When Caroline Inge submitted her home tour to us, it was love at first sight. This 25-year-old Southern gal and her adorable boyfriend, Will, have set up shop in the bustling city of Atlanta. Caroline, a writer for The Home Depot’s Apron Blog and the blogger behind Between Your Ears, has turned this rental apartment into a cozy home filled with charming details.
Over the course of the last few years, Caroline has collected various antique pieces, along with some family hand-me-downs. She uses these pieces to add a sentimental, vintage feel to their apartment, as well as to save money for larger purchases. Caroline admits that she rarely gives in to trendy items because of her short attention span with decor. She prefers classic, neutral pieces and accessories, but this does not mean her apartment is lacking in style and uniqueness… in fact, it is quite the opposite!
“Come sit a spell” inside the small, yet impressive Southern home of Caroline and Will. We’re sure you’ll fall in love with this couple and their cozy and stylish apartment!
Full name: Caroline Inge
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current title/company: Senior Editor, Home Depot’s The Apron Blog
Educational background: BA in English, The University of the South (Sewanee)
What main attributes were you looking for in a home? What sold you on the apartment that you’re currently living in?
Architectural charm is definitely the selling point for me with any space. In this particular apartment, though, it was the light. Our apartment gets light on three sides, and we’re up in the trees, so our only neighbors are squirrels! Abundant natural light just makes this apartment so happy and warm. I also loved the original pine floors in the bedroom and kitchen, the stained glass windows, the clawfoot bathtub, and the kitchen appliances! Plus, good landlords are very important. It only takes one bad maintenance situation to teach you that lesson!
What are your favorite/least favorite things about your home?
My favorite thing about my home is the sense of history. Everything in here has a story, maybe it’s my story, maybe it’s my grandparents, or maybe it’s Will’s grandparents’, but so many things here remind me of where I came from and all of the wonderful people in my life that helped me get to where I am. It also just feels so good to arrive home to this place. It’s sunny, warm, and comfortable, it recharges me after a long day, and it’s a place where I can have family and friends over for a cup of coffee or a piece of cake.
My least favorite thing about my apartment is just that it’s not mine. We rent, so while I may fantasize about what I would do if I owned it, I don’t. All of the little tweaks I make are in my dreams.
How would you describe your decorating style? Where do look for inspiration?
I’ve never really considered it a ‘decorating style,’ mostly I just love furniture and started collecting it bit by bit. To me, a beautiful armchair is a piece of art, not just a place to sit. My parents have always told me that when you see something that takes your breath away, whether it’s a piece of furniture, jewelry, or a beautiful dress, just buy it. Chances are, you won’t find anything like it again, and you’ll always kick yourself for letting it pass by. I suppose that’s not quite true anymore with the internet, but they have a point. You should only buy things that you absolutely love, never purchase something specifically for one space. Before you know it, you’ll be moving, and that piece you bought specifically for a tight space or corner nook will be worthless in a different location. That’s how I buy furniture anyway—I invest in pieces that I can have for a lifetime, although that doesn’t always mean that the pieces I buy are expensive. A lot of my furniture is hand-me-downs and old antique mall finds, but whether it’s cheap or expensive, I only buy pieces with longevity. It’s easy to reupholster or slipcover, but you can’t change the shape, so buy something with good bones.
Your apartment is full of so many one of a kind pieces. What is your advice to someone looking to create a unique, collected home on a budget?
So much of my furniture was given to me by friends and relatives, or comes out of someone’s attic, so I would definitely suggest never saying “no” to a hand-me-down. It can be challenging sometimes to imagine someone else’s furniture in your own home and picture how it’ll work with your aesthetic, but I almost never say “no” to free furniture! There are all sorts of things that I almost turned down which have turned into some of my most treasured pieces. Even if it’s old, dusty, or feels outdated, just take it. Antiques and turned wood and mahogany aren’t going out of style anytime soon.
I’ve been mesmerized by Birmingham architect Bill Ingram ever since I saw the entryway to his Lake Martin house in Southern Accents years ago, and he had this great quotation in House Beautiful last summer, which I always keep in mind, although it’s basically just an eloquent way of saying what my parents always told me. “My philosophy is: When you see something perfect, buy it. If you don’t have a place for it, you’re going to have to force yourself. But eventually you’ll wind up with a house full of things you love!” He hit the nail on the head, and if one day I have a home even half as beautiful as his, I’ll consider myself lucky!
What was the decorating process like? How long has it taken to get your home to look the way it does now?
Moving into this apartment wasn’t so much about decorating as it was finding a place for everything we already had, if that makes sense. When we moved into this apartment, it was done within three weeks because I bought nothing new, other than a seagrass rug for the living room and the wingback chairs I found at an estate sale. It’s just a matter of finding the right place for everything.
How did you save money when decorating your house?
My strategy for saving money? I’m more of a save and then splurge kind of girl. I just prefer buying fewer nicer items. I don’t shop for things haphazardly. If I buy something, it’s because I’ve thought about it for months, shopped around, weighed the pros and cons of whatever function that item might serve, and then finally pulled the trigger. It might be more than I originally wanted to spend, but that’s ok if I know it’s going to be the exact thing I want.
One thing that’s worth mentioning is that I try to avoid buying items that I see in blogs and magazines mostly because I tire of patterns and trendy items quickly. Spending money on those things is just a waste, since I’ll hate it in 3 months. That’s the reason most of my furniture is solid neutrals. But everyone has what makes them happy, so if buying a pillow that you saw in a magazine makes you feel like a rockstar, then by all means, do it. Indulge once in a while. But for me, I’ve just found that I get more enjoyment out of larger pieces with unique character.
What is your favorite budget-friendly piece in your home and why?
Probably the lion painting that I hauled out of my grandparent’s attic. It’s just a cheap reproduction, but it doesn’t get more budget-friendly than free, does it?
You have such a beautiful art collection! How did you acquire such unique pieces for your home?
To me, art is a very personal thing. You should buy something because you love it, not because it matches a throw pillow or because it looks cool in someone else’s space. In order to have a long and happy life in your home, a painting or photograph needs to speak to something in your soul, and it needs to make you think. Some of my art pieces evoke different thoughts and feelings every time I look at them with fresh eyes, like the Samantha Reitmayer Sano painting above our little blue dining table. Some days it has this moody vibe that feels dark, but then other days it feels so optimistic and bubbly. Some days I’m just thinking, ‘how in the heck did she do this? Watercolor is so hard!’ With that said, it can be very intimidating to purchase art, especially if you don’t have heaping funds to throw around. In general, I just go with my gut, and try to throw color palettes and trends out the window.
But as far as our art goes, Will and I are very lucky in that we both have creative families who love to create and collect art, so several of our pieces were gifts or hand-me-downs from them. For example, the crumbling arch photograph in the bedroom was taken by my mother when she went backpacking through Russia in the 70s, and the oil painting of the terrier (Will’s old family dog) was done by his aunt, who is an incredibly talented painter, as was the portrait of his great-granny hanging over our bed! We do also make it a priority to invest in art pieces whenever possible. We both have the philosophy that art doesn’t need to be expensive or by a famous artist to be precious, but it should be original, and it should be fun!
When did you start your blog, Between Your Ears? How did you decide to start blogging? What were you hoping to get out of it?
I started my blog Spring of 2011 as a way to get back into writing and creating, which I was missing after leaving an old job. I love to visualize a story, take photos, and see it come together on the page. The constant challenge of storytelling through photos, recipes, and words is what keeps me contributing to Between Your Ears. I had taken a few photography classes back in high school, so it’s been really fun to get back into it. That’s my biggest challenge at the moment, becoming a better photographer and stylist.
Mostly, I’m hoping to get practice out of Between Your Ears. My blog is just a place where I can practice writing, photography, and the art of transporting readers to a new place. That’s my ultimate goal for Between Your Ears, to give you the sense that you’ve seen something new, gone somewhere, or tasted something from the comfort of a cushy chair and your computer screen. Now, the question is, am I doing that? I suppose that’s up to the blogosphere to decide!
Your blog focuses mostly on recipes and home decor. How did you becoming interested in cooking?
Oh geez, right about birth. My mother is a fantastic cook (as was her mother), and she’s an even better teacher. She has made everything under the sun, from Grand Marnier souffle to mayonnaise to my dad’s catch of the day, so growing up she was always walking me through what she was cooking and how she was cooking it. She’s also very patient, so even when I was a little girl, she would let me stir the mixing bowl, add in the sugar, and learn by doing.
My mom and I have different styles in the kitchen though. She’s a math teacher, so her approach is much more logical than mine. She follows recipes, is very prudent about tweaking them, and practices a recipe several times before it becomes part of her repertoire. I’m more of gypsy in the kitchen. I will follow a recipe, but I’m always improvising and flying by the seat of my pants with different spices and ingredients. I hardly ever follow a recipe to the letter, but use it more as a guideline to preparing a dish.
For anyone hoping to improve their culinary skills, my advice would be be to just start practicing. Just go for it, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You make something that’s inedible? We’ve all been there. Ask Will (my boyfriend), not all of my recipes are blog-worthy! Just start cooking a few adventurous meals a week, and eventually you’ll get the hang of it.
As far as home decor, I first became really exposed to the topic at my first job out of college. I was interning with MyHomeIdeas.com, and I got to work with the most talented group of people, who not only taught me how to pull everything together to create features, videos, or galleries but also showed me that interior design is something that should be approachable and fun. One of my first tasks was probably considered grunt work to them, but it was the best learning experience, as far as getting my feet wet with design. My job was to flip through archived magazines, study the images, find the photos in the archive, and write the copy to add them into the Room Galleries. It was a tedious job, but it gave me the time to figure out what worked in the room and why. I was just a goner after that experience and have loved interiors ever since!
You are also a writer on Home Depot’s The Apron Blog! How did you make that happen?
Between Your Ears got me the job, actually! They were looking for a design and decor blogger to join their team, and they somehow found my blog. I would never have dreamt that my little blog would get me a job, but there you have it. It’s been a blast, and I feel very lucky to get to work with a talented team and do what I really enjoy.
I know everyone’s heard this a million times, but you should never put anything out onto the internet (or anywhere really) that you wouldn’t want an employer to see. Trust me, they’re reading. But on the flipside, hone your skills, push yourself, and always put out the very best that you can, and someone out there will notice that too.
You moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia! What has that transition been like? Is there anywhere else you’d consider living in the future?
I had been in Birmingham, a very creative, foodie city, for several years, so it felt very natural to transition to Atlanta. The two cities have a similar vibe. I’ve only been here a short time, but I’ve loved living here!
There’s no city specifically where I’m itching to move, but I hope I’ll consider any new opportunities that arise for me wherever they may be. I do hold a special place in my heart for the South. It’s my home, and like so many folks from the South, it just feels like a big ole hug whenever I leave and then come back. As a culture, we have certain areas we need to work on, for sure, but the food, the personalities, the architecture, and the landscape just make it an incredible place to grow up and grow old.
What are your current career aspirations? Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
I have so many different things running around in my head constantly—things I’d like to do, places I’d like to work, classes I want to take. But just a handful of things I’d love to be at some point in my career—an Art Director or Creative Director, a food stylist, a photographer, a graphic designer, a writer, or an entrepreneur. Maybe a combination of all those things?
My hope for five years is just that I’ve made progress. I love my job now, so I just hope that I still enjoy what I’m doing (whatever that might be) in five years. I hope that I’ll feel like I’ve grown my talents, grown my network, tackled some projects I’m proud of, and embarked on professional adventures that keep me on my toes.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Probably the same advice I would give my 25-year-old self: don’t pay attention to what other people think. Don’t worry about how you’ll be perceived by old friends, distant relatives, or strangers. At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to live with your decisions, so anyone else’s approval shouldn’t matter. Also, trust your gut, because it’s led you in the right direction so far.