There are certain moments during an average everyday when I count my virtual pals among life’s little treasures. If I’m feeling low and worrying about it, one will probably send a note from South Africa or Germany or even Los Angeles to tell me I’m not alone. And if I’m wondering what in the world to do with the Treehouse’s floors, I will be gifted with at least three or four “I’ve been there, Gabrielle, and here’s what we did!” letters. With cute photos, tutorials, and source lists.
Courtney is one of those friends. You may know her as one of the stylish partners behind Babyccino Kids. (Remember when we met Esther?) She’s a lovely mom and entrepreneur living with her husband and four children in London, and someone who sends the sweetest, kindest letters. Oh! And her house is enviably crisp and chic. If I ever decide to paint our floors white, you will know who is responsible! Friends, please meet Courtney. I know you’ll adore her.
Q: Please tell us all about the gorgeous family living in this gorgeous home.
A: Oh, where do I begin? My husband, Michael, and I are both from big families in America; he’s the oldest of seven and I’m the oldest of five! We met in Los Angeles in 2003 and moved to London together two months later. He signed a one-year contract for work, and we thought we would enjoy a year in London and the opportunity to travel around Europe. That was ten years ago this month!
I suppose the allure of European travel never grew old, and as we became more and more familiar with London, it proved difficult to leave. Having children here has also rooted us even more. We have four children: two boys, Easton (eight) and Quin (six), and two girls, Ivy (four) and Marlow (ten months). All of them were born here in London, and the six of us now have both UK and American passports.
Q: How did this home become yours?
A: We were renting a lovely house around the corner when the owners moved back to London and wanted their house back. We then set out to try to find a house in the same neighborhood, and by chance we stumbled upon this one. It was in shambles! Completely run down! But it happened to be in our price range. Both my husband and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, although we were attracted to the idea of fixing it up and making it our own.
We bought the house and spent the next seven months renovating it before moving in. We rented a teensy flat around the corner while we did the remodel, which meant there was a lot of shuffling around of our belongings, but it was worth it in the end.
Q: What makes you love where you live?
A: We live in the leafy north London neighborhood of Highgate. It’s a charming old village up on a hill, overlooking central London, and it’s filled with other young families. Our favorite thing about where we live is the proximity to Hampstead Heath, one of London’s biggest parks. We spend our weekends in the Heath, enjoying long walks together, throwing around a Frisbee, playing in the ponds, etc. You can get lost in there, and forget about the busy city surrounding you!
Q: Describe a typical day for your family, and how your home plays a starring role.
A: Michael doesn’t have to start work until after nine, which means we get to enjoy a family breakfast together before school and work. Some people have family dinners – we have family breakfasts! We all gather in the kitchen in the mornings, and while the kids usually sit at the counter while we make breakfast, we will all sit down at the big table to eat.
Michael usually takes the three bigger kids to school while I stay home with the baby, and then he heads into central London for work and I stay and work from home. I’m lucky to have a little home office in our house where I can sneak off and get some work done while the baby naps or when our babysitter/housekeeper is here. I usually work from 9:00 until 3:00, and then go and pick the kids up from school.
The afternoons are wild in our house when everyone is home; the kids usually play upstairs in the playroom or out in the garden if the weather is nice. I feed them dinner around six, and then when Michael gets home from work, the two of us put the kids to bed and then eat dinner on our own. I like having the time with him to hear about his day and to share about mine.
Q: Speaking of your work, will you tell us a little about your site? From how it’s grown to what it’s become and to what you hope it will turn into. Also, how has blogging for a living affected your family and friendships?
A: Babyccino Kids started as a blog nearly six years ago. It began as a diary between friends living in different European cities, and it evolved over time to be a bit like an online magazine for parents, covering everything from recipes, craft projects, great new products, parenting tips, and interesting articles. Over time, we built up a reputable brand and following, and we decided to start up an online shopping portal to represent a selection of stylish children’s boutiques. If, for example, you’re looking for pretty bedding for your child’s bed, you can come to our site and search in the Décor category to find a selection of wonderful shops selling children’s bedding.
We have essentially taken the hard task of searching out of the online shopping equation, and made it easy for parents to find the best children’s shops online! We would love for it to become the first place parents go when they are shopping for their children; a trusted place to find inspiration and the best online shops. We’re also planning our first ever live shopping event this year in London, and it would be really great if it’s a big success and we can host them in other cities around the world!
Q: How intentional are you in the day-to-day design of your home? And have you found yourself editing your style to accommodate your kids? How has it changed – for the better and for the worse!
A: Michael and I both have an interest in home design, but we have a limited budget so we’re often hunting for the most affordable-yet-stylish options when it comes to decorating our home. We’re always trying to think of creative, affordable solutions for storage, which is something we don’t have much of in this home.
There are a lot of bags, crates, hooks and other storage pieces throughout the house to handle our needs, and I can’t count how many different baskets I’ve scattered around, many of which are holding toys, toys and more toys!
I think the kids have taught me to be more fun and playful in my home design. I love decorating children’s rooms most because you can have more fun with colors and accessories, and the rooms can really be a reflection of the children and their interests.
Q: With four kids, how do you stay organized in your home? We’d love any secrets you could share!
A: I have always been really, really tidy. Even as a little girl, I always made sure my bedroom was immaculate! My mom joked that my sister’s room looked like a tornado swept through it, and mine always looked like I was hosting the queen!
In our house, I am constantly tidying and organizing, and putting things back into place. I let the kids be as messy as they want to be in the playroom and in their bedrooms, but I try my hardest to keep the living spaces as tidy as I can. I swear my brain just functions better and I am a happier mama when things around me are organized.
Also, I’m not a hoarder. I’m a believer of less is more. My closet is teensy; all my clothes fit into that little space to the right of my bed, and I like it that way. I try to minimize the clutter all around the house to keep things more tidy and organized. Most importantly, we have a housekeeper who helps with the cleaning and the laundry. I don’t know how I would cope without her!
Q: What memories do you hope your children take with them from this home?
A: I hope they remember all the fun they had together. I hope my boys remember all the late night chats they had when it was past their bedtime when they should have been asleep. I hope they remember the impromptu dance parties we had in our kitchen, the sunny days spent out in the garden, the wintery days in front of the fire, the morning snuggles in our big bed, long baths in the big bath tub, and of course all the special holidays and celebrations we’ve had here.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? Does your heart break a little at those moments when you realize they’re growing up and there’s no way around it?
A: Because we live in London, so far from family and childhood friends, we have a really strong family unit. It’s really rare that we’re not all together on any given day, and weekends are always spent together. We don’t have any outside obligations or family events to attend.
My children hardly ever ask for play dates because they know they have each other to play with, and I really love how well they play together and how close they all are. I love watching them interact with each other and love seeing the different relationships form between them. How lucky they are to have each other!
My biggest goal as a parent is to raise children who love each other, and who will want to spend time together even when they’re all grown up. Having come from a big family, I am so thankful for my siblings, and I really hope my kids will feel the same way.
And yes, of course, my heart aches every time I think about how quickly time is flying by. I wish I could just slow it all down!
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: Not to stress about the little things so much. To be fair, my parents have always told me this. I just wish I had listened a bit more!
I try to remind myself to relax, slow down, and enjoy the moment without worrying if the house is tidy or if dinner is prepared or if I’ve ticked everything off my to-do list that day. It’s more important to be present in the moment, especially when spending time with the kids.
Courtney, thank you for taking us on a tour of your beautiful life. We happen to share a parenting goal: “…to raise children who love each others, and who will want to spend time together even when they’re all grown up.” There might be days when I don’t fold the laundry or we have scrambled eggs for dinner, but I try to check that objective off my to-do list every day!
Friends, what would you say is your one non-negotiable, get it done every day no matter what goal as a parent?