Living With Kids: Rachel Oakes

Meet Rachel. She’s a mom, a designer, a DIYer, and until very recently, a small business owner. Rachel is warm and funny, and has a home full of interesting and unique antiques and DIY pieces. Shel recently had to close her incredibly successful design and furniture shop, which she had run for three years, and I found it to be such a compelling story.

So often things don’t work out in quite the way we expect, and we have to pivot and make adjustments. Rachel’s enthusiasm and energy are just what you need to help you through those kind of changes. Welcome, Rachel!

My husband Chris and I met when I was just a 19 year old college freshman. We have had four children together and he has a beautiful daughter prior to us meeting. Gabriella is 20 years old.

Our oldest together, Adriana, is 13 years old. She is in her last year of middle school and heading to high school this fall. She is a quiet introvert who enjoys listening to music, reading, writing and biology — she pretty much now hibernates in her bedroom.

She has always been a genius… no really, I’m not just saying that because I’m her mom. She truly is. She is in 8th grade and taking high school Honors Biology as well as high school Honors Algebra — and she’s killing those classes! She has had straight A’s every quarter of her life since kindergarten. She recently created her high school schedule and got into ALL Honors classes for her freshman year. Her overall GPA is a 98.2. She has dreams of becoming a veterinarian — owning her own practice and traveling the world with her career. She also wants to be an author.

I’m honored to be her mother. Her academic endeavors are effortless. She astonishes me with her scholarly abilities. Her personality is that of an old soul. She enjoys reading and teaching herself how to sew, knit, crochet and become fluent in Spanish.

Sadly our second child, Christopher, passed away during birth. We include him into our family unit and speak about him on a regular basis. We encourage our children to speak about him. We have pictures of Christopher on our walls. We include his spirit in all holidays and birthdays by visiting the cemetery and speaking about him.

This has caused some people to judge our journey, but it’s how we chose to find strength in our daily grievance, by choosing to remember that he did exist, that he is in heaven, and his soul is with us. We sing happy birthday to him every single year and we make a cake, blow out candles, and even bring balloons to his grave. His memory is something that is important to keep alive. We treat his birthday with just as much special thought as we treat all the children’s birthdays.

CJ is our third born child. His name is very special as it stands for “Carl-James” — he was named after his late uncle Carl who tragically lost his life at the young age of 17. CJs middle name is Christopher, after his brother, our late son. CJ was born just 15 months after Christopher. CJ, along with his sister Adriana, gave me a purpose; a reason to be strong after Christopher passed away. Their existence was the reason that I had to find my inner strength every day.

CJ was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old. He is very high functioning. Navigating life with a child who has a disability, has been far from glamorous. It has its struggles, but it also has some magical moments. CJ’s brain just works differently than anyone I have ever met. He truly is magnificent. His thought process is amazing — he is extremely inquisitive, curious, and so intelligent. He has questions for anything and everything. Most of the time I can’t even begin to answer his questions, because quite frankly, he asks questions that cause me to question everything I know about the subject!

His mind amazes every adult that he’s ever had the pleasure of speaking to, and they’re not afraid to tell me so. Even though he struggles with every day life, he touches so many hearts that just writing about him brings me to tears. He is brilliant, amazing and so curious.

He is kind, generous, and warm. He won student of the month in first grade for being the kid who stood out in the entire elementary school of grades k-5, for being kind and welcoming, for making students and teachers smile, and for paying compliments each and every day. His kindness is effortless — that’s just his soul!

Isabella is the baby of the house. She’s six years old but if you ask her she exclaims, “Six and a HALF!!!” My husband dubbed her our ‘feral child’ and it fits. She is wild, mysterious and energetic. She also is pretty accident prone. She’s the only kid in the family who has had surgery, stitches, a broken bone, and most recently, a pretty severe second degree burn. To say that she keeps me on my toes would be understatement.

Even though she is completely feral at home, believe it or not she is quite the quiet introvert in school. She behaves like a calm angel and is extremely interested in her studies. I know I said Adriana was a genius , but I would be lying if I said that Isabella wasn’t as well. Isabella is at the stage in school (first grade) where she takes home a packet of homework for the whole week, which is due by Friday. Well, the majority of the time, she willingly and quite insistently completes the entire packet the same night.

She also loves to carry around her clipboard and teach herself multiplication tables (they haven’t learned that yet in school!). She has developed a technique, all on her own, to learn multiplication, and she loves spending her free time doing this.

She’s also very witty and gets humor and sarcasm faster than the average adult. I’ve never known someone so young to have so much wit and humor. She amazes me with how quick witted she is!

She’s a little artist as well. In her free time when she’s not teaching herself math, she is drawing and coloring. Lastly, she is a gymnast. She has such a deep passion for dance! She goes to tumbling classes at our local dance studio and will be performing in her very first recital next month.

Knowing she’s an extreme introvert with high social anxiety, it’s amazing to see that her inner love for dance surpasses those struggles. She’s nervous but her passion for dance wins.

My husband, Chris, is an arborist who owns his own tree company. He has a passion for all things scary. Lol. No really he lives for things like rock climbing, hiking huge mountains, driving like a maniac, and sky diving. He is a true thrill seeker. But he never allows himself time for these things.

At the forefront of his brain is to always take care of his family. We are his true passion. He is a fantastic provider and protector of our family. He enjoys spoiling every single one us. He’s the “yes” husband when it comes to shopping. In fact, he has to talk me into the purchases most of the time.

I’m pretty conservative with spending, but I do know what I want, and when I show him my ideas, he encourages me and pushes me to go for it, and to purchase the things that are going to make me happy.

We balance each other out nicely. I’m calm and level headed, and he can tend to be chaotic and rigid.

For years I was the stay at home mom who also managed the house and helped out with the business. Currently I don’t have a paying job, because I recently closed down the shop that I owned — for the last three years — with my bestie.

Although I’m not currently bringing home an income, I do all the administrative tasks for our Tree Business. Things like bookkeeping, scheduling, taxes, insurance, marketing, and networking. I also titled myself the House Manager. I make sure the house runs smoothly, and everyone gets to where they need to be, I do all the cooking, and most of the cleaning, I pay bills, etc..

We live in Marlboro, New York in the lower Hudson Valley. It’s beautiful here. We are surrounded by wineries and farms in a small rural community.

The school district overall has a great reputation for their special education services. I’ve personally had an effortless experience with the special education committee, who have catered to my son’s educational needs with no resistance. They go above and beyond for children with IEP’s.

Currently, housing prices in this area are higher than they have been in recent years. We purchased our home nearly 7 years ago this month, as a short sale pre-foreclosure for $190k. The house needed a lot of work and we were able to get a great deal. After all of the renovations we have done, combined with the recent increase in home prices, we estimate the value to be somewhere around $290-$299K. For reference, the median house cost in this town is approximately $225k.

The big negative to living in Marlboro is the astronomical tax base. We pay a hefty sum in property and school taxes. I find that disconcerting because this is an extremely small town, with very little resources — we have to travel to neighboring towns for entertainment, to grocery shop, purchase necessities, or run errands.

When we started the quest to become homeowners, I had a 6 year old, a 3 year old and was pregnant. We had been in a very small rental house for the last 6 years and I knew we just couldn’t squeeze another child in. So I worked day and night searching for a home to fit our growing family. It was no easy task.

We had a moderate budget and needed 4 to 5 bedrooms, plus land to accommodate our business’s tree equipment. We worked with a fabulous realtor who was extremely kind and patient. She dealt with my crazy pregnancy hormones with ease. I admit, I texted her day and night — she was a saint!

This house is called a Moderate Cape. It was far from our dream home, but we saw potential. We closed on this home 12 days before my scheduled c-section.

I knew we had a huge amount of repairs to do before we could move in. So we enlisted the help of friends and family, and got to work. What a journey! Ever since this house became ours, we have been spent every spare moment fixing up our “fixer upper,” while simultaneously raising three kiddos.

About five years ago my bestie Erica and I were texting —  the usual home decor talk. She started sending me pictures of vintage furniture pieces that had been painted with Annie Sloan chalk paint. The rest is history. I fell head over heels and that became my new obsession.

My bestie and I ordered the paint, then we shared colors and painted pieces in our own homes while the babies napped. One piece led to another — it was like an addiction! Erica and I inspired each other, and found additional inspiration help from the queen, Joanna Gaines, from lifestyle bloggers like Liz Marie (another queen!!), and of course, Pinterest.

After years of painting pieces for my own home, I decided to start painting pieces out of my basement to sell. Originally, this was an outlet for my new passion, because I was quickly running out of my own things to paint.

Painting to sell lead to clients begging for custom refinish work!. Eventually it became too much to do out of my basement, so I pitched the idea of a shop to Erica. I remember it was a cold winter morning when I was sick with the flu, and daydreaming on the couch.

We already had a spot in mind that was right in our little town. Among our combined six kids, we each had two in elementary school, and each had one who was not in school yet, so staying right in town was top priority for us. We pulled the trigger and decided to open up a little shop.

We focused on having a small store full of refinished vintage furniture and small home decor items. We offered custom painting services and that was actually a big hit. I thoroughly enjoyed painting furniture. Being a small business owner allowed us the freedom to create our store hours based on what worked best for our family.

We slowly started offering kitchen and bathroom cabinet refinishing. I really loved to see the transformation of our clients’ kitchens. It gave me joy and purpose — and we were starting to really inspire others. That truly gave me such gratification, something I never thought I would ever find in my career.

I spent most of my adolescence, college years and early adult years trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew I wanted to be a wife and mother — that was something that fulfilled me more than I could express. But somehow, something was missing. I needed to contribute more. Not just to my family, but I felt such an inner desire to contribute more to the outside world.

I really didn’t have a clue what that something was until we opened our shop. It was called The Nest. It was so incredibly fulfilling. Working with your best friend has its perks too!

The response from our clients and social media followers really allowed us to realize how much we were starting to inspire others in their home styling decisions. It was so gratifying to help others customize their spaces with the pieces we painted. They almost always asked for help and advice with their color amd design choices. Some even suggested we come design their home’s interior.

Because we were inexperienced self-taught novices, we were reluctant to offer those services. But the response from our clients and followers, which we dubbed “Nesters,” started to give us the confidence that we didn’t know existed.

Eventually we ended up moving our location to a bigger space that had more promise and more opportunity. We started teaching workshop classes on painting furniture, we held sip and canvas paint classes, and terrarium making workshops. We offered our beautiful event room as a venue for small baby showers, bridal parties, and even photoshoots for local photographers.

Sadly, after three years in business, a number of factors led to the difficult decision to close. Separate personal life changing events had occurred in our own homes that helped to contribute to the demise of The Nest. Plus, the market had become saturated — we found it difficult to keep up with huge, big-name stores that were starting to sell similar reproduction furniture pieces.

We had some clients who were steadfast for the real deal — the pieces we sold were always original vintage or antique pieces. But those clients just weren’t enough to keep our doors open. Sales dwindled more each week, and we were spending every single weekend away from our children to run the shop. We weren’t bringing in enough of a profit to afford hiring help. We had to take a step back and say: hold on here, we need to re-evaluate.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. I didn’t want my kids to view me as a failure. Being in such a small community, a lot of our clients happened to be our kids’ teachers and administrators. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t concerned with what everyone would think. Were we giving up?

Mostly, I was devastated that I had poured my heart and soul into this little shop. I had been so determined. We had worked incredibly hard trying to make it a success! I was also devastated that this meant my best friend and I wouldn’t be working together anymore.

As we closed the shop, heavy-hearted was my key descriptive term, and I went through periods of grieving this heavy loss. I was also incredibly sad about the response we received from clients, after we announced we would be closing our doors — they couldn’t believe it was true!

So many of our clients offered sweet words of encouragement and advice. Some even begged us to stay open. Lots came to visit, and we became incredibly busy with clients who wanted to get their custom furniture pieces done before we closed. It was quite surreal — causing us to question our decision to close. Though ultimately, we did close.

It’s been nearly two months and I’m still grieving — missing bits and pieces of The Nest daily.

We worked incredibly hard creating a social media presence, so our social media pages are still active and open. I’ve been thinking lately that maybe subconsciously I’ve used that as a reason to refuse to let go? I’m not sure.

Since the shop closure, I’ve been working hard behind the scenes on some new projects that I won’t announce quite yet. But I will say there are some business plans in the near future that include my hubby and I teaming up!

Between running businesses, three kids, and fixing up our house, life is quite chaotic. In 15 years I can see myself maybe slowing down some — but then again, I don’t feel fulfilled unless I’m productive, and I usually don’t stop until I’m very physically exhausted.

I’ve learned that the core of my soul actually NEEDS purpose. I need to feel that purpose each and every day. It’s a necessity for my peaceful survival. I’ve suffered from anxiety my whole life, and I’ve found that having a productive purpose daily helps to ease my anxiety.

The creative part of my soul is much happier when I see others inspired by the things that bring me joy. In the past, I would have never thought that the little interior design projects that bring ME joy would actually be a source of inspiration or joy for others. I mean, that is like hitting the lotto — twice!

I hope you enjoy my home. It is by no means perfect, but we are working hard to create a home that caters to each person who lives here. That’s what matters most doesn’t it? Individual tastes vary and that’s okay. To each their own.

I think the reality is that all moms have their super powers. At the end of the day we all have the same goal in mind right? That’s to do the very best for our children. I don’t necessarily think that there is any one way to parent. I think that every mom is just doing her best to do what she feels is the right for her child.

Every person has a story. Usually, their story contributes to how they parent and how they adult. They have their own unique reasoning that maybe doesn’t seem to make sense to another mom, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? We all have the same goal in mind. We all love our children more than we can describe.

My super power is nourishing my kids. It may be a daunting, exhausting and somewhat annoying task, but I can kind of do it with my eyes closed. From breastfeeding to packing lunches every. single. school. day. I make sure each child enjoys the meal in front of them, while simultaneously ensuring that it’s well balanced and clean/healthy. That’s the easy stuff for me.

I hope the kids see that we took pride in our home, and that our home reflected our family values. I hope they remember we went to great lengths to create spaces for each of them individually, paying special attention to unique details that made their bedrooms a personal sanctuary.

I hope they remember that mom and dad worked hard physically and emotionally to create a childhood for them designed to make them feel special; to teach them the things that we wish we were taught as children.

I hope they remember that we truly took the time to figure out who each one of them really was — the core of who they are. And that we used that to help them figure out their passion and purpose. We hope this inspires them to create a life for themselves that allows each one to be in charge of their own destiny.

I really hope they forget the yelling — the times mom and dad didn’t have their stuff together and really didn’t know what to do. I hope they forget a lot of the negatives and focus on the bigger picture; that we are just two real people, who created these little humans — humans who drive us crazy on most days, but who we would move mountains for. I hope they know we truly did everything in our power to help them grow into good, kind, generous people.

My absolute favorite thing about living with kids is how incredibly hilarious they can be. It’s that innocent humor when they’re so oblivious to what they’re saying, that they don’t realize it’s hysterically funny.

I already miss the toddler stage. I realize that my baby is going to be seven years old next month and it makes my heart ache. We know that our family is complete, and the reality is that she represents my last chance to enjoy some of these treasured parenting moments.

I never thought I would find myself longing for those crazy toddler days. When you’re in it, there are days where you pray for bedtime. But looking back, I miss them. Yes, those days were hard… I mean HARD, but now that they’re getting older, I realize they are becoming more independent, and it’s hard to let go. I’m on the road to being a recovering helicopter parent. I consciously let go a little more each day.

I wish someone had told me that becoming a mom causes you to learn a lot about yourself. I thought I was a pretty low-key, quiet, and very patient woman. Well that all kind of went out the window once I became a mother . And it seemed to slowly dwindle away with each child that I brought into this world. I became less and less patient, and more frustrated and high strung. I yelled, I felt emotions that I care not to admit.

Why did these little beings cause me so much angst? Don’t they know that I’m sacrificing myself for them? Don’t they realize I’m using every last ounce of energy to produce breast milk to nourish their little bodies? Don’t they see that I’m tired? That I spend every second tending to their needs while neglecting my own? That I worry about them? And that I love them more than I thought was humanly possible?

That part of myself took a long while to calm, but over the years I’ve found myself becoming more zen. With a teenager and two elementary aged kids in the house I think I’ve just about seen it all. I’ve learned that it’s so much easier on my soul to just react less. Is that the answer? I truly don’t know but it’s working for me!


Thank you, Rachel!

You can tell this home is full of love and care. I loved when Rachel talked about every parent doing things differently, but with the same goals in mind: healthy, happy children.

I also loved getting to read the circumstances surrounding the closing of The Nest. Making a small business successful is hard! And it is double or triple hard when you are trying to raise a family at the same time. I think it’s wonderful that Rachel and her community got to enjoy The Nest for those years that is existed. What an amazing thing it must be to go into peoples homes and help make them more beautiful.


Dining Room Rug

Dining Room Light Fixture

Wall Shelf

Bedroom Lamps

You can follow Rachel on Facebook or on Instagram. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.

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

13 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Rachel Oakes”

  1. Beautiful home and an inspiring woman! Here’s to bringing a little more zen into my parenting this year too.

  2. Rachel, I enjoyed the beautiful home tour, but had to comment about your daughter…my younger daughter’s name is also Adriana. She was ahead of her class all through school and was valedictorian. Now, she’s graduating from college soon and…. is heading to veterinary school in August. Crazy coincidence, right?!

    1. Wow ! That is so funny! What are the odds of that?! Kudos to your daughter . Such an accomplishment. I wish her the best in all her endeavors. Thank you for sharing! 😊
      PS I’ve always said I’m pretty sure my Adriana will be Valedictorian 🙏🏻

  3. A lovely home but I would like to point something out. As a child of a ‘previous marriage’ it always makes me sad when those kids are not represented in homes. If your eldest daughter visits/stays I wonder how she would feel to see the ‘party of 5’ sign. Something to consider.

    1. While I can see the confusion.. the party of 5 is actually for our 5 children … Gabriella, Adriana, Christopher, CJ & Isabella !
      Hope that clears things up!

  4. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Rachel, Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry for the loss of your Christopher. It is lovely that he is such a part of your family. I love the ways you honor him. We also lost our baby boy, Alexander. He is very much a part of our family as well. Our son’s middle name is Aleksei after his brother. Please know that there are other parents who understand. Your home is beautiful and the story of your family is too.

    1. Thank you for sharing your loss. My deepest condolences. It’s a beautiful sentiment to carry on your baby’s name. It really is the little things that can help to heal our wounds if just for a moment. I wish you much strength, peace and courage as I know all too well those are necessity when grieving the loss of your baby. Xoxo

  5. Rachel,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful home! Your style flows beautifully from each room to the next. You and your husband have created a well thought out, cozy and welcoming space for your family to make memories.
    I truly admire your authenticity.
    It makes me appreciate the beautiful piece that I picked up from “The Nest” a couple years back, that much more special. It’s clear to me that there is greatness in your future!

    1. Kendall! I believe I remember your piece well… a gorgeous antique dresser on castors with an attached mirror that I painted in a deep blue? Correct me if I’m wrong?
      I usually try to remember ea and every piece. Thank you for your sweet and thoughtful words! It warms my heart to know that our past clients still have pieces of “The Nest” in their homes that they treasure. A little piece of us is in each hand painted beauty. Xoxo

  6. What a beautiful story! Tonight was one of those nights for me where I prayed hard to make it through to bedtime with as minimal frustration and yelling as possible. I made it, but then there’s tomorrow and the next, and the next.. It’s so difficult to be a parent, but I love how you talk about missing the toddler years. I will be reminding myself of that – to try and not rush through this time in my kids’ lives as there will only be this one chance to experience it. Thank you, and also – what a lovely home you have!

    1. The toddler years aren’t for the faint of heart I will not lie ! There are lots of moments I prayed to get through. But you’re right.. it’s like Groundhog Day! You WILL get through! As they get older, their problems become more complex & I think you will long for these days again as well! 🙏🏻🙏🏻 prayers for you to get through another day!

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