Some women just know motherhood is their calling, like Amanda Johnson, who shares a glimpse into her home style and home life at Our Southern Story. Now she and her high-school-sweetheart husband Kurtis are dividing and conquering parenthood while raising their 2-year-old son Henry in Atlanta’s Ormewood Park neighborhood.
When Amanda’s realtor found their 1920s Cape Cod style home, she knew she could picture her family there — Kurtis, on the other hand, needed a little convincing. But with all of the charming details the house had to offer – like original trim, a telephone nook, and a kitchen and bathroom ripe for remodeling – they decided to make the house their home. We asked her to share some of her tips on small space living, style inspirations, and her favorite ways to spend the day with her sweet son Henry.
Name: Amanda Johnson
Square Footage: 1,000 sq.ft.
Rent or Own: Own
City/State: Atlanta, GA
Children: 2-year-old son Henry
What was your first job and how did you land it?
Does babysitting count? I’ve been doing that since middle school, but my first official job was at a small private school watching their preschool kids aftercare class. I was a junior in high school, and my mom was a preschool teacher at the school — she was my in!
You consider being a mom to be your calling in life — how do you find confidence in that when there can be pressure to put a career before motherhood?
From as early as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mom! I remember mentioning it to my dad once when I was a senior in high school, and he said “Then why are we sending you to college?” You always need a backup plan, right? I have a degree in communication, and before having Henry, I stumbled around in a couple of different fields, but nothing ever felt exactly right. I got caught up in corporate America for a couple of years, and we put off having babies for way too long — I wish we had started so much sooner! As difficult as it can be a lot of the time, I feel so much more fulfilled playing with trains and putting together puzzles with my 2-year-old than I ever did climbing that corporate ladder!
I feel so much more fulfilled playing with trains and putting together puzzles with my 2-year-old than I ever did climbing that corporate ladder!
How did you find the house you’re in now?
We knew we wanted to be in the family-friendly Ormewood Park neighborhood of Atlanta, but weren’t sure if we would be able to find a house in our budget. I was out with our realtor without Kurtis one day, and he said there was a house he thought we would like, but it only had one bathroom (Kurtis’s number one most important thing was that we had two bathrooms). We went to see it, and I knew immediately that it was the one. It took very little convincing to get Kurtis on board – the location was exactly what we’d been looking for, the lot was huge and fenced (great for our dog!), and the house hadn’t been flipped or updated (a big ‘no’ for me). We later found out later that our son’s pediatrician lives across the street – score!.
You said that you didn’t want an updated home — is that because you had a vision for what you wanted the home to be? What was that vision? Did it involve preserving any aspects of your 1920s cape home?
Oh, absolutely! The last thing I wanted was a house that had been flipped by an investor that had ripped out all of the quirky and endearing features that I love so much about old homes. I love original trim and doors, separation between rooms, old hardwood floors — our house even has a telephone nook! We certainly haven’t “restored” our home in any sense of the word, but I wanted our design choices to enhance the original elements, not remove them altogether. And practically speaking, I didn’t want to pay a premium for someone else’s design choices that I was probably going to rip out anyways.
The last thing I wanted was a house that had been flipped by an investor that had ripped out all of the quirky and endearing features that I love so much about old homes.
How would you describe your design style?
I find it really difficult to nail down exactly what my decorating style is, but I think that warm minimalist might come close. I like clean, bright, white spaces with a lot of contrast and warm accents, like wood and antique books throughout.
How do you find inspiration for your interior designs?
I spend way too many hours scrolling Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration! My Pinterest boards have thousands of Pins, and when Instagram rolled out the “collections” feature, it was such a game-changer! I follow mostly decor-related accounts on Instagram (and friends and family on my personal account), so my Instagram feed is always so inspiring! I also have a secret Pinterest board for every room of our house, and I go through and edit them frequently to help me narrow down exactly what I like and the ideas that I want to execute.
When you were designing Henry’s room, how did you incorporate his personalities or interests?
We didn’t find out his sex before he was born, so when I was designing the gender-neutral nursery, I was making decisions that would work for a boy or a girl. It made for a perfect base to transition into the little boy’s room that it is now. Kurtis is the musician son of two musicians — both also from musical families — so music is in Henry’s blood. I love incorporating that with the guitar on the wall and the ukulele (Henry’s “guitar” that he plays every day) on the dresser. We’re also a big baseball family (go Braves!), so the glove on the shelf pays homage to that. Kurtis is already psyching Henry up for his first season of t-ball in a few years!
Do you have a favorite room or nook in your home? Tell us why!
I never would have said this a year ago, before our renovation, but I really love our kitchen! Aside from all the blood, sweat, and tears that we put into it, it really did turn out to be such a functional space. I’m able to fix dinner or wash dishes and keep an eye on Henry just about anywhere in the house (a perk of small house living!), and even though we removed all of the upper cabinets, by reconfiguring the layout, we actually gained storage space!
Which rooms did you focus on first in your remodel? What’s next on your to-do list?
We focused on the kitchen and bathroom, although we did also end up having to replace the flooring in the entire house (someone in decades past thought it would be a good idea to use gallons of glue to attach laminate flooring on top of the original hardwoods in the living room and dining room).
Other than a couple of small repairs to get this house ready to go on the market, we’re saving up our next projects for a new house! We’d like to stay in the same part of town, but we’re hoping for a second bathroom this time around!
Is everywhere a place for Henry to play, or do you have designated areas for him?
There are always a couple of cars or trains scattered around the house, but for the most part, he keeps his toys in his room. It’s not a rule, and we pull toys out in the living room often, but I think it helps tremendously that he just doesn’t have very many toys to begin with. He’s also pretty good most of the time at putting things away after he’s played with them (with some help from Mama), but I think that is also super helpful in keeping things sane around here.
Every home has its own quirks and challenges – what were yours? How did you overcome them?
Oh man, we definitely have a quirky house! Some things we live with, like drafty windows and wonky doors, I tell myself are part of the charm of old-house living. Other things, like lack of storage, have required some crafty solutions. When we moved in, the closet in our master bedroom was the size of a small door (24” I believe), so we stole some space from the closet in the dining room to more than double the space. It’s still small, but it’s so much more functional for two people to share!
Where are your go-to places for big-ticket furniture and decor? What’s your process of introducing new items into your home?
I’m always scouring Facebook (Marketplace and BST groups) and Craigslist for deals. Our Article sofa is probably my favorite Facebook Marketplace score to date! There are also some really amazing vintage rug dealers on Instagram that I have post notifications turned on for too. There are a couple of antique stores that I try to walk through if I’m searching for something specific, but otherwise, I normally end up at West Elm, World Market, or Target.
It typically takes a few months (or longer) for a room to come together, as we’re very selective about what we bring into the house — whether that be a piece of furniture, toys for Henry, or even our clothing. We’ve found that to make small space living much happier all around for us.
What does a day in your life look like?
Henry and I wake up around the time Kurtis is leaving for work, and we have breakfast and call my mom on speakerphone. Henry loves his morning breakfast chats with Nana! Then, depending on the weather, we’ll get dressed and either go for a walk, to the zoo or library, or play inside (trains, coloring, and lots and lots of reading aloud are current favorites). We also run errands before lunch once or twice a week. He naps after lunch for a couple of hours, during which time I get the majority of my work done. (I’m a transaction coordinator for real estate agents, and also do a bit of bookkeeping.) When Henry wakes up from his nap, we have a snack and then play until Kurtis gets home. Kurtis takes over from there, and I finish up any work or chores I didn’t get done during Henry’s nap, then cook dinner and start the bedtime routine.
When it comes to motherhood, what are you most confident in? What are you still insecure about?
For the most part, Henry has been such an easy, laid-back kid – he makes a lot of things seem really easy. He’ll eat anything I put in front of him, he doesn’t run off in parking lots, he literally potty trained himself before his second birthday. I am 100 percent certain that if we have another child, they’ll be the complete opposite, because all of that has very little to do with our parenting, and almost everything to do with his personality. However, at almost 2.5 years in, Kurtis and I are finally both having to really nail down our discipline style. We’re both huge proponents of mindful parenting and understanding discipline as “teaching” instead of “punishment.” It’s hard work though, and something that sometimes feels counterintuitive, since it’s different from the way that either of us was raised.
What are some of your favorite activities to do with Henry or as a whole family right now??
We try to get out of the house for a walk in the neighborhood most days. It’s even more fun when we meet up with friends! We’re really lucky to have a couple of parks that are walking distance, and it’s always fun to take a couple of trips down the slide before heading home. Another favorite is the zoo. We live about a mile away from Zoo Atlanta, and we have season passes. We try to go at least a couple of times a month.
We’re both huge proponents of mindful parenting and understanding discipline as ‘teaching’ instead of ‘punishment.’ It’s hard work though, and something that sometimes feels counterintuitive, since it’s different from the way that either of us was raised.
How do you and your husband, Kurtis, divide parenting roles? How has parenthood changed your marriage?
Kurtis and I have been together for almost half of our lives – we started dating in high school – so our relationship has been through lots of changes. Parenthood has probably been one of the easiest transitions for us. The only thing we really miss is the impromptu late night hang out sessions with baby-less friends — baby bedtime has a way of sabotaging those plans. Since Kurtis works during the day, I spend a lot of time with Henry, but he is so good about taking him when he gets home from work and letting me decompress for a couple of minutes. It’s always so much fun watching them throw the ball in the back yard or see who can build the tallest block tower! Kurtis also handles baths and bedtime routine every night.
How does your son inspire you, in your career or otherwise?
I absolutely love watching the way his brain works! The connections he’s able to make are so amazing to me! We’ve recently been reading Mother Goose nursery rhymes; and while putting raspberries on his fingers this morning, he started talking about Christmas. It took a few minutes to put together that he was talking about Little Jack Horner. I don’t think moments like that will ever get old!
If you have to choose just one, what’s been your favorite moment from motherhood so far?
Every single night when he says “Good night! I love you! See you next time!”
Amanda Johnson is The Everymom…
Favorite outing in Atlanta? We live about a mile from Zoo Atlanta, so season passes are a must! We go a couple of times a month (or more) when the weather is nice.
Pregnancy food craving? Cookie dough and ice chips
Kids’ movie you just love? Coco
Best way to end a long day? Binge watching Netflix with Kurtis or curled up with a good book.
Toy you’ll never let Henry have? In our house, anything that makes battery-powered noise is a hard no (grandparents’ houses are a different story).
Most embarrassing mom fail? I don’t know if this is a fail, but while trying on clothes in a full Target dressing room a few days ago, my normally pretty quiet child started yelling “Look at your BOTTOM!” at the top of his lungs. He said it at least three or four times before I was able to get him to stop. So embarrassing.