By Gabrielle.

Hooray for a fresh start to our Living With Kids tours! Let’s start 2014 with a home I could’ve probably photographed myself as Jessica and her family live in my neck of the woods. They’re renting in the gorgeous area of Cupertino in a Mackay-designed home, which seems to mean that the sunlight slides in so wonderfully throughout the day.

Still, for all the sunshine there’s a tiny bit of rain in the Doll family’s life. But Jessica’s attitude turns those rainy days into another reason to cozy up on the couch with her boys and recognize that there’s beauty in downpours. Great windows and an even greater outlook on life are such gifts, don’t you think? Friends, I’m happy to welcome you to the Doll house! I hope you enjoy it.

Q: Please tell us all about the lovely family who lives in the Doll house!

A: We are a family of four, residing in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. I’m a professional photographer and blogger, and my husband is a Creative Director who loves to build and fly RC helicopters.

We have two sons, Aiden and Søren. Aiden is ten and we just recently found out he is on the autistic spectrum. He’s very focused on robotics and inventions and has a heart of gold. Søren is a very strong-willed and spirited 18 month old. His favorite hobbies include playing with anything that is not a toy, and attempting to fix the TV. Don’t worry! It’s tethered to the studs! We also have a few furry friends: a Pug named Yoda, a Pomeranian named Lily, and an oversized rescue cat named Ellie.

Q: How did this house turn into your home?

A: We are just renting this house, but stumbled across it by way of a photo-less ad on Craigslist. When I came to view the place the first time I immediately started to imagine us living our life together there. The owner is a retired architect and I’m so happy that he’s left the original architectural details of the home in place. I’m a big fan of mid-century modern design and have been let down in the past when owners buy a mid-century modern home and remove things like the large windows or open beams.

Although this home was designed by John Mackay, it has multiple qualities that make it similar to the Eichler homes all over California. We’re very much in love with the inside-outside feel of it and one of our favorite pastimes is to sit and watch the rain through the windows. At night when we’re cozied up on the couch we can also watch the moon rise and make its way across the windows that face west.

The gated courtyard makes a whimsical and safe place for the kids to play. We keep a seasonal garden in the west side yard and I’ve built the kids a sandbox on that side as well. We also added a stock tank pool in the back corner for less than desirable summer days which are gladly few and far between.

Q: What makes you love where you live?

A: We live in Cupertino, California. Its reputation for having great public schools precedes itself. Three of the top five schools in California are here in Cupertino, along with Apple Computers! They are really great for our older son since he receives a lot of help through the public school system.

I love that we are centrally located, too. It takes about 45 minutes by car to get to Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Oakland, and San Francisco. Our specific neighborhood is very walkable, so most of my errands are completed by walking to places nearby. We are at home here, and it makes a nice base to retreat to when we are not on the go.

Q: How do you describe your aesthetic? Do you decorate with your kids in mind? 

A: I don’t feel like I have a specific style. I love mid-century modern, and being of Danish descent, I am in love with Scandinavian design. I try to blend the two in our home and prefer minimal and less cluttered looking rooms. I usually like a nice neutral and sometimes monochromatic palette, but have been known to include more bold clean prints as well.

I try to include items in our home that are meaningful to us. We all have vintage mason jars that store some of our most precious keepsakes and memories. Some corners of our home have been added out of necessity, like the play nook in our office. It is supposed to keep our toddler busy in case I need to answer an e-mail or get any sort of work done while he is awake. It doesn’t always work.

Our house isn’t large, so I don’t do a lot of decorating around the kids as much as I do try to best utilize the space for all of us. The kids don’t have a play room but I’ve got little corners and nooks around to store their toys or art supplies.

The credenza in the dining room hosts all of their art supplies, as well as party supplies, pet food, and candles. It seems like a really odd mix but it works for us in the space. Since Søren still sleeps with us, his clothes and other baby items are stored in half of the hallway closet. His crib is in our room and our older son has their room to himself for now.

When Søren is ready to sleep in a regular bed, I have been thinking about trading rooms with the boys so they can have the larger master suite. We don’t need a lot of space in our bedroom and it would give them a nice big room to play in so we could migrate some of the toys from around the rest of the house.

Q: Where do you find the best design inspiration?

A: Pinterest! Certain design blogs. I also like Apartment Therapy. It’s hard to find something that I feel like is the same as my style since I feel like my style is a blend of a few different styles. It’s easier for me to take elements from an inspirational image and try to work x and y into my home instead of x,y, and z.

Q: You’re a blogger who shares a lot of photos about your kids and daily life together (like a lot of us!). Are you ever concerned about their privacy? Where do you draw the lines?

A: I have been blogging for a very long time, since 1999! The blog that I had from 1999-2005 was much more personal and open than the one that I have now. I used to blog about my daily life in general and was young and dealt with quite a bit of negative feedback from the internet, so I’d like to think that I learned a lot in my early blogging years.

The blog that I have now was created as a way for us to share photos with our far-away families but it has evolved to include our interests as well. Since one of our favorite hobbies is travel, I’ve recently focused it on our adventures in California and beyond. Sometimes I throw in a little bit about our personal lives, but I don’t give day-to-day details and am very careful not to reveal personal information like what school my son goes to or where my husband works.

When we travel I don’t reveal where we are staying or going right at the moment, only after so others can enjoy it as well. I try to keep my blog mostly light-hearted and focused on being more editorial with my photos, instead of with words.

Q: What traditions and memories do you hope your children will carry with them from their childhood house and how you’ve set up their home?

A: I think aside from the obvious cleanliness factor, I hope that my boys always remember that minimalism in the home keeps your mind at peace.

We don’t watch television during the week and always make it a point to eat dinner every night at the table together as a family. It’s important to be able to reconnect with each other at the end of a long day. I feel like it helps to remind you what is most important in life.

Q: If you could give other families style and decor advice, what would it be?

A: Take your time and do what works for your family. Make a list for each room that helps to define what its function is and what the essentials are. Start with those and build your decor around them.

I have spent a lot of time decorating our house with setups that were inspired by something I saw on Pinterest or some quick idea that I had, and sometimes they just don’t work out in the long run. I always end up going back to what works best for our family, and considering our needs in the space.

I think our entry way has changed looks about five times since we moved in. I always get a big idea about what it’s supposed to look like and when it finally does look like my vision, it just doesn’t work out for us. I think how we have it set up right now will work best for awhile since there is space to put the stroller, coats, and shoes.

Q: What is your absolute favorite thing about living with your own kids? What surprised you most about becoming a mom?

A: The constant entertainment factor. One or both of the kids are always doing something to make us smile or laugh. It is just so infectious that you can’t help but join in.

Just the other day our 18 month old learned how to snort like a pig, and probably on the same day our older son got into this mesh tunnel while standing up and was shuffling around like a walking stick. There is never a dull moment when you have as many tiny bodies in a house as we do.

Growing up I always felt like I had a motherly instinct, and now as a professional photographer I feel it as well. I have always felt at ease around kids and often I feel like I’m the type of person who attracts them. I think it has worked out to my advantage; being confident around babies and kids is half the battle.

The stuff that I thought was going to be hard is easy, and the hard stuff is twice as hard as I thought it would be.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: That my kids would be so different. You always hear that kids are all different, but it really takes having two of them to realize just how different they can be. It has been a real struggle to parent a child who needs lots of love and support and who isn’t very outgoing and a child who is very persistent and spirited.

I always thought that since my kids are so far apart in age that it would be a cake-walk to have two, and I can fully admit now that I was so wrong. We’re getting better at it as time goes on, but it has been a definite reality check and a learning experience for our little family.

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Oh, Jessica. It’s always that way, isn’t it? This parenting job surprises me at every corner, and just when I think I have it down there’s a new stage ready to jump out and surprise me!

After brainstorming ways to make The Treehouse bedrooms work for our family, I’m always buoyed when I hear of other creative solutions! I believe you’re the second or third family to switch up the master and the kids’ rooms. Please let us know if you follow through and tell us how it’s working out.

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here