Christine‘s main goal when decorating her home was that it would feel like a breath of fresh air every time she walked through the door. She nailed it. She’s a mom after our own hearts, learning to enjoy those early stay-at-home days with a toddler and new little one with overlapping nap times, while also yearning to find time to work again, too. Plus maybe a little DIY! It’s always a strange balance, savoring the baby years yet wondering if you’ll ever find the old you again, isn’t it? For now, let’s just take a deep breath of fresh air in as we enjoy this lovely home tour.
Q: Tell us all about the family who makes this house a home!
A: I’m Christine, a writer, wife, and mom to two little boys living in Providence, Rhode Island. My husband, Vijay, and I met when he came to Chicago (where I was living at the time) to visit his best childhood friend who just happened to be my boss. Six months later, we were married! To say we had a whirlwind relationship would be an understatement…but when you know, you know! We recently celebrated our five-year anniversary, and we both feel that our biggest accomplishment, besides having a loving marriage, is being the proud parents of Vijay, almost two years old, and Vikram, just two months old.
Q: How did this home become yours?
A: We moved to Providence about four and a half years ago when my husband received a wonderful job opportunity with his Alma mater, Brown University. I had never been to Providence — the first time I visited was to find a rental apartment. It was a hard transition, leaving behind good friends and my beloved city of Chicago, but I quickly grew to love Providence; it is a quirky college town situated in the tiny, but beautiful, state of Rhode Island. After six months of renting, we began looking for a home.
I knew I wanted to be near campus, but with a little distance from the fraternity parties and student life. We settled on our current neighborhood, which is walking distance to Brown and filled with an eclectic mix of students, professors, and young families. We can walk to parks, libraries, coffee shops, and the farmers market. We just love it.
When we first toured our now home, the decor was so outdated and old-fashioned, but beneath the surface, you could see the home had beautiful bones and had been lovingly kept. It was built in 1906, and many of the original features are still there — the light fixtures, restored kitchen cabinets, intricately carved doors, beautiful moldings, and the random stained glass window. I loved those old bones and unique touches immediately, and I could see how beautiful the space would be with new paint and colorful decor! We made a rather low offer since the house was a bit out of our price range, and we were shocked when they accepted. It was simply meant to be; this is a home that is deserving of a family that will adore it, and the old owners knew we would treat it with love.
In its 100+ year life, the home has only had four other owners. We love our house even more as we discover all the quirks that make it so unique and beautiful. We’ll be in this house for a long time, and I love the feeling that it is all ours and that it already holds so many special memories — like bringing both of the boys home from the hospital, hosting Vijay’s first birthday party, and my husband’s 40th birthday party. So many great times!
Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? The boys are still young, but do you see it changing as their presence becomes bigger and bigger?
A: I love bright colors, and clutter-free spaces. I want my home to feel like a breath of fresh air when you walk through the door. I really try to live by the adage “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
This has been harder to follow since the boys were born because people love to shower you with gifts when you have kids — and many of those gifts are kinda awful plastic toys! I keep a bin in our garage that I continually fill with things to donate to the Salvation Army. I refuse to keep things in my home that I find offensive, and I am working hard to keep the boys’ playroom full of simple, well-built toys that encourage imagination. Favorites include lots of good books, wooden building blocks, a wooden train set, and Vijay’s continually growing team of construction vehicles with which he is obsessed!
We are lucky enough to have a playroom just for the boys and their toys, and this means that toys stay in that room, and we keep the rest of the house pretty toy-free except for a basket of books and small toys in the living room, and favorite toys and books in the boys’ rooms. This makes clean-up time pretty painless for everyone, and the boys like having free reign of their playroom. I hope we can continue using our space in this way as the boys grow!
Q: What is your favorite space in your home? How do you spend your best moments there?
A: I love our master bedroom. It is a very simple and clean space, with big windows and beautiful light no matter what time of day. We love to snuggle up in bed as a family and read books in the morning and before bed each night. It’s my favorite time of day when all four of us are together. Also, little Vijay loves doing acrobats on the bed while I nurse his brother; its a great way to keep him occupied!
Q: What are your secrets for balancing working from home with a toddler and a new baby?
A: I am definitely still learning how to balance work and motherhood now that I have two little ones. It is not easy. I used to work during Vijay’s nap time — he is a power napper, giving me a solid three hours each afternoon. But now with the baby, those days of long naps are long gone! If I’m super lucky, the boys might overlap nap time by an hour, and that is hardly enough time to work. So right now, I’m giving myself a bit of maternity leave from my various writing projects. Once I get the baby on the same nap schedule as my toddler, I will be back at it! My other secret is a great babysitter when the need arises, and a husband who is willing to chip in to make my work a priority.
Another tip! Don’t be afraid to bring along the baby when you have no other option. I did my entire book tour with newborn Vijay at my side or strapped to my chest. I was nursing him, so I couldn’t leave him behind, and newborns are actually quite portable seeing as they spend most of their time sleeping! I was never afraid to bring him along when I was writing or shooting articles, but I just gave my client fair warning, and made sure they were okay with it. As a work-at-home/stay-at-home mom, I just did what I had to do (within reason), and never apologized for it. Of course, this all ended when he became mobile! That’s when the great babysitter kicked in!
Q: What’s your design weakness?
A: My weakness is DIY projects. And it’s only a weakness in that I always think I’ll have time to do it myself, when maybe sometimes it would just be easier to buy something new! I used to have time to do things like re-upholstering furniture, stripping and painting pieces…things like that. Now that I have two little ones, I don’t always have that kind of time. I love re-purposing furniture off of Craigslist or from second-hand shops and flea markets, but I need to get better about not saddling myself with super time consuming projects. Luckily, now that Vik’s nursery is done, I don’t have any big decor projects in the works at the moment, although I am dreaming of converting our attic into a studio for my sewing, crafting, and writing!
Q: What do you think your design choices and home style are teaching your boys?
A: I hope I am teaching my boys to live simply, without the need for too much stuff. Instead of buying our own train table, we love to walk to the library to use theirs. It keeps it special, and gives us a fun activity to do together. I hope they will learn to focus on quality, rather than quantity when it comes to material possessions.
On the other hand, I could stand to loosen up a bit with my cleaning standards. I need to get better about accepting the messes that come along with having kids! I will say that having a big backyard is a blessing in that all our messy play can take place outside — play dough, finger paint, sandbox play, water play, bubbles, silly string! — without giving mom an anxiety attack!
Q: What is your favorite part about living with your own kids? What do you already miss?
A: I love their creativity and curiosity, and the way they see the world. Having kids has forced me to slow down and live in the moment. As a (mostly) stay-at-home mom, my days have a slower rhythm than before — hours spent at the park, playing with blocks, or reading books — and I have really come to enjoy that.
Although, this can sometimes mean that my days feel pretty monotonous…like Groundhog Day, but with swings and a slide! To break up the routine, we are a huge fan of fun day trips to nearby farms, beaches, parks, and cute towns. I already miss having my boys with me all day long to explore and enjoy. I know soon enough they will be in school, and I’ll be anxiously awaiting the weekend to spend quality time with them!
Q: What do you hope your boys remember about these days and their childhood home?
A: I hope to instill my boys with a sense of wonder and adventure, and a healthy appreciation for the great outdoors.
I hope that my boys always come home for their mama’s cooking; I make a mean batch of fully-loaded chocolate chip cookies, and a to-die-for berry crumble, if I do say so myself!
I hope my boys remember our home as warm and loving, with memories of boisterous family meals and lots of laughter. Also, being involved with a college community means we are always having students, professors, and families over for dinner, so I hope my boys remember their home as being full of interesting people, and that they remember their parents as always being open and welcoming.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…
A: …that taking two young kids out to eat was so challenging. I would have gone out to breakfast every single morning before having kids!
Yes, Christine! I think we would’ve all lingered a little longer over dinner had we realized how chaotic it would someday become! Thank you so much for your honesty throughout the tour…especially about those plastic toys; I’m sure there are so many moms out there right now in the middle of clean-up, muttering to themselves about giving them all away to charity!
Friends, what were your best tricks to really embrace those slow early days? How did you manage the monotony…and keep in mind all the magic that was happening, too?