So, I have this client. He's 4 and he's the cutest. There's something about designing for a cute and sweet kid; it turns on some kind of auntie/maternal energy that seeps into my work and gives it an extra shot of meaning. See how cute he is?

Snow? What is this stuff? 

Snow? What is this stuff? 

This is his blankie. It is destroyed with love.

This is his blankie. It is destroyed with love.

Designing for kids is a totally different ballgame (here come the sports metaphors! He loves sports). It drives me nuts when I see designers spend a lot of other people's money on things that a kid will hate in 3-4 years: literal themey stuff like Dinosaurs! Pirates! Princesses!, furniture that can't grow with them (size wise but also in function; multi-use furniture is the way to go), and infantilizing decor (let's be honest, pastel cuddly stuff is for parents, not babies). 

Jake is a sports fanatic. Like, he could rival my most rabid Red Sox fans friends on any given day, and that is saying a lot. What I love about his fandom is how un-jock, un-bro it is. He loves to dress up in his team jerseys, changing them out several times in an hour, he watches televised softball games and can discuss the differences in pitching between it and baseball, when we play catch it is with seriousness and purpose, AND he still sucks his thumb while cuddling with his blankie. I wanted to design his room to honor of all of these things without making it look like a literal recreation of a locker room or what have you. However, it couldn't be so subtle that Jake didn't see the sportsyness in his new room as 4 year olds are not known for their comprehension of subtlety and he definitely wanted a sportsy room.

When I met him, Jake's room was fine. It had the basics, a furniture arrangement that made the room feel smaller than it is and no finesse. His parents were hilariously upfront about how much they don't know about setting up a room, something I appreciate in clients more than anything. Knowing what you don't know is the best thing to know. 

We started with the floor plan. The first problem was the bed placement. Having a twin bed in a 10 x 12 room jut out into the middle of the floor obstructed traffic flow and divided the room into two weird spaces that didn't function well, especially for a kid. Adults like to have space on both sides of the bed but kids don't need it, and in fact they like closed-in spaces that feel less exposed (think forts, bunkbeds, etc.)

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His parents wanted to keep what furniture we could, so we settled on the bed and dresser, storing or donating everything else. We started the project with a purge (always purge before making concrete floor and decor plans so you know what storage you actually need, and because it feels good). We hired painters to paint, ordered things, I hunted for things in thrift stores and flea markets, and over the course of a weekend in which I kicked them out of their house (have I expressed my love for these people enough to you? do you get how much I love this family?) I went about making Jake's room sportstastic.

When I had presented Jake's parents with rug options I was SO GLAD when they both liked this rag rug (it's even better in person). I wanted Jake's room to feel homey and humble and semi-timeless and a rag rug is the perfect way to do that. They are not precious or expensive, hide dirt and stains like nobodies business, have a very long tradition, and this one was perfectly modern with it's hot pink and yellows woven in occasionally. 

They liked the idea of giving him a reading nook and of lockers for copious storage and beyond that they let me do what I wanted, and what I wanted was patent prints of baseball gear. What a great way to be sportsey while being nerdy and sciencey and historyey! Mounting them on foam board ensures that I will not be responsible for any nighttime earthquake catastrophes too. Whew. I also wanted a chair without it's legs (it came with legs which can be added later when he is taller - the idea came to me when I unloaded the delivery and it had detached legs) so that his reading nook felt super cozy and grounded. 

It took two days to pull it all together and I had so much fun doing it it felt silly to call it a job. I'd do it every day if I could. 

As always, please note that I am not a photographer and that at the end of an install it's hard to care about taking good photos, which is unfortunate but all too true. 

That purple pillow is so annoying. It was a placeholder for a set that was late in the mail. It's killing me looking at it.

That purple pillow is so annoying. It was a placeholder for a set that was late in the mail. It's killing me looking at it.

Dear Reading Corner, I would like to take you home and make you mine.

Dear Reading Corner, I would like to take you home and make you mine.

Turning the bed made it more of a daybed, with sitting space for the whole family.

Turning the bed made it more of a daybed, with sitting space for the whole family.

All his pals are in his reading nook.

All his pals are in his reading nook.

I love this Target lamp. The shade is tweed and is so cozy.

I love this Target lamp. The shade is tweed and is so cozy.

I turned his existing toy box on it's side to make a bench/bookcase.

I turned his existing toy box on it's side to make a bench/bookcase.

I made a cork board banner and pinned pictures of Jake's favorite players to it, leaving room for him to add his own over time.

I made a cork board banner and pinned pictures of Jake's favorite players to it, leaving room for him to add his own over time.

A new mirror helps bounce the light around.

A new mirror helps bounce the light around.

I took a part a vintage baseball glove and made bows out of it.

I took a part a vintage baseball glove and made bows out of it.

To show off his trophies I bought some old ones and spray painted them all white.

To show off his trophies I bought some old ones and spray painted them all white.

I'm seriously considering doing this with all of my furniture. I love being on the ground. Those are his handmade blankies to the left.

I'm seriously considering doing this with all of my furniture. I love being on the ground. Those are his handmade blankies to the left.

I like to use humor in my vignettes.

I like to use humor in my vignettes.

I made a scoreboard coat rack out of an old sign and added cork so he can collect his game tickets over time.

I made a scoreboard coat rack out of an old sign and added cork so he can collect his game tickets over time.

I took off the one ugly handle...

I took off the one ugly handle...

Friday Night Lights forever.

Friday Night Lights forever.

Lockers are great magnet boards too! His helmets fit perfectly and this thing doubled the amount of storage in his room!

Lockers are great magnet boards too! His helmets fit perfectly and this thing doubled the amount of storage in his room!

And made new ones out of the vintage baseball glove!

And made new ones out of the vintage baseball glove!

I included Carlton Fisk on the banner, of course.

I included Carlton Fisk on the banner, of course.

You can always count on Etsy. 

You can always count on Etsy. 

I think he likes it.

I think he likes it.

So there you have it! I'll be working with this family for a long time, room to room, so you'll get to see the whole house and meet the whole family eventually. Go Sox!

 

 

Posted
AuthorSarah Reid

Massive computer clean up underway over here. Like all surfaces in my house, I can only stand a certain amount of clutter in my files before I feel like I'm drowning, so here we go! Begone random screen shots and redundant photos!

I just came across these pictures of a house I owned in Montague, MA (population around 800) from December of 2002 to 2007. It was a two family, two acre former llama farm (I got two in the sale) with an enormous old barn, feeble orchard, and wonderful neighbors. I was just 27, completely not rich, unemployed, and only able to buy it with the extreme generosity of a family friend, my parents, rental income and the insane post-9/11 pre-recession interest rates and lending practices. I was an undergrad at Smith and I walked into a bank and asked for a large mortgage and they gave it to me! Times have changed.

Fuck that's a lot of house.

Fuck that's a lot of house.

Buying this house changed the course of my life immeasurably. My future husband lived in town and we very quickly became a couple opening a cafe three doors down in an old mill building. I and my housemates opened our house, barn, and land every Friday night for spirited and slightly embarrassing potlucks ("What's your superpower?") and the relationships I developed in that period are the ones that I count on the most. I don't have old high school friends and having been an older college student who never lived in dorms, I have no old college friends either, so these guys are my guys, you know? I also lost some friends, the way that that happens when living communally, or trying to. And I learned a lot about that I am not in those years; I am not a farmer, landlord, housemate, or cafe owner.  I gleefully fled those roles within the span of 4 years. I fled to a tiny house on a spot of land into a non-profit administration career (I kept the future husband). I never regretted that period in my life but I never yearned for it again either. I'm glad I did that. I'm glad it's over. I'd take this yard back if I didn't have to mow it ever again though.

My son made good neighborhood friends.

My son made good neighborhood friends.

I had no idea that I would become a designer at that point. When it came time to renovate one of the kitchens I went on instinct alone. No research, no reading, design blogs didn't exist, Facebook, Pinterest didn't exist. I just took my limited budget, worked with a carpenter friend, and redid the kitchen. I don't have before pictures  to show you because this was a new age of digital cameras and while I had one, I used it poorly and without much thought for the future of my portfolio!

The general vibe of the place: chicken coop chic.

The general vibe of the place: chicken coop chic.

The second floor kitchen had been put into a bedroom when the house was made into a two family, meaning, it was awkward. It was ugly and cheap; it looked like every bad farmhouse rental in New England. There was no way I could afford much beyond paint, so I did what I could do: took some doors off the upper cabinets, painted it white, put in a new counter top and sink, and added my flourishes where I could: iron brackets, antique hardware, and cozy lighting. It's funny to look at this now; I see the roots of my style: vintage mixed with new, white and turquoise, shabby chic without the saccharine, plant life, nontraditional lighting, collection display. I hadn't discovered midcentury design at that point but this old farmhouse didn't need it anyway. 

Sigh. I still love this kitchen.

Obviously, not styled. Real life shot of an average morning.

Obviously, not styled. Real life shot of an average morning.

Posted
AuthorSarah Reid
CategoriesDesigning!

I haven't shown you my living room in years dudes. YEARS. Whoa. It's the only room in my entire life ever that has felt completely and totally and definitely complete. I don't change things around and it doesn't get messy; it's just constant and steady and safe. It's calm, neutral, and filled with things I've inherited or friends have given me and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy looking at it.

I didn't style these or even plan on taking these pictures, I just shot these while having my morning coffee. Someday, I'll show you the whole room.


Posted
AuthorSarah Reid

Remember when Zane turned 18? That was a relief. Remember when he turned 19? That was hard. Then he turned 20 and it felt very...manly. Well, today he is 21 and I bet you think I'm gonna talk about drinking. Nope.

(Zane's been drinking for a long time now, let's be real. If anything I'm relieved that he is now able to engage with all kinds of drinking, not just illegal, clandestine, risky, and most likely just straight up gross drinking)

No, today I am thinking, of course, about how the nature of my love for him has evolved over the course of his lifetime. Every one says that once you have a baby your understanding of what love is changes, and that's true for me like crazy. He was born and I fucking loved him like nothing else. For the first 4 or 5 years of his life my love was very biologically based and driven; his body and its safety were my primal and primary concern. Being nonverbal (for the first two years at least), our connection was not about the sharing of ideas or the richness of his innermost thoughts, it was about warmth and milk and softness - good lord how soft everything was in those first few years! The feathery, gravity-defying hairs on his head, his non-calloused feet and hands, the clothes he wore and the blankets he slept in.  I loved his bodily aliveness and would do anything to keep him that way. What hurt his body hurt all of me deeply. This is when I felt good at being his mother. I don't feel good about those glasses, but so it goes.

At around 5 my love shifted to a concern for his mind; his body became more of a house for a complicated, feeling, cognitively complex mind, and his emotional well being stole my attention. If he was teased or felt rejected or hurt by words or confused by the logic of the world it stung my heart and lungs to the point of having to catch my breath. It was excruciating watching the concepts of betrayal, embarrassment, and humiliation creep into his reality. Shame, regret - awful things to watch your kid grapple with. At the same time, it was completely heartening and joyful to witness the concepts of hope, self, universality, empathy, compassion, and ambition take over his worldview. This is when the responsibility of being his mother became intimidating in a way it hadn't been before and I began to question my abilities and capacity. My glasses got slightly better.

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Some time around 12 things drastically moved into the love/hate camp. We felt like we were being held hostage in our home most days, by our ineptitude and by his puberty.  I articulated for the first time, to myself and friends, that I loved my son beyond infinity and he was the best thing that ever happened to me and I hated being a parent. No matter how much practice I had I never seemed to get better at it. No matter how many times we thought ahead and tried to anticipate every possible scenario he would throw us a curveball that left us completely flustered and flabbergasted. Our power dynamic was constantly being pushed to its limits and we were exhausted all of the time. For his 14th birthday we made him a cake and wrote "Get Well Soon" on it. This is the time when I became aware that I was probably doing irreparable harm, this was going to be the time we would need to hash out later, when he was an adult, possibly with a therapist. This is when I was failing.

I don't have pictures of this phase readily available, and that's probably for the best.

At 16 or 17 I felt a return to the first and second phases, the bodily protective and emotional armor phases, as I sensed his bodily and emotional vulnerability in the world; cars, drugs, sex, right wing media, conspiracy theories, cigarettes, restaurant jobs, nocturnal sleep patterns, inertia, were all rushing towards him like they had being cooped up in a cage for his whole life and they couldn't wait to smother him in their harm. I felt a tenderness and empathy that I hadn't been able to tap into for several years, probably because we weren't under constant siege from his hormones anymore. This is when it dawned on me that while I had been in survival mode for the last few years I now had to prepare myself for that last push, the one where you help your child thrive and become big and whole and ready for the enormous world waiting for him, where you aren't directly battling the potential harm coming his way but hopefully equipping him to do battle with it, on his own. While you watch and see. Gulp.

Rebecca Reid took this photo!

Rebecca Reid took this photo!

Anja Schutz took this photo!

Anja Schutz took this photo!

The last couple years have been...fuck, I don't know how to describe it. There isn't a word (in English at least) for the mixture of mourning and awe his adulthood brings but there are many cultural metaphors for this phase and they are all profoundly accurate in my experience. I do feel like a mother bird watching her chick fly for the first time, hoping his wings work, realizing that if they don't it's all my fault. Fuck. I thought I would feel this way until he was at least 30 and that I would just be holding my breath for a decade, but I find myself slightly relieved and grateful to being moving into a new phase, one where I just simply trust him. I trust the strength of his body and his mind, I have faith that he'll live, and live well. I know that I did my best, but that it wasn't always the best for him, and that we will have a reckoning some day and I will have questions to answer. But I also know that we fucking love each other and since day one, that's all that's mattered.

Anja Schutz took this portrait of Zane as part of an awesome series of portraits of men being touched, unknowingly, by friends and partners. It makes me feel woozy with motherly love.

Anja Schutz took this portrait of Zane as part of an awesome series of portraits of men being touched, unknowingly, by friends and partners. It makes me feel woozy with motherly love.

Happy Birthday Zane Reid! I miss you like hell and think you're the best thing ever.

Posted
AuthorSarah Reid