How Melissa Gilbert’s Lifestyle Brand Is Using the Home to Redefine Aging

Melissa Gilbert shares the story behind her lifestyle brand, Modern Prairie, and discusses the importance of aging gratefully, not gracefully.

Melissa Gilbert, like all women, understands the enormous pressure to avoid aging. With the inundation of products and procedures marketed toward femme-presenting people and the constant exposure to perfectly curated Instagram feeds, it’s almost impossible to ignore these standards. Growing up in Hollywood and spending her life on a screen, Gilbert (who you may know also as the character of Laura Ingalls from the Little House on the Prairie series) has worked to reject it all—and her lifestyle brand Modern Prairie, which launched in May 2022, provides others with tools to do the same.

Creating a brand for the “modern, mature woman”—making something that embodies the values of Little House and gives women the control to redefine their journey in growing older—is an endeavor that Gilbert has wanted to take on for a long, long time. 

“There’s this space for women my age that just doesn’t exist or is so discounted,” she tells Better Homes & Gardens. “We’re going through such changes in our lives, not just physically but emotionally and mentally. Our kids are leaving and we’re moving from mom into grandmother and reevaluating our jobs and what we want to do with this last third of our lives and dealing with our bodies growing older. How do we navigate all of this in the current climate? So I wanted to include products that are beautiful, that enhance our lives, and that we want to surround ourselves with.”

Melissa Gilbert standing in kitchen

Modern Prairie | Design: Better Homes & Gardens

A quick Google search of “anti-aging” brings up 451 million results—articles with best tips to stay youthful, creams, supplements—and that’s just what you can find online.

“What does this say? What does this say to young women, especially?” Gilbert asks. 

Gilbert told us how she fell into that brutal beauty standard while living in Los Angeles when she was younger. She tried fillers, Botox, plastic surgery, and eventually reached a point where she felt like she was fighting an uphill battle. It was exhausting; it took up quality time she could be spending with loved ones or with a book she wanted to read or even write. To her, it was something she was doing for someone else, rather than looking in the mirror and accepting what she saw.

“We are absolutely against the word anti-aging—because it doesn’t happen,” she says. “We are all aging. The question is how you’re going to age. Are you going to fight, fight, fight, or are you going to embrace all of the changes that are coming in? We like to say instead, aging gracefully, aging gratefully. I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful that I know what my body needs. And yeah, it’s not as it's not as bendy and bouncy as it used to be, but it's still mine and it’s serving me beautifully. So I'm grateful.”

Melissa Gilbert serving tea

Modern Prairie

At Modern Prairie, Gilbert and the team of designers, business partners, and lifestyle experts curate products with the intent of giving women a place where they can surround themselves with pieces and services that bring them together and encourage gathering. It’s not meant to be fancy—their selections are meant to become part of daily life and actually get used. 

Modern Prairie’s offerings range from clothing to gardening tools to homewares, and they promote a comfortable lifestyle, one where you can surround yourself with things you love and embrace imperfection. Along with these items, which all come from women-owned designers and businesses, the brand offers workshops with themes specifically for older generations of women: dealing with grief during the holidays, painting with watercolors, raising chickens, getting out of a feeling-stuck mentality, setting intentions. It’s all about community—and the most telling aspect of this growing circle the brand has facilitated is that, while the video workshops it hosts started with cameras off, now mostly everyone shows their face. Friendships have formed and flourished, which Gilbert has found to be increasingly important later in life.

“We want our women to feel that like they’re surrounded by beauty and that the things that they buy from us are practical, not so precious, that they can share,” Gilbert says. She’s particularly excited about an upcoming line with tableware and linens that have fun prints featuring peonies, bunnies, and hand-painted roosters. They’re playful and don’t fit into a mold, which is reflective of the message behind the brand.

“It’s so easy to pigeonhole women as they age to either be like doddering sweetly, who are just dismissed, or that mean old lady,” she says. “You’ve heard it a million times, and they’re so much more than that. And the other thing is, as far as product and marketing go, everyone’s so geared toward the young people who don’t have the disposable income that we have. I mean, we’re the ones who are buying it.”

When it comes to redefining aging in her own life, Gilbert’s first thought goes to the way her home has evolved. The main change she’s made is removing the pressure of the need to be perfect at everything, not just in her style but her own self. For her, entertaining used to require all matching plates and crystal, cooking for weeks in preparation—now she enjoys mixing patterns and materials, making everything feel cozy and relaxed, and just being more at ease.

Within the Modern Prairie community, Gilbert has seen that it’s more about how they want their homes to feel rather than look. They want to create a welcoming environment where people can gather, where everyone can be together and it doesn’t have to be formal. She pictures a space where a group of girlfriends can get together for tea in the afternoon and not feel like they have to wear heels—they can come as they are. 

“There’s no reason to not live in a space where you’re not surrounded by things you love,” she says.

One specific way Gilbert makes her home feel more mature, evolving, and like herself is changing it with the seasons. She uses different color palettes for the winter and fall versus the spring and summer. It’s especially reflected in her bedrooms: Summer brings about lighter colors and florals, and winter is defined by burgundies and decor that makes you feel romantic (which she points out doesn’t die when you get older, either). It’s also a method she uses to stay connected to the planet.

Overall, Gilbert believes the biggest, truest secret to staying young at heart is remaining curious—in her style, interior design, and beyond. She says she doesn’t feel the need to be the smartest person in the room, but with her age and wisdom, knows she has the right to her own opinion. 

To answer the question of whether society is becoming more willing to have conversations about aging in an accepting manner, Gilbert is positive—and it’s because of the women who came before her.

“It’s slowly but surely changing,” she says. “As long as there are women out there like the trailblazers ahead of me … These vibrant, vital, sexy, juicy, important women of substance. Why can’t we all be that?”

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