In recent decades, our culture has devalued the art of homemaking. At the click of a button or shout to Alexa, one can order anything for their home, readymade, requiring no effort or thought. We begin to build up a fortune of random things and distract ourselves with activities but often spend less and less time in our homes with those who matter the most. The temptation to acquire more and do more has become great in our society, perhaps at the risk of losing sight of the many simple blessings of daily life.
Alumnae Morgan (Kavanagh) Beer and Dori Greco Rutherford are helping others to focus their attention back on the home and those held dear. Through the fields of interior design and photography, each is striving to rekindle a love for community and family life, reminding us that homemaking can be considered an art, one that helps focus our attention on the Creator.
Beer, a member of the class of 2014, felt the calling to pursue interior design as she was preparing for life after college. Growing up, Beer always had a love for beautifying spaces. When she was a young child, her parents would encourage her to improve these budding skills by embellishing her bedroom and experimenting with DIY décor on a small budget. In college, Beer’s love of design began to manifest itself in the way she would adorn her dorm room. All these experiences revealed her love for creativity and her desire to bring beauty to the home. During her study-abroad semester in Rome with Christendom College, Beer took a weekend trip to visit Paris. This immersive experience in Europe instilled in her a greater love and appreciation for art and architecture, particularly interior design.
As graduation approached, Beer was planning her wedding and discerning what kind of field she would like to pursue that would enable her to be home and raise a family. While considering her options, Beer’s interests and skills continuously pointed her toward interior design.
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“I wanted to pursue something that I loved and would give me the flexibility to be home with my kids,” she says. “Being a stay-at-home mom was very important to me, so pursuing design just felt like a perfect fit.”
Three children later, Morgan’s online company Fraiche, specializing in nursery and home décor, has become a popular shop for mothers, moms-to-be, and anyone who has an eye for pure and fresh designs.
“Your home should be a haven where you replenish your mind and soul so when you go out your front door, you feel refreshed enough to take on the world,” says Beer. “I started Fraiche for this purpose, to help others have a peaceful home where they can grow as individuals and grow together as a family.”
When asked how her faith plays a role in her everyday work, Beer says that it is in everything she does.
“My whole goal is to be of service to others through serving their home,” she says. “I try to create designs that will make their current space function at its very best, so the space becomes the backdrop to the beauty happening among the people in the home.”
Beer believes that a well-ordered home helps to refocus one’s mind on God and the family.
“Giving order to your home will allow you to think less about what isn’t working visually and focus more on the nurturing, growing, and gathering that should be taking place,” she says.
Beer sees her work as a special mission to restore healing and peace to our world, so desperate for God.
“Design is incredibly personal and can often seem individual,” she says, “There are endless styles and substyles, but the beauty of design is in how different styles work together. The give and take between styles, if done correctly, can create a beautiful masterpiece and even create a new style entirely. I would say that is very relevant today. Right now, the world feels as broken as ever. It appears differences are all anyone can see right now. I hope and pray that design can inspire people not to put their differences aside, but to use their different backgrounds and cultures and come together to create something beautiful.”
Dori Rutherford, a member of the class of 1993, is also helping to rekindle a love for community and family life, through her gift of photography. Her love for beauty, truth, and goodness is apparent in her work. She has been fascinated by photography since the second grade, when she was surprised with a camera on the occasion of her First Holy Communion.
“By the time I graduated from high school, I had a film SLR camera that my friends from Christendom remember me carrying around everywhere,” says Rutherford. “I was drawn to photography because I love capturing the emotion and beauty of my subjects through my lens. I also love evoking emotion in the people who view my work.”
Rutherford recalls how Christendom College provided a perfect backdrop for honing her photography skills.
“When I was a student at Christendom, the natural beauty of the Shenandoah Valley provided endless opportunities for my work. I remember capturing the sun’s rays streaming through the trees on the Shenandoah River and even experimenting with the lighting around the contrasting road signs that marked the intersection of Dismal Hollow and Happy Creek.”
After graduating from college and raising a family, Rutherford began to have a greater appreciation for photography.
“My passion for photography grew even further when I had children of my own and saw how precious the time was with them and how quickly it was passing,” she says. “I wanted to preserve the moments I had with them forever.”
Photography helps Rutherford focus on the daily blessings God gives and to remind others of those blessings.
“I am constantly encountering God in my daily work,” says Rutherford. “I love capturing the details of life that are gone in an instant and spending time to find beauty in places where others may miss it.”
Last year, Rutherford was able to team up with acclaimed authors Carrie Gress and Noelle Mering to collaborate on Theology of Home II, the sequel to the popular book published by Tan Books. The Theology of Home books are a compilation of memoirs and meditations by women of different ages and backgrounds. The purpose of this work is to encourage women, particularly stay-at-home mothers and those who are home-based, to rekindle a love and appreciation for the art of homemaking. Instead of solely focusing on material goods, Theology of Home ties in the goodness of material things with the goodness of the human person and how one can direct the use of these material goods toward an eternal goal—our eternal home in heaven.
“Rather than merely a box for souls to be stored, home is where body and soul are nourished, protected, comforted, and known,” Carrie Gress and Noelle Mering write in Theology of Home II. “We long for a beautiful home because we long for a beautiful life. But this yearning will not be satisfied on a purely material level, and the attempts to do so fall short of the mark far more than a humble-but-cared-for and spiritually rich home.”
Rutherford jumped at the opportunity to work on the book. Her photography style complements the work of Theology of Home perfectly, inspiring readers to recognize the simple, God-given beauties of everyday life and translate that acknowledgment into a prayer of worship for our Creator. Her photographs truly bring the book to life.
In Saint John Paul the Great’s Letter to Artists, he writes, “Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savor life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: ‘Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!’”
Through their efforts, Beer and Rutherford are answering John Paul the Great’s challenge to artists by restoring beauty to our broken world—beginning in the home.