Living With Kids: Sarah Wallace

Sarah Wallace decided to submit her home for a Living With Kids tour for a pretty unique reason: she wanted to fall just as in love with her home as the ones she’s been pinning and ogling online. She felt frustrated when her gaze shifted from the clutter-free, design perfect scenes on her monitor to her own less than idyllic space, clutter-filled most days. And she didn’t enjoy that feeling at all. None of us do, right?

So she decided to put a little lipstick on her home, straighten its skirt a bit, and let it shine for us…and for her. (Full disclosure: Sarah would like you to know what it looked like just outside of the frame of most of the pictures. Piles of paper and clutter were removed from her kitchen counters, there may be dirty dishes hiding in the sink, and all the craft supplies from the dining room table were shifted to the stairs during the photo shoot! Thanks for keeping it real, Sarah!)

I hope you enjoy the dressed up version of the Wallace family home. More importantly, I hope you take away a little bit of reassurance that pictures aren’t always worth a thousand words and all our attention; sometimes, it’s all the stuff that we try to edit that tells us the most about our lives. Welcome Sarah!

Our family consists of four people and two animals: myself, my husband Joey, our sons Oscar and Archie, our dog Lucy, and our chinchilla Matthias.

My personality is an odd cross between type A planner/organizer/perfectionist and lazy couch-surfer. I have a degree in historic preservation of architecture, and currently work in the field of search engine marketing. My husband Joey shares many of my type A sensibilities, but where my brain tends to favor the creative side, he is an engineer and therefore innately logical. He also has an energy that continues to perplex me over ten years since our first meeting; he seems to be in constant motion, and he gets uncomfortable when he doesn’t have a job to do. This has led to his picking up several hobbies, including gardening and beer brewing. He’s also a fantastic cook, making me one of the luckiest women I know.

Oscar is our almost-four year old, and is an inquisitive, approval-seeking, affectionate, sensitive ball of energy. He enjoys anything that allows him to throw his body around, run, or jump, and then he surprises us by revealing apprehension at the strangest moments. Archie is our roly-poly, silly, determined, artistic, daredevil of an 18 month old. So different from his brother, but just as joyful. Lucy is our six year old mutt and our first baby, and Matthias is the old man of the house – 13 years old, we think.

We moved to Indianapolis in the fall of 2010. Joey had gone through the rigors of searching for and finding a job in academia – not an easy task! – and Oscar was just six months old. The move meant that both of us were leaving old jobs and starting new ones, finding a place to live in a new city with a young child, and as I was born and raised in our previous city, we were also moving away from my family. It was stressful.

We moved into an apartment at first, intending to stay there for a year as we searched for a home. I lasted about five months before my nesting instincts started craving a more permanent situation and more space. We told our realtor exactly what we wanted in a home: at least three bedrooms, space for guests and a home office, a basement, and ugly kitchens and bathrooms. We knew that we would want to make the home our own, didn’t want to pay for someone else’s renovations, and were hoping to find a home that was undervalued for aesthetic reasons.

Our realtor had a house come to mind immediately, but as it was her listing she made sure to show us plenty of other homes first. In the end her instincts were right, and we found ourselves gravitating towards the house she thought of during our first discussion. We came back to it multiple times, and I even had my mom tour it with me during one of her visits. I was hesitant because it wasn’t the style or type of house I thought I’d end up buying. It was so…traditional. I really love sprawling, open ranch houses and mid-century style, and this was a two-story 1960s colonial with walls everywhere. But it felt more like home than any other house we looked at.

We’ve done quite a few renovations since moving in! We’ve torn down a wall between the kitchen and living room, punched the doorway in the wall between the dining room and playroom, completely gutted and re-did the kitchen, and have painted nearly every wall in the house. There’s still plenty on our list of future renovations, though…

My main goals are for my home to be comfortable, functional, and beautiful, but not precious or too matchy. I’d like to have pieces and spaces that look nice, but in a way that we can use them and live in them. A lot of my inspiration comes from blogs and other online resources, although lately I’ve been tuned in more to my own sense of sentimentality and comfort.

One of the toughest things to happen this year – or ever, really – was the unexpected death of my mom last summer. It sounds cliche, but large and meaningful events like that really do change one’s perspective and priorities. I’ve started valuing things more for how they make me feel than for how they look. For example, I absolutely love the mid-century coffee table and side tables in my hearth room. They originally belonged to my grandparents, and so have a lot of sentimental value in addition to fitting in perfectly with my preferred aesthetic. We bought an adorable mid-century style sofa to go with them, and the set looked really nice.

After my mom’s passing, one of the things I brought home with me was her living room couch. It’s a supremely comfortable white Pottery Barn couch in a more traditional style that I probably wouldn’t have purchased on my own. I remembered how much she loved that couch, though, and how excited she was when she bought it. We thought about selling our older, more worn playroom couch and replacing it with my mom’s, but soon realized that the playroom couch was perfect for the playroom – that space needs something that’s worn-in (and certainly not white, like my mom’s piece). But we never used the newer mid-century couch, and it wasn’t terribly comfortable. We ended up selling it and putting my mom’s couch alongside her parent’s side and coffee tables. The styles may not match, but that room feels and looks better to me now than it ever did before.

I do decorate with my kids’ taste and joy in mind, although the portion of me that likes having control over these things is still enjoying this age…neither child is really old enough to have voiced much in the way of style preference. We moved Oscar’s bedroom furniture around recently, and allowed him to have some say in where things went. He had become afraid of a particular corner of his room, and didn’t like being right by a window while he slept, and so we all collaborated to find a better arrangement for him.

Mostly I do what I can to optimize the boys’ independence. In the playroom we use low shelving so that their toys are accessible. In their bedrooms I’ve placed books at a height where they can get to them easily (and also put them away). Both of their rooms has a chalkboard wall for fun, and I like to put things that they’ve made on display in various places.

The biggest thing we did design-wise, though, was to dedicate an entire room to being just a playroom. Their playroom used to also be the main TV room, but when you have to shush your kid to hear a news story while he’s trying to play you know that something has to change. So we took the never-used formal living room and turned it into the more grown-up TV/relaxing space. That way toys and kid-stuff can stay (mostly) contained to the large play space, and when we want to unwind after the kids go to bed we have a separate area in which to do that.

All this being said, I have about a million projects floating around in my head to make the house more kid-friendly: revamp the entry with hooks at their level; turn an old closet in the playroom into toy storage and a reading nook; hang wires with hooks in various places around the house for rotating art displays, etc.

Our city is extremely affordable. It was the first thing that struck me upon moving here. We’re also very fond of our neighborhood. It’s the kind of community that has neighborhood 4th of July parades, holiday parties, and fall picnics. There are always kids playing outside when it’s warm, people jogging or walking their dogs, and neighbors wave at one another when passing, regardless of whether they know one another. Although it took me a little while to get used to Indy, I’ve really come to love what the city has to offer.

The Children’s Museum is unbelievable, you won’t find a better city for sports (we’re the amateur sports capitol of the world!), and there always seems to be some kind of fair, festival, or cultural event to check out. Above all else, I’ve found the people here to be very kind and welcoming.

I’m a mom who’s home all day, but still employed full-time. I’m a remote employee for a regular company, and so I have a mostly normal work day. I say mostly because my commute is great and I don’t have to wear real pants. Part of having a normal work day, however, is that my kids are in full-time childcare as is required by my employer. (I should point out here that I love my employer, and this requirement really does make sense – I have busy days and am tied to my phone and computer, and if my kids were at home I wouldn’t be a good employee or a good mom.)

The major upsides to my situation are that my schedule tends to be more flexible for things like doctor’s appointments or days when my kids are home sick. Balancing is still really hard, though. It’s easy to assume that the person who’s home all day can handle things like snow days or school holidays, but having my kids at home for extended periods makes work very challenging. My husband has been great, and we work really hard to split time and ensure that both of us are able to do what we need to do.

As far as time for myself vs. time as a mom, I’d have to say that another huge benefit of working remotely is the time I have by myself at home during the day. Of course I’m busy, but the house is quiet and I’m able to take bathroom breaks without the company of tiny people. My office is its own room in the far corner of our upstairs, meaning that it’s my personal space, and can be separated and closed-off. I also do the morning drop-off for both kids, and the afternoon pick-up for Archie (Joey gets Oscar), which is a great way to delineate my work day from my family time.

When my kids come home in the evenings, and when we hang out on weekends, my husband and I are diligent about keeping one another off of our phones and email and we focus on the kids. We never have many activities scheduled, since our preference is for maintaining our routines and the little traditions that crop up – like grabbing donuts on the way to Target every Saturday morning – and just being together as a family.

My home works best every evening, when Joey is cooking dinner and we can sit at the dining room table for snacks or coloring. Or when I have the kids going crazy in the playroom before we sit down to eat. It works perfectly as Oscar and Archie climb the bathroom stool to wash their hands, and Oscar gathers the plates we’ve put on low shelves to set the table (however grudgingly). Then while I clean up after dinner and my kids chase one another through every room on the first floor, laughing maniacally, and the dog joins the chase, and finally Joey, I just have to smile to myself about how it all comes together.

Although I will say that when the living room is bathed in the most perfect light in the early afternoon, which usually coincides with nap time, spending those few quiet moments doing anything in there – even folding laundry – feels like a treat.

The best thing about living with my kids is just how much fun they are. They have a huge amount of enthusiasm for everything, and want to have dance parties and build forts every day. Sometimes it’s hard to give in to fun like that when you’re tired and it’s the end of a long day, but I’ve found that if you can just let go and devote your attention to jumping, crawling, and dancing around your house with them, it’s one of the best stress relievers there is. They’ve also taught me how to loosen up. That it’s okay to have piles of paper on the counter or odds and ends stacked on the stairs because we just don’t have time to put it all away at the moment.

I’m hugely sentimental, and so I miss absolutely everything as they get older. It’s a serious problem for me. I’ll start thinking about what things will be like in a few years and find myself missing things that I’m still experiencing. I have to force myself to cut it out and be in the moment, to enjoy it while it’s still here. Lately my husband and I have been talking about how much we miss their baby words. The words that they don’t say quite right as they learn to talk. Like for Oscar ‘balloon’ was ‘boony,’ among lots of other adorable word variations. With each word he began using correctly I found myself unexpectedly mourning the loss of the baby version. Archie is starting to talk now, so my hope is that we catch more of the baby words on video.

I hope our kids remember their home, childhood, and parents as being  uniquely theirs. This usually translates to it all being wonderfully imperfect. I’d like for them to remember this house as being comfortable, safe, and an easy and fun place to be a kid. For them to remember their childhood as being happy, but also not without challenges. For their mom to be a person who was unconditionally loving and supportive, who never underestimated them, but who made mistakes, and knew how and when to apologize.

I wish someone had told me that perfection and having it all together is not healthy, attainable, nor ideal. I used to think that I could try and be the mom who rolled with the punches, and knew how to handle everything. How stressful, right?! As it turns out, this type of mom isn’t very easy to relate to. I think you have to freak out every once in a while, not only for yourself, but also to reduce what I like to think of as parental isolation.

Occasionally freaking out openly about the FIFTH snow day in a row, the red lipstick now adorning your kitchen cabinets, or the diaper pail your dog tore into helps you and other parents have that oh-thank-god-it’s-not-just-me! moment. Not to mention the break you give yourself.


Sarah, I will always be a fan of keeping it as real and as beautiful as possible! Your tour was a lovely blend of both. And I really liked hearing about your interesting work set-up; working from home while wrangling little ones is so difficult, and it’s wonderful how your company supports such a workable working scenario for you.

Friends, do any of you enjoy the same work set-up? A remote employee who balances working from home with little ones? And, if so, how do you handle those mom moments that always seem to creep in when we least expect them? Hello, snow days!

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

57 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Sarah Wallace”

  1. What a beautiful home! I was drawn to this house tour, as my husband and I also recently purchased a circa-1960 two story colonial-ish home. I LOVE it, but we’re still thinking about how we want to put our mark on it. :0)

  2. You have a lovely home. And thank you for being real about what a home with two little ones is like sometimes. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by how perfect the homes of others can appear online. Thank you for sharing your approach to living with kids! Loved it.

    1. Thank you. And yes, overwhelming can describe just about any aspect of life with 2 littles…whether it’s the house or getting dinner on the table every night!

  3. My favorite house tour so far. I so, so appreciate Sarah’s “full disclosure” which addresses my only complaint about the “Living With Kids” series — where are the messes?! I would love to see a few “before” pictures at the end of every post.

    Plus, I’m also a Type A couch surfer with a house full of inherited furniture that I love. I’m tempted to hide some dishes and paper piles and take a few my-house-at-its-best photos for myself. Thanks, Sarah, for being so brave!

    1. I’m so glad it struck a chord! I would have loved to post some ‘before’ shots, but that required a little more bravery than I had that day :) I hope you do take some photos of your home–it’s a lot of fun!

  4. Sarah, You have a lovely home and I love your colorful runner. I also look at this series every Tuesday and think of all of our clutter and how I wish our house was ready for a photo shoot! Thanks for keeping it real. I love your little boys’ names and their little coats! Amy

    1. Thank you :) And I love that runner, too (Dash & Albert). Although it’s a bit of a death trap currently since it desperately needs a rug pad underneath to keep it from tripping everyone…

  5. Your home looks like a great place for kids! I bet the playroom has been a lifesaver during the snowy winter. You are right, Indy’s Children’s museum is the BEST! (Seriously, if you are ever there it is worth an entire day.)

    1. The playroom has been great…although kids do tend to get tired of stuff they see everyday, so it doesn’t completely make up for outside time (and this winter has been a killer).

  6. I too work remotely from home with a little one, and we only have part time childcare – I both envy your situation (with required full time care) and love my own! I love my afternoons with my little guy but sometimes I have deadlines and meetings that can’t be moved around and it’s stressful and a little crazy. Having a full designated playroom might help a little, I love that idea and how comfortable it all looks!

  7. Such a beautiful home. I found myself drawn to the small colorful details and especially found myself smiling at the bear sitting at the drumset. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I’ve been privileged to see this home for myself and it is really very lovely, but not nearly as lovely as the people inside of it!

  9. Beautiful home. The picture of the bathroom with the scalloped mirror is lovely, and I really like your long, filmy curtains. I also work from home and have my children in childcare. I don’t know how you could seriously do your job without that. I have three kids and I was able to keep each baby home with me until they were about 9 months old, but once they were really mobile–off to daycare. It is a great situation for things like no commute, being able to throw dinner together in stages throughout the day, going for a run at lunch, and all of the dr. appointments and early releases from school. But I agree, it can be quite stressful to manage everything. It took me a while to get over the guilt of being home without my kids, and it took my husband a while to get over thinking because I was home I would spend my time doing things like laundry or cleaning! Sometimes it feels like you aren’t taken as seriously as a worker when you work from home. But in general, I love it!

    1. You hit the nail on the head with your description of remote employment! And I love that mirror…I saw it at a glass shop and offered them cash on the spot :)

  10. Love the “off-camera” honesty! One of my questions with every living with kids tour is how people keep their homes clean. Housekeeper? Love cleaning? Shove piles to the side and take a picture? Might be a weird question, but one I always want to know about!

    1. Thanks :) We do get some help with cleaning every other week, but most of the time we just make sure to get the dishes done and toys put away at the end of the day and just live with the paper piles and errant dog hair…

  11. Christie @ ScoutandRice

    Lovely! Such a great ‘real’ home. I love that everything isn’t matchy-matchy and ‘designed’ but all the rooms are still tidy and pulled together.

  12. I hope the beautiful photos of her beautitful home really helped her fall in love with her space! so many fun patterns and colors throughout her home.

  13. A great home! So inviting. I love this line: “The styles may not match, but that room feels and looks better to me now than it ever did before.” I decorate with this mentality, and its why my great-grandmother’s chipped rocker sits near the front door and my mom and her twin brother’s wooden school desks (with their names engraved in them when they clearly should’ve been listening to the teacher) are our bedroom end tables. They don’t exactly “match” but they feel like home.

    I too am an Indianapolis resident, and these generous words about this fine town are a good reminder after this treacherous winter. YES…that is why why we live here, isn’t it? It’s certainly not for January and February, is it? (Or the FIVE consecutive snow days!!)

    Thanks for the weekly tours! I love them.

    1. Your home sounds lovely! And during winters like this one it’s definitely a little harder to remember why we love living the places we do…

  14. What a lovely tour! I love the honesty here. And as a fellow Hoosier, I chuckled at the line about snow days–this winter has been a doozy!

  15. Andrea asked how people handle cleaning and I thought I’d share how we handle it in our family – have been handling it for many years now…
    We clean on Saturday mornings – my husband deep-cleans one room each week (large rooms like the living room and kitchen take several weeks), each child cleans their own room plus one other room, and I do the rest! We both work full-time, so no cleaning is done during the week, but on Saturday we all help out. The kids have started when they were 5 and kept it up until they’ve grown up and moved from home. Once they were done with their cleaning chores, they got their weekly candy ration ;-) My husband does things like wash windows, clean the stove etc – all the “heavier” stuff. We really like this method as we all share the work load and we get to move around and clean different parts of the house. Our kids are now 24, 20 and 12, and only the 12-year old is still at home.

  16. I love all the runners. I’m having trouble keeping mine stay put. I guess my pads are getting old and not gripping. Any suggestions?

    1. I wish I had good suggestions, but sadly we’re struggling too. Our upstairs runners all have rug pads to prevent slippage, but they still move around (esp. with little feet racing up and down). The striped one between the living room and kitchen doesn’t have a pad and desperately needs one–I’m constantly moving it back into place and it can be dangerous when the kids are running through. Good luck!

  17. Beautiful home and beautiful words, Sarah. Indy is just a stone’s throw from my hometown– so great to see Indiana represented! Though home for me is Arizona now, your home reminds how wonderful Indiana childhood memories are :) BTW- Have you been to Mass Ave Toy Store?

    1. I have! It was one of the first stores we visited when we were first looking around the city. That and The Flying Cupcake :)

  18. Sarah! I love your house. I read this series regularly, and while I want to live in all of the houses that are shown, yours is the first that feels like the house I really will get to live in, when real life and honesty are a part of the equation. It’s a perfect blend of comfort, beauty, and what’s important to you and your family. It’s gorgeous, and I hope you fell in love with it, because I did! Plus I want a chinchilla, so I love that you have one as a pet. :)

  19. I love your home — thank you so much for sharing! I’ve gathered a lot of inspiration from the very stylish touches you’ve added to your rooms. We’ve been in our home eight years, and I’m just now getting to the point where I think I know what kind of look we’re going for, here. (I’m a slow processor, to say the least.)

  20. loved hearing about your very real life & seeing your very real house, sarah! my fav was the chalkboard wall-drums-bunting corner. i bet alot of fun is had there :). thanks for sharing your house & your lovely thoughts. youre so right – those laid back moms we wish we were are totally unrelateable!

  21. I adore the idea of taking photos to remind yourself how much you love your space. It’s a great reminder that sometimes just shifting (or editing) our perspective a little can lead to a much bigger change in how we feel. Thank you, Sarah!

    1. Sure! I think you’re referring to the living room (with the bookshelves and sectional, right? If not just let me know…). I used Valspar’s Winter in Paris after about a million other samples. I was looking for a blue/gray/green, got tired of trying so many colors, and grabbed a gallon of it on a whim. It looks like either of those 3 colors depending on the light, which I love.

  22. YEA 4 Indy! You’ve got a lovely home and a great attitude Sarah! My family and I are transplants in Indy as well. We love it here too! Thanks for representing Indy!

  23. Beautiful home, but your writing made me miss Indy! We lived there for 5 years while my husband was doing his residency. What a secret gem the city is. So much we miss…

  24. I’m a work from home-er, too! I actually teach from home. My kids (5 and 3) go to preschool MWF. We’ve got a wonky set-up, like I handle pick up and drop off on MW (and work at Panera or the local library while they are at school) and my mom drops off on Friday and my husband picks up. T/Th they spend the mornings at my mom’s house, when I have actual live teaching classes) and they come home to nap in the afternoons (when I can still get work done). I’m usually pretty worthless at work from 3-5 each day, so I try to combat that with getting up early and working before they wake up.

    While I love the fact that I can work from home, I hate the fact that my kids see me on the computer so much. I just hope they know that I’m doing legit work and not “looking at pretty pictures” all day!!

    1. The computer thing is an issue for me, too! Actually, not so much the computer, but my phone. My main office is based in Oakland, CA, and so they’re 3 hrs behind where I am. Therefore I usually find myself checking my work email on my phone periodically in the evenings, and then feel super guilty when I notice the kids watching me :(

  25. Goodness, I love this tour! There are so many fantastic RUGS in this house! And so many wonderful color and pattern combinations. Oscar’s room is _the bomb_. The drum set with the teddy bear, with the little bookshelves in the background, was enough cuteness to make my head explode.

    Thanks for the great line: “I think you have to freak out every once in a while…”. Amen.

    And as a former Hoosier, I have to tell you your post made me homesick.

    Thank you! for a great post!

  26. I’m an A-/B+ type, too, so this was a lot of fun to read. I especially like how Sarah used being part of this series as an opportunity to fall in love with her home (I think a lot of us are secretly doing the same thing!). So many great insights.

    I love the teddy bear drummer, too–made me laugh out loud. The sketches of the kids are beautiful, Lucy looks awesome (great photo of her napping on the sofa!), and I’m going to put a subway tile backsplash in the kitchen any minute….

  27. Do you mind sharing the green color near your table and the beige behind the coathook? Very beautiful, being from Illinois,I love seeing Midwest Homes featured!

    1. Sure! We used 2 different colors of beige on the main floor that actually look very, very similar. The front hall uses Valspar’s Cincinnatian Hotel Hannaford, and the hearth room (where the coat hooks are) uses Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray. The dining room/kitchen is Olive #2 from Laura Ashley’s paint line at Lowes (so it’s Valspar paint).

  28. Pingback: Love Links | in backyards

  29. Your home is beautiful and I just adore the sketches of your boys that I saw in one of the pictures! Would you mind sharing the name of the artist?

  30. I love your rugs too!!! I NEED NEED NEED your playroom rug ;) please tell me it’s recent purchase – somewhere I can buy it too ;)

    1. hi there–apologies for a months-late reply. the true playroom in our house is actually carpeted in berber, so i’m not sure exactly which rug you’re interested in. here are sources for most of our rugs, though: dining room rug (orange/taupe/beige geometric flatweave) was from west elm; hearth room rug (blue/brown moroccan flatweave) was from overstock; oscar’s bedroom and kitchen runner (both multicolored stripes) are dash & albert; upstairs hall runners are cb2.

  31. Your home is beautiful!
    I want to thank you for the encouraging (and, oh, so true) words – “That perfection and having it all together is not healthy, attainable, nor ideal.” I could not agree more, although I have to be reminded nearly everyday with three little ones keeping me on my toes.
    Enjoy your family, and wonderful home you have created!

  32. The first pic of this house immediately told me this home is in Indianapolis! In fact, I suspect it’s in my neighborhood. Sarah, I too am a transplant to this city. It’s definitely taken getting used to but I truly do love it and appreciate it. I brought my newborns home to my 100 year old Indy house. Now they’re 12 and 17! It’s been a great journey. I enjoyed your story of having little ones and trying to manage it all. Oh the memories! You’ve figured it out early on. Don’t try to have and be THE MOST. Keep it real. Be You.

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