Yoga Icon Jessamyn Stanley on Her Queer Poly Family, Renting a 100-Year-Old House, and the Importance of Holiday Rituals
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This year, the holidays mean more than ever to Jessamyn Stanley, author, wellness advocate, and co-founder of The Underbelly and We Go High. “I did not grow up in a household where Christmas was celebrated, and I had very little context for the reason why people decorate their homes and exchange gifts,” she says. “I didn’t realize how grounding and stabilizing it can be to perform Christmas rituals with my family. Especially this year, when it kind of feels like everyone who has made it this far in 2020 should receive an award. It feels like a sweet treat, like a reminder of hope and beauty and everlasting goodness. It feels so needed this year. I never thought a fucking Christmas tree could make such a difference to my mental health. I think I’m finally understanding why parts of this tradition have stood the test of time.”
Jessamyn and her poly family generously let Apartment Therapy not only tour their home—a four-bedroom, two-bathroom rental house in Durham, North Carolina—but also share a small peek into her family’s extra meaningful holiday celebrations this year. Jessamyn’s family includes her partner of nine years Samantha Greene, sous chef at Mothers & Sons Trattoria, and her partner of two years ashe phoenix, who is the co-founder of and We Go High and the executive producer of Dear Jessamyn and Tenderfire Media. Software engineer Rachel Fischoff, Samantha’s partner of two years and Jessamyn and Ashe’s metamour, was also present for the holiday celebrations. “Ashe moved in at the start of the pandemic, and the expansion of our queer poly household has required great patience, growth, and acceptance from everyone involved, including our cats James, Carlisle, and Bennett and our chihuahua Baby Shark.”
Jessamyn explains that acquiring their large rental house was a bit of miracle, and involved her and Samantha finding it on a search engine for Duke University off-campus housing. “We needed to move out of our old house kind of unexpectedly and this was the first one we saw. When we walked through it, we knew it was for us,” she says. Jessamyn says the house reminds her of one she lived in with her parents as a kid, and that there is something special about living in the history of an old structure like this. “You can feel the age of the house in its energy. It must be at least 100 years old and it was probably built for the family of a Durham tobacco or textile mill worker,” she says. “Our house is very old and very quirky, and not always in a good way—it rains in our bathroom too often for our taste, and the walls are literally crumbling down. But the quirks are what we love about it. The quirks make it ours.”
2020 has been an extraordinarily difficult year for all of us, in a plethora of ways, including working, living, and dating. “Dating during the pandemic has been very challenging. Though we’re poly and open, we’ve all been hesitant to date outside our quarantine pod for Covid-related reasons,” explains Jessamyn. “As far as the dynamic within our pod, dating during quarantine has been very difficult and has brought up unique challenges. We have had to deal with jealousy, resentment, and other emotions that we can typically distance ourselves from when we are not so confined to the house and our thoughts/feelings. A good example is the natural discrepancy between what comes up in relationships of almost a decade versus less than two years. It requires an intentional daily practice of patience and compassion towards ourselves and each other, especially when patience and compassion are hard to come by.”
Home for this family—as it is for all of us—is the place where everything good, bad, and in between happens. It supports our lives. “We eat here, we fight here, and we’re growing here,” Jessamyn says. “We play games, we have virtual dance parties. We get drunk, sick, and heal here. We’re learning about ourselves and each other and what it means to be a family.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Our style is a collision of minimalist modern and maximalist bohemian. We had to find consensus between three people who have relatively different styles, so we did the style quiz in Justina Blakeney’s The New Bohemian’s Handbook. Samantha and ashe favor a mountain vibe, and Jessamyn prefers where the ocean meets the jungle, so our home feels like the spot where you swim out of the ocean and walk through the lush forest to your home at the base of a mountain.
Favorite Element: ashe specifically loves the upstairs bathroom because it perfectly matches the vision we had for a jungle home spa oasis. Jessamyn loves the crown molding and clawfoot tubs and the paint color in the kitchen.
Biggest Challenge: Renting limits the kind of projects we can do, but it gives us an opportunity for creativity.
Proudest DIY: Contact papering the kitchen cabinets and the counters—it was a long intensive DIY, every night after work, a few hours. But it’s a meditative process. We have SO many cabinets and surfaces, and had to take everything off, paper it, and put it back on (with new door pulls!). Every time I look at it, I think “that was worth it.”
The barn door conversion in the bathroom is one of ashe’s proudest DIYs. Originally the door swung in and took up a lot of space. The sliding barn door made much more sense and creates SO much space.
Biggest Indulgence: I’m really into thrifting, and finding shit on the side of the road (me and ashe are always dumpster diving) so we really didn’t spend that much money on anything. What cost the most money in the house are the mattresses, and YES it’s worth it and absolutely necessary.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Jessamyn uses a dresser as a headboard and a headboard as a bookshelf. And the upstairs hallway is an extension of the upstairs bathroom, complete with vanity and storage.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Smart lightbulbs from IKEA and Home Depot.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: When in doubt, search Youtube. You’re never alone in this world—there’s always someone somewhere interested in the same thing as you.
What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? If you like it, it’ll work. If you love it, it matches!
PAINT & COLORS
- Living Room — HGTV home collection from Sherwin-Williams “Chopped Cilantro”
- Dining Room — HGTV home collection from Sherwin-Williams “Tee Shot”
- Kitchen — HGTV home collection from Sherwin-Williams “Celtic Green”
- Dining room table — We wanted to get a similar table from IKEA, but found a better quality lookalike on Offer Up and got it for $27 from someone in Raleigh
- Counter contact paper — Lowe’s
- Cabinet contact paper and drawer pulls — Amazon
YOGA ROOM/HOME OFFICE
Thanks Jessamyn, Samantha, ashe, and Rachel!