Living With Kids: Molly McLean

By Gabrielle.

Molly is a kindred spirit; we both consider crumbs our nemesis! She’s also a big believer in baskets, slipcovered furniture, prints to hide the daily kid stains, and she absolutely loves where she lives. As she says, “I have never been anywhere I like more than Asheboro.” You know I love people who love where they live!

I know you’ll enjoy Molly as much as I did! Welcome, sweet Molly!

My husband David, eight-year old daughter Ella, and two-year old Adeline live here with me as well as a Schnauzer-Lab mix, a fish, and a hermit crab. Three days a week, Della, the most wonderful nanny on the planet and her little girl Chloe hang out with Adeline and Ella after school while I work at the office. We consider Della family since we couldn’t survive without her for sure. She is like the salt of the earth!

I would say I’m a little quirky. I love to laugh and it might actually drive some people crazy. They are always nice enough not to tell me if it does. My husband and I been married 16 years and dated five before that. I would say I am quite friendly and rarely meet a stranger. Definitely creative. My entire side of the family is creative on my mom’s side, and my husband is an engineer so we are quite opposite. I am pretty sure the oldest will be following in my footsteps. She bought her first Better Homes and Gardens magazine at five and wanted to redo the living room as well as plan a party within a few minutes.

It has taken me awhile to hone my style. In the first years of our marriage and making a home, I used whatever I could get my hands on and shopped primarily in the family barns. Family, heirlooms, those are all important to me. I like to be surrounded by what makes me feel happy and all warm and fuzzy inside.

The worst designing I did was most likely during the wallpaper border phase. I’m sure we had a border in every room of our first house with builder grade flat white paint. Hideous would be a good word to describe it! Then my neighbor introduced me to the Oops paint counter at the hardware store, so from there color came into our lives! It was cheap and I could do it myself. I got some sample Martha Stewart paint swatches at Kmart and it told how to paint so I went from there. I had the design degree, but doing the elbow grease, that had not been taught. With time, my taste got much better — thank goodness. I always say I was a late bloomer!

We live in Asheboro, North Carolina. I absolutely love this town. It is very small town friendly but yet we have enough to keep you entertained. I grew up in North Carolina about two hours east from here so I’m not too far away from where I started. Asheboro is right in the middle of the state. You can get to the mountains or the beach in about the same amount of time, and that is fabulous. We are within 30 minutes to Greensboro, and an hour to Charlotte or Raleigh. I grew up close to the coast and I miss that, but it isn’t so far to get there should I need salt therapy.

What makes it unique is we have the state zoo in our town and a small band of mountains called the Uwharries. We actually live on what is called Dave’s Mountain. I can look out and see a mountain in my front yard and it is beautiful in every season. Especially fall and winter when the snow falls. We rarely have snow, but when we do this is the best place to sled anywhere around.

We have tons of local pottery places here as well as quaint restaurants and antique shops. The Table is one of our favorites in this town, and my friends and I love to grab breakfast there. It has the most beautiful chandelier made of milk bottles, rustic wood, metal chairs, and gorgeous moldings. It is housed in a building that was part of a mill here in town.

Downtown is quite busy. We have great little restaurants and, like I said, awesome antique stores. There are several in a row downtown and the town has several paintings done by a local artist and a few pieces of iron artwork throughout. This is a very artsy place which speaks to me.

The cost of living is very low compared to other places across the country. For example a 4,000 square foot house would most likely be 500k plus, but here it would be in the 300’s or slightly more depending on the acreage, etc. You get so much more for your money in this area and the surroundings are exquisite.

I have never been anywhere I like more than Asheboro.

Before we ever walked in this house, we drove through this neighborhood and drooled over the houses in here. We rode by this one and David said “What about that one?” I laughed and said yeah right! We could never afford it. Well lo and behold it was on the market as a foreclosure within a few days.

The first time I walked in our house, I was completely overwhelmed. It was huge. Our house was 1,287 square feet and this one was 3,600. The carpet was a hideous bright blue and the light fixtures reminded me of stepping into Back to the Future. It was built in 1989 and it looked like it.

The moldings, however, were amazing. There was a marble floor in the entrance, built-ins everywhere you turned, and a huge dining room. My only requirements were a separate dining room and a laundry room, and this house had everything but it was severely outdated and the kitchen was awful.

But something about the house screamed, I am a project waiting for you.

The house floor plan works great except one of the bathrooms upstairs has a huge area for the sink and a tiny closet for the tub and toilet. Since we have two girls, for some reason all three of us end up in that closet space. We are usually tripping over each other so it could definitely stand to be made larger at some point. We stay upstairs with the girls in one of the guest rooms so we are all on the same floor.

All the spaces are useable. There isn’t a kids aren’t allowed area. The ottoman is soft and they push it around and jump on it, but you can hide toys in there as well. I try to use functional pieces. I love throw pillows. So they end up all over the place and I just put them back on the sofa at night before heading upstairs.

I use a lot of prints. Seems that prints hide stains. We eat everywhere. I try to keep the girls limited to eating in the leather chair so I can wipe it down, but that doesn’t always happen.

So for my sanity, I keep baskets everywhere. There are baskets in just about every room so when I go by, I throw the toys in. I feel like the whole house is a giant toy box.

There is a kid space everywhere. The living room has the sunroom adjacent and the teepee is in there. Adeline and Chloe spend most of their time playing in there as well as the under stairs storage area which has been converted to a little playhouse that we call the cubby hole. The babies love to play in there as well and it has a door so it can be closed if need be.

We almost always have someone over playing and I am a bit OCD so I am vacuuming several times a week it feels like in the kitchen and living room since that is where most of the action occurs. I don’t get too excited, however, if there is a spill. Right now there are at least five popsicle stains on the rug in the living room in purple, green, and orange. I keep inching the chair in a little more to cover it. I have white sofas which is totally insane for people with children, but one side of the cushion is covered in red ice pop and the side showing now is clean. We will see how long it lasts.

I use a lot of Oxi Clean. I mean a lot!

Upstairs we have more kid spaces. There is the playroom and Ella even has her closet set up so she can play in there. They seem to like a small enclosed area. The toys even make their way into our room.

The master Jacuzzi bathtub is actually filled with toys. It’s kind of like a play pen they get in and play. Growing up, my Barbies were set up in the dining room, so I guess I’ve never got bent out of shape with the toy mania. Although crumbs? Now they drive me nuts.

I got this idea that I wanted to write a book. I sent my proposal to probably 100 publishers and got that many rejections, at least! I kept thinking this book idea is awesome! Why won’t it sell? Trust me when I say I did not have a clue!  I wanted to write a book entitled Design on the Fly because my sister-in- law would say when I would tell her some design advice, “Thanks for the design on the fly.”

I’m so often told my clients and friends don’t have time for this or that, so I just broke it down in easy steps of what you could do here and there and work at it until you get your space where you want it to be. Or you can hire me? That always works, too! I have always believed there are no ugly spaces — they just need a little makeup.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I work in the office and take clients, and on Tuesday and Thursday, I call that Adeline day. She goes to preschool and we hang out until we pick sister up from school. I stayed home with Ella, too, so this way Adeline gets a little mom time.

On a work day, we get going, wait for Della to get to the house and I take Ella to school. Once I get to the office, I also do the books for my husband’s business. I try to get that out of the way before I put on my creative hat. My office is a complete disaster most of the times and looks like hoarders live there. There are bags, pieces of furniture, lamps, and all kinds of things here and there most of the time, especially if I am getting ready for an install. I have large shelves in the back of the warehouse just for my things, but most of it hangs out in my office.

I absolutely love my job. I love everything about it. Ella loves to help, as well. She likes to go shopping for the accessories, and I happily take her. As long as Adeline doesn’t get too annoyed we are in good shape but a two-year old tantrum can occur at any time, usually when I am in the checkout or trying to decide on something. So, we do a lot of on the fly design. Quick decisions. I am very quick at the decision-making process — you are always on borrowed time if the toddler is in tow!

At home, I rarely watch TV unless it’s late at night. I watch House Hunters and I always fall asleep before the International version comes on. I try to look at Pinterest once in a while to get an idea of where I can spin a design from if need be. I only look when I’m in need of some ideas. I love to see what others do. It really helps my designs because I think Oh…I haven’t thought of that!

The mom side of me and designer seem to coincide. As mentioned, I am a bit OCD and that is why there are baskets all over the place. I can’t stand the kitchen being a mess and we live in there so I am constantly cleaning the counter and shuffling the pile to the side. We have a desk in the kitchen but if I put anything on it, it will be lost, so I have to keep the important stash of school work, etc. to the side on the counter.

The fridge is also the message board of important reminders and artwork. The artwork rotates. Ella takes art lessons after school once a week and Adeline always brings home a craft from preschool so if it’s seasonal I put it out somewhere and rotate them on the fridge for a few days until the new one comes in. Sometimes I even add them in the holiday decorations if they pertain.

I do fluff pillows a lot, and pick up toys and straighten artwork so I guess designer side does tend to overrule sometimes but I try not to be rigorous with them.

I let them choose things. For example, Ella is an avid Frozen fan, now Shopkins, and her tastes change all the time. She has a white comforter and we change the sheets to her favorite theme and usually fold them back so you can see the characters and try to keep the same color scheme so it goes with her room. Since Adeline has moved in, the bedrail is up so you can’t see her sheets as much but she does have her character pillows she likes to toss in with the pillows I’ve picked out. I incorporate her artwork in the playroom, and other thing she has made. If she wants to put up posters, we use blue tape so it won’t scar the walls and she puts it on her doors. We have stickers in random places, so she can put her own spin in her space. Adeline isn’t quite old enough but she did help me pick out a rug for the hallway. She said “That one,” so we got it and it worked!

Most times, even with holiday decorations, I will do the base and let Ella and Adeline put their own spin on it. I think it is important to feed their creativity. As a child, my mom always let us have a spin on things and with a long line of artist it’s really important to me to feed that part of them.

My girls, to me, are so fun! Ella is a party planner and she loves to plan a party. I’m not much of a party planner but I’ve started letting her do that and we have so much fun decorating. She is quite the hostess. Adeline is so happy and I love to see her tumble up the stairs or tumble out of bed with her sleepy face and her animals. She loves to sleep with her big sister now, and Ella likes a bed buddy.

I love all the kid things. I love to buy toys and girl clothes. It is so much more fun than buying anything for myself and their spaces are so much fun to do. As a designer, my favorite spaces are girls’ rooms, and I have been so lucky to get to do quite a few.

They’ve taught me patience, for sure, although it could still use some improvement. They’ve taught me how to just enjoy simple things like fireflies and playing outside. We always apologize and I often have to apologize the most because I want them to know if mom made a mistake and that we all make them and that is part of growing as a person.

I hope they remember they can always come home and they are loved. That it is a comfortable place to be yourself. I know I can always go home to where I grew up. I think that is so important to your persona to know you always belong.

Maybe they will forget the times when mom loses her cool. Let’s hope so. It’s not often, but usually occurs when their daddy is out of town!

As grown ups, I want them to do what makes them feel the most fulfilled in life. I want them to be independent and know how to take control of their lives.  I want them to look back on their childhood like I do and think it was pretty near perfect. I want them to know life isn’t easy or perfect, but it’s worth it, and they can be anything they want to be. I want them to stand out, and never be a follower.

We waited eight years to have kids, and that was mainly because of me. I wasn’t sure.

Mine are still rather young, but I would have maybe had Ella sooner so I could have more. Part of me would love to have three or adopt, but then again part of me thinks two is my perfect number.

I am pretty sure I was meant to be a girl mom. I love everything about it, even though the drama sometimes makes me want to pull out my hair! But the girly things, the pink, all of that is right up my alley.

Honestly, I think it’s just right for me right now. In all of our doings, the imperfectness is quite perfect.


Thank you, Molly. I love what you say about the notion of home being a comfortable place to be yourself. You said it beautifully: “I know I can always go home to where I grew up. I think that is so important to your persona to know you always belong.”

Your words honestly gave me a bit of a pang when I read them. I think I was wishing everyone had such a home, and ached for those who didn’t get to feel that love and acceptance. I hope you’ve all got a comfortable place to be yourself.

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! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

16 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Molly McLean”

  1. Have watched Molly B grow increativity and original designthought aince she was al title girl…she always makes her spaces welcoming, livable and family friendly…oh and beautiful. Great article.

  2. Molly has done a fabulous job with her home! It is very classy but a home where you can walk in and not feel out of place. The people who live here are what makes this house so great! I love this article and she definitely deserves all the praise. You go momma.

  3. If anyone wants to follow along, my Facebook is

    My blog is kind of sad…I don’t update it as I should but you can see some of the client houses on Facebook!

  4. I love the living with kids series, even though I don’t yet have kids. Lots of good food for thought for the future. Also, I grew up in Franklinville, only 15 minutes from Asheboro. So cool to see someone featured from home!!

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