Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone: Kelsey Harp

by Sabrina Smelko


Growing up in Houston, TX, Kelsey Harp‘s family moved nine times. Each home underwent a renovation, and all of them were located within 10 minutes of each other — but no matter the locale, each house always maintained an open-door policy. Friends and family always felt welcome, and this sentiment has stuck with Kelsey ever since. To her, being the epicenter of laughs and good times is synonymous with home, and as an adult, this penchant for sharing and community has translated into a career as a content creator and consultant with a focus on culinary and lifestyle brands.

This newly-renovated kitchen within her Austin, TX ranch house is not only the heart of her home, but the hub for family gatherings, and — at times — Kelsey’s office. Today, Kelsey is inviting us into her home (which she shares with her husband and Louie, their shepherd/lab mix) to chat about her hopes, her fears, and her happy place. –Sabrina

Photography by Katie Jameson

Tell us about yourself.

Hi there, I’m Kelsey Harp. Currently residing in Austin, TX with my husband and our Shepherd/Lab mix, Louie. I’m a digital creative consultant for lifestyle and culinary brands of seven years. Essentially, I come alongside my clients to curate visual imagery that tells their story online.

The visual aspect of social media has always been the life-giving source of what I do. Before doing what I do now, I began my career as a photographer and video editor on a political campaign, then I became the in-house photographer for a hospital before I transitioned my passion toward food photography for restaurants around Austin. Eventually, I started my own consulting company. The foundation of my digital strategies for each client revolves around how we can visually display their personalities. Over the years, I’ve learned that I love the styling and creativity that comes with telling someone’s story. I’m blessed to be surrounded by amazingly talented people as well — people who inspire me and make my job a breeze. I love to work for myself, but I love the energy that comes with working alongside other creatives — it’s important to find a balance.


What does home and this space mean to you? Describe it.

Home is a space to relax, to laugh, to rejuvenate, to feel inspired — but, ultimately, it’s a space to be shared. I grew up in a home whose doors were always open, and so did my husband. It’s only natural that we, too, long to fill our home with friends and family on the regular. I also think growing up in houses that were always undergoing renovations gave me and my sister the “let’s make it our own” bug.

In fact, this past year alone, my sister renovated a historic home in the 12th South neighborhood of Nashville, my mom remodeled their home in Round Top, and I updated this small 1970s ranch house in Austin. Each week we would call each other with ideas, stories and exasperation from all of our house projects.

We chose our current house for many reasons, but I love a good rancher and fell head over heels for the terra cotta floors. Those were my favorite homes in Houston: the ones with touches of character that you just don’t mess with. Of course, my husband loved the house because it was the only one I didn’t request a wall knockdown in. Before moving, we decided to give the kitchen a facelift and paint the entire inside white (Benjamin Moore Decorators White, literally everywhere). My husband demo’d some of the existing cabinets and helped create the new extended counter concept. The details were my department: hardware, colors, backsplash, etc. As with most renovations, we had a tight budget — luckily, I wanted a very minimalist and clean approach. We knew that the kitchen would be the epicenter, and it definitely is. It’s truly not only my heart, but the heart of the house and our family.


What makes it so comfortable?

Like any space in a home, a room becomes comfortable when you are in your element. In the kitchen, that’s my space. I’m most comfortable creating a cheese plate for friends, stirring a pot of soup while chatting with my husband about our work days, and sharing stories over a glass of wine with friends.

The extended bar was an essential addition to our kitchen renovation. It’s like a magnet to everyone who enters our home. Even if we intend to sit in the living room, people are drawn to the little ledge. Maybe it’s the smell of what’s on the menu, maybe it’s the proximity to the wine bar, maybe it’s the company you find yourself in — whatever the reason, the kitchen is where our guests feel most comfortable.


What makes you uncomfortable? What is your biggest fear?

“Once she stopped rushing through life, she was amazed how much more life she had time for.” I’m not sure who said this, but it beautifully sums up my fear of barreling through through life too quickly. In the everyday bustle, it’s easy to be consumed by perfectionism, by success, by recognition — more often than not, we forget to slow down. We forget to find success in the small moments; those times spent with family. We forget that perfection is actually a home full of laughter and love. My biggest fear is that I will get swept away by the unimportant aspects of life.

Have you ever thrown caution to the wind and departed from your comfort zone? What happened as a result?

Of course! I don’t know how I’d make it through life without pushing myself outside of a “comfort zone” every so often. This past year, I challenged my work life. Change alone pushes my boundaries of comfort, therefore when I decided to mix things up vocationally, it was a big leap… and after the leap, I fell. By my personal standards, I fell pretty hard. Not exactly the hopeful tale people like to hear, but it’s exactly what I needed in my life at the time — a jolt. I’ve learned about myself from this experience; my value system has been appraised and adjusted. Sometimes breaking out of a comfort zone isn’t pretty, but it lays a foundation of growth and strength.


What would you do if you had a day, a week and a month all to yourself?

Hit the open road and experience life outside of my own little world. Traveling through small towns, taking in the culture, dining on local favorites, learning the history — it truly brings joy to my soul.

What have you learned as an adult that you wish you knew when you were younger?

First, that true confidence comes from relinquishing others’ opinions, and most importantly, when dealing with yourself and others, be kind, be honest and be encouraging.

How do you unplug, recharge and unwind?

Give me a wooden spoon, some fresh ingredients and a good movie. I love the creative challenge of whipping up a dish without a recipe. Then, I want to enjoy that meal while snuggling up on the couch for a classic film… with a glass of wine, of course.


Have you ever experienced burnout? How do you get back on your feet and stay inspired?

Almost weekly! My job requires a lot of give, give, give creatively. It’s easy to “run dry.” Inspiration, for me, comes in the form of community. Whether it’s an encouraging conversation or collaborative photo shoot, it’s important to surround yourself with uplifting friends and fellow creatives.

What do you think the world could use less of, and more of?

More coffee, always, and less bread — because I just can’t say no.


What’s one question you wish you had the answer to?

The balance of life is a mythical creature that we all chase; I want to know how to chase with grace.

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  • Beautiful words to read this morning! I love the amount of open space of the kitchen to encourage gathering of friends and family. Thank you for the inspiring words specifically to chase the balance of life with grace.

  • That kitchen is absolutely perfect. Any info on the wire display rack hanging on the door?

    • Hi Phillylass!

      Thanks for the sweet words! I bought the wire display rack while shopping around Round Top Antique Week here in central TX.