Carla sent me the most stunning photos of her home, and I loved every single one. But then she wrote back right away and asked “Did I erase too much of my kids in those photos?” That was something she didn’t want to do, no matter how gorgeous the pictures. I assured her we would understand, especially since there are a lot of good ideas to take from this tour.
Like the large table just behind the couch, perfect for projects and so much more useful with kids than a simple sofa table, right? Or the floor-length tablecloth on the dining table; how many instant forts do you think Evelyn and Wren enjoy on a daily basis? Oh, and the master tub. Yes, I believe living with kids would be so much fun – especially at bath time – in a home like the Macklin’s. You’ll see, I hope! Friends, please enjoy the tour!
Q: Please tell us all about this pattern-perfect family!
A: Our family includes my husband, Craig, six-year old Evelyn, three-year old Wren, and Cali the mutt. Craig works for a thriving manufacturing company here in Cleveland selling vibrators of the industrial sort. He is an ever-faithful supporter of the Cleveland Browns and is dreaming of summertime when the golf course isn’t covered by deep snow. I’m continually amazed at his puzzle proficiency and his willingness to try the most unusual foods. I’ve known Craig since we were 15 and both competitive swimmers, a hobby both of us have happily dropped after too many years breathing chlorine.
Evelyn is absorbing every bit of information she can in Kindergarten and loves ice skating, swimming, and crafts. Wren is into puzzles like her dad and is begging for gymnastic lessons. The girls are usually great friends when they aren’t bickering over who is the kid in the make believe game they call “Kid.” Cali, the chocolate lab mix, is our neglected first-born, adopted immediately after leaving San Francisco eight years ago.
As for me, I spend my time running after the girls and growing an indie clothing pattern company, Clever Charlotte, that my partner Erin and I started three years ago. You can find me most evenings after the girls go to bed in my sewing room, working on a project for Clever Charlotte or making something fun for myself to wear. I really consider my sewing more of an obsession than a hobby or career.
Q: How did you find your current home?
A: Last summer, we moved from a neighboring community to Shaker Heights, the century-old suburb of Cleveland where both Craig and I spent our childhoods. Our previous home – a traditional brick, center hall Colonial – lacked casual family spaces, so we were drawn to this relaxed open-concept home built in 1959. When our old house sold quickly, we had to scramble to find something we could put our mark on and would work for our kids. After looking at some serious fixer-upper houses with soaked basements and crumbling walls, we chose one that basically just needed cosmetic work. This allowed us to get our kids settled without too much disruption.
Our renovations included a full gut of the master bath, and replacing or refinishing all the floors on the first floor. We also painted, built cabinets, and laid carpets. The kids rolled with it and were very entertained by the wonderful contractors we had working on our home. Our most exciting moment in our renovations was uncovering original terrazzo flooring beneath disgusting pet-stained carpeting in our TV room. While I wasn’t certain I wanted to keep the terrazzo, Craig talked me into making the floors work with our design plan. Once refinished, they shine like a mirror and provide a nice dappled texture to the room. They are also great for dance parties.
Q: What were your goals aesthetically with this home? Where did you find the most inspiration?
A: Our last home was so much more traditional that I felt like I was holding my breath when I attempted to make a change to it. No matter what I did to it, the layout was never right for us. Our subterranean family room never had any natural light, and our formal living room was hardly used. When we moved into our current house it was like taking a big exhalation! Finally we had a comfortable layout that was open and welcoming with all the practical necessities like large closets and a mudroom/laundry off the kitchen.
I think houses built in the mid-century are much more accommodating to change and really contribute to family interaction. With the open concept, I never feel too far from the kids.
As for inspiration, Craig and I love visiting the terrific local antique stores and thrift shops. There’s nothing more inspiring than finding an old cast-off gem that fits a purpose in your home. Every room in the house contains things that are vintage, thrifted, cast off by a relative, or picked up from the side of the road. I also adore all the online and print design resources for inspiration including Lonny, houzz, Apartment Therapy, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, and all my back issues from Domino Magazine.
Q: Do you specifically decorate with your kids’ taste and joy in mind?
A: Absolutely, especially when it comes to their rooms. I worked their favorite colors – pink and purple – into their bedrooms at their request. There is plenty of storage in each of their rooms for all the knickknacks they accumulate, and mirrors and hooks are hung low for easy access.
Across the hall they have a playroom that is intended to contain most of their toys and is the perfect space to build a fort. I like that this house has dedicated spaces for them but the rest of the house is very kid-friendly, too, without being pink and purple. That’s where I draw the line. I think we have created a colorful, functional space on the first floor that is comfortable for them without being a fairy princess wonderland.
Occasionally the girls offer a great design perspective. On a recent thrifting expedition, Evelyn found a great cactus-themed oil painting for her room, and Wren a little mid-century chrome child’s chair that needed just a tad bit polishing and some new fabric to make it shine. The chrome seat now has a place of honor in our TV room.
Q: What makes you love where you live?
A: I think Cleveland is the perfect place to raise kids. As I mentioned, both Craig and I were born and raised here. After moving away for college, we spent five years in San Francisco. We absolutely adore SF but it wasn’t a place either of us could envision having our children grow up. We moved back eight years ago and are finding the city has everything we could need: amazing restaurants, museums, farmers markets, an orchestra, sports teams, and architectural history.
I love how every day I leave my house and bump into people I know. I am convinced all Clevelanders operate within two degrees of separation from one another. This area is full of educated and interesting people, many of whom are boomerangers like us, having left Cleveland at one point in their lives but returned to raise children or enjoy the city’s amenities.
Cleveland is also very accessible in price and layout, and there is hardly any traffic! The cost of living in Cleveland is so much less than other cities that it allows us to own a beautiful home while leaving some room in the budget to travel to warmer parts when the weather acts up like it has this winter!
Q: Tell us about Clever Charlotte. What was your inspiration in starting the company, and what has it given back to you professionally and personally?
A: Right after Wren was born, Erin approached me with the idea of starting a clothing pattern company geared to making sewing patterns for modern children. Despite being in the throes of Wren’s infancy, I still needed outlets for creative energy. I had been designing toddler clothes for Evelyn and figured that if this business didn’t work out, at least I’d have fun making clothes for the two cutest girls I know. What I didn’t realize until later was how important the business was to my psyche. I feel strongly that being a mother should not be my only definition, and I’m not happy unless my fingers are moving.
Over the past three years it has been exciting to watch our patterns go global. Who knew that the Aussies were such huge sewers? Clever Charlotte has a portfolio of 14 clothing patterns with two more in the works. I’ve had to learn a new set of skills with this business and have realized many new strengths. I’ve also uncovered many of my own weaknesses as well! Luckily Clever Charlotte is a partnership, and Erin and I can count on each other to fill in the other’s gaps. We hope that the business continues to thrive for the foreseeable future.
Q: When does your home work best?
A: The home works best when it’s full of people. We had several gatherings over the holidays, and it was so nice to see people congregating in multiple areas on the first floor without being too far from other conversation groups. The large picture windows are my favorite part of the home, allowing light to stream into all the living areas at the back of the house. Because of the South-facing orientation, they act as anti-depressants in the winter! And in the summer, we will keep the sliding door open most of the time allowing the backyard to feel like an extension of the living areas.
Q: What has been the absolute best thing about living with your kids? What do you already miss as they get older?
A: We are so lucky to have such sweet and thoughtful girls. I love hearing the questions they ask (when the question isn’t “Are we there yet?”) and it’s amazing to watch them play happily together. I love story time when we all pile into our bed and take turns reading. They are just joyous children that are so easy to live with.
While sometimes they wake us earlier than we’d like, the best thing part of my day is hearing them pitter-patter down the hall to our room and seeing their faces first thing in the morning. They wake up so excited and ready to start the day. I hope that youthful excitement continues forever.
Q: What do you hope your kids remember about this home? Their childhood? And you as their mom?
A: I hope that they remember the games they play together using the home as a prop, like when they play camping in the dark closets with glowing flashlights as the campfire, or using the terrazzo floor as a stage for an original production. I want them to remember having a cozy fire and roasting marshmallows indoors. I want the vegetable patch we plan to plant this summer to hook them on tending a garden. I want them to be able to close their eyes when they are 45 years old and picture the Christmas tree in the corner of the living room.
I hope all their friends want to hang out at our house when they reach the teen years. I hope the home makes them feel safe and loved and inspires them to be creative. I hope they remember me as a better mom than I am. I hope they will someday understand how much love a mother can have for her children.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: I wish someone had told me about how massive love is for a child. Well, I’m sure someone did tell me, but it really means nothing until you are a parent and totally engulfed in the feeling. It continues to surprise me how that massive love morphs into fear and tears and worries, but it really is the most wonderful thing to love and be loved by your children.
Oh, Carla. Thank you so much. All that you hope your girls remember about you and your home, but especially you, just melts me. It’s all so wonderful. Especially “I hope they remember me as a better mom than I am.”
Friends, do you ever worry that your décor choices are erasing all signs of kids living in your house? Or is it the complete opposite situation, with your children’s belongings overtaking every room? Tell us your secrets on merging your styles and stuff, will you?