Archive | March, 2016

The Struggle for Contentment

Last Saturday, Paul was working and the kids and I took a long drive to visit family for an Easter celebration.  We were winding through country roads, looking out the window for cows and horses, you know, anything to keep the kids entertained.  Spotting an old farmhouse nestled in some trees on acres of beautiful land, I pointed it out to the kids.  “Check out that house, guys!”  It was a harmless gesture.  I love houses.  I love looking at houses.  I appreciate beautiful houses.  I didn’t mean anything by it.

Joanna Gaines' Farmhouse

Joanna Gaines’ Farmhouse (not the actual one we saw!)

The first words out of my oldest son’s mouth were, “No fair!”  Then my almost six year old daughter started repeating it too, “No fair, no fair, no fair!”

Whoa.

As a parent I try my hardest to hide my shock in any given distressing situation.  Overreaction, I’ve found, is a fail-safe way to ensure a behavior will repeat itself, having the exact opposite effect you’d like. So I choked back my surprise and slowly constructed my response.

These ungrateful children!  How could they?  We give them everything they could possibly need!!  And they think its not fair they don’t have an amazing huge farmhouse on twenty acres of land?  The last time I asked them to come play outside with me they were so glued to the xbox I don’t even think they heard what I said.  We just went to Disneyworld for crying out loud!!!!  How about a little gratitude for what they have instead of wishing they had something else or someone else’s life??

Oh.

Flashback to a day last week when what I didn’t have was all I could think about.  When comparing my home to someone else’s left me ungrateful and dissatisfied.  As you can imagine I was grumpy that day.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own.

Here I am, the believer, mother, and wife, the decorator & stylist, sharing with others on how to make the most of what they have, how to live a life of beauty and purpose; and yet I can fall prey to the trap of comparison.  The poison of discontent works quickly.  One minute I think I’m doing fine, the next minute I’m steeped in Instagram and Pinterest images, feeling like I don’t quite measure up.

I silently wondered as we drove on if they had learned it from me.  If they had watched their mom huff and puff in discontent with her stuff, comparing it with someone else’s.  If they had overheard the conversations about somedays and savings; about new bathrooms and new couches.  About all those things that never truly satisfy.  That are like chasing after the wind.

contentment

Don’t you love when those little children you’re raising become mirrors into your own soul?

We did have a little talk in the car that day about contentment and gratitude of course, but I was talking to myself, too.  Praying for eyes that see what’s right in front of me.

“It is better to be content with what the eyes can see than for one’s heart always to crave more.  This continual longing is futile- like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 6:9 NET

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What I’m Reading: Spring Edition

Thanks so much for your kind words on my last post!!!  I could just hug you all!  And I feel so free to write more now knowing that I’ve just put it out there!

I know I’ve talked about books before, so I guess that makes it the easiest to start there- with what I’ve been reading lately.  I tend to read in spurts and get distracted easily, but I love to read.  For me its usually a mix of fiction and non-fiction, lately leaning a little more toward non-fiction.  I read a ton on our drive to Disney a few weeks ago and finished two books and got halfway through another.

WhatI'mReadingSpring

First up is An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling.  The tagline is “Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest.”  He starts the book off describing Jesus as a relaxed guy.  Hmmm, I’ve never heard that before but I’m totally down with it.  He reminds us of Jesus’ patterns of early rising and prayer, of intentional communion with the Father, His “unhurried abiding,” and the evidence that he was never in a rush.  I feel like I underlined practically the entire book.  It also has questions at the end of each chapter that really allowed me to reflect on what I was learning.  This is one that I didn’t want to end and I know I will go back to it.

The second one was a much lighter read, in fact I read it in one long day in the car. Ever After by Vicki Courtney is “life lessons learned in my castle of chaos.”  Any of you other young moms out there relate to that tag line?  She talks a lot about how our expectations and dreams of being the princess in the castle and having Prince Charming along with the perfect home, perfect husband, kids, etc set us up for disappointment and frustration. Those things were never meant to fulfill and satisfy.   Its a funny and quick read, but still has some really great stuff.

Next on my list is the one I haven’t finished yet- a fiction book called The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.  I’ve loved everything else I’ve read by her and this one is no exception.  Her stories are usually set in some old home in England (think Downton Abbey) and span generations of families. There’s always a little romance and mystery.   I haven’t picked it up again since our trip, but I still really want to finish it!  For some reason I feel like I’m wasting time reading fiction and that I can only read it when I’m on vacation.  Anyone else like this?  So we’ll see if I finish it by summertime…

Lastly, have I talked about Big Magic too much for you yet?  Seriously, extremely inspiring if you’re doing any kind of creative work.  Or even if you’re not.  It has helped me think so much more lightly but also bravely about blogging and and about my design work.  I know I quoted her the other day but here’s one more, this time on fear… “It isn’t always comfortable or easy… but its always worth it, because if you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting.”  So interesting for me especially as someone who has battled fear and anxiety in a lot of ways for a long time.  Living a creative life isn’t about squashing your fear or even necessarily living fearlessly.  That gives me a lot of hope.

What are you reading lately?  I’d love to hear!  I’m always looking for new suggestions!

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A Search for Beauty and Purpose

beautyandpurpose

I’ve been feeling a little dry creatively lately.  I’ve been lacking in ideas for blog posts and I’ve just come to realize the same has been true in my home and work as well.  The simplest tasks of fluffing pillows and taking pictures has just felt so draining to me.

I’m grateful for this space of beauty and purpose here on the blog, but I want to open myself up to allow it to change and grow as I change and go through different seasons.  I have some apprehension in changing it though and I think that’s what I’ve been avoiding.  I feel such a sense of gratitude to you as my readers, but also an obligation for some reason to keep this about decorating only.  Yet, you need to know, that honestly, I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing.  I’m not a professional designer, certainly not a writer, and not even sure what my goals are here.  I started this journey simply as a way to document my new decorating work I was doing.  Its turned into so much more than that for me and now I’d like to change it to go beyond even that.   All of this to say, I’m beginning to drift and feel myself at times avoiding what I used to love.

I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic and she talks some about this phenomena of the creative life- a restlessness, a disappointment, a feeling of failure.  Rather than dwelling on it and trying to figure out what it all means though, she says to just keep moving: to own it and move on, even to a different sort of creative work altogether. Apparently Einstein did this as well and called it “combinatory play.” He would play the violin when he was having trouble with a math problem.  After a few hours of playing, he could finally solve it.

In her book, Gilbert says, “… wave your arms around.  Make something.  Do something. Do anything.   Call attention to yourself with some sort of creative attention, and – most of all- trust that if you make enough of a glorious commotion, eventually inspiration will find its way home to you again.”

So this is me doing something.  While I won’t be playing the violin (or solving math problems!), things might change a little around here at The House of Figs.  It will always be about beauty & purpose, but may be a little less specifically about decorating- for now anyway.  I’m longing to share a little more of my personal life, what I’ve been reading or thinking about lately.  Maybe some of our garden.  Paul and I are dabbling in art direction and photography for a nonprofit company and I’d love to share some of that creative process as well.  I hope you’ll stick around as I hopefully get un-stuck; and as always, I hope to hear from you along the way.

xoxo

Bethany

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Springtime: Bringing the Outdoors In

Hey there!  I took a week off for spring break and we headed to Disney World with my parents!

DisneyWorld

Paul and I also celebrated our 12th anniversary this past weekend.  We are getting back to normal life today and it was funny, as we drove home from Florida (yes, we drove!!), we realized Spring had come while we were gone.  The grass was greener, the trees were budding… all those little things you sometimes don’t notice happening right in front of you but when you’re gone for a week and come home to bright green, its pretty fun.

I really don’t do anything different in my house for springtime- I don’t have any Easter decor or anything like that.  But I do get an itch to pull the shades up a little higher, let the doors swing open and see the outdoors.  After a week of being gone and the doors being locked up tight the house felt kind of stale.  We had barely unpacked and I was grabbing the garden shears to pluck a few branches from the backyard for my vase on the mantle.

springtimegreenery

Its such a simple thing and it didn’t cost me anything.  But now I feel like its springtime inside my house, too.

springtime

I’m no florist and I know these aren’t arranged perfectly, but its just a nice shot of leafy green in the living room.  So simple and easy.  I’m terrible with things that need to be watered, nurtured, and that kind of thing, but something that can be cut off and stuck in a vase?  Perfect!

Springtime clippings

This is an old picture from a clipping I got from a huge weed in my backyard.  It made for some beautiful greenery!!

 I’ve discovered its kind of a stylist trick.   Check out some of your favorite rooms on Pinterest or blogs and I’ll bet they have some leafy goodness happening in them as well.

Turner Davis Interiors

Source: Turner Davis Interiors

What would this room be without that giant tree branch stuck in that vase?

House Seven

Source: House Seven

Breakfast Room

This is my breakfast room– I snipped that branch from our front bushes just that morning and stuck them in a bud vase.

LaurenLiess

Source: Lauren Liess

 

Hello, adorable little frond in a milk jar!

the-montgomery-house-dining-room-small_0-wm

And here’s one more… this branch was taken off a tree just for our photo shoot of the Montgomery House.  Leaves and branches just bring in so much texture, color, and a freshness from the outdoors!  Flowers of course are nice, but can be pricey if you want to have them all the time.  I like to splurge occasionally, but what could be better than free beautiful greenery?

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Decorating UNschool: My Favorite Recipe for Windows

This post is part of my Decorating UNschool series… if you’re new here, you can find the introduction here and the other posts here.  Thanks for stopping by!

Nothing makes a room feel more finished than some beautiful curtains.  They are the icing on the cake and the jewels in the crown.  Often when I visit someone’s home for a consultation, I feel as though all they need are some beautiful long curtains for their windows and the room would have such a finished and put together feeling.

I know it can feel overwhelming, because there are so many options out there.  How and where do you get these beautiful and elusive curtains?  How do you hang them?  Aren’t they expensive?  How do you choose what color or pattern that will go with what you already have?

If you find yourself overwhelmed with those kinds of questions and decisions, I’m here to make it really simple for you:  Long white curtains hung high and wide on a black rod.  I’ve found this to be a pretty widely used and no-fail solution.  I’m not saying its the only solution, but I’m saying if you’re feeling paralyzed by the massive number of choices out there and you’re just not sure how to proceed, here’s a way that will look great pretty much every time.

Living Room // The House of Figs

Ikea Ritva curtains in my living room

The Ikea Ritva curtains are my absolute favorites.  They have a linen-like texture, are not super bright white (so they even look great on white walls) they hang so nicely, are a great price, and come in two lengths: 98″ and 118″.  Super long compared to your standard 88″!  The longer they are, the higher you can hang them.

Spa Inspired Master Bedroom // The House of Figs

Two sets of Ikea Ritvas give fullness on each side of this master bedroom window seat.

The curtains should at least hit the floor and its okay if they puddle a few inches on the floor, but they should not be above the floor (unless you’re going for a specific look that is several feet above the floor, for example in a kitchen window). Do you remember that phase in the late 90s and early 2000s when if you wore your jeans too short it wasn’t hipster or ironic it was just plain dorky?  That’s how your curtains still feel if the wall is showing.  You don’t want to have highwaters on your windows, okay?

Sometimes when there are multiple narrow windows in a row, I like to treat them as one big window.  For example, in this living room below, it would have felt fussy to have too many curtains in between each narrow window behind the couch.  The homeowners hung one long rod all the way across three narrow windows and hung one panel on each side (sorry the pic doesn’t show them all).

the-house-of-figs-kraus-haus-small_0wm

Long Ikea curtains hung high and wide in this living room.

For this wall of windows, where the wall itself is sort of a focal point of the room, we put panels in between each window.  I also adore the texture that natural fiber shades bring in.  The bamboo shades in my house are from Lowes (kitchen and kids rooms)  and Select Blinds (living room). In this client’s home, the windows had beautiful moldings, so we hung the bamboo shades on an inside mount.

The Montgomery House_Master_4 Small WM

These are the Ikea Lenda curtains with tab tops in this master bedroom.

the nester curtains

source: The Nester

Fixer Upper Curtains

Even Joanna Gaines knows the secret of beautiful white curtains.

And now, how to hang them?  This drawing perfectly illustrates where your curtain rod should go.

Both windows are the exact same size, but window 2 has a much longer rod that is hung higher and wider.  My preference is all the way to the ceiling (or just under crown molding) if possible!  As you can see the window panels are not covering hardly any of the window at all in the picture on the right- allowing more light and the appearance of a bigger window.  This gives the whole room a larger and more designed feeling.

Curtains hung like this also take up more wall space, so there is less of a desire to hang “littles” in between windows or near windows because you have the big beautiful curtains.  When you focus on the main important pieces of the room: “the bigs,” you find you don’t need as many “littles” to compensate or fill in for what’s lacking.  When you have great lighting, a great rug, curtains that are hung well, a furniture layout that works well for your family, it really is true that “less is more.”

So what do you think?  Do you have curtains in your home?  Have you ever bought Ikea curtains?  I do love beautiful patterned curtains as well, but white or cream curtains are definitely my favorite!  How about you?

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Three Things I’m Loving

Every once in a while I like to post about three things I’m loving lately… inspired by Jamie Ivey’s Happy Hour podcast (Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Check it out here!).

First up, I’m just obsessing lately over this beautiful living room and whole house tour.

Neutral Living Room

It reminds me so much of Lauren Liess’ style and much of what’s in her book, Habitat.

Habitat

When I’m in a Lauren-Liess-neutral-natural-vibe, unfortunately I sometimes start hating on my couch and looking for new ones with straight lines and a linen/textured look like the one in the Southern Living tour above.

When I’m in this mode though, I try to think rationally about what I can do just a little bit differently to change things up without buying a whole new living room.  So I switched out some of my pillows for more neutral tones with graphic patterns (ones that I already had) and also cleared the bookshelf of any bright pops of color. I like what it did for the space with the only real color coming from the books. It even helped me embrace the old couch again.  Its eleven years old and getting pretty ragged, but I want to live with it a bit longer until my littlest is a somewhat older and until we’re ready to get something that will last us a long time.

Graphic Neutral Living Room

(you can see a previous and more colorful picture of my living room here)

Next up, I’m loving this article I found on Apartment Therapy about decorating for your personality type. Its based on the Myers-Briggs personality assessment (you can take a simplified but free version of it here or here but I found it the most helpful just to read through the 16 different types).

portrait02

I’ve always thought of decorating as a subjective art, not a science.  Its completely about personality and differing tastes. Like I’ve said before, I don’t have any magic formulas- you just have to try different things and figure out what you love. And since I have a background in psychology (For real, a master’s degree. Its good to finally know I’m maybe getting a little use out of it now? Haha!) I found of this extremely interesting.  I also figured out I’m an INFP.  What about you??

The last thing I’m loving right now (and this has nothing to do with decorating, but I’d say it has to do with beauty) is No Bake Cookies.  My mom used to make these when I was growing up and so every once in a while I like to surprise the kids with them.  Since the New Year, Paul and I have been trying to cut out a lot of the sugar and processed foods we eat though (I know, bummer!), so when I was having a major craving for these things last night, I googled an alternative recipe and found a pretty good one!  Find the recipe here.

Nobake11

If you’d like the original recipe and not the “healthy” version you can find it here.  Even if you don’t want to make these cookies, please read her article because its absolutely hilarious and probably explains why I crave them every so often… she calls them PMS Wranglers if that gives you any hints.

Anyway, TMI?  Haha!  That’s it for me, today!  Want to share something you’re loving lately??  How about your personality type??  How does it affect your home?  I’d love to hear from you!!  Have a great rest of the week.

xoxo

Bethany

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