Living With Kids: Molly Winn

I’ve seen Molly Winn’s work before, and so have you; she photographed Joanna’s house tour back in January! She’s sharing her skills with us once again, this time in her own crisp and airy home with features that will surely make you swoon. (Do not miss her stairwell nook. I mean it. I’m adding it to my always-growing list of dream home musts!) Please enjoy the tour, as well as Molly’s darling interview. After I read it the first time, I felt like I’d just had a conversation with a sweet friend. Everyone, I’d love for you to meet Molly.

Q: Tell us about the family who lives here.

A: My sweet husband Adam, our five year old daughter Brennan, and myself! Adam is a professor who teaches at a local university and also teaches for several other universities online, I’m a mom and a photographer, and Brennan is a flower picking, snail hunting, princess dress wearing pre- kindergartner! My husband and I both primarily work from home so the three of us are together quite a bit, which we love!

Q: How did this house become yours?

A: How our house became ours is still a story that makes me want to pinch myself! My husband and I were married ten years before we decided to bite the bullet and buy our first home. Up until that point, most of our marriage was spent in super expensive southern California where my husband went to graduate school, and there was no way we could afford to buy there. Then we spent a year in Ireland while my husband did a post-doctoral research fellowship. When our time in Europe was up, we moved back to the Northwest to be close to our families for a year while we decided what was next for our family.

About two years ago — almost to the day! — we decided to move to central Texas to be close to some friends, enjoy the sunshine, and a lower cost of living lifestyle! Although both of us are originally from the Northwest, after so many years in the LA area we have really grown to love the sunshine but didn’t want the cost of living…so, why not Texas?

We flew to Waco for the weekend in hopes of finding and purchasing our first house. We arrived in the evening and started driving around to see if anything caught our eye that we would then ask our realtor to take us to the next day. My criteria list was short but specific; at least three bedrooms and two baths, a decent neighborhood, and it must be OLD! We drove down a pretty main street that is known for having old homes with charm and character, and I gasped before I even saw the “For Sale” sign in the yard! I yelled for my husband to pull over, jumped out of the car, grabbed a flyer, and ran to the door to peer in the window. No one was living in the house at the time, so this wasn’t creepy! My heart was racing, and I ran back to the car and told my husband I was in love. There was no price on the flyer — just some stats on the house and a phone number for the seller, so I called and left a message and waited.

That night, we went back to our friends’ house and told them all about the house we’d found. And our friend said, “Huh. I’m pretty sure my friend is selling that house. I’ll call him and find out the scoop.” Turns out, it was indeed his friend’s house that he had recently purchased, renovated, and put back on the market only for a matter of a few days. Our friend told him that we wanted to buy his house, and his friend said “Great!” And that was that! Almost too simple! It really is my dream house. It is 100 years old, but the kitchen, bathrooms, and mostly everything else had been up-dated while maintaining the original charm. This house is truly just what we were longing for!

Q: What’s the one feature that made you want this house once you saw the inside?

A: Oh man, I don’t think I could name just one feature that made me want this house! I loved the curb appeal; I’m a sucker for a Craftsman home and this one just grabbed me! On the inside, the high ceilings, open kitchen, and French doors into the dining room definitely made my heart skip a beat.

There was a huge surprise for us when we walked into the master bedroom, too. There is a stairwell that leads to a third floor sitting room and master bathroom. It was so unexpected, and when my husband saw it he said, “Oh, wow!” We were both sold.

Q: You’re a photographer. Do you find yourself decorating your home with a photographer’s eye for clean spaces?

A: I definitely think the photographer in me plays a huge role in the space I live. I’m an on-location photographer, so I usually show up at a client’s house for their session and have no idea what I’m walking into. I’m constantly trying to find open spaces to shoot that aren’t cluttered and that have excellent light, which is not always an easy task! I really do stick to the “less is more” mentality in my home.

I work from home and find that it’s hard to concentrate if I am surrounded by clutter or too much going on. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not at all a clean freak and honestly kind of wish that I was! — my house is often in need of cleaning, but on any given day it is almost always picked up and tidy. I also cling to the whole “If I don’t love it, it’s got to go” mentality as well. There are so many beautiful things in this world, so why have things you don’t love take up your limited space? I will always leave a spot in my house empty until I find the perfect thing to fill it…which is difficult for my Type A personality that wants to get everything on my to-do list checked off!

Q: How does your professional aversion to clutter affect your family?

A: Well, there have been more than a few times when my husband has been looking for something that may have already made its exit to the trash. I always feel badly when that happens! My daughter will often say to me “I’m not using this anymore, so we better take it to the Goodwill.” I’m not always cleaning by any stretch, but I am purging on a regular basis. I often have bags in my car that are on their way to be donated or waiting for a yard sale, etc. Seriously: If it’s not being used, it’s got to go!

Q: What’s your honest approach to living with kids? Are there any spaces, fabrics, or collectibles that are off-limits or kept out of reach? Are your daughter’s toys hidden or do you have a system for incorporating them into your room designs?

A: I care deeply about wanting my daughter to feel comfortable in our home, but I also believe strongly in not sacrificing style or design due to a little person living in the house. Our house has many hiding spots for our daughter’s things.

We have a black craft table in the kitchen where my daughter spends many hours each week coloring, crafting, and playing with play dough. The lid of the table comes off, and she can put her projects away when she’s done.

We also have a set of old lockers in our kitchen that house crayons, markers, and coloring books, and a drawer in our kitchen island that is a designated space where she keeps her other art accessories. I like clean up to be easy and quick, and these pieces allow that to happen! When Brennan’s toys are put away, they are tossed into either two pink bins or a toy chest that is in her closet, so not hidden entirely, but they definitely have a place.

There is definitely nothing in the house that is off-limits but I am admittedly a little uptight about the couch — and not just with my daughter. We live in a college town and have college students from our church over weekly, and I’m just as uptight with them!

Q: What are your daughter’s favorite places to hang out in your home? Did she help with her room’s decor, or is she starting to request certain styles?

A: Shortly after we moved into our home, she started calling the third floor the tippy top, and she really likes it up there. She will take the towels out of the nook under the stairwell and crawl inside, and she will watch cartoons up there and build forts with the pillows. It’s kind of a fun little retreat for all three of us at different times of the day.

I can’t say she exactly helped with decorating her room but she does love her princess bed and often suggests we paint her walls pink…I’m not quite there yet! I don’t have a plan for when she wants to change the style of her space, but I do hope when the time comes that we both love the outcome. That would be great since I care so much! Fingers crossed!

Q: Your master bedroom is pretty fabulous!

A: To me, the absence of color is really what draws me in; I love clean, white, light spaces, and the master is just that. I wanted it very minimalistic and calming. Although I like things picked up, I never make the bed unless I’m hosting a party or taking photos for Design Mom! I always have a linen duvet cover because I think even when a bed isn’t made, linen can look so warm and inviting just due to the texture. I love how linen is wrinkly but gets softer over time, and looks so cozy and inviting for an afternoon nap even when tossed about!

As with many parts of the house, I have a to-do list for the master bedroom. I love the nook under the stairs, but it is begging for something in there! My plan is to have a custom mattress made to make it a cozier reading nook and to add some shelves or something fun to go on the wall. Always something to do!

The master is two levels; the stairs from the master bedroom lead to the third floor, which is the master bathroom and sitting room. Everyone always asks if the stove works, but I honestly have no idea! We live in Texas so it’s quite warm most of the time, especially on the top floor of the house! I do love the way it looks and the charm it adds, so we have no plans to take it out.

Q: I see many pieces in your home that look like you found them, re-purposed them, and turned them into masterpieces! Where are your favorite sources for one-of-a-kind, special pieces?

A: I had the pleasure of living in southern California for 12 years, and there is some great shopping there! I lived about a mile away from the Rose Bowl. Let me just tell you: the Rose Bowl flea market is where it’s at! The first time I walked into the flea market, it was like a light went on inside me. I suddenly fell in love with worn items that have so much charm and character. I love old things! I would go every chance I could and hunt for the perfect treasure for our small cottage.

I have had a love for French and Swedish antiques for most of my adult life so I’m always going to flea markets, junk stores, and antique fairs, hunting for the perfect well-loved item for my home.

Q: Describe your favorite part of the day in your home.

A: It’s got to be in the early evening when the sun is beaming through my windows and I’m about to start cooking dinner. I love being in my kitchen with some good music playing, my daughter crafting at her table, me cooking, and my husband chatting with us. Those are the moments I wish I could bottle up.

Q: What projects are on your to-do list for your home?

A: Where to start?! I have always, always, always wanted a big ol’ white farm sink for my kitchen, so that is definitely at the top of my list! At some point, I would love to have two small pedestal sinks in the master bathroom with a claw foot tub. One day, one day…

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

A: How much new windows would cost! That way I could’ve started saving when I was five!


Thank you, Molly! I love your honesty about clutter, and I like your smart and stylish storage solutions as the perfect antidote.

I’m curious, Friends. For those of you living with kids, have you gravitated toward furniture that offers more than style and packs a substance punch, too? Do you have a favorite piece — like Molly’s kitchen island or storage locker — that is stand-alone stunning but also solves your storage issues? Please share!

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!

23 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Molly Winn”

  1. I grew up in a house where the living room was off limits for us and was only for guests. In hindsight it’s funny to think of a part of a house that is sectioned off from regular living!

    I live in a small 1930’s cottage with my family where we use every square inch. We don’t have the luxury of a space “just for guests” and even if we did, I wouldn’t want to live that way.

    Our six year old daughter is welcome in every bit of the house. And we’ve been creative with storage for her toys while also enjoying a kitchen table heaped with art supplies – paper and markers and scissors and glue sticks. Nothing like having them out in the open alongside an easel to make for lots of creativity.

    Love the blackboard in the first shot with the family drawn on it – sweet!

  2. There is not one space in this house that I do not absolutely LOVE!!! It makes me want to purge everything in my house and start over. Thank you for for sharing this series with us. Very inspirational when it comes to home design.

  3. This house is so beautiful, with such a peaceful feel to it! While much is devoid of color, I appreciate how Molly uses small details, such as the charming photographs, to add pops of color, which keep the space from feeling too sparse. As someone else who also rarely makes her bed, I loved Molly’s thoughts on having a cozy linen duvet cover to make the bed look charmingly disheveled. And those industrial lockers and kitchen island? Fantastic!

    Love, love this series!

  4. Love the locker and the collection of vintage items used. The letters are fun as well and I really like how the old mattress spring is being used to hold art. Beautiful home and great features. I love this series – so many different styles and beautiful homes.

  5. my kitchen benches open up to reveal a plethora of crafting supplies and paper for my girls who spend hours at the kitchen table “creating”! but surely love the locker!!! and all the other little hiding places for children’s things! great post

  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE this house! I love this GIRL! Molly is a fabulous person, talented photographer and as you can see, her style is original, clean and reflects her so well. She is so funny, honest and loves her family so much – I just *hate* that she lives so FAR from her beloved Pasadena. THANK YOU for featuring this for the masses to see. xoxo

  7. i really, really love this series. SO inspiring & always makes me smile. thanks for sharing your house, molly! it seems so calming & inviting, just as you described. i love that kitchen island – it’s so full of character & i love how the wooden top adds warmth to the space. i think brennan’s room is my favorite, though i really love your master – i’ve been pining away for a linen duvet cover for almost a year now!

  8. I love that her daughter suggests bringing things to goodwill! I’m constantly purging as well and I hope my daughter is picking up on that… we’ll see in a year or two when she starts talking I guess!

  9. This post made my heart smile. The home is lovely but the family even more so! And little Brennan sounds so much like my four year old daughter, Eden. Gorgeous space!

  10. I really enjoyed getting to see this home. The master suite was phenomenal. But every room had character and was so welcomingly appointed. Elegantly charming.

  11. Cousin! Your home is truly amazing! I wish I could come visit and pull a chair up to that amazing kitchen island. It seems like we share the same “dream home” vision. When we (ever) buy a home, I’ll be looking at these pics again, for sure. Love you, Molly!

  12. Oh I just love this house – love the oldness, love “meeting” someone like me about clutter… stuff must be put away , love all the drawers and clever places to stash stuff… And I am also a habitual declutterer, honestly on a daily basis stuff goes into the donate pile!!! Stunning home, and that under stair nook is simply to die for!!!

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