In the vibrancy of her home, which radiates warmth and life with its clear, bright hues, heirloom furniture, framed children's artwork, and folk-art family portraits, it's hard to realize the orchestrator of this happy symphony is the same woman who, just eight years earlier, scrambled through broken glass on a two-lane rural road in Colorado searching for her boys. They had been ejected out of their seat belts and thrown from the super-size SUV she had been driving home from their family's annual vacation.
Only after nurturing Christopher back to walking, talking, and attending school was Mary Beth ready to revisit the idea of remodeling-and then, only at the insistence of her kids. She and John planned an expansion to their modest house that would enlarge the kitchen and create a new breakfast room, family room, front porch, enclosed back porch with a fireplace, three bedrooms, and two baths-one outfitted, spa-style, for Christopher's physical therapy. Mary Beth served as general contractor of the entire project, which took nine months. "After what we've been through, nothing can stress us out," she says.
Almost always, the decorating component of any remodeling is icing-pretty and delicious. For Mary Beth, it was healing. "When you bury your child, you don't have to bury his or her memory," she contends. It's a point she makes in her book about putting her family back together again, and it's a recurring theme throughout her home. Johnny's presence, along with her other children, is visible in every room.
Start at the front door, which is an heirloom from John's great-grandmother's Houston home. The tiny butterfly that always dangles from the keyhole is a symbol of Johnny's life and a constant reminder of him. "At the graveside service, we all released butterflies," says Mary Beth. In one subtle form or another, butterflies appear throughout the house, whether stitched into colorful folk art or ornamenting one of the hundreds of crosses in Mary Beth's expansive collection. Shell, bottle-cap, wire, painted, and clay crosses, to name a few, span both sides of the downstairs hallway.
In the breakfast room, colorful artwork by all four children generates energy and a healing power. "It makes me happy," Mary Beth says simply. The room's personalization is underscored by a clawfoot oak table, inherited from Mary Beth's side of the family, which she updated with a cool zinc top and gun-metal paint. To set off the family pieces, the walls are painted an unusual shade of green with a lot more kick than cool-more jalapeño than cucumber. "Mary Beth loves strong color, whereas I'm a taupe, gray, and white person by nature," says interior designer Eleanor Cummings, a family friend who had planned to work on the house even before the accident.
The two women began by discussing the dining-room palette, which Mary Beth wanted red-orange. "We painted the walls that color. Then we introduced green on the linen-covered Italian chairs inherited from John's grandmother," says Cummings. For the adjoining living room, they reversed the order-green on the walls, new orange fabric on a pair of antique French chairs, an ottoman, and a matching settee.