With her mantra of “grace not perfection,” it’s hard to think of anyone better to kick off the “At Home” portion of our Southern Newlywed column than Emily Ley. Many of y’all may know her as a great friend to Southern Weddings (she and Lara are BFFs through their work with Making Things Happen) or because you own one of her lovely and intentional products like the Simplified Planner.
Emily exemplifies what we’re hoping to communicate with these home tour/interviews – it’s not about having the “perfect” abode or having everything “done” before you can share it, it’s about finding joy and inspiration in what you have, where you live, and who you share it with. Though Emily shares often and openly about life with her family on instagram, we are so excited to share this first look into her happy Tampa home, courtesy of Shay Cochrane…
Names: Emily and Bryan Ley
Years married: 6
Childrens’ names and ages: Brady, 3
Your love story in one sentence: A 16-year-old gal falls madly in love with the cute frat boy with the red jeep and dreams of how cute her married name would be…
Do you rent or own? We own our home in Tampa, Florida. Bryan lived here before we got married. We dream of one day building what we call our “forever home.” One of our favorite things to do is plan this space and mentally draw diagrams of rooms and closets and jack-and-jill bathrooms.
Tell us about the process of moving in together. Do you have any tips for blending your two styles? Ha ha! We have two different answers on this. My answer is that we moved in together and my crisp, white, airy, slightly country taste meshed perfectly with Bryan’s masculine, rich leather, hardwood style. Bryan’s answer is that I moved in, filled 19 bags with “donations,” and let him keep his airplane propeller and our vintage ’74 Bronco. (Okay, it might have happened a little like that… but we both adore our space now! He has been very sweet letting me have the reigns on our interior decorating).
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? We live in our kitchen and family room. They’re very open to each other and you can find all three of us here at any given time. This space is very welcoming, full of natural light, and has been organized in a way that really works for our lifestyle. We remodeled this space a few years ago and made all the decisions (big and small) together. It was really fun to incorporate both our styles into one big room that truly feels like us and is still kid-friendly.
Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? What are some of your favorite sources for home things? Early in our marriage, our house felt very empty because we hadn’t accumulated many mementos and souvenirs (or even photos!) from adventures together. I made the mistake of filling the “white space” with random things (vases, fake flowers, knick-knacks) that had no meaning to us – they simply filled a void (if that isn’t a great metaphor for life, I don’t know what is!). As the years have gone by, we’ve slowly replaced the meaningless stuff with really special things that have specific memories or people associated with them. This is probably my favorite part about our home. Most of our decor pieces come from One Kings Lane, HomeGoods, or Target. We decided early to splurge on furniture that is great quality and may even be passed down to our children.
Who cooks dinner? Well, neither of us love to cook, but we get it done. I’m typically a very healthy eater. Bryan loves pizza and chicken wings and mashed potatoes. We blend our tastes together. On the weekends, Bryan grills a lot – I bought him a Big Green Egg smoker for his first Father’s Day and he’s a champ on it! He makes the best chicken and pulled pork ever.
What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? I love soups and stews for the week. They’re filling and can be made really healthy (the boys don’t even have to know it!) without tasting like they’re missing something. On the weekend, we eat out on Saturdays and have a big family dinner on Sundays (much like my own mama does back home!).
Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? Definitely the staple kitchen supplies – nice non-stick pots and pans.
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? I would have registered for great everyday dishes instead of our fancy china. We only use it once a year when we host Thanksgiving dinner!
What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other priorities in life (work, personal time, extended family, etc.)? Date night. We try to have an adults only, screen-free date night at least once a month. No cell phones allowed. We typically go to our favorite local spot, Catch 23, and have some wine (we love trying new wines together) and a long dinner. It’s so nice to reconnect and talk over a good meal.
How does your family handle finances? Do you use a set budget? When we got married, Bryan and I decided to put our individual strengths to work financially. We decided that Bryan would be “CEO” and I would be the “Office Manager.” I handle the day-to-day needs (i.e. paying bills that come in the mail) and Bryan manages our long-term, big picture financial plan (i.e. investments, insurance, retirement, etc.). I take an active role in these things by understanding the terms, meeting with our financial advisor with Bryan, and helping to make important decisions, but ultimately, Bryan leads us in this. He’s great with our finances, so I feel really fortunate to have him by my side with these things.
Do you have children? What are your hopes and plans for the future in this area? We do! Brady Ley is our sweet little boy. He’s three years old. He’s fantastic. Being his Mom and Dad is the greatest thing on Earth. We’ve dealt with infertility for a long time and continue to struggle with Baby Ley #2, but our faith and our commitment to each other make room for lots of hope and gratitude.
In 2014, our family is most excited about… growing together more. Brady is learning new things each and every day. We are in a unique situation (purposely) in that I work part-time running a full-time business and am able to be home with Brady in the afternoons and on Fridays. The name of the game in 2014 is to soak up these precious moments as a family of three. Hopefully, that will be changing soon, so we’re relishing every second that we’re able to spend with just Brady. We have much to be grateful for.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? I am a big believer in love languages. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying hard to learn Bryan’s love language. When we were first married, I would leave little love notes for him around our house or a surprise bag of M&Ms (his favorite) in the driver’s seat of his car. Acts of kindness and surprises are definitely my love language, so surely, that would be his too, right? But it wasn’t! And it hit me, recently actually, that his love language is in our finances. Sounds super strange, I know. Bear with me and get to know my husband here: Bryan takes his role as “Ley Family CEO” and co-provider for our family very seriously. In the past (and gracious, I’m still not perfect at it), I’ve been careless sometimes with excessive random Target trips for things we don’t need or too many trips to Banana Republic (my weakness). These excessive expenditures made Bryan feel frustrated. When I stepped back and realized that my respect for our finances was what made him feel the most respected and loved, it hit me like a ton of bricks! So, I serve my husband by respecting our finances more.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? The most surprising thing about being married is that marriage takes work and effort. My parents are incredible role models for us after having been married 37 years. The amount of respect they have for each other is remarkable and inspires us to always take a step back and remember what really matters most when things aren’t easy. Bryan and I have grown so much over the past six years, facing infertility and a high risk pregnancy together, living eight hours from our hometown and my family, and raising a son, all while pursuing our own careers. We’ve become pretty good about telling each other when we need a hug, when we need some time to ourselves, or when we just need a good glass of wine, Netflix reruns, and a hand to hold on the couch.
What is your favorite part of being married? Living with my best friend. No one makes me laugh like Bryan does. And on that same note, no one can make me laugh at myself like Bryan does. He encourages me to not take life so seriously and to truly soak up the joy in our journey. His lightheartedness is what won me over when we were just kids working at a restaurant together. Well, that and his handsome, crooked smile. :)
Huge hugs to Emily for giving us this glimpse into her family’s life! Be sure to pay a visit to her site, blog, and instagram.
A little reminder before you go: We have great things in the works for this column, but we’d love your help! Our hope is to feature REAL couples in the South – not just folks who write blogs (though we love them, too!), but also your inspiring friend, super talented cousin, or neighbor with the cutest house – the kind of person everyone would love to “e-meet.” If that sounds like you or someone you know, take a peek at our Southern Newlywed submission page and shoot us an email!