Living With Kids: Tina Fussell

November 12, 2013

By Gabrielle.

I devour Tina’s blog. (Truth be told, her husband’s site is gorgeous, too.) Tina is an information sharer, through and through. From Vitamin D deficiency to posts detailing how it truly feels like to move abroad to talking about sugar, almost every post feeds questions I didn’t even know I had. I love that. And I adore how her writing style is as calm as her home’s decor. Would you like to see the Fussell home? Let’s do it, then! Friends, please enjoy the tour.

Q: Please tell us who lives in this dreamy home!

A: We are Jack and Tina Fussell and we are Americans living in Copenhagen, Denmark with our three kids, Hailey (12), Parker (8), and Landon (5). Many people know our Traveling Tribe through our blog, Flying House by Traveling Mama where we write about our living abroad with kids, our favorite places to stay, eat, and shop when we travel and also what it is like to create a new home in a new country! We have lived in Copenhagen for three years, but we also lived in Morocco for three years and Spain for two prior to our move here.

Q: How did this house turn into your home?

A: It’s funny because we didn’t even know we were going to move until a month before we moved into our current home with a camera crew from House Hunters International along for the ride to document our 20th move! Our landlord suddenly contacted us asking for his apartment back so we immediately started looking for a new place to live. Even before walking into our town home I knew it was the perfect place for us. Situated in a beautiful neighborhood not far from the city center, with white walls and floors, and loads of light… I was sold! The fact that it had a small terrace and a quiet street for the kids to play on was just icing on the cake.

After saying yes to the house I started to worry a little about how all of our furniture was going to fit into a house with so many angled ceilings, but we made it work and we have loved being here!

Q: You’re American, but you’ve lived all over the world. Morocco! Spain! Please tell us your favorite things about the places you’ve lived. Would you ever go back?

A: Truthfully, I find it difficult to not get emotional when someone asks me this question because I could picture us living out all of our days in all the places we have been. We absolutely loved living in Spain and Morocco, and really struggled through our decision to leave. We loved the Spanish food, the gorgeous architecture, the lively people, and the fact that while living in Barcelona we were sounded by mountains yet lived within walking distance to the beach.

Our time in Morocco was life changing. While learning oral Arabic was one of the hardest things we have ever done, and having to dress so modestly was an adjustment for me, we fell in love with the people. They were precious beyond words, taking us into the hearts and their lives as if we were their own flesh and blood. I loved eating couscous with our friends on Fridays, sipping mint tea and eating homemade butter cookies while chatting about everything from world peace to getting our kids to sleep better at night.

We would happily go back to either place in a heart beat, but for now we know we are meant to be in Denmark, a bittersweet realization for sure.

Q: How do you remake your home every time you move?

A: We have never been the type to sell everything we own and carry nothing to the next place except a change of clothes and a toothbrush. Instead, we are the ones who will research our luggage allowance and max it out with as many little creature comforts as possible ranging from a box of Cheese-Its to scented candles. Not all of our moves have been long term, but we have always brought special artwork and family photos so that we could quickly put something on the walls that felt familiar.

For our kids, we always placed emphasis on their one special bag that they could put anything they wanted in, which always included their favorite blanket and toys. Sometimes that meant bringing along things that I did not necessarily see any value in, such as the cheap plastic Christmas water globe that my daughter insisted on bringing to Morocco, but every year since she tells me how much it means to her to have it with her and I kind of love that.

Q: Why do you love the place you live?

A: I could go on and on for days about all the things I love about Copenhagen. Even though housing, living costs, and taxes are insanely expensive, the trade off is that schooling is free as well as medical care. The architecture is gorgeous with quaint little tree lined streets and colorful historical buildings still very much a part of daily life. Kids are free to roam the streets and there is, at many times, a feeling of almost untouched innocence to life here. (One of the reasons so many moms leave their babies in their prams outside to nap while they enjoy a cup of coffee in a cafe or even shop with a friend!)

Copenhagen is a big city with a small town feel, located on the water and filled with wonderful people who are happy, open minded, and just a little sarcastic. We love it!

Q: Your aesthetic is so pure. And just when I think of you as a white wall decorator, I see your jet black kitchen wall! How do you define your style? 

A: Our time in Denmark has been enlightening for me from a design perspective. Even though my style is very much a blend of all the places we have visited and lived, I have learned to bring everything back to my personal love of modern elegance and simple femininity while being respectful to the fact that my husband and boys have to live here alongside my daughter and me. I love spaces that feel a little dramatic and unexpected, but cozy and inviting, too.

We did not always have the same design perspective, and every month I nearly devour every design magazine I can get my hands on. I’m a total design junkie! Prior to moving to Denmark, I never once thought about painting my walls white, but now I love the staggering simplicity it brings to a space and the beauty of thoughtfully placed items in a room.

Q: How do your kids play a part in your aesthetic? Do you design with their needs in mind? Do they ever ask for a decor change that you can’t say yes to?

A: There is nothing in this world that we love more than being a family, so every room is designed with what each of us needs from the room. I have always tried to purchase toys that our kids will love playing with but will also look fabulous displayed on a shelf. I believe in teaching kids about good design from a young age, but I am not totally against the occasional plastic toy (we just choose to put those things in boxes or cabinets!)

I always consult my kids about their rooms, and after moving so many times I feel it especially important for them to feel at home in their space. My daughter and I shopped together for her new tween room, talking about the colors and how they would play off each other and how she would feel in the space. My older son, Parker, fell in love with his London themed bedding while we were walking through Harrods on vacation and I could not refuse him. I designed the rest of the room around his choice, bringing in his and his brother’s favorite artwork, toys, and books.

Q: Every time I see those brilliant white floors, I wonder about the cleaning of them. Do they mark up easily?

A: The painted white wood floors are a blessing and a curse. I wouldn’t have anything else, but they do demand more cleaning and they scratch and get dinged up pretty easily. I prefer to think of it as patina, and a sign that we don’t take life too seriously. They are brilliant for our photography work and reflect light during the dark months of winter.

Q: What traditions or values do you hope your children carry with them from your life in this home?

A: I hope that they will go into the world always remembering that they are loved beyond comprehension, and that all around them is a world of wonderful and beautiful people who may not all look the same, but are not so different in the things of this life that really matter. I hope they will understand that if they extend love and kindness to others that it will always come back, so sow it freely and wholeheartedly.

I also hope that they will never take for granted the freedom they have, and live with unhindered recklessness to the belief in their own possibilities.

Q: What has been your absolute favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mom?

A: Soon after having my daughter, as I held her and looked down at her beautiful little chubby face, I was suddenly terrified by the realization that she was always going to be with me. I know it sounds somewhat obvious since kids do not normally come with return policies, but for a moment I was scared to death by the idea that there would always be someone there, waiting for my love and attention.

Then in the next moment I was washed over by the powerful realization that I would never be alone. I was hers and she was mine and even death could never separate our hearts. We were bound in the deepest love humanly possible, and I was humbled by the magnitude of something so incomprehensible.

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

A: I wish someone could have convinced me that moving abroad would be harder than anything I could have ever imagined. I wish they could have made me understand that I would be torn apart in every way imaginable while facing illness and heartache and oppression and humility. But I am also kind of glad that they could not convince me because if they had, I would never have appreciated the freedom I have or the kindness of strangers.

I might not have realized how wonderful and perfectly suited my husband and I are for each other, and despite all of the craziness of living abroad with three kids, that we would come to love each other more than we ever thought possible. I would have missed so many victories, so many smiling faces, so many hugs and greetings in so many different languages if I had stayed in my places of comfort, but now I can tell my own children to boldly and courageously live out their dreams, knowing that the path less taken can be tricky and even painful at times, but the reward is ever so sweet.

–-

Thank you, Tina! I have to tell you that your answer to my question about which values you hope your children carry with them was absolutely stunning. “All around them is a world of wonderful and beautiful people who may not all look the same, but are not so different in the things of this life that really matter.”  And then there’s this about your daughter: “I was hers and she was mine and even death could never separate our hearts.” Tina, you should really consider keeping a blog and doing this for a living. Oh, right. You already do!

Friends, have you ever lived overseas? What was the most difficult part about it? And what experience made the biggest impact on you and your world view? I love your traveling stories!

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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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pam G November 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Loved this home tour! There is such wonderful light throughout this entire home and believe it must come from all the love that is in there. I’m definitely with Gabrielle in thinking that Tina’s answer about values is heart-busting.
Happy travels, Fussell family!

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2 JS November 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm

While I have never moved overseas, our family did just move to a new province in Canada. It was a move I did not want to make (change! disruption!) but along the way I have been able to see many good things about upending our peaceful life at home to a new way of life here. One of the things I find most challenging is making new friends – at this stage of life, young family, busy careers, people are busy. Often, the effort of making new friends is not something people are really wanting to dig into. I read Tina’s words with hope – that even with the short time they spent in Spain and Morocco, they made lovely friends who they shared life with! I look forward to that happening for us as well. Thanks for sharing this story!

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3 Jenn November 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I completely know where you’re coming from, JS. We are a young family, my husband and I both work full-time, and we just moved across the United States to the San Francisco Bay Area. While we are getting settled in and love where we have chosen to live, finding friends is proving to be the most difficult thing to do. It’s so easy to insulate yourselves as a family as you explore your new area and so much more difficult to step out of your comfort zone and find friends.

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4 Caitlin November 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm

My husband and I just moved to China about 2 months ago. It has been quite the rollercoaster already. It’s so fun to immerse yourself in a new culture and we love the traveling we get to do and the crazy stuff we see all the time, but it is really hard. We’re definitely learning to just roll with the punches, and focus on the good stuff. A lot of it is stuff you can either laugh at or cry over – we try to laugh. Like the time they served us ‘fat’ and ‘fungus’ for dinner. Ummm, no thank you??? Haha.

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5 Bekah Palmer November 12, 2013 at 7:25 pm

What a beautiful home! I love the simplicity. Often, I wish we could jettison 3/4 of our belongings and just have what we love.

We have lived abroad with our two girls two times. The youngest was born in Taiwan on our first trip. I, too, was often overcome by the kindness of strangers. So many people were patient with me. Our whole family has warm memories of our times abroad, and look forward to someday experiencing it again.

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6 Giao November 12, 2013 at 7:42 pm

When I was in 4th & 5th grades, my parents lived in Dschang, Cameroon. Then while I was in junior high school and part of high school my parents and brother lived in Padang, Indonesia. While I was in high school and college, my parents and brother lived in Lilongwe, Malawi. On summer breaks, I would visit my parents and brother. I would say the most difficult part was learning the language. The experience that made the biggest impact on me and my world view is that wherever you live, you find more commonalities among the different cultures than differences. We all have the same hopes, dreams, and fears. Plus, my geography skills are really good due to visiting a lot of different countries as a kid.

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7 Carly November 12, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I love Tina’s blog. Such beautiful pictures, and inspirational words about living abroad. And I actually found it after watching her HHI episode! And for the record, I saw the Blaire’s in Normandy episode as well, but it wasn’t for another year or so that I found Design Mom and was like, “wait a minute, I recognize her!”

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8 sally November 12, 2013 at 8:09 pm

I love the birdie tablecloth in our dining room! Can I find it in the states?

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9 Shannon { writer + editor } November 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I’m suddenly feeling the urge to paint my bedroom white! Thank you for another great interview–Tina’s comment about her daughter got to me, too.

We’ve never lived abroad, but we spent three weeks in China as part of our adoption process and it was enough to make me dream of spending much bigger chunks of time in other countries! Some day….

I popped over to Tina’s blog and read the Vitamin D post. Thank you for the reminder, which I can’t believe I still need after a lifetime of long winters!

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10 Myla November 12, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Love this house! The black kitchen is such a unique idea and quite a contrast to the rest of the house. Thanks for her sharing her site. I think her blog will definitely be on my to-read list.

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11 Autumn Duke November 12, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Wow, this house is stunning. I love the stark whites. It feels so bright, vibrant, and brilliant. It was fun reading a little about her and her family. I’m excited to add her blog to my reading list and find inspiration from her.

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12 Bek @ Just For Daisy November 13, 2013 at 2:35 am

Beautiful home and lovely sentiment.
I just clicked on a bazillion living with kids links – I know what my evening consists of! :)

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13 Sherri November 13, 2013 at 6:10 am

Gorgeous home. My family moved a lot (overseas and domestically) growing up. Looking back, they were all very beneficial experiences. Anyway – love all the little details in the house…. saw some pointe shoes (as a former dancer, I always notice other “dance people” ;).

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14 Azra November 13, 2013 at 8:36 am

Beautiful home and family. I really admire their courage to have this life style of constant change. Bravo.
Also I love what Tina is trying to teach her kids:”…all around them is a world of wonderful and beautiful people who may not all look the same, but are not so different in the things of this life that really matter.”
Such an inspiration. Thank you.

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15 Sharon @ Discovering Blog November 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm

What gorgeousness! I popped over to her blog, and was quickly sucked in. She easily comes across as a woman you want as a friend.

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16 amyks November 14, 2013 at 10:39 am

I also love the quote about her being a mom for the first time… It was spot on. Her house is gorgeous, and I admire her courage to move frequently into vastly different areas. I have the wanderlust, but lack the wherewithal(that and my husband’s career which prevents it from happening) to pull the trigger and actually do it.

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17 Tove November 14, 2013 at 11:48 am

Oh.my.goodness! This might be my most favorite home tour to date – the beautiful simplicity of white floors and walls had me swooning over every picture. Gorgeous photos and beautiful sentiments in the interview as well. We, too, are an American family living abroad. It is hard, true, but the benefits to be gained far outweigh the difficulties. I love that my daughter will grow up in multiple cultures and hope that it will encourage her to be bold and adventurous in following her own dreams – even (and especially) if they seem a bit scary and overwhelming!

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18 John February 25, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Tina and Jack are missionaries with the International Mission Board. Hopefully they can stay planted for a few years now!

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