Stephanie Congdon Barnes: Show & Tell Home Tour

I'm thrilled to share today's Show & Tell Home Tour with creative mama Stephanie Congdon Barnes.

Come on inside...


If you don't know Stephanie Congdon Barnes, please go now and visit the joy that is 3191 Miles Apart, as well as 3191 ~ A Year of Mornings and 3191 ~ A Year of Evenings (but make sure to come right back! cause this home tour is too nice to miss...). From the beginning of Stephanie's collaboration project with friend Maria, 3191 has offered an inspiring tribute to simple living by celebrating home, family, friendship, food, handcrafts, and the art of the everyday. Stephanie's a busy work-at-home artist and mother, and right now, she and her husband are living amid a DIY kitchen remodel. So needless to say, I felt so very lucky to get this little tour around her home (sans kitchen). While Stephanie's style is minimalist and comfy, every corner is blessed with a vibrant splash of color and a nice dose of well-loved objects and art pieces. She's also found ways to help her kids display and organize their much-loved and cherished things. I love what I see here, and I know you will too. Let's take a look...

1. Tell us a little about your family and the location and size of your home.

I live with my husband Jack who is an architect and our children Mia, 9, and Miles, 7, and our 3-legged cat Chester in the Hawthorne neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Our house is about 1,400 square feet and was built in 1907. We purchased our home eight years ago, and it has been in a constant state of renovation ever since!

entry way

An entry way fit for a family

2. How do you approach decorating in your home? What's the most important thing?

I think that decorating is a process that happens over time. We just keep bringing things home that we love and finding a use for them. I am attracted to white, wood, neutral colors and natural materials, yet when I look at my photos of my home, I see a lot of color. I think a neutral backdrop helps us better appreciate colorful objects. I like simple and unfussy things. I would prefer a sparer home than I have now, but when I attempt to declutter I find myself emotionally attached to all these little objects. That's part of the ongoing process, I guess.

The most important thing for me is that I bring things into my home that are both durable and truly useful (art is useful, by the way!)

coffee table

Little collections displayed in the living space

3. How do your children and their opinions, tastes, and STUFF influence the look and feel of your home?

My kids are older now, and we use the family space to read, do homework and crafts, and play games, but most of their playthings are in their rooms, which makes things easier. Our biggest challenge in the family spaces is library books. We're all bookworms, and we usually have 50 or so books out of the library at a time. They're everywhere!

living room

A comfy living room for reading

My daughter really loves STUFF. She's not attracted to your usual tween ephemera—she's more likely to bring home wooden shoes, Japanese dolls, and cuckoo clocks from yard sales—but it's still a lot of STUFF. We redecorated her room last year and worked on editing down her collections with some success. She also got her dream bed with a mesh canopy.  I was hesitant to get the canopy because I thought the cat would claw and rip it. He has, but it doesn't matter because she truly loves it.

girls bedroom

Daughter Mia's bed with canopy


Mia's dresser


Mia's desk and collected art pieces

My son has much simpler tastes, but he has his collections as well—figurines, paper airplanes, wine corks, rocks, sticks, coins—we have to find special places for all these things or they'd be everywhere. He used to sleep in a small alcove in the hallway, but as his collections and obsessions grew, I gave up my studio space so that he could have a full size room (I now work out of his little alcove). It was a worthwhile move. He spends hours in his room building elaborate setups with Legos, and no one bugs him to put everything away each night.

boys room

Son Miles' treasured collectibles


Miles' baskets for toy parts and pieces

Around the house, I love woven baskets for storing away all the unsightly stuff—those library books, games and pieces, Legos and Playmobil all go in varying baskets. I never can have enough baskets or glass jars.

4. Tell us about one DIY home project you have taken on lately and love?

We're currently remodeling our kitchen. We're doing almost all the work ourselves, and it's quite overwhelming. I really can't wait to see it come together. You can read about our experience at our house blog, shelter.

5. You maintain a much-loved photography collaboration project and keep a shop of beautiful handmade things going. What household chore do you tend to back burner most so you can tend to your creative life?

Oh, I often have to let just about everything slide! Jack and I are both self-employed, and this last year has been quite rough balancing work, home renovation and family life. It's been a real battle to stay on top of household things. My work space is quite small, so when I'm busy with my shop stuffed animals and shipping materials take over our house.

ironing board

Stephanie's crafting workspace


A stack of A Year of Mornings on a shelf in Stephanie's studio

We do the best we can, but it's often chaos. I spend a lot of my life looking for things. I really love order, but I'm not so skilled at maintaining it. We do try to provide ways for our kids to take care of their own stuff—hooks at their level for their hats and coats, a rack for their shoes a place for important school papers, etc.

Sometimes when I'm feeling overwhelmed by the mess, I'll thoroughly tidy just one corner of a room. I'll rearrange things, bring in fresh flowers or clipping from the yard. It's very calming for me.


A pretty little corner

6. What is your most important everyday ritual at home?

Eating dinner together every night. Taking the time to cook a real meal and to clear and set a pretty table is very important to me. My kids are not always the most appreciative guests at the table, but I feel like having a family dinner is one of the most important things that we do.


A lovely and colorful family dinner

7. Do you have a favorite piece of furniture or decorative item in your home? Tell us about this item.

I'm really fond of our dining table. We cycled through a few yard sale tables that really didn't work for us until Jack made ours. It's a Herman Miller base that he found on craigslist topped with a piece of pressed plywood covered in white laminate. I love the length, and it's so easy to clean up our messes.

dining room

The family dining table, a DIY ensemble

8. In your home, what indulgences do you give into?

Good local food, beer, and wine. The Sunday New York Times.

9. What are your favorite stores to shop for home?

At least 75% of our furniture and decor came from yard and estate sales, craigslist, and thrift stores. There is so much really well made and well-designed stuff out there just waiting to be found. Jack is really good at keeping his eye on craigslist for good deals on classic furniture, many of our Herman Miller and Eames pieces came from there as well as our Jacobsen dining chairs. We slept on a mattress on the floor for 10 years until we found a Danish platform bed at a yard sale last summer. The rest of our furnishings came from IKEA or were built by Jack. I'd love to design a sofa and have it built and upholstered locally, but I don't think that will be in our budget for a while. (But it is yard sale season again!)


Danish platform bed and Chester the cat

10. What are your favorite Home & Garden blogs or websites?

My favorite design site is Remodelista. Those ladies have incredible taste and a definite point of view. It's hard to keep up with all the posts, however!

Thanks so much, Stephanie! And good luck finishing your kitchen.


Keep up with Stephanie Congdon Barnes on her home design blog Shelter, and on 3191 Miles Apart. Check out the book A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart.


Don't miss our previous Show & Tell Home Tours:

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