Finding your dream home is something everyone, well, dreams about at some point in their lives. But what happens when you have to leave the home where you first started your family and invested hours of work into making it the perfect space? For Chelsea Mohrman, her husband Kiel, and their two young boys, finding that perfect home was as short a journey as it was serendipitous.
With clean lines and modern decor, Chelsea and Kiel have beautifully blended their styles to create the perfect space in their new 1950s Cape Cod home for their two growing boys. We asked Chelsea to dish on all of her secrets — from hiding toys and designating play areas (did we mention the finished basement?) to thrifting for unique pieces to make a home truly special.
Name: Chelsea Mohrman
Square Footage: 1,680 sq. ft with finished basement
Rent or Own: Own
Location: Worthington, OH
Children: Oliver, 2; and Evan, 4
How would you describe your design style? How has it evolved over the years?
I think the words I would pick are calm and collected, vintage, and modern (is that such a thing?!). I have always wanted a home that feels comfortable but looks nice. I gravitate toward the same thing with my clothing choices. I think in the past few years my style has definitely matured. I used to love bright things and probably overdid it on the statement, antique pieces in the past. I have learned how to tone things down with neutrals to create a more warm and welcoming home.
How do you and your husband, who has his own distinct style, marry your two styles in your home?
This has been a tough one from the start. Kiel has always liked modern, clean lines and masculine pieces; while I always wanted white, bright, and color. He finally got me with the woodgrain and I am now a convert. If he had let me have my way, my entire home would have been easter egg blue with white furniture. We married young and have definitely influenced each other. We still don’t agree on everything but for the most part agree on our big pieces like sofas, beds, etc. There are a few pictures that he will occasionally put up on the wall when I am out of the house that I swap out when I get home. We like to play a game of this to see how long until the other notices whose art choice has been hanging most recently.
Did the design of this new home differ from your design style in your Clintonville home? What was it like to leave that home after putting so much love and memory into it?
Our new home was built in the 1950s, and our previous house was a 1918 craftsman, so it was much older than our new home. Our old home had high ceilings, amazing woodwork, an original cast iron clawfoot tub in the bathroom, and every bit of charm you could get from a 100-year-old home. Our new home is definitely more mid-century modern with thinner woodwork, basic bathrooms, and shorter ceilings. Despite the small square footage, this house feels amazingly functional (much more than our old one which was actually about the exact same size) and works really well for our family — which is why we ended up there.
Kiel said he would never sell our old house. He put hours of blood, sweat, and tears into that home. I told him that we wouldn’t leave it until we found the right place. When we drove down our new street we had been looking casually for a few years, but didn’t actually have our old house on the market yet. We weren’t planning to list until we found a house we knew would be perfect for us. We had been looking at a smaller fixer-upper in the neighborhood we’re in now. We didn’t think the other house would work out so we just drove around. The dead-end street with little kids playing, mature trees, a large yard, and a garage with space for a work area swept us up right away.
The house had been recently flipped and had a lot of “modern” upgrades that were not very on-trend. We were able to easily look past this and see how much work didn’t need to be done (newly finished floors, newly painted trim, a renovated kitchen, a finished basement). We knew that it wouldn’t take much to make this house our own, so it was perfect for us. We offered and were in contract to buy the same night we walked through our new house, and the following day went into contract through a pocket sale through Instagram (believe it or not) on our old home.
You mentioned the rich history of your post-war Cape Cod home – were there any design choices you made to keep some of that legacy intact?
Kiel has always been a huge mid-century modern fan. We actually had a lot of ’50s and ’60s style furniture in our old home, which we made work with the clean lines of the craftsman woodwork. Moving into this new home wasn’t too hard, most of what we had already worked in the new home. However all the walls in our new home were painted beige, so they were quickly repainted. We matched the white to the existing white trim which is very close to “Pure White” by Sherwin Williams. Our old craftsman had a lot more woodwork and we used a softer alabaster white on all the walls.
While I miss some of the charm of our old house, I absolutely love my blank, white canvas. We still have some built-in cupboards in our kitchen that give it that quaint, 1950s feel.
How do you achieve your clean, modern look with your littles around? What advice do you have for moms who want a minimalist, stylish home but also want their family to feel comfortable?
We try to choose kid-tough furniture that can withstand cats and kids. Wood grain can be very forgiving and I lean toward materials that can be easily cleaned and maintained like heavy tweeds, leather, and metals. Baskets are amazing, and I try to pick sturdy ones that can hold a lot so I can keep things out of sight. Dressers and wardrobes are also perfect for storing a lot of stuff. We have them in almost every room (including our living room and playroom!).
Is everywhere a place for the kids to play? Or do you have designated areas for them?
We keep all their toys in the finished basement, which is amazing because I don’t have to see or deal with them unless I am doing laundry or getting something out of storage in our basement guest bedroom. I usually clean it once a week but otherwise let them play down there to their heart’s content without worrying about organizing everything everyday. They will usually bring up one or two small toys or puzzles to the main living room each day while I am working in my studio to keep themselves occupied if they want to be on the same level as one of us adults. They are allowed to use markers, paints, and craft supplies either in my studio office or at the dining room table since they both wipe clean well.
We love all of the greenery you have in your home! What advice do you have for the not-so-green thumbs among us? How do we effectively incorporate plants into our decor?
Thank you! I love finishing off a table or corner with some greenery. Not only does do they look nice, they clean the air and make us feel less cooped up. I usually thrift planters, vases, and large bowls to put my plants in. I find that planters without a hole are sometimes nice since they retain more water, so I only water once a week. I try to pick lower-maintenance plants like rubber tree or jade plants, especially for lower-light areas. I am on my third fiddle leaf fig and apparently the third try is the charm, because this one has been thriving for about two years. I try to keep it right next to a window so it is flooded with light and rotate it regularly!
For those with less of a green thumb, IKEA has amazing fake plants (and I even have a couple of them in our low-light areas like the bathrooms and basement). I also love cut silver dollar eucalyptus leaves in a vase or pitcher on a table as a centerpiece.
You mentioned that, right now, both of your sons share a room but you plan on giving them each their own room in the future – what’s the benefit of having them share a room? Was that more of a parenting move or a design decision?
Both — right before we moved, Oliver was really boycotting his crib and always wanted to be in bed with Evan. We had travelled a few times and had them in the same room, and they were always fine together. When we looked at this house to buy, knowing that our kids were only one and three years old at the time of purchase (two and four now), we knew that we would need to make a shared room work since there are only two bedrooms upstairs. We have a first floor bedroom, which is currently my studio, and a basement guest bedroom. Because the kids are young, we want to be on the same level as them and not worry about navigating stairs during midnight wake-ups. Once they are self-sufficient, we will move our bedroom down to the first floor and let the boys go wild upstairs!
When you were designing their shared room, what adjustments to your style did you make to accommodate their needs and personalities?
Our boys are close in age (21 months apart), so they have very similar interests. Once Evan becomes enamored with something new, his little brother Oliver is quick to follow. They both love cars, dinos, books, and animals. We didn’t really go for a theme, but focused more on subtle-yet-fun-colors instead.
Do you have a favorite room or nook in your home? Tell us why!
I love being in my studio office. That’s usually where I am working on design projects, crafting with the kids, or sorting my thrifted home goods. It’s completely mine — no design compromises with kids or the husband here!
Every home has its own quirks and challenges – what were yours? How did you overcome them?
This home checks off a ton of our wants and needs. It helped knowing what we did and didn’t want, as this is our second home. Overall, if location, finances, and this insane market weren’t factors, I would have loved a slightly older and slightly larger home (think 1800s farm house dream). However, we are used to small-space living and make storage and organization work double-duty for us. We also try to live with what we actually need and are constantly assessing what we have and what we no longer use. We figure that less stuff and less clutter means more time for enjoyment!
Where are your go-to places for big-ticket furniture and decor?
I always check either antique stores or Facebook Marketplace for second-hand items first. If I can’t find something I want second-hand, then I try to find it handmade or ask my husband to make it. When my wish list still hasn’t been fulfilled, then IKEA, West Elm, or Target are probably my favorite places for modern, yet affordable pieces.
You’re very passionate about thrifting! Tell us why.
Growing up we didn’t have a lot of extra money. My mom was single and tried not to work full-time — at least while we were young so that she was with us. She is very creative and would help us decorate our rooms by fixing up thrifted furniture. One time when I had a safari-themed room, she spent weeks painting a desk in leopard print with a Q-tip! When I moved into my first apartment I found a $40 danish modern bedroom set and painted it all white. I remember sanding in the front yard of my campus apartment and my neighbors looking at me like I was crazy, but I loved it.
I love the creativity and uniqueness you can find with second-hand or vintage items. Walking into an antique mall is usually a promise you will find something amazing, but the fun of looking for that diamond in the rough at the thrift store will always be my favorite! You typically can’t beat the price of items from the thrift store. I like to stop in every couple days and quickly look around to see what’s waiting for me!
What does a typical day look like for you?
My days vary widely based on whether I work or not. I work three days a week as an oncology nurse. My work schedule is 7:30am-6pm so my work days usually fly by. My mother-in-law watches our boys, so she comes over in the morning after I leave for work.
Two days a week I am home with the kids all day solo. We usually take our time eating breakfast, then run errands or go to the park. Around noon we eat lunch and I work on projects. The kids usually nap in the afternoon and are up in time to help me make dinner. If it’s nice out, the kids usually free range outside with the other neighborhood boys. If it’s cold, they craft or make forts in the basement. Once dinner is over we do the bath time and bedtime routine again!
When it comes to motherhood, what are you most confident in? What are you still insecure about?
I’m pretty confident with managing schedules, running errands, or doing things with the kids. Kiel has a little more trouble with this as he tends to get overwhelmed when he is out with just the two of him on his own. I’ve gotten pretty good at managing them in public and entertaining them through the day. I do, however, totally struggle with saying no to too many fun things. Evan loves legos and we love making him happy. He often wants or asks for little toys or legos while we are out and it’s so hard to say no — especially when the tantrum follows after. Recently Kiel and I have been discussing how to say no and how to set realistic expectations for our kids for when they get gifts, how they can work to earn things, and the value of a dollar.
How do you and Kiel divide parenting roles? How has your marriage changed since having kids?
We try to co-parent as much as possible and follow each other’s leads with discipline. We try to talk a lot about intentional parenting and discipline. After a situation occurs, we try to debrief on how it was handled and how/if it should have been handled differently. But like anyone, we all have our limits and those times where we just need a break. We’re both working to ensure that we are taking care of ourselves physically (working out, eating well) and mentally (meditation) to ensure that we are our best selves to be the best parents. We try to recognize in ourselves and each other when breaks are needed or when we need the other to take over for a few minutes. It’s not perfect, but honest communication and teamwork help tremendously.
How do your kids inspire you?
I love how creative and free they are. Just today I was watching Evan build a “dino set.” He sourced trees from our Christmas box, dinos from his dino bin, wood slices from the craft room, and plastic animals from his playroom. It was adorable. I love how they create and play outside the box without a care in the world!
What are some of your favorite activities to do as a family right now?
We love going to the park or the lake. We are really lucky that we have family with lake houses and boats on a few lakes within driving distance of our home, so that takes up a lot of the summer. We’re looking forward to spending some time taking the boys hiking and exploring in Hocking Hills this summer now that the kids are more mobile. Anything with nature or learning!
If you have to pick just one, what’s been your favorite moment from motherhood so far?
Every time either one of my boys wraps their arms around me and says “love you mama!” I melt!
Chelsea Mohrman is the Everymom…
Design trend you wish you never gave into? Shabby chic. I can do authentic patina, but anything I ever bought with faux wear and tear I totally regret (and have likely repainted).
Favorite afternoon in Columbus? Walking to downtown Worthington for pizza and ice cream with the kids
Kid’s movie you secretly love? Toy Story
Guilty pleasure song? Sucker Punch by Sigrid
Best way to end a long day? Binge watching Netflix on the couch with my husband
Go-to date night? Seventh Son Brewery on Pierogi night