Living With Kids: Iris Dettwiler

By Gabrielle.

You know by now that not much inspires me more than seeing how you’re all living with kids, especially when your own style and aesthetic grows up beautifully alongside them. Sure, there might be growing pains and a few awkward years and one or two horribly stained couches! But style, to me, has a lot in common with family life: it’s all about evolving and being better tomorrow than you may have been today. Iris and her family epitomize that ideal so perfectly. Not only are there five kids (I love seeing how stylishly big families are living!), but there’s also this underlying current of preparing everyone for real someday life while enjoying them so much right this very minute. Friends, I am pleased to introduce you to Iris! You’re going to love her.

Q: You’re Australian, married to a Swiss man and have five kids…living in the north of France. Draw us a map how you’ve traveled to this point!

A: Hello! My name is Iris but most people call me Cilla. I know, it’s weird. Eric is my Swiss husband and we have five kids, all of whom hold triple nationalities! There’s Zachary, who just turned 18, which I cannot even believe; where did my baby go? Then there’s John (16), Jessy (15), Anna (12), and Eve, who is nine.

Eric and I met in Paris while working at the same place. We married about a year later and went to live in Switzerland; first, in the German speaking part where Eric is from, near Basel, and then in Geneva which is French speaking. We studied there, but our hearts pulled us back to France. Our first son Zach was born, and soon after John. At this time an opportunity for work brought us to the north of France where we still live 16 years later!

Q: How would you describe your house? What makes it your home?

A: Our house is an old farmhouse that we bought and renovated to the best of our tight budget. A lot of sweat on Eric’s part! He’s had enough now but it really has served our family well. It is spacious and full of light which is so important in our region. It is mostly open plan downstairs, so it really promotes family life. We like being together, even though each one can find a little space for himself when necessary.

I think it’s the people that live in it that makes it my home! I actually associate my family with home. If they are there, then that’s my home.

Q: Has your style changed since the addition of kids?

A: Hmmm. I have to say no to that. Apart from making sure all the life threatening detergents and chemicals were out of reach, my style has stayed the same. Of course we’ve made spaces to play and we have a wardrobe nicely integrated in the decoration to hold board games and puzzles. But the kids learned from an early age not to touch certain things and to be careful. They adapted to our style, which it was a double blessing because we could take them around with us and they knew how to behave quite early on. Kids are very intelligent; give them credit and they’ll surprise you!

Q: You’re out of the toddler/tiny kid stage and well into tween and teen. How has growing up changed how you’re living with kids?

A: Oh yes, too right! But teens and tweens are so much fun! Having said that, I’m a real baby freak! I loved how they made me feel important and how they depended on me for nurturing.

Things have changed now. They still need me for moral support and that listening ear and sometimes my opinion! They all play instruments, so the house is often full of music instead of Lego blocks all over the place. It’s so lovely to come home and hear the sound of music from the front gate.

We also spend a lot of time drinking tea and chatting, which is also nice to get to know them as the people they are growing up to be.

As far as responsibilities, each of us has our own. We’re a team, and everyone pulls their weight. It makes them feel part of us and it makes life easier. Zach has already left for University, so John’s our laundry man; he puts the washing in and out of the dryer. Jessy looks after the dishwasher, emptying it and putting the dishes away. Anna clears the table in the evening, and Eve does it at midday. Each kid is responsible for cleaning their bedrooms every week. On holidays I also put them on the cooking roster! They learn how to cook, and it boosts their self esteem. It really works!

Q: Your outdoor space looks refined while wholly practical! Tell us about your garden.

A: Thank you! We just set up this raised veggie garden last year. I was quite inspired by the “Jardin de Curé” French style of garden which is supposed to be pleasing to the senses but also productive. I’ve planted lots of lavender and old fashioned roses and white hydrangea and sweet smelling honey suckle.

Have you guessed yet? I love my garden. It’s really my retreat in the warmer months. The cubby house just behind was built by my sons with their father,  of course. It was build using recycled wood found here and there.

Q: I notice a studio with a sewing machine and a lot of gorgeous textiles around your home. Do you sew or design? Are you crafty?

A: Yes, I sew and design. I’m an all-round artist. I sculpture, paint, draw, make, and create! I have a small enterprise here in France called Fabricotti, and have opened an Etsy shop. I also have a blog by the same name. We recently made a few videos to promote it.

Creating for me is breathing! When I can’t create, I’m not well. And I painted the mural for Jessy’s room, our resident animal and insect lover.

Q: When does your home work best?

A: Our home works best when everybody has a project or something to do. It really works well when we have visitors or parties. There’s space for everyone without feeling cramped.

I think the living room and the family rooms both suite our lifestyle. Nothing is too precious and everyone has a place to sit! We use the living room more in the winter because the fireplace is in there. The family room has a television, which we use for our family cinema nights.

My favorite room? When it’s warm, you’ll find me in the garden (is that a room?) or else my studio.

Q: What do you hope the design and decor choices you’ve made teach your children? Have any of them been affected by your style, do you think?

A: I hope that my design and decor choices have taught my kids that style is not a question of money; if you have an eye for good design, you can do a lot with very little!

Also, to look or think out of the box. Follow what makes your heart leap and not the newest trend! My kids have definitely been affected by my style but they definitely have their own personal style, too. I encourage that.

I’m pretty neutral in my color choices, especially in the rooms where we spend the most of our time. I feel it’s more restful and the colors really come in with the clothing of everyone!

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

A: I absolutely love seeing how their characters evolve and getting to know their personalities. I also really love traveling with them. I love introducing them to new places and customs. They are gems and most certainly my greatest achievement.

I miss not being able to pick them up in my arms and taking them everywhere!

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: …to have that sixth child!


Oh, Iris! You should have asked me about the sixth child! We are pretty fond of ours. A million thanks for sharing your comfortably chic home with us, but also for your candor and smart parenting style. I love the idea of adding them to the cooking roster; we encourage our own kids to contribute to dinner, too. I believe only good things can happen when everyone works together. Thank you for the reinforcement!

Friends, did any of you well up when Iris spoke about what she misses from the baby days? “I loved how they made me feel important…” Poignant, isn’t it? And so, so true. The key is finding other ways to feel equally important as they grow, right? Anyone have any tips for that? Those of us with older kids will be glad to hear how you’re coping.

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!

20 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Iris Dettwiler”

  1. I’m at home with my first little one and I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of care he needs. I love being the center of his world, but I find myself looking forward to the days when he his a bit more grown and I can talk to him and he can be a bit more independent. Iris’ comments helps remind me to enjoy the stage he is in now as it certainly won’t last forever, or even for very long.

    1. Oh Valerie! I’m totally with you. My daughter is 9 months and most days I’m exhausted; but I keep reading thoughts like these from seasoned parents and keep reminding myself to slow down. What is that saying that keeps going around? “The days are long, but the years are short.” That helps a little when we are having a rough time.

      1. Poor first borns, they miss out on the calm we acquire as we have more children. I was so stressed out with my first, but my last one, I treasured even the night feedings. It gave me an opportunity to hold her, and smell her, in the quiet of the night.

  2. Love the personality of this home. I don’t know if it is a privacy issue or not, but I would LOVE to see the facade of the homes. I like to figure out where everything is in relation to the outside.

  3. Pingback: Living With Kids: Iris Dettwiler

  4. I especially loved two things Iris talked about – 1) that children are smart and can learn more self-control that we often give them credit for at a young age (great reminder!) and 2) how valuable & important it is for everyone to learn to work together and contribute around the house. I grew up on a working farm and at a very young age I learned to do a lot of big things and I had a lot of responsibility. It was a great thing for me. My sisters and I grew up with a sense that we were capable and could learn to do anything we needed or wanted to. We also learned to take responsibility for our surroundings & work that needed to be done without having to be told or asked. The ability to manage a home and take personal responsibility are two of the best gifts my parents and grandparents gave us.

  5. This must be one of my most favourite in “living with kids” series! I agree with kalanicut on especially loving the statement about “giving children the credit, and seeing them surprise you”-so, so, so very true!
    Such a beautiful mix of French items (the bed!) with art, books, IKEA (?)-lovely interior, which feels easy, welcoming, warm, and elegant all at the same time.
    Thanx so much for sharing this!

  6. although i don’t have children yet, i just love the memories of growing up in our family home. i loved that my parents allowed us to explore our own creativeness with our bedrooms. such a great thing. this home looks like it oozes with creativeness. love all the inspiration.

  7. Thank you so much for featuring a bigger family! I love the interviews with women who have one or two children, but since we have a larger family, it’s so great to see how families the size of ours are handling things. :-)

  8. What a fun and inviting place! I love how personalized it is, rather than some cookie-cutter designer showcase aimed at proving that someone has mastered Danish minimalist living. I would LOVE to visit this house… oh heck, I would love to LIVE in this house!

  9. This home is so warm and inviting. I love all the books and the garden and how the common rooms have places for everyone to sit. We’re still working on that!

    It’s so nice to get a peek inside the lives of people with kids slightly older than mine so I can take notes.

  10. I love your home tours with larger families as well. I love houses that maintain an interest in design, while accommodating a growing and changing family. I also so appreciate hearing input from mothers with older children. The days with mine are already passing in hyperspeed and it seems like yesterday that I was the frazzled mother of my first newborn!

  11. I love how she manages both her home and family life! At first when she mentioned giving children credit and they’ll surprise you, it made me feel a little resentful because my 7 year old is quite the handful and it takes a lot to stay calm when she leaves food, toys, books, etc all over the house no matter how many times I tell and show her to clean up after herself. Then I realized she was right. I don’t make her feel as if she is part of a team that needs to help maintain our home. This will be my immediate priority!

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