By Gabrielle. Photos by Lori Baskin Photography.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our family is feeling complete but a setback occurred when becoming a family of five: our first home was feeling pretty tight. So, the house search quickly began.

We purchased our first home in Upper Arlington, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus) and knew that we wanted to stay in the area. The appealing features of a suburban area — exceptional school district, safe neighborhoods, community events, parks — we found and appreciate about the community. But, just as importantly, we love the close proximity to downtown, other neighborhoods, sporting arenas, and restaurants that Upper Arlington has to offer. We get the feeling of being connected to the city of Columbus as a whole without the separation that some suburbs have.

The house search began with excitement and quickly started to feel like a chore. We had an open mind but to no avail. We were willing to buy a home that was not exactly what we wanted, do the work and make it ours, but we kept striking out. After looking at twenty homes in the area, we knew our search had to continue but we began to lose hope of finding the just right house for us.

Then, a relative called us and stated that an acquaintance of theirs would be selling their home in the near future and that we could take a peek at it. Honestly, we were not overly pumped but thought what do we have to lose? We went to the home and immediately noted how close it was to our favorite park in the area; check one. We walked through the home with an open mind because the house was in need of some tender loving care, but items on our list were getting checked off as we did our walk through.

Our list consisted of items that were not cosmetic but more of how the bare bones would work for our family. Items such as a large family room, a separate living room, five bedrooms, room for a dining table for our whole family, a spacious backyard, a kitchen that had potential, and an overall layout of living space that felt right. As I said, the home was crying for updates but we were able to see past this and envision our family living there.

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Floors needed to be refinished and replaced, walls needed painted, light fixtures needed changed out, etc. The kitchen required more than the renovations the other part of the home needed — it was in need of a remodel. We would be taking down walls, adding plumbing and electricity — all that fun stuff — to make the kitchen what we wanted. We left the home that day, looked at each other, and both said that it could be the one. We had not said that to many houses in our long search. Everything fell into place seamlessly and before we knew it we were buying the house and making decisions about renovations.

Our new home went through an overall renovation with the kitchen being remodeled. The process lasted about three months. One of the most important things I would share to anyone that is thinking about doing a remodel of a kitchen is considering the time of year to do the work. I found that the best time to schedule a kitchen remodel is during the summer or warm weather months. We ate and played outside every day for those months to get away from the madness going on inside. I could not imagine going through the remodel of our kitchen during cold or snowy months. It would have been very difficult!

Another tidbit I would suggest is to work outside of your comfort zone. We had never tiled, hung light fixtures, or laid as much flooring as we did in our new home which definitely pushed us out of our comfort zone. All these new projects were a bit nerve wracking and took us way more time than a professional would have, but it was the right choice. We learned new skills and stayed within our budget because we pushed ourselves during our renovations.

I try to style my home to be kid-friendly, comfortable but well thought out, modern, colorful, and crisp with a touch of boho in there. My style is based around a feeling. I have always loved walking into a well styled home, restaurant, or business and feeling relaxed and comfortable. I appreciate an space that is well thought out, well styled, and has a good vibe to it. A well styled space where pieces and items have a place and purpose brings a sense of comfort and warmth.

I want my family and guest to feel this in my home. To create these feelings, I have made my home kid-friendly with plenty of areas for the kids to live and play. Also, I incorporate pieces that have meaning, are useful, add color or texture, add life, and show our personality. Again, I try to add colorful, modern, and bohemian pieces into our home in order to create a feeling of warmth and texture.

My strategy for styling our home is looking at tons and tons of pictures of homes and decor for inspiration and combining ideas to make my own room. I have been inspired by many creative individuals on Instagram and appreciate the large community that is willing to share their home with the world.

Before I had our third child I was working full-time as a teacher. I loved my job! I loved teaching students, seeing them grow, and becoming part of their family. But when I was working, I always had the feeling of being rushed. I rushed to get to work in the morning, I rushed to get work done, I rushed to get home to my family, I rushed to get work done in the evening, and then repeated the next day. We were lucky to have family helping us with our two kids while I worked which gave me a peace of mind and helped me balance work and home.

At first, I did envision myself going back to work after baby number three but situations changed and it did not feel like the right time. We felt that the best job I could do would be to stay at home with the kids. I feel very lucky to be at home and know that I will return to teaching when the time is right.

At this time, my typical day is spent enjoying my home and offering my kids life experiences. We are busy-bees always going somewhere, doing something, or having friends and family over. I have enjoyed pouring my creativity into my family and home that I used to pour into my teaching. The Instagram world offers me a platform to see and meet other individuals that are enjoying their homes and pouring style and creativity into them. I am a new Instagrammer and almost daily I fall upon a new person that inspires me through their photos. I hope that I can inspire others through my photos.

I am a twin, and my identical twin and I are best friends. Luckily, she lives five minutes away from me so we are inseparable. We definitely talk everyday and see each other about five times a week. We are very much alike and different at the same time. She is a family of five and our children are the closest cousins can be. We have had a few twin moments since not living together (we lived together for 25 years until we both got married). Without discussing or shopping together, on two separate grocery trips we both bought the exact same toothpaste brand and type and the exact same ice cream brand and flavor on the same day. These truly were twin moments because both of us do not buy the same toothpaste or ice cream each time we go to the store. We both pick what looks best or sounds good at that moment. There are many brands and types of toothpaste and many brands and flavors of ice cream but somehow on those days we picked the exact same ones. Crazy how that happened!

My favorite part about my three children is that they offer so much life, laughter, and happiness to our days. That is a typical mom response but it is the truth. For selfish reasons, I adore them being around as I would be bored and not very entertained without them. My kids have taught me to enjoy the small things. They laugh and are content doing art projects, running races outside, walking to the park, playing with friends, and having lazy days at home. I try to follow their outlook and enjoy the simplicity of things.

I hope my kids remember the fun times and memories we had in our home. Memories of us sitting down at dinner and sharing highs and lows of the day, friends and family coming over to eat and play, doing art together, and taking care of our home. I hope as grown ups they find what makes them comfortable and happy and stick with it. I hope they are comfortable with their jobs, themselves, their homes, and their families. And, hopefully all this will make them happy.

Maybe that is why I want our home to be comfortable, colorful, warm, and welcoming because I want my children to have these feelings now and as they grow up.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have read more to my son. Being a younger parent and him being my first child, I did not yet realize the importance of reading to my child every day starting when he was a baby. Once he entered Elementary School I could tell that I had not introduced him to books or read to him as much as I should have. He did receive additional reading support in school and now is an excellent reader, but I wish I could have done that over again.

In a sense, I was able to do it over again with my middle and youngest children. With both girls we started reading books starting at infancy and have books all around the house that we ready and enjoy every day. Already I notice a difference in their concepts about print and ability to read. Books are incorporated into how I style my home because they are useful and pleasing to look at.

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Thank you, Jan! Your honesty about what you would’ve done differently with your son was heartfelt and I appreciate you sharing your regret with us. (And honestly, I have a friend who read to her kids all the time, and they are not great readers as teens. In fact, I remember her husband saying something like, “It’s because we read to them too much as babies! Now they don’t want to read themselves!” Hah!)

I just read of an acquaintance ridding her home of over 500 books in an attempt to KonMari her life. (Spoiler: She kind of regrets it!) What do you think? Are you slowly going digital with your books? Selling or giving away the ones on your shelves? I’d love to hear your book philosophies!

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.