When Jennifer Holmes was growing up, she was always decorating her bedroom, doing something to reflect whatever interested her at the time.
Mom loved to decorate and my parents were very good about letting us decorate our own rooms and display our style, within reason, she recalled.
Her flair for home fashions followed her through college and into adulthood. After getting a degree in graphic arts, she studied interior architecture at the New York School of Interior Design and Fine Art.
Now the 30-year-old mother of two girls Lillian Annabel, 3, and Lorelei Wren, 11 months Holmes has turned her personal interest into a full-time business, including a decorating blog Dear Lillie, dearlillieblog.blogspot.com.
Her online boutique at the website sells many of the items she makes and designs, accessories like handmade pillows in all shapes and sizes and childrens growth charts that look like giant rulers. The website also features tutorials on how to make Holmes projects slip-covered ottoman, ruffled lampshade and coffee table makeover, to name a few.
Holmes has transformed an 1,800-square-foot townhouse in Williamsburg, Va., into a showcase of ideas that caught the attention of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. A magazine crew recently spent a day there photographing her holiday look for possible inclusion in the fall Christmas Ideas special interest publication.
I love for each of my spaces to have an elegant feel, she said, carrying Lorelei on her hip, while showing visitors around. However, as the mother of two young girls, I know its important that each room in our home is comfortable and functional as well. It is definitely possible to mix elegance with comfort and have a space that is both beautiful looking and practical. I stick with a mostly neutral palette and focus on textures and patterns.
Holmes describes her decorating style as casual elegance or traditional with a modern twist.
You can have children and still have a nice-looking, fashionable home, she said.
To make living with kids easy, Holmes puts slipcovers on chairs, sofas and ottomans in fabrics that are easy to wash and put back on again. Pillows are child-proof, too.
You just need to find creative ways to store toys like under chairs with slipcovers that fall to the floor and make sure you dont have furniture with sharp edges, she said.
To make decorating affordable, she shops consignment shops and antique malls, looking for individual pieces that work with what she already has and that can then serve different functions as their lifestyle changes.
For instance, Holmes has wing-back chairs with neutral slipcovers so they look more traditional and tailored. For now, they are in the living room with an animal-print ottoman between them and an antique spinning wheel nearby. Eventually, she hopes to use the chairs at each end of a dining room table when they get another home with more space. Another favorite find is a large French cabinet that stores linens upstairs.
Going into a store and buying a set of matching furniture this is one of the biggest mistakes people make, she said. If you do this, it doesnt look personal at all. You want your home to be a reflection of you and your style.
Holmes is also passionate about paint. She likes gray, all shades from pale to charcoal, and also browns, anything from light tan to dark chocolate. One of the girls rooms reflects that, with everything done in medium to light gray with all white and ivory bedding and furniture. The master bedroom is dark charcoal walls with all white bedding. When she couldnt find the curtains she wanted, she used a roller to paint wide gray-brown stripes on plain white panels.
She also likes chalkboard paint and uses it liberally, including the end of the kitchen island where her daughters can scribble and create while she fixes meals.
To add seasonal interest, Holmes uses pops of color like greens in spring and purples in summer. She and the girls spend lots of time outdoors, searching for branches and twigs to fill vases and pine cones and acorns to display in bowls.
Wall art in the home is mostly black-and-white family photos that Holmes takes herself. Some are hung in dollar-store frames mounted on 2-foot-square, precut plywood squares painted in neutrals, while others are strung clothesline style across the top of a window.
To keep her inspired, Holmes browses magazines like Traditional Home, House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, Veranda and Where Women Create. On HGTV, she likes Sarah Richardson, as well as Genevieve Gorder and Candice Olson. When it comes to shopping, she favors national chains Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Target and Ikea. She particularly likes Savvy, a home and garden boutique (savvyllc.com/).
Nature inspires me most, she said. Decorating does not have to be expensive. You can head outdoors and cut down branches or find moss to use as accents in rooms. Its about finding what makes you happy and what makes your home feel good.