Living With Kids: Andrea Ryan

Andrea Ryan and her family live in a wooded part of Rhode Island, where you can see the gorgeous greenery out every window. And as you can tell by the giraffe print chair, Andrea loves design and isn’t afraid to make a bold choice here and there. Come take a peek inside her beautiful home. Welcome, Andrea!

My husband and I live in this wonderful home and we are blessed with a lovely daughter! She is the child that we prayed for and we are so thankful that God answered our prayer. We consider it a blessing and a gift to be her parents. She is beautiful, joyful and very inquisitive. She is intrigued by how things work, which can be interesting to say the least.

For example, I bought her a package of small glittery pens for Christmas. I was excited to use them with her and instead of drawing, she proceeded to take every one of them apart, piece by piece put them into a container and then put them all back together again, so maybe she will be an engineer!

Or perhaps she will be involved in something creative because she is very also interested in music, arts and crafts. I love to display her paintings, so we have a few spots that we like to hang those up. She is always singing and dancing, so the house is full of tutus and we are starting to accumulate guitars so we all want to start taking lessons.

She is quite talkative at the moment, so she will hold a conversation with my 90 year old grandmother, kids her age, or whomever is around. It doesn’t matter who it is, she will talk to them. My husband noticed recently that people are always smiling when they see her, so it is wonderful to see that she has a gift for bringing joy to others.

We also have two dogs — which are like having two more kids. One of our dogs is a fur ball named Sambuca who loves posing in photos. He is so sweet and so gentle, EVERYONE loves him. Even people who don’t like dogs see him and then try to go get a dog just like him. So our entire neighborhood is filled with little dogs that look similar to him, it’s really funny. Sometimes if everyone is walking dogs, there are all of these furry little dogs that look like stuffed animals walking around — it is so cute!

Our other dog is a sweet rescue from Jamaica named Lucky. We are always asked if we actually went to Jamaica to get her — and we did find her there! Our friends had invited us to stay at their home and they had recently noticed that someone had just driven up, dropped her off and left her down the street from their house. When we arrived she was still there by herself, living in the bushes and brush around the property.

However not only was Lucky starving and abandoned, but she was pregnant! So we ended up flying Lucky AND her 4 puppies from Jamaica to JFK airport in New York which was CRAZY.  

Lucky is so amazing! She was communicating with me even in the horrible circumstances she was in. She was in a hole under a banana tree with ants walking all over her, with no fur underneath her belly. Yet she was always wagging her tail vigorously (and still does) anytime she saw people and especially when she saw me. My husband noticed her coming around me quite a bit. At one point, there were a lot of people outside at the house we were staying at and she literally came up to me and poked me in the back of the leg with her nose! I literally felt like she was saying “Help!!” 

Lucky is a black and white dog with cow print markings and on her right side, there is a little patch that looks like a heart. I don’t think we saw this until sometime afterward but it sums up how I feel about this precious animal. God used her to open my heart and showed me that I myself could not leave Jamaica as I had arrived, and that I could not leave this dog as I had found her.

When we left she had still not had the puppies and I could not stop crying. I knew that I couldn’t leave her there like that, so I had to find a way to get this dog home. My sister somehow found the only shelter in Jamaica at the time and they went and found her — which was a miracle. I am so thankful for our friends and for The Animal House Jamaica — especially Maureen who runs the shelter and tirelessly helps these abandoned animals.

One of the volunteers is an amazing woman Christine from Switzerland, who went and found Lucky and her four puppies in the bushes near the house we had been staying in. She had to drive two hours to find Lucky because the shelter is not near where we were staying. What amazing people! 

Unfortunately one of the puppies did not make it but there are so many dogs there, it turns out Lucky adopted another abandoned puppy, so we still ended up with four. The shelter kept them for eight weeks and then flew them to us. I am so happy that nine years later, Lucky’s tail still never stops wagging. She is truly a joyful blessing to our family and we love her. 

Also I would have forgotten to add the fish but my daughter insists on including them when we talk about our family. Don’t forget Goldie and Ginger — named after Peppa Pig’s fish of course! 

I have a degree in Fine Art and Art History and I have always loved making things look pretty. For many years I was an esthetician and massage therapist working in a spa setting. That was a job I loved, but I do not miss it now that I have been home as a mom. We are homeschooling our daughter right now which has been great yet challenging at the same time.

I love water color painting and have had a lot of fun spray painting a number of the chandeliers in our home. My daughter loves painting too, so this inspires me to be creative when I might not make the time for it, because I have so many other things to do. 

My husband is a professor at two of the Universities in the area and we have a very unique story about how we met. Honestly I had just had such a bad experience with the last person I dated, that I prayed and said to God that I would rather be alone than keep dating the wrong people. So I decided I was done dating.

I was working in a hair salon and spa at the time and people were always asking me if I was married because I was already 27!! SO old to be single right? (Hahaha!) It was awful. I was feeling so much pressure because literally every one of my friends and family were already married. So to say I was discouraged was an understatement. (If anyone out there is still waiting for the right person, just keep waiting! Don’t settle for someone that you are not supposed to be with.) 

During this time I was at work one Friday and a client I had never met before was asking if I was married (as usual and while getting a facial), and after me expressing my discouragement at the dating scenario she said, “You never know — you could end up meeting the right guy tonight!”

And I DID meet my husband that night. Isn’t that amazing??! Afterward I realized that it was when I truly let go of worrying about it and prayed to God about it, that I met him. 

At the time my husband was also feeling the same way,  completely frustrated with dating the wrong people. So, on the night that we met, for once in our lives neither one of us was looking to meet anyone, and neither one of us was supposed to be where we ended up. I wasn’t even supposed to go out that night and he was supposed to be going somewhere else, and we both ended up at a popular cafe that was called La Dolce Vita. We are both Italian and we both loved this place. Very authentic, very Italian, and a very popular place to be.

So the night I met him, he saw me across a crowded room. I was already in the cafe with a friend of mine and her brother and my now- husband walked in with his friend and there were only 2 tables available. One not too far from us and one way in the back. (I of course had my black leather jacket on because, what else would I be wearing 20 years ago?)

His side of the story was that he walked in, saw me and said that’s the girl I’m going to marry! So he sat at the table closer to ours but it was still far enough away that I couldn’t really see him too well. My friend told me he was looking at me but I wasn’t really paying too much attention to the situation. So it wasn’t until we were leaving that I had to walk by him.

When I went by his table I said hi but I didn’t stop because it was a very small place and very crowded. I thought he was cute but we walked out of the café and we were walking away. He didn’t come over to me which he says he normally would have done, but because we had a guy with us he wasn’t sure if I was with the guy. So he just said hi to me and I walked out.

My now-husband sat there not knowing what to do. He said later on that he felt like everything just walked out the door when I walked out. So… that’s the end of the story. 

Until he prayed to God, that if it was meant to be, that He would send someone back in. That was my husband’s exact wording. So when we were walking away, I literally felt like something came over me and I turned to my friend and said, “I can’t leave, I have to go back in and give that guy my number. Would you go back in there for me and do it for me?”

Well she was back in there almost before I was done asking her. He literally ran outside and introduced himself to me and started holding my hand, which was sweet. He called me the next day (only after the Giants game was over — thanks a lot), and the rest is history. We would go back to the cafe every month afterward which was very romantic, and we were engaged there which was beautiful.

We live in Rhode Island, a really beautiful part of the country. We especially love the charm of the small towns and the seasons. We live in the woods in a neighborhood where the lots have to be at least 1-2 acres of land, so it is typically peaceful and quiet. Recently we have had a mother deer with her two babies running around in our yard every day so that has been really sweet.

However at any given moment someone could be chopping down a tree out of nowhere, which is what you do when you live in the country. So there is periodically a lot of LOUD chain saw action going on. My husband had never used a chainsaw in his life but has now turned into a lumber jack. 

This is necessary because it is SO cold here in the winter that we burn wood for heat, otherwise we would be spending thousands a month on heating oil. So we are very thankful for the wood heat. 

It’s cozy for a few months and particularly beautiful at Christmas, but then, after approximately 6-8 months of freezing and burning wood every single day, we are ready to move to an island. So, we do not love the cold weather.

Also the taxes are really, really high so we definitely do not love the high taxes and the fact that the average home price in our neighborhood is in the mid 400’s. 

One fact about RI is that you can drive through it in less than an hour. The big joke about living in RI is that if it takes you more than 20 minutes to get anywhere, you have to pack a lunch because anything longer than that is SO far away!!

Everyone is so used to things being close because it is such a small state. We are also close to the highway, beaches and there are a lot of farms — which is great for the kids. Newport is also a very popular destination that people come to from all over the world, so if you are in the area Newport is a must see. 

We were very blessed to custom-build our home, we found the land and purchased that first, and after about two years we started the building process. We designed and chose everything ourselves which has been a true family project, a blessing, and a labor of love. Not easy, but worth it. We had a contractor steal three thousand dollars from us, so at times it was very stressful, but overall it was a great experience, and for me it was an expression of creativity that I had not had before.

When I was young I had wanted to do something with design and I did not end up pursuing that so this house has been my art project! 

One day my husband and the builder were laughing at me because I had paint chips up on the studs in every room trying to decide on paint colors before the walls were even up. I tried to ask my husband’s opinion but that didn’t work out. He thought they all looked the same and I had no idea what he was talking about, there are so many shades of yellow! 

In my kitchen the cabinets are solid cherry. My father made every single cabinet from raw wood, along with the walnut dining table and the bookcase with all of my daughter’s toys. These pieces are all handmade, hand planed, solid wood made by him. there is so much sentimental value to our home because of that.

Another unique aspect to the house is that we have wide plank flooring throughout. And some of the flooring in my bedroom is antique heart pine from a 300 year old barn in New Hampshire that was reclaimed. I even have wide plank flooring in the bathrooms — but it’s not hard to take care of! Just white vinegar and hot water gets it super clean.  My husband and my dad installed all of the floors.

We actually do have a chandelier in every single room because they are so pretty! I have spray painted three of them — and those are the ones that people always say they like the most, and I only tell them afterward that I spray painted them. My thinking is that chandeliers are like jewelry for the house. I think I need to trademark that idea!

I honestly just go with what catches my eye and yes, I do trust my gut. Especially if it is sparkly! I can’t really explain it fully but I usually just know if something will work in a certain room. I didn’t really even have a plan overall for decorating the house, I just picked things out as I found them.

I have glittery candles I picked up on a trip, and a pillow from HomeGoods with a beaded letter ‘A’ that sparkles when the Christmas tree is in there, (oh my goodness don’t even get me started on Christmas, because we chop down two live trees every year and have five other smaller trees around the house). I have some blankets with sequins that are actually very subtle but so pretty. I even have a heart doorbell!! I found it in a local shop made by a local artist. 

Whatever you love, just find a way to incorporate it into the room. I have had a lot of people ask me how I put things together, but I don’t go to one place and just pick everything out. I will find things for one room from all different places, especially HomeGoods. 

I also inherited two fabulous antique chairs from my great aunt Mary. They have been the centerpiece of our living room and the inspiration for the colors I chose. She had an eye for quality but oh boy the fabric was hideous. When you look at the living room the infamous “giraffe” chair was a light blue and the other chair was a hot pink velvet.

I constantly have people ask me about the chair and the chandeliers which I love to discuss. I found this amazing dark chocolate velvet to replace the hot pink and I found the giraffe fabric in the same shop as well. and I had them reupholstered. The upholstery guy looked at me like I was crazy and he said he wasn’t sure how the giraffe was going to look, and I said it’s going to look great just trust me. When he was done he was like, “Wow! I really love this!” He was very excited about it afterward. 

Advice for someone who is a bit nervous about a bold design decision would be to start small and limit something bold to a statement piece — like the giraffe chair for example. There is nothing to be afraid of because design and decorating is supposed to be fun!

Look at tons of magazines; go to the paint store and get lots of little paint samples; go to the fabric store and see what you like and what seems to go together. I say just try it and if you really hate it it’s usually easy to change. 

I have found that it is easier to choose your fabric first and THEN the paint color. It is so much harder to match fabric to a room that is already painted. So that is a planning aspect that will make things much easier if it is possible for you to do that. 

And when we might feel apprehensive it’s because we think that someone else we love and care about won’t like it, right? I can say this because I definitely used to care too much about what other people think. Caring what other people think is not as important as loving the space you are living in. 

It was very liberating for me to build and design my home because it was the first time that I did not care what anyone else thought about a single thing that I did. I LOVE my dad and all he has done for us in this house, and my dad immediately told me he did not like the dark chocolate wall as soon as we painted it. But I designed the room around the giraffe chair and this was the first time in my life that I truly didn’t let what anyone else thought influence me. 

It is YOUR home and your family who live there so you are the ones who have to love it and feel like the space you have created makes you feel at home.

Also, decorate with things you already have and love — don’t let things sit in your closet! I have also been inspired by what I have inherited from my grandmother. I have my grandmother’s fantastic, crystal, costume jewelry out on my dresser all the time. I rotate it around, wear it to weddings and parties, and people love it and want to know where I got it, and I love knowing that I have something special and beautiful that is vintage and antique but still so stylish. So why put it away? 

As much as I love my home, since having dogs, a child and a wood stove, it has been super messy. I don’t love messy and I really don’t like dirty but that kind of comes with the territory. I am a perfectionist so this has been a struggle for me. 

Lately I am working on accomplishing what I feel God has called me to do that day. It really helps me to pray in the morning that I will accomplish what needs to be done and that the other things that are not important I will be able to let go.

I had always wanted to be a stay at home mom and I am blessed to be able to do so. My husband and I decided together that I would stay home with our daughter, and I love that I’ve been able to be with her every day and be a part of everything she is learning and doing. We have also been homeschooling her so it has been fantastic to see her learning and progressing. 

On the flip side, there is not much time to myself and that can definitely become a bit overwhelming. Thankfully my husband has recognized that I periodically need to just go sit somewhere by myself. Anywhere will do! I was never really a solitary kind of person — I am naturally very social and outgoing — but the older I am getting (and I know many mom’s feel the same) you just really need some time alone.

I wish that someone had told me when I was younger that I do not have to be controlled by my emotions. If someone had hurt my feelings for example, I would let it upset me for a long time. Now that I am older, I might still feel hurt but I am able to let it go much more quickly and realize that if someone is being hurtful toward me, they are probably going through something themselves. You never truly know what another person is going through. I work toward finding compassion for them and I try to pray for them. It has changed my life to have changed my thinking in this way. 

I also wish that someone had told me that by not forgiving someone that I was really only hurting myself and wasting time in the process. I have learned that forgiving someone does not mean excusing what they have done to you, but that you are freeing yourself from being continually hurt by holding on to what has happened.

I hope our daughter remembers praying with us every night and laughing and going to bed with hugs and kisses. I never want her to forget how much fun we had chasing her around the house and playing hide and seek. And most of all I want her to remember how loved she is and how much joy she has brought us. I regularly pray that she will totally forget all of the times we were aggravated and upset about things that are not important. 

My absolute favorite thing about living with our daughter has been the gift of her laughter and joy. I’ve been missing hugging her all day and having her fall asleep in my arms when she was little — those were the best and sweetest days. I am blessed to be homeschooling her so we do still have times where she is cuddly and we read together, so I hope that we will have that as long as possible.


Thank you, Andrea!

As you scroll through the pictures of this home, you can tell that a lot of care and love has gone into every room. And I love that she has some inherited pieces from family members and some pieces that her dad built. I think having some pieces with some history always gives a home extra character.

I think we can all relate to the idea too of not being able to get everything done in a day that you need to. We all have conflicting priorities with families, kids and yes even dogs. It’s so important, like Andrea said, to trust ourselves that we will get done what we are meant to get done each day, and to remember that sometimes it’s okay to take a break and take some time for yourself.

How do you stay on top of all your conflicting priorities in life? Are you a planner and a list maker? Or more of a kind of “go with the flow” person? How do you prioritize time for yourself amidst all the chaos?


Gold Star Teepee

All the best chandeliers

Photo Credits to Andrea herself who is currently not on social media. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram.

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

17 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Andrea Ryan”

  1. I am one of those people that carries a physical Planner with me in my purse and it is the Master Family Calendar. Now that both our kids are school age, this is only more needed: there’s both of our jobs (both of which have some night/weekend commitments), the kids’ school things, daughter’s dance, son’s soccer, both of their therapy appointments, the regular ‘to do’s’ of a family, social commitments, etc., etc. It is hectic, but as long as I keep the ducks in a row, it feels manageable.
    My “me” thing is that I am a member of the worship band for our church. This “forces” me to create time to do vocal rehearsals on my own, and then there is going to rehearsal with the full band, and whatnot: when the kids were very small, there wasn’t time because young childhood is so intense. And a year ago I was invited to join the band, and I wasn’t so sure. But I read this beautiful quote by Michelle Obama that talked about how important it is to be an example for your daughters of prioritizing things for yourself, too: and that is what helps me not feel guilty about doing the music stuff. I am teaching my daughter that you have to follow your own dreams, too, and showing her that even with a full time job, a full time schedule…you need to find a way to chase your passion. It’s good stuff. :) This home is GORGEOUS. What a beautiful person and cozy space. The woodwork is outrageous. Thanks for this spotlight! It’s great!

    1. Thank you so much Connie! I am touched and I appreciate it, I will also tell my dad you love his woodwork, he will be thrilled :)

  2. Maureen Moslow-Benway

    The cabinets your Dad made are beautiful and I love your gorgeous hardwood floors. Thanks for sharing your warm and cozy home with us!

    1. Thanks Maureen!! I appreciate it so much and again my dad will be thrilled, I am excited to share this with him as well.

  3. I love that your wedding dress is on display on that door. (I’m assuming that’s your wedding dress.) How/why did you decide to display it? Mine’s packed away and I never would think to bring it out for fear of getting it dirty/destroyed, which is kind of silly since I’m not going to be wearing it again. Thanks!

  4. Hi Carrie!
    Thanks, yes that is my wedding dress! I just couldn’t bring myself to put it away right after we got married because I loved it so much and I felt sad that a wedding dress only gets to be worn one time. So I figured if I couldn’t wear it again it would make me happy to look at it! :)
    I ended up hanging it up on the door on the bodice hanger that the wedding shop provided so it keeps it shape and then it turned into part of the decor. ;)
    I never preserved it and I would not recommend taking out a dress that has already been preserved because mine has definitely yellowed a bit but I still love it, it’s beautiful.

  5. Andrea, I love your story about Lucky and feel the same way about our rescue Allie. She had recently been abandoned and had puppies (we think). Our other dog is a golden retriever and a neighborhood social butterfly. I love them both but man did Allie fill our hearts. Beautiful house and story. Best of luck to your lovely family! And Gabrielle, DesignMom meets ups… that is a good idea to add to your plate along with a move to France. Count me in from Washinton, DC.

  6. Thank you so much Caroline, that really means a lot to me coming from another dog lover. It’s so nice to hear that you also rescued a dog.
    However, right now we are SO devastated to say that 5 days after I submitted the post to Design mom, our precious dog Sambuca went to heaven. He was almost 13 but it was a complete shock as he had never been sick. We miss him so much it still does not seem real. He literally was the best dog ever,
    It is a huge reminder that we do not have a minute to waste.

  7. Love Jamaica’s story (I also have a rescue!)…but I need to see fluffy dog’s picture! Did I miss it?

    Thanks for sharing your lovely home. :)

    1. :( SO sad, Sambuca went to heaven 5 days before this was posted!! We still can’t believe it. He is in the photo of the foyer with the pink chair and cranberry wall.
      Thanks for the sweet comments.

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