I normally begin these Living With Kids tours with a stunning shot of the kitchen or a vibrant welcome from the entryway. But today, I am starting off by showing you a few highly covetable pairs of children’s boots. They are the coolest, as are all the offerings from a fairly new Dutch shoe brand called de Vries. And now we get the chance to see inside the equally cool designer’s home!
Her name is Lilian de Vries, and she is a talent. When she first wrote to me, she casually mentioned she is a shoemaker. Too fun! I consider hers an artisan career that would be fantastic to announce at dinner parties. Or home tours! “Hello. My name is Lilian, and I make fabulous shoes. It is nice to meet you.” Friends, it really is nice to meet Lilian. You’ll see. Please enjoy the tour!
Q: Tell us about the family who makes this house a home!
A: I met my husband Charles in 1996 in Rotterdam while I was in art school. We used to live there for ten years in a great apartment. Two years after our daughter Ella was born in 2003, we decided to move to a house with a garden that was also closer to my work in Amsterdam, and we ultimately ended up in Utrecht, the center part of the Netherlands.
Charles was brought up in this area. As a three-year old he used to live at his aunt’s for a few months, and she still lives in the street next to our place. Adam and Coco were born in Utrecht. We have a lovely garden, but most of the time they play on the schoolyard nearby; no garden can compete with that!
Q: How did this house become yours?
A: We had been looking for a while but couldn’t find exactly what we wanted. In the area we live now, almost every house looks the same on the outside, but there seemed to be something we did not like about each house we were visiting. At that time, I was pregnant with Adam, and I was getting quit nervous. Then we found our new home! We immediately liked the street, the huge tree in the front of the house, and the old barn. It was perfect.
We had to make some changes on the inside because some things were really outdated. That was the best opportunity to make the place our own. We moved some walls, built a new kitchen, a new dormer, and a porch. As an interior designer I had the best time!
A few weeks after we had moved from Rotterdam to Utrecht, Adam was born. Just recently Adam turned eight. His birthday will always remind Charles and me of one of the best decisions we’ve ever made: moving to this wonderful place in Utrecht!
Q: What makes you love the place you live?
A: Utrecht is the fourth biggest city of the Netherlands. We have all the extra goodness that comes along with that: there is a lot of cultural exposure, great infrastructure, and great shopping-opportunities. All in reach within ten minutes by bike.
The best thing about this area of Utrecht is that is does not look or feel like a big city at all! This is like a small village where children still play on the streets and where people still know and care about each other. I was brought up myself in a very small village, and this place reminds me of that!
Q: How has your style changed since you added kids? What would your home look like without them?
A: My style has always been very basic: big gestures and not too many colors. In my job as an interior designer, I love to simplify things and leave out what could be missed. But, of course, my husband started to bring things along. He still does, actually; he travels a lot for his work and our kids love it when he brings some souvenirs home for them! I have started to enjoy those items. I think it makes the house really come to life.
Q: Do you work hard to make your home accessible and stylish in your kids’ eyes? Do they notice?
A: For the past few years, I’ve been working on my own business as a children’s shoes designer. I work at home and I like an inspiring environment. That means that when the kids are off to school, I want their things to be in their place. The kids do that quite well.
This doesn’t mean we don’t keep their stuff in our living area – we do – but we use the lowest bookshelves for their drawing stuff, their wooden trains, LEGOs, etc. Nevertheless, you’ll find Playmobil all over the place; it often seems that those little plastic people actually live here also! Since we have children, I have started to like to add extra fun details for them.
There is this big black plastic crow sitting on our veranda. And we have a dog watching over the kids’ medals! In the attic, I keep some stock for my shoe-webstore, and Adam is using this for his Playmobil. Looks really awesome!
As a bonus I have come to use this sort of coloring-detailing inspired by my kids in my designs. When I started out designing kid’s shoes, I created all very basic models in cognac leather. Along the way, I find myself adding more and more colors…like an orange zipper in black boots or yellow laces in grey boots.
Q: How do you see the design and decor of your home affecting them?
A: Now that I think of it, I think the most important motto to keep our home working is keep things in their place. It makes our house livable for us, and workable for me!
Each one of our children have very strong opinions on what they like or not. This is probably the outcome of having a designer mom! The decorating of their own room is mostly up to them, after we have first set the tone together.
Q: What room in your home works best for your entire family?
A: No doubt, that would be the living room. This is what an average weekend looks like: there is enough space for children to play or build on the floor, while my husband sits in his favorite red chair reading and is having all his books nearby. I work/sit/read at the kitchen table with one or two children. All on the same floor. Love it.
Q: What do you hope your kids remember about this home and this period of time for your family?
A: I hope this home – inside and outside – is as safe place for them as it is for us. A home in which to find out what they love in life, to develop what they are good at. I hope they feel enough space to be themselves and feel inspirited by the design around them.
Also I hope they never feel done! Nothing stays forever. I hope they feel the opportunities there are in the house, but outside as well.
Q: What has been your absolute favorite part about living with your own kids?
A: Having children around makes life so much more relative. Who cares about the grown up things when one of your children is not feeling well? Children make you see what really matters. That being together and taking care of each other is bringing the best out of each person.
I love it when one comes to sit next to me, for a hug or a small sleep on our black loveseat, which is really our laziest chair! Those are my favorite moments. I have to admit, I don’t like not being able to get out of my chair, but after a few minutes I have to give up and I‘d better join the nap! Can’t tell when children stop doing that yet, but I hope they never will!
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: …to follow your heart! I know, people say that all the time and lots of people told me, but it is so true. It is not always easy, but I am getting better at it as I grow older.
Lilian, you are so right when you share the thought “Who cares about the grown up things when one of your children is not feeling well?” No one. How many of us have had entire days come to a screeching halt when fever hits? Meetings cancelled, soups made, and worried middle-of-the-night pacing begun!
Tell me: What was the last pause button your children pushed? The last time your schedule turned upside-down and inside-out? How did you deal with all the last-minute turmoil? (And what ultimately helped you to relax and go with the natural flow?) I can’t wait to hear all your tricks!