Kate Brightbill & Her Home
Kate Brightbill's passion for pint-sized kids' clothing began with the birth of her first daughter, but it wasn't until baby number two that she started a blog called StyleSmaller specifically devoted to the subject. Since then, what started as a creative outlet has evolved into the digital place-to-be for fashion-forward moms looking for tips on toys, books, clothes and more.
Kate's passion for the youthful spirit and spontaneity of childrenswear is reflected in her home's colorful, bright aesthetic. Pops of greenery, whimsical art and plenty of fresh white fill the space giving it an easy, carefree vibe, and we can't get enough of the charming details throughout. It all leaves many of us wondering why our moms didn't think of fur throw rugs and chic white bunkbeds for our rooms growing up! Read on to see more of Kate's whimsical home, plus get insight into her journey building a business, a home and a family of five.
Tell us about your journey with StyleSmaller! Where did you get the idea for your blog?
I fell in love with children's style when I had my first little girl, and started StyleSmaller when my second daughter was born (my cousin Erin motivated me, and we blogged together at first!). At the time, there were very few children's style blogs out there and stylish Instagram tots didn't have the market that there is today. I quickly realized that it would not be fun for my kiddos to be regular blog models. Also, I prefer to write about real life more than kids' style, so it adjusted from a "style blog" to a "lifestyle blog" shortly after it started. I upgraded the blog last year (with the help of my sister) to also host a small StyleSmaller Shop of our favorite kid's products, which was a fun project for the site. It is such a luxury these days for women to have the technology to create small business ventures, while staying home with our children.
These days on the blog, I write about the fun spots we find in San Francisco, toys, books and clothing brands we're loving, activities we play and real-life moments. My real blogging passion is sharing bits of motherhood and life experiences with other mothers. I love having memories of my children to look back on and having an online community in addition to the community I have outside of it. The friendships I've made through blogging and through Instagram are very real, and such a huge part of what I love about StyleSmaller.
What do you love most about childrenswear?
Children's clothing is carefree! Children have an innocence and individuality in their attire—they don't need to brand themselves into a style niche. They feel freedom to wear whatever they like, and change their style every day. They're not self-conscious, and I love that!
I find that comfort in childrenswear is essential—no itchy fabrics or clingy materials. Kids want to wear clothing that allows them to be free to run, dance and jump, so clothing designers must always design accordingly.
I love the challenge of making small rooms into functional, organized spaces. I want things to be a bit unpredictable, but classic.
Sophie and Maggie’s room is so sweet! How did you go about designing it?
Thank you so much! As with every room in our home, the design has been a work in progress. We started with the practical aspects that anchored the design. The bunk bed was essential for creating ample floor space to play (San Francisco homes are not known for their excess of square footage!). The tall bookshelf houses the book collection so they don't overtake our home, and we color-coordinate to provide some sort of organization to the space.
The girls are incredibly artistic and proud of their work, so their gallery wall rotates their favorite pieces under a colorful banner from Mini Boden that we adore. I framed each with inexpensive white frames from IKEA and Target so it looks cohesive and tidy. We love color, so my girls have picked a mix of brightly colored throw pillows for their beds, and they both really wanted shelves above their beds to store their personal treasures. The pieces on their shelves rotate regularly. My dad built their beautiful dollhouse, and it has added so much charm to the room.
As much as we love color, I find that with children's rooms, color can very quickly overtake the room. Because of that, we keep the walls, curtains, furniture and bedding crisp white to maintain a sense of quiet balance with the bright accessories.
The over-dyed pink rug was a recent find, and it was the missing piece that warms the room and keeps us playing for hours in there.
What’s your number-one go-to shop for children’s clothes and home goods? (We know, it’s a tough one!)
Oh, really tough! So many brands have amazing options. I think if I had to narrow it to one brand for all three, it would be Zara for clothing and Hanna Home for home goods. I try to diversify brands, but I find Sophie (who is seven) wears mostly Zara, Maggie (our four-year-old) loves Tea Collection best and our baby, Jack, is dressed mostly in Hanna Andersson and Tea. The kids have a ton of Gap and Crewcuts because they have great clothing and great sales. Our favorite children's shoes are consistently Mini Boden and Umi Shoes. They hold up best throughout all the kids' activities.
Congrats on the birth of your son, Jack! What was the inspiration behind his nursery?
Ahh, thank you! It is so fun having a baby boy! I absolutely loved designing his nursery. I love the challenge of making small rooms into functional, organized spaces. I want things to be a bit unpredictable, but classic. Our walls are all white and fresh around our home, so a deep color in Jack's room sounded like a perfect deviation from the norm around here. I found the specific color in a home tour on Design*Sponge, and I loved the way the paint sample looked with bright accent colors.
We had the white crib hand-me-down from the girls, and added a super cozy white rug, Steph Curry on the wall (we're huge Warrior fans!), a small chair and a few shelves of fun toys, including my husband's childhood matchbox cars and children's books from both of our childhood collections. The string of Bright Lab Lights ties the room together for me—I love the bright cheer it provides during the day, and the warm glow it gives for middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes.
We love all the colorful, mid-century details in your home. Why did you decide to go with this design scheme?
I appreciate so many home aesthetics, but for us, the clean lines and cheerful colors make us happy. We want our home to feel warm and inviting, but also clutter-free and bright. Some of the style has been inherited—like our patterned couch. We would not have purchased it on our own necessarily, but it really works with our room!
I also find that pinning my favorite rooms on boards over the years has really helped me understand what my personal home style is. Once that style was pinpointed (and my husband was on board), we felt comfortable making larger purchases on things like our bed and dresser—with those clean mid-century lines in mind—and we plan to have them stay in our home for years and years.
Children have no reservations and express love so wholeheartedly, so I find there are rewarding and beautiful moments to be found even on the hardest days.
What trends are you loving for childrenswear right now?
Knee-high socks, floral leggings, low boots and pom-pom beanies.
If you had to paint all the walls of your home one color, what would it be?
White! There is so much you can do with décor to make a room colorful, so a blank slate would be ideal.
What’s your mommy uniform?
What's in your diaper bag?
- Honest diapers and wipes
- White onesies, always!
- Burt's Bees Lip Balm
- Cozy spare pj's
- Baby Socks
- Aden + Anais Swaddle
- Comotomo Baby Bottles
- Pacifier Pod
Spill: what are your favorite spots to eat, shop and play in San Fran?
Ahh! So many!
- For eating: Don Pistos in North Beach, Mission Chinese Food, Papalote and El Toro Taqueria and Trick Dog in the Mission, Chubby Noodle in the Marina. For bakeries, B. Patisserie on California St. is my absolute favorite. For coffee, either Sightglass or Philz.
- For Shopping: Zara (the one on Post Street has the best selection), Ambiance for shoes, Nordstrom Topshop section for jeans and jackets. Most of my shopping I do online though. Juggling three kids while trying to shop for myself is tricky! The kids love when we visit Sprout, Mapamundi and A
- For Playing: Three standout playgrounds are Alta Plaza Park, Dolores Park and Michelangelo Playground.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of motherhood for you so far?
Motherhood is far from glamorous—it involves a lot of mess, chaos and moments of humility. But oh, the payoff! The kisses, the love notes, the heartfelt hugs. Children have no reservations and express love so wholeheartedly, so I find there are rewarding and beautiful moments to be found even on the hardest days.
I'd say the most rewarding is when I see my children interacting with others with kindness and confidence. To think they can hold their own when we aren't there to hold their hand and talk on their behalf makes us feel like maybe we're doing something right. They make me so proud.