A Swedish/vintage house tour of the “Torrence Place”

Oh man guys what an awesome reception to expanding this category! I’m so excited to further unpack what true hospitality is (inviting, listening, loving, sharing, giving, etc…) and debunk what it is not (decorating, entertaining, perfect homes, five course meals etc…) It is critical as women and home makers that we get “it”. Oh I just want to rail on right now but this is not the purpose of this post.

I promise you Jesus did not stand at Zacchaeus’ door and sigh….”I told you I was coming over to your house today and you didn’t clean up, fold your napkins into swans, set out an autumn table scape, craft me a name place card, and cook me a gourmet meal. Clearly, you don’t love or care for me.”

Can we set up some ground rules on any house tours I do? I don’t want to seem hypocritical here. I keep saying “It’s not about what your home looks like but the spirit in which you invite others into it and how you care for them.” So why am I showing you photos of decorated homes?

Well….I’ll tell you why.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established, through knowledge it’s rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4

WISDOM BUILDS your home, UNDERSTANDING ESTABLISHES it, and KNOWLEDGE FILLS it with rare and beautiful things.

Some other blog posts I’ll focus on the building wise homes and understanding how to establish them biblically part.

That third little nugget of “knowledge fills it with rare and beautiful things”… this is where I want to show a variety of homes that have creatively and very THRIFTILY filled their homes. It doesn’t say “fills it with brand new expensive things” or “fills it with rustic, eclectic things” or “fills it with modern and sleek things” or “fills it with Target, TJ Maxx and Home Goods things.” because we all have different taste, budgets, size homes. My mom still scratches her head when she comes to my house and sees the things I buy and colors I use. DOES NOT COMPUTE. She loves tchotchkes and borders and I love old things with patina and gray walls. Never the twain shall meet but that doesn’t make my house more beautiful than hers, just filled with different treasures.

So let’s get to this already. Can I please encourage you to READ Sarah’s words and not just rubber neck her home? She put a lot of time into answering all my questions so grab a cup of coffee or tea and take your time absorbing words and images holistically.

I’ve known Sarah since she was a pre-teen when I was her fearless youth leader in the late 90’s. I LOVE how God evolves relationships when you stay in the same community as I have for 20 years. I don’t think in 1996 when I was “discipling” her, a pimply teenager and me a pimply college student, that we could have ever imagined one day a friendship of sisterly proportion would emerge. We got married within four months of each other and stood up in each others weddings. We now live out in the country together raising our children in community. We traded in our wayward years, our bad taste in men and weird hair choices for slow mornings over coffee, paint color advice, rearranging furniture in each others houses and times of deep prayer together. I love this woman and you will love Sarah’s blunt and matter of fact story telling about her home and her growing pains on learning what true Biblical hospitality is.

photo (1) Circa 1996-1997ish. You know…bib overalls, doc martin phase? Yikes.

2003....an interesting hair phase for me at least.

2003….what do you mean I’m not a natural blonde.

Take it away Sarah…. (please note that they moved into their house in May and there are MANY things still not done so she was gracious to let me photograph it not at 100% completed)

“I should start by saying I do NOT feel qualified to be some sort of example of hospitality for anyone. All these things are what I desire for our home, but by no means have I mastered the trade. I was super stoked to have Kelly and Ryan take pictures because I knew it would look pretty and because we really needed an updated family photo-HA! But, NEWS FLASH PEOPLE- our house looks like this NEVER.


Family photo...check.

Family photo…check.


One of my biggest pet peeves is how unrealistic social media is. I had just had my grandparents over and I said “Quick Kelly! Come take pictures while it is still clean!” No matter what my house looks like, my life is messy and imperfect and some days it is just a boring grind that no one sees. I mean, I am a stay at home mom…it is just NOT that glamorous.

head shot outtake. hashtag real life

head shot outtake. hashtag real life

I do love to keep a clean house and I love to express my creativity in my home as my hobby. I do other things like I have a few friends and go to crossfit…but I don’t DO a lot. This is my choice of what I like to do in my small amount of free time. So while my house may look pretty, I do NOT like to cook- nor am I gluten or anything-free, I do NOT home school, I say NO to a lot of extra activities that busy our family, I don’t sign the kids up for extra sports or activities (yet) and I only get my hair cut once a year. Keeping thing simple is my “thing”.


The truth is, I do want to learn about hospitality. I want our home to be shared because we were given more than what we deserve. I am in a continual process of letting go and focusing more on our family and our ministry instead of the next creative project I would like to try.



1-How was “home” taught to you growing up? What things do you find yourself carrying over into your own way of showing hospitality?

The main thing about our home growing up was comfort. My mom sort of “decorated” and kept a clean home, but it was not her thing and not always tidy. She opened it up to many many people (as many as would come) from our church, neighborhood, friends, and family…plus any stray that might need a place for thanksgiving ect… For her, the main concerns were “was it warm (aka cozy) enough?”, “was there enough food?” and “is it conducive to talking and sharing?”. People often came to our home and were at ease and comfortable. Relationships and talking always came first for my mom…way above any to do list or house project or even being on time to everything.


I found for my personality, this mostly drove me crazy growing up. I like to clean, I like to decorate, I like to get my to do lists done and I like to be on time. So when we were married and had our own home, I wrestled with the fact that I really DO love the aesthetic part of a home but when its super clean and well put together, is that a barrier for people? Do they not feel as comfortable?



I think the answer for me was MY attitude. I decided that when people are here, it is THEIR time. I no longer care about the dishes or the half painted front door or anything on my to do list. What I love to do in my own time is be creative with my home. And it puts me at ease to keep it picked up (as best I can with 3 kids). But whenever someone walks through that door, I just don’t care about that stuff. I just plop on a couch and I want to hear their story and about their life and I am guessing that is why people feel so comfortable here. I suppose I got from my mom. That and we have a LOT of cozy blankets and we try to have a lot of food (mainly dairy products).



2- Explain your aesthetic with decorating and how you choose items. Does your profession play into your choices?

I guess as a designer I developed a clean and simple aesthetic. But I do love color. So I think for our home, it is kind of that way. It is a blank pallet (that’s where the Swedish white walls come in) with some color thrown in with textiles and painted furniture.


I do NOT like matching things. I just want the items I keep in the house to have some significance – I don’t care if they “go” together. The stuff on my walls are all very eclectic. I don’t want to buy some generic painting because I need to fill a blank wall.




I also use everything…I don’t set aside “nice stuff”. If I get something handed down like an embroidered tablecloth, I am going to use it and not stuff it in a drawer! We have used our good china from our wedding everyday since we were married.

My favorite furniture piece and lighting fixture in her whole house.

My favorite furniture piece and lighting fixture in her whole house.

Lastly, we just basically have collected (cheap or free) a lot of chairs and couches and hammocks- some look nice and others have fabric ripping off and may fall apart at any moment because we haven’t worked on them yet. But we have lots of places for people to spread out, talk and relax.


3- When you decided to build your own home, what were some of the thoughts or considerations you made in layout and design that represented not just your aesthetic but what you felt God was calling your family to do WITH your home?

God has given us this amazing gift. Never ever in my life would I have guessed that at 31, we would live in a NEW home on a beautiful farm. We know for a fact that this was given not just to us. This home was meant to be shared and to be a place of peace and refuge.




We also knew we wanted to raise our children in an environment where they could learn to be creative and to be hard working. I am not a home school mom, so I knew that the time when my kids were at home was crucial. I wanted it to be a refuge for them too…and for their friends. I don’t want them to find that somewhere else. I want them to feel comfortable and learn from their family how to work hard and be thankful for all they are given. And learn how to share that with others.



I don’t know exactly what that will look like through the years- or even how to go about creating a home like that. We have asked God for each step to make that clear…help us to have a home with enough space for those who need it but not something too big and overwhelming and intimidating.

4- What are some of your favorite features of your home when you sit and look around it? Did your years working on furniture with your business at 508 Restoration help you decorate your home?

Our screened porch has been our favorite so far. We had no idea how much we would enjoy it! It is such a gift to eat outside or relax out there in the shade, no bugs or rain to bother us. It is the most calm spot in our home.



Our floors downstairs are special to us too because they came from the trees that were cleared for this house. Nathan and his brothers and dad and my dad all worked together to mill them and lay them. They are not perfect like a normal new home and we never worry about messing them up or scratching them.


5- What feeling or feelings do you hope your guests experience when they are visiting or staying over night?

We hope they are at peace. We hope they find a slower pace and a beautiful and restful place full of food and sarcasm and real life.


Guest bedroom

Guest bedroom



6- How do your kids use your house? Any kid friendly advice or things you have discovered to keep the house usable but not screaming “KIDS LIVE HERE”!?

We mainly have focused on the outside. With our kids and any visiting kids, we hope they learn to explore the woods and use their imaginations making bow and arrows (or any type of weapon) and as my mother-in-law would say, it’s always good to have some activities that are slightly dangerous too. Cause why else would they want to come back?! We have several swings, a giant rope swing and paths made in the woods to the creek. Next we are working on a tree house and possibly a zip line.




We focus on stuff that is fun for any age – boy or girl. I try to teach the girls how to make fairly lands with moss and leaves and sticks and be warrior princesses….or sometimes just run laps around the driveway. It works!



Of course we have all the junky stuff too like bikes and trucks and balls….which I try to jam all into one spot to keep the plastic to a minimum.

But honestly, our yard looks trashy a lot. It’s ok.

As for inside…I don’t really know. My kids all share a big room and all their toys are all in there with them. The girl side is very decorated because my oldest got that gene and its something we have fun with together. I also have a few toys in the basement as well as an old TV. The main living area downstairs has only one basket of toys for my youngest. Ideally the toys are to stay in said locations…but they pretty much get everywhere and drive me nuts on a daily basis.






2nd guest bed

7- When Anthropologie approached you and Nathan to feature your stenciled animal line how did you prayerfully walk through your decision to decline the offer? Do you regret your decision?


At the time, our little 508 business was growing more than we expected. It seemed like the less effort we put into the business, the more opportunities came up. It was supposed to be a hobby for me and now it was turning into a real job for both of us. I felt like God was blessing our business and we loved doing it together- it was good for our marriage too.


So when I got the call from Anthropologie (and after I peed my pants a little), I thought for sure this had come from God because it is certainly
NOT something we had ever pursued. I asked for a week or so to think it over. We prayed through that decision while starting working out all the details of the contract…I had a few phone conversations with the buyer and it was a wonderful experience. But something didn’t sit quite right.

Then one day while driving down our driveway, it was suddenly clear to both of us that we needed to say NO. It wasn’t exactly clear why but it seemed God was just asking us to trust Him. We just felt like if he was able to bless our business with little effort on our part, what is to stop Him from doing that again one day? Or maybe something completely different?

They are still deciding on what to cover the base of the island in.  Look at dem windows!!

They are still deciding on what to cover the base of the island in. Look at dem windows!!


That week, after we turned down the contract, my mom was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. I became pregnant with my 3rd a month later. And a month after that we sold our house (where 508 started) and moved into a rental in the country. In 6 months following, we started the process of building a house, Nathan changed jobs and I spent all my time either caring for the kids or in and out of hospitals with my mom. Then a month later, I had our Piper eight days before my mom passed away and then we moved again.

All I can think is that God is so good. He has never left my side. Things like this Anthropologie gig become so insignificant when you are thinking about what your life looks like living in the kingdom. Not to say that stuff is bad-and maybe one day some cool creative opportunity will come again. But He GAVE ME THAT CREATIVITY. It is His. These things are so small in comparison to what He can do with our lives when we give up control.

Looking back, if we had not listened to Him and signed on with Anthropologie, there would be so much about our life (in the kingdom) that we would have had to give up.

We haven’t spent a single second regretting that decision.


8- How do you extend the “spirit of invitation” to others? Do you have any verses or passages that you pray over your home?

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Finally one of my favorite mottos about your home.


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13 Comments on A Swedish/vintage house tour of the “Torrence Place”

  1. Lyndsey
    November 6, 2014 at 6:36 am (4 years ago)

    This was so good, Kelly & Sarah. The messages were relatable and the pictures served the house beautifully. (Kelly, I AM reading the book you lent me. Aaaand thanks for including me in a picture.

    • Kelly
      November 20, 2014 at 3:55 pm (4 years ago)

      hahaha Lyndsey! I love your expression. You were probably jealous of my sweet overalls!!

  2. Lora
    November 6, 2014 at 9:27 am (4 years ago)

    so inspiring!!

    • Kelly
      November 20, 2014 at 3:56 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m so glad you were inspired Lora! Go be Jesus in your home!

  3. chrissy
    November 6, 2014 at 10:17 am (4 years ago)

    i loved this! keep it up, kelly! this is such a good set of posts! and thank you, sarah, for sharing your heart! it was amazing!

    • Kelly
      November 20, 2014 at 3:57 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you for the encouragement to keep on this topic Chrissy. I’ve got a bunch more up my sleeve!

  4. Mary
    November 6, 2014 at 1:18 pm (4 years ago)

    Just beautiful.

  5. Haley
    November 6, 2014 at 2:46 pm (4 years ago)

    So neat reading through this Kelly & Sarah! Great job :)

  6. Julie Plants
    November 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing this and taking the time to do this with Sarah it was a great idea. I am so proud of her

  7. becca
    November 6, 2014 at 7:09 pm (4 years ago)

    Love the article Sarah! I remember being at your house on a regular basis growing up and the move to Ivanhoe. Your house is beautiful but I love the priorities and who you are more.

    • Kelly
      November 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm (4 years ago)

      Becca, I’m so glad we nailed the point that it is the priorities and the heart behind the home and not the”stuff” inside of it. Thank you for taking the time to comment

  8. Colleen
    November 7, 2014 at 6:28 am (4 years ago)

    Loved reading this! Thank you. Had to laugh that the very next email I received was from Pinterest. Here was the intro….”Belgian linens from Diane Keaton, bamboo flooring from Bob Vila, rustic interiors from David Bromstad and Tyler Wisler—just to name drop a few. See what these home-obsessed celebs have their eyes on, then save them and make them your own.” My hope is that they enjoy their homes as havens with the same level of self expression like Sarah obviously does!


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