By Gabrielle.

Oh, is Emily refreshing! Hers is the classic and always happy-making story of a family living in not their forever home…but their growing home. I love that term. And I also adore that the Hart family hasn’t pushed pause on living with kids with style just because of that fact; they choose to make pretty when they can, always with an eye on whether it’s a smart project for resale value. So sensible. But so difficult to resist when you’re craving new kitchen cabinets, right? Friends, I’m pleased to introduce you to Emily. I just know you’ll enjoy peeking into her home today!

Q: Please tell us about everyone who lives here!

A: Josh, Emily, Blake, Luke, and Gracie the pups all reside together in our little home. I’m Emily, a stay-at-home-mom-blogger-photographer, who has a love for home decor and finding old things to make that love affordable. I’m enamored with vintage objects, old houses, and dusty books, and I sometimes think my home will start to smell like a library soon if I’m not careful.

The man behind the home is my husband, Josh. He’s my absolute and complete opposite…and thank goodness for that. I always joke that we cancel each other out, which is much needed for our individual strong personalities. He’s a banker by trade, and a triathlete and health nut by choice. I’m a wannabe health nut, so when I’m not sneaking french fries I’m usually following his lead and making a healthy meal.

Our boys – oh, our boys! Blake is ten, with an emerging entrepreneurial spirit and a budding talent for broadcasting when he’s not finding ways to sneak in way too many video games. Luke is almost three, and his nickname is Lil’ L because of his penchant for rapping and hip hop dancing. His love for music brings us all together in the best ways, usually during a kitchen dancing session or a YouTube video playing fest where Josh tries to find the clean versions of all his old favorite hip hop tunes. (Not an easy task. by the way!)

Q: How did this house turn into your home?

A: Our home is in Oklahoma. Before we moved back here (we’re both Okies by birth), we were living in Dallas, Texas. Josh found a job in Oklahoma City, so we were in a hurry to find a place. The owners of the house we really loved weren’t budging on the price that was just out of our budget. I was heartbroken when the owners of that house decided to take their home off the market, which left us with our second choice which is the house we live in now.

I wasn’t happy then, but now I’m so grateful that this is where we landed. Had we not bought this house, we wouldn’t have realized what a treasure our part of town really is. Even though I feel like this still isn’t our forever home, it’s been our growing house and one that will be hard to leave.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: We love our city for so many reasons, but one of our main loves is that it feels like a much smaller community than it actually is. Oklahoma is known for its wide open plains, which will always have my heart, but our suburb of Oklahoma City has hills and lots of trees which is what sold us on our area. It’s also a college town, with a quaint little downtown area that’s starting to come back to life. It’s a quiet and unassuming way of life here, which is a breath of fresh air for us after the constant movement of Dallas. Oh, and the cost of housing compared to the rest of the country is ridiculously inexpensive!

Q: How do you think your home expresses the personality of your family?

A: Our home, like us, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Although I’m very much design obsessed, I realize that it’s not in the cards to have pristine surroundings with two boys. Nothing in our home is too precious that a little dirt or a scratch would make much of a difference, and although I love to collect vintage pieces, I know that what I have needs to work around our everyday life of sword battles, wrestling, and dance parties.

Case in point: I searched for months for a round coffee table and finally found a vintage faux bamboo table at a thrift store. It worked great for us until the glass in the middle broke a few months ago. Instead of replacing the glass (which would cost ten times more than the table!) I replaced it with clear acrylic. Now I don’t have to worry about the glass breaking, and even though the plastic will scratch easily, I’m not incredibly worried about accidents.

It’s funny, but I feel like our house is hardly ever at its best! Luke drew on one of the chairs with marker, and there seems to always be stains on the carpet and nicks on the white trim. I keep things neat most of the time, but Josh and I have both realized that we’ll never be happy if we stress over the small stuff.

Q: How intentional are your in the design of your home? Do your boys notice when you make changes in your decor, or are they kind of oblivious? (Do you recognize a change in them, even subliminally, when you tweak a room or organize more deliberately?)

A: I’m very much hooked on anything related to the design of our home. In a way, it’s an escape for me. I could spend an entire afternoon styling a room and be completely content doing it. I love having pieces that tell our story, and knowing that our house is comfortable and inviting is huge to me.

The boys are such great sports when it comes to my decorating. I had a special project I was working on not too long ago, and the house was in complete disarray during the process. Although Josh did some grumbling, they all took the chaos in stride. Little Luke never really notices anything different unless it’s something he can climb on, of course. Blake will occasionally make comments like, “Oh mom, nice rug.” Or, “Ewww mom, what is that?” It’s pretty funny hearing his opinion on things!

Josh has a lot to say about my design choices, but he usually ends up loving what I do even if he thinks it’s crazy at first. Thank goodness for that, because he usually thinks most of my design or DIY ideas are a bit nutty!

Q: What would you say are the top three features that make your house your favorite place to be? Would your husband and boys’ answers be the same?

A: I could name so many reasons why our house is our favorite place to be! We spend the most time together in our family/living room, so that’s definitely reason number one. It’s cozy, comfortable, and full of many collected items that bring happy memories.

Our kitchen is another reason we love our house, but not particularly because we love our kitchen. To make sense of that, I’ll say that I would change so many things about our kitchen, but right now, we’re not ready to make the financial commitment to something that might not bring us a full return when we decide to sell. We’re on the fence about moving, so I guess you’d say we’re in limbo where are kitchen is concerned! I still love it, though, because so much of our family time happens there: lots of dancing, wine drinking, and cooking with Josh, and the everyday chores that seem so mundane but, really, make us a family in so many ways.

The fact that we’ve worked so hard to make our house work for us, and be a place that we love is also worth mentioning. I have a thing for DIY projects, and, although I’ve had some busts in that department, many of the projects that we thought would never work somehow turned out to be the ones we love the most. We’ve been unsure of how long we’re staying here since the day we moved in, so our to-do’s have had to be of the non-committal variety. I know that’s what has kept my imagination working with ways to make things better without investing a ton.

Q: Which memories have you made in this home that you’re hoping your boys take with them into their own families?

A: I hope my boys will remember this house as one where they were able to stretch their imaginations. One that was small enough to bring them closer to one another, but roomy enough that they were able to have their own space. I want them to remember that fingerprints were a symbol of life, not a nuisance, and that creativity was encouraged and laughter was a staple. I hope they look back and remember the big backyard and the busy road out front that brought a few unsavory words from me when a car came speeding by. I pray that they’ll look back and laugh at how they wore a circle in the carpet running after each other through the dining and living room, and remember how much fun they had doing it!

Q: What has surprised you the most about being a mom?

A: More importantly, what hasn’t surprised me about being a mom? Honestly, my boys surprise me every single day. I think what still shocks me and brings me the most joy is how they grow into amazing individuals before my eyes each day. I know every parent thinks his or her child is the brightest and most talented – and for good reason! We get to witness all of that talent as it’s born, and that’s truly an amazing gift!

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What do you already miss?

A: My favorites are the snuggles, the laughter, the nights when we all pile in the bed together and giggle and tell stories and my heart is about to burst. I’ll miss waking up on a Saturday morning to the sound of Josh in the kitchen, making pancakes, and chaos as the boys argue or have Nerf gun wars or laugh over a favorite cartoon. I’ll miss those sweet innocent days when we – Mom and Dad – are the absolute greatest people on the planet and just being with us makes them happy.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I wish someone had told me to remember that my children are individuals with their own thoughts and their own stories. I don’t think I quite realized that about my oldest son until just a few years ago, and it’s still hard to remember on a daily basis.

I have to remind myself that my sons’ actions and reactions come from each of their individual stories – not mine. Their reactions are based on their life experiences, not on mine, and I need to react to that accordingly. It’s a very basic concept, that of stepping into someone else’s shoes, but I didn’t always see it as necessary in the case of my children. It’s amazing how simply changing my perspective has helped me handle situations with my boys, and has helped them respond better as well.

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Emily, you are so right! Our kids are made up of their own stories, and although we can write their introductions and give them help in these early chapters, the rest is up to them. Thank you for all your hard work getting your home tour ready for us!

For those of you living in a growing house, too, how do you keep from losing your cool with all the growing pains associated with it? Is your local home improvement center constantly calling out your name?

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!