Designing Our Own Home

I get asked all the time if designing our own house was harder than designing one for a client. The answer is a definite YES. I’ve obviously thought about details I’d like to incorporate in a house when we eventually built something for us. However, I know just as well as anyone that the options are endless. Between my job and sourcing ideas for Riad Tile, Kale and I are constantly exposed to new things. I’ll admit I was overwhelmed a bit in the beginning.

Typically when I approach designing a house for a client, I pick several images to help narrow creative direction. While I think a home should feel anything but two-dimensional, I do like to see some cohesion throughout the spaces. This allows it to feel intentional, even when you’re curating things rather than shopping a catalog. It’s also easier to communicate design direction to the client. Problem is, I didn’t want a random assortment of images to serve as inspiration for this home. While I certainly find myself inspired by the work other designers do (Pierce and Ward, Amber Lewis, Lauren Caron, to name a few), It felt like it really needed to be an extension of our family. So I set out to challenge myself to really design from within – not leaning on concept images often used as a creative safety net.

The lack of guardrails here was giving me the interior design equivalent of writer’s block. I think I am similar to a lot of other creatives when I say that my process is generally:

Stage 1. ‘Oh, this is a fantastic idea!’ – The A-HA Moment

Stage 2. ‘Wait, this is dumb’. – Panic Ensues

Stage 3. ‘Why do people even hire me? What in the world am I thinking?’ – Major Self Doubt, usually leading to substantial procrastination.

Stage 4. (Head down, puts pen to paper, organizes thoughts, executes). – Now we’re cooking.

Stage 5. ‘Ok, I think I have something I can be really proud of.’ – BOOM, mic drop.

It was the end of summer and the architectural plans were done. The Grays had designed a great floorplan and I felt like I was staring at a beautiful blank canvas on the interior and it was taunting the shit out of me. I was officially in Stage 3.

Kale had planned a trip to Mexico City for a week last August. The kids were enrolled in an art camp, so I’d have some time during the day to focus on our house. The trip ended up being such a necessary, wonderful, creative, serotonin boost for me. If you’ve never been to Mexico City, you’re missing out. It’s another post for another day, but the architecture and art provided a wealth of inspiration. Our daily walks around the city fueled me. Now, I was cooking with gas.

The exterior of our new house leans modern and we’re using classic finishes like brick, limestone and a slate tile roof. I had been stuck trying to figure out what style the house was as if a label would give some clarity. What I realized in Mexico City that week was that I didn’t need a label. I know what I like and what Kale and I are drawn to. We like spaces that are collected, a mix of old and new. Rustic elements juxtaposed with timeless finishes like marble and stucco. I thought about our travels and how I felt while visiting certain places, like the El Fenn in Marrakech or Tepoztlan in Mexico. What was it about those places that ignited me and how can I design a house to replicate those feelings?

Because friends, this is the difference between a house and a home. We wanted something truly unique and authentic to us and our family. Your home should initiate feelings of comfort and peace. Pulling inspiration from our personal travels and incorporating details from those happy memories will surely translate to a home that feels special and warm.

I let it all go. I stopped worrying about if it had been done before or if it made sense. Rather, I asked myself questions like ‘Do I love this?’ and ‘How does this make me feel?’.

Marble and stripes to remind us of Italy.

Zellige in all shapes from our friends in Morocco.

Splashes of color and interesting texture to mimic the playfulness and charm of Mexico.

Just to name a few.

While selecting a finish palette took a little bit more time than I anticipated, furniture has been a bit easier to dive into. When I sourced furniture for our Broken Bow rental, Idyll Haus, I did it super organically. Sourcing vintage and antique fair finds to fill a space in a way that felt more interesting than the typical cabin rental in the area. While I don’t want our house to feel like Broken Bow necessarily, I want many of the pieces in our home to have character. I wanted to piece it together in the same way that the finish palette was conceived – through trusting my eye and not thinking so much about it that it became SAFE. So I set out to furnish our home in a similar way to Idyll Haus, trusting myself to mix pieces and styles. I’ve been slowly sourcing furniture since before the foundation was poured, probably taking more risks than I would normally. I’ve always felt like mixing periods and furniture styles in your home keeps it from feeling dated because it doesn’t have a specific time period to be categorized in. So far, slowly collecting pieces has been my favorite part of the process. Especially when unique things are found when I was least expecting it.

I found this amazing still life in Mexico hanging in a little shop. The saleswoman spoke no English and my Spanish is no bueno. Luckily my sister in law, who is fluent in Spanish, was with me and I proceeded to ask about purchasing the art. The art was very well priced and I had a great spot in mind for it. We were in Tepoztlan, about an hour and a half from Mexico City. They said they could arrange shipping to Dallas. I also forgot my pesos, so sister in law to the rescue again. We exchanged numbers and she said she’d reach out with the shipping quote, which I could pay for via bank transfer. Perfect. I love shit like this.

A week later, we’re back in Dallas. The shipping quote is THREE TIMES the cost of the art. UGH. Una problema. We were headed back to Mexico in a month, so I asked if I could pay them to bring it to me in Mexico City. American Airlines has always been my friend when checking oversized items, I’m sure it would be fine. So that was our plan until my friends in Tepoztlan had an issue with their bank and they held the funds coming from a very innocent interior designer in America just trying to make her art dreams come true. So we waited for it to be released.

THREE MONTHS later – it was! Except I wasn’t in Mexico any longer obviously. Kale suggested delivering it to our tile fabricator to send here in one of our shipments. Clearly demonstrating his value and expertise in coordinating logistics. So the art began its journey to a little town just outside of San Miguel. It was loaded on a truck and unloaded at our warehouse after a four month saga. Is this a convenient way of furnishing a house? No. It is way more fun though. I also love the story behind it and the amount of hands it took to make it’s way here. I’ll always think of the experience when I see it and think of that sweet lady in the shop and how much effort she put in to getting that piece to me.

There are a couple of things I always say to clients. The first is to take your time. While it can be hard to fight the pressure to have your home feel like it’s ‘done’, taking your time to pick finishes or furnish really cuts impulse buying. This is true even for custom, new construction projects. Designing and furnishing a home is an investment and rushing into decisions can lead to costly mistakes.

While I pride myself on having a pretty quick turnaround with client projects, I had to really set that pride aside with our own. It took 5-6 months for me to finish making all fixture and material selections and coordinate a set of interior design documents. Granted, I was also working on client projects too but it still felt like forever. The good news is that despite my patience being tested, I took my time and MONTHS later, we are still really excited about our selections.

My other piece of advice is to only buy what you love. Don’t concern yourself with trends as those come and go. If something brings you joy, guaranteed it will continue to for quite some time. I’m sure by the time this house is move in ready, I will have forgotten half the things that are currently packed in storage. What I do know, is that unpacking will be an absolute DREAM because I’ve only collected things I’m 100% obsessed with.

In other news, the house is progressing. We’re in the thick of framing currently. The second story is up which is very cool to see. After framing comes a lot of boring but necessary things like electrical and plumbing. Very much looking forward to the bright and shiny excitement of tile installation where I’ll likely just make camp on site until that phase is done.

While I do this all day every day for clients, designing for yourself has been an entirely different ballgame. It’s a fun and challenging experience, but one that I am happy to share with all of you.



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