It takes some skill for a family of four to live in a 995-square-foot apartment in Lincoln, Nebraska. Trina Cress from Beginner Beans makes it look so easy and beautiful— I had to share what she did. Take a look around her home and get some inspiration from this green-friendly, big-heart mama.
Small house living with kids
Tell us a little about you and your family.
I have two adorable kids–Brylee (4) and Ian (1)—and one ruggedly handsome husband, Daniel, who jokes that all he does is make cute babies. Daniel supports me staying home with our kids and encourages me in my writing. He’s sending me on a long weekend with my girl friends while he takes time off work to take care of the kids—seriously, he’s incredible! Brylee is very girly (which she doesn’t get from me) and her gorgeous curls will make you jealous. Ian is more observant and has to warm up to people before being himself around them (which he does get from me) and his big eyes will melt your heart.
They are all so fun, and are always teaching me so much about life and faith and what really matters.
What brought you to Lincoln, Nebraska?
My husband and I attended college in Nebraska and got married and had our daughter here. When Daniel got his first teaching job in Florida, we were excited about that adventure. We made great friends, had play dates at the beach, and welcomed our baby boy there. We enjoyed our two years, but were equally excited to return “home” to Nebraska. Now that we’re back we both agree this really is home.
What do you love about your 995 square foot apartment?
Our small 2-bedroom apartment is easier to clean and decorate and keep an eye on the kids. It’s simple and makes me feel content and safe. It reminds me that I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses to be happy. I also love the large closets in both bedrooms, space for a dining table, and large windows that flood in natural light. We chose it especially for it’s location–Daniel walks to work, Brylee’s preschool is across the road, and the view out our front windows is a park with a sprawling grassy area.
Where do you get your inspiration from when decorating a room?
I love neutrals and green, and the simple beauty of the outdoors–especially a midwest field and the beach. I know, those are an unlikely combo, but I’ve found lots of inspiration that make me think of both. I enjoy browsing Apartment Therapy, Design*Sponge and DecorPad for ideas.
Have any tips for keeping the kids entertained in a small space?
Entertaining kids in a small space is a little easier than I thought it would be. They are always entertaining themselves with non-toy items–turning a large blanket and chairs into a fort, playing drums with spoons and items from the pantry, pretending with things from recycling. We also created spaces for them throughout the house, like the table and displayed art in the dining area, bins of their books on the shelf in the living room, and they each have their own ottoman full of toys under the TV shelf. This encourages them to move throughout the apartment and change scenery throughout the day. Living in a small space also encourages us to get outside and explore other places–whether we’re running errands, going to the park, checking out the library, or visiting the local children’s museum, we try to get out everyday.
Your daughter and son share a room– how has that been as far as sleeping at night and also decorating.
I love that they are getting to share a room! I know this won’t last forever, but it has been great seeing how sharing a room has encouraged their bonding and relating with others. They have been great when it’s time to sleep. Ian goes to bed before Brylee, so he is often asleep when we quietly go in to put Brylee to bed. Even if they go to bed at the same time, they usually don’t keep each other awake. Even so, giggling with your sibling as you fall asleep is just one of many special childhood memories. Thankfully we seem to have two heavy sleepers–they have taken turns in the past waking up at night, but rarely wake the other one.
Decorating their individual spaces was fun. I collected inspiration for boy/girl shared rooms and many have one theme or color scheme throughout the room–I knew I wanted to do something a little different. Brylee is very much a girly girl so I wanted her side of the room to stay girly, and alternately wanted a boy-inspired theme on Ian’s side. I’m no decorator, so I can’t say whether this really works for the flow or cohesiveness of the room as a whole, but I love how the details are specific to each child.
I love the framed nature art in the kids room! Can you tell me about it?
I am in no way girly, so the details and colors for Ian were much more natural for me to create. The framed tree cutouts were inspired by the book “We Planted a Tree” using scrapbook paper in the colors of his room to make circle trees. The larger square frame holds green and white fabric I got from IKEA, with a leaf pattern I cut out of black paper.
Is that a chore chart in your master bedroom?
Actually, no. That’s a corkboard calendar where I track blogging ideas–for my own blog (Beginner Beans) and for another blog I contribute to (Veggie Meal-Maker). The chore chart hangs on our fridge where Brylee uses flower magnets I made to check off the things as she does them.
Your home feels very balanced between being for grown up and also kid-friendly. Do you have any tips to help others achieve this same balance?
It helps that I feel like I’m personally in between being grown up and kid-friendly.
Adding kid-specific zones outside of their bedroom makes them feel like this is their apartment too. Kids’ finger paintings, when framed can look like a quality piece of abstract artwork. Also, giving the kids hidden storage for books and toys in the living room makes clean-up easy and keeps the whole house from looking like a playroom when toys are not in use. Storage ottomans, a drawer or bins are great solutions.
You are also a green lovin’ momma, like myself… Have any tips that you use around the home that could inspire other parents?
I use vinegar and baking soda for whatever possible—cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen, boosting detergent for washing diapers, and even to replace shampoo and conditioner. But, I’ve learned the greenest thing we do around the house is learning to be content and living simple lives. This means we use up products before we buy new, we repurpose when we can, and we’re happy with what we have rather than always searching for new, bigger or better. We sometimes struggle with comparisons, but we’re always happier when we simply enjoy our side of the fence.