I have such a treat for you with this month’s Heart & Home post. Bethany Riggs is artist-turned-mother of two, who truly uses her home as one giant canvas. You will be blown away by her use of color and textures, her skillful DIY trickery, and her elements of kid-friendly decor all throughout her home. What’s even more special, is getting to know this mom. She will give you a good laugh but also knows how to seriously talk about decorating your home. I know you will love this interview and this gorgeous Baton Rouge home. Enjoy!
Q: Tell us a little about you and the family who lives here.
I’m a stay-at-home mom with a B.F.A. in Fine Art, with a concentration in Painting and Drawing. I’m also an interior design junkie and have an affinity for swearing and margaritas. My husband’s name is Jeremy. He works for AT&T as a phone technician, and is currently going to school for Business Management and International Finance. He’s been working in construction-related fields since he was 14, and is a very talented handyman. We have two children, a boy and a girl. Jack is 6, and Indigo is 3. They are both smart, sassy, highly creative, problem solvers, and excessively energetic. They love running around at top speed, playing dress-up, jumping off of high things, painting, and snacks. Jeremy and I call them our squirrels, because they behave very similarly.
Q: What do you love about living in Baton Rouge?
I love how friendly most of the people here are. We moved here from a large, military-based city, and the sense of community that Baton Rouge has is refreshing. I have such an awesome group of friends here and am meeting more great people all the time. We also love the cultural diversity in this city. Within 10 minutes of my house, in nearly any direction, you can find authentic Thai, Greek, Indian, Himalayan, and Chinese cuisine, and the restaurants are run by people who are actually from those countries. We are a very food-loving household, and the range/quality of the food scene in Baton Rouge is impressive. All of the festivals and celebrations, of which there are many, can be a lot of fun too.
Q: Give us a peek into a typical day for you.
A typical day usually begins with the kids waking up at least two hours before I’d like them to. We have slow, restful mornings that consist of TV watching, play dates, and free play time. After lunch, we do a few hours of schoolwork (we homeschool) and chore time. In the late afternoon/early evening, the kids play while I start dinner and/or browse Pinterest for dinner ideas until it’s time to hit a drive-thru somewhere. Nobody’s perfect, amiright? Bedtime is supposed to be at 7 pm, but my children are masters at dragging their feet when it comes to any bedtime-related activity; it’s the only time of the day when they aren’t moving at approximately 200 mph. By 8:30 or so, my husband and I usually collapse in exhaustion and watch some Netflix, although we have also been known to paint some walls, hang new light fixtures, or grout tile at 9 pm. We’re pretty dedicated DIYers.
Q: Tell us about your art.
As I mentioned, I have a B.F.A. in Fine Art. Painting is my true love, although I rarely have the time/energy/supplies to paint like I did in college. Much of the artwork in our house has come out of my desperate need to paint while still being able to occupy two children who are too smart for their own good. I discovered years back that house paint is a great medium for doing large, abstract works, and it’s way cheaper than artist’s paint. I use the leftovers from our own house projects, as well as regularly hitting up the mistint section at Lowe’s or Home Depot. You can get a gallon of some really great colors for $10 or less. It flows easily and so it lets the kids get really dynamic with the process; they can splatter, drip, smear, mix, and even shove their hands and feet into it and run around on the canvases, which I just lay on the floor.
Q: How has your love of art been passed to your children?
As they’ve grown, they’ve basically taken over my studio (a shed in the backyard) and have turned out some really beautiful pieces. For them, the end result is not important; it’s not even really a consideration. They love the process, they love the colors, they love experimenting, they love the physicality of working with big brushes and large canvas areas. And I love watching them play and learn and create wonderful things. I don’t love cleaning them up afterwards, but in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, so it goes. I even opened an Etsy shop for them to sell their work in for a little while, but it was too much extra effort to try to get it off the ground. However, my kids are always willing to sell a piece in exchange for enough money to buy a new Lego set or some candy. So if you need a nice abstract painting and aren’t independently wealthy, come shop my house!
Q: A lot of the items in your home are DIY. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from doing things yourself?
Doing things yourself is both harder and easier than you’d imagine. It’s easier because so many of the skills required are not as specialized as you’d think (anybody can paint a wall and YouTube has so many tutorials it’s ridiculous). It’s harder because, you know, you have to actually do the work yourself. But it’s also so, so, SO much cheaper. We have saved untold amounts of money while still getting completely customized work simply because we did it ourselves. We’re also great budget shoppers. We have multiple pieces of furniture that have been pulled off a curb somewhere and fixed up; the kids’ play kitchen is one such item. We’re not afraid to look like scavengers on the night before the trash gets collected. I also go to Craigslist first for nearly everything. You’d be amazed what kind of deals you can get. Both the grey dresser in the school room and the blue dresser that serves as our entertainment center came from Craigslist, and I didn’t pay asking price for either. People are willing to make deals if you’re willing to drop everything and go pick something up that same day. So you can find a piece that fits the function you need, and then make it meet the form you want. Those two dressers are actually the exact same dresser, refinished differently. Paint color, hardware, removing a door here, distressing a surface there….you can make it look exactly how you want and spend less than you would for a nice dinner out. Plus, you get bragging rights when everybody oohs and aahs over your handiwork. There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get when you work hard and make something beautiful.
Q: What is your philosophy when it comes to hanging things on walls?
My philosophy is something along the lines of: “Blank wall space? Challenge accepted!” I have too much artwork from the kids and my past and my other talented artist friends to leave it all in storage somewhere. I also crave colors and refuse to discriminate on something I love simply because it doesn’t “match” my décor. So over the years, my décor has just gotten very eclectic and colorful, and now matching isn’t an issue. I also don’t go for structured or perfectly aligned/arranged groupings. I enjoy that look, but it simply isn’t realistic for me, as I have neither the patience nor the time to measure or map out a design. I usually just put things up willy-nilly and hope for the best. I’ve been known to use postcards and paint chips to fill in gaps that were unintentionally too large. My walls have a lot of small nail and thumbtack holes in them from this system, but whatever. Anything I want precisely hung has to be done by my husband; he’s got calibrated eyeballs and a level, and he’s not afraid to use them.
Q: How has your home and your style changed since having kids?
My style hasn’t changed too much, honestly, but my approach to it has. Everything that comes into this house has to be durable, or else placed securely out of reach (and with a daughter who likes to climb bookshelves, “out of reach” has become more and more of a mythical place that exists only in my dreams and home décor magazines). So instead of filling shelves with a lot of breakable decorative items, I’ve brought most of our books out to the main living space. Books can bring punches of color, texture, and shape to a space based on how you arrange them. Plus, you can never have too many of them, they don’t require much dusting, and if they get knocked off a shelf, they usually survive. I’ve also had to compromise on my furniture choices. Sure, that $3,000 leather sectional sofa would look fabulous in here, but only for about 5 minutes, at which point somebody would jump on it while holding a sharpie and then I’d cry. So this $600 cloth one will work; it’s the right color, shape, and size, and if it looks like crap in 10 years, then we’ll have gotten our money’s worth. It has the same visual impact without all the expense and potential heartbreak. That’s pretty much how we operate around here nowadays.
Q: What do you hope your children remember about this home?
I hope they remember how much fun it was to be here. I hope they remember being surrounded by art and books and friends and comfort. I hope they remember feeling free to explore and experiment and learn without fear of “ruining” everything. I hope they remember the feeling of pride and accomplishment they get from seeing their handiwork on the walls and from hearing people compliment it.
Q: What is the greatest lesson you have learned since becoming a mom?
Nothing will ever be exactly what you want it to be. Your house will never be completely clean or perfectly arranged, and in fact will be constantly dirtied despite your best efforts and rearranged without your consent. Your furniture will have marker on it, your valuables will get broken, your clothes will get stained, and in the end, you won’t really care. The memories you make will never be the ones you thought you’d make, but they’ll usually be a whole lot better for being unexpected. So let go of expectations and just enjoy whatever happens as it happens. You’ll only make yourself (and your kids) miserable if you try to force everything to live up to some idealized standard of “good.”
Also, margaritas are pretty much essential.
Bethany, thank you so much for opening your doors and letting us in. I know I am left feeling SO inspired! I just love how real you are with your home and your approach to design. Moms, what was your favorite part? The massive artwork? The wall collage? Or how about that incredible indoor play gym?! I totally want one of those now. 🙂