We met Marianne three years ago right here on Living With Kids when we featured her Holladay, Utah home. Well, this year Marianne moved to her new home, three doors down from her old home. Marianne is an interior designer and this new home that they built from the ground up is so special and so thoughtful. There are so many beautiful details — I love a vertical channel on an upholstered piece! Welcome back, Marianne.
Hi! I’m Marianne Brown and this is my second time on Design Mom’s Living With Kids series so forgive me if there is some repetition. I wanted to share our new (hopefully) forever home we just built with my favorite people on the internet: Design Mom readers.
Some quick details — my husband is Jonathan Brown, a native Utahn like myself who grew up only 15 minutes away from me in Salt Lake City. We went to neighboring high schools but officially met the summer after our senior year and didn’t start dating until my junior year of college at the University of Utah. Jon and I have three girls — Caroline (12), Eva (9), and Lauren (6). We both work in the real estate industry — myself as an interior designer and Jon as a real estate investor/contractor/developer. You can call us a Chip + Joanna Gaines type couple — in fact my husband gets that he looks like Chip Gaines all the time. He also gets that he looks like Bradley Cooper, which is just fine with me!
If you read our first LWK feature, you will see we lived in a suburb of Salt Lake City called Holladay. We have moved a whole 3 houses away from our last home, so we are still in Holladay and continuing our love/hate relationship with where we live, although it’s more on the love side.
What we love: the walkability, close proximity to downtown and the ski resorts, our view of Mount Olympus, lots of locally owned stores/restaurants, small-town feel, and some very wonderful neighbors. What we don’t love: long winters, lack of diversity, the city is becoming a lot more affluent, the dominant Mormon culture (even though we are Mormon), and the community is small and pretty connected and that has some benefits but can also feel a little gossipy/competitive.
The lot our house is on borders our old backyard. There used to be a house on the lot and it was .65 acres and too expensive for us when they initially sold it. The person who bought it then tore down the home and subdivided it into 2 lots. Once the lot was subdivided it became more affordable and an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. Building a home was a dream of mine and here I had a lot that was in our price range and only 3 houses away, and although my husband was very hesitant about building and having a bigger mortgage, after a lot of campaigning he was sold.
Real estate in Holladay in the last year has become a lot harder to come by and a lot more expensive. We were lucky to buy the lot when we did. If it were for sale today I think it would be at least $100,000 more than when we bought it in 2017. Locally we have seen a mass exodus from California to Salt Lake City/Park City especially, which is really driving prices up. While I’m grateful for it for my business, I know a lot of locals are concerned about the rate that house prices are going up right now, as am I.
My daily life since the pandemic has become a lot more stressful with less breaks and coping mechanisms, just like it has been for everyone else. When we initially shut down in March, I, like many, was homeschooling and working from home and it was possibly the hardest couple of months I’ve had in a long long time. Trying to keep my interior design business running with limited child care and figure out online school brought up my past and current issues with gender inequality and I’m still feeling it.
Luckily in our school district we are doing in-person school as well as distance learning if you want that option. I opted for in-person school and even though the kids are really tired of wearing masks and it’s been a hard year, we are all very grateful that it has worked out well for everyone. In our 3 schools the cases have been either non-existent or very low. It helps that I don’t have high schoolers or kids in college.
We finished our home just in the nick of time and moved in 2 weeks before the quarantine. At first the bright moment in all of it was that I had time to really soak in our home, learn how we function in the new spaces, hang art, unpack every box and organize, and spend a lot of time together. The sad part is I had a lot of ideas of ways to share my new home with the people I love and the people I work with and interact with in my business and all of those plans were cancelled.
Being home constantly allowed me to really appreciate my house and the hard work we had put into the layout/architecture, design plan, and managing the construction — it felt very satisfying to sit and enjoy the fruits of our labor. I just wish I could have done that minus a pandemic and the hardships it brought to others. There was also a lot of guilt associated with living in such a nice house during a hard time for so many, and I still wrestle with that. I try to keep those feelings productive and do my best to share my home, knowledge and money with those in need.
I wish I could write that there were parts about schooling and being quarantined that I am enjoying, but there isn’t much. Unfortunately I feel so stretched between working and keeping things moving at home I don’t feel like I have the time or space to enjoy the “slower way” of doing things during this time.
I can’t emphasize enough how hard it has been to run a business this year. I run a very collaborative design firm so working from home was especially challenging. Interior design is a creative job and it’s hard to feel creative working on Zoom and working alone. Overall, remotely working has been okay but not ideal — and then coming home to support my kids, create what limited experiences we can during this time, and have times to connect with my husband when a date night looks totally different, has been a challenge to say the least.
When this all started I was so worried about my business and the economy. I know it’s turned out to be an awful year for so many businesses, and my business has surprisingly grown and done better than the year before. I feel fortunate and so grateful for the people who have hired us even during this uncertain time and sad for those who are struggling.
I really feel for all small-business owners. We had clients who put their projects on hold because almost overnight they lost 80 percent of their business/income. The stress the families feel as they work to get their home finished while there are delays at every stage of their project, and homeschooling their kids, moving across the country, changing jobs, etc. — we have had a front row seat to a lot of challenging dynamics and my compassion for all people has grown a lot.
The biggest lesson I have learned from this year is the importance of the word AND, and how important duality is. Through the quarantine, the growing Black Lives Matter movement, and the election, I have had to stretch my understanding, compassion, and work. I’ve concluded we need duality. We don’t need racism, bigotry, sexism, disrespect, lies, etc., but we do need to learn from different points of view. Understanding the difference is important.
Another lesson I’ve learned is that while I will continue to stay informed and learn all I can about the world, I need to also pay attention to what I already know, what I can do for my community, and my own little sphere of influence. There were so many conspiracy theories, fake news articles, etc. that spread from typically very credible friends of mine that it was a big wake up call to me to not get caught up in those things. I also learned to trust certain sources even more and that was a blessing from this crazy year.
We tend to spend quite a bit of time together as a family, so the quarantine didn’t feel like that big of a departure from our norm. The thing that changed the most was how we spent our time together. We typically go out a lot, to movies, dinner, parks, trampoline parks, etc. and obviously those were not an option. So we turned to more crafts, games, creative play, movie nights at home, Roblux and Minecraft, and more reading. That has been a nice change.
I hope my kids remember what it felt like to have a new home that was designed with them in mind. That is a true luxury few people get to experience and I hope they appreciate it as much as I have. I hope they remember how much their parents love them and how much we tried to see them as they are and support them in their dreams, not ours. I also hope they extend a lot of forgiveness and compassion to us — I know we will need it.
My favorite thing about living with my kids is simply watching them learn and live their life in their individual ways. With my youngest being 6, I’m missing the bath toys in the bathtub and baby blankets throughout the house, and I’m really enjoying the stage we are in. I think I’m entering the sweet spot of family life where they are old enough to enjoy a lot of things together as a family and not too old that they don’t want to spend time with their family and be with their friends all the time. I’m going to soak it in because I know this phase doesn’t last long.
I wish someone had told me that no matter what successes I have in life, no one can make me feel worthy, seen and valuable but myself.
I think a lot of my motivation to start my business came from the desire to be seen and heard. When I initially chose to be a homemaker and be home after I had my first child I felt myself disappear. I think the hardest part about being a full-time homemaker is that it’s still not widely acknowledged as a legitimate job, or as valuable business experience when you enter the outside workplace again. (Although personally, I consider it valuable work experience when I’m looking to hire, and don’t consider a homemaker someone who has been “out of the workplace” at all.) And there isn’t a physical monetary value attached to it.
As a full-time homemaker you are seen as a support to the primary earner in the family, which can be true, but I didn’t feel like I was earning any money and felt almost like I didn’t have a right to the money my husband was earning. He didn’t make me feel that way, I just felt that way because I didn’t get a check every week.
Because I couldn’t tell people that I made X amount of money a month, or made some visible contribution to society, I had a hard time feeling valuable. That, and the fact that I am not great at being a homemaker and it’s not the right job for me made staying in that role feel like it wasn’t even a choice to find another job. I had to make a change.
At the end of the day I’m glad I pursued interior design and am where I am today, AND it’s been really hard (there’s that duality I mentioned in action!). Now that I have more self worth because of a lot of personal reflection, therapy, etc., I don’t feel as motivated by my ego and now realize how many people in so many industries are driven to success as a need to feed their ego. Without that motivation sometimes it’s hard to want to work instead of being home with my family or going to lunch with friends, or focusing on hobbies for the fun of it rather than trying to monetize everything.
I have to remind myself that my initial passion for interior design also came from the desire to create, to help others achieve a vision and create a unique and beautiful place that fosters a well-lived life. Being creative and making my visions become reality is like water to me — I don’t know if I can live without it. I just wish I was happier with a little more simplicity. The problem with having vision is it’s almost a burden — it’s asking to be used, to be created, and sometimes I just want to Netflix and chill!
No matter the physical work I’m adding to this world, my existence is enough. I don’t need to always be a human-doing to be valuable, I can simply be a human-being, and being is more than enough.
Thank you, Marianne! I love all the special details of this home so much! The built in cabinets, the swing chair, the beautiful wallpaper. And what little girl wouldn’t want to sleep in that bed in the little built in cubby? It’s like a private little secret nook. I love it.
I really appreciated what Marianne said about being a mom and being a designer. Would it be easier just to be one or the other? Probably. But like Marianne said, sometimes there are things inside of us we just have to do, even though they are not easy. It’s okay for things to be worthwhile and really hard at the same time.
What things in your life are hard but still worth pursuing? Hobbies? Your job? Your side hustle? How do you keep yourself motivated to do something that might be harder to find time for?
Little Cloud Art Print
Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.