Living With Kids: Kimberly Sly

I love how each room in Kim Sly’s home holds a dedicated space for her two young sons; inclusion is a grand part of good design, don’t you think? But, friends, I really love her studio. I am admittedly an art room junkie – there’s just something so galvanizing about seeing the space where something artistic originates – but this one looks like it’s used happily, doesn’t it?

The proof sits virtually in Kim’s Etsy shop; an abundance of crisp graphic work and some pretty magical city prints perfect for those of us with a healthy case of wanderlust. Her shop motto is to create fun and personal design for all ages, and she’s achieved the same result in the Portland, Oregon home she shares with her husband and two sons. You’ll see!

photographed by Molly Anderson for Apartment Therapy

Q: How would you describe your style?

A: If you think of that old wedding custom “something old, something new, something borrowed…” that’s perhaps the best way to sum up my style. You can find a perfect example of this in the corner of my bedroom where my favorite yellow lamp sits. To me, some of the most interesting design can be a thoughtful combination of all of these elements. Take an old lamp purchased from a thrift store, put a new fun modern twist on it by painting it yellow, and then borrow a shade from a lamp you already own, and suddenly you have meaningful design.

Q: You really seem to include space for your boys in each room, which I love. I think you’re truly living with kids!

A:  As my business has developed, the boys have seen their playroom presence in my studio shrink a bit. So that play corner in the living room has expanded and become all the more important and crowded. I have also spent a good amount of time reconfiguring each of the boy’s rooms to better suit their interests as they grow.

Q: Your kitchen table will surely withstand everything the boys bring to dinnertime! And your husband found it at a construction site?

A: Our kitchen table has become one of those pieces that is truly an extension of us! My husband is an estimator for a local construction company, and he often walks old buildings before they are demolished. I must have rubbed off on him over the years because he spotted this old table sitting in a run-down old commercial kitchen. It was not so pretty, and had a large rack above and shelves below. It was exactly the kind of piece that I love to adopt! So he asked the owner if he could have it before the building was taken down.

photographed by Lindsey Lyons Photography

Fast-forward one year and there it sat in our garage covered with junk, waiting patiently for my husband to remove the lower and upper shelves. He sanded down the butcher block, which revealed this insanely gorgeous wood pattern. We then designed the robust legs and had a welding contractor fabricate the legs for us. And there you have it: our dream table for about $200 dollars. Made from some elbow grease and a whole lot of vision!

photographed by Molly Anderson for Apartment Therapy

Q: The patterned wall in the nursery is so striking. How did you come up with the design, and was it difficult to execute?

A: The patterned wall in the nursery was a blog-inspired vision. I can’t remember which blog I spotted it on, but I fell in love with it immediately. It was not difficult to do, but I have to admit that my husband should probably answer this question. While I was in charge of convincing him to do the project, it was all him in execution! He measured, taped, and painted it all in only a few short hours. (He wants me to be sure to share with you one important tip to ensure crisp lines: after the masking is up on the wall, go over the tape with a damp sponge.) Probably the most challenging part of the project was picking out the paint colors. In the end, as I believe it should be with most design choices, I defaulted to my instinct.

photographed by Lindsey Lyons Photography

Q: If money wasn’t a factor and if The Remodel Fairy could rush in and remedy any mistakes or missteps, how would you take a daring or just different design chance on your space?

photographed by Molly Anderson for Apartment Therapy

A: If money wasn’t a factor, I’d redo my kitchen. We remodeled it when we bought the house four years ago, gutting it along with many other major changes before we moved in, and I feel like some of our decisions were rushed. Also, we went with very safe choices in terms of materials that would likely be good for resell value. I look at it now and it feels like so many other kitchen remodels that I have seen. I would keep the basic footprint, but change many of the materials, from the counter-tops to the cabinets. While granite is a tried and true surface, in my next remodel I will definitely be looking at an alternate material that will offer more flexibility in terms of shape and color. My dream kitchen would have a large island running down the center and tons of natural light, and it would be more industrial/contemporary rather than traditional and country. I would still need the rustic warmth, of course, but overall I think I would go with cleaner lines and a more individualized space.

Q: What is your favorite room in the house?

A: The kitchen is probably our guests’ favorite room. My pick, however, would be our great room that opens up to the kitchen and dining area. I love that when I’m working in the kitchen, I can see my kids playing in their corner. When we entertain, I’m not stuck away in the kitchen cooking alone. Our house is small, but the majority of the square footage is very livable space. With little ones running around, it definitely gets lived in!

Q: What’s your next project?

A: Next in the queue is a complete interior refresh of paint in our great room and my studio space. Aside from being bored with the current beige color, our walls and wood trim have suffered a great deal of abuse from both boys, and at my hands from the constant tacking up of art prints!

Q: Is it hard to work from home? What’s the trick to balancing family and work, and is it difficult to turn down your artist volume at the end of the day?

A: Ahhh! This is the question I could write about for hours! I started working from home after years of working a corporate job with nice semi-private cubicles, Outlook reminders, meetings, inter-office IM’ing, and that all-important weekly happy hour. Instead of a cubicle, I now share my workspace with my children’s trucks and balls, and you can find my easel covered with drying laundry most days. It’s a balancing act that probably only the most efficient, detail-oriented individuals would even attempt. However, I am neither of those things! I am an artist, a dreamer, and a scatter-brained messy mom of two little boys.

Don’t get me wrong, though; despite all those little woes, I am extremely thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to be home for both of my children’s first words, first steps, and the joy of a stolen hug whenever I please. On top of all of that, I also have fulfilled a life-long dream of creating art that people actually buy because they like it and want it in their own homes.


I love that last answer so much. Thank you so much, Kim, for showing us how you’re living – and making wonderful art! – with kids. I wonder how many readers who work from home share the same conflicted feelings? I hope you’ll all chime in!

P.S. — If you’d like to share your home with us in my Living With Kids series, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!

7 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Kimberly Sly”

  1. When my kids were younger, I worked solely from home. Now that the kids are in junior and senior high, I spend about 20 hours each week onsite at my major client’s office. I agree completely with Kim’s assessment of working at home: it is difficult to balance work and parenting, you may feel as if things are messy, but you are with your kids (even if a sitter is present, which is key with really little ones). Perhaps you are not moving your career ahead as quickly as if you were not at home and perhaps you are not the perfect mom because you have work deadlines that may distract you, but I would not trade those years of flexibility and stolen kisses or impromptu park outings for anything. And really, it all goes by so quickly that the balls bouncing into your work space or imitation truck sounds during a conference call are things to be cherished, not annoyed by.

  2. I’ve got a 21 month old, and another on the way. As an interior design grad, I have always struggled with the perfect design style that will fit our home because I don’t want to do anything that won’t be “kid friendly.” Yet, I still need my home to have a sophisticated and unique design. I love how you incorporated this concept throughout your house…thanks for all of the great inspiration and ideas!

  3. Gabrielle, A huge THANKS for featuring my home on your lovely blog! I was honored when you approached me, and I am thrilled with the way it turned out!!

    Colleen: The lamp is from West Elm, a few years back though. :-(

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