I am so excited for you all to meet Abby today. She is a interior designer raising her two adorable daughters in lovely North Carolina. And her home is really a stunner. I love when a place really looks collected and curated, you know? Like it doesn’t look like you just bought one whole page out of the Pottery Barn catalogue and plugged it in. : ) It’s neat to see pieces that were found and gathered over time and have a great story to tell.
Well, Abby’s house has that in spades. And she has some really lovely things to say about motherhood that will make you think about the stories in your own life. Come say hello.
Hello! We are the Burba family. My name is Abby, I am married to my college sweetheart and I’m the stay at home mama of two sweet girls. In my ‘former life,’ back when I got paid and people listened to me (I joke), I worked in interior design. It was my passion and it still is — I just have a few more passions these days.
My husband’s name is Greg and he’s a numbers guy, he works in banking. He’s from the Chicago area, in that wonderful way some people are really ‘from’ somewhere; where others like me have always kind of moved around. Maybe that’s why creating a sense of home became so important to me early on.
We live just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina in a pretty quiet family neighborhood. It’s a big neighborhood, built in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, with sidewalks and neighborhood pools. There are good schools and the location is convenient to the city. Still, I love that you can drive just a minute or two from our house and find yourself on winding country roads. Turn right and you’ll see a corn field and a seasonal farm stand, just a little further down is a pasture lined by old wooden fencing where a chestnut, palomino and donkey graze.
I’d swear the sun seems to shine just about every time I wind down it.
We spent our first year in North Carolina renting. We’d lived in the south before, but Charlotte was a new adventure. During that time, we looked a lot online and drove around a bit but never seemed to be on quite the same page. As we looked, our wish list grew and along with it the price of homes we saw. Perhaps we’d hit a certain age, had our first home and started to put pressure on ourselves that this home should be our ‘dream home’ or we’d be giving up a dream (mid-life can feel that way). So, we took a step back from looking.
When we picked up our search again a few months later, it was really pretty simple. We had found a great realtor online. Nancy took us out twice. The second time was to see this home, which Anna (our oldest) and I had found online that morning. It was a Saturday in early summer and the market was competitive. We already had plans to meet friends at a strawberry festival that afternoon, so we arranged to see it right after.
It was an easy choice; everything I described before, plus light bright and open, with a front porch and an amazing backyard. It didn’t have the basement Greg wanted but it did have a three car garage. It wasn’t new like I’d hoped but it fit comfortably in our budget which meant we could do a few projects to make it our own.
There were multiple offers but with the help of our realtor it was ours. We were thrilled, though Anna would tell you the most exciting part was winning third place in the ice cream eating contest at the strawberry festival (the ribbon still proudly displayed on her wall)!
We moved to North Carolina from Chicago for a job opportunity, though we’d talked about moving back south for a while. It has a great mix of opportunity, affordability, mild weather and of course southern charm! Charlotte is near the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains but also close enough to the beach for an easy weekend getaway. Our go-to is Charleston, South Carolina, where we used to live and still have friends.
One of the biggest surprises in moving to Charlotte, was how few people here are actually from this area. It’s wonderful when we meet those who are, but it’s also pretty cool to connect with people from across the country and the world all right here. It does take time to feel at home in a new place. With so many transplants in Charlotte, people can relate and are mindful of welcoming new friends. As a mama, I am especially happy to see my kids getting involved and making new friends.
We don’t have plans to move again, though I would love to keep exploring. Hopefully with a suitcase rather than a moving truck!
The things in our home are a mix of vintage finds, European and American antiques, family heirlooms, bespoke and other new pieces. Most everything in our house has a story behind it — from my work, a personal story, family story or of the piece’s own provenance.
There is a beautiful pink velvet chair in the dining room. Admittedly, my grandma (who is one of my absolute favorite people) found this at a yard sale down the street from her in small town central Illinois along with the matching parsons style ottoman which is for some reason unusually tall. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found something so cool at a yard sale. I think she paid 20 or 25 dollars for the two and I paid her the same. Keep in mind, in addition to a great sense of style, my grandma does have 89 years of experience on her side!
When I acquired the chair from her I didn’t have a plan for it, I’d just always liked it and found it comfortable. It has been right at home in this cozy part of our dining room ever since. It’s not huge but comfortable enough that we can sit together and read or play checkers (for now that’s what we use our lovely old onyx chess set for). I love the chair’s bright warm hue against the Farrow and Ball Mizzle (‘a mix of rain and drizzle’) dining room walls.
My husband actually picked the color. Well kind of. As you know, this is my area of expertise, but I like to make an effort to include all of my family in the design of our home. So, I picked two options (both of which I loved, this is key!) and he made the final choice. I ended up using the other in the master bedroom. I’m really enjoying this approach at involving everyone in the family, and I think my family members do too!
The little pillow in the pink chair you may not have even noticed. I’ve had it for years and to be honest, I didn’t really care for it at first. It’s a nice linen fabric but gold and black have never been my go-to colors. A French art deco trim is its redeeming quality.
A generous vendor gave it to me when I worked in Chicago in my mid 20’s, and at the time I was pretty sure it would never work in any space of mine. But eventually it turned out to be just the right thing for this particular spot and home. I’m glad I hung on to it. Sometimes it takes time to appreciate the beauty in something — kind of like how it takes time to appreciate certain people in our lives, or even to appreciate the beauty in ourselves.
Design really can be a lot like life. It’s about getting to know yourself, building relationships and learning to appreciate what you have.
It’s always interesting to hear how people perceive a space. Some people find my home to have a traditional flair, but you might be surprised to know that in my mind I’m quite a bit more modern than my style might look here. The reason being, I can usually find a great vintage piece more affordably than the modern counterpart I may love.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the character and history of older pieces —especially wood pieces. Take the monk’s bench in our entry for example. It’s an antique from Scotland. I find it so cool to think that years ago a monk would have used this piece as a table or desk, as a seat and also to store his belongings (the top folds back and the seat opens for storage). It would likely have been the only piece of furniture he had beyond a modest bed. When we got it, I joked that it would come in handy if we ever decide to ‘go tiny’, like on those tv shows. I love living with that kind of history and perspective.
I love to mix our kids’ original works of art with those of professional artists — like the pinch pot on the antique nightstand or the small painting above the daybed in the sitting room. Also pictured above daybed, you’ll find a Monet print (hung matted no frame), along with a couple of photos and a hand print in Ikea frames.
When I begin to design a space for myself or someone else, I try to explore what it is that makes that person feel beautiful and most at home. Developing your own sense of interior style is not unlike finding that ‘perfect’ pair of jeans (verses all the other stuff in your closet). It’s a process. At times it can become a stressful one, when we’re either overwhelmed by inspiration and options, or maybe just unsure of where to start.
I keep it fun and moving forward by remembering there isn’t one ‘perfect fit’, it’s more about finding a ‘personal fit’. I love a thoughtful home; no two are ever alike and a thoughtful home will never go out of style!
In addition to putting together a thoughtful home, another area I feel like I excel as a mom is storytelling. We know it’s powerful. In books we learn about faith and history. Blogs like this one connect us with people and stories we might otherwise never get to know. And it is as parents, in special everyday moments with our kids, that we get to share our own simple stories.
In the rooms that make up our home, we talk about our days, about the fun stuff, and about the worries too. It’s in listening to my little ones and sharing my own memories and experience that I find this story-telling power comes to life. As I share stories from when I was their age — of a mistake I made, a time I got in trouble, or maybe a time I felt embarrassed — my kids are reminded that they’re normal, wonderful in fact. They are everything they should be just as they are. And as we talk, we laugh, and I watch their worries begin to melt away. For this mama, that’s a big win!
I’ve always felt confident in how much I love my girls. How special and unique they are and what a gift it is to be their mom. I often include that in our bedtime prayers — “thank you for letting me be their mom,” I say. Regardless of how imperfect our day has been, I want them to know what a blessing they are and how fortunate I feel to get to know and care for them.
I hope my kids remember the happy times of course — dancing around to fun music in the kitchen, spending time together, and feeling loved. Oh, and what an amazing cook I am. (That’s a joke, I’m a mediocre cook at best!)
What do I hope they forget? Oh plenty of things. Just last week for example, our three year old may have been scarred for life, and I definitely was, all in the line of parenting duty. She had woken up in the middle of the night crying. Rather than risk her waking the others I brought her into our bed.
A few hours later, she woke up again, this time her pjs covered in pee. So, I quietly scooped her up and put her in our shower. Then I got in to wash my hair. She was chilly, so I attempted to maneuver around her letting her enjoy the warm water. Unfortunately for me, I was now closer than usual to the tile wall and the porcelain corner shelf that had recently broken in half. There I was washing my hair, awkwardly in and out of the water, when I brought my arm down, hard, right onto the edge of this broken shelf (it was sharper than I ever could have imagined). I yelled for my husband as I held out my arm, a large deep gash just above my elbow.
Then I passed out, and I passed out again on the bathroom floor and maybe for a moment on the kitchen floor before making it to the emergency room — with sleepy headed kids in tow. Talking all the way in the car like it was no big deal and how lucky we were that there wasn’t any traffic so early in the morning. While I got stitched up my crew sat in the waiting room. That’s a mom moment for you.
In addition to my injury, I spent the next two days with my hair full of dried Head-n-Shoulders. At least it smelled good!
This just before we were scheduled to host our first Thanksgiving dinner — not to mention I’d been working on this fun project.
Today, my arm is healing, and I am happy to say that Thanksgiving was a success. I didn’t get to wear that perfect outfit I’d planned or even make many dishes, but I did finally get to wash the shampoo out of my hair that morning. And when family arrived, my injured arm and wet hair didn’t matter much. We all pitched in to make the day come together, not a perfect picture, but a really good memory.
There are lots of times I feel I fail (in big and small ways). Sometimes I hope they’ll forget or at least not be scarred by the memory. But I also kind of want them to remember and to talk about it. Because it’s how we recover from those moments that I hope to teach them.
In the case of my arm, how it forced me to slow down and to ask for help which can be hard, especially for mamas. It served as a reminder too, that while it’s fun to work on the pretty picture, it’s important not to overlook those proverbial broken shelves. And what can happen when we do overlook them!
My kids aren’t the only ones who are learning. I am too.
My favorite thing about living with my kids might be the joy and excitement they bring to each day. Watching them experience things for the first time, and most of all the love you get to give and receive is amazing. I don’t miss them being babies, but I do love those gummy baby smiles. I’m sure there’s plenty more I’ll miss as they get older!
I wish someone had told me that I was beautiful and loved just as I am everyday until it sunk in, because I think that’s what it takes sometimes. To hold my cheeks in their palms and say it when I was down. With a gentle hug from behind while doing my homework. To whisper it in prayers and sprinkle it in praise throughout the day. Until I knew in my heart that it must in fact be true.
I hope I have this to give my kids. I hope I remember to give this to the grown-ups in my life as well. Because it’s never too late and it’s the best we have to offer. Love.
(Though at times I’ll probably sound like that silly character on Friends, that Alec Baldwin. And it will probably get on my kids’ nerves. But that’s okay.)
Thank you, Abby! What a sweet home. The giant Seurat painting, the wooden daybed, the starburst chandelier. So many great details! And I loved what she said about creating a “thoughtful home.” I feel like that comes up again and again in these conversations. If you choose things that you really love and fill your home with them, then “it will always be in style: because it will be your style.”
And I loved when Abby said this: “And it is as parents, in special everyday moments with our kids, that we get to share our own simple stories.” Isn’t that so true? Parenting is so often about crafting stories. Creating memories on purpose or accidentally that your kids will talk about their whole lives. Sharing your own past and present in a way that shapes the way your kids see their own lives. Its the stories that we tell and live, both big and small, that make up the shape of our lives.
What kind of stories do you hope your kids remember about growing up in your home? What do you you hope they forget? What story are you SURE is going to get told at Thanksgiving dinners for the next 30 years (whether you want it to or not)?
Dining Room Chandelier
The Perfect Advent Calendar (such a great gift!)
Floral Wallpaper from Anthropologie
Photography credit to Brittany Sanderson. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram. Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, gay parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.