Scrolling through Cortnie’s photos made me a little sleepy, and I mean that in the most wonderful way! Her home — despite being filled with twin boys who probably fill up the space with lots of laughter, dirt, and noise! — seems so calm, content, and positively airy. All the perfect conditions for the perfect nap, wouldn’t you agree? It honestly made me think back on my own childhood, especially those lazy afternoons with the ceiling fan making the curtains dance, lulling me into an unexpected slumber. Enjoy the tour, Friends, and be sure to tell me if you had the same reaction to this sweetly sleepy home!
Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here!
A: In our home lives my husband Gary, myself, one huge black and white tomcat, one petite calico, and our twin three year old boys, August and Liam.
Gary teaches English at a community college about 45 minutes away. During those times when he’s home but has a big stack of papers to grade, he hides out at a cafe to actually get some work done! It was a mutually desired plan between us that I would stay at home with the kids, and so far it’s worked out really well. We’ve had to make some sacrifices but I feel very fortunate that we’re able to do it this way.
Although I don’t do anything “official” with my BA in Studio Art, having children has renewed an inspiration in me to create almost everyday — something I do most consistently through photography. I used to have much more angst about making art but upon becoming a mother my curiosity and artistic expression has bloomed.
My husband and I used to be in a band called The Dalloways for a few years and stopped about a year before the boys were born. (We framed an old show flyer of ours to hang in the boys room.) We don’t play with the band at the moment, but my husband plays guitar and we both sing and play a variety of instruments with our boys. Both boys have an affinity for music, playing instruments, pretending to be in marching bands, and making up songs.
All of us love being outdoors and are outside a LOT. That’s kind of the default activity around here — need to find something to do? Let’s go outside! My husband loves running and has recently started training for a half marathon coming up in May. I adore my morning boot camp routine. Did I just say adore? Well, I adore the results part; not the getting up at 5:30 a.m. part! I’m almost always in reach of a camera — either my phone, my trusty old digital, 35mm Minolta, or classic Polaroid camera. Taking photos is a true joy and refuge in my daily life. And blogging. That has become an inspirational life-line of sorts and I value the friend connections I’ve made here. It’s a vital place that has helped fuel me creatively.
Q: How did this home become yours?
A: We stumbled upon our 1952 home in 2002 just months before the soar of the housing market. We had been renting an adorable 1930s 800 sq foot adobe for a year when our landlord told us he needed to sell. Because of the size, we reluctantly decided not to buy our rental and looked for something bigger. We searched and searched in the older parts of town because older homes have always had our hearts.
When we saw our house for the first time it looked like a double-wide from the street, complete with old metal awnings, a decrepit cactus garden, and badly manicured bushes. I was expecting the worst when we walked through the front door but to my delight we were greeted with vaulted wood beamed ceilings, a large open living room, a giant back wall comprised of glass. All of the floors were covered in old shag carpet, outdated dusty drapes hung on all the windows, and there was some pretty hideous brown floral wallpaper in the living room, kitchen and both bathrooms. But when Gary and I looked at all of those things, we only saw the potential of this beautiful house and how we could turn it into our own. Needless to say, we knew this was the one!
Q: What are your favorite parts about it? Any changes on the horizon?
A: The overall mid-century modern look of the house, including the open floor plan, wood-beamed vaulted ceilings, the large built-in counter in the kitchen, wood floors, and the untouched bathrooms complete with their original charming tile are what drew us in initially and they continue to be some of our favorite design elements of the house. We changed a lot of superficial elements inside, pulling up all the carpet and cleaning the wood floors, taking down wallpaper and re-painting several times, and putting in new flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms.
The biggest change we made inside was cutting a walk-way into the wall between the back end of the kitchen into the living room, which created a much needed open flow. Gary and my dad took this project on themselves the first week we moved in! We were exhausted, there was dust everywhere, and our kitchen was unusable for a week. At the time we didn’t have kids yet; thinking of taking on a project like that now just makes me cringe. I think that the exterior of the home and yard have undergone the biggest transformation. Out of the fifteen trees that populate the outside of our home, only four of them were there when we moved in.
My ultimate dream is to remodel the kitchen. I fantasize about new counter tops, open shelving, a more efficient stove range, and the ultimate? A dishwasher! And since I’m dreaming, I might as well throw in a laundry room, too!
Q: What’s your basic philosophy to living with kids? It seems like you integrate them fully into every room, right? Do you ever get the urge for a kid-free space somewhere just for you?
A: For the first eight years of our marriage we had every room decorated just how we wanted — large plants sat on the floor of almost every room, small and breakable knickknacks were displayed without worry, and our beloved books were (and still kind of are) everywhere.
And then the twins arrived. When they started army-crawling, we reluctantly started to kid-proof the house room by room. What we ended up doing was not so much locking up and padding as moving up and eliminating. Plants were moved to higher ground or outside, knickknacks reduced, and our books have been condensed and moved out of reach on the bookshelves while the boys’ books are in easy reach. We don’t have an official philosophy about living with kids, but I guess you could say we have an integrated approach. In our home there aren’t any no-kid zones.
Our bedroom is fairly small but in a design sense, streamlined and uncluttered. I don’t even like to fold laundry in there. It’s the perfect place for my OCD tendencies to thrive. I can’t optimally start my day until the bed is made, clothes hung up, and any clutter removed. As for the rest of the house……let’s just say that’s not the case at all!
Q: How did you approach the decor in their bedrooms? (I love the decals on the ceiling! You really thought about where their eyes would fall, didn’t you?)
A: We were so excited for the arrival of our first children, and this excitement really help me approach the boys’ bedroom with absolute joy and freedom.
The major inspiration were the colors of a jute rug from Ikea and a red dresser that helped determine the whimsical feel. Towards the end of my pregnancy, in the full throes of insane nesting mode, I felt I had to finish their room before they came home. Now I know no room is ever really finished. Artwork and special treasures are always being added here and there.
As far our bedroom, we just painted over the brick-red walls with a beautiful light grey. And as a treat just for me, a closet painted in the perfect shade of lilac.
Q: How would you describe your personal style? Has this changed a lot since the addition of kids in the mix?
A: My husband and I both gravitate towards clean modern lines so prevalent in mid-century design, but I guess you could say we could never be purists. Other important elements of our home must include a cozy lived-in warmth, well-loved furniture found at yard sales, a variety of natural collections, and LOTS of books. And all without being too cluttered.
It sounds cliche, but I believe eclectic pretty much sums it up! And the arrival of August and Liam has only enhanced our design style. They love finding and bringing me snail shells and lost feathers to add to our collection jars. And I love adding their finger paintings and watercolors to the walls.
Q: What are your top tips for creating kid-friendly spaces in your home?
A: I’m constantly re-evaluating different spaces in our home, especially the ones with heavy kid traffic. Without going out and spending a ton on organizing items, I try to strike a balance between function and aesthetics. For instance, I’d love to replace the boys’ closet door in their room with a curtain to help open up the room. But because that closet also functions mostly as a storage space for things we don’t know what to do with, it’s best to keep a solid door on it for now— mostly to deter little curious havoc-wreaking hands. I’m a habitual re-arranger so trying out different solutions to a design dilemma is fun for me.
Q: What do you hope your kids remember about this home?
A: I think of our home as a place of refuge, fun, and most importantly, a place of love. I hope our children’s experience in this home has all of those qualities too!
Q: Where in your home do you spend your favorite part of your day?
A: The whole family spends most of our day in the living room which serves as a playroom, office, napping space and dance floor. In the afternoon, if Gary is home and I can steal a few quiet minutes, I retreat to our bedroom to read a little, catch up on my favorite blogs, or if I’m lucky, a quick nap. I love the light in our bedroom that time of day, serenely and cheerily diffused through the curtains. It’s so peaceful, and a little peace goes a long way around here!
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…
A: …that the house doesn’t need to be perfectly decorated — or perfectly clean! — before you entertain friends and family. Living with my boys has taught me to relax and concentrate on what’s really important: being present in the moment and enjoying the company of loved ones. And also, warning guests not to look in closets or under beds!
Thank you so much, Cortnie! I feel certain that your boys will remember their childhood home as a place of love; even I can feel it just by peeking in through your photographs.
Friends, Cortnie’s words about rooms never really being finished struck a chord with me. We all probably have decorating goals for our own homes, but do we ever really reach the end of our lists? Isn’t there always something beautiful to add, a new favorite color, or even another memory to be made and documented somehow on the walls or shelves? Have you ever looked at a room in your own home thought it was complete? Yes or no, I’d love to hear all about it!