By Gabrielle.

There are stunning homes that look like they should sit on a magazine page or ten, and there are homes that look like – whoa – a lot of little children live there! And then there is Trina’s home, which is a splendid mix of beauty and beast! There’s not one space in her home that’s too precious or too perfect for her four children, but there’s also not one space in her home that doesn’t look absolutely precious and utterly perfect, either. I’m happy she’s achieved this magical blend, and I couldn’t wait to show it all to you.

Also! She is one of the lucky ones who get to relive her childhood all over again in her family home. You’ll love that part of her story. (There’s a line or two about one decorating regret that will make you misty, I bet. Tell me if you find it and have to wave off a few tears like I did!)

Friends, please welcome the McNeilly family. This is such a fun tour.

Q: Please tell us all about the la la lovely family who lives here!

A: I live with my husband, Stephen, who I met at age 15 (crazy!), and our four children.

My oldest, and only girl is Ella, age ten. I prayed for a girl and am even more grateful for her today than the day I first laid eyes upon her big baby blues.

Next is Luke, my sports loving eight year old who gives new meaning to the word sweetheart.

The last two, Liam Brave, almost four, and Rocco Royal, age two, are really close in age and are great little playmates. Liam is an old soul who keeps me company with his great conversation skills. And sweet Rocco is the best surprise I’ve ever had. He is so much of a honey that he sometimes tricks me into wanting another one.

I never expected to have four children – especially three boys – but it is better than I could have ever imagined. I call these littles of mine my brood. And as you might suspect, our house is noisy and very active. Someone is always jumping off of a couch, racing down our very long hallway with a dump truck, or singing at the top of their lungs, usually all at the same time.

Q: You live in your childhood home! How cool! Please tell us the story of how it came to be yours (again).

A: I would have never have imagined moving back into the home I grew up in. My parents considered moving but just couldn’t find a new home that they loved as much, so they made a decision to stay and chose to remodel the kitchen. Before the new kitchen was ever completed, a realtor friend took my parents through a home that wasn’t even on the market yet, and almost in an instant they decided to buy it. Our family home sat empty for about a year and the new kitchen was never used.

One day, my dad suggested we consider buying the home. My reply was “No way.” However, my husband was intrigued by the idea. At the time, we were living about 50 minutes away and about to have our second baby, with no intention  to move. I loved the home that I grew up in, probably more than most do, but I couldn’t imagine moving back to my hometown and back into my childhood home.

However, the thought of another family moving into our beloved family home made me pretty melancholy. I suppose it was mix of sentiment, my husband’s persuasive powers, and the fact that I was pregnant and exhausted and only had the will to just go with the flow and embrace returning home that landed me back where I started.

Q: Do you have a difficult time making big changes to the home? Are there ever times when the past holds you back?

A: I did have difficulty making changes and was slow at doing so. I was apprehensive about making changes as I was still finding my very own style, and also because when I did make a change some of my family members were a little opinionated! They didn’t say too much, but it was enough to make me question my decisions and even my style. I started out by decorating around the house and after about a year realized I needed to just forget that concept and go with what I love.

(Living room photographed by White Shutter Photography)

I’ve seen almost all of the rooms transform, many times over, so I’m somewhat used to that. But there is one room that I wish would have stayed frozen in time. We used to have a Mexican cantina bar in the basement (thank you, 1976) that my husband cleared out and turned into a workout room. Although we didn’t really use the bar, that change really makes me sad if I think about it too much. It had such a distinct look and carries many vivid memories of playing store, post office, and restaurant. I really would have liked to play restaurant a second time around, this time as the customer.

(Living room photographed by White Shutter Photography)

Q: You definitely decorate with your kids in mind, don’t you? What are your goals for your decor in terms of how it affects them?

A: I do try to keep my children in mind when I decorate. I want our house to be a fun, lived in home. I kind of feel like that is the soul of this particular home. Growing up, our house was a favorite to hang out at and I hope that continues with my children and their friends.

I think the best change that we have made, although temporary, was changing our dining room into a playroom. We have a playroom in the basement, but toddlers don’t really like to go down to a basement unless a grown up or older sibling is with them. It was important to me to have a space that they could play in all by themselves. I’m able to cook dinner or tidy up and keep an eye on them at the same time. It’s been a great change.

Q: Where do you find the best design inspiration?

A: Online, of course. Blogs have been a huge inspiration to me over the years, and have helped me refine my ideas and style. However, my most favorite way to find inspiration is through travel. After traveling to England a few years ago, I came home and painted my door bright blue…which is now yellow. Either way, I’ve adapted to colorful doors as the English do so well.

Q: You’re a blogger who is really going beyond the lines of traditional blogging, planning parties for The Land of Nod, etc. What are your work goals, and how do they merge with a young family?

A: I am still a little surprised by the opportunities that have come through blogging. When I started six years ago, it was really just a creative outlet for me to write and share lovely finds. I am happy to say that is still what I love to do and why I continue to blog. I have a few goals tucked away, but what I am finding works for me is to continue to blog about what inspires me and to work with brands that I truly love.

I am grateful that opportunities have come my way after many years of hard work, but I’ve also learned to reach out and go after opportunities when an idea strikes. This is hard for my personality, but pushing myself has been a really good thing.

Because I have four children, two of whom are toddlers, I’m finally accepting that I can’t do it all. Surprise, surprise! And so I have to choose wisely. I’m learning to define what type of work I enjoy most and to take on those types of projects and not worry about the other things. I’ve heard people say, “I can do anything but I can’t do everything.” So true!

In terms of balance, I think it is kind of a myth. For me, when I try to balance I start thinking I can manage it all and I can’t. However, when you get to a point where you surrender to the thought that you can’t do it all or even juggle it all, than that is a great beginning. It’s where we start to accept ourselves and realize that an imperfect life is really the perfect thing.

When I’m in the middle of a huge project, it’s likely my laundry room is a disaster and my floors are caked in crumbs and the leftovers of life. It still bothers me but I’m starting to soften to the rhythm and the truth that my floors won’t look like this forever and, probably, I’ll have time next week to tidy up!

I’m also learning to ask for help. There is no way I could do any of what I do without the help of my husband (who is very hands on) and mom (she is an angel). And I am a big believer in hiring help, if you can. Sometimes there is just no other way to really be able to concentrate or get things done; nap times are getting shorter and shorter around here!

Q: What traditions and memories do you hope your children will carry with them from their childhood house and how you’ve set up their home?

A: I hope my children will have warm memories of their home being a safe and loving place. A place that was fun, imaginative, and straight out magical. I hope they attach memories and stories to each and every room of this home (as I know I have) and that they go on telling them over and over again to each other and to their children one day.

My greatest hope is that they will come to know that there is no place like home.  Not in a way that they never want to leave or always feel they must return…but that their tie to it would be strong because it was the very place where they were equipped with courage and encouragement to go out into this great world and be the very person they were made to be.

I hope they take the tradition of creating a fun home for their families one day. That they will help their children stay children just a little longer than most. Everyone grows up too quickly these days.

Q: If you could give other families style and decor advice, what would it be?

A: My biggest advice would be to decorate with what you love and don’t take your space too seriously.

Use colors that make you happy (for me, that is a lot of white), incorporate items that have meaning either from travel or your own childhood, make your space comfortable, and always, always add a touch of fun. Whatever you do, make your home your favorite place to be.

Sometimes this takes time, but that is okay. I think decorating a home should be something that is done over time and not all at once. Your home should tell the story of your family and the life that you have lived together.

Q: What is your absolute favorite thing about living with your own kids? What surprised you most about becoming a mom?

A: I love the laughter. The sounds of baby giggles have fueled me through many days that have followed sleepless nights. I think the thing that surprised me most about becoming a mom was how naturally some things came. I never really babysat or was a real baby person, so I was a little nervous about it all.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: I wish had known how crazy I would feel at times. Parenting is full of highs and lows. It can bring out your very best and your very worst.

Some days everything goes wrong, and something like spilled milk completely puts me over the edge and I feel like having a meltdown myself. And sometimes I do, so obviously there is usually more going on beyond the spilled milk!

Within five minutes you catch a glimpse of your three-year old comforting your two-year old, and you’re instantly transported out of the hustling and bustling and baby blues. It’s like your soul takes a deep breath, and you wish you could live in that moment of time forever, or at least keep the image before your tired eyes, always.

And just as quickly as you caught that moment, a hug turns to a shove and – poof! – it passes.

Some days I wonder if I will feel more steady and stable. I worry if my ups and downs affect my little ones. They likely do. I’m quick to apologize and admit when I’m wrong. And I’ve learned I have to forgive myself, too.

It’s humbling, this parenting business.  All we can do is carry on, love each other, and offer grace to another and accept it ourselves.


Oh, Trina. So, so, la la lovely! Thank you for your honestly and the beauty you share every day.

Friends, did you find the line that flew straight to my heart? “I really would have liked to play restaurant a second time around, this time as the customer.” So bittersweet, isn’t it? Please tell me if you’ve moved back into your family home and had the chance to revisit your childhood all over again. I love to hear your stories!

P.S. — Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. And if you’d like to share your own home with us, just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!