On any given day Amanda Jane Jones – designer, mother, woman extraordinaire – may be working on packaging for a coffee company. Or graphics for a new print of Pride and Prejudice. Or rolling out the new Gathre play mats she designed. Or she may put all work aside, bundling up her two toddlers, daughter Jane and son Miles, for a day in the snow.
You may recognize Amanda as the founding art director of Kinfolk – the slow-living magazine that rocked the publishing, design and everything else industry. In the years since she’s moved to freelance, she’s taken on a myriad of jobs, including a heavy hand in the renovation of the Chicago apartment she calls home with her husband Cree, Jane and Miles.
We chatted with Amanda to get a glimpse into her life and home today, from the payoffs and headaches of renovating, to what makes her house a home, to her go-to decor shopping spots. Tell us everything, Amanda.
You and your family recently moved into a new home in Chicago. (Though not too far from your previous home.) Take us through the buying and renovation process – the ups, the downs, some more downs. Any memorable hiccups in the renovation process?
Yes! The apartment next to ours had been empty since the day we moved in 2013. It was dark and the windows were covered and there was a constant slow drip from the apartment into the shared basement which also caused concern. Basically it gave me the creeps. Our upstairs neighbors found the owner and bought it from them to flip. It was in worse shape than they even imagined; the walls were so moldy, it looked like cottage cheese in some places. The entire floor had to be replaced. So many things they didn’t foresee. After about ten months, they were really getting ready to be done with it and asked if we wanted to buy it from them and then we’d work together to finish it.
It was the best case scenario for us. We could work in the evenings after the kids went to bed and we were able to make all the final design aesthetic choices before finalizing the sale of the home and even before moving in. Our sweet neighbors would never say so, but I’m sure I was super annoying. As you can probably gather, I’m very particular about how my home looks and is styled, and they were very patient with me – they didn’t even roll their eyes when we took out the kitchen laminate floor they’d just installed because I wanted hardwood.
Cree and I took over the kitchen, all lighting and closets. (We turned Jane’s closet into a laundry room.) They’d installed Ikea bases in the kitchen, so luckily we were able to order cabinet covers from Semihandmade that snapped right on. Then we installed open shelving and hired someone to build us a white concrete countertop.
The whole situation really worked out perfectly! My brother and his sweet family now rent our old apartment and we feel pretty lucky to share walls with people we love and live in a space we love too.
What are the draws of your new home versus your previous place?
The new place has amazing natural light. It’s on the end of the building with no buildings blocking the windows, so the sun is basically direct from noon to sunset which has made our long, Chicago winters much more bearable.
It also makes for beautiful photographs. And since I take a lot, that’s been a plus!
The style of your home echoes that of your design work – timeless, quiet but with a playful wink – full of white walls, classic furniture and charming art. How would you describe your decor aesthetic?
I spend 95% of my time in my home. I work from home, I live here, I dream here, I create here, I love here – my life is here. And for me, in order for that to work for me, my personality needs peace and calm and organization. (As much as you can with two toddlers.)
I use calming colors and there is literally a place or bin for everything which helps keep our home tidy. The kids always know where everything goes so they can help clean and they can also get their own toys all on their own. We’re big supporters of independent play and finding them in their rooms surrounded by their toys and blocks and books and dress-ups is so fun.
How has your style (and perhaps personality) changed over the course of settling into adulthood and motherhood?
My style used to be more thrifty/trendy and much brighter, but as we’ve settled into our style as adults, although still thrifty, we’ve been able to save for pieces that are a bit more timeless.
I think that’s our goal now: to fill our home with styles and pieces we can picture ourselves loving just as much now as we will when we’re 72. So I guess we’ve ventured into a more classic and timeless look and that feels like a good place for our 30s.
You’ve moved across the country a handful of times – living in Kansas City, New York City, Ann Arbor and, currently, Chicago. (Any cities I’ve missed?) How has picking up and moving your life affected your connection with things?
We also lived in Philly, Washington, D.C. and spent two summers in Switzerland! It’s taught me a lot.
1. That home is wherever your people are. We can make a home anywhere if we’re all together.
2. When you travel for longer periods of time, take a couple things from home that will help you feel settled – some favorite blankets, that small kitchen bowl you always put your fruit in. Little things like that, although small, make a home-away-from-home a little cozier.
3. Only keep it if you love it. I’m embarrassed of all the things we’ve moved across the country that just stayed in storage because it had some sort of sentimental value. It’s not worth it!
Speaking of those other cities, how was your room decorated as a teenager? Do you see any remnants of teenage Amanda in your style now?
Ha! When I was in the sixth grade, I had pink walls and a big wall covered with photos of the band Hanson. My mom, being the diplomat she is, suggested we decorate my room and that she’d match every dollar I contributed. So we painted my walls lime green. We bought some white inflatable furniture and a blue and yellow comforter with sheer curtains and painted picture frames of my family in a blue to match. I had so much fun doing that with and was grateful to my mom for giving me free reign.
I will say, looking back, it was all done very simply. So I guess that’s the same and I kept my room very organized back then too. The colors, however, were quite a bit different though.
Your home mostly features white and neutrals. What’s your relationship with color?
I actually love color! I’m not in a financial position, however, to switch out the pieces in my home as the trends change, so we try to keep it as timeless as possible in hopes that we can keep our things around for years and years.
I’m trying hard though to save up for some colorful artwork. I just bought a piece by Ana Kovaces that I can’t wait to frame. It’s yellow! Shocker!
When you – or your kids, husband or guests – walk into your home, what vibe do you want your home to emit?
I want them to feel peaceful, welcome and cozy. I want it to be a safe place for my kids and a place we all yearn for and look forward to returning to.
What unfinished business, whether a renovation project or a blank wall, needs to be tackled next?
I have a couple photos I need to hang. I also want to create a gallery bar down the hallway, but that’s going to take some time to organize.
Oh! This is gross, but the stain from the trim and the fireplace is seeping through in a bright pink. It’s terrible, but that’s a cost that will have to wait until next year, so until then, we have some hot pink highlights in the front room. Ha!
What’s one thing in your home that’s constantly changing?
The artwork! I like to change our photos and move things around. We also are always adding little knick knacks from our travels.
…And one thing that stays the same?
Every morning starts with cuddles and ends with the same. Lots and lots of cuddles.
Name a few pieces that mean the most to you – the type of things you’d grab in a fire. Children and husband exempt.
Photo albums. (Although, I just watched that fire episode of This Is Us and ugly cried the entire time and made Cree promise to let everything burn if our house ever catches on fire.) Journals, maybe my hard drives. (I should really backup on a cloud.) Everything else is replaceable.
What are you currently…
Tripping over? Legos (ouch)
Looking to buy? Artwork
Struggling with styling? My gallery wall
Loving about your home? The wonderful natural winter light and the hiss of the radiators. It’s eight degrees outside!
Where are you most likely to shop for…
Lighting: Schoolhouse Electric
Furniture: Hedge House and 57st design
Office supplies: Muji and Hay
Kids’ toys: Monroe Workshop, Milton and Goose, Olli Ella, Brimful Shop
Art: Schoolhouse Electric, Anna Kovaces, Slow Season
Goods from Chicago artists: 57st design, I wish I could afford a Chad Kouri piece! Love his work.
Let’s daydream. Imagine your ideal home. What does it look, sound and feel like?
Mmm…on Lake Michigan, a big yard for playing with a fun treehouse. A screened in porch for summer and a fireplace for the winter. Lots of windows. I’ve also always wanted a little studio out back where I could work, set up shoots and leave there at the end of the day. But that’s just dreaming.
I am certainly obsessed with Amanda’s dreamy aesthetic. How about you? I’m officially going to chuck so many of my kiddo’s never-played with toys right now. You can feast on even more pretty on Amanda’s instagram right here.
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