Values + Home Design | Home Tour & Chat with Liz Mason
Tell us a little about you and your family.
We are a family of four living in Falmouth, Maine. We’ve moved frequently (our twins were born in Baltimore) and I consider myself a nomad at heart. We’ve been in this house for three years and although I love it, we are always willing to relocate for the right opportunity. Moving feels stressful to most people, but to me, it feels like an exciting adventure. Despite the fact that we move frequently, the concept of home is so important to me. Home is where we relax, make memories, and feel most comfortable.
I have previously worked as a kindergarten teacher and an account executive for a marketing firm. I’m currently a stay at home mom. My husband, Phil, is an electrical engineer. Our twin boys, Ollie and Noah, are five years old and just started kindergarten this fall.
What's your design philosophy and how have you used that to create your home?
What matters most is that your house feels comfortable and beautiful to you. I love meaningful art on the walls, soothing wall colors, and form and function together. I’m not afraid of bright colors. We have a small house which means lots of wall storage and only our favorite things are hung up. I’ve accepted that with young children your house can’t always look exactly the way you want it to. Kids are messy, and that’s okay. Our couch is old and not very pretty but we know we should wait a few years until the kids are older and stop spilling on it before we replace it.
How would you describe your family's values (or family culture) in a sentence or two?
I’d like to believe we are adventurous and also intentional about how we spend our time. We love to be outside, especially at the beach in the summer! We choose time over money. We don’t really care about what is in style or about what other people are doing – we make decisions based on what is right for our family.
What attracted you to living simply and how has it benefited your family?
I remember when I first stumbled across minimalism blogs when the boys were babies. Everything felt so overwhelming when they were newborns and simplifying my possessions seemed like a good way to feel more in control. I read “The Joy of Less” which really spoke to me, and started reading Courtney Carver’s blog and the Becoming Minimalist blog. I identified so much with what I read and that was the turning point.
We moved from our townhouse in Maryland to a two bedroom rental apartment in Maine when the boys were two months old (which was insane in hindsight) and got rid of probably 1/3 of our possessions when we made the move. While we were never hoarders, we had stacks of full boxes in the basement that never quite got unpacked. When we moved again two years later, I simplified even more. Every time I got rid of something I felt so much happier.
When we made the decision to purchase a home in Maine I was open minded. We weren’t sure what style of house we wanted, or what square footage would be right. Those of you who have moved a few times know what I mean when I say that you just KNOW when a house feels right. You walk in and say, YES, this is it. That’s exactly what happened for me with our current house. Some of our friends and family thought we were crazy. Some are still telling us we’ll “outgrow it.” But as Courtney Carver says “You don’t need more space. You just need less stuff.”
Our house is small. Not tiny, but much smaller than most houses in our town – about 1,000 square feet with another 250 square feet that is finished in the basement. When I walked in it felt like home. I was sure of it. The house was newly remodeled (we bought it from a neighbor who flipped it), with gleaming hardwood floors, lots of natural light, 3 small bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. We have a nice big yard for our garden and chickens. There are so many benefits to small house living, and an important one for us is that this house was affordable (especially for our area) and allowed us to have a 15 year mortgage. The thought of being mortgage free by age 45 is very exciting. The house is easy to clean and maintain, and I love that it forces us to be intentional about what we own. Living in a small house also requires us to be creative about where we store things and how we arrange furniture, and I enjoy that. It is also very convenient – putting the laundry away is easy since the bedrooms are so close together, and I can cook dinner while the kids are in the bath and be nearby. Most of the people in our town live in very large houses, and sometimes I worry about the kids feeling inadequate when they get older. But even now, I have conversations with them about why we chose a smaller house and about the freedoms it allows us. I like to think they will understand.
Our conversations and habits rub off on our kids. They watch what I do and they understand that we can’t keep everything forever. When they are tired of a toy they will ask me to get rid of it to make room for a new one. They love to give their outgrown clothes to a friend. A household should always be in flux because our needs are constantly changing. We donate to Goodwill at least once per month.
Simple living is about being intentional. We are not stark minimalists by any stretch and there are often Legos all over the floor but we try to be intentional about what we buy, what we keep, how we decorate, and how we spend our time. We are no longer afraid to say no to opportunities that don’t serve us. The tone of our lives is therefore less hectic and stressful. That is not to say life is easy and stress free – life with small children never is. Of course we still have mornings when it feels impossible to get lunches made and the counters are cluttered and the boys won’t eat breakfast and toys are everywhere, but it is easy to recover. We have intentional free time in our lives for what matters to us. I feel lucky that I am able to be home in the summers and over school breaks to have fun with the boys and simple living has allowed us to do that.
What do you love best about your home and why?
Our home reflects who we are and what we do. We have a nice big kitchen table that my husband built to fit the space and it is used constantly for art projects, games and meals. We keep art supplies on an IKEA rolling cart next to the table because they are used daily, and we can roll the cart out of the way when we have dinner guests. We have an old church pew from the church we were married in on one side so we could shift the table close to the wall to allow for a walkway. It is the area of our home that works the hardest and is used most often. We don’t have a dining room and we don’t need one. We have pictures on the walls that make us happy – the boys’ artwork, pictures of street signs of the previous places we’ve lived, coffee cups on hooks that are both functional and cute. The boys helped me design an eclectic gallery wall in their room that we all love to look at. We read every day so children’s books are always in sight. We are building a big deck that will allow us to have more people over in the summer since our house can’t accommodate many people. This is the first house we’ve lived in that has really felt like ours and it is because I have moved all the other clutter out of the way that wasn’t meaningful to us.