You might recognize Natalie Wright from television; she’s more than a little famous! Her stylishly-salvaged home was recently featured on the Nate Berkus show in a House Proud segment to no one’s surprise. She has good ideas, Friends, and she isn’t afraid to make them happen, from hooks hung low to keys hung high, to accessible antiques and collections galore. One of Nate’s favorite things about Natalie’s home is exactly the same as mine: her $4 mail sorter in which she displays her vintage camera collection. Just add that to the list of one-of-a-kind creations Natalie has amassed to make her house a home. Enjoy the tour!
Q: Tell us about the lucky ones living in this well-loved home?
A: I have lived in my home for seven years with my husband and our four children, ages 13, 11, six, and three. We moved here from Maine, and even though it was quite a change for our family, we love living in Utah. My husband and I both have degrees in photography. He works in fine art publishing, and I have always been drawn towards portraiture and commercial work. My favorite hobby is trying new hobbies! I love to learn new things and am always trying something I have never done before.
Q: How did this house become your home?
A: When our family moved to Utah we needed to be in a home fast! We have a son who is disabled, and we actually chose our home entirely based on a local school we found available for him. We loved our house when we found it, but we also knew we would make it our own. I was always painting and changing our last home, and my husband and I knew we could make just about anything work for us.
I don’t get discouraged by architecture or aesthetics. If there is something in my home that bothers me, I change it. I don’t change it overnight though. I am a very thrifty and patient person. When I have an idea, the right piece of furniture or materials always seem to show up eventually.
Q: How would you describe your decorating aesthetic? How has it changed since kids entered the mix?
A: I am constantly asked what my style is. I have no idea! I am a photographer. I can tell you how to take great pictures of your house, but I cannot tell you what your home style is. I have dubbed my style really cool crap, which it is! I love to be different, and if I find something unique I just make it work.
When it comes to my whole family, they are really good about playing along. For example, a neighbor came over to help remove molding and do some electrical work a few days ago. I wasn’t home and he later laughed with me about how it didn’t faze my kids one bit there was a man in our home tearing up a wall. They are used to finding the furniture in different places, and sometimes even make really great suggestions.
I have only one rule in my house when it comes to kids. Everything can be touched or played with. I want my children to be comfortable in their own home. We have a collection of vintage Fisher Price toys we play with every day. It’s the same for whoever enters our home. Keep your muddy shoes on if you like, and raid the fridge if you’re hungry. I should put that in vinyl somewhere.
Q: What are your greatest sources for inspiration, design-wise or personally?
A: I love art. They say photographers are artists who just can’t draw, which I think is so true! I find so much beauty and inspiration in artwork.
I also find most of my inspiration when thrifting or shopping. I would much rather walk the aisles of a home improvement store than a shopping mall. I see inspiration in everything. Whether I am at a yard sale or thrift store, my brain is just spilling over with ideas. The only thing holding me back is time. And money! I never have enough time in the day to do it all. Sounds familiar, I’m sure!
Q: You have a serious knack with mixing vintage pieces with modern. What’s your secret?
A: I have a real appreciation for family history, and so many pieces in my home were inspired by my ancestors and family. I am also a total tech girl and I love modern technology. The two seem to have collided in my home. We just installed a vintage pull-down movie screen in our living room so we can project family movies with our iPhones. See what I mean?
My parents also graciously hand down to me many fun and unique pieces. My father was a builder, a mechanic, and quite the collector of unique tools and furniture. He has just learned to call me first before throwing anything away!
Q: Tell us about the Nate Berkus show! How did he find you? What was your favorite part of the experience?
A: I did not apply to be on the Nate Berkus Show. I adore the show, but being in front of a camera scares me to death. I actually received a message on Twitter from one of the producers. I thought it was a friend teasing me and wrote back scolding him for taking advantage of women who love and appreciate good DIY television. Turns out he was legit.
The whole experience happened so fast. As soon as I knew I was going to be on the show I literally had just a few days to film and send the footage on to New York. If you were to tell me I was going to be on national television I would have at least bought new clothes. I had two options. Go shopping and get my hair done, or get my house in order. My house won. Ironically I had just bought hair extensions a few days before. My hair was a mess. It’s was like buying new ice skates and performing at the Olympics the next day. My hair had not yet been worn in. I can look back now and laugh, but I certainly can never go back and fix my hair. I also change my look as much as I change my house. Three days after filming I cut my new hair to a more appropriate length. Maybe it’s good no one will ever recognize me!
If I had to pick a favorite part of the whole experience, it would have nothing to do with my home or my blog. My friends and family really stood by me, loved me, hugged me, and congratulated me. They really helped make me feel proud of what I have accomplished in my home, and also in my life. I love the relationships I made during the process. Social networking is a very big part of what I do professionally, and I cherish more than anything the friendships and relationships I have formed. I love meeting new people and making new friends. I rarely turn down opportunities because I know I will meet cool and unique people along the way.
Q: Your backyard is wonderful! Chickens! A modern playhouse! What’s your ritual out back? How do you spend time out there?
A: Unfortunately, a love for anything tech-related is hereditary, and my kids are just as bad as I am! Our backyard is our attempt to unplug our children. So far it seems to be working. When the weather is nice we spend every evening we can back there. Our fire pit is our favorite and gets lighted nightly.
I would be lying if I said we haven’t tested our wi-fi to make sure it reaches back there, but most nights we do relax and spend time as a family. The fire pit and playhouse in our backyard seem to be the favorites with my kids.
As for the chickens, my husband refers to them as our food storage! Our six year old received them for her birthday last year. She had been begging for a puppy, and she got four pet chicks instead. Not a bit disappointed, she has named them all! We often refer to her as the Chicken Whisperer. The chickens have just become a natural part of our family, and when neighbors tease us about them we remind them that their pet dog doesn’t produce delicious eggs every morning!
Q: Where do you shop for home decor?
A: Having lived in different places, this list would certainly vary by location. For where I live now, these are my favorite places to shop in order of greatest to least:
Surplus sales. Very few people know the ins-and-outs, but they are by far the best bottom dollar prices.
Yard sales. Fabulous prices, but I highly recommend going early to get the best deals. I go every Saturday in the summer with my friends.
Craigslist. I go online a few times a week and do a search just by my city name alone. I don’t like to drive far and I always leave my options open for a good deal, so a city search works for me.
Antique stores. We don’t have many here, but I always find something I love.
Thrift shops. The thrift stores here are unfortunately very picked through. I rarely find anything, but once in a great while I strike gold.
I will admit, I am rarely looking for something specific. I guess that’s why my home is constantly changing. I am always finding something I love, and I am really good at letting go of what it is replacing.
Q: Tell us about your favorite spot in your home; the one you’ve got just right.
A: A few years ago we turned our third-car garage into a photo studio. It is by far my favorite place in my home. It’s cold in the winter, and hot in the summer, but I tend to gravitate there at least once a day. I have a corner set aside just for my kids, and I never worry about the mess.
Everyone needs a place where they can be creative and just walk away when they need to. If you love to read, you should allow yourself one side table where you can pile books to the ceiling. My studio is that place for me. I would not say my studio is complete or finished either. It’s constantly changing to fit my photography needs, but that’s one thing I love about the space. I allow it to be my dumping grounds sometimes, and I feel inspired every time I walk into it.
Q: How much influence does your family have on decor?
A: I think of my children as the product testers in our home. If they feel welcome and relaxed, I know others will, too. I once decorated my teenage daughter’s room, and I was in love with the results. I felt the room was such a wonderful representation of my artistic style and possibilities. It photographed beautifully, and I received wonderful feedback on my blog.
After a few weeks, I realized in her small bedroom how impractical it was to have her bed in the middle of the room. The rug I had chosen wasn’t at all comfortable even though it was such a lovely rug. I made some serious changes, and soon afterwards saw her spending enjoyable time alone in her room again. I will admit it was hard to alter the design of the room, but as I often tell people, we live here! Our home is not for show; we actually do throw our jackets on the floor and leave dirty dishes in the sink.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I would have known…
A: I always wish I knew more about building homes. My father was a builder and I will always regret not spending more time with him at whatever job-site he was working on. When I was a teenager he let me use a paint sprayer to paint a basement wall. I was in heaven! I wish I would have paid more attention to how things worked, and learned early the tricks of the trade. It wasn’t until I was married and had my first baby that I fell in love again with house painting and home improvement. Luckily my dad is just a phone call away and is always willing to coach me over the phone.
Just a few weeks ago he called me and gently said, “Natalie, I just don’t know that gluing pennies all over your kitchen wall is such a good idea.” Yeah. He gives pretty good advice.
Thank you, Natalie! And be sure to show your dad these projects made for pennies…with pennies!
Friends, don’t you love Natalie’s philosophy of carving out at least one space in our homes where we can be creative and just walk away from the mess when we’re through? An art room with a door is one of life’s loveliest inventions, don’t you think? Do you have a space like this, or do you clean up after each inspiration session?