Is your morning routine lacking a bit of beauty? Are you looking to add some stylish inspiration to your at-home eat-in area. Well, then we can’t help but think that Elsie Larson’s vivacious vintage breakfast nook makeover will be just the thing to awaken your quest for higher style on a lower budget this spring!
As one half of the creative founding team behind the wildly successful lifestyle blog, A Beautiful Mess, it’s hardly surprising that Elsie’s revived retro eat-in area would be a smash hit. And lucky for you, Elsie is spilling her secrets for making over a space with your own personal style and needs in mind. Her thoughtful tips and perspective—plus hints for what’s to come on ABM this season—are below!
First of all, tell us everything we need to know about A Beautiful Mess!
I started my blog, A Beautiful Mess, nine years ago just for fun. It’s still crazy to me that it launched my business because I did not take it seriously at all, and at the time, I had no idea what blogs were about to become. I actually feel very lucky to have started blogging in a time of no expectations and no pressure. It all evolved so naturally.
Today, A Beautiful Mess is many things. Our blog and Instagram are devoted to sharing our love for home décor and cooking; we recently launched a photo-editing app, A Color Story, which focuses on bright and clean editing styles; we have a monthly stationery subscription called Happy Mail; we’re in the process of writing our first cookbook; and I’m renovating a 1970s ranch-style house and sharing every little detail. Whew—that’s a lot of projects, huh?
What’s it like working with your little sister? Do you two find it difficult to balance tasks, or do you have a natural rhythm?
Working with my sister is crazy. Emma and I have a really unique working relationship. We’re opposites in so many ways, but really balance each other out. She is more business savvy and practical, so she always keeps me grounded and focused. I am more aspirational and detail-obsessed, living on the right side of my brain most of the time. We need each other to be successful and complete. Building this business together has formed the most trusting, solid relationship between us. Our rhythm is very solid, but, yes, we still have fights. Haha!
My favorite thing to share on Instagram is my renovation. I like to share our family life and travels as well, but #TheLarsonHouse is what I feel like I share most often. It’s been fun to share the little details, the disasters and the whole process there!
Describe the process for making over your breakfast nook. What were your main goals?
Our 1970s ranch was very preserved, meaning it still felt like the ’70s/’80s when we first viewed it. Our first goal was to refresh the space and create a clean slate. And our secondary goal was to make it feel like us!
We wanted a light, bright space for breakfast and coffee, which is one of our favorite routines together. Once the space was clean and fresh, we added a little color with my glassware collection and a fun rug. It’s just enough to make it pop without feeling heavy or fussy at all.
What’s your favorite thing about the redesign?
You can see the before photos here. The redesign wasn’t all that intense—just a lot of updating and improving on what the room already had so that its natural features could shine. We wanted to enhance the sense of light and the feeling of openness.
My favorite choices were the white marble floors—they elevate the room so much—and the DIY gallery wall that we made. It’s crazy how much those little gold hardware pieces added to the frames. People always ask me where I bought them!
We’re dying to know about that gorgeous glass collection of yours! Where did you source all of the pieces? What was your inspiration for the collection?
Since high school, I have loved thrift shops and flea markets. But in recent years, I realized I was collecting too many random pieces that didn’t go together. So I took a break from them for a little while, and then recently I started again with a new philosophy! Now when I buy vintage, I always shop with a list. I only buy pieces that I have a place for (no hoarding random stuff in the basement!), and I focus on finding the prettiest, most special version of whatever I am shopping for. It makes for a much more intentional, meaningful collection.
I have loved shopping for the glassware. I started out with a list of what colors I wanted to collect. Now that it’s more than halfway full, I have a list in my purse of what pieces I need more of to make full sets (for example, right now I’m hunting for five pink martini glasses and one large cocktail glass). It’s important to me that I complete the sets so that it’s actually useful for dinner parties and not just decoration. But I’m in no hurry to finish it because I really enjoy the collecting process. It’s fun to just go browse flea markets on a random Saturday afternoon!
What does a typical day in the life of Elsie Larson look like?
My husband and I both work from home, so we’re home a lot. Because that’s not necessarily quality time though, we focus on going out for meals (no cell phones allowed!) and cooking together throughout the week. Food is a huge thing that we have in common. We both love to try new recipes and also new restaurants.
With such a variety of projects going on, no two days look the same. I try to spend the first half of my week writing blog content and the second half on my cookbook recipes at the moment. I also do a lot of the marketing for our new app, so I have a lot of fun/random photo shoots to do—like this one!
Because we work a lot, I try to plan a bunch of fun activities every weekend that have nothing to do with work. Like this weekend, we are planning to try a new brunch spot with epic Bloody Marys, visit a new record store we’ve never been to and stop by the farmers’ market to try a Venezuelan food stand!
What’s your go-to breakfast? What’s your husband’s go-to breakfast?
My go-to is avocado toast. I make it almost every morning with Ezekiel bread, chili flakes and sea salt. I could eat toast for every meal and snack!
Jeremy is much different. He spends time making elaborate meals almost every day. He’s really into trying new recipes from his cookbook collection (right now he’s on a Vietnamese kick!). I love how obsessed with cooking he gets! It definitely comes in waves and when it does, be prepared!
Once the space was clean and fresh, we added a little color with my glassware collection and a fun rug. It’s just enough to make it pop without feeling heavy or fussy at all.
What do you love to share most on Instagram?
Hands down, my favorite thing to share on Instagram is my renovation. I like to share our family life and travels as well, but #TheLarsonHouse is what I feel like I share most often. It’s been fun to share the little details, the disasters and the whole process there!
Spill! What are your top three places to eat in Nashville, Tenn.? What about your top places to shop?
I’m still soaking in the new places (we only moved here five months ago), and we are constantly blown away by the food scene in Nashville! So far, our favorite restaurants are Little Octopus (amazing brunch and the best burger we’ve had in Nashville), Butcher & Bee (the best gnocchi we’ve ever had) and Mas Tacos Por Favor (the tiniest location and menu, but so good, it’s unreal). I could go on all day. Nashville’s food game is very strong.
For shopping, I love Sisters Of Nature. It’s all fair trade and American made, and it’s just a really cute place to shop. I found one of my favorite dresses there! I am obsessed with White’s Mercantile for home goods. It’s perfectly curated and I never leave without a treasure.
We’re big fans of the makeovers you share on ABM! What’s your favorite thing about taking a room from a not-so-great “before” stage, to that fabulous “after” one?
I love big changes and crazy makeovers. My best advice is to start with what you love—what features do you want to play up in the space? Next, think about what the room will be used for and create the best possible design for that function. Don’t be afraid to go all out if you know the design is going to make a more fun-to-live-in space. It’s great if it looks pretty in a photo, but what’s most important is how it feels in person!
If you could offer one piece of advice to wannabe DIY homemakers, what would it be?
Do one project today! It can be as simple as buying fresh flowers or cleaning up one side of a room. When we first moved in, there were so many unfinished contractor projects, the space was very hard to live in. It helped me so much to focus on decorating and cleaning just a few small spaces, one at a time.
I think a lot of people don’t have the home they want because they’re too overwhelmed by the work and expense of it all, but it really does happen one thing at a time. Real life is not an HGTV one-day makeover. It’s OK to take it slowly!
Favorite project to date?
My biggest risk and reward has been our color washed floor. I was terrified to do it, and it could have been a huge mistake, but it turned out to be one of the most fun and one of the boldest choices in our home. What’s crazy is I’m already so used to it, I don’t even notice it!
What are the three items you always have in your fridge?
- Champagne for a quick impromptu celebration!
- Cheese if the weekend is near. We like Boursin, honey goat cheese, Munster and a very sharp cheddar. Cheese trays are my all-time favorite party, weekend or pick-me-up treat.
- Jeni’s Ice Cream. My current favorites are Brown Butter Almond Brittle and Candied Ginger.
Don’t be afraid to go all out if you know the design is going to make a more fun-to-live-in space. It’s great if it looks pretty in a photo, but what’s most important is how it feels in person!
How has blogging changed since you and Emma launched ABM? Where do you see yourselves and the site in five years?
Everything has changed in the past five years, and I expect it to keep changing very rapidly in the coming five years. This past year, we’ve noticed a shift from blog comments to social media as far as talking back and forth goes. We’ve seen so many trends come and go, but we’ve learned that if we keep doing what we love (mostly home and food), then there will always be an audience there for us.
We’re excited to grow more in those categories through our cookbook and collaborations. My biggest dream is to do a textile collection at some point, but I’d also like to design fixtures. But, honestly, we’re open to whatever and just enjoying the ride! Big picture: we can see ourselves doing this type of work our whole lives; there is no end in sight.