From the category archives:

Home Tours

By Gabrielle.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live and raise kids on the world’s only island city-state? Me, too. And so…welcome to Singapore! Today, we’re visiting the home of Justina and her family who reside in a high-rise apartment — think 40 to 50 stories high! — and homeschool from way up there, too.

Her life, to me, is pretty normal and yet so fascinating at the same time. I want to visit! I want to smell the aromas of Singapore, walk through the streets around her house, look out from her balcony, ride public transportation… Oh, today is one of those days I wish my home tours could be videotaped and watched over and over, like an episode on HGTV!

Please help me welcome Justina and her boys, plus one little girl who is set to make her arrival very, very soon. (UPDATE! She was born yesterday, on Chinese New Year! Congratulations, Teys!)

Hello, I’m Justina, hailing from sunny Singapore! I’m married to John, and we have three little boys: Jude, Jamie, and Josh, who are seven, four, and two. We’re also expecting a little girl, who will be joining the family really soon, probably by the time this tour goes live!

Come see Singapore! Many views, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Revival Photography.

I love how Alison describes her small town: “My family moved here when I was ten years old, and I remember pulling into town and noticing that there was a McDonalds…and not much else. The town has grown only a bit in the 26 years I have lived here, and I both love and hate that about it.”

I’m sure a lot of us share this dichotomy between a deep appreciation for comfort and an equally deep craving for change. It’s always a toss-up on which will win the contest, right? Either way, one look at her home and reading of her thoughts and I get the impression she’s living an inspired life in her one McDonald’s town. I hope you enjoy this peek into how she’s living with kids. (And who just searched for a wall-sized, roll-up map for their living area? Me, too.)

Hi, everyone! I’m Alison. I am a wife and stay-at-home mother of four young children, including a two year old set of twins. My husband, Scott, is a hard-working, incredibly talented designer. A couple years after graduating high school, I saw Scott (who was two years younger than me in school) out with some mutual friends. We talked for a few minutes and then parted ways. I remember saying to the friend I was with, “That Scott Little is hot. I would marry him.” A few months later we ran into each other again, and the rest, as they say, is history. I knew right away he was the one, as cliché as that sounds!

Our boys are eight and six. Jackson, our oldest, is smart and tender hearted. He has a quirky little personality and has always kept us on our toes. I always said there was no one in the whole world who loved me the way Jackson did, until our daughter Charlotte came along. She is so much like he was at her age, and shows love and affection much the same as he did. It’s fun to see the similarities between them.

Grayson, our six year old, is his own little person. He is independent, and has a unique style that I love so much. He gives absolutely no thought or worry to what others might think of him. It is my very favorite trait of his, and I hope he carries it with him always.

In the Fall of 2012 we found our we were expecting our third baby, and at our six week ultrasound found out we were actually expecting our third and fourth babies! Having twins was the most shocking and most wonderful surprise. Juliet and Charlotte were born in the summer of 2013. I barely remember those first four months. I never knew I could be so tired, or love coffee so much.

They are now two-and-a-half, and I’m convinced this is the very best age. They are sweet and funny and the cutest (of course!), and I just feel so lucky to be their mama.

More goodness, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Here’s what I know after spending some time with Jenni’s tour: I enjoy people who meet their spouse at a Japanese night class in Scotland, people who wholeheartedly love the setting in which they are raising their children, and cactus caretakers. (I think it takes a perfectly balanced mix of concentration and forgetfulness to raise a cactus, don’t you?) Turns out, I also enjoy people who take their kitchen shelves seriously! Jenni’s sure are cute!

And I can’t forget to add people who smile when it’s raining to my list!

If you’d like to see how she and her husband are living with kids in a Berlin rental, please stay awhile. There’s a ton of fabulous ideas that can be achieved with very little investment, whether you’re currently in a restricted rental or simply on a decorating or time budget. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do. Welcome, Jenni!

Hello, my name is Jenni. I live in Berlin with my husband and two sons: Oskar is five and Alfred is one. We moved here from Scotland almost four-and-a-half years ago due to my husband’s work. I am originally from Germany but I grew up in Scotland, so we speak English with each other at home and I speak German with the kids when we’re out and about.

My husband and I met in Edinburgh at Japanese night class — as you do — over ten years ago, and we have been married for just over six years. I have to admit, I have forgotten most of my Japanese, but I always say I gained a husband so the classes were a worthwhile investment!

He is a software architect and I am a museologist, though currently still on maternity leave with the little one. The safety net for families — parental leave, maternity pay, child benefits, subsidized child care — is very generous here in Germany, and we count ourselves lucky to benefit from it.

Oskar will start primary school this year, after the summer, and he is already super excited. He’s a very free spirited boy with a compassionate heart, who knows what he likes and will put people in their place if they tell him he looks like a girl because he has shoulder-length hair or likes wearing pink. His favorite things include cars, dinosaurs, and flowers, and you’re as likely to find him wearing a Spider-man costume as you are butterfly wings.

Alfred is just finding his feet, literally, and will start at kindergarden after Easter. He is a jolly little fellow, who loves to laugh at everything — he even laughs in his sleep — and tries to copy everything his big brother does, whom he absolutely adores. He’s also really into music; if you put any on, he’ll immediately start clapping his hands and jumping around on his knees.

We live to the north of a district called Schöneberg, which is in central Berlin, in a third floor rental apartment. We only moved here six months ago. Initially, we were actually going to leave Berlin altogether, but then things worked out differently.

More cute shelves and cacti, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Libby reached out to me about participating in a home tour more than eight months ago, and then — poof! — she disappeared. And then one day, she sent me this note: “Hi Gabrielle! I can’t believe it’s been six months since I reached out to you. Sorry for the delay! We have had lots of things going on! We thought we sold our house without even listing it, and so we had to deal with all the things that go with that, like house inspection, appraisal, and showings. I started packing up the house…and then we decided not to sell. Did I mention that all of this was going on when I was nine months pregnant and then home with a newborn? Throw my toddler into the mix and things were very hectic!”

Phrew! Welcome to the Living With Kids Tour That Almost Never Happened! (A lot of times, the living part of it all gets in the way of the tour, right?)

I think you’re going to melt when Libby describes her mom and the role she’s inadvertently played in shaping her own expectations about motherhood. It’s really sweet. I hope you’ll think so, too. So please, everyone, help me welcome Libby!

Hi! I’m Libby. I am the mother of two children, Hazel and Everett. I have been married to my husband Greg for seven years.

Greg and I both grew up in Franklin, Indiana. We attended the same high school, although not at the same time — he’s five years older than I am. We met one weekend when I was home from college.

I am half Indian, so I have dark hair and dark brown eyes. My husband is a red head. So, I wasn’t sure what our kids would look like! However, they are both little clones of my husband.

I do all of the hard work and they pop out looking like Greg. It’s not fair!

Libby’s lovely words, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

I’m very excited to introduce you to Nina and Moses. I think they are going to change your Tuesday.

This is not a tour that focuses on product sources or fabric recommendations. Instead, it’s the sort of home tour where you might find yourself envying the sunlight that sneaks across Moses’ room. You might feel a pang of gratitude you’ve got a partner in parenting. You might even want to tell a well-intentioned stranger to keep his opinions to himself and stop bothering Nina, for goodness sake. Loudly, even. You may leave this tour feeling a little lost and yet a lot found, if that’s even possible. I did.

All this to tell you I hope you’re as moved by Nina as I am. Happy Tour Tuesday, Friends.

My name is Nina. I’m a single mother of a little boy named Moses.

It’s funny how that is always how I describe myself now, as a mother first and foremost. Growing up, people always asked what I wanted to be and I never knew the answer because, well, I wanted to be everything.

Now I work full time at a desk. and I still don’t consider it my career though the people I work for are good to me and I don’t see myself going anywhere for a while. I work for a towing company, of all places. I was basically a professional bartender and I wanted to branch out, and one of my regulars told me he could hire me at his office and I could learn how to dispatch. I did that part-time for a short time but ended up moving up to administrative assistant and now I do some HR work.

It’s a lot of paperwork in an industry I never really pictured myself being in, but it’s a great learning experience and, sometimes, a great practice in patience. I suppose though, first and foremost, I am a mother. Of a little boy. And we like to adventure.

I live in eastern Pennsylvania. It’s called the Lehigh Valley, made up of a bunch of little towns.

I always thought I hated it here when I was younger, but as I age I really love it. We are an hour from Philadelphia, two from New York City.

It can be urban in some areas and suburban in others, but there are these little pockets of wonderful restaurants and theater experiences you can find, and then these little neighborhoods full of people who are insanely close and have known each other forever, and then you drive north and all of a sudden you are in the mountains, or farm land, and even right outside of my neighborhood.

You can go one direction and find yourself in a little city or go the other and be in rolling hills.

Yoga studio and a lot of deep breaths, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

It may be said without hesitation that Brittany Hayes has never met a pattern or a color that she didn’t completely and utterly adore. And whether it’s a burst of golden Dahlias plastering a bedroom wall, a shot of turquoise up high on a top shelf, or Ikats mingling with Suzanis, every one of them gets along picture-perfectly. You’ll see!

You might remember Brittany from her episode of Shark Tank. She has a few interesting bits to tell us about that whole process, plus what’s next up for her and her sweet family. I really hope they bring these bluesy stairs with them! (And please ignore the watermarks on the photos! Brittany began adding them to every photo when someone she didn’t know started Facebook and Instagram accounts claiming her home as their own. Oh my!)

Please join me in welcoming Brittany! Our very first tour guide of 2016!

Hello there! My name is Brittany Hayes, and I am a 34-year-old wife, mommy, blogger, and daughter of God. I am the proud mommy of two beautiful girlies: Addison is eight and Winter is three.

My husband and I are middle school sweethearts and have been together for 20 years in February! We started our business at age 20 and worked off our booties off every day since!

So much more, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Sweet Juniper from Lisa Scott’s tour.

This was a beautiful year of tours, I think. There were many cozy corners and inspired thoughts that stuck to me, and I hope you feel the same way. (If you’re interested, you can see our 2013 retrospective here, a poignant review of my favorite part of the tours, and 2014′s recap right here!)

My intent with these Living With Kids posts is to show you a pretty and thoughtful peek into someone else’s life. It might look completely different than your own, it might look almost exactly the same, it might make you gasp with joy or scrunch up your nose. But what I’m really hoping is that these strolls around a complete stranger’s home somehow shift your opinions and modus operandi.

Just for a minute or ten or for the foreseeable future! Just one thought that midnight blue might be your next couch color, or the addition of bright decals to your almond-esque dishwasher would really change your mood every time you walked into the kitchen, or “Honey, I’m turning the dining room into a mini gymnasium-slash-playroom-slash-art studio-slash-dance party central — and it’s gonna have a swing!” Change is my favorite.

And, listen. I mean it when I tell you every week at the end of these tours: 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 really, truly mean it. So if you ever find yourself wishing for something different or something closer to your own Living With Kids lifestyle, send me a note and a photo or two. Or copy me on an email to a friend who inspires the whole neighborhood, encouraging him or her to participate. Participation is my favorite!

Now. Let’s remind ourselves of some of the brightest tours of 2015!

We started in Amsterdam with a glimpse of Meghann‘s home just a few months before she moved to Saba. Some parts of the tours look so much alike, which I’m sure is a relief to her children after such a giant transition.

And then there was Barbara, who made us all smile when she admitted to secretly envying other peoples’ uncluttered, pristine homes. Us, too! (Exclaimed as we survey our equally inspiration-overloaded craft tables!) She also had a lot to say about the challenges of raising children in an affluent community. Her thoughts are worth a revisit, for sure.

Remember Caryn’s small space and big ideas? There’s something refreshing about what makes the cut in a NYC apartment. With books, art, a Murphy bed, and Central Park just a block away, it’s a brilliant study of a creatively edited space.

Oh! I can’t forget Maureen’s house! It’s stunning and stylish and I’d steal it tomorrow if she wouldn’t notice! But what I love the most about this space is how her children’s presence is visible pretty much everywhere you look.

Nothing’s too terribly precious or off-limits. It’s a given that a playdate hosted by Maureen is probably the one every parent wants to attend!

I love how she displays art and turns pretty much any surface into a drawing space, don’t you?

Wait! Do you want to know another favorite of mine? When dads chime in with their own thoughts about how their families are living with kids.

Two amazing dads plus so much more, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

I don’t know how to best describe Amelia. She is someone utterly smitten with her life — contagiously so! — and seems completely uninterested in trading her everyday for anything else out there. Some might call her authentic, but I honestly find that term a bit redundant.

I think I prefer content.

I hope you enjoy this breath of fresh, happy air as we all wind down a bit before the holidays. Welcome, Amelia! I’m so glad you’re here.

Well, I’m Amelia, a wife and mom and occasional blogger. My husband Ryan is a structural engineer with a 9-to-5 job, but I’m fairly certain that deep down he wants to be a carpenter. He’s a man of many talents, one of them being that I can show him a picture of something and ask “Build that for me?” and most of the time he can. He’s quiet and kind and patient and hilarious, and very, very good to me.

Our son, Ralph, is a grown man stuck in a three-year-old’s body. Ralph wants so much to be big. On the morning of the first snow this winter, after I’d bundled him and let him out the door, he grabbed his shovel and immediately started clearing the driveway like his dad. All work and no play for Ralph, and that’s the way he likes it. He loves to help with whatever tasks we’re doing, which is sweet and sometimes maddening, because he truly believes he can do it. He once pried a doorframe almost completely off the wall with his little toy tools after spending some time with Ryan in the workshop. There are dents from his hammer all over the house.

Ada, our girl, is five months old. She’s officially grown out of the hazy, sleepy baby stage, and we’re finally starting to see glimpses of her personality. She’s bright-eyed and curious, and quick to smile at anyone who looks her way, a trait I really love about her. I wonder a lot if she’ll always be so cheerful and friendly. I kind of hope so.

We bought our home three years ago from a sweet elderly woman who raised a family in it. When we originally started looking at houses my husband wanted to find something far out in the country, but I was pregnant with Ralph and afraid I’d get lonely out there — just me, a newborn, and some cows and cornfields.

We found a cute house in the suburbs, just a few blocks from my sister, and I was sold. I love living so close to her and her family, and knowing that if I accidentally lock myself out or need a quick babysitter, she’s right there.

Ralph adores his cousins and loves being able to drive past their house regularly or walk over on a nice day.

Loveliness, straight ahead!

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Living With Kids: Mary Boyden

December 15, 2015

By Gabrielle.

All you really need to know about Mary is that there is a doodle wall in her daughters’ bedroom, a room also known as a kid’s version of Heaven. In fact, the entire house is an explosion of color and happy self-expression and a whole lot of whimsy. And that’s in addition to her daughter named Whimsy!

I am so pleased to show you this one-of-a-kind, out of the ordinary, shared with two friends, no wall left un-art-bombed home. It really is a feast for your senses, and will leave you craving a date with a paint brush and your littlest pal.

Welcome, Mary! I’m so glad you’re here!

Hi, everyone! I’m Mary and this is my home. My husband, our two daughters — Whimsy, who is two, and Glory, who is three months old – and our two childhood best friends, Austin and Michelle, all live in this home together.

We live in Portland, Oregon. When my husband and I got married in Texas, I asked him to take me somewhere cold and rainy, so we adventured to Portland!

So much color, straight ahead!

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Living With Kids: Alix Adams

December 8, 2015

By Gabrielle.

There’s a lot to like about Alix. She’s honest and direct, and seems to live life head-on and happily. Also, she shares my personal views on baby-proofing, not to mention blogging. (I, too, have met some of my best friends through this space. Very cool!)

Also? She shares sweet photos like the one above from a Fall photo shoot with Sam from Pierson Photo Company.

See what I mean? Likable. Welcome, Alix!

Hello there. I am Alix Adams and I like lots of things. The things I like most are my husband Clint, my son Liam, and my daughter Charlotte. We also have a dog, Jada, who cleans up all food spills, and with a one-year-old and three-year-old that is a lot of spills on the daily.

Together, we all like to watch movies. Liam prefers that the movies come with a side of ‘snuggling, please.’ Charlotte like marching around the house reprimanding everyone, shaking her finger, and declaring us all ‘naughty, naughty, naughty!’ She probably likes breastfeeding the most, though.

By myself, I like to read books; my favorites are Harry Potter, The Giver, and anything David Sedaris. I also like really beautiful cinema — Joe Wright and Wes Anderson make me all mushy — but would settle for a laugh-out-loud slapstick comedy any day. I’m talking to you, Will Ferrell.

Delicious photos, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Do you have a friend who encourages you to be the happiest possible version of yourself? One who sees the wonderful in everyone, and then goes one step beyond to gratefully acknowledge all the wonderful? Maybe she’s an interior decorator, too, who doesn’t believe that a dream home has anything to do with the number of rooms or the number of zeros in the price tag, or even the delicious color scheme that’s the current rage on Pinterest. Perhaps, instead, she thinks the life you and yours live inside the home is the dreamiest part of all.

If you’ve got a friend like this, you are a lucky one! But no worries if you don’t, because I’ve found one for us all. Her name is Bethany. You’re going to want to keep her.

Hey! I’m Bethany. My husband, Paul, and I have been married for 11 years, and we have three kids.

I’m a stay at home mom and part time interior decorator. Paul is a cinematographer and photographer for an oilfield equipment company. He’s the one who actually took all these photos of our home that you’re seeing. I do the decorating and styling, and then he makes it look great in photos. Truthfully, he’s the one who has really encouraged me to pursue my art and to follow this path I’m on! More on that later…

Our oldest son, Charlie, in the second grade, is a Minecraft and Lego wiz.  He’s a quiet but funny guy that loves reading and writing and as the oldest, he is constantly challenging our parenting. Paul and I often look at each other in a panic because who really knows what they’re doing here? By the grace of God, Charlie manages to still be a great kid despite our many parenting fumbles.

Our middle daughter, Norah, is a firecracker who loves dancing, coloring, and fashion. When I found out I was having a girl, I think I was so excited to have this little doll to dress up and give her the girly room that I wanted to decorate. She quickly showed me that she’s her own person with her own opinions about things, which I think was a lesson I needed to learn early on. Around age two she fought me on every single outfit I picked out, and now at age five she dresses herself completely. It’s a battle I had to give up early on and I’m so thankful I did. She’s got a creative spark and I would never want to quench that.

More sweetness, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Rebecca describes herself as the stay-at-home mom of a family who really doesn’t like to stay at home! Once a big-firm attorney, she now spends her time planning family field trips, blogging, and authoring a book due in 2016. I admire her sense of adventure, her enthusiasm, her Fall Bucket List, her advice about living a brave, can-do life — and, yes, I also adore her navy couches. Sigh.

So come meet Rebecca! You’re going to like her so much, I just know it.

The Green Machine, as we affectionately named ourselves — we even have a family rallying cheer! — is made up of myself, my husband Joel, and our two children Kane (seven) and Cameron (five-and-a-half…that half is very important!). When I think of the thing that most defines our family, it is heart. Hearts full of love for each other, keeping our hearts and minds open to people and ideas, and putting our hearts into whatever it is we’re doing.

I’m Rebecca and I consider myself to be a bit of a jack of all trades, a master of none. I’m a lawyer, but have been taking a break from the practice of law for the past almost five years to run The Green Machine. I’m not super into astrology, but I think I definitely fit my Gemini sign’s combination of both an introvert and extrovert. I am interested in an endless variety of subjects and I would stay in school forever if I could, so having this time at home with our children has been a wonderful opportunity to explore new things with them. I love modern design, trail running, and the color grey. I also love to entertain, but am equally excited to host a kitchen dance party as I am a fancy shindig. I like to say that glitter and sarcasm keep me balanced.

My husband is both the funniest and most hardworking person I know. He practices law at a big firm in D.C. and is away from home a lot, which is probably the hardest on him out of all of us. He is also the loudest human being EVER. He does nothing quietly, which I like to think is really just part of him putting his heart into everything. He is also an incredibly good sport about all of the family adventures I scheme up, and keeps us all on an even keel.

More gorgeous views, straight ahead! Oh, those stairs!

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Living With Kids: Amy Van Zee

November 17, 2015

By Gabrielle.

Oftentimes, the first batch of photographs I receive for a home tour are what I call realtor photos: pristine glimpses of a perfectly kept home in shades of spotless and sunlight, and I usually want to buy it right then and there! But then the homeowner and I chat a little more, and gradually a stream of shots showing exactly how the family is living with their children starts to make its way into the tour.

With Amy, there was no such hesitation or getting-to-know-you period! Nope! She lives and decorates happily among the Cozy Coupe and toys and hustle and bustle of two little girls, and her photos show it. Happily.

You’ll love the story of when exactly she discovered her design preferences, and maybe you’ll even gain some encouragement from the DIY projects featured on her blog! Either way, I know you’re going to smile through this one. Welcome, Amy!

Hi everyone! My name is Amy, and I live in this house with my husband, Ben, and our two young girls. Ben is as wonderful and hardworking as they come. He runs his own business and is one of the most responsible and levelheaded people you could ever imagine. He is a very faithful and loyal man. He also loves technology and serves as unofficial tech support for our family and friends.

My work background is in publishing, and my favorite fiction writer is F. Scott Fitzgerald. I could (and do) read his stories over and over. Now, I get to stay home with my girls and do the occasional bit of freelance publishing work from home.

Our older daughter, Jane, is three. When she was younger, people used to comment on her dark, expressive eyebrows and her many words. Oh, her words! It seems like she was talking from the day she was born. Jane has an incredible memory and a very creative mind for make-believe. She will stop in her tracks to listen if a book is being read in her vicinity.

Kate is 18 months and learning new words every day! In some curious ways, she shows her independence. When we read, she squirms out of my lap because she prefers to sit next to me. Kate’s hair has a beautiful tinge of red to it, which people comment on but I’m not so sure from where it comes. It seems to match her personality, though — she’s got some big feelings, and I do know where those come from. (Hint: It’s not Ben!)

More sweetness, straight ahead!

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Living With Kids: Lara Hyde

November 10, 2015

By Gabrielle.

It doesn’t surprise me Lara is an editor and writer; her interview reads like a story told by a lovely friend. The kind of friend who is honest about her “Is my home good enough?” concerns, as well as her wonderfully unique daughter’s journey through a world that is sometimes not so easy to navigate. (I almost choked on my laughter when I read Lara’s humorous description of her girl’s wardrobe style: Eminem meets Jersey Shore!)

In both cases, Lara seems like the type of person who shrugs off the worry, remembers what’s truly important in life, and moves on happily. She’s working hard on not caring so much what the rest of the world thinks.

Like I said: lovely. Welcome, Lara!

Hi, everyone. My name is Lara. I live here in beautiful Ancaster, Ontario, Canada, with my husband Rob. We have two daughters – Dace is eight and Violet is five – and a hyperactive Bernese Mountain Dog named Blue and our cat-with-a-mustache, Kasper.

I am a book editor and freelance writer. I primarily edit romance novels, which is lots of fun. They all have happily-ever-afters, so it is a very uplifting job. Rob works for Environment Canada in the Great Lakes division. He is the go-to guy for all matters related to Lake Superior, which means he travels up north from time to time and brings me back one-of-a-kind gifts like handmade moccasins, deer antlers and, once, a bookmark made out of a raccoon’s penis. That one was just disgusting, but it is part of why I love him so much. We both share the exact same sense of humor, which is a little quirky and weird. I laugh a lot, and I couldn’t imagine being married to someone who couldn’t bring that out in me.

Rob and I met in residence in first-year university. He had a chin-strap beard back then, and longish hair. We liked all the same British bands and I had never met anyone with whom I felt so comfortable. We both liked playing pranks. I got the chicken pox just before Christmas exams and he didn’t care; he still made out with me. It was meant to be.

We are so blessed to have two happy, sweet, healthy daughters. Dace is super smart, diligent, and sensitive. When she was a baby, she was colicky for the first four months. It was not an easy time. But ever since, she has been the easiest child. Dace loves babies and wishes we would have another one so she could take care of it — which is not happening, by the way. She also loves riddles and puzzles and books of interesting facts. Last year she blew the socks off all the teachers at her school talent show when she played a Johnny Cash song on the guitar and sang along. She wants to be singer/songwriter one day. Or a teacher. She is ethereal and, in some ways, an old soul.

Violet has always marched to her own drum. When she was in junior kindergarten, her teachers pulled me aside one day after school and told me that Violet had been changing her clothes when she got to school. I would send her off in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, and once she got there she would change into a sleeveless, white ribbed undershirt and cut-off jogging pants that she had hidden underneath. Mind you, this was in the middle of winter. That was the beginning of Violet starting to assert her own style, which I like to call “Eminem meets Jersey Shore.” Neither my husband nor I listen to much hip hop and we certainly don’t dress the part, so we have no idea how Violet came to identify with this style. It isn’t popular at her school. But she owns her look, and everyone knows Violet because of it. She’s always had great rhythm and taught herself to break dance. Sometimes she will bust out her moves at a festival and draw a small crowd, but she is shy and prefers to dance in private. She has been begging us for drums for a while, and we are going to get her a set.

When we went to Disney World last year, a lot of people assumed she was a boy, and that was back when she had long hair. She loves being mistaken for a boy. This past summer, she got her hair cut short and it looks great on her. Violet has an incredibly strong sense of self and I am so proud of her for being who she is.

Some people have asked me how I respond when she refuses to wear anything but boy clothes. I say I just let her be who she is. Last year, her teacher used her as an example in front of the class of someone who’s always nice to others. That brought tears to my eyes.

More goodness, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photography by the very talented Lesley Colvin.

I always tell my homeowners who sweetly participate in a tour that I only need around 25 to 30 photos of their spaces. But this is one of those tours when I simply had to double that number. Plus ten. First, because Lesley Colvin shot this house. She is a brilliant photographer – here’s another gorgeous home she captured! — and has a knack for catching the spirit of the family among all the tables and couches and collections. And also because Celia Munoz has a home that will make you sigh and say things like “We need wallpaper, I think.” and “While you’re out, grab me a few gallons of white paint, will you?” and “A greenhouse will change our lives. Pick one of those up, too!” Hah!

However it happened, Celia and her husband ended up in the perfect-for-them home. Renovations will be underway in a few years, but everything is working well for now. It’s lovely when that happens, isn’t it?

So please help me welcome Celia warmly. She has loads to tell us about her home and company, and mostly about taking chances and becoming the person you really want to be. Even if that person is completely different than the one you thought you’d become! It’s inspiring stuff! Please enjoy it. Welcome, Celia!

Hello, everyone! I’m Celia. It’s so nice to be with you. A little about my life…

My husband and I met in London ten years ago at a dinner party, and ever since then we have not looked back. It was love at first sight, and despite coming from very different cultures — he is Dutch and I am Spanish — we quickly found we had so much in common and saw life in a very similar way.

For example, on our third date we asked each other how many children we wanted to have. We decided to write it on a piece of paper and exchange papers. When we opened the piece of paper, to our surprise, we had both written the number six! We stuck to the plan and we nearly got to six children!

We are now parents to five beautiful children: Flavia is seven, Lucas is six, Siena is five, Bosco is four, and Hugo is three. All of the children were born and raised in London, but they speak Spanish and Dutch fluently as these are the languages we speak at home.

We live in an incredibly pretty North London neighbourhood called Hampstead. There is so much history here; it is very British and very beautiful. Just before getting married, my husband and I decided to move from our flat in West London to an area that was a lot more family oriented. We wanted to be closer to a green space but also remain close to the centre of town. All of our friends lived in West London so it was a tough decision to make at the time — having no family then, our friends were everything — but we loved Hampstead so much that we were determined to find something, even if it meant buying something we could use as a base before finding something we really liked for the long term.

You have to see the greenhouse/art house!

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By Gabrielle.

Whenever someone new visits Palma Voutiritsas’ home for the first time, they ask the very same question: “Do kids even live here?” She used to wonder if that was a compliment or an insult, but more and more she’s determined to accept their sweet appreciation and ignore the negativity. (More on that later!)

“Yes, kids live here.” she answers with a smile. “Two of them, in fact. They are incredibly happy and active and very, very messy!”

I thought you might like to see how a designer approaches Halloween and other holiday decor in a really heartfelt way. I just know you’re going to love Palma’s spirit and contagious attitude about how much your furnishings and decor matter…but not for the reasons you might be thinking. (And just wait until you hear the story of her home remodel! Hilarious.) Welcome, Palma!

Hi everyone! I’m Palma. My husband, George, and I are raising our two daughters, Milana and Isella, in a suburb of Chicago that doesn’t feel anything like a suburb. The schools are fabulous, the seasons are gorgeous — although last winter was a little long! — and our proximity to Chicago, one of my favorite cities in the world, is the greatest. Being 15 minutes away from the beach and museums and fabulous restaurants no matter what you’re craving is a true luxury. You should totally come visit.

I love our home. Sure, people ask if it always looks this way and question our lack of clutter and usually don’t believe I’m not running around screaming at this mess or that one with stain remover in one hand and a sponge in the other! But that’s not how we live. I promise.

I’ve seen a quote around Pinterest that really annoys me: Sorry my house is a mess — we’re busy making memories. Here’s another favorite: Sorry about the mess, but we LIVE here.

I always wonder what those quotes and the people who love them are implying. If you’re an organized person, are you somehow excluded from making sweet family memories? Do you have to be living amid clutter to be truly living the best, most intentional life?

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Have you ever dreamed about the life you’re not living? Believing that your days would be better if you moved into a bigger house and earned more money and had a huge basement and a yard big enough for a brand new dog?

Lindsey and her husband dreamed that dream, too. And the dream seemed so real and true that they relocated from a pretty perfect little life in Switzerland to a bigger everything life in Minnesota. Of course, you’re probably guessing how that turned out; bigger, really and truly, is not always better.

But their story doesn’t end in Minnesota! That’s the fabulous news! And this tour takes place far from it, in gorgeous Spokane. (Between us, I’m thinking their story somehow circles back to Switzerland. But we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?) Welcome, Lindsey!

Hi everyone! I’m Lindsey.

I met my husband, Joel, in Eugene when we were each on the heels of our study abroad experiences in college. I had studied abroad in Angers, France and had the most magical time. Joel had studied in Tübingen, Germany and fallen in love with it. When we met, it was at a party at his apartment. I wound up there because Joel’s roommate had invited some of my friends and I tagged along. Joel and his roommates had an amazing apartment and I gave myself a tour.

Bigger isn’t always better! Come see.

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By Gabrielle.

I have two favorite things to tell you about Kelly. One is that she’s an oceanography professor, which sounds all sorts of cool and exciting and rather frightening, if you ask me! And the other is that she lives next door to a Christmas tree farm.

Actually, there are three. Because I am really excited to share someone with you who possesses a parenting style I just want to hug. In her words, she measures her success as a parent by this simple idea: if her son skins a knee, he is just as likely to call for his dad as his mom. Brilliant.

Please read on to hear how she balances her careers inside and outside the home, and also manages the daily obstacle course through train sets and Lego creations! Parents of little builders, unite! Welcome, Kelly!

Hi everyone! I’m Kelly, an oceanography professor and a wife and mom. Being a professor at a major research university is an intense career, combining research driven by competitive external grants with teaching and mentoring of graduate students.

In my work, I study how animals in the ocean find food. At home, I am constantly reminded that I do not belong in the kitchen, for everyone’s health and safety!

My husband, Chad, is my research assistant, which means that he takes the crazy ideas I come up with and makes them happen: everything from building equipment, ordering supplies, and processing data, to going to sea and maintaining systems. We met when we started working together and I fell in love with his desire to work towards making everyone around him happy and successful, something that makes him excel at his job and as a dad. Chad is thoughtful, funny, and sensitive, traits I am grateful our four and a half year old (make sure you don’t forget the half!) son, Kaelan has inherited. He has also inherited the passion we both share for making things and loves to spend time in our garage/machine shop working alongside us, playing with Legos, building machines by combining every building material in the house, and designing complex train tracks.

Christmas trees outside every window! I love it!

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By Gabrielle.

Ann is so great. I read her words, and they fill me with such warmth. I love when people have dreams and add them to their daily to-do lists.

If you’re a young parent or just dreaming about kids, I hope you find Ann’s words to be a sort of manual. (I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it’s all going to work out as it should. And you’re going to be great at this.) If you’ve been parenting a while or even grand-parenting, you’re going to love this, too. Ann’s words are like a giant hug and a pinch of inspiration.

Please jump right in to hear about this big family and how their well-worn house helped grow them all. Welcome, Ann!

Hello, everyone! My name is Ann, and I am probably older than most of you! We have a large family, and our youngest just turned 11 this year. We have ten children, and yes, we wanted every one of them! I was 23 when I had the first and 44 when our last baby was born. I love my own siblings and wanted my children to experience the magic that happens in a noisy, messy, creative, huge family. My husband could be considered a saint for agreeing to marry me; he is such a great father, which made this whole thing possible. I don’t know if the children love what we have as much as I do, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our oldest son, Dale, died when he was two. He was beautiful. He taught me to be a mother and we miss him every day.

Jody, our oldest daughter, was only eight months old when he died, and she learned to walk that week looking for him. Jody became the perfect oldest child (which worried me) although she probably would have been happier in the second child role. She is talented, a prolific reader, and a magnificent friend.

Our daughter Michelle was born at the hospital only a few blocks from our home, She was a twin and her brother didn’t live; his name is Tommy and she feels him close to her at times. She is artistic and empathetic and all girl. She is married and has a daughter of her own; Eleanor is doing a great job of teaching her parents what family is all about.

Tracy was born two years later. She is spunky and is effortlessly cool and we all notice a distinctive energy around us when she is near. She is married and lives far away. Our world just expands with each child that leaves to chase their dreams.

Stan was next and we were all excited to have another boy. He was quickly commandeered to be the prince in the girl’s imaginary play. As a child, we noticed that he loved to work and, although he has some learning disabilities, he has only grown more diligent and capable since then. In our family lore, he is the one that decided to run around upstairs with a bucket on his head and took a tumble all the way down a long flight of stairs. The bucket actually protected him from harm.

Scott followed 17 months later. He never went through the terrible two stage, was always agreeable and easy going. I used to worry that he would rebel in some crazy way but he never has. He has a special light in his eyes and understands how to get along with everyone.

John was born three years later. He was 10.5 pounds and never has figured out how to go slowly or how to be careful. He does everything full out and we love what he brings to our family. I wish you could read his letters to us: he is an expressive and a talented writer. We are all anxious to see what he does with his gifts.

A few more kids and a LOT more wisdom, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

You’re about to meet Lindsey’s house, and I know you’re going to be better for it. This is a structure that helped Lindsey and her family through some out-of-the-ordinary life events, provided hope when things seemed a little hopeless, and even taught her to rely on her neighbors when she found herself alone and in need of help.

It’s a very good house. You’ll see. Oh! And if you’re curious about how much it costs to buy a house like this one in Virginia, Lindsey discusses pricing. (I love when people share numbers, don’t you?!) Welcome, Lindsey!

When you meet someone in the D.C. area, you will be asked what you do for a living. When you meet someone in Malawi, Africa, where there’s a non-profit that my husband helped found, you will be asked how your family is. I think both are important to understanding who people are.

I had a vision in college of being a freelance magazine writer while I raised my kids. I hadn’t yet met my husband, but when we did meet, it all crystallized. I was working at my first job as an editor of a design magazine, and he was finishing seminary. He had a dream of finding a strong wife to raise his kids alongside, while he would be a missionary, pastor, and military chaplain — in no particular order! He loved that I had a career I was passionate about. Within three months, we were ring shopping. Two months later, we were engaged. It was a whirlwind romance and I guess it was only a foretaste of all the whirlwinds to come!

I moved to Washington, D.C., to live with a friend from college while we were engaged. I was looking for a job in journalism about the home industry, but since it was the very beginning of the recession, there was nothing out there. After we got married, all we had was an apartment, a job at a bookstore, and a job at Starbucks. We would sit on our floor (no furniture!) and watch TV while we ate fruit snacks from Costco. It was such a sweet time.

We had planned to go house shopping with a realtor on what ended up being the day that I needed surgery. I was 16 weeks pregnant and during a standard ultrasound, a tumor had been discovered — a tumor that an oncologist wanted to remove for testing as soon as possible. I potentially had cancer and the baby was potentially at risk of miscarriage during the surgery.

Needless to say, my husband and I were apprehensive of the surgery scheduled that night, but decided to go house shopping anyway to take our minds off of things. We looked at four houses in various states of disrepair – nope, nope, nope, nope – and this was the fifth one. I knew it was the house meant for us right away.

More loveliness, just ahead.

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