Let's head to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where Susan shows us around her family's home.
Come on inside ...
Susan, tell us a little about your family and your home.
I live in Oklahoma City, in the neighborhood where my husband grew up; he can drive down our street and tell you who lived in what house 30 years ago, which is really fun. We moved into this house three years ago when we realized that our starter home was getting too small for two busy boys. My sons, Henry, who is 10, and Charlie, who is 8, love living here; it’s close to the country club and the boys’ school and the little league fields. We’ve also gotten to be close friends with our neighbors, which is so wonderful; the kids run back and forth from the yards and my neighbor and I meet in the driveway to trade clothes or eggs or magazines, or just to catch up about what’s going on at our houses.
This is our grown-up house, the one where we’re raising our kids. We’re never leaving -- although my husband is already planning to stick a For Sale sign in the yard the day we drop Charlie off at college.
Dining room table
A teapot gift from Susan's husband and family book findsHow do you approach decorating in your home? What's the most important thing?
Decorating this house was harder than we expected it to be -- we’ve been here three years and we’re still working on it. We actually hired a decorator to help us, which was something we never thought we would do, but we were totally stumped and needed help. Shopping for dining room furniture nearly killed us; we couldn’t find what we wanted, and we were tired of being pressured by sales people. Having a decorator help us out was terrific because she was able to listen to what we wanted and really focus on finding it. She found our table and sideboard, which we adore -- and her to-the-trade discount plus her fee still added up to less than the list price for the set, which made it totally worthwhile.
We have a pretty conservative style; we like neutral colors and classic fabrics, like leather and mohair. We use a lot of sentimental pieces for accents. The books on the buffet are all ones we bought together, and the teapot was a gift from my husband. What is most important to us is that the house be comfortable and uncluttered, and that it reflect who we are and what we value. I think we’ve done a good job with that.
You have two sons. How does their STUFF influence the look and feel of your home?
Our first house had one big kitchen/living area; there was kid stuff everywhere. It drove me nuts. This house has a game room upstairs, where all the kids toys live; their things migrate downstairs, but we’re through the phase where all the living areas are full of kid things. And they each have their own room, so they have plenty of space that is all theirs. They are also old enough now to understand that leaving Legos or Bionicles all over the dining room table is not okay. Ever.
Charlie's sports-themed bedroom;
Junior Varsity Quilt from Pottery Barn KidsThe boys do have their own spaces, though. About a year ago, we made over the boys’ rooms. They got to choose their own paint -- a neutral color for three walls and one accent wall -- and they got to choose the quilts and linens for their beds. My 10-year-old wanted a superhero/Star Wars room, while my 8-year-old wanted a sports theme. We made that work for them, but in a way that went with the rest of the house (quilts from Pottery Barn Kids and bead board furniture from a local store). Their rooms are a balance of my taste and theirs, and we’re all really happy with the way they turned out.
Living room: favorite family spaceIn which room in your home does your family congregate most often?
We spend the most of our time in the living room. This is where the "nice" furniture lives, the new sofas we bought when we moved in and the big TV, but it’s all furniture we can use and be comfortable on. We also have a cocktail ottoman that we inherited from my mother-in-law; it needs to be recovered, but every time a kid puts his feet or his drink on it, I’m a little glad I’ve procrastinated for so long.
Our living room opens into the kitchen, so the kids can read or watch a movie while I get dinner, and we can all be together. It’s a nice place to hang out -- grown up and elegant but still kid-friendly and comfy.
A favorite art piece: "Broad" print from Broad Summit 2010
We’re big fans of Pottery Barn, but of the look, not necessarily the products. I’ll tear pages from the catalog and then shop around for similar pieces to recreate that feel. Right now we’re working on framing art for our office; we’re using a PB catalog as inspiration but buying the frames at craft stores and using our own photos.
I also go out of my way to use what we have -- photos of the kids or pieces we’ve acquired over the years. All of the pictures I'm framing for our office have some kind of meaning to us; they’re photos of the kids or of places we’ve traveled. My favorite is the print I brought home from the Broad Summit, a retreat for women bloggers, in 2010. Seeing it in my workspace gives me such a good feeling, about lots of things.
A favorite art piece: "Broad" print from Broad Summit 2010Great design can be expensive. How do you get the most bang for your buck?
Foyer: a cozy, welcoming nookTell us about a DIY project you have taken on recently and love.
Our foyer is easily the biggest bang-for-the-buck area of our house. It’s the first space visitors see when they come in, and it’s an odd shape. When we moved in, the walls were white and it was a pretty stark entry. We painted the accent wall a deep navy blue and hung framed photos of the kids; we added a Pier 1 wicker chair that we bought 15 years ago and spiffed it up with some new cushions from Target. Now the space is cozy and inviting, rather than bare and cold.
I spent almost nothing on this project; we only needed a tiny bit of paint, we found the frames and pillows on sale, and I printed my own photos of the kids. Eventually, we’re hoping to get something more permanent for this space, but for now, this was an easy -- and cheap -- way to make the foyer really inviting.
Susan's office: where the magic happens
Porter Collector's Desk from Pottery BarnYou are a writer and a blogger. Do you have a room or space of your own?
We turned what was supposed to be the formal dining room into a home office; it’s a small, quirky room with a bow window, and it’s the perfect size for my desk, a big comfortable chair, and my husband’s stereo. It’s easily my favorite room in the house. We splurged on a Pottery Barn desk, which was the best purchase ever. I spend easily 40 hours a week in this room, working and reading; my kids will come and sit in the leather chair and study or visit with me. The office opens into our foyer and into the kitchen, so it feels like it’s part of the flow of the house, but it’s also just separate enough to be a viable workspace.
The coffee barWhat is your most important everyday ritual at home?
Morning coffee. During the week, I get up early to work, and I make coffee and read my email; on the weekend, I typically wake up before anyone else and I’ll have my coffee and read the New York Times. Just sitting still with my cup gives me time to gather myself before my day. That’s important to me.
My coffee pot lives in our wet bar, which is next to my office. It’s an easy way to start my day, with the coffee brewing right at hand. I just need an assistant to actually bring it to my desk. That would make the whole thing perfect.
Sun porch reading roomIn your home, what is one indulgence you give into?
Reading on the sunporch. On the weekend, I take the New York Times or my laptop and my coffee and a blanket, if its cold, and hunker down out there. For large parts of the year, it’s too hot or too cold to do this, but when the weather is nice enough, I’ll read or work there for hours. It’s a beautiful room -- in fact, this is the room that made me want to buy this house.
What are your favorite stores to shop for home?
I love Pottery Barn; I would buy everything there if it weren’t out of my budget. Their look -- that kind of updated urban Preppie style -- is exactly what we’re always falling for. I’ve also always loved Restoration Hardware, but we don’t have one here in Oklahoma City. Sadly.
My favorite things, though, have come from oddball local places, both here and other places we’ve lived. My bedside table is from an antiques store in Baltimore -- I bought it in 1991. Our dining room set came from a local lighting store. We also have a few antique pieces that came from our family -- the furniture in our bedroom and our guest room belonged to my grandmother. My parents had it all refinished for us when we got married.
What Home & Garden blogs or websites inspire you the most?
I read Apartment Therapy obsessively, and Design* Sponge. But mostly I tear pages out of catalogs and magazines and stick them on my refrigerator for inspiration. Or I’ll put them all in a folder and carry them around with me when I shop. I’m old fashioned that way.
This was so much fun, Susan. I've always wanted a better look around your pretty home. Thank you for the tour. Read more from Susan Wagner on her blog Friday Playdate. You can also visit her on AOL's Holidash, where she is Associate Editor, as well as on Cool Mom Picks and The Working Closet blog at Work It, Mom!