By Gabrielle. Photos by Becky Kimball.

When Jane Rhodes invited us to take a fresh peek into her family’s Utah home, I recalled how much we all enjoyed the 2012 tour of their Boston home. Remember? The kids’ bedroom decor reflected their unique personalities and interests at the time, there was enough space carved out for everyone even if it meant a reading nook took residence under the staircase or a craft table was stuffed perfectly in a tight window space, and there were those cute extra beds in the master bedroom waiting patiently for nighttime visitors of the small kind!

It was all so thoughtful and refreshing.

Fast forward a few years to a new residence in Utah. It’s a treat to see how the family’s needs have changed as the kids have grown, and how their decor style has simplified. There’s now a fresh emphasis on how they’re using their spaces – not just how they’re decorating them. I love when that happens, don’t you?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a home quite like this one, and I thought you’d be interested in seeing it, too! (Oh! And for those of you with teens, Jane needs your advice on curfews!) Welcome, Rhodes family!

Our introduction might take a while – there are six of us plus a puppy!

I am a lifestyle blogger, artist, graphic designer, and mom of four. After completing my art degree this December, I plan to attend grad school. I love creating movies, photography, planning events, traveling, reading, gardening, running with our puppy, spending lazy days at home with our family, getting involved in humanitarian projects, and riding out a pretty big Wayne Dyer kick.

My husband, Dusty, and I live in the beautiful mountains of Orem, Utah. Neither of us thought to claim Utah as our home state, but we’ve now been here longer than our own native states, so we’re claiming it! And our children really like it here, so we’re staying put for now.

My husband is my dreamy college love who planned on going to med school after playing football and in the process founded a sports wear company. Dusty Rhodes (I like to call him by his full name – I like the ring to it!) decided to ditch med school and spend his days submersed in sports-related projects. Yet, he still claims to know more than anyone else in our home about medical issues. I feel it necessary to tell you he’s a Red Sox fan. That detail alone occupies a big part of our life. We claim it a miracle that we’ve stayed together for 20 years this year and haven’t killed each other.

What is it like to have four children? In Jim Gaffigan’s words: “Imagine you’re drowning. And someone hands you a baby.” We constantly function in survival mode.

Kiana is 17 and will be a senior in high school in the fall. She’s non-stop fun, and her ability to work out a later and later curfew might be giving Dusty and me grey hair. If you have a teenager: how late do you allow them to stay out? I’m really asking. Kiana is a prodigy at braiding hair and she loves scary movies. As in the really freaky ones.

Myla is 15 and all over computer science. She hopes to lead her generation of young women into the tech industry and balance the genders a bit. She plays tennis, softball, golf, and is experiencing the joy of raising a puppy. Technically, that furry beast is hers. Best ever lesson in responsibility for a teenager.

Our only son, KJ, is 12. He also loves everything tech. When he’s not begging for more time on his gadgets, he plays baseball, rides his bike, and likes long boarding. I mean, lets just be honest, this generation has a lot of tech options. It’s a battle for him to not be on it 24/7. It’s also common to catch him playing Beatles songs on the piano or his ukulele. The dude has great taste in music.

Our baby, Sela, is eight. I truly believe the acronym “FOMO” was created for her. This girl has a genuine heart of gold, and does not want to miss out on anything – including her parents’ date nights. She still gets teary when we try to go anywhere without her. Yeah, I’d say at least half of our dates include her.

Wellesley Baloo. Our seven-month-old Australian Labradoodle. We actually signed up for this madness. Lucky for our puppy, her big brown eyes and endless amounts of cuteness have allowed her to stay after all of the indoor potty accidents and the chewing. Oh the chewing.

I am guessing the house in which we live is a late-1960s rambler. I’m not exactly sure about the year. I first saw the interior during a public Parade of Homes in 2011, and I was completely smitten with the unique design and architectural work. A local family had purchased the home from the original owners and had remodeled the entire structure. The variety of natural elements that were chosen to create a style that mixes a traditional Utah look with industrial, steam punk, modern, mid-century modern, and rustic touches work so well together. It’s almost impossible to name all of the styles used to inspire the finished design. As soon as I saw it, I’m fairly certain at that moment I was thinking, “I want this house one day.”

We moved to Boston for two years, then decided in spring of 2013 to return to Utah, and were extremely pressed for time to find a home. And that house was for sale! Within a few weeks we packed up, drove across the country, and moved in! Each time I’ve since walked through the door, I’ve been amazed at our home. Our whole family adores this home.

But the unique design creates some unique challenges. Not everything was remodeled following code. For example, the entire huge kitchen cabinet that hangs above our stovetop and holds our microwave came crashing down when we had been there for only about ten days. We felt like we were living in the movie The Money Pit! We had a section of the roof that wasn’t finished and was leaking, we had plumbing issues, and we underwent nonstop projects to repair things and to make the home a bit more us. We went into bedrooms and bathrooms and whitewashed the walls to cover some unique murals, and added a wood planked wall in our son’s room. Now, after nearly replacing or fixing everything to some degree, it feels like ours.

My favorite part of the home is unquestionably the architectural elements that eliminate the need for a lot of interior design. Minimalist at heart – especially after Marie Kondo’ing – I prefer an uncomplicated backdrop. I love the floors, walls, doors, and every light switch, timber, steel baseboard, and I try not to cover the details and distract with decorating.

I easily become exhausted when I’m too focused too long on decorating my home. I feel self-absorbed and over-privileged. I don’t want my life to be too focused on how I decorate. I find it mandatory in the age of social media overstimulation curation to find your style, stick with it, get settled, then live your life. It’s important to me that people come into a clean, cozy, and comfortable environment. Once I have a room to where I like it, I just move on and leave it that way for as long as I can so real life can be lived.

The more pervasive social media has become, the more I have craved personal interaction, so I started Little Retreats to encourage choosing the real over the virtual. I love art in all forms, I love learning about almost anything, and I crave good food and good company. I like to bring in a local artist to share a skill with us, and help us create something tactile that brings a deeper meaning to our lives beyond our daily tasks, to-dos, errands, extravagant checklists, and worries. I help create a moment in time where we come together, enjoy simple pleasures, and relax. So far it’s been a huge success and I look forward to planning more.

Hosting the retreats in my home is just something in my comfort zone. I like to keep details simple but good. Earthy, organic. I put a lot of effort into helping the guests to arrive and instantly feel welcome, to feel that the atmosphere is inviting and cozy. If your heart is in the right place, your guests will feel it.

My husband and one of his friends made a set of tables for the retreats. They have interchangeable legs so guests can sit traditionally on chairs and benches one time, or sheepskins on the floor with a shorter table the next. I limit the number of guests to keep the event intimate.

My advice for keeping pre-event anxiety manageable? Have a glass of wine before your guests arrive!

I was born in Juneau, Alaska and raised on the Washington State coast. My husband is from Nevada. We spent a couple of our early years teaching English in South Korea, and traveling  around Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. We frequently go to the Philippines and Mexico.  And we all just spent two years living in Boston. I have loved all of those places, but Utah feels like home. And it’s hard to beat when it comes to raising kids.

Kids, tweens and teens here really know how to have fun without complication; it’s just simple, crazy fun. There are so many year-round outdoor activities here, and things like neighborhood night games, high school football, and dances are really big deals in these parts. Kids still face the pressures of drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, but the majority choose not to indulge in these things and get to have a childhood with a bit less danger and more nostalgic memories. That is priceless to us.

To be really vulnerable here, the intense teenage focus on chilling out with alcohol was the number one reason we left Boston. It was an unusually difficult battle to get teenagers to make plans to do anything but drink. Yes, I would hope my kids could learn to say no regardless of where we choose to live. But we were so aware of the youth culture in Utah, and it was something we wanted but couldn’t replicate without living there. We made it a family priority and chose to move back.

We really miss Red Sox games at Fenway, the beauty of New England, weekend trips to NYC, and of course the good friends we collected while we lived there.

I think our entire family would agree that my favorite part is actually how much fun we have in our yard. We regularly utilize every area: we play lots of catch, kick ball, volleyball, basketball, swim, and ride bikes, scooters, and skateboards. Our home has a concrete pathway that runs around the entire perimeter of our two-acre lot – a perfect 1/5 of a mile. We can run laps around our home! Myla and KJ rode 50 laps around it one time so they could say they’d biked ten miles. Stuff like this makes me smile for days, and not just because of our yard – it’s the time we’re spending together that we love, and that can take place anywhere.

In 2011, I went to a routine annual health checkup and found a thyroid nodule just over 1” in diameter that I had never noticed. It blew my mind. I’ve always focused on eating well, exercising, and thought something like this would be avoidable. I suddenly required extra doctor appointments in the midst of moving, helping kids adjust to new schools, and all that comes with that. So, I chose to take a year off of blogging to focus on other priorities.

Some bloggers might use this kind of situation for more blog material, but I learned that I was a bit more private. I wanted to focus my time on my family and my health. It turns out, I had Follicular Variant of Papillary Thyroid Cancer. I went through two routine surgeries to have the nodule and my thyroid fully removed. I did iodine radiation therapy, and have been in remission for one year now. It’s still a journey to live with synthetic hormones, but I’m learning and am forever grateful for my current good health.

The break from blogging was good for me. Social media in all forms consumes a lot of time, and it was a great year for me to refocus on living more intentionally.

It’s funny. If I really think about it, I don’t have any preference over what my kids remember from this home. As for me being their mom, I hope they know and believe in how much they’re fiercely loved. Isn’t love all that matters?

I wish someone had told me that what others think doesn’t matter. I wish I could have believed that sooner. It took me far too long to be honest about how I feel and have the courage to share who I really am.

Life is too short to not be authentic.


Your final sentence says it all. Authenticity is more than a social media and blogging trend: it’s the freest feeling around, online and especially off! Thanks for the reminder, Jane! Also, your table of varying heights is genius. And while I’m at it, how about this as yummy food for thought: “I don’t want my life to be too focused on how I decorate. I find it mandatory in the age of social media overstimulation curation to find your style, stick with it, get settled, then live your life.”

I’m wondering if any of you are living in a home with so much built-in personality that your own decorating becomes unnecessary. For me, I enjoy The Treehouse’s never-ending windows that give us ever-changing scenes depending on the time of day and season. Sure, it would also be lovely to have a massive gallery wall on which to hang artwork and photos of our favorite memories, but Mother Nature is hard to beat as an interior designer!

(And for those of you with teens, please weigh-in on Jane’s curfew query! I think she’d like some back-up! And if you have teens, what are your thoughts about the family moving back to Utah to allow their kids to experience the teenage years in a more edited setting? If you could do the same, would you?)

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! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.