Home is where the heart is—and few people know that more intimately than Ginger Curtis. As the founder of Urbanology Designs, a North Richland Hills-based interior design firm and furniture line, Curtis has taken great care to turn homes into havens for her many clients.
Her dedication to the “hygge” lifestyle—a Danish term for the near-indescribable feeling of coziness and happiness at home and in life—is the result of a less-than-conventional upbringing marked by extreme highs and lows.
The now-38-year-old was raised in an abusive household along with six siblings. By her early 20s, Curtis was a single mom divorced from an abusive husband, until she met her great love, her second husband, Eric. The road to founding Urbanology Designs was no less complicated: Curtis and her infant daughter both survived cancer, and the designer launched her firm shortly after completing her final round of chemotherapy in 2015.
Life’s challenges are all a matter of perspective, says the award-winning designer and mother of five. “We’re never promised to live a life without Goliaths,” she explains, invoking the biblical parable of young David facing off against the giant. “We’re going to have them, so when we stand firm on solid ground, we’re prepared. Our perspective shifts to approach those battles with an expectation that doesn’t say, ‘Woe is me,’ but rather, ‘I will handle this in a way that honors myself and my family.’ Our problems don’t have to define us or consume us.”
You’re someone who has lived multiple lifetimes. Can you share how your experiences led you to be the person you are today?
I’ve experienced so much loss, joy and love, which have tremendously shaped my perspective on life. I remember feeling like I had already lived two full lifetimes as an early 20-something. Fast-forward to now, and I feel like an old soul. I’ve fought for my daughter’s life and my life, built a business from scratch, broken free from abuse and created a beautiful family with my husband, Eric. After going through hell and back in my first marriage and being a single mom with my three babies for five years, I look at what I went through and have 10 times the appreciation for my life.
How have you tried to share that outlook on life with your children?
I want to raise them in a way that will prepare them for the road that’s ahead of them, so I’m always really honest and transparent. I don’t shelter them from hard realities but make truths age-appropriate. After Avery was diagnosed with cancer at 5 months old, her big sisters came home from school one day and asked, “Mom, is Avery going to die?” I had an honest conversation with them and said that we don’t know if she’s going to live or die, but what we do have is our faith and family to support her. That honesty squelched the little fire of fear that wanted to consume them.
You adopted your oldest son, Tyler, after your sister—his mother—passed away when he was 6 years old. Can you share more about that experience?
Tyler is an incredibly successful 19-year-old—he’s adaptable, not fearful or bitter and a well-rounded, kind young man. It was the trauma of a lifetime trying to figure out how to tell him. I’m not a counselor or psychologist and was so afraid I was going to screw him up. A few days after her funeral, he asked me where his mommy was. He understood that she died and was in heaven but couldn’t wrap his 6-year-old mind around what all that meant. She committed suicide, and I told Tyler the truth—at a 6-year-old level—and explained that his mommy’s heart was broken and she was so, so sad that she died. It was just enough that, as he got older, we could build upon that conversation and not traumatize him.
How does your dysfunctional childhood impact how you raise your own family?
I grew up in complete chaos. My childhood was marked by extreme poverty—starvation at some points. There was a lot of trauma and tragedy, as well as physical and emotional abuse, and it was such a far cry from what my young heart needed to feel safe. As an adult with my own children, I’ve worked to create safety, structure and routine and want them to always feel safe in their own home. I have seen that translated into kids who are extremely well-balanced, and I have given them responsibilities that they can own so that they realize that they’re part of what makes our whole family system work.
How have you developed positive home atmospheres for your family and clients?
Before I started the firm, I was constantly tweaking my home and didn’t realize that I was subconsciously creating a haven of safety, comfort and beauty—I thought I was making my home nice. I grew up around dirty carpets, dingy walls and leaky faucets, and it wasn’t safe and happy and that greatly impacted me. Creating a world for myself and realizing that I had control over my environment was incredibly powerful. I always joke with my husband that I never want to go on vacation because there’s no place like home.
How do you balance motherhood with running a business?
It’s important that my kids see me as both a successful entrepreneur in business and a successful mom at home. Boundaries are important. I work Monday through Friday, 8:30am–4:30pm and am rigid about not working during weekends or evenings. That way, my clients get a much better Ginger and Urbanology team because we’re all refreshed and ready to go back to work.
With so much going on, how do you carve out time for yourself?
I love doing what I do. It doesn’t drain me—it actually fills my batteries. One thing that my husband and I do without fail is date night every Thursday. We love going to the movies. We both have to manage a lot, so it’s a chance to disappear into this fictional world and escape reality. Investing in each other is one of the best ways that we can invest in our kids and careers.
What advice would you give to other moms looking to start their own businesses?
When I started Urbanology, the Lord told me that no good thing would ever come out of my comfort zone, but He told me that I needed to hold it loosely in my hand. Urbanology does not define me and is not my identity. Knowing that from the get-go gave me freedom to figure out how to say yes and no.
To check out Ginger Curtis’s must-haves, click here.