The holiday season provides each of us with a hallmark moment (no pun intended) for trying new things when it comes to home décor. For the very intrepid among us, this extends even to large-scale projects and complete room renovations. We recently sat down with Molly Tally, creator/curator of The Honest Home Blog (also on Instagram: @thehonesthome_), to discuss her approach to design as a self-taught DIY-er.
As a professionally trained figure skater and fully committed stay-at-home mother of two, Molly has several candid reflections to share about what it takes to stay creative in a noisy world while resisting the temptation of falling into the comparison trap when speaking with other content creators and DIY influencers.
How would you describe the "method behind the madness" as a DIYer and devoted stay-at-home mom?
I’m definitely wearing many hats at all moments, so it’s important for me to compartmentalize the different blocks of time in my day. I have to ensure that I devote 100 percent of my attention to my daughters when it’s time to focus on them, and to also put 100 percent of my energy and effort into my creative projects when I’ve blocked off the time to work. The reality is that I won’t be good at either role if I try to be 50 percent DIYer/content creator and 50 percent mom all the time.
I also take my role as a role model very seriously. It’s important to me to keep my daughters involved in what I'm doing. Even though I don't incorporate them in my blog or social content very often, they love to be involved in the handiwork that goes on behind the scenes. I just have to always be mindful of where my attention is going. If I’m distracted by my phone during game time, I’m not filling up my kids’ love cups.
Truthfully, I also have a habit of staying up at night working on things that I'm passionate about. It’s all about choosing in the moment what needs your attention the most and then finding enough time to do the things that make you happy so you can turn around and do things for others, especially your family.
Is there a secret element that helps to explain your success in transforming different spaces throughout your home?
As a content creator, I have to tell the story behind every new project in a way that's captivating. I can’t overwhelm my audience with details, and I have to try to keep in mind the entertainment value of my content as well. And of course, I have to know what I’m doing. This may seem funny, but I do have two personal rules to help me stay focused on the right things at the right times:
- Don’t over-consume other people’s content, even when you really look up to them.
We’re fortunate to be part of a DIY community that is supportive and encouraging. However, for those of us who are also content creators, we have to be careful not to overwhelm ourselves with the creative approaches of others. If we absorb too much of their influence, it can narrow our own creativity to the point that we suddenly can’t see past what they are doing.
2. Regularly shut it off for at least 24 hours.
Instagram is a hamster wheel. It’s a beast that’s never full, and there’s always someone to message back or something to post. You can never be done, which can keep you stuck in “task mode” instead of being creative. For that reason, I have to give myself time to disconnect, not only from Instagram but also from my creative projects. I have to give myself space and time to be creative again afterward.
Sometimes this means saying “No” at first to things that will eventually require a “Yes” from me. I’m not saying that I’ll never respond to comments and questions on Instagram, but while I’m in “shutting if off” mode, I have to be all-in for the sake of staying creative when I get back to those interactions, new projects and content.
Since we’re gearing up for the holiday season, we have to ask which is your favorite look in home design: “Holiday” or “Everyday”?
Is “Everyday Holiday” an option? Honestly, I lean more towards "Everyday" but love the holiday season as well. I am a storyteller by nature, and I know that it's a challenge to tell people what you want them to think and feel without using words. In terms of updating my home for the holidays, I bring that mentality into my home.
For me, Christmas is all about evoking a warm, loving and peaceful feeling. When people walk into my home, this is what I want them to feel. I don't want them to feel like it's Santa's workshop, but I do want them to feel calm. That’s why I like to use candles and warm lighting in my holiday décor, and I'll offer a cup of coffee or a cookie when you visit.
Let’s talk about your beautiful fireplace, which includes a German smear technique on one of our stone profiles. How did you make your design selections for this space?
I find beauty in many styles, so I suppose you could say that my personal aesthetic is interesting and not entirely on-trend. While I want it to feel somewhat trendy, I also want it to feel timeless. For the fireplace specifically, my inspiration came from the city of Antigua, Guatemala. After my sister adopted her son, who is from Guatemala, we visited Antigua and I fell in love with the character and beauty of that place. Every time we visit, I am reinspired. Walking around, I couldn’t help but wonder who had walked those streets in the past and who had built those buildings.
Many of the buildings include stonework, and I knew that someone a long time ago had quarried them from the nearby mountains, carved them into their exact shapes and placed them piece-by-piece. In replicating that aesthetic for my fireplace remodel, I knew that the only way to achieve that same sense of deliberate design would be to take the same approach.
While I live in a standard builder home, I firmly believe that it’s possible to respect that style while also bringing in other elements from places I love such as Antigua.
What was the biggest lesson you learned as you worked on the fireplace installation?
From a practical standpoint, this was an incredible learning experience for me. The biggest lesson, I think, is that mortar is really tricky! Every time I mixed a bag of mortar, I was struck by how it reacts and could potentially get into my lungs, which re-emphasized the need for safety in the work space. My husband's a doctor, so he got me a medical-grade mask, and then I had a whole getup in addition to that.
Emotionally, this project was something I took on to challenge myself. I wanted to accomplish something that was really hard and would push me to ask questions rather than relying on myself alone. The pros know what they know for a reason, and it’s good to learn from them.
In my opinion, and I know this is swimming upstream against our culture for some people, you can be a stay-at-home mom and still do things for yourself and your family. A project like this may (and did) require a lot of late nights and sometimes feeling a little tired with your kids the next day, but that’s a trade that I’m willing to make. I would rather stay up late to get the project done, step by step, so that I can devote all of my attention to my kids when they’re awake.
Time with my kids is money in the bank, but I also want my daughters to see big moments of growth like this one. I want them to see me face my fears and tackle things that intimidate me, like a stone fireplace with a German smear technique, or starting a blog and Instagram account in the first place.
What does your family think about the new look?
They love it. My husband is very supportive and kind, and he never says "you shouldn't do that." He was so impressed with the way it turned out. And my five-year-old would wake up every morning and ask if the fireplace was done yet. She thinks the finished fireplace is so pretty.
Now that it's decorated for Christmas, they fell in love with it all over again. When we put up the real greenery on the mantle, my five-year-old was so excited and mentioned that she likes it better than our fake Christmas tree!
I thought the décor really needed to reflect the fireplace as well. I didn't want to do anything overly bright, but something clean and classic, with a traditional appeal to match the rustic and timeless feel of the fireplace. I love to sit on my couch and look at the fireplace, and think about how I did something similar to the way the people of Antigua did it in Guatemala.
What comes next?
Oh, boy. Every year for Christmas, I do something super fun for my girls. Interacting with them is important to me, and I don't want to give them just another toy. So each year I've made something unique with my own two hands. Two years ago, I created a French Market with a replica of the local macaron shop we enjoy. Last year, we added a Candy Shop. This year, I have just enough time left to finish a Bubbles & Band-Aids pet care station.
My next big project is to re-do our master bedroom, and I'm hoping to incorporate a stone wall as the headboard.
Sarah Lograsso is the Director of Marketing for Boral North America’s stone division of brands (Cultured Stone, Eldorado Stone, Kindred Outdoors + Surrounds, Versetta Stone, Dutch Quality, StoneCraft and ProStone), where she manages all of the brands’ marketing, advertising and promotional projects and objectives. She is well versed in manufactured stone and brick veneer, masonry techniques, biophilic design, fireplace surrounds, outdoor living, fire bowls, color and texture, and up-to-date industry and market trends.