Chelsea & Her Home
Whether she’s refinishing furniture or making over entire rooms for her clients, StyleMutt Home blogger and designer, Chelsea Bieber, is constantly putting her creative instincts to the test. Reimagining rooms and pieces of furniture has allowed this busy wife and mother to hone in on her aesthetic, and today, she’s inviting us inside the front door to wander through the lustworthy rooms of her very own home.
The moment you step over the threshold into Chelsea’s house, you’ll likely feel immediately at ease. You could attribute this reaction to her collection of well-worn, comfortable seating and bedding choices, or to her affinity for nature-inspired colors. Whatever the case, don’t be surprised if you long to lounge with Chelsea in her sweeping front living room to talk about everything from art and family to business.
In case you’re not be able to make that little daydream an immediate reality, we’re offering you the next best thing by sharing our own creative conversation with Chelsea below! Read on for Chelsea’s anecdotes on her organic progression to becoming a designer, plus her tips for crafting a beautiful boho home around a bustling family of five.
When and why did you decide to become a designer?
I felt like I was playing ‘designer’ when we moved into this (our first) home. I felt so confident and empowered to make it ours! However, doing it professionally was never really a conscious decision. When my third baby, Mason, was born, I thought I’d turn my interest for refinishing furniture into a small business. The idea was to create one-of-a-kind pieces that were more affordable to those just starting out or who were working with a tight budget for their home. This opened the door to conversations with clients about their own homes and styles.
Soon, I started to get emails here and there asking for decorating help. It didn’t take long to realize that the process of talking with someone through their own home décor choices felt very natural and comfortable—and it’s such delightful work! The transition from just being a furniture-refinishing business to a full-service design business was very smooth. I still refinish furniture for fun when we are between design clients—and sometimes for them!
Is it difficult to work alongside your sister-in-law, Cate? How do you juggle business to-dos?
Here’s the honest truth: We are two imperfect people who really love what we do, but even more, we love each other. I think any partnership is difficult simply by nature, but I couldn’t imagine sharing this corner with anyone else. I swear, any little thing I’m not very good at, Cate’s not only stronger at it—she’s phenomenal. Our strengths and weaknesses as individuals couldn’t be more balanced as a team!
What do you enjoy most about blogging? What’s your least favorite aspect?
These days my favorite thing about blogging is pressing that ‘Publish’ button! I started a blog five years ago when I began my furniture-refinishing business. It truly was an outlet for me; a way of connecting with the world outside our walls. Sounds so dramatic—I know! But, after a busy life full of sports and activities, I felt a bit of an identity crisis when my husband and I had three babies in under 17 months. We have boy/girl twins, Colin and Shire, and then our sweet surprise baby, Mason, who came right after them. They’re more like triplets! I wasn’t used to being home so much and I simply missed people!
While I was crazy about my babies and found immense joy from being their mom, I missed being an active part of my community. I think so many mommas relate to this and there are a lot of wonderful ways we can continue connecting. For me, blogging was less about sharing furniture flips and more about connecting with others during an uncharted stage of life. Now that those awkward ‘new mom’ days are behind me, that urgency to connect isn’t as great because I’m more engaged (and busy!) outside our home again with design clients.
These days, I find myself blogging only when great inspiration strikes and I urgently want to share it with the world. Also, our design work simply prevents us from having as much time for the blog. However, we’re hiring an intern who will be a new and exciting voice on there, so stay tuned!
It’s safe to say our home has changed and evolved at the same pace as our babes! It’s hard to believe that a few short years ago we had baby gates all over the place—now I have plants instead!
What do you love most about living in Washington, D.C.? How has living in the city influenced your design style?
What’s so cool about this area is the tremendous mix of cultures. It’s not just a city full of people from all over our country, but from all over the world! I just love that. Plus, it makes for one well-stocked Craigslist! We have the coolest stuff on our local Craigslist and in the thrift stores because cultures from all over the world are contributing! One of my most unique finds was a WWI army cot from a gentleman whose great-grandfather was an army doctor. The cots still had their original canvas! I replaced the canvas (I’ll let you use your imagination for what sorts of stains were embedded into the fabric!), cut the piece down and now use it as a coffee table in our basement. Luckily, because we have so many unique finds around here, it’s not too difficult to create a truly eclectic space.
What initially drew you to your home? How did you go about transforming it to better suit your own family?
This house really felt like home when we walked through its empty self for the first time six years ago. It’s quaint and cozy without feeling cramped. When we moved in, we had 10-month-old twins and I was pregnant with our third. It’s safe to say our home has changed and evolved at the same pace as our babes! It’s hard to believe that a few short years ago we had baby gates all over the place—now I have plants instead! The one constant has been decorating minimally with non-precious items. This is not a designer home, that’s for sure. It’s our family home—well-loved, well-used and fiercely lived-in.
Favorite home décor shopping destinations?
We’re lucky to have a handful of barns in our area that are chock-full of treasures! When I have time to bop around, my favorites include Sweet Clover in Frederick, Maryland; Rust & Feathers in Leesburg, Virginia; Chartreuse & Co, which is also in Frederick; and my favorite thrift store is Pender ReGift Thrift Store in Chantilly, Virginia. Just a hint though: Don’t expect friendly customer service!
For casual online browsing, I frequently visit The Woven Home, House Sparrow Fine Nesting, Axel Co., Decolic Kilim Pillows, Vol25, Whisky Ginger, Kaya Kilim and Amazon (it’s surprising how good the home décor selection is!).
How would you describe your decorating philosophy?
Thankfully, Arthur Ashe wrote my decorating philosophy for me before I was born: “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” These words have been on my heart since I first started this business. I believe that each and every person deserves a home that is soulful, reflective of their unique and beautiful makeup, and a retreat from the rest of the world. Square footage, budget, floorplan and the like do not get to determine your appreciation for your home. They’re factors that can be manipulated and worked to bring you great delight in your safe haven, whether it be a single room or a multi-floor house.
We love how you’ve made the most of nearly every surface in your home—from kitchen shelving to entryway hooks! What are a few of your favorite storage tips?
Well, since I’m a professional closet crammer, that means our visible surfaces/hooks are exclusively reserved for favorite decorative items and things we need on the ready each day. I’ve found that items stored out in the open get used and remembered much more frequently. After trying hidden toy storage for a year or so, we built open shelves and have all the toys ‘displayed’ where they’re seen and played with every day.
Open office storage can be tricky because jumbles of papers and cords are what they are. But, there are plenty of sharp-looking organizational tools out there, so it’s not difficult to find something that works for you functionally and isn’t too hard on the eyes. We currently use the brass wire file holders by Nate Berkus found at Target. I realize open storage isn’t always the ideal option. But, at least for now, this has worked out for us.
I believe that each and every person deserves a home that is soulful, reflective of their unique and beautiful makeup, and a retreat from the rest of the world. Square footage, budget, floorplan and the like do not get to determine your appreciation for your home.
What are your top three styling secrets?
I truly believe there are less rules than ever before, so these are more just my own loose guidelines that I use. But, I’ve seen every one of these ‘broken’ successfully for what it’s worth!
- Include something unexpected. Having a super old and/or weird thing mixed into a room with newer pieces makes the room so much more soulful. For example, my parents gave my older son a plastic cadaver with squishy organs that you can take out and put back in. I keep Cadaver Joe on display when he’s not being disassembled—he’s a no-fail conversation starter! Anything that’s off the beaten path, really old, not socially acceptable, etc., does wonders for the personality of a space. But the key is balance—a room full of old, vintage pieces will smell strange, and a room with lots of strange pieces can be confusing.
- You don’t need a lot of things to have an interesting home. Styling with purpose can be just as fulfilling (if not more so) than styling with plenty. This is why trying our hands at a little editing here and there can come in handy! It’s fun to find amazing scores at yard sales and thrift shops, just keep in mind that the biggest difference between your home and the thrift store is negative (i.e. empty) space. A little breathing room around your home can do wonders to allow those amazing finds to shine.
- Styling should feel like a natural addition to a space; never forced or contrived. What you see working beautifully in a magazine or your friend’s home may not suit either your style or your home well. This shouldn’t deter you from trying a thing. I’m all about stepping into uncharted waters! But, after you’ve tried a thing, don’t just take a step back. Walk into the room where you would usually enter, sit where you would normally sit. Does the styling feel well-suited to the room or is it imposing? Don’t wait until you ‘get used to it’—shut it down! Your home should never feel like a place you need to ‘get used to.’ This isn’t like switching to soy milk—it’s your sanctuary!
If you could choose, what would be your ultimate dream project?
Goodness, my ultimate dream would be letting loose on the tiny loft and studio apartments in New York City! Functional decorating is my favorite and I love maximizing the square footage of a tiny little space like it’s a puzzle. Plus, I’m a Northerner at heart (I grew up near Boston), and always feel comfortable and at home in the big city. New York City is an area that I already love and it’s home to some of the tiniest apartments in the world! For me, it would be a giant ‘tiny home’ dream come true!
What advice do you give when helping someone determine their style?
Celebrate what you like and let go of what you don’t because confidence is everything! It’s so important to help others realize that there is nothing wrong with what they do or do not like. We’ve had individuals sound embarrassed by something they like, or even apologize for something they don’t like. We just want them to be empowered by those opinions, not ashamed! Our styles are as unique as our fingerprints; it’s just one of the many creative ways the Lord made us and we want to celebrate that!
Where do you go for inspiration?
Other than Glitter Guide?! I am so drawn to the interiors you feature here and how the homeowners balance work and play in their homes! I also frequently head over to the Urban Outfitters online ‘Apartment’ section. I absolutely love how they’ve styled every shot of every room. Miraculously, I don’t make a purchase every time I’m there, but I do get loads of ideas from the photos. The images are laid-back and effortless, yet styled out of the park!
Who are a few of your greatest professional influences?
Emily Henderson, hands down. I know she’s a fan favorite but here’s why she’s mine, personally. The design industry—especially among bloggers—sometimes feels a bit insincere. There is a lot of competition and it’s easy to feel like you need to please everyone and say ‘yes’ to every door that opens. My family and what’s left on this side of eternity are far too valuable to waste on work that I don’t believe in or feel passionate about. This is why I follow Emily closely. I love her style and the manner in which she’s grown professionally. She’s sharp and professional, but also honest and genuine. She isn’t afraid to share from her life experiences and the struggles and triumphs of day-to-day life balancing work and little ones. I find it completely refreshing.
Business growth is a tricky thing. Cate and I have realized it’s far better for us to grow steadily doing work that is thoughtful and intentional rather than growing rapidly by keeping up with every opportunity that comes our way. We want to always be genuine, honest and present each day for our loved ones. It’s easier said than done and something we pray together for continually as we seek the Lord’s wisdom and discernment for StyleMutt Home.
This is not a designer home, that’s for sure. It’s our family home—well-loved, well-used and fiercely lived-in.
How does your taste in fashion translate to interiors?
When I was very young, I preferred to do the opposite of whatever everyone else was doing. If it was on-trend, I didn’t want anything to do with it. Luckily, I’ve matured a bit more in adulthood! I can appreciate certain trends now, but there’s still a big part of me that wants to be free from them and try something that’s different and maybe even a little surprising. Fashion creativity started long before I was ever interested in home styling, and it’s still an interest of mine today! It’s not just about feeling comfortable in my clothes, it’s what makes me feel confident and beautiful (actually, comfort probably comes last in my fashion criteria!). I’d say my natural style inclination in all realms—from fashion and home to simply the way I live—leans very bohemian. It all feels very easy, laid-back and natural.
What’s at the top of your bucket list for the second half of 2016?
Deciding who to vote for! Kind of kidding (please don’t comment on that). My youngest babe will be starting full-day school for the first time this fall and I have no idea what to expect from that change. My life was full of babies so fast that my head was spinning, and just like that, our home will be empty for seven hours. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it! My plan is to just have an open mind and heart to what the Lord has in store for the rest of this year.
Since starting a small business, I’ve always assumed that as soon as all three kids were in school then I’d really be able to grow the business and come back to all the open doors. I hadn’t taken into account the tremendous amount of flexibility I’d need to have with school-age children. I want to be present and available in this next chapter of their lives. I also want to give my incredible husband my absolute best when he’s home in the evening, not the dwindling leftovers of my time, patience and energy. Balancing work and life to the fullest is a challenge for everyone; I’m praying for the wisdom to balance better as the year goes on.
- Poppy print
- Wood diamond shelf
- Behr Ultra Bright White on the walls
- Tassel Wall Hanging
- Black Task Lamp (similar)
- Oil-Rubbed bronze floor lamp
- Crashing Waves art
- Coffee table tray
- Geometric mirror
- Hanging brass votive holders (similar)
- Dining table, stripped of original finish
- Metal Cafe Chairs
- Leather chair pads (similar)
- Indigo Dye Curtains
- Copper and wood Aztec wall planter
- Industrial Pipe Shelves
- Hammered brass pendant
- Hammered copper tea kettle
- Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel in High Gloss White on cabinets
- Blue mudcloth pillow
- Wall hanging
- Wall stencil
- Floral shams
- Fur pillow (similar)
- White quilt
- Brass Sconces
- Brushed nickel rhino head
- Pendant arm for light
- Air plant wall sconces
- Forest wall stencil
- White comforters
- Reading lights
- Fox pillow (similar)
- Pink duvet (similar)
- Black and white prints