What it was like building a home across the country

< dress linked >


We are officially settling into our new life in Charlottesville, VA. I’ve said it many times, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be raising our family in a state very far away from our home in California.


We were fortunate enough to build our new home with Stanley Martin Home. Today I’m thrilled to be partnering with them to share about what our home building process was like, floor plans, additions, finishes, with an unexpected pandemic thrown in for good measure. 


What it was like building a home across the country

<our first time stepping foot on the lot. We knew it was meant for our family!>




I talked more about why we decided to make the move to Charlottesville more in depth in this post, but it’s something I get asked all the time. Garrett had been working remotely in Pasadena for a law firm based out of Charlottesville for the past two years. There was never any pressure from the firm to move, but after looking up and down Southern California, nothing really felt right. We had never purchased a home before and being renters meant that we had the flexibility to move wherever we felt was right for our family. 


After searching and searching I agreed to check out Charlottesville. I *knew* there was no way that was in the plans for us, but I felt strongly like I needed to keep somewhat of an open mind. We made the most of a quick trip out there last fall and met with a realtor who showed us all that the city had to offer. I fell in love with the area and all of the freedom my boys would have to run and play. 


What it was like building a home across the country



Our realtor showed us a newer development by Stanley Martin Homes. We loved the idea of an up and coming neighborhood because that meant everyone would be new and we wouldn’t feel quite so isolated in that sense. While we were driving around looking at available lots, we pulled up to a beautiful lot situated in the same spot on a culDul-de-sac that our cul-de-sac home in Pasadena was located. I looked at the street sign and it was the exact same name of our street in Pasadena! I was incredibly emotional and continued to be an emotional wreck for the rest of the trip. It was the most crystal clear sign that we had found the spot to build our first home. Any time I felt fear or panic, I reminded myself of the answer we received the day we found our lot.



Our realtor spoke very highly of Stanley Martin Homes. As first time home builders and buyers, we were very picky with who we wanted to build our home. We spoke with other acquaintances in the area and everyone had amazing things to say about the quality and craftsmanship of Stanley Martin Homes. 


What it was like building a home across the country


We spent two days looking through various Stanley Martin model homes and both fell in love with the floorplan of one in particular. One thing that really drew me to Stanley Martin was that there were so many elevation options for each floor plan. I really loved the design of most of the homes and the cohesive look of all the homes in a Stanley Martin neighborhood was really appealing. There were enough different options that the homes in the neighborhoods still had a very custom feel while all remaining aesthetically pleasing. 



There were a lot of great floor plans, but we really fell in love with a plan called The Carey. The layout of the home was very similar to our current house in Pasadena and I loved that. It was a smart design that I could tell right away would work well with our family.



As you enter the home, the dining room is on the left and a music/library room is on the right. The family room and kitchen were connected in the back. This is how our Pasadena home was laid out and I loved it. I can keep the two front rooms more maintained and a little more elevated in my design/decor, and make the family room very family friendly. It was perfect.


Loft– This home came with a basement, an optional loft, and an optional four-foot extension on the back of the house. We loved the idea of having a loft for both of our offices. The loft miiiight be my favorite part of the home. My office up there is set up like a studio, with lots of natural light for shooting and plenty of space for styling, sewing and working. Another door leads to Garrett’s office. We chose to leave that unfinished for now, but we have some great plans for that space as well.


Basement – Never in my life did I think I would get a basement. It’s just not an option living in California. We have only had it for a few months now and I’m already so grateful! The boys head down there and play games and have nerf gun fights. We have a room down there we will convert into a home gym, and an unfinished room we will finish off as a guest bedroom. I really like that we have a space for family to stay that gives them some space and privacy.


Dual Owners Closets – I was sooo excited about the separate closets in this floor plan. I can’t wait to get my closet completed. I have a lot of fun design elements in mind for it.


What it was like building a home across the country


Owner bedroom sitting area – We added a 4 ft extension to the home, which gave us a really good size sitting area in our master. Pretty much all of our living room furniture is in that space now and we love sitting there at night while Garrett reads Harry Potter to the boys and while I nurse. It’s a space I didn’t think we would use as much as we do.



We made our finishing selections at Stanely Martin’s Design Center. We made a special trip out here back in January just for this meeting. Here are a few of the finishes we picked that I am thrilled with:


What it was like building a home across the country

What it was like building a home across the country


Flooring: Armstrong Rigid Core Elements “Society Oak”  – we went with this lighter colored LVP throughout the main level, second floor, and loft (we opted for carpet in the basement). I am so in love with our floors!! I was back and forth trying to decide between real wool and LVP and I think multiple times a day how happy I am that I went with LVP. It is pretty much indestructible. The lighter shade is exactly what I was looking for.


Wall color: Super White – there were a handful of interior paint options the Stanley Martin design center offered, so I just went with this white and it ended up being a really great matte white throughout the whole home with high gloss molding in the same shade throughout. I plan on adding paint and wallpaper to a few of the rooms, but I’m really happy with this shade of white! It really sets the tone for the whole home.


Kitchen countertops: Carrara Marmi Quartz  – I debated between quartz and marble, but again, I’m glad I went this route for now. It’s really durable and great for our family.


Doorknobs: I went with black door knobs and hinges with a 5 paneled shaker style door throughout the house and I’m so happy I did! It finishes off each room nicely with a bit of a modern feel, and works well with our shaker style cabinets.  


Owner Bath Cabinets: Sonoma Painted Stone – a really pretty grey/blue.


Honestly, I think I may have been more stressed if we lived close by! With a baby on the way and a pandemic, I think there were so many big things going on at once I didn’t really have the time to stress a ton about any one thing!


What it was like building a home across the country

< picking out our finishes at the design center >


The team at Stanley Martin made the whole process really wonderful, even with the curveballs of Covid. Did you know the building of our home wasn’t delayed at all? I was shocked. I thought for sure we would have to postpone our move with the craziness of Covid. From the day they broke ground to completion our home took four months. 


We had weekly calls with the lead builder and our Stanley Martin rep. They filled us in on the progress of each week, sent us pictures, and talked through any concerns we had. I was very specific with a few of the changes (moving /adding windows, moving light switches, electrical plug placement, etc). We had multiple facetimes with the builder so that we could see details of the progress. 


Knowing that we were working with a home builder that was so highly recommended by people we trusted really put our minds at ease. Our builder and Stanley Martin rep were also great at responding to emails and assuring us our home would be finished in the time we were planning on.



I am so happy that we went the route of building with Stanley Martin instead of buying and renovating or building completely custom. I felt like I had enough say in quite a few structural elements that I could create a home that was definitely “me”, without the complications of a remodel or the endless decisions of a 100% custom home.


What it was like building a home across the country

What it was like building a home across the country


In the end we have a beautiful home that fits my style and works well with our family that I’m excited to dive into and add my own unique elements to as we settle in.




My design to do list is endless, but that is so exciting to me! I graduated with an emphasis in interior design, and I have been waiting for my own home to design.


What it was like building a home across the country

I’m starting with our main level and adding built-ins and a custom mantle in the family room, changing up light fixtures and hardware in the kitchen, custom molding to the dining room, and I have the most gorgeous wallpaper picked out for our music room.


I’m also really excited about designing my office with built-ins and molding, finishing our home gym, adding wallpaper and pretty design elements to the owner’s suite, and finishing the basement. I also can’t wait to design all our landscaping! We are adding hydrangeas to a large section of the front of our home, planting dogwood trees without most gorgeous blossoms, adding a deck, and one day putting in a pool (still working on getting Garrett on board with that one). We have a lot planned and I can’t wait to share the transformation of each space with you.


I’ve received messages from you that are looking to build your own home, and I can’t recommend Stanley Martin enough. They were so wonderful to work with and I’m so happy we picked them as our home builder. They have neighborhoods all over Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland. I’m so incredibly happy with how our house turned out. 



I’ve been prepping and designing my living room for quite some time, so I’m thrilled that it’s finally complete and that I get to share it with you today! One of my favorite parts about our home is the that we have a spot in our living room for a piano.

Leanne Barlow's Living Room



In full transparency, when I say that I’ve waited a long time for this kind of a room, I mean… a looong time. I’ve wanted a beautiful living room with a white couch and a piano since we first got married twelve years ago. I was thrilled when we moved into our new home that had the absolute perfect living room, but this room sat completely empty for an entire year. Now while I wish that I could have just snapped my finger and decorated this room in an instant… I wanted very specific and special pieces in this room, and I was willing to wait and save to decorate it the way I wanted to. In the meantime, this room served as the space where I cut and designed almost all of my Monthly Dresses. It was full of yards of fabric and mannequins (and soccer balls and nerf guns). I love that we get to enjoy this room as a family now (playing the piano, family scripture study, naps, and visiting with friends), but I’m also grateful for the soccer games and sewing pins that filled this room before we could actually fill it with furniture.


Leanne Barlow's Living Room


<this room sits right off the entry and I love that its the first room I see when I walk in the house>


Leanne Barlow's Living Room


Leanne Barlow's Living Room

Leanne Barlow's Living Room


I love our couch so much. I wrote about my experience designing it here. While some might think I’m crazy for getting a white couch with three boys, I’m really happy that I did. The fabric is durable and can be spot treated. I’ve wanted a white couch for so long and I feel like if I wait for the perfect moment to get an amazing couch..I’ll be left waiting a lifetime. I love that we can enjoy it now and it makes me happy every day when I see it. The boys know they can’t have shoes, toys, or food in this room and I just make sure they follow the rules. They are good about it!


Leanne Barlow's Living Room


I love an eclectic blend of furniture in a room. I love to juxtapose a modern piece with something traditional or glam.  I paired the clean lines our coffee table and our velvet side chairs with classic touches from the rug and gold vintage mirror.

Leanne Barlow's Living Room

Leanne Barlow's Living Room


Our piano was the very first purchase I made for this room. I’ve so missed being able to sit at a piano to play and sing! I also love hearing the boys practice their piano here.


Leanne Barlow's Living Room



I’m so happy I went with this leather recliner chair for this corder of the room. It’s just the right scale for this space. I wanted to be able to recline, but didn’t want to have to place an ottoman in front of it. I searched high and low for a really beautiful chic recliner and I found this one at Pottery Barn. It’s so comfy!


Leanne Barlow's Living Room


Leanne Barlow's Living Room

Leanne Barlow's Living Room

Leanne Barlow's Living Room

Leanne Barlow's Living Room

Leanne Barlow's Living Room


I’ve linked to all the room sources below. If I left anything out just comment below and I’ll add it!




COUCHES ℅ Interior Define





LEATHER RECLINER   (in Vintage Caramel)


BLUE CHINOISERIE VASE (on sale for 40% off!)







PILLOWS & THROW BLANKET: HOMEGOODS (similar blankets here, here, here, similar throw here)

SIDE TABLE: HOMEGOODS (similar here)






Blush Velvet Modern Sleeper Sofa from Interior Define



How often do I sit down and really really relax. Read a book, watch a show, do nothing. Honestly, the answer is hardly ever. But I wanted to create small cozy corner in my office that let me just relax sometimes. Or take one of my 26 minute naps…my favorite thing ever.


Blush Velvet Modern Sleeper Sofa from Interior Define


One thing I really want to do to make my home office extra functional is to make it easily convert to a guest bedroom if we have company. We have a cute little cutout window that was the perfect size for a twin bed, so I searched high and low for a good sleeper sofa. Do you know how HARD it is to find a chic sleeper sofa? Almost impossible!


When Interior Define reached out to me about working together to design some beautiful couches for our home I knew they would help provide me with the living room couch of my dreams. (and they did! more on that in a sec) But an extremely pleasant surprise was that they have a gorgeous short sofa SLEEPER couch option!


Blush Velvet Modern Sleeper Sofa from Interior Define


I fell in love with the sleek modern lines of the Sloan sofa, and the fact that it doesn’t in any way look like it converts to a bed, but it does! The size was perfect, the lines were perfect, the functionality was perfect, but here is the best part.  I got to pick the fabric and the legs myself. I got to tailor this beautiful sofa to fit the colors and style of my office (still not finished, but I’m getting there!). Interior Define has a blush velvet fabric that looked amazing in photos. You can request a free swatch to be sent directly to your house, but since they have a store in LA I headed down there to grab a few swatches in person.


The color of this blush velvet it perfect. I feel like the images don’t even do it justice. It’s an ultra chic mauve/blush that picked up all the right tones in my office rug. I opted for the natural wood block legs and I love how it turned out. I’m so happy I have a cosy resting spot (for 26 minute naps) and a functioning guest bedroom when we have family in town!


Blush Velvet Modern Sleeper Sofa from Interior Define


My living room sofa is really the sofa of my dreams. The employees at Interior Define were really helpful as I was making my selection. I wanted a lighter fabric that was durable and that I could clean. Interior Define has an option to narrow down the fabric selection to kid/pet friendly fabrics, and that made it easy to make a decision. I ended up going with a Static Weave in the color “vanilla”. I took the swatch of this fabric home and I sprayed Mio flavoring and smeared Nutella all over the swatch. Then I used my strongest rug cleaner and scrubbed the spots like crazy. I would obviously treat a real stain with more care, but I wanted to make sure it could withstand stronger spray and hard rubbing, and it did! The spots came out and that’s when I decided to go for it.


White Chesterfield Sofa from Interior Define

White Chesterfield Sofa from Interior Define

White Chesterfield Sofa from Interior Define


For the sofa I went with the 90″ long Ms. Chesterfield Sofa. It’s absolutely stunning in person! The Ms. Chesterfield is a lighter, more feminine approach to the classic Chesterfield. Interior Define kept the signature tufting, but deconstructed the traditionally heavy shape. I selected the brass plated L legs to keep with the feminie modern take. I’m not a super modern person, but I love the juxtaposition of the brass with the tufting. It’s deep, but not too deep. I am able to place decorative pillows on it that don’t have to be removed in order for my guests to sit on it.


I’m revealing my entire living room next week, so stay tuned for that!


I highly recommend Interior Define. They have so many beautiful furniture options and I love that you can customize the pieces to fit your style. They are impeccably made and built to last. It makes such a different to have these beautiful sofas in our home!