My Favorite Place
-Mary Elizabeth Beal Your Favorite Place® Magazine Editor in Chief
The most frequent question I am ever asked is what is my design style. People want to know whether the spaces I design are traditional or modern, formal or casual, neutral or colorful. While many talented designers find great success branding a signature look, for over 15 years I have been developing and testing a different approach: my signature method of interior design, Your Favorite Place® (read more about my signature interior design method here).
The debut of Your Favorite Place® Magazine, an interior design journal showcasing projects and clients with whom I have utilized my trademarked Your Favorite Place® design method, will solicit a similar question. Where is my Favorite Place? My favorite place is my home, but if I am really being honest, I sometimes feel ashamed about the present state of my own home. People see a grand ballroom in a luxury hotel or a spa like bathroom remodel in a historic mansion I designed and look to me with admiration and say something like, “I would LOVE to see YOUR home. I bet it looks amazing.”
I usually respond with a polite thank you and then either change the subject or say something along the lines of, “Well it’s not quite everything I want it to be just yet.” Most of my décor is not my ideal first choice. Instead, much of it is an assemblage of mismatched hand-me-downs and leftovers or budget buys out of necessity that I have carefully and strategically placed hoping the result is befitting that of the owner of one of the most successful interior design firms in my state. Yes, I do receive compliments on my décor and yes, I know we are all our own harshest critics, but often when I look around at my current home all I see is how far I still need to go to even begin to see the home of my dreams manifest.
My reservations about the inadequacies of my home’s interior sharply parallel my awareness of the shortcomings in me personally. My not-quite-there-yet home is like my not-always-perfect disposition and as with my home, there is much I would prefer to keep private. One reason my home is not yet up to my standards is due to my age and season of life. I’m 35, a wife of a football coach, a mother of two little boys, and a business owner/director of multiple businesses. I invest most of my time and money into building a family and growing my businesses instead of decorating my home’s interior. Likewise, being pulled in so many directions reduces the time I invest in personal and spiritual development.
However, as long as I am offering a glimpse into my home and heart, I would be remiss if I omitted that the significant cause of the current condition of both my residential and personal interior are a result of the tragic failure of my first business endeavor. The details of that business and its inevitable doom involved more lives than mine, so to respect their privacy this summary is brief. Over ten years ago, a dear friend of mine and I started a furniture and interiors tech hybrid venture together. We assembled a powerhouse board of advisors that included some of the most successful business minds of that time. Our expertly crafted and strategically polished business plan gained significant recognition and even won awards. We were in position to launch with both market momentum and venture capital backing.
Through a series of devastating events, the business imploded before it even got off the ground. Eventually, I was forced to close the doors and file for bankruptcy. It is humiliating and humbling to fail at something with so much potential. The amount of time and money (A LOT of money) that was lost is disturbing. Still, most heartbreaking is the pain of the loss of relationships with those affected.
That epic failure felt like a monumental stumbling block and I have wanted to bury it deep in the ground of the past, safely concealed. However, God actually taught my husband and me how to turn that stumbling block into a stepping stone that gave us steady ground to climb out of the mud. The lessons we learned have since directed so many critical decisions and changes and influence every thought.
Filing for bankruptcy canceled the business debts, but we still had a mortgage, car payments, student loans, and all of the same bills as a normal family. I had to start back at business building step one and chose to refocus all of my efforts back on interior design services with a simple grassroots bootstrap business model. Within a very short time my reputation as a designer gained fresh momentum and I had an opportunity to team up with another local designer. Together we grew MBID International, Inc. into one of the highest net profit interior design firms in North Carolina.
God is teaching me a better way, a Biblical way, to do business and is leading my businesses and our family into financial freedom. As a family we now have zero credit card debt, both vehicles are paid for in full, my student loans have dwindled down to almost nothing, and the biggest blessing… God recently gave us the grace, wisdom and ability to pay off our mortgage.
The journey towards a debt free lifestyle is not easy. It requires patience and restraint with our spending and is impossible without completely trusting God with our finances, even when circumstances look bleak. We faithfully tithe through seasons of harvest and drought. Several years of abundant harvest with the success of MBID International Inc. fueled the rapid path towards financial freedom, but we still continue to have seasons where our faith in God’s provision feels more like a fight. Even as I write this, my husband is recovering from multiple back surgeries, I am awaiting payment on a substantial delinquent account putting strain on both myself and several key vendors and sub-contractors, and I currently scaled back my billable hours while my mother-in-law (normally the caregiver for my children while I work) cares for my father-in-law as he recovers from a heart attack.
Sometimes it seems like I will never get to build the dream home that has been carefully designed in my mind, my notebooks, and numerous Pinterest boards. However, I am learning that the more I look to God and seek to see Him and hear His voice, the easier it is for me to be present in each moment. The more I am able to enjoy the stage of life I am in, the more I appreciate what I already have. Although my current home is far from looking like my dream home, and probably won’t grace the covers of my favorite design magazines, it truly is My Favorite Place.
I have found ways to design glimpses or reminders of the future dream home into my current surroundings. My dream home is on a farm with a large organic vegetable garden and a few small animals like chickens, a horse, a milking cow, and some goats. There will be a deep wraparound porch and a terrace out back framing views from key interior spaces like the kitchen, living room, and master bath. Until then, my present-day home has a sweet little patio with a covered pergola where I grow Mandeville vines and tiny pots of fresh herbs. We have a yard full of birds, bunnies, and one super cute chipmunk!
My dream home has a gourmet chef’s kitchen with sleek modern cabinetry, counters, and appliances carefully juxtaposed by heirloom antique furnishings like the counter height farm table (instead of an island) just like the one I remember in my Nana’s kitchen. It is an artfully crafted balance of modern and traditional, formal and casual.
For now, my current kitchen also intentionally juxtaposes traditional and modern, formal and casual. To save money, we painted the existing cabinets a crisp modern white and updated the appliances and hardware. We kept the existing butcher block look counters and travertine tile style floor, but updated the dated country wallpaper with a formal and bold F. Schumacher wallpaper. The breakfast nook holds several antiques, including a table my mom purchased in Belgium while my family was stationed in Europe. The formal and traditional style of the antiques are balanced by modern chairs, simple round mirrors, and a fun whimsical rug.
In my dream home, each bedroom has been thoughtfully tailored with a special blend of family heirlooms and new purchases from my favorite rug, fabric, and wallpaper vendors. Each room is strategically placed in the floorplan, including the pantry that shares a wall with the garage (allowing for a creative pass through for easy grocery unloading) and a meticulously organized master closet that will share a wall with the laundry room (where I have designed a convenient hamper system with direct access between the two spaces). Here in my current home, few rooms have been given more noteworthy attention than my older son’s nursery, which is undeniably a gem.
The comparisons and parallels between my dream home and my current home are not unlike the differences and similarities between the person I used to be, am now, and I hope to become. I am learning to become more like the daughter of the king I study in God’s word and I continually seek to allow Him to mold and shape my personality and thoughts and guide my path through life. My past contains both victories and defeats, really good decisions and others not ideal. The beauty and joy in my present reflect a glorious assortment of trophies and scars.
Habakkuk 2:1-4 says, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. 2 And the Lord answered me, and said, write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. 4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”
The path to my future, not just to my dream home but to all of my dreams, becomes brighter as I allow God to position me and guide me to a place from which I can more clearly see. My hope is as I continue to learn to do this for myself, I will be better equipped to continue to do what I love, which is design for you Your Favorite Place®.