There’s something kind of magical about homes that hold kids at those in-between ages. Not yet teens and long past toddlers are often the most receptive to taking chances with the home’s decoration and – maybe more delightfully – being a little wowed by every change. For those of you with kids these ages, you’ll know what I mean when I call these the yes years! Should we re-arrange the living room? Yes! Should we hang a disco ball in the kitchen? Yes! Should we paint your room (insert color you never thought you’d consider)? Yes! And the best yet: Will you help me? Yes!
Camilla Fabbri probably experiences this lovely stage on a daily basis, and I know she’s grateful for it! Just as I’m sure her girls are equally grateful for a mom who paints numbers on stairs and serves up breakfast in bed…in a bed in the garden. Friends, I know you’ll be inspired by this one! Enjoy!
Q: Tell us about the family who lives here.
A: My husband David and I have been married for 16 years. We have two darling daughters: Grace is 12, and Jane is eight. He’s a creative ad guy and a musician and I’m a stay-at-home mother, creator of the blog Family Chic, and freelance magazine contributor. We live just north of Chicago on Lake Michigan in Evanston. We love our life here. There is a lot of natural beauty, and living so close to the city is a definite plus as there’s tons of fun things for us to do together.
Q: How did this house become your home?
A: My husband and I found our house when my older daughter, Grace, was just six months old. We’d been living in a small condo, and felt we needed more room and a backyard to call our own. We spent a few months house hunting, but nothing in our price range felt right. When we finally came across this house, we walked in and knew it was the one. From the moment we stepped inside, it just felt like home. It’s a late 20s Dutch colonial with a lot of charming details, and it’s flooded with sunlight. Natural light is really important to me. It keeps me feeling connected to the outdoors and it’s been great for shooting pictures for the blog.
Now that our kids and are getting older and could use a little more room to hang out with their friends, I sometimes feel the urge to look for a larger house, but in the end can’t bare the thought of leaving this place. We have so much history here – it’s like the house is part of our family – so we make this space work as best we can. I think with any smaller home, if you keep the decor simple the space will seem larger and function better. The other thing we love is that the schools here are really incredible. It’s a great community and I can’t see leaving it behind.
Q: How would you describe your style? Has it changed since you’ve added kids to the mix?
A: My style is bohemian with a modern twist. I like furniture and housewares that have clean lines, and I love bright, bohemian fabrics and dhurries, zebra, and leopard print anything, brass lamps, organic-shaped pottery, and big houseplants.
My style of decorating has definitely changed since we started our family. I used to be a lot more fussy with my decor choices; I liked things to be as formal as possible. But when you’ve got young ones around, that life just isn’t possible.
When my daughter grew out of her highchair and started sitting at the table with us for meals and craft projects, it became clear that our upholstered chairs were not the right choice for us any more. I was constantly spot cleaning after every meal. So we gave those chairs up and opted for a more practical set of molded resin chairs from IKEA that can be wiped down with a damp cloth whenever someone spills. They’re great looking and super practical. I still have those chairs and we love them.
When you live with kids, you have to be ready to go with the flow. You have to find the simple things that make an impact, but work with where you are in your life.
Q: When does your home work best?
A: Our home handles everyday family life well. We have a rhythm down that keeps things flowing. Small things like putting coats, books, and backpacks in their place and tidying up messes straight away really helps to keep our home peaceful.
Our house is fairly small. We probably entertain larger groups than we should, but we love to do it so we have to get creative! I’ll serve dinner in the backyard; put the kids at a separate table in front of the fireplace in the living room; hang a disco ball in the garage for the kids to dance under while the adults have drinks and appetizers on the deck – whatever it takes to make it happen and keep it interesting. Our guests always seem to enjoy the variety, and it never goes unnoticed by the kids.
The dining room is the hardest working room in our house. It changes constantly throughout the day. After I get the kids off to school in the morning, I usually sit down at the dining room table with a cup of tea to work on my blog. The sunlight is wonderful in there – it just pours right in and makes me feel happy. At that time of day, the house is empty and except for the quiet whirring of the dishwasher or some soft music playing on my computer, our home is silent, and I have a few hours to get some work done.
When the kids come in from school later in the afternoon, the energy is changed in an instant. We all gather at the same table. Snacks are served, homework comes out, conversations fly. A few hours later, we clear and set the table for dinner. My husband comes in the door, and we sit down for a family dinner and a glass of wine. I like to dim the lights, put candles on the table, and have on some relaxing music to help us all unwind.
Our tiny dining room has so many moods.
Q: Your blog is great! Tell us about your goals for your space, and what you hope it’s adding to your life.
A: My blog is very important to me. I love coming up with creative projects to share with as many people as possible. I want to keep moving forward with Family Chic, but I’m also interested in publishing a book and getting more work contributing to magazines. I feel fortunate to have my blog as an outlet for my creativity. Because of Family Chic, I’ve been asked to contribute to television, other design blogs, and major magazines. It has opened up my world in ways that I would never have imagined.
Q: What are your girls’ responses to your blog and the work you do?
A: For the most part, my girls seem to like my work and are pretty impressed by what I have been able to create for myself. I think it’s important to balance work and family life, so I try to get my work done while the kids are at school. I need to carve out those moments where I can be alone and have time to focus. When they are home, I want to be present and in the moment for them.
Q: What has been your favorite DIY in your home?
A: About eight years ago, I had the idea to put numbers on the risers of our stairs. I figured it’s the first thing that people see when they come in our front door, so I wanted something fun to greet visitors as they walk in. It’s been a real hit and an instant conversation starter. Both kids and adults comment on it. When young kids come over, they like to run up and down the steps and count out loud, so it’s cute and educational.
Q: Some of us worry about attempting a particularly challenging DIY in our homes, thinking we may ruin our biggest investment! Others may be waiting for the perfect home or the perfect time, or when there’s extra money laying around. What advice would you give to those who are afraid to add their own creativity to their spaces?
A: I say, “Go for it!” It’s better to try something and fail than to wish and never act. Pretty much anything can be undone. And to be honest, if a house is too perfect, it’s usually perfectly boring. Why not live a little?
Q: How do you think your home design and decor is feeding your girls’ creative, organizational, or emotional levels? What affect can you see it all having on them?
A: Whether it’s changing up the placement of our furniture, painting a wall with a few coats of chalkboard paint, or getting a new set of fun sheets for the beds, my girls always get excited about new things I do around the house. I think exposing them to a lot of variety helps them to develop their own aesthetic; they discover what they like and what they don’t. These days, they have definite opinions when it comes to any new purchases or paint colors under consideration.
One unexpected thing I have seen is that my 12-year-old daughter’s friends really seem to respond strongly to our home. They walk around the house, check out all of the little details, and say the kindest things. I never knew that I would be such a big hit with the middle school set! I know it makes my daughter feel good to hear that her friends love her room, or the fact that they can throw pillows on the floor in our living room and just flop down and talk and watch TV together. I believe these moments are making an impression on her that she will carry into her adult life.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? How about the most unexpected?
A: I love that our home is active and alive. Someone is always playing music or singing in the shower, laughing or arguing about something. The sounds of family life and the flow of the day are wonderful to me. It is fun, messy, real, and beautiful. Our home would seem so lifeless without all of the energy that our kids and their friends bring to it.
I think the most surprising thing to come out of living with kids is that I’ve become much more relaxed in the way that I live and in accepting imperfections and unexpected change. It’s made me a better person.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: …to enjoy my parents while they’re still young. I focused so much attention on my children, everything else just fell away. I suddenly turned around to notice my parents had grown older and weren’t the same people anymore.
Oh, Camilla. We all lose focus at one time or another in our lives, especially when we become parents. It always comes back to balance, doesn’t it? Thank you for the tour…and the gentle reminder.
Friends, did you notice the painted dining room rug? I love that idea! Camilla really has a way with throwing in quirky details that make a room unique; there seems to always be something fun to see no matter where you’re looking! Tell me what details were your favorites, will you?