Home Town on HGTV

Well, dear reader. I can tell you the really big news we’ve been keeping close all these months, finally. This doesn’t seem real or possible, but that project we were working on all summer? Well…

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 4.52.23 PMWe’ve been keeping it secret for so long, that it sometimes felt like an elaborate lie we’ve been living all these months. When people around Laurel started finding out they would just stare blankly, not sure what questions to even ask, then eventually, “Are Chip and Jo coming?”

(While they have been amazingly gracious mentors to us through this whole crazy journey, they definitely aren’t coming here. You just get me and Ben. Sorry about that!)

Jim said it’s like trying to drink water from a fire hose, and that’s exactly right. It’s hard to wrap our minds around it, still, and we’ve had over a year to digest it. The small town rumor mill has been hysterical:

“I heard Chad and Joanne from Fixer Upper are moving from Waco and redoing a house on Mason Park!”

“I heard the Property Brothers are doing a show about renovating bathrooms in Laurel, and Erin and Ben brought them here.”

“I heard Erin is pregnant and the Property Brothers are coming here to do a show about designing a nursery for Erin and Ben’s house because they asked them to.”

“I heard Erin and Ben are contestants on a house flipping show about Laurel.”

But here’s the truth:

Ben and I are the hosts of an hour-long HGTV original pilot called Home Town that will be premiering on Sunday, January 24 at 12pm est/11am cst! It’s a show about how we’re helping a new family find an old house in our historic little town, bringing them into the fold of our quirky, lovable neighborhood, and bringing together a team of local architects, builders and craftsmen to use our design and vision to restore the old house. That new family happens to be Ross and Laura, a couple who moved to Laurel recently and have been living on the far north side of town for a little while, but fell in love with the historic district in recent months and decided to make the move closer to the heart of the city. Ben and I aren’t home flippers, we’re just a woodworker and an artist who love our town and want to see it brought back to life the way it was in Laurel’s hey-day, and with the help of our friends, we’ll do just that. If people like our pilot episode, then we just might get picked up for a series!

It’s crazy. I know.

Maybe you remember the first part of this story. Last June, Lindsey started following me after Southern Weddings posted images of our house on instagram. Unbeknownst to me, she was an executive at HGTV and I certainly didn’t know she would be someone very special to us someday. Late at night on July 27, 2014, Lindsey emailed us and said, “Have you ever thought about doing anything on TV? Would you be interested in that?” to which we responded, we’ve absolutely never thought of that, but we are interested if you are interested. I mean, hello!

Lindsey is an executive in charge of original programming at HGTV in NYC and is the boss lady of some of America’s favorite shows like Fixer Upper and Property Brothers. Since then, after daily texts and trips together in NYC, Waco and Laurel, she’s become a very dear friend.

When she found my instagram photos she felt like Laurel was special. Something about our little town gave her a gut feeling that she needed to reach out, that something was here for her, and something about our small town life could make people all across the country nostalgic for a place they’ve never even been. She’s been a cheerleader for us and our city in immeasurable ways because she saw what we see, and has the ability to share that with the world in ways we could only dream of. Isn’t that kind of a miracle? It’s like mama was trying to figure recently—what are the odds of Laurel being chosen for a television show, and furthermore, what are the odds of one of the hosts being her daughter? The odds are infinitely small. They’re odds only God could have created.

And so Lindsey set us up with our amazing production company, RTR Media from Canada, we did the sizzle in November 2014, and on December 17, 2014, on our way home from meeting her in New York with Jim and Mallorie, we got the phone call that the network loved our sizzle… They were ordering a pilot to begin filming in the spring! And we were stunned…We had fallen in the pudding and had no idea how it happened.

In January, per Lindsey’s urging, we threw a hail Mary in hopes of convincing the incredibly talented producers of Fixer Upper seasons 1 and 2 to come on board for our pilot even though they were planning to take a long break after the shoot schedule they’d been on for the last 2 years. Thanks to this amazing video and the heartfelt care package full of letters and gifts from everyone in Laurel we could think of, they said “Yes!” and put Laurel on their calendar for filming. We were over the moon.

At this point, our production company began months of casting all the way from Canada. It was a slow process of them interviewing candidates via Skype who met all the criteria of the perfect Home Town folks with a certain kind of budget, home and renovation in mind. The couple who met all that criteria were Ross and Laura:

Let’s get the soundtrack right before you read on… You need to know that Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll and Hyde (Homegrown in particular) is literally the only album we listened to day in and day out of this crazy amazing summer.

“I’ve got some good friends that live down the street
Got a good looking woman with her arms ‘round me
Here in a small town where it feels like home
I’ve  got everything I need and nothing that I don’t

That was our anthem.

Click here, hit play, then keep reading.

The first week of May, the producers from NYC, Texas and Canada and the camera crew started rolling into town for their 2-month stay. May 14 was the first full shoot day with Lindsey, 2 cameramen (Tim and Freddy), 1 sound man (Brian), 1 camera assistant (Mik), 1 creative head/executive producer (Jenna), 1 line producer (Michael), 2 executive producer/directors (Stephen and Lauren), 1 director (Angie) and 1 production coordinator (Miranda) and 1 production assistant (our little brother Jesse). Did you wonder why he was here all summer? We had craft services for lunch each day and our favorite snacks (trail mix and Coke Zero) were never far away during the long hours thanks to Miranda, who made sure to always have a portable grocery store on set and a dry paper towel handy for Ben’s soaking wet brow:

Jim, Mallorie, Josh and Emily were so important to the show, helping us with projects and making Ross and Laura feel like part of the family. You know we can’t do much without our framily.

Here’s my photo journal from our great summer adventure. It makes my heart feel happy, remembering that strange and magical season of our life that feels so long ago and like it just happened, and maybe like it never happened at all, too.

We scouted some houses for Ross and Laura to consider:

Lindsey only came for the first week of filming. She’s a true New Yawker who isn’t used to the extreme mosquito situation we’ve got in Mississippi:

Y’all. Real estate day is the HARDEST DAY. Remember that, next time you watch a home renovation show. When they’re looking at houses to choose from, they are EXHAUSTED PEOPLE. Just ask Laura:

On May 12, I did watercolor paintings of my ideas for the homes the Tews were considering:

They couldn’t call Laurel their home town without attending the first movie night of the summer! Cameras were rolling all over downtown, and we truly couldn’t have orchestrated something more perfect. The crowds were huge and as expected, Laurelites rolled out the red carpet for the crew everywhere they went:

Notices were posted all over downtown about filming:

Did you know you’re not allowed to wear white on TV? The microphones they adhere to your body can show through a white shirt and it also makes you look washed out, so Ben will look like a stranger without his white t-shirt uniform on film. There is, however, plenty of Scotsman Co. love since those are the only approved t-shirts he had!
We learned the importance of ‘on the fly’ interviews, or as they call it, OTFs. I always was standing on a half-apple (a crate) so our heights weren’t so different and we fit in the frame together.

We found the perfect house and then knocked down some walls.
Lisa sent me this hammer a few weeks before filming with this note of encouragement: “Every woman should have her very own hammer. A tool that tears down and builds back up in equal measure.” I toted that thing to set every single day, and felt my friend was right there with me with every wall torn down on demo day and every painting hung the night before the reveal.

The guys took an architectural salvage mission to find the very thing Ben needed for a project:

While Mallorie and I hit all of our favorite antique shops to find things to fluff up the Tews’ interior:

And later, Emily helped Ben do a little research on the house at the city courthouse:

For 8 weeks, Ben was busy building 3 custom pieces of furniture for the house from reclaimed wood that had very sentimental meaning to Ross, while I was getting inspired by Ross and Laura’s personal history and family story and designing a home that felt like their past and their future with plenty of Laurel history stirred into the mix.

We had a porch hang, but you longtime readers know all about those:

We did a little fun design work for Laurel Main Street:

Our incredibly talented architect friends, Bill and Luke from Lake and Land, showed us how they had created the perfect layout for the Tews’ new old house:

We did more OTFs. Like, a whole lot of OTFs.

There were fun parties (like this, this and this) with mountains of good Mississippi cooking for the cast and crew (that’s one of our directors, Angie, on the left, and our line producer, Michael, on the right, and a photobomb by Luke):

A couple days before the reveal, we had dinner with some of our incredible boss ladies from RTR Media:

The night before reveal day, Ben snapped this photo when we brought our tools home for the last time. They had finished their job.

And then finally, it was reveal day! We showed the Tews their new house after 8 weeks of them not even so much as driving past. They were 100% clueless about what we had been up to!

I couldn’t have gotten that house fully decorated without Mallorie. We aren’t sisters, but we should’ve been.

Me and little brother, who worked SO HARD this summer, y’all. I’m crazy proud of him.

Ross and Laura were very very very very happy to finally see their new house. Many tears were shed.

And now we’re excited to tell you that soon you can tune into HGTV on January 24 and see what house they chose and how we turned it into their forever home and a love letter to Laurel, and we hope you’ll tell your friends and their friends and share it all over the place, because honestly… Finding the common thread of a family’s history and how to make that art is what I’ve been doing all along with invitations at Lucky Luxe, and it sure is fun to do that for a home. Especially when that home is in Laurel. I really think I would enjoy doing it for the long haul.

You know me. I think home is the best place on earth.

Keep up with Home Town happenings over on the official facebook page!

Life By Design: Kyle Hatfield

A long while back I discovered the instagram account of Kyle Hatfield and his Oklahoma home goods shop, American Hatfield, and it rang all the bells for me in the way of great home design—collected, not decorated, durable, Americana-inspired, a bit masculine, not precious, warm, inviting, all the things that a home should be in my estimation. We connected via our instagram friendship and I can’t get enough of his all-American style that I know you’ll love too if you haven’t already found out about him. I’m excited he’s sitting down with us to discuss his life by design today. Welcome, Kyle!

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Our senior designer, Sauce, says that when you’re an artist or designer professionally, “every choice is a design choice.” Do you see that in your personal life outside of your work?
I definitely feel  as an artist that my mind doesn’t shut off. I’m always thinking about stuff related to my passion. It annoys my other half because I’m always changing something or moving something around the house. I like change and creating new things. It’s good for the mind and keeps me growing as an artist, plus it’s a good way to express all the craziness in my head. 


What would your best day be like?
My best day would probably be waking up early, drinking some coffee on the front porch, checking out some yard sales or flea markets that morning then heading to the lake spending the rest of the day in the great outdoors with my family and friends, maybe watching a movie on the side of the old barn and building a bonfire that night. Of course, the absolute best day would be being able to enjoy those things with my mom again.
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Do you make an effort to design your routine and your life around the things and moments that give you joy?
For sure , I built school buses for 10 years, 10 hours a day in a plant without AC and heat and hated every day of it. I walked out at lunch one day and decided to do what I loved doing in my free time. It’s been 4 years, I’m my own boss and I’ve got total creative freedom. I feel fortunate even when money gets tight at times that I’m able to enjoy and do what I love and make money doing it. Life is short, so why not do what comes natural to you. Why not do what you love?

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How does your home reflect your life, your history, and your design choices?
As much as I love design, I love the outdoors just as much. I’ve grown up on a farm spending weekends near the lake, camping and exploring. My place is a reflection of that, vintage barn wood for a headboard, stumps for end tables. Wool camping blanket, antlers, and mounts throughout. I’ve got a few pieces in the house that belonged to my grandparents like the old fridge they bought brand new in the early ’40s and a hardware cabinet that came out of the old cotton gin in town. I like pieces of furniture that have history. Anyone can go out and buy something new, but what I enjoy is buying something old that has a story that goes with it. Imperfections. It’s what gives these great pieces character.

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Every person is a little weird in some way or another, and those weird things are important parts of what give us our personalities. For instance, I collect books with white spines and sleep with my baby blanket, and those objects feel significant to me and to my story. Tell me about a weird thing that’s essential to you.
Well one thing that’s a little weird I guess is I really enjoy driving old beat up vehicles. I have driven old Bugs and Ford trucks and now I’ve got an old VW van. I’ve been told I’m an old soul and the vehicles fit my soul. Something about driving an old truck on back roads with the windows down feels like home for me. I’ve never wanted to buy a new car—just old ones. A good vehicle is one that’s paid for!

Thank you so much, Kyle!

Keep up with Kyle Hatfield on instagram

Life by Design: Holly Mathis

If you haven’t found Holly Mathis and the gorgeous Chappell Hill, Texas home goods shop, True Blue Home, where she is creative director on instagram yet, you’ve been missing out. Her design style is perfectly ecclectic, layered, colorful, and classic all at once. Even photos of her rooms make you feel at home right away, and I feel fortunate that our paths crossed thanks to her brother who connected us, Jimmy Don Holmes, whom you might recognize from the hit HGTV show, Fixer Upper. Holly’s warmth and generous spirit put her high on my list of “people I MUST interview and learn things from,” and I’m so grateful that she took the time to talk to us about her life by design. Welcome, Holly!


Our senior designer, Sauce, says that when you’re an artist or designer professionally, “every choice is a design choice.” Do you see that in your personal life outside of your work?
Absolutely, but as my kids get older I am trying to let them have freedom in how they style their rooms and clothes. Not easy for a style control freak but there are so many little ways to make every day pretty and well designed. For me, I am not a gourmet cook (food and gardening are such a way to live a beautiful life… My long term goals include those areas!) but I don’t use paper plates. They may have chicken nuggets, but it’s going to be on a blue and white plate by golly!

What would your best day be like?
My kids would sleep in and wake up happy and I would have strong coffee, time with Jesus and creative time putting together rooms for my clients, then it would start to rain and we would make chocolate chip cookies and nap guilt-free because of my productive morning.  

Do you make an effort to design your routine and your life around the things and moments that give you joy?
Balance as a working mama is not easy, but it’s worth the rub. This is something I have been trying to grow into for years and continue to struggle with, but I do believe there is a sweet spot between work and routine and everyday joy.  When you do something you love it sure is easier and boy, am I grateful to get to do something I love that brings me joy and joy to others. What a privilege. My best advice to myself and others is to be intentional but give grace to yourself too. We creative entrepreneurs work hard and need to be present more in life—not just our work.

How does your home reflect your life, your history, and your design choices?
The best homes are well collected and evolve over time and they are just that,  homes, backdrops for stories—not magazine layouts.  Sure, you can be well-intentioned and create a beautiful life but what happens inside with your people is what matters.  For us, we love books and history.  We love the South and anything with a sense of history whether it’s a rug, old flag or stack of books. I am also not one of those designers that says “no photos.” I believe the opposite: photos, art by friends, framed letters, items from childhood and college, and books you love make a home special and more beautiful.

11238262_1695313840682146_356602518595168718_oTrue Blue Home, a home goods store where Holly is creative director in Chappell Hill, Texas.

Every person is a little weird in some way or another, and those weird things are important parts of what give us our personalities. For instance, I collect books with white spines and sleep with my baby blanket, and those objects feel significant to me and to my story. Tell me about a weird thing that’s essential to you.
I just can not handle a Sonic cup or any styrofoam cup in my house. I am obsessive about throwing them away. White bowls and clear glasses can litter my living room, I don’t mind if my kids eat in the living room—that is why I have slipcovers! But if you bring in a Sonic cup, you better watch out.

Thank you so much, friend!

Keep up with Holly here: instagram, website, True Blue home instagram, facebook, website

Erin & Ben interview in Southern Weddings V8

The day started off on a high note when I found the 2015 issue of Southern Weddings in my mailbox. This gorgeous magazine is a sister publication to Southern Living, so you can imagine the beautiful weddings inside. We did an interview on advice for newlyweds on making your first house a home and I couldn’t believe they gave it two whole pages!

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Pick it up and flip to page 258 for the full story. Here’s an excerpt:
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Marriage Mondays: Veronica & Justin Muir

A few years ago on his 29th birthday, I gave Ben a copy of A Book of Beards, featuring gritty photography of bearded men in high-definition black and white by Justin James Muir.

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His work is beautiful, and the proceeds from the sales went entirely to help pay the medical bills of Justin’s friend and brother who were both fighting cancer. It was a plus to find photos of the late Ryan Dunn, arguably my biggest high school crush and a dear friend to the Muirs, on its pages. Soon, I found Justin’s instagram account and followed along with his beautifully documented life in dramatic natural settings flooded in golden sunlight, his model girlfriend (now wife), Veronica, their life in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and travels around the northeast that make me want to be part of their tight-knit group of friends. Justin and the incredibly talented Sasha Israel are the folks behind We Laugh We Love, an artful wedding photography studio whose work many of you have probably seen and drooled over in recent years. Shortly after Justin and Veronica married, I reached out to the Muirs in hopes they may be interested in sharing their thoughts on marriage, and I feel lucky that they took the time to do that. Welcome, friends!

Tell me about how you met and how you felt about each other that first day. What eventually happened that made you each believe you would get married some day?

Veronica: Well, there’s two different stories to tell here, if you want to hear them both. Technically, the first time we met was at a music venue I used to bartend at here in West Chester. Justin was a touring musician from Rhode Island, and I happened to be working the night his band was playing. It was an an all ages show, so unfortunately for me, the place was packed with underage kids, and there weren’t many people drinking in the bar area, except for the guys in the bands. I remember taking notice of Justin because he was tipping me a couple bucks for every drink he got. Not to stereotype guys in bands, but in my experience, band guys rarely tip, and if they do, they aren’t tipping much. Oh, and did I mention how cute I thought he was? It’s funny because Justin doesn’t strike me was a shy guy what so ever, but he was so shy that night! However, other than a few flirty glances back and forth there was no conversation outside of serving drinks.  At the end of the night he came up asking if he could get anything for $3. I knew he spent most his money tipping me so I bought him a shot of tequila to say thank you for being generous. And that was it! About a month later he friend requested me on Facebook, but I didn’t recognize the name so I declined him. He wrote a really sweet message and then I remembered exactly who he was. We casually chatted on Facebook for about 8 months before we saw each other again. Cut to… our second meeting.

I had a job up in Cape Cod and on my drive up there we met for a quick dinner. I remember being really nervous to see him again, since the only conversations we had were through Facebook and text. Although I thought he was so handsome, I was only expecting our hangout to be friendly, nothing more. We went to a sushi restaurant and walked along the river in Providence all night. We had so much fun chatting all night he decided to drive up to Cape Cod a day later to see me. It was April and almost everything on the Cape is closed at that time of year, but we found little restaurant and bar that the locals went to. It ended up being so romantic and it wasn’t even supposed to be a date. We had oysters for dinner and then went for a midnight stroll on the beach and had our first kiss under the moon. He pretty much swept me off my feet. Nothing was ever the same after that night!

As far as realizing when I knew we would get married, I’m not sure I can pinpoint an exact moment. Justin is so kind and generous to everyone around him, but he was also smart, trustworthy, responsible, and could take care of himself. He demonstrated all the best traits of a partner from the very beginning. Most importantly we just had so much fun being together. We went on adventures and could be silly together. We also made a great team without losing ourselves in the process. I wish I could say there was this fairytale moment where we just knew we were supposed to be together forever, but the reality is it happened more organically. I’ve come to realize that those fairytale moments can be really misleading. To base your entire relationship off of one pinnacle moment can only lead you down. Instead of just having one, we like to say we have one everyday. Everyday our lives together get better and better. And because of that, we always have something to look forward to. 

first met

Justin: So the first day we met was a bit more memorable for me than it was for her. I was a musician at the time and had been touring around the country from a couple months. Our second to last stop of the tour was in city called West Chester, Pennsylvania, at a venue called The Note. I saw my lovely wife walk out of her car and into the club and she immediately made my head turn. She turned out to be the bar tender for the show I was playing. I didnt talk to her all night, but before last call worked up the nerve to say hello and ordered a whisky. She gave it to me for free, so I took that as a sign. Didnt end up getting her number, but through the wonderful world of Facebook was able to track her down and charm her via the interweb. She eventually had a job close to where I lived, so we decided to meet up and the rest as they say

The reason I knew she was it, was because she is the easiest person to be around and the most fun to be around. I dont think there was one moment that made me realize we would be married. I think it was a combination of all the time we spent together and figuring out how awesome we were together. Oh and we both love unicorns. 


Photo by With Love and Embers



Tell me the things that mattered most to you about your wedding day.

Veronica: Of course every girl wants their wedding to be beautiful and all that jazz, but one of the most important things to me was I wanted our friends and family to feel as special as possible. Every single person at our wedding contributed to our lives in so many ways, and we wanted to our guests to feel like it was about them too. Our success as a couple is undoubtedly due to the love and support that we have received from each and every one of our guests over the years. We wouldn’t be who we are without them. 

Justin: You can get married by yourselves at a courthouse, but we didnt. We invited 200 people and had them track to PA to watch it. So an important part of our wedding was the people. We both come from different states and now live together in a different state than our families. So there were a lot of different worlds colliding it was the best. There are pictures from our wedding of people who had never met before having the times of their life with each other and those make me so happy. And for Veronica and I, just having a relaxing day was important. No stress was our main goal and we nailed it. On the day of, at least. 


Photo by With Love and Embers

Planning a wedding can be stressful. It’s expensive. Your feelings all become so elevated about the event, and before you realize it’s happened, your relationship and the actual marriage can get put on the back burner almost like a reward for getting through the enormous party. How can a wedding become less about planning a party and more about the new family that’s beginning?

Veronica: Wow. Yes. This is so true. I think the planning was even more stressful than I ever could have imagined it would be. First of all, it was extremely important to me that we did premarital counseling. I don’t think Justin was totally into the idea when I first brought it up. It took a bit of convincing on my end, but he was willing to give it a shot. After our first meeting with Dawn, Justin was sold, and it ended up being one of his favorite parts of the planning process. We were able to learn how to fine tune our communication with each other, and see things from new perspectives, while also making the time for each other during a relatively stressful process. 

We also made a pact that the week before the wedding we would just let everything be what it was. If things weren’t completed to our expectations, we were just gonna be okay with it. And it gave us time to unwind and relax before the rush. Also, the morning of our wedding, I had planned to have our officiate, Dawn, do a yoga class with the girls in the morning. That was SOOO helpful in keeping me relaxed and present during our entire day. That is something I would recommend to every bride on their wedding day. It’s so important to have a relationship with yoga and meditation. Over the past few years I’ve learned healthy ways to deal with my stress and it’s been life changing for me. It definitely helped me stay focused on what’s important during the times when you think everything is about to fall apart! 

Justin: So Veronica and I were very aware that this could happen so about 6 months before we got married we started a marriage counseling class. Im not sure thats exactly what you call it, but we met with Veronicas yoga instructor and counselor about 15 times before we got married. Talking through what was important to us in our relationship and what was important to us on our wedding day. It was my favorite part about getting married. We really sculpted a ceremony that we were proud of and that meant so much to us both. 

pic form wedding day

Photo by With Love and Embers

How are you involved in each other’s career goals?

Veronica: Well, I’m probably Justin’s biggest fan when it comes to his career. I think he’s amazingly talented and such a hard worker. I think being happy in your career is so important, for yourself and your relationship. If Justin ever became unhappy doing what he was doing, I’d be the first person to encourage him to try something else. To me, your happiness is more important than the money you make. I’ll be happy as long as I have him by my side. Justin also has been a big supporter of me going back to school too. If it wasn’t for him, I might not have made the leap to do it as an older student. 

Justin: Veronica is my biggest supporter and I am her biggest supporter. Its really that simple. Right now I work A TON and she is very understanding of my hectic schedule. She even works with me from time to time on various shoots and projects. Veronica is still navigating her final career choice, and is back in school trying to work towards something that is meaningful to her. Its easy to say do what you love, Veronica and I say it all the time, but it’s harder to do something that is meaningful, and she is trying to find that. 


What advice would you each give to a newlywed?

Veronica: Well, I guess we haven’t been married long enough to say our advice should definitely be followed by newlyweds, since we are newlyweds ourselves. But what I can say is, through the 5+ years Justin and I have been together, I have realized there are three extremely important aspects of keeping a successful relationship going strong.

First is communication. It is so important that a couple is able to talk to each other about anything. Now this might sound easy, but it’s actually a lot more difficult than most people realize. It takes a lot of work to understand how to properly communicate with your partner so that they actually hear what you are trying to say. Find out what each other’s love languages are. Figure out if you are passive, passive aggressive, or aggressive communicator and then practice talking assertively. This leads in to the next important piece of advice.

Take responsibility for yourself. Be the kind of person you would want to be with. Sometimes we focus too much on what our partner isn’t doing that we forget to look at ourselves. When you focus on bettering yourself, everything around you will get better too. 

And lastly, as much as it is important to spend time together and be a unit, I think it’s just as important to be your own person too. I think sometimes it’s easy to lose yourself in your relationship, and as long as you are doing things for yourself you will never lose that sense of yourself. 

Justin: I dont think I’m fully equipped yet to give advice on marriage it’s only been 3 months. But relationship-wise, romantic or platonic, communication is the number one thing. If you cant say how you feel, or listen to how the other person feels, it’s going to make things a lot harder.

Thank you so much, Veronica and Justin. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate and enjoyed reading your thoughtful answers.

You can keep up with the Muirs here: We Laugh We Love, Justin’s website, Justin’s instagram, Veronica’s instagram, Justin’s Twitter

Life by Design: Carly Heitlinger

Carly Heitlinger, creator of The College Prepster blog, is a busy woman with multitudes of fans of her preppy style, and we’re tickled pink that she took a moment to share some of her quick thoughts on how she designs her days. Her autumn adventures around New York City and New England are our favorite of her instagram posts, so it’s the perfect time of year to welcome her to our blog. We’re so glad you’re here!

Baublebar Charm necklace

Our senior designer, Sauce, says that when you’re an artist or designer professionally, “every choice is a design choice.” Do you see that in your personal life outside of your work?
One of my favorite quotations is: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” To me, it means that we have ownership over our lives and we can build it however we envision!

College Prepster Desk

What would your best day be like?
A day spent outdoors with a good book and a picnic lunch!

Do you make an effort to design your routine and your life around the things and moments that give you joy?
I’m pretty realistic about what has to get done for the day. Especially working for myself, a lot of what I do isn’t glamorous. But I try to include a few things I love, whether it’s reading a couple of chapters before bed or taking my dog for an extra long walk in the afternoon. 

Sleepy Jones

How did you answer “What do you want to be when you grow up” when you were in grade school?
For a while I wanted to be a lawyer and then a judge– I even had a board game around court cases!

Every person is a little weird in some way or another, and those weird things are important parts of what give us our personalities. For instance, I collect books with white spines and sleep with my baby blanket, and those objects feel significant to me and to my story. Tell me about a weird thing that’s essential to you.
I used to hate to read! My elementary school placed a lot of emphasis on “incentivized” reading, which bugged me. Then we had so much assigned reading in middle and high school that I never had time to develop a love for reading… It wasn’t until college that I carved out time to read for enjoyment. Reading is such a huge part of my life now! It’s how I unwind, relax, and recuperate at the end of long days!

Thank you so much for dropping by, Carly!

You can keep up with Carly here: blog, instagram, pinteresttumblr, twitter, facebook

Marriage Mondays: Marianna & Micah Whitson

If you’ve read Garden & Gun, Southern Living or Design Sponge in the last 4 years, you’ve probably seen the letterpress prints by Old Try, each of them about home, many of them an homage to their ties to the South. We first were huge fans of their work, and in short order discovered Micah, Ben and I shared the same alma mater (Ole Miss—hotty toddy!), and found ourselves calling and texting each other on game days and sharing speaking engagements at the Ole Miss art department. Earlier this year we released our first collaboration, The Marrying Type, a marriage certificate which is a kind of marriage of what we each create at Lucky Luxe and Old Try. We’re proud to be friends of the Whitsons not just because they’re truly some of the good people in the world, but because the work they make has an earnest, Americana quality that makes people proud to be where they’re from. It’s a unifying work they do, and the world needs more of that, doesn’t it? Today, we’re spending some time talking about marriage with Marianna and Micah, which is something we’ve never covered in our friendly conversations so I’m excited to read along with you readers. Welcome, Whitsons!

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Raleigh print photo by Old Try

Tell me about how you met and how you felt about each other that first day. What eventually happened that made you each believe you would get married some day?

Marianna: We met on Micah’s first day at work at McKinney, an ad agency in Durham, NC. I had been there for a couple years already, working as an art buyer.  Micah was starting as a junior art director, having recently left portfolio school in Atlanta.  I thought that I’d like to move over to the art direction track, so a friend and I were working on some pro-bono ads on the side. Micah’s boss thought he could help us out on the project and introduced us.  

Micah: Since I lived in a new town, in a new state, and knew nobody, I gladly took up Marianna on her ‘If you need anything, just let me know’ offer. She was in the same apartment complex one building over, so the first night I went to knock and ask for a hammer. Then for directions to a grocery store. Then on the third night, a vacuum cleaner. She was shy and would hand me what I was asking for and then shut the door. On the forth night I returned her vacuum, and she, once again, shut me out in short order. As I left, I said ‘I will win that girl’s heart.’ And I did. 


Disclaimer from Micah: This is a frat-tastic Halloween costume 

Tell me the things that mattered most to you about your wedding day.

Marianna: In planning, the most important thing was the photographer!  Working as an art buyer, I really love photography, so I knew I’d want someone great. We booked Ken Luallen as soon as we had a date – a friend used him and we loved how the photos turned out.  It was important to make the day ours too, so we tried to keep a balance between what our families wanted and what we wanted.  On the day of, it all goes by in such a blur.  I liked having alone time together, right before the ceremony (for a “first look”) and right after.  We also had a really talented friend sing during our service and sing our first dance song which was really special.



Planning a wedding can be stressful. It’s expensive. Your feelings all become so elevated about the event, and before you realize it’s happened, your relationship and the actual marriage can get put on the back burner almost like a reward for getting through the enormous party. How can a wedding become less about planning a party and more about the new family that’s beginning?

We tried to be pretty laid back about planning.  We were living in Boston and planning a wedding in North Carolina.  It could have been a little crazy, so we were proactive in choosing a location that would help with everything.  They had a planner on staff and were in charge of all of the day-of things, which was nice.  With that (mostly) out of our hands, we had more time to devote to preparing for the marriage.  We did premarital counseling at our church which was really helpful in talking about some tough topics that should be addressed going into a marriage.  Looking back, the crafter in me would have loved a more DIY, but it was probably also a blessing that Pinterest wasn’t around then so we could be more focused on the foundation of the marriage instead of the little things no one will really remember in the end!


How are you involved in each other’s career goals?

Marianna: That question is a little complicated.  Old Try is really Micah’s baby, but for a few different reasons, it ended up being my day job instead of his. I’m currently doing the day-to-day of it and taking care of our 18-month-old daughter while he works at an ad agency. As far as my career goes, it’s a bit on pause at the moment, both in terms of what I am doing daily and in terms of knowing what I want to be doing in the future. It’s just where we are in life at the moment.  I know he’ll support me when I have a direction and the timing is right.  And I support him by running the daily Old Try stuff and taking care of things at home!


What advice would you give to a newlywed?

Marianna: I’d say the biggest advice I had is for the almost-wed. And that is to get your butts on the same page financially. Otherwise, it’s gonna be rocky. Enjoy every second of your wedding day (it goes by so fast!), but focus on the marriage itself. Spend lots of time traveling and doing things together so you have shared common experiences – once kids come along, you’ll miss it.

Thank you so much, Marianna and Micah!

Keep up with Old Try here: website, instagram, facebook, twitter, pinterest

Life by Design: Jackie Greaney

I’ve been a longtime follower of Jackie Greaney’s instagram, and I suspect if you have a weakness for all things all-American, plaid, L.L. Bean, New England cottages, and black labrador pups, you’re probably one, too. The world Jackie curates via her photos and posts is idyllic without being saccharine, genuine without being pretentious, and it makes such a friendly space in the internet world, you want to be part of it and never leave. Just ask Town and Country Magazine, who also love Jackie. Ben and I had breakfast with her in NYC this August and felt like we’d been friends for years.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I don’t know how we made new friends before instagram, which makes the world feel like one big college dorm sometimes, doesn’t it? Today we’ll sit down with Jackie and discuss how she designs her days, and I know you’re going to love getting to know her. Welcome, friend!


Our senior designer, Sauce, says that when you’re an artist or designer professionally, “every choice is a design choice.” Do you see that in your personal life outside of your work?

I think that when you have a certain aesthetic sensibility, you just sort of naturally gravitate toward the items and places and experiences that satisfy it. As I get older (30 is just two months away!) those choices, and knowing my preferences, seems to just get easier and easier.

Favorite Room

What would your best day be like?

A late summer morning spent exploring in a small, coastal, New England town that I’ve never been to before. It starts with french toast and bacon and includes a visit to a forgotten, over-stuffed vintage shop and a stroll through the historic district while snapping a million photos. 

Do you make an effort to design your routine and your life around the things and moments that give you joy? 

Surely. For us a lot of that joy comes from jaunts outside of the city, and making those jaunts a priority. If we can’t afford to stay in the cutest or most well-designed place, we’ll book something cheaper and I’ll bring bedding or accessories from home that make it feel more like “us.” You’d be surprised what a couple of throw blankets and a cozy rug can do for a raw cabin, for example.

How did you answer “What do you want to be when you grow up” when you were in grade school?

A teacher. My second grade teacher told my parents that she was “worried I was after her job.”

Question 5

Every person is a little weird in some way or another, and those weird things are important parts of what give us our personalities. For instance, I collect books with white spines and sleep with my baby blanket, and those objects feel significant to me and to my story. Tell me about a weird thing that’s essential to you.

I cherish my own space. My boyfriend Sebastian and I have lived together in New York City for 4 years, but within our apartment, we have always had our own bedrooms. I love that we can share our lives and our living area while also maintaining rooms that are defined (and designed!) as our own. The setup also means we get to skip all of those “pick that laundry up off the floor!” conversations. If I don’t like the state his room is in, we can just go to mine (and vice versa).

Thank you so much, Jackie!

You can keep up with Jackie here: instagram

Marriage Mondays: Rachael & BJ Barham

Ben, my husband and Lucky Luxe co-owner, lived in North Carolina for several years of his growing up while his dad was in graduate school at Duke and went to high school there in a tiny town called Reidsville. I always heard the stories of his old friends there, about playing basketball and senior day mud fights, and more often than not, stories about his buddy BJ Barham would come up, too. He was the token high school friend with a garage band everyone loved. In college, Ben would receive the occasional message on facebook inviting him to one of BJ’s Mississippi shows on American Aquarium‘s national tour routes, and he would brag to people, “My buddy’s band is gonna make it, y’all. They’re gonna be huge.” One day I was scrolling through my newsfeed and saw a video someone had posted of a live American Aquarium show, and I had to get my jaw up off the floor. I’d never heard them before, and loved the way it felt like all the best things about alt-country and 90s alt-rock were in their music. I became a big fan, and Ben said, “I told you so.” We finally met after college at one of their shows in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and again at Ben’s 10 year high school reunion where we also met BJ’s adorable (then) girlfriend, now wife, Rachael, whose incredible collection of vibrant, beautifully done tattoos belie her sweet and quiet spirit.

Nowadays, Mr. and Mrs. Barham and their French bulldog, Bueller, share a beautiful home in Raleigh, North Carolina when he isn’t on the road with American Aquarium. His band shares a publicist with Bruce Springsteen, rubs elbows with Ryan Adams and Dwight Yoakam, and is getting big love from Rolling Stone Magazine and CMT, so, it sounds like they’ve arrived. Today I’m proud to share our interview with the brand-newlyweds who know a thing or two about making a long-distance marriage work.


Photo by Miguel Emmanuelli

Tell me about how you met and how you felt about each other that first day. What eventually happened that made you each believe you would get married some day?

Rachael: Our love story does not start off with a once upon a time! I met BJ in Jacksonville FL (where I was living). I was actually on a first date with someone else, and the band that was opening up the show were friends of mine. I was actually headed out after their set, but a coworker told me I should stay for the next guy because she thought I would really like him. BJ started singing those sad songs of his and I started talking, at which point he immediately yelled at me from stage. A little embarrassed, I shut up. After the show, I made my way to my friends to say goodbye, and BJ just so happened to be right next to them. I told him the show was great and asked him where he was from (I liked his deep southern accent). As soon as he mentioned he was from North Carolina I pushed my then-roommate in front of him, and said “her too” and left. As luck would have it, we all ended up at the same bar later that night, but we never spoke. The next morning the old Facebook worked its magic and I had a friend request from you-know-who. Now here is where our versions will differ about who wrote who, and how this whole thing got started (he started it!). But, because our relationship slightly overlapped with previous ones I am going to skip some details and just say this—something that started off very casual became serious quickly (so quickly, neither one of us really noticed for a while). We spent every day, all day texting, telling each other things you would never tell someone you were trying to impress or date, because we didn’t think it was going to ever get that far. Then, poof —before I knew what hit me, I was in love. In just 7 months here was this person who knew everything about me, and never once judged me. Again, fast-forwarding past a few messy details, decisions were made and that was that. I had, against some pretty terrible odds, found the person everyone hopes to find. The person that just gets them, that makes them whole. I never felt incomplete before BJ, boyfriends came and went without ever really phasing me. At the risk of sounding even more cheesy than I already have, BJ was a piece of me I never realized was missing – but now I hope to never know a day without him.

BJ: I met Rae at a show in Jacksonville,FL (where she is from) while I was on an acoustic tour in 2011. She was on a date with someone else and really didn’t seem to have any interest in me. She talked throughout the show and I called her out from stage and asked her to be please be quiet because other people actually wanted to see the show. I think I embarrassed her. I tried talking to her after the show but she kept insisting that I talk to her friends instead so I took that as an “I’m not really into you” kinda vibe. The next morning I woke up and checked Facebook and she had written “good show” on my wall. That led to me sending a friend request, which then led to me sending a message, which then led to me asking for her number. We texted night and day for about 2 or 3 weeks and then we decided to see each other. After our first date (a taco place in Athens,GA) I knew that she was the one for me. She is the female version of me. From the things we find funny to the sordid stories of past relationships, we are the same person. We spent months getting to know each others deepest and darkest secrets and neither of us ran away. I had finally met someone that didn’t judge my past. This was the “love” and “acceptance” that should only have a place in a cheesy romantic comedy, but it was right in front of me. We dated for a year, then she moved to Raleigh, then after two years of seeing the best/worst of each other, I asked her to be my wife, and she said “yes.” Not the most conventional road to ever after, but I’ll take it.


 Tell me the things that mattered most to you about your wedding day.

Rachael: Of course I wanted everything to look nice, and go smoothly, but our families were meeting for the first time, so I was most concerned with everyone feeling comfortable. Also, 95% of our family and friends were coming from out of town, I felt like needed to play host as well as bride which made me a little (a lot) cranky at times, but at the end of it, the most special part of the day, aside from marrying my favorite human on the planet, was that my mother and father were both there to walk me down the aisle. My dad has been ill the majority of my life, and my mother is the glue that holds my family together and to have the two of them by my side on that day was just perfect.  

BJ: I think I may be the only groom in the history of groom-dom that cared more about the wedding than the bride. Rachael just wanted to elope at the courthouse but I was pretty insistent that we have a proper wedding. All I cared about was my friends and family being there to watch me commit my life to this woman. Our story is not believable. When I tell other people how we got together they laugh and think I’m joking. I wanted them to see how real this was. How a woman changed every view I had on relationships in the matter of a few months. The most important thing to me was keeping it low key. We paid for the wedding ourselves, 100% out of pocket, so we didn’t want it to be this extravagant event. Good food, open bar, friends and family. That’s what we set out to do and I feel like we nailed it.

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Photo by Miguel Emmanuelli

Planning a wedding can be stressful. It’s expensive. Your feelings all become so elevated about the event, and before you realize it’s happened, your relationship and the actual marriage can get put on the back burner almost like a reward for getting through the enormous party. How can a wedding become less about planning a party and more about the new family that’s beginning?

Rachael: I may not be the best person to ask— or maybe I am. Unlike most relationships, BJ was the one that wanted the traditional (I use that loosely) wedding. If I had my way, we would have taken all the money spent on food, and cake, and everything else and spent a month in Costa Rica instead of a week. However, I am glad we did have a wedding day instead of just running to the courthouse, mostly because our parents probably would have killed us. Don’t lose sight of why you’re really doing this. Your family and friends are not there to eat fancy food or listen to a popular band. They are there to be blinded by your love for the day. Money is one of the major reasons couples fight, so there is no point in putting yourself in debt for a party you will hardly remember. In my opinion spend your money on a great photographer, they will make even the dirtiest rock and roll club look magical (see my wedding photos). Weddings are special, but ultimately they are still just a party. During the planning process just keep reminding yourself, the little stuff does not matter. No one but you really cares about your tablescapes or floral decorations. You didn’t need the perfect lighting or flower crown to fall in love, you certainly don’t need them to say “I do.” Just relax, some things are probably going to go wrong, and that’s okay. As long as you and your partner are there to say those very special words in front of the people you care most for, that’s it. The wedding will be a success.

 BJ: You have to understand that at the end of the day, it’s just a big party. It’s not going to go perfectly. There will be surprises and glitches, but its about something so much bigger than that. Its you and your partner, committing the rest of your lives to each other, in front of the people that matter the most. If you keep that in mind, it makes trimming the fat a lot easier. We started off with a 200+ person guest list and narrowed it down to 75. We only invited the people that we knew would make it a priority to be there. Every single person we invited came to the wedding. They didn’t come for the over the top ice sculptures or a 5 star chef cooking a limited menu. They came to eat BBQ, listen to a rock n roll band, and watch two people they care about become one. When you realize that is what you are planning, it becomes a lot easier.

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Rachael and BJ’s custom Lucky Luxe wedding invitations

IMG_1437 Photo by Miguel Emmanuelli

How do you each envision your marriage 10 years from now?

Rachael: Well in 10 years BJ will be 41 and I will be less than 6 months away from turning 40, so I assume I will be having a slight nervous breakdown. Aside from the mass quantities of wrinkle cream I’m already thinking about buying just writing this—I’d like to think the Barham Farm will be in full swing. We are in the beginning stages of looking for our first home now (which we’ve named the Barham Farm), so by 2025 BJ should be touring less and home more, our daughter (fingers crossed) will be 7ish, and that should be really fun! We are still a few months away from our first wedding anniversary so 10 years holds so many possibilities, I am sure we will have had our ups and downs, but there is no doubt we will grow stronger from them. Marriage takes work. It is not easy to make a lifelong commitment to always put someone else before yourself. I look forward to the challenge. The last few years with BJ have taught me a great deal about myself, and I’ve grown so much. He is truly the best man I have ever met and he doesn’t make a single decision without considering our best interest as a family. So I can only hope that a photo of us 10 years from now would show: two strong individuals still very much in love, a healthy and happy child, and maybe just a couple of French bulldogs, goats, and chickens!

 BJ: A lot has changed since we got married. The band has seen its first bit of national success. I’ve been sober for over a year (8/31) and me and Rae are starting the process of buying our first home. 10 years from now I hope she still looks at me the way I look at her. I’ve never met anyone in my entire life that exudes the things that woman does. She does it for me. The worst day in the world can be cancelled out with a 2-minute chat on Facetime. I hope that never changes. Kids are definitely in the equation. 2 is my ideal number. I can’t wait to be a dad. I know a lot of guys fear that step but I am ready to welcome it for sure. So, 10 years from now… Home. Kids. Happy. If I can have all three, then I’m the luckiest dude on the planet.


What advice would you each give to a newlywed?

Rachael: Don’t forget how much you love each other and why you got married in the first place. “Marriage is a humbling experience. It is part skill, part luck, elbow grease and blind determination. It isn’t always pretty.” I think that quote by Michele Weiner-Davis sums it up better than I ever could. After the honeymoon it’s time to face reality, each person has lived their whole life as an individual and now you’re a team. Remember you are not always going to see eye to eye on everything, so try to look at things from your partner’s point of view. No one is easy to live with all of the time, so just close your eyes and remember how you felt when you said “I do.”  

BJ: Everyday gets better and better. You notice things about your wife that you never even thought about before. Everyday I fall more and more in love with this woman. She is the strongest, smartest, most independent person I have ever met and she teaches me so much about myself everyday. Appreciate your mate. Never make them feel inferior. You are equals and in this for the long haul. Don’t go to bed angry with each other. Never stop trying to impress her. Tell her you love her every chance you get.

Thank you so much, friends. I hope you readers will check out American Aquarium’s tour dates and see them live the next time they’re in your neck of the woods. You’ll love them!

Keep up with Rachael here: instagram

Keep up with BJ here: website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube