Our Home Tour 2020

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Welcome to our home, friends, and come on in! While I’m welcoming you virtually to a peek into our house, let’s pretend I’m greeting you at the front door with a big smile, hug, and glass of lemonade (or rosé, depending on the time of day!).

This house of ours has truly felt like home since the minute we first stepped foot in it. Not only do we adore our home (the layout, open floor plan, the outdoor space and lake, the huge windows, the garage, the laundry room; all of it!) but we also adore that it’s a home made for hosting: for welcoming our neighbors, family, and friends into our home and into our lives. We’ve made so, so, so many happy memories here already, and we can’t wait for countless more!

Whenever we had dinner parties or game nights or cookouts or hosted family and friends (before the pandemic!), those times were a reflection of what we imagined for our home. I can only hope that anyone who visits us feels incredibly welcomed, loved, and cared for every minute of their stay. We want our home to be a haven and a happy place: where you can come to feel safe, loved, welcomed, invited, and comfortable. We have long wanted our home to be filled with warmth and generosity, and the foundation of our home is built on welcoming and loving others.

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In May 2018, I was awake early and looking online through new homes on the market in Raleigh. Only one popped up in our price range, and the second I saw it, I fell in love with the house! I texted our amazing realtors at Lovette Properties (where Rob is a real estate broker now!) to set up a showing immediately — I was so giddy and excited for Rob to wake up so that he could see this dream home! We saw the house in person that afternoon, fell head over heels for it the moment we pulled up, walked in and felt so at home already, and knew immediately how much we wanted this house and could envision our little family making this our home! So much sunlight, the perfect size (3 bedrooms and 1700 square feet), two story living room with an abundance of windows, an open floor plan, a beautiful deck, right on a lake (whaaat?!), and somehow well under our price range!

We put in a competitive offer right away, wrote the most compelling offer letter we could, and waited anxiously to see if we just might get this house! (We’d already put in four other offers on houses and lost them all because the Raleigh market was nuts!) And lo and behold, the day the house went on the market — it was OURS! Our realtors called with the news, and I was sobbing and squealing uncontrollably — what a surreal, unbelievable, incredible moment that I’ll never forget. We’re exceedingly grateful that we get to live in this home and share it with so many!

Of course, I have loved interior design my entire life and have long dreamt of having our own house, so designing it and making our home aesthetically pleasing is something that brings me great joy! Rob is the sweetest, most easy going husband in the world and is truly happy to let me decorate our house however I want to. I try to make design decisions and purchases with us in mind and to find the right balance between my feminine style and his preferences. Rob really isn’t too opinionated at all when it comes to home decor and is glad to let me have fun with it, which I really appreciate!

Most of the homes I’ve ever grown up in have a front porch, and this was near the top of my wish list for our house. Our fronch porch – and getting to hang bunting on it for the Fourth of July and festively decorate it for Christmas – is the sweetest welcome to our home. When you open the front door, you can see straight through the house to the lake! I think this view took my breath away when we first toured our house, and I love the bright and open layout.

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This home guestbook is so special already, and I can only imagine the legacy and memories it will contain years and years from now! Friends and family sign our guestbook and leave little notes and memories every time they visit, and having this is the happiest record of time spent with loved ones. Our home’s core is to love and welcome others wholly, to practice genuine hospitality, and to be a warm, inviting, grace-filled, and loving home… and this book is the perfect item on our little welcome table by the front door! We also have our Bible guest book from our wedding, a glass box filled with my dried wedding bouquet, some favorite books and pictures of our family, and other special mementos in the entryway.

More than the design (of course I have a color palette – my favorite palette – and a design plan!), we want our home to be inviting, stylish, warm, and Southern. We want it to be a place of gathering and community, for sure, and a place that feels refined and elegant yet cozy and relaxing — and fun!

All I ever wanted in a home was a table big enough to hold lots of friends around it, and I rejected several houses because they had no dining room. We were thrilled to see the dining room in this house, and I instantly knew we could fit so many friends and family members around a table here. We commissioned the builder from Cottage Luxe to create a custom dining room table for us that could easily hold ten, and it turned out better than I could have imagined. Gathering around the table with loved ones and sharing a meal and great conversation together is simply the best. We’ve had probably 75+ dinner parties (some with four people, some with twenty!) at this table since we moved in a little over two years ago, and there is little more special to me than gathering here. From double dates to ourWhen we host Friendsgiving for our community group, we put another 8 foot table adjacent to this one so that we can fit 20 around it, though we do spill completely into the entryway!

The very first thing I bought for our house once we went under contract was this amazing light fixture for our dining room. It was $100 (including delivery!) from World Market, and it just made this room come to life. I also painted our dining room a light dusty blue one day while Rob was at work and surprised him with it when he got home! This is the only room we’ve painted, and I love the peaceful palette in here. I also purchased art from Emily Jeffords for both our dining room wall and our living room wall, and her colorful landscapes are simply stunning.

Cocktails, anyone?! This white IKEA piece is the perfect shelving unit and bar cart for us, and I’ve bene using it for this purpose for five years now. I love, love, love collecting vintage glassware, have two sets of my grandmothers’ antique china, keep adding to my candle collection, and adore mixing cocktails together. I also keep all of my linens, napkins, table cloths, place cards, and table top decor items in the wooden hutch in the corner, as hosting is a favorite activity of mine!

These tall two-story windows and high ceilings in our living room are what sold this house to me the moment it hit the market (and it was ours within 24 hours!). There’s little I love more than all of the abundant, happy sunlight constantly streaming into this space, and this vantage point from the top of our stairs is a favorite. I’m pretty sure I pause daily coming down the stairs and thank God for our home, His provision, and the people who fill it. Welcoming others into our home and our lives is a symbolic act of love, and making this space a place of welcome, rest, and joy is pivotal to us.

How many pineapples can you spot on our home tour, by the way?!

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This sunny corner of our sectional is my favorite morning perch! Every weekday morning, it’s where I come (usually before Rob is even awake) to watch the sun rise over the lake, drink iced coffee, and curl up for quiet time: reading my Bible and devotional/study, writing in my gratitude journal, and in prayer. It’s truly the best and most purposeful way to start my day the right way — and with my heart and head centered on what’s most important. I love this sunny, calming little corner of the sectional so much!

We lovingly call this gallery wall above our couch “the wedding shrine” – ha! We have so many sentimental, sweet details and images from our wedding day framed here, from  our favorite portraits and memories to the garter my grandmother crocheted for me to wear to our wedding invitation to calligraphy of our first dance song. It’s such a special reminder of the happiest day!

Our living room – and really our entire downstairs – is very open, which we love. The kitchen and living room are spacious and bright, and the flow perfectly together. Since (pre-covid, of course) we host a lot, it was incredibly important that we have a great, open layout with ample room to gather. And someday I’ll finally invest in my dream bar stools to pop in right there at the kitchen bar!

Our house plants have been thriving since we get so much sunlight! I’m a huge fan of having real plants around our house, from our fiddle leaf fig to an incredibly long pothos on our mantel. We have six or seven live plants and intermix those with a few fake plants!

One of those random design details I always wanted in a home was a white mantel, and I’m so glad that our house included one! I adore changing out the decor on our mantel for the changing seasons, and this large vintage gold mirror (that I found for $40 the week I moved to Raleigh!) is the perfect anchoring piece for such a tall space to fill.

Our home was built in 1994, and right before the previous owners listed their house, they did a lot of updates. We are so, so thankful that we didn’t have to do anything cosmetic or make any big repairs or updates when we moved in, as everything was basically brand new (new hardwoods, newly painted white kitchen and bathroom cabinets, new appliances, new granite countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms, new carpet, etc). We are not handy, nor did we want to spent a lot of time or money renovating, so we were especially glad that a home in our price range was already updated and ready to move in! I thought I wanted to change the green marble that surrounds the fireplace, but I’ve grown to love and embrace it (and barely notice it!). There are some minor cosmetic things we’d change if we win the lottery (ha!), but we’re both so glad that there’s nothing we need to change now. Someday I’d debate painting our house white or doing a more neutral/clean granite in the kitchen and bathrooms, but those are all distant thoughts for now. I do, however, want to wallpaper our powder room very soon! Who knows how to wallpaper?!

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We spend so much time out on our little oasis of a deck! From reading or just chatting on the loveseat to swinging on the porch swing to eating meals at the dinner table to grilling out to blowing up the kiddie pool to just enjoying an evening under the market lights, we use our deck almost every single day. It’s so private with a huge wall of flowering dogwoods on one side of the deck and the most serene lake view in our backyard.

Every single day, I’m wildly grateful that we get to live here — it’s a dream come true to make this house our home and to thoroughly enjoy our beautiful deck, the peaceful lake, and these blooming dogwoods. Setting the table for a dinner date on our deck really makes me happy — and makes dinner at home feel just a bit more special. Dinners out here just taste better!

This view truly never gets old. We love our little lake so much!

My office fills one of our bedrooms, and I situated my desk to look directly over our lake! I definitely have the very best view while I work, and I love seeing the weather change, watch the lake, and enjoying the wildlife in our backyard and in the trees. We have cardinals, hummingbirds, a crane or heron, lots of ducks (and baby ducks), plenty of geese (and goslings), turtles, squirrels, and so much more. Not only is my view pretty great, but I’m so glad to have a whole room to spread out and a closet to fill with all of my wedding planning and work items.

I love how calming, peaceful, and happy our master bedroom is, especially with its vaulted ceiling, big windows, large walk-in closet, spacious bathroom with a tub and a shower, and hardwood floors.

Something I feel strongly about is not waiting til everything is perfect to invite others into your home or even into your life. Perfection is unattainable, and fear of being imperfect or messy or unfinished can be crippling + hold us back from life-giving relationships. Our home is a place where I desperately want others to feel welcomed, loved, and relaxed — I never want it to feel pretentious or too perfect. Giving myself grace is so important, as is knowing that no one cares how “perfect” anything looks. It’s so, so, so much more about sharing our lives and our hearts with one another than striving for looks or perfection!

Two favorite parts of our house are my bookshelves (clearly overflowing!) and our board game closet (a whole closet for board games… and my candle collection!). I read a ton of books and have collected books my entire life. A bright spot during quarantine has been loaning out dozens and dozens of my books to local friends to do a front porch pickup! Rob and I also love to play board games and host game nights with our friends, and we also registered for many games when we got married. Having them all easily accessible and fairly organized has been so wonderful, and we love making use of all of these fun games. His dad built us the shelves in this closet on their last visit to North Carolina, and that update has been instrumental.

We’ve definitely made this house our home, hosted countless dinner parties and game nights, had tons of cookouts, enjoyed our peaceful lake view every single day, planted flowers in the yard, had lots of overnight visitors stay with us (including three for several months!), and felt wildly grateful for it all countless times each day — and with this wonderful husband by my side through it all! I can’t wait to see what the next years bring for us in our home – and here’s hoping we can have friends and family over again soon!!


You can also see how I decorate our home for Christmas here, as well as how I decorated for Thanksgiving here! I also share lots of home updates at #ShaulChateau and have shared lots of tips for hosting dinner parties, if you’d like to check those out.

Hosting a dinner party and entertaining at home

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Gathering with friends, family, and neighbors in our home and around the dinner table is one of those things that makes my heart sing, and we try hard to make a point to do so often. Inviting others into our home (no perfection or insane hosting skills needed!) is the heartbeat of life and of community. No matter how big or small your space is, no matter how elaborate or simple you keep it, no matter how well you know how to cook or no, I believe it’s so important to invite others into our homes and our lives and to share genuine community with one another. I love to host and entertain, and celebrating life is something I am passionate about and always have been! Long ago, I declared myself a celebration enthusiast, and I firmly believe there’s always a reason to celebrate and to have a dinner party.

Something I feel strongly about is not waiting til everything is perfect to invite others into your home or even into your life. Perfection is unattainable, and fear of being imperfect or messy or unfinished can be crippling and hold us back from life-giving relationships. Our home is a place where I desperately want others to feel welcomed, loved, and relaxed — I never want it to feel pretentious or too perfect. Giving myself grace is so important, as is knowing that no one cares how “perfect” anything looks. It’s so much more about sharing our lives and our hearts with one another than striving for looks or perfection!

As a wedding planner and lifelong hostess, though, there are several simple, effective, and totally doable tips and tricks I’ve gathered throughout the years to make any gathering or dinner party a bit more memorable and festive! I firmly believe a bunch or two of $4 flowers from Trader Joe’s or your local farmer’s market can go a very long way, a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge is always a good idea, and a cheese and charcuterie board makes nearly everyone very happy.

There are a few go-to items that I always try to have stocked and on hand for any last-minute entertaining: a stocked bar cart (and plenty of lemons and limes for cocktails and to enhance your water!), an assortment of fun cheese, charcuterie, crackers, nuts, chocolate, and dried fruit for a delicious and easy cheese board (always, always a hit and a definite favorite!), fresh flowers or greenery (from Trader Joe’s, the farmer’s market, or even picked from your yard!), background music, white and red wine (again, Trader Joe’s is where I always stock up), homemade popcorn, and candles (tall taper candles make anything feel fancy and festive!). We also always have a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge, just in case a proper toast is called for!

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Setting the mood or atmosphere of your dinner party is one of the crucial elements of a successful event. Think about lighting (dimmer lights, taper and votive candles, and market lights) and music (the perfect playlist) so that your dinner party evokes the effect you’re going for. Fresh flowers are also a key element of setting the atmosphere of your party – I always have plenty to scatter around in various vases or bottles, along with herbs from our herb garden. I really like to ensure that all fives senses are catered to in some way and to think through all of the simple, little ways you can enhance the dinner party for your friends! If you’re hosting a dinner party outside, as we love to do often, there are a few critical elements to remember: bug spray and/or citronella candles, extra chilled water set out, and festive market lights overhead.

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It took me about five minutes to set the table, which means you can, too! Don’t be intimidated by the need to create the perfect tablescape, as you can easily use what you have on hand, get creative with items from around the house, and mix and match pieces to sharpen your creativity. Since we were having a Springtime Mexican dinner with friends, I wanted to keep the linen tablecloth white and bring in vibrant pops of color with the table settings, flowers, candles, and food to really make them shine. I love collecting glassware and beautiful dishes, and I admittedly have a larger collection of tabletop items than many. It’s a fun creative challenge for me to dress up our dinner table and keep it fresh without having to buy new dishes, glasses, or linen napkins every time. I tend to have a lot of white, light blue, navy, and salmon/coral/peach decor and linens, so most things can be used interchangeably in my trusty color palette! Many of my favorite entertaining and hostessing pieces are from Crate and Barrel, World Market, Anthropologie, Target, or are family heirlooms or vintage finds.

I firmly believe that your dinner party should not be stressful – your guests will feel your stress, nerves, or anxiety, and if you’re not having a wonderful time, then they can tell. Dinner parties should truly be able bringing together people who matter to you to enjoy life together! Don’t stress over the little details, as you’re likely the only one who will notice if something little is amiss or if you forget a detail. Think through the evening in your mind, anticipate what will happen, and try to prepare for the evening from every aspect. By planning ahead, you can cut out a lot of stress and day-of prep time so that you are able to enjoy the process and the dinner party even more. Enlist some help, if you need it, and if something seems too overwhelming or daunting, then forget about it! You really just need fun company + a good bottle of wine, anyway, right?! Above all, though, enjoy it and embrace time with loved ones in a relaxed, comfortable, joyful atmosphere.

It’s not about a picture-perfect dinner, though (goodness no!): it’s about choosing joy; deciding to savor those little moments; inviting your friends (new and old!) and community to gather together; creating memories; finding ways to make an everyday evening and occasion to celebrate. Life itself is a reason to celebrate, and I, for one, plan to embrace that and host as many dinner parties with friends as I possibly can!

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photography by our wonderful friends (and dinner party guests!) Ally and Bobby

styling by Stephanie Shaul Events

first written for the McAlister-Leftwich blog

My Home Tour | Published in a Book, Happy Living

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Check this off the bucket list: my home was featured in a book!! There’s a ten page spread + interview on my happy little home in Happy Living by Maria Spassov! My wonderful friend and incredibly talented photographer Rachel Linder of Blue Barn Photography photographed my home 1.5 years ago. Since then it’s been featured on The Everygirl and now in print in a coffee table book, Happy Living. We were eagerly anticipating the release of this beautiful coffee table book for a long time! Granted, the entire book is in German so I can’t actually read what it says… but it sure is an awesome book with gorgeous home inspiration throughout. I am so very honored to be included!

If you want to see even more of my home tour (and dozens of other gorgeous homes), Random House published Happy Living, which can be purchased via Amazon!

And you can read all about my home and see dozens more images on my blog here.

It’s crazy to think how much has changed since my home tour went live and was published! Rob moved into my home when we got married, so it’s most definitely OUR home now… and our decorating has certainly evolved since then. We’ve loved transforming this home into our first home together, and there are many big and little updates that we’ve made. I may just have to do a new home tour soon…