Today’s Living with Kids home tour comes to you from Ontario, Canada. Let me introduce you to Shannon, plus her husband and her daughters, who live in an old wartime era house that they have slowly renovated over the years. The house is brimming with personality, and the renovation made everything a bit more modern, while still staying true to the old home roots. I really think you’ll love how light and bright the house is — you’re going to want to hang out for a bit.
My name is Shannon and I’m obsessed with houses! Old houses in particular. I live in a small house in Ontario, Canada, that was built in the 40’s, with my husband, daughters and puppy. My husband and I bought our ‘starter’ house before we got married, fourteen years ago. Two girls and two dogs later we are still here!
I met my husband Trevor as a university student while working part time with persons with developmental disabilities. Coincidentally, we were both in Teachers College and grew up in the same neighbourhood. I recall a time when I was still a kid, and was at a friend’s house who happened to live next door to this cute teenage boy. He and his friends were having a pool party and we were wishing we could join in the fun.
Imagine my surprise years later when my not-yet-husband brought me home to meet his parents and it was the same pool party house! We dated and became engaged and a house hunt ensued.
I’ve always preferred old houses with quirks and history, and I loved a central area in our city that was filled with a blend of unique custom homes from the 1930’s, and small houses from the 1940’s. I drove by the area one day and saw a ‘for sale’ sign on a cute cape cod style, wartime era house. I loved the picket fence gate and large maple trees.
I went through the house on my own and quickly realized it probably needed too much work — think green shag carpet and layers of wallpaper in every room. Not to mention the outdated kitchen and bathroom. Hours later my husband called saying he found this great house… He went on to describe the very same house I had toured earlier. Apparently he drove by at a different time and also fell in love with it.
We purchased the house, got married and started our family.
Reese is 12 and will rule the world! She is smart, organized, determined, kind and talented in so many areas. Reese likes to stay busy and is currently a competitive gymnast as well as crochet stuffie entrepreneur. I won’t be at all surprised if she is our future Prime Minister! Madeline is 8 and is empathetic, sweet and easy going. She loves playing with dolls and has a million friends. She does not like competition or a busy schedule. Maddy loves endless free time and can happily amuse herself for hours.
Parenting two very different girls at very different stages requires a lot of flexibility. Trevor and I feel so lucky to have happy and healthy kids and want to do everything in our power to keep them that way!
Trevor and I are both teachers and we are passionate about education and our youth. We are also both very proud of the excellent quality and high standard of education here in Canada.
We love our neighbourhood which is why we are still here. It is a leafy central area comprised of a few quiet streets where neighbours take pride in their old homes. There is a mix of young families and elderly couples. We are nestled between a large river and a Great Lake so we have amazing amenities at our doorstep. I can walk 10 minutes down our street and be at a park that runs along the river. Or, we can ride our bikes 10 minutes to the beach! We are also lucky in southern Ontario to be spared some of the worst of the typical Canadian winters and we enjoy warm sunny summers.
I always say the view out my window is like looking at a cute postcard in any season. Homes look like they are from a movie set, and the trees perfectly branch over the streets! I love it!
Let’s talk prices, since few people want to; we bought our 1200 square foot home for just over 100k back in the early 2000’s. Now we’d list for almost triple that in our current market! We’ve been able to pay off our mortgage and put money back into our home through renovations. We’ve redone the kitchen (after living with the original for 12 years, complete with broken cupboards and no dishwasher), bathroom, and exterior. We gutted the basement and added a bathroom. We redid floors and the doors and painted … The list goes on! I love a project and living in an old house gives me plenty of work!
I prefer old homes and neighbourhoods. I’m nostalgic and love my views to mimic neighbourhoods in John Hughes movies (the Home Alone house is my fav!). Our old house has its challenges but to me it’s worth it to have a house that has both history and modern convenience.
In our town most of the shiny new homes in our price range are in close quartered tree-less subdivisions. The benefits there are the millions of kids and family-friendly floor plans. I’d be lying if I said I never considered trading my original boiler and radiators for the attached double garage, but when I drive by these areas I’m disheartened by the rows upon rows of imposing roofs and 8 ft fences with not a grown tree or interesting nook or cranny in sight.
Our neighbourhood has stone walls in places and light posts and towering trees and mature gardens. Young families are buying in our neighbourhood and are remodeling to their tastes and the old houses are looking great! I love that my house came equipped with window seats in the bedrooms and glass doorknobs. I aim to add to the classic appeal rather than make it into something it’s not.
I planted hydrangeas to add to the Cape Cod feel, and kept the new siding white with black shutters. I shy away from anything too trendy, but admit it can be hard sometimes. I try to keep the big expensive remodels or purchases clean and neutral, so that cheaper and more replaceable items can be on trend.
Living in a small house is never difficult. We’ve made use of every inch of our house and use every room. The trick to enjoying a small space, at least for me, is having no clutter and only the furniture you need. Even a small mess looks big in a small room. I’m a neat freak and I love to clean so naturally I annoy my family to no end!
My one caveat in my minimalist approach to living are the kids toys… I constantly remind myself we only get the opportunity to have young kids once so I try to embrace the craft clutter and baby dolls.
Speaking of minimal, I have 6 dinner plates. That’s it. My friends are shocked at this revelation. I don’t have room to store much and as it is, our storage room is packed with hockey equipment, snow suits (hello Canadian!), and Christmas decorations. I only amass what I can use. What you see in my house is what we have.
By the way, my classroom is also quite minimal – but that’s a whole different story (I’d love to share my classroom philosophy and decor here another time).
Trevor and I are both teachers, which is great for being able to spend a ton of quality family time together. It is not so great when it comes to having patience for our kids at the end if the day. I teach grade 7 and Trevor teaches in a high school so we have a low tolerance for eye-rolling, complaining, and other typical teenage angst-style behaviour by the time we even get home. Therefore, I often think we are on the strict side with our girls. We see the best (and sometimes worst) in kids all day and we of course want our kids to be respectful and kind toward others.
I wish someone had told me that there was no ‘one size fits all’ in life; that parenting is about doing what works, and that your house can be a reflection of values and priorities of the people inside. When I was younger and a new mother, I was often lured into thinking that other moms had it together, and they were doing everything right. I fell victim to trendy design that I didn’t love because it was what I saw in decor magazines. Now, I hope I’m over all that!
I don’t think I have a mom ‘super power’. I wish I did. I don’t bake often and I’m terrible at crafts. I don’t plan elaborate birthday parties nor do I even read with my girls every night. I constantly worry I’m not enough and I’ve somewhat learned to be okay with that. I try my best every day and always resolve to try harder the next. I look forward to being with my kids and I want to savour all of it! I already miss the sippy cups and Dora, the baby wipes and smell of Pampers diapers.
I tell my girls I love them as often as I can, and I could spend my day with them on my lap in my rocking chair (if they’d let me), because I know, as I think all moms do, that time just speeds on when we’re in the midst of parenting and working and being a wife and daughter, etc, etc.
When it comes to living in a small old house with minimal belongings, I hope my girls remember the coziness of being all together as well as the excitement, then pride, of completed projects. I want them to value substance and not ‘things,’ and for them to know that they should choose their own lifestyle and not try to ‘keep up with Jones’ — whoever they are.
Thank you, Shannon!
Lately, there have been so many great home tours in this Living With Kids series about downsizing, or living minimally, or living in a smaller space — and it truly is really inspiring. I think many of us have stuff around our house that we are holding onto for who knows what reason. It’s really freeing to let some of that stuff go, and really pare things down to the essentials. Though I am not sure I could manage with six dinner plates. Hah!
It was interesting to me that Shannon said she doesn’t have a parenting super power, but then goes on to say how every day she forgives herself and recommits and tries again. Is there a greater parenting super power than that? Parenting is such a journey of trial and error. If you can recommit yourself every day to trying harder, then I think you are ahead of the game. (Go Shannon!)
What tricks do you use to “reset” every day? Do you find it difficult to forgive yourself for your parenting shortcomings (we all have them)? How do you motivate yourself to do something better and different than the day before?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.