When Nicole reached out to me about a home tour, I read her email and thought: that is a dreamy life. She described her home on the lake, and the citrus farm where her husband’s family works, and I just couldn’t wait to see it. I am so glad she decided to share! Her charming home is small, and super livable — and all the design choices are thoughtfully made. Plus the lake view really is gorgeous. Welcome, Nicole!

Hello. I’m Nicole. I’ve always been indecisive if given too much time for decision making. This personality trait was most apparent in college when it came time to pick majors; the first, second, third and final time.  The major that stuck was building construction, and appropriately fell under the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech. I have always enjoyed processes that have a clear beginning, middle and end ,and construction was just that. You begin with drawings and dirt, followed by the extremely detailed construction process, and then finish with an impressive result.

Besides falling in love with a major, I also fell in love with a classmate. Luckily this romance waited until the last year of college, but it was quickly made apparently that we were both in it for the long haul. We even chose to complete our senior design project as a pair, knowing that if a relationship could survive the long hours and extensive workload, it may be able to survive forever. 

We graduated in December of 2009, which was quickly dubbed the-worst-possible-year to graduate with a construction degree. I continued on with internships and miscellaneous part-time jobs while my future husband moved to Central Florida to work at his family’s business and become a citrus grower. After saving up as much money as possible for six months, I moved down to Florida as well.  

A small town, mid-recession, was not the time to attempt to kick start a construction management career, but I was lucky enough to find a position at a family of construction companies, managing their business development and marketing efforts. 

My husband and I married on a farm outside Asheville the summer of 2012, and shortly after were expecting the first of our three sons. Harper Glen was born spring of 2013, Charlie Ash was born two springs later, and Nolan Robert was born two springs after that. To never be fully pregnant during a Florida summer seemed to be pretty important goal! 

Raising Harper has felt like I hopped in a time machine to raise myself. I know exactly how he is going to handle a situation based on how I know I would have handled it. He is cautious, yet very brave and adventurous. There isn’t a tree he won’t attempt to climb or a creature he won’t catch. He can quickly melt anyone’s heart but needs his sleep as well as his alone time. Charlie on the other hand, is completely unlike my husband and I. He is intense, bold and loud. He is fast to get upset but gives the best hugs a momma’s heart could wish for. He is impressively smart yet always covered in layers of grime.  Nolan is a beautiful combination of both of his older brothers. He is observant but quick to participate. The kid loves a ball. He could play fetch with himself all afternoon. His laugh can silence a room just as quickly as his shriek. He is so easy to love and is definitely the baby that makes you want even more babies. 

We are raising our family in Eagle Lake, Florida. Population: around 2,500. It’s joked that when the high school is in session, the population of the town doubles. I’m pretty sure that is accurate. We are centrally located in the state, and depending on traffic, you can get to Tampa or Orlando within an hour. Eagle Lake may be very small, but only a few blocks from our home we have small town versions of City Hall, a library, a sheriff sub station, a play park and a fire department. All of which is a blessing.

One town over is Winter Haven and we spend most of our time there. Our church, our gym, and the boys’ preschool, are all located in town. We find ourselves driving back and forth multiple times a day. By most people’s standards, Winter Haven is still a small, rural town but it has everything we need. The Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street organization have done an amazing job welcoming small businesses and beautifying their downtown. It has been wonderful watching the growth since we moved here — which was not that long ago. Legoland Florida even opened just ten minutes away around six years ago. The kids don’t know how lucky they are to have Legoland and Disneyworld in their backyards! 

We purchased our home in the spring of 2010 for $185,000. I feel that we overpaid, but we knew the owner had rejected lower offers and we weren’t willing to miss out. Very few lakefront homes go on the market for less than $250,000, and anything beyond $185k was out of our reach. We saw the potential, knew we could put in the work, and the view was amazing. 

A benefit of living in a small town is everyone knows which homes are for sale. This is especially true with lakefront property. My husband’s dad suggested we look at this property and we quickly knew it was going to be the perfect home for us. The lot was large and on a hill, but the entire home needed an overhaul. The only residents for the past three years had been rodents and insects. Not only was it outdated, it was in really rough shape.

With help from my husband’s family (thank you Nonnie!), he was able to purchase the home with a high down payment. Being a recent college graduate and working for an agriculture-based family business made finding a mortgage a bit tricky but he was eventually able to find someone that had faith in him.

My husband, Geoff,  is a fourth generation citrus grower. Citrus runs in his veins and he works extremely hard to support our family. His great grandfather, William Gee Roe, originally spent his winters cutting ice on the Hudson River to load on to rail cars. Before he and his coworkers loaded the ice, they unloaded the Florida-grown citrus.

After years of this work, he decided that he wanted to follow the train south to where the citrus was grown. An agreement was reached with the railroad to fund a packing house alongside the railway, with the promise that all citrus packed there would be shipped on the railroad. This packing house still stands and houses our family’s citrus packing operation. It really is a full family operation. Both of his parents, his uncle, his brother, sister, and multiple cousins are all heavily involved in daily operations. 

Geoff is very similar to me as far as enjoying the full-circle satisfaction of seeing a project from start to finish. This is extremely true with growing citrus. He may be starting with raw land or an older grove that is in need of love, patience and science. The end result is the same: produce the highest quality and quantity of fruit, with the least impact on the environment.

He rises hours before the sun but has the ability to be very present in our boy’s lives. Most mornings he is able to swing by to help load everyone up for school, and when afternoon naps were a daily occurrence, he was here most afternoons tucking them in. The boys will tell you their favorite thing to do with dad is “ride the groves and check the pumps”. Trips to Rural King and Lowe’s are pretty high on their list too! 

Looking back at the start of our renovation we REALLY thought we would be able to move in to the home in six months. We knew it would be nowhere near done, but expected that it would be livable. I even told Geoff that I didn’t want to be engaged before we moved in. Over a year later, we still hadn’t moved in, but we were engaged! I’m glad he didn’t wait. 

It took around a year and a half until we were ready to move in. The home was nowhere near done — it didn’t even have kitchen cabinets — but it was time to start our lives in our home. We even had our housewarming party with a folding table in the kitchen! I couldn’t have imagined moving into a home so unfinished with young children, but since we were young and in love, it was perfect. 

Before we started, we discussed our limitations, decided which projects we didn’t want to handle, and found subcontractors to help us out. We did all of the demolition ourselves and slowly brought this home back to life. We even built a small addition where the back porch used to be.

We went to college to learn to build so you might think we handled all the home improvements ourselves. But it turns out we did not go to college to learn to install tile, repair plaster, or refinish hardwood floors. When possible, I recommend large scale projects like those are best completed by professionals that have years of experience — and I am so grateful we were able to hire those projects out. That said, we did do some of the work ourselves. Installing walls of tongue and groove, and hours of painting, sure were a great way to plan a wedding!

We were very young and naïve as far as the design choices we made. I had assumed that since we were a farming family our style should lean more farmhouse. But as the years have gone by, we realized we prefer a more modern esthetic. Clean lines, minimal décor and white paint make us both happy. Even if I have to touch up the paint monthly it is so worth it! Almost everything in our home has been painted multiple times. I don’t regret this because renovating a home is one of the best growing experiences you can go through.

My advice? If you don’t know your style yet, and Pinterest is leading you in three hundred directions, make timeless and classic decisions with your more permanent choices, and you can add layers as you move forward.  

Its funny how you look back at your childhood and are able to pick up clues to your future passions. My bedroom HAD to be the perfect shade of navy blue and purple. Two walls of each with coordinating blue blinds and hand painted stars on the ceiling. I designed a corner shelf for behind my bed that HAD to come out at an angle with additional shelves above. I also spent hours decorating my sliding mirrored closet doors with puff paint.

I give my parents credit for providing me that creative freedom, and a super dark bedroom that allowed me to sleep in past sunrise on the weekends. : ) 

I had considered an Industrial Design degree in college, but after looking over the courses, and a semester spent in a studio design class, I realized that Industrial Design wasn’t the correct path. So I continued my studies in Building Construction instead. 

I was beyond lucky to land an internship with a small development firm that was in the beginning stages of a multi-use development. They were converting an old slaughter house into a high-end retail, office and restaurant space. Think: Knoll and Room & Board in an old slaughter house. Amazing.

Alongside this project they were building luxury condos with beautiful retail underneath. The whole project was eye opening, and even though I was an intern, I was able to be part of so many aspects of the build. Sometimes this was taking notes, sometimes getting very dirty, and other times just starring in awe. The high-end build outs of the commercial spaces, and the staging of the condominiums (plus the parties), were my absolute favorite. 

 

Sadly, my style at home does not reach the high standards of the projects I worked on. Budget constraints are a bummer, right? But I learned a ton, and strive for similar results. My current focus of my home design is function and sustainability. Sustainability in the sense: will my kids destroy this? If the answer is: yes, immediately, then I need to move on to another option. My boys are pretty darn good at all things demolition. 

As a mother, I have surprised myself at how calm I am able to remain. Even under intense situations, something in my brain takes over and I’m able to relax and move forward. For my oldest child’s 5th birthday, ALL he wanted was a monster truck piñata. Of course, right when it was piñata time, the skies opened and brought all the wind, rain and lightening. A few dozen kids, plus their parents, piled inside our home, and we hung up the piñata inside. The kids thought it was amazing. The parents were freaking out that it was a bad idea. But nothing broke besides the piñata! 

A home with three boys sees a lot of blood and other injuries. I’ve heard the “mom this isn’t good” yell more times then I can count. I’ve learned to only wear black or old clothes while at home, because my super power isn’t getting blood out of clothes. We are blessed that our pediatrician answers FaceTime calls at all hours, and always keeps fresh medical glue on hand. 

I try to remind myself on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, that soon we will be on to the next phase of our life. The baby will be sleeping by himself all night and not want to cuddle, the big kids won’t ask to be carried, or for extra bubbles in the bath. And they won’t want to give their momma the sweetest wet kisses. 

I hope the boys will forever remember the independence that this home has provided them. Everything is accessible to them and there is not a space that is off limits. They are able to play in the yard without direct supervision. They spend hours digging in the dirt, searching for critters, and exploring the garden and fruit trees. They have their rock pit to play in when boundaries are needed, but overall, the footprint of the house allows me to always keep an eye of them. 

As silly as it may sound, I hope they know I tried my best. I start every morning with great intentions, but without fail we end the day in survival mode! No matter how rough the day may have ended, I want them to know how deeply they are loved and how proud I am of them. They are amazing kids and I am so grateful to be their mom. 

I hope they remember how hard their parents worked for everything. We work on the house, we work in the yard, we work in the garden, and we work in the kitchen, to provide them their best life. Life takes hard work and I pray that we aren’t raising entitled children. I want them to know how to put in the effort, how to think their way through a hard situation, and get their hands dirty. It’s ok to come home sweaty and exhausted. It’s ok to ask for help when your hard work isn’t enough. 

A humorous piece of advice I was given while naming our first born was to stand on your porch and yell your top name choices as loud as you can. Whichever name is easiest to yell, name your child that name. At the time I laughed it off because I wasn’t one to raise my voice or yell — ever. I was sure I wouldn’t be the type of parent that yells at their kids. Oh boy how I was mistaken. I try hard not to yell unless there is immediate danger, but even then I find myself yelling ALL DAY LONG. Phrases such as “that’s not food”, “don’t jump off of that”, “make sure he can breath” or “what is all over the baby?!” come out of my mouth on a regular basis. I pray my boys remember mom laughing or mom singing over mom yelling. 

I find that I am rushing them to get out the door with a higher level of panic then necessary. My anxiety skyrockets with the thought of being late. When you have three young children, the chances of you being on time are slim, and when your brain is wired that not arriving ten minutes early is late, you are setting yourself up for constant failure. I have chosen to accept that pajamas, no shoes, and breakfast all over their faces is acceptable for almost any outing. 

This past year, my husband and I realized that our family needed to make a change. We were spending most of our time together but it wasn’t the quality time we all craved. Our solution? We purchased a travel trailer. I had always thought that taking the kids camping when they were all older would be a great way to vacation, but three under the age of five seemed crazy. But so far, the results have been amazing.

Our goal is to take a trip a month to a new campsite — something within a few hours drive — and unplug. Letting the kids be kids while we are able to relax and participate has been so rewarding. Plus, everyone sleeps so well because they are so worn out! 

Seeing the joy in the kids’ eyes when we are camping, or even just in the day-to-day grind of life has been so much fun. Watching them tackle a new skill or grasp a new concept is thrilling to watch. One day they are walking like a wobbly toy, babbling, and in the blink of an eye they are skipping down the hallway singing their favorite chapel song. 

I wish someone would have told me to not lose sleep over trying my best. I find that sometimes, past parenting decisions still keep me up at night. How we chose to sleep train, methods of discipline, or choices in childcare that were made years ago, that I wish I would have done differently, seem to haunt my late night thoughts. Every injury or close call that the boys have had stick in my mind. I try to stay in the present but the what-ifs are always going to be there. 

  

The marriage advice of never going to sleep upset is even more true with littles. It doesn’t matter how challenging the day or how drained we all are, bedtime is the perfect time for a fresh start. There is nothing sweeter then a freshly bathed little boy dressed in mismatched pjs, wanting his momma to carry him to bed and tuck him in. Enjoying those few moments and lingering for those extra moments can really set the tone for the next day. Someday they aren’t going to want one more kiss. 

A few weeks after I reached out to Design Mom to feature our “forever” home we made the decision to purchase a new forever home. I realized that I wasn’t winning any prizes for sharing a single bath with three potty trained males. We were figuring out a budget to begin the process of building an addition and the stars just weren’t aligning. We have now closed on our new home and are excited for this next chapter to begin!

Luckily this next chapter will be taking place only four doors down from our current home. The second exciting decision we made was to not sell our current home, but AirBNB it. The location is great for tourists wanting to visit Central Florida and it’s such a great family home. At least we think so! It would be the perfect spot to spend time any season. 

Maybe you’ll come and visit!

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Thank you, Nicole. What an adorable home!

It makes me want to take a trip to Central Florida and watch the sunset over that lake. What a dream! And there are so many great design choices happening throughout the space. The home is thoughtfully and carefully planned out — you can see Nicole’s construction management background coming through.

I laughed out loud at the bit about standing on your front porch and practicing screaming your kids names before you select them. Isn’t that the truth? You really can wear a name out! I remember when my boys were little — when I heard crying, my questions evolved from “is anyone hurt” to “is anyone bleeding?” It’s sometimes shocking how much trouble such small people can get themselves into.

What’s the best/funniest/most off-beat parenting advice you were ever given? Did you laugh out loud at the time, and now you find yourself in awe over how true and inspired it was?

SOURCES

Lockers

Kids hanging chair

Dining Room Sunrise print

Palm Leaf Water Color Print

 


Photo credit to Brad Miller. If you are interested in staying in Nicole’s home you can find the AirBNB link here. You can also follow her on Instagram here. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram. Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at features@designmom.com.