I birthed four little humans. And for each one, when the dust settled and my ex had gone to get some sleep or catch up with the other kids, I would have this delicious private time with my new little bundle. So, I’d pry open that extremely tight, nurse-wrapped swaddling (honestly you could bounce a quarter on it) to reveal this sleepy new life and marvel at its pink vulnerability. I’d cuddle that little baby up and say, “Hey, I’m your mom. Who you gonna to be?”
Moving into a new house or starting a new project can be a little bit like that. Your house has a point of view, and you have a point of view—as does your spouse, your extended family, the trends of the day, and of course your budget. And with all that going on—you have to take a quiet moment to let the dust settle and figure out who your house is gonna be.
How do you do that? Well, you might start a Pinterest board of different home elements that you respond to. And you might visit supply houses, like the tile store or the cabinet company, to talk to the professionals there. Or perhaps you have a handy friend like me that you can ask for advice. And also, time allowing, you live in your space with a careful eye as you think about what you’d like to change. Beyond that, and depending on the size of your project, you may need some professional help to pull it all together. Professionals are used to juggling that cacophony of information to come up with an action plan that will fit your needs. And what a relief to finally have your plan in place, right? That’s what you’ll do and that’s what will be. Except that it rarely is. Because the path you are on with your house project is no different than any of the other paths you have strolled down in life—there are twists and turns and bumps, and you don’t always end up where you thought you were going. But there is wisdom along the way—so don’t fight it. Roll with the unexpected and have faith you will end up where you should be.
My fourth child is nine years younger than my first and I had her when I was 40. When she was about six, I took her to a movie at the mall, and as we were walking out, we were passed by this playful mom who was racing by with her young kids and her stroller. All their coats were stacked up around the baby and the mom had some shopping bags bouncing on her arms as she ran and laughed. They were all squealing in a way that can’t help but make you smile too. My daughter was watching carefully and turned to ask me, “Were you ever a fun mom like that?” I think my heart skipped a beat. (Me? Queen of fun?? I mean, come ON!) But I finally just answered her honestly and said, “Yeah… I was.” Because it was true, she never got the me that actually played hide and seek and chase and rough-housed in that way. And she was never part of a pack in the same way my other three kids were. But, you know, I still think that in many important ways she got my best self. She got my non-alarmist, non-reactive, non-judgmental, thoughtful self. I was present and playful with her, but in different ways. When we brought her home as a baby, all the kids would fight to sit next to her in the car and would do backflips to make her laugh. Her “pack” was different, but not lacking. “She’s like having a puppy, but better,” I used to say when people asked. And honestly, she (mostly) still is.
What are the bumps that happen with houses? Well, the most common is sticker shock as the estimates come in. I do what I can on this front, but the estimates are not under my control and austerity measures must at times be made. As your designer, I could grit my teeth and remain attached to my original idea and think of any other plan as a disappointing compromise. But then I would miss out on some of the interesting challenges that come along with reining your project in. Challenges like creating practical and beautiful ideas for real people with real restrictions. So, finances are a common bump in the road, but it can be other stuff too. It can be a load-bearing post where you don’t expect it, or structural issues, or supplies that are no longer available. It can be an unexpected divorce or a layoff or a pregnancy. Or even someone in this complex equation just simply changing their mind. It’s all out there and it’s all part of this wonderful messiness that is the fabric of our lives. The beauty lies in the problem-solving, in the listening and the creative thinking of everyone involved -- homeowners, designers and craftspeople -- working together. And where you land sort of automatically IS where you were meant to be, right?
Gosh, 30 years ago I never imagined I’d have four kids. I never even imagined I’d have three. But witnessing the challenges and accomplishments of these four amazing humans as they head down their own unique paths, complete with bumps and potholes? Well, it’s just right where I was meant to be.