2014 Favorites

Is it too late to tell you about my favorite things from 2014?  In my book, January is not only about starting a new year, but also about looking back at the previous year and deciding what to change and what to charge ahead with.  I give myself the whole month.  We still have Christmas cards hanging up at our house.  We’ve embraced 2015, but I can still remember 2014 right?

Since we’re only a couple of weeks into January, I thought I’d tell you about some of my favorite things from the past year.  Things I discovered and starting using or just things I think are amazing and you should know about.  In no particular order, here are my


1) Happy Socks.  I discovered these at TJ Maxx.  I now have two pairs and they really do make me happy when I wear them.  Everyone should know about Happy Socks.


[photo courtesy of Happy Socks website]

2) PlanetBox. Our son recently started bringing and eating his lunch at his montessori school.  I decided to use a PlanetBox because I thought the concept of everything in one container was genius.  I get the chance to make his food look really appetizing in the little sections, it helps me to sort out portions for fruit, veggies and another side, a tiny treat, and a sandwich or wrap, it’s only one container for me wash each night (and not waste plastic baggies!) AND it’s in a heavy duty stainless steel container, so there’s no risk of anything being squashed.  This lunch container has been so incredible for us.  I realize it’s more than most folks expect to spend on a lunchbox, but I intend for this thing to last many years (it still looks brand new after 6 months of daily use) and again, I’m not spending money on plastic bags or any other containers.  It really simplifies the process of making lunch and I can’t say enough good things about PlanetBox.  We use the Rover if you are interested.

Making lunches is sort of fun

A photo posted by Rachel DeBacker (@racheldebacker) on

[photo courtesy of my Instagram feed, PlanetBox on the right]

3) Fresh Sugar Honey tinted lip treatment.  Oh man. This stuff is so good. It’s the perfect amount of “everyday” color for me and it’s so so nice on the lips.  I discovered it as a sample from Sephora and then bit the bullet to by the full size when that ran out. It lasted me a year (and I use it constantly) and now it’s time to get over to Sephora for more.

4) Podcasts.  I know, I mentioned them before, but I listen to a lot of podcasts. One of my favorites from last year was this episode of 99% Invisible, explaining the origins of the #hashtag: Episode 145: Ocotothorpe . Please take a listen.

5) Thomas Jefferson’s green.  I painted the linoleum floor of my office green in homage to the green floors in the front hall of Monticello.  Turns out this shade is harder to pinpoint than you might think, so I did a little guessing at Sherwin Williams. This photo (of a magazine photo on my office floor) gives you an idea of the original and my take.

My green floor and the inspiration: Jefferson's green floor at Monticello

A photo posted by Rachel DeBacker (@racheldebacker) on

6) Reading. One of my goals for 2014 (and still in 2015) is to read more.  I joined a book club and made a big effort to read at night, while we were traveling, or listen to audio books.  I even learned how to check out audio books from our library and listen to them on my phone.  I finished 12 books last year.  That is unprecedented for me in these days of parenthood and starting a new business, etc.  Reading is the absolute best.  Yay reading!

7) Potato Feet.  Oh gosh are these shoes cute.  Sawyer has a pair of the rose gold moccs and MAN are they sweet. These are handmade in California and the leather is super soft.  They go with everything- leggings, dresses, jeans. She is one stylish two year old in her Potato Feet.


[photo courtesy of the Potato Feet website, note these are the Gold Moccs and I can’t seem to find the Rose Gold]

8) Asics.  Specifically these Gel-Fit Sanas from Athleta.  I wear these ALL THE TIME.  The description says they are for running and gym training, but I think they are too cute for that.  I run errands and I train my kids in them.


[image courtesy of the Athleta website]

9) Air Pop Popcorn Maker.  My mom got this little machine for Dr. Jay and the kids and they use it weekly, sometimes thrice weekly.  They love their popcorn and I feel so much better about them eating this, rather than the microwavable kind with all its chemicals and the burnt smell that seems to happen no matter what you do.  Air popped is the way to go.

10) Scott Naturals Tube-Free toilet paper.  TUBE FREE, PEOPLE!  I had to try it out because I couldn’t even fathom this system working well, and what do you know, it’s a great system!  Makes you wonder why there was ever a tube in the first place.  I have only been able to find this at one store around me (haven’t ordered it off Amazon) but hey, maybe spreading the word here will help get it noticed so more stores will stock it.  I really do love it.

And that concludes my list of favorites from 2014.  I never thought toilet paper would be on that list, but I guess life is funny that way. Do you have any incredible products from the past year you feel like you have to tell everyone about?

July, Still here (sometimes)

Hey Friends! I’m still here, trying to make the most of summer. We’ve been in and out, up and down for the past two months but I wanted to pop in and share a few things from the interwebs that I think are fun. So here are a few of my favorites:

This blog post from MPix for a sweet photography/art project with kids!

These incredible bus stops in Austria. Let’s go!

My friend Shane, in Austin, had work published at HOUZZ.com. It’s his house! Way to go, Shane!

These shorts! Pompoms and sleepwear- doesn’t get much better than that. Etsy is so awesome. I will either need to buy some of these or make them myself. Or someone could buy them for me!

Speaking of Etsy, I finally convinced MODwoodworks to put these bottle openers in his shop. These things are so cool. You need one. Everybody’s doing it!


I’ve ended it all with exclamation points! I’m just so excited about the internet’s offerings these days! Cheers!


p.s. I’ve finally joined Instagram. It was too big a force not to get sucked in. Follow me at racheldebacker and let me know- should I follow you?


Babble Interview: Katrina Evans

You all know that I love providing great interviews with women in design here on the Babble. I have such a fun interview to share with you this month.  Katrina Evans has been high on my list to interview for a while, and I’m so glad our schedules finally worked out because I’m able to publish this post on her birthday of all days.  Happy Birthday, Katrina!

Katrina Evans

Katrina Evans

I first met Katrina and her husband Chris when we moved to Athens, Georgia back in 2008.  Though their business (E+E Architecture) was just starting up, she took me in as their first employee.  I couldn’t believe the number of projects she had going at once.  Katrina managed to not only keep her business afloat during the worst of the recession, she’s such a (forgive this choice of words) hustler that they made it through a shining example of success.

I admire Katrina’s work ethic and drive, her down to earth nature, her functional creativity.  She’s patient while at the same time demands excellence from those she works with.  I learned a lot from Katrina during the short time I worked with her (we relocated to Virginia in 2009) and do wonder what life would be like had we stayed in Athens.  She taught me how to respect clients’ wishes and still keep the project rolling along.  It’s the same attitude she applies to her family, making the whole work/life balance look effortless.  Katrina and her husband Chris recently designed and built their house in Athens, and she’ll talk a little about that in her interview.  Let’s get to it.

Tell us a little about yourself- where you’re from, where you went to school, what you are doing now, etc.

 I am originally from a smallish town in Iowa called Cedar Rapids. I studied architecture at Iowa State University. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Rome for a semester and had some perspective knocked into my wholesome Midwest background. I graduated and stomped around as a young professional in NYC, later moved to Atlanta. After a few years working at a great firm, Perkins & Will, I had the opportunity to work as a staff architect for a hospital in Athens, GA. My husband, Chris (also an architect) and I jumped at the chance to move away from Atlanta into our charming college town.

Present day, my husband and I have our own Architecture / Interior design firm with a few capable employees. E+E Architecture started in 2007, right before the economy tanked but somehow we’ve grown each year and have a solid reputation with some cool projects under our belt.

How did you get interested in architecture?

 I think I got interested by one of those super basic classes in early high school where you draft out a house. I poured myself into the project and proclaimed that I would become an architect. As a bonus, I liked that upon earning a degree, you practiced architecture versus aimlessly wandering around in the business world. This is of course not really true since folks trained as architects branch into a million directions.

At what point did you decide to go into business for yourself?

Chris and I had a few side projects and formed E+E in 2006. We both had full time jobs but out of the blue the hospital I worked for cut my position.   I freaked out for a couple hours and decided by the end of the day that I would ramp up E+E full time. Chris joined two years later.

Tell us a little about your home and work schedule.  How do you make it all work with a shared business, two kids and a dog?

 Ha! I suppose we make it work because we work our tails off. It definitely helps that Chris and I have shared goals: a healthy business and happy home with our kids. We split up all duties and divide and conquer as much as possible. I used to be the type of person where I could waste away a whole weekend doing very little of anything. Now, we are always on the go or doing something which helps. Balancing both family and work can definitely be overwhelming for us. We try to remember a mantra “work to live, not live to work”.

Tell us a little about the house that you and Chris Evans designed for your family: the property, the process, some of the trials, and what you are most proud of in the house.

 We had been looking for an in-town lot for a while and made a few unsuccessful attempts at buying one or two. When we found our current property, it took about two weeks of marinating on the thought because the house was just gross. Our friends called it the “flophouse” and it had been vacant for years. Ultimately, the street, schools, location and the wide double lot sealed the deal.

Before the renovation and expansion

Before the renovation and expansion



We established our goals: open floor plan, tons of light, a big screened porch and ultimately, a house that reflected exactly how our family lives. It was a little tricky to find the time to do our drawings since we were busy but we finally went on vacation and found time to lay it out. Elevations quickly followed and the entire process was pretty easy considering we are both hands-on dueling architects / spouses. We definitely disagreed on some parts here and there but overall, it was shockingly painfree.

Challenges were really about staying within our budget. A realization to us was that appraisers are not necessarily great at reading drawings and that “cool” elements don’t always translate into a higher appraisal. Once the home was complete, we did ask our appraiser to come out and walk the actual home and the number went up dramatically.

Completed house

Completed house


We also decided to GC it ourselves, which… is a lot work.   Fortunately, we worked with a friend / GC who helped us through site work, foundations and framing and then we tapped into the pool of wonderful sub contractors in the area. I think we may have worn a few folks out but we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them again to any of our clients.

 Describe some of the unique features you included. 

We are very happy with the quantity of windows. Every room has a generous amount and it fills the house so well with light. A bonus is that we can see our children in the front yard / back yard with ease.

Playroom window

Playroom window

Day-lit living space

Day-lit living space

I guess the standing seam vertical panels are somewhat unique. We love the way the panels fold up the connector and bridge from the original home to the addition.

In general, we kept the palette very clean –white walls and dark floors and intended for the light fixtures to be the only semi-permanent feature that jumps out. We found some great old fixtures, had a few custom made by the local lampsmith and we made the string lights upstairs. I love them all. It’s especially interesting to see the shadows the lights cast.

Handmade light fixture

Handmade light fixture

Custom designed and built light fixture

Custom designed and built light fixture

Other design details we like are the stair railings. We wanted something that had interest, was economical and safe. They aren’t exactly code compliant so we had plywood up at our inspection and then installed the rope. I think it plays well with the light fixtures.

Lights and custom handrail

Lights and custom stair rails

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

What projects are you working on now?

 We are working on a mix of projects right now. We just wrapped up design on a new restaurant, Seabear, an Oyster Bar. We are also doing a childcare center, a new office building and an open-air pavilion for the UGA Ropes Course program.

Designed and built by E+E architects Katrina and Chris

Designed and built by E+E architects Katrina and Chris

Recently completed outdoor dining table

Recently completed outdoor dining table

Child photo-bomb!

Child photo-bomb!


What architect (or architects) inspire you and why?

Lake Flato. They are very successful at merging vernacular architecture with modern, clean design. They also choose materials that have integrity and let those materials guide the design. They also work on various scales and budgets but still create spaces and places of beauty. I’m a fan.

Since you are currently teaching a course at UGA, what, if anything, would you change about architecture education?

 There are lots of flaws. Most basically, I think that there is so much emphasis put on design and theory, it leaves very little room for any practicality. Some programs around the country have a construction element built into their program and I think that would be invaluable. At Iowa State, which has a great program, it was deeply theoretical. A slightly more rounded approach would benefit students and the professionals that will work with them.

The class I teach, Building Systems for UGA Interior Design students, has a goal of teaching the students about how a building comes together by real-world examples and whenever possible, by getting out in the field.

Lastly, what is your favorite thing about being an architect?

 My favorite thing about being an architect is creating buildings or spaces that have a direct impact on people. Good design really does matter… and now research is backing up the egos of countless architects …

Examples: Being intentional about natural light can lead to improved outcomes in healthcare settings, lower pain medicine usage for patients. Staff will even sleep better with high exposure to natural light. Efficient, deliberate layouts of offices can increase productivity and decrease employee absenteeism.

I could geek out about this for a long time. Good design really is good business.



I hope these words and images inspire you like they do me.  I love when she shared her secret to success: work your tail off.  And those orange kid-proof chairs- I totally see where she’s going with that! She forgot to mention the astro-turf they installed in the kids’ playroom. Seems like they thought of everything.

Thanks for letting us take a peek into your life, Katrina.  And Happy Birthday!