by Family & Communty Engagement Manager, Tom Taylor, and his wife, Jami
This November, we will celebrate five years of living in our current home. This is the longest we’ve lived in one place since marrying in 2012. Our house is small and quirky and not in a perfect location, but we’ve been able to settle in and make it a place we love to live.
Settling in and growing roots here has been an exercise in mindfulness and gratitude.
We share all this because we also want to share with you some of the ways we have consciously chosen to make where we live feel like the home where we and our kids want to live. For us, freedom for creative expression is an important ingredient in the recipe for ‘home’. Sometime early this spring, we realized we were limiting the creativity in our home and yard to things that would fit inside the box of “resale value”. As responsible homeowners, we thought we should always be adding to the resale value with our home improvement decisions and never do anything that someone else might not like, right? Well, maybe not…
For us, we want to live here like we are going to live here all our lives, because we just might. Holding that perspective, we started asking ourselves and our kids what we could do to make our house and yard a home we would want to live in for a really long time. Some of our favorite projects have happened in response to asking ourselves this question. They have been a little spontaneous, bright, colorful, and unique; most importantly, we’ve had a lot of fun creating something “new” together!
Abstract Painting on Raised Garden Beds
This is our fourth year of gardening in our backyard, and each year we expand a little bit by adding more raised garden beds. Our yard isn’t very big; we just try to be creative with how we use the space. Now we have eight raised garden beds.
One day, Jami was spontaneously painting on a small canvas in the backyard, and our youngest child, Eli (who just turned 7) asked to join. We let out our emotions through colors and shapes and brush strokes onto the canvas together while sitting under the archway in our garden. We let our creativity freely flow and found ourselves brushing extra paint off of our paintbrushes onto the wood of one of the garden boxes. It was so fun and interesting; soon the wood became our canvas. We sat in the grass under the archway, with no plan and no “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts”, and just let ourselves paint freely. The ways our brush strokes and color choices inspired each other was amazing, and it felt like we were creating a symphony of color and movement together. We painted in ways I never would have if it were just me, and we let each “mistake” become a Beautiful Oops – one of our favorite books. Watch Tom read this book to their kiddos Damien and Elijah on Child Care Answers’ YouTube Channel.
We loved the experience and end result so much, we kept going. Tom and our oldest, Damien (age 13), have joined in here and there, and we’ve kept this project going all through the summer. We love how abstract and unique each board is becoming and how the kids will always be able to look around the yard and see that they were allowed to be messy and creative and make their marks on this place.
The “Famous” Marble Fence
We say our fence is ‘famous’ because we posted a video of this project on Tiktok, at the suggestion of our close friend, Brenna, a talented Indy-based artist. It went viral overnight, so we posted some follow-up and how-to videos and those went viral as well. So that has been interesting and fun.
At this point you are probably wondering, “what in the world is a marble fence???”. Well, it’s basically a fence with drilled holes plugged by marbles. Jami saw the idea on Pinterest many years ago and when we started asking ourselves what we want to do if we are going to live here forever, she remembered the images of those colorful light catching orbs embedded into a few panels of a fence. She showed Tom, who was immediately excited.
We messaged Tom’s parents who have been collecting marbles for decades, and they were willing to share some with us. We picked out all the translucent marbles from their collection – at least the ones they were willing to part with.
How we did it
After testing a few strategies and getting half a dozen marbles placed, we were hooked! We spent a weekend drilling holes with a Tri-Flute Wood Drill Bit. We then swiped some clear caulk in the hole with a pencil and placed marbles into the holes. The process was rhythmic and peaceful. It brought us all so much joy to see the light shining through more and more marbles. Both kids enjoyed pausing to help while running around the yard playing. Sometimes it was just the two of us, enjoying the sounds of birds and traffic and the golden evening light. Now, we can enjoy the colorful light during sunrise and sunset on different sides of the gate.
We decided to go with abstract placements, because that’s our vibe. We thought about creating an image (such as a galaxy shape or the earth) with marbles too – we’ll see! For now, we are just enjoying how awesome the sun looks when it shines through these marbles every morning and evening.
We love this whimsical, quirky addition to our home.
Hanging Game Boxes
We recently visited Tom’s sister, her husband, and three children in their gorgeous new home. We were inspired by the ways they have incorporated board game accessibility into the design of their living spaces. They have a chess and checkers board mounted to a small table with a basket underneath for the pieces. They strategically placed it between two cozy chairs in a room they’ve named “the library”. We found some combination of the kids playing chess or checkers together dozens of times over the week. Alongside book-filled shelves, they had shelves filled with a fun variety of board games – all readily within reach. We were all playing games at every opportunity.
Making our own game “library”
We came home from the trip feeling so inspired to create more accessibility with our own board games. At the time, we were just storing them in a shelf/cabinet combo near our entryway. They had a layer of dust on them, and it was easy to forget they were there.
Our sweet but small home doesn’t have the space for an entire room dedicated to books and board games. Instead, we placed a chess board and a game called Klask on our coffee table, all ready to play. Over the course of one day, we had played more rounds of each game than we had in months. This inspired us to start thinking about some of our other board game accessibility inspirations. A few years ago, Jami’s parents took their favorite board game boards, framed them, and hung them on their den’s walls. Whenever someone wants to play, they simply pull it off the wall, snag the pieces stored nearby, and play! We love how the games double as decor and are still so frequently played.
With all this inspiration and our own creative ideas, we decided to hang the board games still in their boxes around the walls of our den using velcro strips. We LOVE how the games now double as artwork for our walls. They remind us what games we have and are even more accessible to us now. We even placed some velcro strips for our card decks! This room is now such a fun place to be.