Being a military couple, Mattie and Jon Tiegreen are used to picking up and moving frequently. They're also familiar with how to make a house a home — regardless of where it is.
"Living in an unfamiliar place away from what and who we know makes it even more important for us to create a living space that highlights the people and memories we cherish," Mattie told TODAY Home, which is exactly what they did on New Year's Day 2016 when they moved to a new home in Southern Pines, North Carolina.
As an Army Airborne Infantry Officer in the Global Response Force at nearby Ft. Bragg, Jon’s post is subject to change locations often. The couple know they’ll likely be moving from the area in a few years, so setting the design apart will someday be a huge re-selling feature.
Mattie works from home as a graphic designer running Green Tie Studio, which specializes in small business branding, web development and art direction. Luckily, she has quite the eye for interiors as well.
With experience moving frequently due to Jon’s work, the couple has learned to pick up furniture along the way with the flexibility to be used anywhere. For example, though they really wanted a sectional, Mattie and Jon instead chose a standard sofa to ensure it would fit in a future living area. Their other furniture consists of smaller pieces that can function in any room.
“It takes the pressure off of moving,” Mattie said, “when we are confident that our favorite pieces will fit in a new space, even if they serve different purposes there.”
When they first relocated to the area in 2015, they lived on an adorable tree-lined street in a rental.
“Southern Pines is a quaint town with — you guessed it — loads of pine trees,” Mattie jokes. When they decided it was time to buy, the Tiegreens at first looked for a single-family fixer-upper home in the same area with a small footprint and a yard for their two dogs.
Mattie stumbled upon a listing for a just-built townhome, and even though they thought they would prefer a downtown property, she and Jon agreed to give it a try. The location is minutes from everything they love about the area, the listing was move-in ready but with room to make it their own, and it was priced well below their budget. After lots of thought, they realized that in this season of their life with Jon's military schedule and Mattie’s work travel, the perks of a townhouse community made a lot of sense for them.
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The interiors, however, needed some refreshing. With a bright loft-style look with white walls in mind, the homeowners immediately repainted the drab builder’s beige throughout. They also removed all the carpet on the lower level and added hardwood floors.
In the kitchen, upper cabinets were swapped out in favor of open floating shelves.
“We are very intentional about the "stuff" we have in our home,” Mattie said. “So this open concept not only challenges us to own less, but also to keep things tidy.”
A sleek stainless steel vent hood replaced a microwave above the stove, and a white subway tile backsplash complements new brushed gold hardware.
“The kitchen details began the first weekend in January, and it took about six weeks worth of Saturdays to get just right.” It is now the location of their favorite "date" — slow morning coffee together is a treat on rare days off.
The couple spent a few months letting the DIY dust settle, but still couldn't find the right solution for a living room focal point. After poring over pictures from design blogs, they decided to build a fireplace from scratch.
“We toyed with the idea of running a gas line for logs or building a custom encasing around an electric fireplace, but settled on keeping it faux,” Mattie said. They crafted a plywood box to frame the structure and attached it to the wall, then laid brick tiles to its exposed surfaces and set down a real brick hearth. After several weekends spent grouting, Mattie and Jon made a pine mantle and finished off the brick with several coats of white paint for an architectural element that feels original to the home.
Her favorite part of the design, however, is one of the easiest projects they did.
“The black wall we painted by the kitchen is filled from floor to ceiling with photos and treasures from our travels and families,” Mattie adds. “I love the conversations it starts and the people and places it represents.”
As they talked through ways to make the house a home, the Tiegreens’ main goal was to create a space that is tidy but lived-in, and always inviting to the people they love. The open flow of the ground floor allows the pair to host guests while cooking casual meals.
"I never understood the art of 'homemaking' until we were a military family. The life that Jon lives at work is unpredictable, volatile and frantic. Creating a thoughtful space for us to unwind and enjoy moments of peace in is incredibly important to me. While our house here may be temporary, I never want him to come home to a space as undone as work often feels."