Living With Kids: Julielle Sears

Today’s living with kids would be worth reading it if it were only beautiful pictures of a house chock full of southern charm and classic design. But beyond the amazing, light-filled rooms, you will find a really touching story about the surprising challenges life can throw at us and the miraculous way that this mom found her way to come out the other side.

We’re so happy today to have Julielle Sears, her husband Ben and her charming son Elijah Rhett (such a cute name!) share their home and their very personal story. Here’s Julielle…

I’m a 29 year old creative who loves a challenge and is always looking to grow both personally and professionally, but I also try not to take myself too seriously. I love creative jobs, and have worked in several such avenues professionally over the years since graduating college with an art degree in 2010. I was a portrait and abstract painter for several years, and did home design on the side.

Just over a year ago, after much consideration, I transitioned my career from being a full-time artist to a wedding floral designer. This felt like a tremendous risk, but also within my skill set, as I understood color, composition, and design principles through my experience in painting. Though it felt crazy to walk away from something that I spent years developing, into a field I knew very little about, it was an invaluable experience. It challenged me to push myself and learn as quickly as I could, and to reach out to those I respected in the field for advice.

I still have endless things to learn on the subject, which I think only experience will afford. I love the challenge of building a business, maybe more than the creative aspect of the job. I also love working with flowers. They have a raw and organic beauty about them, and the process of arranging them is a joy.

My husband, Ben, is an Apache and Blackhawk pilot for the Army, as well as a natural handy-man. Because of our commitment to the military, we move about every two to three years to places unknown to us. This lifestyle is adventurous, and comes with a set of challenges, as well. As it relates to my business, I wrestle with the task of rebuilding every time we move. Though this is discouraging at times, especially in the beginning months of each new move, it gives me the opportunity to book clients all over the country.

When Ben and I married 6 years ago, we decided that though his job was a high priority for us, we wanted to have full lives outside of our commitment to the military. We both grew up relocating often. He lived all over the world, and I lived entirely in the state of Arkansas until he stole my heart through his smile and intentionality.

We knew each other for a while as acquaintances in college, then started dating three weeks before he left for flight school. We remained in a long distance relationship until we got married a year and a half later. I finished college the day before our wedding, we got married, and moved all of my things to his apartment at flight school. And thus began our adventure together.

Because of my love for design and Ben’s business mind and ability to build, we always dreamed about designing a home with the intention to sell it for profit. So, when we heard that we would be stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky two years ago, we decided to purchase our first home with the goal of flipping it to sell before our next move. It seemed like a fun adventure to us, even though we really didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We had YouTube. Why not?

While residing in military housing at Fort Knox, we soon found that our church, and many of the people who became close friends, were about an hour away, in Louisville. To our understanding, this was the land of Derby, stunning historical houses, and great local restaurants. After looking in many locations, we zeroed in on a neighborhood called Saint Matthews, which is packed with character, and sought after for that reason.

The streets are lined with old brick bungalows and cape cods and beautiful landscapes. We could walk everywhere; to the pharmacy, to the grocery store, to eat at local dives, and to shop. When we found a home located just an alley’s walk down from a beautiful, lively park, and a few blocks from all the storefronts, we jumped on it. Over the next year and half, we cultivated our new home, until we were moved to Alabama just a couple of months ago. I affectionately refer to our home in Louisville as The Red Brick Bungalow, or the RBB. It’s more of a cape cod, but the Red Brick Cape Cod doesn’t really cut it.

The Red Brick Bungalow is located on a beautiful street in Saint Matthew’s, with an alley in the back. The neighborhood (actually a small city) is our absolute favorite of all the places we have had the opportunity to live. Trees and flowers everywhere, cute 1000-3000 square feet storybook houses with old doors. People that walk along the streets and get to know one another, trading stories. Jogging clubs that wear headlamps for evening jogs and yell “car!” to one another when a vehicle passes.

The homes are filled with professionals, young families, and lovely people who have lived there since the ’60’s. Our house is positioned a few doors down from beautiful Seneca park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (a legendary landscape architect who designed Central Park), and this was a huge selling point for us. One of our favorite things to do on warm evenings was to walk down to the Graeter’s Ice Cream store a few blocks away from our house. I also loved running to a neighborhood coffee shop for meetings with clients. Life has the opportunity to be very simple in Saint Matthews.

We quickly got to know our neighbors through frequent visits to each other’s front doors, or conversations over the fence borrowing tools. In addition to all of the nurturing aspects of this area of town, the houses can be quite reasonable. In a good market, they sell fast, generally within a week or two. The homes are typically smaller, and can run anywhere between $110k to over $600k, depending on the house, street, and proximity to the park.

We purchased our 1500 square foot, 1953 Cape Cod for $218,500. We felt comfortable with that price, because it was a good amount under what similar but updated homes in the area cost. Also, the houses surrounding ours, specifically the ones by the park, were in the 400-600k price range.

The house needed substantial cosmetic updates, like fresh paint throughout, updated floors, and new trim, as well as a new kitchen and updated bathrooms. The exterior offered curb appeal with some attention to the landscape and color scheme. We actually found our house by looking at another down the street, then noticing it. We did a walk through, and promptly made an offer. Inspections panned out well, and with a couple of adjustments, we closed on the house!

Once we moved into the home, we immediately started updating. We set out to do everything feasible ourselves, and only hire out work we couldn’t do (like connecting a gas line), or didn’t have time to do. Thinking back, doing it all ourselves was a hilarious goal to set. I think we went in with the energy to tackle such a project, but looking back, my goodness, there were things we could have hired out!

We realized quickly that the house project became our lives outside of work. Our nights and weekends were spent painting and sanding, building and demolishing, not as much taking fun trips here and there. However, we had a blast in our season there, and we loved working as a team. It was also fun to involve friends in the process. So many people helped, which meant the world to us. One of my favorite memories is a late night with friends organizing and attempting to build the kitchen cabinets! Our relationships remained rich, but our capacity for hanging out was sometimes pretty low because we were often tired from late nights working on the house, on top of our jobs.

Ben and I learned about communicating and respecting one another’s strengths, and trusting each other with respective projects. I learned that I am naturally a Don’t-Look-at-Directions-Just-Do-It-and-It-Will-Be-Awesome person, while Ben is a Do-It-the-Right-Way kind of guy. This was pretty comical for us. I learned to be more intentional with my work. Ben learned to trust my vision for the house and grew to not even question it, which was incredibly supportive. Over a year and a half, we made that house our home by changing quite literally every surface, all while experiencing the joys and heartbreaks of life while living there.

A few months into our renovation, I became pregnant. Though we hadn’t planned to start a family in the middle of flipping the house, we were thrilled at the idea of raising a baby in this home. We planned out how we would rearrange the rooms to make way for this little one. As hard as life hits sometimes, we eventually lost the baby in miscarriage.

Personally, this bought life to a standstill for me. We made a pallet in our sun room and slept down there, with movies running or music playing until I could fall asleep each night for about a week. Sometimes life just stands still, and the quiet was hard. Because we hadn’t told many people we were pregnant, I felt isolated in the loss, though I was far from alone. I am deeply thankful to have had our friends draw near to us as we were broken. I’m also grateful to have had the house projects to set my mind on so that I could handle the sometimes desperate grief for a few minutes here and there.

Though I kept working, my dreams for the home felt shot. We had pictured life with a child there, and to lose that baby was hell. We began to heal over time, and the waves of grief came less often for me. I still feel the weight of that loss, and forever feel a connection and a burden for those who lose their babies. I’ve observed that grief and terrible situations have a way of stopping us in our tracks and giving us a clear, raw perspective on life.

I have walked through several seasons of deep grief, and have come to appreciate the growth and healing that can occur in walking through the pain. I’m thankful for the intentionality with life it can bring. I felt peace with sitting in the tension of the struggle, that I didn’t need to just be okay and move on. Ben and I drew near to each other, and to God. We pressed on with the house and formed new visions and hopes for it. We resolved to simply enjoy it, choose contentment even if our hearts weren’t there, and to truly live in it well.

Our process of making the Red Brick Bungalow home, aesthetically speaking, was simple. Though nearly every decision I made was through the filter of selling the house for profit, it was equally important for me to create a home that felt like a reflection of us, and that fit our family. My overarching goal was for the house to feel restful, because life doesn’t always feel that way.

To accomplish this, I wanted to create a simple palette of neutrals, and to add to that with splashes of airy, fresh colors in accessories and textiles. I wanted the entire house to flow well. I think that this is important to potential buyers. When the paint and design scheme is cohesive, the house feels complete. So, we painted nearly every room Toasty Gray by Behr, which is a color that I would recommend to anyone. It’s warm, yet pure and beautiful.

I hung white curtains at every window to soften and brighten the space, yet add continuity to the house. We added new base trim and crown moulding in every space, as this worked to increase the felt value of the home. All of our trim was also painted pure white, which provided clean lines throughout the house, and a beautiful contrast to the walls.

We refinished the hardwoods (solid effort, not so solid outcome- let’s just say they look very rustic now) and made them darker. We pulled up endless layers of flooring in the kitchen and sun room and replaced it with mortar-washed brick, which connected the two rooms. Having a brick floor in my kitchen has long been a dream. Laying the brick was the most arduous task we did on the house, by far. But, the result was gold.

We opened up the flow of the house by removing a wall that separated the dining room from the kitchen. This gave the illusion of a larger space. We gutted the kitchen and updated it with new appliances, cabinets, backsplash, and accessories.

We added shiplap both in the upstairs master bedroom, and downstairs over the fireplace. We added decorative trim to create interest and sequence throughout the house. For example, I added board and batten in the hallway to make it stand alone as a space, and made a focal wall in the guest room framed by accent trim. I knew, walking into the house, that the eye goes immediately down the hallway into the guest room, so it was important for me to create a beautiful path for the eye to follow, delivering it to a focal point in that back bedroom.

We invested in light fixtures for every space. I bought almost all of the fixtures on sale, which saved a good amount of money. I wanted our home to feel clean and beautiful, to be kind of a hiding place from the noise of the world for anyone who entered it. Decoratively, I leaned toward soft colors, earth tones, stripes and florals. I made the pillows and curtains, which produced a custom look without spending very much.

We came close to completing the house last summer. In mid August, I got a phone call from a dear friend telling me to sit down. With a steady heart, she said that there was a young woman in Alabama with a baby boy that she needed to give up for adoption. She then said that this woman was interested giving us her child.

Imagine that phone call.

What’s shocking is that we were not at all seeking adoption, and many people never knew about our loss. This was completely out of the blue. This young woman had heard about us through the friend who called me, and was considering us as potential parents before we even knew about this situation at all. My dear friend had waited to tell me about this until that day in an effort to protect my heart.

About a week later, this beautiful, courageous birth mom added me as a friend on Facebook, and sent me a message. She said there were 4 families wanting to adopt her baby boy, and that she wanted to interview us if we were interested in meeting her. She sent me this message exactly a year to the week after I lost our baby.

Ben was in the middle of a mission when I read that message, so as soon as he got home late in the night, we went to our favorite pizza dive down the street, of course, prayed, and decided that we wanted to pursue that baby boy, even if it meant heartbreak if the birth mom changed her mind. I will always remember the booth we sat in. We both have had interest in adoption and planned for it someday, but were waiting to pursue it until later in life.

After resolving to let go of our plans, and even our renovation to go for this, we made a makeshift biography of ourselves and sent it to the birth mom, desperately hoping she wouldn’t find any deal breakers.

We scheduled the drive to Alabama to be interviewed about 10 days from that point. Four days before our interview, she wrote to me on Facebook and said that she felt we were supposed to be her baby’s parents. She said she cancelled all other interviews and that she wanted to give us the baby as soon as possible.

Our hearts exploded! We went from being years married with no kids, to grieving the loss of our first baby, to content in the struggle of waiting and the unknown, to parents of a beautiful boy in 4 days flat. What a crazy, surreal joy it was.

We told our families they would be grandparents the following week, put together a beautiful crib that a dear friend loaned me, and drove to Alabama that weekend. I remember the hours before our meeting, putting my makeup on, and how physically sick we both felt. We knew that this could absolutely fall apart, but that we needed to put our entire hearts on the line for this child and his birth mom.

When I saw the woman I had been writing back and forth on Facebook for the first time, I felt the need to hug her, and acknowledge her before I even laid eyes on this baby. When I saw him for the first time, in his car seat, I honestly felt overwhelmed with love for him. His birth mom let me hold him while we completed the paperwork, and she spent some alone time with him after that. Eventually, she entrusted him with us, and left with such strength and grace. I will forever respect and deeply love our son’s birth mom.

After that moment, life felt completely surreal. We now had a baby, in our arms, who needed us. What a beautiful moment in time, and what powerful meaning that meeting held for all of us. The next day, we headed home to our house in Louisville. Adoption applications, home studies, and learning how to parent all followed suit thereafter.

We did, in fact, get to live in that house with a baby, Elijah Rhett. He filled the rooms with mostly cries (let’s be honest), laughter, and little, exquisite milestones. I worked out how to be a mom in those rooms, and I think I will forever be on that journey.

In the 4 days before we drove to pick him up, I painted a huge canvas, and talked to God while working through my emotions and fears in the brush strokes. It was messy, and that was okay. I vowed to myself that if the adoption fell through I would throw the painting away, and if it worked out, I would put it in his room. I was able to hang it over his changing table.

When we brought Eli home, that house was overflowing with friends that came late in the night to receive us by screaming excitedly and crying when we walked in the door. That was such a joyous moment in time, to celebrate his life so fiercely among many of the people who walked with us through the whole process. Our friends rallied around us and threw us a “monsoon” instead of a shower after we brought him home.

People I have never met sent hundreds of outfits and diapers. All of our needs were met, and Eli was encountered by a mass of people who adore him. We are all crazy about that boy. He is so valuable. I’m deeply grateful to God, and to his beautiful birth mom for entrusting him with us. Though Eli is too young to remember this house, I can’t wait for him to look back at the telling photos of his homecoming, and of his first months of life. I want him to see how he brought such beauty and growth to us in that home.

Of course we have hard days, but they are balanced with beautiful moments throughout. Parenting an infant (and children at any age) is no joke. I had many days where I (and Ben) thought I was losing my mind from sleep deprivation, and I had to constantly practice giving myself a break. It was hard to transition overnight to becoming a mom. I sometimes felt the tension of not having a pregnancy before the child, of not having months to prepare and plan out how we would operate as first-time parents. We truly walked in with absolutely no knowledge besides what I garnered from babysitting, friends, books, and our combined CPR skills.

I struggled with fears of what other moms would think of me and how well I was adjusting, since I had no prior experience. I wrestled with the tension of having to truly alter my every moment to center on this beautiful boy, while my husband still had to work, and found normalcy there. I

heard this from a dear friend, and it rings so true to my heart on the early stages of motherhood. “Social media shows that motherhood can be one of the busiest times, but it doesn’t show that it can also be one of the loneliest periods of life. Though being a mom is beyond a blessing, we are constantly being poured out in the best way, and it comes at the cost of feeling unheard and drained at times. Even when getting together with other moms, our conversations tend to focus on our kids. This absolutely makes sense, but can feel like we are lost or without an identity sometimes. And in the loneliness, we can let our minds be filled with doubt- “Am I the only one feeling this way?” Looking at it, the need for in-depth community might be the most vital during this season of life more than any other.”

Some days are hard, and I’m thankful to have close friends who are also walking through this season with me. I resolved early on to find ways to care for myself and my marriage, whether it was getting a coke delivered to the house in the middle of a long day, or a midnight movie with girlfriends, or a date night at home. For anyone in a hard season of motherhood, I would encourage you to invest in gracious friends that can speak truth to you, and prioritize what is life-giving for you by making space for it. Be that people or events, sleeping or reading a good book, I think it can be hugely important to resolve some time for those things. When I’m nourished, I’m a more present mom, wife, and friend.

At the age of ten months old now, Eli has become such a little buddy for me. I think my favorite thing about being his mom is just having the opportunity to interact with him. We run errands together and talk back and forth in the grocery store, but he’s in the squealing phase, so it’s more like I say something and he gleefully squeals in a piercingly loud tone and I laugh awkwardly and avoid eye contact with other shoppers.

Can I take a moment for the squealing phase? I am convinced this is one of the most comical and excruciating baby phases, which apparently only graces certain babies. The pitch he can soar to is truly remarkable. Whenever we are in a store and he goes on a rampage, I feel so bad for the patrons around us, especially those with hearing aides. It’s been a good opportunity for my growth. I think part of motherhood has to be working through the fear of what others are thinking, and I see that in myself!

I never want people to feel like I don’t have a clue, or that my kid is out of control, even though I don’t have a clue, and the Lord knows Eli will have out of control moments beyond my wildest imagination in the near future. So I’m working on that, and starting to appreciate the squeal. It’s pretty cute when it doesn’t stifle my hearing abilities, and he’s doing it less and less, so maybe we are moving forward. I want to get to a place early in his life where I don’t care about how I am perceived at all. I want to mother freely and with grace. I’m seeing slow growth and comfortability in this, which is sweet.

So far, my favorite times are the day to day occurrences with Eli, and how there are sweet or funny moments tucked in unexpected places. I love watching him interact with Ben, and the connection they share. If I miss anything already, it’s not being able to hold him close much anymore. He’s so observant and alert these days, so snuggling is not his jam, and that’s okay. I can’t wait for him to start making messes. I always loved little boys and imagined having a house full of them. Being Eli’s mom refines me, and watching him live is a gift.

I wish someone had told me (and I had listened!) about the amount of grace I would need to offer myself in the process of being a mom. I think there is often an exponential amount of space that we, as women, create for criticism of ourselves, and I think this tends to be magnified in motherhood.

When we brought Eli home, I didn’t feel great about my body (even though I didn’t give birth!), I wasn’t sleeping, and I had just landed in a world of observation. I studied the other moms around me and on social media, initially for knowledge and insight. This sometimes evolved into creating an unattainable standard for the way I “should” be, and for becoming frustrated with myself over not meeting that standard. In our culture, we often feed ourselves with what we perceive as other’s successes, and compare them to what we perceive as our failures.

I think this ease in critiquing ourselves (and other women) continues throughout life, and it can be cultivated, or conversely, deafened. I find myself so easily scrolling through social media, and though I don’t realize I’m thinking this, I sometimes walk away feeling frustrated because I didn’t buy that toy for Eli or take him on an outing that day, or because I couldn’t pull together something to wear other than leggings and a t-shirt, or make dinner last night. I found that I often had days where I felt pulled together and accomplished, but there were many days that I didn’t. Through all of these ups and downs, I found myself setting my eyes on what I perceived as other women having their acts together, and feeling defeated for not being strong in the same facets of life that I so admired in them.

I also noticed a subtle pressure that being a good mother looked a certain way, and if my strengths or goals didn’t align with those, I had a lot to work on. This reality sometimes deeply discouraged me in a moment, but more often then not, it was something that subtly became a part of the noise in my head over time. So, instead of allowing that comparison to shame me and put me in a rough place for the moment (or even the rest of the week), I began to choose to embrace my specific gifts, and my hard days, with grace. I often have to remind myself of this truth.

We are so very valuable, and our role as mothers requires much of us. But, being a mom is also life-giving and can cultivate beautiful things in our hearts! I want to ponder and encourage my God-given strengths, and let go of the pressure to perform as a mom (be that in how I look, what my schedule looks like, if I work or not, or how many of my children’s activities that I serve on committees for). I want to only encourage women I see in whatever season they are in, rather than shaming them by thought or word for my perceived judgements on their lives, whether that’s my intention or not.

We must have grace with one another, and ourselves. Grace to fail. Grace to cheer for others who knock something out of the park that we are pretty bad at! Grace to have a sense of humor with ourselves and the things we lack in. Grace to identify our strengths and speak out those of our friends, to lift them up. To pursue other moms and point out what we see that they do beautifully, and to speak grace and empathy for what they struggle with. I wish someone had told me that my capacity for self criticism would grow, but that modeling grace to ourselves and one another in deep community beautifully stifles that criticism.

Ben and I often consider what we would do differently in our next renovation. The first thing that comes to mind is paying someone to refinish the floors! We saved about $3500 by finishing the hardwoods ourselves, but the process was long and difficult, and it’s something that I think requires a good bit of skill. In addition, we would not remodel the kitchen while living in the house. We sometimes laugh at ourselves for tackling that project while living there. It can certainly be done, but my goodness. We had no idea that the kitchen was such a central point in our home. We had to wash dishes in the bathtub (truly), and ate out for months because it took so long for us to complete the project.

Also, we would remember that every single project takes roughly twice the amount of time we imagined it would. I think lastly, we would allot a certain amount of our budget to hiring some work out, just for the purpose of resting. We would balance efforts working on the house with time enjoying life outside with friends and family.

I found my journey of decorating the house, and figuring out my aesthetic both before and after adding a baby to our family, took time. I had to intentionally make myself be still in the process. I sat with a space for weeks, even months, and then it would dawn on me one day what to do with it. I would try an idea, sit with it, and then change it until the space felt right.

I found over time that, in my opinion, the best design was rooted in simplicity. There is something about curating a space, or taking away items that are unnecessary, until you are left with a simple room, filled with only the things that are both practical and meaningful to you. I found this to be a tall order when I had toys and car seats to incorporate! In this house, I started decorating for just Ben and I, but once Eli arrived, I had the opportunity to add in all kinds of new, colorful things, along with some not so cute things. I wrestled with giving space for the items that didn’t fit within my design scheme.

I’ve given a significant amount of thought to the tension between design and kids. I’ve only scratched the surface of this conversation. I realized in my season of life, with an infant, that I needed to let go of my desire for a perfectly curated space. It didn’t serve my family, or me. I want to resolve to design with an ease and joy about the season of life we are in, not a frustration of having to let go of what I am used to. Certainly, there is room for design and curation. But, I want to embrace these messy years right along with my passion for design.

I’m learning the marriage of toys, messes, and beautiful pieces all residing in the same space. And, I’m starting to uncover that it’s well worth the wrestle. Our kid’s things don’t have to war with our idea of what our home aesthetic should fit within. There is space for them. I think, if anything, the bulky toys challenge me to be creative and a little more laid back. I’m excited to get to our new home in August and really hash out what design with a little boy looks like for our family. I got a taste of it in the Red Brick Bungalow, but newborns need so little, so I didn’t have many extra things laying around. Once Eli starts being mobile, it’s game over, and a whole new set of design challenges will follow. I’m excited to tackle this.

As a military wife and mom, I’m faced with the reality of being uprooted on a regular basis. Though this can be difficult on many levels, I’ve grown to think it’s beautiful. It’s hard to pack and unpack your belongings every few years (and even months!), and to lose something special to you because it broke on the moving truck. It’s painful to say goodbye to close friends you see every day, and transition those relationships into long-distance ones. It’s difficult to move to a new state and just be so unknown by new acquaintances, until you choose to be vulnerable or they ask questions about your life.

Those relationships take energy and intentionality, which can be hard to muster over and over. It’s difficult to hope and wait for deep connection like those you had in your last home, and to still thrive if they don’t come as quickly as you wish. It’s hard to push yourself to try new groups, classes, churches, etc., week after week.

But, conversely, it’s an utter opportunity for growth as well. It’s easy to jump into a new adventure with my family. It’s exciting to look for new places to live. It’s hopeful to anticipate what new friends will be like. I have certainly had to develop a sense of humor in the process of all of this.

One time, our moving truck died after a 10 hour drive across the country, and we had to move everything out of that struggling vehicle, onto a parking lot beside the highway, and into another truck. The moving company said they would send help. This help included two men and a twelve year old girl, so that was something.

For me, moving feels vulnerable. Sometimes I’m ready for it, and sometimes I’m not. It’s a daily choice for me to trust that God will provide specifically for my needs, and He absolutely does, time and again. Through these moves, I am learning the value of change, and of being uncomfortable. Though the transition of leaving behind what is comfortable and treasured to be completely unknown and start over is well worth grieving, it’s also worth celebrating.

I’m thankful to have the opportunity to rebuild and redefine our goals, and to grow in resilience and courage every time we move, as hard as it can be. I think it’s easy in life to protect ourselves and the stories we build, and try to hold onto things as we want and even hope them to be. So, I’m trying to cultivate the value of just letting go and embracing another opportunity for growth and trust with each new move. Some days, I just don’t feel up for being exposed, but when I step out in vulnerability and courage, growth is there, and often new friends are, too.

We recently found out that we would quickly be moved to south Alabama for 5 months, then to a new location for a couple of years beginning this summer. So, about two months ago, were faced with the task of selling our home! This was exciting for us, but also nerve racking. We hurriedly completed the projects we hadn’t yet tackled, and put it up on the market. That felt vulnerable.

Selling a house can be an exhausting process. It was hard to read feedback from potential buyers and not take it personally. Thankfully, within 4 days we had 4 offers (3 full price), and we sold for our asking price of $299,900,00. As for renovations, our kitchen remodel cost around 12k. The rest of the house cost about 18k, for a total renovation cost of around thirty thousand dollars. We found by doing almost all of the work ourselves, we saved an incredible amount of money. Needless to say, we were thrilled with the outcome of the house sale.

We moved a week after accepting the last offer, and are currently living in a little military house in Alabama. I’m taking the short time here to enjoy being present with Ben, Eli, and our golden doodle, Rebel. We go on lots of walks, are getting to know new friends, and I focus on developing my business. Life is pretty simple right now, and I’m thankful for that.

The process of designing and renovating the house in Saint Matthews was invaluable to us. We learned much about who we are and how we work as a team. We pushed ourselves hard. We struggled through decisions and worked together to come out on the other side. It was rewarding to work long, hard hours with our hands, on things in which we didn’t always see an immediate result. We learned to finish projects that we would rather leave undone.

As for the life we experienced that made it our home, I wouldn’t trade those things. I’m in a place of peace with the deep pain we walked through, and the journey that took us on, and I’m thankful for the unspeakable joys we experienced there, as well. Making this home ours was a beautiful process.


Thank you, Julielle! I loved when she said that we often compare others’ successes with our failures. Isn’t that so true? And so often, being vulnerable and sharing a story like this one is scary and difficult. It’s always wonderful when someone can open up and share the beautiful and challenging things about their life.

And what a lovely home! The light fills each room so perfectly. I am sure whoever bought it was thrilled with the upgrades and improvements. And don’t you sort of want to tear your kitchen linoleum up and replace it with brick? I’m definitely considering it now.

The most amazing part is that after all that work, Julielle and her family packed up and moved on to the next home! Are you the kind of person who would love a new adventure every few years? Or do you love to really get settled somewhere and put down roots?


Iron Crib
Cowhide Rug
Dining room wine barrel light fixture
Ticking-stripe sofa
Living room bench

Credits: See more of Julielle’s gorgeous floral work herePhotos by Matthew Philpot of Philpot CreativeEdited by Josh Bingham — follow him on InstagramWould you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! Reach out at

30 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Julielle Sears”

  1. Just wonderful! Everything is beautiful, including her words. I know you wrote the paint color for almost the whole house was one by Behr but whats the accent wall color in the guest room?

  2. What a wonderful story. I’m so encouraged by the hopeful ending, after having a miscarriage myself earlier this year. Thank you for sharing!

  3. UUuuugh, where was this paint color when I needed it last week!?!? :P Beautiful home, and such a happy story. Thanks for sharing, and I can’t wait to see what you do to the next home!

    1. Summer, haha, noooo! I’m sure your color is awesome. Which color did you go with? Thank you so much for your kind words. I can’t wait to get to the next home and see what happens!

  4. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Oh where to start. I love your writing. Second, your style is so effortless. Third, Adoption (after loss). We have that in common. I’m so sorry you lost your first baby. I love your adoption story. He is just beautiful. Congratulations! I was an insta-mom too. Our first adoption (after losing our baby son) was in the order we expected. Paperwork, home studies, wait, baby. Our daughter was four when SURPRISE! A birth mom had already given birth and wanted to place her son with us. I happened to be out of town so my husband picked him up from the hospital. I met our son in our kitchen. And now they are 14 and 10. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Pamela,

      My husband and I loved reading your story! I love (SO much) that you met your son in your kitchen. What a powerful room that space is. I was able to go visit my friend’s house where I saw Eli for the first time, and it was really moving for me. What precious kids you have, with such beautiful stories.

      Also, thank you for your very kind words about my writing and style- that means so much.

  5. Beautifully written and so gracefully put. Beyond the lovely and peaceful home, these words resonated: “We must have grace with one another, and ourselves. Grace to fail. Grace to cheer for others who knock something out of the park that we are pretty bad at! Grace to have a sense of humor with ourselves and the things we lack in. Grace to identify our strengths and speak out those of our friends, to lift them up. To pursue other moms and point out what we see that they do beautifully, and to speak grace and empathy for what they struggle with.”

    On so many levels this is what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

    1. Corinne,

      Gosh, thank you so much. Your comment means so much to me, as my hope for the post was that it would encourage someone in a specific way. Thank you for sharing that it did.

      I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week!

  6. A wonderful story and beautiful home! Thanks for sharing. As a Louisvillian myself, I can definitely appreciate your love of the area!

    1. Oh my goodness, Kari! That’s so great! Where are you in Louisville? Getting geared up for Derby? We have so many fond thoughts of Louisville, and hope to move back there someday.

  7. This is such a gorgeous home! I love the serene color palette and thoughtful finishes. The reflection on miscarriage was moving to me, as I lost my first baby as well. What a beautiful story and handsome baby boy!

    1. Heather, thank you so much! I just check out your website and it looks amazing, I can’t wait to read more. I think my sister-in-law will also love it. Thank you for your words about the miscarriage, I’m so very sorry that you experienced that loss. It can be utterly painful.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

  8. sabrina smith

    Oh Julielle, you spoke right to my heart! As as UN wife I have been uprooted and planted over and over again all over this world. Today I sat exams for a degree I have been working on through 3 continents after an all-nighter with my sick 4 year old. I could barely even write my name. I was about to fall into a pile of exhaustion tonight and then read your piece. “I had to intentionally make myself be still in the process,” is a quote I will wear in my heart on these tough days. That and Grace, that you are reminding me to have. Thank you so much for sharing your life. Sabrina

    1. Sabrina, I have been thinking about your comment since yesterday. What a profound season you are in right now. I have so much respect for you and what you’re walking though! I can only imagine trying to work on a degree in multiple continents…goodness. That speaks so much about your courage and ability to push through. I hope your exams are so rewarding for all of the hard work you have put into your degree. It was an honor for me to hear from you. Thank you so much for sharing. Bless you!

  9. Whitney Eldridge

    Julielle, I have always thought this, but am even more convinced of how beautiful you are inside and out. I was able to share your story with a close friend who recently experienced miscarriage and then pregnancy. The conflicting emotions are so difficult. And, as a mom, I’m so encouraged by your personal emotions that I think we all feel coming into and traveling within motherhood. Thank you for sharing your story and for applying beautiful aesthetics along the way :).

    1. Whitney, I wish we lived closer together! It is so encouraging to me that you were able to share this with your dear friend. I am so very sorry that she had to walk through losing her baby (and still walks through it). I’m thankful she has you as a friend as she’s journeying through this pregnancy. I’m so glad she can be open with you.

      Thank you for your kind words about how you were encouraged. It’s so helpful to me personally, to know that I’m not alone in the journey. So great to hear from you.

  10. Carrie Greene

    Wow Julielle. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and for being willing to be vulnerable. The wisdom you have is deep for your age, you will be a blessing to many if you continue to share. Thank you and may you feel God’s blessings today and in the days to come.

    1. Carrie, thank you so much for your encouragement! And thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my thoughts. I would love to continue to share, I’m excited to see how/if that door opens up somehow in the next few years. Thank you for your kind words. I wish you the best!

  11. Oh my gosh, I’m reading this and crying… it hits home for so many reasons. The least is we just found out we’ll probably have to move soon and your example of such grace in the face of such an enormous task is truly inspiring.
    Congratulations on your beautiful family!

    1. Gaia, first of all, I love your name. Second, I just checked out your website and I’m so inspired by your work! What an amazing business you’ve built. Also May 9th, that’s a huge day! So excited for you as your book launches!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post, that means so much to me. The news of moving can hit hard. I hope that you feel like you can process that huge change, and that you’re not alone! Do you know where you’ll be moving? We just found out our next state, and I’ll be telling our friends this week. I wish you all the best. I will certainly be buying your new book! Eli will love it.

  12. Melissa Schill

    I have never commented on Design Mom before but I really wanted to as this was the most beautiful interview. I cannot believe someone so young can have such wisdom and grace. So many valuable life lessons you have taught! Your home and sweet baby are beautiful and I wish you all the best.

    1. Melissa,

      Wow. I have to say, your comment means so much to me, and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for taking the time to read what I wrote, and furthermore, for taking the time to leave such a kind comment. It made my day. Thank you for your beautiful encouragement. I wish you all the best.

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