Living With Kids: Esther van de Paal

I’ve known Esther was stylish ever since the launch of Babyccino, which has grown from a parenting blog written by three friends scattered across Europe, to an internationally consulted site for those seeking unique inspiration with a cultural twist. Their kid-friendly city guides and well-researched boutiques are goldmines. But her home takes living with kids with style to a whole new level. It’s visually stimulating, yet calm. Color everywhere, but they somehow all blend together. Even her day-to-day basics look cool the way she’s curated them! (See kitchen utensils below to see what I mean.) This is one of those homes where the lines between adult and kid decor are completely blurred, and beautifully so. Welcome, Esther!

My husband, Tamar, and I met when I was just finishing my studies in Delft. We both wanted to explore the world a little bit, so as soon as I got my degree we moved to New York together where we stayed for three years. Just before we moved to Brussels, Tamar asked me to marry him in a helicopter above Manhattan! We got married in Antwerp, and one year later we lived in London where our children Sara and Pim were born. We now live in Amsterdam, where we’ve had two more children: Ava, and baby Casper.

After a few years in Amsterdam, we found this little house for rent and we immediately fell in love with it. It’s built in the 1950s and has beautiful big, steel windows and cool mid-century design details. It also has a little front yard where we can park our bikes, and a small garden in the back where we can grow herbs and some vegetables. All the houses in our block are connected in the back through a little pathway, so our kids can always find our neighbors’ children to play with in one of the gardens. I also love the fact that where we live is very close to the centre of Amsterdam, but it still has the feel of a little village!

One of the main advantages of living in Amsterdam is the fact that it is such a compact city, and that it is totally laid out for the use of bicycles. My husband works around the corner from our home, and the shops, schools, and crèches for the children are also within walking distance. With the bike or the bakfiets (cargo bike), we can get to anywhere in the city in a less than a 30 minute bike ride.

Although we love living in Amsterdam, we also love to travel. Which is easy as our international airport (Schiphol) is only a seven minutes train ride from where we live!

Although I loved living in New York, Brussels, and London, and I dream about living in a warmer climate all the time, Amsterdam currently works for us. We like the relaxed school system, which is not at all competitive and focuses on kids being able to enjoy their childhoods for as long as they can. Sara is now eight years old and still doesn’t have homework! Also, children are outside a lot here; they cycle to school on their bikes and often play football, field hockey, or tennis after school. But we never say never, and we might just move again…someday!

Our house is such a mix of styles! There are so many pieces that we’ve collected over the years, inherited, or found on the streets. Every item in our house comes with a little story that can be told about it. Of course with four children we have lots of toys, artwork, and overall clutter to incorporate, which I try to do with a relaxed style.

I don’t ban toys from our living room. Instead, I got some wicker baskets in which we store them at the end of the day. I also designed a craft table for them so they can always sit down to draw or do crafts. And ten years ago (before we had children), I’m sure that niche in our living room would have housed a few well selected pieces of art and ceramics. Now, it houses our children art pieces, and that’s okay. It makes them so proud. It’s their house as well as ours!

I’m a licensed architect, and until the end of last year I was doing architectural work next to my Babyccino work. Shortly after Casper was born, I decided to focus on Babyccino solely. Which means my main office is now in our living room!

Part of our dining table is usually taken by my laptop and piles of paper, and often my sewing machine as well. It’s a bit of a challenge because often I work with (little) people around me, but I’ve gotten quite good at blocking noise and focusing on what I’m doing. The hardest part is to stop working, which is especially difficult because my personal and professional life are so intertwined. I think the key to success here is to be super organized in everything – I’m aspiring to be!

The design of our house has grown totally organically. There’s absolutely no main design idea behind it! It just houses what we have, find, or need!

We have one main living space, where the kids play, I work, we eat, and we entertain.

I don’t want to have to worry about fancy, expensive furniture. We got our dining table big and cheap so lots of friends and family can fit around it, and we don’t care at all if it gets dented or colored upon by the kids. Our sofas are hand-me-downs from a friend, and we had slipcovers made for them so they’re totally washable. The kids are welcome to jump on them. And we don’t have a coffee table, so the kids have room to play and build huts with lots of pillows and blankets.

Upstairs, we have three bedrooms. Sara and Pim share the biggest room, Ava has her own room, and Casper stills sleeps with us. Our house is not big, so it is kind of full! Which sometimes I’m disturbed about, but my friends assure me it’s a very homey house full of character!

I work very closely together with Courtney, my Babyccino business partner who lives in London, on a daily basis. We very often are on a Skype call for hours, while we both work and discuss different things. It’s like working in an office together but long distance! (Working Apart Together!)

I love how blogging has given me the chance to connect with people long and short distance that otherwise I would have never met. Being connected to so many talented and creative people has enriched my personality, and inspired my parenthood in so many ways.

I hope the children remember this house to be happy and full with life, light, laughter, love, babies, and creativity! For the time being, we are so happy in this house, but one day I’m afraid we will need a bit more space. Who knows what the future will bring!

What surprises me the most about being a mother is how amazing and giving life is. To grow a baby in your belly, feed it through your veins, giving birth to a perfect being, nurturing it, and seeing their own little characters develop…I find it amazing, amazing that we have given life to our beautiful children.

It’s really such a miracle, every day again.

Oh, I love this part of my life, having babies and seeing them grow, waking up with warm little bodies in our bed. Hearing about their days over dinner, seeing them learn, watching them grow. I think the favorite part about living with my children for me is the fullness of my life and in our house…

I wish that someone had told me that everything has its own time. I used to be so impatient. I’ve learned to look at the moment, not at the future. I’m so happy with what I have now, at this exact moment. There’s not more to wish for!


Thank you, Esther! I’m inspired by the way you took the usual stress out of living with kids straight away with an indestructible dining table and already-loved sofas. So smart. It’s also nice to see your lack of separation between your home and home office. It can be done, Friends!

And is it just me, or do kids’ toys look cooler in Amsterdam?

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!

54 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Esther van de Paal”

  1. Esther’s home if full of life and beautifully decorated. It seems like a dream.
    I have checked out her blog and it seems pretty cool.

    I love how the houses, in her neighborhood, are all connected. That seems to be so much fun for the kids.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. What a wonderful space for kids and adults. The light and colors make this home feel calm – which is amazing given such a large family lives here.
    I also love that she describes her house as small but that it’s ok. With the access to outside and the central location to all the things they need and the friends close by, this Amsterdam life sounds pretty perfect.
    Thank you for sharing another lovely home. I can’t wait to explore her blog more!

      1. Oh, Leslie!!! THANK YOU. I have been pondering this since I read it. Doesn’t make the article any less great….it just made me kind of get that confused puppy face as I was thinking through the math. That baby would be like…10. Still gorgeous, no doubt. But…older. :)

  3. I really love this house! Looks very bright and airy but also cozy and very personable. I also love the outdoor dining area! Thank you for sharing, Esther!

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  5. I love the bedside basket in the master bedroom- looks like a simple bassinet in a sort of fold out style. Where is it from?

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  7. Just got back from vacation and had to catch up with my Design Mom posts. I love this house and family. I rode my bike many times in Amsterdam. I would fly over from Los Angeles and spend several weeks there. Such happy memories of staying with Dutch families.

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  9. What a fabulous post. My favorite quote is “We like the relaxed school system, which is not at all competitive and focuses on kids being able to enjoy their childhoods for as long as they can. Sara is now eight years old and still doesn’t have homework!” What a joy that must be for parents to not be so stressed about their children’s homework. So different here in the US. I love Amsterdam, what a great city that must be to raise a family. :)

  10. what an amazing home you have esther!!! so much to love and so much to be inspired by, thanks for sharing! one question for you- is that amazing craft table in your living room an IKEA hack? if so, would you please share what piece it is? thanks again for sharing your home with us!

    1. Hi Jess,
      Thank you!
      The circus poster is a Petit Bateau window ad from a few years ago… I asked if I could have it at the end of the season, and they let me! Lucky!

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  14. Hello! I was wondering if you know the name of the light blue paint color in Ava’s room? It’s fun and bright! You’re house is beautiful by the way, thank you for sharing!

  15. You have an amazing home you have Esther!!! I love i and I am inspired by it, Thanks for sharing it! One question for you- the clothes rack in Ava’s room, did you make it or did you buy it. If so, would you please share what piece it is? Thanks again for sharing your home with us!

  16. Hi there! Your home is absolutely lovely. I love love Ava’s room color so much. We are currently moving and I would love to know the paint brand and color hope you will share:) Your design skills are so impressive and inspiring! Thanks

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  21. Where did you find the large vintage circus picture?! My Daughter’s room is vintage circus and I love it!!!

  22. Hello!
    Your home is absolutely beautiful and so charming, I’ve loved perusing through your pictures. My husband has a job opportunity in Amsterdam. We are looking at relocating there with our 4 small children. Your neighborhood sounds like the perfect area to look for a home for our family. Would you be willing to share where you live either here or via e-mail.
    Thank you so much!

  23. I’m not sure if you are still checking the comments here but I’d love to know where the large wooden storage drawers (underneath the hanging clothes) are from. They look wonderful and I’m wondering if I can actually purchase them somewhere!

    Thanks so much!!

  24. Hi,

    I’m not sure if you’re still checking comments but I’d love to know the color of blue you painted your little girls room! Thanks

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  26. This is a beautiful home tour! I spent the first few paragraphs so distracted trying to reconcile the childrens photos with their birth years – my kids have similar birth years but appear so much older! Then I realized the spot is a reprint from a decade ago. I truly hope Amsterdam is just as fabulous 10 years on – it sounds like an incredible setting to raise a family!

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