This mom of three who left the corporate world to open Greenhouse Design with her husband opens up her home and shares her fantastic tips on style, collecting, travel, and parenting.
Give us a little background on yourself/what you do/how you came to it. How much did becoming a parent shape what your business is?
After 20 years working for big retail corporations, my husband and I pooled our experience in retail, business, finance, design and sustainability and founded Greenhouse about two years ago to be able to spend more time at home with our children. Our oldest daughter is 17, a senior in high school and about to go off to college, our son is a freshman and our littlest daughter just turned 9 on Saturday. So these last few years have been a great time for us both to be home with our family.
The business actually started in a way when we were new parents: we watched them crawl on the rugs and chew on the furniture and realized we had no idea what we were putting in our home. So we always had the seed of an idea to do a sustainable home furnishings line that was beautiful and affordable as well as green. Now just happened to be the perfect time.
Favorite part of your job?!
Do I have to choose? It’s all so great. I guess the very best part is spending more time with my husband and my children. But then there’s traveling Europe hunting for vintage treasures that’s awfully nice!
Have you always been into home style? Where did that come from?
I was the kid who was making curtains, and taking things from other parts of the house so I could create vignettes in my room. My mom was very stylish (still is), and so I got that from her. I didn’t think I’d make it into a career though. I studied art history in college, thinking I’d be a museum curator, but then I got sidetracked by a summer job in merchandising.
What kind of stuff do you collect? Would love any of your personal style and collecting tips.
My mom started a collection of crystal candlesticks for me when I got married that she added to for years. For each occasion she gave me one, so now I have a beautiful eclectic collection. That’s what you see on the mantle in my living room. I also collect vintage Fs, vintage textiles from around the world, bottles of all kinds (because I love to have flowers in my house). White ironstone. Liberty handkerchiefs. Gosh, what don’t I collect?
I think collections are best when they’re built over time, so patience is key. And collect something you love, whether it’s in fashion or not. A collection just for the sake of decor eventually ends up being a burden. If you intend to display your collection, try to focus on a common element so your collection has some substance to it: if you collect china, make it all blue transfer ware or all white ironstone, for example.
On the topic of personal style, I always feel that if you love something, you should find a way to work it into your decor. My favorite homes aren’t totally pulled together, but they’re pieced together with things the owners want to have around them.
How old are your kids, what are their names?
Anderson (Andie) 17, Jack 15, Katie 9
Do you entertain alot? What’s a styling go-to for you when it comes to having people over? Do you cook?
I don’t entertain as much as I would like to. Most of my entertaining these days is entertaining our kids’ friends: our house is always filled with kids big and little. When I do entertain the grownups I usually do an open house or buffet so I can mingle with my guests. I have a stack of white porcelain plates, a stack of white cotton napkins, a glass vase filled with vintage flatware, little tumblers for wine and cocktails and a collection of white and silver platters that I just pull out and stack on my kitchen island. I fill glass bottles with water and mint, put out fruit and cheese, and make something easy that guests can build themselves like banh mi and salad, or fish tacos. My husband is a master chef at the barbecue, so in the summer he does the cooking and I relax on the sofa. Nice!
What’s your weeknight family dinner routine?
We try to have dinner together every weeknight because often that’s the only time the five of us are all together. Everyone’s got their own quirky tastes, so we like to make dinners that the kids can build themselves: pasta bar, salad bar, tacos, baked potatoes with lots of toppings they can add, stuff like that. Then everyone’s happy and we can have a nice, relaxing dinner together and talk about our days. We like to play roses and thorns while we eat—everyone tells the best thing about their day and the worst. It’s a good way to get some really good information about what’s happening with the kids.
How do you celebrate your kids birthdays?
Oh I wish I had some super cute ideas for this one. We just have a family dinner together (attendance is mandatory) and open our presents at dinner. We just had a birthday party for Katie and played Project Runway –Alamo Edition—I gave each girl a white t-shirt some fabric markers and some ribbon and they each designed their own fabulous creation. That was fun.
What’s a typical weekend like?
We like to start the weekend with a trip to the farmer’s market and stock up for the week. Then I’ll come home and clean out the fridge! One of my favorite chores. I chop up all the veggies, wash all the fruit, and make a big salad so it’s all within easy reach for the week ahead. Then I start cooking! I like to make a pan of lasagna for Jack to feed on all week, a batch of granola, and a big pot of soup for my husband and me so the fridge is packed with good stuff. Then the sports start. All the kids play something, so we hop around town sitting by the sidelines or in the stands cheering on team Furber. My daughters and I love movies, so we usually spend Sunday afternoon at the theater. If we can squeeze in a date on Saturday night, that’s nice too!
Best family trip?
We love road trips, so every Christmas and spring break we pack up our car and head to Sun Valley to ski and relax. The driving is fun because we’re all together for hours on end, then by the time we get to Sun Valley we settle into our routine. One year we were there for a huge snow storm and got snowed in for two days—no power, no heat, no phones, just the fireplace, a deck of cards, and some good books. That was fun.
What’s your mom uniform?
Jeans, Frye motorcycle boots, a cotton t-shirt and sometimes a cardigan. In that ensemble, I can have coffee with a girlfriend, climb a ladder in the warehouse, shop the flower market, man the carpool, and make dinner, all without a wardrobe change. Sometimes I’ll add a necklace if I’m feeling glamorous.
Love your short hair–any tips for all the moms out there that are dying to do it but don’t have the courage?
Thank you! The hair is one of my sacrifices to motherhood. When I had Andie, I decided I couldn’t handle both a baby and a hairdo. The only advice I have is this: be sure you’re really ready because there’s no going back. There are several awkward stages in the growing out process for this haircut.
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine? I think the very best beauty product and anti-aging formula in one is a good toothbrush and some Tom’s toothpaste. I wear very little makeup, as I think the more you put on your skin, the more time you have to spend correcting the damage it does. I wash my face every night and apply a coat of moisturizer, brush my teeth put on some chapstick and go to bed at a reasonable hour. My beauty routine in the morning is the same thing again, with sunscreen, a little mascara and some lipstick.
What do you do in your “spare time”?
What spare time? LOL.
Best kid purchase/bang for your buck?
A good rocker. When I had Andie, my husband gave me a vintage rattan rocker with an American Flag woven into the back. I rocked and read to all three babies in it. That was money well spent!
What websites inspire you and for which parts of your life?
I love SFGirlbyBay for design, momfilter for mom stuff, The Grist for good sustainable news with a sense of humor, Jamie Oliver for recipes, Tablet for travel, Tumblr for pretty pictures. I also like to cruise the blogrolls of blogs I like, looking for new ones to explore. I’m not much of a shopper, so I don’t have any good shopping sites.
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you?
I always thought I’d compile a scrapbook of Andie’s life to present to her when she graduates from high school. It’s T minus 7 months and I haven’t started yet. Do you think I’ll make it?
Any personal/parenting “a-ha” tips?
Talk to other moms with kids the same age and gender as yours. Then you’ll get a sense for what’s unusual (or exceptional) and what’s a 2 year old boy just being a 2 year old boy.
You feel your best when…?
My family’s all tucked in around me and we have a family night. I feel very lucky and accomplished in those moments.
Proudest moment in parenting?
When my oldest daughter said to me recently “there’s no one I love like my brother.”
Sneaking away once a year to have a weekend alone with my sister. She’s my BFF and I don’t get to see her often enough. That and driving Jack to school in my pajamas every morning.
Best parenting advice you ever got?
Here are three of the best…from my mom, “When you want to be heard, whisper. A quiet “shhhhh” is much more effective than yelling at your kids to stop yelling.”
From my mom again—when I asked her what to do when Andie threw her first tantrum she said “just make sure she’s safe and don’t throw gas on the fire.” (Meaning, don’t get upset yourself and provoke a worse tantrum.)
From my sister—you always want to have the house where the kids hang out and you want to be the mom who drives. That way you get to know all the kids your kids are hanging with.