Our whole team lives in different types of homes and home circumstances so I thought it would be fun to occasionally peek in on their homes. My sister, Victoria, is our brand manager and a renter, living in Washington. When the pandemic hit, she and her partner moved out of their Seattle apartment and into a lake house, with more access to nature. Her design story is about “listening to your house” even if (especially when?) you’re renting.
When the stay-at-home orders came down in Washington, Helen and I started to feel like we were living in a fishbowl. Seattle is such a vibrant, cultural, delicious city — but without access to all of the restaurants, comedy clubs, concerts, and stores we had grown to love, it started to feel like our tiny 526-square-foot apartment could be anywhere. “This apartment could be in The Netherlands,” I’d say. “Or Nebraska.” It didn’t matter. We only saw the inside of our four walls.
When our building’s rooftop deck was closed along with Seattle’s public parks, we knew we needed to move somewhere with access to nature. Even with just a yard! We had taken for granted what it was like to walk out your front door and NOT be in a major metropolitan area, masked.
We put all of our feelers out, downloaded all of the renting apps, and *manifested* the lake house. It. Was. Perfect. Just 20 minutes outside of the city, in a quaint Seattle suburb, our house is on a quiet lake that is large enough to be a happy habitat for ducks and geese and eagles (!!!), but not so large that motorized boats are even allowed.
The house is older, built in 1937, with a lot of vacation house charm: wood-paneled walls, chipping paint, a closet-sized bathroom, and an outdated kitchen. An outdated everything actually. We were in love.
Following Julia’s advice, we “listened to the house.” The furnishings from our city apartment would stick out like a sore thumb in our little cottage on the water. “Let your house tell you what it needs… and even where to put things,” she said. This can be tough for renters! We don’t want to start from scratch every time we move. But we’re going to be here for a year, at least, and that’s enough time to invest in making this space something we love.
It was Julia who recommended the Elias sofa from SixPenny. Overstuffed with feather down and slip-covered in classic linen (“Warm Oatmeal” is color we chose), it feels as fresh as the breezes coming in through the back door screen and as timeless as the house itself. The couch feels so cozy and lived-in and right, we’d swear it has always been here, as if it came with the house.
It’s skirted, which feels casual and cool, and comes with two lumbar pillows that we tuck under our arms or behind our backs — depending on whether we’re working from the couch or lounging on movie night. It’s the softest sofa I’ve ever sat in in my life.
The couch was begging for a side table and a substantial lamp, but I was scratching my head over how to plug it in without creating a tripping hazard. Julia introduced me to this hack, and gave me permission to snip a small hole in our jute rug and feed the plug under the couch to an outlet entirely out of the traffic zones.
The cobblestone fireplace needs a proper inspection before we light a real wood-burning fire, but for now — we’re loving the glow of pillar candles. We bought two sturdy armchairs and positioned them close enough to a handsome leather ottoman (a Facebook Marketplace find) that we can kick our feet up.
The ultimate listen-to-your-house tip: Keep garden sheers by the back door and clip branches as often as the mood strikes. Our house feels in total harmony with its setting when we bring the outdoors in.
There are two small rooms in addition to our bedroom. As soon as I walked into this one (above), I knew it was an office/studio. The old wooden windows push out to a view of thick forest. It’s the most inspiring place to sit down to make a painting — or a great backdrop to staying zen during a Zoom call :)
There’s no formal dining room in this house, but Helen and I sit down together for three meals every day. The house let us know that the corner with the most windows would be the best place to tuck in a table. There’s not even a light fixture above this little dining nook — and, as renters, we’re not authorized to install one. But the spot is flooded with natural light — more than enough to snap photos of our veggie enchiladas, should the mood strike.
Ours is an art-filled home, and just like a house can whisper about the furnishings that feel like they’ve been there forever, we feel lots of inspiration about “what this wall needs.” I hear from a lot of fellow renters, who are not allowed near a hammer and nails. To them I say — Command Hooks!
We bought this little hutch at a consignment store when we first moved to Washington. It fit perfectly in the entry of our Seattle apartment, and I was sure we’d have to sell it when we moved to the lake house. But it lined up perfectly and even color-matched the wood paneling, and I knew the house “wanted to keep it.” It’s a lovely catch-all for mail and batteries and phone cords.
Out bedroom is currently begging for window treatments, and we’re on the hunt for something heavy and homey.
I snapped the photo below on my phone on a recent morning that was especially moody. This view inspires different furnishings and finishes than any house we’ve ever lived in. But listening closely and making decisions that are in harmony with the house means that we get to be a part of THIS. Soon, like the sofa, it’ll seem like we’ve always been here.