Jon and I bought our first house when I was just 21. Most people have dreams of owning their own home for a multitude of reasons. The American dream, starting a family, visions of that white picket fence…ours was for the Pack. We were in a tiny little apartment with a no pets policy and Jolea, our Chihuahua. We went out for bagels one morning and stumbled on a rescue group desperately trying to home dogs born in a FEMA trailer during Hurricane Katrina. Needless to say we came home sans bagels, plus two Labradors. And now, we were a young couple with a too cute to be properly trained Chihuahua and two rambunctious lab puppies in a no-pets-allowed tiny apartment. Enter, first house.
You might be thinking “prop photo” when you see the kitchen above. Actually, this was a real day when I was enjoying my favorite green smoothie and prepping dinner. Ahh, all that fresh farmer’s market bounty has me craving summer. But if you were thinking “props” you weren’t entirely wrong. Look back toward the left of the stove and you’ll see a toaster. That my friends, is indeed a prop toaster. It works, but if you look closely it still has the plastic packaging on the back because my husband has dubbed it the “good” toaster that is too nice to use. No, really. My parents came for Christmas and had the audacity to put slices of bread in it and leave crumbs. Jon just about lost his mind. Do you have anything like that at home or is it just us?
I’m all about the thrill of the hunt. I am constantly flipping through magazines, window shopping, pinning and scrolling Insta for the latest and greatest in home design and decor trends. It feeds my competitive side because I must have that oddball item no one else has (yet) and I’ve got to get it for a steal. It’s a little bit like shopping for baby clothes. Mamas, you know what I mean. Everyone buys the same old Carter’s onesies and I crave dressing my little man in that sweet startup brand that a SAHM just launched on Etsy. You with me?
We’ve all told a little white lie before, right? No judgement. I actually resolved to tell less of them in 2017. Working on it! Buttt for the purposes of this post, and for selling your home, we’re going to ask you to tell just a few.
You’ve heard wallpaper is a
nightmare big commitment. We covered that, right? I’m still a fan in most cases. But what about a mural? When and where does that work in your home? For us, it was never something that we remotely entertained until I was pregnant with our little guy. I spent more hours than I should really admit to pouring over Pinterest to find something, anything, that inspired me for Grey’s nursery. I wanted it to be fun, a theme that would take him from babbling baby to having a “girls have cooties, do not enter” sign taped to his door. We love all things Chicago and from our time living here had acquired some really cool pieces that just so happened to be exactly what I was envisioning. Sometimes you already have what you need, you just need something to bring it all together.
I’ve never been a big fan of an accent wall. OK, that’s not entirely true. I’ll clarify. I am not a fan of a single wall painted a different color, just because. I’m even less of a fan when it’s a dining room wall and a bad shade of burgundy. Blehhh. But I am a big fan of statement walls and you can achieve that in so many, way less-boring, way more you, ways. Our last #NixonPack residence was a fabulous three story brick town home in Chicago. It was city living at its finest complete with an awesome skyline view on the roof deck. But what it did not have was a lot of space. It was a cookie cutter layout that mirrored every other town home in the complex. If you’d seen one, you’d seen them all and we wanted ours to stand out because that’s the Nixon Pack way. While it was a long space, it was narrow, and it was just one run-on wall from the back of the house to the front, encompassing the kitchen, living and dining areas. How could we define the space?
The most recent #NixonPack house was a total gut. I was several months pregnant and looking back, that may not have been the very best time to completely renovate a home. My husband and the whip marks on his back would agree. Kidding! (Okay, half joking). We bought the house from an elderly couple and it just felt like the walls were begging to be stripped of the 1974 wallpaper and the odd (and completely unnecessary) soffits in the kitchen. Finding out the wall between the kitchen and the living room wasn’t load bearing? Jackpot! Must. Come. Down. Every show I had seen on HGTV smashed the walls down and honestly? It looked like fun. Now time for the reality check – when you see it on TV they have done most of the pre-work so you see the big reveal moment at the very end when they miraculously plow through to the other side. Not the case IRL. But I must say, after watching my husband do it, there’s something pretty Superman about the process and boy is it gratifying to see it wide open at the end of the day. OK, so we fully committed – our entire first floor is W I D E O P E N. I mean open the front door and see an unobstructed view to the backyard kind of open. Here’s what we like about it and what we don’t so you have an arsenal of knowledge before you get out the sledge hammer.
This is the #NixonPack. Well, the partial pack if you will – we’re missing the tiny human and are in great need of an updated family photo.
But for a second let’s imagine an overworked Dad wrangling four large dogs, each pulling in an opposite direction (squirrel!), while this tired mama simultaneously carries the chihuahua that refuses to walk like a real dog and a nine month old baby that would love to put all his sister’s fur in his mouth, and mama’s hair, and get down and eat the dirt, too. Now that would be some family picture. And yes, you read right, FIVE dogs.
So while we schedule that photo shoot, we’ll introduce the Pack to you. Jon is the overworked Dad mentioned above and he is just the best. He’d never tell you he’s good at anything, but let me tell you, he can do it ALL. He is self-taught, or Grandpa taught, on everything from electrical to tile, knocking down walls and installing the most insta-worthy hexagonal marble backlash. He is the master of the honey do list, insanely talented and will make you laugh until you pee your pants. When I introduce him to someone new, I always have to add a disclaimer about how wildly inappropriate he is, but without fail he’s the clear favorite of this duo and that is A-OK by me.
I call myself the GC of the pack, and Jon will agree. Isn’t that right, dear? I am the budget-minded, practical one, with whip ready for cracking at all times. You’ve heard of champagne taste on a beer budget? Yass. No matter how much we, or a client, has to spend, I will seek out every option and find the most fabulous piece for the very best price. I love the thrill of the hunt, staying up on the latest design trends, then calling upon my old cheerleading days to rah rah Jon into thinking he can make the pages of House Beautiful open before our very eyes. And he does, without fail. Buying, selling, and renovating homes has been our form of marital therapy. We come together to build something beautiful and fill each project with laughter and love.
Now to the inspiration behind the Nixon Pack. Our five pups are all rescue dogs and are the best of friends. They follow each other everywhere, snuggle in the sunlight and are the most understanding, loving little pups with the newest human addition to the Pack. Jolea was the first we adopted when I was still in college and she has lived in every single dorm, apartment and house with us over the course of our relationship. I joke that she’s been around as long as Jon and she’s the one who stole my heart. She is my first baby and the joey in my pouch. The next two we rescued are the labs, Matilda and Stella from Hurricane Katrina. Ladea was a rescue from the dog warden in Syracuse, NY, and Chancellor is our boxer who was burned by acid when he was just a puppy in Tennessee. They all have a story, they all have the most unique, sweet personalities and we are the luckiest. Is having five dogs easy? No, we are nuts. But are they worth it? You bet.
Lastly, the light of our lives, Grey Mitchell Nixon. He is the very definition of all that is right in the world. We were married for ten years before having him and yet it feels like I’ve known him my whole life. He is the happiest, most joy-filled, loving little babe and he will bite you hard with the most loving kisses and laugh wildly the whole day long. I could say thank you to God each night over a million lifetimes and it would never be enough to deserve this family of mine.