Living With Kids: Sunshine Burns

It’s probably pretty difficult to be in a horrible mood when your name is Sunshine, don’t you think? It’s probably also next-to-impossible, if your name is as bright as the sun, to have a home that isn’t filled with its warmth. And this is just one reason why Sunshine’s family is a lucky bunch! The others — and there are many! — can be found throughout her interview. She is a gracious hostess and mother who lives near Nashville, Tennessee. It is always good to spend some time with others who are madly in love with their lives, and Sunshine is one of those people. I can’t wait for you to get to know her. (Another bonus to her name: When you email her in the early hours, it’s practically obligatory to begin with “Good morning, Sunshine!” Which makes my day.)

Hello there. My husbandʼs name is Peter, and together we live here with our three children: Bright is seven, Decker John is nearly five, and our baby girl Chapel is two. Then there is a pack of beagles, a few chickens, and our mama cows and their calves. We homeschool, I work out of the house, and my husbandʼs office is here — so our home is really where we spend our days! I am literally living with kids twenty-four, seven!

For those who are curious about my name, I’ve probably been asked the story behind it by half the people I’ve met! Always followed by, “Is that your real name?”

Before I was born, my mom had a quick stint as an Avon saleswoman. There was a model in the catalogue named Sunny who inspired my name. That nickname never stuck and instead I’ve always been called Shine. My name feels unique to me, and itʼs nice that people can usually remember me because of it! There may have been a day or two as a child that I wished for another name, but really I’ve always been fond of names that are a little bit offbeat.

When we were first married, we lived in North Carolina where Peter worked in the corporate world and we fought rush hour traffic every day. We made the tough decision to move to Tennessee, which was home for me, even though it meant leaving his family and the friends we had made in Charlotte.

Moving to Tennessee gave us the opportunity to live a different style of life and, for him, to start a custom home building business. We built our home with the help of my father while we were still living out-of-state. It was a bit tricky building before we had children, trying to imagine what life would be like in the future with kids!

Our property adjoins my parents’ farm so our children have easy access to adventures in the woods, creek, and barns. Being just down the road from my parents is the most valuable thing about living here. Neither my husband nor I grew up with relatives in-state, so having family close by is a blessing for us all!

Since we spend so much time together, it is really important that each of us have spaces of our very own! We donʼt have a designated playroom, so each childʼs bedroom has their own toys, books, a sofa for reading, a place for their art, and other special treasures.

When number three was on the way, we decided to give up our office space to become the nursery instead of having children share bedrooms. We remodeled the master walk-in closet to create a small office, just large enough for a desk and chairs.

Our home is constantly changing and rearranging to keep up with the seasons in our lives. I think itʼs important to be flexible with our spaces. Itʼs about making our house work for us.

We love living near Nashville, which is booming with talent and soul. The food, the language, and the way we dress is all part of Tennessee culture. I have friends who buy hair bows in mass when they visit!

We hunt and fish and do a lot of outdoor living. We have a kennel of hunting dogs, cook, entertain, work on the farm, and play. Itʼs important to pass on these family traditions, and homeschooling gives us the opportunity to really work on these projects together.

Most dear to my heart is hospitality. Having people in our home, feeding them, and visiting is a huge part of our life. I love that hospitality doesn’t necessarily mean throwing a dinner party; it can mean lemonade on the porch swing or soup in the kitchen. We want everyone who enters to feel welcomed and comfortable. Most Sundays we have a full table for lunch after church, and during the week people stop by to say hello and shoot the breeze, or pop in and end up staying for dinner. Itʼs small town living at its finest!

My style has changed so much over the years! After college, I spent time working with an interior designer who followed all the rules. Looking back, her designs were stuffy and boring. But for a period of time while we were building and decorating our house, I was still very aware of those rules and wanted to be sure my selections were appropriate. Now I laugh at that and choose things based on what I love! I am still sort of un-doing and replacing the more traditional and formal selections I made in the past. Our home is evolving all the time.

My post-children style is definitely more fun. Itʼs freer and actually much more of a reflection of who I am and who our family is. My personal style is classic with a lighthearted and casual twist. A formal light fixture painted chartreuse, kids’ art in the guest bath, a huge funky floral painting beside our grandfather clock, picture frames in gaudy gold paint. I want there to be something fun in every room — something unexpected, happy, and personal.

I love color and pattern — polka dots and stripes and animal prints — the more, the merrier! Iʼm slowly changing my walls to neutral whites and blacks, realizing that not only are those colors clean and bright and spacious, but they make my tired furniture pop a little better. The clean and neutral background makes the layers of color and pattern work together.

Iʼm inspired by some great bloggers and designers: Mayme Baker, Jamie Meares, and also Aussie Anna Spiro. I love their happy colorful interiors that are sometimes a little bit crazy. I think the secret to making all the colors and pattern work is choosing things you love. Youʼll be drawn to items with similar themes whether you realize it or not! I donʼt want to take decorating too seriously. And nothing is permanent; I move paintings and furniture around constantly!

Our children are book lovers, and so I love creating special spots for them to snuggle up in a corner with a book. Iʼm crazy about small child-sized chairs. They are all over the house to encourage impromptu reading.

When the tooth fairy visited for the first time, we painted a tiny sparkly fairy door by the baseboard in the corner of our oldestʼs room. We have a big slide behind our yellow couch, cardboard box houses that stay up for weeks at a time…itʼs fun to include special details in the house that are clearly just for them!

My childrenʼs most magical memories will probably be playing in the woods. Itʼs amazing how creative children are with dirt and sticks and bits of grass. There is nothing I can design that comes close to what their imaginations can create!

Children fill the house with laughter and joy, but they also bring a whole lot of stuff! Iʼm constantly editing, and I crave uncluttered spaces. I like to keep collections and displays in hutches and cabinets where they are behind glass doors. We’ve got to have room for living and space for all of the books, papers, toys, and stuff that are a part of our days.

I’ve declared that I am no longer picking up the childrenʼs rooms. Iʼll help them reorganize or sort through their things when we do a major clean-out. But they need to be able to handle the day-to-day pick up themselves. We simplify by keeping only the toys they are currently playing with in their rooms; the rest are stored in the attic for rotation.

When the mess is overwhelming me, Iʼll set the timer for five minutes and shout “five minute clean-up!” Then everyone runs around putting the clutter back where it belongs.

Because we are here all the time there is never a break when the house is clean, quiet, and picked up! Sometimes I long for that day, but I’ve been warned it will come much too quickly!

Our kids are all into pattern mixing, and they’ve been known to come up with some pretty crazy outfits! We joke that Decker John likes to wear as many combinations of stripes as possible. Our daughter, Bright, spends hours each week decorating her dollhouse and actually tears out magazine pages to use as inspiration. The older two are both very specific in how they like their rooms arranged and their closets organized.

I hope that they are learning to take pride in our home and the importance of taking care of the things we’ve been blessed with.

I love the life and energy that kids bring. While the fast pace and unexpected twists they bring to every single situation often ruffles my feathers, it is a wild ride I wouldn’t want to miss!

I miss the sweet baby voices that my older two are already outgrowing, and I do miss that feeling of having everything checked off my to-do list!

I wish someone had told me how to loosen up! Parenting is hard work, and I have to remind myself all the time to relax, let the little things go, and focus on whatʼs really important.


Thank you, Sunshine, for your joy. It’s contagious. You know how I love when you love the place you live! And I also enjoy that simple reminder at the end of your interview: Parenting is hard work. Loosen up. A giant yes to that!

Friends, are there traditions and customs specific to your area that you’ve loved passing on to your own kids? Or are there some that you completely avoid? I’d love to hear.

P.S. — Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. And if you’d like to share your own home with us, just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!

58 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Sunshine Burns”

  1. I absolutely love this home–it’s so vibrant, and I love the color choices and combinations. I’m inspired.

    Sounds like a fun, down-to-earth family.

  2. What a sweet home! I love all the books and animals and musical instruments. And I think that 5-minute “Room Rescues” have single-handled preserved my sanity all these years.

    I’m from the the upper midwest, but I cherish visits to my best friend’s family in Atlanta and St. Simon’s Island. I love Southern food and hospitality and how they love their mamas!

  3. Lovely! What is the gray paint color on the shed? I would love to paint my house that color. I love the green door with it!

    1. Christine- Our barn is Char Brown (porter paint) and our green door is Paradise (sherwin williams)… It is a fun color and is actually on the front door of our home as well!

  4. LOVE! Such a sweet house. I adored the colors. I am a color person myself, and just painted our open living room/dining/kitchen. It is fun to dream up ways to organize and paint and make your house, your home. thanks so for sharing. PS I want one of those labs featured on Sunshine’s blog. Really do! Those beagles are super cute too! Love it all. xxoo

  5. Yay for Tennessee! We live in East TN, about 40 miles north of Knoxville. LOVE Nashville. We homeschool and hospitality is a key ingredient in our household as well. Do you just love living in the South? I think it makes us extra special ;)

  6. gorgeous home!! what is the grey paint colour on the wall (picture of your daughter playing at the kids’ table)? i am in search of that warm/rich color for my walls :)


  7. I actually know someone named Happiness, which is quite possibly the only name that could rival Sunshine in the cheerful department! ;) That light filled house is positively palatial compared to our European city apartment. I love that her children’s books are so prominent a feature in their rooms! xo

  8. I love her gray walls! We’ve been talking about painting some of our walls gray, but I was nervous to go too dark. But I’m totally inspired by how her home still looks bright and happy.

    1. Amy- Take the plunge! :) They looked horrible until the job was totally finished, so don’t get nervous when the paint first goes on the wall! We used Sherwin Williams Urban Bronze, in case you need to pick up a sample!

  9. I love Sunshine’s house! And I want to know where she got that wooden slide. I’m looking for something like that–a non-plastic, indoor slide. Thanks for sharing, Gabrielle!

  10. My children would love to live in your home! It’s warm and beautiful, with unique and carefully curated pieces. You put your furniture to use and I can tell that your children enjoy your home. Sometimes I see homes in this series that are perfectly styled (when my home was featured I was embarrassed at our imperfect mess), but the reality is we LIVE WITH KIDS! Bravo for incorporating parenthood into your every day.

  11. Wow! What an inspirational family through and through. And Sunshine just has a perfect sense of style. Thank you for sharing. I loved the part about Southern Hospitality, and I LOVE the kids sofas. So sweet.

  12. What a bright and cheery home! I love the part about Southern hospitality, and think we could all learn a little more about opening up our homes for impromptu visits and gatherings.

  13. Hi Sunny,
    I really like your twist on traditional with a slightly period/modern touch. I used to work for Lonny Mag and could totally see them photographing your dining and children’s rooms!
    Plus, I love your name (my blog is called Sunshinelady, so it figure)!

  14. Love the bookshelf in Bright’s room! Was it a custom piece, or is it available for purchase somewhere? My parents always called me Sunshine when I was growing up :).

    1. We found Bright’s great bookshelf at pottery barn kids about six years ago! I just looked and it seems they have a similar (bit smaller) one available now. You must have been a cheery little girl to have such a happy nickname! :)

  15. I love your house & your kids’ names. We just started a magazine for expecting & new moms with a focus on baby names. Let me know if I can interview you about their names & more.

    Designmom, I would love to interview you too for the magazine!

    If interested, you both can email me at info @

    1. pbi: my six-month-old daughter’s name is Mathilde and she smiles just like the little one on the cover! Wonderful name for a magazine!

  16. I love this post. Lovely home…
    I am really interested in homeschooling. My eldest is in a montessori school, and my youngest is still only 19 months. But I am contemplating homeschooling the. I would love to read more about it.

  17. Okay, so since you are so generously sharing paint colors (-: what is the color in the room with the dog picture?? (I believe it’s your son’s room??) THANKS!

  18. We have nearly the same hutch as that top photo in our dining room. I do believe you’ve inspired me to paint it! I’ve been feeling weighed down with it but love its shape and the storage it offers–a paint job might just be the trick! Any tips?

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  20. Wow, I love it! What a happy sweet home. Sunshine, you really are a gorgeous woman, wife and a mother. Thats why your home reflects everything about you. So inspiring! Thanks for sharing your beautiful home.

  21. This is a beautiful home! Please come and decorate for me :-)

    Thank you, Sunshine, for sharing the paint colours — Urbane Bronze is *exactly* what I have been looking for for our own living room.

  22. I just adore these posts so much. I’m a young college grad, no kids on the horizon just yet, but I so appreciate the advice and knowledge these women share through your series. It is truly something I cherish reading each week and is one of my favorite series on the web. Thanks so much, Gabrielle!

  23. Bethany Faulkner

    You’ve always inspired me! Wish we lived closer and our boys could run around in the woods together as you and I sip on lemonade! You’re life sounds wonderfully clean, in full color and put together – as it always has! Congrats on the post!! Miss you!!

  24. Beautiful home, Sunshine! And I have to wonder where you are, because we live in Nashville. I am a transplant from the Chicago area, and after living here for almost 20 years (I moved here when I was 19) I can’t imagine living anywhere else! We love Nashville so much! Thank you for sharing your home with us. I think our kids and dogs would get along. :)

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  28. I simply couldn’t depart your site before suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the usual info an individual supply in your guests?
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  29. I love all the yellow! And your giant bulletin board. Is that something you bought, or did you DIY it? We homeschool, too, and I need something like that for the kids’ schoolwork.

  30. If I had a dollar every time someone asked if that was my real name or sang me a song with the word sunshine in it……Hello from another Sunshine!! My family calls me Shi. I used to beg my mom to change my name to Karen but now I wouldn’t change it for anything. I got teased alot… was the early 80’s !
    I too homeschooled my girls and they had the most wonderful childhood growing up in the country, roaming in the fields and woods of Wisconsin.
    I loved reading and seeing your home! Just beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

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