Something a little different for this week’s Living With Kids post. We sold our Oakland house. It’s really gone and I can hardly believe it. Would you indulge me while I share a goodbye tour of the Treehouse?
I admit, I’ve had to keep wiping my tears as I prepared this post. We loved this house so much — and our life in Oakland that the house represents — and it was really hard to leave. Come say farewell with me.
As I look at these photos, my brain starts listing every change we made — both big and small. A new front door. A new front porch light. New house numbers. New doorbell. I remember driving south to San José to buy the vintage outdoor furniture from a Craig’s list ad. The cement plant pots? I made them myself.
When we moved in, the entrance was tiled, and the floor was carpeted. Can you picture it? And I remember doing research on how to lighten the bricks without damaging them — I ended up using milk paint.
As we worked on the house, we designed most of the main floor to be one connected space — entry, living room, dining area, and kitchen — all open to one another. I know open floor plans don’t work for every family, but they were ideal for us. A lot of laundry was folded on those couches, while a meal was simultaneously being prepped on the kitchen island. I hope all the kids have happy memories of working together and being together in this space.
When I see the kitchen, one of the first things I think of is that it’s an unfinished project. I really, really wanted to enclose the laundry area and make it a laundry room/pantry. Then overhaul the kitchen at the same time. We did lots of updates and work in the kitchen, but so much of it was incremental stop-gap fixes as we waited till I had the energy (and funds) for a compete redo.
Oh well. The fixes we made were super helpful and even without the overhaul it was an easy space to have all eight of us in at once. Our current rental has a much smaller kitchen and gets awkward with more than a few people, so we are especially missing our Treehouse kitchen.
Another thing I notice in the pictures is the pottery collection on the shelves. The pottery came with house — or at least a lot of it did. We ended up adding to the collection over the years. I would hunt for new (old) pieces at the famous White Elephant sale in Oakland. We brought the collection to France and now I’ll hunt for more pieces at vide greniers (community yard sales).
I am quite careful about choosing items for our home and know the history of each piece. We chose the table when we lived in Colorado. The bentwood chairs were purchased from our friend Erik who runs Book/Shop. The chandelier was given to us when we lived in New York — friends were redoing their house and didn’t want it.
I have some heavy regrets about not bringing the chandelier with us. If the new owners ever decide to get rid of it, I hope they’ll give us a chance to buy it first.
The whole house is surrounded by balconies that look out onto the forest. There were no other houses like this in the neighborhood. It was truly unique.
Because the house was surrounded by trees, the exterior upkeep was a beast! Some years we were better at it than others. : ) The leaves fell continuously throughout the year and had to be swept weekly or sometimes daily. And there were SO MANY cobwebs. Just always, always cobwebs. No matter how often we swept them away.
But how could we complain when we had a little stream and waterfall running through the yard? Even when the drought was at its worst, there was still water in the little stream. The sound of running water was the first thing I heard every morning when I woke up.
You might remember the suspension bridge that hung high above the yard. I never really did a post on the bridge and platforms we built in the trees — there’s one in my drafts I never finished — but they were epic! Three platforms (one big enough to sleep on), a bridge, and a zip-line.
To reach them, you had to put on climbing gear and use ascenders to go up climbing ropes. You had to be clipped in at all times — it was high! — and a fall would have meant death or serious injury. We were always careful to be extra safe.
The trees were so tall, and the branches were so high, that having platforms and a bridge was the best way to interact with them; to be in the trees.
On the main floor, off of the entry, there is a hallway that led to two bedrooms. We added cubbies and hooks to the hallway and it functioned as our “mudroom”. It was the first project we tackled when we moved in.
I’m thinking about where I might use this wallpaper from the boys room I made in a future project. (Obviously I left the wallpaper on the wall when we moved, but could have more printed for a new space.)
We sold the wire closets from the girls room for a few bucks on Craig’s List and it was such a mistake. They were so useful! And I miss them. I thought we wouldn’t have room on the shipping container, but I was wrong, there was plenty of room. Oh well. (We found them at Ikea many years ago but they are no longer available.)
Now let’s go upstairs.
A note on the spiral staircase: it took some getting used to. When we first moved in, we talked to an architect about replacing the staircase with something more straightforward. But after a month of so, we were used to them and loved that they didn’t take up much space. (And there’s a full exterior staircase along the backside of the house that we used to move furniture in and out.)
Our bedroom was at the top of the stairs and the bed looked out on the bridge and trees and stream. We did major reconfigurations in this space and loved how it turned out.
Some good news: A lot of this furniture (like the bed and nightstands and artwork) is in our rental bedroom and it looks great!
I know I’ve shared before and afters of the bathroom, but holy cow this was a satisfying project. I’m already thinking hard about what I want the bathrooms to be like in our French house.
At the top of the stairs there was a landing that led to our bedroom, a half bath, and the family room.
The family room! What a great space. There was a reading loft, a kids clubhouse that you could only access by climbing the yellow ladder, a music area, a balcony, board games, dress-ups, legos — and kites hanging from the ceiling.
Many, many movie parties and sleepovers happened in this space. Lots of impromptu jam sessions too.
If you walked through the family room, it would lead you to the office/studio.
This room has a loft too! At first we used it as a guest space — we put a full-size bed and a little dresser there. But eventually, we needed some storage space (there’s no basement or attic or garage), and converted the loft with gorilla racks.
I am missing the Elfa wall storage we added to this room like crazy. I didn’t bring it because I wasn’t sure we’d have a wall for it, but I should have. It’s something else I wish we’d put on the shipping container.
I loved being down in the yard and looking up at the house. Especially in the evenings. The architecture was so interesting, and the house looked so pretty with the windows all lit up.
Speaking of windows, the forest was so private that we had almost zero window coverings. (We currently live right in town, so adding window coverings to our rental was basically the first thing we did when we moved in here.)
It’s hard to describe how much work we did in the yard. When we first moved in, the yard was unusable. It hadn’t been touched in 20 years and was completely overgrown. There were dead, fallen trees (some of them huge!) crisscrossing the yard, and a layer of leaves on the ground that was maybe 3 feet deep.
As we cut things back and dug out the leaves, we found a staircase that led all the way down into the yard! We spent a lot of time clearing the yard out, which we discovered was an ongoing project the entire time we lived there.
Eventually we added tree swings that took advantage of the views of the stream, we added more stairs so we could more easily access the climbing ropes, and we added a little hammock area. Sometimes we hung ribbons in the trees or from the bridge.
It was really cool outdoor space and we were always amazed that we knew nothing about it when we moved in — the yard was an unexpected bonus
. You might remember that we bought the house when we were still living in France, and we never saw it in person until the day we moved in. The house was sold privately and wasn’t listed. The couple who owned it was in their nineties and didn’t have any children. (I was always so curious about them — I know she was a feminist writer, because she left her book behind, and I have it still.)
My sister Jordan visited the house on our behalf and took some photos for us so we could check it out.
The house was so close to the Mormon temple that some people thought we must have bought the house from fellow Mormons, but no, they were total strangers to us and we never met them in person. Sadly, within about 4 years of selling the house they both passed away. : (
I use their pottery daily and I’m always so grateful they sold their house to us. Because we lived in France at the time, the paperwork took longer and required lots of patience on their part. They could have more easily sold the house to another family, and they didn’t have to wait for us, but I’m endlessly grateful they did. I hope they would have liked that we put every inch of the house to good use, and filled it with the best things — family, friends, important conversations, big projects, and lots of love.
We lived there for six years + six weeks. Because of the ages of our kids during those six years, it will probably be the place most of them remember as their primary childhood home.
We thought we would live there for the rest of our lives.
So many milestones for our family, and for our careers, happened from this home base. Oh my. It was hard to say goodbye to this house. It’s still hard. It’s a truly special home, and I’ll always be grateful we had the chance to live there.
P.S. — If you’re curious, many of the changes and improvements to the house that I mentioned here were chronicled in detail in earlier blog posts about the Treehouse.
With the exception of this post, the Living With Kids series is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram.
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