Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The One With All the House Love

This post, it's mostly for my future curiosities. 

It's not about trying to have a "Pinteresting" house or anything like that. I just happen to really like the little home we have set up. It's not too fancy, but it's just perfect for us. And I have really enjoyed making it feel like home.

There are a bunch of little things that aren't perfect and that I could see and complain about, DIY projects that need to be completed, professional projects that should be hired out, etc. But I don't focus on those. I want to focus on all the little touches of our personalities we've put into this space. And someday, maybe my kids might want to be able to look back and see pictures of the place they grew up. And maybe someday I'll want to look back at these pictures and giggle about things I chose and say things like, "That was soooo 2010s to do that!" But even if it is, who cares? I'm grateful to get to live here, in a city I love, in a neighborhood we enjoy. We have everything we need and I am very content.

I used to think this would be our "starter home," that someday we'll move on to something bigger and better (isn't that the American dream?). But recently I've just let go of that. Maybe we will move. Maybe we won't. I don't know. The point is, it's not important. It's not so important that I should waste my time pinning things to my "Someday Home" board or pining for a bigger kitchen or subway tile or French doors. Right now I have a beautiful home. It's warm, has running water, a roof with no leaks, toilets that take anything nasty far away and dispose of it for me. But not just that, I actually get to paint it whatever color I want. I get to occasionally pick out new things to decorate it with. I am very lucky, and that's not lost on me for one moment. And I don't want it to be. The minute I start dreaming about something better, I check myself. And I choose to be grateful for all these little, wonderful things that make this place feel like home.

Full disclosure: I definitely cleaned my house before taking these pictures. It doesn't look like this all the time. The pillows are rarely on the couch. There is definitely not a little breakable vase of fresh flowers down where the babies can hurt it. That's just for the fun of dreaming, and not for the sake of reality. If you'd like to see a tiny glimpse of what my house normally looks like (dirty floors and all), see here.

This is the living room. It's one of my favorite places to be. It's so cozy and I've spent so many late nights talking to friends and eating good food and drinking good wine while my children sleep soundly a few yards away. I've filled it with little treasures from our adventures together, seashells from the lakehouse and posters from New York and a tiny trolley from San Francisco. I picked the globes up one by one while antique shopping with my mom or my girlfriends. That skyline below the globes? My brother did that by hand for us one Christmas and I love it. And then there are the gifts from wonderful friends and see that box on the shelf below the cake plates? That's where I keep all the love letters Steve wrote me when we were dating but were separated for the summer. All my favorite books lines the shelves and the couches, while not my favorite aesthetically, are super comfortable. And I love that many people have contentedly crashed on them.
Steve's parents gave us the rug we have in there and it has been the site of so many tickle fights and horsey rides and when I look at it I almost feel like I can hear baby Henry's giggle, which is, by far, one of my most favorite sounds in the whole world. Those board games have been put to good use in that living room and we've made some hilarious memories with them. And don't worry about those shelves. They are zip-tied to the walls, earthquake-proof style so no kiddos can pull them over on top of themselves. Which is nice for my peace of mind.
This beautiful console that the TV sits on? It was left by the previous owners. It's so beautiful and I wouldn't be able to afford an antique like that, but I got it for free, yo! (Except for the whole house payment thing... so I guess you could see that as either free or outrageously expensive. I'm going to go ahead and choose the former.)
Those "HAPPY" signs greet you as you walk in the door. They're very fun because they make it seem like it's a party all the time. Which it pretty much is.

Our dining room furniture was also left by the previous owners, and we are so grateful for it. Someday I'd like to paint the table white. I try to keep this place as clutter free as possible because this is kind of where we live. There is always something going on in here, like eating or art projects or the kids bringing all their toys out of their room and stacking them out here in their forts. It's kinda mayhem-y.

Mallory gave me that mirror which says, "Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words. -Plautus" It was a limited edition line by one of my favorite artists Dana Tamanachi at Target. Isn't it so pretty?
Here's the hallway. It's pretty great because of the Instagram wall. It was a project completed mostly with tape (and pictures, obviously). I like Target the best for printing, so whenever they're having a sale on their prints, I have a couple new ones made up to keep this gallery updated. Of course, now it's so full of some of my very favorite photos that I might have to start on the wall on the other side of the hallway because I don't know if I can bear to replace any of these ones. I guess that's a problem you deal with when you have over 2,250 Instagrams. Also, that little poster at the end on Henry's door is a school project Ellie brought home after Earth Day. Isn't it so cute? It says, "Christ has no hands on Earth but ours." It's one of those quotes I like to remind myself of as much as possible.
Here's our bedroom. It's nice and snuggly. It took my almost six years for me to admit that having a headboard would be nice. Before that I liked feeling like a vagabond who just sleeps on a mattress. But this tufted headboard sure is comfy, especially for reading in bed. I also have to admit that sometimes I pick books solely on how pretty they will look on my nightstand. And I'm particularly fond of that sketch of the ballerina next to the pretty books. My friend Cara sketched it and gave it to me as a Christmas gift. I'm lucky to have so many artistic friends.
The bathroom is tiny, which forces us to be creative with our storage, and also to keep our bathroom amenities paired down. I like that it has a little counter space. That's always nice. And I never bother to hang the picture in there because I swap it out pretty frequently. I'm a big fan of just setting framed things on tables and counters and such. Much less commitment than actually affixing them to walls. And commitment, at least when it comes to house projects, kind of scares me (obviously more than getting married and having kids and all that jazz).
And then there's Henry's room. Besides the living room, it is probably my favorite room in the house. Possibly because of the travel theme. Maybe because of the color we painted it. Maybe because it's so much more fun to have a boy than I ever thought it could be (and not just because of the decorating).
I love the map wall that slowly gets maps added to it. They're all just "wrapping paper" maps that I get for $5-$6, mostly at Paper Source. And I'm nothing if not easily excitable by something that is awesome and simultaneously only $5. I keep his toys in little antique suitcases from garage sales and Mallory brought him that hat that's hanging on his dresser from Peru. He loves that little rocking horse, which is similar to one I had while growing up. And that green minky dot blanket in his bed has kept all my babies warm at some point. That couch is a hide-a-bed so we can turn Henry's room into the guest bedroom for when people visit us. When he went through his whole "never sleeping ever" stage, I spent a lot of time in that room rocking and rocking and rocking and it certainly helped that it was so nice to look at.
And this kitchen. It's tiny, but it's actually really practical. I've had a slew of kitchens in my renting days and this one is really easy to navigate. There's not a ton of counter space, but that's probably good because it forces me to keep things a little more clean. Maybe. I'm still not great at that. And I really love the gallery wall above the stove. I spent a long time not knowing what to put there. And then I saw that my friend Melissa used washi tape to hang up little prints in her home and I really liked that idea. So much easier than finding or making frames for everything, and then there's all that nail hammering you have to do to hang frames. I like tape much better. And now I can change things whenever I want. The little beach scene is a painted tray I got at a flea market in Illinois and the fruit prints are postcards from New Orleans. Everything else is from my stash of notecards or paper products I find to be worth saving and hiding away until a perfect gallery wall opportunity presents itself.
We have a double oven in there and it is so handy. We had to buy a stove/oven when we moved in and the double oven was basically the same price as a single! It is not only great for cooking a turkey and everything else all at the same time for Friendsgiving, but the upper oven is small so it heats up really quickly if I'm making nachos or cookies for the family. And now I can bake all my cake layers at one time! Woohoo! And then there's that pistachio Kitchen Aid Steve gave me at the end of busy season a few years ago. I know it's silly. But I like the color so much. And I also like all the delicious things I make with it. It's very useful and also very pretty. Win-win.
And finally we have the girls' room , which was a big project. It used to be our attached garage, although because our house was built around 1950, it really wasn't big enough to hold a modern size car. So we converted it to be our daughters' bedroom. We insulated and sheet-rocked the walls, took out the door to the backyard and put in a window. We put in two little chandeliers and armoires from IKEA to make it functional as a bedroom. And I really like how it turned out. It's a big space for them to play and they can run around like crazy in there. It's nice to have some room to move around, especially in the winter when we can be trapped inside for long months.
Maya Angelou said (and Mallory repeated to me), "If you get, give. If you learn, teach." Sometimes I feel like I don't have a lot to give in this stage of my life. Except then I remember that I'm raising my children to be givers and teachers, those who want to make the world a better place in whatever way they can, and don't just mindlessly consume it. That can come from the way we live in our house, when we choose simplicity and to pair down and give whatever we have left over to those who need it. I can teach them to be content with fewer toys and gadgets by being content myself. I can be conscientious about my consumption and cut down on our waste in as many ways as possible at the time. I can't be perfect, and I haven't yet decided to give up everything and live in a mud hut. But I can commit to buying in bulk whenever possible and taking my reusable bags to the grocery store. I can make do with the things I already have instead of getting new ones. When I have extra, I can give it to those in need and I can reuse and repurpose as much as possible. I can make good food for people and talk about important things and how we can make the world better with our little actions, however small they may seem. I can make my children feel safe and loved here, so they always know that this is place is a refuge from whatever storms may come. I can be a content wife who welcomes my husband home with a happy heart that is thankful for everything he does for us, instead of stressing him out with my financial demands for "more" or "better." I can enjoy that we're not perfect, we don't keep everything clean all the time, but that's okay. We're happy to be together. We're grateful.

So I'll leave you with a view of our front door. My bike is parked right there and I get to ride it every morning while Steve makes breakfast for the kids and gets them ready for school. And then we tag out and I make him coffee and lunch while he takes the kids to school and I stay with the ones who don't go yet. And then he comes home, drops off the van and walks 10 minutes to his job down the street. It's a nice change to have him around so much after years of traveling and working long hours. And so the little sign I have out there remains true. I made it for Thanksgiving last year but left out the whole year because it's always appropriate:
"I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual."
 -Henry David Thoreau


  1. Love this!! (I had to click on the 'Melissa' name to see if I knew who that was, haha!) I was thinking similarly that it will be nice to have house pictures for our kids to look back on as they grow older and our decorations change. I love seeing what my parents' house used to look like!

  2. This is such a beautiful post, Michelle. I love your words and your heart. Also, I need you and Melissa to come decorate my house.

  3. Love this post! Very well-written words on being content and grateful for what we have. Your home is adorable, too. I love the quirky touches (that's definitely a compliment). :)


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