Personal Photography

Our fifth anniversary trip to Charleston, South Carolina

We've had the chance to travel every year for our anniversary-well...except one year. That year I may or may not have cried because I was bummed that we "had to stay home." Can we just take a moment to mourn with poor Stephanie? I know you feel so bad for me, right? ;)

Celebrating our fifth anniversary

While nothing tops being in Rome for our anniversary last year (Stephen, let's do that again next year!) this year, we had so much fun visiting Charleston, South Carolina for our 5 year anniversary! With it's historic charm, it was hard not to wonder if we were in Europe at times. And this year, we were celebrating our final anniversary before our baby! It was such a special time in a special place!

We looked up a few fun city guides, including Gal Meets Glam's Charleston City Guide and I quickly developed some favorites! Charleston was infinitely charming, beautiful, and tasty. Here's what we loved during our stay: 

Favorite Food in Charleston

Barbecue-Lewis BBQ and Rodney Scott BBQ (go to Lewis for the vibe and go to Rodney Scott's for the ribs...MIND BLOWING.) 

Southern style biscuits-Callie's Hot Little Biscuits (such a cute spot! Definitely crowded...but aren't the best places usually?)

Coffee-Black Tap Coffee-guys it's DOG FRIENDLY!!! Not only were the iced lattes delish, I got to pet I-don't-know HOW many puppies. Such an ideal way to start your day, if you ask me.

Lunch-Goat.Sheep.Cow-we could have spent hours in this darling cheese and charcuterie shop chatting with them about European cheeses! Everything was delicious and we were able to get some favorites from our time in France and Italy last year! We would stop here, stock up and walk to a nearby park to picnic. It was such a fun way to slow down, reconnect and enjoy our vacation!

Favorite Sights in Charleston

Plantations: Middleton Place-I mean, with a name like that, could you go wrong? We loved this one because it had the original plantation house and was reknowned for it's stunning gardens. 

Shopping: King Street is where it's all happening! Enjoy shopping there and make SURE you stop into Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream for a scoop or two. (I personally fell for the lemon blueberry, but have a longstanding love interest with the dark chocolate and Salty caramel ice creams.

tour-we took a great tour of the architecture and history of Charleston-while i can't remember the company name, I'd totally recommend doing a tour-it helped us enjoy the city even more. 

If you have been to Charleston, tell me-what did you do? Love? eat? comment below-I could easily be swayed to go back!


Learning to Like New York City | Our Trip to Brooklyn

We recently spent a few days in New York City for some work and play. While we typically love getting to know a city, New York has rubbed us the wrong way multiple times and I was dreading the trip a bit.

Learning to like New York

But this trip helped us see that what we don't like is Manhattan, not the whole city. It's full of iconic romance and possibility, yes. I'm very attracted to the feeling of endless possibilities there. But quickly we get the feeling that others have been drawn there for those possibilities and, after realizing that pursuing those possibilities meant deep sacrifice, they began to loathe themselves and defer that loathing onto strangers and passersby. There's so much resentment and latent frustration everywhere in Manhattan.

We consider ourselves fairly travel savvy and try to observe and adapt to culture quickly. In addition, I grew up near Philadelphia and remember the cold, brisk nature of strangers, unlike the warmth found in the midwest. I shouldn't be surprised, but I usually am in Manhattan.

Here's what we learned though! Manhattan isn't the whole city! We stayed in Brooklyn and fell in love with that borough. From the charming and iconic brownstones on quiet, shady streets, to the bustle of a younger, more relaxed demographic, Brooklyn just "got us" way more. We had a ton of favorite places in Brooklyn, so if you're planning a visit, you've got to check them out!

Favorite Coffee in Brooklyn

Each morning, we strolled through town to get to "our coffee shop," Absolute Coffee. Their lattes were perfectly smooth and strong and I was often tempted to walk back throughout the day for a second...and third.

We have a saying in our house about my perspective when I really like something and it goes like this: "If one is good, five is better...right?" Not true, of course, but I'm definitely an indulgent person and, when I find something I like, DO NOT change plans. I have MY coffee shop and I'll legit ask you if it would be normal to get more than one latte. For reference, your duty to me is to say "no, Stephanie. One's fine." Okay? Get that down and I may be able to travel with you.

We also enjoyed Brooklyn Roasting Company-and right on the water, it's a fun location to grab an iced coffee and take a walk in DUMBO. I had the Maple Shay, iced and it was amazing!

Favorite Eats in Brooklyn

We also stopped in at Mile End Delicatessen for some Montreal style (gasp!) bagel sandwiches. They were delicious, of course! The meat was smoked in house, everything on the sandwich served in the steaming hot, hearty deli-style I remember growing up. And the bagels were interesting-thinner, chewier, and a touch sweeter than New York style bagels. I'd highly recommend stopping there if you're in Brooklyn.

Instead of going for New York Style pizza, we went classic Neopolitan. I have no regrets. After our jaunt through the botanical gardens, we found Keste Pizzeria in Williamsburg where the chef was from Naples and well known in the pizza world. We had some things we had fallen in love with while in Pompeii and Sorrento last fall, including the arancino, a fried ball of risotto usually packed with yesterday's leftover meats and herbs. One of my favorite snacks from Sorrento and such a fun thing to taste again!

Another favorite for us was the DeKalb Market Hall, a more approachable take on the famous Chelsea Market. I loved my Porchetta sandwich from Bread and Spread, and on another visit, I grabbed an amazing hazelnut and almond croissant from a french bakery. If nothing else, I loved strolling and seeing the fun options.

Favorite Sites and shops in Brooklyn

We stopped into the adorable garden store, GRDN after our breakfast at Mile End and, again, Stephen had to talk me out of buying every single terra cotta planter they had. I'm having a bit of a moment with aged terra cotta right now.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden is worth it-I think we walked 4.2 miles to get to the botanic garden, but it was so worth it. Because of Stephen, I have learned to adore gardens, and this one made for a lovely escape from the bustle of the city. It was actually super romantic-we got caught in the rain while strolling through the Japanese gardens and ducked into the Koi Pond pagoda for shelter until the rain slowed. We sat together on a bench and quietly listened to the rain fall on the blue-green koi pond and felt such a sense of romance and peacefulness. It was one of my favorite moments of our trip. Bonus points, I finally go to see the Brooklyn Boathouse! I was an ardent fan of the movie 27 Dresses about 10 years ago and have always wanted to see this particular spot.

We loved walking the shops and restaurants on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg and, my one moment of fangirling was wen I dragged Stephen to Momofuku Milk Bar. I love Master Chef and think Christina Tosi is a legend, so naturally I couldn't wait to show him the desserts. I have to say-I was underwhelmed. It was merely a drop off site and looked a lot like a convenience store display of cookies. We ended up leaving empty handed and a little disenchanted. Christina Tosi, you're still a legend though!

So our general consensus: You can have Manhattan. We have no desire to spend more time in that borough. But I'd definitely go back to Brooklyn. I have other places I'd go first (um, back to France, please??) but I know we'd have a great time, if we were back in Brooklyn and that makes me happy!

A Sneak Peak at Our New Home Design Plan!

Stephen and I moved into our townhome two years ago with the plan to stay here until we “outgrew” it. I remember one night, we slow danced in the kitchen (maybe stephen was just hugging me? I think we were dancing though. #perspective) and stephen said to me “I like this place and I want to be here for 5-10 years. I sighed onto his shoulder and said “wow, that sounds amazing! I’m on board!"

Why we decided to move...again

So what happened to change that? The simplest answer is that we saw the market heating up explosively in our area and started to ask the question “If someone handed us a check for a down payment, would we walk away from it?” We decided that we didn’t want to walk away from that opportunity. Selling our townhome at a strategic time could completely provide the down payment we’d been saving toward for a single family home.

Through a cool set of circumstances, we landed a home that seemed unattainable to us! It’s spacious and perfect for hosting, is in a lovely neighborhood we’d liked for a while, and has space for each of us to have an office! We quickly knew the feel we wanted to evoke in the space and got to work designing it! Here's some inspiration and our process:

Our home design process: Brainstorming

We believe process is king in all things, so as we embarked on designing our home we spent a lot of time in the brainstorming phase of our process. We pinned (see our boards here: design sense, living room, kitchen, and bedroom) discussed, pointed, and collected. We wrote down words, feelings, and lifestyle goals. 

And, then we let it all sit. This part is important!

If you want to have a genuine point of view in your design, business perspective, and life, know when to let things breathe. 

Our home design process: Insight

Pretty quickly, we saw a trend and knew that we wanted our home to remind us of the relaxed and artful french lifestyle we fell in love with on our trip to France last year. We wanted the downstairs to remind us of our time in Paris, with a minimal, collected, gallery feel. Simple and clean lines, textural elements, and artful vignettes reigned in our brainstorming.

We wanted other parts of our home to remind us of our stay in the french countryside-simple, historic, and welcoming. Kind of a city house/country house type of feel. Everything makes sense together and tells the same story, but doesn’t look the same.

We chose a few anchor images for each room and created some simple moodboards

Living room Inspiration

We want our living room to feel elegant, minimal, and collected. We fell in love with the idea of clean lines, historic touches, and beautiful art for this space. We still want it to feel warm and inviting, so we'll share how we create that welcoming feel in a largely white gallery inspired space in future posts-any ideas?

And yes, we're totally doing gray trim throughout. Stephen claims the heart wants what the heart wants. And his heart wants white walls and gray trim. I love that guy :) 

via Joanna Laven

Dining Room Inspiration

We will have a square dining area between our kitchen and living room. For the LONGEST time, I wanted a specific long modern farmhouse table. I'd been saving up for it and was almost ready to pull the trigger when I realized that it would look ridiculous in a square dining area. I really wanted a classic design staple with a european feel. I fell in love with this image and then Stephen and I began researching the styles a bit more and it all fell into place! 

A Saarinen style tulip table was a great nod to a design classic and kept with the minimal aesthetic. These gorgeous cane-back Thonet chairs were largely produced in Europe and are pretty difficult to find stateside as the trend didn't really filter to us at the time of production. I love the nod to both texture and European design for both pieces. We currently have the Thonet chairs (OMG SO EXCITED!) and will get the Tulip table soon. So excited for this room! 

via Fantastic Frank

Kitchen Inspiration

we wanted our kitchen to remind us of the happy french kitchens we saw while staying in France last year. Even in the city, kitchens were full of character and french charm.

We wanted the palette to remind us of the french buildings with their classic slate and plaster exteriors, mansered roofs, and the finishes to take on the pretty patina of all of the buildings we loved in the French countryside. More on that soon...!

via pinterest

Bedroom Inspiration

Some of our most relaxing memories on our trip through France and Italy last year were waking up in a French farmhouse in the Loire Valley, hearing the roosters, and finding fresh eggs and croissant at our door. It was the most pastoral and welcoming place and we wanted to feel that sense of deep relaxation and contentment in our master bedroom design.

We decided to go with a bit more character and charm in this space, focusing on historic furniture and art pieces, balanced by a moody gray-green paint and simple, textural linen bedding. I am so excited to see this room come together!

via pinterest

Where are we now?

So where are we in the process now? We wait :) We are packing up our lovely townhome and getting ready to move soon. We cannot wait to begin implementing the designs we have in mind and sometimes the suspense of waiting feels agonizing! In the meantime, tell me, what do you think of our design inspiration? Can we swing the white palette or is it too risky?

Reflections and Home Tour of the #Boothhome

Today feels a little bittersweet. We've lived in our beautiful townhome for 2 years and in that time, we've worked hard  to bring it to life and give it the style we always envisioned. So much growth and change has happened in this home and as we prepare to list our home for sale, I got a bit nostalgic at all the memories we've made here. 

Decorating real walls, dealing with metaphorical walls

For me, this home has been my cocoon. Through some intense trials and pain, I've retreated here and felt safe. As we're leaving this place, I feel like I'm leaving like a different person, someone who's emerging from her cocoon! It was in this place that I lost my "perfect" side job and decided to become a full time business owner. It was here that I began facing some intense fear surrounding risk, the unknown, owning a business, and who I was as a person.

These walls have been there through many losses-lost pregnancies, lost relationships, lost business deals, and lost sense of identity. There were times that my cocoon was the only thing that felt safe when everything around me was being taken away.  

But during that journey, I began finding hope again. I began seeing God's abundance in my life, finding such love and acceptance in my husband, some really life giving friendships and I began allowing myself to grieve my miscarriages. I began to learn how to really OWN a business and not work for a business. I began living more confidently and respecting the deep waters I'd been through. It has been an amazing journey of renewal that I'm still in awe of.

Developing a point of view through self-discovery

We came into this  home with very little idea of our personal aesthetic and taste. During our time here, we've traveled the world and identified our sense of style in those travels. It's fun to see that we're leaving this place with a confident idea of our design sense and how we'd interpret that in any situation. 

It was during this transformative time in my life, that Stephen and I began brainstorming new ideas for our home design. Since I wasn't spending my energy dealing with fear and grief, I finally had room in my mind again to be creative! All of a sudden, life had so many opportunities and I wanted to explore them! 

As we leave this home, we hope you see a sense of our growth journey here. The confidence I now live in, the sense of wonder and exploration we want to cultivate, and the simple, textural approach we take to home interiors. 

The kitchen was my favorite transformation, with it's soothing carrara marble inspired palette and simple styling. My favorite design element in this house, however has got to be our charcoal plank accent wall in our living room! This element was the perfect way to create a sense of division in our open concept floor plan, giving the living room a defined sense of place. It made our already tall 9 foot ceilings seem even taller, and it gave the perfect nod to our love of travel.

Our master bedroom confused us when we purchased this home. The layout seemed funny even thought the room seemed huge. After a few iterations, we figured out how to really show off this room for all it's space and glorious window light! The layout wasn't the problem at all! It was just how it was used! 

Our guest bedrooms were our latest project and, though we haven't really had anyone here to enjoy them since we've completed them, we just love what we've created. Stephen really wanted a simple, clean design for each room with a soothing, refined look. He completely transformed those rooms on his own and I love what he did! I totally want to use those designs in our new home!

So as we list our home, we hope you enjoy our home tour! And we hope you see us in it and the amazing journey we've been on here! 

Before + After

When we first attended an open house at this townhome, it took us some time and thought to get on-board with living here. The space was not to our taste at all initially.

After spending more time in the place on a second showing, we began to see more potential. Once we were able to look past the paint colors, basic finishings and furniture choices, we noticed the high ceilings, lots of light, an open floor plan and ample square footage.

We knew we could transform the space to be what we really wanted and we worked so hard to being our vision of what the space could be to fruition.

Rome | A City Most Ancient and Interesting

I totally assumed Rome would be an overwhelming, touristy experience and DREADED our visit there. But my darling husband wielded his expert travel knowledge, taking us directly into the quiet and beloved Trastevere neighborhood, and I quickly became spellbound by the colorful charm of Roma.

Wandering in charming Trastevere

After we enjoyed our first bowl of Cacio e Pepe together, we took to the winding alleys and narrow streets. I immediately fell in love as we wandered warm, frescoed alleys scented with ample restaurants cooking slow, simple and delicious food, covered with vines, and lined with shops. 

Our fourth wedding anniversary

It was in Rome that Stephen and I celebrated our fourth anniversary and marveled that we had been married that long and that we got to celebrate in Rome, of all places! What a dream! It was a magical way to celebrate four beautiful year together.

I have so many unconnected observations from our time in Rome that I am just going list them below. Our time in Rome was far better than I expected and I absolutely loved learning about this nuanced, historic city and the people whose daily routines carry over from ancient times.

Tips for a trip to Rome

  • Bring shoes with a sturdy sole. Of all the cobbled streets we walked that month of travel, the unevenness of Rome's cobbled streets absolutely destroyed my feet! 

  • Don’t drive in Rome. Roman drivers are like dogs: they can sense fear. A short jaunt to a local post office to send off a few dozen rolls of film on the way out of town was the thrill of a life time—and not the good kind.

  • Yeah, you should definitely see the Colosseum & Forum. In fact, just swallow your pride and take a tour for this one. Yeah it will be crowded. Yeah, you'll feel like a tourist. But the deeper insight you'll get of this massive ancient ruin is worth it.

  • Enjoy those Roman evenings! I still long for warm evening aperitifs as dusk settled in along the charming and buzzing streets. The evening is really the main event here, so learn to stretch it out a bit. If you're eating dinner before 8:30 or in bed before midnight, you're not trying hard enough!

  • Watch those ZTL signs man. You may regret it otherwise—thankfully not speaking first-hand experience here. But then again, if you take my previous advice and don’t drive in Rome, you don’t have to worry about it. 

  • Walk the Tiber River for a spell. You won't believe how still and serene it is in such a bustling city!

  • Just stop for a minute and stare at the bridges there. Holy moly, they are beautiful!

  • Don’t dress or act like a tourist. Have I said this before? Yes? Well, if you haven’t listened to me yet, now’s a good time to do so because the petty theft industry is a thriving one in Rome. But if you look around at what residents look like and act like and at least try to fit in, you’ll just LOVE your time there!

  • Watch out when wandering! Romans do not share sidewalks well and will confidently walk side-by-side without regard to bidirectional traffic.

  • I’ve heard Rome can get unbearably hot. We were there at the end of September and the weather was absolutely perfect-sunny days in the mid 70’s, long pastel sunsets, and a slower, welcoming pace after dark. Be like us-go in September.

Sleigh Ride in a Northwoods Winter Wonderland

I think that if you follow us on instagram or facebook, you're WELL aware of the fact that Stephen and I don't enjoy winter. I'll sit in my warm house (thank you Jesus for our cozy home!), grumping about the short, gray days, raise a fist at the falling snow, and wish for warmth and sunshine for probably half the year. It's a miserable way to live, really.

The time I actually enjoy winter

There is a loophole though. Leading up to Christmas, we relish the excitement of snow, the coziness that comes with candlelight, glittering ornaments, and chilly evenings, and actually want to do things to commemorate the nostalgia of a wintry holiday season.

A sleighride that almost convinced me that winter is okay

This year, my dad arranged a sleigh ride in the northwoods of Minnesota. It was bitterly cold, which I initially grumped about (surprise surprise!), but I noticed that, being in the winter and not just begrudgingly spectating from a warm window gave me a shift in perspective. As we listening to the calming stillness of a snow-covered forest, jingle bells ringing as the horses trotted, and laughter as we talked together, I had a little inkling of "like" for winter. The cold melted into cozy conversation and the falling snow quieted our spirits to a sense of hushed anticipation.

I don't know how to channel this feeling beyond the holidays and welcome any suggestions. How do you get out and enjoy the cold winters? 

Thank you, Photovision for the lovely scans!

Umbria | Rustic Perfection in the Sleepy Heart of Italy

Umbria completely stole my heart. In the sleepy heart of Italian wine country, I found everything I hoped for in an experience in Italy and fell into an almost dreamlike state of relaxed awe as we wandered the idyllic countryside.

Our stay at an ancient Umbrian farmhouse

Upon arrival in Umbria, we checked into a 14th century farmhouse atop a hill lined with ancient cypress and a magnificent view of the vinyards spilling down the hillside. We were ridiculously hungry, but being in an ancient village at 8 pm on a Monday didn't make finding food too likely. After stopping at a few open doors, a kind Italian family gave us directions to a tucked away agriturismo where we ordered pizza and pasta el funghi. There in that empty family dining room, we ate what may be one of our top two meals in the country (the other is coming soon). And much like France, Umbria identified with it's food. Hearty, welcoming, simple, and divinely beautiful. 

Wandering in idyllic Umbria

For the next few days, we basked in the sunny vine laden hills, wandering through ancient cobbled villages like Spello, Orvieto, and Civita di Bagnoregio. There was just something so serene about this area. The simple lifestyle, sunshine, awe-inspiring history, and happy faces worked their ways into my soul and left me feeling supremely relaxed.

A garden lunch in Spello

One afternoon, as we wandered the streets of Spello, we stumbled upon a small, dark cafe. We ducked inside and grabbed a menu, hoping to eat a quick sandwich between stops. The owner gestured toward a hallway and told us there was a patio at the end. The hallway gave way to a garden oasis on the brow of a hill and we stood there for a minute and blinked, thinking we were definitely in paradise! 

We chose a spot under a large tree, asked for a plate of local meats and cheeses, salt cakes (a local specialty) and ate. It was the most simple meal, but by far the most delicious. We enjoyed a sweeping view across a patchworked valley of vineyards, tried all kinds of cured meats and cheeses, held hands, talked about dreams and goals, and laughed until tears streamed down our faces as we listened to the loud chatter from an animated group of older ladies sharing their travel experiences.

All I want in life is real connection with caring people, great food, a relaxing pace, and a beautiful, sunny view. And Umbria delivered. I'm already wishing for a revisit. 

Film scans by Carmencita Film Lab

Get to know the People Behind the Work | Our Favorite Things

Our work is more than just the sum of our photos, it's a human experience. And the more of life that we experience, the more we see our life loves reflected in the way we photograph. When I recognized this amazing reality, I wanted to explore how what we loved influenced how we photographed.

As this wonderfully symbiotic relationship of beauty and skill progresses, we wanted to take a few minutes to understand what we love and pursue in life so we could strengthen our fine art perspective, as it makes our work richer and more nuanced for our clients. 

From our love of age, history, and a rich patina, to the joie de vivre of outdoor living; the magic of human relationships, the wonder of travel, and our adoration of slow, methodical processes, like coffee brewing and film photography, we see the influence of each experience in our work. 

Above all, we're grateful to God for a beautiful life together that, amid highs and lows, is filled with love, joy, wonder, and is far better than I deserve.

What makes your "favorite things list?"

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California | Film Travel Photography

While in Los Angeles for Franchesca and Josh's Malibu engagement and Outdoor Walnut Grove wedding (coming soon to Dear Gray, friends!) Stephen and I took a few days to visit one of my favorite cities ever, Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara-the happiest place on earth

I've often joked with Stephen that Santa Barbara is "the happiest place on earth." I don't really know why I say that-it's a little overly dramatic, if I'm honest. But it's a place that I dream about living. 

With it's lovely spanish inspired architecture, a walkable downtown, great restaurants, beautiful coastline, slightly cooler weather, and easy access to Santa Ynez wine country, it's basically everything I'd hope for in a town.  There can be a moody marine layer and cooler temps, but more than likely, this historic mission town will be sunny and moderate. 

Our Smoothie Bowl Obsession

While there, Stephen and I made a regular habit of brunching on the most delicious smoothie bowls at Backyard Bowls (go there. get the Coco-cado bowl. Thank me later!) before striking out on our adventures. While I wanted indulgent brunches of pastries, bacon, and specialty egg dishes, I was so thankful we chose something healthy, filling, and really really delicious! Also, this had cacao nibs in it (hello, chocolate.) So it felt indulgent!

We spent our days walking downtown, ducking in and out of cute shops, and visiting stunning Santa Ynez Valley.

Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Ynez completely stole my heart. Gosh, I miss it! We wandered the golden hills taking photos (they literally look like someone unfurled a blanket of gold velvet on the mountains!), picnicked and did a wine and brownie tasting at the stunning Sunstone Winery and Villa, and talked about our dreams together as we watched the sun set over the mountains. 

Those few days in Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez are memories I cling to during a season where my to-do list seems larger than life. The best vacations are the ones that you savor long after they're done. And for me, this was one of them.

How I Stay Inspired During Wedding Season

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant:
if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."

― Anne Bradstreet

I don't know about you, but I find my deepest creative inspiration in my natural surroundings. Long after a hike, I take the sights, smells and sounds with me! 

As we begin a very busy season, I wanted to build time into my schedule to find creative inspiration to fuel me to do my best work for our dear clients. So, this past week, I grabbed my garden shears, a tote, and the pup, and went on a walk.

While walking, I collected greenery that caught my attention. When I arrived home, I sorted and styled these pieces to study texture, color, lines, styling, and composition. I had so much fun and feel ready for "go time!" 

While on my walk, I noticed how small and delicate the buds and leaves looked. What looked like vines would soon be strong branches, ready for any weather. After a hard winter, I love this season of fragile tenacity and look forward to personal growth during the busy months ahead. What do you do when you need to feel refreshed and inspired?