Making Home A Safe Haven with Kennesha Buycks’ Restoration House + Giveaway!

by Kelli Kehler

Kennesha Buycks quickly learned the important things that truly make a house a home many years ago, when the military had Kennesha and her husband moving around frequently — they moved 10 times in the first 10 years of their marriage. What she learned from those travels, their constant flexibility, and her faith is that the feeling you impart on a home — creating a home that restores all who enter — is the most coveted item you can decorate with.

When Kennesha found herself starting a blog 11 years ago as a means to display her furniture restoration projects, she never in her wildest dreams thought it would eventually lead to writing a book. But it did, and Kennesha’s first book, Restoration House: Creating a Space That Gives Life and Connection to All Who Enter, comes out tomorrow! We’re so honored to have Kennesha speaking with us today about her journey to writing Restoration House, what she values most about home, and how fostering has impacted her family’s life and and the space they share together. —Kelli

We’re so excited to share that Kennesha’s publisher, Harper Collins, is giving away a signed copy of Restoration House to 5 lucky Design*Sponge readers! For a chance to win one copy, please answer the following question in the comments section below by May 10, 2019 5PM EST: What makes a space feel like home to you? We’ll announce the winners (selected at random) in the comments section, so be sure to check back!

Photography by Tiarra Sorte / @tiarrasorte

You mention in your book that you moved 10 times in the first 10 years of your marriage. What tips did you learn over time when it comes to being flexible, and how did you make each space feel special within its own short time period?

I learned pretty quickly that you can’t take everything with you when you go. The military taught me that some things we use in our homes are for seasons, and I still have that mindset – even though we are no longer in the military. It’s a skill I have learned to embrace because sometimes it is liberating to “let stuff go.” For me, I cannot handle a lot of stuff tucked away so I’m constantly purging and getting rid of items that do not serve purpose in some way in my life or home. As for making each space feel special each time, I think putting up artwork and photography on the walls, hanging panels on the windows and accessorizing with personal items have always been ways that I attempt to make a temporary space feel a little more permanent and more like home.

How did your blog come to be, and ultimately, when did you know that you wanted to make a book from that?

I originally started my blog almost 11 years ago. It grew out of a need, at that time, to have a space to showcase the furniture pieces I was refinishing and selling. The blog has always been a place for me to express myself creatively but over the years, it became more of a space to offer reflective and inspirational writing to my readers. I received a ton of positive feedback from readers. I realized that I enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would, and I learned how to combine it with more visual creativity (tablescaping, interior styling, etc.). The book deal honestly blindsided me in some ways. I never set out to be an author or publish a book. It’s just never been a life goal for me. Yet, here I am. Life surprises us sometimes in the best ways. I consider this book one of those surprises.

What are your strongest memories of what "home" meant as a child, and were there any items or themes that have found their way into your home now?

Home, for me, wasn’t always an amazing place to be. I always feel the need to temper that statement. I didn’t grow up in a traditional home. My mom and dad weren’t together, and I was basically raised by all of the strong women in my life – my mother, my grandmother and a host of aunts. Many of my memories are good. I am from the South, so family was a big deal in our home. Some of my most fond memories are when my cousins would visit. Being raised as an only child wasn’t always fun – unless it was Christmas or my birthday. I was the only child in the house for many years, so I was lonely sometimes. When the cousins came it was like I experienced a little bit of heaven each time. We were raised like brothers and sisters.

I don’t have much in the terms of heirlooms or home items that I have in my home now from my childhood home, but my grandmother loved moss green. When I was a little girl, we had olive green carpet and olive green velvet accent chairs. Now that moss green color is one of my faves. You’ll find sprinkles of it in almost every room of our home. Since I don’t have much that was passed down to me, I’ve developed a love for vintage and antique items. I love using them in our home. I guess, in a sense, you could say I am creating that for our kids and I love how they make a home feel.

And what does home mean to you now?

Home is everything to me now. It’s a place of rest and retreat. It’s a place where we can just “let it all hang out.” It is a safe haven.


You're a fan of restoring and DIYing pieces - what's been one of your favorite projects, and what project taught you a new set of skills that really changed your restoration game?

I’m not sure if it necessarily changed my restoration game, but I restored an 18th-century cabinet that was in extremely poor condition. It wasn’t a piece that I did for a client, it was for me and my creativity. So, I took as long as I needed on it. It took me about four months to complete, and I ran into road bumps as many of the pieces that needed to be replaced were hard-to-find reproductions of. I loved discovering new ways to restore different types of woods and hardware through that project as well as new decorative paint and aging techniques.

What are some overlooked or underrated items one could find at a vintage or antique market that hold potential for big transformations?

Some of my most favorite things to grab when I’m thrifting are textiles and handmade pottery. I think the pottery has become pretty trendy these days. Many artists now specialize in creating and selling their own, but I love searching the aisles of my local thrift store for unique pieces made by someone’s aunt or grandpa. There’s just something super special about all the possible stories behind the hands that made those pieces. You can also get them for next to nothing. They don’t make much of an impact when you style a couple of them. However, collecting them over time, adding up to 10-12, and displaying them on an entry table or on a shelf can really make an artistic statement. I also enjoy looking through the craft section for vintage textiles. I don’t always have great luck there, but I have found some from time to time and loved using them to recover a vintage chair or to upholster stools. If you find enough, the textiles are perfect to use on a sofa or to toss across the end of a bed.

Home should be a haven and safe place for everyone who enters.

Tell us about your experience in fostering, and how do you and your husband adapt your home for this season of flux?

Fostering was something that just kind of came to us, but in a “knock-your-door-down-and-barge-its-way-in” kind of way. We knew that fostering was something that we wanted to do at some point in our marriage, but we didn’t have solid plans. When the opportunity arose for us to partner with a local agency and live in a community catered specifically to foster parents and the families that [support] them, it just felt like the right time and the right thing to do. It’s been one of the most beautifully transforming things we have ever done. Not only has it been powerful to see how it has affected our kids, and how they care for each of the kids that come into our home, but it’s helped our family stay less self-focused. We have learned to care more for those around us and others in need. Through that decision, many of our own needs have been met that we didn’t even know we really needed.

What has fostering taught you about your home and how you want to feel at home?

Fostering has truly reinforced my belief that home should be a haven and safe place for everyone who enters. When we have kids come into our home, this idea (of safety and security) is something that I am keenly aware of and do what I can to make it a relaxing and enjoyable experience during the short time they are with us and in our home.

What's a tip you can share with our readers for showing their own personality through their homes?

One of the least expensive and easiest ways is to add personal artwork and photography. I haven’t always done this well. As a family, we take photos each year with a professional photographer. I used to store these pictures away on the computer — never to be seen again. I recently began working on some creative ways to print and display these images because it’s important for our family to see ourselves in our home. I believe adding personal artwork, whether created by the homeowner or some of their favorite artists, is another way to add a unique personality to the home. Since I love vintage pieces, I tend to include more pieces that reflect that style and mix them in with newer items. But what makes it fun is figuring out how to display them in your own home and decide how you want your home to look and feel. My advice is to do what works for you.

What's your current favorite way to freshen up a space?

It may sound a bit strange because it’s typically not the most budget-friendly expense, but I am obsessed with vintage rugs right now. I have found a couple of great sources for inexpensive ones which are shipped directly – so, when I buy them I’m not breaking the bank. If you can’t afford vintage ones or have a hard time finding ones that fit your budget, there are a ton of brands out there that make vintage reproductions which look and feel just as good in a space as the originals. I love making that investment because they have stood the test of time and have long outlived trends because they offer such classic appeal.

What's next for you?

I sure hope good things! Perhaps more books or even TV. That sounds fun to me! Whatever the future holds, I am ready to embrace it – fully confident in the gifts, passions and desires that have been placed in me.

Suggested For You


  • What a lovely post. I am moved by the preservation of family traditions through the use of color.

  • Home is a place where I know my family is safe and we can relax, share a meal, and be surrounded by some of our favorite things.

  • What makes a space feel like home to me is a feeling of safety. I moved around a lot as a kid so I don’t really have a childhood home. But in every place we lived, seeing photos of loved ones, the artwork I or my dad created (he’s a painter and photographer), plants, our collective book collection, the same Pyrex casserole dishes in the kitchen my parents have had since long before I was born…these are things that make a place feel safe, like a sanctuary. And that is something I have carried with me since I have moved into my own apartments over the years.

  • I’ve lived a few different places and all of them in their unique ways feel like some version of home to me. A space feels like home to me when the people (and pets) I love are there.

  • 1. To quote Jean Cocteau:
    “I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become it’s visible soul.”
    2. I appreciate my small home because it came to me late in life. I have filled it with objects, photos, paintings and prints from every stage and all the travels in my life – it is the living, changing representation of my life as a creative person.

  • Pets make a house a home. I can’t imagine walking in the door and not being greeted by a furry friend.

  • To me, what makes a space feel like a home is a feeling connected. For our house…the open floor plan let’s everyone feel connected no matter what main room they are in. And feeling connected to those before me through antiques…I hunted for an antique hutch to be able to display my grandmother’s china. Anything old, rusty, considered junk or past its prime can have a home in my home!

  • Artwork. When I was a little girl, my parents hung a portrait of a girl at the beach in my room. I still have it hanging in my house today. It instantly takes me back to my childhood.

  • Bright sunshine, the aroma of home-cooked food, and my family lounging around the fireplace in snuggly jammies.

  • i love kennesha’s sneakers. can i be cheeky and ask who makes them? :-)

    home is where i feel safe–where i recharge/reflect, love/feel loved. so: walls, a door i can close (!), a kitchen with two+ chairs and something cooking.

  • Clean crisp sheets, loved items such as favorite books and belongings and a familiar smell of our home!

  • The warmth and love, the peace and safety that envelops you when you enter…
    That’s what makes a space feels like home!

  • Whenever you walk into a home where the homeowner wants you to feel at home, who cares enough about it to let it evolve over time, and is grateful for the space they have… that energy transcends any design style or purchase.

    There are homes in my extended family that feel like home to me, even though they aren’t mine. It’s that feeling that I want to carry on in my home.

  • A place feels like home to me when I have my books and plants and family pictures surrounding me!

  • What feels like home is walking in the front door into an inviting and comfortable environment. It’s filled with fresh flowers, pictures and natural lighting.

  • I’ve lived in different cities and countries and every time i moved to a new space a few things moved with me.
    To me people, pets and memories ( anything and everything that bring happy thoughts… be it photographs, books or even a dried flower) make a space a home.

  • Adding personal touches, for sure! It’s brilliant if one has heirlooms or vintage things or lots of photographs with family. If not, one can always add personal touches with new and inexpensive things. I like to collect small things when I travel, something that reminds me of the holiday, it can be pottery, textiles or even shells or pinecones maybe! The idea is to have these inexpensive collectibles that tell a story and make the house a home.

  • Home is where I can let the walls around my heart come down because I know the walls of my apartment will keep me together. Hugs from Norway.

  • When you walk into someone’s home, and say, “this is so you!”. That’s how my house is, and my goal with all my clients.

  • Home is where love is seen, heard, felt, and practiced among all who live or visit there. For 22 years I desired to live in a different house because the structure itself didn’t reflect who I am. We don’t have a garage, our driveway is cracked, the stairs creak, and the rooms are small. The neighborhood is on the edge of a major city where we must be cautious about safety but we also have dear neighbors who we trust and feel safe around. But when just this past January, I chose to change my mindset and adore where I live and write about my gratitude for where I am in life, love, and place, grander opportunities in my art career began to flow towards me in ways like never before. Once I stopped wishing for a different house every thing as changed and I am happiest when I’m here in the home of love that it always has been.

  • What makes my home “home” is the feeling that everything is chosen and cared for. I love to look around and remember the story behind everything that has come thru the door. I take joy in their colors and physical beauty too. I try my honor those objects/details, keep them tidy and well-loved, as their stories fill my days with life. That’s what makes home meaningful to me!

  • Home is my collection of new,thrift store, and given items that create a Serene feeling for my family to talk laugh relax snd hang out

  • Similarly, I moved 7 times in 6 years and struggled to make a space feel like home. The one thing that I prioritized was cozy. In each new home, I added warm & soft things. I incorporated blankets, pillows, soft lighting, and furniture that was so cozy, it called out to you to sit. You can’t really be at home unless you’re comfortable and safe, I feel that making a space cozy is a quick way to do that.

  • What makes a space feel like home to me?
    Home is my safe space, where I get to be my authentic self, to breathe and to share all that I have with those I love and care about.
    Home is comprised of the things I’ve collected over the course of my life, the feathers of my nest; the curios, the heirlooms, the I-had-to-buy-it items and the special finds for just a few dollars, that change a space into being my home.
    I’ve lived in 26 spaces throughout my years. Not all have felt like “home”, but the ones that have, all had an energy of sanctuary and sharing within them, bound by furnishings that mean something to me and have an essence of who I am in the world. :)

  • It has to be houseplants. Whenever we put them outside when it rains it just looks so empty inside. Also being in my kitchen and cooking.

  • I have the same sweater Kennesha is wearing! I am looking to redo my apt when I blend my family with my fiancé. I want to transform it into a home for both of us and remove the excess. But any space instantly becomes a home with the laughter of our kids in unison, and some piece that was hand made, either pottery by my fiancé, painting by me, or art on display from our kids.

  • Family heirlooms, art on the walls, but really a space feels like home just after that first gathering of loved ones. We just bought our first home together a year ago and we’ve hosted so many potlucks and thanksgiving and friends for beer in the backyard. Sharing my home makes it home.

  • What makes a place feel like home to me is feeling peace once I enter a house, getting greeted by your pets and having your house decorated with your personal touch.

  • What makes a space feel like home to me is a certain “hum” the place will have. Whether it’s a conversation from the next room or the quiet din of the dryer running. This hum combined with natural light and plants makes a space feel alive and homey.

  • I’m a renter, so a space will feel like home to me, when I know that the front door key in my hand is mine. . .and no once else can enter unless I invite them in.

  • A house feels like home when I have all my family together in it. I have lived in so many houses and different states and, truly, I feel at home most with my family.

  • A place feels like home to me once I’ve cooked a few meals in the kitchen. Once I’ve figured out where things will go, become comfortable in the space, and used the kitchen to generate yummy scents and delicious tastes for myself (when I was young) or my family and friends now, the house feels like my home.

  • This just spoke to my SOUL! Home to me is a place that brings rest – physically and spiritually. Being in a place that is beautiful and peaceful makes me feel so rested, so that is essential to me when curating pieces for a home! I want anyone who enters my home to immediately feel like exhaling and feel settled and comfortable. Home should be a safe haven, just as Kennesha said!

  • A place feels like home when it is a refuge. A place where anyone and everyone can feel safe and be themselves. It’s cozy and comfy with a whole lot of Jesus!

  • My apartment became truly a full and expanding home for me and my guests when all these elements came into balance…. earthy scents, vivid colors and textures, mirrors, plants, candles, great Literature & photos in every room and a sense of “you belong here” when one walks through the door. An opportunity to hibernate in the stillness of the day or to commune with nature via the large sunlit windows….even deep in South Central L.A.


  • Beautiful story! Inspiring ❤️

    What makes a home for me…a place to cook, a place to sleep, and a place for all the plants.

  • Like many above, I’m going to say my cats and art (the last time I moved it took several weeks to get the art up and it felt like a hotel until then…).

    But I will add that when I’ve hosted my first dinner / brunch / cocktail party in my new place, that’s when I know I’m really home.

  • For me, home is where the energy and memories are full of peace and makes room for growth.

  • Can’t wait to read this!

    A house feels like a home to me when I finally hang things on the wall.

  • A space feels like home when it finally reflects me and my love for things I find beautiful. Community is also important to me, so I want people to feel relaxed and invited in when they come to my home.

  • Home is the place where you can be entirely yourself. When you have at least one safe grounded place, you are free to then push boundaries, take risks without worrying ‘what if.’

  • I recently realized that what makes a place feel like home to me is gratitude for having a home in the first place. I live somewhere with a very high rate of homelessness, and feel so blessed to have my apartment even though it has its issues and is the least “decorated” space I’ve lived in for a long time. I love the idea that a home can help restore all those who enter. New decorating goal :)

  • I move a lot and I have a few items that ALWAYS get unpacked first. Something for the wall, something for the bedside table, something for the coffee table. One of them I have had since I was 11 or 12, and it always comes with me personally and is not left to movers. Dorky, but it feels like home.

  • When I’m visiting someone’s home for the first time, it’s pictures, books and music that tells me the most!

  • Congratulations to Heidi, Julie, Christine, Kat and Carla! You’ve each won a copy of Restoration House. Please keep an eye on your email inbox as I’ll be contacting you soon :)