Michelle is a stay at home mom raising 4 teens/tweens and 2 dogs in a beautiful home in Lindon, Utah. After moving every few years while her husband was in the military, they’ve finally settled down in a neighborhood they love, within walking distance of the kids’ schools, and with only a 10-minute commute to work. Michelle has really made this new-build her own with bright wall colors, amazing light fixtures and some gorgeous wallpaper.

After having lived in so many places, Michelle has great advice about making your space personal and your own, without worrying too much about if you might have to change it down the road. And she’s also got some valuable insight into being a parent to older kids. I can’t wait for you to take a peek inside. Welcome, Michelle!

My husband Blaine and I met on a blind date when we were 16. My grandma knew his family and decided we should go out. I’d never seen him before, but I was game. The day of the date was set and apparently miscommunicated, so he technically ended up standing me up for our first date. We ended up going out a few weeks later. Years after we met I learned that my grandma had secured our first date by telling Blaine’s mom that I really REALLY liked him and really REALLY wanted to go out with him. It took him a date or two to realize that I was not an obsessed stalker after all (again—I’d never seen him before!).

We dated for the next 4 years and have now been married for 15. After we got married he joined the Air Force and we spent the next several years moving frequently. In our first 7 years of marriage we lived in 12 different cities in 5 different states, had our 4 kids and started a business.

All of our kids have red hair, though neither of us have red hair or any redheaded family members, genetics is a mysterious thing!

After finishing his time in the Air Force Blaine started a business with his brother and eventually we moved here to Utah. He is now the CFO of his large national company and I am a stay at home mom. Our kids are 9, 11, 12 and 14 now. We also have two dogs that we’re all obsessed with, a big golden retriever, and a small Maltese mix.

We also have a rotating cast of nieces, nephews, friends and family coming through the doors every day. I love people, but I’m a homebody at heart so I love having a home where people gather. 

We live in Lindon, Utah. It’s a small city in the heart of Utah County. It’s so small that people who have lived in Utah County for years have never heard of it. I love where we live, but I didn’t at at the beginning.

First of all, it is the first place we’ve lived that is cold! After spending most of my life in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Texas, it was definitely a shock! Lindon is also culturally different from anywhere I’d lived before, as it is around 90% LDS and we are not religious. Making friends was a challenge since it seemed like everyone else’s social groups revolved around the church.

After a while, once we knew we would not be moving again, we decided to make some deliberate decisions to love living here more. My husband got into snowshoeing and hiking (there are amazing mountains and trails just miles from our home), we put the kids in ski lessons, and I started being more proactive in making friends.

Now, I think this location is completely ideal. My kids can walk to their great schools, and my husband’s drive to work is only 10 minutes. We are also close enough to Salt Lake City to be able to take advantage of the great restaurants and events there.

Our neighborhood is a mix of old and new homes. Many of our neighbors have chickens, one has goats and a couple of alpacas, and another has horses. It feels a little bit rural but has everything we need within a 10 minute drive.

We have a community pool that is less than a mile away for the summers, and for the winter, Sundance ski resort is just about 20 minutes away. We really couldn’t have possibly found a more convenient location for raising our kids and working. Housing prices have been rapidly increasing around here, but I think they are just slightly above the national average. 

I was content in our previous home, which was also in Lindon, and was not looking to move. My sister-in-law was house shopping and sent me the link to the listing because she thought it was my style. I liked the pictures, so I sent the link along to my husband and promptly forgot about it. It took him a couple of days but when he looked at the photos he really liked it. This was very surprising since I send him real estate listings all the time (I love houses!) and he rarely has a reaction.

The listing was acting as a model home/builder’s sales office at the time, so  decided to drive over the 1.5 miles and walk through it. In person I fell in love with it. It seemed like it had been built just for me. It had the right number of bedrooms, the perfect floor plan, and was in the same school boundaries we were already living in — just slightly closer to the schools and my husband’s job.

It solved the problems of the house we were living in at the time (not enough space in the kitchen, almost 20 years old and major things were starting to break, and a garage that didn’t fit both our cars). The list price was originally quite high (which turned out to have been a mistake!), and luckily for us, if someone has that large of a home budget, usually they want to build so it can be exactly what they want. The idea of building a house from the ground up has never been appealing to me — I think I would find it tedious.

I like the challenge of working within the framework of an already existing house and making it work for me. It had been on the market for a few months, which made the builder very motivated to sell since they had moved on to another neighborhood and the house was just sitting and costing them money at that point. It was also around Christmas and most people are not looking to move at that time of year.

This was the perfect situation for us! The kids didn’t have to change schools or sports teams or friends, and we didn’t mind the timing. At the end of the negotiation process we ended up paying well under what the listing price was (over $100k less!). It really felt like it was perfectly ours from the beginning. 

When I walk into my home I feel safe, grounded and comfortable. I want to create a home that is peaceful and joyful and reflects our family. I cultivate this by decorating with mostly calming colors like blues, greens and whites, mixed with accents that are surprising and fun like orange and yellow. I try to minimize clutter, since it adds to a feeling of chaos which can already be all too present with 4 active teens/tweens and 2 dogs. So instead of filling my home with decorative “things”, I try to make statements with big art, bold wallpaper, or unexpected color combinations, none of which take up any space!

I think open space is often seen as something to fill, but I value open space almost more than filled space! It leaves room to move around, have guests over, and makes my home feel more peaceful and calm. 

I remember noticing at a young age that all my friends’ houses looked the same. My mother is a great interior decorator and she always has a beautiful and unique home. Growing up, when my friends all had the maroon and forest green living rooms of the mid-90’s, our home was airy and full of soft yellows, greens and pinks. People who visited would comment on its refreshing energy.

One of my biggest goals for home design is to create a home that is unique and creative. I would never want my home to look like a showroom, or like anyone else could have designed it.

I NEVER get nervous about making bold choices. I read once that people are afraid of bold design choices because they think they’ll get tired of them quickly, but the reality is that we get sick of neutrals much faster than bolder choices. I definitely have seen this to be true.

My other guidepost for designing my home is the idea that everything in your home should be beautiful or functional, ideally both. When we were moving frequently with the Air Force, everything had to earn it’s place on the moving truck. Even though we aren’t habitually moving anymore I have kept the same mindset, everything needs to be working for us.

Part of that practicality is also reusing or refurbishing what we already have, or buying secondhand instead of buying something new. Many of our pieces of furniture are passed down or bought from family and friends. Just sitting here in the office I see our office desk, which we bought from a friend who didn’t need it anymore, a chair that was my mom’s that I reupholstered, a piano I bought from a family friend who was downsizing, and 2 chairs that were my grandma’s.

Having pieces from different time periods, different stores, and different styles adds to the overall eclectic vibe that I love. 

I love having art around the house and I think it is important to choose art that you love! Choose art that is personal to you or speaks to you! It doesn’t matter if a piece costs $3,000 or you found it on the side of the road, or your kindergartner did it, if you love it, it deserves a place in your home. And art doesn’t need to “match” a room, in fact, I think it’s even better when it doesn’t.

Art is a really under valued part of design, it has the ability to make a space feel finished and deliberate. You can live in a cookie cutter beige apartment, but put a large piece of original art on the wall and suddenly the space feels homey and intentional.

I am fortunate to have many family members who are artists. My grandpa and aunt did a lot of the pieces in our home. I also have several pieces framed and displayed that my kids made! I think children’s art deserves to be displayed proudly.  We travel a lot for work, and we love to get art from local artists who live in the places we visit. Most of our art is not expensive, but it reminds us of trips we’ve taken and people we love and that is what makes it valuable to us. 

When we moved in to this home, my neighbor came over to introduce herself. I was in the middle of hanging some art. She told me they’d been living in their house for almost a year and hadn’t hung a single thing on the walls because she was too scared of getting it “right”. I told her that I could come over the next day and help her. She agreed and said that she would go to Target or Home Goods and pick up some pictures. I told her not to do that I’m sure she already had plenty of great pieces she could use.

The next day I went over to her house and she had pulled out some of her kids’ old artwork, a painting or two that family members had done or that they had acquired over the years. We hung them around her house and she was so happy with the results! It immediately went from feeling like “just moved in last week” to “happily lived-in space”.

Perfectionism is the enemy here! Nothing is permanent! So what if you hang a picture and decide you hate it there? Not a big deal! It’s so easy to move a painting. There is NO “right” way to decorate. Which means you can’t get it wrong! I am here to be your decorating cheerleader! So what if you paint a room and get sick of it 6 months later. Repaint it! It’s takes a few hours and less than $100. People get paralyzed when they feel like every choice they make has to last the next 20 years. Nothing has to be final. Just try it! Chances are you’ll love it. 

My parenting philosophy is to provide support and love but not to control too much. I balance allowing my kids plenty of freedom and autonomy while still keeping everything on the rails. I believe my job as a parent is to get my kids to adulthood happy, healthy, and prepared to be successful in life, not to control them. I see other parents struggle to give up control in little things, like what their kids wear or how they do their hair, or how late they sleep in on the weekends. 

Some of this micro-managing might be necessary when they’re little, but as they get older, I pick very few battles. We have high expectations but very few rules. My kids are expected to get good grades but I don’t nag about homework. They are expected to be active but I don’t tell them which activities to participate in, and they are allowed to change their minds! I try to allow my kids to be who they are, and not expect them to be miniature versions of me. The more parents I talk to, the more I see this as my superpower. 

I hope they’ll remember our home as cozy and comfortable, and full of friends. I hope they remember our family watching tv together, cooking together on the weekends, playing games and doing puzzles, having parties with friends. I hope they totally forget how often we get DoorDash. 

I love introducing my kids to things I love. I love playing them music that I love, showing them my favorite SNL sketches, taking them to my favorite places, and seeing their reactions. I also love watching their relationships with each other evolve.  I just love watching them grow up and become who they are going to be, they surprise me every day. 

I wish someone had told me that everything is always changing. Nothing in the universe stays the same. You will change, what you want will change, and it’s ok to change. Some people might say that changing course is bad, or deciding you want something different is weak, but it’s a superpower.

Evolving is a wonderful gift, the real problem is staying the same. If you just flow with it, everything works out. Also, banish the word “should” from your vocabulary. As our queen Oprah says, do it with love and intention or don’t do it. 

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Thank you, Michelle!

I really love Michelle’s philosophies about decorating. You’d think someone who had had to move so many times would feel totally the opposite way — that everything needs to be kept simple and classic so that the house is sellable. But she really is so right: Repainting a room isn’t terribly expensive and just takes a weekend of work to get done. so if you do something and you’re sick of it a year later, it doesn’t have to be a big deal.

And I love what she says about parenting being about providing support, but not micro-managing the details so much. As my kids get older I learn more and more that I can’t really force them to do anything. We can set expectations, explain reasons, and try and get them on the same page, but if my 15 year old can’t remember to turn in his French homework, I can’t drive to the school and make him. Being a parent is about knowing when to let go and let your kids make their own choices and live with their own consequences.

SOURCES

Sofas

Dining Table

Kid’s homework desk

Hair-on-Hide office rug


Photo credit to Mandi Lotze. You can follow Michelle on Instagram. 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