By Shannon Blair
I can see it now…HGTV’s newest hit show: “Remote Learning Reno”!
The struggle to create educational spaces for our children at home is real. That’s why I sought decorating savvy from one of CLT’s hottest new designers (and residents), Natalie Papier (pronounced “Pay-Pier”) of Home Ec.
Relocated from Chicago, Natalie is Mom to Kellen (6th grade) and Maddie (4th grade). She has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, HGTV Magazine, and Apartment Therapy. Her aesthetic is “funky, eclectic, and colorful,” and she believes homes “should be a reflection of the people who live in them, full of life, character, and warmth.” I agree.
But what does that look like when our homes shape-shift into schools and workplaces too?
I asked, and Natalie generously answered over a Zoom interview.
What are you liking so far about the Queen City?
The many opportunities to get outside–even in winter!
What should we know about Home Ec.?
I try to breathe life into a home by focusing on what brings my clients joy. My approach is bold, whimsical, and art-focused. We are spending so much time within our homes now that it’s important to emphasize what makes us happy inside of them. I still do some Chicago eDesign, but I am enjoying (socially-distanced) in-home consultations for residential projects in Charlotte. Instagram has been a vital source to become acquainted with Charlotte-area designers and the city.
Even designers have had to learn how to navigate working, learning, and living at home. What have you discovered along the way?
We have had to play it by ear because it’s hard to know what will work. Originally, I had myself working at the kitchen peninsula and the kids nearby at the kitchen table. I figured we’d all get our work done together. Nope! There was too much mutual distraction. I also decided to reclaim the kitchen, one of our main living spaces, because there was too much chaos with paperwork and computers everywhere. Instead, we relocated the kids to their bedrooms (knowing they’d have regular check-ins). We kept it simple by creating well-lit, comfortable spaces and organized the clutter.
You have two children at different schooling stages. Has that influenced your approach at all?
Yes! I find they do better when separated and that they have different needs because of different personalities. As a middle schooler, my son is able to self-focus and operate more independently whereas my daughter needs more contact. She does still need her own quiet space though. She also needed her bedroom toys moved to a different room, or stored when learning, to aid focus. Both need to switch up where they learn from time to time.
Any remote learning decor Dos and Don’ts?
–Do not reinvent the wheel or spend tons of money. Avenues like FB marketplace and vintage finds allow you to repurpose items like chairs, tables, and magnetic/cork boards. Kids can even paint them their favorite colors for fun!
–Do add art. Art can add motivation when it dwindles, and it’s easily changeable to keep surroundings fresh. Try Etsy for budget-friendly, inspirational pieces.
–Do design with lifestyle, convenience, and multi-function in mind. On the weekends, try to tuck away and hide school supplies and devices in cute bins.
–Do allow for ever-changing work spaces. You do not need dedicated rooms or offices. Even portable, fold up tables work. Changes of scenery matter.
Guilty of decorating with fake fruit in the past, even I have some (albeit amateur) design tips:
–Be willing to pivot. My daughter has not used her original bedroom set up (complete with cute Wayfair office chair and crafty bulletin board) since week 1. She’s much happier at our basic kitchen desk. Thank goodness we had not already turned that desk into the awesome wine bar we have on deck as a DIY project…
–Pull up a chair. My desk now doubles as a tutor/teacher assistant desk at any given moment during my workday. I have placed a small stool underneath that my kids can pull out when they need help. This also meant I needed to declutter the right side of my desk for their IPads and Chromebooks as I look on.
–Remember houses are crafted with brick and mortar. Homes are built with patience, teamwork, kindness, love, and laughter. This is not easy. My home is having to be rebuilt each day–moment by moment–with reinforcements of stress management, endurance, hugs, hope, and forgiveness (of each other and ourselves).
What are some of your favorite design tips for the “do it all” home? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Shannon Blair is wife to Sam and mom to Jay (10), Nora (7), and Tater (78 in dog years). When not teaching writing at Central Piedmont Community College, she can be found getting muddy in the garden, wreaking havoc in the kitchen, running and then un-running with a local craft brew, struggling to achieve Crow pose, reading, or trying to figure out which story to tell next. Stop on by and see how she can help you tell your stories too at pinkpenwriting.com.