There’s a palpable magic in Carley Summers’ home. It’s almost inexplicable. As much as I tried to capture it on film, it’s something that can only truly be understood with experience. It was possibly the first time I’ve ever witnessed each and every furnishing having a purpose—one of crafting an environment where real conversations can happen, and where you feel utterly safe having them.
For those of you like me who are endlessly inspired by a timeless, layered approach to interior design, you’ve likely come across Carley’s work. Her designs have graced every big-name design platform you can think of, bringing a fresh perspective to classic interiors. Carley’s eye is iconic to say the least.
And while I was most definitely drooling over every inch of her North Carolina home, it wasn’t the design that impressed me most. It was Carley, Jon, and Max—who they are as a family, how far God has brought Carley, and the redemption that is her marriage and motherhood. Their presence in that gorgeous abode transformed its walls from a mere dwelling into a sanctuary. It’s clear Carley’s designs are for living, not just for looking, and that the Summers live fully within their home.
Carley and Jon invited us into their home on a warm June evening. We had dreamt of working together for quite some time. In fact, images bounced around in my head for what felt like years. I’ve learned that being a photographer—an intentional one—is having a vision for the images you’ll craft while leaving space for the ones you could have never predicted. Photographing Max climbing underneath the “island” was one of those delightfully unpredictable moments.
As with any in-home session, we let the Summers be the Summers. Carley donned a stunning set from Doen, while Max and Jon coordinated in striped linen attire. We spent most of our time in the heart of their home, the kitchen, as sunlight poured in through the windows. Max even snuck a few bites of the bouquet of chamomile on display (a fairly common occurrence from what I’m told). Jon pulled out his guitar in the sunroom—the very sunroom Carley’s parents would pray over her with their neighbor, the former homeowner.
Documenting families is such an intimate, unique occurrence. No two families look the same. And so, no two family sessions look the same, either. I’ve found the best approach to photographing families is an honest one, leaving them with heirlooms that unlock an innate understanding of who their family is while also sparking curiosity.
It’s the “Oh, yes! There’s Dad’s squinty smile we adore” and also the “Wait, I played under the kitchen island?” we’re after. Conversation pieces. Time capsules. Keys that unlock a treasure trove of stories.
On that early summer evening, we did just that—light flashed across my film and quite literally ingrained these moments into history. We created the conversation pieces. We added to their family’s archive of memories. Yes, these are some of my personal favorite images to date, but I love them more for the responsibility they carry to tell the story of Carley and Jon Summers’ home honestly, intimately, and timelessly.