Today I am excited to share with you the beginning of my new series, Californians at Home. I’ll feature stylish Californians and how they decorate, entertain and what they love. I am fortunate to have met many cool people in the Bay Area and farther out and I think you’ll enjoy seeing the inspiring way they live here in the Golden State!
Kristin Maxwell came into my circle through tennis. I instantly took a liking to this fun and stylish gal who I only later surprisingly discovered is also a blogger. Kristin recently relaunched her website, The Mom Mystique and I enjoy her weekly newsletter which is filled with good ideas and finds and always a little touchpoint that seems apropos to the moment. When I visited her pretty home for a girl’s lunch a few months ago, I knew she would be a great person to interview about California living. I love her taste and how she lives…
Tell us a little about the Mom Mystique and you! How did you start blogging?
Hi! I’m a Mom/StepMom to four teenage boys and one teenage girl. I’m a born and bred Midwesterner that moved West a few years ago to marry my best friend of twenty years.
I started a lifestyle and family centered blog about seven years ago when my kids were young, and found I really loved the exercise of writing, creating content, and connecting with my community. I moved back to California (we lived here once before when my boys were little) from Minneapolis in 2016 after my divorce, and once the dust settled, I knew I wanted to start writing again. I came up with The Mom Mystique because as a Mom of teenagers, I found that my kids really knew nothing about me as a person, and who I was before I became a Mom. I was, in a way, kind of mysterious to them.
They were surprised, and I like to think, proud, to learn that in addition to making school lunches, folding laundry and driving carpools, I spent summers in Brazil and Spain as a teenager; worked at a winery in France in college and studied at the University of Copenhagen for a semester; went ice climbing in Switzerland, crisscrossed Europe alone with a backpack more than once; toured vineyards all over Australia, and excelled in my career in the wine business. They seemed shocked I had skills other than loading and unloading the dishwasher. 😉
I always say that by nature, teenagers seem to walk around with mirrored lampshades on their heads, completely oblivious that anyone other than themselves exists. These conversations actually opened their eyes to the fact that this person they had been living with their entire life actually had an entire existence before they arrived on the planet and had accomplished some pretty amazing stuff, therefore, spawning the genesis for a new writing platform. It was at that point that I decided it was time to put the proverbial pen to paper again and start to document this amazing new life we were leading. We had become a modern day Brady Bunch. All we needed was an Alice. And the kids actually really like being a part of the blog and it’s given them new material for them to make fun of me.
I love your home and its California vibe. Tell me how you decorate. Is it organic? You seem to have a great eye and a mix of high and low which feels very chic and personal.
Thank you! I am a complete study in contrast when it comes to my decorating method and style. Sometimes I make purchases on a whim, other times I belabor a simple decision to death, which drives my husband crazy! I love mixing styles; high and low, pattern and color. I’m a huge fan of Home Goods and Target, but also One Kings Lane and 1st Dibs. The hunt is part of the process and when you start playing with a room, you just know when it feels right. I would say I gravitate toward a timeless, traditional style because I love the classic color combinations of royal blue and red, a greek key pattern here, a cherished collection of ginger jars there. Throw in a zebra rug and a few leopard pillows to top it off, and that to me feels like a layered, lively, lived in look.
I love your pretty dining room. It is preppy and traditional, but in a modern way. Is this part of being a mid western gal?
I’ve found that my innate style runs toward classic traditional, which has a very Midwestern/East Coast sensibility about it, but with a relaxed, welcoming California vibe thrown in. I love having people around our table and I’m not afraid of mixing, matching and layering textiles when I entertain.
You recently remodeled your kitchen with the cool idea of adding a lounge with a banquette instead of a large island. How did you decide on that, your finishes and have any tips for others?
Well, the banquette was actually sort of a design accident, but it turned out to be my favorite feature in our new kitchen. We wanted to do a fast, inexpensive refresh of the space and with our family, a “lounge” vibe seemed like a perfectly appropriate thing to do with that dead space in the room. I came up with the idea of a faux leather banquette and a couple of barrel cocktail tables, and it instantly felt like you were sitting in a club! It completely opened up the space and made it so inviting; everyone hangs out in the kitchen anyway, so why not be comfortable.
You have a blended family and currently a houseful of older kids. How are you all managing during this pandemic? How do you make your home be a place for all of them, which it seems to be?!
With five teenagers in the house, I was a little nervous about how they would all fare during this time, but it turned out the one that has had the biggest struggle, is ME! I’m a bit of a neatnik and I like my routine, so this new controlled chaos took some getting used to. To be honest, the kids have actually been FANTASTIC! One of the kids even said, “I don’t want this quarantine to end.”
We are so fortunate that our kids all get along well and “blending” was never an issue, so I think having built-in companions at home has helped alleviate some of the loneliness and isolation that other kids have felt during this shelter in place. In addition to “school”, three of the kids have been putting in hours at the family business to make extra money and pass the time. They are also pretty disciplined about working out everyday. We have done the puzzles/games/movies thing, and of course allowed too much Xbox like everyone else. The hardest thing has been dealing with major disappointments like my son coming home early from his freshman year of college, and my step daughter missing the end of her senior year and delay of her graduation ceremony and all the special activities that surround that truly monumental time. We’ve all had ups and downs for sure, but all the kids have been truly patient, resourceful and resilient, and we couldn’t be more proud of them.
You seem to be an effortless entertainer. Are there any tips you can share?
I’m glad it appears that way! Lol! I will say, it always helps to have someone to entertain alongside. My husband is the self-proclaimed “better chef” of the two of us, so he is usually behind the meal planning. I do the table, appetizers, and pour the wine! And a good playlist always helps, which again, comes from my husband.
How does California influence the way you live and decorate?
Stuffy and pretentious are not the norm here; fussy, fancy and formal do not describe California living to me. Personally, I want my home to be classic, casual and comfortable. With five teenagers, two black French bulldogs, and a husband that is prone to spilling red wine- the goal for our home is beautiful + bulletproof.
Is there a favorite dish that is your specialty or cookbook you return to again and again?
I love everything Ina, and have nearly every one of her cookbooks. I can confidently say I make a killer lasagna and a decent turkey burger, but I cannot operate the BBQ and have yet to master carbonara.
I know you are a wine aficionado. Tell me what California wine you are loving right now.
Oh, so many! Right now, I find it’s more important than ever to support our local vintners and growers by buying domestic, and I tend to lean toward my favorites in Sonoma County. Angels and Cowboys Rosé is a household staple, as are the wines from Reeve, Scribe, Banshee, and Lioco.
Do you have any tips you learned from a mom, grandmother or family member that was passed down to you?
My Mom is a beautiful entertainer and I blame my textile obsession on her. I would be embarrassed to tell you how many cloth napkins, placemats and tablecloths I own. No matter what night of the week it is around here, dinner is always served with a cloth napkin.
Is there a favorite candle or fragrance you use in the home?
Honestly, I’m not married to one particular scent, but I do love Jo Malone Orange Blossom candles.
Do you have a style idol?
I love Jackie Kennedy, Lee Radziwell, Carolyn Murphy and Aerin Lauder for their traditional, classic, sophisticated style and beauty. And I also admire Lauren Santo Domingo from Vogue and Moda Operandi fame, as well as stylist Ann Caruso and Olivia Palermo.
You, like me, seem to adore travel. Favorite spot or dream trip you are planning?
That is the one thing I’m really missing right now, travel. We had a trip to London planned for spring break that we obviously had to cancel, as well as a family vacation this summer to Greece, so those two destinations are top of my list as soon as we are free to fly again. I also really want to go to Morocco, Vietnam, the Maldives, and do an African safari. In no particular order.
Thank you Kristin for kindly opening your home to us. Some photos were taken by me before this pandemic and others are Kristins by Betsy King Photography. Follow her blog and wonderful newsletter at The Mom Mystique and on her Instagram.
Hope you enjoyed this and another Californian is up soon!
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