#mywholehome | A Tacoma Photographer Embraces the Space She’s In

Name | Jessica Uhler

Business | Jessica Uhler Photography www.jessuhlerphoto.com

City of Residence | Tacoma, WA

Number of years in current home | 13 years

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Tell us the story of your home. To you, what sets it apart or makes it unique aside from the fact that you and your family are the ones who live in it.

Our home has evolved so much over the years. We've raised babies and toddlers here, now we have 3 teenagers and a first grader. The look and feel of our home has changed with every age and stage. When we moved in to this 100 year-old home there were so many things that needed updating, cosmetic and otherwise. The kitchen was particularly bad- no counter space, ancient appliances, tight layout, small metal cabinets. I was a stay-at-home mom for many years and as someone who made most of our meals from scratch in that kitchen It was honestly a source of frustration every single day. We waited 10 years before we were able to remodel the kitchen. Waiting was also something God used to teach me patience and gratitude and to see beauty in unexpected, imperfect places. I am so thankful for the ways we've been able to make it our own, the projects we've been able to complete, and the creativity we've infused into it. But since the beginning it's been a place where we've opened our doors to family and friends. We didn't wait until it felt "done" or perfect to invite people in.

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How would you describe your personal home style? 

Always changing. Maybe modern Bohemian or eclectic. We have thrift store finds, Craigslist treasures, vintage pieces, Target and Ikea. I could even give you a tour of our house showing you all the things that were roadside finds (in Tacoma people put furniture and household items they are giving away out by the sidewalks. The midcentury couch in my office, a couple very cool headboards, my husband's work desk, the wool rug in our bedroom, and several small tables and chairs were all found this way. You know what they say about one person's trash...) I love that our house is a collection of so many things that have their own story. And I think it all works together because it's all stuff I love and there are repeated elements throughout. 

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What is your favorite space in your home? 

It changes with the seasons because of the light. I tend to follow the light around the house, especially in winter. Right now I'm loving the upstairs landing. It's always been sort of a dead space in our home- used for ill-fitting storage and furniture. This summer I repurposed other pieces in our home to make it a cozy, beautiful nook. It gets gorgeous light all day long and it makes me happy when I walk up the stairs. I also love curling up on the couch in my office in the morning and reading or writing and drinking my coffee. 

 Jess chooses a more eclectic and gathered style of living as shown by her display of frames on her stairwell here.

Jess chooses a more eclectic and gathered style of living as shown by her display of frames on her stairwell here.

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What was life like for you growing up in your childhood home?

Growing up it often felt like we were just people living under the same roof, that there wasn't a lot of unity or story tying us together. My parents both worked and my brother and I were busy with activities. When I started my own family it was important that home be a place of intentional community. We are all culture-makers in our own homes- the traditions and rituals, the way we use the spaces to foster togetherness and express ourselves. That awareness has been a huge motivator for me in making my own home and family culture, in the importance of our traditions, family rhythms and dinners together. It has even greatly influenced my photography work and how I photograph families and their everyday life. None of it needs to be fancy or expensive- beauty and coziness can be found and made so many ways. 

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What does home mean to you? What do you want others to feel when they enter/spend time in your home? 

I want home to be a safe, comfortable, beautiful space for our family and for everyone who enters. Nothing is too precious or expensive (our most expensive piece of furniture is a $700 floor model sectional). I want it to feel peaceful and ordered, especially because it's not huge (for 6 people). The struggle against chaos and clutter is ongoing, and I have a hard time editing myself as a visual artist. I want all the things on on all the walls! I'm learning that things have more impact when there is some breathing room and space. But I also believe in having family pictures on the walls that tell the story of who we are. There are actually studies that show that kids who grow up in homes with family pictures on the wall have a stronger sense of self-esteem! When people come in I want them to feel comfortable to put their feet up and relax, and to know that they matter. Home is a place where we can recreate and create, recharge, refuel, rest, rejuvenate before going out into the world again. I think in it's own way it can be the backdrop against which we learn how to love and be loved. This quote by CS Lewis has always summed up the importance of home to me: “I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr Johnson said, ‘To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour’... We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.”

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Proudest DIY?

Honestly, so many! I'm really proud of how even though it's not what I would consider "finished" our home finally feels more like a reflection of us than when we first moved in, and that we've been pretty resourceful and creative in how we put it all together.  Remodeling our kitchen 3 years ago was a huge undertaking for us because we did a lot of it ourselves (and I was waiting sooo long!). My husband spent hours upon hours scraping the linoleum adhesive off the fir floors before refinishing them, and I spent hours in our basement prepping, priming and painting the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. It's one of my favorite things in the world to have a vision and make that vision a reality with a big or small project. So satisfying!

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Do you think you've learned to embrace your story? Your home? Why or why not? 

We lived with one shower between the 6 of us for 12 years. Our kitchen was pretty bad but we used the heck out of it. We still have walls that need plastering, trim that needs painting, and lots of other things. There are things I would change if I could, and some days (especially in winter) I long for a bigger house. But my purpose and intention has always been to see the beauty in the midst of the chaos, the imperfection, the real daily life lived within these walls. This is where our story begins. In both my personal and artistic journey I desire to cultivate gratitude through embracing real life and finding the glory beyond the Pinterest board. It's in a pile of laundry on the couch or a sink full of dishes illuminated by the sun. And I can look around my home and feel extremely grateful for the life lived here and all the memories it's held. Our house certainly was never this put together when our kids were little and home all day, by the way.

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If there was one piece of advice that you could give to others as to how to embrace their home and their story, what would that sound like? 

Don't be afraid to break whatever rules you think there are. The difference between taste and style is putting your own spin on something, the unexpected element.  And it doesn't have to be expensive to have style! Make it yours. I love seeing my daughter's cork succulents, my son's glass art, my grandmother's Kokeshi dolls and a collage of family snapshots and memorabilia as I walk through my home. You can't buy those things out of a catalog. 

TELL US YOUR #mywholehome STORY

We’d love for you to hop over to the Restoration House Instagram account and follow along with our weekly hashtag that complements this series. Tell us a bit more about your own home story by using #mywholehome there. Don’t forget to come by next week for more inspiration as more friends share their #mywholehome stories.

ABOUT JESS

Jessica is a documentary family, wedding and commercial photographer in the Seattle area. She is a mom to four, and making home has been her primary job over the last 17 years. She believes real is better than perfect, and strives to capture the feeling and heart of her client's homes and families, showing them how beautiful their life really is.  When not grocery shopping, she might be found running, writing or doing yoga. She prefers salted butter and thinks a freshly made bed is one of life's best luxuries and believes that more than simply looking good, home is meant to lived in and enjoyed. You can see more of Jess’s work and read about what she’s up to here.

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SOURCES

moroccan pouf: D+K Renewal 

lumbar pillow (hmong): garage sale

18x18 mudcloth black and white: D+K renewal

dining lighting: Ebay

dining chairs (white): Target

cabinet paint color (kitchen): Kensington Blue by Benjamin Moore, Simply White by Benjamin Moore on the uppers

Kitchen cabinets: IKEA

Kitchen door and drawer fronts: Semi Handmade (Our favorite kitchen hack! buy really well-made and affordable IKEA cabinets and SemiHandmade doors and drawer fronts for a custom, high-end look!)

Kitchen hardware: Lewis Dolin bar series in brushed brass

kitchen tile backsplash: Studio S Caress in White Chalk

kitchen lighting: Schoolhouse Electric

bathroom lighting and fixtures/hardware: bathroom shower hardware: Rozin

bathroom faucet: Delta Trinsic in matte black

bathroom lighting: Etsy 

Stairway runner: Overstock (installed by pro)

Bedroom | mudcloth pillows: Thimble and Cloth

leather tufted bench: Overstock