Our friends Ashley and Aron moved from NYC to Davis, California, almost two years ago. They live with their children—Hudson and Skyler—in a midcentury modern house that feels quintessentially Californian. (How much do you want to beam yourself there?!) Here's a peek inside...
On buying a house sight unseen: We had planned on renting for our first year in California, but, while still living in Manhattan, I spotted this house for sale online. We called Aron's parents (who live in Davis) to see if they could rush over to that day's open house. We made an offer a few days later, having only watched an e-tour (many times over). It was terrifying! When we finally saw it in person, it felt smaller than I had expected. But as we walked around, I felt the jitters subside. We turned to each other and our shared expression was "Yes! This is going to be awesome!"
On favorite things about the neighborhood: People in Davis are really friendly. Our friends, who just moved here from Maryland, joke that the various grocery stores are having a contest to see who can be the friendliest. (As in, "Please let me help you get your bags out to your car!") And from March to October, the Farmer's Market holds a Wednesday picnic night with live music and pony rides. Everyone comes out to sit on the grass.
On how to maintain a (light-colored!) home with small children: We try to be realistic about messes and spills (they're going to happen). I also tried to choose durable furniture. The leather couch actually looks better with wear, and spills wipe right up. The white plastic chairs are fantastic, too—you can clean crayon marks right off. And the cork floors are super forgiving!
Leather sofa: Restoration Hardware. Coffee table: Custom, from Bali. Black and blue pillows: Haus Interior. Kilim rug: Vintage, from Scout Living. Floor lamp: Room and Board. Woven white chairs: Custom, from Bali (similar here). Pouf: purchased in Bali. White chairs at counter: Eames, from DWR. High chair: Stokke. Pendant lights: Purchased in Bali.
On favorite places to shop: We do most of our shopping at Room and Board, Ikea, West Elm, Target and the odd flea market. Design Within Reach is a favorite source of inspiration. When we were in New York, I loved looking around ABC Carpet & Home—which felt similarly aspirational. I'm always on the lookout for good design, be it on Etsy or Amazon, or at a traveling market like Renegade.
Sofa: Jonathan Adler. Coffee table: Nelson Bench, from the Alameda Flea (similar here). Planters: Case Study by Modernica. Dining table: Room and Board. Dining chairs: DWR. Rug: Room and Board. Chandeliers: West Elm. Brown lounger: vintage Eames, from Scout Living.
On spending time in the yard: I love eating dinner outside after a hot day, when it finally cools down and the light grows golden. Lately, I’ve been sitting outside with baby Skyler while our toddler Hudson chases the dog and looks for bugs. He loves to bring me things he finds—this winter, bringing in the Meyer lemons and making lemonade was one of his favorite activities.
On NYC vs. Davis: Since moving here, I've become more content to stay in. A weekend in our yard feels like an activity, whereas a weekend spent indoors in New York would have felt like a wasted opportunity. I do miss living among so many great restaurants, but the upside is that we focus more on the produce we buy at the farmers' markets. Ultimately, when we first moved here, we anticipated driving to San Francisco or Berkeley at least once or twice a month to get our city-fix. I'm so glad they're nearby, but I don't find myself craving those excursions to the degree I thought I would.
On throwing pool parties: There are always a few 100-degree days in Davis, and most weekends last summer involved having friends over to swim and sit in the sun. My favorites were when we would let the afternoon roll into evening with a simple grilled meal and bowls full of grapes with little hands to grab.
On destination shopping: We had been looking at outdoor furniture in New York, and we realized nearly everything we liked was made in Indonesia. We were about to go on a month-long family vacation to Bali, from where we would fly to our new home in California, so it seemed only natural (and kind of awesome) to look for furniture there. We had most of our outdoor furniture, and some indoor furniture, made in Bali and it arrived by freight a few months later.
Wooden table and chairs: Custom, from Bali. Chairs with cushions: Room and Board. Umbrellas: Room and Board.
On that amazing wood headboard: We can never move! It weighs a ton! We bought it on our vacation in Bali. There were a few shops that sold giant slabs of a fast-growing hardwood called Saur, and we went to each one trying to imagine how we could somehow incorporate something into our home. Once we decided on a headboard, we had to take a bit of a risk that we could fit it into our house. Thank goodness it worked out—or the seven guys who helped bring it inside would have killed us!
On morning rituals: Hudson has the OK to Wake! clock, which lets him know when it's okay to start calling for us (he's always the first one up!). Aron goes to get him dressed while I feed Skyler or catch a few more minutes of sleep. Then Hudson comes running into our room, books in hand, enthusiastically shouting "Good morning, Mommy! I got book!" while crawling into bed beside me. I'll never get used to waking up early every day, but I do love those first morning hugs and kisses.
...and nighttime rituals: Before Skyler, I would have said my ideal night would be to take a few moments to relish the calm and quiet, and then bring the baby-monitor to the jacuzzi to look up at the stars or spread out on the couch and start whatever show we're binge-watching at that moment. But since Skyler was born, 'calm and quiet' has felt pretty elusive!
Arc lamp: CB2. Bed: Ikea. Jute baskets: Target (similar here).
On honoring a piece of the past: Back in New York, Hudson slept in a closet—with a mini crib, mobile and wall of graphic animal wallpaper. When we moved, the wallpaper stayed behind, but I kept some of the leftover roll to frame in Hudson's new room to make him feel at home.
On choosing toys: Like many parents, I started out hoping my kids would have only well-designed toys of the all-wood, hand-knit variety. (In the words of Tina Fey, those “beautiful wooden educational toys that kids love...if there are absolutely no other toys around and they have never seen television.”) But it turns out I'm generally happy to encourage anything that he gets excited about and that fosters his curiosity. Though I admit: I sometimes remove the batteries!
On tips for keeping things neat and organized: Purge often, clean with a basket in hand, and give everything a place. The last one seems obvious, but it wasn't apparent to me until I found myself cleaning up Hudson's room after raucous play dates how much that third bit helps. He has all of these bins and their contents are fairly straightforward (stuffed animals in one, trains in one, everything else small in one). It's ten times easier to put his room back together now because I don't have to spend time thinking about where everything should go.
Teepee: Etsy (similar here and here). Storage shelving and baskets: Ikea. Rug: Pottery Barn via Overstock.com. Crib: Walmart. Multi-colored jute stools: Target.
On decorating kids' rooms: I tried to start with neutral elements and avoid a single theme. I figure I’ll let them steer that course. Hudson’s room has one wall covered in cork and then painted white. The idea is that we can easily add his own artwork and, eventually, let him rotate in images of things that interest him—whether that be dinosaurs, rockets or a rock band.
On cozy moments with a newborn: There was a TED talk in which Alison Gopnik talked about how babies have a hard time not paying attention to all the stimuli around them. I always think about that. When I rock Skyler to sleep, I often find myself stroking her forehead to help her learn to just close her eyes.
Rug: Vintage, found on Etsy. Pouf: Rose Bowl flea market. Crib: Ikea. Toys: Anthropologie, Janod and PlanToys. Moccasins: Freshly Picked. The dreamcatchers were made by a friend for Ashley's baby shower.
Thank you so much, Ashley! Your home is so inspiring. Now I really want to move west. :)
P.S. A Los Angeles home, a New York City apartment, and a tiny San Francisco apartment.
(Photos by Ashley Bruhn of Hither & Thither. Interview by Caroline Donofrio)