Living With Kids: Alexis Garrett

Alexis Garrett has an Art Barn and a Surf Shack in her backyard, a laundry truck in her mudroom, vintage French linens on her master bath windows, a gasp-worthy collection of Milk Glass, and a variety of breakable treasures everywhere else. She and her husband also have two young boys. These facts might seem completely incongruous at first glance, but they somehow fit together in perfect harmony in the Garrett home. How does Alexis live with kids? Beautifully.

Q: Tell us about the family who lives here.

A: Myself and my three guys: my husband Ross, our three-and-a-half year old son Henry, and our seven month old Conrad. Oh, and our 11 year old black lab! I am a “retired” interior designer and my husband works in surf media. As of late, if we aren’t playing at the beach we are looking for the perfect Westfalia Van.

Q: I love the story of your home! Living in a tent for a year and then holding your wedding there is incredibly romantic. Will you tell everyone its history? Is this your forever home?

A: Ross bought our house when we were just dating. We met when we were teenagers, so we knew each other pretty well right away. There were many homes that he was looking at but the one we live in now was most definitely the biggest disaster. There were four grown men living here, with mattresses on the ground, a jeep on blocks in the backyard, and no trash pick-up. You get the picture! Being an interior designer, none of those things bothered me. I loved that it was a blank canvas.

There was a great big backyard with fruit trees and a wall in the center of the house that could be opened up to transform it entirely. In fact, our great room was originally four rooms: a kitchen, kitchenette, living room, and small bedroom. The house was unlivable as it was, so to save money Ross was between his parents’ home, my little house I rented with my girlfriend, and a tent in the backyard. So we didn’t stay in the tent every night, but there were many late nights working on the house and sleeping in the yard.

Looking back, it really was romantic. I don’t know if I would have thought of myself as the camping type but I was so crazy about Ross I would have slept in a van if that is what he was doing, which is actually really funny because sleeping in a van is all we have been talking about lately!

The remodel took about nine months because it was done after work by us, Ross’s parents, and our good friend. In May of 2005, Ross proposed and we decided to have our reception in the yard. Our home has been the backdrop for most every important event in our life together, so is this our forever home? I don’t know, but I do know that it would be like losing a part of our family if we left.

Q: You’ve got such a skill for decorating like you’ve been collecting treasures for years and years, and they just belong together. What’s your secret to not looking cluttered, but rather curated? And did you grow up with this skill or learn it from your family?

A: I guess if there is one thing that I think is really important with collections is to keep them together. If you have an amazing antique doll collection and they are beautifully displayed on a big dresser in your guest room, that is charming and stylish. If you have a doll on every table and every corner of your house…well…that’s creepy.

I have been collecting for a long time. Since I was a little girl my favorite thing to do with my grandmother was to go “junking.” She would look in the PennySaver every Friday and plan out her weekend mornings. Not only did she love the hunt, but she is incredibly knowledgeable about antiques. At an early age she taught me how to read the bottom of a cup and saucer and how to tell if something is new or old.

Q: What are your favorite things to collect?

A: As you can see I have a thing for Milk Glass. I think I got my first piece when I was 15. I am very particular about Milk Glass, though I love pieces that have a geometric pattern. I also collect tins, fabric, quilts, vintage paper, old rubber stamps, number 5s, old black and white photos of people I don’t know, and most recently I have added Milk Glass chickens to the list.

Q: What’s your philosophy on breakables and babies and little boys? How do you honestly live with kids?

A: I probably have four or five things in my home that I would cry if they broke, so those things are up higher than 40 inches! Other than that, the things in my house are supposed to be lived with. The things on our tables are not worth any money; they just have a fun story or are beautiful to look at.

Q: Your favorite space in your home…

A: Gosh, I guess this depends on my mood. It has been a long day so far, so I guess right at this moment I would have to say our bathroom. Sitting in my tub with a hot bath and a cup of tea sounds pretty good right now!

Q: I think it’s safe to say that we all need an Art Barn in our lives! What treasures do you keep out there? What do you make?

A: I make all sorts of stuff. When my first son was born I started making these gigantic elephants out of vintage quilts I’ve collected. I am always sewing on paper, and most recently I’ve been making stamps.

Q: When does your home work best? What’s your hands-down favorite time of day, and in what room are you spending it?

A: One of my favorite parts of our home is the light. All the windows and french doors in our house are either on the east side or west side. Because of this, the sun meets me in the morning in the kitchen and, as the day goes on, the sun traces the top of our house. Before bath time, we are usually running around the backyard playing superheroes as the sun drops behind the fence.

Q: How have the boys affected your style?

A: I think the only thing that the boys have done for my style is made me much more relaxed. I remember being so worried about things being in their place or the house being picked up. It is just impossible to have your house look good all the time when you have two boys and a dog. Plus, who cares, really? Which brings me to the gated area in our living room; it is a huge eyesore but it has saved me. It is really to keep Conrad in and Henry out. It is so nice to have a safe place for the baby so that I can do my thing.

Q: Does your DIY craftiness seep into all areas of your life? What has been your most enjoyable and rewarding project to date?

A: Having kids has taken my love for DIYs and magnified it. Some of the most adorable projects are centered around kids, no? Just a couple days ago, my son and I turned our very neglected raised bed into a monster truck rally. Extremely dirty, but worth every bit of mess!

My worst DIY experience was the tree I tried to make in my son’s room. I was envisioning Anthropology’s home section and it looked like bad daycare decor. I loved making Henry’s felt wall but I think most rewarding would be the wings that I made in December.

Q: What’s your best advice on being creative and staying true to your style in renovations and decor choices?

A: Take your time. Don’t settle on something because you need a coffee table or you hate that a wall is bare. Every piece that you bring into your house should be really special. We finished a major addition on our house over a year ago, and we are still finding pieces to fill different spaces. I could have gone out and bought it all at once, but I guarantee I would be tired of things by now and wishing that I would have waited for the perfect piece. Our home tells a story about our life together and so does our furniture.

Q: Do you and your husband both share the same aesthetic and approach to getting projects done?

A: YES! I feel so lucky. We have a good friend who has been very inspiring to us, and he told us early on that you should only own things that you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Ross and I have really stuck by that; we purge at least a few times a year, and the house always looks so much better when we do.

Q: How would you finish this sentence: If I had only known…

A: I have a deep love for interior design. I could spend three hours straight, right now, moving accessories around in my house. I have spent time thinking about a new theme for my coffee table books. Strange, I know! But I know that this season of my life isn’t about that. When I have friends over to my house, beds aren’t made, laundry is usually piled on the sofa, and life is happening.

I love my home, but it is just the backdrop. What’s really important are all the people living inside its walls.


Thank you, Alexis, for taking us on this gorgeous tour in between taking care of your busy boys! I love how you describe your home as “just the backdrop.” Brilliant and oh-so-true.

Friends, I’m curious: how do you live with treasures and young ones? Is everything safely out of reach, or are you just hoping everything survives the day? I’d love to hear about your philosophies and what works best for your families!

P.S. — If you’d like to share your home with us in my Living With Kids series, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!

38 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Alexis Garrett”

  1. so we have a little guy who is turning two next month, and nothing has changed in the house since he was born. we have breakables in places that he can reach, and he just learned early on not to touch mommy’s things. he knows what he’s allowed to play with all over. yesterday, he chunked a ball into a plant….at least it didn’t fall over, but he did get reminded that balls get thrown down in the house and not up. we are making it work for our family with not having to change our lives and our house.

  2. I’m definitely in the camp of having only a handful of things that would make me cry to see them break, and they are kept out of reach. Or even out of sight. Most everything else… just things. Things can be replaced or if not, new beautiful things can replace them!

  3. “We have a good friend who has been very inspiring to us, and he told us early on that you should only own things that you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

    Love that William Morris quote. It’s definitely something I aspire to in my own home, though I have a long way to go! You can tell that Alexis took it to heart — her home is a great balance of functional and beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I have had the pleasure of being in Alexis’ home as I am friends with she and her husband Ross. So what a pleasant surprise to see her here! A great choice for this series. They’re house is awesome–always so warm and welcoming. And Alexis is one of the funniest, most creative, kindest people you will ever meet! Thoroughly enjoyed this:)

  5. Great interview and great house. I love their laid back/collected style. We live with our things. Our girls are older now, which means tables get banged and bumped rather than grabbed. I think that we need to live our lives, not display stuff for some special day in the future.

    1. totally! I had a really fancy client once who could have bought a table made of gold if she wanted it. Instead she insisted that I designed around the old table with her sons scribbles on the leg. He is grown now and she says that it makes her heart sing when she sees it. Isn’t that sweet?!

  6. Thank you for this series, it always inspires. THe other day, I overheard two women discussing how they relegated all of their children’s things to their rooms or the basement- I thought it was a sad thing, for those kids to be banished to two rooms, that way. I want our boys to feel they are at home in all the house, and this series shows how that can be done artfully.

  7. I DID have precious things out of reach when the girl was younger. Now that she is six, it’s a lot easier.

    I grew up in a home where the living room was for company – some of you will remember what that was like! My husband and I endeavour to have a home that is our daughter’s home too – one that is hers too. No rooms are off limits.

    I do love good design as well – our house isn’t like a playground or rumpus room! But like you, I don’t believe that good design and a child(ren) are mutually exclusive!

  8. Wow! I think Alexis and I could be friends! :) The kitchen is gorgeous and I’ve always been in love with those quilted elephants. (Didn’t know who was behind them) Love her philosophy on living in the house but still having pretty things…and taking the time to find just the right piece. Interesting story! Thanks!

  9. Wow! It seems white is the “new” color to go with . I used to love color on the walls and now that I see white, I think it’s simply gorgeous. Very fresh and crisp. Very lovely. Makes me wanna decorate and hunt for new treasures, myself…lol
    Oh and the Art Barn, what a cool idea. Thanks for sharing your home, Alexis.

  10. thats the best Living with Kids post ever. I bet her and her husband hang out at Las Olas sipping margaritas and watching the waves…

  11. beautiful! i really like the mud room photo. i just found sharpie marker drawings on our (target brand) floor length mirror. So no, we don’t really have anything high end at our house. even our eames are knock-offs, i can’t imagine having our kiddos eat spaghetti in a real eames

  12. Wonderful home. I especially like the art barn. Now that my children are out of the house I have been slowly turning my son’s room into my art room. Though the chances of him returning to live with us are slim to none I have always felt that until he is married and/or has a home of his home (as opposed to an apartment) that I want the room that he grew up in to still be his room. So, it still has his bed and dresser. But, the rest is clearly my version of an art barn.

    I grew up in a home were one had to worry about spilling, breaking, etc. So, when I created my own home I very consciously created a different atmosphere. Though my children learned to respect their environment our philosophy is that things are only things — it is the people that matter.

  13. What a wonderful home and one you can see has activities going on! Love the look of the open kitchen cabinets, the felt play wall, and the outdoor shower!

  14. Gabrielle, I love this post series! I so look forward to seeing into other families lives and homes. I adore the reality and beauty of it all! I agree about “the backdrop” comment… it really is a perfect way to see things. :)

  15. “What’s really important are all the people living inside its walls.”

    So, so sweet! I have a 3yo and 6yo, and they can’t seem to walk from one room to another without leaving a trail of toys or books. As much as I like things to be tidy, I also know that no one is going to walk into my house and give me some prize or an award, so why stress over it? No one is judging me but me.
    One day I’ll miss the chaos, I’m sure.

    Beautiful home, Alexis!

  16. When Mike and I started our family we didn’t own many possessions but, the ones we did own were family heirlooms and treasures. We moved everything breakable out of reach, (Every couple of years the Christmas tree was decoratted from the middle up, and bare below!) and found ways to display things kid friendly. We let our kids live in our home, and taught them to care for old stuff as they got older. The kids have all grown and we have more treasures now; mostly furniture and pieces that Mike has made himself. We enjoy the look of our DIY home and expect to creatively move things up again as grandchildren grace our doors.

  17. I love the concept of only having and buying what you truly love, but it hasn’t worked out well with us. Here’s a good example:

    Since the first of January, my husband has wanted to buy another pitcher for our household. We have two and I love both of them: one is ceramic and doesn’t have a lid. The other is a well-made, plastic pitcher with a plunger to mix up juice and a lid that can be easily turned to a pour spout, a strainer spout, or nothing to keep in odors.

    For our third pitcher, I had my heart set on something glass or stainless steel. For the past month, we’ve scoured thrift stores, every retail store we set foot into, and everywhere online. We’ve debated about pros and cons and the things we want in this single, stupid thing just don’t seem to exist in one item. It just doesn’t seem to exist, but it has to have a lid that closes and seals in odors and it has to be glass or stainless steel.

    Finally, after many discussions that border on arguments, we came to a compromise: he buys a cheapo plastic pitcher at a thrift store to use for now until we find a pitcher that we both love.

    And we did. I’m not fond of this solution and I’m afraid that we’ll end up keeping the cheapo plastic pitcher. I won’t want to take care of it and I have this large amount of animosity toward something I don’t love that’s in my house. However, it allows him to make a pitcher of juice to pour into bottles to keep him awake at work.

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