Living With Kids: Marichelle Hills

By Gabrielle. Photos by Ez Pudewa.

It’s been years since Marichelle and I first spoke about a home tour. Years! And by the time she contacted me again, there were two more daughters and a new, very cool shop added to her story. Isn’t it funny how time and babies fly?

For those of you who struggle with redefining your identity after adding children and all the responsibilities that arrive along with them to your life, Marichelle has a bit to say about her own experience. For her, it was integral to develop her professional life in order to enhance her personal life. She’s become a much happier mother by simultaneously becoming a very happy entrepreneur. You’ll adore her shop, adore her home, adore her wraparound porch, and I think you’ll fall a little in love with her story, too. Please enjoy it! Welcome – FINALLY! – Marichelle.

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Hello! Thank you for having us! We are a family of five. My husband, Jonathan, and I have three daughters: Emma is four and a half, Lucy is two and a half, and Alice is nine months.

I was born in the Philippines and we came to the US when I was seven years old. I pretty much learned English by watching Romper Room and Sesame Street. I grew up in Queens, New York, and if you listen very closely and catch me off guard, you can still hear the Queens in me! Jonathan grew up in Stilton, a tiny village in England. Yes, it’s where Stilton cheese gets its name! The village even has a yearly cheese rolling event! We met at work, started dating, and shortly thereafter moved in together. He’s the smartest, funniest, charmiest of charmers, and tallest (6’4”) man I know!

Emma has a crazy sense of smell; she can always tell when I’ve been for coffee at our favorite bakery, Able Baker. Lucy is our spitfire. We knew we were going to have our hands full the moment she came into the world. I’ll never forget the moment when she was crowning and my OB started laughing because Lucy wasn’t fully out yet and she was already crying! Alice is the baby. She’s been a gem and is a perfect mix of her two older sisters, both physically and personality wise. She’s currently our human Swiffer since she hasn’t quite learned how to crawl yet and instead drags herself from place to place. I try to keep her in a onesie – more coverage that way!

Q: Where do you live, and how did your house become your home?

A: We currently live in a 100+ year old Victorian in Maplewood, a small town in New Jersey within commuting distance to Manhattan, NY. We realized we were outgrowing our previous house, and decided to put it on the market and try to find a home in the same neighborhood that would fit our needs better.

I remember feeling discouraged while we were house hunting. I was starting to get nervous and so many doubts began to set in: maybe we were never going to find the one, maybe we were being too picky, perhaps it was a bad decision to try and sell/buy house during this market? As a second-time home buyer, we knew exactly what we didn’t want, and we definitely didn’t want to settle.

Our realtor decided to show us this house on a whim. It was bigger than what we were looking for and above our price range. My husband knew that he was in trouble as soon as we parked in front of the house. The neighbors across the road gave us a welcoming wave as they sat outside on their porch swing. The house is perched on a slight hill, flocked by a huge pine tree on one side. Curb appeal, check! One look at the wrap-around porch and I knew that this was going to be our home. Lucky for us it was a buyer’s market, and with some good ol’ luck, we closed a few months later!

Q: You moved from the East Village to Jersey. How would you compare and contrast the two in terms of livability and raising a family?

A: We moved to Maplewood back in 2008, a couple of years before we had Emma. We knew we wanted to start a family, and our 500 sq. ft. fifth floor walk-up studio with no sink in the bathroom wasn’t going to cut it. We looked at a couple of spaces in the city, but quickly realized that our budget wasn’t going to get us much. Mentally, I think we had also had our fill of the fast-paced city life, and started to daydream of all the things we could do with a garden and backyard and more space to move around.

Moving to Jersey was never part of the plan. Our search began along the Hudson (Coldspring, Beacon etc.), but we kept running into the same issue; the commuting time to and from the city was proving to be longer than what we had in mind. My husband works long hours and adding another three or four hours door to door was definitely less than ideal. It wasn’t until my friend Melissa invited us over for dinner one night that I fell in love with the picturesque line of Victorian, Tudor, and Colonial homes, the quaint downtown, AND a Target, (whaaat!?!) in Maplewood. We closed on our first house less than a year later.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: The transition from living in the city and moving to Maplewood was actually pretty easy. Almost everyone we met in our new town was originally from the city, either Manhattan or Brooklyn. It was pretty funny because it seemed like everyone had the same exact story! “We used to live in the city, then we moved to Brooklyn when we had our first baby and moved here when we were pregnant with our second.” Getting priced out of the city seems to be a common theme among Maplewood residents, and I guess the word is getting out.

One of my requirements when we were looking for a town to move to, was that it had to be walkable and have a strong sense of community. We are in walking distance to the train station and The Village, a small downtown area where there are a handful of independently run shops, restaurants, and even a small movie theater that often plays independent films. There are a ton of community events that take place in the main park (Green Day, Maplewoodstock, Easter Egg hunts, just to name a few).

We also have a community pool that’s a lifesaver during the hot summer months. The kids love going there, they get to see their friends from school, and there’s a baby pool perfect for the wee ones. The snack bar is even catered by one of my favorite local businesses, Freeman’s Fish Shop, whose lobster rolls are amazing. Another great thing during the summer are the weekly Farmer’s Markets which start popping up around June and run through early Fall. There’s an endless list of activities and places to go with the  kids, like parks, playgrounds, art and dance classes, libraries, the zoo…it is definitely a town that caters to families with kids.

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? Has it changed since you moved into a much larger home?

A: Comfort is key when it comes to decorating my home, sorta like a favorite pair of jeans. I want people to feel welcomed and at ease the moment they walk through our front door. I’m a shoes-off, feet up type of gal, so nothing we own is too precious. My kids know that they can romp around on our furniture.

With that said, we also teach them that those are our rules and when they’re in other people’s homes, they can’t just sit on coffee tables and put their feet up on couches, etc. I’ve also just recently discovered that I’m very partial to calming neutrals. It’s not something that I consciously set out to do, but looking through the photos I took for this feature as well as my Instagram feed for the shop, it’s safe to say that I’m definitely into neutrals!

I can’t say that my overall style has shifted very much, but there have definitely been some changes. For instance, prior to having our second, we only had a white sofa. Not really sure what I was thinking! This wasn’t an issue with Emma, since she never had the desire to use it as her blank canvas, unlike Lucy, who will use crayons and markers on just about everything except paper. So buying a sofa with washable slipcovers for the family room was a necessity. I’ve washed those things so many times that the piping seams are starting to rip. Oh, and Resolve stain remover is my new best friend.

Q: There’s enough space in your home for the girls to each have their own bedroom. Tell us why it’s important for you that they share.

A: We try to instill parts of our own childhoods into how we raise the girls. I shared a room with three other sisters when I was younger, and I remember the experience like it was yesterday. My husband also shared a room with his older brother.

We believe that it teaches our girls to share, and nothing beats the sound of giggles and laughter coming from their room minutes after I put them down for the night. I’m sure one day they’ll ask to be in separate rooms, but for now they’re enjoying it!

Q: Tell us about MEUS, and the story behind it! How do you carve out enough time to devote to your career?

A: MEUS, pronounced like muse, is an online lifestyle shop with a simple philosophy: Celebrate the small moments and surround yourself with things that make everyday living feel more special. We offer a full range of products: Home, Kitchen, Jewelry, Clothing (we recently started carrying Ace & Jig, my personal favorite!) and an ever-growing Kids section.

Running a shop has always been a dream of mine. I had plans to open up a shop back when we were still living in the city, but we made the decision to start a family first. Realistically, I knew that I couldn’t do and afford to do both at the same time. I never really looked at it as choosing one over the other; it was more like putting the shop idea on hold.

I was a blogger in a previous life, so discovering new and exciting designers and curation are things that I’ve always enjoyed doing. My blog focused on independent artists and designers and that passion for supporting small businesses really stuck with me, so a lot of the products we source for MEUS are independently made and produced in small batches.

I started working on the shop while I was still pregnant. The big aha moment was when I was talking to someone about my plans and they more or less told me that it wasn’t a good idea and that I shouldn’t do it. Just ask my husband what the fastest way to get me to do something is! Tell me that it’s impossible or that I can’t do it!

I launched the shop last November and we had a really good holiday season – better than what I was hoping for – and we continue to grow. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I took the plunge and I’m actually doing something that I really love.

Oh, time! There aren’t enough hours or days. I wish I had a solution, but unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to balance everything. I just take it day by day. If I don’t, I get overwhelmed with the gravity of everything that has to be done and I end up staring at my computer and accomplishing very little.

Logistically, I have a full-time nanny to help out with the girls during the week. Luckily my studio is located in our loft, so I get to work from home, which can also be a challenge at times. It was definitely difficult adjusting in the beginning, especially for Emma; it was hard for her to understand why she couldn’t come up and hang out with me. But now we’ve worked it out so that whenever possible, she gets to be my big helper. She loves attaching the Priority Mail stickers to the boxes, and it’s been a great bonding experience for us both. I try to finish up at 6:00 pm so that I can spend some time with the girls before tucking them in for the night.

Two things I’m desperately trying to figure out are my work days and hours. I feel like I’m constantly working. If I’m not in the studio, I’m on my phone answering emails or posting on Instagram. I’m trying to get better about minimizing my weekend work hours so that I can have a more balanced life. At the end of the day, I’m in a customer service focused business, and emails and social media play a huge part in the day to day, so it’s not something that I can completely cut off. So, the short answer is – I’m still working out how to balance working on the shop, being a mom and being the default parent. (You guys have to read this article!)

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mom? Is there a development stage that’s long gone that you miss?

A: Having three little ones has definitely taught me how to be more flexible when it comes to home decorating. Most importantly, my definition of clean and tidy has certainly changed throughout the years. I can’t help but laugh when I catch myself doing the sniff test.

I also struggle with defining space in our home. While I do set some boundaries (ie. no eating chocolate on the white sofa!) and try to maintain just a tiny bit of space where I’m not in fear of spraining my ankle on an Elsa clip-on doll, sometimes it’s just not realistic and I remind myself that they’re only little once. Someone once told me that one day I’ll look at the marks on the furniture and walls and wonder how it went by so quickly.

As far as missing a developmental stage…I think I will miss their innocence the most. One day Emma asked me if girls can marry other girls. I said, “Sure! Some girls marry other girls.” And she replied, “Oh good, mommy. Because I want to marry Lucy so we can make a brother!” Priceless.

Q: If they could remember just one memory from this childhood home, what do you hope it would be?

A: I hope they remember Friday nights. Jonathan works long hours and by the time he gets home, the girls are usually asleep. Friday nights are special because they get to stay up and wait for daddy AND they always get a Friday night treat. The girls usually let him know what they would like before he leaves for work that morning. Lately it’s been Donuts for Ems (Emma) and M&Ms for Lolly (Lucy).

We also have a Dance Party before bed. I’m usually the DJ and in charge of turning the music on and off for the Freeze Dance game!

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

A: I wish someone had told me that motherhood doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and that there isn’t anything inherently bad about wanting more for yourself in addition to being a mother.

After giving birth to Lucy, I really struggled. She was an incredibly colicky baby, and so much more challenging than Emma ever was. The difference really caught me by surprise after having such an easygoing first child. There were many moments in those early months when I didn’t think that I would make it through to the other side. It’s hard to describe, but in a way it began to feel like I was losing myself.

As a mom, it seems that you always think of yourself last; you eat last, get dressed last, brush your teeth last (if you actually remember to do it), and you put off personal priorities and self-interests without hesitation, because there are three little people who you love depending upon you, and just far too many things that need to be accomplished in a day. Maybe that’s why, when I was pregnant with Alice, I realized that I not only wanted but needed to go back to work for my own mental health and well-being.

As much as I love my girls and being their mom, it became clear to me that in order to be the best version of myself (and mom to my girls) that I can be, that I needed to actively invest in doing something for myself as well.

I’d be lying if I said that I don’t feel a small pang of guilt when one of my girls asks why I have to work. But at the end of the day, I know that in my case, I’m a better mom because of my decision to do so. Launching a business has been very fulfilling, and has not only given me a wonderful sense of accomplishment but also a greater confidence in myself. I am a happier and more focused person, and this has enriched every area of my life. I am working to set a positive example for my three girls and hope that through my actions I will foster a sense of entrepreneurship within them, and that they will grow up with the belief that if they work hard and have a little luck, that they can achieve anything.

Thank you so much for having me Gabrielle, it’s an honor to be on your lovely blog. This has been quite a therapeutic exercise! I’d also like to thank my dear friend Ez (who by the way, makes my kids’ favorite stuffed animals) for helping out with these photos. You’re a lifesaver!


Thank you, Marichelle! This was worth the wait. Congratulations on your shop and your sweet little life in Maplewood. And, Friends! She’s offering 15% off MEUS goodies, from today through Sunday, May 3, until midnight EST. Just use the promotional code designmom15 at checkout. (Must enter in promo code at checkout. 15% off entire purchase – offer cannot be applied to previous purchases or the purchase of gift cards and cannot be redeemed for cash or combined with any other offer.) Another thanks, Marichelle!

The satirical article about Default Parents was hilarious. Laughing at this: “Being the default parent, at least in my case, is not about the husband being an asshole – it’s that kids don’t contemplate proximity or sensibility in looking for help. They look for the default parent. Me. I’ve been in the shower and put my daughter’s necklace on. She walked right through my room, past her dad and went to me. True story. Even my husband was like, ‘Hello. I’m right here.’ I’ve taken exactly five showers in my house without being bothered by a child and his or her immediate need. I’ve blown up balloons in the shower, unknotted shoes, put on band-aids, signed report cards, and braided hair. I know…lock the door. I’m a dumbass. But they’d tunnel in. I’m sure of it.” Ha! Default Parent or not, I think the interrupted shower experience is something to which we can all relate, right?

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 know! We 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.

34 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Marichelle Hills”

  1. That picture of the girls in the bathroom is just perfection!
    I totally get the feeling of losing yourself–or your sanity–with a colicky baby. Our first was colicky and it was traumatic!
    Thank you for saying that “motherhood doesn’t have to be all or nothing.” It’s a sentiment that I think we need to be reminded of more often– in the age of pinterest and instagram, it’s easy to let the feelings of inadequacy overwhelm us.

  2. Lovely home! I’m frequently inspired by the parents featured and how often they’ve taken the plunge and done something totally new with their lives. The same is true here.

    Also, that default parent article is hilarious.

  3. Marichelle you have a beautiful family & home! Your thoughts on motherhood were wonderful. I loved your honesty about knowing you had to do something for yourself and being okay with that. And your shop is beautifully curated! (I’ve always felt Philipino people have such happy souls and you came across that way. It’s a beautiful happy culture & definitely underrepresented! I hope that doesn’t offend you.)

    Gabrielle I’m not kidding—I could sit and read all your current & past Living with Kids posts for days because they are so inspiring! Except Luna may not be on board (unless I let her live in our backyard with her stuffed animals and a never ending supply of homemade muffins) Haha!

  4. Yay! Marichelle & her home, are warm, lovely and filled with love! I feel lucky to get to see her on a regular basis, as our homes are right behind each other. And those 3 girlies are the sweetest & dearest. So happy Marichelle took the plunge and opened her shop, she is so talented and has such great taste, it is the perfect match. So awesome! My funny & awesome friend?… you deserve it!!

  5. Thank you for sharing this- Marichelle and her home and family are beautiful. The part where she spoke about feeling like she was losing herself really struck me because I’m struggling with the same thing. My first was very colicky and my second the sweetest and happiest but with my first’s ongoing health problems I am struggling with feeling that I am losing who I used to be too. Happy to hear she made it through to the other side; this gives me some hope!

    1. Hi Alicia, thank you so much for sharing your own story. I’m confident that you will find your way! I found it helpful to surround myself with other moms who I could talk to about anything – even if it was just for a quick sanity check. Sometimes just knowing that they were feeling the same way was enough to get me through the day.

  6. Beautiful.
    I LOVE the photo of the unmade bed at the end. Real life is so alluring. Thanks so much for your honesty.. Love this tour!

  7. I LOVE the photo of the much-loved coffee table with a slipcovered sofa behind it. Further evidence that you can have a stylish home even if some of your stuff is beat up! Real life…

  8. Thank you for sharing, Marichelle. Your home and words are beautiful, and the pictures are lovely. I appreciate that they include people in the spaces, dishes in the drainer, and other signs of life that are often left out. So beautiful. Congratulations on your shop, and best wishes for continued success.

  9. Marichelle, any chance you could share the paint color of your bathroom vanity? I love it and am halfway through priming mine. Love your house! Thanks!

    1. Hi Kristen! OK, I’m 98% sure that it is Smoke Gray by Benjamin Moore 2120-40. I did a little digging in the basement and I found a small can of Smoke Gray and I don’t remember using it for anything else, so I’m pretty sure this was it! It’s a very cool shade of grey (with purple/blue undertones).

  10. Gosh I just loved this interview (and the entire series)…and not just because I’m lucky enough to know and call Marichelle a dear friend. ;-)
    Psst…one thing that Marichelle didn’t mention in her interview, is that she is an incredible hostess. When you visit her and her family she has this amazing ability to instantly put you at ease and make you feel at home. From her cozy decor and delicious home-cooked meals (her husband makes the best homemade bread too), to her thoughtful guest room pamper baskets (filled with goodies), her house is truly a home away from home for me, and my favorite place to visit! Now I find that whenever I have company over I ask myself “what would Marichelle do,” and hope that I come even half as close to making our guests feel as lovely as she makes everyone else feel!
    xo Ez

    1. That makes me so happy to know!! Speaking of visits, I think you are waaay overdue for a visit. C’mon… all you can eat bread! Mmmm. By the way, I’m sure you would do the same for me! xo

  11. Danielle lindberg

    Wonderful home and interview. And, good for you for recognizing what you needed in order to be a better person, wife, and mother!

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview – both the photography and the interview itself. I can totally relate with losing oneself. I have two beautiful boys but they were both colicky and poor sleepers, and it really changed my chemistry, the lack of sleep. I am still looking to find more of that balance in my own life and found this very inspiring. I also love Ace & Jig! I would be in serious danger if I owned my own shop that stocked their things …

  13. O, I definitely enjoyed the tour of your home and your comments on working! I like to say about our first, “She woke on her third day and screamed at us for the next 18 months.” While an absolute sweet child the transition to parenthood was rocky to say the least. I returned to work and it was hard but it was, in hindsight, the best thing for me. I really gained my perspective back and started enjoying my sweet first for who she was, a total treasure! Now I am on maternity leave with my second and in Canada it’s a year. While a totally different baby (hellloooo, if you want my attention you have to give me more than a peep!) I’m enjoying it all so much! I call it my limited time-offer. Some days are long and exhausting but I will go back to work because I love what I do so this season, for me, is short and I am enjoying it. Anyways, thank you for the tour and your perspective. I guess I needed the therapy too:)

  14. Thank you!
    Such a great thing to read tonight. I recently accepted a huge promotion @ work that will require many more hours. Thank you for reminding me that I am not a bad mom for taking this on. That in the end, I am a better mom because I get to live out my dreams.

  15. Where are the office shelves from? I am about to put up shelving in our office and this would be perfect. Please do tell!

      1. Thanks! Very clever and lovely. Are they quite sturdy? Would they be good for holding heavy (art) books and such?

        1. I’m pretty sure that it would depend on your walls, desired placement/position and whether you’ll be able to screw in the bases to actual studs. I would imagine they would be sturdy enough if you’re lucky enough to get all three vertical bases into studs.

  16. Love how comfy your house looks! What is the color of your white walls? They look so milky and peaceful!

  17. i’m in love with the country in the city feel of this house. this home just looks happy and casual. …i just want to climb into that master bed…it’s the perfect amount of crumpled.

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