Living With Kids: Araya Jensen

This is one of those home tours that’s inspiring not just for style or color choices or even the dining-room-turned-playroom complete with chalkboard walls! It’s a story about one family’s persistence and unwavering hope, about not giving up on a dream even when it looks like that dream might never come true, and even includes a five-month period of living with most of their belongings still packed up in boxes…just steps away in the garage. House hunting and house finding are two very separate and equally stressful endeavors, so I can’t imagine the added pain of living for so long in a state of limbo! Luckily for Araya and her family, everything worked out perfectly. Just look!

Q: Tell us about the family who makes this house a home.

A: We are a fun-loving family of four: myself, my best friend and husband Jordan whom I have known since we were children, our lovely daughter Avery who is five and loves puppies and worms equally, and our full-of-energy son Quinten who is two and is seldom found without a golf club or some other type of athletic equipment in his hands. On weekends we can be found exploring state parks, local museums, or dancing round the house.

Q: How did this house become your own?

A: The journey to owning this house was quite the testament in patience, persistence, and downright hope.

We had sold our lovely but small bungalow, and the pressure was on to find the house in which we would raise our family. We spent most evenings and weekends searching for the perfect house, and we had put offers on multiple homes to no avail. Finally, we walked into this one and our excitement grew. We went down our wish list and they all checked off. Don’t get me wrong: it was ugly, outdated, dirty, vacant, and the yard was overgrown, but it didn’t scare us. It just meant more chances for us to make it our own.

We nervously submitted our offer and learned it was listed as a short sale, but the owners had accepted our offer. Yay!  We were so excited. Little did we or our realtors know that it would be a year-long process to make it ours. At the beginning we were told it could take up to six weeks to get acceptance from the bank. Well, six weeks came and went. Then we were told we should hear something any time now. After a few months and no word from anyone, we decided to take things into our own hands; we were renting two storage units for all of our stuff and living in a one-bedroom apartment with a toddler, realizing we could be moving any day. We did as much research as possible but weren’t able to get anywhere with the selling realtor or the seller’s bank. Our realtors wrote off the possibility of the sale and essentially stopped working on our project.

Three months later, our landlord for the apartment we were renting on a month-to-month lease let us know that our apartment would be rented to someone else, so we had to move. With nowhere to go and “our house” sitting vacant, we decided to ask if we could rent the house we were hoping to own. Luckily, the owners said yes since they weren’t living there anymore. We moved all our stuff into the garage and kept it there for five months, only un-boxing what was necessary, knowing we may not be able to purchase the house if the short sale fell through.

After a few months of renting from the homeowners and hearing absolutely nothing from the bank, the selling realtor, our realtor, or the homeowners, we found out on our own that the house had been officially foreclosed. We even received an eviction notice from the sheriff! We were able to get in contact with the bank that now owned the house, and after weeks of making our case, our offer was finally accepted. One year and two days to the date, and six months pregnant, we were able to call this house ours.

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? What’s the one room in your home that is so totally you? How so?

A: I think our aesthetic is natural and bright with a little of the unexpected mixed in.

Our transition spaces — hallways, entry way, stairwell — are totally us. They are filled with texture and color and have the perfect accents that show our personality. I love our stairwell filled with pictures of special moments. Like my first glance at our first baby’s face which the nurse was able to capture, our wedding day, and our son’s five-day old feet.

I also love the art prints that we have in these spaces; they show that our family is a little bit funky. I guess it reflects our musical tastes, too. Our daughter was a fussy baby so our remedy was lots of Bob Marley lulling her to sleep!

Q: What has been your best decor idea that everyone seems to love? Those maps are a pretty stellar statement! What do you hope people feel when they walk in to your home?

A: Yes, those maps do make quite a statement, and we get lots of compliments on them. They are also a great way to include my love for travel and my husband’s love for geography.

Jordan and I made them out of a large world map wallpaper mural that I had had for years, plywood, and some two part epoxy. Not only do they make a statement, but they are also a great educational tool. Whenever we want to point out where an animal is from or how far we are going to travel, we just go over to the maps and point them out to the kids. Hopefully the maps will instill our love for travel and geography into our children.

I want our friends and family to feel welcome when they come into our home. I want to be sure that they feel comfortable and uplifted. There isn’t a single space in our house that is off limits. Everyone is welcome everywhere.

Q: How do you truly live with kids?

A: We dedicated our formal dining room to our kids as their playroom. In here, they are allowed to play at their will, write on the chalkboard wall, and even golf. I wanted this to be their space where they could just have fun. This means that they are also responsible for keeping it clean.

When I decorated the kids’ rooms, they weren’t old enough to give any input. Now that Avery is five, she had lots of input into what goes in her room…with some suggestions from me.

The most epic thing I have learned from living with kids is that they are all different. Families and personalities are different, too, so there isn’t a right or wrong way to live with kids. I no longer make comments about what people should or shouldn’t do.

Design wise, I like to make it as easy as possible for my kids to do things by themselves. Putting their clothes where they can reach them so they can get dressed themselves. Putting silverware in lower drawers so they can set the table. Things like that.

Q: Tell us about your work. How do you separate your professional and personal roles daily?

A: I own and run a web shop called Wind and Willow Home which features nature-inspired gifts and housewares made by artists from around the world. I also have my own line of housewares that I design and create in my basement, which can be found on Etsy and in lovely shops all around the world.

With everything that goes into creating and maintaining my brand, there isn’t enough time in the day to completely separate my professional and personal roles. Often, I am cooking dinner while replying to e-mails — the kids get used to burned grilled cheese! — or watching the kids play outside over my laptop while editing my websites or keeping up with social media.

I guess my best tip and the only way I am able to maintain balance is to get them involved in my work. When I need to sand some bowls, I give them sandpaper and let them help. I turn shipping into an assembly line where the kids get to stamp my logo on the package. My daughter loves helping paint the feathers that I use in my packaging. Although it might be easier and go more quickly to get the job done myself, I figure they are learning a new skill, gaining confidence, and I am able to spend time with them while getting things done.

Q: What is your favorite part of living with your own kids? What do you already miss?

A: My kids make our house so alive. There is always noise, laughter, and adventure. I love being able to act silly, build pillow forts, and throw our sleeping bags out on the living room floor for a camp-out.

I am already getting choked up about my daughter going to school next year.

Q: What are you trying to teach your kids with the design and style that surrounds them on a daily basis?

A: I hope my kids learn that there is no wrong way to design or style a home as long as it makes you happy.

Q: What do you hope your kids remember most about their childhood home when they’re all grown up with families of their own?

A: I hope they are able to continue to cherish those items that we surrounded them with, especially those items that have been made and passed down from our parents and grandparents.

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

A: I wish I would have known… I wish I would have truly believed the words that my Mom always told me: everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. There were lots of stressful days regarding owning this house and finding a new job, and now we couldn’t be happier with our beautiful home and I am loving the new chapter in my career as a creator and curator.


Thank you so much, Araya! I love when you noted “There isn’t a right or wrong way to live with kids. I no longer make comments about what people should or shouldn’t do.”

Before I had kids, I think I was a lot more judgmental about how I was going to raise my own someday, and how I would do so perfectly and effortlessly! But once they arrived, all those rules and “I will never be the kind of mom who does that!” declarations fly out the window, don’t they? Has anyone else experienced this? I’d love to hear how the mom you thought you would be differs from the mom you actually are!

P.S. — You can find 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!

26 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Araya Jensen”

  1. I love this home! It’s so refreshing and full of light. The ‘Hippies Use Backdoor’ sign made me smile, because my sister also that at her house. I love the use of their dining room for a playroom and it has me dreaming up similar plans. Thanks for a beautiful and inspiring tour!

  2. So true. I declared boldly that my kids would only play with pretty wooden toys. Little did I know that they love the bright plastic stuff. I keep it in moderation, but why deny them something like that? I also thought we’d never use those horrendous bouncy chairs – my son would only sleep in one of those. I never ever judge on how people are raising their kids – we don’t know where they are coming from, what they had to go through and what works for them. Rain boots on a hot and sunny day in the grocery store with a wool hat? Never know how long the mother tried to change her toddlers mind.
    This was a lovely tour and I think I would have given up on that house, kuddos for holding on.

  3. I LOVE this home…and I really feel like this is family after our own hearts. Where did Araya get that amazing metal piece behind her bed?!? I am crazy about it! Great post!

  4. Wow. What a great post! I agree – we are all so different and every child is a tiny human being with their own feelings, style, likes, and dislikes. Letting them be who they are and not who we (or anyone else) expects them to be is so important.

  5. Cally,
    The metal wall hanging above the guest bed was the top of a broken table that was on clearance at Home Goods. Luckily, I was able to see past the broken glass and I took the top of the table, hung hooks on it and made it a piece of art.

  6. As a recent mother, I completely identified with your comments about not being the type of mom I planned. The one thing I remember saying to myself was, “my child will never go in public with a snotty, crusty nose.” Guess what… we’ve been dealing with a cold, allergies and teething for two weeks and a little girl who screams when you attempt to wipe her nose. Some days, good enough is good enough. :)

  7. Love this home tour! The living room is so cozy. Where was the bookshelf and end table purchased from in that room? Oh and by the way, we listened to alot of Bob Marley too when our daughter was a fussy baby!

    1. Hi Laura. Thanks, the end table I got at a garage sale for $3. It was in rough shape but after some sanding and staining it turned out great. I think it is made by Lane. The bookshelf is actually a bakers rack from Ikea. Yep, Marley works wonders :)

  8. Mom in Need of Play Structure!

    This is such a great tour – I love this series!!! I have a question for Araya – where is the play structure from? We have a super narrow and long patch of grass and it seems that your play structure might fit it. Please advise!

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  10. Love the maps on the wall! We’ve been wanting to do that with a huge wall map we found several years ago (it’s been on our kitchen table covered with clear vinyl but ready to move it up somewhere), we just haven’t figured out how to hang it and keep it from getting worn out–guess you wouldn’t have that problem with wall paper though. How did you attach it to the plywood and how did you hang it to the wall? Beautiful home and beautiful thoughts!

  11. What a beautiful home! Can you tell me where you got the fox wearing sunglasses print? It would be divine in out baby ‘Fox’ nursery :)

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