One big happy family works it out in a high-chroma house

Guest post by Mica Sue and Stephen


Mica Sue and Stephen live with kids Phoenix, Ocean, Anna, and Garrett and pets Holly and Mr. Kitters in a three bedroom house in east Tennessee. And it’s all a bit… chromatic. And full.

Stephen bought our home in 2006, but my kids and I didn’t move in until the summer of ’08. The house wasn’t set up for four kids, so every night the living room transformed into my boys’ bedroom when we unfurled their foam roll-up mattress beds.

Our neighborhood is a little grid of sidewalks and a library/park combo. Overall it’s a little mix of southern country and contemporary hipster family style. People walk dogs and babies. I’ve talked with some neighbors about having a cook out/meet and greet type thing or maybe a holiday party soiree. It’s the kind of area where considering that kind of idea wouldn’t be outlandish.

livingroom1 (1 of 1)

We’re a ramshackle mix of aging DIY hipster, old dirty hippie, and BMX. Our home is like a homemade rainbow bike land. There’re six of us. My husband has his two kids who come with their moms and I have my two kids who come with their dads. Most nights you can hear my 15 year old son learning how to play “Careless Whipsers” on his trumpet because he thinks it’s ironic.

boysroomOur home really isn’t big enough for six people, a dog, and a cat. We have three bedrooms, and two people per room. The kids’ closets look like Tetris where everything has been organized to optimize space. It always feels like we are trampling over each other, and we fight to keep chaos at bay. We are always weeding through our things to get rid of any superfluous stuff that can be passed on or donated or thrown out.

We deal with it by keeping happy. We try to have game nights and craft nights and foster this idea of us being a big crowded happy family. Sometimes this works, sometimes not so much, but we try to remind everyone how lucky we are to have what we have.

living roomI really love all the little bits that go into making our home, like the gummy bear shaped dog toys on the wall and the plants that crowd around the kitchen sink.

Our kitchen is a major hub for us because we all like to cook and bake. I really love our vintage dining room table that belonged to my grandmother, and it’s big enough for all six of us to sit down and eat, craft, or play a game. We have all these little items that make our home feel very personal.




Stephen bought our home right before the housing market crashed. This means he paid an inflated price for the house, and if we sold it now, we wouldn’t get anywhere near what he paid for it. We were pretty bummed about that for a while because we feel like we truly need more space. For us, we’re learning to embrace our home, and focusing on what we could do in it. We might not be able to sell our house, but we can make it fun, and since we do own it, we can pretty much do whatever we want.

We have so many plans. We want to wallpaper a wall, replace the top part of the kitchen cabinets with open air wire shelving, and DIY vinyl decals a la the Offbeat Home tutorial. Our grandest plan in terms of expense and time will be the addition of an extra bedroom. We debated about pulling the trigger on this plan, because it won’t really add to the value of our home and to make it happen we are refinancing that home. In our situation we decided that the extra room would up our quality of life enough to justify the cost of resetting our mortgage.

livingroom4 (1 of 1)

livingroom3 (1 of 1)

I hope readers embrace their homes and don’t let a lack of DIY skills stop them from trying new things. One afternoon we painted a living room wall plum. It’s a little messy, but we love it. Unless it has to do with actual trade labors like plumbing, wiring, etc., it doesn’t matter to us if it’s not perfect.

Services and vendors who make our life what it is

We really like art from Brandon Bird and Nikki McClure.

We go down the road to get our car serviced and maybe a handmade tire planter here at Fisher Tire. We like Aisle Nine Grocery [CLICK. THROUGH. You’ll be so happy to learn about this place. -Cat]. This is our version of fast food because we can pop in and grab pre-made deli sammies for dinner: Three Rivers Market.
My favourite apron that I wear whenever I cook or bake was made by Taylor Wilburn, who sells her aprons at Allegra.

You need to see the dog and the cat. And also more of these lavender, orange, and yellow rooms. Behold, the decor porn!

Comments on One big happy family works it out in a high-chroma house

  1. Yay, Knoxville FTW! I absolutely adore your purple counter tops! I’m honestly a little jealous and now need my own purple counters… I also have the mustache mug, bought it at Bliss downtown on Market Square.

  2. A wonderful honest home. I love your use of colour, and mix-and-match items, which really do give your place a sense of togetherness and family. I bet your kids love it! Wonderful! More!

  3. LOVE the kitchen colors, and I ADORE the fact that it looks like a family actually lives here. Most home tours I see look like a museum setting: all sterile and perfect. I hate that.

  4. I am in LOVE with all the colors and non-traditional decor! It inspires me to live a little more in my own home! Be daring and go bold! Love it!!

  5. I’m glad to see someone else who isn’t afraid of using some bold, punchy color…it’s amazing what some interesting paint choices will do to “dress up” your everyday house. Nice work (and article)!

  6. Also, the Facebook link was the only way I probably would have come across this cool website…thanks for the inadvertent referral

  7. Love this post! I’m living collectively right now and i love it (and hate it, obviously) and am wondering how I’m going to be able to continue to do it when I have kids, its great to see a collective family arrangement w/ kids work and see it written about online. Your house is even nice! (we are still working on that part)

  8. PURPLE COUNTERS!!!! Love your house. I’m living pretty much the same! We have four kids, me and husband, living in a 3bedder too, but our kitchen is much smaller than yours! We have a love/hate with our house. Love that it’s ours too though, and would kill for that extra bedroom.. sigh. We make the most, cut down on as much crap as we can and learn to love the clutter of what’s left. Yay you for posting about my kinda normal family home!

    • We cut down on crap a lot, but I really like crap, so sometimes it’s hard. How do you have your kids split in the bedrooms? We used to do 3 boys in one, and our girl in one, but the youngest (4) has really taken to sleeping in his sister’s room, and the other two boys are stoked on that.

      • We have the opposite of 3 girls and 1 boy. My eldest and youngest girls, 10 and 3, share one room. The middle 2, boy and girl share the other room. Works out well at the moment, as the pairs are the ones that have most in common right now.
        We used to have all four in one room(!!!) and all their stuff in the other, because they always room hopped anyway and I would often find all of them asleep in one single bed. They’re like my little puppy pack.

        I’m a crap-collector too, and it is damn hard to stop! Have lately managed by limiting the kids to 3 physical presents at any gift times and then they get to DO stuff instead. We do theme parks, harley rides, jet boat, trapeze, music lessons, whatever takes their fancy for their gift.
        For myself I see something I like, research the heck out of it to see if it really is the bees knees of the item, and if not I wait until I can afford the ‘forever’ style and get that instead.

  9. Thanks for sharing your home! It’s lovely, and I wish weren’t in a rental, so I could go paint something purple now! Also, I really appreciate seeing a regular home — we (and many other people, I’m sure) have very real, and severe limits on space and money, and its really great to see what can be done within those limits.

  10. Mica! I love your home, especially all of the colors and love in it! The thing that prompted me to comment though was the fearlessness of the post and the photos in it! I love that you were willing (dare I say eager) to share your home with us even though it is (some might say) chaotic, cluttered and somewhat unkempt. I imagine having four kids and two pets means that it is rarely ever perfectly pristine like a catalog and I applaud your willingness to share it with us anyway. I am always afraid to post photos even to the flickr pool because of all of the clutter and chaos that fills my home. I am ashamed of my mess and I am impressed that you’re not. Bravo! Thanks for sharing your lovely, lived in home!

  11. LOVE LOVE LOVE the kitchen, it is drastic and the most excellent use of colur EVER! I also live in a crazy space of many children and pets so I totally loved your honesty. MAKE IT WORK and it will be grand when theya ll leave and you guys have no mortgage and studio space.

  12. I grew up in a house with 3 bedrooms with 4 of us kids, 2 adults, 2 dogs, 2 guinea pigs and 4 hamsters. It does drain a lot of space but it worked out and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

    • I really hope that when the kids get older they feel that same way too, and even though now they might feel cramped, I hope they have fond memories in the long run.

  13. Love, love,love THAT KITCHEN!

    but love you two (and your gang of course) just look like two lovely, real, people.

    You have a great attitude to life and bucket loads of love…and dat my friends, as you all ready so well know, is the key ingredigent. Hope lady luck comes and sprinkles on you often xx

Join the Conversation