Living With Kids: Kara Van Dyke
Peace, solitude, wide open spaces and gorgeous views. Sounds pretty great, right? Well, you are going to love this week’s Living with Kids home tour.Meet Kara and Garrett and their two boys, Keane and Jones Perry.
You’ll absolutely fall in love with the white washed walls and angled ceilings of this renovated A-Frame cabin. Its simple, Scandinavian-design at its best and belonged to Kara’s grandpa. Seeing Kara’s beautiful minimalist style choices will make you want to go through your home and strip out all the unnecessary bits and bobs and live in a curated, toned-down collection of furnishings like this.
Here’s Kara — come say hello!
I’m Kara, wife to a handsome curly haired man named Garrett. He is the silliest and sweetest best friend I’ve ever had. We met on Federal Avenue. I had just finished my degree in Fine Arts & Literature at Utah State University and was teaching preschool. My friend invited me to a concert one night, normally I didn’t go to stuff like that but for some reason I felt really excited about it. I walked into this tiny hole-in-the-wall venue and saw Garrett standing in the corner with a group of friends. My heart literally did a weird flipping thing inside my chest… I mean his HAIR. He looks like Russell Crow, but with Sam Smith’s hair. Just sayin’.
I am a terribly shy person. Never in my entire life have I been the one to approach a guy. But I found myself so drawn to him… literally sneaking my way closer all night so I could talk to him ha! It was so out of character for me, but I couldn’t help it.
Once we met I felt like I was just talking with an old friend. It was so comfortable and easy. We went on our first date a few days later. He took me to his mom’s preschool to make valentines with all of the kids craft supplies. It was so sweet. I remember sitting on those tiny colorful chairs and looking over at Garrett, right then I just knew. I knew he was the man I would marry someday.
Now we have two little boys — Keane who is almost four and our baby Jones Perry. They are both little clones of their dad but with my blue eyes… and thank goodness they got his curly hair too. Those boys go from driving me completely bonkers one second to melting my heart the next. I never knew we could be so insanely tired and overwhelmed yet completely happy at the same time.
My husband has a degree in Hospitality Management and he’s currently a golf pro. I’m lucky enough to stay at home with our two boys. Since becoming a mother I’ve seen a real need to still take time for myself. To socialize with other women and to be creative. So I started an organization called Workroom. We gather together as women to create and learn new things. We’ve done a floral arranging class, water color painting, and a spring cleaning kit so far. It’s been really fun! I also have dreams to publish some children books I’ve been working on. I’ve got notebooks scattered all over the house and in my bags where I scribble down stories and characters that pop into my head. Hopefully someday it turns into more than just a creative outlet for me.
We live in Heber City, Utah. My grandpa Frank built a little a-frame cabin here almost 30 years ago. It sits on 20 acres of private mountain property near the Uinta National Forest. I still remember the woody smell when you first walk in, the aztec print couches, and lincoln logs my grandma would get out for all the grandkids when we’d stay over. We have some sweet memories of the place.
When my husband was offered a job as a golf pro at a private club in the valley we considered buying and living in the cabin while we house hunted. Then we thought we’d fix it up a bit, keep house hunting, and then rent it out as in income property. But we unexpectedly fell head over hills for the place and decided to make it our home.
That changed a lot of design decisions for us too. Renovating the cabin with a three year old and being pregnant with our second baby was A LOT. A lot of everything. Stressful. Exciting. Fulfilling. Overwhelming. Incredible. Exhausting. You get the point.
I was on medication during my first trimester that made me really really sick and so tired. It was to help prevent the miscarriages we had been suffering through the years previous to this pregnancy. I remember one afternoon I accidentally fell asleep and our son got into a bottle of bleach and sprayed it alllllllll over the cabin. Including our brand new leather couch (insert palm to face emoji) the bleach marks are still there. But now when I see them I’m reminded of the incredibly hard but beautiful summer we spent living in the cabin while fixing it up. We all slept on the same mattress on the floor. In the only clean corner of the one bedroom that was livable. We were constantly covered in saw dust and who knows what. The day we finally had a finished bathroom with running water felt like heaven!!
We renovated the a-frame with our family and friends in mind. The cabin was my grandpa’s place for solitude. He would often travel there alone to write music and meditate. We took the amazing work he had already put into the the cabin and did our best to improve on the space. A lot of inspiration came from my own Scandinavian heritage. I’m always drawn to clean, light filled spaces. The true a-frame design is simple and beautiful, so none of the actual structure was changed. We added eight new skylights and rearranged the kitchen to make it bigger and open to the living space. Both bathrooms were gutted and remodeled as well. We kept the warm and rustic charm the cabin already had to offer. It balanced out all of the new bright renovations really well.
When we were first married we didn’t have much. Everything we owned was either given to us as a hand-me-down or thrifted. But we were so happy. I don’t ever remember feeling like we needed more. This was our first home that we really had a chance to design and decorate. Neither of us are big on too many decorations or hanging things on walls so the a-frame design was perfect for us (not many walls to hang stuff on) ha!
We both thrive in clean simple spaces. I feel like our kids do too. My son will wake up and tell me “mom! we forgot to clean up all the toys last night into the baskets! it’s sooooo messy!!” if we let things slide. Not much has changed with our desire to keep a simple home since having kids. Except maybe the basket situation we have going on. So so many baskets!! They’re a life saver with kid toys and things.
Renovating the cabin has been one of the most creative and fulfilling things I’ve ever done. I feel like I got to know my grandpa better through it all too. He passed away when I was three and a half. I only have one vivid memory of him left. I can still see him sitting on the couch, legs crossed reading his newspaper. Wearing a worn brown button up sweater with his glasses on the tip of his nose. He caught me looking up at him and gave me the sweetest smile, it’s so much like my dad’s. I really hope he’d be proud of what we’ve done with his little old a-frame.
Now here’s the kicker about our story… after all was said and done with renovations and having our second little boy we felt a gentle tug at our hearts to move our family. For so many reasons it felt like the right thing to do. But gosh it was hard. Our oldest son is such a social butterfly and he was really struggling living so isolated from other people. It was heartbreaking really. On the other hand I’m a very introverted person, a lot like my grandpa was, so the cabin to me was home. We were so torn living there. My husband’s job also wasn’t panning out how we had hoped financially. He received some offers out of state that we really considered, but we love this quiet valley so much and had our hearts set on raising our boys here.
Eventually we came back around to the idea of renting out the cabin as an income property. Late one night while we were up with our baby we put the cabin on Airbnb just to test the waters. Very spur of the moment. Within 12 hours we had three bookings and it hasn’t slowed down since. We were shocked! So for the past few months we’ve been living in a whirlwind of emotions and change. We moved out of the cabin and closed the chapter on it being our home, but we’ve opened it’s doors for so many others to experience all it has to offer.
We found a home closer to town and I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me seeing our son run around with other boys his age. He’s thriving here. They even have a name for their little squad, “the cul-de-sac brothers” and it completely melts my heart. Because of the cabin we’ve met so many incredible people from all over the country and both my husband and I have LOVED taking care of our guests. Now our family has this budding little business that wasn’t really in our plans. It has been so good for all of us. Our oldest son even helps out with cleaning to earn his own “monies for paw patrol stuff”. We love that our boys can be a part of it. It’s scary to trust in your gut and do something out of the norm. But thankfully this time it’s worked out pretty well.
I wish someone had told me when I was young how truly hard motherhood is. In reality it’s so messy. So much of it is completely out of my hands. It can be unpleasant and heartbreaking. But without all of that I really don’t know if I could feel the joy it is to be a mother. For every disappointment I’ve experienced I could tell you a thousand tiny moments of beautiful that make up for it. Like my baby boy smiling his first gummy, giant, messy, drool-y smile at me. Or my son taking my face into his hands and telling me, “Hey little mama… I love you. You have squishy cheeks and I love them too.” It’s all of those tiny moments that mean everything and make it all worth it. At least to me. Living with my boys has taught me to let go of the idea I had in my head of what motherhood should look like. I’m learning to embrace it for what it truly is. It’s a mess. A really really happy mess. One I know I’ll miss someday.
What a beautiful story and an even more beautiful home! And how thrilling to know that if you want to go stay in this beautiful home you can! I think I need to plan a weekend cabin get-away…I love a home with so much connection to family history. That image of Kara’s grandpa sitting and reading his paper when she was a girl is so vivid and striking. What a blessing for Kara and her family to get to live in that home and then share it with world.
Is personal history important to you in the spaces you live in? How do you share the stories of your family with your kids so they can feel that connection? Even if you don’t live in a home that has previously been in your family, do you have objects or pictures that remind you and your kids of the past?
Credits: To see photos of Kara’s home before the renovation, check out her personal blog. You can rent this beautiful home for your own getaway here. Learn more about Workroom here. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham – you can follow him in Instagram. Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! Reach out at email@example.com.