Living With Kids: Victoria Larson

January 8, 2013

By Gabrielle.

I like Victoria’s style. It doesn’t even matter whether I’m talking about her line of textiles, her easy-going tween parenting philosophy, her practiced yet practical eye for design that makes sure everything in her home is within reach and always touchable (see the Louis Ghost chair incident later in the interview!), or just her general skill for surrounding those she loves with things to love. This is a good home. I can feel the joy inside, and I hope you will, too! Friends, meet Victoria.

Q: I can already tell this is going to be a fun family! Will you tell us all about you?

A: I live with my 11-year old girls, Madison (Mugsy) and Olivia; my husband, Chris; our rescue Doodle, Griffon; and Velcro the cat. Chris is a professional sailor and he’s gone a good portion of the time, so usually it’s just us girls. I grew up here in Annapolis and now the girls are enjoying the Chesapeake Bay, sailing, swimming, crabbing, and boating. Mugsy is our ice hockey player and dancer, and Olivia is our rider (Western not English – think barrel racing), fencer, and fisherman. For some reason we seem to like hobbies with lots of gear. I’m an artist, gardener, and official dog walker. I adore design, art, and music, and now the girls are following suit and attending a magnet school for the arts.

I love DIY projects and I’m not afraid of power tools. I dislike particle board and design shows that make people think that they can transform their home in two hours or less. Design to me is a process and a thoughtful one. I do, however, believe you can change the world with a can of paint.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: We actually moved from another house in the same neighborhood. We are lucky to live in an older neighborhood with mature trees, lots of children, and the kindest people you have ever met.

We were wrestling with how to renovate the old house when found out that this property was going to market. I’ve always loved ranch houses and we both fell in love with the yard and gardens. You know how sometimes the house tells you what it wants to be? This house was built in the 60s and it just wanted to be cleaned up and modern. I reconfigured the main spaces, which meant removing a few walls and vaulting the ceiling. The wood paneling and wallpaper had to go, too!




The biggest challenge was a massive masonry fireplace. The exposed brick was pretty enough, but it is huge and you literally walked into a brick wall when you entered the house. Plus there was a four foot brick indoor grill in the old kitchen! I prefer to do my grilling outside, so my contractor jack hammered and shoveled until that bit was gone.

We clad the brick in drywall to make the space more cohesive and seamless. We also had to flip the stair to the basement around so that I could open the view through the house when you enter. I got the chance to design my own kitchen from scratch and I absolutely love it.

Now we have a light, bright and clean space that lives the way we do. The kitchen, dining and living rooms are open to each other. The whole house is barely 2000 square feet, but it lives big.


Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? Did it change with kids?

A: Annapolis offers mostly traditional houses but I’m a mid-century modern girl at heart. I grew up surrounded by Eames chairs, Danish modern, and great found pieces. We used to make fun of my mother for her weird choice in decor, but now I have a huge appreciation for all things modern.

Eclectic probably best defines my current aesthetic. I love a mix of found objects, modern pieces, and classics. I guess I tend toward the masculine a bit probably because I like things to be tailored. I think that if you buy and collect what you really love that it all comes together somehow.

Before I had the girls, we lived downtown in a 200-year old Georgian with soaring ceilings and gobs of great trim. Our furnishings were sympathetic to the architecture and much more traditional. Plus I think when you are just married and don’t have children you tend more towards the formal.



My aesthetic definitely changed with the arrival of the twins. Traditional changed to eclectic and more streamlined and the slipcovered furniture arrived! I actually had two sets of white slipcovers that I could bleach the heck out of. We kept our antiques and added some mid-century pieces. The girls are learning to appreciate and take pride in their home and possessions.  I don’t think having children means that you have to compromise on style.

There was a curious incident with one of my Louis Ghost chairs and an unknown substance that left splatter marks. No one is talking. I may never know what happened – hair spray? Nail polish remover? – but I do know that it will never happen again.

Children are messy. Who knew? And I’m convinced that they do not actually see or mind the mess. I’ve designed in storage every chance I get to tackle the stuff that seems to appear and multiply. In this house, I stole a little corner out of the existing garage to create a small mud room. The girls each have an open locker. Whatever doesn’t fit in the locker has to go somewhere else.



Crafts are huge at my house. Again, messy! The kitchen has Caesarstone-topped island that can withstand glue guns, markers, and the like. Portable plastic bins make for easy clean up. Drawers in the living room store board games, cards, and movies. If we need to, we can do an all-hands-on-deck clean up and have the main areas looking guest-ready in minutes.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from your girls and the way they naturally live in your home?

A: Probably one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from my children is that they are not me. They come pre-programmed with personalities of their own. They have their own likes and dislikes. No one could have convinced me that I would end up with a hockey player and a cowgirl!



Q: What do you hope your design philosophy and decor choices have taught your girls? How do you see it affecting their own aesthetic and daily moods?

A: I realize that design is not saving lives, but I firmly believe that good design can create an environment that allows peace, creativity, energy. When we are surrounded by beauty and comfort it makes for happy souls.

I hope I’ve taught the girls an appreciation for art and design and that a few, nice things are better than a lot of stuff. I also want them to feel that the space is theirs too, hence the inclusion of their crafts and artwork mixed with mine. I think (hope?) that we’ve found a balance between a beautiful space and the ability to be creative.


As you can see by the girls’ rooms, they are not afraid of color and bold design choices! We need to do a little work on their choice of art – posters taped to the wall drive me crazy, but Olivia seems to have found a creative way around that! – but their rooms are their spaces to express who they are, and each girl has been very involved in the room’s design. Mugsy has a habit of rearranging her room about every six weeks. She recently presented me with a perspective drawing of her newest space plan. I’ve either created a future designer or a monster.

I work with bold colors and patterns all day so I love the serenity of the main spaces in our house.  I overheard one of the girls’ friends one day saying, “You forgot to paint your house.” Without missing a beat one of my girls said, “No we didn’t…we painted it white!” I was so proud.


Q: Tell us all about your in-house business, from your hopes for it to your day-to-day routine.

A: I launched an independent textile line two years ago. I design fabrics for interiors and I license designs to a children’s swimwear line. The girls are involved and give me lots of input on colors and designs. In fact, I’d love to see the company continue to grow and have at least one of the girls take over. I think by involving them they feel less like my work is their competition.

My background is interior design but my passion is fabrics. Many of my designs are based on my watercolors and block prints and inspired by my travels. I’m so lucky to work with talented artisans at US mills to create the final product. I just launched an upholstery-weight line and I’m so excited. I feel like a child with a new toy!


A well-known artist recently described my work as “optimistic, bright, and positive.” That’s exactly how I feel when I’m working on the line.

Q: How do you separate home and office? Does it ever feel overwhelming (to you or your family) when you can’t walk away from work and just go home?

A: Launching the line has been a huge step for me, and my family has been so supportive. My studio is at home which I have to say is good and bad. Mostly good. The girls are nice enough to share their ping pong table with me, which doubles as my cutting table. Chris built me a fabulous rolling fabric rack so I can push it out of the way when the girls have friends visit. My area is open to their hang out space (I’m not allowed to call it a playroom anymore) and I love that I can work and they can play Wii or paint or just lounge. Griffon the rescue Doodle is always at my feet. It’s a happy space.


We added big sliding barn doors to section off an area with my sewing machines and supplies. When friends come to play, we just shut the doors and my studio is off-limits.

Since Chris travels for a living, the home studio is the perfect solution for me. The only struggle is not giving in to the urge to work at all hours. I really try to leave work at 5:00 pm and just be Mom. If I really have to, I can go back to work after the girls are in bed. I’m trying to be present with whatever I do, and I think multi-tasking is overrated.

Q: What do you think your business adds to your life and to your daughters’ lives?

A: I am happier than I have ever been. I feel like I’m finally what I want to be when I grow up! I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I realize that I need to be a whole person in order to be the best mom. I think that joy and passion spill over into my family life, and I truly think that our lives are all richer. If I’m wrong, then I guess I’ll be paying for years of therapy!


I hope that the girls will see that women can juggle business and family. I don’t hide the fact that it’s not always pretty. I share my frustrations and road blocks with the girls so that they can see that life isn’t always easy…but that you can always find a solution.

I’ve met so many women who have had children and then re-created themselves and are now doing what they really want to do. I love it.


Q: Tell us when your home works best.

A: The open kitchen and living room really works for us, especially when everyone is home. I can be cooking dinner and the girls can be doing homework at the island or reading in the living room. Friday nights are pizza and movie nights. We make pizza – usually a friend or two joins in and the flour flies! Then it’s junk food and a movie with girls flopped on big pillows on the floor. I think those are my favorite times.

If the house could magically grow a screened-in porch, that would be fantastic! The bugs in Maryland in the summer are pretty fierce. But truthfully I wouldn’t add any more rooms to the house. I’m a big believer in small but functional space. Bigger just means more to clean!



Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your girls? What do you already miss as they get older and thoughts of heading off to college enter the discussion?

A: Oh gosh – I think I’m going to cry. At eleven I can already feel them pulling away from me and start to find their independence. I’m so proud of the people that my girls are becoming. We have already been talking about college (is it wrong that I buy them t-shirts from the colleges I want them to attend?) and I keep telling them how great the college experience can be, but I secretly dread the day when they will leave home.

Mugsy and Olivia are my constant companions. They make me laugh, they give me insight, and I adore their company. How can you not love living with girls? Dance parties, nail sessions, hair styling, cookie wars, and craft fests – I’ll definitely miss these. But I think mostly what I will miss are the quiet moments right before bed when I sit and talk with each girl about whatever is on their mind.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: …that having children was so rewarding. I would have started a lot earlier and had a lot more. Ok, maybe only a few more.

—-

Thank you, Victoria! You invited all of us in and made us feel truly at home; a feat I imagine you accomplish every single day. If I had to choose my favorite words, they would be these: “I’ve met so many women who have had children and then re-created themselves and are now doing what they really want to do. I love it.” I do, too. (Also. College enthusiasm aside, I dread the day my kids leave home. We will have to re-create ourselves again when that time comes! Who else is with me?)

P.S. — Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. And if you’d like to share your own home with us, just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Angela DeMuro January 8, 2013 at 10:27 am

Fantastic home, interview and textiles:) Love her attitude and philosophies on motherhood.

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2 Summer Merrill January 8, 2013 at 11:16 am

Great interview. I always see everyone’s homes and wish my house looked like that! Maybe one of these days…

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3 Rachel Winer January 8, 2013 at 11:58 am

This might be my favorite Living With Kids interview! Thank you for sharing. What a special family and home!

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4 steph t. January 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm

refreshing!
she sounds so content in where her life has taken her.
i love that!
and that house is gorgeous.
the white walls are divine!!
my fav quote:
“I’m a big believer in small but functional space. Bigger just means more to clean!”
it’s so true!
i think this interview is best summed up as:
love what you have!
and love it well!

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5 Design Mom January 9, 2013 at 5:32 am

When we look at houses online for our move back, I find I’m almost always drawn to smaller vs bigger. Less to clean — and less to fix!

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6 Tania January 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I love this home, especially the bedroom. I agree whole heartedly with her views on design. It is a continous process to be enjoyed, not something we need to get over with in a short period. Also that good design can give us peace and open our creativity.

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7 Diana January 8, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Of all the series you run here, this is by far my favorite. I love that this is one of those places where “living with kids” doesn’t have to mean “living with plastic”.

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8 Design Mom January 9, 2013 at 5:31 am

Thank you, Diana! I am mostly a short-form blogger, but I love the series because it’s a chance to share longer, meatier posts.

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9 Martha January 9, 2013 at 1:37 am

I loved the same quote, I feel that way about myself. Without my babies, I would not work a great job at home and sell vintage on Etsy – I do what I love and spend a lot of time with them.

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10 mary beth January 9, 2013 at 5:24 am

Being that I’m a huge fan of Annapolis, I loved this interview and a peek into her home. I, too, am reinventing myself after having children and loving the process of it all. Beautiful home, great interview, fabulous company!

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11 Marcella January 9, 2013 at 7:24 am

Is it just me or does anyone else really like that teeny wine nook?
Love her take on well designed small spaces versus large.
We live with 5 kids in a small cabin and good design seems essential!

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12 Shannon { A Mom's Year } January 9, 2013 at 7:42 am

So much to love about this interview. I love the kitchen, the mud room, the bar nook, the Doodle, Annapolis, and all the quotable lines, especially the ones about re-creating yourself and “multitasking is overrated.”

I’d never stopped to think about it, but I think Victoria’s right about going through a formal stage when you first get married. I got seriously Victorian, with lots of china, silver, and tea parties. Too funny.

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13 Karen F January 9, 2013 at 9:16 am

love love love this. and I her completion of the “I wish I had known” sentence…exactly the same as my answer.

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14 Lisa Taylor Whitley January 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Lovely story and home. Thanks for sharing!

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15 Stephanie Precourt January 10, 2013 at 5:30 am

I’m really hoping that once we make our next move to a small town on Oregon’s coast in a month or so that I’ll be able to share our home, too!

Steph

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16 Kate The Great January 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I’m excited to have you join us in lovely Oregon.

But, I gotta say– I moved a year ago and I’d hoped to put my home here in September. Hasn’t happened. I don’t feel like it’s ready yet. I wonder whether I’ll ever feel like it’s ready.

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17 Jody January 10, 2013 at 9:17 am

I want to thank you for this series – I just love it! There is something so lovely about seeing real homes lived in and loved in by real families. Thank you thank you for posting each and every one of these homes. My home is far from perfect and I’m constantly wondering how I can make it better for me and my family. This series resonates deep with my insides.

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18 Victoria (Victoria Larson Textiles) January 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Thanks, Gabrielle, for such a fun excercise! I had no idea how challenging it would be to look at my own home with a critical eye. All of these sweet comments have just made my week!

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19 Kate The Great January 10, 2013 at 10:43 pm

It’s been a long time since I’ve had such strong reactions to a house tour. Many of these pictures scream a positive to me and many of them I abhor. That, I think, is great style and great design.

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20 Lori January 13, 2013 at 8:09 pm

The “barely 2000 sq ft” mention has me thinking about house sizes. I wonder what the average house size is in the U.S.? My house is tiny, so 2000 sq feet sounds big to me.

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