Home within a home

Well, I have had a rollercoaster of a spring so far. 

I am unable to process or think about a lot of it (yet).

 But lemme talk about something light today: Pottery Barn Teen. 

As many of you know, I have been spending my spare (haha) time since April redoing my Victorian in San Francisco, listing it on Airbnb, and unexpectedly booking out fully (almost!) until October. This is super exciting as someone who took the Boss Up Your Financial Game course, which inspired me to maximize my earning potential as I stare down not-so-great retirement funds after 11 years of building startups. 

But…I also had a plan of spending summer in San Francisco with my kids and puppy. 

Airbnb rules require that you live in your home most of the year, so I needed to figure out a way to do both anyway: Give the guests a private experience, while creating a nice oasis for me and my family, AND comply with all the laws — and ideally, on a pretty tight budget. 

Our house was set up pretty well for the challenge. It’s a long house with outside entrances at the front and the back. The natural end to the original house is the end of the Airbnb unit. 

Then…the house gets weird. There was a barely enclosed original (slanting) wash porch with a strange bus bathroom, a sink that went to nowhere, a strange raised platform that didn’t seem to have a reason to exist, an arbitrary dropped ceiling, a room split into a hallway and a tiny room, and three doors that all collide on one another where each room meets the backyard. 

My kids’ room is at the very end of the house once you pass through the one-time porch. That room is cute and very Victorian and less weird. In fact, I love that room. It sort of juts into the yard and feels like it’s in the trees. 

So I set to work. I’ve got a crew cramming a full bathroom (with laundry) where there was just a toilet before. “It’s not going to win any awards in Architectural Digest,” my contractor keeps warning me. Along with revelations like, “These aren’t actually walls! How has this been standing?” This was sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” section of the house. 

I turned what was a built in linen closet into a kitchenette, which combined with my grill outside is a pretty sweet glamping set up. I’m having charcuterie plates, miso-baked black cod, and chili crab with mounds of local produce. I am eating jussssst fine, y’all. I’ve joked I might end the summer with a dorm room cookbook concept. 

I took out way-too-large dressers and transformed the non-bed space of my girls’ room into a chic gaming lounge since they no longer have a living room in the front of the house to take over. 

Now. Where was I gonna sleep? 

The only room left was what used to be an office, then Eli’s baby room, then the imagination room, and then frequently a storage room where everything from the nice parts of the house wound up. The tiniest, weirdest room of the house. A room of requirement. That was somehow gonna be my room. 

At times, people have looked at me strangely when I talked about my vision for this room, but now that it’s almost done, the crew is like, “Oh wow, you really did have a vision!” 

My crew knocked out the arbitrary drop ceiling, giving me about four more feet of height, added some storage above the closet with that extra ceiling, and fixed some dry rot around a neglected window. I tiled the floors and changed the light fixtures. Then I got a gorgeous loft bed, a pretty library-style ladder, and another fancy Fable dog crate for Radish, and I arranged my kids’ old bookshelves underneath the bed and mixed them up to show off my stuff and theirs. The next step is wallpaper on two walls. I selected a delicate pattern of leaves that also looks a bit like tiny green birds in some places. It goes with the whole treehouse theme. The girls are getting a Gabriel Garcia Marquez-style palm pattern with yellow tigers on it. 

I’m telling you: POTTERY BARN TEEN has unexpectedly been the go to vendor for this whole project. And I’m not even a grow-up Pottery Barn fan. But every time I searched for something, I kept winding up back on PB Teen. 

I’ve done a lot of Instagram research on tiny homes while I’ve been doing this and no one shouts out PB Teen! 

If you think about it: PB Teen is all about high-concept, lush furnishings that have to do a lot of heavy lifting in tight spaces, whether a teenager’s bedroom or a crowded dorm room. I got my loft bed from there. (It’s huge! And pretty! And it feels like I won’t roll out and die one night!) I got some vegan leather gaming poofs for the girls from there. And I got some tall (very tall), narrow white locker-like dressers, one for each of us. 

PB Teen is slightly more expensive than getting something on Wayfair or IKEA, but not as expensive as other sister brands like West Elm because, come on, people are getting this for teens’ bedrooms. They aren’t gonna break the bank. It’s exactly on that line of “you’re paying up a little for better design and quality” but not so much that it’s untenable. 

I am close to being done, and my kids will see all the magic for the first time next week. I hope they love it as much as I do! I hope they think our little apartment is even nicer than the main house. Evie keeps saying that our Palm Springs house is like living in a magazine. I hope she thinks this is like living in a heightened dream state of our family’s collective aspiration and imaginations. 

The bathroom is way late and way over budget, so I’ve got fingers crossed we’ll get a shower before they get here. (Or I’d settle for a toilet.) And I still have the wallpaper to do as well as some other little touches of art here and there. I want to dig through the bin of family photos I took down from the main house and see what we want to put around this section. I have a gallery wall across from the soon-to-be bathroom that keeps growing. I redid my kids’ bedding with some lush, velvety quilts, which should be perfect for SF summer. We moved Paul’s old Ligne Roset green velvet loveseat from his bachelor pad to the gaming lounge as well. 

“Do you think they’ll like it?” I asked Valentino, our contractor, who has also been teaching me electrical work on the side. 

“If they don’t, you tell them to call me,” he said. “I am gonna tell them how hard you worked on it, and if they don’t appreciate it, Jose and I will come play video games here.” 

My favorite little project: My (new) room has a mural on the wall of a world map that my brother painted when I was nine months pregnant with Eli. I am printing out photos from our family’s travels all over the world and pinning them on the various countries. Kids with Paul’s parents in Nottingham. Me with friends on various yoga retreats or speaking gigs and book launches over the world. For the Palm Springs dot, I’ve got a picture from the very first time we went there with the kids and Eli wore dresses outside the house for the first time. 

It will really cement this little garden apartment as an homage to our family’s incredible, blessed, love-filled, and adventure-filled lives. 

When it’s all totally done, I think it will be the most luxurious and cozy garden San Francisco apartment we could hope for. It’s perfect for summers because you can keep all the doors open and Radish can roam in and out of the Secret Garden-feeling yard, and the kids can climb out their bedroom window and sit in the Adirondack chair on the sunny porch. We’ll have our usual Saturday crafternoons in the backyard, and our outdoor movie nights and cookouts with blankets and heat lamps and twinkling lights. I even got an outdoor pizza oven for the grill. 

Even when guests checked out last week, I stayed in my loft bed. My new home-within-a-home.

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