The Treehouse

August 17, 2013

Oakland House

By Gabrielle.

This is the story of how The Treehouse, our home in Oakland, came to be ours.

This is the long version of the story. I’m still figuring out how to tell it in a short version.

Starting last summer, when we embarked on our final year in France, we started looking online at real estate in Colorado. We had loved living in Colorado and our plans never strayed from moving back. We just needed to find a house. We wanted to buy something and settle down. In fact, that was our original plan when we first moved to Colorado, but at the time, we weren’t able to find a house, and then we got distracted by France. : )

treehouse4 treehouse5 The Treehouse

We really wanted to buy a house before we moved back, because I was overwhelmed by the idea of moving twice — first into a rental, and then into a purchased house, possibly in two different school districts. Ugh. Purchasing a house and moving directly in sounded ever so much more appealing.

treehouse2 treehouse1

So we searched. In every Denver neighborhood. In the suburbs. In the mountains. We did specific searches. We did broad searches. Occasionally we would find something we were interested in — and I would sometimes share our finds on Facebook. But nothing was quite right. Or a house might get grabbed up before we had a chance to really consider it.

There’s no question we were being really picky. We were looking for an extraordinary house. Living in La Cressonnière had changed us. It was such an amazing home. I remember returning from our trip to Venice, driving up to the farmhouse and acknowledging it was every bit as lovely as anything we had seen on vacation.

We both work at home, and shoot photos at home, and film at home, and spend so much time at home. Home matters. We were determined to find an extraordinary house that we could really fall in love with. That was a joy to drive up to. That was a treat to live in. It didn’t need to be in perfect condition, but it needed really good bones. And it turns out, that sort of house is hard to find.

treehouse24 treehouse20 treehouse23

By January, we were a little nervous. Would we be able to find a house? Did we need to extend our time in France? Should we build? What are our other options? I was chatting about our house hunt with my sister, Jordan, and she mentioned we should look at the Bay Area. I shrugged off her suggestion and told her we were priced out of the housing market in San Francisco (and every big city — New York and L.A., too!) But she tried to convince me. She reminded me that we don’t have a commute, and that if we looked further out of the city, there were some great deals. So I did a real estate search by map that covered the entire area, and looked for houses big enough to hold our family and in our price range. But alas, it was just what I thought. We were out-priced.


There was this one house. It was big and yellow. It had 5 bedrooms. It was on 2 acres and backed up to a park! It was 100 years old and needed vast renovations (which is my kind of project). It was in El Cerrito — a little north of Berkeley and Oakland. There was certainly nothing else out there like it — every house around it was on a tiny plot of land. And it was in our price range. A miracle!!

treehouse9 treehouse14

We asked Jordan to go check it out in person. She took tons of photos, even made a little video, and emailed everything to us. She told us that it needed a lot of work, but it was a really neat house. And we felt like the 2 acres made it a no brainer.

We knew it was a long shot, but we felt compelled to go for it. It was an extraordinary house. And even though we hadn’t seriously considered the area, there were strong draws for us to San Francisco. My father grew up in the Bay Area and I had been raised with visits to my grandparents in Menlo Park and San Carlos, so I had some roots there. Plus, I have a sister and brother in the area. Plus, our fields of work are centered there, and Ben of Pinterest’s advice to move where your field of work is headquartered had stayed with me since I’d heard him speak those words at Alt Summit 2012.

So Jordan recommended a local real estate agent (which we needed in order to make a bid on the house), and he recommended a mortgage agent, and she helped us get pre-qualified, and we bid on the house. The conversation with Jordan, to the search, to the bidding on the house, took place over about 5 days. It was fast. And a little nuts.

treehouse10 treehouse11

Sadly, the next week, we found out that not only was our offer not accepted, there were also over 20 other bids, and the top bid was 200,000+ beyond the asking price. Yikes!

Our conclusion: clearly, that house was an exception, it had been priced too low, and our first impression — that we were priced out of the area — was indeed true. But we didn’t feel too bad. It had been good to go through the work of getting pre-qualified. It had been over a decade since we’d owned a house and it was good to remember what the buying process is like. So we abandoned our search in the Bay Area as quickly as we had picked it up, and we returned our focus to Colorado.

treehouse13 treehouse17

And we were feeling more exploratory at that point, so we broadened our search. We kept searching Colorado, but we worked with a real estate agent in Santa Barbara, too. That’s where Ben Blair’s father grew up, so we felt roots there as well.

But, now we were on the radar of the real estate agent in Oakland, and once in awhile he would send a listing he thought we’d like. I eventually wrote him an email and told him we simply weren’t interested. We had only bid on the yellow house because it was extraordinary. And the very few options in our price range in the Bay Area just weren’t appealing to us. The good stuff was too expensive. He totally got it.

But a few weeks later, he emailed again. He had a house he thought we would really like. It was being privately sold (instead of publicly listed) because the couple who owned it were older and they didn’t want the hassle of open houses and bidding wars. Since there was no listing, he had no link or photos to show us, but thought we would really like the house. We were grateful he thought of us, but without photos to look at, we didn’t give it much thought. And I didn’t want to bother my siblings to go take photos — I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.

treehouse15 treehouse18

Several weeks later, he emailed about the same house again, encouraging us to send someone to look at it and take photos. It was now March, and we were feeling so unsettled we decided to give it a try. So we asked Jordan again, and she took photos and made a little video again. And as she was driving away, she called us in France and said, “I don’t what the price is, but if you can afford it, you should buy this house.”

The photos she sent us are the photos in this post! These shots feature the furniture and belongings of the previous owners. (Jordan actually sent about 100 photos, so this is 20% of what we saw.)

When we saw the images, we fell in love with the house immediately. It’s a mid-century house with unusual architecture. And it’s completely surrounded by forest. It’s in a residential neighborhood, but there are so many trees, we can’t see our neighbors — it feels totally private! The house is built into the side of a hill and even on the main floor, it feels elevated, like you are high above the forest floor. The main floor is surrounded by decks and patios, and the 2nd floor has two decks as well. And because the weather here is wonderful year round, it’s really designed for indoor/outdoor living. There’s even a tiny stream in the back yard. Everyone that has visited us so far has commented that being here is like being in a treehouse.

It’s definitely an extraordinary home.

treehouse22 treehouse21

So mid-March, we bid on the house, and our real estate agent suggested we write a letter to the homeowners as well. Turns out the letter did the trick. There was another (apparently better) bid, but they accepted our offer! We couldn’t believe it!! We kept asking each other: Is this for real? Are we really moving to Oakland? To California?? After all this time, are we going to be homeowners again?

Through April and May we applied for our mortgage. That process, made more difficult by being overseas, just about did us in. I swear, it was like a 40 hour per week job. Nuts. But the sellers were incredibly patient. And so was our accountant. And so was our mortgage agent. And eventually, it happened! The official closing occurred mid-June.

And on July 15th, we flew from Paris to San Francisco, rented a van, drove to Oakland, and saw this house — which we had bought — for the very first time.

treehouse6 treehouse8

This post is long enough as it is. So I’ll save details about the number of bedrooms, the renovation work that needs to be done, and the furniture we inherited, for next week. But I have to acknowledge how lucky we feel. If it hadn’t been a private sale, with owners who weren’t intent on getting the highest possible price, we never could have bought it. This house is such a gift, a treasure. We couldn’t feel more gratitude about calling it our own.

Friends, I’d love to hear: have any of you ever bought a house without seeing it in person first? (I’m sure we’re not alone!) Or, do you think we’re crazy?

P.S. — Speaking of crazy, I’m afraid this move has pushed me over the edge. I’m definitely struggling. During the year after we moved to New York, I experienced a full-on breakdown, and happily, it hasn’t reached that level. But my mental state feels more serious than a typical “down” day for me. If things don’t improve over the weekend, I’ll see a doctor to get some help. Thanks for your patience as my publishing schedule has been so erratic this month. And for those of you waiting on emails from me, my sincere apologies. We’ll get things sorted out eventually!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 2 trackbacks }

Casa del árbol - Garabatto
August 19, 2013 at 5:01 am
Have a Great Labor Day + Links | The Naptime Chef
August 30, 2013 at 5:01 am

{ 189 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Modfrugal August 18, 2013 at 8:42 am

What a gem! It looks very similar in architecture to our house. It will get easier, and once the kids are in school you’ll be able to accomplish a lot. Congratulations on a wonderful find and homecoming.


2 Tina Ramchandani August 18, 2013 at 8:44 am

It’s not really crazy that you bought the house without seeing it. Sometimes you have to go with your gut. It looks like a good find, I can’t wait to see what it looks like post-renovation! Stress comes and goes, you’ll get through it soon and it will be great.


3 sarah k August 18, 2013 at 8:50 am

What a story, and what a house! Congratulations, and I’m excited to see how you proceed to make it home (at your own pace, of course).

I’m sorry to hear that the stress of all this is weighing you down–but I imagine it would do the same to me. And I also want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for that honesty which is somewhat rare in the world of beautiful design blogs. I think you manage the balance between beautiful and inspiring, honest and real very well. Thank you. I wish you peace and deep breaths, the ability to get some things checked off the list, and any help you need. And no feeling of pressure to post more often!


4 stacy August 18, 2013 at 9:28 am

How exciting!! And I can just imagine all the amazing things you guys are going to do with this space — it has great lighting and was made for a creative family like yours — good luck! and hope things settle down for you soon.


5 juliagblair August 18, 2013 at 9:39 am

The Tree House is really perfect! You’re a true champion. Think what you guys have accomplished. You’re amazing. So is Ben and so are the beautiful Blair kids! Do relax and breathe deeply and reflect on your marvelous blessings and know that you are loved and appreciated and honored and absolutely understood! Life is good; people are kind; Oakland is an awesome place. The school year will begin! All will be well.

LOVE you, darling Gabby!


6 Eva August 18, 2013 at 10:27 am

I love your honesty and vulnerability. Just READING about your move and all the logistics could give anyone a nervous breakdown! Hopefully you can take some time to yourself once the kids are back in school and take a spa day or something else that will fill your bucket again. I can only imagine how depleting it can be to make such a big move. We are house shopping ourselves, so your post was really inspirational and timely. Thanks for sharing.

Sending good vibes to you and your family!


7 Kristi August 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Your feelings are completely understandable. Give yourself the gifts of rest and time. We’re all with you and will be here when you get back. Take special care of you.


8 sarah August 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Our current home was bought sight unseen. Houses in put price range were selling very quickly… Especially in this neighborhood. After making NINETEEN offered we finally just said the next hose that falls within our parameter (of this and this) well buy. The stars aligned and here we are!


9 Anja August 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Your house looks dreamy. I hope you find time to rest. I felt overwhelmed just by reading all the stuff you did in the last couple of months.


10 Melissa Lehman August 18, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Gabby, when we met briefly at Alt Summit in NYC back in June, I told you that you are a true encouragement to me via your blog. I hope that I can encourage you by saying that I will be praying for you as you re-calibrate ;-). I am having to do that myself lately. Much love and hugs to you!


11 MichelleB Avery August 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Lovely home, and I know you will only make it more lovely with time. Sorry to hear about the stress, there is a wonderful doctor in Montclair district, whom I trust my life with, literally! Dr. Karen Johnson. Hope the Vail lifts soon, as the best weather of the bay is yet to come.


12 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay August 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Please-o-please press the pause button.
Big prayers coming your way for health.


13 Lena August 18, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Oh, Gabi. I’ve been there. It is so difficult. And whilst moving around the world gives you more than any education (in my opinion), it leaves some scars – good and bad. But you will do great, like some readers said, it will take time to adjust, but we are humans and we adjust to anything. Take care of yourself, we will wait here for you.
And the house is absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait what are you going to do with it!


14 Heather August 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

ah gabby. please forgive us but maybe you understand – when we hear someone is struggling we just want so desperately to help – somehow, someway. Have you read “Where’d you go Bernadette?” It is a funny, smart read about a mom and it is a great escape. I recommend it if you feel like a little escape while staying home :) best wishes.


15 Christine Gough August 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Thank you so much for this post. We just moved (same week as your family) from the Bay Area to central Oregon. It has been good but also so so so hard. Managing the chaos and emotions for myself is tough—-but adding the kids into it is even more intense. Last Monday was a very very low day for me. Definitely a “depression” moment. Having never felt that to that extent it was a little scary. Your p.s. has been sitting with me all weekend. It is so good to know we aren’t alone. And you are in my most favorite place, Oaklandishville. So much love. So many prayers and so much gratitude for your honesty. And when in doubt??? Fenton’s. always more Fenton’s.


16 Katie August 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm

This post resonated with me so much. We moved to Santa Cruz, CA a year ago from Atlanta, into a house we had bought, but only seen in pictures (for exactly the reasons you menitoned). It sounds dramatic, but leaving Atlanta (where we had only lived for two years, but were so happy) felt like the death of a loved one to me. Moving is so hard. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for sharing your struggle so honestly- I have felt like a crazy person many times over the past year for not being able to adjust more quickly. It’s getting better, and I do have hope that one day I’ll fall in love with Santa Cruz the way I did with Atlanta. If you ever need a little escape, let me know- we would love to meet you and your family!


17 Leigh August 18, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I’m so happy for you. You and your family really do deserve this house. Slow down, you have done so much this year you deserve a break.


18 Midori August 18, 2013 at 8:16 pm

I want to thank you for the last paragraph of this post. It really is a gift to your readers when you allow us glimpses into the more private, challenging moments in your gorgeous life. Your travels, adventures, and lively brood of loving, cooperative children are the stuff of storybooks, and when you reveal some small vulnerability like this, you simply make an extraordinary life all the more approachable and real. None of us are superwoman, but *you* are truly an inspiration.


19 Jodi Anderson August 18, 2013 at 10:01 pm

We bought our first house almost 5 years ago. My husband had taken the Nevada State Bar in June and we found out on October 15 that he had passed! We were just renting at the time and had two small children and all the school debt was going to start in the next month. So, our plan was to start really saving and looking for a house to buy (this is when the Las Vegas housing market was horrible so it was a great time to buy). On October 30 we had a good friend call us and tell us about a house that was going up for auction that day at 2! it was in a great neighborhood (with 17 LDS families), but we couldn’t look in it at all! My sister and I went to the house and tried looking through the windows and even knocked on other house that were the same model (since every house here is a track home :( but it was like your experience, everything just fell into place and we ended up buying that house that same day! i was a little nervous not seeing the house, but it’s been a great first home!


20 Esther August 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm

The house is a stunner.
I also have six kids,
with not having moved across distant lands, but working many hours a week and sending my son to boarding school in Chicago yesterday, and taking care of kidos-because Mom is all anyone really wants, I too am loosing it.

This is normal. take a break from your amazing blog and return when you are ready.

Or like I tell my kids, I’m going into my room for a time out.

(One day I will muster up the courage to see if i can share my life in your living with kids -segments.)

Warmly, Esther


21 Mrs. LIAYF August 18, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I am so sorry you are struggling. I am glad that you are getting help . . . that’s very brave and very smart.

Many years ago I was told (by my then therapist) that depression is just as easily brought on by happy events as sad events – major change of any kind is unsettling to a person’s psyche. Moving and buying a home are both near top of the list of “major changes,” along with new employment, graduation, marriage, or a major accomplishment. Apparently, these can be as disruptive to a person’s equilibrium as death, divorce and bankruptcy.

I learned this the hard way – in 2000 I graduated from law school, took a dream job, purchased a home with my husband and finally moved in with him (we had been living away from each other during the first year of my marriage while I finished law school and he worked on his family’s farm). While I should have been happy that everything was going so well, I fell into a deep funk that really was more than the “blues.” I was so much better after seeing my doctor and getting help. It was the very best decision.

Oh, and your home is lovely! I am looking forward to hearing more when you feel you are ready.


22 Heather August 19, 2013 at 12:28 am

I’m just pooped reading about your move. Go to sleep.


23 Rachel August 19, 2013 at 12:36 am

Dear Sweet Gabrielle, I find your blog so inspiring for so many reasons, from the wonderful adventures you take your family on, to the many links you carefully choose and share. But today, I am inspired by your bravery. Thank you so much for sharing how you are feeling. Our mental health is something so many of us feel so shy to open up about, and we don’t easily admit we may struggle at times. I so admire your courage to speak out and seek help. You are a special lady. My thoughts are with you. I hope you find balance soon. Big Hugs xo


24 jennifer August 19, 2013 at 6:10 am

Dear Gabrielle – I check with your blog ever so often and I just had to write after I read your post script. Please get yourself the rest and care you need. I have marveled many times at the amazing things this (you) mother of six says, sees, and has the ability and time to do so well, but your bravery and honesty in your P.S. may do more for other women and mothers than many things you have done before. Kudos to you for putting yourself out there. Life is tough (and beautiful) and moving is daunting and hellish, and the strain is enormous and always underestimated. My husband and I made a cross-country move with our three daughters (ages12, 9, and 7), two dogs, one frog this past November. Once we got to our destination, I literally could not recall driving some parts of the 1,000+ mile trip…I was almost physically broken. Slowly, it all starts to make sense and feel right, and I hope it does for you as well.


25 carrie August 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

i’m praying for you in your struggle.


26 Deborah August 19, 2013 at 6:41 am

I love the tree house too! The windows and decks are fabulous. Your family must be so excited to have found such a home.
I admire how much you do with your blog, and have truly enjoyed hearing about your french adventure. I’ve often thought to myself, “How does she do all that?” You are truly inspiring to many of us. I second the comment about Rescue Remedy, and pray that you take some time for yourself to readjust after such a big move. While it took courage to post that last paragraph, it’s that truthfulness that endears you to many. As a fellow mom with kids, reading your posts has encouraged me to get out more and try new things, and I thank you for that. Now rest up and take care of yourself! :)


27 beachmom August 19, 2013 at 7:49 am

hang in there! you are an inspiration of calm and organization! I only have 2 kids and they are both in their 20s and out of the house and we have lived in the same house for over 20 years – and sometimes I still feel overwhelmed with stupid details – and I don’t work either so I have plenty of time!!! so when I think of you and all the kids and the career and the moving – my mind reels! you are doing a fab job and I for one am very impressed! congrats on the new house – it’s beautiful. enjoy!


28 ememby August 19, 2013 at 9:05 am

We just bought our “dream” home in June as well and moved the first week in July – I too call it a gift that we feel like we lucked into. The real estate market where we are quickly rebounded in the spring and anything that was great sold within a matter of days (sometimes hours) and we were anxious to find a place that was perfect but aware of how quickly we would have to act. I feel like I’m just treading water now that we’ve moved but still feel so very blessed (and almost like I’m in a dream) by this house. Can’t wait to learn more about your place – it looks gorgeous!


29 dervla August 19, 2013 at 9:24 am

Gabrielle, I’m sorry to hear you’re having a rough time. I hope that the anticipation of the new home and all the wonderful ways you’ll make it a special home will pull you out of the maelstrom.


30 Kristin August 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

Thank you for sharing the pictures of your new looks magical and I am sure it will be an adventurous for “a while” home for your family!!

Please take time to care for yourself. I can’t imagine the stress of moving across the globe, on top managing of the everyday dynamics of your large family! Plus you must miss that beautiful countryside in France, I am sure that was hard to leave…I know how I feel just after a weekend on Cape Cod (a 1.5 hour trip for me)..settling into the chaos of my own family can be overwhelming after a few days away. Rest and relax, and take it day my day. I am sure as your family settles into their new routines you’ll feel like your self again soon!


31 lindsay // shop ella lou August 19, 2013 at 10:24 am

Congrats & welcome to Oakland! We moved here from SF in March and have been so grateful for our newfound space, weather, and the opportunity to enjoy all the restaurants, shops, and outdoor spaces Oakland has to offer!

I’m sorry you are feeling down. A move can be such an emotional process, particularly a transatlantic move. When I moved from the Bay Area to Paris I nearly had a mental breakdown; it was so severe I almost moved home. But, the shock and blues gradually faded, I settled in, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Be kind to yourself, take the time you need, and know you are not the only person who feels this way after a big move.


32 Jenny Stockton August 19, 2013 at 10:42 am

Spiral staircase?!?! Amazing. Hang in there – I’m guessing it take a multiple of something like 3 times as long to adjust to anything when international travel/moving is involved.


33 CeeBee August 19, 2013 at 10:50 am

Extraordinary house, indeed! What a special place it is and will be.

Thank you for your honesty. From here, it feels like you have a “newborn” on your hands! You once wrote a very insightful post about the importance of getting sleep with young babies, and how you were acutely affected by a lack of sleep during the infant stage. I bet you are not sleeping much these days – and even if you are, your mind is probably racing with ideas and to-do lists!

So … here’s to an extra hour (or two!) of sleep every night to refresh you. You deserve it. I hope that everything else either falls into place or that you can get ALL the help and support you need. We will keep clicking, so don’t worry about us! :)


34 NY Mom August 19, 2013 at 11:15 am

Praying for you.


35 Katie August 19, 2013 at 11:43 am

What an amazing house! I am coveting deeply. It looks like a big project too though! Good luck.


36 Summer August 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Love this story! You’re so lucky to have such a network of amazing family members. Also, I’m sorry you’re going through a rough time. I hate to hear it, but it is comforting that it’s not just us “normal” people that have below average days. Get to feeling better, Mrs. Blair!


37 Janet August 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm

What a fabulous house! Love it!! Be kind to yourself now – wish I could help you out somehow. Thinking of you and your most incredible family.


38 Jaime August 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Congrats Gabrielle. It’s beautiful. I hope I get the chance to come visit and check it out. Such good bones and lovely location – amongst the trees! What an amazing place to be every day.


39 Sara August 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm

The house is beautiful, and no family deserves something special and wonderful more than yours. Your gratitude and appreciation make that even more clear. Congratulations!!

I’m sorry to hear you are going through a difficult time, but honestly, even reading about any single part of your moving process feels completely overwhelming to me, and I hope that you can give yourself a break and do whatever it takes to take care of you :). I have to admit that I am also very, very grateful for your honesty in sharing your feelings with your readers, as well as that you had experienced a breakdown in the past. I have been going through an intensely difficult time myself, and sometimes the things that I probably need to do to help reboot motivation & creativity (like reading yours & other’s blogs) are hard when faced with what seems like endless perfection. It’s very generous of you to share that even you, the most super of super women, those who do it all and then more and more and more, are human, too, and it’s okay to admit it.

Sending you hugs and care and gratitude and hopes for you receiving all that you need.


40 Allison August 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm

What a wonderful home for the Blair family. Our last several homes were purchased or rented online without ever seeing them…we just showed up from the airport not exactly knowing what to expect and then had to hit the ground running. We’ve had 11 moves in 4 years (kids are 3.5 and 1.5 years). It’s really tough to be the “constant” for everyone in the family when going through these major transitions. Get help when you can and take it easy and slow with the settling in process. The kids won’t remember unsettled boxes and really want you to be happy and healthy! Take care of mama first! Hugs


41 Azra August 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Your house looks beautiful. I can’t wait to see what you are going to do with it. I see a huge potential.
Take care of yourself because health is priority. Everything else can wait. You are doing an awesome job with everything. xo


42 Hilary August 19, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Gabrielle, such a beautiful home! I know you’ll have fun putting your style stamp on it. Meanwhile, that you’re feeling overwhelmed seems utterly normal and understandable. That you admit it publicly is a beautiful and gracious thing, a real encouragement to readers who might be feeling overwhelmed by changing circumstances–even good ones!–in their lives. We moved two weeks before I had our second son, and the busy-ness and chaos of it all left me reeling for a few months after the baby was born. Fortunately, it was just a season–a reminder that my dearest friends kept giving me (as they delivered hot meals and hugs). I know I’m not the only reader who wishes I could help out in some tangible way, too.


43 Amanda August 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm

For some reason I thought you were just renting this house and kept thinking what a heartache it would be to leave it once you decided to buy. As I looked through the pictures I could just tell what a magical place it was and then when I got to the point where you said you actually bought it I got chills and tears. What a fantastic special place! Homes seep the love they were built with and this one looks like it’s oozing! Congratulations!


44 Polly Scott August 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm

It’s beautiful, Gabrielle! Before we moved to Utah, we made an offer on a home (twice) from Washington D.C.. We didn’t get the house, we were outbid – and when we arrived in Utah and went to see the house, we were so happy we didn’t get it! Things always seem to turn out for the best. I too struggled with feeling blue after our move. It’s taken me a while to get used to Utah, I really miss Washington D.C., but everyday gets better. I’m feeling more energy, and more hope. And I’m getting dressed again! I’ll send happy thoughts your way, and I’m so glad to hear that you’re keeping a watchful eye on yourself and that you’re so open about your situation. You’re an inspiration!


45 Elena August 19, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Dear Gabrielle,
I’m sorry you’re not feeling your best now. I can only imagine what it means to travel with children, packing, leaving things and friends behind, going through security, and arriving to a home that promises a ton of work and keeping up with meals, laundry and being there while your children cope with this transition.
Moving homes is stressful, even if you are alone. Moving from one continent to another is definetly stressful.
Be kind and patient with yourself in times like these. Indulge and delegate as much as you can. Ask for help and receive love. I would be happy to read old posts… not going anywhere


46 Jessica August 19, 2013 at 9:18 pm

The house looks amazing! I love the stairs and ladder steps and what glorious light the space gets.

You’re needed; be well.


47 cleo August 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Hi Gabrielle,
I think my friend bought that yellow El Cerrito house. Yes – ton of work and $. I’m so glad you found the tree house. Welcome to the hood. Get some sun, the fog around here can be a downer.


48 KatieB August 19, 2013 at 9:43 pm

I have moved overseas and back five times. (And I’m not that old). Every time I thought to myself…Why am I torturing myself? What am I trying to prove? Why can’t I just make things easy for myself? I will never, ever, ever do this again. I will just be a normal, ordinary US citizen – middle class and average. Then, after I forgot I would do it all over again.

In transition…the tears at the brink of falling 24-7 remind me a lot of post postpartum blues.

Maybe the move itself can be compared to giving birth. You know it is worth it, but it takes a while before you sleep enough to cherish it.

It takes awhile.

But who wants to be average and ordinary and normal? (Okay, I do sometimes).

And what not average, extraordinary, abnormal person can help it?


49 Renee August 20, 2013 at 7:13 am

Congratulations in the house, Gabby! It’s just gorgeous and I’m so happy for you all. But, please please take a little break from blogging so you can rest and regroup! Your health has to be the top priority, and we’ll wait patiently while you take care of yourself. xo


50 Jess. August 20, 2013 at 7:53 am

Hang in there, Gabby. These past few years have been an extraordinary challenge for me, and I have often found the peace/joy/uplift/laugh/solution/recipe/beauty/inspiration I have needed in blogs, including yours and Jordan’s. You’ve been a lifeline to me & I wish I had a blog to give you, like you’ve given one to us. All I can say is take the time you need, cry all you need to, allow yourself time just staring into those beautiful trees. Re-read Harry Potter, man, if you think it will help (it’s good therapy for me). Everything will get taken care of eventually.

Hold on! Lots of love from me & Mary Lenox. xox


51 BrumMum August 20, 2013 at 8:30 am

Hang in there. I can relate, 2 moves and babe number 4 in the past twelve months! Praying for you.


52 sammydog August 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

I understand. My husband and I have been through probably the most traumatic period of our lives over the past nine months and now that things are seemingly calming down, I feel myself struggling quite a bit. Thank you for being honest and real. I hope the cloud lifts soon.


53 Holly August 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

I have been thinking about you. We have never met, but I read your blog everyday. You inspire me to be a better wife/mother/friend.. I have 5 children and I can totally relate to extreme lows during seasons of my life. I hope that you are getting the help that you need. Take care of yourself.


54 Chelle August 20, 2013 at 10:55 am

I still remember how I felt moving back from England to California. I hadn’t yet experienced depression, nor was I a mom, or a wife. Nevertheless. Billboards, malls, disposable/temporary buildings. It was a shock, to say the least.

I hope that you heal soon!


55 Anne Evans August 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm

It’s beautiful!

It’s weird how things work out sometimes. Enjoy living in your new home!


56 Angela Arnett Stone August 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I always appreciate honesty. So many of us struggle with our sanity and sometimes wonder if others do too. Praying for you and your family!


57 Ainsley August 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Amazing home. Amazing story! Praying God will restore your mind and soul. Hugs!


58 Julia A. August 20, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Welcome to the Bay Area! I love that you found a couple interested in selling their house to the “right” people and not necessarily the highest bidder.

You’re in now – take deep breath and lots of long walks.


59 Jenny August 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm

How wonderful to have such a nice view to help cope with the trauma of the move and everything else. Seriously. I feel like looking at my trees and taking deep breaths helped me be a little less crazy when we moved after a psycho year.


60 Torrie August 20, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Welcome to the Bay Area! We just moved to Berkeley from New York on July 18th. We’re loving it, but I am a little lonely. I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager, so if you ever want to get together for tea and a good venting, send me an email.
Enjoy your new home!


61 shelley August 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

thank you for being so honest about your mental state after a stressful move. I can’t begin to imagine the difficulty of an international move piled on top of finding a new home and add to that new schools for all of your children. may you find some quiet, peaceful time to yourself to recover. you have a beautiful, wonderful family. and what a fantastic home!


62 petitmerci August 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm

THinking of you. I consider myself a stable person but have had two “break downs” related to major career transitions. As a therapist/social worker, I was at first hard on myself for not being “strong” enough. The fact is, we are all human. Please try and remind yourself that no matter how bad things feel, in time, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Going through this before may also serve as a source of strength. You know you’ve gotten through this before. In addition to a doctor/therapist, try and find some sort of consistency and spend time with those who you love who make you feel at home no matter where you are.


63 Stoich91 August 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm

You are a beautiful person and I hope that some of the beauty that you’ve shared with the world will come back to you! :D xoxoxo God bless you all, you amazing family, you!


64 Jennifer August 20, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Perhaps we are living reverse parallel lives…

We bought our home in Normandy … near the beautiful little town of Sees … without seeing it in person. One look at the pictures sent to us via email and we were, well, sold. We flew into Paris, rented a car and crossed our fingers.

We weren’t disappointed.

From the lane across the way we can see the spires of the town’s cathedral and everyday the roosters wake us — although thankfully, the roosters crow later in France.

My daughter was married this summer in that cathedral. It was like a fairy tale. I’m still absorbing the hour, the day, the week.

We live full-time in Santa Maria, not too far from Oakland really. (In fact, my son will begin college next week at UC Berkeley.)

I miss my little cottage in Normandy. I miss the goat cheese, the markets and yes, the butter. But we will be back. And I hope, dear DesignMom, that our paths may cross. Meantime, you are in my thoughts and prayers as you adjust to your very new life.



65 Erin August 21, 2013 at 7:56 am

My admiration for you has just tripled. We all have a supply chain fueling our energy and capacity to do want we need and want to do, and we all have disruptions in that supply chain. Well done for acknowledging this to your readers and leading the way for others by getting support and help. You’ve got class. “Dark is a way and light is a place. “-Dylan Thomas


66 Debora August 21, 2013 at 8:56 am

I am SO relieved to know you are human! lol
and your new house is wonderful already…you will make it amazing!


67 jen August 21, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I know I’m commenting late, but I’m just now getting to read this . . . been in the midst of my own moving/unpacking saga of my own. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your honesty about your post-move mental status. It is hard to move – so much more so than most people realize. Throw in long distances, difficult situations, lots of kids, several moves in a row, and you really do have the perfect recipe for a Mom-Meltdown! We have moved plenty, and it never gets easier . . . and it feels so, so good to have you share that though you look so put-together from this vantage point, you too struggle with all that a move brings. Thank you for your transparency!

I am thrilled to hear of your new home and will be praying for you as we set up/re-do our new home.


68 Andrea LeBaron August 21, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Thank you for adding that little bit at the end of your post about feeling pushed over the edge! I have followed you for over a year now just reveling in the wonder of living in Europe. But I can imagine the stress of taking care of a large family, working and moving back to the U.S. to be completely overwhelming. It’s nice when wonderful women like you admit that it does take its toll. There’s such a culture of perfectionism and having it all together which tends to make us feel ever more imperfect and not put together, especially when all we can see is what is on-line. It sometimes doesn’t feel real. Thank you for being honest, especially about mental health. It’s still feels so taboo to admit you might need some help every now and then. Best Wishes!


69 Siiri August 22, 2013 at 8:20 am

Dear Gabrielle,
greetings from as far as Estonia :) I´ve been following your blog and I send you my support and best wishes! I have 3 kids and when it gets tough, I dream of time when I will be grandmother… Sincerely, Siiri


70 DJ August 23, 2013 at 9:08 am

Thanks for the P.S.
I moved about 6 weeks ago and have been feeling blue (even though the new house is fantastic!) I don’t usually get depressed but I’ve been overwhelmed by regular life (which includes hubby and 5 kids) plus moving. We are very lucky and blessed to find the house so I don’t feel entitled to feel bad.
Time to slow it down a bit and stop pushing myself so hard. :)
Hope you feel better!


71 Lynne August 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Dear Gabrielle,

Congratulations on the lovely house! And I’m adding my good wishes and prayers to everyone else who loves you, even without knowing you, from your consistently kind and gentle and lovely tone. You are such a light. I hope you feel better soon!


72 kimberly August 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

Wow! What an amazing ride, and no doubt you’ve been under intense stress for a prolonged period. Do whatever you need to get back to yourself.

We live in the Bay Area, so while not totally unseen, both of our houses were purchased without seeing the inside. The market was/is crazy, and we had to make quick decisions based on neighborhood and a snap judgment made during a drive by. Both times we were lucky to get the houses we did.

I don’t know if you are technically in the Oakland Hills, but I have relatives who’ve lived there for their entire lives, or came from Italy to live there, and they still love it.


73 Heidi August 24, 2013 at 10:25 pm

when I moved back home after 5 years in Europe (Austria) I went through a really down time. Not only is it overwhelming to move overseas, but I think that I couldn’t really related to anyone because I had this fabulous experience, and noone really was interested in it. I didn’t feel like I could relate to anyone I knew. Plus, I was exhausted. It took me about a half a year to recover, I hope that it takes you less time. I probably should have gone to the doctor to get help, I never even thought about that. I’m glad that you are wiser. Take care.


74 Dee August 26, 2013 at 12:48 pm

What a beautiful house, and story, Gabrielle. Sorry to hear about your struggles, but glad to read you’re getting help.


75 Alison Chino August 27, 2013 at 8:15 am

What a beautiful story!! Thank you so much for sharing!! We’re moving into a flat I’ve never seen before in Scotland next week and it feels crazy! Also, I love how you are showing that nothing about following your dreams is ever as easy as it seems from an Instagram picture or smaller soundbyte! Lots of hard work and patience is always involved! Thanks again! And best of wishes!



76 Michelle August 27, 2013 at 2:50 pm

We are currently in our 10th home over the past 16 years. I am a trooper, just like you. However, not this move, but the one before, I found myself exhausted. I saw a doctor, and we holistically tested for diabetes, B12, and other things that could explain why I had to go back to bed at 8:30AM whne the kid went off to school, and why it wa so very hard to drag myself back out of bed at 3PM when they returned. My doctor finally diagnosed me with depression (what?! I never even felt sad!) but after about 6 months on a mild anti-depressant, I was as good as new. That was 5 years ago. I hope you have a similar recovery.


77 Vera September 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I haven’t visited your blog in a while so didn’t know about The Treehouse before now. What an amazing story.


78 Jill Browning September 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm

This house is most definitely a treasure…!!!! As I was looking through these pictures, I thought “this would be such a cool house to grow up in”. It just looks like home, and I’m not even the one who’ll be living in it! ;)

Hope things are settling in for you. Mental illness is a b**ch. Hopefully it’s just situational. Take care!


79 Claudia September 20, 2013 at 9:42 am

We built a house from overseas. We have to decide everything in two days and I think our house it is beautiful. You are a blessed family.


80 Ritsya October 7, 2013 at 4:59 am

You are amazing! Rooting for you.


81 The Vintique Object January 15, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Hello, Gabrielle! I’m more than a bit behind in my blog reading, but imagine my surprise to find out that you live here! We just bought our first house — moving from Oakland to a tiny house in Albany, so I certainly understand the trials and tribulations of this crazy Bay Area real estate market — I thought I’d lose my mind with the number of houses I fell in love with, mentally moved into, and lost out on. How extraordinarily lucky you were to find this place! Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: