Come on inside...
I used to know Mary Beth Eastman (in that way that we moms *know* each other on the Internet) a few years ago. I read her blog. I really liked what she had to say. Then we drifted apart (sob!). I got lost in the blur of blogs and misplaced Supafine somehow. So it was funny how I found my way back to her. Simply perusing the Internet for more mamas to like and learn from and there sat Mary Beth adorable fireplace stacked full of books. I wanted to know this woman who made storing books in a fireplace so lovely. Then I "came to" and realized I already know (well, sort of) and adore her and I felt pretty antsy to take a look around her newly acquired abode. You'll love how Mary Beth is wise with her dollars and exuberant with her craftiness. She has some great ideas for creative reuse and more, which makes for a lovely and homey home. Come and see...
Mary Beth, tell us a little about your family and your home.
I live with my husband, Iain, and our kids — Owen, who's 4, and Cormac, who's 2 — in a tiny town in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, 20 minutes outside Pittsburgh. Coming from Baltimore, small town life is a scream. The Norman Rockwell factor is through the roof, and I just adore it.
Our house was built in 1925, and it's your typical American Foursquare: 7 rooms, about 1,300 square feet, original oak floorboards and built-ins, a kitchen the size of a shoe. It still needs a lot of work, but it felt like home right away. We bought it last summer and spent three months just ripping out 30-year-old carpeting and repainting every surface.
MB's Hint: Throw pillows are excellent at hiding upholstery stains.
The dark, glossy stained wood doors pop against the light walls and white trim.
How do you approach decorating in your home? What's the most important thing?
Right now, the most important thing is creative use of space and materials. We're still working with the original floor plan (and a comically limited budget), so learning to arrange what we already have has been key. The other imperative, obviously, is to design around family life. Anything you put down is guaranteed to be picked up and moved by tiny hands within moments. I'm fine with that, but it is a factor.
Small 1960s kitchen; MB painted the cabinets, hardware, and walls when they moved in.
You have two young sons. How does their STUFF influence the look and feel of your home?
A lot. I don't think you can realistically get around that when they're toddler/preschool age, and especially not in a two-story house, where you need to keep them and their activities within earshot. I'm secretly relieved to be past the bouncer/walker/swing stage and onto the stage where their toys can be swept up and dumped into baskets. They keep their Legos, toys, and trains on shelves in the living room and other toys in their toy chest in their bedroom. At night we put everything away, but for a large part of the day, I'm stepping over elaborate cityscapes and railways. If I can confine it to one part of one room, it doesn't drive me bats.
The artsy spot in the boys' room
Boys' room and their toy chest
It's also nice to live in a house where the kids can be kids. The sofa is slipcovered, everything is wipeable, removable, or replaceable. It's a big load off my shoulders, living in a kid-friendly house.
The boys vs. couch
Great design can be expensive. How do you get the most bang for your buck?
Well, two ways. First, by getting everything secondhand. We bought two pieces of furniture new: our sofa and our mattress. Everything else came from our parents, our friends, garage sales, or thrift stores. For me, it's more about how you arrange what you have, how you edit it (or not, in my clutterific case), and how you put things together. Anyone can order a page full of things from Design Within Reach, but it's not going to have any personal meaning or even be a creative challenge.
The other way is to take an object or piece of furniture out of its context and think about another way to use it. Switch up the pictures in the picture frames, move items from one room to another, use furniture in unexpected places or ways.
We're also firm believers in growing it, fixing it, or making it yourself.
The rocking chair MB's mother rocked her in as a babe, refinished for their home
Tell us about the best deal you have gotten lately for your home.
This is a hard question! I feel like everything I get is a good deal, and at the same time, then nothing stands out. I went garage-sailing a few weeks ago and picked up this fabulous 60s-type yellow vinyl chair. I couldn't figure out why the guy only wanted a dollar for it — until I got it home and sat on it. It cants to the left like you wouldn't believe. So, it's not a good deal for a chair -- but it is for an extra horizontal surface, which I always feel like is in short supply.
The $1 chair turned pretty display space
Tell us about one DIY project you have taken on recently and love.
How about two? They're both stupid simple. The first: We live in a river valley, which means every time we stick a shovel in the ground, we turn up half a dozen river stones. One of them was broken in half, and now I use it for candles. It's wide and flat and contains all the dripping wax, and I think it looks awesome.
The DIY river rock candle holder and other display items
The second: our fireplace is completely nonfunctional and bricked over. My husband fit a few shelves in between the bricks and now we use it to store our favorite and most conversation-starting books. In our experience, there is never enough storage area for books.
Great use for a non-working fireplace: book display and storage
Do you have a favorite piece of furniture in your home? Tell us about this item.
The sideboard in our dining room, where I store our office supplies, phone books, and assorted computer cables, and where we charge our phones and cameras, was originally a country-style hand-me-down china cabinet. We took off the glassed display case on top (which now holds fabric in my sewing room; see below) and spray painted the bottom black, and cut a few holes in the back for cords. It looks like a totally different piece.
With some paint, a country-style china hutch makes into a sophisticated sideboard
You are a writer and crafty mama. What household chore do you tend to back burner most so you can tend to your creative life?
Uh, dusting. For sure. We're lucky to live in a house with radiator heat, so there's a drastically reduced amount. But still... It's one of those things I can just barely make myself do. I try to keep on top of laundry and dishes and general tidying, but after that, things fall sharply off.
MB uses the top half of the china hutch (see above) for storing fabric.
What is your most important everyday ritual at home?
Making the beds. Don't tell anybody, but I actually like arranging the pillows and folding the quilts. And it only takes half a tick, and I just feel like it gets me off on the right foot for the day.
That may be the most Pollyanna thing I have ever said.
In your home, what is one indulgence you give into?
Egyptian cotton sheets and down blankets and pillows. I don't care how much I have to scrimp elsewhere. Every night I get into bed and just melt. My husband laughs at me because I literally find myself sleepily saying, "I love this bed" every night.
What are your favorite stores to shop for home?
IKEA. I know it's a total cliche, but dang if those Swedes don't know their affordable design. I pick up a lot of things like textiles and curtains (talk about bang for your buck — I always have yardage left over) and storage containers at IKEA.
Even places like Big Lots and the ubiquitous Target can have a few pieces, such as vases and picture frames, for like a couple of dollars. And of course the Goodwill, which is always my first stop.
What Home & Garden blogs or websites inspire you the most?
Apartment Therapy probably tops the list; they always have creative and beautiful ideas, and they understand the importance of really living in and enjoying your space, not just creating a picture-perfect room. I also get a lot of inspiration from Fiona of the blog hop skip jump and her rather nice tumblr blog.
Mary Beth, thanks for keeping good family living pretty and real. We're so happy you shared your home here with us.
Mary Beth Eastman is a writer and sewist living outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in an achingly cute small town with her husband and two little boys. She loves thrifting, modern quilting, houseplants, and turning things into other things. She writes a feature called Sew For Broke on her blog Supafine and is constantly rearranging her furniture.
Don't miss our previous Show & Tell Home Tours:
- Amanda Soule of SouleMama (Portland, ME)
- Andrea Jenkins at hula seventy (Portland, OR)
- Elisabeth Dunker from fine little day (Gothenburg, Sweden)
- Rubyellen Bratcher at Cakies (Southern CA)
- Rachel Denbow of Bling on My Sewing Machine (Springfield, MO)
- Hannah Huffman from huffmania (Kansas City, MO)
- Summer Allen-Gibson from design is mine (Portland, OR)
- Martha McQuade at UNIFORM Studio (Minneapolis, MN)
- Tess B. (Kansas City, MO)
- Mary Tsao (San Mateo, CA) - Nursery Tour
- Hanne Rismyhr (Bergen, Norway)
- Amy Hanson from Sweet Sweet Life (San Diego, CA)
- Stephanie Congdon Barnes of 3191 Miles Apart (Portland, OR)
- Benita Larsson of Chez Larsson (Stockholm, Sweden)
- Lori Joy Smith of LoriJoySmith.com (Charlottetown, Canada)
- Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks (Houston, Texas)
- Carey P. (Northern CA) - Garden Tour
- Amy Furstenau of Everything I Love (Salt Lake City, UT)
- Rachel Saldaña of Buttons Magee (Kansas City, MO)
- Sharilyn Wright of lovelydesign (Burnaby, Canada)
- Crystine Goldberg of Uprising Organics Farm and Uprising Seeds (Bellingham, WA) - Farm Tour
- Lisa Solomon of LisaSolomon.com (Oakland, CA)