The Treehouse: Part 2

pottery collection

Image and text by Gabrielle.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared the story of how The Treehouse came to be ours. And today, I thought it would be fun to tell you a little more about what the house was like when we arrived.

One of the most interesting tidbits about The Treehouse, is that when we moved in, it was furnished almost exactly as we had seen it in photos.


That’s right, when we arrived from France, and entered the house for the first time, it was just as it’s pictured here. The sofa, the table, the area rug, the artwork, everything was still in the house. Plates and cups were in the kitchen cupboard. Practical things like scissors and matches too. Cleaning supplies and laundry soap. Linens and towels. Baskets and bookends. The table runner. The dried flower arrangements. Almost everything!

What wasn’t there? Most of the books, personal papers, their groceries (except some tea and spices), clothes. But if it wasn’t personal, it was still in the house.


A few weeks before we closed on the house, the previous owners told us they wanted to gift us their furniture. We were so touched! It was such a generous gesture. We assumed they simply meant the big pieces, like the beds and sofa. But they ended up leaving almost everything! When we saw it in person for the first time, it was just as it was when they lived here.

And friends, the previous owners have amazing taste! They are big pottery collectors and there were unique pieces all over the house. I gathered my favorites and displayed them on the open shelves in the kitchen (that’s the image at the top of this post). The pots and pans they left are a beautiful All -Clad set that looks barely used. The towels and sheets are Marimekko — one of my favorite design houses. Honestly, from everything we’ve learned about them — and from living among their things — we know they are simply quality people. We are total fans.

The Treehouse

Back to the arrival. As you can imagine, it was amazingly convenient to arrive from France, with nothing but suitcases full of clothing, to a furnished house. Sheets, towels, hand soap. Everything! What a blessing. In fact, it was very similar to how we felt when we arrived to the furnished home in France (back in the day).

But because this was not a temporary rental, we were also aware that inheriting their furnishings would add another layer to our move. And it has. Some of their belongings work for our needs. But some don’t. For example, we had to say goodbye to much of what was in their office in order to fit in our big work table. And in the kitchen, we went cupboard by cupboard and decided between their glasses and our glasses, their blender and our blender.

I think that’s part of what made clearing out our storage unit difficult as well. I didn’t want to bring unnecessary repeats from Colorado, but I also hadn’t had time to really evaluate what was already in The Treehouse. Would we need our bed linens from storage? Or was there enough at The Treehouse for 8 people (and for our bed sizes)? That sort of decision x 1000.

It was tricky. And when our truck from Colorado arrived in Oakland, part of us moving in, meant moving many of their belongings out.

In practical terms, this has meant a delivery to Goodwill almost every day since we moved here, as we slowly make decisions on what’s necessary in each room. For big pieces, we add free listings to Craig’s List on a weekly basis as well.

Tell me, Friends. Have you ever moved into a furnished home (either bought or rented)? I know it can seem strange if you’ve never done it before. We’ve done it twice now, and have concluded that it’s pretty darn fascinating to sort of live in someone else’s life for a minute — especially if they have good taste! : ) I’d also love to know: Would a situation like this drive you nuts, or would perks, like a collection of pottery, make it worthwhile for you?

42 thoughts on “The Treehouse: Part 2”

  1. Uhhh – if I was consciously moving into a furnished place I would take it differently than when I expect an empty house and want to make it my own. I can see how finding some treasures can be great and that you were able to live with furniture after a transatlantic move must have helped at the beginning. But now you have an added layer of stress…

  2. When we lived overseas we lived in a partly furnished flat. Living room furniture, dining, lamps, window fixtures etc were provided but we brought our own beds, dressers, plates & towels etc.

    I can see how this would be extremely stressful for you as I would be wracked with guilt knowing I had this beautiful stuff, but still wanting my own things. Then perhaps compromising on some things and hoping I didn’t have a change of heart. It’s a blessing and a curse!

  3. Ah Gabrielle! When we moved to France, we “temporarily” moved into my in-laws house where they had raised their five children. They were on a mission in Germany and had left all their belongings in their home. To make a long story short, we ended up buying their house and so also spent hours sorting through old books and shelves and food storage and got rid of furniture and old lamps and handed over boxes of memorabilia and letters and photos and it was all crazy! We had moved in temporarily on top of their things and were having to dig under those layers so that our newly purchased home could really be ours! Seven years later and we are mostly finished, but there are some things we’ve kept and others that have just lingered and still others that I wish I had had the foresight to fall in love with and keep before taking to the déchetterie! It’s a complicated way to move for sure, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way! (I probably didn’t say that a few years ago!)

  4. I have a terrible habit of mind that if I didn’t create it — it isn’t good enough. So having someone else’s things would be a blessing and a curse for me. A great opportunity to take things you never would have thought of in a million years and make them your own. A great opportunity to get stuck in that creating something new from some news things and some of your things for a long time.

    I always think when I move that I can just re-apply what I did in a previous home to my new home, but I never can…It alway has to be some new twist because it’s a new space. I do think that having to use old things does spur all kinds of cool creativity though. (add another layer of creativity for your old things + their old things) Much more than if you buy everything new.

  5. I just started reading your blog a couple of months ago and am really enjoying it. I just returned to the US after living overseas as well and can relate to so many of the things you have been writing about recently. I think it would be a fun adventure to inherit a houseful of furniture, but can’t imagine how tricky it would be to juggle it all while moving in. Hats off to you! Having just come from Finland, I would especially be excited about all the Marimekko…what a score!

  6. I have moved into three furnished flats when I was teaching overseas—one in Kazakhstan and two in Russia. Because I had shown up with the clothes on my back and the two suitcases I was included in my flight, much of it was welcome: dishes, kitchen utensils, television, and a bed on which to rest my head. Of course, there always were some surprises: one flat had a kiln in the entryway and strange, accompanying art all over the flat that we essentially stacked in a corner (there were several busts that were just creepy), and another one, a collection of, um, adult videos. It was a strange experience to live amongst someone else’s belongings, especially in the flats where it was clear that the owner didn’t make much effort in cleaning anything out (or just cleaning anything, for that matter). It was compounded by the fact we were just renters and I knew I would only be there for a finite amount of time, so most of it I just had to learn to live with and try my best to put out of sight, out of mind.

  7. We just moved back to the states from London. To be honest, this would have been hard for me. I had to sift through storage, sea and air shipments. If I had to sift through anymore items I think it would have done me in:)

    But if you need the furniture I can see how it would be a huge blessing. It probably saved you from having to bring furniture from storage and adding new pieces is always fun!

  8. oh my! i can’t tell if this is a blessing or a curse. it sounds like the couple’s idea of downsizing was to leave everything behind! i think i would have loved this situation if i was moving abroad and unable to bring any of my furniture and belongings with me but from the sound of it, you guys had plenty of stuff ready in storage to be moved so like the other comments, it added another layer of decision making to an already long and drawn out process.

  9. Two years ago, we moved into a home that was semi-furnished. Odd things were left behind: a fridge and Pepsi machine in the garage, dishes in the cupboards and dish-washer, towels folded in the laundry room, toys, a crib and other miscellaneous items and furniture. We gratefully used the dishes and kitchen items while we waited a week for our moving truck full of belongings to arrive.

    We later found out from neighbors that the couple who sold us the home had divorced and had left the home in stages: the wife and children months earlier, and lastly the husband. It felt like Pompeii. The remnants in the house told a bizarre and tragic story of the family that once lived here.

    I located a phone number for the wife from our new neighbors. I called and left many messages asking if she had had an opportunity to take everything she wanted. She never returned my calls. After two months, I began making deliveries to our local thrift store. We kept much and are using it well.

    For Christmas that year, my four children made a store in the basement made up of the forgotten items. They made wish lists and distributed them to each other. They did chores for me and earned “Christmas Bucks.” Then they went shopping with their pretend money and purchased gifts from the basement to give to each other.

    We’re so grateful for the house and the things that came with it. We keep getting randomly blessed by the things that were left behind. A few months ago, the light bulb over the stove burned out. I pulled it out, looked at it’s odd shape and thought, I’ve seen this before. I went to a kitchen drawer and found its replacement there. Another gift from the house. :)

  10. My first thought when I saw this post was, “where did all that amazing pottery come from????” and as I read I thought, “SCORE!” Thanks for the window into your new home. As I read along, I’ll definitely enjoy seeing how you Blair-ify it.

    We lived in someone else’s flat when we were in Amsterdam (my husband was teaching at the university there). Thanks to the wonders of facebook, we are now ‘friends’ with the owner and although I only met her long enough to get her key, I continue to feel like I know her intimately after sort of living-as-she-lives for many months. An adventure!

    Best wishes to you and your family!

  11. I’m about to in 2 wks! We moved to the highlands and they have more furnished apartments than unfurnished. We chose a quirky traditional flat that looks just like Hugh Grants in Notting Hill! It even has a blue door!! I can’t wait to enjoy some of the previous owners things!!

  12. I don’t think I would mind it much….most of the things I own now…have come from flea markets etc. =)
    I guess if I didn’t like a piece I guess I would paint it….or gift it to one of my children. =)
    Can’t wait to see what you do with your new home.

  13. I’d love to move in with all that great stuff, but years in NYC have made me VERY bedbug adverse! Nothing upholstered can be second hand unless you bake it first.

    I’d love to know WHY they left all that stuff! Do you know?

  14. Beautiful! That’s so kind of them! I can’t wait to see how you make the space your own. I think so long as you don’t feel like you’re living in someone else’s house and swap some things in, it’ll be yours and beautiful.

  15. The treasure hunter in me would love this opportunity, and the easily-overwhelmed part of me (especially when it comes to sifting through stuff) would be…well, overwhelmed. I hope there are more treasures like that lovely pottery!

    A few strange odds and ends were left in our home (like a homemade air compressor–weird, and a roll of butcher paper that our kids have used and used–wonderful). I kind of liked having a sense of the former occupants and wondering how they used the chalkboard in the basement and why there was a bottle of whiskey stashed in the garden shed. :)

  16. When I was first married, my husband and I moved into a furnished model home that we purchased. (My husband and his realty company partners had purchased the entire condominium area and my husband bought the model.) It, too, was furnished with all furniture, nicknacks, wall pieces, and towels. We moved in our clothes, stereo, TV, dishes, and food……and new wedding presents. As a newly married couple, it was a God-send for us.
    Fast forward about about 17 years, I and my 5 kids moved temporarily in with my parents while putting most of our belongings in storage…except for beds and clothing. Not an ideal situation with children. My folks were keenly aware of the fact that 5 children were using their things….plus it was a brand new house with off-white carpets. Even my youngest son’s wheelchair was not allowed inside the house so as to keep the carpets clean.
    And again, about 2 years later we moved into my in-law’s home after they had retired and moved to Palm Springs leaving everything BUT their dishes, cooking utensils, and their clothes. You see, they had purchased their new home furnished from someone who had passed on……so they didn’t need anything but their kitchen things, bathroom items, and clothes. I got to sort thru their things just as you have done and integrate my things into the home. It was a constant chore as there was always a closet or the garage to sort thru or clean. My mother-in-law had also been a part-owner in a fabric store and had a storage room already full of fabric….to which I added mine.
    Fast forward again about 10 years…..and with my children mostly grown, I moved out of that home into an apartment again having to sort thru what I wanted to leave and what I wanted to furnish just a little apartment for my son and me. My MIL was to sell the home and most of what was left went with the home when it sold.
    You’d think I was getting good at this….because I have done it two more times. I got married again, moved south to the other end of the state, and combined households in an apartment and storage unit. Then two years later, we moved north again and are living with and caring for my elderly parents in their home….with all their belongings and just our own beds, clothing, computers, and bathroom items.
    So…….I feel your challenge and appreciate your situation!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. If I moved into a place that had that pottery collection and Marimekko towels, it wouldn’t matter what else they left, I’d be thrilled!

  18. Ah! What a tricky issue! When we spent out sabbatical in Italy, we moved into the apartment I grew up in when I was younger. My parents still own it, and have moved since into a different apartment. My mom furnished the apartment we used with my grandparents’ antique furniture and paintings, and it was great to have so much stuff around me that I was so connected to. BUT. I like modern. Contemporary . I hated the kitchen’s decor, and the tiny walk-in closet. Nonetheless it was a blessing. We knew we were staying for just a year. I also kept fantasizing about how I would have redecorated the place had we stayed longer….

  19. I never have lived somewhere furnished – except a house I moved into as a 3rd roommate while I was in college. The basement was PACKED full of extra stuff that had belonged to who knows who. The house hadn’t been completely empty in about 4 or 5 years. So, when I and the other two roommates all vacated at once, the landlord actually CHARGED us for removing the furniture from the basement that had been there when we each moved in. I was floored. It wasn’t mine, it could have been his…so none of us took it with us.

    But, I think in your circumstances, it could have been fun in part (THE ART & POTTERY – swoon). But not so sure I’d want to wade through all of the previous owner’s stuff to figure out what I wanted to keep. UGH, especially when you were already having to choose from your own belongings.

    As others have said, blessing and curse.

  20. WOW! What a logistical nightmare…talk about overload! Having just downsized from a 3 bedroom cape in the suburbs to a 2 bedroom flat (with almost no storage) in the city I can honestly say that the sorting through “all the stuff” gets old and TIRING! No wonder you have been feeling out of sorts. Also the feeling of wanting to be happy with such good fortune but all you are feeling is overwhelmed and stressed is very hard to make peace with…Hang in there! Know that the furnishings you are choosing to pass along will make many families very happy and comfortable. I cleared out with a huge yard sale and many trips to Goodwill…so many so that the workers know me and my girls by their first names..:)

    Having the time to blend the new furnishings with the old would be the key to happiness! I’m sure some of the furnishings fit perfectly with the house and some others not so much..its all an adventure right? Stories and history make lovely connections to material things.

    Be well Gabby and hats off to you for taking risks and following dreams!

  21. A year ago, we had a similar situation. We moved into a house that my in-laws had previous used as a vacation rental, so it was completely furnished. We were coming from an apartment, so we did not have to reconcile two houses worth of stuff, but it was more than I expected. I was also eight months pregnant. I went into nesting overdrive.

    There were many benefits to the situation, like not needing to purchase all the furniture that we would have needed to fill a home after living in just a one-bedroom apartment. But at the time, I was having a difficult time with the move. It was physically exhausting, but also emotionally draining, too. I wanted our new home to feel like ours. But I found it extra difficult to do that with rooms that were already fully decorated (and without the resources to do any big renovations or makeovers). Initially, I felt like I was living in someone else’s home. This feeling has lessened with time. Every time I rearrange the rugs, furniture, and wall hangings, it feels a little more like our own.

  22. Fascinating! When I was in graduate school, I moved into a furnished apartment with a group of girls. At the end of the school year, the apartment building was sold to a fraternity and we had to find another place to live. As “compensation” for our inconvenience, we were invited to take any furniture that we wanted. The furniture was straight out of the seventies. Like the rusty orange sectional sofa or the black bookshelf unit with beveled sliding glass doors. I still have some funky stuff from that apartment including some handmade beaded jewelry that one of the former hippie girls that used to live there left behind when she joined the Hari Krishnas. Crazy times!

  23. The first apartment I lived in was ‘furnished’ but it was kind of sketchy, unlike the previous owners who gifted your treehouse. Still, I’m not sure if I would feel weird inheriting someone’s furnishings. I might feel they’re ghosts who are still lingering. On the other hand, I love pottery…!

  24. You’re so lucky and blessed! The previous owners were so generous to give you some of their things. But then again, I don’t think you should feel guilty over moving out some of their stuff. There’s a need to actually do that, not because they’re extra luggages but because you need to move forward, and that doesn’t mean forgetting everything. :)

  25. I never moved into an furnished home and I belive that’s not only fun to bring all the things away you have normaly to trash before leaving a house and fill the Truck to your new place. But I like the idea too, to find out the former owners way to live. When we make an home exchange, we always have this feeling in our vacations.

    All the best from sunn Germany

  26. oh this speaks to me! a year ago we put everything in storage and moved our family of 6 to a furnished flat in paris. people ask me frequently if paris feels like home yet…yes and no. it does as i walk around my neighborhood..saying bonjour to my local butcher..but it doesn’t when i walk in the door to my flat! i’m slowly acquiring things to make this flat feel like home..but i admit, i miss my things. if i were to do it again i’d bring my stuff!
    just read an article in this months Martha Stewart Living about this same subject…it did make me think!
    great post gabby!

  27. It looks like you struck gold! Their taste is amazing. Why did they leave so much of their small stuff? They must have wanted a clean slate.

  28. It can’t be ignored that you and your family have set a new standard for being extraordinary lucky, but it should also not be overlooked that, from what I can tell, you deserve all of the windfalls that come your way. Anyone who reads about the course of your lives must take away the very real sense that when a person chooses to be good and do good, it comes back tenfold. I so admire you and your family.

  29. Gabrielle, that must have been overwhelming. In a way it is nice that someone leaves you nice things, but on the other hand what to do with all the extra stuff?

    I am glad you guys are settling in. :) And I wonder what did happen to the previous owners, that they had to leave everything? I am glad they brought their clothes with them. :)

  30. We did the opposite! When we sold our house in preparation for our move overseas, the buyers asked if we would consider selling the house fully furnished. At first, we were taken aback — our furniture was nice stuff, but with four kids….. well, let’s say it had seen better days! And then we felt sentimental, like, ‘Hey, it’s MINE. My daughter used to sit in that corner of the sofa to read her first books’.

    Then our realtor shared that the reason they were interested in the furniture was that the buyer was dying of cancer. They were buying our home as a refuge and place where they could all just *BE* for as much time as they had together. All of sudden, it hit us: It was just ‘stuff’. They didn’t want to keep anything antique or sentimental to us. Just as much as we were willing to leave.

    We have thought of them often, living in a home that made us happy. Playing board games at our dining table. Watching movies snuggled up on our sofa.

    I hope you are happy and making memories in your new Treehouse. :)

  31. What a nice gesture. :)

    Truthfully, I would prefer to furnish my own house and I think moving into a place already furnished would just add an extra layer of stress for me.
    When we moved from Melbourne to Seattle, we put all of our belongings in storage and just bought everything new in Seattle (about 99% of it Ikea!). It was so nice to be able to put my own touch on everything from the beginning and create a look for our apartment that I wanted, without needing to decide on other people’s belongings.

  32. Hmmm, this is interesting. I think I would also be excited by the new treasures but stressed but all of the decisions, especially on top of the ones you had to make at your storage unit and when you were leaving France.

    We just moved to Oakland from the Pacific Northwest, and we moved down and stayed in a furnished place for three weeks while home-hunting. We then moved into our new place and had our stuff delivered. It was very interesting living with someone else’s stuff – we both felt rather unsettled the whole time, but that also had to do with the fact that we knew OUR stuff was coming. Even though we got rid of things before we moved, when we got here we got rid of more because some things just didn’t fit right in our new place.

    I hope you are able to enjoy the new treasures a bit while sorting through them, but I totally understand why that would be stressful and emotionally draining. Best of luck!

  33. The previous owners of the house we moved into left us the ivy on top of the kitchen cabinets, their window treatments, and a pile of cinder blocks in a wooded part of the yard that Mrs Frisby and her natural predators are probably living in. The pottery is amazing, but I think I need to go lie down for you just imagining trying to tackle such a daunting task.

    If anyone can go through all that stuff and eventually make a harmonious, cultivated home it’s you.

  34. I can certainly understand the mixed emotions that this situation may leave you with. I’ve always found that a good scrubbing, re-arranging, and mixing my things with what is left behind helps to make it feel more like my own. For some reason the act of physically cleaning and handling the objects gives me a sense of more ownership of them. I have the need to do this also when I’ve been away for a while and have had long-term house-sitters or guests.

    Maybe it’s in our primal (or my own neurotic) nature, but this process always helps me to feel more settled and balanced. Best wishes on your new home and making it yours!

  35. Right after college I went to Costa Rica for 4 1/2 months. I ended up traveling around with a few other Americans I met and once we decided on a location to settle (we were all looking for a temporary job) We ended up renting a small furnished home (two bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen) less than 2 kilometers from the soccer field. The best part of having a furnished place for me – was not having to worry about things for the kitchen.

  36. Am I the only one who thinks this would be an absolute nightmare and really inconsiderate of the previous owners?? It would seem to me that they didn’t want to take the time or energy to figure out what to do with all of their stuff, so to make themselves feel better they decided to “gift” it to the next owners. And then the new owner is left with the burden of sorting through not only all of the stuff they brought with them, but all the new stuff they necessarily didn’t want or need. And then racked with guilt about getting rid of a lot of the things this nice old couple “gifted” them. For me, no amount of Marimekko towels and unique pottery could make up for all that added stress!

    Gifting some big pieces of furniture and artwork seems like a a great, generous gesture. But to unexpectedly leave everything seems inconsiderate.

    Gabrielle, no wonder you’ve been feeling so overwhelmed!! I admire you so much for your positive attitude and think you’re a much, much better person than I’ll ever be for so wholly embracing this situation.

  37. I would never look a gift horse in the mouth. I’d feel like since it wasn’t mine to begin with, it would be easy to sort through and decide what stays or what goes … and given that they sold you the house when you weren’t necessarily the highest bidder, I don’t know. Maybe I think I would be fine with it, because I don’t have a lot of quality stuff and I would find it more overwhelming financially and time=wise to try to furnish and outfit a house of that scale, that I would be happy there were already things there that fit in the space and ‘work’. Getting rid of stuff is easier than sourcing it and buying, in my humble opinion. I am also sure that you made a lot of people happy with your donation!

  38. In a minority it seems but I agree with Stella. I am personally downsizing from a 3 bedroom family home to a one bedroom apartment and the work involved in ‘disposing’ of the excess is time consuming (and sometimes costly) to say the least. I have to wonder if, as Stella says, they didn’t want the overwhelming task of getting rid of things. Even managing the job of ‘gifting’ to thrift or charity stores can be a lot of work.

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