Words By Jessica Bahr | Photos by Laurie Kilgore
Designer Molly Laughlin of ML Designs is at home with earthy elements and collected memories.
hat happens when your dream house doesn’t make all your dreams come true?
If you’re designer Molly Laughlin, you move onward with positivity and a new perspective. A few years ago, Molly, her husband Jeff, and their two sons had a large new home on a bit of land. But life brought the unexpected when Jeff was diagnosed with lymphoma, and the dreams of their family shifted.
“I had the house I thought I wanted. It was gorgeous, and I loved it. But cancer opens your eyes,” Molly says. “I wanted to be realistic about how we used the space and got to the point where I wanted ‘less is more,’ without the excess.”
Thankfully, Jeff is in remission now, and the family has moved into a new home in Mills Farm that is just right for them. It may be a bit smaller than their previous homes, but that’s intentional: to focus on what matters most in life and to spend more quality time together. This is actually their second time buying a house in the neighborhood, and that was intentional too. They wanted to be surrounded by familiar neighbors, and Molly’s teenage sons—Adam and Andy—wanted to be near their friends.
They found a spec house by Roeser Homes on a lot near the woods and a walking trail. The idea of a blank canvas might be daunting to some, but not for Molly, of course, who currently works as an interior designer for ML Designs.
Using a collection of meaningful pieces—some new, some from their previous homes—Molly has created a peaceful retreat for her family. She’s artfully layered earthy, natural elements for a feeling of groundedness from the moment you step inside.
“Each house I’ve done for our family has been very different, from Tuscan to modern to more traditional colonial,” Molly explains. “But out of all of them, this one most reflects my personal style, a relaxed boho.”
In keeping with that style, Molly has a lighthearted fearlessness when it comes to mixing textures, patterns and materials. She weaves a style story that includes rattan, wicker and jute to add texture throughout the home. Neutral walls and structured upholstery in the main living area are the foundation on which she layers colorful natural textiles here and playful wallpapers there.
Her design ethos is as elemental as the materials she prefers: only incorporate pieces you love, and everything will go together simply because you love it. And she firmly believes there’s room in every budget for creatively blending the high and low.
“My philosophy is if you buy what you like, there’ll be a place for it,” Molly says. “People get scared to make final choices in design. But life’s too short; you might as well go for it. At the same time, I think you have to be willing to wait for something that reaches out to you. Find that one thing and work around it.”
As she does in her own home,
Molly encourages her clients to play, try and fail—and to learn from their experience.
“If it’s not fun, then I haven’t done what I’m hired to do,” Molly says. “It should be enjoyable. Making the bones of a house into a home should be fun and playful.”
Molly, who’s generally upbeat and outgoing, has doubled down on this positive, relaxed attitude toward design over the last few years. And as she’s sought to create a healing refuge for her family, she’s seen more and more clients wanting the same. Design pieces that focus on natural materials are comforting by their very virtue; we understand where they come from, and their beauty speaks for themselves.
Simple, earthy, a return to what really matters in life. Molly and her family have traded what was perhaps a dream they thought they were supposed to have for one that’s really their own. No more keeping up with the Joneses, she says.
“Ten years ago, I probably cared about that. Now, I couldn’t care less. I want quality over quantity. Don’t get me wrong, I also still like to go shopping,” Molly laughs. “But everything in our home has meaning. It’s about telling my own story versus someone else’s. I’m at peace when I come home.”
Interior Designer (plus rugs, furnishings, accessories, wall coverings and fixtures): ML Designs
Builder: Roeser Homes
Landscaper: MW Lawn
New Home Community: Mills Farm
Realtor: Cami Jones
Closet: California Closets
Window Coverings: One Stop Decorating
Kitchen Backsplash tile: Austin Tile