Step Inside This House That’s the Perfect Mix of Modern and Cozy

So much of motherhood is trying to find just one other woman who also wears leggings for any reason other than working out, dropped all the F-bombs during labor, and is trying her best to raise a great kid without losing herself in the process. If you’re still looking for your kindred mama, Karen Puder is here for you. She’s a successful working woman, devoted mom to her 9-month-old Elodie, and makes sure to say ‘yes’ to the things she loves and doesn’t apologize for saying ‘no’ to what she cannot handle.

She took us through her truly sweet nursery that she designed for Elodie, and we were so smitten by this gender-neutral space! This room, like her whole home, is brimming with vintage rugs (it’s okay, we’re obsessed, too) and furniture that’s cozy above everything else. Read on for her design inspiration for the nursery, her heart-melting birth story, and her thoughts on the power of other women. We walked away feeling more empowered than ever, and we think you will, too: 


Name: Karen Puder
Age: 32
Current Title/Company: Channel Strategy Manager, Aruba Networks
Square Footage: 2,000 sqft.
Rent or Own: Own
City/State: Chicago, IL
Children: Elodie, 9 months



What was it like combining styles with your husband, John? How did you decorate your first home?


My husband and I rented a two-bedroom condo in Bucktown before we got engaged. I had previously lived there with one of my best friends, and John had always felt like our third roommate when we were dating. So it wasn’t much of a transition when we officially moved in together. (Shout out to my friend Ashley for always being down to be in a real-life episode of Three’s Company.)

We honestly didn’t spend any effort or money into decorating that place. It always felt so temporary to me, even though we were there for a few years. I wanted to wait to invest in a space that really felt like it was ours.



You decided to buy after living together in a rental for a few years. What drew you to this particular home?


We loved that this condo didn’t look like all of the other ones we had seen. The kitchen really won us over. It’s so clean and bright, and I could instantly picture us entertaining around the huge island. Having a second living space that could also function as a guest room was also really appealing. But, we are starting to grow out of it, and are on the (casual) hunt for a new place. 


Your style is a mix of clean lines and vintage accents. How did you bring your style to life in your home?


My favorite piece of furniture has to be the buffet under our TV by MegMade. It’s definitely the item we are asked about most in our home. But I’m a sucker for vintage rugs, so I can’t fail to highlight those little ladies. I also treasure having pieces from my late grandpa “Buddy” around. He was an English professor and I’ve been lucky enough to hold onto all of his old books. We had them on the tables at our wedding, and now they are littered around our apartment. My husband studied literature in college, so it feels like a way to connect the two of them even though they never got to meet.



A home has to be functional for everyone who lives in it. What are your must-haves for your home as your family has grown?


I might sound a bit obsessed, but I really think vintage rugs are great for families. These things are hundreds of years old and have been through it all. You can’t mess them up. So bring on the spit-up, spaghetti sauce, and red wine. These suckers are resilient. And of course, comfort. I won’t even buy a pair of shoes that I have to break in. Why would I buy a couch that is too stiff or a rocking chair that I can’t doze off in? I just don’t have the patience to be uncomfortable and always want our home to be welcoming and cozy.



What was your inspiration for Elodie’s nursery? How did you bring it to life?


Amber Interiors! Everything she does is amazing, and I was so drawn to a nursery she had designed. I wanted Elodie’s room to be cohesive with the rest of the house and not too babyish but still a little playful. I came across Blue Parakeet Rugs on Instagram and stalked her page as she posted new finds. When she featured a colorful antique Heriz, I knew I had to plan the entire nursery around it.

We didn’t know the sex of our baby, so I designed a gender-neutral room, which I think I would have done anyway. Somehow, even though we didn’t know her yet, the nursery was just perfect for Elodie. I couldn’t imagine it being for a different baby, and I wouldn’t change a thing!



Elodie’s nursery is a balance of calm and colorful. How do you think her room will change as she grows?


I wanted to be able to take any piece from her room and repurpose it elsewhere in the house or let it grow with her. I don’t anticipate it changing much, to be honest. Her crib is a beautiful unfinished wood that can transition into a little toddler bed. I imagine we will have to baby-proof a few things here and there as she gets more mobile, but otherwise, the intent was to design something that she could easily grow into.


Kids require so.much.stuff. How do you deal with all the baby gear in your home?  How do you think that will change as Elodie grows up?


We really tried not to buy a ton of things before Elodie arrived so we could figure out what she needed and liked. I am a purger by nature and have to have things in order, but hate being wasteful. So we wanted her to get here before buying all of the contraptions — and I am so glad we did. We are lucky to have an easy, chill baby, so a high-tech bassinet or a swing with ten speeds would have been overkill for us. I try to stow away things we don’t need as we go in an organized fashion, but as you can imagine, space runs out in a condo rather quickly. So we’ll just see how it goes! But hopefully, we can continue with a minimalistic approach for as long as possible.


The day I became a mom, it somehow felt like I had always played that role. Like I was just meant to do it. But I hope it hasn’t totally changed me as a person. I want to be a better version of myself through motherhood, not a completely different one.



How has your view of motherhood changed since becoming a mom?


I knew it would be amazing. I knew the love I would have for this baby would be intense. But I didn’t know how that would really truly feel. It’s mind-blowing. The love I have for her is insurmountable. And the love I have for my husband has somehow quadrupled. Where were all of these segments of my heart hiding before?!

The biggest shift, though, has been in my view of other moms. We are all doing our very best every single day. And it can be hard as hell. There is no room for judgment. The bond that mothers have with other mothers is crazy. I just want to do everything I can to support other moms in my life. We are all super strong and capable of so much, but we need one another to do it.


Both you and your husband work. How do you handle that as parents? Is it reflected in your home?


This is tough. Corporate America isn’t as family-friendly as it should be. There’s a lot of room for growth there. But my husband and I are both very lucky to have flexible jobs with the ability to work from home a lot.

I have found that I have to be unapologetic about needing a balance and have learned to say no to things – both at work and in my personal life. I have to turn off the work clock at some point and focus on Elodie. I can’t be everything to everyone at all times, and that’s okay. I’m so lucky to be a working mom and to be able to choose whether or not I want to be.

I like having that part of my life that is just mine. But it doesn’t come without challenges. My husband and I both make a point to get home at a very reasonable hour to spend time with her after the office or to shut it off after hours when we work from home. Once she’s down for the night, we try to soak up our alone time. But if we have to plug back in for a bit, we try to give ourselves some grace.



What’s the most rewarding and challenging part of being a parent?


The most rewarding part is Elodie! I know that is super obvious and cliche, but she is so amazing. I feel like I won the lottery by getting to be her mom. Snuggling her and watching her grow into a tiny human just melts me to my core. I’m a human volcano of emotion. I cannot get enough of her. I am in shock some days that we created her. How is this possible? How are women’s bodies capable of growing this being, then nurturing them with everything they need once they arrive? It’s insane and really empowering. Everything I have done from the day she was born is for her.

Which leads me to the most challenging part of being a parent: finding time for myself. I feel guilty if I have an extra glass of wine and am unable to breastfeed her if she gets hungry early, and if she gets upset when she has to take that bottle of pumped milk, I feel like I could have avoided all of it had I not been “selfish” and had that second glass. Or when I went to the one and only SoulCycle class I have been able to sneak in since before she was born and she was cranky and ready to eat before I got home. I thought to myself that I should have just skipped it.

Luckily I have a very supportive husband who is there to remind me that it’s not only fine — but necessary. I need to learn to give myself a break and do what is best for me sometimes. If I’m not feeling energized and like myself, it will be reflected in my care for her and in my other relationships.

The day I became a mom, it somehow felt like I had always played that role. Like I was just meant to do it. But I hope it hasn’t totally changed me as a person. I want to be a better version of myself through motherhood, not a completely different one.


When it comes to being a mom: what are you most confident and insecure about?


These two answers are going to seemingly contradict themselves but they’re the truth.

I’m most confident about my confidence. Since becoming a mom, I just don’t have the time or energy for any bullshit. I’ve always been pretty straightforward, but it seems to have gotten worse, or better, depending on how you look at it. If I don’t agree with something, I will tell you. If I feel I’m being wronged, I’m going to confront it. Especially when it comes to anything having to do with Elodie– the mama bear instinct is so real!  If you don’t like it, by all means, move on.

I’m very blunt and to the point, but I try my hardest every day to be empathetic and kind to everyone I come in contact with. Kindness should not be mistaken for weakness, and we should treat one another with respect. I am 32 and more confident in who I am as a person than I’ve ever been.

With all that said, I am most insecure about outsiders watching me parent. John and I have a good rhythm going at home, and we know that we know Elodie best. We are confident that what we do every day is in her best interest and is what she needs. But when someone else is watching, the anxiety creeps in. I know she will fuss for a minute or two (or maybe ten) when she goes down for that mid-afternoon nap. I also know that she is learning to soothe herself and becoming independent.

But if someone is at our house, I worry they are judging me for letting her cry. Or if we are out to dinner and she gets upset, I think I’m ruining the couple’s dinner next to us. Or when I fumble to breastfeed her in public, I worry that those around me think it’s inappropriate or that I look awkward doing it. At the crux of it, I don’t care, but it gives me pause in the moment. And I hope with time and experience, I can let that go for good.


If you could only pick one, what has been your favorite memory from motherhood so far?


I would have to say that my favorite memory thus far was the very moment that I became a mom. I have the lowest pain-tolerance in the world and was pretty terrified of giving birth. But thanks to modern-day science, the epidural allowed me to really enjoy the process. Like I said, we didn’t know the sex of our baby. So focusing on finding out what had been taking up all of that real estate in my belly really got me through it. When I finally felt a contraction (two days after my due date), I was ecstatic. I never thought I would look forward to pain like that! But the contractions really weren’t as bad as I expected.

Fast forward a bunch of hours and post-spinal-drip, and John and I were relaxing in the delivery room listening to “Friends” by Francis and the Lights and Bon Iver. Then the doctor came in, and she told me it was time to push. True to form, I immediately dropped an F-bomb. Then we got to it.

After 30 minutes of the hardest work of my life, she came flying out. SHE!! John announced that we had a baby girl. My heart exploded. I immediately started bawling as she was placed on my chest, and my life was forever changed. I can’t believe we ever lived life without her.

Labor and delivery were incredible. I never thought I would say that. But it was the most surreal and empowering experience of my life, and I would do it again in an instant.



Walk us through your morning routine.


On the days I go into the office, I try to shower and pack my daughter’s bag the night before. I wake up 30 minutes ahead of Elodie to get ready. Once she wakes up, I nurse her, my husband changes her diaper while I grab her milk, and we take her to daycare together in her PJs. We laugh because our daycare has “Pajama Day” a few times a month, but every day is “Pajama Day” for her.

When I work from home, I quickly shower before she wakes up and hop right into leggings. (Everyone I come across in the wild probably thinks I’m super active. But really I just live in stretchy clothes whenever I can and haven’t worked out since my second trimester. Whoops.) Elodie and I then walk our pup Bodie to get coffee and some fresh air. On really good days, John is working from home too and we can take a family stroll. Then the work starts for us when we get home.



Karen Puder is The Everymom…


Favorite family tradition? Early morning walks to get coffee.

Easy go-to family meal to prepare? Broccoli and sausage pasta by Skinny Taste (sub-in protein noodles, like Banza).

Your dream vacation? Exploring every corner of Italy as a family.

Last home item you splurged on? Elodie’s crib.

Guilty pleasure? Really good wine. And french fries. There’s always an occasion for both.

Most embarrassing mom moment? I had my first public boob leak at dinner the other night. I looked down and my right boob was just soaked. Thank god I always have swaddle blankets around me to drape over my shoulder.