Real rooms.

I quite like the minimalist look but the Nice Wolf and the Three Little Pigs just didn’t get the memo.  You know all those gorgeous pictures of perfect houses that I’ve been posting?  Well, that’s not going to happen.  Okay, it might happen once or twice, but if you knock on my door on any random day, you won’t see it.  Keeping my house tidy is an ongoing, half-hearted battle.  I know the motivation will increase tenfold once we move into House By The Water, but still, I’d rather be in the garden, on the deck or in the kitchen cooking up a storm.

Living room with Lego.

Our (rental) living room at this very moment – currently the most photogenic corner of our home. Where’s the Lego in the magazine photos?

Of course, I’ve tried to train the Pigs (now aged 10, 8 and 5).  They are rewarded for cleaning their rooms and for helping with chores.  I trialled Hong Henwood’s “black bag strategy“, where, after fair warning, any kid’s items left lying out of place in the living areas are collected in a bag.  In our case, the “black bagged” items could be earned back, donated to charity, thrown out or regifted at birthday or Christmas times.  Well, the two oldest pigs formed a union and I received a formal complaint:

Black bag complaint.

An elaborate bag-stealing heist followed, foiled only by the littlest Pig being a goody-two-shoes.  On day two of “black bag” I asked the Third Little Pig to put away his skate board.  He replied that he was leaving it out for me to put in the black bag because he’d like to receive it again for Christmas!

I’m hoping that in a double story house, the ground floor will be tidy-ish most of the time.  Two of the pigs will have their sties upstairs and perhaps as they get older their mess may be constrained within their own four walls, but for now at least, they like to be where I am.  They bring toys out to play on the lounge room floor and their homework is done at the dining table despite having their own desks.

So my challenge is to create spaces that can handle a bit of real, 3-kids, no-hired-help, living.  Part of that will be allocating drawers, hooks and cupboards in the living areas for quick clearance.  (One of my friends suggested a kitchen drawer for the mobile phones, pens, mail, etc.  Yep, all the stuff that’s currently sitting on my kitchen bench.)  Part of it will be sticking with fresh, tidy habits.  Wish me luck.  And part of it will be embracing the lived-in, homely look.  On this final point I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for inspiration.

Beautiful rooms that look inhabited:

I'd rather have a cuppa and read a magazine than get the vacuum out.  Source:  Ngoc Minh Ngo Interiors.

I’d rather have a cuppa and read a magazine than get the vacuum out. Source: Ngoc Minh Ngo Interiors.

Clutter is chic en Paris!  Source:  Inside Closet

Clutter is chic en Paris! Source: Inside Closet.

Too much cleaning may crush my creativity??  Source:  Airbnb

Too much cleaning may crush my creativity?? Source: Airbnb.

Queen of collected treasures, Sibella Court's home.  Source:  The Design Files.

Queen of collected treasures, Sibella Court’s home. Source: The Design Files.

Kid and Coe specialise in stylish holiday rental homes around the world that welcome kids.  This one is in Barcelona.

Kid and Coe specialise in stylish holiday rental homes around the world that welcome kids. This one is in Barcelona.

The House Nerd blog is full of real rooms with real people (and often animals too).  Sure the floor has been cleaned and the bench wiped, but the kids' art is still on the fridge.  Photo by Heather Robbins at Red Images,  Thanks to House Nerd.

The House Nerd blog is full of real rooms with real people (and often real animals too). Sure the floor has been cleaned and the bench wiped, but the kids’ art is still on the fridge. Photo by Heather Robbins at Red Images, Thanks to House Nerd.

I notice from this collection of photos that the signs of life, be it personal items, clutter or disorder, add to the character of the room.  Unique windows, interesting artefacts, layered soft furnishings, mismatching and multicolours provide enough interest that the kid’s toys and pile of books on the floor look perfectly suited to the space.

So matchy- matchy?  Out!  Monochrome?  Out!  Minimal?  Never a consideration!  Sleek, shiny, see-through?  Probably not.

Greenery?  In.  Favourite bits and pieces?  Definitely.  Anything with storage potential?  Yes!

Have you mastered the combination of kids/husband and tidy house without feeling like your life revolves around housework?  If so, I need tips.  


14 thoughts on “Real rooms.

  1. Sally says:

    Oh yes … the answer is a maid 😉 lol..or close the door on that room. I like what Hong says re packing away every night – it becomes routine. I’ve got to try it. By the way I like the lego look – it looks like someone lives there with kids who love having fun.

  2. joan55555 says:

    I do love the Montmartre room. I could enjoy the couch in the first room. Sibella’s library is gorgeous, ladder and all. But I know there would be panic at 8:30 am when the First little pig needs to find ‘that form that has to be returned to school today.’

  3. You’ll miss those stamps of ‘a kid lives here’ once they are grown though – at least that’s what I keep telling myself. My strategy will be encouraging the kid’s to spend as much time outside as possible to be able to keep the inside as tidy as possible. It’s probably a very flawed plan though. I’m lucky that once my eldest has put the Lego together, he has no desire to pull it apart or even play with it.

    • You’re right Lauren! Living in an apartment for so long, with not much in the way of community play space, I’d forgotten this idea. I’d better prioritise our front fence. The great outdoors is made for getting messy.

  4. Harry Cockram says:

    Oooooh unionised already hahahaha I love it and the photos as well, I have places in my house just like that and a book shelf that closely resembles that big one.

  5. Mrs. T says:

    I’ve heard of the black bagging approach & thought it was a fool proof method. No one ever mentioned the flaws – I loved the little pigs response to it, especially the littlest pig, he sounds like a glass half full person.
    Not much advice really, watching for tips for me (Mr. T has a lot of ahem precious memorabilia)
    I do love those photos, it gives me hope!

  6. Hi Jo, Great post 
    I’m all for a minimalist look too. However, I think a home needs to be practicable and show that it is lived in. I see so many photos of perfectly styled homes and they just seem so staged, and in most instances I’m sure they are!
    The same applies with display homes. Walking through a perfectly styled home is lovely, but homes that capture everyday living have a warmth to them and allows you to really imagine yourself living there. I think the Dale Alcock stylists achieve this balance really well, Webb & Brown do too.
    So I say, embrace the mess! 🙂

    • Yes, Webb and Brown-Neaves are missing quite an opportunity by not allowing us to move into one of their display homes until our house is ready. (Now they’ve read this post, they’ll never let us stay!)

  7. mariashumptydoo says:

    Great blog, Jo. The reactions from “the little pigs” are so funny and interesting.

    House work: What a chore! I understand why kids don’t want to tidy up their room…

    From my experience: Balance… balance… balance… was the key:
    Against too much or not enough approaches! +++ Routine regular clean-up/ putting things away, where everyone is involved, parents, kids and there is agreement on the day/time: +++ No choice after the group decision = therefore no postponing, no argument! +++ Big clean up/ small regular clean up.
    +++ Less the clutter in a house, easier it is to manage, and from my liking more beautiful it is. +++ Need also to discuss with kids the reasons for doing this: While living on a yacht, it was simple: Everything used had to be put away straight away, at the right spot… No argument: A matter of survival at sea! A boat can sink, in an emergency, if you you don’t know where a specific item is or if objects are not secured, in their allocated spot! There were agreed consequences for who ever had forgotten to put something away… Not drastic… but lots of fun too.
    At home of course, the principles behind actions are different… Not so dramatic but those principles need to be clear to everyone.

    Anyway, good luck, Jo! All this being said, It is not easy.

  8. Africadayz says:

    Hi Jo. I loved this post. Firstly, I like the look of that chest (kist?) in the first photo in your rental space. Is it yours or did it come with the apartment? I have a similar one which belonged to my parents but which is an antique. It is made of yellowwood which is indigenous to South Africa. It would have been called a ‘wakus’ in its day, meaning a ‘wagon chest’. Right now it is being sanded down and oiled, ready to take its place in yet another space.
    Your children sound ingenious and lovely. Loved the ‘black bag’ approach and their responses to it. But I have to warn you, I have a son of 32 and he still enjoys Lego. There are gorgeous models of iconic buildings available and recently had a great time putting together the brilliantly retro, Volksie camper van…
    Good luck with your move. I still feel ‘discombobulated’. It would have been so much simpler if we’d moved from one house straight into the next but all that time spent staying here and there and all that time the furniture and boxes spend in storage made the whole exercise quite disorienting. Maybe you’ll find renting a house for 6 months somewhere in the vicinity of ‘House By The Water’ will be your best option. I hope it goes well. Keep us posted!

    • Thanks AD! I have some plans for that chest! It suffered a bit in our last move so it needs a bit of work too. I’m going to put it on castors and make it look a bit more industrial for a toy box in my son’s bedroom. I think I’ve got DIY garden and decor projects in my head to keep me busy for the next 5 years!
      I know the lego you mean. My husband a Korean shrine. I love the idea of the Volksie. We had quite a bumpy adventure in a Volksie van in the South of Brazil.

  9. Funny post Jo.
    I like the minimalist look too but I think one needs to have your own bits and bobs around to avoid it being too cold and sterile – that’s my excuse! I have found it much easier in our new home with all the storage to keep things tidy and I don’t have three little ones with all their bits and bobs! If you saw our house this morning you would laugh as there is no minimalist look – our coffee table in the lounge is covered on Polly Pocket houses and the upstairs bedroom floor littered with lego! It is a home to be enjoyed and lived in ☺☺

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