Living With Kids: Jillian Murphy

July 9, 2013

By Gabrielle. Photos by Scott Adamson.

It’s been noted a few times in these tours that a homeowner’s true nature appears during a renovation. A worrier worries even more, someone who has a hard time making decisions will probably be on the phone (or maybe Pinterest!) a lot, and a procrastinator will get to that project tomorrow. Or next Wednesday.

I happen to love Jillian‘s reno-style: She had a home water birth at 11:00 am, and renovations were back on by two that afternoon. So awesome. As is this tour, especially for those of you interested in eco-friendly renovating and decorating. (Note to self: Paperstone sounds cool.) Enjoy, Friends!

Q: Please tell us who makes this house a home.

A: My husband, Jamie, is a carpenter and I am a naturopathic doctor with a blog and sideline dreams of designing and styling interior spaces full time. In the interim, we renovate and rebuild houses and flip them.

We have two children named Winnie (4) and Pippa (2), and we live in Kingston, Ontario.

Our house didn’t feel like a home when we moved in. I felt like I was at a fancy hotel. Even though it was far from done, I had never lived in anything quite so new or designer or glossy.

What has turned this house into a home is us. Our crazy little family has made a big imprint on this space: the dents in the kitchen floor, the family wall covered with pics of our favorite people and memorabilia, and the very personalized additions in every room. I want to give a lot of credit to my husband, Jamie. He has poured himself into this house. Every nail. Every floorboard. Every restored grate. That was all him. He puts love and attention into everything he does.

Q: How did the home come to be yours? 

A: We were actually about to buy another house just down the street. I was in the midst of a very difficult first trimester, I had worked a full day, and we had a tired two year old on our hands. Our real estate agent encouraged us to take a look at two houses on the street that had just come on the market before we made an offer on the other house.

This house was a bungalow. It was in bad shape. It smelled, the floors were rotten, the back yard was an overgrown rainforest. We looked around and hightailed it out of there. Unfortunately, the house we had planned to buy had lost its shine. After seeing it we decided not to make an offer and left discouraged and unsure of what to do next. We stopped to pick up a pizza for dinner and when Jamie got back to the car I said, “That bungalow was it, wasn’t it?” He said, “Yep, I think so.” We called our agent when we got home, made an offer at 9:00 pm, and it was ours the next morning!

We spent the next four months in the craziest, time-restricted renovation I can imagine. Jamie was working full time and doing the reno on the side. We took the roof off. Added a second and third floor and re-did the entire main living space. My belly was growing and growing and growing and we had  a house to pack up and leave.

The reno obviously got behind schedule, as all renos do, and we were living with Jamie’s parents when my dute date came and went. For 11 days we worked harder than I ever thought imaginable. My body was so sore, I had no idea how I was going to muster up the energy or fortitude for a labour and delivery.

At 12 days overdue my parents showed up, we cleaned the house as much as possible, moved in a couch, a mattress, and a birth pool. We went out for dinner. We sat around and chatted, and by 11:00 pm I was pretty sure I was in labour. Pippa was born the next day at 11:00 am. At one point during the labour a plumber showed up to fix an issue with the bathroom fixtures, but he quite happily decided to come back another time!

I had never planned to have a home birth with a whole slew of family present, but it was perfect. Pure magic. The renovation was back in full swing by 2:00 pm!

Q: What makes you love where you live? 

A: We love the Kingston community. In the past seven years we have built two businesses and grown a lovely circle of friends who truly are our family. We love being so close to the water and between major Canadian cities: Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. We get a small town feel with easy access to big city amenities and friends all over. It’s also a great location for getting out to the east coast of Canada, where I am from.

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? In what ways did it change when you added kids to the mix?

A: I consider my aesthetic modern homey. I love clean lines and minimal clutter, but I definitely need a dose of warmth and history.

When we first had Winnie I was determined to keep our house from getting too kiddie, but, as so many mothers before me know, one day I woke up in a heap of toys. For awhile we let it go. There were toys and books everywhere. Eventually, I started to find the clutter tiresome and felt it was becoming stressful for all of us. Following the advice of Kim John Payne and his book Simplicity Parenting, I’ve worked really hard to simplify our environment for all of us. I’ve cleared out excess toys and books, kept the kids’ rooms super streamlined and full of beautiful, natural materials and open-ended toys….with a few exceptions.

Q: Do you consciously decorate a room with your kids in mind? 

A: We have worked hard to create some very kid friendly spaces: a lovely polka-dotted reading nook under the stairs, a kid-sized craft space, the numbers on the stairs, low hooks and baskets in their room for clothes storage. I think of the kids always when I am decorating but I also like to keep the long-game in mind. I try to keep the basics basic (cream or white walls, wood floors, quality furniture) and then we can play with pillows and curtains and art to get the feeling the girls want. That way as they grow, the room can grow, too. Easily and inexpensively.

We try to make some grown-up spaces but our kids have free reign. We’re a team. Wherever we go, they go.

Q: Eco-decorating seems to be important to you. Please explain your philosophy and why it’s so worth the effort to you and your family. 

A: As a naturopath, I am acutely aware of how our environment affects our health. The fact that I was pregnant and moving in with a new baby was also a major factor. We worked hard to use eco-friendly products, re-use, and re-cycle for many reasons:

1. We just think it’s the right thing to do. We aren’t perfect but we really try to make responsible choices for our planet.

2. We believe that a house needs soul. It needs history and depth. We were able to give this house soul by salvaging all the old doors and grates, re-purposing older furniture, finding perfect flea-market one-offs… really gave us the balance we were looking for.

3. It can save money. Eco-friendly renovating and decorating can be exceptionally expensive, but it was so great to salvage all of the wood from the old roof and re-use it, or get an amazing one-of-a-kind floor from an inexpensive old barn tear down.

Q: Your countertops are Paperstone. Can you tell us the pros and cons of that surface? 

A: So far we have only seen the pros. It’s a recycled paper product that is exceptionally heavy and has a unique, almost stone-like, look. Because of its composition, Jamie was able to cut and install it (he could never have done that with granite), saving us thousands of dollars. You can sand it down if it gets scratched or stained, though it seems fairly resistant to both, and it feels amazing. You do have to treat it. We use a special oil and beeswax.

Q: What is your favorite room in the house to spend time with your kids?

A: Our favorite room is the sunroom at the back of the house…..or maybe our bedroom in the late afternoon and early evening. In both cases, I think it’s a matter of light. Each of the rooms are filled with cosy, comfy furniture, soft blankets, lots of pillows, and big windows. Huge views on the back yard and trees, trees, trees! We love to drink our coffee or tea in the morning, or cosy up for a summer thunderstorm in the sunroom.

Our bedroom has the softest evening light and breezes. Perfect for after-bath stories and massages.

Q: What do you hope your decor choices and the items that surround your family are teaching them about you and their someday ideas about family? 

A: I feel like our home is a simple, comfortable space. I hope our children grow to appreciate simplicity and space; space to grow and dream and just be. I hope that they leave our home with an appreciation and desire for simple everyday beauty, healthy delicious food, big gatherings full of family and friends, and lots of silly fun!

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What surprised you the most about kids and about being a mother? What do you already miss? 

A: My favorite part about living with my kids has to be the cuddles and chaos and challenge to be a better person. I guess what surprised me the most is how smart they are. How funny they are. How unique and amazing (and frustrating) they are.

And I already miss the chubby feet. Oh, those tiny little toes. I was just talking to Jamie about chubby legs and feet and toes last night. What will we do when they are gone? I’m gonna cry!

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

A: I wish I had known that my children would be my biggest source of inspiration and challenge. That everyday I would have to work really hard to be the woman I want them to grow to be: daring, innovative, compassionate, creative, honest, and passion driven.


Thank you, Jillian! I smiled all the way through your tour, starting with that inspiring home birth and your let’s-get-back-to-it attitude. And your happy focus on eco-decorating got me even more excited about our new cottage project.

Friends, have any of you wholly embraced the eco-friendly movement in renovating and decorating? As Jillian mentioned, it can be crazy expensive in terms of initial investment, but I imagine the long-term benefits could outweigh that, right? What do you think?

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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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura July 9, 2013 at 11:31 am

Ok, seriously this house had me at the front door! I love so many things about this house I cannot even list them all!! Just a great house!!! Very calming decor and love all the colors!


2 Mary July 9, 2013 at 11:56 am

Oh this one is definitely a favorite! Gorgeous and so well done! Looks like a fun family lives there.


3 DeAnn July 9, 2013 at 12:06 pm

My favorite so far!!! Well done.


4 robyn July 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I absolutely adore this home! It’s the perfect mix of clean lines but with soul. Love it.


5 Emma July 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Just fabulous. Inspirational and full of warmth. People I would love to know.


6 kate wilson July 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

wow! every room had me gasping. my favorite home tour yet. i will be pinning and pinning away for our “someday home.”


7 Melanie July 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I love this house. Yay to a Canadian home! Yay to an eco home! That is critical to us and any renovations that we have undertaken. It can be expensive, and it does require homework. The products are out there — they just need to be found!

Jillian, may I ask what colour of blue paint was used in the bathroom?


8 Jillian Murphy July 9, 2013 at 1:56 pm

It’s Observatory by Behr!!!


9 Melanie July 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Thank you!!! Love it! Will have to go to Home Depot and get a swatch!


10 Annik July 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Such a beautiful home, Jillian! We just started a kitchen reno yesterday, I wish I had known about Paperstone beforehand.

I also have a soft spot for Kingston as our youngest will be attending Queen’s University in the fall. I have a feeling we’ll be driving down there lots starting in September :)


11 Sunshine July 9, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Jillian! Such a fun and beautiful house! Please tell me about the amazing light fixture in your stairwell….!!!


12 Jillian Murphy July 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Here’s a link:

It’s kind of expensive…we actually traded leftover barn board for it!!!


13 JennyW July 9, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Modern homey—that’s where I want to be! Thank you for the inspiration (and motivation) I gained through the sharing of your beautiful home!


14 Julia @ Calm Cradle Photo & Design July 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I can’t stop pinning these photos of Jillian’s gorgeous and unique home! Thanks for sharing!


15 Mandy July 10, 2013 at 12:31 am

Beautiful home! I love the wood EVERYWHERE! The floors are so beautiful and that mirror above the couch is so great!


16 Kim July 10, 2013 at 4:22 am

Jillian, your home is absolutely divine. I especially love your family’s personal touch in every room. Can I ask where you purchased (or found) your light fixtures, particularly the ones in the stairwell and in your bedroom?


17 Jillian Murphy July 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I found the one in our bedroom at PB Teen (a totally random, amazing deal!). The stairwell fixture is from a store in Kingston called Dwell. They were closing and I traded the owner (an interior design) a bunch of our leftover barn board for the light! I totally can’t remember the brand?


18 Jillian Murphy July 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm
19 Kim July 10, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Thanks for taking the time to find the link!


20 Nicole Devereux July 10, 2013 at 7:22 am

This tour is great on so many levels! One the house is wonderful — bright, playful, cozy, personal, and just plain charming. It’s also inspirational to see a professional couple balancing other interests/skills on the side, something I’d love to do. And third, all the tips on eco-friendly, pared down living. A real hat trick! Thanks for sharing.


21 jessica brown July 10, 2013 at 7:44 am

Such a beautiful home! I’m from the East Coast of Canada – two hours south of Halifax. Headed home to visit this afternoon – with my kids and husband in tow. We have packed our sweaters!

Which province are you from?


22 Jillian Murphy July 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm

From PEI originally (will be there in August!) but spent highschool and university in Fredericton, NB!!! Love the east coast!!!


23 Kate July 10, 2013 at 7:53 am

Love the exterior siding. Can you tell me what brand it is? Looking for something similar. Thanks!


24 Jillian Murphy July 10, 2013 at 7:15 pm

The brand was Gentek: Sequoia Select.
Colors: Midnight surf, trimmed in Pearl.

Thanks for asking;)


25 Dani November 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Hi Jillian!
Your home is gorgeous! I actually found this post while searching for pictures of Gentek siding in Midnight Surf, that’s what I plan to side my next project in, any chance we can see more of your beautiful exterior?


26 Sarah R July 10, 2013 at 7:57 am

Wow! This home is so lovely! You’ve hit the “modern homey” look to a tee! I especially love how you spelled Winnie’s name above the closet.

Is the bathroom off the living room painted black? I would love to know the color. It is beautiful.


27 Jillian Murphy July 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm

It is black. So scary but so, so awesome!!!
The color is Black Beauty by Benjamin Moore.

Paint it black, whatever it is…you won’t regret it!


28 Julie July 10, 2013 at 8:32 am

Oooh, love this house. I would love to know where the bench in the 3rd photo is from and also those white/dark stained dressers with the circle drawer pulls….are they rast ikea hacks? Love them. Where did you get the drawer pulls?? Oh, I am SO stealing that idea.

Lovely house, Jillian. We did a huge renovation 3 years and it nearly did me in. The fact that you gave birth, then carried on….well, I’m in awe.


29 Jillian Murphy July 10, 2013 at 7:19 pm

The reno was hard, no doubt about it! We love it (which is why we’re still alive and married!) but my hat is off to anyone who makes it through!

The bench is from a local guy. He sells the reclaimed wood pieces at a local market. And, yes, good eye! Those are rast Ikea hacks 100%. Pulls form Lee Valley.



30 courtney July 10, 2013 at 11:57 am

oh my–the basket weave platform bed. i’m in love. can you tell us where it is from? such a lovely tour of your home. thank you for opening it up for us.


31 Jillian Murphy July 10, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Oh my gosh….that bed is one of the only new pieces in this house. We bought it at a big box store, on sale for $200. It’s called Jysk.

It was bought in a panic after after baby #2 arrived and we realized we were gonna need a bit more space…..


32 Carla July 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Awesome home tour and sounds like an awesome family. So great to see a profile from Canada – and one just down the road from me. I too am a transplanted Maritimer (Halifax) living in small town Ontario (Peterborough). Jillian, you sound like a true Maritimer, real without any pretense and your house has a ‘down-home, pull up a chair and have a cuppa’ feel. I will certainly explore your blog! Thanks Gabrielle for the introduction. Isn’t the connectedness of the web amazing?


33 Jillian Murphy July 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm

I love that so much…..exactly what I would love/dream/hope my home would feel like!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!


34 Molly July 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I’m wondering about the siding, too – what is it? Beautiful home.


35 Jillian Murphy July 11, 2013 at 7:38 am

It’s from Gentek. Details above:)


36 Amy July 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm

This family home is charming, cute and full of personality. I love it!


37 Linda K July 10, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Lovely home! Jillian, can you tell me the name of the artist who did the red coat painting? Thank you for sharing this with us.


38 Jillian Murphy July 11, 2013 at 7:37 am

The artist is DJ Berger. You can find his work and writing here:

He is from Kingston and did almost all of the art in our home:)


39 Linda K July 11, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Thanks! (And I’m in Ottawa, so close by!)


40 Karen F July 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

Jillian, thank you for sharing your beautiful home with all of us! Love it!


41 Alex July 12, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Hi! Lovely lovely home. Can you tell me about your white counter stools. They look perfect for children!


42 Jillian Murphy July 15, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Those stools are from Ikea! Affordable and super durable! The best part is, you can wipe them clean:) XOXO


43 Carol F. July 13, 2013 at 12:37 pm

My favorite so far! I forwarded the link to my hubby, I like it so much…


44 Melissa September 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Hi there!
I was so delighted to come across this tour! I know Jillian both professionally and personally, and I find her home stunning. Now that I know that she dreams of interior design full time, I’ll have to request her business, given we moved into the neighborhood 2 years ago and faced renos of our own home. NOW to give it soul! :). Jillian, expect my email…in about 5 minutes…:)


45 Niki January 10, 2015 at 5:38 am

Jillian, silliest source question ever. But the towel hooks, where are those from?


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