By Gabrielle.

There’s just something so happy about homes-away-from-home. Maybe it’s that they’re used primarily for getaways, so families arrive already excited and optimistic. Or maybe it’s because vacation homes usually aren’t overflowing with the day-to-day equipment and accessories that get us through an average week; instead, there might be a shed full of surfboards, a trunk full of floaties, and a fridge just waiting to be filled with barbecue fixings! Oh, that does sound enticing.

So when Shauna asked whether I’d like to see her family’s home or their getaway, I chose getaway! And I sure liked what she had to say about her Naples cottage.

Welcome, Shauna!

Hello! Welcome to our family of five! I’m a girl in the midst of all boys. I think that God was preparing me for boys as I was growing up, spending my summer days hanging out with my older brother and his friends. We were quite adventurous scaling the sides of cliffs, hiking, swimming in canals, and shooting BB guns. I guess that makes me equipped for boys of my own now!

My husband and I met in college and have been married almost 19 years. Turns out he’s quite the handy guy and can build or help out with any and most of my ongoing, never ending design projects. I got so lucky with him! Our three boys complete our world and we feel so incredibly blessed to be their parents.

Austin is our oldest and is a senior in high school. How is it that I have a man-child that old already? He is so wise and has made parenting a teenager actually quite easy.

Ethan is our middle child and is a freshman in high school. He takes after his dad in that he can build anything and he has already helped out in some of my big design projects, including helping build our bar in our Colorado home. I keep telling him that I need to hire him to be my personal assistant. Of course he asks, “How much will you pay me, Mom?” Is there no such thing as free help these days?

Dylan is our baby and just started middle school. Okay, now I officially feel old since I no longer have any kids in elementary school. Those were such fun days for us! He has a heart of gold and greets us every morning with big hugs. I look forward to those.

Before I started in my design world, I was a neonatal ICU nurse. But once our second child was born, I realized that I just wanted to be home with my boys full time. Those were some of the most rewarding years of my life when they were babies and toddlers.

It was during those days, that I really tapped into my design creativity. I painted every wall in our home, wallpapered ceilings, and learned how to sew custom drapery. Over time, my passion and love for design turned into a side job of interior styling for clients.

Last year, I launched The House of Silver Lining blog with the intention of it being a portfolio of my design work in my home and in clients. The idea of starting a blog really burned in my heart going back to the year we bought our beach cottage in Naples, Florida. This home inspired me in so many ways and I wanted to share our journey over there with everyone. It’s quite the story.

We live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but have been blessed to have this vacation home in Naples. I lived in Naples in my early twenties while attending college for a few years, so this little beachside community has always been near and dear to my heart. Eight years ago, after taking my husband and the boys on our first vacation to Naples, my husband and I decided that this would be the place we would want to have our boys build childhood memories. A place to build family vacation memories. A home where they would spend holidays and long, hot summers. So very different from Colorado. I guess you could say we really live in the best of both worlds.

After that first family vacation to Naples, we returned once again for a fast weekend of touring over 20 homes that were on the market. I had seen our little cottage online before going, but unfortunately it wasn’t anywhere near our price range so I told myself to move on. However, our realtor still encouraged us to go see this little gem because sellers in the area we’re willing to drop their prices. So we set up the showing and when I woke up that morning I was feeling giddy just knowing I could actually go see this adorable little house, even though I knew it was only a dream to own.

We loaded the boys in the car who were three, five, and eight years old at the time, and we drove to the house. When we pulled up to the brick paver wraparound driveway, my heart literally skipped a beat when I saw the white picket fence. At that moment, I knew I had to have this home. We didn’t want to buy just any home. There were plenty of homes on the market at the time in much better condition and that needed hardly to no updating all, completely move-in ready. To me, that felt boring and my husband and I both wanted a project home. One that we could put our personal touch on over the years.

That day, as I walked through this sweet 2600 square foot home built in 1964, which I refer to as our beach cottage, I fell completely in love with its charm. The yard was so big and green and nothing like we have in Colorado. Our boys were out in the yard picking the grapefruit and avocados off of the fruit trees, and it was at this moment that I could see them growing up here.

Yes, we knew that this home would need work…a lot of work.  The roof was old, the pool was crumbling, it even had mold and termites. Yet, I could see the diamond in the rough and I knew it was worth restoring.

The past eight years have been filled with frequent trips to our little cottage with family and friends. The memories we have there are priceless. We’ve been through some really tough times as well during the renovations. My husband, bless his heart, spends a lot of our vacation time there just repairing things that are falling apart and even huge jobs like trenching our front yard and replacing all the old plumbing that the tree roots were growing into. This past year, we did a complete house renovation from the inside/out and now we can breath a sigh of relief that all the big projects are behind us. Now we can truly enjoy our little gem and relax like we should be on vacation…until the next project cultivates in my mind.

Naples is situated right along the gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida. What I love most about this area is that it truly is so beautiful. The beaches are clean with light color sand. We have a private beach area less than a mile from our home. We love to hop on our bikes and ride to the beach along beautiful tree lined streets with gorgeous homes in all styles and sizes. The landscaping is truly a work of art! The restaurants are such a treat and our favorite little spot is walking along 5th Ave in Old Naples. Our boys love to fish and they love to fish off of the pier, beach, or an occasional deep sea excursion.

Every time we arrive at the cottage after being gone a couple of months or sometimes even longer, we love walking into a home and seeing memories of the past. Right after we purchased the home, Dylan, who was three at the time yelled, “Honey, we’re home!” when we walked through the front door. I have no idea why he said that at the time, but it has stuck and now every time we arrive, someone yells, “Honey, we’re home!”

Photos of the first year we bought the home, filled with memories  of our boys on the beach adorn our walls and remind us of how many years we’ve been coming back to this special place. Collections of the hundreds of seashells gathered off our beach from our walks are collected in jars and trays throughout the home. Old furniture we bought our first summer there when we moved in with nothing but a blow-up air mattress in our suitcase still stand in every room of the home.

Although we renovated it last year, I still held on to those sentimental pieces like our blue antique dresser in our living room and my youngest son’s tiny antique rocking chair that he claimed at a local thrift store. The books the boys have read over the years still remain in baskets beside the sofa in the family room. I hold onto sentimental things quite dearly and I think this has been passed down to our boys as well. They love to return to the cottage and explore their storage bins in their bedrooms that hold trinkets they’ve collected over the years.

Our beach life is quite different than our Colorado life. When we are at the cottage, we are taking a break from our normal busy lives. This is where we can take pause in life and enjoy stepping back from the normal hustle and bustle. Granted, as the boys are older, it is more difficult to get away here as often as we used to. With their busy school and sports schedules our time here definitely is not as frequent as it was when they were much younger. But we know that this is always a place we can escape to and relax when we can break away.

Since Naples is a prime spot for seasonal rental, we now rent our home during high season which is January through March or April. That has been nice since it offsets the costs of maintaining the home and keeps the home alive while we’re not there. We have a property management company that handles all the renters, which is nice since I couldn’t ever be a landlord.

Owning a vacation home, especially one that is 3,000 miles away like ours is, can have it’s challenges and expenses. Even though we are not in the home all the time, our air conditioner has to run year round. It’s hot and humid year round in Naples, so keeping the home cool enough and the inside humidity level low is absolutely necessary to prevent mold. We also have a lawn maintenance company that manicures our yard every week. Everything grows like weeds in Florida so lawn maintenance is an absolute must.

Fortunately, we formed a relationship very early on with our lawn guy who does more than take care of our yard. He really looks out for the home and we can count on him if anything urgent arises. Actually, one year we had winds so high that it snapped one of our large trees in half. Our awesome neighbors called us right away (they keep watch on our home, too) and then the next day our lawn guy had it all cleaned up and repaired my beloved white picket fence that had been damaged by the tree. We’ve been really lucky to have him.

There is expense in watering the yard daily, too. Even though Southwest Florida gets a lot of rain, especially in the summer, the grass, trees, and shrubs still need routine watering. Likewise with the pool, we have weekly maintenance on that. It’s kind of funny that our cottage is actually more maintenance than our Colorado home. Some may even think we are crazy to own a home so far away.

I definitely love a well styled home that looks pretty but I also believe in comfort and functionality, especially with three boys. We have a white sofa, but it is slip-covered so throwing it in the wash for a quick clean is easy! I like to add a sense of nostalgia to every room like I mentioned before. Collected seashells, art made by the boys, family photos are scattered in each room.

This home is much more easy living than our Colorado home. My dining room chairs are old and thrifted. So many times we come in from the pool with towels wrapped around us to eat a quick lunch. I don’t worry about ruining the chairs with damp towels. I know that I can easily recover the seat cushion down the road if need be. I want our home to be livable and comfortable both for our family and for when extended family and friends come to visit.

The boys have always been raised in homes that I have decorated and they have been taught good manners in respecting the home. Many ask how I keep my home so clean with boys. Well, I don’t think that boys are the only messy ones — girls can be just as messy, if not more. I believe in teaching your children when they are young the rules of the home.

Our rules are no shoes in the house, no jumping on the furniture, and no eating on the furniture other than foods that won’t stain like popcorn for those fun movie nights. Our home definitely does not always look like it does on the blog in the photos. We live in our home. That means the pillows on the sofa are most often thrown on the floor and the ottoman may be scooted out of the way for games to spread out on the rug.

Although having a well designed home is so very important to me, I don’t want it to be stuffy where my boys would only have memories of a home they couldn’t live freely in.

The beach cottage furniture is cozy which is important for all the movie nights. The rugs are inexpensive because I realize that spills can happen. I don’t believe that a home has to be filled with expensive items to look good. Our beach cottage is the perfect example of that with the eclectic look of thrift store furniture combined with new pieces.

My best secret for styling my home memorably, especially for my boys, is to keep sentimental items they’ve made on display. Not every art class vase from school is on display but maybe one item from each child. I love to watch my boys randomly walk by that piece and pick it up and say, “I remember when I made this for you, Mom.” I think it’s important for kids to know that they can contribute to the story of the home design.

I love to pull out old framed photos of them for the holidays, too. The first Christmas at our beach cottage we didn’t have anything to decorate our tree with. So one day we walked to the beach and gathered a ton of sand dollars that happened to be all over the shore that day. We strung some twine through each sand dollar and have had those be the only ornaments on our tree every year since. The boys love pulling them out of the storage box and reminiscing about that day we discovered them all on the beach. I believe it’s so important to fill your home with pieces of sentimental value because those are what hold the stories.

When our boys grow up and start families of their own, I hope they can fondly look back at the many years spent at the beach cottage. Our hope is that they will want to bring their own families here one day. A lot of firsts happened in this home…

Our youngest learned how to ride his bike along our brick driveway and our oldest took his first roller blading venture down our tree-lined street. They learned how to fish and identify the different species. This home has been a place of discovery and exploring. Picking the fruit off of the trees and making fresh squeezed orange juice from our baby oranges is one of my fondest memories. Swimming in the pool on Christmas day, while there was a blizzard back home in Colorado, is up there, too.

Not all memories are the best, however. At one point, I remember and I know the boys will never forget, I wanted to burn the house down. This was before we renovated it. All in one night, the plumbing backed up making the toilets overflow, flooding the bathrooms all while the termites came back in full force swarming the house. That was a breaking moment for me when I didn’t want the house anymore (after owning it for five years). But I’ll never forget the tears and pleas of my young boys begging me not to sell the house because they had too many good memories here. At that point, I knew that this home was special to them, as well. The next year we started planning the renovations AND got rid of the termites. Thank goodness!

I think our boys have learned some really good life lessons through this journey of owning a second home. Yes, it is a wonderful blessing to have this home and one that not many people can say they have. We don’t undermine that privilege by any means. My husband owns a business and is the hardest working man I’ve ever known. He has taught our boys that hard work can be exhausting but also rewarding. Our boys have watched him tackle everything that went wrong with the cottage head-on and with integrity.

I wish I was as patient as he was with all the mishaps we’ve had with this home. The day the toilets overflowed and the termites arrived, I admit, I kind of lost it! He did the opposite. He grabbed towels, cleaned up the mess, rented a plumbing snake, and fixed the plumbing clog which was tree roots, and then proceeded to shower and clean up to take us all out to a nice dinner. How does one do that? But that is my husband.

He’s a hard worker and believes in fixing and tackling projects himself if he has the time to do so. I hope our boys grow to be like him someday. I hope they forget how I cried and said I wanted to burn the house down and remember how their dad tackled the problem with his own skill and saved us a ton of money by not hiring a plumber.His resourcefulness has served us well and a trait that I can see appearing in our boys. For that, I’m very grateful.

Being a mom is the most undeniable affection of my heart. I think as parents we feel it is our job to teach our children and that they should learn from us. I have learned the opposite of that. They have taught me in so many ways! To love in a way I’d never known. They have opened my mind to think in ways its never thought before. I see life differently now, through the eyes of a mother.

Most importantly, I hope our boys always remember how much we value family and spending time with each other. Life is busy but it is so important to break away and spend time with your kids. Even if it’s going for a walk, hike, bike ride, or playing a game.

That is why our cottage place is so special to us: we have uninterrupted time with one another. I cherish walking on the beach with just one of our boys and getting into their heart. I’ve found that they open up more when we are actively moving. If I corner them in their room and say let’s chat, they cringe. I don’t like to fish, but I love sitting on the beach by my son’s side watching him fish. Those quiet moments are absolutely priceless.

I realize now, having a son who is almost 18, that time does go by so fast and that our children grow up before we know it. Looking back, I wish I would have paused even more for those moments with my boys. Getting through those young baby and toddler years was exhausting but I’d do it all over again if I could. My husband would tell you the same.

Being a mom of all boys is heart-melting and it also keeps me adventurous. They challenge me to go beyond my comfort level with outdoor excursions. I love it though because it keeps me feeling young. They are the greatest joy to me.

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Shauna, I loved hearing about your beach cottage and the memories you’ve made there. Even when things go awry, and your vacation time turns into “THIS HOUSE WAS THE WORST DECISION WE’VE EVER MADE!” It’s all part of the memories, isn’t it?

Has anyone else dipped their toes into vacation property? How did you fit it into your budget? Is it as dreamy as you thought, or have there been some nightmares? I’d sure love to hear your experiences and feelings about your home-away-from-home. (You already know our story!)

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.