Design Mom The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:18:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Four Picture Books You’ll Love Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:30:38 +0000 Design Mom

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Images and text by Gabrielle.

Last month I wrote a post about four picture books we’ve added to our library, and this month I thought it would be fun to share another four. As you may remember, I’m trying to write less posts this year, but keep them packed with content, so sharing 4 books once each month, instead of one small book post each week could be a great solution!

1)  First up, The Memory of an Elephant: An Unforgettable Journey. Written by Sophie Strady, with illustration by Jean-Francois Martin.

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Such a cool book! And totally unusual. There’s a storyline you can follow about Marcel the Elephant as he writes and encyclopedia, but it’s also a book that packed with information — sidenotes and tidbits — so you can browse the pages without following the story at all.

And the images! So dang good.Both the author and illustrator live in Paris and the book definitely has a chic French feel. I feel like this book is a treasure.

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2) The Little Pear Tree by Jenny Bowers.

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My friend, Annie, who owns Brimful Shop (and is a frequent commenter here — you may have seen her name), sent this book for June. It’s delightful! The book follows a pear tree over a full year, and readers watch at the tree transforms over the pages.

It’s interactive too. Each spread has lots of flaps to lift, hiding happy little discoveries. A perfect nature book for the littlest ones.

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3) Jumping Jack. Written by Germano Zullo, with illustrations by Albertine.

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This book is by a Swiss author-illustrator team. The outstanding cover drew me in, and the story kept me there. Jack is a championship show-jumping horse, but one day, finds he’s not doing so well competitively. Readers get to follow Jack and his rider as they try to figure out what’s going on — these two friends never give up on each other!

The whole style of this book — words and images — is fantastic. A treat to read and look at.

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4) In This Book by Fani Marceau, with illustrations by Joelle Jolivet.

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This is another book written by author illustrator team based in Paris. The book feels like an art book that will appeal to babies and toddlers. The words are simple and introduce simple concepts — I am in the bus, said the driver. I am in the lighthouse, said the lighthouse keeper.

It has oversize pages with details to explore and discover, and the text if full of new things for little minds to think about. It’s also a really beautiful book to own.


I hope you enjoy these titles. And if you’ve seen any picture books lately that you think I’d love, let me know if the comments!

P.S. — Looking for more book stuff? You can find all of my picture book posts here. Also, I know it’s October. If you’re craving Halloween titles, here are ten great ones!

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Living With Kids: Revisiting Haeley Giambalvo Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:30:03 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Candice Stringham for and Design Improvised.

You might remember the cute Chicago condo I featured a while back, owned by Haeley and her husband, and adored by their two little girls. She mentioned in her interview that she was moving to San Antonio, and the loveliest thing happened: a few readers reached out to lend their advice, support, and eventual friendship! If ever I needed a burst of positivity to remind me of how lucky I am to be a part of such a nurturing community, this would be it.

So it’s with a huge smile that I welcome back Haeley in her new Texas home. It’s pretty fantastic! Let’s go see.

Q: Tell us all about your family today!

I’ve got two busy preschoolers on my hands now. Stella just turned five and Hazel is now three. They go to a little preschool three mornings a week, which has been a welcomed routine for both kids and mommy alike!

Stella is my little mini-me: she is constantly making something. As soon as she wakes up she heads to her play table and starts pulling out paper, markers, and scissors. Her latest endeavor has been to check out kids’ crafting DVDs at the library and try making the things taught on the show. She always amazes me with what she is able to come up with on her own. Stella is a sweet, sensitive little girl. The night before her fifth birthday, she cried herself to sleep because she had so much fun being four and wanted to stay four forever. She loves anything to do with learning new things. She loves her little sister most of all.

Hazel is my little ball of energy and curiosity who rules the roost and is always a step ahead of the rest of us. We like to call her Hazie, but she prefers to go by Georgie, as in her favorite character Curious George. If you ever introduce her as Hazel, she will be quick to correct you. She never leaves home without her teddy bear, which at this point is hanging together by threads. She loves playing dress up by ransacking my closet, making crafts that involve a lot of messy glue or paint, playing on any type of electronic device, and helping cook in the kitchen as long as the recipe involves sugar. She has a big sweet tooth, and overall is a big sweetheart.

My husband Ross works for the Texas grocery store chain HEB, which is what brought us to San Antonio. Outside of work you can find him at home grilling in the backyard, keeping tabs on his fantasy football team, and playing in a local men’s hockey league (yep, they play hockey in Texas!). He’s in the process of transforming a tiny room off of our laundry room into his man cave – the 80 square feet he can claim as his own. He’s impressed me with his carpentry skills; he built a wall full of industrial style shelves and is in the process of transforming a vintage locker into wine storage.

I devote any kid-free minutes of my day to my blog Design Improvised, where I share DIYs for simple home and holiday crafts that make a big impact. I’m almost four years into blogging and I still love it so much that for better or worse I choose to do it over anything else…like, clean the house!

Q: You’ve moved! Where are you living, and how did you find your home?

A: Yes! We have been in the northwest suburbs of San Antonio since July of last year. We are about 15 miles from downtown. Because we were moving for my husband’s job, we had to make a decision on where to live pretty quickly. We flew down that April for a jam-packed weekend of seeing 20+ homes. Would you believe the home we ended up in was the very first one we saw? Had we known it would turn out that way, we could’ve saved ourselves the trouble and spend the rest of the weekend at the River Walk!

For us, the biggest challenge was getting a grasp for the area and narrowing down what part of the city in which we wanted to live. San Antonio is really spread out, and it was hard to know where to begin. We did our best to pick a few areas to focus our house hunting based on online research, but you just don’t know until you’re there in person.

I had a panic moment after our first day of looking at homes when I realized we had focused the bulk of our search too far out of town. It felt like such a giant leap to go from downtown Chicago to a semi-rural Texas neighborhood where I would’ve had to drive several exits down the highway to get to the grocery store. It was a stressful tear-filled day, but helped us identify what was most important. The home we ended up in is super accessible to restaurants, shopping, and downtown.

Q: What has been the biggest adjustment to your new area?

A: We loved living in Chicago, and for years I scoffed at the idea of moving to the suburbs. Funny enough, once we were here we didn’t think twice about it. I guess we were more suited for the suburbs than we realized. We came to San Antonio with an open mind and a determination to make this next chapter of our lives a good one.

We didn’t know anyone here, so I expected a tough transition from that perspective, but it just didn’t happen. We knocked on doors to introduce ourselves to our neighbors early on and invite them over for a drink. I think we actually know more of our neighbors than some of them that have lived here for 15 years know each other! I got involved in the active San Antonio blogging community and attended as many events as I could to meet people. We made friends with the parents at the girls’ preschool.

But perhaps most of all, I have this blog to thank for helping make the transition so smooth! I had several Design Mom readers in the San Antonio area reach out to me last year after our Chicago condo was featured in Living with Kids. The readers wrote sweet notes to welcome me to their city, tell me about their favorite spots, and offer their help. I was so surprised and touched by their generosity – it honestly meant the world to me.

Since then, two of them have become my closest friends here. One happens to live just down the road from me and introduced me to a mom group she is part of, and the other is a talented photographer and blogger who is now a frequent collaborator on blog projects (and has taken many of the photos in this house tour!). Our transition here could have been a much different story if it wasn’t for YOU all, so I can’t thank you enough.

Q: This new house is much bigger than your condo, right? How did you avoid the whole “Let’s go buy out the furniture store right now to fill this place!” urge? Did you give yourself time to get to know the house and figure out your needs?

A: Yes, it is about twice the size. Like they say, everything is bigger in Texas, and the cost of living here is less than Chicago. Our home is 17 years old and we invested in some updates before moving in: painting the kitchen cabinets and adding a new backsplash, replacing the carpeting upstairs with hardwood floors, and updating the lighting fixtures, etc. It was a big investment but it made a world of difference. It also didn’t leave a ton of money for rushing out and buying furniture. However, it was such a nice clean slate that I actually looked forward to some of the rooms staying empty for awhile so I could take my time thinking about what I wanted them to become. As a DIY blogger, what more could you want? It’s like a years’ worth of blog content, so I was in no rush.

I’ve also had a great partnership with over the past year. They have an amazing selection of home furnishings and I’ve had the opportunity to design several rooms in our house as part of my work with them.  We’ve collaborated on carving out a special kids’ area in our family room with a play table and toy storage, a shared bedroom for Stella and Hazel with twin beds that can convert into bunks and a reading nook, a guest bedroom makeover in time for the holidays, and an outdoor patio that allows us to hang outside together as a family year round. You can find more details of each room in these styleboards.

The process has required me to be more thoughtful and intentional about the design of each room by developing a mood board and testing out different looks for each space, and I feel like I’ve really grown into my own distinct style over the past year as a result.

Q: What did you want to do differently with the decor of this home? What style or pieces did you want to retain?

A: I wanted to take my time and create spaces that I would love for a long time. Unlike in Chicago, where we started furnishing our condo as newlyweds and making it work over time for a family, I approached the design of this house with a family in mind.

Stella and Hazel have the run of the house. They have a special corner of the family room that holds some of their toys, and a play table where they eat their breakfast in the morning and spend much of the day working on crafts or Legos while watching their favorite shows.

I turned a covered balcony into an outdoor playroom for the girls with a kid-sized picnic table, rocking chairs, sensory table, and potted plants for them to dig in the dirt. We grew our first tomatoes and peppers there this summer.

The girls go into my craft room daily and pull out supplies to make something of their own. It can make a huge mess, but our house is messy most of the time (unlike these photos!), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As for pieces we retained, I reused nearly all our furniture from Chicago but in different ways. A little dresser that held toiletries in a bathroom in Chicago is now a nightstand in the guest room. The rug that was in our master bedroom is now under the dining table. I love the challenge of finding a new way to use a piece. To me, it is just as exciting as going out and buying something new.

Q: How are your girls adjusting? And you?

A: I think they were at a good age to make a big transition like this. They are just excited for anything new, so if you make a big deal out of it, they will be on board. The fact that there is a Chuck E Cheese across the street from their new school is a good enough reason for them to like San Antonio!

We all really miss my sister Heather and brother-in-law Alan and our little nephew Ollie. They were our family unit in Chicago and were a big part of the girls’ lives there. Stella still says she wishes Uncle Alan could come over and play chase and hide and seek with her like they did in Chicago. We don’t get to see them enough, and it kills me that I don’t get to be around Ollie (now 10 months) and help out like my sister did with my girls. We are in the process of trying to convince them to move to San Antonio.

Q: What do you hope your girls remember about your life in this house?

A: How they loved being at home more than anywhere else. How in these magical preschool years the day stretched before them and they could choose to spend it however they wanted…spending all day in their playroom, playing in the backyard in their pjs, helping me in the kitchen, the three of us making a big mess together in the craft room.

How they always were free to make the house their own…creating their own holiday decorations to display along with mine, coloring endless pictures to hang on their playroom wall.

Finally how they loved spending time together as sisters…waking up in the same bedroom by chatting and singing silly songs together and telling each other “I love you, sis” before going to bed at night.

A: Purge, purge, purge! Be really diligent about getting rid of stuff you don’t need rather than bringing it with you.

This was especially the case with some flea market pieces I had plans to eventually refurbish. We all have these, right? I realized if I hadn’t been motivated to do them in Chicago, I wasn’t going to ever do it here in San Antonio, and so most have been donated!


So nice to reconnect with you, Haeley! I have to tell you that I misted up a few times! Once at your daughter’s tears on her last night of four, and the other about not being there for your nephew. It’s tough to be far away from family, isn’t it?

Friends, have you recently moved your family to a new spot? Tell us about your transition. Was it easy on your kids? Was it easy on you? If you have secrets to share, please know they are always welcome!

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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Host an Etsy Trunk Show! Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:30:08 +0000 Design Mom

Michelle Smith and her shop,  Gather, in Cary, NC.

By Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Small Business Saturday® and Etsy

Small Business Saturday is coming up next month — on November 29th. I try to announce it every year. As a small business owner myself, I feel supportive of my peers, but I also care about the day because small business has consistently been part of my family life — my parents, and especially my father, always had a small business going on to supplement his teaching income. And the small business gene is something my siblings and I seem to have inherited. Among my brothers and sisters, I think we have about a dozen small businesses happening at the moment!

That said, beyond my personal experiences, I value small businesses because I know what an important part they play in stabilizing and growing a healthy economy.

Olives and Grace, Boston

This year, I’m especially excited because there’s a new feature to Small Business Saturday: shop owners and Etsy sellers are teaming up to host trunk shows! I love that so much. The picture of two small business owners helping each other and encouraging their communities to #shopsmall is pretty fantastic.

Clementine Middlebury VT

In the photos here, I’m featuring three of the shops who have already signed up to host trunk shows — Gather in Cary, North Carolina, Olives & Grace in Boston, and Clementine in Middlebury, Vermont. If you’re a shop owner, you can host a trunk show, too! Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up for Etsy Wholesale with VIP code: AmexSBS

2. Find a local Etsy artist or designer who you want to work with. Then invite them to showcase their products in your store.

3. Once you’re official with Etsy Wholesale, they’ll send you your trunk show enrollment form. It just takes a few moments to submit this form online.

4. Lastly, look out for your free trunk show kit filled with good stuff in the mail.*

You can find out more about the program here.

I don’t have a storefront and (sad face) don’t get to host a trunk show, but that didn’t stop me from browsing Etsy and thinking about which makers I would love to team up with. How about you? Who would you want to pair up with for an Etsy trunk show? Perhaps you have a friend who is an Etsy seller? Are you a shop owner? Or do you have small business owners in your family? Have you ever hosted a trunk show? I’d love to hear!


*Merchandise is only available to eligible small businesses through 11:59 p.m. ET on 10/24/2014 or while supplies last. Limit one order per business. Subject to Merchandise Terms. See Merchandise Terms at

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Report from France Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:03:18 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Images from Olive’s Instagram. Video by Ralph.

As promised, here is a little report about Olive and Ralph and their experience in France this semester.

Olive has been in France since September 1st. She’s young (she turned 13 the week before she moved), and we knew this might not work for her, so we were prepared to fly her back home if she wasn’t thriving. But so far, she seems to LOVE it. She’s staying with our dear friend, Caroline, and Olive says she’s amazed how fast dinner clean up goes with fewer people in the house. Hah! I love that she’s getting to see how another house is run. It’s important to me that my kids understand there are lots of right ways to do most things.

She really seems to be developing a sense of independence — helped by the fact that she lives in town and isn’t waiting on a car and parent to get her around. During her first week, she needed to change her money from dollars to euros, and instead of waiting for a grownup, she decided to take care of the task herself. She walked herself to the bank and inquired about the exchange. The bankers sent her to the post office and she was able to take care of it there. No big deal. And just to remind you, this is all taking place in French.

Speaking of French, she said she’s doing well with the language and can speak mostly accent free. She’s enrolled in the same school she attended when we lived there and it’s been wonderful for her to instantly know people and be in a familiar place.

Argentan Mural

Olive has also been acting as translator. There is an American family living in La Cressonière and they have kids attending the same school as Olive. One of them is in her class, and as he learns French, Olive is helping translate as needed. Several years ago, when our kids first started at that school, there was an Irish family attending, and they kindly acted as translators for my kids, so I like the idea that Olive can pay the kindness forward.

When we lived there, Olive’s extra-curricular activities were horseback riding and piano. We wondered if she would want to sign up for those again this semester. But instead, she’s taking a drama class and really enjoying it.

Caroline has also taken Olive to visit our Cottage (which reminds me, I still haven’t properly introduced the cottage. It’s on my list!)

Normandy Field

Now on to Ralph. You may remember, Ralph spent the last week of August and most of September in England. He’s been in France since September 27th.

This whole study abroad concept has really grabbed Ralph’s imagination. Like Olive, he’s thriving too, and can see the possibilities. He’s even started talking to friends in Japan and Australia about doing exchanges. Who knows if it will happen, but either way, he clearly loves this!

England was wonderful for him. He found that getting to experience a taste of the school there was really satisfying. He loved meeting new people and being able to determine his own schedule. He was able to explore the town of Abingdon and he and his friend could take the train to London to explore there as well. (Ralph loves London!)

And then, when he arrived in France, he couldn’t stop telling us how awesome our little town of Argentan is. He said he didn’t understand how awesome it was until he moved back, and that we should move the family back asap. : ) He said he loves walking around town because he sees so many people he knows and loves — like the clockmaker — as he goes about his day.

His language is excellent, but he talks often about wanting to get it perfect. His goal is complete fluency and he studies the nuances to figure out where he’s still getting it wrong.

He also attends the same school as Olive, but only sort of. He’s auditing classes so he can attend as much as he likes, but his coursework is through K12. This seems to be working well. He is able to get his school work done in a few hours, which leaves him time for writing screen plays and working on films, which is for sure his first love.

His latest movie is the one at the top and I feel like it’s his best so far. And maybe his best by far! It’s only two minutes, I hope you’ll watch it because I think you’ll really enjoy it. (And if you do, I hope you’ll share it. It’s a good one!)

One interesting thing is that doing his school work independently has reminded him of how much of a typical school day is just sort of busy work or wasted time moving between classes, and he’s wondering what it would take to graduate early and be completely done with high school. So we’re looking into that to see what it would take. Ralph seems to do well in a school setting — he’s super social — so of course it’s interesting for us to see that he’s find to be done with that and move on.

As expected, both love the food!

I can’t believe they’ve been gone for almost 2 months! We miss them like crazy and the house always feels a little empty without them. One unexpected result that has come with their absence: We thought Maude might get lonely, but she really seems to be thriving. Sometimes I forget that Maude is an introvert and really needs alone time to recharge. With Ralph and Olive gone, she seems to be getting more of that precious alone time and is enjoying life more than ever! Ben Blair and I are already talking about how we’ll help her preserve that time once they return.

To stay connected, every Sunday morning we have a family Google Chat, where we can share 3 screens and get to have time together. Of course, we also get to talk with Ralph and Olive throughout the week as needed. Hallelujah for technology! And I continue to be comforted knowing Olive and Ralph can connect in person if they’re homesick.

I think that’s it for a report today. Anything I missed? If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to respond. I’d love to hear more about your experiences with international exchanges, or study abroad semesters, or kids far from home. And what do you think about Ralph’s video? I always love reading your words!

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A Few Things Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:15:11 +0000 Design Mom

cinderella pumpkins

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How was your week? Mine was good! On Monday night, Ben Blair and I went to dinner with Brad and Kristi Montague, the couple that writes and produces the fantastic Kid President videos. The dinner totally pumped me up! Such a talented, sincere, hardworking couple. I’ve been thinking about the evening ever since.

The second happy thing: The weather has finally cooled down here a bit! It’s hovering around 70 — I realize that’s still totally mild, but it feels closer to fall than it did last week. : ) And speaking of fall, we are in full Halloween costume mode around here (Oscar wants to be Frankenstein, Betty wants to be Dracula, and June wants to be Annie), and I suspect that’s what we’ll be working on this weekend. That, and more progress on the Girls’ Room. How about you? Any weekend plans?

I’m off to a lunch meeting in a bit, but before I head out, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Which English you speak has nothing to do with how smart you are. Thanks, Ainsley.

- The best way to respond to a bully. Thanks, Natalie.

- A very powerful read on what happens when a company tackles Ebola.

- Cozy nook inspiration!

- This boggles my mind a bit, but apparently seven pounds isn’t what ten pounds is. New research indicates that heavier babies are also healthier — and do better in school. (All my babies were tiny! None even close to 10 lbs.) Thanks, Kat.

- This also boggles my mind. What a $95 million apartment looks like. Thanks, Audrey.

- Woah. These shrimps can see cancer, and now, there is a camera that can, too. Thanks, Matt.

- The cutest marshmallow monsters.

- A group of professional moms called the Nappy Collective in Melbourne are running an Australia-wide diaper drive. In August alone, they collected 82 thousand diapers. I’m so curious if you see diaper drives like this where you live?

- PLEASE let this be true. #bringbackourgirls

- Oh man. This is amazing, mind-blowing and ultimately incomprehensible to me. Made me tear up thinking about how precious life is.

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


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Caitlin Wilson Textiles Giveaway Thu, 16 Oct 2014 21:21:13 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

Ready for a gorgeous giveaway? Good. Because I’ve got one. You could win $150 from Caitlin Wilson Textiles!

Cailtin Wilson Textile Portland Collection

Caitlin Wilson is a textile and interior designer who will knock your socks off. I’ve worked with her lovely company on Design Mom before, and I know that people adore her wares! If her products are new to you, I urge you to take a look.

The Caitlin Wilson shop stocks pillows, rugs, furniture, and fabric by the yard as well. And all of it features her fabulous original textile designs. Including the newly launched Portland Collection. It’s full of watercolored patterns and florals that look completely fresh and modern.

Caitlin Wilson Portland Collection

If I won, I would be tempted by the Bridge City Blooms Pillow on Grey (stunning!), anything in the Gold Collection, because gold always feels like fall and holiday to me, and this Navy Spotted Fabric — I don’t know what I would do with it, but I am into it for sure.

To enter, visit Caitlin Wilson Textiles and leave a comment below. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!


Molly is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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The Treehouse: Girls Room Remodel Thu, 16 Oct 2014 18:53:41 +0000 Design Mom

olive and june

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

This is a photo of Olive and June. Which reminds me, I really need to write a post about how Olive and Ralph are doing in France!

But really, this photo is here, just so I can have something pretty at the top of this post. Because after the jump, I’m showing lots of photos of the girls’ room pre-remodel, and the photos are not pretty. They’re not pretty because I snapped them with my phone in low light. And they’re not pretty, because, it’s just not a very pretty space. Yet.

But it will be! I’m confident of that.

We started the remodel on Tuesday. Want to see what we’re up to?

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This is the girls room. The former owners used it as the master bedroom. You can see what it was like when we moved in here. It hasn’t changed much.

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There used to be two big closets. The one pictured here, and another one that backed up to the boys’ room.

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See that wall by the door that looks like it’s freshly dry-walled? That was a closet. But we walled it in so we could add a couple of feet to the boys’ room, in order to fit two twin beds in there.

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Here’s another angle. Note the acoustic ceiling tiles.

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Our first idea was to remake the closet that’s still here into 4 equal-sized closets, one for each girl. But then we learned that the electric box in the farthest closet shouldn’t be in a closet at all. So we’ve decided to do something different.

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Here’s a shot of the progress after two days. The carpet is gone. And the remaining closet is gone.

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The ceiling is divided by beams into 3 sections. The tiles came off of two sections to reveal pretty wood planks on the ceiling. (Which was also true in the boys’ room.)

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But on the third section, the tiles were over drywall — no wood planks underneath. So we’ve been thinking about how we want to handle that.

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Another surprise, one of the beams that goes across the ceiling, was cut short during a previous remodel. It’s hard to tell why. But it means there is a random post in the room which holds up the beam. So we’re also figuring out how to move that post.

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Here’s a closer shot of the cut-off beam and post holding it up.

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Another discovery: based on the old flooring, we can see that this room was originally divided into two. With the two closets and two windows in separate areas, we had assumed this, but it was fun to see the proof in the excavation.

girls room sketches1

At first, we were thinking a floor plan like this. 4 beds against the left wall, and as I mentioned, the (formerly) existing closet split into 4.

girls room sketches2

But our latest plan is to use free-standing closets, 1 for each girl, and bring both the closets and the beds toward the center of the room — the closets acting as headboards for the beds. This would create a privacy wall and a dressing area that could make sense. It’s one of those things where the idea sounds good in my head, and maybe even looks good to me on paper, but I can’t tell what it’s really like until I see it in person.

So that’s where we are at the moment. Very exciting! I will definitely keep you updated.

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever encountered a remodeling surprise? I feel like we’ve had them in every room! Also, I know when I talked about all four girls sharing a room in a post last year, that there were strong opinions on whether that was good or bad. Our girls have been sharing for over a year now, and it seems to be working well for us. Where are you on the room-sharing topic? And lastly, do you enjoy sketching out room possibilities, or does this sort of thing drive you nuts? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — I try hard to show very polished posts with gorgeous pictures, so I’m feeling very uneasy about sharing low-quality images and rough sketches. My apologies if the lack of polish is bothersome. For more posts about our work in The Treehouse, see here.

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Getting Seasonal in the Entry Tue, 14 Oct 2014 15:00:36 +0000 Design Mom

pumpkins on the porch

This post is sponsored by Target. Shop Home Décor for modern luxury made easy.

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Over the weekend, I spent a lovely afternoon autumn-izing our front entry. Last year at this time, I was barely functioning, and I only have a vague memory of putting a pumpkin on the porch. And if I remember correctly, the squirrels ate that pumpkin! Not my best October for sure. Hah!

pumpkins on the porch

So this year, it was fun to put some thought and effort into it. I have loved the simple colors in our living room — whites, woods, pale textures and a bit of metal — so I thought it would be fun to extend the same color palette to the entry decorations — with the hope that it makes a pretty transition from outside to in.

pumpkins on the porch

First, I moved our cement planters full of succulents, and filled in the space with pumpkins. Instead of the traditional orange-y-orange pumpkins, I picked out Cinderella pumpkins in a muted, dusty orange, and white pumpkins as well. I wanted big impact, so I went with lots of pumpkins.

pumpkins on the porch

Next, I swapped out the summery pillow on the porch chair, for some fresh ones. The gold adds just a touch of glamour! A nice contrast to the home-y textures. I chose two pillows from Target — one in metallic chevron, and the other in an embroidered pattern.

I also added a throw blanket from our linen closet (it’s a super-cozy traditional wool picked up in Ireland), to make the porch chair inviting on cool evenings.

handwoven basket with leather handle

Then, I brought a favorite stool outside to act as a side table — the perfect spot for a cup of tea. And I included a woven basket to hold magazines. The basket is easy to move indoors if the weather gets iffy. (I wish the weather was iffy! California needs some rain!!)

I love a project like this! It didn’t take long to pull it together, but it makes a big difference. The entry feels like fall, even if the weather here hasn’t caught up yet, and it’s so cheery to come home to. I also like that I mixed it up this year and tried something new with the colors, instead of going with our usual orange and black. I like classic orange and black, but it was fun to experiment. And assuming the squirrels don’t eat the pumpkins, I think this look will keep the porch looking gorgeous through Thanksgiving!

Tell me, Friends: Do you decorate your entry in the fall? Maybe put up a wreath or a bouquet of leaves? Or do you like to keep it spooky in October? We have loved spooky stuff over the years, but The Treehouse isn’t on a trick-or-treating street, so I’m finding it’s easier to focus on “fall” for our decor, instead of Halloween. How about you?

P.S. — Some of our favorite good-looking, but spooky Halloween Decor DIYs. And the coolest scarecrow!

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Living With Kids: Hillary Barney Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:00:47 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Sarah Knight Photography.

When Hillary first wrote to me about her home, she mentioned solar panels and I was hooked. Someday I want a home that’s run on solar power, but until then I’ll just have to live vicariously through people like Hillary!

Another draw was her and her husband’s very, very different design preferences. For example, this is a tee shirt available in Hillary’s shop. And this is one from her husband’s shop. I love them both. But how do these different styles merge in the home? You’ll see. Friends, please welcome the Barney family!

Q: Tell us all about your family.

A: Hello! We are a family of four, living in the Salt Lake City, UT area. I am the Creative Director for Petite Lemon, and my husband runs his online shop, Blonde Grizzly.

We have two daughters, Lily and June. Lily is our three year old. She is full of energy, very willful, and our social butterfly. She amazes me every day how smart and creative she is. June is 11 months and I can’t believe how much our hearts have grown having her in our lives. She is all smiles, very mellow, and always on the move.

We also have a little chihuahua mix named Bear Grylls. We got him as a puppy, and I love that my children have grown up with this furry friend of ours. He is a total sweetheart and a true lap dog.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: We had some ups and downs in selling our previous home and getting into this home. Our previous house went on and off the market a couple times. I went through my first pregnancy and had Lily while trying to sell our house. My nursery was in boxes up until about three weeks before I was due because we were sure we could get our house sold before Lily came. We took the house off the market just before we had Lily and took a break from all the house stuff. When Lily was six months old, we put the house up for the last time. It sold within a month.

Once our house sold, we looked and looked for the perfect house in Salt Lake. We wanted an older home with lots of charm. I pictured us in a bungalow style house with hardwood floors and fruit trees. We looked at lots of homes like this and we liked them, but nothing felt like ours.

I was looking online one day and came across this development we are in now…brand new homes just outside of Salt Lake. I called my agent right away and we met to look at the model home. We fell in love. It was the exact opposite of what we thought we wanted. I actually loved the modern look of the houses and they had solar panels…major bonus! As we were talking to the agent, she told us there was only one lot available. We had to act quickly and decided to lock in. We are so glad we did. The building process went very smoothly and we were in our house about eight weeks after the sale of our other house.

We bought the house with an unfinished basement and went through the process of finishing the basement last summer. My dad helped us frame and sheetrock the whole space. We are very grateful for his help. We love having the extra space, a guest bedroom, and my office in the basement.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: We love the Salt Lake City area. The mountains are gorgeous and we like having four distinct seasons. Although every winter I do ask myself why we don’t move to the beach! The majority of our family lives within a three hour drive from us. We love being close to family.

Our neighborhood is new and we have made great friends within our neighborhood. We have neighborhood parties and everyone looks out for each other. I love the sense of community here. I don’t think I have felt that since I moved out of my childhood home.

I work from home and have a nanny stay with the girls while I am working. Our home is where we live, play, work, etc. I want it to be a place where everyone is comfortable and filled with creative play. We are surrounded by things we love in our home and they have a different memory attached to them.

Q: What was the one design element that you wanted to be sure your family home included as it relates to living well with your kids?

A: Our previous home was a split level, and I always felt more separated in that home. I love the open spaces in our home and that all of our bedrooms and main living areas are on the main level. The basement is great for entertaining and having guests stay. My husband and I are both collectors and we have our collections displayed throughout our home.

I tried to incorporate some area of play into the design of each space. The play kitchen in the kitchen/dining room area is a favorite spot. We have toys tucked away in drawers throughout the house. Then in the basement, we converted the closet under the stairs to a little playhouse. The girls’ rooms are filled with fun artwork and are set up to encourage play.

Q: What’s your favorite time of day in your home?

A: My favorite time of day right now is the morning. Our nanny comes in at 10 to watch Lily and June. So from about 7 am until 10, it’s just us. Sometimes this time is filled with fits and crying while other times it filled with joy and laughter. These little girls are so unpredictable!

Q: You run a company called Petite Lemon. Tell us all about it!

A: I am the Creative Director at Petite Lemon and it’s so much fun to be a part of. We create joy and fun for little ones through personalized decor and apparel. We believe every occasion should be a memorable one, gift giving should be keepsake giving, and decor should be as colorful and unique as kids themselves.

Q: Your husband’s taste is a little different from your aesthetic. How do you merge styles so seamlessly? How have you influenced each other?

A: My husband is more in to pop culture and “geek” art and I love everything cute. I am not 100% sure how it all merges, but somehow it does. Our styles cross here and there, and I feel we both appreciate what the other one likes.

Although there have been times that I have vetoed some things that he has wanted to put up because they are too scary, and he has vetoed some of my choices because they are too cute. (I didn’t know that was possible!)

Q: What has been the biggest gain from living in a solar powered home? How does it affect your daily life as a family? 

A: We have always tried to be conscious of the environment: recycling when we can, using reusable containers, etc. So having the solar panels on our home was just another step. That was one of the draws for us to buy this house. It cuts our power bill down and it’s fun to see our statement at the end of the month telling us how many trees we have offset.

We don’t have enough panels to run our whole house right now. Eventually we would love to purchase more, but that is down the road a bit.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mom? Is there a development stage that’s long gone that you miss?

A: I love their little personalities. I love seeing them grow, progress, and express themselves. I love listening to Lily talk and seeing how curious June is. She is into everything right now. It’s so much fun and exhausting at the same time. I miss cuddling my babies, but I do not miss those sleepless nights! I loved Lily’s 18 month to two year old phase, and am anxious to see June at this age.

When I was pregnant with June, I wasn’t sure how I could love another child and give them as much attention. I loved being Lily’s mom and loved our time together. When June was born, immediately my heart grew. Somehow, as parents, we find the love and time for each of our kids. Our hearts grow bigger and priorities change.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I feel like I have gotten a lot of great advice for parenting and just growing up, so I am going to rephrase the question. I wish I had listened to this advice that had been given to me: Slow down, enjoy the moment!

It’s so true and it’s taken me three years of having kids to finally catch on. I still have moments where I just want to go go go and get things done. I am slowly replacing some of those with sit down and play, enjoy the moment.

Our flower beds aren’t perfectly weeded, sometimes we have Little Ceasar’s pizza for dinner, and beds are almost never made, but we are enjoying our family and that is what is important to us.


You know what, Hillary? You’re so right. Some of the best days begin and end with an unmade bed! Somewhere between you and your husband’s shared styles merging somewhat seamlessly and you never imagining that something could be too cute and the smart solar panels, I started smiling and didn’t stop. It was nice to get a little lost in your story. Thank you for your words today.

Friends, are you and your partner at odds in terms of style? Do you cringe at each other’s collections, or have you found a middle ground where everything works together? Ben Blair and I actually gravitate toward the same things – luckily, I know! – but I wonder what happens design-wise when couples don’t!

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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Get Moving! Part Two Mon, 13 Oct 2014 16:57:00 +0000 Design Mom

Jawbone Fitness Band1

By Gabrielle. 

Ready for a little fitness band update? You may remember that in September, I partnered with Jawbone and jumped on the fitness band bandwagon. I reported on the very first day I started using the band. And now, it’s been about a month, and as promised, I’m reporting today on how it’s been going.

I should start by saying that at the beginning, I tried not to let the Jawbone stats affect my actions. I wanted to really see what my current habits were and just observe them. And the first observation? I suspected that there would be days I didn’t move a ton, but oh my goodness, I had no idea how little I moved on certain days. I guess I was surprised at the inconsistency. I would have days where I ran errands and did yard work and I hit my movement goals easily — I wasn’t “working out”, I was just going through a typical busy day. And then, there were days where I would have a really productive time on my laptop, but barely move at all — sometimes fitting in less than 2000 steps. Yikes! The ups and downs in my movement were pretty crazy.

Second, I was equally surprised at how inconsistent I was about sleep as well. I love sleep! I think of myself as someone who prioritizes sleep, sleeps deep, and loves getting a full nights rest. But it turns out, the image I have of myself is way off. My sleep is all over the place! From 4 hours to 8+, sometimes deep, sometimes mostly light. And my bedtimes range from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM. Until I could see the hard data staring me in the face, I had no idea how bad I was about a consistent bedtime and sleep routine.

So the first thing the Jawbone band inspired me to do was aim for a more consistent schedule. I started trying hard to achieve a regular bedtime, and aim for 10:30 or 10:45 PM. I was also aware of getting in more movement even on days where I had a long list of computer tasks. I set the Jawbone to give me a reminder when I’d been sitting still for too long during the day — then I’d get up from my desk and move around for a bit — walk downstairs to the sink for a drink of water, or out to the mailbox.

I found I really enjoyed my daily check-ins with the app. It’s easy to use and has encouraging words and tips and fun facts built right in. Speaking of the app, I just learned that anyone can use the app to track food, movement, and sleep — even without the band! So if you’re curious, you can learn more about it here.

Jawbone Fitness Band2

Things that have surprised me about the band: 1) I didn’t use the social factor. At all. I know lots of people love the “team” option. It allows you to share your info with friends or family and encourage each other toward fitness goals. But it turns out this is one area where I like to keep the info to myself. I definitely wouldn’t have predicted that. Secondly, I didn’t use the app to track my food, though it has powerful food-tracking software built in. I found I was a little overwhelmed at paying attention to movement, sleep and food all at once. So I’ve decided to get comfortable with movement and sleep before I start paying more attention to food.

Four weeks in and I’m feeling great about my progress! It really is helpful to acknowledge where I’m at each day — it’s like a tiny, daily intervention that keeps me honest with myself about bad habits I’m developing (or have developed).

Where are you with movement since we talked about this last month? Are you using a fitness band? If you do use a band, have you found it gets you moving? And have you found it to be habit forming? I’d love to hear!


This post was brought to you by Jawbone UP24. Photos by Lindsey Rose Johnson.

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A Few Things Fri, 10 Oct 2014 16:00:29 +0000 Design Mom

pumpkins design mom

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How’s it going? My kids are out of school today, so we’re all feeling celebratory about the 3 day weekend. Though honestly, I think it will be pretty low-key. My only weekend plans are a date with my inbox — I let it get away from me this month!

The most exciting thing on the schedule, is that today, Kristen Loken is coming to my house to shoot some photos for the book. We’ll be snapping pictures of the office, the family room, and a couple of other spots. I’ve been shooting all over the place for the last few weeks, so it’s fun to be shooting at my own house.

I’d better get prepped for the photo shoot, but before I put on my art director/stylist hat, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Forty years of family portraits. I didn’t expect to be touched so much by this. Maybe because I’m one of 4 sisters as well. Thanks, Gwen.

- I’m super excited about this glue/dye technique. So easy! You can totally make these Halloween napkins.

- A clever response to a sexist dress code. Thanks, Tanya.

- The forgotten female programmers who created modern tech.

- My sister Jordan’s Ira Glass costume was featured on Jimmy Fallon! (See it at minute 3:30.)

- So, so disturbing: How we punish people for being poor. Thanks, Chelsea.

- A good resource for anyone thinking about DIYs: How to prepare wooden palettes for upcycling.

- Has anyone tried Toms Wedge Booties? Several cute options under a hundred bucks! I’ve got my eye on the Desert Suede with the red laces. Wedge booties are one of my favorite mom shoes — stylish, but easy to walk in.

- It’s so hot here, I’ve been getting my fall fix via multiple batches of Pumpkin Cookies.

Habitat for Humanity Restore is a wonderful way to give your old furniture a new life.

- Have you pledged for a gorgeous Alt + fashionABLE scarf? Help us reach our stretch goal — buy some for holiday gifts and provide opportunities for at-risk women in Ethiopia at the same time. Woo hoo!

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


P.S. — Is it feeling like October where you live? Like I mentioned above, it has been quite hot here this month. So hot that I had to pull the kids’ tank tops and shorts out of storage. We keep talking about hot cocoa, but opting for icy beverages instead. Hah! 

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Meri Meri Giveaway Thu, 09 Oct 2014 22:17:08 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

Hooray! I’ve got a fantastic giveaway for you today, sponsored by Meri Meri — the Party Supply & Paper Goods Shop. They’re offering a fabulous $150 gift certificate!

Meri Meri Halloween Witch Cups 2014Meri Meri Halloween Tea Towel 2014

I could not be a bigger Meri Meri groupie. I love the unique paper goods they create, and I especially love that they are completely original and found only in the Meri Meri shop!

I’m featuring my favorites from their Halloween goods today (Halloween will be here in a flash!), but they also have Thanksgiving decorthemed birthday partiesgeneral party suppliescute baking goods, and tons of holiday products as well.

Meri Meri Halloween Cookie Cutters 2014Meri Meri Halloween Banners 2014

If I won, I would order a whole bunch of these Wicked Hanging Bats and hang them over the entry table or over the mantel. Wouldn’t that be a fun focal point?

Meri Meri Halloween Treat Bags 2014

Visit Meri Meri and leave a comment to enter, I’d love to know what party theme or party supply you love the most. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!


Angela is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Turns Out Beauty Tasks Are My Last Priority Thu, 09 Oct 2014 18:22:25 +0000 Design Mom

Jihan Geronimo Balloons

By Gabrielle. Image via Geronimo Balloons.

In June, I discussed my goal of establishing better or more “grownup” grooming habits this year — like consistently having a proper manicure and taking the time to make sure my hair looks good each morning (instead of throwing it in a messy top knot as I rush out the door, or working in my pjs and ignoring it altogether).

I also discussed wanting to experiment with my identity and how it ties into physical appearance. I envisioned my hairstyle changing each month in big ways, trying out clothing styles that are new to me, and becoming confident about applying various makeup looks.

And then, I wanted to discuss everything with you. What I was learning. How the changes affected (or didn’t affect) my behavior. The concept of identity and how it ties into physical appearance.

I went into the whole thing with a big picture in my head, but oh my goodness, the plan has not proceeded on track at all. In fact, I think I’ve actually been substantially worse at grooming since June than I was during the previous year. From June till now (and still continuing), I allowed my travel and project schedule to ramp up in a crazy way, and physical appearance has taken a back seat to pretty much everything else. It’s like I set out to go in one direction, and have ended up in the completely opposite direction.

I probably knew that about myself, but had never really admitted it — outside of basic upkeep like daily showers and trimming my nails, beauty tasks can quickly fall the bottom of my priority list.

I don’t think I really considered how much time exploring this grooming + identity idea would take. I suppose I was imagining fitting it in around my other projects, but really, it’s a major project itself. And to carry it out the way I originally thought of it, would mean clearing some things from my schedule (for example, finishing my book — I just received chapter design samples today!), to make room for it.

But the thing is, I still really want to do this. I still like the idea, I still look forward to the discussions, and I haven’t given up yet. I’ve even made some small progress. You may remember I had bangs cut — a small thing, but a fun change. We discussed at-home beauty tasks versus hiring out. I’ve been growing out my roots in preparation for a big color change — I now have a full inch of salt & pepper growing in. I’ve also had a bleach test done on a strand of my hair. It’s little. But it’s something. So, as some of my deadlines wrap up, I’m going to try and focus on grooming/identity stuff and see what happens.

I’d love to hear: where do “beauty” tasks fall on your priority list? Are you diligent about scheduling hair appointments? Do you make time in your morning get-ready routine for makeup? If you have a project deadline you’re up against, does non-essential grooming fall to the wayside? And have you ever made a goal, and then gotten worse instead of better at it? I’d love to hear your stories!

P.S. — The bleach test is because I want to try really white blonde, similar to Jihan’s super cool hair do. Have you ever made a drastic change like that?

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Living With Kids: Megan Schiller Tue, 07 Oct 2014 16:00:23 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

My favorite part of this home tour is Megan‘s answer to my query “How did this house become your home?” I guarantee chills and a smile. The way life works out so often takes my breath away.

There’s some practical goodness in here, too, especially for those of you who may find yourselves on edge whenever the paints come down off the tip top shelf! Megan runs a design company that specializes in helping people set up kids’ art spaces, and she completely understands that not everyone enjoys a Jackson Pollock-esque living room at the end of a creative session. Enjoy the tour, Friends!

Q: Please introduce us to your family.

A: I live in a small cottage in Mill Valley, California with my loving husband, Aaron, our 16-year-old dog Shanti, and  our two little girls, Karuna and Ora. Karuna recently turned six, but could pass for 36 by the way she nurtures her little sister Ora, who is two. Whenever I leave them with a babysitter, Ora says, “Okay, Ra-Ra will be my mommy.” Ora is a spunky little girl, completely opposite of her sister, so they make a great duo!

Aaron and I met in college at a bar. It was the day after I returned from a solo trip through Europe and the Middle East.  According to him, I was emanating a traveller’s cheerful, free-spirited vibe. When I first saw him, he was sitting across the room, smiling at me like we had known each other forever. He had this look in his eye and huge dimples that drew me in. I have been smitten ever since.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: We live in my grandmother’s old house that we rent from my father. I grew up in Oakland and would come out here often to visit, but I never thought I’d want to live here. I guess I was a city girl and couldn’t imagine settling down in the suburbs. It wasn’t until I got married and started thinking about having kids that Mill Valley suddenly became our dream destination. We begged my dad to rent this house to us – otherwise there was no way we could afford to live here – but he already had a tenant who had looked after my grandmother before she passed away, and he wasn’t about to displace her.

At this time, we were living about an hour north in Santa Rosa, and Aaron was commuting to San Francisco every day. We talked more and more about trying to find an affordable place in Marin County, not only to be closer to his work but also to his brother who lived here with his wife and two kids.

Here’s the crazy part of the story! As we were figuring all of this out, my brother-in-law’s wife tragically passed away after the birth of her third child. We packed up our things and immediately moved to Marin, sleeping on couches, to be with our family and help take care of our new baby nephew and his siblings. Three days later, my dad called and asked me, “Do you believe in serendipity?” I said, “Yes, why?” and he proceeded to tell me that after more than 15 years of living here, his tenant suddenly decided to move to Illinois. She would be moving out in a few weeks and we could finally live in my grandmother’s cottage, only ten minutes from our brother-in-law where we would be spending most of our time for the next year. I can’t help but think my late sister-in-law and maybe even my grandmother had something to do with this turn of events.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: Mill Valley is incredibly unique. It’s ten minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, nestled at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais, with gorgeous hiking trails and redwood trees, wedged between the beautiful Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Although our little town is starting to become a suburb for the San Francisco tech workforce (with its expensive homes and boutique shops), I still feel it has held on to its old-fashioned quaintness, artsy vibe, and adventurous outdoor lifestyle.

We really lucked out with our neighborhood and the wonderful families that moved in with young kids when Karuna was little. Our kids have grown up together, and we always made it a priority to have a regular moms’ night out or Friday night pizza parties with the whole family. It really is a village when it comes to raising our kids. If Ora is napping when I need to pick up Karuna from school, I just pop my head out of the fence to look for a neighbor who is heading to school for pick up. I’ll yell across the street, “Can you get Karuna for me?” And ten minutes later, she is walking in the door.

From our house, we can walk to our elementary, middle, and high schools, to Whole Foods, to a variety of parks and creeks, to the quaint downtown for a good cup of coffee, or to see a show at the Sweetwater, which is an awesome, intimate venue backed by Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. It really is a dreamy place!

Q: What was the one design element that you wanted to be sure your family home included as it relates to living well with your kids?

A: For me, there are a few key design elements for living with young children. The first is an open concept, which we have only been able to achieve in our kitchen and dining space. We remodeled the kitchen when I was pregnant with Karuna, but dream of redoing the rest of the house someday…a perk of being related to the landlord!

The second element is playfulness. The bright colors, hanging hammock chair, ostrich wallpaper, and chalkboard wall are all ways we bring playful design into our home. Making room for creative expression is part of this playfulness, which is why we have turned our sunroom into an art studio for the girls.

The design element that has surprisingly impacted our lives more than anything else is our attempt at minimalism. The kid stuff seems to multiply on a daily basis, and I think I would go crazy if we didn’t have a system for purging and organizing.

Every few months we go through our problem areas like drawers, closets, and toy bins, take everything out, and only put back our favorite or necessary items. I get my kids to do this before birthdays and the holidays so that they have room for all their new toys, which gets them excited about purging.

The first time I tried this, I dumped Karuna’s toy bins into a cardboard box and told her to pick out only what she wanted to keep. I was shocked when she only took out a few of her favorite little figurines and a couple random toys. I found myself saying, “Are you sure you don’t want to keep this My Little Pony? Or what about these Calico Critters?” She knew what she wanted and she was so good at letting go of everything else! Now she’s used to this system, so even though she is more attached to some of her things, she’s okay with this process. I think she would have been a lot more resistant if I had started off by saying, “Pick out what you want to give away.”

Q: What’s your favorite time of day in your home? When does it work for everyone best? How does the room decor contribute to this harmony?

A: My favorite time of day in my home is dinner. I love cooking for my family, and I’ve been trying to recruit my six-year-old to learn alongside me. But most of all, I love sitting down for dinner with everyone, expressing our gratitude and talking about our day. My kids like to hold hands before dinner and say something they are grateful for. They call this ritual family. “Let’s do family,” Ora says, as she reaches her arms out to hold our hands.

One decor item in our dining room that relates to this ritual is our gratitude/manifestation board. Inside the acrylic frame it says, “I’m so grateful for…” We use dry erase markers on the frame and write down things that we are thankful for, as well as things that we would like see to happen, and express gratitude for them as if they have already happened. I am a strong believer in manifestation! Our bedroom also has two small manifestation pin boards that my husband and I make every New Year. It’s so amazing to look at them at the end of the year to see how our hopes and dreams have manifested in our lives.

Q: You run a company called The Art Pantry. Tell us all about it!

A: The Art Pantry is a design studio and resource for kids creative spaces and art exploration. I help people set up kids’ art spaces in homes and schools, and provide tools to keep kids engaged in the creative process. My background is in early childhood art education – I taught at Reggio-inspired preschools and ran a children’s art studio – but I am also in love with design. The Art Pantry is the best of both worlds!

Q: Give us encouragement on setting up a totally free-spirited art space in our homes…even for the neat freaks among us!

A: As much as I wish we could all have a free-spirited art space in our homes, I know it’s not ideal for many families. But this doesn’t mean you can’t have a totally awesome, inspiring space. That’s why I love my work! I like the challenge of finding ways for families to have the idea of a free-spirited art space, while still making it work for their particular children and their lifestyle. This might mean limiting messier activities to the outdoors or creating a messy art bin that only comes out when everyone is willing to deal with the aftermath.

I will say that messy art gets a bad rap in terms of effort and cleanup, but it doesn’t have to be so scary. My go-to item for keeping messy art projects under control is a large, sturdy tray. My favorite one is the Ikea SMULA tray, which sells for around $1.99! It’s made of super sturdy plastic and is a translucent-whitish color that doesn’t compete with the colors of the art materials. When my girls are done with a messy project, I just throw everything on the tray, do a quick wipe-down of the table, and carry the tray over to my kitchen sink. If I have time, I will wash the tools and wipe down the tray. If I don’t have time, I just soak the tools in a cup on the tray and leave it for later.

The reason I started my art studio and my design services is because I strongly believe in teaching children at a young age how to use tools and materials to explore their world. I also believe in giving them autonomy in their creative process by making familiar supplies easily accessible. If you start kids young enough – ideally between 18 months to three years – all kids can learn how to experiment and respect the materials, learn to self-regulate, fall in love with the creative process, and gain important skills that will serve them throughout their lives. If you miss this age window, it becomes harder to get the non-artistic kids to feel comfortable and confident with these creative tools.

Q: What has been the biggest gain from working on this project? What is the most difficult part of balancing work and home? Any tips or tricks or shortcuts that save your life on a daily basis?

A: Wow, the biggest gain? I’m not sure I can boil it down to one thing. I love that I have been able to stay at home with my girls and follow my passions at the same time. I love that my daughters are watching me run a business and be creative and they get to be a huge part of that.

The most difficult part is finding a perfect balance. If I’m working a lot, I feel guilty that I’m not with the girls. If I’m with the girls a lot, I feel like I’m not getting anything done at work.

Meal planning has been important in this whole work/life balance. I used to scramble at dinnertime to figure out what to make. Then someone introduced us to The Fresh 20, a meal planning service, and it changed our lives. I don’t even use it very often anymore, but it gave me a foundation to do my own weekly meal planning. I try to plan out simple meals, shop ahead of time, and prep ingredients ahead of time. This makes our dinners easier, healthier, and so much more enjoyable.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? Is there a development stage that’s long gone that you miss?

A: My favorite part about living with kids is their unconditional optimism. They wake up every day with their little faces beaming with joy and excitement for life. What age does this go away? I hope not any time soon!

I love the toddler stage where the personality really comes out, but they still have the simple, snuggly qualities of a baby. I also love the newborn stage. The smell of a newborn’s head as it sleeps, curled up on your shoulder…irresistible!

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: …that once you introduce TV into kids’ lives, it becomes an addiction. Not for them! For me!

Of course I knew that kids could get addicted to TV, but I didn’t realize that I would get addicted to letting them watch TV.  Working from home while being my children’s primary caregiver means that I rely far too much on the television. There are so many hours in the day and even if just one of them is filled with TV, the guilt sets in. Maybe one day I’ll be brave and just ban it for all of us!


Ahh, yes. I think we’ve all relied on the television a time or two…hundred! Megan, thank you so much for telling us your story.

Friends, I’m particularly taken with Megan’s manifestation and gratitude board. Do you engage in a similar practice in your own homes? I’m all in when it comes to making family goals, but Megan’s simple dry erase markers and acrylic frame makes the process so simple and attainable, doesn’t it?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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Minted Giveaway Mon, 06 Oct 2014 15:00:55 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

Oh goody! A Minted giveaway!! I’m a huge Minted fan. I’ve been ordering from them for years and love everything about this company. In fact, I’m such a fan, that last year I invited Minted CEO Mariam Naficy to be a keynote speaker at Alt Summit — and she did a terrific job. (Yay for women-led businesses!) Today’s giveaway prize is a super generous $350!! That’s plenty to cover all your holiday cards, and throw in some art prints or party supplies too!

Minted Holiday 2014

In my opinion, the key to Minted’s fabulousness is that they are huge supporters of the art and design communities. All of their card and stationery designs are sourced from independent artists and designers. And I know several designers who credit Minted for helping them get their name out there.

Minted Holiday 2014

Minted is a terrific source for all your social paper needs. Holiday cards, birthday invitations, baby announcements, thank you notes, even party decor! And they also have a helpful blog with tons of great ideas. The designs are gorgeous, and the quality is top notch — here’s a link where you can see the luxe paper they print on.

Minted Holiday 2014

Their newest innovation? The Minted Envelope. These new printed envelopes are gorgeous — every detail, from front to back, has been considered. The quality of the envelope elevates the contents within in a lovely way. And right now, recipient addressing is free!

Minted Holiday 2014

To enter the $350 giveaway, visit Minted and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear what you’re shopping for these days paper-wise. Halloween? Early Christmas prep? Fall get togethers? The winner will be announced on Thursday. Good luck!


Ashley in MD is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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A Few Things Fri, 03 Oct 2014 16:00:39 +0000 Design Mom


Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? I want to thank you for the good conversation this week. I love hearing what you have to say! But oh man. I have not been able to participate in the way I usually like to. Perhaps this weekend!

Today is another work day away from my desk. Hah! Some weeks are just like that. I’m shooting photos at my sister Jordan’s house today, and then getting ready for some weekend guests. But before I head out, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

- Crowd-funding a free cancer drug.

- Have you ever used “gentle parenting” techniques?

Safety dance.

- Are you following this story about the New York Fed? You can listen to it here.

- How to keep a toddler busy for an hour.

- Why Sci-Fi isn’t getting Artificial Intelligence right.

- A book for children to drive their toy cars through. Thanks, Jessie.

- ”Because we deserve to do more than just survive. We deserve to thrive.” A heart-wrenching speech and poem from a Marshallese mother and poet to the United Nations.  Thanks, Heidi.

- Dove does it again: what kind of beauty legacy are we giving our girls. Thanks, Rebecca.

How to Spot a Trafficking Victim in an Airport. So important. Thanks, Lisa.

- I was delighted to see this: What to Expect When You’re Adopting.

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


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The Greatest Paper Map of the U.S. Ever Made Thu, 02 Oct 2014 18:09:07 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle. Map by David Imus.

Just checking in with a fairly random post this morning. Work has taken me away from my desk so much this week! On location photo shoots, meetings in the city, stuff like that. But I wanted to squeeze in a quick hello.

Salon wrote about this map. It was made by one person  — David Imus of Oregon. And it won Best of Show in America’s most prestigious map making competition.

I was fascinated by this article. First, because I had no idea there were prestigious map-making competitions. Second, because I love the fact that the top award is typically won by big companies, but this time it went to a solo map maker. And third, because when I read why the Imus map was so good, I was stunned by the careful thinking and design considerations. It’s more useful, more readable, and better looking too! Yet another reminder that design matters.

Did you see the article? You can read it here. I know so many of us love maps, so I thought this article might resonate with you as well.

And that’s it! I’ll be back later today with an awesome giveaway with Minted. (It’s a big one! Definitely check back.) Till then, I’d love to hear if you’ve seen any good design lately that struck you like this map struck me. UPDATE: Oh darn! I’m still not ready on the Minted giveaway. I’m thinking Monday, now.

P.S. — I’m still gobbling up your fantastic comments on the Homework post. I’m dying to find a few minutes to respond! Keep them coming.

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Homework Wed, 01 Oct 2014 17:42:03 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Video: How to Set up a Study Space. Image by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.

Happy October! We are a month into school and homework is on my mind today. Oscar and Betty are in 3rd and 4th grade and their workload so far hasn’t been too challenging. But poor Maude. Her homework is cutting into her sleep time.

She’s a sophomore now and the work load is definitely heavier than it was for her last year. Part of the issue is that she’s a diehard member of the Cross Country team. Practices are long and she puts in a ton of mileage. In theory, she could quit Cross Country and have plenty of time for homework, but that doesn’t really seem like a feasible option. Cross Country is the happiest part of her life at the moment! And all that running seems to keep her teen emotions balanced — there’s nothing like post-run endorphins to put anyone in a great mood. Taking her out of cross country doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. In fact, I’m reminded of that saying: “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.”

Ralph experienced similar late nights last year, but with Maude perhaps I notice it more because she loves her sleep. Late nights typically hold no interest for her. If she’s tired, she has no issues going to bed early — she’s not one to fight sleep in order to watch a show or something like that.

I get that this homework situation is normal high school behavior — and I did the same thing as a teen and survived. But seeing her stay up late, fighting sleepiness so that she can finish her homework, is frustrating. It just seems like a seriously flawed system. No doubt these thoughts are amplified because I feel like I’ve read over and over how important sleep is for everybody — but especially for teenagers.

How do you deal with homework at your house? Is it messing with your family schedule? Or have you figured out a good homework rhythm? Do your kids attend a school with no homework at all? Have you read anything lately on sleep — or on homework — that has you thinking about this? Also, I’ve heard some high schools out there are experimenting with late starts so that teens can get more sleep. Has your school tried this? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Do you kids cover their textbooks with paper? Here’s a cute tutorial on book covers if you want to learn how.

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Growing A Family: Three Babies, Three Countries Wed, 01 Oct 2014 14:00:11 +0000 Design Mom

Oh Baby Wild World

By Gabrielle. Print via Etsy’s Letters on Love.

Whew. Lindsay Gault Drakos’ experiences are going to fill you with hope, helpful information, and maybe some anger. With three babies born in three countries, there’s bound to be a story or three! As with all of my Growing A Family posts, I hope you find even just one sentence or shared moment to make your day (or delivery) easier. I will warn you that Lindsay’s birth experience in Athens is difficult to read, but rest assured: Lindsay’s three babies are all thriving and growing up happily ever after, despite the trials of their journeys. (Be sure you stay tuned to the end: I borrow some of Lindsay’s worldly experiences and ask her a few questions. If you’ve still got your own babies to deliver, you may want to borrow Lindsay’s advice, too.) Welcome, Lindsay.

I’ve had a good but different birth, a horrible birth and recovery, and a terrifying pregnancy but excellent birth…in that order and in three different countries!

My story begins in Madrid, Spain, where my first daughter was born in the public system. My Spanish was horrible, but I waded through an uncomplicated pregnancy in a totally foreign system just fine. I had appointments with the same gynecologist all the way through – with four scans at the typical milestones – and made it just shy of 42 weeks. (I was supposed to see a midwife with a group of pregnant mothers around the same stage as me before and after birth, but my lack of Spanish worked against me and I didn’t reap the benefits that I’m sure were offered.)

After begging to be induced, they reluctantly agreed to do it. I arrived at the hospital at 8:00 am and was led to a communal laboring room. There were six of us with our husbands at different stages of labor, some natural and some induced. They didn’t give me Pitocin, but started Cervadil to soften the cervix. We were checked at regular intervals, and during each check, the husbands were asked to leave. After hours of waiting because the doctors were busy, they broke my water because I was progressing too slowly.

Shortly after that, I was taken to a private delivery room where I asked for an epidural. Once again, they were resistant, but my husband was persistent, and I got one! A little over two hours later, my daughter was delivered by a midwife who placed her on me immediately to breastfeed, and we were wheeled together upstairs to our room. Audrey never left my side during the entire two days in the hospital.

My next delivery was in Athens, Greece. This is the horrible story with too much information, but at the end of it all, I was left with a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby girl. As awful as it all was, I have just accepted that this is the way that she came to me.

I could write pages on the terrible health system in Greece, especially surrounding childbirth. In 2008 when I was pregnant, the C-section rate was over 75% in private hospitals in Athens and you were not allowed to room in with your baby unless you paid over 10,000 Euros for private room. This meant that breastfeeding wasn’t supported. These were my two driving factors when making decisions about the birth.

I saw a gynecologist through the public system, but one that only delivered at private hospitals. My intention was to see him through the pregnancy, but deliver at the public hospital where C-section rates were much lower and you were allowed to room in with your baby. At my 36-week appointment, the doctor stripped my membranes without asking me. Without even informing me! It was painful, but I didn’t realize it until I was doubled over in pain about an hour later. I called him and asked him why he did that, and he answered that Easter was approaching and he wanted me to deliver before then. I reminded him that I was giving birth in a public hospital and not with him, and then I yelled in fury for the unethical treatment I received. No apology came.

The stripping didn’t put me into labor, but I was now 36 weeks pregnant with no doctor. After dozens of calls, we found a doctor that would take me so late in the pregnancy. He worked at the public hospital, but we would still have to pay him 1,300 Euros under the table for him to deliver.

We arrived at 8:00 am, and I was taken to the admittance area. There were curtained off rooms, and the doctor led me to a dirty one and told me to wait while he got someone to clean it up! Then nurses arrived to shave me, give me an enema, and instruct me to take off my toenail polish. I was treated so abruptly and had no control or say over anything. I was in shock. When that was done, I was led in an open-backed hospital gown toward the labor area.

At that point, I was told my husband would not be allowed in the delivery room, although I had been told that he would be with me. I broke down in tears. I was then taken to a room the size of a closet and given Pitocin. I informed the doctor that I react really strongly to any drugs, and to give me less than an average person, but he didn’t listen. He started the drip at 9:45 am and told me I should start contractions in about 15-20 minutes. Within two minutes, I started having contractions about three minutes apart. I was denied an epidural, and at 11:30, I was fully dilated.

They wheeled me into a delivery room, where he gave me a shot of a painkiller without asking or informing me. Again, I react strongly to drugs and was completely out of it from the shot. I pushed three times, and my daughter was born at 12:00 exactly, just two hours and 15 minutes after the induction.

I wasn’t allowed to hold her; they took her to a warming room and I was wheeled into a hallway for recovery. Truly, there were about six of us in a dark hallway for almost three hours. There were doctors, nurses, and orderlies passing by constantly. They took the baby for my husband to see soon after birth, and then they took me to see him. I cried and cried when I saw him. Then I was back in the hallway and had to urinate before they took me up…in a bedpan…in a hallway. I couldn’t, and so they inserted a catheter.

I was finally taken to my shared room, and about another hour passed before they brought me my daughter. When they were bringing me upstairs, the doctor informed my husband that he needed to slip money to the orderlies so that would also bring the baby up shortly. He obliged and gave them 50 Euros as demanded so that they wouldn’t take hours to bring the baby!

When I was finally in the room with my daughter, Lena, I learned I was to share my recovery with two different roommates. One was a woman whose mother massaged her breasts with olive oil for hours a day, two days straight, and the other was a woman who was fully made-up with curled and teased hair and full makeup who had no less than 15 visitors in the room from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm! You’re required to stay in hospital for five days post-delivery in the public system, but I tried to get released early. However, the pediatrician wouldn’t release me until Lena gained more weight. The sister-in-law of my roommate offered to breastfeed my baby to help her along! It was a surreal five days!

Now when I look back, I can’t believe that I made it out physically and emotionally. The entire system and treatment I and countless others received angers me beyond anything I have ever known.

My third pregnancy began in Athens. I was seeing a gynecologist through the public system that delivered only at the private hospitals, and was leaning toward a home birth or a clinic run by midwives, but I was still unsure of my plans. All was great until my 20-week anatomy scan. The doctor does the ultrasounds in her office, and she told me that the lung of the baby looked “echogenic” and that I needed to go the next day to a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist for an ultrasound and his opinion. I asked for more details, but she gave me no further information. Eventually we were told that our baby had a lung deformation known as CCAM.

For the next week, I did almost nothing outside of research. CCAM is very rare; 1 in 25,000 to 35,000 births, and has only been able to be detected in the last 15 years or so with more advanced ultrasound machines. Overall, the medical information out there was pretty grim. At the fifth day of research, I found a Facebook group that changed everything for me. There were countless stories of babies with diagnoses just like mine…and all of the babies were just fine. I went to my next appointments extremely informed. I asked questions, and received vague answers and the suggestion of termination came up. There were five doctors in the room, and they were all in agreement that termination was the best course of action because her CCAM was so large and taking up the entire right lung. My gynecologist pushed me to terminate, as well. When I said that there was no way I was going to terminate, she asked me if my husband agreed with me, as though I was making an irrational decision!

In some of my mom’s own research, she found a reference to a pediatric surgeon in Denver who treats CCAM. I called the doctor’s office immediately and told the receptionist my story. Within 15 minutes, the doctor emailed me and requested my scans. Another 15 minutes later, he called and assured me, “You and your baby are going to be fine. Come to us.” And so I went home to Denver.

My delivery in Denver is probably typical of most American hospitals, but I felt like I was treated to a five-star hotel and the best care in the world! My room was so comfortable and not clinical compared to Spain and Greece; I even had on-demand movies! The most surprising thing to me was that after about nine hours after being admitted and a couple of hours before painful contractions started, I said hopelessly that I was hungry. The nurse said, “Here’s the menu – order whatever you want.” I wasn’t allowed even ice chips in Spain or Greece, so I was shocked. I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake!

My daughter was born at 6:00 am while my husband coached me via Skype, and my mom finally got to be in the room when one of her grandchildren was born! Overall, the care by the nurses was unbelievable. I feel like I got to know them personally, that they really did care about me and my needs, and that my opinion mattered in my own medical care. I did not feel this even once during the other deliveries.

Q: As someone who has experienced childbirth around the world, what is the one element that should be present in every birth? Both medically and emotionally?

A: I think this is difficult to answer because the answer would vary wildly based on the mother’s nationality or culture in regards to health care. For me, personally and as an American, I think the most important medical element in childbirth is communication, agreement, and trust in your doctor, all of which are nearly impossible to find in some countries. The culture of medicine in Greece, for example, is that doctors make decisions without necessarily informing the patient and certainly without consulting or asking their opinion. The woman’s wishes are totally dismissed here because the doctor knows best. This is infuriating to me, as I feel completely unheard and disrespected. But, generally speaking, the women here accept this attitude from the doctors and don’t question anything! For me, the way that doctors treat women in childbirth in Greece is unconscionable…but to Greek women, it’s totally acceptable.

Emotionally, I think it is mandatory that the partner be allowed to be in the delivery room, no matter what.

Q: If you could give other parents some advice regarding birth plans no matter where you happen to be, what would it be?

A: I think that any woman approaching delivery has her own hopes for what is going to happen based on a lot of different things – her nationality, her friends’ experiences, etc. But you also have to take into account where you are living and what the typical scenario for childbirth is in that country. More than likely, you will not have an experience similar to your friends’ back home. Accept this beforehand.

Find an expat group of women in the country where you are currently living, and ask everyone their experiences so that you will be able to adjust your expectations based on what others have gone through. If you are still uneasy about what will probably happen, search for alternative birth options. When I was pregnant with my second daughter in Greece, I went to some meetings about home birth options in Athens. I felt that it was too alternative for me at the time. In retrospect, I wish that I would’ve explored that option further.


Whew, right? There’s so much to discuss! I would hate to feel like I had absolutely no control over my deliveries, wouldn’t you? Or worse, be pressured to terminate at the very thought that something could be wrong! Not to mention, I quite liked Ben Blair hanging out with me to welcome our babies when they arrived. Thank you so much, Lindsay, for sharing yourself with us!

Friends, did you giggle at Lindsay’s recovery room roommates in Athens? “Oh! Sure, strange woman I’ve just met! You may breastfeed my infant daughter!” Ha! Any shared post-delivery room dramas out there? You know I love your stories!

And hey, if you delivered in Greece and had a different experience, I’d love to hear that as well! My first pregnancy actually took place in Athens, and I loved my doctor and medical care there! But we moved back to the States before I delivered, so I can’t speak to what that would have been like. Plus, it was 17 years ago (so long ago!), so my experience might not be up to date, anyway.

P.S. – Find all the stories in this series here. Do you have a story about birth, pregnancy, adoption or infertility? Send your story to me, will you please?

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Living With Kids: Alisa Burke Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:00:41 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Inspiration overload. You’ve been warned. If you only look at the pictures, you’ll want a wall of floor-to-ceiling blooms bursting into your life and a drawn-on dishwasher. But, oh! If you read Alisa‘s words, you’ll suddenly see everything around you in a crazy haze of beauty. (She’s an artist; she has that effect!)

Her perspective is one that I can’t wait to share, and I truly hope you’ll leave this post overwhelmed with encouragement. Friends, please help me welcome Alisa and her family!

Q: We can’t wait to meet you all! Tell us everything…

A: I live with my husband Andy and two year old daughter Lucy in a small town on the Oregon Coast. My husband and I have been married for ten years, and together we live a very creative and non-traditional life working as artists. A few years ago, we put a plan in motion to chase after the dream of simplicity. We wanted to leave our fast-paced life in Southern California, and move back to my small hometown on the Oregon Coast where we could focus on raising our daughter and running a creative business together.

My husband quit his job as a structural engineer to be a stay-at-home dad and pursue his own art career, and my business became the means for our survival. We knew that if we decided to start a family, there was no looking back! We wanted to say goodbye to the predictability of steady jobs and income, and choose the road less traveled.

Our longing was to live a simple and alternative life with creativity and family at the center. It’s definitely not always perfect – in fact, it can be down right challenging – but now that we are living our dream, we cannot imagine our life being any other way. From days spent together, to making art as a family, to running a business together, our goal is to build a life that mimics the rhythms that feel most natural for us. I know that our goals will always be changing and evolving, but right now our focus is to embrace simplicity, explore creativity, and nurture Lucy’s passions.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: Our house actually belonged to my grandmother. It’s located around the corner from the beach, and is two doors down from my the home I grew up in and where my parents still live. I’ve always loved the house, and had dreams one day of moving back to my hometown and living in the same neighborhood where I grew up.

When my grandmother passed away, we were presented with the opportunity to purchase the house. It was a blessing that came at the perfect time. With three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and lots of outdated details, our home is far from perfect but it is our dream home and we are so grateful for the opportunity to live here.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: Since the day I left my hometown of Seaside, Oregon, I have always wanted to return. While I love to travel and I love city life, there is nothing that compares to small-town living, especially on the Oregon Coast. Seaside is a small coastal resort town about 1.5 hours from Portland. We are surrounded by mountains and the sea, elk and deer wander freely in our yards, sea lions mingle with surfers, miles of empty beaches are filled with treasures, and life is a little slower and more simple.

I’ve been a lot of places but there is something really special and magical about the Oregon Coast. While it can be challenging to live in a small town in the Pacific Northwest – there is no Target or big shopping malls, rubber boots are a wardrobe staple, and it rains A LOT – I am so happy that this is where we are growing our roots. Giving our daughter the gift of a simple childhood filled with adventures in nature and near the ocean is something that we dreamed about.

Q: Your aesthetic is so bold, and yet so relaxed. Tell us about your goals with your home decor…and your art, as well.

A: I love bold color, I love to make a mess, I like to take chances, break rules, and find all kinds of ways to get creative! After years spent painting canvas, I truly believe that anything can be transformed with a little creativity (and paint). Our lives are so creative and my business revolves around teaching and inspiring others, so I think it’s pretty natural for me treat home decor like art. From painting a mural in our bedroom to drawing on our dishwasher to incorporating bold pops of color in every room, I am always looking for ways to blur the lines between art and decor.

Thankfully, my husband is supportive about my decor decisions. He is used to me painting a mural, then six months later painting over it, changing our furniture around, and taking on crazy DIY projects. I think our home will always be a work in progress, changing and evolving with our interests and inspiration. While my design ascetic is not for everyone, it works great for our family.

Q: Art and creativity seems to be everywhere around you. How has this affected your daughter in terms of how you see her viewing the world around her? (Is she perplexed when she encounters a random bland doctor’s office?!)

A: That’s a great question and one that I get asked a lot! I’ve been creating with my daughter Lucy since the day she was born. From drawing while she napped on my chest to painting with her on my back to letting her work alongside me in the studio, she has witnessed the creative process pretty much every day of her life.

Much to my surprise she is kind of indifferent to it all! While she is incredibly creative and has some very advanced art making skills – the kid draws and paints like a pro! – she is really well-rounded. Lucy seems to appreciate both the creative and the not so creative. I don’t know if it’s her age or her personality, but at two years old she is excited about everything she encounters. From one of my colorful paintings to cracks in the sidewalk to bark on a tree to an empty wall, she finds joy in pretty much everything.

Q: You’ve worked hard on your career. Tell us how it has touched your family.

Next to marriage and having a child, living my dream of working as a self-employed artist is one of the best things that has happened in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time – over 20 years – trying to reach the goal of making a living as an artist. Walking away from my day job over six years ago was one of the best days of my life. When it was possible for my husband to quit his job to be a stay at home dad and join my creative business, it felt even more amazing.

My creative career has been the vehicle for a lot of opportunities and changes, but the biggest has been putting family at the center. Becoming parents drastically changed our priorities. During my life before Lucy, I was very productive and goal driven. At the core of everything I did (the creative process, business decisions and priorities) was an overwhelming passion and need to make art.

Once Lucy was born, my thinking changed. While art is still the core and foundation of my individuality, I now feel like I’m doing it for Lucy, our family, and our future. I now see my passion for creativity as a way in which I can be a provider, and this has influenced the direction of many decisions that I make. Long ago, my dream was to simply get paid to be an artist. But now that I’m older, my dreams are about using my passion for art to create a solid future for our family.

Q: When did you feel like you had really made it as an artist? When did you feel like you really made it becoming a mom?

A: Surprisingly these moments have actually merged for me! Leading up to pregnancy and Lucy’s arrival, I spent so much time scared of what would happen to me and my business once I became a mom. I mean, I was obsessed with the worrying about losing my creativity and my identity as an artist and entrepreneur! And then Lucy arrived and something really amazing happened: my inspiration and creativity flourished in ways I never could have imagined.

Incorporating motherhood into my life as an artist and entrepreneur has been the single most profound part of this journey so far. I knew our lives would be creative, and that parenting and business could co-exist. I knew I would introduce art to Lucy with the obvious: drawing, painting, and crafting. But what I didn’t realize was how inspired I would be by having a child. Every moment of every day, I find myself tapping into my creativity to express my love to Lucy.

From making things that bring her joy to using art for teaching moments to finding inspiration in her interests, I have discovered new ways to be an artist and a mom. All of this has greatly influenced the direction of my creative business and added a new way of seeing to the way that I make art. I now consider myself a mom blogger – something I would have cringed at before becoming a mom – and I have found a really unique perspective and voice that I enjoy sharing with my readers and customers. I have always loved inspiring others to be creative but now I am able to inspire women to incorporate art into motherhood.

Q: Working from home, how do you structure and balance your days?

A: Structure is my biggest challenge these days. Since most of my time is spent working from home with my husband and daughter all day, structure and juggling distractions can be tricky. I don’t necessarily have set days or hours for work, but instead have accepted that I have to work seven days a week BUT with lots of flexibility.

I find that it is helpful to split tasks up into small chunks of time or micro-sessions. I’ll work for two hours at home or in my studio, which is luckily five minutes away, and then change gears, switch off with my husband, and take over with the childcare duties while he takes a break and goes surfing, works on his art, or works around the house. We switch back and forth like this all day; a harmonized little tag team.

There are times when I really miss the freedom to be selfish with my schedule, but those moments are thankfully fleeting. More than anything, I love spending time with my daughter and being a part of her daily schedule. I know this time in her life is short so it’s a priority for me to soak it all up as much as I can.

While it would make more sense for me to leave the house to work, our schedule makes me happy. I love being at home and incorporating Lucy and Andy into my daily creative projects and tasks. I also love being available to drop everything and go play. I’d gladly work late into the night in exchange for a day of adventure! At the end of the day if I’m productive, creative, joyful and present for my family, I am satisfied.

Q: What do you hope your daughter remembers about this home? How do you dream she’ll recall this time in her life?

A: We both want Lucy to remember this home as a place of love, creativity, imagination, and joy. I hope she recalls this time in her life as magical, and as time when passions and interests were cultivated and fostered.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your daughter? What has surprised you the most about being a mom?

A: My favorite part of living with Lucy is the light that she brings to my life; it’s like someone turned on a switch and everything shines a little brighter. My journey into motherhood was a little different from others because I spent my 20s and 30s not wanting children. After going through some life changing experiences, Andy and I literally woke up one day and both wanted to start a family, and at age 35 I was pregnant!

Having spent so many years not wanting children, I have been surprised and humbled about how natural and right being a mom feels. My 20 year old self wouldn’t believe it, but becoming a mother has felt like I discovered my calling. I’ve enjoyed every single moment and stage of this entire journey, but I am loving the toddler stage right now. There is nothing that compares to having a conversation with a two year old.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: Oh goodness, there are all kinds of things I wish I knew, but the biggest would be how vulnerable and scared becoming a parent makes you feel at times. Sure, I knew from observing others just how emotional it all can be, but I wasn’t prepared for the intensity. There have been so many moments, both good and bad, where I have felt overwhelmed by how important this job is.

I remember holding Lucy for the first time feeling absolutely terrified by the fact that I was now responsible for keeping a tiny newborn alive! This feeling is now deeply ingrained in who I am and something I constantly have to work through so I don’t become weighed down with fear. Watching the news, planning meals, teaching new skills, even having fun all make me feel like my entire heart and soul is exposed and vulnerable. And while this feeling can be challenging, it is actually one of the best parts of being a mom because it is so rooted in the most beautiful and profound love that I have ever experienced.


My favorite new phrase?  “A harmonized little tag team.” Thank you, Alisa, for your beautiful words. Someday, Lucy will read this and feel so proud to know the effect she’s had on your life and career. There can’t be a better feeling or gift!

Friends, wasn’t it re-energizing to read Alisa’s thoughts on how becoming a mother has enhanced her goals and work? “It’s like someone turned on a switch and everything shines a little brighter.” So often, the focus is on all the things we no longer have time to accomplish once kids enter the mix, but what if we all started realizing how much these little ones actually inspire us without limits? Tell us how motherhood has invigorated your life and career, will you?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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