Living With Kids: ModFruGal

I can’t tell you ModFruGal’s real name, but I know you won’t mind missing that detail one bit as soon as I tell you something else pretty wondrous about her home. She has a tree-house. Even more magical, it glows at night! From indoor to outdoor, from paint colors to art-plastered walls, there’s honestly something for everyone in this tour. I so hope you enjoy it!

Q: Tell us about the family who lives in this home.

A: We are a shy little family of four who moved into this city and house three years ago. My husband and I have two boys, aged seven and 12, and a six-month old Vizsla puppy named Otto. My past involved years in advertising and graphic design, and now I peddle furniture that I refurbish. We have a joke that I am running a furniture rescue in our basement since I bring home some ugly ducklings, but the thrill of turning a piece around is a wonderful creative outlet that allows me to work with my hands. While my husband is in sales, I think his education in engineering has given him the ability and confidence to teach himself anything he sets his mind to. He’s extremely handy and capable in all aspects of renovating this home. Most of the things we have ever hired out were not because he couldn’t do it, but he just didn’t have the time!

Q: How did the house become your home?

A: Our home is in Nashville, adjacent to a State Natural Area, making our backyard seem to go on for miles. We found this fixer-upper after many months of searching, and nothing felt right until we walked into this house. We’ve always wanted a modern home, but they are not as prevalent in Nashville as in other parts of the country. The combination of the wooded lot and the architecture of the house made it the perfect place for us to make a home. We love feeling like we are in the middle of the woods, yet we are five minutes away from conveniences and my husband’s office.

It was a wreck, though, and we have since met people who saw this house during their own searches and said “NO. WAY. Too much work.”  We could see the possibilities and decided that even though it might take years, it could be our dream house. When we bought it, we called it the Regal Beagle after the seedy 70s pub in Three’s Company…it just had that feel to it. Luckily, no more!

Q: What changes couldn’t you wait to make?

A: We had only two weeks to make some very big changes before moving in, so we did the things we couldn’t live with and saved the rest for later. We laid hardwoods and new carpet, scraped cottage cheese from the ceilings, and had the big double height living area painted since we didn’t have scaffolding or time to tackle that ourselves. The night we closed on the house, my husband and I began demo on the kitchen since the new hardwood floors were going in that coming Monday.

That was an exhausting weekend, but we got it cleared in time! We also rebuilt the kitchen ourselves, so the first eight weeks or so in the house were spent with paper plates and a lot of outdoor grilling. We drove to the nearest IKEA in Atlanta and while they pulled our order, we took the kids to the Georgia Aquarium. Back home, my husband would get a couple of cabinets knocked out every night and weekend until were done. Well, not done; we still have a pantry wall to install, but that’s a later project!

Re-siding the house was a huge, expensive project that we had really hoped could wait a few years, but the squirrels kept eating through the soft, rotting, cedar siding every night after we’d patch another hole. We used Galvalume to re-side it, and have been thrilled with the ease of maintenance and added insulation.

Q: How would you describe your design style? How has it changed since kids came into the mix?

A: If I had to put a label on it, I’d say vintage modern boho glam. That’s a ridiculous mouthful, but I don’t know how better to describe it! I crave earthy natural elements and textures and classic Mid-Century, but I also love to mix that with a splashy gleam of brass and chrome.

My style is always evolving and I don’t expect it will ever stop. I am happiest when the objects in my house are fluid, because I am a treasure hunter and I always find something wonderful in my outings. I can’t imagine keeping everything forever, except maybe most of the art. That said, I don’t miss anything about my past styles! The only thing that really changed with the kids was padding on sharp corners, unbreakable knick-knacks only on low surfaces, and no more pieces with peeling paint!

Q: You chose a giant couch for your living room, which is a big, bold commitment, isn’t it? How did you decide on it? Were you at all scared of the space it would take, or did you feel like the room called for a piece that big?

A: I was a wee bit nervous, but I was confident that the room needed it. When we moved in with the sofas from our previous home, they were dwarfed by the spaciousness of the room and no amount of rearranging seemed to make them work. I found the sofa on e-bay for $400 and never looked back. It has a couple of squeaky springs, but I don’t mind; it adds to its vintage charm for now!

Q: You seem to love art. How do you collect it, and how do you integrate your own kids’ art so well among the professional work?

A: I do love art, but I am not an expert on any level. I buy what I love, with future potential value as an afterthought. I’m sure many of the things I have and love are worthless, but if we love them, they are priceless! Our sources are as varied as the art itself: galleries, art college sales, flea markets, estate sales, thrift stores, and the artists themselves!

Our bigger art purchases tended to be a right place, right time, right visceral reaction type scenario. I don’t know if that makes sense, but when a piece wins you over, you feel it in your bones! For the past couple of years, I’ve been pretty obsessed with James Nares. I would love to have a piece of his, but I don’t think it will ever be in my budget!

I think that having the kids’ art mixed in with other collected pieces makes them feel that their work is just as important as a famous artist.

Q: Your kids’ rooms look like little havens from the grown-up world! What’s your philosophy about kids’ rooms in general, as far as expressing themselves and their own design preferences, cleaning, and decor input? How much freedom do they have?

A: I try and adopt the “live and let live” motto up in their rooms. I only require a clean room once a week; on clean-up day, everything is tidied up, they throw down their dirty laundry, put away their clean laundry, and I let it all slide the rest of the week.

Before moving in, we let them pick any wall decal they wanted for each of their rooms and one they picked together for the playroom that has since been discarded as too babyish! Together, we all painted the walls white so when they tire of the decals and color, we can peel it off and move on quickly.

They do have input about what goes in their rooms and I like seeing how they arrange their knick-knacks. When I plan to change something in their rooms, like rearrange furniture or replace a chair, we have a family meeting in the room and discuss it to make sure they are on board. I want their rooms to be their safe and happy place, and by having ownership in the decisions, it’s truly theirs.

Q: You’ve got the perfect mix of white and dark paint choices. What are your favorite colors to use?

A: Thank you! I seem to have gravitated to the extremes of the spectrum and saved the middle for my bedroom! Black, white, and grey with small hit of red or orange seems to be the theme, and I find it interesting that my oldest son says that black and red are his two favorite colors!

I think I have always been drawn to neutrals, and I realized a few years ago that I dress this way, too! My closet is a lot of black, white, grey, and brown, and my punch of color mainly comes from accessories.

Q: What’s your favorite spot in the home…and what makes it so special to you?

A: The back deck watching the deer in the summer, in front of the fire playing board games in the winter, or sitting around the dinner table answering “Table Topics” questions….wherever the four of us are all together and there are no electronics involved! It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday e-mails and video games and TV. We love those things a lot, but we also love our time together, and they are growing up really fast. When my son was disappointed we didn’t lose power during the last storm, I knew that I wasn’t alone in savoring that time.

I must add that my second favorite thing is sitting outside after the kids have gone to bed and having a late al fresco dinner with my husband! Our ability to connect with nature in this property is a huge part why we moved here, so we try not to take it for granted and enjoy the stillness.

Q: We must talk about the tree-house. Tell us everything!

A: The tree-house was, and continues to be, a labor of love! When we bought the house, we promised the kids a tree-house with every intention of building it the first spring we were here. Our squirrel problem forced the siding project to move ahead, so we set aside last spring to make it up to them two years late!

We built it ourselves, but the kids helped paint and hammer and other small tasks that they could handle. We wanted it to be ageless so they wouldn’t outgrow it, and so we could convert it to a studio or something when we are empty-nesters!

We have hammocks and air mattresses stashed in there for lounging and sleeping, card games and art supplies. We want them to use it however they see fit.  Currently, my youngest likes to sit on the front porch and shoot rocks from his slingshot into the forest, and my oldest likes to take a book and his iPod and chill out.

My favorite part is the skylight and the skinny window lined up together. It brings in wonderful light without feeling exposed. We have plans to build a second level underneath as a sleeping bunker with built-in bunks, but there are so many things left to do around here, we might wait a bit for that. We have decided to paint the interior this spring so it will be getting a more finished look soon!

Q: What is Camp Vågö?

A: Camp Vågö is the silly name we gave to our outdoor fire-pit area! Once the tree-house was nearing completion, we needed a place to enjoy a fire on cool nights for the full home glamping experience, so I got some IKEA Vågö chairs, a tree ring, some river rock, and a shovel, and in one afternoon…done!

We love having an outdoor movie in front of the fire as a special treat, or it’s just a fun way to make dinner over an open flame before hitting the sleeping bags up in the tree-house. My kids think Jiffy Pop is a super cool treat, and I’ll eat a Nutella S’More anywhere, anytime.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: That I would need to create things with my hands back when I was in college; I would have studied different subjects! I have always needed a creative outlet through different hobbies like cooking, making jewelry, crafting, gardening, painting rooms, you name it…but I didn’t know how emotionally important that would be to me in the coming years! Working with my hands gives me a sense of satisfaction and pride that I could never get behind a desk. I guess I’m just wired that way.


I, for one, love the way you’re wired, ModFruGal, especially given the way your design electricity runs through your home and lights up that tree-house. Seriously, that’s one of the greatest night lights I’ve ever seen!

We’re lucky enough to have a tree-house at La Cressonnière. To me, a tree-house is one of those backyard treats that can turn any day into an adventure, no matter the weather or stormy mood! Was there a tree-house in your childhood? Or did you have another equally enchanted place in which to get lost and find yourself, too? I’d love to hear your memories!

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

20 thoughts on “Living With Kids: ModFruGal”

  1. Tree houses are such magical spaces for kids!

    And I am fascinated by the idea of having outdoor movies in the summer. I have been planning this as well being a movie hound AND a lover of outdoor entertaining.

  2. Mrs. Mod is amazing. Her ability to make things happen never, ever ceases to amaze me. She and the mister are a true DIY power house.

  3. What a lovely person and home. This series is giving me courage to take some risks and tackle my own decorating projects. I’m so not a designer, but I’m channeling all the creative energy from the people and homes you’ve featured! Off to buy paint for the girls’ room…

  4. I love this series too…So fun to see how people live and it warms my heart to see so many parents creating really warm, loving, creative spaces for their children to grow up in. Thanks!

  5. Thanks so much everyone…and thank you to Gabrielle for having me! I love reading this series, and I am SO thrilled to be a part of it!

    RP, the tan chairs are vintage Barcelonas I found on e-bay years ago that were sitting in someone’s attic. The Knoll re-issue of the designs are very pricey, but you can find broken vintage ones like ours were sometimes. There are several companies making replicas as well. Google “Mies Van der Rohe chair” (the designer), “Barcelona chairs”, or “chrome ‘X’ chairs” and see if you can find some that you like. I know that I’ve seen some knock offs called “Ibiza chairs” somewhere.

  6. WOWOWOWOWOWOW! I miss my treehouse:( But look forward to building one for the kids in the family now that my siblings have given me these beautiful mooks!!! There is something just so amazing about being up in the trees and away from it all…daydreaming…

  7. Very cool! I love all the vintage bits, and the dark (or very white) walls still make it look very fresh and contemporary. I also like the ‘easiness’ of the interiors, it’s not overly styled — this is a house people live in.

  8. Having seen ModGal’s abode in person, I will tell you that it is really spectacular. It is warm and welcoming, with personal touches everywhere you look. The way that she incorporates her children’s artwork is incredible. And one note: she is one darned good cook and she is a fabulous hostess. I may be a tad bit biased. I adore her!

  9. how fabulous to have a fire pit …like going camping without leaving home and what a lovely way to bring the family together …we used to pull up paving and light a small fire if we were having people over for a bbq but this is much more ‘sophisticated’…love those chairs too.

  10. I have some design elements in common with your home, ModFrugal–specifically, that orange paper-clip thing and those Barcelona-styled chairs (that I wrote about here: .

    I’m jealous you found a home surrounded by forest. I’m not jealous you found a home that was a fixer-upper. We told ourselves, when looking for homes, that we wouldn’t mind a fixer-upper, but we soon found that we wouldn’t try getting rid of mold.

    And mold is a big problem here, especially in many of the fixer-uppers we saw. Plus, none of them felt right. We didn’t ever see a fixer-upper that had big potential, was in the right place, and didn’t have mold.

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