My House Doesn’t Look Like a Magazine


Early in our marriage, we had our first move of many. This move, in particular, was hard because it was the first time we lived in a city where we knew no one. No family. No friends. Everyone was a stranger. 

My husband had gotten a job promotion but not a salary bump.

I started a full-time job that I loved but was physically difficult for me. 

We downsized into a smaller space. 

All of these feelings ruminated as we drove the six hours back to our first home, which we still owned, but our newly married friends now occupied. 

During our short visit, we gathered with friends at our old home since there were many people to see and not much time to see everyone. Our newly married friends had freshly painted and decorated the space. In particular, the wife’s artistic style suited the 1950’s bungalow duplex. Her interior decor looked like something out of a magazine.

It honestly looked nice, but I didn’t anticipate the reaction of our friends (who were used to the house when we lived in it). They gushed with positive remarks, which I agreed with, but then my jealously flared. My husband blurted, “It looks so much better than when we lived here.”

Looking back, I see his intent. But at the moment, the words stung deep. This space had been our first home as a couple, and even though our furniture was mismatched, I had tried to make it special. Because of the move, I was homesick for the familiar, and while the address was our “familiar” first home, the home had been replaced by a newer, updated version. And it seemed our friends agreed! 

My feelings were hurt.

Why My House Doesn't Look Like A Magazine Charleston MomsMove by move, we made our way to the South. With each new home, our scratched furniture didn’t change. Sure, we added pieces here and there (especially when kids popped up in our family pictures), but we never changed our furniture to fit our house. And the words from that encounter so many years before stayed with me. 

It took me a long time to think through why those comments hurt. Once I was able to identify my emotional state at the time, and why it stung more than usual, I moved on to my current decor style logic. Why didn’t I have a home stylized more like our friends’?

I watch HGTV. I like perusing home decor aisles or scrolling through pictures of beautiful bathrooms and curated living rooms on Instagram. (You know, the pictures where a designer decides every object’s existence and placement.) Yet, like when we were newly married, our house doesn’t look like a magazine.

There’s a reason for that. And now that I’m able to articulate our “why,” I’m okay with it. 

Debt isn’t Worth It to Us

When we first got married, our furniture was hand-me-downs. We didn’t own a television for over a year because we didn’t have the money. We saved and waited for the perfect deal (in which my husband went a little overboard by buying the biggest T.V. he could find!). I like living with beautiful objects in a picture-perfect home, but I’m not willing to go into debt for it. No matter what stage of life I’m in. 

We’d Rather Replace Furniture with Heritage Objects We Love

We’ve slowly replaced furniture as we’ve found pieces we love, or the need has arisen. When we moved to Kansas, my husband surprised me with a huge mirror that I had drooled over in a local interior design shop. It worked best in that 1920’s Kansas house, but we have prominently displayed it in all of our homes (It is over six feet tall). I love the mirror. It’s a solid, beautiful piece. I don’t get tired of looking at the sculpted golden frame or the way it bounces light off the walls. It expands a room, and it’s not something I’d quickly throw out. It was an investment, and I’d like to pass it on to my children someday.

We have Kids

When it came to replacing our couches, we opted for a cheaper, budget-friendly option. We have kids, after all. These couches are not my ideal. (I love the tuft, leather ones!) They don’t go with, well, anything else we have. They’re bland–but comfortable! Nevertheless, it was an ideal compromise. I would be upset if my kids pulled off the cushions for one of their obstacle courses with a couch I loved than the piece we have now. Kids are messy and sticky. I don’t want to spend all my waking hours cleaning. I do think it’s important to teach kids how to treat furniture with respect and how to clean up after themselves, but accidents transpire. And I’m less uptight if they happen at our house.

That Stuff Just Isn’t Our Priority Right Now 

When we were newly married, both my husband and I focused on our careers. Now we’re in a stage of life where it’s all about the kids. We love to travel and have adventures outside. Someday our home might look like a magazine, but for now, we’re more focused on the life inside of our house. Not the objects. How can we nurture and raise these children we’ve been entrusted with?  

Why My House Doesn't Look Like A Magazine Charleston MomsI think of my home as a place where my family comes to restore and refresh, to cultivate creativity. I want the pieces in my house to encourage that. I don’t want furniture that I’m afraid will get ruined by my little children; instead, I’d like to have beautiful pieces that will sustain through the years. For us, when we buy something, we’re selective. We consider our purchase (and make sure we have the money). This takes patience. 

At the same time, I love going to my friends’ homes that are beautifully curated. I love hearing from an owner the history an object holds. To feel the welcome that a glow from a perfectly placed lamp gives. Maybe someday our home will also have that magazine look. But I’m okay with it just being the place to kick off my shoes, start the Vivaldi, and drink a cup of tea on my bland–but comfy–couch.

It’s more important that my home feels like a place of comfort and refuge. A place to invite friends and family to reconnect after a busy season. (When the government allows, of course, and social distancing practices have eased.) 

Yes, well-placed objects can help in this endeavor, but I think that feeling can be achieved no matter the furniture in my home. J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Fellowship of the Ring, said it best, as he described a home that gave the hero time to gather his courage after (and before) his big adventure.

He wrote, ” . . . a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.”

Magazine worthy or not, that’s what I’d like my home to be.


  1. I love this article! It is such a beautiful gift of permission to live in our homes with our families. I struggled for years as a working mom to try to have that picture-perfect home. And every comment by thoughtless friends or family about clutter or toys or dishes stung. I had to learn to give myself permission to leave the mess. Thank you Ashley for giving us all that permission!

    • Just saw this, Jennifer! Thank you for your kind words! I think, like most things in life, it’s striving for a balance. Yes, an organized and clean home is ideal–but it shouldn’t consume us. The living–both inside and outside our homes–is more important, especially when we are blessed to live with little ones! When we come to grips with what works best for our families and homes, it takes away the burden of expectations. Here’s to living IN our homes and not just living FOR our homes.

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