July 14, 2024

Architectural Design Kingdom

Home is where the heart is

Woman Designs Family Home Inspired by Father of the Bride (Exclusive)

7 min read
  • Emily and James Riter bought a home for their soon-to-be family of six and transformed it into the perfect haven for memories
  • The colonial architecture of their space — in which they were owners, designers and builders — was partially inspired by the 1992 film Father of the Bride
  • Emily tells PEOPLE she hopes to inspire others to put the time into classic aesthetics that are harder to achieve than ever

Emily and James Riter had a clear vision for the kind of home they dreamed of for their family. Getting there, though, was the challenge.

“For the first nine years of our marriage, my husband and I lived in this small 1300 sq. ft. house with all three boys. Even back at that house, we wanted to curate a simple and beautiful home,” Emily tells PEOPLE.

“As our family grew, we really wanted to create a space that was more lasting. We wanted somewhere that we could grow our family and be hospitable and generous, a place to share memories and slow down and delight in each other. That’s when we started looking.”

The couple was unsure whether they’d “buy land or find a neighborhood we love” until they happened upon a neighborhood with “kids playing in the street on their bikes.” That was their sign that they were home.

“The home we found was originally built in the 70s. We had this image in our minds of this medium-sized Father of the Bride-style house,” she says.

The 1992 film struck a chord with Emily in the many times she watched it over the years. It lingered in her mind as they discussed the next steps for the home.

“That style is so nostalgic. It was appealing to us for two reasons. It’s a classic aesthetic and Father of the Bride illustrates what really makes up the home — the people, the memories, the experiences, all the suffering and joy that life can bring.”

“We were fortunate that at the beginning of this project, we had so much more opportunity and years of our children’s childhood ahead of us,” Emily continues. “We could ponder and envision exactly what we wanted for hopefully the next 60 or so years of our lives and 20 year of theirs. We thought about hosting possible rehearsal dinners and Thanksgivings, as well as the traditions we already do together.”

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The couple have “always loved colonial architecture and wanted to stay true to that.”

“We also both do genuinely love the movie. We would watch it together. For years, I watched it myself and it’s been my dream since my own childhood to create something similar.”

“A place to read was important to us. We’re all big, avid readers. We would love for our children to grow up around literature, so to have a special place to read was important. We also had books stacked up to the ceiling everywhere in our first house, so we needed a good way to store them all.”

To make that happen, they took a previous office space and outfitted it with “a secret door.”

“That way, when we want to be more extroverted and have social events, people could go into the living room and we can keep that open. If we want to be more introverted and have it as a quiet family space, the library is there,” she says.

“There was originally another bedroom upstairs and a skinny hallway. We removed that bedroom and opened it up to have a landing space, so that as a family at nighttime, after they’ve brushed their teeth and everything, we’d still have a spot to read, connect and unwind before putting them to bed without having to come downstairs.”

The family also made the decision that their three boys would continue sharing a room, as they did in their first home.

“Our boys love sharing a room, so they wanted to continue doing that and we did too. We built in bunk beds with four bunks. Right now, we have three boys and so that’s really special because even with more space, they still want to be together,” Emily says.

The soon-to-be mom of four says that having “a playroom on the first floor that’s right off the kitchen” was a gamechanger for her.

“I can hear them as I prep meals or throw laundry in. There are also French doors that go into our outdoor space. We wanted them to have that Montessori feel with an indoor-outdoor space, so we made a sunroom so that way they could just run out to their playground or the garden and play. We can still see them from several spots in our house or outside,” Emily says.

“Whether we’re eating at the nook table or in the kitchen, or in the living room, I can still have eyes on them without being in the room with them. We also have opportunities for the space, thinking down the road,” she continues.

“When our children are older and out of the house, we could take the space off the kitchen and living room, which is the playroom, and turn it into a tea room or another eating space for other people to enjoy as well.”

The kitchen includes “our island and eating nook,” as well as outdoor tables that make the area “such a comfortable zone.”

“Our heart is definitely in the kitchen. I love to cook and there are three meals a day plus snacks, so that space is probably my favorite. It lets the light in. We can still go out and experience it both ways. It just makes me think of family and entertaining and hosting.”

In their time in the home, Emily and James, fond of entertaining, have also come to love their pantry space.

“We have what they call a butler’s pantry, which is really just a large pantry with pocket doors off the kitchen, which is also used for laundry. That’s been helpful because we added a sink in there. We were recently hosting an event and it was nice to be able to throw all the dishes in there and close those doors and not have to worry about cleaning the dishes and the kitchen right away,” she shares.

“Being able to stash them away and then divide them up with my husband, James, after everyone left because we had two sinks to wash them in. It’s little things like that we’re very grateful to have created because they’re so helpful.”

In total, it took them nearly two years to transform the home.

“We really, really wanted that new-old home feel — something timeless with all the new finishes, fixtures and systems. We wanted to build a true colonial revival architectural style, which was popular back in 1920s,” Emily says.

“Our home was part full remodel and part new build. We took it to the studs, but there are some original spots. Achieving that new-old vision can be a challenge for owners, architects, designers, builders, subcontractors.”

She continues, “My husband and I could not have done it without our subcontractors. We did have a couple of contractors for whom it was too difficult, and they gave up on the challenge. Then we had other contractors who championed and came in and did their part of the project, including a couple who ended up saving us when we were in a bind.”

The challenges in the process of bringing a vision like theirs to life made Emily realize, “I think there’s a reason our culture doesn’t build as much of a classical look, as we did across history. Partially, it’s the cost, but part of it is that finding the right trade contractors and suppliers could be more difficult. It can be a lot on some builders as well.”

Emily’s experience and others’ interest in it were big factors in her decision to share the home on Instagram through her handle, @emily.riter. She began sharing scenes from her home and the process in September 2023.

“I want to support that desire for people who want to build the kind of homes we used to back in the day. I hope to give inspiration and ideas for what people can do in their own homes,” she says.

“I opened it to share the beauty and design behind the creation of our home so others could see it’s attainable and do something similar. I honestly never thought it would grow the way it has in six months.”

As interest grows, Emily and James are working on a website that can provide even more detail about the products, subcontractors and sources that helped them in their build. Emily will also provide design consultations and floor plans for purchase, amid the wealth of information.

The growing family is enjoying their days in their beautiful home, where they’re making the first of many memories to come.

“I think there are some areas that we’ll finish out more and decorate more. The main parts of the house, I think, are done. We’re always gardening. We’re always learning something new in the garden, so those spaces are always evolving. We have dreams of maybe making a spiral staircase into the attic space and a third level if need be, but as of now, we have plenty of space for our family.”

“We have our fourth baby on the way and she’s a little girl, so we’re very grateful for that. That’s coming this October. And until then, we’re working on launching our website, Heirloom Terrain, in July,” Emily says. “There’s a big push to get that done and then slow down and continue to enjoy our time as a family this summer.”


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