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A Few Things

September 26, 2014

Design Mom Living Room

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How’s it going? Any weekend plans you’re looking forward to? We’re thinking of our European kids this weekend, because Ralph is headed from England to France tomorrow. He’ll be in the same town, and attend the same school as Olive, but they’ll be living with different families. Oh man, the thought of them getting to see each other on most days makes me super happy, and is somehow hugely comforting. Which reminds me, I should totally share an update about how both Olive and Ralph are doing — hopefully next week!

Beyond thinking of my kids-across-the-ocean, my weekend will be mostly taken up with responding to copy edits on four of my book chapters. Anytime there’s a circumstance that requires me to make a ton of purposeful decisions all at once (like when we cleared out our storage unit in Colorado), I have to really psyche up for it and getting in a particular frame of mind. A thousand decisions that need to be made during a short time period is so overwhelming to me! It’s the exact opposite of busy work, and I find it completely exhausting. I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Before I dig in to my book work, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- I totally need this — Pep talk of the week!

- I had no idea Bridge to Terebithia was a frequently banned book.

- To mark National Public Lands Day, all National Parks are free on Saturday. Woot!

This restaurant wants to be the worst-reviewed on Yelp.

- Did you get a chance to see Emma Watson’s UN speech? Any thoughts?

- The best built-in beds for kids.

- DIY jump rope. (I love jumping rope.)

- Murder in a time before Google.

- Meta Coleman’s class on Creative Children’s Spaces looks so good.

- The A-Z of dance.

- Dying to try a pair of these drapey pants from Banana Republic — they look comfy as sweats, but elegant too! There’s a code to get a discount — use BEHERENOW to get $25 off of every $100 you spend.

- It’s Like They Know Us. So many good ones, but this might be my favorite: ”Oh, really? My little guy never fusses at mealtime. Have you tried feeding him on a white couch?”

I hope you have a fantastic weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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By Gabrielle.

Is it just me, or are we all a bit fascinated with New York? I know so many people who either reminisce fondly about their time in The Big Apple, or else dream about someday living there. And tell the truth: When you hear the first few chords of New York, New York, you can’t help but belt out all the lyrics, right?

LaTonya Staubs lives a colorful life in Brooklyn. From the red and white polka dotted rug to turquoise chairs and on to orange spotted walls, this is an explosion of creativity. And yet, it’s still a calm from the storm that is the city, just outside their front door. That’s a trick that requires constant attention to balance and intention. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from this designer, mama, and lovely blogger. Friends, please welcome LaTonya!

Q: Tell us all about your family. (Also, your babes have such unique names, so please share how you chose them!)

A: My family and I live in Brooklyn, NY in a small and loving space. We started our family at a pretty young age, by total surprise. I was 21 and Peter was 24. River was and is still the most amazing surprise!

Before I got pregnant with her, Peter and I were young people just having fun in the city. There was always a party or show to attend, and my life was pretty much the typical life for a girl just barely out of her teens working and living in the city. I wanted a peaceful pregnancy and baby, after all the hoopla. I also wanted a baby girl with a unisex name, so she wouldn’t be judged about a job etc. before others ever met her. It goes so well with her personality.

We came up with Oak after I had already lost a baby well into my second trimester. I went into my pregnancy with him incredibly nervous and private, with a lot of feelings, and not knowing exactly how to sort through them. I soon realized that the insecurity after getting pregnant after a loss like that doesn’t just go away. All I could do was share my feelings with friends, and later with blog readers. I wanted to be strong and I wanted my baby to be strong. I knew if he made it through all the endless high risk appointments and past that 24 week mark he would be strong. Oak is a representation of that strength, like an Oak tree.

River’s room and those orange spotted walls, just ahead!

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Living With Kids: Agnes Hsu

September 16, 2014

By Gabrielle.

Agnes would be a lovely friend to have, I think. She owns a cupcake shop, is a family photographer, and also runs a kids’ creative site. Life with her must be sweet, DIY divine, and photogenic. (As an extra bonus, she lives in my neck of the woods, so I call dibs!)

But with all those professional endeavors, something’s gotta give, right? If you’re struggling with your own overwhelming schedules, you might like to hear how Agnes deals with it all. From the division of duties, scheduled personal times that refuel the family’s energy levels, and effective out-sourcing, it’s good stuff. Friends, please meet Agnes! Hello, Wonderful!

Q: We can’t wait to meet you all!

A: Hi! I’m Agnes Hsu, mom to two feisty kids who keep me on my toes: Alia, five and a half, and Kian, who is three and a half. I’m married to my college sweetheart, Tim. We’ve been married for 12 years and together for 18, which seems like a lifetime but it’s all flown by so quickly!

I’m the entrepreneurial/creative spirit in the household. I run on energy and am a non-stop person. I’m an introvert by nature and don’t enjoy small talk, but can talk for hours one-on-one with someone because I love getting to know people from the inside. I’m inspired by those who take chances and have gone through trials in their lives. I am an avid reader, particularly biographies and memoirs. I’m typical type A, compulsive and frenetic. But thankfully, my husband Tim balances that out.

He’s an extrovert, super friendly, and people generally love him upon first meeting. He’s solid, laid-back, and is the most optimistic person I’ve ever met. Our interests couldn’t be more different, too. He’s very much into technology and works in marketing at Twitter, and just prior to that he was at a gaming company. He’s extremely witty, funny, and a hoarder, whereas I’m serious and a neat freak who is scared of clutter. It’s a miracle we are married!

Our kids are the center of our amusement and love. Interestingly, they are also polar opposites like my husband and I. My little girl is like a mini-me. She loves arts and crafts, creative projects, and is also super neat (actually loves to clean her room!) and enjoys baking/cooking in the kitchen as much as I do. She’s also on the shy side and it takes her a while to warm up to people, but once she does she can’t keep quiet around them.

Pretty scenes and worthwhile words, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Jylare Smith Photography.

No matter how many times I read Elle’s words, they still make my heart lose a few pounds of worry and stress. If you’re feeling like you’ve not enough space in your home or too much chaos in your life or even too much fear creeping into your parenting style, read this. I promise you’ll feel the warmth, gratitude, and sincerity with which she tries hard to surround herself daily.

In short, I really like Elle. I hope you do, too.

Q: Tell us all about your family.

A: My husband, Jared, is a surfer boy from Southern California. Half of my childhood was spent in the swamplands of Texas and the other half in the mountains of Utah. We married while we were still just babies eight years ago. We finished our degrees together, have had three children (Lucy is five, Solomon is three, and Frances is three months) and run a baby carrier business called Solly Baby from our 740 square foot home on 3/4 of an acre in North County San Diego. Somehow, we’re still pretty crazy about each other. Or maybe we’re just crazy. Either way, I think we’ve got a good thing going.

Lucy is our fiercely independent, creative spirit. She can be found thinking of sad things just so she can watch herself cry in a mirror, carrying around her chicken “Cloudy” like she is a doll, and scrambling eggs for lunch for herself and her little brother. At her dance recital this year, she told me she “enjoyed being on the stage, but next year would rather do something ‘freer’ and maybe even a little bit ‘wild.’” Yeah, she’s amazing.

Solomon is pure energy and laughs. He was almost kicked off of his soccer team this year for repeatedly spanking the coach’s bum as well as gymnastics for coming up with (what I would call “creative”) alternative uses for the apparatuses. He can be found kissing his baby sister every. waking. minute. He’s always telling me to not be so “serwius” and he’s got a thing for superheroes, being strong, and the music from Les Mis.

Effortless and airy, coming right up. Breaths of fresh air included!

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DIY: Cement Pencil Holder

August 25, 2014

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie. // This post is brought to you by Office Depot. #TeachersChangeLives and so can you! Go here to find out more.

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It’s official: a new school year is upon us! And like many kids, my children have the itch to make something for their new teachers. A drawing, a little piece of origami, a sweet note. Of course, I always wonder if there’s something we can add, something to go along with the little note or drawing, that their teacher will find useful. A gift card so that their teachers can buy supplies for the classroom is always helpful, but if you’re in the making sort of mood (I am!), I thought this cement desk organizer fits the bill very nicely.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

The project incorporates two of my favorite things — fresh school supplies, and cement. Best of all, it’s not just for pens and pencils. This handsome + utilitarian item can be designed to hold any number and any size of desk accessories. The style and layout is all up to you!

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Don’t be anxious about working with cement for this project. Yes, it requires concentration and muscle (which surely you have in spades), and an odd combination of working fast and waiting. But the end product is worth it. These heavy duty holders would look handsome on any desk!

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Plus, there are lots of ways to include the kids on this project, from gathering supplies, to stirring cement, to decorating the dried organizer with Sharpies (we used silver).

Ready to get to work? Let’s go.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Gabrielle. Milk bottle macarons via Raspberri Cupcakes.

There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to childbirth methods — and the opinions don’t stop after delivery! Whether from well-meaning friends and family, the latest issue of a parenting magazine, or even complete strangers at the grocery store, the opinions come. And they often bring a dose of parenting guilt with them. Worst of all, is when the reigning advice, guidance, or child-rearing tradition doesn’t work for your baby or your family. We’ve talked about it before, but it’s a great reminder at any stage of life: Sometimes, what is best for most might not be best for you. And that’s perfectly okay.

In Danielle‘s case, it was all about the breastfeeding. Some of us have been in the same spot as Danielle, some of us have had the completely opposite experience. I think, however, there’s a lesson here that everyone can relate to. Please enjoy Danielle’s story.

Danielle’s touching story, just ahead.

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By Gabrielle. pray4trax necklaces available in the little vikings Etsy shop.

Oh, goodness, but I enjoy browsing through Kassi Bacquet‘s life with her five lovely babes. Her experience began with the birth of her son when she was in high school and ends with the arrival of twins, one of whom was born with a fatal genetic disease. I thought we could all glean a lesson or two from this mama, especially the honesty and grace she carries with her daily. Please enjoy her words, Friends!

Q: Tell us about you and your beautiful family! 

A: Gosh, my husband and I are both thirty-four and very young at heart. I had Tyler at sixteen, so he and I have always been pretty close…although now that he’s a teen and almost seventeen, he has far less time for dear old mom! We have a lot of dance parties at home with my two daughters – Tannyn, who is nine, and Tayli, who is six – and the twins, Tavvi and Trax, who are 19 months. Our home is loud, crazy, and wild almost all of the time! It’s never quiet until the kids are in bed.

We’re a family of surfers. Dan, my husband, and the three older kids surf competitively here on the gulf coast. We love the beach and now that the babies are older, they are surfing, too.

A birth and a diagnosis and a gorgeous shot of Kassi with her twins, just ahead.

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Garden Hideaway   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle (some of the photos were by Ben Blair too!). This project is brought to you by Lowe’s. Find everything you need to bring sunshine to your Mother’s Day in the Lowe’s garden department. #springiscalling

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I prefer a really low-key Mother’s Day, with my big request being that I get to sleep in. : ) But this year, I thought it would be fun to use Mother’s Day as an excuse to get a project done in the yard. I know I’ve been sharing lots of photos of the interior of our house over the last few weeks. But wrapping up the living room details marked a break in the interior work for awhile. Spring is here, and we’ve turned out attention to the yard. And the yard definitely needs attention!

Garden Hideaway   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

It is a wild, wild place. Last summer, just days after we moved in, we had a consultation from a tree expert and his landscaping crew. He told us that based on the layer of accumulation on the ground, he thought the yard hadn’t been touched for 20 years! I can totally understand that. The previous owners were in their 90′s, and it’s overwhelming to take care of. Plus, the wildness has its own beauty, and it can be appreciated simply by sitting on the decks that surround the house and taking in the view.

I confess, I am very intimidated by our yard. Tackling the interior is doable for me, but making a master plan for the yard requires a skill set I don’t have. So we intend to contact a landscape architect who will help us draw up a garden design — some thing that incorporates our ideas, plus the realities of the landscape and climate. We’d like the design to be something we can implement over a few years so we can budget accordingly.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

But in the meantime, we don’t want to ignore the yard, so we’ve been slowly, but surely cleaning up the thick layer of sticks and leaves and nature, and adding it to the community compost. And as we clean up, we get to know the property a little better, and get ideas of how we can make the most of it.

Off to one corner is a little shady grove that we thought had potential as a sort of hideaway — a place that’s off the main paths of the yard, where we could go to get a break from the sometimes-chaos that is life with a big family.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

So we started clearing it out. The whole family helped. We dragged fallen branches and lopped off dead ones. We raked and shoveled leaves. We climbed into the trees to shake down the fallen Eucalyptus bark that was caught in the branches overhead. The castoff pile grew and grew until it was about 6 feet high and 8 feet long and five feet wide. It was an impressive pile! And proof of the work we’d done. We we’re proud of it! But only for a couple of days — and then we hired a team to come clear that pile out. It was a bigger job than we could do ourselves.

Once it was cleared out, the little grove was really shaping up! With the old growth gone, the sunlight could filter through the leaves, and there were now pathways to access the clearing.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

Now it was time to make it pretty.

Click through for more photos and details.

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By Gabrielle.

Never before have I asked a Living With Kids tour guide about her family and received a response like Nell‘s. It’s beyond lovely and lucky and all those words we use when someone is exactly where they should be in life!

And this house! Oh, what a house. In my imagination, Nell’s family home is just like the one in the game of Clue, come to life. (My best guess is James in the Music Room with a cello!) All of it is so interesting to me, from the family input into decor to the incredible sense of deja vu that must happen on a daily basis. Please, please enjoy this tour and help me welcome this sweet – and growing – family!

Q: Please tell us about you and yours!

A: My whole family includes this clan of our parents, beloved four siblings, their partners, and their kiddos. We’re Irish Catholic and were raised to be fiercely loyal, and very much involved in one another’s lives. My parents have been together for 40 years this year! Both are doctors – dad a gastrointerologist and mom a psychologist. My eldest sister and her partner live in Minneapolis and are true urban farmers. My second eldest sister is a social worker who specializes in older adults and little kiddos, her nieces and nephews benefitting from her proximity of living in the Twin Cities as well; she’s the auntie who teaches them about the periodic table and splatter paint! The sister right above me is our New York star, a graphic designer turned herbalist whose organic skincare line is fabulous. Her husband has opened two successful bar/gastro-pubs in Manhattan and is burgeoning on his third. Their toddler daughter and baby girl are perpetually on our FaceTime feed chatting it up with my kiddos. Our little brother is an officer in the Army, though he’s a world traveler and adventurer (and still our baby brother) behind all that ordered life. He and his wonderful wife have a nine month old whom we all wish we could gobble up, but can’t as they live in Tennessee.

There’s me, the fourth, the creative writing major-turned-lawyer who married her law school love, and we have James who is almost four, Maureen who is two, and a little baby boy due to join us in early May. I’m haphazard about cleaning but love to tidy, my husband is a poet who’s an insurance coverage lawyer, and our children are obsessed with all things church and baseball related. We eat as healthfully as possible but also indulge on my mom’s homemade and certainly unhealthy caramels. Despite our children’s screen-free life, my husband and I love to curl up with fatty fatty ice cream and watch Netflix once the kids have gone down for the night!

Q: You’re living in your childhood home! Tell us about why you wanted to buy it from your parents, and any difficulties or second-guesses along the way.

A: All of us siblings had agreed growing up: somebody had to buy the house someday. I feel so lucky it ended up being us! We were the first to get married and have children, and once our careers had lined up so that it was financially feasible, we made the leap. The house has so much character and personality. It’s roomy but intimate, majestic but practical, stunning but humble. It had never really occurred to me that another family could raise their children in it, unless that family were one of ours.

The carpets…oh, the carpets!

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By Gabrielle.

When Mary first contacted me about a possible tour, she was sweetly hesitant and sent along a few photographs to share the space she and her husband are living with their four daughters. As I always do, I asked for a few more and added a lot of exclamation points to my request.

And when she sent me many, many dozens scenes from her daily life, I spent a good afternoon poring over them. I had to beg Mary to edit them down for me because I simply could not! This tour would have included at least 750 photos! Because, Friends, this life of the Heffernans is pretty lovely. And busy. And thoughtful. And supremely well-designed. I love it all, and I hope it just makes your day, too.

(Just maybe, there will be a follow-up post this summer with all the photos I couldn’t use this time around! I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because I would really, really love a tour of the family businesses!)

Q: Please introduce us to your sweet family!

A: Hello! I’m Mary Heffernan, a mom and small town business owner and a country girl at heart. My husband Brian is a manly mountain man who is surrounded by a crazy wife and four independent, strong-willed little girls. Luckily, they tend to be tomboys and are out there hunting and fishing with him, so he couldn’t be happier. Brian and I met in 2006 at a charity event, where he was on the board and I was volunteering. Eight years later, we have four daughters and a fun and crazy life together, running a range of small businesses in Los Altos, California.

All four of our girls are named Mary, which makes traveling interesting! They are all named after different grandmothers, as we are both from big Catholic families with a lot of Marys! Our eldest, MaryFrances or Francie, is six and the leader of the pack. MaryMarjorie or Maisie, is four and a sweet, maternal soul. MaryJane or JJ is the wild child at three and full of personality and outfit changes. MaryTeresa, Tessa, is one year old and packs a punch to keep up with those big sisters! We have a chocolate lab named Moose, and three Navajo Churro rams on our ranch named Chief Big Horn, Geronimo, and Eugene.

I can’t wait for you to see the kitchen. Truly.

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By Gabrielle.

Sarah Wallace decided to submit her home for a Living With Kids tour for a pretty unique reason: she wanted to fall just as in love with her home as the ones she’s been pinning and ogling online. She felt frustrated when her gaze shifted from the clutter-free, design perfect scenes on her monitor to her own less than idyllic space, clutter-filled most days. And she didn’t enjoy that feeling at all. None of us do, right?

So she decided to put a little lipstick on her home, straighten its skirt a bit, and let it shine for us…and for her. (Full disclosure: Sarah would like you to know what it looked like just outside of the frame of most of the pictures. Piles of paper and clutter were removed from her kitchen counters, there may be dirty dishes hiding in the sink, and all the craft supplies from the dining room table were shifted to the stairs during the photo shoot! Thanks for keeping it real, Sarah!)

Friends, I hope you enjoy the dressed up version of the Wallace family home. More importantly, I hope you take away a little bit of reassurance that pictures aren’t always worth a thousand words and all our attention; sometimes, it’s all the stuff that we try to edit that tells us the most about our lives. Welcome Sarah!

Q: Please tell us all about your family.

A: Our family consists of four people and two animals: myself, my husband Joey, our sons Oscar and Archie, our dog Lucy, and our chinchilla Matthias.

There may be a mess outside of the camera’s reach, but the rest is gorgeous!

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Living With Kids: Kayce Hughes

December 17, 2013

By Gabrielle.

Oh, we’re in for a treat today! Friends, I’d love to introduce you to Kayce Hughes: wife, mother of seven, and classic designer. I’ve worked with Kayce a lot over the years, so I can attest to the fact that she is inherently stylish; she hails from a gorgeous lineage of women who define style, among them an aunt by the name of Lilly Pulitzer! She is an anything-is-possible maker. Her style is timeless and effortless. She runs toward color, and somehow leaves us wishing for boldly patterned red chairs to match our green walls…and not just in December.

Years ago, she whipped up nightshirts for her daughters, which were the first of a now 200-plus piece collection that includes children’s apparel, gift and layette collections, a flower girl collection, and an ever expanding women’s line of clothing and accessories. She has shops, too, so if you’re lucky enough to be in Nashville, Chattanooga, or Atlanta, pop in! (I’m told her fall line is on sale 40% off!)

Q: Please tell us about the family who makes this house a home.

A: We have seven children – two boys and five girls, ages eight to 20 – and two white labs. Our children’s names are Reagan, Charlotte, Sophie, Owen, Clare, Audrey, and Olivia. And our dogs are Jack and Lilly. My husband is a great photographer, and I design woman’s and children’s clothes. There is a lot of creativity under one roof! With nine strong unique artistic personalities, there is always someone to hang out with and something fun going on.

Q: How did this home become yours?

A: We bought our house 20 years ago when Scott and I moved to Nashville from New York City. It was built in the 30’s. I have fond memories of the first few years when we spend so many hours scraping wall paper and painting one room at a time. Fourteen years ago we added on the kitchen and family room which is where we all spend most of our time. It was great to have lived in our home for so many years so that we knew what we wanted when the time came to add on.

More joy, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Usually, I try to remove all time stamps from these home tours. That means cropping out Halloween decorations when possible and trying not to post summer tours in the middle of December. But Candice is good at decorating for the holidays. Like, really good. (Do you remember her Winter Wishes craft? She’s also the brilliant photographer who helped us with our Central Park family photos.) And so I threw out all the rules and begged her to share her holiday home. Her inspired Christmas decor reinforces the idea that simple is stunning, especially in excess. (Candice calls this the Anthro rule, which made me laugh. But it’s so true, isn’t it?) I hope this installment of Living With Kids offers a little inspiration, and maybe even an afternoon of cutting a billion glittery stars. Enjoy the tour, Friends!

Q: Please tell us all about this festive family.

A: Hi! Our family consists of Mark, Candice, Grant, Nicholas, Sebastian and a prideful little scotty dog named Dickens. I met Mark when I moved across the country the day before my senior year of high school started. I wish I could say it was love at first sight but really due to a rather large miscommunication when we first met it was more of a Pride and Prejudice situation. To say we barely tolerated each other is an understatement. It wasn’t until the end of the year when we were cast as husband and wife in the high school play that we stopped trying to avoid each other completely.

He moved away after high school and it wasn’t until he came back when I was a junior in college getting my BFA in photography that we knew we were in love. We were married just a few months later. We have been married for almost 15 years now and I’ve loved him every minute of it. (There is a lot more to the story including the time I set him up with my best friend…but we will just leave it at this!)

Mark is currently a Theatre Professor at a University here in San Antonio, and I teach photography online.

Grant is a new teenager and is everything Mark and I are not: brilliant at math and science with a deep love of rules and organization. I’m very grateful that there is someone in this house who loves that stuff.

Nicholas, formerly known as Cole, has decided that at the age of ten his nickname is too young for him. He also changes his name from Cole to Nicholas every Christmas season. He is charming, funny, and can make friends with anyone.

Sebastian is two. That means that you can see that there is an eight year gap between his brother and him. We waited for him to join our family for a long time and it was well worth it. He’s super smart and full of life. He pretty much rules the rest of us with his adorable demands.

That’s it. I’m painting a room black.

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Interview: Françoise Mouly

November 13, 2013

Françoise Mouly

By Carter. Image by Sarah Shatz.

[ Note from Design Mom: Friends, you may have noticed that I paused our series of Author Interviews for awhile. But our resident children's book expert, Carter Higgins, is bringing the series back today in a major way! And with a bit of twist, too — today, you get to meet a publisher/art director, and one of my personal design idols. You'll love this interview. ]

I am so excited to introduce you to Françoise Mouly today! You might know her work as the art director of The New Yorker, but she’s also the founder and publisher of TOON Books, a collection of comics and graphic novels for early readers. Her vision for kids having access to well-designed comics is innovative and inspiring. It’s magical! And radical! On top of that, she’s a mom doing a fantastic job of infusing her career with the needs of her kids. What an honor to bring her words to you today. Enjoy!

1. You’ve said, “comics are a gateway into literature.” I love this! What can comics do for kids that other books can’t? And could you speak to the complex relationship between pictures and words within those pages?

In many ways, I’m working off of what I saw when our two kids learned to read. They’re both bright kids who were surrounded by books, with the same parents who love to read, but each child went about it in his or her own way, within his or her own timeline. They both loved comics, but it was clear to me that comics were what got our son hooked on reading — that’s when the lightbulb went on. I realized you can’t force someone to enter into the world of literacy. It’s far too complex a set of skills — the child has to want to make the story happen in his or her head. With comics, you provide a clear path to get through that thicket. Comics have a unique ability to draw young readers in through their visual narrative flow. In comics, pictures are acting as words, and those ‘words’ are instantly understandable to kids. They’ll follow the flow of the images, wanting to know why this character is angry, and why this one is crying. They move on the page from left to right, from top to bottom. They effortlessly read many elements of comics storytelling: the size and shape of the panels shows what’s important, the sound effects provide a parallel track; with the speech balloons, they see written dialogue as a transcription of spoken language. Most of the issues that emerging readers struggle with are instantly clarified by comics’ simple and inviting format. You’ll forgive me if I get excited, but for beginning readers, comics are pretty close to a magic bullet!

Silly Lilly

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your mission and hopes for TOON Books?

We want to share our love of books with new generations as they come of age in an increasingly visual culture. The more there are digital assaults on our kids’ attention, the more they need books, good books. With comics, kids can take charge, can be at the wheel. Watching kids devour our TOON books should convince any skeptics left in the house of how entertaining reading can be. The TOON’s open a child’s eyes up not just to comics, but to any book’s pleasures, so it’s very important to publish books that will withstand repeated readings, books that are beautifully produced, and put them in young children’s hands. Years ago, I was passionately arguing that “COMICS — They’re not just for kids anymore!” But now that comics, in the guise of “Graphic Novels”, have acquired legitimacy — now that they are in libraries, museums, and bookstores — I’m just as passionately arguing that comics must not, in their bid for respectability, leave children behind. “COMICS — They’re not just for grown-ups anymore!” That’s my new slogan!

VIV.g.hires.spreads.cover_Page_02

3. Is there a cover of The New Yorker or a particular illustration that you would consider your favorite piece?

I take pride in the fact that the covers have not gotten predictable, that in the 20 years I have been in charge, it hasn’t settled into a “New Yorker” cover style. I’m proud of so many great covers, and of the range of artists we publish: David Hockney, Robert Crumb, Barry Blitt, Maira Kalman, Bruce McCall, so many geniuses. I get to work with the best artists of my time; it’s a real privilege. But still there’s one cover that’s more meaningful to me personally than most, and it’s the one I did right after September 11 with my husband, Art Spiegelman, the black on black silhouettes of the towers on a black field, a cover both simple and complex. It was a turning point for me because the stakes were so high. I felt I couldn’t possibly succeed, that no drawing could possibly capture what we were going through at the time. The image was born out of that negation. I accepted what I felt, my feeling of utter powerlessness and that’s what I sketched. The fact that my inability to come up with an image was the path to just the right image was a great lesson.

The New Yorker

Cover by Françoise Mouly & Art Spiegelman
First published in The New Yorker, September 24, 2001
© 2001 Françoise Mouly & Art Spiegelman, The New Yorker

4. What physical objects, places, or people inspire you to create art?

I treasure new ways to look at something I thought I knew. I love going to museums with Art, my husband; he’s such a good observer and explainer of what he sees. Looking at art makes me want to rush home to try something, anything with paints. Also sitting in nature, looking at trees, or at a brook. Anything can be a trigger, because when you do something you put all of yourself into it. You don’t partition and think: “This came from art school, this from this morning’s subway ride, and this from what my kid just did.” You simultaneously process everything you go through, so contemplative moments are good triggers. When I take in something in fully, I get so excited it makes me want to create something new. 

More questions ahead! And some especially inspiring words about parenting.

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By Gabrielle.

I normally begin these Living With Kids tours with a stunning shot of the kitchen or a vibrant welcome from the entryway. But today, I am starting off by showing you a few highly covetable pairs of children’s boots. They are the coolest, as are all the offerings from a fairly new Dutch shoe brand called de Vries. And now we get the chance to see inside the equally cool designer’s home!

Her name is Lilian de Vries, and she is a talent. When she first wrote to me, she casually mentioned she is a shoemaker. Too fun! I consider hers an artisan career that would be fantastic to announce at dinner parties. Or home tours! “Hello. My name is Lilian, and I make fabulous shoes. It is nice to meet you.” Friends, it really is nice to meet Lilian. You’ll see. Please enjoy the tour!

Q: Tell us about the family who makes this house a home!

A: I met my husband Charles in 1996 in Rotterdam while I was in art school. We used to live there for ten years in a great apartment. Two years after our daughter Ella was born in 2003, we decided to move to a house with a garden that was also closer to my work in Amsterdam, and we ultimately ended up in Utrecht, the center part of the Netherlands.

More dreamy sunlight-washed rooms ahead!

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Iota Illustration Giveaway

August 29, 2013

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By Gabrielle.

I have a really fun giveaway for you today! It’s sponsored by the etsy shop, Iota Illustration, and the prize is a $150 gift certificate for the shop prints. Hooray!

whale by iota illustration

Do you know Iota Illustration? The shop is owned and run by the talented Oliver Lake. He’s a children’s book illustrator who loves to make images that appeal to both children and adults.

I really enjoy his work! I think it would be wonderful hanging in a nursery, a playroom or a family room. Some of my favorites: Out On A Lark, Two Fine Foxes, The Cat’s Whiskers, The Bird and The Whale, and Tiger Transportation.

Iota IllustrationTiger Transportation by Iota Illustration

Wouldn’t it be fun to use one of his prints as an inspiration piece for a children’s bedroom? And it’s not just prints. His illustrations are available on throw pillows, iPhone cases, tote bags, and t-shirts. Cute!

Visit Iota Illustration and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear which print catches your eye first! The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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By Gabrielle. Images by Iris Thorsteinsdottir for Kid & Coe.

I’m fond of our home tours for a lot of reasons, but one of my favorites is that it gives me the chance to truly learn about living with kids in every corner of the world. Practical advice and personal experience from real families are the best, made even better with pictures and local accents! As I mentioned to Laura this week, you just never know where you’ll want to move your family tomorrow. Perhaps to Bristol? It sure sound lovely. (And then there is the matter of Banksy, graffiti artist extraordinaire! How cool would it be to casually name-drop him as your neighbor?) I know you’re going to adore Laura and the Hall home, and I’m also pretty sure you’re going to love the company she keeps, known as Kid & Coe, especially if you’ve got little ones and despise traveling with all the gear they seem to accumulate! Welcome, Laura!

Q: Tell us all about your sweet family living in the UK!

A: Four of us live here. I’m Laura, the Communications Manager of Kid & Coe, traveler, magpie, and generally creative person. I’m joined by my husband Matt, an IT risk consultant by day (yawn!) but a dastardly food blogger and inventive cook by night (yum!). There’s also our bumptious three year old daughter Olivia, who loves to sing and read, often at the same time, and our four-year-old cat Sukie, who I rescued when she was just five weeks old. She’s lovely but thinks she’s a human most of the time.

Q: How did this house become your home? (And please tell us what it’s like to buy or rent in Bristol…just in case any of us are interested!)

A: We love our home so much! We bought it four years ago after living in a hip city center apartment, because we wanted to be near a park and to have a family in a lovely area. I got pregnant within a month of moving in. I have so many friends on this street and the next who all have three year olds. Who knows what they’re putting in the water!

One of the best things in my life was getting pregnant while living here. We live on top of a hill, and one day I was puffing up it, heavily pregnant, when a lady opened her door and invited me in for tea. She had a bunch of other mums from the street having tea in her garden, and just like that I was invited into the Richmond Street mums club! It’s lovely, and I really like that the vibe is like that round here.

More of this darling home…plus a bomb shelter! Just click!

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By Gabrielle.

There’s something special about the Woolley home. It’s definitely in a state of repair and redesign, I’m sure the exposed brick lends an added chill, and the constant sprinkling of dust from the perpetual updating must get old. But on the flip side, it’s a home where anything seems possible when the sunlight streams in. It’s a home where cuddling up together in one room creates all the warmth needed. And as for the dust, who notices such things against such a colorful backdrop? From the way Chelsey describes her six children to the way she chooses wall color and their two non-negotiable house rules, this is a tour to enjoy. I really hope you do!

Q: Tell us about the sweet family making this house a home!

A: My husband, Woo (not his real name, but a name that he goes by and the name that I almost always call him), likes to say that we met in the pediatrician’s office. We did have the same pediatrician, but I think that we most likely met for the first time in high school where he was friends with my little brother, and I was friends with his older sister. We didn’t start dating until I’d graduated from college, and after we kept seeing each other at things like thrift stores, gigs, and Ultimate Frisbee. We like to say that Woo’s the public face of our family — personable, often hilarious, and friendly. He works from home as a self-employed app developer. I’m a stay-at-home mom driven to read or fiddle around with the house in my spare time. I have a degree in science, but wish I’d done something much more right-brained. Soon after we married, we moved to St. Louis and started our family. Four of our children were born there, and the last two were born here in Utah.

Ruby, eight, is our resident tomboy. She can run, climb, play in the dirt, and collect bugs and rocks with the best of them. She is also extremely compassionate, generous, and social. She has many, many big ideas; right now she has lots of plans for her future involving the study and cultivation of sharks.

Herbie, seven, would love to be the oldest kid, but is making the most of being the oldest boy. He considers himself an expert on anything he’s done (even just once), or heard about (even just barely), and will unload what he knows on his little brothers. Despite trying to be an adult in every way, he definitely has a slapstick sense of humor, loves a good knock-knock joke, and still loves hugs from his mom and tickles from his dad.

Moses, five, is our sweet, sensitive middle child. He gives the most sincere, surprising compliments, has an angelic, innocent smile, and is very affectionate. He also is the kid who best understands comedic timing and the anatomy of a good joke. He would really, really like to be good all the time, but sometimes just can’t help himself when his little brother takes one of his cars, or his big sister involves him in an exciting, sneaky plan.

If you think the turquoise kitchen is bold, wait until you see the dining room!

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By Gabrielle.

I smiled all the way through Heather‘s tour, but especially so when I read her clean house philosophy: “Our house will become a mess every single day. I accept that. I feel like we’re succeeding if at least once a day, the house is as neat as I want it to be, and at least once a day it’s as crazy as they want it to be.” It’s a refreshing compromise, don’t you think? Everyone seems to win, at least for a few hours!

Friends, this is clearly a home where the children’s informal preferences have merged with the adults’ decidedly more formal leanings in every room, which must be a dream for the kids and make them feel like this is where they belong. Someday, the formal side may win out. Until then, I’m pretty sure no one minds being seated at the kids’ table! I really hope you enjoy the peek into Heather’s home as much as I did.

Q: Tell us about the neat family making this house a home!

A: Hi, I’m Heather. I’m a mom, blogger, and opera singer (by way of Russian literature and law school). I live in this house with my best friend Kent, a patent attorney who is much kinder and funnier than his job makes him sound. We’ve been married nine years and we have three little sugar plums. There’s my honey-love preschooler, Fluffy, and my twins, 21 month-old twin agents of anarchy, Salty and Peppers. I personally would love to use my kids’ real names, but I promised my husband long ago that I would use pseudonyms for them when posting on the internet.

When we bought this house, my style was very, very formal. Six years and three kids later, I’m down to very formal. I know what you’re thinking: “Ring the police! Children being raised by a formal mother! Bring in the governess to make them play clothes out of old curtains!” It’s not like that, really. I’ll admit, my house is a little high maintenance, and most days I’m okay with that. Our home is filled with special, beautiful things and people that I love and take care of.

Lots more to see, including two kitchens…kind of!

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Petting Zoo 1

Petting Zoo

Petting Zoo 3

Petting Zoo

By Koseli.

My husband and I are huge Christoph Niemann fans (as I’m sure so many of you are!) and just heard that he has a new app for children and adults called Petting Zoo. It’s an interactive book with illustrations of 21 animals. When you swipe or tap each animal, it reacts in a surprising way. What would an elephant in the bathroom do? Can a dog breakdance? I can’t wait to play with this. It’s right up my alley. The app is available for iPhones and iPads.

Do you have any favorite apps or digital pictures books you love? Which ones do your children love the most? I haven’t been able to find many I’ve liked for my 18-month old son, but we love Wee Alphas, Timbuktu, and Where’s Puppy. We also let our son draw on the iPad using the app Paper. It’s so cool!

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