An eager, young and wide-eyed interior design student, I sat through class after class digesting hours of design principles, color theory, space planning, human factors, the history of textiles and psychology of design; learning to delineate good vs. bad design (yes, there is a difference!); and identifying best practices in an effort to create environments for future clients that would speak to the core of their personalities and enhance the aesthetic quality of their day-to-day lives. The Frank Lloyd Wright lover in me was completely engaged. I worshipped Architectural Digest and Interior Design magazine and dreamed of being a featured designer. I loved a good DIY, thrift-shopping, and accepted any repurposing challenge. I was one of those college students who actually liked to go to class. A 20-minute walk in Downtown Pittsburgh at 7am? Sign me up. Gothic architecture against the modernity of a well-planned city with a design-centric vibe spoke to me; was—and still is—balm to my soul. As my parents sent me off to college, I can only assume their greatest relief was no longer coming home from a weekend trip to a dismantled family room, half-removed wallpaper in the bathroom, or constantly rearranged furniture.
It wasn’t glamorous, but I loved it
As the not-so-glamorous days of hand-drafting and model building (read: chipped manicures and lots of band-aids) drew to a close, I had developed such a love for human-centered design and the initial phases of that sort of work—development, schematics, specification—which lends itself well to commercial interior design. I knew, however, in my heart of hearts that my passion was working with residential clients. I spent my childhood drafting floor plans and redecorating my bedroom way too often. For me, there’s something deeply gratifying about creating an intimate space for clients that is both lived in and loved.
I’ve been fortunate to work on projects with some truly dynamic homeowners and, admittedly, am still equally as fulfilled spending my days immersed in the same principles and theories as in my earlier days. Equally left- and right-brained, I find solstice with everything in its beautiful little place. After all, the end goal for every project of my professional career is to make spaces and environments look and function in beautiful tandem. In fact, until a few years ago, I’d tell you it was that very work—my design of a space, my professional contribution—that left my clients with a beautiful, inviting home.
But then I became a mom.
Overnight it seemed, all those beautiful spaces—living rooms, kitchens, baths and bedrooms—the ones I designed for my clients and the ones I designed for my own home, they were all suddenly filled with baby gear clutter, and became the antithesis of a well-designed space. I quickly learned that laundry multiplied so fast it became a semi-permanent design staple, covering all the beautiful hardwood floors and woven rugs I loved so much. Somehow everything was eternally sticky, and all my thoughtful organization was undone after each and every 10-minute shower. (After 8 years of motherhood, this is still a phenomenon I’m trying to wrap my head around.) Our once beautifully-curated home was all-at-once an absolute mess.
With each passing year, that mess evolved into sweet memories I wouldn’t trade for the world: our flour-covered kitchen where I, with my sweet little toddler and her bouncing blonde curls baked our first cut-out cookies; the oil pastel stain on my favorite upholstered chair where my daughter so graciously demonstrated her newly-acquired art skills; the worn out spot on my favorite throw pillow that held both of our heads as we napped together… these were the beautiful design elements I have never been able to replicate or deliver for my clients; the elements that truly define beauty within a home.
I learned there is beauty in the mess
Looking back, I have such an appreciation for my parents as they navigated parenthood and saw beauty in the mess of my childhood. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see the same in my home with my two children, and that I am able to connect with my clients in a way that is far more mindful, aware, and humble than before I was a mom. I can design and deliver a well-curated space within any four walls, but the true beauty comes from the life, mess, and memories made within, and that’s something you can’t sketch on paper.
Mom and Dad, if you’re reading: the education I received during my first few years of motherhood is by far and away more valuable and meaningful than the post-secondary education we’re still paying for. Above all, I’m grateful you appreciate that, too. All in the name of a beautiful home, right?
Aubri Them is an Interior Designer and Founder of Allyn Creative, a boutique interior and event design firm in Northeast Ohio. She is a member of ASID; has served as Coordination Committee member of the Columbus Arts Festival’s Student Art Exhibition; Marketing Committee member of Richland Young Professionals; and is the Youth Art Instructor for the Ontario Recreation Department. She is a wife and mother of two beautiful children, Stella & Jones, and enjoys travel, healthy living and creative cooking.