Rene Syler’s home in Westchester, New York has what real estate agents like to call curb appeal: anyone driving by would appreciate the sprawling house and the rolling front and backyards flanking it. They might even circle around block for another look.
But it’s what lies within the house that will really get you talking. Or rather, asking. Asking Syler where she got her beautiful collection of hand-wrought iron and wooden crosses that line the foyer wall, or the African masks that surround the family dining room? Or, more practically, how did she find this gorgeous home that she shares with her husband, Buff Parham, and their two children Casey and Cole?
“We moved in 2003 from Texas and we wanted a place where there was a lot of land because the kids were little,” Syler explains. “I wanted new construction and I didn’t want it to be on a busy street. And look where we are: in an old house on a highway.”
The home had “great bones” but quickly became too small for the family. Two years after moving in, Syler began planning a major renovation to modernize and add more square footage to their home while maintaining its historic charms. And to avoid the added cost of putting up the family in a hotel, the family planned on staying in the house during construction, much to friends and neighbors’ surprise. Though she knew exactly what she wanted, the renovation would prove to be far from easy.
“When the house was half-pulled down, the contractor went broke,” Syler recalls. “The house stayed half down for about three weeks and we were like, ‘Oh, my god! Now what?'”
The contractor was eventually able to secure more funds to start building again, but other problems soon bubbled to the surface. Syler was let go from her job as an anchor on CBS News The Early Show. Two weeks later, she underwent a preventative mastectomy due to a history of breast cancer in her family and a litany of close-call mammograms and biopsies.
“I came [back] into this house that was still half torn up,” she says. “It was just a really difficult time. I thought if I can survive this, I can do anything.”
And survive she did. Syler channeled her energy into launching her second career, a parenting expert under her Good Enough Mother brand, and finally get her house to feel like a home as the renovation ended.
“I’m not a decorator, I just kind of had an eye for it. And more than anything, I felt like your house has to be a reflection of who you are. Our house had to be comfortable because we’re not formal people,” she says, laughing.
Syler shares the four things that make up her approach to home decor.
Put comfort and cost above all else. “It’s my whole philosophy,” Syler says. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look like you spent a lot.”
Find gems at where you’d least expect them. Syler’s cheap-and-comfy chic philosophy is why she’s such a fan of frequenting flea shops and garage sales, a hobby she picked up when living in Texas. “I like to buy things that have a life prior to the life I give it,” she explains.
Realize It’s all a work in progress. While you may have a strong vision for what you want your home to look like, it’s might take time for the look to fully form. “I didn’t want my house to look like I decorated it all in one day,” Syler says. “Some rooms we had to get in here and live in them for a little while” before she found what worked best for them.
Showcase your collections. Syler’s love of crosses and African masks is well on display in her home. They make for great conversation starters and focal points in each room.
To learn more about Rene Syler, read our feature on her motherhood and career journey.
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