You’ll love getting a peek at McArthur’s bright and beautiful home today. She and her family relocated from India to Portland, Oregon and had to deal with big challenges during the pandemic — like her husband not being able to re-enter the US for a while. But McArthur and her daughter repainted and redecorated rooms to keep occupied and the results are warm and colorful and full of life. McArthur has also worked to make her home a welcome refuge for friends, families, and even strangers. Welcome, McArthur!
Howdy! The full time residents of our home are my husband, my six-year old daughter, the ghosts of the pets I will not let them get, and myself. However, we also have a rotating cast of older daughters, foreign exchange daughters, friends on road trips, and family members who come through town for a night or a few months. Pre-Covid we were listed on Workaway.net and Couchsurfer — we love to even host strangers!
My husband and I met in India at the TED conference. He likes to claim I was always looking for an Indian man, but you could probably realize there’s quite a “he said- she said” going on there. Two things were clear— anyone at TED is probably interested in the world and we were destined to meet. In Indi,a the vast majority of people are still married by their parents’ arrangements. My husband likes to say our marriage was arranged by God.
We are both people who work for our passions. My husband owns a sustainable packaging company (check them out— they are changing the world! Yashpakka.com). He is also an exercise freak, proselytizing vegan, and ridiculously cheery morning person. I am a mother, author, artist, activist, reader, alarm-button snoozer, and I exercise only under duress. It works because we are each other’s favorite travel companions and we both think the other is awesome. (And he has great cheekbones.)
During Covid, we got stuck on opposite sides of the world. My husband is not a USA citizen so he couldn’t get in to America. I and my youngest daughters are not Indian citizens, so we could not get in there. We spent eight months apart. (My six-year old daughter and I painted every room in the house as a Covid-coping-mechanism. She’d paint octopuses or dragons or whatnot on the wall and then I’d come roll over with a “Mr. Octopus is going back into the seaaaaa!”) When my husband arrived in the USA, we figured out our current home wouldn’t work. One room was his office, my office, our youngest’s playroom, the oldest’s bedroom, our guest room. Frankly, we were always grouchy at each other. And, coming from living on a farm in India we knew we needed both a tribe of people AND more quiet than Portland offered.
We looked within a 25-minute radius from the airport with keyword search “creek”— and found four properties. When we rounded the bend with golden-green trees that reminds me of my West Virginia home, and crossed the one-lane bridge, I was sold before we even saw the house. It’s only a five minute drive to grocery stores and a ten minute walk to downtown restaurants via the Springwater Trail. We had a walking lifestyle, access to a tribe of people, and it feels like we are tucked away in remote peace. Bingo.
This property is interesting because it use to be a family farmstead. The farming family parceled it out to all the kids… so it feels like once-upon-a-time it would have been a cozy commune of houses weirdly tucked around each other because you were family. (Like, my neighbors driveway cuts across the front of our house.) The aerial map of the plots up here look like a kid took a crayon to the land. Now, it is a collection of folks who have lived here for decades — we are the new ones on the hill. But, when we arrived here every single neighbor came with a full-on welcome basket — they have been incredibly kind! I feel like we fell into a grandparent-ly embrace.
So, we have only lived here eight months so we don’t know a lot. But, I can tell you I love the small town feel with easy twenty-minute access to Portland. I love that the downtown businesses dress up in CRAZY costumes to let the kids come trick-or-treat. I love that I drive my kid to school through the national scenic area of the Columbia River Gorge. I love that people are kind. I love that I can run to the post office, swing by the library, drop my daughter to Taekwondo, grab a baklava — all within a four block radius.
In Covid crazy, we moved twice. The first was from India to Portland. My husband asked me how I felt leaving the house I had fixed up during Covid. My six year old and I had painted ten rooms, a jungle mural, retiled the kitchen with hand-made tiles I had scrounged in India, installed lighting I had designed — I was INVESTED in that house. (And it has the best view I’ve ever seen!)
I thought about it…but the answer came easily. I was more invested in the vision I had for my life, than I was in the effort I had spent to create space.
I had figured out something important: my brain was going the wrong direction. I didn’t need to keep climbing some false-value journey that was the lie I had swallowed— that somehow as we grew up, we needed to graduate always to newer and nicer. That I needed to replace my college bookshelves of cinder blocks with IKEA and then with something swankier until I arrived. What I realized was that assumed journey wasn’t inline with my values — both environmental and familial.
If you know me, you know family is the most important thing to me. This is in direct correlation with my religious values and how I have always chosen to live. I will, quit literally, do anything for my family. I would drive twelve hours one way to help a brother move. I would give money. I would watch nieces and nephews. This is not to glorify me but to point out that what I realized is that the direction I was going meant that while I was willing to do all those “big” kind of things. I wasn’t not going the direction to live easily and happily with them.
We now live in a “less nice” house that I still have made into a space I adore — and works for the adults too! It also requires more work to maintain — hadn’t thought about that one!
I have told my family (and friends that count as family) that if kids come and write on something, it’s ok. If something gets broken, it’s ok. If there is noise and chaos, it’s ok. In fact, we even can celebrate it! The first week we were living in the new place I was bouncing around with too much exuberance trying to get things done and WAM. Put a hole in the wall. My family loves it because it was an immediate opportunity for me to live up to my new theory. And it held! I love my family more than I love my stuff.
I am in the middle of scheming a renovation of our attic into a doozy of a play space. We have a Facebook marketplace cabinet that my daughter and I are painting together that will be the Narnia-esque entrance to the play space. So, my first thought was, “I hope she remembers this!” But, really, that’s not true. When we left our old house (that she and I had painted every room), she said sadly, “That felt like home because we worked so hard for it. But I guess with happy paint colors and some work, this new house will feel like home too.” And that’s what I want my kids to remember — this was a HOME full of love and creation and welcoming to all.
I hope they totally forget bedtime. During Covid (while my husband was still in India) someone asked my daughter if I ever got stern with her. She said, “My Mama gets that voice when she’s told me to go to bed three times and I am not listening… or every time she talks to the Embassy.”
I love color. Thankfully (most of) my family does too. (A teenage daughter requested a white bedroom. I cringed… but I did it because I love her. And took it as a design challenge.)
So we painted our house shades that make our hearts sing. I walk through my front door and just smile, every time. Which meant we also painted the outside of our house happy colors. (Thankfully we have minimal neighbors to mind.) I had design friends that warned me about needing to go with colors of the Pacific Northwest but those colors of grey and beige and gentle blues and muted greens do NOT make me want to shimmy when I enter the room.
Now, if color is not the thing that makes you happy or pacific northwest colors DO make you happy — great! I am lobbying for happiness. Not a specific color.
My husband does have one design rule that he likes to live by that we both agree on and it is to ensure there is meaning. When we pick out what to hang on our walls or what color to use or how to display something — make sure it has a value to your family. We have things that remind us of places and people we love, remind us of our values, inspire our best thoughts.
We value books. We have them everywhere but also decided to dominate a room with them. We call it The Library but it was also a space that could have just become a pass-through. Now, it is the central place in our house.
We have a wall of family adventures in our Rumpus Room that is meant to inspire more fun. We have pieces of my own textile art I’ve created. We have art from the books I’ve written. We have mementos from travel. My husband’s office has inspiration to drive him in his business passions of sustainable packaging. We live with intentional inspiration.
There are all sorts of reasons to buy used. For my husband, he loves the environmental aspect of not creating more stuff. For myself, I am a cheapskate (who likes to save budget for when I want to splurge). For kids, they just don’t have to worry about ruining something.
Though I do believe in teaching children to take care of things, there are certainly less worries with a $25 used end table than something you shelled out for. And $25 is about my budget for all my tables! And, old furniture is often more fun and better made.
So, around my house I have pieces I have scored: entry table, coffee table, end tables, all the mirrors in my living rooms and bathrooms, lights, cozy upholstered chairs, desks, almost everything I could possibly source. I am fearless with a can of spray paint! Mirrors, fireplace, bricks, tables. In my world, you can make almost anything be fabulous with a dash of color.
And then, when I couldn’t find the perfect love seat — it had to tie together all the colors but not look like a circus, be the exact right height and depth, be comfortable, be long-lasting — I bought fabric and had it made. And I could do that partially because I had saved so much by spending so little on everything else!
My favorite thing about living with my kids is definitely snuggles. :) Getting a front-row seat to watching them discover the world. Our youngest comes running squealing with delight over, say, the color of a leaf. Or a furry caterpillar. Or a song she just learned. And, she thinks being with her family is the coolest.
I miss when our schedules were easier. Now that we have a college-age and a six-year old, it’s hard to coordinate getting together (and we are not the coolest for all of them).
If I could give any advice to my past self, I would say that for all the imaginings I did about my future life, I still didn’t predict the wild ride it would be. So, am I living the life I expected? No. I have to let those expectations die. Because, when I embrace the life I have, I see clearly the gloriousness of it. And, creating life is the most important creation you can do.
Thank you, McArthur!
The colors in this house are so amazing! And I love McArthur’s attitude that you should simply choose colors and design aspects that “make you want to shimmy.” I think so often we choose colors based on resell value, or what the current trend is, or just keep everything more neutral because it’s hard to decide on colors. But why not go crazy? If you hate it in 6 months, you can always repaint it.
I really appreciated what McArthur had to say about buying used too when you can. There is definitely appeal in having pieces you don’t have to be stressed or worried that the kids might ruin because you know they are inexpensive and replaceable as needed. Sometimes it is easy to get precious about the things in our home when really it is the people in our home that we are doing all that for.
How do you deal with things you care about coming in contact with children you also care about? Do you have certain rooms or pieces that are off limits for now? Buy a lot of things in durable and washable fabrics so you can clean as needed? Or do you have a live and let live attitude?
Handmade pink pasta dishes
Hand blown red salad dressing container
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.