Living With Kids: Jan Verhoff

By Gabrielle. Photos by Lori Baskin Photography.

I always love to hear stories of how families chose their homes. Sometimes it’s walk-through-the-front-door-perfect, and sometimes it requires a little imagination. Plus also a general contractor with access to heavy machinery!

Jan and her family needed a little help, but they also put in a lot of their own sweat equity — I love her advice about that! — and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Come meet her. Happy to have you here, Jan!

Hello! I’m Jan and I share my home with my husband Bill, oldest son Mason, and two younger daughters Sloan and Reese. Billy and I met in college when we were neighbors and the convenience made it easy for our relationship to last. We both graduated from The Ohio State University and have chosen to raise our family in central Ohio. Billy is a dedicated provider but also enjoys his down time on the weekends. Our family keeps busy with friends in the area that also have children our age. We also spend a lot of time with both sides of our family and appreciate that we live close to them. Our home has an open door policy and you will often find someone stopping by unannounced or a get together taking place. The more the merrier!

We are a family with the females dominating! Our son is old enough to remember what it was like being the only child in the family. He dominated our time and was lucky enough to have both parents present at sporting events, school performances, and parties. He went through a bit of shock when his first little sister came; the realization that parents shared time among children was a new concept and one that took time for our son to adjust to.

But quickly, we all adjusted and enjoyed our family of four. We adjusted so well that in two-and-a-half years we had baby number three. We face the normal sibling arguments but know deep down they would not have it any other way. The second baby girl meant we females outnumbered the males and the little girls have personalities to show.

Our middle daughter is four going on fifteen. She is athletic, intelligent, and confident. She keeps us all on our toes. Our youngest is already showing signs of following in her big sister’s footsteps which will be needed to keep up with her big brother and sister.

Our family is feeling complete but a setback occurred when becoming a family of five: our first home was feeling pretty tight. So, the house search quickly began.

We purchased our first home in Upper Arlington, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus) and knew that we wanted to stay in the area. The appealing features of a suburban area — exceptional school district, safe neighborhoods, community events, parks — we found and appreciate about the community. But, just as importantly, we love the close proximity to downtown, other neighborhoods, sporting arenas, and restaurants that Upper Arlington has to offer. We get the feeling of being connected to the city of Columbus as a whole without the separation that some suburbs have.

The house search began with excitement and quickly started to feel like a chore. We had an open mind but to no avail. We were willing to buy a home that was not exactly what we wanted, do the work and make it ours, but we kept striking out. After looking at twenty homes in the area, we knew our search had to continue but we began to lose hope of finding the just right house for us.

Then, a relative called us and stated that an acquaintance of theirs would be selling their home in the near future and that we could take a peek at it. Honestly, we were not overly pumped but thought what do we have to lose? We went to the home and immediately noted how close it was to our favorite park in the area; check one. We walked through the home with an open mind because the house was in need of some tender loving care, but items on our list were getting checked off as we did our walk through.

Our list consisted of items that were not cosmetic but more of how the bare bones would work for our family. Items such as a large family room, a separate living room, five bedrooms, room for a dining table for our whole family, a spacious backyard, a kitchen that had potential, and an overall layout of living space that felt right. As I said, the home was crying for updates but we were able to see past this and envision our family living there.

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Floors needed to be refinished and replaced, walls needed painted, light fixtures needed changed out, etc. The kitchen required more than the renovations the other part of the home needed — it was in need of a remodel. We would be taking down walls, adding plumbing and electricity — all that fun stuff — to make the kitchen what we wanted. We left the home that day, looked at each other, and both said that it could be the one. We had not said that to many houses in our long search. Everything fell into place seamlessly and before we knew it we were buying the house and making decisions about renovations.

Our new home went through an overall renovation with the kitchen being remodeled. The process lasted about three months. One of the most important things I would share to anyone that is thinking about doing a remodel of a kitchen is considering the time of year to do the work. I found that the best time to schedule a kitchen remodel is during the summer or warm weather months. We ate and played outside every day for those months to get away from the madness going on inside. I could not imagine going through the remodel of our kitchen during cold or snowy months. It would have been very difficult!

Another tidbit I would suggest is to work outside of your comfort zone. We had never tiled, hung light fixtures, or laid as much flooring as we did in our new home which definitely pushed us out of our comfort zone. All these new projects were a bit nerve wracking and took us way more time than a professional would have, but it was the right choice. We learned new skills and stayed within our budget because we pushed ourselves during our renovations.

I try to style my home to be kid-friendly, comfortable but well thought out, modern, colorful, and crisp with a touch of boho in there. My style is based around a feeling. I have always loved walking into a well styled home, restaurant, or business and feeling relaxed and comfortable. I appreciate an space that is well thought out, well styled, and has a good vibe to it. A well styled space where pieces and items have a place and purpose brings a sense of comfort and warmth.

I want my family and guest to feel this in my home. To create these feelings, I have made my home kid-friendly with plenty of areas for the kids to live and play. Also, I incorporate pieces that have meaning, are useful, add color or texture, add life, and show our personality. Again, I try to add colorful, modern, and bohemian pieces into our home in order to create a feeling of warmth and texture.

My strategy for styling our home is looking at tons and tons of pictures of homes and decor for inspiration and combining ideas to make my own room. I have been inspired by many creative individuals on Instagram and appreciate the large community that is willing to share their home with the world.

Before I had our third child I was working full-time as a teacher. I loved my job! I loved teaching students, seeing them grow, and becoming part of their family. But when I was working, I always had the feeling of being rushed. I rushed to get to work in the morning, I rushed to get work done, I rushed to get home to my family, I rushed to get work done in the evening, and then repeated the next day. We were lucky to have family helping us with our two kids while I worked which gave me a peace of mind and helped me balance work and home.

At first, I did envision myself going back to work after baby number three but situations changed and it did not feel like the right time. We felt that the best job I could do would be to stay at home with the kids. I feel very lucky to be at home and know that I will return to teaching when the time is right.

At this time, my typical day is spent enjoying my home and offering my kids life experiences. We are busy-bees always going somewhere, doing something, or having friends and family over. I have enjoyed pouring my creativity into my family and home that I used to pour into my teaching. The Instagram world offers me a platform to see and meet other individuals that are enjoying their homes and pouring style and creativity into them. I am a new Instagrammer and almost daily I fall upon a new person that inspires me through their photos. I hope that I can inspire others through my photos.

I am a twin, and my identical twin and I are best friends. Luckily, she lives five minutes away from me so we are inseparable. We definitely talk everyday and see each other about five times a week. We are very much alike and different at the same time. She is a family of five and our children are the closest cousins can be. We have had a few twin moments since not living together (we lived together for 25 years until we both got married). Without discussing or shopping together, on two separate grocery trips we both bought the exact same toothpaste brand and type and the exact same ice cream brand and flavor on the same day. These truly were twin moments because both of us do not buy the same toothpaste or ice cream each time we go to the store. We both pick what looks best or sounds good at that moment. There are many brands and types of toothpaste and many brands and flavors of ice cream but somehow on those days we picked the exact same ones. Crazy how that happened!

My favorite part about my three children is that they offer so much life, laughter, and happiness to our days. That is a typical mom response but it is the truth. For selfish reasons, I adore them being around as I would be bored and not very entertained without them. My kids have taught me to enjoy the small things. They laugh and are content doing art projects, running races outside, walking to the park, playing with friends, and having lazy days at home. I try to follow their outlook and enjoy the simplicity of things.

I hope my kids remember the fun times and memories we had in our home. Memories of us sitting down at dinner and sharing highs and lows of the day, friends and family coming over to eat and play, doing art together, and taking care of our home. I hope as grown ups they find what makes them comfortable and happy and stick with it. I hope they are comfortable with their jobs, themselves, their homes, and their families. And, hopefully all this will make them happy.

Maybe that is why I want our home to be comfortable, colorful, warm, and welcoming because I want my children to have these feelings now and as they grow up.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have read more to my son. Being a younger parent and him being my first child, I did not yet realize the importance of reading to my child every day starting when he was a baby. Once he entered Elementary School I could tell that I had not introduced him to books or read to him as much as I should have. He did receive additional reading support in school and now is an excellent reader, but I wish I could have done that over again.

In a sense, I was able to do it over again with my middle and youngest children. With both girls we started reading books starting at infancy and have books all around the house that we ready and enjoy every day. Already I notice a difference in their concepts about print and ability to read. Books are incorporated into how I style my home because they are useful and pleasing to look at.

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Thank you, Jan! Your honesty about what you would’ve done differently with your son was heartfelt and I appreciate you sharing your regret with us. (And honestly, I have a friend who read to her kids all the time, and they are not great readers as teens. In fact, I remember her husband saying something like, “It’s because we read to them too much as babies! Now they don’t want to read themselves!” Hah!)

I just read of an acquaintance ridding her home of over 500 books in an attempt to KonMari her life. (Spoiler: She kind of regrets it!) What do you think? Are you slowly going digital with your books? Selling or giving away the ones on your shelves? I’d love to hear your book philosophies!

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

43 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Jan Verhoff”

  1. What a beautiful home! I never do this, but can I ask for the source of the rug in the blue living room? Thank you!

      1. Doh! To bad but thanks for letting me know Shelley! I’ll have to keep an eye out for something similar.

    1. Shelley is correct- this is from West Elm but I do believe it is no longer available. It is 100% wool which is what I usually look for in rugs. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing about wishing for a do-over on something with your child. I have lots of wishes for do-overs with my 3 kids, but oh, well. We all have these types of thoughts. All you can do is continue to move forward and do the best you can for you and your family with your current knowledge.

    Books! I love books! But I am selective about what I keep, and use the library to the fullest extent. I keep the books important to certain passions that I have or that I may refer back to often. I did keep books my children enjoyed (but got rid of some of their books too), and am lucky to have some of my husband’s childhood books. They are on a bookshelf ready and waiting for future grandchildren!

    1. You are a lover of books, too! I am a regular at the library but I am silly and love buying books to share and keep on my shelves. I feel like once I’ve read it and it’s on the shelf I’m proud of the collection. :)

  3. Don’t sweat the reading! I read like crazy to my daughter and she still needed extra help in second and third grade. It was the greatest! She loved the reading teacher and the extra attention. Now, at 12, she’s a voracious and skilled reader. One of her most treasured and loved hobbies. We have so many reasons to worry. My wish for you is that you let this one go and give yourself a break, mama! From one Buckeye to another. (Beautiful home! Love UA!)

    1. Patti- a Buckeye! yeah! I have let it go, I think, and like I said try to always learn from the past.
      Are you still in the area?

      1. I, too, read constantly to my 3 kids, and my first was a early and voracious reader. My second, despite being a January birthday and one of the oldest in his class, did not even recognize 75% of letters when he entered 1st grade. He was in a small private parochial school (he is 26 now, so twenty years ago) and his first grade teacher said to me when I expressed concern: “Don’t worry! He’s just not ready yet.” And she was right; by February of that same first grade school year he was reading 3rd grade level books, with no special help or tutoring. I honestly feel if he was in public school today, he would have been identified as needing help (probably in kindergarten!), when he simply needed the gift of time. He went on to become a voracious reader and at 26, it’s still his favorite thing to do to relax. :)

  4. Lauren Stacey

    I lived in Columbus for a while and it is one of my favorite places. Such wonderful people. And UA is such a dreamy place to raise a family. Thanks for sharing…

    1. Columbus is a wonderful city! Glad you got to experience it for a while, but hope you enjoy where you live now.

  5. I can so relate to the dread of having to rush everywhere. It’s my least favorite thing about being a working parent. Lovely house and style!

    1. I honestly did not know that I was rushing everywhere until I stopped working. When I was working I was just in that mode and did really enjoy it. Thanks for reading!

  6. Beautiful house!! But Jan-let go of that Mommy Guilt STAT!! I have 4 kids-read to all of them and only one of them is a truly voracious reader (2 of them only read for school under duress). I have other friends who read to their kids all of the time and their child still needed help with reading. I am sure that you sang to your firstborn, and talked to him- I really don’t think you had the negative effects you’re afraid you did. You look like an amazing, involved, loving mom-please focus on that!!!!

  7. I was born and raised in Upper Arlington. I have since lived all over the country and have nothe found a place as comparable. Go Bears!

    1. Aww! A BEAR! We do love it here and maybe someday you will find something comparable- or you could come back :)

  8. Books are central to my life. As a child I loved to curl up with a book and get lost in other worlds, and as an adult, I feel the same way. We have many shelves in our house that are full of books, and I honestly can’t imagine a home of mine without books. E-readers are great if you are traveling and you have to pack light, but there is nothing like the feeling of turning a page. I suppose I should confess that I am a high school English teacher, and I’m horrified by the idea that one day we might go all digital. At this point I can envision exactly where I need to open The Great Gatsby in order to find the scene where Nick tells Gatsby “You can’t repeat the past.” I can picture what part of the page that line sits on. I’ve always known that I’m a visual person, but I guess I’m a tactile person, too. I need to feel the heft of the book. (And Jan, I’ll reiterate what others have said. Let go of that guilt! I have three grown children, and I read to all of them when they were tiny. Only one turned into a true reader!)

  9. Such a lovely home! I am just trying to find the best reading place for me in our home and one like on your picture would be so nice.

    We love books and read a lot since my girls were tiny (7 and 9 now). I am decluttering right now, but with books I am having a hard time. There are so many, we read in 4 languages. In some cases, the same books in different languages. (Gone with the wind or Jane Austen are just not same in german.)
    I asked my daughters to sort some of their books out. They did, the pile is waiting and I, somehow, am failing to get them out of the house!
    I love the feel of a book, the smell of it and if I find something old handwritten in it, I am in heaven.

    1. You are speaking my language- the smell, the feel, written form- all reasons I keep books. It is hard to declutter- maybe if everyone is done reading the book and won’t revisit or you won’t be sharing it with anyone it’s time to say goodbye :( (yes, that’s a sad face)!

  10. Gorgeous, lovely and cozy home! Great blend of colors and textures!! And where did you purchase that unique bookcase?

    1. Thank you Laura for reading! I actually purchased it from a family in the area that was selling it. I got lucky!

  11. I smiled when I saw that globe pillow on the shelf. That was my oldest son’s favorite plush toy. He wore it out! I’ve been wanting him to buy him a new one. What a great home!

    1. Ann- one of my best friends bought the pillow for my 4yr old for her most recent birthday. It is such a unique and perfect gift!

  12. Such a lovely thread! Great home! I can relate to everyone. I’m collecting books also. Very wonderful home.

  13. Gorgeous house! I wish I had read more to my son too.. but we are making up for it now! I just try to keep an, “oh well can’t change it now” attitude instead of scolding myself.

  14. I love your home, Jan! And I was so delighted to hear you were a twin! My 2 year old twin boys are the best of friends, and it warms my heart to hear stories of twins who remain close over the years. You have a wonderful style.

    1. Sarah- YEAH! Being a twin is so very special! We are the best of friends and I’m sure your boys will stay that way. :)

  15. What a creative and beautiful home! Love the family focus too. I don’t think there is such a thing as “too many” books…

  16. I love all your lighting in your home. Where may I ask did you get those globe lights in your kitchen and then funky one above your kitchen table?

    1. Alison- all the lights you mentioned are from West Elm. The are great and usually go on lighting sales they have. :)

  17. Lovely home. I’m from Ohio too (though went to OU :). How does it stay so neat with all your kids :)? I am constantly challenged and picking stuff up all day. Anyway, love the neat and tidy and bohemian mix :).

    1. Alison- all the lights you mentioned are from West Elm. The are great and usually go on lighting sales they have. :)

      1. Sorry- my computer just acted funny and put that response again.

        Sherri- I often feel like a maid :( But I would say the easiest way for me to keep things neat is to not have too much stuff.

  18. I am a mom of a 3 and 5 year old, I have a twin sister, we are Ohio State graduates(where we both now work) and I too live in UA – I very much enjoyed your tour. Thank you!

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