Mary Alice Hatch | Creating Something Beautiful

Mary Alice Hatch is a wife and mother of two. Six years ago she actively pursued her dream of starting her own interior design studio. For the last two years she has served as her own client designing and decorating two homes in New Hampshire and Wellesley, MA.  She is most happy when she is creating something beautiful.

After you read Mary Alice's post and view her images, will you leave a comment?  When you do, you will give Mary Alice the gift of being heard and seen.  And what finer gift is there?


Since I was a small child, I have always loved to create. I love to create something magnificent from something ordinary.  I love entering a new space and coming up with new possibilities.

As a young girl I would constantly create new room layouts; when my parents would go on a trip I would repaint my furniture and add new hardware. In college, I started to build furniture; I also love to arrange flowers.

Because I have always enjoyed design, I went back to school 6 yrs ago to take a correspondence course in Interior Design from a school in NYC.  Though I opened my own design studio in May of 2003, for the last three years, I've been my own client as I rebuilt an old boathouse and new guest house at our home in New Hampshire.

Hatch Boathouse

About 1 1/2 years ago, Architectural Digest had an Open Submission, the first time ever.  One of my life-long goals has been to submit my work to a first rate Interior Design publication like Architectural Digest. I knew the chance to be picked for the single published spot was slim, but I nonetheless photographed and submitted my boathouse, went to New York, and stood in line outside the D&D Building.

When my time came to meet with one of the editors, I was so excited.  As I showed her my “before” and “after” portfolio and listened to the editor's expressions of interest, I felt such a feeling of accomplishment.

Dock:  Before and After

MAH Dock Before

Dock after MAH


Master Bath:  Before and After

Master bath before

Master bath after


Kitchen:  Before and After

Kitchen-family room before-1

Kitchen family room after


Family Room:  Before and After


Family room before

Kitchen family room after2

When I was finished showing her my portfolio she asked me if she could keep it to show Paige Reese, the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine.  Of course I said “YES”, and then floated out of the meeting.  It was so validating to have someone at the top of my field like my project.  Unfortunately, I didn't win, but I was competitive — and that felt good, really good.

Since finishing that project, and as my children continue to grow, I have been doing a lot of soul-searching as to what my dream really is.  I haven't yet figured it all out — do we ever? — but here's what I know:
I love design.
I am glad that I went to Architectural Digest's Open Submission.
I love that because I work for myself, my children can be my number one client, and I have the flexibility to create anything I want.
I also know…

I am most happy when I am creating something beautiful.

Hatch Patio

Does Mary Alice's experience signal for us how we can know that we really want something?  Including being willing to travel to another city, and stand in line all day, so that our work can be seen?  And what kind of courage does it take to put our work in front of someone knowing that may like it, but they may not? 

As I read this post, I thought of Christine Vick's post Simply Living, and her comment that “for a task to be valuable, it doesn't need to be weighty, solemn, or make history, it just needs to matter to me.”

I also couldn't help but think of how much time I spend visiting (and buying) Portabellopixie, Swallowfield, Sarah Jane Studios to name a few.  Why?  Because what I see there is beautiful to me.

As you think about your dreams, aren't they about creating?  Something not ugly, but beautiful?

Can you think of something that you wanted to achieve, and once you did, you were ready to move on?  

One final note:  All images are copyright of Mary Alice Hatch.

Christine Vick | Simply Living


In June, we will hear many thoughtful, compelling voices.

The first is Christine Vick, a stay-at-home to four kids who also enjoys editing and writing for the organizing website Store and Style she and her sister co-founded last November.  If she has a spare moment, she loves to cook, read and take walks.

After you read Christine's story, will you share your thoughts with her and us?  In leaving a comment, not only will you be eligible for a $75 gift certificate to a spa of your choice, you will be listening to another's voice — and what better gift can we give to another than to listen?


My college self would be disappointed with my life today.

Back then, I had it all mapped out:  graduate in three years with a B.A. in English (check).  Serve a mission for the L.D.S. church (check).  Get an M.A. in English Literature (check).

But then I started to go off course:  Get a PhD (ummm…)  Secure a tenure track position by the time I'm 28 (ummm…again).  Have three kids (oops, four) and a white picket fence (nope).

Turns out my 18 year-old self couldn't see the whole picture.  Like that I'd be burned out by academia after my master's degree and feel miserable about applying for PhD programs.  Or that I'd quite like what I imagined then would be very mundane tasks:  cooking, decorating, organizing and hanging out with my kids.  I rarely say this out loud, but I don't even mind cleaning (except for doing the laundry–which is my Achilles heel).

Image courtesy of and copyrighted by LaNola Kathleen Stone.

When I was younger, I dismissed any field or career that was less than rigorously academic as “fluff”.  I don't know where I got this idea, because my parents have encouraged all my efforts and never pushed me in any direction. Nevertheless, this philosophy guided my early decisions and left me feeling like a failure when I found my studies unfulfilling.

By the second year of my MA program, I was unhappy, frustrated and fed up, but I couldn't admit (even to myself) that I wanted to quit.  The dream of being a professor had always defined me, and letting it go made me panic.  What would I do?  How could my life be relevant?

Pride played a big role too.  I'd always been so vocal about my goals (I'm still learning the value of saying less, a lot less) that I was just plain embarrassed not to follow through.  Especially when my fellow students were busy being accepted into PhD programs across the country.

My pain eased a bit when I moved East and took a part-time job with a small community newspaper.  I was no longer surrounded by academics and it became clear that most people aren't concerned with the roles of Renaissance women, applying continental philosophy to modern texts or deconstructing old English manuscripts.  They're just trying to earn a living, balance hectic lives, and find a little free time.

Two years ago I was approached by a friend of a friend who was starting her own magazine about organizing (a favorite topic and hobby of mine).  She was looking for part-time editors and wondered if I'd be interested.

I said yes immediately.

One of the highlights of the job was a trip to North Carolina to interview the Flylady, Marla Cilley.  It was my first “business” trip, albeit with my 6 month-old in tow.  I enjoyed meeting Cilley who was fun, vivacious and full of empathy, hanging out with my boss, eating out, overcoming my fear of prop planes, and seeing the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.  It actually seemed more like a vacation than work, since I normally spend my days in Cinderella mode;  scrubbing, cooking, chauffeuring and trying to be patient with lots of little people with lots of needs.

ChristineVick2  Image courtesy of and copyrighted by LaNola Kathleen Stone.

Being a part of Organize not only gave me the experience to start my own website Store and Style, it taught me a valuable lesson:  for a task to be valuable, it doesn't have to be weighty, solemn, or make history.

It just has to be important to me.  If it's fun too, even better.

I love editing–knowing what to add, move around or rework so an article shines. I love organizing–helping people see how a little order can make life easier and more enjoyable.  And I love making school lunches, reading to my son on the front porch while waiting for the bus, baking cookies and painting my daughter's fingernails.  Lucky for me, my life can encompass all of these activities.

Looking back, I'm glad I didn't pressure myself into starting a PhD program–I know I would have quit.

I'm also glad my college self is no longer in charge.


Christine's comment about what she likes to do versus what she thought she should like to do is a valuable insight.  Have you ever made a list of what you enjoyed doing each day (made you happy/was satisfying) and subsequently compared that list with what you've stated publicly makes you happy.  I have. Yup — there were a few surprises.

And yes, LaNola Kathleen Stone's images are of Christine and her children in their home.

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