Today we get to meet Julie Hammond of Asheville, North Carolina. Covid-19 continues to make impacts in so many lives, large and small. In Julie’s and her husbands case, who were recently “empty nesters”, it meant welcoming their college aged daughter back home to shelter with them and wait out the pandemic. Julie’s house feels warm and comfortable, and Julie has a great perspective on enjoying and appreciating older children as they become adults. Welcome, Julie!

My husband and I met at Clemson University back in the 80s.  We worked in the same restaurant, became good friends, and the rest is history. My husband went fishing in Asheville while in college, and fell in love with the city (which at the time was practically a ghost town) and the mountains. He moved to Asheville right after college, and then I joined him when we were married.

Houston is a Residential Designer, and I am an Account Manager for a broker that manages Group Benefits. We built our house, on a dime, in 2001, when our three daughters were 1, 7, and 10. The house has changed as we have changed through the years.

Of course, my girls are amazing! Really they are. The oldest, a teacher before she became a stay at home mom, is married to an equally amazing man, and they have the most precious baby boy ever. Our middle daughter has been a missionary in Peru for the last two years, and is now a nurse at a Pediatric Hospital. Our youngest currently attends UNC Charlotte, and has been home with us since the pandemic started.

We are a whoever talks the loudest gets heard kind of family and truly love the leisures of working with our hands. There is a lot of cooking, tinkering, repurposing, creating, and gardening that goes on in this house!

We live in south Asheville in a big family neighborhood. Houses in Asheville are in the $200-$350/sf range. We absolutely love our neighborhood. I can’t think of a better neighborhood in Asheville. The people make it! Some of our best friends for life we have met in this neighborhood.

Through the years we have had neighborhood Halloween parties, Pumpkin Carvings, Christmas Parties, New Year’s Eve Parties and “Friday Friends” (a.k.a Happy Hour) monthly. We organize hiking trips together and often just hang out by each other’s fire pits, or even in each other’s driveways!

We also have the most amazing snow days here. Everyone gets together at one house, we eat, we go sledding or even snowboarding, we gather and we play games!

We love the spring and fall colors along the Blue Ridge Parkway which is about 10 minutes from the house. As well as the brew pubs and excellent restaurants.

Our best advice? Go out during the week and hang at the house on the weekends. It helps you avoid the crowds and you see more of the locals and communities out rather than a lot of tourists. 

Houston, being a residential designer, designed the house and we built it in 1999-2000. The house was built with a low budget, so finding a lot we could afford at the time was difficult. Because this was a very steep lot, the cost was lower than most, and because it was in such a great neighborhood we decided to buy it.

The lot did create design limitations that we weren’t always excited about. The house was designed so the garage, main level living and the master suite were on the top floor and the bedrooms and office were built below. The main floor is 3’ above grade in the front and 26’ above grade in the back. The house was essentially built down the hill. In fact the third floor down is half crawl space and half a woodworking shop.

Building our house was hard but exhilarating. It gave Houston a whole new perspective on how to deal with clients from a psychological standpoint. Having experienced it himself he learned a lot about some of the anxieties that may plague a client during the process of design and build.

We were intimately and physically involved in the day to day construction. We installed our tile and hardwoods and painted ourselves. A couple of unique things we added were a leaded glass window over the self-made end grain maple chop block.

We also learned that contractors and homeowners need to be flexible (as financially possible) during construction. For example, Houston was asked to order $2,500 worth of gravel to fill the void under the garage slab. He decided against that and installed steel beams and metal pan for the garage slab. This gave us another 625sf under the garage, which is now his home office.

Building is always a little difficult because things never go exactly as planned, but it was all worth it.

The trick of the trade here in the mountains? NEVER buy a lot that is above the road. Unless you’re okay with your garage in your basement, a steep driveway, and your front door on the side of the house. It’s more cost effective to use the “basement” space for the functions you would have put upstairs or on the main level. Reduce the footprint by moving those functions downstairs.

Foundations are a larger expense line in a budget here. More than most anywhere else. The smaller the foundation footprint and the fewer corners on the house the more cost effective the foundation.

General house building advice: You can have it cost effectively, you can have it quickly, or you can have it done with quality. Pick two.And lastly: The building code is a minimum standard!

When I asked about our decorating styles, Houston’s honest answer to this question, “This shizzle is original”… if that doesn’t give you a picture of his personality I don’t know what will! But he does have a point. Almost everything we decorate with is an antique, purchased overseas from trips (we have a lot of Peruvian decorations), a family heirloom, or made ourselves.

There are some things, like lamps for example ,that are occasional Homegoods finds. Much of our antique, quirky, or interesting pieces are found at my favorite antique shop, Screen Door here in Asheville.   

The worst part about the pandemic is not being able to see family, and friends as often as we would like — especially our grandson. With a home office, very little has changed for Houston. I have worked at home more, and we have stayed home more in general, but that part has been actually great.

Now I am splitting work between the office and home. I actually work at our dining room table, so it would be nice to have a separate office space on the main floor so that I wouldn’t have to clear the dining room table to eat.

We also would have planned for a mudroom in the design. With our garden and woodworking shop, and fun neighborhood gatherings, muddy feet and dogs are always in and out of the house! I wouldn’t mind a separate small sitting area upstairs either.

I love my house and I am often told that it is extremely cozy and comfortable. We never spend a lot of money for any decorations or furniture. Both of us love repurposing, and we have learned that a little paint can do wonders!

I am very slow at decorating the spaces in our house, but once I get started, I have so much fun. Our girls often tell us we better never sell this house!

We have enjoyed spending extra time with our youngest daughter who is home from college and is quarantining with us. Believe it or not, I never knew she was such a good artist. She has spent a lot of time painting, taking care of all of our house plants, and cooking for us. It has been a lot fun!

Some of the obvious changes from this pandemic will be in regards to health standards, but beyond that, I hope that it makes us all realize and appreciate what is really important in life — relationships, and caring for those we love, as well as those we may not even know. Our actions impact others that we might not even know or interact with and this is a really crucial time for us to learn or even re-learn that.

I also hope it teaches us to slow down and soak up all that is actually good in this world. Houston is learning that his interests as a “young-un” are fading. Being home is really giving him a greater opportunity to master his hobbies including woodworking, making fishing lures, and fly tying. 

We have loved having our daughters presence here “as an adult.” She was a sub-adult when she left. Her interests are expanding, she’s being intentional with struggles such as completing online school, time management, and working on relationships. It’s really cool to see all of that. I have loved that she has cooked dinner for us each Thursday and getting to watch her creativity and determination in the kitchen has been really fun.

We have also looked forward to our daily FaceTime calls with our grandson. When things get back to normal, I am looking forward to spending time together with family and friends in larger settings.

While we miss times as a family and seeing friends regularly and in larger settings, we are actually back at a place where we aren’t quite “empty nesters”. So as odd as it sounds we miss the quiet of it just being the two of us. 

I wish someone I had encouraged me to look to the future a little more. It is a fine balance of living in the moment, which is very important, but also planning ahead as well. I feel that if Houston and I had planned a little better we could have provided better experiences for our children. That being said, I also know that we did the best that we could which is absolutely okay! Houston and the girls would go camping a lot, but he still wishes they had gone more. It went by so quickly. We didn’t feel ready for the speed at which they grew up!

When all is said and done, I hope my kids remember this as a loving home where no matter what happens, love reigns! I hope they remember that it is a home and not a house, that messes are ok and that they, as people, matter more than the things in this house. I hope they remember that everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves grace. I hope they remember that they should always treat others the way that they want to be treated.

Honestly, I hope they don’t forget anything, despite the parenting mistakes that I know we have made. No family is perfect and all the good and the bad in our lives make us who we are, and hopefully a better version.

Houston says he’ll miss “teaming up and driving mom crazy!” As much as they did do this, and it did drive me crazy at times, it resulted in laughter. I love their laughter, especially when they are all together at home again. I love how they do give each other grace and I miss witnessing that on a daily basis.

I miss this about them not being home anymore. Enjoy the laughter!

——

Thank you, Julie! I love when you can really tell a home is lived in and the pieces inside have been collected and curated over the years. Nothing in this house feels generic or cookie cutter. And so many beautiful windows with so much beautiful greenery outside. It seems like the perfect place to wait out the pandemic in comfort.

I also really appreciate the perspective that Julie shares about how fast it all seems to go when your kids are grown out of the house. I think for so many of us that are stuck in the toddler years, or the teenage years, it seems like your kids will be in your home forever. It is a good reminder that someday they’ll be adults and on their own. And I love the perspective that when your kids are grown and out of the house, the thing that will matter the most is that they knew that they grew up in a loving home where they felt safe to try things, be themselves and be kind to the world around them.


You can see Houston’s design Instagram here. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.

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