Living With Kids: Lisa McDaniel

By Gabrielle.

I love Lisa’s honesty and charm. She admits she’s committed to a tidy house — she says it’s a Southern hospitality thing, “A home should be picked up so it will feel warm and welcoming to guests.” But she also admits to hiding all the typical family mess behind closet and cabinet doors when she’s getting ready for a photoshoot. I can relate!

This is a lady who really loves her life and has a sense of humor about it all. I’m so happy to share her vivaciousness with you today. Welcome, Lisa!

We are the McDaniel family. If the walls of our Creole cottage could talk, they’d speak of dreams and challenges and hard work. They’d speak of life. And that life would be ours.

Beau is my best friend, business partner, and hubby of nineteen years. (Ya’ll, he’s still the man of my dreams!) Reece, 16, and Aidan Gray, 13, are our sweet, sweet sons, and Lorén is our dreamy-eyed seven-year old daughter. Although our home isn’t a palace or a castle, a princess definitely lives here. We call her Lorénderella!

I almost forgot to mention the newest addition to our family. Dexter is our moose-sized Maltese — 16 pounds! — who trots around our home with the patience of a saint. We often find him being strolled around the park in doll prams, dressed up in dresses, and carried around like a baby. The dear puppy takes it all in stride, as he and Lorén are best buds. I swear he hides angel wings beneath his white fur.

Fifteen years ago Beau, Reece, and I landed in the small town of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Our stay here was intended to be temporary, a mere stepping stone on our way to a larger city with more to offer. Or so we mistakenly thought. We’d actually found our place in this great big world, only we didn’t know it at the time.

The Cajun culture, family values, slower pace of life, and small town hospitality of Breaux Bridge seeped into our souls and never left. It’s part of us now.

Our neighborhood is nestled along the banks of the Bayou Teche. There are majestic live oak trees (the kind you see in plantation photos), confetti-flowering crepe myrtles, and eight of the best neighbors we could ask for. Our neighborhood is very small, with only one way in and the same way out. Several nights a week there’s an impromptu baseball or football game played in the center park around which all nine homes are situated. The vibe is very much like Mayfield in Leave It To Beaver, and I love that!

The concept of our home isn’t just about a house, though. It’s the wider view that completes the picture — the community that nurtured us as newcomers and now embraces us as family.

Tourists come from all around the world to visit Breaux Bridge. We have a vibrant French culture, a thriving community of artists, gourmet Cajun cuisine, and the ever famous Crawfish Festival. Our way of life has attracted The Travel Channel, Food Network, and Discovery Channel because we take great pains to preserve the culture of our past, our heritage.

This home was a collaborative effort. I handled dreaming it up, and Beau handled building it. I won’t deny that being married to a builder does have a few perks.

This house was imagined in my mind a million times over, in a million different ways. We spent countless hours walking the streets of New Orleans, looking for ideas and inspiration. It was a schooling of sorts. Those weekends spent admiring old homes taught me more about architecture and design than I ever imagined possible.

I tinkered with my own elementary sketches and layouts for years, trying to make my hands create what my mind could see. It wasn’t working. And then one day, I enlisted the help of a dear friend/architect who helped me transform my ideas to actual house plans. Once those ideas landed on paper, I knew we’d gotten it right. It was the right house for our family.

But we still had a bit farther to go; Beau and I lived on a really tight budget. Money was a struggle to come by, and earning it the hard way taught us plenty of valuable lessons. One of the most important ones being, “Don’t skimp on your dreams. Live for them!”

And that’s what we did. We fantasized about growing our family, working together, and living in our forever home.

While our dreams were taking shape, we occupied a 1000-square foot, two bedroom, one bath cottage that was well over a century old. The house was full of charm, but drafty and required constant maintenance. It can’t be overlooked that we were bursting at the seams with two young boys and a new construction company run from home.

With its creaky floorboards and ornery demeanor, that little old house was priceless because it taught us to appreciate what we had at the time. It also taught us to nurture the integrity of historic architecture. It didn’t matter that the house we were working so hard to save often acted up like a cranky old goat. We’d correct one problem, only to have it replaced by five more. C’est la vie! Some things are simply worth fighting to save.

Lisa to Stephen the photographer: “Will your camera lens show the dust on that hutch?”

Stephen: “No, I’ll make sure it doesn’t.”

Lisa: “Okay. How about the fingerprints all over the coffee table?”

Stephen: “Nope. I’ll Photoshop the fingerprints if they show.”

Lisa: “Okay, good. How about the lines under my eyes? Can you get rid of those?”

Stephen: (Eye roll.)

Enter Lorén: “Mom, I can’t get to the cereal box because you’ve shoved everything that was dragging into the pantry again.”

Lisa: “You won’t technically starve to death for at least another couple of days, and that should to give me time to finish this photo shoot. Now, skeedaddle!”

Yep, that’s pretty much how the story went! If the photos look neat, all that’s outside the camera range would tell a different story!

No doubt about it, navigating the intersection of Style Street and Motherhood Boulevard is quite tricky. It often feels like riding down a dead end dirt road. On a unicycle. With a flat tire. Such is life with a house full of kids! But it’s a season, and I already find myself dreading the day it passes.

When I was a little girl, my mom and I would flip through the pages of the JC Penny catalog, looking at bedding sets and commenting on each and every picture. It was our thing. My sweet Southern mom taught me that a home should reflect the family blessed enough to live there, and yes, this reflection most certainly includes the kids. Bear in mind, this is the same woman who also told me that monkeys ought never be allowed to run the show or jump on beds, but those are other stories entirely.

Honestly, without the chaos of our little ones most of us would find our homes lacking something vital. But kids or no kids, I don’t believe in clutter. A neat house is a calm house. It welcomes us, as well as our guests, to come inside and find a bit peace.

Part of cherishing our children means teaching them that our home is hallowed ground for the family. It’s the place where our most meaningful memories are made. All that being said, this mama still wants a pretty house. Everyone I live for sleeps under this roof, so I’m not skimping on the chance to make our nest something beautiful. A home needs to make us feel, well… at home. At ease. It needs to balance utility and beauty seamlessly.

Since our home doubles as the hub for our business, it has to be comfortable, super-functional, and still look great enough to receive guests at a moment’s notice. Our kids have been taught that everything has a place, and as much as possible needs to be in its place before company arrives. That philosophy is one-half Southern hospitality, one-half good business practice.

If they’re not at school, the kids help us clean up before customers, subcontractors, or guests arrive. Everyone has a role, whether it’s washing dirty dishes, picking up whatever is dragging (Louisiana slang for anything left out of place), or taking out the trash; we all have jobs to do. Ingraining virtues like respect, hard work, and responsibility in our children is important.

We’re doing our best to teach our three kids the same values our parents taught us. And let me state for the record that if my kids think of us the way Beau and I think of our parents, our lives will have been worth every struggle, strife, and sacrifice we’ve ever made.

That it took us so many years to pull the trigger on building this house was actually a blessing in disguise. Waiting gave me plenty of time to weigh the balance between designing a home for our family and an office for our construction/design company. This house had to seriously function. I drew from my love affair with New Orleans architecture and integrated NOLA style at each turn where it was practical to do so.

Every single room and every single detail exists for a reason. It’s either there because we need it to function a certain way, or it’s there because we want it to make us feel a certain way. Take the home office, for instance. The table is used for nearly everything under the sun. It’s a workspace for everyday use, a conference table during meetings, a homework spot after school, an art table for my daughter, a designing table for me, and a luggage rack for overnight guests.

It should be noted that the armoire behind the table is actually a Murphy bed.  And the chairs around the table get used as nightstands when the bed is down. They also double as extra seating when we scatter them around the house during parties and family get-togethers.

Absolutely nothing is in our home is there just because. Function is high on my list of priorities. A home should help us stay organized and cancel the hectic pace of the outside world. And from a design perspective, a home should surround us with beautiful pieces that make our everyday lives feel full and comforting. For me, it’s all about weighing the scales. Too much function dulls the artistic senses (think of an office cubicle). Too much form is uncomfortable and stuffy (think of an art museum). But balance the two, and you’ll create a peaceful place that sings to your spirit.

It’s pretty safe to say that when Mama feels peaceful, inspired, and organized…well, everyone else in the house tends to follow suit.

I’d love to tell you about the shop! This past February we stumbled across an old dame of a building in the little downtown district of Breaux Bridge. She was in desperate need of a good renovation, but Beau and I immediately fell in love with her charm. We could see that the ole gal had a lot of life left in her, and we wanted to be the ones to restore her former glory. So we took a leap of faith and bought our first commercial property. It suddenly felt like the time to grow our business. Our old dame has a new name: Antiquity. Hmm, that might be an oxymoron.

Needless to say, renovations are presently underway. We’ve all been working hard. Beau and the boys especially like demo days, where Lorén and I prefer saving antique boards and stacking salvage bricks. We’re on schedule to open Antiquity in August 2016. It will be a design center and retail storefront for Louisiana-styled home decor. I’m really excited about this new adventure!

Sweet story: We were window shopping on Magazine Street one Saturday afternoon a few months back, and Beau commented on how happy I seem every time I’m in New Orleans. He was right. I do love day tripping in New Orleans. So many unexpected color combinations, such fearless artistic license, so much culture and heritage interjected at every possible turn.

Beau squeezed my hand and said, “Babe, our new shop is going to bring the Big Easy to the Bayou!” My man is the most clever guy I know. With that offhand comment, my mission became crystal clear. I had to follow my passions. I had to blend my love of classical architecture with the vibrant flair of New Orleans, and bring this stylistic cocktail to our new shop in Breaux Bridge. It’s a tall order, but in my heart I know our little family is creating something special.

There are two elements I deem necessary to enjoyable living with kids. The first is storage, storage, and more storage. In my experience, every house needs storage specifically designed to suit the way a particular family lives. (This is such a snore of an answer, and I hate even saying it. But it’s so important!) Customizing storage to reduce clutter is one of the things I insist upon when designing closets and cabinetry. It’s crucially important to consider organization if you want your home to function efficiently.

The second element, mmmm…I’m not completely sure my honest answer is interview worthy, but I’m going for it anyway. Mama’s secret to enjoyable living with kids is a wine fridge! And if it rhymes, then it must be the right answer.

I love working with my husband. Oh my goodness, Beau is my favorite person in the world, and the notion that I get to be married to him still blows me away. He’s the kindest, most gentle and generous man I’ve ever known. And he’s a darn good builder! (Did I mention his beautiful blue eyes? They’re show-stoppers!)

I think the best part about working with him is that our personalities compliment one another. For example: I have this tendency to dream up design ideas that require a feat of engineering to accomplish. Beau isn’t intimidated by that at all. I dream it, and he makes it happen.

I mean seriously, how cool is that? The man can do anything he puts his mind to, and I admire that more than I can aptly express. He’s brilliant and quick-witted and always smiling. But he’s also really tender and loving and the absolute best father our kids could ask for. I’m so blessed to get to work with him every day. He certainly makes me better.

I wish I had listened when people told me to find my talents. I was that little girl who went through school admiring the talents of other children, but believing she had none of her own. It breaks my heart to think of that child, so secretly ashamed of herself. And for no good reason.

I pray our children will never know that feeling. In our family, we encourage the kids to be fearless with taking chances on themselves. We explain that there will be times in life when failure isn’t an option, it’s a guarantee.  And that’s perfectly okay. Learning to fail (several times) is desirable. It’s how we discover what we’re truly meant to do with our lives. Getting back up builds character and teaches us to trust our own strength.

Beau and I nurture the creative spirits of our kids and encourage them to push the envelope a little. Our oldest son Reece is an actor and musician. Our middle son Aidan Gray is an athlete; he owns an entrepreneurial nature and a meticulously brilliant mind (like his Daddy’s). And our daughter Lorén is all things creative. She reads, writes, draws, dances, and sings. Give our oldest and youngest a stage and a spotlight and watch them shine!  Give our middle one a chance to earn money, and watch him double the investment!

I’m grateful to my husband and children for growing me into the wife and mother I get to be. My little family has filled my life, my heart, and my home with more love and happiness than I ever imagined my soul capable of holding. They are my dreams come true.

–-

Thank you, Lisa! You broke my heart when you talked about finding your own talents. However long it took, I’m glad you finally learned how amazing you are.

Friends, I have to share a bit of Lisa’s correspondence with me, just to give you more of an idea of her personality! “Our storefront is going to be classy and gaudy all at once! We’re Louisianans, after all. We’re spicy and colorful; we’re playful and polite; we’re a highly polished silver bowl sitting on top of a tattered old cypress table; we’re a decadent contradiction of terms. And we’re perfectly content with that.” Love the idea of being a decadent contradiction of terms, don’t you?

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

36 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Lisa McDaniel”

  1. So great to see Southern hospitality and vibrancy represented here! While the white wall aesthetic that is so popular is a good look, it’s so fun to live with color and personality. Thank you for sharing your home life and your design perspective, Lisa. Good luck with your new store!

  2. In contrast to the clean lines and more contemporary/modern homes that we’ve seen so much of lately, Lisa’s warm colors and traditional aesthetic are a welcome change. Coming from Charleston, I love that Louisianans are unapologetically gaudy too. Loved reading Lisa’s words and seeing this home!!!

    1. Charleston, you say? That’s my favorite East Coast city because it reminds me so much of Louisiana–New Orleans, in particular!!! My husband and I passed such a wonderful vacation there a few years back. I walked around like a wide-eyed child, admiring the majesty of the oaks, the homes, the coast, and the culture. Ahhh, take me back there!

      And thanks so much for your sweet comments!

    1. Charleston, you say? That’s my favorite East Coast city because it reminds me so much of Louisiana–New Orleans, in particular!!! My husband and I passed such a wonderful vacation there a few years back. I walked around like a wide-eyed child, admiring the majesty of the oaks, the homes, the coast, and the culture. Ahhh, take me back there!

      And thanks so much for your sweet comments!

  3. Ditto what the other Victoria said! ^^ I love the colors and the warmth. Lisa’s house looks straight out of an issue of Southern Living.

  4. I enjoyed Lisa’s way with words so much; she has me reaching for Eudora Welty to continue that immersion in that exotic, southern world. Thank you!
    I have to ask, because you said every detail in your house was thought out — why the four different cabinet colours in the kitchen? I didn’t even realise there was a ‘rule’ that all the cupboards had to match, until I saw it broken. How did you decide to integrate the different woods/shades in the kitchen? That is cool. Do you get any pushback from it, or is that something requested in Louisiana?
    Thanks for the mini-break from my world into yours.

    1. Dorf,
      Any reference to literature, much less Southern literature, totally speaks to my heart. I truly and genuinely thank you for drawing that correlation with Eudora Welty. I harbor this secret dream of writing a novel someday, and any nudge I can get in that direction propels me onward! So my thanks to you for that!

      And as for the kitchen, well…it was a blast to design. I’ll admit that my ideas did blow the hats off quite a few of our cabinet makers and painters. Those guys thought I was a little off my rocker for a while there, but they eventually eased into my way of thinking once they saw the kitchen come together. You asked where my inspiration came from. Simple…a magazine. I stumbled upon this picture adverting a room full of colorfully painted antique dressers, hutches, and armoires. That gave me the idea to create a farmhouse styled room with cabinetry that mimicked antique pieces which fit together. The result was a functioning eat-in kitchen.

  5. How interesting to see something so different in this series!

    The kitchen doubles as a showroom for various cabinet finishes; a very innovative way to combine home and work!

    1. Thank you! And you’re right. Anytime I have customers who are afraid of color, all I have to do is show them our kitchen. The color play eases their fears about deviating from neutrals. Don’t get me wrong, neutrals are great! But too much of anything good is generally bad.

  6. The style here is nothing like mine but gosh I loved seeing it. I love the personality that’s so evident and the drama of something like those heavy drapes in the bathroom. It’s refreshing and so much more inspiring toward individuality and creativity than all the same-same houses all over the internet these days. And a lovely story of family and caring too. Most of all I love knowing there’s clutter just moved out of frame! Loved this whole home tour.

    1. Howdy, girl! Louisiana sends you XO’s from next door! Thanks for commenting and for goodness sakes–thank you for Tex-Mex! No visit west is complete without it.

  7. I would very much like to send my warmest gratitude to Gabby for making our home tour such an enjoyable experience! Your kindness and patience were quite endearing, as I know I must have driven you batty with all my questions. You were a true champ for enduring every last one!

    Thank you also for exposing me to the kinship of social media. The years I’d spent avoiding it, certain it would invade my sense of privacy, were years lost to false notions. I’m delighted you proved me wrong!

    And lastly, thank you for creating the positive images we squint to see when we look within ourselves. You bring those images to our screens and breathe life into them! You show us that women (just like us) are strong and brave and creative and real. What a gift you give us every day! Your contributions are not taken for granted, I assure you. You’re making a difference and affecting lives. So, I clink my glass to yours and thank God for the blessings you continue to give me.

    XOXO,
    Lisa

  8. What a great article! Your home is as unique and refreshing as you and Beau are. Can’t wait to see that storefront add character and charisma to our already charming town! We are so lucky that you chose Breaux Bridge to be your home!

    1. Gratitude, from the bottom of my heart. Breaux Bridge is home now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cajuns are the warmest, most welcoming, people I’ve ever known. And they cook the best, too!!!

  9. South Carolina girl here. Thanks for sharing your Southern hospitality with us, Lisa! I’m going to get right on your suggestions: storage, wine fridge.

  10. Having grown up in Louisiana and relocated to Pennsylvania, Lisa’s home full of Southern charm makes me homesick! I love all of the little touches that turn her house into a home. It looks so inviting that I want to pack my bags and head South.

  11. Thank you, Lori! Your kind wods are sincerely appreciated. And I have a feeling you planted your Southern roots in Northern soil only to grow a beautiful hybrid. Sweet spirits like yours tend to make the most beautiful flowers! (THANK YOU!!)

  12. Nilay & Kayla

    Love this article! Louisiana culture is very warm and inviting. Everyone is always welcomed like family and no one leaves with an empty stomach!
    Your home screams Southern culture & hospitality and a warmth that only family and friends can bring.

    On another note, we cannot wait until your shop, Antiquity is opened. We know that alot of dream, vision, and hard work will be poured into it. We are blessed to call you and Beau our friends.

    Please continue to share your ideas and family with us!

  13. Rhonda Branch

    I love Lisa and Beau’s home ! It is warm and welcoming and has so much charm , it represents them as a family!
    I’m very excited about Antiquity and I love that they are bringing something so special to our small town of Breaux Bridge !

    1. Thank you Rhonda!!! Being part of a small town community has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. And I’m so happy to pass this on to our kids. Breaux Bridge rocks!!!

  14. Absolutely gorgeous home!!! Have never heard of “dragging” as Louisiana slang. Source: south Louisiana for 32 years with grandparents who grew up in your area.

  15. Gorgeous home and family! A perfect illustration of the charm and “down home” warmth that makes southern Louisiana such a wonderful place!

  16. Lisa/Beau/Reese/Aidan/LoLo – Aunt Kathy and I have followed your journey from the day you and Beau met. It has been quite the trip! We are so proud of all of you. Your home is so special from your design to Beau’s creativity. You are both so talented and have found your niche in life. We are looking so forward to seeing your newest endeavor – the new shop and design center. I know it will be a success. We will be there for its opening. Good luck and God bless. We love y’all.

  17. Oh, my goodness. I literally have full eyes right now. Those are the nicest words I could have asked to hear today. Knowing that we have the support of family and friends means everything to Beau and me, especially as we’re sailing the unchartered waters of this new shop. It’s exciting for sure, but moments of anxiety are a constant battle. It truly helps when the people who love us also believe in us! We’ll carry your confidence like a badge of honor, I promise. We love you!!!! XOXO

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top