If you follow us on Instagram or have popped by our #schoolhouseliving inspiration gallery, you have probably spied a glimpse or two of the sweet home of Katie and Tyler Branch, otherwise known as Branch Abode. Both photographers by trade with a young brood of their own, we’ve found ourselves quite enamored with the dreamy scenes and snapshots they share of their sunny, Schoolhouse-filled home. Looking through their feed, it's easy to feel transported to a simpler time. Katie was kind enough to share a tour of her home with us and with it, her tips for capturing beautiful interior images (and yes, how she cares for that impressive household plant collection of hers.)
Tell us about your home! How long have you been here and how did you know it was the one for you?
"I grew up in Orange County in a city not far from our where we call home now. I always admired the charm of the historic homes and buildings and often dreamed of living here one day. Orange County isn’t really known for its architecture, there is a lot of 'model homes' and also neighborhoods where each house has it’s own unique style. We actually weren’t looking to move from our first home since we had only been there 2 years, but one of my hobbies is searching through home listings which can definitely get you into some trouble. So as it was, I was looking through listings in my dream neighborhood and our home popped up on the screen. I instantly begged my husband Tyler to come look at it with me. The next day we found ourselves sitting on the porch of our house with our two babies running in the yard, hearts in our eyes. We knew we had to try our hardest to get it, and thankfully it worked out! We’ve been here 2.5 years now and we love it more everyday. Our home is a craftsman built in 1909 with a few additions made along the way. We are currently finishing up our one bedroom backhouse build which is so exciting!"
Describe your style when it comes to decorating. What do you gravitate towards and has that changed much over the years?
"I always have a hard time describing my style. I like things that are a nod to the past whether that be traditional, industrial or mid century modern. I mix and match styles often and don’t stick to any hard design rules. Now, I can’t move forward without mentioning plants! I began falling in love with houseplants about 5 years ago but I couldn’t keep anything alive, so I created quite the artificial jungle. It just didn’t feel right. I took it slowly and bought one real plant at a time and tried to figure out what each one liked and slowly but surely they have become one of our main design elements."
We have so many pictures of your home in our #Schoolhouseliving: Purposeful design + Thoughtful living gallery. How do you relate that mindset in your own home and way of living?
"This is what I love most about Schoolhouse, the purpose and thought that emanates from each piece. Every season is so beautifully curated and the quality is meant to last. I don’t like shopping in general and I am a pretty frugal gal, so when I buy something, it is something I have put a lot of thought into. I ask myself, 'do you think you will still love this in 10 years?' 'Is it trendy or timeless?' and then I go from there. I appreciate the value in pieces you love to make your home a happier place while also reducing waste."
Do you have a favorite spot in the house? What makes it so special?
"It is very difficult to pick my favorite spot, but I would have to say our bedroom takes the cake. It actually started out as our least favorite room. It was an addition made in the 80’s with horrible stained carpet, green walls, red brick and a long shelf that I didn’t know what to do with. We painted, replaced the carpet with wood floors and the shelf found it’s life purpose with plants. We are total bed people and the whole family is in there together a good portion of the day."
How do you go approach decorating kid-friendly spaces?
"It is definitely a factor in our home! We have two young, energetic, curious, imaginative children who use plant stands as stilts and fireplace pokers as swords. With their rooms we try to keep things simple and calming, again with pieces that will hopefully last until they are ready to leave the nest. There are still many things around the house that they are able to break, mostly vases or leather furniture but we are clear about the rules and they have done pretty well so far. They also have free reign over our finished attic, so when they are going crazy with energy, we send them up there! One thing I love about old homes is the imperfections. Nothing here is perfect, it is worn and crooked and scratched up but I love it, the imperfections are signs of life being lived… and there is always paint!"
As a photographer, do you have tips to share on how to shoot interiors/better home pics?
"Light is key. Sometimes I will have a picture in mind but the lighting will be dull or too strong so I’ll wait until it changes and then go back to it. Other times I see something and have to stop everything right then to take the picture. Also, play with edits until you find one that fits how you see your home. There are so many editing companies out there and it really makes such a difference and can help set your images apart."
Another thing I do is style the rooms before I shoot. I take the time to look at the space and see if there is anything I can add or take away that will make the image more visually interesting, clean, or just different. With my instagram, I am mostly just taking pictures of the same 6-7 rooms, so making images that are still interesting can be challenging and fun! I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of not noticing pieces you once loved when they are always in the same spot of your house, by changing things around and finding new places for them, you fall in love with them all over again and really they take on a new life. This practice also opens possibilities you didn’t consider when first decorating. I must have looked at my shelf in my bedroom a million times before saying, hey what if I put plants up there? So always engaging your house is a really good thing."
Your plant collection is so impressive and brings so much life to your home! We are some of your favorite indoor varieties and best care tips for happy plants?
"My first real plant I ever bought was a pothos and they continue to be my favorite to this day. I also really enjoy spider, fiddle leaf and monstera. My biggest tip with plants is to pay attention to them, especially in the beginning. If one isn’t doing well in high light, move it to a more indirect spot for a week and see how it does or visa versa. Typically once you find a spot the plant likes they are very easy to care for."
Finally, what makes a house a home to you?
"Home is wherever my people are, but beyond that, home is a space that is uniquely mine. It is the only place you can design to fit your likes and personality fully. I outfit my home in white/brown/green/black because those colors together make me happy and relaxed. The individualization is what makes it home."
Photography by Katie Branch