Our portraits of Inspiring People celebrate diverse lifestyles that showcase inspiring and vibrant individuals.
Sara McDaniel is the light behind Simply Southern Cottage. Her story and her successes come from—not failures, but—life's lessons. She grows in gratitude and thrives with grace & mercy. We are here for it!
Above: Sara McDaniel of Simply Southern Cottage, photo by Hector Manuel Sanchez
USA, Minden, Louisiana
YOUR HEART'S HOME:
After being away from my home state of Louisiana for over 15 years, I returned in 2016 to begin a new life and restore my historic home. I realized the value of family and wanted to be near my parents in their later years. My parents’ home is always filled with warm, cozy smells like fresh bread or blueberry muffins, so I try to emulate that in my own home. I’m constantly burning candles and oils that smell like comfort foods. It evokes a nostalgic feel within the walls of my home.
In 2018, I retired from sales to pursue full time entrepreneurship. Three things consume my time: real estate investing, social media influencing, and educational consulting. I have rental properties, an AirBNB and am currently working on a flip. I feel so privileged each day to show up on social media and inspire others to reclaim and restore their lives and their homes. Before Covid, I traveled about 2-3 weeks a month across the nation to help teachers be better teachers. Now, that work has mostly shifted to an online environment.
Currently my home is on the cover of two national magazines: Cottages and Bungalows and Better Homes and Gardens Cottage Style. Recently, I was featured by Real Simple online for the cottagecore aesthetic of my home. In addition, HGTV online featured my front door fall décor. My cottage has also been featured in Better Homes and Gardens as the 2019 Runner Up for BHG Best Front Yard, Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, multiple issues of Southern Lady, Where Women Create, plus numerous other local and regional press.
I’ve been privileged to have also been featured in online blogs from Domino,, Better Homes and Gardens, The Cottage Journal, Cottages and Bungalows, Hooked on Houses, Home Bunch, The Southern Hospitality Blog, Schlage, Orian Rugs plus many more.
In addition, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to partner with major brands like Martha Stewart at Macy’s, JcPenney, Sleep Number, Home Chef, Real Simple/Albertsons, Sleep Number, American Pecan Council, Maison Berger/Jonathan Alder, Splenda, Dressbarn, plus many others on social media campaigns.
In 2009, my marriage fell apart and altered the course of my life. At that time, I never thought I would find hope and joy again. But my story has been redeemed in ways I never dreamed. When I started the renovation of my cottage, it was not my intent to be in magazines or recognized. It just sort of happened and now I get the incredible privilege of shepherding a community that’s 150,000 strong across all platforms, where I spread the message of grace, mercy and redemption on a daily basis.
Photo by Hector Manuel Sanchez
After being born and raised in north Louisiana, I was eager to “get out of dodge” as soon as I graduated high school. Shortly thereafter I married my college sweetheart only to have that marriage fall apart 14 years later. It was this defining incident that altered the course of my path. After walking through that fire, I was adamant that my story not be lived in vain and I made some purposeful, intentional decisions to blaze a new path.
I poured myself into my sales job and began a financial journey toward F.I.R.E. that would ultimately lead me to the real estate investor I am today. I decided it was more important to live on less and save and invest a large portion of my income in order to have a life of greater freedom and flexibility.
In 2014 I heard the Lord call me home to Louisiana. After fighting that nudge, I ultimately found my cottage and the rest is history. You can read more about that journey here.
What I’ve learned over the last eleven years, is that something so terrible and can result in something so wonderful. Had I not have had my heart shattered into a million pieces, I would not be here talking to you today. My story has truly been redeemed and I would not trade one minute of the hurt I experienced.
SMELLS IN YOUR LIFE:
In my home, I love to burn candles and use oils that make my home smell warm and cozy. My favorites are those that revive nostalgia of days gone by in my parents’ or grandparents’ home. A candle that smells like pumpkin bread, bananas foster, gingerbread etc. are ones that make my heart sing.
As far as perfumes, my all-time favorite is Perry Ellis 360. I’ve been wearing it for about 14 years. I love the clean, fresh scent and I am constantly complimented on it.
YOUR HOME INTERIOR ROUTINE:
Every morning when I wake up, I light a candle. I love the way the light shines in the darkness of the morning, setting the stage for a hopeful and productive day. By the time I’ve had my first cup of coffee, the scent is infiltrating my home, lifting my spirits and helping me to get the day started. In the evenings as I ready for bed, I often burn a lavender candle in my bedroom to help me relax before sleeping.
YOU AND MAISON BERGER:
Currently I’m loving the Imperial Green Tea combined with a Muse Collection reed diffuser. The light scent is extremely fresh and clean and spreads rapidly throughout my home.
Above: The Jonathan Adler x Maison Berger Muse collection in Sara's Simply Southern Cottage's home
YOUR MOST VIVID OLFACTIVE MEMORY:
Both of my grandmothers were bakers so I think that’s why I’m so strongly tied to the scent of warm, cozy foods. It did not matter what time of day I entered their homes, there was ALWAYS something cooking on the stove or baking in the oven. I always felt welcome and safe when I entered their homes, and those are the emotions I try to emulate in my home.
YOUR LIFE PHILOSOPHY:
My faith drives everything I do. I’m an Enneagram 3 and Type A almost to a fault. ☺ Structure, planning, and organization make me very happy. I’m driven to make this world a much better place and to leave a legacy that will carry on long after I pass away. I think so many people need to see the hope and joy on the other side of pain. I do my best on a daily basis to share my story and the joy that overflows from my heart.
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November 14, 2020
Love you Sara and your wonderful Godly spirit! You are such an inspiration and I am so glad you choice Minden to be your home!!!