Eva Amurri Martino knows what she wants. On the morning of our Serendipity cover shoot, she stands in her sunshine-filled kitchen, gently but confidently making suggestions on which pieces she feels best in, from a scarlet Alexander McQueen blouse to a Vince pant. In the same way, she’s curated a life that’s uniquely hers. Born into Hollywood royalty—her mother is Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon and her father is Italian writer and director Franco Amurri—she graduated from Brown University before building a resume of acting credits, including roles in feature films like Saved!, The Banger Sisters and That’s My Boy. Then two years ago she made the decision to leave the family business, while starting her own family and launching her lifestyle and parenting blog—aptly named Happily Eva After. The blog and her Instagram account—which boast sizeable followings that are growing by the day—revolves around daily life with her two children, Marlowe, who is 3, and Major, 1, and her husband Kyle, a former professional soccer player and soccer analyst for NBC Sports. Amy Levin-Epstein Weber sat down with Martino to discuss settling in to Connecticut life, how she defines elegance and creating the life she wants, one blog post at a time.
You moved to rural Fairfield County after growing up in NYC and living for a decade in L.A. What made you choose this area?
I was pregnant with our second child and my husband and I had basically been having a long-distance marriage. He was working in Connecticut four days a week [with NBC in Stamford]. We needed to be together and I wanted the kids to have their dad full-time. Having grown up in New York City, I didn’t want to raise kids there. The space we would be able to afford in New York would not be what we were used to in L.A. And I think there’s a real financial pressure in the city that I just didn’t want to be a part of our lives. I wanted to send my kids to a good public school and have a little bit of land. But it was a complete culture shock for a city girl who had never lived in a suburb.
How has the adjustment been so far?
When we moved into our house after renovating, I had a newborn, which is isolating, and blogging’s very isolating also. So it was a little bit of a struggle at first and I would say it still is in some ways. But Marlowe’s in school now…and we’re starting to find places that we like to go to and all of that. I’m starting to make good friends that I really feel connected to, so that helps, but it’s a process.
Your home is beautiful—did you work with a designer?
No, I’ve always done it myself. I am passionate about interior design. It’s so fun and energizing for me. The only thing I wish is that I wasn’t so under the gun with doing the renovations. By the time we bought the house I was four, five months pregnant. Because, you know, I do home births too so we had to have the house ready because I was going to have my baby, in the house! I really wanted to redo the bathrooms and the floors, and paint everything. I wanted to feel nested by the time Major arrived. I had such a great time doing this house, and the bones of it were so beautiful.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
I love an updated traditional vibe. Kyle and I are a young couple with young kids. I like it to feel fresh and young, have a little bit of a sense of humor, and a brightness and lightness. I also love it not to feel too fussy. It’s important to me that my kids don’t feel like, “Oh, I’m gonna break something or I can’t sit there or I can’t do that”. I have chairs you can wipe off, even in the dining room. They aren’t upholstered. I’ve always thought that real elegance is very unassuming and relaxed. Any truly elegant, really chic people I’ve ever met have an irreverence about them—it’s not too precious. And that’s something that’s always really stuck with me in all areas whether it’s design or lifestyle or cooking.
Do you have a favorite room?
I have different rooms that are my favorites for different things. For example, my studio—I knew that wasn’t a space that my children were in. I love the look of painted, white floors, but obviously that’s not practical with the kids. So I thought, ‘Oh amazing. When I do my studio I’m gonna do it all white with a super-feminine vibe.’ That room evokes my personality the most. I love the family room because it’s so comfortable; we’re in it all the time. And I love our bedroom because it’s just so relaxing.
What are some ways you’ve made your home resilient to kids?
I’ve learned that the ottoman coffee table is a big deal because it has no sharp edges. I did these custom toy bins so that our family room could stay organized. Again, I think people have this really narrow view of child-friendly. People think everything has to be something you’d want to throw away. Everyone’s always like, “How do you live with so much white with kids?” And I said, “Well they’re not feral animals.” They draw on the wall once with a crayon, you tell them please don’t do that again, you get a Mister Clean Magic Eraser. I’ve photographed the family room [for the blog] and someone commented, “How do you get away with having all those books? Don’t your kids take them off and read them?” And I said, “Yeah, so what?”
Wouldn’t that be the point?
Exactly, I would rather they be looking at beautiful photographs by amazing artists, even if the pages get ripped, than what, they just never get opened? My whole approach to parenting and design is I like to get my feet wet. If my kids have great pieces of clothing, I like them to wear them. If I have beautiful jewelry, I wear it. Why not surround yourself with things that make you happy if you can?
It seems like you apply that approach to your whole lifestyle…
Yeah, something I reject in my lifestyle and in my business is this idea that when we become parents our lives are supposed to end. That somehow there’s value and valor in giving up everything that you require as an individual just because you have children. And I think that when it comes to design and decor, I try to avoid this idea that just because children are living in this house I have to not feel comfortable or totally happy.
What design stores do you love in the area?
I got all of my custom window treatments done at The Beehive in Fairfield. The owner has such a great eye. I had a very specific idea of what I wanted, and she was so great at sourcing fabrics. That store is so cute. And obviously Serena & Lily is so adorable. But actually, because I was doing a ton of it off-site when we were renovating, I ended up ordering a lot of stuff online and then just had it all delivered and crossed my fingers.
Where did you find your artwork?
I always collected black-and-white photos, and for my graduation and birthdays my parents would give me a beautiful piece. And then one month into dating, Kyle actually bought the nude in the entryway at a charity auction and surprised me with it and said “I just knew you would love it.” It was so sweet—because when I met him, that wasn’t keeping in with his personality at all. It’s this huge floor to ceiling piece!
How does your fashion sense compare with your decorating aesthetic?
I recently got rid of a lot of things in my closet. You should be able to throw on anything you have and feel good. I just gave away 30 pairs of jeans. Why do I need 40 pairs of jeans? My trust in knowing what I like for myself has grown over the years, and also I’m being realistic about my lifestyle.
How would you describe your style now?
I would say classic with an edge. I like classic fit and cut but I really love a great pattern or hardware. The other day I got this beautiful pair of Tibi, bubblegum pink wide-leg trousers that are high-waisted, and are almost like a silk fabric. I brought them home and Kyle said, ‘Those are amazing. I feel like you would never normally go out and buy something like that.” I used to go out and buy another striped top and pair of jeans.
Who are your favorite designers?
I wear a lot of Tory Burch, Maje, J. Crew, Elizabeth and James, Alexander Wang and Madewell. I love Madewell jeans. They have this high rise that doesn’t look like a mom jean, but it sucks you right in.
How would you describe your blog?
It’s a lifestyle and motherhood blog that showcases the good, bad and ugly of parenting, life, motherhood. There is a lot of perfection in imperfection.
Has sharing things like Major’s accident—when a caretaker dropped him on his head and he ended up with a skull fracture—been cathartic or stressful for you?
Well, it’s always cathartic when I’m writing it and then of course it really opens you up to a lot of criticism, which is stressful at times. I feel overwhelmingly that it definitely serves me. I also feel a responsibility not to be one more person pretending that parenting is easy or perfect or uncomplicated. I think this is where we do ourselves and each other a disservice.
What promoted your career change, from acting to blogging?
I wanted to feel like work I was putting in was coming out. I wanted to remember that I wasn’t just somebody’s girlfriend on TV. I wrote a lot in high school and college and missed that. I would always say, “OK, after this one, this next job, then I’m gonna stop.” And then pilot season would come around and I would say, “Well okay, let me just do this show, if it gets picked up.” But then my self-esteem started suffering because it really does a trip on your mind to think ‘I’m unhappy but I don’t have the guts to stop doing this.’ When I started this blog I had no idea what I was doing. That’s not an exaggeration—I really was up until 4 in the morning Googling how to upload posts into WordPress. It was sad, actually (laughing). So it’s been real on-the-job training.
You come from a family with a big history in film and theater. What was the response when you decided to switch careers?
They were very supportive. You know, the entertainment industry is a really tough industry. I wouldn’t want my kids to go into it. It’s filled with a ton of disappointment…especially for women as we’ve seen in the news in the past three to four months. That’s in every corner of the industry. My parents have been and continue to be really excited that I found something that I like so much and that’s been working so well.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about blogging as a career?
You’re the talent, you’re the PR, you’re everything. They say, “Oh, why do you need a nanny for your kids?” I’m like, I wake up at 6 a.m., work until they wake up, drop them off with the nanny or daycare or whatever, and then work until 5 o’clock, do dinner with them, bedtime, and then you work again until bedtime. It’s intense and it’s great because you’re doing it for your own brand, and you have equity in that. The other great thing is that you’re your own boss, so if something comes up with my kids or they need me, I’m so lucky to be able to be there for them.
Happily Eva After is growing quickly. What’s next for you?
We’re definitely focused on expansion right now. I’m writing a book this year so I’m really excited about that. In the future, there’s for sure going to be product in the lifestyle space. I would love to find a way to incorporate my history in television with my blog and melding the two into something unscripted in the lifestyle space would be really fun for me. Maybe partnering with a couple of other women and doing some kind of unscripted show. It’s really important to me to continue to build this community of non-judgmental, non-mom-shaming, authenticity in this space.
You have a network of other area bloggers who you support and who support you on Instagram and at events. How crucial has that been?
I just think it’s so important. Not all women are that way. I’ve noticed when I find women who are that way it really speaks to a self-confidence, self-esteem, and also a real intelligence. And those are also always the moms that I can call and just be like, “Ugh I feel like the worst mom today for this and that reason” and they’re just not judgmental because they’ve been there and they’re honest as well. I think when women support each other really amazing things happen.
Photos by Lindsay Madden
Clothing and accessories provided by Neiman Marcus, White Plains, NY
Styled by Jennifer Greene
Make-up by Rita Fecci, Hopscotch Salon
Hair by Manjola Vuka, Hopscotch Salon
Flowers provided by Sam Bridge Nursery