Kendra Smoot is a prop stylist living in Northern California with her photographer husband and her three sun-kissed California babies. A few of us on team FEED have followed her beautiful Instagram feed for a while and swoon over her occasional features on Cup of Jo. We’ve always thought her understated personal style was very “FEED,” so when she agreed to style—and star in—our Fall 2015 Campaign, we jumped at the chance to work with her.
What we loved most about this shoot was Kendra’s personal touch. Kendra’s talented husband Seth actually shot the campaign, and she brought her kids in at just the right moments to tell the story of a fall adventure with loved ones. If you’ve already seen the photos, you can imagine how thrilled we were with how it turned out.
Working on this campaign with Kendra made us wonder how she balances being devoted to her family while building her career and personal brand—and looking amazing along the way. Today, she’s sharing some insights on the balance of career and motherhood and how she’s taking in her beautiful life one day at a time.
Tell us about your life as a stylist. How did you get started, and how has your career evolved over the years?
I moved to New York City after college and was having a hard time figuring out how to apply my studies in child development and social work to a job that didn't make me an emotional wreck. I loved working with my husband Seth on his photo shoots, and so I started assisting in the field and eventually met a stylist that I ended up working for. I remember the job—the client was Aveda—and she showed up with bundles of the most beautiful botanicals for us to shoot. At the time I didn't know what her job was called, but I knew that I wanted to do something similar! After assisting for a few years, I worked at Martha Stewart and then struck out on my own and have been working for many editorial and commercial clients since.
What inspires you about your work? Has being a mother brought any inspiration into your work that you would not have had otherwise?
I find the work endlessly inspiring. For each job you need to do a lot of research and planning so you become a mini-expert on whatever you are shooting. The scavenger hunt aspect is also fun; figuring out where to find what, no matter how ridiculous, gives me a little thrill. In a way, I think that my work as a stylist has inspired what kind of mother I am—it’s the kind of job that bleeds into everyday life. I'm raising little treasure seekers that enjoy things like scavenging for shells on the beach or going to flea markets.
How has raising kids changed your work rhythm, if at all?
Having kids has made me be uber-efficient when it’s time to work. That doesn't come naturally—I don't like to work in a "straight line." I'm more inclined to meander my way through a project, but when my time is limited, I have to be good about getting things done to meet deadlines.
A lot of us at FEED follow your Instagram, which often features photos of your beautiful family and dreamy West Coast home. Your feed has such a consistent aesthetic. Is that intentional?
Oh, thank you! I suppose it is intentional, but it's not curated or anything. I never plan what I'm going to post. But I am selective. I only put up photos that I feel are interesting or have beautiful light.
You and your husband recently moved from New York City to Northern California. Do you consider your style more East Coast or West Coast?
That's an excellent question. When I lived on the East Coast I always considered my style to be more laid back and West Coast. But now that I live in here in Northern California, I feel like my style is more East Coast! There is obviously a lot of emphasis on how you dress in New York. Here, I feel like people are more impressed by a great vintage score than anything you could buy off the rack.
How do you balance time for yourself with work and kids? Do you have any rituals or routines that keep you sane?
Working makes me so appreciative of time with my kids and the opposite is also true. I'm really grateful to have both. That is truly what keeps me sane.
How does the Smoot family prepare for back-to-school season?
I guess we will have to shake the Spanish-style schedule [of the summer]….no more 11pm bedtimes, sigh. I will be sad to see summer go. The compensation will be getting into a routine that can include some new exciting after-school classes. A more structured schedule also makes it easier to carve out one-on-one time with each of my kids. And we will be picking up new backpacks and lunch boxes and school supplies, which always puts us in the mood for school!
What are you looking forward to about fall on the West Coast?
We didn't live in this town last fall, so it’ll be fun to experience the season in a new place. I hope we get a few crisp foggy mornings to make tea and a fire. And apples! We all eat at least an apple a day when they are in season.
Thanks for answering our questions, Kendra! We'll be following along as you adventure through fall with your beautiful family.