quickly learned the important things that truly make a house a home many years ago, when the military had Kennesha and her husband moving around frequently — they moved 10 times in the first 10 years of their marriage. What she learned from those travels, their constant flexibility, and her faith is that the feeling you impart on a home — creating a home that restores all who enter — is the most coveted item you can decorate with.
When Kennesha found herself starting a 11 years ago as a means to display her furniture restoration projects, she never in her wildest dreams thought it would eventually lead to writing a book. But it did, and Kennesha’s first book, , comes out tomorrow! We’re so honored to have Kennesha speaking with us today about her journey to writing Restoration House, what she values most about home, and how fostering has impacted her family’s life and and the space they share together. —
We’re so excited to share that Kennesha’s publisher, Harper Collins, is giving away a signed copy of Restoration House to 5 lucky Design*Sponge readers! For a chance to win one copy, please answer the following question in the comments section below by May 10, 2019 5PM EST: What makes a space feel like home to you? We’ll announce the winners (selected at random) in the comments section, so be sure to check back!
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You mention in your book that you moved 10 times in the first 10 years of your marriage. What tips did you learn over time when it comes to being flexible, and how did you make each space feel special within its own short time period?
I learned pretty quickly that you can’t take everything with you when you go. The military taught me that some things we use in our homes are for seasons, and I still have that mindset – even though we are no longer in the military. It’s a skill I have learned to embrace because sometimes it is liberating to “let stuff go.” For me, I cannot handle a lot of stuff tucked away so I’m constantly purging and getting rid of items that do not serve purpose in some way in my life or home. As for making each space feel special each time, I think putting up artwork and photography on the walls, hanging panels on the windows and accessorizing with personal items have always been ways that I attempt to make a temporary space feel a little more permanent and more like home.
How did your blog come to be, and ultimately, when did you know that you wanted to make a book from that?
I originally started my almost 11 years ago. It grew out of a need, at that time, to have a space to showcase the furniture pieces I was refinishing and selling. The blog has always been a place for me to express myself creatively but over the years, it became more of a space to offer reflective and inspirational writing to my readers. I received a ton of positive feedback from readers. I realized that I enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would, and I learned how to combine it with more visual creativity (tablescaping, interior styling, etc.). The book deal honestly blindsided me in some ways. I never set out to be an author or publish a book. It’s just never been a life goal for me. Yet, here I am. Life surprises us sometimes in the best ways. I consider this book one of those surprises.
What are your strongest memories of what "home" meant as a child, and were there any items or themes that have found their way into your home now?
Home, for me, wasn’t always an amazing place to be. I always feel the need to temper that statement. I didn’t grow up in a traditional home. My mom and dad weren’t together, and I was basically raised by all of the strong women in my life – my mother, my grandmother and a host of aunts. Many of my memories are good. I am from the South, so family was a big deal in our home. Some of my most fond memories are when my cousins would visit. Being raised as an only child wasn’t always fun – unless it was Christmas or my birthday. I was the only child in the house for many years, so I was lonely sometimes. When the cousins came it was like I experienced a little bit of heaven each time. We were raised like brothers and sisters.
I don’t have much in the terms of heirlooms or home items that I have in my home now from my childhood home, but my grandmother loved moss green. When I was a little girl, we had olive green carpet and olive green velvet accent chairs. Now that moss green color is one of my faves. You’ll find sprinkles of it in almost every room of our home. Since I don’t have much that was passed down to me, I’ve developed a love for vintage and antique items. I love using them in our home. I guess, in a sense, you could say I am creating that for our kids and I love how they make a home feel.
And what does home mean to you now?
Home is everything to me now. It’s a place of rest and retreat. It’s a place where we can just “let it all hang out.” It is a safe haven.
You're a fan of restoring and DIYing pieces - what's been one of your favorite projects, and what project taught you a new set of skills that really changed your restoration game?
I’m not sure if it necessarily changed my restoration game, but I restored an 18th-century cabinet that was in extremely poor condition. It wasn’t a piece that I did for a client, it was for me and my creativity. So, I took as long as I needed on it. It took me about four months to complete, and I ran into road bumps as many of the pieces that needed to be replaced were hard-to-find reproductions of. I loved discovering new ways to restore different types of woods and hardware through that project as well as new decorative paint and aging techniques.
What are some overlooked or underrated items one could find at a vintage or antique market that hold potential for big transformations?
Some of my most favorite things to grab when I’m thrifting are textiles and handmade pottery. I think the pottery has become pretty trendy these days. Many artists now specialize in creating and selling their own, but I love searching the aisles of my local thrift store for unique pieces made by someone’s aunt or grandpa. There’s just something super special about all the possible stories behind the hands that made those pieces. You can also get them for next to nothing. They don’t make much of an impact when you style a couple of them. However, collecting them over time, adding up to 10-12, and displaying them on an entry table or on a shelf can really make an artistic statement. I also enjoy looking through the craft section for vintage textiles. I don’t always have great luck there, but I have found some from time to time and loved using them to recover a vintage chair or to upholster stools. If you find enough, the textiles are perfect to use on a sofa or to toss across the end of a bed.
Home should be a haven and safe place for everyone who enters.
Tell us about your experience in fostering, and how do you and your husband adapt your home for this season of flux?
Fostering was something that just kind of came to us, but in a “knock-your-door-down-and-barge-its-way-in” kind of way. We knew that fostering was something that we wanted to do at some point in our marriage, but we didn’t have solid plans. When the opportunity arose for us to partner with a local agency and live in a community catered specifically to foster parents and the families that [support] them, it just felt like the right time and the right thing to do. It’s been one of the most beautifully transforming things we have ever done. Not only has it been powerful to see how it has affected our kids, and how they care for each of the kids that come into our home, but it’s helped our family stay less self-focused. We have learned to care more for those around us and others in need. Through that decision, many of our own needs have been met that we didn’t even know we really needed.
What has fostering taught you about your home and how you want to feel at home?
Fostering has truly reinforced my belief that home should be a haven and safe place for everyone who enters. When we have kids come into our home, this idea (of safety and security) is something that I am keenly aware of and do what I can to make it a relaxing and enjoyable experience during the short time they are with us and in our home.
What's a tip you can share with our readers for showing their own personality through their homes?
One of the least expensive and easiest ways is to add personal artwork and photography. I haven’t always done this well. As a family, we take photos each year with a professional photographer. I used to store these pictures away on the computer — never to be seen again. I recently began working on some creative ways to print and display these images because it’s important for our family to see ourselves in our home. I believe adding personal artwork, whether created by the homeowner or some of their favorite artists, is another way to add a unique personality to the home. Since I love vintage pieces, I tend to include more pieces that reflect that style and mix them in with newer items. But what makes it fun is figuring out how to display them in your own home and decide how you want your home to look and feel. My advice is to do what works for you.
What's your current favorite way to freshen up a space?
It may sound a bit strange because it’s typically not the most budget-friendly expense, but I am obsessed with vintage rugs right now. I have found a couple of great sources for inexpensive ones which are shipped directly – so, when I buy them I’m not breaking the bank. If you can’t afford vintage ones or have a hard time finding ones that fit your budget, there are a ton of brands out there that make vintage reproductions which look and feel just as good in a space as the originals. I love making that investment because they have stood the test of time and have long outlived trends because they offer such classic appeal.
What's next for you?
I sure hope good things! Perhaps more books or even TV. That sounds fun to me! Whatever the future holds, I am ready to embrace it – fully confident in the gifts, passions and desires that have been placed in me.