Audrey & Her Home
What do you get when you combine a neutrals-loving Scandinavian man with a colorful artist from France? A home bursting with understated, yet electric, personality. “I’ve had to compromise and figure out the best ways to add color to our home that still work for him,” Audrey Smit, the artist of the pair, explained. “I have to admit, though, that he lets me get away with a lot, and I am so very grateful for it.”
As a wife, mom to four daughters and the blogger and textile design behind This Little Street, Audrey has plenty of creative outlets to express her love for life and pattern. From step stools and kitchen cabinets, to the walls of her poppy studio, she has managed to infuse her home with indelibly fun marks everywhere you turn.
Scroll on for the full tour of the Smits’ minimally maximalist home. Plus, find out how Audrey and her husband have successfully blended their European aesthetic right here in the states, in sunny Berkeley, California.
Tell us about your home! What made you decide that it was “the one”?
The minute I stepped in the door, it wasn’t actually the house that mesmerized me. All I could see through the back bay windows were the 15 redwood trees scattered in the backyard. It looked like a little forest (creek and all!) smack in the middle of Berkeley—and next to coffee shops and restaurants, too! I couldn’t believe it. You wouldn’t know looking at the house from the street. The magic of the backyard went straight to my heart. I could imagine the girls playing for hours back there. It also helped that the house had plenty of space for our growing family—we were trying to get pregnant with our fourth—and that is was super charming and in great condition for being almost 100 years old.
The previous owners did a bit of work on the house before putting it on the market, but they left many areas undone. The in-law unit is the first thing we renovated. It had old linoleum and pink tiles from the ’60s when we bought it. We wanted to make it more welcoming for our families who were coming to visit us from Europe (all my family is in France and all of my hubby’s family is in Denmark). It was so much fun! Every time we change something about the house, it feels more and more like our home.
How has your role as a working artist affected the way you decorate your spaces?
Playing with colors has always been the biggest thing for me, both in my work and in my home. Now, let’s be clear that I married a Scandinavian man who is very much attached to his neutral colors, so it can get tricky to balance it all. I’ve had to compromise and figure out the best ways to add color to our home that still work for him. I have to admit, though, that he lets me get away with a lot, and I am so very grateful for it.
What’s your process? How do you plan out and design new patterns and illustrations?
Sometimes a single pattern will be triggered by a flower I saw on a walk or a book I read with the girls. In that case, I like to let the ideas flow, sketching and painting freely and exploring new ideas. Other times, my process is a lot more thought out and focused, especially if I am working on a new collection for a client. I will start by putting together a mood board, selecting a color palette (always very important for me!). From there, it is sketching/painting time then putting my patterns together in Illustrator. I am very lucky because most of my amazing clients still give me quite a bit of creative freedom in what I do!
Sometimes a single pattern will be triggered by a flower I saw on a walk or a book I read with the girls, and in that case I like to let the ideas flow, sketching and painting freely and exploring new ideas.
Who is your favorite artist?
Anna Bond—the incredibly talented lady behind Rifle Paper Co.—is by far my biggest inspiration. Both for the magical, whimsical world she shares with us through her art, but also because of how accessible she has made it. Also, how she has managed to build such a successful brand and business without diluting her vision or compromising her art or aesthetic.
When and why did you decide to launch your blog, This Little Street?
I launched This Little Street in 2012 when we moved to New York City from Denmark. In Demark, I had started a family photography business (while in the midst of having two babies!). As much as I loved photography, I had to give up that business when we moved because my visa didn’t allow me to work. I still needed a creative outlet though (I simply go crazy when I don’t have that). That’s why I started This Little Street. At the time, my mind was overflowing with design ideas and all of the pretty things I had seen in Denmark. I wanted to create a space where I could share all of the simple and happy design ideas that made me smile.
I had no idea where the blog would lead me. But, I didn’t exactly care at the time because I didn’t have the option to have a “normal” job anyway. It was great because it let me explore freely for a while. Looking back on that time, starting the blog really helped me hone in on my own design aesthetic. Eventually, we managed to get our green cards, which allowed me to turn the blog into a real job.
In 2015, I started collaborating with Spoonflower on a few DIY projects for the blog. I would always find the coolest removable wallpapers and fabrics there. For one of projects, Spoonflower asked me if wanted to design my own pattern for it and I remember that my initial reaction to that was something like, “Me? Design patterns? I have no idea how you do that!” Then, like a seed, the idea grew in my head. I decided to start digging and learning on my own. Not too long after that, I designed my very first collection. I was instantly hooked. I opened my own shop on Spoonflower, and eventually the blog snowballed into full-time design.
Favorite DIY project that you’ve ever posted on your blog: go!
My favorite DIYs are always the ones that are super practical, that me or my family would genuinely use every day and that also add personality to our home. My two favorite DIYs are probably my wallpaper-covered IKEA stools. We’ve had these stools for years now and I’m always updating them with new wallpaper—it’s cheap, easy and adds personality to something we have to have for the girls. I also love the book bins I made for the children. They love reading and these book bins make it so easy for them to browse through their books without taking them all out. Before these book bins, I’d spend the better part of my days cleaning up books fallen off the shelves!
I get most things done during naps and in the evening after the girls go to sleep. It is hard. I am really tired. But I’d rather be tired knowing that I am making progress working on my dreams and being present for my family.
Any tips for teaching little ones how to be artistic from an early age?
We always have art supplies easily accessible—pencils, crayons, glue, scissors, watercolor paint. The girls are always free to start drawing or painting, regardless of the hour of the day. Sometimes that means we have to eat dinner with art supplies pushed to the other side of the table, but quite frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Don’t be afraid of them making a mess—it is completely part of the creative process. I’d rather teach them to clean up that mess than forbid them to start it in the first place.
Stripes or polka dots?
The million dollar question! I don’t think I can choose. I mean, they are equally essential to my well-being.
What’s one piece of baby gear you couldn’t live without?
Our Danish pram, easily! In Scandinavia, babies nap outside during the day, whatever the weather—under cover when it rains and super bundled up when it is a very cold or snowy day. It is something I started doing when we lived there with our two oldest, and it was life-changing. The girls started taking the longest stretches of sleep! All that fresh air I guess! The pram is quite big because Danish kids will nap in it until they are about two years old. Seriously, I owe our pram so much—many super-productive work hours happened (and still happen!) during these long naps.
Go-to mama-on-duty outfit?
Well, my high heels and mini-skirt, of course! No? Just kidding. I live in my Dansko clogs. I seriously barely wear anything else, these shoes are so comfortable and I always get compliments on them. I also live in my jeans and tops that are comfortable, but still make me feel feminine. Some of my favorite tops are from this amazing French designer called Sézane. They’re on the pricier side, but so well cut and flattering—totally worth it. I would rather own less but absolutely love what I have.
How has your French heritage influenced the way you live your life now in California?
The way I raise my kids is very much influenced by my French heritage. But I’d have to say that my husband’s Scandinavian heritage has much more influence on how we live our life in California because of the time we spent there as a family. I am the biggest fan of the Danish “hygge” philosophy—bringing warmth, comfort, coziness and relaxation to our home and our every day. Sharing a cup of tea with friends. Going sledding in the winter and cozying up under a blanket by the fire. Inviting our friends over for a simple, candlelit dinner—we always have candles on the table. That’s all hygge, and it is all very much part of our everyday life.
How do you manage juggling your schedule with kids in tow? Are there any apps you rely on for organization?
No magic trick here, unfortunately! I am very old school when it comes to managing a hectic schedule. Nothing works better for me than a good old to-do list handwritten on a piece of paper. I find the simple act of hand-writing that list appeasing for my brain. It helps me focus. I usually write my list at the end of the day, so the next day I can get going right away. I don’t have a nanny/babysitter helping out right now, so I get most things done during naps and in the evening after the girls go to sleep. It is hard. I am really tired. But I’d rather be tired knowing that I am making progress working on my dreams and being present for my family.
Favorite breakfast for hectic mornings?
What mornings aren’t hectic with four kids? For especially hectic mornings, though, I make sure I always have a Trader Joe’s (I am a fan!) Force Primeval Energy Bar. If I don’t have any, then it’s simply toast with butter and jam. Who doesn’t like toast with butter and jam? That and a big cup of Earl Grey tea, and I can accomplish anything with four kids in tow!
The magic of the backyard went straight to my heart. I could imagine the girls playing for hours back there…Every time we change something about the house, it feels more and more like our home.
What has been your favorite city to live in, and why?
It is a really tough question! I try to enjoy every place I visit and live in for what it is, so picking one is nearly impossible! I loved Tucson (where I went to college) for the beautiful desert landscape and the amazing salsa dancing community I found there. Seattle had the best music scene and the people were so down to earth and just plain nice! Dublin, with all its pubs and colorful front doors, was such a fun place to live in. But I think Copenhagen might win the prize: the colors of the harbor of Nyhavn, people riding bicycles everywhere and the Danes’ love for pretty design directly speaks to my designer heart.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to new moms trying to navigate life, work, marriage and motherhood?
Be very intentional with the time you have. I know it can be hard and the temptation to multitask is very strong when you are a mother with a lot on your plate. However, try as much as possible to give what you are doing your full attention. If you are with your children or your husband, be there 100 percent. When you are working, make sure that your setup allows you to be 100-percent focused on your work and that nothing disturbs you—it will be worth it. It is a piece of advice that is hard to implement for me, too. I am not always good at putting down my phone when we are having dinner, but I feel so much better when I live in the moment.