Living With Kids: Lara Hyde

By Gabrielle.

It doesn’t surprise me Lara is an editor and writer; her interview reads like a story told by a lovely friend. The kind of friend who is honest about her “Is my home good enough?” concerns, as well as her wonderfully unique daughter’s journey through a world that is sometimes not so easy to navigate. (I almost choked on my laughter when I read Lara’s humorous description of her girl’s wardrobe style: Eminem meets Jersey Shore!)

In both cases, Lara seems like the type of person who shrugs off the worry, remembers what’s truly important in life, and moves on happily. She’s working hard on not caring so much what the rest of the world thinks.

Like I said: lovely. Welcome, Lara!

Hi, everyone. My name is Lara. I live here in beautiful Ancaster, Ontario, Canada, with my husband Rob. We have two daughters – Dace is eight and Violet is five – and a hyperactive Bernese Mountain Dog named Blue and our cat-with-a-mustache, Kasper.

I am a book editor and freelance writer. I primarily edit romance novels, which is lots of fun. They all have happily-ever-afters, so it is a very uplifting job. Rob works for Environment Canada in the Great Lakes division. He is the go-to guy for all matters related to Lake Superior, which means he travels up north from time to time and brings me back one-of-a-kind gifts like handmade moccasins, deer antlers and, once, a bookmark made out of a raccoon’s penis. That one was just disgusting, but it is part of why I love him so much. We both share the exact same sense of humor, which is a little quirky and weird. I laugh a lot, and I couldn’t imagine being married to someone who couldn’t bring that out in me.

Rob and I met in residence in first-year university. He had a chin-strap beard back then, and longish hair. We liked all the same British bands and I had never met anyone with whom I felt so comfortable. We both liked playing pranks. I got the chicken pox just before Christmas exams and he didn’t care; he still made out with me. It was meant to be.

We are so blessed to have two happy, sweet, healthy daughters. Dace is super smart, diligent, and sensitive. When she was a baby, she was colicky for the first four months. It was not an easy time. But ever since, she has been the easiest child. Dace loves babies and wishes we would have another one so she could take care of it — which is not happening, by the way. She also loves riddles and puzzles and books of interesting facts. Last year she blew the socks off all the teachers at her school talent show when she played a Johnny Cash song on the guitar and sang along. She wants to be singer/songwriter one day. Or a teacher. She is ethereal and, in some ways, an old soul.

Violet has always marched to her own drum. When she was in junior kindergarten, her teachers pulled me aside one day after school and told me that Violet had been changing her clothes when she got to school. I would send her off in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, and once she got there she would change into a sleeveless, white ribbed undershirt and cut-off jogging pants that she had hidden underneath. Mind you, this was in the middle of winter. That was the beginning of Violet starting to assert her own style, which I like to call “Eminem meets Jersey Shore.” Neither my husband nor I listen to much hip hop and we certainly don’t dress the part, so we have no idea how Violet came to identify with this style. It isn’t popular at her school. But she owns her look, and everyone knows Violet because of it. She’s always had great rhythm and taught herself to break dance. Sometimes she will bust out her moves at a festival and draw a small crowd, but she is shy and prefers to dance in private. She has been begging us for drums for a while, and we are going to get her a set.

When we went to Disney World last year, a lot of people assumed she was a boy, and that was back when she had long hair. She loves being mistaken for a boy. This past summer, she got her hair cut short and it looks great on her. Violet has an incredibly strong sense of self and I am so proud of her for being who she is.

Some people have asked me how I respond when she refuses to wear anything but boy clothes. I say I just let her be who she is. Last year, her teacher used her as an example in front of the class of someone who’s always nice to others. That brought tears to my eyes.

There was a great article in the New York Times recently about what it means to be a tomboy in today’s day and age. It talks about how the word tomboy has gone out of style. To be honest, I’ve never really thought of Violet as a tomboy; the term seems too restrictive and I don’t believe it defines who Violet really is. She might wear her pants low, but she also loves clothes shopping and playing with baby dolls. She is just Violet. She is my heart.

We made the move to Ancaster from Toronto five years ago. My husband and I are both from relatively small towns, and Toronto was just too big and busy for us. There were no nature trails we could walk to, and the nearest farm was a 45-minute drive out. When Rob was able to get a job transfer out here, it was a no-brainer. My family all lives in Hamilton, which Ancaster is technically a part of. It is wonderful having them so close.

Ancaster is a picturesque former village on the outskirts of Hamilton. It was settled in the late 1700s and is one of the oldest communities in Ontario. Although it’s grown into a sprawling suburb, it has retained much of its historic charm and that small-town feel. We love that we bump into people we know every time we go out. There is a real sense of community here, although it can be a little like living in a bubble.

Hamilton was the biggest steel producer in Canada back in the day, but with the closing of just about all the mills has come a lot of poverty. Downtown Hamilton, in particular, feels a world apart from where we live in Ancaster. Still, there is an exciting, burgeoning arts scene, with art crawls every second Friday and an ever-increasing number of cool indie shops and restaurants.

Every September, downtown Hamilton hosts an amazing weekend-long free festival called Supercrawl, with tons of local and international bands, a pyrotechnic circus, and artisans and art installations everywhere you look. Hamilton also has some incredible architecture. There is a gaggle of gorgeous old houses that are completely affordable by Toronto standards. It surprises me how many people who live in Ancaster never go downtown, though – not even for the festivals. If you ask me, they’re missing out.

Apart from the fact that Ancaster is a really safe, great place to raise a family, we wanted to live here because it is a two-minute drive to the countryside and we have a whole system of hiking trails that we can access in less time than it would take to get to the next big intersection in Toronto. Although most people know Hamilton as Steeltown, it is also known as the City of Waterfalls, with more than 100 waterfalls in the area, several of which are in Ancaster. Most people who don’t live here have no idea how beautiful Hamilton really is; they just see the bleak, apocalyptic steel mills as they cross the bridge to go to Niagara Falls and they turn up their noses!

The house we owned in Toronto was really cute, but small compared to our current house. We were able to move into a much bigger house here because the housing market in Toronto is one of the most expensive in North America. Looking back, though, we didn’t make nearly as much on the sale of our house as we could’ve had we chosen location over square footage and curb appeal. Our old neighborhood in Toronto wasn’t considered all that desirable at the time, though three years after we moved it was named one of the ten best! Go figure.

This time, we definitely went for location. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight with our new house, but now I am so glad we chose it. We can walk or bike to so many places in both Old and New Ancaster, including trails, a movie theater, a library, and a farmers’ market. And we have a big back yard with a fire pit! That was what clinched the deal for me.

Our house (we call it The Hydeout, which is also the name of a little blog I keep) was built in 1960 and is located in one of the more modest surveys in Ancaster. The last major updates were done in the early 90s. When we first saw our house on the day we put the offer in, the walls were painted in awful, primary colors like purple, and blue with red trim. After the deal went through, I actually insisted that my husband repaint all the walls before I saw it again; I was so afraid I would have buyer’s remorse if I saw it again in that state!

Being wonderful, Rob agreed, and when I saw it for the next time I knew we had made the right decision. We painted the living/dining room and all the hallways white, so the house has a lovely, airy and I think very modern feel. The white really pops against the original wood floors and the beautiful, wood trimmed French doors. And it makes a great backdrop for art.

Aside from repainting and replacing most of the windows in the house, we haven’t really done any other renovations. Oh, there is so much we could do and that I’d LOVE to do if we had the means, but I can’t bring myself to sacrifice a family vacation to pay for a new bathroom. I grew up in a middle-class home, but my parents were always very practical when it came to finances and the house I was raised in. While all our neighbors were spending money and renovating their homes, our house never changed from when my parents bought it in 1977 to when they sold it in 2001.

But I adored that house. It was was so warm and full of love. My parents always prized experiences over possessions, and our family did a lot of traveling while our wall-to-wall brown shag carpeting grew more and more out of style with every year that went by. I’ve inherited my parents’ values, and Rob and I share the same priorities when it comes to spending.

The problem is that I need to live in a home that I feel is beautiful. It’s important to me, though I think it would be a lot easier if I didn’t care so much. So, with this house, I have learned how to live with the things I don’t like by surrounding them — and, in some cases, disguising them — with things that I love.

The fireplace, for example, was the bane of my existence for the first two or three years we lived here. I hated the way it looked and wished we could cover or replace that hideous stonework. But after toying with painting it white, I realized that just by spraying the formerly brass-colored screen black and covering the mantle and hearth with greenery, I could make it look so much better! Softer and not as offensive.

The reclaimed wood mirror was the key find that brought the whole look together, and honestly, it is now one of the most photographed parts of our house! We always pose in front of it for birthdays and holidays. We would love to replace it with a modern vintage cone fireplace one day, but for now, my mind can rest easy.

I have to say, it’s not easy on one’s pride living in an affluent neighborhood and being surrounded by so many beautiful homes. I love my house, but I am a little self-conscious about the fact that it’s not at all updated.

Because I had so many people complimenting me on how warm and welcoming our house felt, I mustered the confidence to reach out to the woman who writes about design in our local newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator, and I was so excited when she wrote back and told me she wanted to feature it. Then, I couldn’t believe when her editor chose my house to be the cover feature for a magazine the Spectator publishes a few times a year called At Home.

Still, I know my style isn’t for everyone. I’ve had a few people comment that they saw the magazine and that I looked great on the cover, but not say anything about the house. And now I almost feel even more self-conscious when people come over, like here my house has been featured in all these places, but I’m afraid people will see the outdated kitchen and bathrooms, the scuffed floors and the scratch marks on the leather couch, and think, “Really?”

But I just have to let that go, I guess…

As for my style, I would call it modern vintage with a heavy touch of whimsy. I love the store, Anthropologie, and the way rooms are styled in their catalog. That is the romantic, bohemian side of me. But I also appreciate clean lines and the modern minimalism depicted in Dwell magazine. I think my house is kind of a blend of those two styles.

I really, really try to only surround myself with things that I love, and I believe that that is what elevates a house from just being a box filled with furnishings, to a home. I love homes that reflect the personalities of the people who live in them. Houses that have that showroom feel do nothing for me.

I’ve always found my style to align more closely with the styles of homes in European design books and Web sites like Design Mom and Apartment Therapy, than North American decor mags, which lean toward the traditional. I love kid art on the walls, overflowing bookcases, and anything handmade or natural.

And I am obsessed with houseplants. I have well over fifty. Plants are just such an easy, inexpensive, and beautiful way to add life to a home, and they purify the air to boot. What’s not to love? People always say they are afraid of killing them, but they are really not so difficult to care for, succulents especially.

I suppose I am lucky that Rob isn’t interested in decorating and trusts me to take care of that aspect of our home all by myself. So we never fight over what rug to get, or whatever. He really loves what I do, which is so awesome. But he also has a whimsical, creative side to him that shows in the croquet mallet boot rack that he built for our back patio. That was one of the most popular posts on my blog ever!

And he has been the executor of many of my larger-scale design ideas. He is the one who put up all the gorgeous wallpaper in the bedrooms. We always involve the girls, too, and I love how they leave their mark on things.

One of my favorite pieces in the house is the salvaged chalkboard in our living room. We wrote out our Family Rules on it, and one day Dace added “Go to the disco gym” at the bottom. It doesn’t make sense, but I love it, and it is still there, if a little faded, two years later. I can see that Dace has taken an early interest in design, drawing house plans and taping episodes of Ellen’s Design Challenge and House Hunters. It makes me ridiculously happy.

We have so much fun in this house. The girls use the couch cushions for building forts, we all go hog wild decorating for the holidays, and we love gathering around that fire pit in the back yard for s’mores nights.

Sometimes we go look at open houses on the weekend for kicks, but it makes the girls a little anxious. They don’t ever want to move — not even when they get married! They love this house, and it makes me remember how much I loved the totally unstyled home I grew up in. And I think that is what really matters when it comes down to it: that the kids grow up having great memories of this house.

Decorating is a creative release for me. I do wish there wasn’t as much pressure in our society to have new everything. I don’t want to come off sounding like a hypocrite because there are so many renovations I would like to do if the money was there. But there is beauty in character.

And if you can’t find that beauty, but the character is there in spades, leering at you, there are creative, inexpensive ways to divert attention from it. Artwork is my favorite foil. And pillows — beautiful, colorful ones. And plants, of course.

Many of the homes I’ve loved most have been very modest, but bursting forth with their inhabitants’ personalities. A vintage dollhouse or vintage camera on display. Lots of framed family photos on the walls. It is great to have a beautiful home, but it is much greater to have a beautiful life.

I really wish someone had told me — and I had listened sooner! — that you don’t have to please everyone.

This is something that I struggle with on pretty much a daily basis. I have always had a strong desire to be liked and, more than that, to be perfect, which is weird because I don’t even like perfection! Quirky and off-beat is way more my style!

But I have a frustrating perfectionist side to me, which sometimes displays itself in the form of obsessive-compulsiveness. For example, I will bring a new accessory into the house and then I can’t find the right spot for it, and it throws everything off kilter. I literally can’t eat or sleep until I find the perfect placement. I don’t want to waste my time on things like that or — worst case scenario — for it to rub off on my kids.

You’re never going to please everyone, and the only people whose opinions you should really need to care about are those that matter to you most: your kids, your husband, the people who love you unconditionally, anyway. That is who I’m trying really hard to focus on, and not worry so much that my house looks perfect or what the rest of the world thinks.


Lara, your fond memories of the home in which you were raised serve as a sweet nudge to spend a little more time on experiences, especially as we fast approach the holiday season. Good on your parents! Thank you for being here.

Friends, there’s a lot on which to chime in! Self-doubt about the state of your home, especially when you see how the neighbors have remodeled, plus all the worries we all have when one of ours dances to a different drum. (Go, Violet!) Also, what are your thoughts on the term tomboy as too restrictive? Some say the term is retro and condescending, not to mention problematic. I would love to hear your bright thoughts on this one — any advice or experience to share, or maybe just an “I’m with you!” cheer for Lara’s own wish to stop worrying so much about what the rest of the world thinks?

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! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

29 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Lara Hyde”

  1. Lara, I totally, 100% LOVE your home. It is so homey, so lived in, so warm and REAL. Don’t doubt yourself or your experience… you are making an awesome refuge for those girls!

  2. Hands down one of my favorite house tours! The home has such a calming earthy and European feel to it. Great interview too! I struggle with many of the same things. And on a side note the picture of the dog with the cone on just made me laugh!

  3. sooo, i’m going to read this post again this afternoon. Lara is so wise! beyond her years (whatever the are, lol). yes, honest – and real, and idk, letting that ‘perfection updated’ thingy just roll of her back. love.
    a design element that struck me was her randomness in what she hangs on the walls, and how she hangs them. it if looks right, it’s up! no ocd measurements and lined frames.
    Lara ~ i’m going to consider us girlfriends. it makes me happy :)

  4. I agree! I love houses that are obviously so full of LIFE! The design aspects are beautiful–they suggest so much personality, color, and fun! So, Lara, just this once you can worry about what others think–we’re telling you it’s wonderful!

  5. One of my very favorite “living with kids”. As for the term tomboy, I don’t mind it. I was one a very long time ago, my daughter was one, and if that’s what parents want to call their daughter, it’s up to them. Love all the houseplants : )

  6. I think your home is beautiful, and it’s just my style! We live in a small 1960s townhouse that was redone in the 90s with dark slate everywhere and purple-maroon carpet. 7 years after we moved in, we have redone a lot of it, slowly (that way we really appreciate it, and plus, you can’t eat floors when someone loses their job!). In my experience, there’s always more that could be done, and we also have been unwilling to give up travel & other experiences to pour all our resources into our house, so it’s been a balance.

    The gorgeous light & natural surfaces in your home are so warm & lovely!

    One question – can you share where you found the crochet-looking poof/ottomans that are in one of the bedrooms and in living room near fireplace? I’m looking for something similar. Thanks much!

    1. Hi Rebecca! Thank you so much for your sweet words! It sounds as if we have a lot in common :) As for the pouf, I found both of mine at HomeSense, which is basically the same as HomeGoods in the U.S. Aren’t they the best invention ever? So gosh darned cute.

  7. Lara, I love this post. I’m a regular reader of Design Mom and my favourite is the “Living with Kids” series. Do you know what the best part of this post for me was though – I also live in Ancaster, Ontario. We live in a 1960/70’s neighbourhood as well and we love living here for the great sense of community. We are raising three young boys and it’s a great place to live. Maybe we will meet one day.

  8. I love your home! This is pretty much the exact vibe that I’m going for in mine. :) I think you’re doing great- in parenting and home decor.

  9. This has been one of the very best “Living with Kids” series interviews to date. Lara, you have a fantastic design aesthetic, and a very warm, personable writing style. I love how you have made your home a reflection of you and your family. So good! Thanks for elevating Hamilton (and Ancaster) Ontario, it gets such an undeserving bad rap in Ontario. It is such an interesting and beautiful place to live!

  10. How funny – one of our family priorities is to go to the disco gym too – ha ha. Love this. Warm, homey spaces are best. We subscribe to the experiences over other expenditures type philosophy too. Admiring how you’ve managed stylish but cozy.

  11. I was lucky to have met Lara in university. I have two very destinct thoughts when I think of her from those days, great, unique style and love of dress up. I love seeing the pictures her shares of her home. They are always so inviting. Very exciting she gets to share this with others. Raising children can be a challenge but raising them in a home fun of love from their art on display, pets to cuddle and plants to care for can make a huge difference. Always been a fan of Lara’s style and still am.

  12. I loved this so much! I feel like I was reading about a younger, Canadian version of myself. Lara, much of what you said resonated with me, and I want to say that your style is beautiful and warm and authentic; that is why your local magazine chose to feature you. Don’t doubt your design sense. Those wallpaper choices are gorgeous! It may be time for me to wallpaper.

    I love that you are letting Violet be who she is. I am a teacher who sees many different young people expressing themselves in a variety of ways. Those whose parents are supportive are always the most well-adjusted. My best friend’s daughter only wore boy clothes for her entire childhood. (Even a little tuxedo to a wedding.) She is now a lovely 20 year old with her own style, though she no longer shops in the boy’s department.

  13. Hi Lara, you have a beautiful home you love and you clearly have a great family — sounds like perfection to me :) I always love what Dana (from House Tweaking) says about her house — not the house of our dreams, but the house in which we build/pursue/live our dreams.

    I could sense a bit of defensiveness there, when you were talking about your home — no need to explain or feel bad. Decor is such a personal choice, and at the end of the day YOU have to live in your home. Not everyone else!

  14. I especially love your kitchen, but I am even more taken with your houseplants!! We recently got a cat and he has been the end of our plants, which I have always found so important for decorating. The big fern on the floor, and the ivy, and the sansevieria aren’t a problem for them? How do you manage it?

    1. Hi Ana! First of all, thank you for saying you like my kitchen! As for the houseplants, honestly, I think I am just really lucky that my animals don’t have any interest in them. I don’t know what I would do if they did because the plants are so important to me. Sorry, I wish I had some better advice to give you…

  15. Thank you for opening your home to us Lara. And thanks for your refreshing honesty about the insecurities you have about your home…don’t we all!
    ” It is great to have a beautiful home, but it is much greater to have a beautiful life.” Such a great mantra to remember when I get anxious about my home not being up to par. The homes I enjoy being in the most are because of the people who live there, not the updated kitchens and decor. Your tour helped me to relax about unimportant things and enjoy my home. Thank you!

  16. Hello from a fellow Canadian living outside of London, Ontario with a 5 year Violet of my own!! (I just drove by Hamilton yesterday on the 401 on my way to IKEA!!) So nice to see Canadians featured on this blog, Gabrielle.
    RE:Tomboy. I’m fine with it. I was one once and the term doesn’t bother me when parents refer to their daughter as that. I used to wear boy clothes from about 9th grade up until half way through the 11th grade. Boys wide leg jeans, hoodies with fire and dragons on them. Yup. I never once thought of myself as a tomboy though, and my parents never called me a tomboy. My parents never once told me I shouldn’t wear that stuff, my mom took me shopping for those clothes and paid for them. I met my husband in high school so he remembers me like that. Eventually I grew out of it, and now I love wearing dresses, and heels, and I’m letting my daughter choose her own outfits too. There is more to life than the fabric we put on our bodies :)

  17. Oh my goodness!! What a BEAUTIFUL, warm, and inviting home, and OH! What an amazing little piece of writing!! And I have to tell you, the picture of your dog sent me over the edge into a fit of gut-busting laughter!! Thank you for sharing!!

  18. “The problem is that I need to live in a home that I feel is beautiful. It’s important to me, though I think it would be a lot easier if I didn’t care so much. So, with this house, I have learned how to live with the things I don’t like by surrounding them — and, in some cases, disguising them — with things that I love.”

    Absolutely can connect with this line as we work on renovating our “has huge potential & needs a lot of money” 80s house. Really appreciated your inspiration Lara to get past the things you absolutely can’t stand by surrounding them with things you love. I can do that! Thanks for the inspiration to just keep moving forward to finding our family’s personality in our home without breaking the bank & my sanity. :) I feel like we could have a nice, long girlfriend conversation about this! Thank you for sharing!

  19. Thank you SO much for all your comments! Whoa, you really filled my bucket, as they like to say at my kids’ school. I feel as if we could all be girlfriends! ;)

  20. I was just thinking, “this house is so much fun.” And then I skimmed across your sentiment that “we have so much fun in this house.” I love that it is beautiful but lived in. Thanks for sharing.

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