Living With Kids: Kelly Rae Roberts

Kelly Rae Roberts is an artist. It’s a fact I learned not from her inspiration-fueling books and e-courses or even by browsing her heart-lifting portfolio, but by simply touring her home. This is a woman who looks at peeling wallpaper and turns it into a masterpiece. This is a woman who collects scraps of fabric and turns them into something I would have ordered and hung over baby June’s crib. This is a woman who sees a corner of an attic and envisions a master bath that will make you audibly sigh. This is a woman who fills her home with everything and anything she loves, and turns it all into art. Or maybe she’s filled her home with art, and turned it all into love. Either way, welcome to Kelly Rae’s world, Friends!

Q: Please tell us about the lucky ones who live in this sunshine-filled home!

A: My husband, John, who is a part-time nurse anesthetist, full-time papa, and amazing husband. There’s also me, the mama and the artist. And True, our 18-month old son.

Q: Tell us your home’s story, please! What were the first features that drew you to this home and made you feel like it was meant to be yours?

A: This house was a true fixer-upper when we first saw it, and definitely a project we were most definitely not planning on! I was pregnant and in my second trimester at that time, and we were looking for a move-in ready home. As fate would have it (or my passionate husband), we ended up purchasing this particular home as it was a better financial move for us; we could use all the money that we were going to put toward a move-in ready home and put it toward customizing this particular home to suite our exact needs.

So that is what we did. We didn’t really know what we were in for but we were thrilled, excited, and breathless about the whole thing! We hired a contractor, did the project managing ourselves, and completely gutted and then rebuilt the entire place in 13 weeks flat – an exhausting and trying experience.

The house needed a ton of work. Somewhere along the line, someone took out all the original charming features that an old house like this would have, like woodwork and built-ins, which we wanted to restore, but it also needed new plumbing, new electrical, new walls, new bathrooms, and on and on and on. In the end, we loved its location and we saw a lot of potential in the unfinished attic and basement. It also had lovely bones: a solid 1911 bungalow with charm potential.

(If you’d like to see the progress of this massive project – the before and after photos – check out this blog post that details each room from start to finish!)

Q: Every room is so alive with sunshine playing on the walls and warming everything in them! How did you choose paint colors? Also, your textiles and accessories do not match at all, but it is gasp-inducing at how the combinations work so beautifully together. What’s the secret? Do we have to be artists to make this happen in our own homes? Please say no!

A: You are so kind! We chose our paint colors through Benjamin Moore. I love their historic home colors collection and we pretty much chose with our gut reactions, along with a little help from all the inspiration photos we’d been collecting in home magazines and such. We live in Portland, Oregon where it’s quite dreary most of the year, so we intentionally chose happy colors to help offset the gray outside.

It was during this time of choosing paint colors that I completely and utterly fell in love with Palladium Blue from Benjamin Moore. Run a quick internet image search, and you’ll see what I mean. Drool! We painted our entire attic master bedroom this color and it just screams peace and joy all at once.

Sometimes I wish I could be a white wall girl. I love homes that have fresh white walls with pops of color in the wall art and furniture, but I’ve just given in to my need for color on the walls. Color everywhere, really!

I love that you noticed our textiles and accessories don’t match! It wasn’t planned that way, but you’re right! To be honest, I have no real idea, education, inkling on how things are supposed to match. I just purchase only what I love and then I find a place for it in our home. So, I suppose that is the secret? We buy what we love and we worry about integrating it with the rest of our stuff once we get it home and see where it fits best.

Q: Your attic master bed and bath. No words. Tell us about the renovation; did you do it yourself? Best and worst moments? Would you have done anything differently?

A: Thank you! Yes, yes, it’s one of the main reasons we bought this house, though it was in quite disrepair when we bought the place. The stairwell leading up to the attic was nice and wide, which we liked. We also liked that it had two little tiny dormers that had windows and provided some light and charm to the layout of the space. It also had wood flooring which was painted a bright awful orange, but we knew we could get the wood back to its natural glow. The bad part? Absolutely no insulation. It didn’t have a bathroom, it had plywood for walls, zero closets, and was quite dark up there.

Our contractor had an architect come in and consult on how to position a bathroom. This was likeliest the trickiest decision of the entire home’s renovation, but his idea was awesome: create an open bathroom concept using one of the dormers that already existed in the attic space. With his advice, we were able to create a nice sized, open bathroom in our master bedroom attic space. We love it.

Beyond the walls, lighting, insulation, heating, and those sorts of things, the key things we did in this space was add two skylights and many built-ins for shelving, closet, and storage space. So yes, this was a big piece of the house renovation and totally worth it. There are many things we would have done differently had we known. Beside wall lighting and lighting in general, perhaps make the skylights open (vs. remain permanently closed), but overall we love this space so much.

Q: You’re an artist in every sense of the word. What have you made for your own home? You made your son’s mobile, didn’t you? What dreams and hopes went into that piece?

A: I love projects. I love decorating, moving furniture around, playing with color. I change my mind often and I’ve learned to accept that piece of myself. Sometimes, I really can’t contain my urge to paint this or move that, or create a wall collection with frames or collage a piece of furniture. I suppose it’s part of my creative play process.

I’ve made many things in our home – some paintings, and a lot of altered items too – and many of the items in our home were made by dear friends as well. The dresser that sits in our entryway was a DIY project that involved collaging the entire dresser with vintage wallpaper scraps.

The large painting that sits above it was a gift from a dear friend, Stephanie Lee, after our son True was born. The painting reads, “True love always wins.” We have a whole wall in our living room that is a collection of bird paintings from other artists such as Mati Rose, Amy Ruppel, and others. Next to that wall sits a fun, quirky old birdcage that I made a little artful display out of. Many of our photos are displayed in creative ways around the house, including some vintage photo assemblage pieces made by my sister, Jennifer Valentine, who is also an artist. We’ve sewn fabric scraps to our white cotton curtains to add a bit of artfulness to our home. We’ve used vintage hankies and linens to create other curtains. We’ve glued aprons to kitchen stools to give them fun skirts! We’ve created mini-installations on the walls (a wall of vintage mirrors in the bathrooms, altered lampshades, spray painted furniture, and on and on. I also have a home decor line through my one of my licensing partners which means that I also have some of my pieces from that line in our home as well, such as a couple of mirrors, big shelving pieces, and a coffee table.

Yes, the mobile in the nursery! I was 100% inspired by a photo of a similar creation on flickr. I loved the whimsy of it. So, my husband and I stayed up late one night when I was nine months pregnant – we moved into the house just a couple of weeks before True was born and there were many last minute projects like this one – crafting it. We tied baby mementos to the hanging ribbons, like little handmade booties that had been given to us, diaper pins, baby spoons, vintage baby rattles that belonged to us when we were babies…things like that.

Q: The nursery is heaven! What was your inspiration in that room?

A: Why, thank you! The walls are a big story of this house. This particular room had layers and layers of painted wallpaper on the walls. When we started scrapping it all away, a beautiful pattern began to emerge of layers and layers of pink vintage papers, blue papers, yellow papers, green paint. It was AMAZING! In many ways, it looked like an old map. After some thought and research on how to make the walls safe – with sealer as the paint was likely lead – we decided to keep the walls! I have a blog post that shows the transformation of those walls from start to finish. Pretty cool.

The walls pretty much dictated the decor for the nursery. There was one wall above his crib that was pretty busy, so I collaged a very large canvas with pages from a vintage Winnie the Pooh book to help break it up a bit. After that, we went for a look that was vintage but boy but baby but neutral but creative! The zebra rug helped us tie in browns and neutrals, all in an effort to let the walls and mobile take center stage. We continued the browns in the crib bedding and used an old neutral dresser for the changing table. I made a rookie mom mistake, so after the baby grew a bit and got more mobile, we changed the changing table wall a bit so that it was safer.

Also! We recently finished True’s new, more toddler-friendly room, and I thought you might like to see the results…

Q: Another artist question! Everywhere you look, there seems to be a collection or tiny vignette that is beautiful. Grab-the-camera beautiful. Artist-made beautiful. Do you ever feel an internal pressure to keep things looking that way at all times, or are you loose with straightening up and letting the house…live?

A: It’s funny. Before I really considered myself to be an artist, I was quite uptight about the house in general. The dishes were always clean. The bed was made. The house was always put together. Once I started making art in 2006, all of that changed. My heart and my head breathed easier with creative expression. Nowadays, it’s a rare occasion when the bed is made or the house is picked up. If you were to come over this minute, you’d find toys on the floor, little messes next to the little artful vignettes. I love it this way. Becoming a mom has often softened my expectations and quite honestly it warms my heart to see a bath toy stranded in the middle of the floor! So yes, we’re quite loose, though I’ll often snap photos when things are tidied up (even if only for a moment!).

Q: How much influence does your partner have on the decor? What are his favorite spaces in your home?

A: I get asked this quite a bit as most assume that my husband has no say whatsoever, but the truth is that we make all house decor decisions together. He’s the one who convinced me that this house was THE ONE. He’s the one who had the final say on the paint colors. He’s the one who wanted the green couch!

I definitely had to talk him into the scrapped vintage wallpaper walls! Luckily, he loves the distressed style of furniture that I also love. He also loves anything creative, vintage, whimsical, and functional. That said, it does drive him a bit nuts at how often things change and transform in our home. It’s not his favorite thing to come home and find the living room rearranged for the umpteenth time, but other than that he’s happy. I would say his favorite room in the house in our kitchen. He pretty much designed the new kitchen and he did a great job.

Q: Tell us about the projects you have on the horizon, and dreams you may have for your home and family.

A: We recently finished a big dining room project where we added shelving to an entire wall. Up next is finishing the basement which was a giant dirt hole when we bought the house. It’s just about finished but we’ve got flooring and some woodwork to finish down there. We’ll use that space as a lounge area, playroom, and TV room. We’re also slowly making progress on the yard renovation, which is currently a mud yard but we’ve got visions for a deck, gardens, grass – a place to play and enjoy the sunshine!

Q: Please finish this sentence: I wish I had known…

A: I wish I had known what to expect for a complete home renovation! Had I known, I would have been much more prepared for all the micro (and macro) decisions that need to be made on a constant and daily basis. Ah well, it was a once in a lifetime adventure and we love, love our home.


Thank you so much, Kelly Rae, for sharing your creative spirit with us! I’m sure I’m not the only one with a million fresh ideas and a quickly growing list of someday DIY projects, am I?

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

34 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Kelly Rae Roberts”

  1. Just gorgeous! I love that door in the kitchen and those 2 pedestal sinks in the master bath -GORGEOUS! (that has been on my to-do list for years now!!). Lovely, lovely home!

  2. I love this home! I’m especially intrigued by the dresser in the entry hall. We’re redecorating our girls’ room and I’ve been pondering what to do with the dresser. I really like the wallpaper/fun knobs idea.

    And I’d love to know where Kelly Rae got the map. I love the big windows in our house, but wall space is so limited. A map like that would make a great “window shade.”

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  3. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    I took a class with Kelly Rae when she was newly pregnant with her son. I had a great time making a funky chunky coffee table book in her class. It has been interesting seeing her line of products emerge in stores. We learned a lot about her creative process in the class including her technique for her more iconic images. Nice to see her included on Design Mom.

  4. This is probably my favorite Living With Kids post that you’ve done! I live in Portland, OR too, and I totally know what Kelly means by needing color on the walls! When we first moved into our house, I thought I was a white-wall kinda girl, but I craved color!! This is amazing! :)

  5. I’m not quite so decorate-y, but WOW this house is just gorgeous and happy. The kitchen is so perfect it almost hurts. The light, oh the light and the view!

  6. This has to be one of my favorite tours yet, and I had such fun poking around on her blog now, too, to see the start to finish reno of a 1911 house, something near and dear to my heart since our own 1911 house is something of a constant project. I envy them for getting it all done before they moved in! The built-ins, the kitchen, the wallpaper room, and the master suite are all just dreamy!

  7. My favorite designer’s home you’ve featured so far. Every photo made me swoon just a bit more than the last. Lovely!

  8. I can’t remember coming across another home tour that I like as much as this one, particularly how Kelly Rae mixes pattern, textures and colour. The wallpaper room is such a unique idea.
    I love the mint green vintage toy truck sitting beneath the rhino and the collection of letters on the kitchen wall. And that master suite is to die for!

  9. Beautiful home! I love what Kelly Rae said about sometimes wishing she were a white wall girl, but then giving in to the need for color everywhere. We are kindred spirits in that way, ha :). I especially loved the master suite and nursery! And I so appreciate how she makes all that she loves work so well together. Just lovely.

  10. Love, love, love this one! Kelly Rae is such a beautiful person and amazing artist, I loved getting to peek inside her creative home. Love the rhino in True’s room so much too, how fun!

  11. Beautiful! I love the nursery walls with the layers of old wallpaper and paint, what a fantastic and totally unique idea! I also adore how fun, yet calming all the paint colors are.

  12. It’s been awhile since I’ve been thoroughly thrilled about an entire house tour on Design Mom.

    Kelly, you and I are in the same neck of the woods–I live in Salem, OR. I love your wallpaper/paint walls and the fact that you buy what you love and find places later. Gabrielle is right-I feel inspired by your home. Thank you.

    1. was wondering what type of faucet you used for your shower…did you use water saving ones or just a regular faucet?

  13. I used tto be suggested this web site via my cousin. I’m now not certain whether this puublish
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  14. I would love to know what historical colors she used in each room. I love the historical collection but am having trouble finding a nice green and tan. You mentioned Benjamin Moore paint, but what paint numbers and names were used? Thank you!

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