There’s something sweet about a home shared by new parents and a toddler. So many wonderful changes are happening all at once, whether we’re talking about decor or personalities! A gorgeous glimpse into a young family’s hip LA home was just was I wanted to see this week. Adding to the cool Hollywood factor is Tricia‘s professional bio. (Not to forget a turquoise Mustang convertible from the 60s.) I guarantee you’ve seen her work. And you probably loved it. I hope you love the Benson home — and car! — just as much. Enjoy, Friends!
Q: Please tell us who makes this sweet house a home.
A: My husband Mike, a brilliant IT engineer, our one-and-a-half year old daughter Evie, our dog Jake, kitty Beatrix, and two goldfish to have the complete food chain. The fish are named either Jack and Sally, or Ike and Tina. I’m not sure an executive decision has been finalized on the goldfish naming process. I think we’re leaning toward Jack and Sally though. We live in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, CA.
Q: How did this home find you?
A: We originally rented this house before we purchased it. Trying to find a house rental that accepts dogs can be difficult in LA. I found the house listed in the paper and ran over to meet the landlord after work. She had another woman who wanted it but said if I got her a cashiers check right then it would go to us. I called Mike and he said to go for it sight unseen. He is one trusting man! A few years later we were able to purchase the home straight from the landlord. We didn’t have to put it on the open market, thank goodness, because I don’t think we could have afforded to counter offer someone else.
The house has the original kitchen from when it was built in 1947. When we rented it, it had an amazing original O’Keefe and Merritt vintage stove that was so charming and I was desperate to keep. Our landlady wanted an outrageous sum of cash for it that we did not have. She placed an ad for it in the paper and I sat in the living room with her and her real estate agent on a rainy Saturday while no one showed up. Instead of an open house we had an open stove! She ended up donating the stove to take the write-off for her taxes instead of accepting our lower cash offer. What can you do.
Q: What makes you love where you live? Also, what makes it hard to live with kids in LA?
A: The weather is really great here. The downside of growing up in Southern California is that it makes you completely unprepared to deal with real weather if you move elsewhere. My best friend from high school works for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas where it occasionally snows. She called me after she had to drive through an unexpected snowstorm saying she didn’t know what to do. I thought it was kind of amusing considering that Las Vegas weather is still pretty minor in comparison to most places, like the East Coast for example.
It is nice to have family close by so that they can participate in Evie’s life as she grows up. My parents and sister live a bit more than an hour away, and both my parents grew up here so lots of aunts and uncles and cousins around. It’s funny because I never thought I would stay here, but when I decided I wanted to work in animation it didn’t make sense to move elsewhere.
The public school system is really not great in LA, so that’s a difficult issue that we haven’t had to deal with quite yet since Evie is young. Homes in the few school districts that are good are so very expensive. Private school is definitely in our future because of this. Our neighborhood is really great aside from that, though. Charming houses built in the 1940s with lots of big backyards and the ability to walk or ride a bike to a few places, which can be rare out here. We can even hop on the metro to go downtown if we want to or to the Getty museum by car only ten minutes away. People forget about all the culture and things there are to see here besides the beach.
Don’t get me wrong, the beach is great. But right now I have a toddler who, ironically, hates sand — so not the best option at the moment.
Q: You’re an artist! Please tell us about your career.
A: I have worked in the animation industry for about fifteen years now on things like “King of the Hill,” “The Simpsons,” “Futurama,” “Dilbert,” and “Napoleon Dynamite.” I have also done paintings for the Disney Fine Art program that sells them though galleries and Disneyland and Disney World. Currently I am working with Acme Animation Archives on a few things.
I started my blog following ollie because I thought it would be fun to work on my own characters for a change when I can find the time. When you work in this industry, you spend so much time drawing in every style that you can imagine since you are working from someone else’s designs. I just wanted a forum to play a little and develop a story over time that parents and kids can find entertaining.
Fortunately my work is pretty flexible. I can get things done while Evie is napping during the day or when Mike gets home from work at night. It’s hard to develop a real flow of work when my opportunities to draw can be sporadic with a few hours here and there. When Evie was really little I had to hold her with one arm and paint with the other sometimes. Now at least I can let her run around with me in the studio if I need and give her her own art supplies.
It can be really hard without childcare help. My family isn’t really close enough to watch her on a regular basis and we don’t have a nanny or daycare or anything. I mean, I know she’s only one child, but it can be a juggle if I have a lunch meeting to go to.
I never thought that I would be okay with giving up a regular 9 to 5 gig in order to work from home, but at the end of the day it’s what happened. When the time came for me to go back to work after having Evie, I realized that it didn’t make sense for us. Once you take out the cost of childcare from my salary, it just seemed to be worth giving it a shot from home.
Yes I miss having more money, and getting by on one regular salary is tough since freelance money can be inconsistent, but I’m so lucky to be able to do what I love — drawing and painting, hanging out with my daughter all day — and still get by.
Q: We have to know: What’s your funniest memory from your time working on The Simpson’s? Or any LA moment you’ve got to share!
A: Oh, so many good ones! There was the time one of the artists had the idea to have a group of us run around Ventura Boulevard in Studio City dressed as gorillas. About twenty of us did it. I think we rented every available gorilla suit in the city. We ran in a group unannounced through several businesses chasing one of the other artists dressed as a banana. I thought I was going to die. It was really hot in that thing!
Once I was working and I felt someone standing behind me watching me draw. I turned and it was the director John Waters. He just extended his hand to me saying, “Hello. I’m John.” I was pretty flabbergasted. He was a voice on the show on one of the classic episodes, and had come by to visit.
My friend Lynn was in Los Angeles at the time and asked me to go to a theatre benefit with her. I had never been to one before so I said sure. There were some celebrities there like Fran Drescher and Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom). I was sitting at a table with my friend not saying much since I didn’t really know anyone. She introduced me to some of the people sitting with us as having worked for “The Simpsons.” I thought they wouldn’t really care since it seemed like most of the people there were in film or television.
Then someone asked me for a Homer drawing, and I happily obliged since it gave me something to do. Suddenly I was drawing for everybody at the benefit! When we were finally leaving and waiting for the valet to get my car, I saw Matthew Lillard standing with a reporter from Entertainment Weekly. They were looking at me and whispering. They said hello and asked if I was the artist who worked for “The Simpsons.” I said yes and they got really excited. Matthew Lillard said that if I would do a drawing for his daughter, he would do the voice of Shaggy from Scooby Doo, who he played in the movie ages ago, for me. I drew Maggie for him and he did the voice and I was thrilled!
Then as all this was going on the valet pulls up in my 1965 Mustang. The reporter then looks at me and says “Is that your car?!”
I was just stunned that this was happening. You have to understand this whole scenario is really not normal. It was like I was the prom queen or something. Very odd.
I think my favorite, though, was when I was in the hardware store after just having finished working on “The Simpsons Movie” and it had just been released. One aisle over I heard a little boy quote from a scene I had worked on to his mom. Bart saying “It’s the treasure of Ima Wiener.” It was awesome!
Q: There are a lot of Moroccan influences scattered about your home, which I love. How would you describe your aesthetic? Do you feel a shift happening now that your daughter is more present in her surroundings?
A: The great thing about this house is that it doesn’t have a huge amount of interior architecture going on, so it’s easier to incorporate a number of eclectic things without having something else to compete with. Is artistic bohemian Francophile crazy person a style?
Most of the Moroccan things come from the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena. Seeing twinkling lanterns at night makes me very happy. Every time Evie sees a lantern lit up, she gives a big “Oooh!”
Whenever we travel, Mike and I like to bring back a few souvenirs so our home is rather like a scrapbook. Things are pretty eclectic around here, but I find that works really well when trying to be child friendly. Lots of the things that we have on tables were found very inexpensively at places like thrift stores, and can handle being banged around. Much of the furniture is secondhand. I don’t like things to be too precious, and that was something I felt strongly about even before having a child.
We did replace our coffee table with an ottoman and we had to get a new couch. Our old one cost $100 and I had it slipcovered. It had this wooden frame that probably would have taken out Evie’s eye or something else horrible. We replaced it with a splurge on a Restoration Hardware slipcovered couch that we will probably have at least until she goes to college. It is so amazingly comfortable.
I Venetian plastered the walls myself a while ago, and the surface is very forgiving. I took the plaster and added a bit of artist’s pigment to get the more mottled effect that you see. It helps as well because with an older home there are non structural hairline cracks in a few places; it makes it all look a bit more intentional.
Q: As Evie gets older, do you find yourself editing your home to make it much more hers? Also, do you arrange a room and its contents to dictate how you spend your time in the room with her?
A: Our house is a bit on the small side so it would be a little tough to divide it into zones and have it stick. What you don’t see in the pictures I’ve taken is all of the books/toys/crayons that I pushed out of each shot! Usually things like drawing with crayons happens at the dining table on my lap. She’s thoroughly unimpressed with my drawing skills. If anyone sits in the leather chair by the fireplace, they’d better be prepared for Evie to thrust a book at them so they can read it to her.
In all honesty I really don’t mind having her things around. It’s her house too, and I don’t want her to think that things are more precious than her. We have some large baskets, and at the end of the day we clean up. She’s starting to get the whole cleaning up idea, but for now its mostly a mommy daddy cleaning crew.
Our floors are painted white wood that are pretty easy to keep clean. I have a spare can of paint under the kitchen sink that I can touch it up with if it gets scratched. The floors were in such poor shape that painting them seemed the best solution.
Q: What do you hope your daughter remembers from her childhood home? What do you think will stick to her memories?
A: I hope she remembers the happiness of being barefoot on a warm day with the patio doors thrown open and a breeze blowing in and out. How great it can feel to run the full length of the backyard and then cannonball into the pool. (Don’t worry we have a safety cover and a gate blocking her from it until she is old enough to do this!) When she’s a bit older we want to take her for ice cream in the back of my convertible on warm summer nights. Planting tomatoes in early spring. Making art with me in the studio. Mostly though, I hope that she remembers how much love was shared in this house.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your daughter?
A: Seeing the things that she likes and doesn’t like as she is starting to have her own personality. I love watching her figure things out and see how sometimes she is just like Mike or myself, and sometimes she is distinctly herself.
I remember when I was sitting on the operating table right before my c-section thinking “I really don’t know if I’m up for this.” A little late, I know. It has been easier than I expected most of the time, but my expectations were pretty extreme because I have an active imagination and I wanted to be prepared for the worst! It turns out that Evie is pretty mellow, at least for the moment. I can’t claim any credit.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: …that’s it’s going to be okay after the baby comes. It feels like people are more inclined to complain about the difficulty and leave out the good stuff. Not that it isn’t hard! I know I only have one child and I don’t know how you do it, Gabrielle, and things can seem so impossible sometimes but it goes by quickly.
After a few years, children are so much more self-sufficient. Every day Mike and I are teaching Evie how to live without us and be her own independent person. It’s an incredible process to witness.
Tricia, thank you for sharing your entertaining LA stories with us! Your celebrity sightings are priceless!
Friends, I love how honest Tricia was about not feeling ready for motherhood. I’m not sure any of us are truly ready for parenthood the first time around! It’s a wild ride, isn’t it? Because just when we get the lay of the land and figure out the way home without getting lost, all the roads change. (Not a bad time to be driving a cool car, right?)