Style Influence: My Mother

Style Influence: My Mother

For Mother’s Day 2012 I shared a bit about my mom here on the blog. She has been such an amazing influence in my life in so many ways (the above pic is of her, my father and grandfather with my little sister – it’s hard to find a pic of her with me as I don’t have immediate access to all the family pics). As Mother’s Day was yesterday, I wanted to share a bit about the sort of influence she has had on me style wise. If you had asked me, oh about 5 years ago, whether or not my mother’s style is anything like my own I would have said no, not really at all. And still, today I would agree that we do have very different inclinations (she’s big into “overstuffed” furniture and I want my couches modern, thin and as streamlined as possible, etc.). But as I “mature” I can definitely see how her style, where we lived and the way she raised us has had a big impact on my own tastes and personal design style.

I grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado. Truly we lived on the very edge of town (it was technically called Laporte) and was only an hour away from Wyoming. I never considered myself growing up in the “country” because I was always riding my bike into town and basically lived in the bustling Old Town of Ft. Collins as a teenager. But as I look back, I realize that I really was raised as a country girl. We lived in a large ranch style home at the end of a remote street. Which meant that there was a ginormous field to the side and to the back of us as well as a ditch that was delight of many a summer inner tubbing trip. The neighborhood was very unique and was created for “ranchers” or “farmers” that wanted about an acre of land to raise a bit of live stock on while still being a part of a neighborhood community. I really haven’t found any neighborhoods quite like it since. So like just about every house on our street, we had an acre of land with a barn in the back and we raised different animals such as goats for certain portions of my childhood. This was mostly due to my father’s background of growing up on a farm. My mother moved away from South Pasadena California, sunshine and the center of vintage Hollywood Glam to raise her large family in a more mountain laden and colder Colorado. And according to her, she never looked back (although she could never kick her laid back Cali vibe).

My mother would classify her style as French Country/French Provincial with a cozy incorporation of overstuffed. When we were younger she wasn’t afraid of wallpaper or mixing patterns is a fun way that actually always seemed to work. She had a good eye for color and pattern. When she later renovated her home she insisted on all white walls with very little adornment. The addition of architectural details, which she had designed with the help of my architect of an uncle, did most of the talking. She’s always liked a bit symmetry and order when it came to design. Maybe a constant to contrast her laid back parenting style and all the craziness that nine messy kids brought to the table? Things had to come in pairs, or groups. One thing always seemed to inform another. I remember a friend saying to me in awe “it’s like everything goes together! How does she do that?”. At first I didn’t know what she was talking about. For me this was just home. But after looking around I did begin to notice my mother’s attention to detail in a way that I hadn’t before.


(photos from Christmas 2011)

I asked her what were some of her key thoughts are when creating and designing a home. This was her short go-to list of “must haves”:


  1. When designing a room I want it to feel beautiful. When a person walks in I don’t necessarily want their eye to go to one particular item. The entire room needs to work together as a whole. Then when one enters and sits down they then begin to see various treasures and little moments that delight the eye. It’s Ok to have a few items that pop but not so overwhelming so as to be distracting. A bit of opulences is OK but not so much that you don’t feel comfortable. Oh and I don’t put anything in the room that I don’t think is beautiful.
  2. I want everyone to feel welcome, like they have a place here. Now that most of my children are grown and have families of their own, instead of downsizing, I’ve converted each bedroom into a room for each family to stay in, complete with king beds and cribs. I want my family to have an easy time visiting, to enjoy themselves and want to stay. I want them to have FUN here! (It was my mom’s idea to put the boys in their sleeping bags and let them cuddle under the Christmas tree in the pics above. She’s always been keen on providing magical spaces and moments for children. I definitely have that same inclination because of my mom.)
  3. For family reunions, such as the ones we have every year on the 4th of July, I want the outdoors around my home to be magical. One year I even cut the branches out of inside of our large fir tree in the front yard so that the grandkids could have a hide-out play area for our pirate party. We called it Dead Man’s Tree. It’s still one of my favorite places in my yard.


The above pics are from several different 4th of July reunions we’ve had at my parents house over the years. Every year my parents create something different for the “party” for us to enjoy. One year my parents made a miniature golf course for all the kids and grandkids to enjoy. You can see more pics from some or our past themed reunions at her home here, here, and here. She also loves prepping for her grandkids by acquiring things in bulk such as the red plastic picnic baskets for lunches seen above (I think after having 9 kids it’s probably no fun to pair things down for the few still at home. I really think she delights in continuing to provide things in mass for her large family).

She’s also a bit of a collector. Particularly of dishes. She has at least 4 sets of different ceramic dish sets – and counting ;). And she’s a collector of magazines. LOTS and lots of magazine. When I was little you could hardly step around her bedroom due to the many many stacks of interior design magazines she had adorning the room. She perused many of them while soaking in her jetted tub. It was a get away of sorts for her.

She’s a maker too. She sewed everything. And I mean everything. Loads and loads of Halloween costumes, prom dresses and all of her daughters wedding dresses. She’s always been a DIYer. She told me that she really loves “taking something and transforming in into something else. It’s more fulfilling than buying new. The transformation is magical”. She’s also a massive thrift store shopper. In fact we sisters love to thrift when ever we get together. It sort of doesn’t feel like home without a good thrift outing. And she adores toys. She’s very particular about them and is especially in love with dolls (she actually made her own dolls, including porcelain ones. I talk more about it here). She would sit and look at a dolls face, hands, eyes, etc. and then tell us which ones were made well and which were not. Which were unique and special and why. She didn’t care what was popular, just what was amazing to her and made well. And then she’d buy out the entire line so that she was sure to to have every item from that collection. She’d always inspect the way a toy was painted before purchasing it. She wanted to be sure she picked the very best version. So naturally, you can see where my love of toys come from.

As I’ve recently defined, my style is Play French Industrial. Very different than my mothers but I still take so many things from her.

Some ways in which my mother’s style has influenced me:

  • Modern Farmhouse: Even though I have a “city girl” personality in many ways (I adore museums, the theatre, boutique shops and cafes -Paris and NYC are some of my most favorite places on earth) I also have a strong country vibe. My dream would be to have a modern farmhouse with a bit of land where amber waves could flow, but situated just on the edge of town – so not too far of a drive to culture and a bit of bustle.


  • Ceramics: My mother, the avid dish collector has rubbed off on me a bit. I actually have quite the love for unique ceramics (took a few obligatory classes in college which helped to feed the bug). I actually want to make my very on set of dishes at some point. Pin board of some fav’s here.
  • Tea Parties and Tablescapes: My mother and sisters have regular tea parties. It’s been a tradition for years. She loves to create enchanting tablescapes as well (a reason to break out all those dishes?). I’ve sort fallen in love with holding tea parties myself. See some from the past here, here, and here.
  • Magazine Horder: And of course I LOVE magazines. Blogs are great but nothing compares to the work and beauty that goes into creating a solid glossy. Curling up with a cup of peppermint tea, shortbread cookies and a stack of good magazine is the best way to beat a moody afternoon, any day.
  • Playful Living: Obviously I get a great deal of my need to live and cultivate a creative and playful environment from my mother. I too love to DIY, make something old new again and am always delighted by a really beautifully made toy. It’s so very important for me to raise my kids within a playful and creative environment.
  • Handmade Costumes: My mother is a queen bee seamstress. I haven’t inherited her amazing skills in the same way my older sister has but I do insist on making my kids costumes every Halloween. It’s great fun and tradition my kids have grown to love. They put in their orders just like we did as kids.MotherStyleInfluenceRoundup2

I could go on and on about my mother and her influence. She’s amazing. A bit crazy, a little unorthodox and totally passionate about her handmade life with her family.

To sum up how it felt to grow up in her household, I made this portrait of my momma and all of us 9 children for her this Mother’s Day. And I wrote this about it:

“Her home was filled with magical chaos. Stuffed full of creative frenzy, messy moments, dreamy exploration, faith, energy, and constant chatter. One could be a traveler, an artist or a well read princess ruler in a far away land under her roof. One could share the good, the bad, and most definitely the funny when here. All were welcome…and invited to jump upon beds and were quickly cast in impromptu musicals. No perfectly manicured lawns or pristinely made beds here, but cultivated characters and energy of soul. Yes this was her home. And for many, a perfect slice of heaven.”

Her home was full of magical chaos

Happy Mother’s Day momma!!! I owe so very very much to you. xoxoxo


I’m also loving these design tributes to their mothers by creative ladies House that Lars Built, One More Mushroom, Sycamore Street Press and Sarah Jane’s beautiful tribute to her grandmother. Bring on the mother love. ;).

May 13, 2014



  1. Reply

    Eva @ Sycamore Street Press

    June 11, 2014

    This is beautiful, Merillee! Thanks for sharing. She seems like a fantastic lady… and I love that portrait you did of her and her kids. 🙂

  2. Reply


    June 21, 2014

    I found your blog in a search for “midsummer mingle” after seeing such beautiful images on a friend’s Instagram feed. I grew up in Ft. Collins, CO too. Know any Slades? I figured you must be an Allred when I read your sister’s name on the other blog post about your mom. I graduated in 94 and my memory is horrible but I think Kenton was in my same year. Not sure though.
    Anyhow, I think your work is simply lovely and I’m glad I stumbled across your blog.

  3. Reply


    June 24, 2014

    Hi Lindsay, Yes I remember the Slades! I think your younger sister was a year or two younger than me? Dana it was? Great to touch base. xo Mer

  4. Reply

    Love my momma too...

    July 28, 2014

    My favourite thing about your post: the respect you obviously have for your mother. From the sound of it, you got that from her too. 😉


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