From the category archives:

Home Tours

By Gabrielle. Photos by Bentley Waters.

Some of you might remember Melisa from her days writing on The Lil Bee, a blog that was equal parts Sex and The City/New York style, as well as the diary of your best friend you’ve known for, like, ever. It was lovely, and so is she.

I asked if she would share her journey of living with her two daughters after a divorce, and she said yes. Please help me welcome Melisa, won’t you?

I’m Melisa and this is the home I share with my two daughters, Devon and Blake. Back in the day I wrote a blog called The Lil Bee, which was mostly about my two babies and other various interests. Those babies are now five and six (how?!) and are the girliest girls you’ve ever seen; everything is rainbows and pink all day and night and nobody leaves the house without at least six pieces of jewelry on at all times. I marvel at their big personalities and huge hearts, and feel lucky that I get to come along for the ride.

Sometimes I miss blogging, so I was excited when Gabby asked me to share a peek inside our world and, in particular, what life looks like post-divorce.

It’s been four years since we moved here and I can honestly say that it now feels like home. That took a while.

When we first moved in, all I was hoping for was a sense of calm and continuity. That this space has evolved into a place we look forward to spending time in is something I’m really proud of. Here’s a glimpse of what life looks like around here.

We live in a townhouse in the suburbs of New York City. I grew up in this area and moved to Manhattan after college. It never occurred to me that I would move back to the ‘burbs as an adult. Never! So when living in the city became unrealistic for several reasons — cost, outgrowing our space, planning a family — my ex and I moved with our dogs to a house up north.

More goodness, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Moving into a 200-plus year old home didn’t prompt Marjolaine to scour the shops for period-specific pieces and study traditional paint colors for months on end. Nope. She painted the whole thing white, added bright furniture and rainbow tiles as often as she could, and enlisted the help of her little ones in choosing bedroom wallpapers. I like her style.

Come see! Welcome, Marjolaine.

My name is Marjolaine Solaro, and I’m 37. I’m a French mum blogger and I write books about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childhood. I’m also a freelancer who works with brands to help them in their relationships with bloggers.

I’m married to a wonderful man I met 15 years ago. At the time, we were both working at a local TV channel. He now runs his own business as a TV producer. Together, we have three joyful kids!

My eldest is a romantic blond boy who is eight. He loves gymnastics and he’s a quick learner, skipping a grade and curious about everything. My second one is a six year old sweet girl. She was born two months in advance so she is a fighter. She loves to wear what she wants and she’s the queen of the mix and match outfit! My last one is three and a half. She’s the funny one and she speaks a lot! She’s also passionate with gymnastics, like her big brother.

You must see the rainbow tiles!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Kharisma Studios.

When Robin bravely wrote to me and suggested a different sort of home tour, I immediately wrote back to send her a tight squeeze. I am so proud of this woman for sharing her story with us, and inviting us all into her life for the day.

This one made me cry several times, but more than that, I admire her beyond the moon. Please welcome her with your kindness, won’t you?

Hi everyone! I’m Robin. Welcome to our home.

Currently it’s just me and my husband, Mark, living in our home. I work for a large charter school network in Phoenix overseeing operations, enrollment, and reporting and compliance for the 22 schools in our network. Mark works at the Mayo Clinic as an Instrument Technician. He does all the things you don’t think about but are essential to a hospital functioning: ordering supplies, sterilizing surgical equipment, etc.

Mark is an old man living in a 30-year old’s body. On most Saturday mornings, you can find him sitting in his favorite chair, drinking his coffee and staring into space. He’s not watching TV or checking his phone; he’s just sitting and being. I, on the other hand, can’t sit still to save my life. So while he sits, I dart around attempting to cross things off my to-do list. He’s good for me; he has taught me how to enjoy life and rest. I am happiest and most at ease when I am with him.

And we should be living with our son, William Earle, who would be three months old at this point. But sadly, due to complications during his delivery (meconium aspiration) he was without oxygen for several minutes leaving him brain dead. He died peacefully in our arms at four days old. So ours is a story of when you thought you would be living with kids and suddenly you aren’t.

In the years after college, I lived in Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. And then I moved back to Phoenix. When I met and married my husband, I knew I would live in Phoenix for the rest of my life since he is a fourth generation Arizonan. And I absolutely love living in Central Phoenix so I am completely on board with this plan.

More from Robin, just ahead.

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By Gabrielle.

I can tell you right now, I LOVED what I learned from this home tour. It’s like nothing I’ve really seen — although it did remind me a tiny bit of my adventurous friends at Blue Lily! — and it will most likely open your eyes to a way of living with kids you may never have considered. At least, it did for me.

Laura has a thoughtfulness and humility that just drew me right in, and I hope you feel the same way. She makes such a positive, community-strong case for her unique way of living as it applies to her and her family, so-much-so that it prompted me to stop and consider the housing trends and plans we’ve all been following as a society. Could I ever live in a Vandura with six kids? Probably not. But there’s so much more to this tour than that fact. So much more. You’ll see.

Welcome, Laura!

Hi everyone! I’m Laura. Our family is comprised of me, my partner Jeff, and our 21-month old son Henry. We are full-time musicians who play in the indie pop band Ok Vancouver Ok. We spend up to half of each year on tour driving, flying, and taking trains around the world to play concerts.

When we are not on the road we call Vancouver, Canada home. I was born and raised in this beautiful city and feel excited to watch Henry grow up here. In addition to being in a band, I work as an assistant and contributor for the award-winning Eco-parenting website The Green Mama. In between drumming and breastfeeding, I am toiling away on my laptop trying to research environmentally conscious alternatives to the often toxic trappings of parenthood.

An unconventional fact about our life is that we live in a roomy 1982 GMC Vandura that we have converted into a tiny home on wheels. We bought it on Valentine’s day last year and gut renovated it right away. The van had already been stripped of its original interior and had an after-market raised roof and cool vertical windows. The previous owners were unable to finish the renovation they had planned, and sold it to us in pretty rough shape. It was a rusty, moldy, blank slate. For 1200 Canadian dollars we figured we could gamble on it, and with some time and TLC our investment paid off.

Vans aren’t built to live in; they have little to no insulation and are filled with synthetic materials like plastic and foam. This is an indoor air quality nightmare! Our first order of business was to detoxify, insulate, and build out the interior with wood. We also laid down a new floor and built a raised platform in the back.

Totally amazing. Come look!

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By Gabrielle.

All you really need to know about Rachael is that she’s one of those wildly entertaining writers who might make you laugh out loud a few times throughout her interview. She’s real and aims to live a debt-free life in her detoxed home. You’re going to enjoy this one, I just know it.

Welcome, Rachael!

Hi everyone! I’m Rachael, also known as Faye, which is my middle name and the name I use for my blog, From Faye). I live in Northern California with my husband David and three little girls. On a normal day, you can find me around the house sweeping up sparkles from princess dresses and bribing my girls with gummy bears to pose for Instagram. I’m a fangirl of Peet’s coffee, high-waisted leggings, and clogs with socks. I grew up in small-town Kansas and migrated to Atlanta when I was eighteen, so I’m an all-American hybrid of West Coast, Midwestern, and deep South.

David is a web developer who works from our home office. He taught himself to program in the 90s and started his web business in a simpler time when all anyone ever wanted was a flaming logo on their home page. Before we dated, he rented a room in my parents’ basement and probably removed about 357 viruses from our family PC while he was there.

One day he started writing me funny emails, which made me fall love with him rather unexpectedly. I did the natural thing and freaked out, avoided him for seven months, and made plans to move to another state. He persisted rather unfruitfully until a mutual friend kindly sat me down and told me I WAS ACTING A FOOL. I realized she was right and told her she could be in our wedding. And she was, nine months later.

Our oldest daughter K.K. is four. She’s our social butterfly who loves to draw detailed pictures and puts together 100-piece jigsaws like a preschool puzzle genius. I frequently find her engineering things like skates from string and toy trains, or making space ships from my Amazon boxes.

Our middle daughter Liberty is three. She is sensitive and nurturing. Her favorite thing to do is pick me bouquets of clover and eat Chipotle Tabasco sauce on everything. Her throwing-up-at-two-am cry sounds exactly like her I-can’t-find-my-pink-tutu cry, so that keeps our adrenaline levels nice and elevated on a regular basis. Bless her.

Evelyn is our baby. She’s nine months old and is pretty easy-going as long as she is sitting in the very center of whatever her sisters are doing at all times. She enjoys eating bits of carpet and being our tiny human vacuum. She’s at the most squeezable, sniffable stage of babyhood. I spend half my day nuzzling her soft head and whispering fervent prayers that her wrist chub takes extra long to turn into a regular wrist.

Lots more to see! Come look!

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By Gabrielle. A few of the gorgeous family photos were shot by Momoko Fritz.

When Miggy sent me her interview answers, she apologized for the length and mentioned she could probably write forever about her special life and family. I wished she would. You will, too.

Welcome, Miggy!

I’ve been married to a tall, dark handsome fellow for over ten years. My husband is a dentist and is very science minded, but also loves working with his hands, specifically woodworking. (Fact: he made our bed from scratch! So keep an eye out for it in the pictures below.) My husband and I compliment each other well (read: total opposites) and we enjoy working on projects together. (He made the bed, I made the quilt.) We actually met online in 2004, but since that was still VERY new we didn’t cop to it until a few years after we were married!

From first date to married was eight months and then two weeks after our wedding we moved from Provo, Utah to New York City. Let me tell you, that was a lot of change at once! But ten years in and I think we’re doing pretty well.

Our first daughter was born in New York City and I think that was the best place in the world to become a mom. I absolutely loved it and think back on those days with so much fondness. NYC definitely has a piece of my heart. Our oldest daughter, who goes by the moniker PSP on our blog, is the ideal older sister: responsible, smart, kind, adventurous, and she’s developing quite the sharp wit!

We then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where we had our second daughter, which was probably the best place for her to be born as she was born with physical disabilities. Cincinnati Children’s hospital is one of the best hospitals in the country. Our middle daughter, whom we call Lamp on the blog, has what is known as limb differences, and is affected on all four limbs. This, of course, means that her limbs are different. Accessibility and doing things a little differently are the norm for our family. Personality wise, she is a spitfire and keeps us all on her toes! I always say that what she lacks in limbs, she makes up for in personality.

A couple years later we moved to San Antonio, Texas where our third (and God-willing) last daughter, blog named Zuzu, was born. She’s the perfect little caboose to our clan and is the perfect mixture of adorably sweet and infuriatingly mischievous. While I never saw myself as an all-girl mom, it’s an identity I love and claim.

There’s a lot to love in this one. Come read!

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By Gabrielle.

Ania is a diplomat’s wife, among many other things, but that’s the part of her that brought them to this home in Denmark. It’s also the part that seems to be breaking her heart a little these days, as you’ll read near the end of her interview. She’s got some truly lovely, stick-to-your-soul thoughts about raising kids in a somewhat transient lifestyle, knowing full well your home won’t be your home in a few short years.

I really enjoyed this peek into her diplo-lifestyle, and I hope you feel the same way! Welcome, Ania!

Hej! That’s what they say here in Denmark, although they pronounce it “Hi!” I’m Ania, a thirty something who seems to be a little bit of everything. By profession, I’m an HR Consultant. By hobby, I’m a blogger and an enthusiastic, but still very amateur, photographer. By marital status, I’m a diplomat’s wife. And as a mom, I’ve got two little diplo-tots: Clara, age five and Stanley, age one.

We don’t have any pets in our family due to allergies, and this is much to our daughter’s terrible dismay. So we make up for it with a menagerie of animal toys and figurines that we seem to have acquired from all over the globe that stand in for the puppy she really hopes will join us some day.

My youngest is pretty easy going. He loves avocados and removing his socks and is always game for a laugh. He’s been a real joy for all of us, and I’m excited to watch his personality grow. He probably won’t remember much from Denmark, but life has been good for him here.

My daughter, on the other hand, has definitely two sides to her personality that come out in different ways depending on which language she’s speaking. She’s quite well integrated here and speaks the language fluently. We put her in a particularly Danish school — in a forest school — so she spends all day every day having adventures outdoors in the woods or on the beach, regardless of the weather. I found this all so fascinating that I started a second blog on it. When she’s in her Danish mode, she is more group oriented, more collaborative, more horizontal. When she’s in a more American mode, you can really see the more unique quirks of her personality shine, and her competitive streak really comes through. It’s funny how quickly kids can respond to the world around them.

We live just north of Copenhagen, Denmark in one of the seaside suburbs. We’ve been here for about two and a half years and have about six more months to go…and I have to say, we are going to be extremely sad to leave. Which is something I thought I would never say! We were so excited to come here to Copenhagen; there was so much said about the city, about the restaurants…about the design…about all the happiness. We got here and once the initial euphoria wore off, I had this realization that I didn’t love it all that much. I actually had a hard time adjusting. That was confusing for me since of all the places we have lived, this was the first time that’s really ever happened to me.

Part of that was the fact that we were giving suburban living a try for the very first time and I wasn’t used to all the quiet — all the hiding behind walls, which is compounded by the fact that Danes are naturally more reserved. Part of it was due to the fact that as I kept my own career going, I was traveling constantly — often times, three, or four days a week — so I never even really felt like I lived here the first year. I just had a closet here, and a family I didn’t see nearly enough, and I took that out on everyone else.

And part of it was due, I think, to having so many expectations. There are so many more articles and blogs and books and opinions about places now that you can read ahead of time. It’s good to know about where you’re going and to some degree, you’re expected to hit the ground running. But I was so busy thinking of how life would be in Copenhagen, that I didn’t make enough room to accommodate the way that life actually is.

The thing that really turned things around for me was perhaps the most Danish thing of them all. I received 14 months of maternity leave once my second child was born; I only recently went back to work this month. Ironically, I was having such a hard time in Denmark before he was born that I decided to deliver outside of Copenhagen, in Vienna, where we had our first. There was just something about having the same doctor and same midwife and same hospital that was very comforting at the time. So I took a bit of a hiatus. Everyone thought I might not come back at all, but the opposite happened. It was almost as if taking a break — a real break — gave me the opportunity to start over, and make peace with the city, and really take in all the good things that make this such a fantastic place to raise a young family.

More goodness, straight ahead!

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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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