From the category archives:

Home Tours

By Gabrielle.

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

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

Welcome, Shauna!

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

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

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

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

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

Ahh, the pool! Come see.

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Living With Kids: Natalie Olsen

September 20, 2016

By Gabrielle. Photos by Ashleigh of Red Aspen Photography.

Natalie lives in Portland, Oregon — she happily admits she moved there after it was cool, which reminds me of a friend who lives in Texas who always says, “I wasn’t born a Texan, but I got here as soon as I could!” — with her husband and their four children. Debt-free. No mortgage, even. I had to hear more!

She is an absolute delight to read, and I truly found myself nodding vigorously as she extolled the virtues of a debt-free life. It sounds so appealing!  Come see.

Welcome, Natalie!

Hi, everyone! We are a family of six. Comprised of a ballerina-rope-climber, robot-building-racecar-driver, gymnast-collector-of-interesting-things, a magician-filmmaker, HGTV Property Baron Personality, and a one-year old baby. Yes, I’m embellishing, but hyperbole aside, we are a family with diverse interests that celebrates individuality.

Zach’s 9-to-5 is at Portland’s own Columbia Sportswear. He is the best magician inexpensive gimmicks from Amazon can buy. His magician alter-ego, The Great Shahrivar, shows up for all our kids’ birthdays. His interests are as long as his attention span is short, including: podcasting, novel writing, songwriting, blogging, filmmaking, and a solid foray into a t-shirt business — that is to say he adheres to the long lost art of working to live rather than living to work!

I’m Natalie, a realtor licensed in both Oregon and Washington State. I daydream more than anyone I know – too bad I can’t get paid to dream! I am always coming up with new plans, ideas, and house renovations. My latest dreams have led Zach and I to start a new project making our own show on YouTube. We’re hoping to show what it’s really like to buy properties while at the same time dispelling myths and giving advice on how to make a good investment. I love real estate and personal finance, and Zach loves making stuff, so with our powers combined we hope to make some entertaining stuff and have fun in the process.

A debt-free life? It’s so possible! Come hear more about it.

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By Gabrielle. Photos via Trina herself and Yazy Jo Photography.

Whenever I catch up with Trina of the beautiful blog La La Lovely on Instagram, I’ve noticed one room in her home is featured a lot. And in very different ways.

Seriously, Trina’s master bedroom is the hardest working room in her home. It’s equal parts a sleeping, working, relaxing, and exercising space, which sounds like a whole lot when I write it out. I had to see it more closely, and hear all about it from the one who spends the most time in there. Of course, Trina agreed to show us around. She’s so good like that!

Welcome back, Trina! (Yep, she’s been here before, and is also featured on some of the cutest pages in my book!)

Hi everyone! We’re the McNeilly family. We are a wild bunch, mostly because the boys tip the scales. There’s Stephen: Everyone tells him he looks and sounds like Matthew McConaughey. Except for the one time someone said, “Does anyone ever tell you that you look like….Owen Wilson?”

I’m Trina. I’m known to break into a British accent at any given time. My children are no longer amused by this.

Our oldest and singiest is Ella. If she isn’t singing, something must be wrong.

Then comes Luke: He is our resident sports fanatic from black flips to football, and he has a few scars to prove it.

Liam Brave is an old soul who has been giving me lessons about life since he was two.

And Rocco Royal is our social bug. Last year, I found out that he had smuggled one of my necklaces to school and gave it to a girl named Scarlett.

Theodore is our kitty cat who likes to bring me presents, and not the kind I like to get. Because of him I’m now a part-time animal rescuer.

Her reading nook is la la lovely, too!

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By Gabrielle.

I love the way Liz describes her smallish town — “Turning left easily on the busiest street at rush hour is something I will never get tired of.” — and her simplified approach to decorating with kids: “I didn’t design anything too spectacular. But I did create a home where my kids could grow and be themselves, which is far more important.” A space where kids can grow and become who they’re meant to be is the best decorated space we could imagine, right?

And, between us, I think she’s wrong. Her up and down staircases are pretty spectacular! Come see. Welcome, Liz!

I’m Liz, living with my family full of boys. I’m a full-time mom, and I’ve grown to love being a homemaker. I also volunteer as a horticulturist and do occasional garden design and other projects. My husband, Joe, works as a physical therapist a few blocks from our home at a skilled nursing facility. He’s subtly goofy and has always made me laugh.

We have three boys. Our oldest, Peter tends to be heavily involved in his own interests and not always agreeable. He’s a brilliant kid, and will spend hours reading, often very difficult books. He also is constantly bringing me little notes that say, “I love you Mom,” and it makes up for everything else he does. Our second son, Curtis, has a smile that melts my heart. He enjoys playing alone and has always been an amazing builder. He tends not talk a lot and keeps to himself, so I have to watch him and make sure he’s being included or he can get wild.

Henry is the youngest. He loves hugs and kisses and books. He really finds joy over the simplest things, like jumping on a tramp or seeing a bird, and it’s easy to let that rub off on me.

All of us enjoy being active. We love to go places like parks, museums, geocaching, or disc golf. If we’re at home, we are probably working on a project.

Not sure which staircase I like more. Check them both out!

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By Gabrielle.

Four years ago — have we seriously been touring your wonderful homes since then?! — Rochelle showed us around her Harvard home, and it was dreamy. Think books and twinkly lights and more books and a burgeoning garden. Much has changed over the years, and Rochelle reached out to see if I’d be interested in seeing her family home’s evolution of sorts. My answer was yes, accompanied by many exclamation points.

Of course, there are less toys, different seating configurations, one less dining room, a flourishing garden and probably way more books. I for sure wanted an update on their lives today. If you’d like, you can peek in on her previous tour. Just be sure to come back quickly. It’s worth it!

Welcome back, Rochelle!

We are four plus one. Our plus one is an English Bull Terror (think Spuds McKenzie or the the Target dog) with excellent comedic timing who either thinks he is human or that we are all dogs. I can’t tell. Either way, the playing field is level according to him and he has gone from being a newbie puppy the last time I was a guest here to full fledged member of the family. Then from littlest to biggest, there is Isaac (ten), Meredith (13), me, and my husband Rob. We live in Harvard, Massachusetts, outside of Boston.

Since we last appeared on Design Mom, everyone has grown so much! We have a teenager now and the toys and the trappings of little kids have all but disappeared from our daily lives. I feel like everything has sped up and I want nothing more than the pace to slow down. But I don’t see that happening — I think it goes with the territory.

So much goodness, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

While I devoured Sara’s words, I underlined a few poignant lines to remember forever. She’s a psychologist! Of course! Of course she would possess all the answers to life’s — and parenting’s — burning questions.

But here’s what I enjoyed so much about Sara: She’s not afraid to admit she doesn’t have all the answers. She watches people she thinks are wise. She asks questions. And she says things like “I don’t know the answer to that; I’ve never been the parent of a six year old before.” I love it all.

So please come share in this goodness, will you? It’s so lovely to have Sara — and her fabulous hot pink dining room chairs! — here with us today. Welcome, Sara.

We live in a historic neighborhood in Wooster Ohio, two blocks over from the College of Wooster. Our street is lined with hundred year-old trees and joined by a red brick road. Growing up, I lived on a brick road in another town and have fond memories of hot sticky summers that began with bare feet on warm pavement and ended enjoying fireflies and crickets through the screens. I wanted the same for my future kids.

When we moved here for my job as a psychologist, I spent my lunch break canvasing this neighborhood for a For Sale sign. I loved that all of the houses were unique and when I spotted a sign in the yard, I made an appointment for a viewing that day.

More shots of bold color, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

I love it when favorite guests from my Living With Kids tours come back for a revisit. Even better? When their stories take on a happily-ever-after element and we can all cheer them on while we peek in on their new home and their new life that’s changed for the beautiful in so many different ways. Even better than that? When they’re excited to share it all with the rest of us. It’s nice when that happens.

This is one of those stories. I’m so happy to welcome back Jen and the newest additions to her life. You’re going to enjoy this one. Promise.

I’m Jen CK Jacobs (perhaps better known by my old name, Jen Altman). I’m a mother to six beautiful children — my own three daughters, Adie (12), Aela (10) and Ari (9) — and my three step-children, Charlotte (11), Barrett (8) and Genevieve (5). My husband and I are truly outnumbered! We are a house divided by fire and water — three fire signs, three water signs — all female; and our boys make up the air that fuels us…

I started blogging about eight years ago. Both Nectar & Light (a predominately Polaroid blog) and Nectar (a lifestyle and cooking blog) earned a fair readership in their day…but life turned upside down and maintaining a blog became a bit cumbersome. My ex-husband and I separated in the summer of 2014, and my father died unexpectedly shortly there after.

Still reeling from an impending divorce — I truly — for the first time in my life, allowed myself to fall apart when my dad died. He was the greatest man I knew. His shared love story with my mother is what everyone wishes upon the stars at night to experience; his quiet strength, unconditional love and the core of his character helped shape the woman I’m still in process of becoming. The loss was so great that the gaping wound in my chest will likely never heal. It becomes a little easier to live with as the days pass, but a photograph, a scent, a song can send a gust of cold air through that space and it feels as if we lost him yesterday.

My focus became my mother and my family. My ex-husband and I made the life-altering decision to continue to work on our relationship outside of our marriage and we now have more love, patience, more gratitude and understanding for each other than we ever did when we were married. Healing was complex as it was intertwined with multiple layers of grieving and watching my mother try to function without the other half of her soul.

So much dreaminess! I can’t wait to show you!

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By Gabrielle. Family photos by Tiffany Kokal and house photos by Lisa Kellenberger.

We first met Tara two years ago when she talked about balancing her travel company, Knowmad Adventures, with her new baby, and mostly the idea that travel — and babies — can make us better people. Back then, little Trey helped Tara and her husband with their work-life balance: “We had a real problem letting Knowmad seep into every aspect of our lives. I actually had to make a rule once — no business in bed — so we wouldn’t talk about it until the wee hours of the night. I really wanted to be present for Trey when I was with him, every moment of every day.”

Trey is still a fabulous influence on the family’s company and daily life, I’m pleased to report! Come see. Welcome back, Tara.

Our family started one snowy night in 2004 when Jordan kissed me after my parents’ annual Christmas party. Jordan and I, now coming up on seven years of marriage, actually knew each other from growing up. Orono, Minnesota is a small, lakeside town — one of the last stops from Minneapolis before you’re in farmland. Everyone knows everyone there and Jordan and I actually went to the same preschool, then flirted with each other through high school, and then went separate ways for college.

He was drawn to the mountains in Colorado and I went East for the big cities. It wasn’t until my last year of university that we reconnected at home and began our adventure together as a family.

Fast forward and the Harvey family has added some members: two-and-half-year old Trey, rescue-dog Luna, and our kitty Izzy who we lost last year and miss dearly — she’ll always be a part of our clan. I write about when Trey first became a part of our family, my pregnancy and babyhood, in the post Growing A Family: Trading Adventures.

Best green ever? Trey’s bedroom couch. Come see.

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By Gabrielle. House photos by Katie Jenkins, and barn shot by Libby Newell.

Brianna has a barn and a to-die-over pantry and land and extra rooms and lots of old stuff and a magazine she writes from said barn, but what’s most interesting to me about her is how she is using all her space.

Hospitality. Welcoming guests into her life and almost forcing herself to do so, sometimes, because it involves so much more than simply inviting people over, right? No, hospitality is not easy. But, oh! The reward. I read once (probably on Pinterest!) that the word hospitality comes from two Greek words; one means love and the second means strangers. So sweet when it’s put like that.

Brianna, I’m happy to offer you some hospitality here today! Welcome to Design Mom. I can’t wait to share you with my readers.

Hello! I’m Brianna Van Dyke, and I live with my husband Jonathan in Fort Collins, Colorado, with our two kids Finnley (ten) and IlaJane (seven) and our three dogs. I’m a writer and editor and an introvert. I love words and seeking beauty and good conversation, and I’m passionate and driven and I have a perfectionist streak that sometimes gets the best of me. My kids and my husband teach me so much about extending grace to myself and to the people I love.

We live in Fort Collins, which is about an hour north of Denver. It’s known for all its breweries and is often called the Napa Valley of beer. There are also lots of great outdoor spaces to enjoy. One of our favorite family activities is rafting on the Cache La Poudre river and barbecuing along the river.

You must see the pantry. And the barn. And everything!

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By Gabrielle.

This is the tour that almost never happened because TWINS! Janet’s boys have hit the terrible twos, and so her Living With Kids tour nearly turned into a Barely Surviving These Busy Busy Little Boys situation! You’ll giggle at the characters to whom she likens them, and I hope you’ll also love how she describes mommy-dating. Hilarious and true.

Oh! And did I mention she’s an expat in Tokyo? There’s a lot of interesting information in this one, and I really think you’re going to love Janet. And so, here she is!

Konnichiwa! Hajimemashite, yoroshiku onegaishimasu! I’m Janet, a mother of two beautiful twin boys. Together with my husband, we’ve been living in Tokyo for the past two years.

I am a former architect turned full-time stay-at-home mom. Last summer, I turned 40 but was too busy chasing after my kids to give it much thought or emotion. I am Korean by ethnicity, but born and raised in New York. My husband is British and grew up in London. He moved with his company to NYC, where we met, and now we are based in Tokyo.

My sons, C and M, are two-and-a-half years old and are bundles of energy. I speak American English to them while my husband speaks The Queen’s English to them; and although they spend much more time with me than my husband, they speak American English with a British accent.

Cute Tokyo apartment, coming right up!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Lori Baskin Photography.

I always love to hear stories of how families chose their homes. Sometimes it’s walk-through-the-front-door-perfect, and sometimes it requires a little imagination. Plus also a general contractor with access to heavy machinery!

Jan and her family needed a little help, but they also put in a lot of their own sweat equity — I love her advice about that! — and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Come meet her. Happy to have you here, Jan!

Hello! I’m Jan and I share my home with my husband Bill, oldest son Mason, and two younger daughters Sloan and Reese. Billy and I met in college when we were neighbors and the convenience made it easy for our relationship to last. We both graduated from The Ohio State University and have chosen to raise our family in central Ohio. Billy is a dedicated provider but also enjoys his down time on the weekends. Our family keeps busy with friends in the area that also have children our age. We also spend a lot of time with both sides of our family and appreciate that we live close to them. Our home has an open door policy and you will often find someone stopping by unannounced or a get together taking place. The more the merrier!

We are a family with the females dominating! Our son is old enough to remember what it was like being the only child in the family. He dominated our time and was lucky enough to have both parents present at sporting events, school performances, and parties. He went through a bit of shock when his first little sister came; the realization that parents shared time among children was a new concept and one that took time for our son to adjust to.

But quickly, we all adjusted and enjoyed our family of four. We adjusted so well that in two-and-a-half years we had baby number three. We face the normal sibling arguments but know deep down they would not have it any other way. The second baby girl meant we females outnumbered the males and the little girls have personalities to show.

Our middle daughter is four going on fifteen. She is athletic, intelligent, and confident. She keeps us all on our toes. Our youngest is already showing signs of following in her big sister’s footsteps which will be needed to keep up with her big brother and sister.

The blue living space is divine! Come see.

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By Gabrielle. Photos a sweet combination by Stasia and Melissa Reid Photography.

Stasia is a bright ball of enthusiasm and infectious energy. She tells a story with all-caps words highlighted to make sure you’re getting it, to make sure you’re feeling it. I did and do. You will, too.

Come meet her, please. Welcome, Stasia!

Hello there! I’m Stasia (41) and I live in Brattleboro, Vermont with my husband, Knowles (46) and our two little biscuits, Raisa (nine) and Zealand (three). I am wildly extroverted, with extreme doses of sass, hyperbole, drama and wit. I’m brave. I like to do hard things, but I’ll likely belly-ache through the whole darn thing (see hyperbole and drama). Knowles, on the other hand, is more like The Dude from The Big Lebowski. He goes with the flow, doesn’t get rattled, and thrives on deep meaningful conversation. He does hard things too…just with no belly aching. Knowles and I met while rock climbing in Alaska 20 years ago, which is pretty cool since we were both Mainers living the mountain-life in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Our daughter, Raisa, is nothing short of a wonder. When I was pregnant with her, the docs were not sure she would survive childbirth. She was born with multiple physical anomalies, not all of which were discovered when she was born. Over the past nine years, Raisa has seen at least a dozen specialists at Children’s Hospital Boston, has been under anesthesia over 15 times, and has had literally hundreds of doctor’s appointments. She is wildly curious, asks way too many questions, and has the gumption to show up and speak up no matter what. She’s smart, sassy, opinionated, and filled with a love so deep, she can hardly find ways to express it all.

Zealand (aka ZZ) is quick witted, LOUD, and incredibly mischievous. He has the most dramatic and varied facial expressions I’ve ever seen on one tiny human. His personality is larger than life, which makes complete sense, since he was born a ten pound 11 ounce whopper!

I’m pretty sure both my kids would trade me in for a steady supply of gatorade and candy bars — neither of which I allow in my house.

Raisa was born a Mainer in March 2007, and six months later, we moved to Brattleboro, Vermont, so that Knowles could earn his Master’s Degree in Conflict Transformation from SIT Graduate Institute (The School for International Training). We were two years post Peace Corps (Moldova 03-05), still holding on to a dream of living/working abroad once Knowles graduated. But by the time we arrived here in Bratt, Raisa’s medical needs were so complex, we realized we needed a new dream.

Fortunately for us, Brattleboro was that dream. Within days of arriving, an incredible support system was created for us, BY THE COMMUNITY, that was unwavering in its willingness to support us through some really hard years. Brattleboro is synonymous with community, and that’s exactly what we love most about living here.

More loveliness, just ahead.

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By Gabrielle.

I found Nathan in his own corner of Instagram, and was instantly intrigued. His bio reads “A family of five galavanting about Mexico in a 1978 VW Bus. Full-time travelin’ types since 2008.” His squares are dusty captures of a life lived on the run — not away from anything, to be sure, but more toward everything. Toward crisp blue bodies of water and hammocks for everyone and space to run and time to explore. Does that make sense? It will after you read Nathan’s compelling interview.

He founded an online magazine dedicated to advising others who want to travel full-time — A Complete Guide to Perpetual Travel, as he calls it — and it’s wonderfully empowering and community-building. Go see. (But first, this tour around his family’s life!)

I’m so excited to share him with you. Welcome, Nathan!

Hi there. My name’s Nathan, and I was the kind of kid who did the math and realized that 18 years of being young and free, then 45 years of working every day all day long, only to get a few more free years at the end when you’re all old and shriveled up — remember, this is ten-year old me talking — didn’t seem like a great plan. I asked around and it turned out that most people agreed that it wasn’t exactly an ideal setup, but that’s just the way it was…

So, I gave in, got a job, quit, got another job, quit, and so on. Then one day while I was eating ramen noodles for the umpteenth time, probably on my sixth job that I hated before I was even 19 years old, I saw an ad for an art school in Pittsburgh. I figured if I had to trade my time for money to make it in this world, I might as well be drawing pictures.

It was while I was sitting around on the campus of this art school that I noticed a young lady looking at me through a window. I was shy, she was even more so. But I wrote a lot of poetry back then and she liked to read, so we sort of hit it off through all of that. It was a lovely autumn spent together as friends.

We went separate ways. Somehow I ended up with a house and a 40-hour a week job at a PBS station and a beautiful young son named Tristan who has gone through a ton of heartache in his life, and despite having a dreamer/hot-tempered dad, remains to this day the most grounded, even-tempered, likable person I’ve ever met.

Meanwhile, Renée, the girl I met in college, went off to backpack around Europe.

What happens next? You’ll see!

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By Gabrielle.

I love Lisa’s honesty and charm. She admits she’s committed to a tidy house — she says it’s a Southern hospitality thing, “A home should be picked up so it will feel warm and welcoming to guests.” But she also admits to hiding all the typical family mess behind closet and cabinet doors when she’s getting ready for a photoshoot. I can relate!

This is a lady who really loves her life and has a sense of humor about it all. I’m so happy to share her vivaciousness with you today. Welcome, Lisa!

We are the McDaniel family. If the walls of our Creole cottage could talk, they’d speak of dreams and challenges and hard work. They’d speak of life. And that life would be ours.

Beau is my best friend, business partner, and hubby of nineteen years. (Ya’ll, he’s still the man of my dreams!) Reece, 16, and Aidan Gray, 13, are our sweet, sweet sons, and Lorén is our dreamy-eyed seven-year old daughter. Although our home isn’t a palace or a castle, a princess definitely lives here. We call her Lorénderella!

I almost forgot to mention the newest addition to our family. Dexter is our moose-sized Maltese — 16 pounds! — who trots around our home with the patience of a saint. We often find him being strolled around the park in doll prams, dressed up in dresses, and carried around like a baby. The dear puppy takes it all in stride, as he and Lorén are best buds. I swear he hides angel wings beneath his white fur.

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Karen E. Photography.

Diane is a person who doesn’t like to waste time. I quite enjoy that quality in people, don’t you? And, in fact, Diane possesses a truckful of enviable qualities I could either list from one to one hundred — or you could just read the words she’s left here with us today.

If you’re feeling not-so-strong, I encourage you to stick around for Diane. If you’re feeling scared or alone or overwhelmed, please stay. This is one to read now and come back to later. I promise. Welcome, Diane. I am so glad you’re here.

My name is Diane and I don’t like to beat around the bush. Ha! How’s that for an introduction? Chit-chat makes me uncomfortable, I don’t have a poker face, and I am compelled to acknowledge the elephant in the room. He’s too distracting! I’m a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom who is a tomboy at heart yet loves a maxi dress on occasion. I can’t live without my running shoes and feel freest on the trails at sunrise.

I created this unbelievable family with my soft-spoken, brilliant husband, Will, who is wise beyond his years (which are three less than mine) and utterly unflappable. He can grow a five o’clock shadow well before noon, and I am lucky to have him as the captain of my pompom squad. Like any smart girl who was raised by a wonderfully supportive father, I looked for the boy who was most like him and then I married him.

When Will and I were engaged, I said, “I want to have two girls so we can give them each one of our sisters’ names.” It’s like I proclaimed it from that moment! Dylan Christine was the first and nothing makes me happier than the special bond she shares with my confidante and sister, Chrissy. Dylan has always been acutely observant and very emotionally intelligent. She thrives on social interaction and asked at two years old to go to school so she could “play with little boys and little girls.” Story time at the library simply wasn’t enough! Dylan truly smiles from her heart and I could stare into her blue-gray eyes for the rest of my life and be happy.

Taylor Camille is our little goof who giggles when she toots and then turns around and proclaims that she is never ever eating dinner again. I don’t know if my sister-in-law, Cami, wants to lay claim to either of these traits! But Taylor will hug and kiss you until you feel that everything is right with the world. She is immensely creative, innately funny, and she is going to blaze her own trails for sure. Taylor was simply born with a confidence that is written all over her face, and when she catches my eye and flashes a knowing wink, my heart melts every time.

Diane’s story, straight ahead. You won’t want to miss it.

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By Gabrielle.

No matter which corner of Melinda’s home I gaze upon, I can’t help but feel a weighty sense of tranquility. A hush, a calmness, much like the early pages in The Napping House! Isn’t that funny? Do you ever look at a home and become overwhelmed by a first impression? Like, Maureen’s house prompted thoughts of adding way more color, ModFruGal’s tour had me turning chairs to face our gorgeous view outside, and Lynne Knowlton’s treehouse…well…I love a treehouse!

But what’s most interesting to me is how Melinda’s home truly matches her. Read her words. Soak up her thoughts. You’ll feel a hush, a calmness come over you. I honestly love when that happens. When a home so twins with its owners that it all feels right and meant to be.

Welcome, Melinda! I can’t wait to share you with everyone.

When I was ten, my parents moved my siblings and I to Northeast Ohio for my father’s job. My parents bought a house built in 1931 that comfortably had the living space for a family of six, but needed quite a bit of work to say the least. Throughout the years, there were kitchen renovations, bathroom remodels, landscaping projects, just to name a few, that were all done in such a way as to honor both our family and the home.

My mom and dad never stopped working on that house the 26 years they lived there. It didn’t matter, though. It was beautiful, warm, and home which is how my husband and I felt when we first stepped into our own home almost 16 years ago.

We were young, newly married, and looking for a starter home. We both had gotten jobs in central Ohio, my husband in sports management and myself a position as a first grade teacher. Neither one of us were that familiar with the area which explains why when our realtor asked about neighborhoods we would be interested in we mentioned one well out of our price range.

After a few discussions about what we were looking for and our budget, our realtor mentioned a neighborhood that had tree lined streets, old homes, and character. Those words were music to my ears. We spent a number of days looking at these old homes, but were disappointed by the updates many of them had seen over the years. Homes built in 1922 had additions added on over time that did not suit the time period or home itself.

After seeing quite a few houses, our realtor drove into what was to become our driveway. I can remember falling in love with the charm of the front of the house, the original oak floors, and the large backyard. There were definitely many projects to be done, like ripping out wall to wall — it literally went up a wall — brown shag carpet from the sunroom, but it felt like home. It felt like a place we could start a family.

This kitchen. Oh my. Come see!

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By Gabrielle.

Ana first sent me a video tour of her home, with her guiding the way through it. Her voice could melt butter, her eyes are so kind, and I seriously wrote back, “WE WOULD BE GREAT FRIENDS.” The other day, she sent me updated shots of her kitchen, smack in the middle of cooking a Mexican feast as a thank you to her circle of moms. Again, I thought, “Wow. We would be really great friends.”

I love virtually meeting people whose first impressions hit you like that, don’t you? I really hope you enjoy this interview and tour. Who knows? Maybe Ana will invite us over for a Mexican feast someday!

Welcome, Ana!

We are the Bianchi family: Alberto, Ana, our six-year-old daughter Florencia, and our dog, Pepa Pug, named in honor of Peppa Pig since they both snore just the same. I am originally from Mexico and my family was from Spain. I always say I have 100% Spanish blood but a Mexican heart pumping it.

My husband is a more of a mutt, born in Argentina of a Californian-Scottish mom and Italian paternal grandparents. Needless to say, food in our home is a combo of Italian, Spanish, Mexican deliciousness mixed with healthy American farm-to-table.

Alberto and I met on a blind date on his birthday 12 years ago — nice gift! Since day one we knew this was it. We got married three times: downtown in City Hall (white dress), then in a church (I wore yellow), and a month later we had our “pagan” wedding at a beach in Mexico (blue dress that time!).

How many tomatoes are on your kitchen floor? Ha!

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By Gabrielle.

I knew Stephanie was a champion memory keeper, and that she’d have a lot to share with us to inspire even the most “Darn it! I forgot my camera again!” of us. (Not to mention the “Oh. Another year of art projects to organize. Hooray.” crowd, right?) And of course, inspire she will. But when I read about the reason behind her love of memories, I just about melted.

Please enjoy Stephanie’s words and gorgeous home. I’m honored to have her here with us today. Welcome, Stephanie!

Hi there! I’m Stephanie and I’m beyond excited to be here sharing my home with you! When Gabrielle approached me about being a part of this series, I had to email her back to make sure she had the right person. While I would love to think of my life as daring and thrilling, it’s basically just the opposite! I’m a homebody who spends most of my days toting my two children, ages five and seven, to and from school and activities, cooking dinner, cleaning up piles and piles of legos, and doing laundry. Sound familiar?

I’m a stay at home mama with many side jobs, including, but not limited to — milk cleaner-upper, lego organizer, stuffed animal rescuer, and lullaby singer. I’ve worked in several different professional roles over the past seven years, but decided to stay at home (mostly) full time after my son was born.

Being a stay at home mom has its ups and downs, as many of you probably know. Some days I feel like I’ve got it all together and other days I’m just trying to keep my head above water. Luckily, I have a handsome and hilarious husband as my sidekick to help me make my way through this crazy life. Our home can be a little crazy with lots of laughter and maybe just a touch of chaos sprinkled in as well!

Our oldest, Anna, is the heart and soul of our family. She has the kindest heart and the most amazing passion for life. She’s slightly obsessed with mermaids and has been since about age two. At her preschool graduation, she announced that she wanted to be a mermaid when she grew up and that idea hasn’t changed yet. From mermaid drawings to mermaid stories, our house is covered from top to bottom. We totally thought her mermaid obsession was a passing phase, but it hasn’t seemed to fade yet.  She’s also an avid reader and goes through book after book every day. My husband and I both are avid readers, but we surely can’t keep up with her!

The baby of the family is our son, Drew. Clearly he’s five, so he’s not still a baby, but one can dream they will stay little forever, right? Drew is a character and has been making us hysterically laugh out loud since he could talk. I’m always amused that my five year old son can make me belly laugh almost every single day. He’s quick witted and a math whiz who loves dinosaurs and Star Wars. Oh, and money. He’s obsessed with dollars and quarters for some reason. He’s my little helper and is always right there if I need a hand. He pulls out the chairs when I vacuum, makes his bed every morning, and helps with the laundry. I will most definitely have a mental breakdown when he starts kindergarten in the fall.

Inspiration overload, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

When I asked Alicia for brighter photos of her dining room, she wrote back two paragraphs! Turns out, it is the darkest room in her home because of its complete lack of windows. Which makes it difficult, many days, since it’s the absolute heart of her home and where they seem to spend the most time. (And before anyone suggests a simple remodel, I should add that this is a 250-year old home with loads of history; knocking down a wall or two might not be in the plans!)

I’m sure we’ve all had a room like that in one home or another, right? One you want to hate for its lackluster features, but can’t help but adore it when you think about all the good times you’ve experienced in it? It’s nice to hear how Alicia has grown to love the space. This is a fabulous read, especially the ending, and I hope it makes your day a little brighter.

Welcome, Alicia!

Hi everyone! I’m Alicia, and I’m so blessed to be able to share my story with you! Thanks for having me.

When I think back to how my husband and I met, I would never have believed where we would be today and how we got here. I met Ryan in college through my roommate and best friend. I was 18 years old and in my first year of college. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, or where I was going in life. Our relationship was short lived. We met a few months before summer, and that summer I decided I wasn’t quite ready for the depth of the relationship that Ryan and I had. To what I can only credit God for, we stayed in touch, became the closest of friends, and I slowly fell more and more in love with who Ryan was as a person and how our relationship was unlike any I had ever had.

I had a friend who once told me, “He treats you like a husband treats a wife.” That right there is what changed my life forever.

More goodness, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Maia started a business with her mom, and once I heard that I couldn’t stop smiling and wondering if maybe one of my kiddos would someday start a company with me. Maia is a Midwestern transplant to my neck of the woods, a minimalist with secret hoarding tendencies — which she is fighting! — and a mom intent on sharing her own unique parenting gifts and methods with her daughter.

I love her perspective and path. I hope you will, too. Welcome, Maia!

Hi, I’m Maia! Our little family is made up of my husband, Travis, and our daughter, Ingrid, who’s two.

Both my husband and I grew up in Wisconsin but we now call Sacramento, California home. I was raised in an idyllic, small, rural farming town that not only has a thriving alternative arts community but also has the most per capita organic farms in the state — and I believe the country at one time, but that might be one of the those local bragging rights that have no basis in fact! Either way, it was great place to grow up.

I went to school for graphic design and worked for years as a designer and art director for brands like Shopbop.com, Williams-Sonoma, Cuyana, and Rue Magazine. Last year, I branched out and launched a sustainable and design-minded online children’s boutique with my mom, called Bitte.

Since I work from home and my husband is a stay-at-home dad, we spend a lot of time together as a family. Probably what would seem a crazy amount for most people! Ever since I met Travis, though, we’ve rarely spent more than three or four hours apart at a time. We just really like each other’s company.

More goodness, straight ahead!

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