Pinterest Paralysis. Of course, I had to get to know her a little better!
She works as an interior designer from home – which offers its own set of challenges, as those of you with a home office probably understand – and is also smack in the middle of the toddler stage when a home’s entire aesthetic seems to change. Things that would break your heart if they broke head to the top shelves, glass-top tables are replaced, and suddenly you find yourself researching how to remove jelly stains from my gorgeous white couch! I absolutely love what she has to share, both professionally and personally, and I truly hope you do, too.
Q: Please introduce us to your family!
A: Stu and I were set up by a friend, and after a disastrous first date swore we’d never see each other again. Funny how first impressions are sometimes wrong! We’ve been married almost seven years and have a bubbly baby girl.
Like most two year olds, Gemma is a huge fan of jumping, swinging, any fuzzy thing with a tail…and yoga. Yep, she does yoga. We don’t even really know where she picked it up, but one day when she was around 18 months she started doing downward facing dog and child’s pose like a natural yogi. We just went with it, and now baby yoga is a big hit with the grandparents on FaceTime.
Both of our extended families live out of state, so we do a lot of road tripping to visit. One day we’ll have an actual vacation where we go to a new city, stay somewhere cool, and eat at fancy restaurants. But for this season of life, precious vacation days are spent at grandparents’ houses with home cooked meals. And they’re my favorite days of the year by far.
Q: Where do you live, and how did your house become your home? How did it look when you first saw it? Was there that gasp and a “this has to be ours” moment?
A: We live in a 1940s Tudor style cottage that stole my heart the moment we drove up to the curb for the first time. It’s nestled in the middle of what has been my dream neighborhood ever since I came to college here as a teenager. It’s right in the center of town near the university with old trees, huge lawns, and eclectic houses that are anywhere from 50 to 100 years old. Every street has a personality.
It’s a funny thing, these old homes. They lure you in with their charm and character, and then teach you hard lessons about homeownership and life in the most brutal kind of way! I say that lovingly but I am completely serious. Anyone else who has an old home knows exactly what I mean!
I have been obsessed with historic houses for as long as I can remember. Maybe it was all that Anne of Green Gables I watched as a kid. When my husband and I started looking to buy our first home about six years ago, everything on the market in our price range were these pre-fab homes that felt so lifeless and just made me really sad.
After one very long and frustrating day of touring what seemed like dozens of cookie cutters, I had a full blown grown-up melt down. Once our realtor left, the ugly crying started and I threw myself on the floor blurting out, “I’d rather just live in the apartment if we can’t get an old home!” To which my sweet husband of less than a year said, “We’ll just keep looking. Would you like me to go buy you some ice cream?”
He knew me so well, even then.
After a couple offers on other historic houses fell through for one reason or another, our home came on the market. I knew instantly it was the one. I’ve never felt as connected to a house as I did this one. It seemed brand new and completely familiar in the strangest way.
Q: What makes you love the place you live?
A: I grew up in Houston, but moved to Springfield, Missouri when i came to college. Having been raised in a one of the largest and most culturally diverse cities in the world, coming to a mid sized town in the Ozarks was a huge culture shock! After graduation, I landed my first job and several of my college friends stayed in town. My husband grew up couple hours south in Arkansas, so southern Missouri is the perfect place for him to hike, rock climb, and camp like he’d done growing up.
I’d be lying if I said that I loved to camp, however I told Stu I did when we were dating. Don’t feel too bad for him; he told me that he read books.
Honestly, if I can’t be in Texas, the only place I’d want to live is in the Midwest. That’s saying a lot for a Texas girl! The people in Missouri are so down to earth, and it is extremely affordable to live here. We have a 2,200 square foot historic house in a nice neighborhood for less than one third of what we’d pay anywhere else in the country. The public schools here are excellent, with the elementary schools intentionally kept smaller and neighborhood focused.
We don’t have all the amenities of huge city, but Springfield is a great community to raise kids. There is a thriving creative scene, stellar art museum, locally owned restaurants and coffee shops, and gorgeous lakes and areas to hike just outside the city. We definitely get our fair share of snow and ice, but not nearly severe as the states up north. Having four seasons is something I didn’t grow up with and have come to really appreciate. I had my first white Christmas our first year in the house!
Q: You’re transitioning from a new baby in your home to a toddler; how is your decor adjusting to your daughter’s curious hands and fresh mobility? What are the biggest adjustments you’re making during this phase?
A: As Gemma has branched up and out, I’ve become more strategic with decorating. For example, we swapped out glass square end tables with sharp corners for a wooden round top and a set of acrylic nesting tables. The acrylic tables are basically Gemma’s favorite things ever. She totally takes ownership of them and moves them from room to room depending on where she wants to have a tea party or stuffed animal fort at the moment. And it works brilliantly. I know that acrylic isn’t everyone’s look, but man is it practical for kids!
Also, I’m very much into zoning these days. Just because toddlers are active and exploring doesn’t mean all the pretties have to be locked away. I simply moved them up! I use the top shelves on my bookcase for breakables and heirlooms and the bottom shelves are filled with boxes and books that she is free to pull out and play with.
Artwork is one of the best ways to add color and pattern to a room that is 100% kid proof. Obviously table top decor is a calculated risk when you have small kids, but I don’t keep anything overly precious within her grasp. Filling a simple tray with books, wooden candlesticks and metal items are a nice way to incorporate different finished without using breakables.
I always encourage my clients to think about what I call their home’s big impact spots; places where they can focus their decor efforts and get a big return. For example, my mantel is one. It’s visible almost immediately when you walk in the door as a focal point in the living room, but you also see it while sitting at the dining table. This is a spot that I always make sure looks fresh and curated with fun objects or simple picks depending on my mood. And it’s totally toddler proof. Bonus!
Lately I feel like I’m moving toward a more stripped down approach to decorating…being very intentional about the choices I’m making. This has carried over into my design work as well. Personally I’m in a season of really appreciating and striving for simplicity in so many areas, from our family schedule to what we wear to what I put in our home. If I don’t love it, I’m much more willing to part with it.
Less but better is a quote that’s really resonating with me this season of life.
Q: You work as a designer from your home. What challenges does this present and how do you deal with them?
A: Working from home is both a blessing and a HUGE challenge at times. When Gemma was a baby, I could easily care for her and work without feeling like I was missing too much of either world. As she’s gotten older, this gets trickier to explain that when mommy is in the office, I’m working. We have a great sitter who helps us most days of the week, but my overall goal was to be creative about how and when I worked, so she could still be home with Stu or me as often as possible.
Because Stu also works from home, we have to be really strategic about leaving work in the office and deciding when to shut it off. If my fabric samples and project plans start to spill into the kitchen or the living room, it’s almost a physical reminder that I’m not respecting our family space.
Even though we have an office, when I first started often times I’d end up working in the living room or the bedroom. Now I try to avoid that if I can. It just blurs the lines for me and makes it easier to work just another hour or two instead of unplugging, shutting the laptop down, and turning off my phone to connect with Stu.
We’re pretty good about keeping family time protected, but once Gemma is in bed, many nights we have to work. If we aren’t intentional about just hanging out together, our home can feel like an office 24/7. Sometimes a night of Netflix and popcorn is both healthy and necessary.
Q: You’ve got a blog! Tell us all about it! And what are your goals for your online spot?
A: Decor Fix is an extension of the work I do as a designer and Decor Coach. On the site, I share stylish ways to simply help you love your home! I work with clients both locally and virtually to help them weed through confusion, see their home’s potential, and make decisions with intention. I find that most people know what they like, but the struggle is translating a picture in their head into reality in their home.
When we have confidence and clarity about our home and style, making decisions becomes much easier and about 100 times more enjoyable. It’s so much more than just having pretty stuff. I truly believe that when our homes reflect and inspire us, we are more free to experience life with the people we love.
Creating an environment that supports and nurtures us is a process worth pursuing. And yes, I truly believe it’s a process. Unlike a lot of home makeover shows that would swoop in and deliver a whole new room in 48 hours, I believe curating your space is a deeply personal process that won’t happen overnight. But it can teach us so much about ourselves and keep us grounded in our values. (Okay, I know I’m preaching to the choir here!)
Q: You mention Pinterest paralysis, which makes me laugh! Can you talk a little about this illness and how to get over it?
A: Yes, the struggle is real! I have been a victim to this, and I realized that most of my clients were suffering from this at one point or another. I use Pinterest every day as a tool for work and love how handy it is to organize and keep tabs on things that are currently inspiring me personally.
BUT! It can be unhealthy at certain points for any of us. Sometimes inspiration overload robs us of our ability to clearly see how we should be spending our creative efforts. Inspiration is only helpful if it leads us to better thinking or better doing. And sometimes Pinterest is detrimental to both of these processes.
We see, we pin.
We pin, we compare.
We pin and we pin and we pin and then we start to resent our current situation, whether in our homes, what we’re wearing, or even what we’re making for dinner.
Realizing when this is happening is key. Stopping is easier said than done, but just getting off the computer and getting your hands into a new project, be that tackling a new recipe or simply cleaning out your junk drawer, will leave you feeling better than a 30 minute pinfest on a down day.
I’ve even told a couple clients to take a Pinterest fast as part of the design process. I’ve had them go to the fabric store instead. Something about physically interacting with fabrics or finishes shakes us out of receptive only mode. We’re no longer just clicking, we’re engaging. It sets you up to actually make some progress in your home.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own daughter? What has surprised you the most about being a mom?
A: Oh my goodness, how do you pick? I mean, the giggles! The giggles and the kisses have to be every mama’s favorite thing. And those pudgy little feet…even when they’re stinky.
I’ve been surprised how healing motherhood has been for me and my own mom. Even though it is filled with love, we have not always had the easiest relationship. Since having Gemma, it’s led me to a whole new level of gratefulness for all she invested in me. Seeing how much she loves her grandbaby makes it much easier to forgive anything in our past.
Q: If she could remember just one memory or tradition from this childhood home – and you as her mom – what do you hope it would be?
A: Dance parties. The wildly silly impromptu dance parties that we have multiple times a day in our living room. Stu dances like a crazy person. I dance like a mom trying to keep all the wobbles contained within the confines of her clothing. Gemma dances with stuffed animals like they’re her best friends in the world. The windows are open, and we often get stares from people passing by. I want Gemma to know that silliness is a virtue.
And that sometimes you have the biggest dance parties when you’ve had the hardest days.
If we can put on a little Bruno Mars and shake off a bad day and love on each other, then that’s the safest place I can give her.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: I wish someone had told me that simply showing up and doing your best is good enough. You aren’t going to be the best, and sometimes you might feel like you’re failing. A crying toddler, a disastrously messy house, unanswered emails, take-out for dinner, and yesterday’s makeup are not a sign of failure…they’re a sign that you’re doing your best. And that’s good enough.
And tomorrow your baby will smile again, you’ll cook a decent dinner, attack your to-do list, and maybe even wash your hair…or maybe not. But it’s okay either way.
Thank you, Heather! It’s true: some days are hard, and all you can do is turn up the music and dance it all away. The way you described your dance styles is so perfect; I can totally visualize what your passers-by are witnessing, and I can’t stop smiling! Again, thanks for being here.
Friends, what about this: “We see, we pin. We pin, we compare. We pin and we pin and we pin and then we start to resent our current situation, whether in our homes, what we’re wearing, or even what we’re making for dinner.” Do you ever feel like that, or does the massive burst of inspiration Pinterest provides override those frustrations? And do you ever impose a Pinterest fast?