IT’S A DAYDREAM WE’VE ALL HAD. LET’S GET OUT OF HERE. LET’S MOVE TO THE COUNTRY. LET’S START A NEW LIFE, A DIFFERENT LIFE, SING A DIFFERENT TUNE. THERE HAS BEEN A SHIFT, MORE AND MORE, OF FOLKS LOOKING TO GET OUT AND GET BACK TO A SIMPLER, SLOWER KIND OF TIME. WE CAUGHT UP WITH PHOTOGRAPHER JENAVIEVE BELAIR AND FURNITURE MAKER KYLE TITTERUD WHO HAVE RECENTLY TAKEN THAT DAYDREAM AND TURNED IT INTO DAILY LIFE. DON'T BE CONFUSED, IT’S NOT ALL WILDFLOWERS AND OPEN ROADS (THOUGH THERE ARE A LOT OF THOSE); THIS LIFE PROVES TO BE A TEST OF HARD WORK, OF BIG DREAMS, OF LONG DAYS, AND SLOW EVENINGS. IT ALSO PROVES THE OLD ADAGE TRUE THAT WHAT YOU SOW, SO SHALL YOU REAP.
Photographer, Jenavieve Belair, and Furniture Maker, Kyle Titterud left the hustle of Southern California and moved a good drive north to a small town on the Central Coast of California. The couple brought with them a few golden retrievers and some really big plans. On a few acres with an old 1920s farmhouse and some old growth oak trees, they have begun to create a place to call home. In addition to the work on their home, the original barn on the property has now been converted into Kyle's furniture studio. A few of their other big plans include a lavender field, a place for a few goats, and a racetrack for their boys. Life up there might have given them a different pace, but it seems the only thing growing faster than their family is their big dreams.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
I am a candid storytelling photographer at heart and a lifestyle photographer by trade. Both lend to each other very much so. I was raised in Minnesota, spent 12 years in Southern California, and recently bought a farm on the central coast.
Kyle is a furniture builder and designer. He grew up in Southern California and learned the true craftsmanship of furniture from his antique collecting grandmother.
WHERE IS HOME? TELL US ABOUT IT.
Home is now in a small town about 30 minutes north of San Luis Obispo. In July of 2020, I bought a 1920s farmhouse on 5 acres. My boyfriend, Kyle, and I have spent the better part of the last year renovating the inside and outside of the house. It’s slowly turning into what feels like ours after countless projects.
Home to me is the place that makes you let out a big sigh of relief. Where you can relax, feel safe, feel comforted. Oftentimes, for me that means being with family, coming home to a home cooked meal from Kyle, or a nice hot bath.
WALK US THROUGH A DAY AT ALMOND OAK.
No two days are the same and our project list is endless. We have such big dreams for this place and each day we try to chip away at something. The mornings always start with coffee and playing with the pups. If it’s a weekday, Kyle goes to the woodshop, and I work on gardening or some sort of outdoor project. After work, Kyle picks up where he left off on the remodel of the house for a bit. The kitchen has been our biggest undertaking and it has finally come together. If it’s the weekend, we usually hit the local farm for veggies and the farmers market for bread and other goods. We try and tackle a project together on weekends, for example building a deck, tiling a shower, putting in flooring. The projects and work we have done together by this point on this house/land never cease to impress me.
WHAT ARE A FEW WAYS THE PACE OF YOUR LIFE HAS CHANGED?
In some ways it’s sped up and other ways it’s slowed down. I think because we are currently knee deep in housework it feels like we are constantly working, but it’s different; it’s a different pace of work. The hustle-and-bustle is one of home, one we create rather than one we are engulfed in. A drive into town is slow along a winding road past vineyards. The local hardware store has three people in it, and we know everyone. We spend our down time together with the dogs in the quiet of the yard. One of the biggest changes has been noise: there are nothing but birds, chickens, and sheep to hear from our yard.
WHAT ARE THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF THIS NEW LIFESTYLE?
The highs I could go on forever. We’ve learned so much about the land, how to use it and care for it. Our relationship has grown so much with each project and each thing we tackle and navigate together and then we get to enjoy the outcome together. Watching how much our dogs love the space and land makes me smile daily. The lows are things that aren’t true lows. I have learned so much about remodeling and that normally things take twice as long and cost double as much as you thought. We’ve made mistakes and had to redo things or had projects not turn out the way we want but it’s all part of the process.
WHAT DOES ‘COUNTRY’ MEAN TO YOU AND HOW IS THIS TRANSLATED THROUGH YOUR EXPERIENCES?
Country is that feeling you get driving on a back road with the windows down. Or getting to know the people of the small town. Knowing where your fruits and vegetables come from, having a beer on your porch after work without a sound. All of these things were things we wanted that we are now thankful for daily for having.
WHAT’S A LESSON YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY ANTICIPATE UNTIL YOU’RE IN IT?
I guess in this situation, we’ve learned a lot about each other in the highs and lows of remodeling. Our relationship has gotten so much stronger as we have tackled things and made decisions together. Some projects have led to lengthy conversations that always end in a resolution, but I had no idea how much more we would learn about each other and how to communicate as a couple.
WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF GOOD COMPANY?
It’s all about positivity for me. I want to spend my time with people that add happiness and good vibes into my life. I’ve got no space for negativity.
ANY GOOD CAMPFIRE STORIES, SUPERSTITIONS, OR RITUALS?
A cold beer and s’mores are the best start to any campfire.
TOP THREE SONGS FOR THE ROAD:
Forever and Ever – Randy Travis
Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
California – Tim McGraw
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
Our plan for moving up here was to turn this into our home and have a place to raise children where they could run free. We have a little girl on the way that will be here in October and that’s our next big adventure.
GIVE US YOUR BEST ADVICE:
The thing that keeps me so sane and happy and not worrying about anything unless it’s a BIG deal. If everyone is happy and healthy, then all the little problems that arise aren’t big problems and nothing to let ruin your day.