Category Archives: House Tour

Our Kitchen Remodel Is Complete!

Entertaining Family Kitchen Update

Dear friends, we made it. Our kitchen is finally finished! You may remember my nostalgic post that came at the start of this project. Well, after eight weeks of cramped quarters, take-out, and visits to the laundromat, the difficult days are behind us. And, I must admit, it was worth the wait (in retrospect) – we are absolutely loving our new space.

For our project we worked with Cynthia Musickant, an interior designer located in Mequon, Wisconsin. She helped us develop a personalized space that honors the way we live (laid-back, comfortable, relaxed…). After her first design consultation it was clear that she understood our style. My husband and I love vibrant colors, patterns, and textures, and crave unique design elements that are an extension of our personalities. He’s the creative director of an advertising agency, and I’m an art historian – needless to say, we don’t have conventional tastes.

Rather than create a bland space that might appeal to the masses, she put together a thoughtful plan that was perfectly suited for us. From the farmhouse sink to the old-fashioned pendant lights, the details are timeless and give a nod to the era of our old home. In contrast, the quartz counter tops, range hood, and stainless steel appliances are sleek and modern. I find that balance of old and new very pleasing. Of course, my favorite element of the entire design is the unique backsplash (the pièce de résistance) that ties everything together.

Entertaining Family Tile ProjectEntertaining Family Kitchen Island

In addition to finally having a bright and cheerful kitchen, our space is functional and easy to navigate. As people who love to entertain, we now have places to store our dishes, serving trays, gadgets, and doodads. We also have an island that doubles a prep space and a dining area – and that was important to us. Finally, our old kitchen was rather dark, as you can see in the slides below, so in order to let in more sunlight, the new kitchen has a decorative transom window overlooking our garden.

Here is a short slideshow of the before, during, and afters of our Entertaining Family kitchen project. I am so happy with the transformation. A huge thanks to our friends at Greener Roofs & Gardens who did the construction work on this project. They are also the talented team responsible for designing our phenomenal outdoor spaces.

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Thank you for visiting! Now it’s time to get back to hosting dinner parties and posting wonderful recipes for our Entertaining Family community! -Mara

Beginning Each Day In The Garden

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Entertaining Family in the Garden

Wisconsin is my home, and one of my favorite things about this beautiful place is the vibrancy of each season. I love them all, but today summer has my heart. As the weather warms, my living space expands into our gardens and it becomes easier to connect with nature on a daily basis.

I like to begin each day by enjoying a cup of coffee on our back patio. As I take my first sips of the morning, I am serenaded by a couple of cardinals that have nested in a nearby tree. Drops of dew have gathered making leaves glisten and flowers sparkle. As the sun rises, the world has an ethereal hush and my mind is quiet.

Humming birds, monarchs, and honey bees are already hard at work. I watch them tend to the garden and try not to disturb their habitat.

I am lucky to watch over this place. Our little piece of the world.

Entertaining Family in the Garden 2


Our Kitchen Remodel Brings Me To Tears

Hi friends! Well, we are in the throes of kitchen construction. Our fridge is sitting in the center of the dining room, the countertops are in the trash, and the ugly laminate flooring has been ripped out to make way for the original oak, which has been covered up for too long. Needless to say, in the midst of this, our family can’t find anything we need and we’re already sick of takeout (which doesn’t bode well, as and we’re only on day three of this project). However, that is not what this post is about! Today, I want to tell you about something strange that happened to me – something I didn’t expect from this process. I got swept up in a wave of emotions that took me by surprise….

This past weekend, as my husband and I were cleaning out all of the old kitchen drawers and cupboards to prepare for demolition, I was overwhelmed by feelings of nostalgia. Even more so, I was overcome by a deep sense of sadness. As I sorted through our belongings, the tears began flowing.

Ten years ago, when we bought our 1896 Victorian home, my husband and I were newlyweds. We were a couple of young dreamers, building our careers, considering parenthood, tackling some minor projects in our century-old home, and envisioning all that was ahead of us. We spent countless evenings in our kitchen, talking about how we’d remodel things if we ever got the chance. We’d put in a farm-house sink, and maybe a window over there to let in some more natural light. Of course, right in the center of the room would be a well-appointed island where we’d prep dinner together and store all of those small appliances that we rarely use, but can’t live without. It would be a modest kitchen, but full of character and personal touches.

For ten years, we cut out photos and pinned ideas of fixtures and finishes. Over time our decorating tastes changed, but the dream remained the same: one day we would get rid of our old, tired kitchen and make way for something new.

While we were dreaming, we were also building an amazing life. That old kitchen was where I told my husband we were expecting a baby, as I handed him the pregnancy test with the pink plus sign. That old kitchen was where our daughter took her very first steps, which my husband and I nearly missed because she had given us no indication that she was ready to walk (sneaky, that one!). That old kitchen was where, every night for ten years, I shared a glass of wine with my husband as we discussed the events of the day. It turns out, that old kitchen – the one we had always dreamed of changing – had been part of the happiest moments of our lives.

As we unpacked the drawers and cupboards, it was like taking apart a time capsule. And it hit me. While finally getting our modern kitchen is very exciting, there was something beautiful about that decade-long dream we shared. It represented everything that we were working so hard to create. Not a kitchen, but a life. And so that’s why I cried. I was mourning the loss of the dream that had developed all of those years ago…and maybe that young couple that we used to be.

So as we prepare for the new, we fondly remember our old kitchen and all of the plans and the special moments that were made there. Good bye, old friend. You weren’t so bad after all. One last glass of wine to honor what you have meant to us, and a toast to the dreams ahead…



The Beauty Of A Nancy Meyers Movie Set + A Kitchen Remodel In The Works

A couple of weeks ago, while my husband was out of town on business, I watched the latest Nancy Meyers film, The Intern, starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. I wasn’t expecting a piece of cinematic excellence (which is why I didn’t watch it with my significant other – he’s kind of a snobby cinephile – but let’s not tell him that I said that….), but I was hoping for an energizing story about a powerful working mom and her golden aged intern/life coach. Something that, as a working mom in a CEO role, I could relate to. Unfortunately, I was overwhelmingly underwhelmed by the plot line and character development, despite the great actors.

But it wasn’t a total loss….

I was entranced by the movie’s sets! Particularly the home of Anne Hathaway’s character, Jules. It was love at first sight…or site, in this case. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise – all Nancy Meyers films have exceptional backdrops (Father of the Bride, Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday…).


The first time the camera rolled on Jules’ brownstone, I wanted in! From the large windows, to the beautiful plaster work and pocket doors, the real star of this film became clear. Forget witty dialog and engaging emotional scenes for Anne Hathaway – the home was Jules. The home was the movie. I wanted to pull up a stool and enjoy a cup of coffee at that beautiful kitchen island.

The Intern, Jules' house, Brooklyn NY (Warner Bros.)

Of course, this home also screams “Mara!” Welcoming, kid-friendly, a blend of antique and modern, and perfect for entertaining? Hello. If you’ve read Entertaining Family before, then you know that this is my kind of space.


The kitchen, in particular, made me swoon. The balance of ornate detailing – the fireplace, crown molding, faucet fixtures – with clean modern lines – the range hood, counters, and rugged open shelving – was really appealing. But what truly made me fall in love with the space was the little table next to the island, and the kids artwork displayed behind the fridge. To me, nothing says “family” like the blending of generations in a home. The set designers got it right!

There is one other reason I responded so strongly to this kitchen. We’re embarking on a remodel of our own in a few short weeks. To say that I am excited is an understatement. Our 1896 Victorian home is ready for a new kitchen! We will be documenting the project on Entertaining Family – you can expect some era-appropriate styling mixed with sleek modern touches. There will be a colorful tile back splash, a farmhouse sink, and some great light fixtures (to name a few of the updates). Who knows. Nancy Meyers may want our home to be her next amazing backdrop.

Hmmm…maybe I was too critical of The Intern…..

In the end, the biggest take away from the movie was this: having a seemingly perfect career and perfect home does not ensure a perfect life. Those things are extensions of us, but they aren’t what is most important. Cultivating loving relationships and strong family bonds should be what we are all focused on. Fittingly, that is what we’re all about at Entertaining Family!


For more Entertaining Family home tours, visit The Simple Pleasure of Cozying Up At Home or An Entertainer’s Home Should Feel Like a Warm Hug.

The Simple Pleasure Of Cozying Up At Home

Hello dear friends! I can’t believe that we’re already heading into the final days of January. In keeping with this months theme of “comfort”, today’s post is all about relaxing at home.

As some of you know, in addition to blogging at Entertaining Family, I am the executive director of a nonprofit organization which means that my work days are fast-paced and challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. My husband also has a demanding career as a creative director with clients spread across the country. We’ve designed our home to be a retreat from the world. It is the place where we escape the daily grind and slip into a routine of slow, easy living.

Our old Victorian house, built at the turn of the 20th century, is a grande dame from another era – filled with high ceilings, hardwood, and natural light. Over the past ten years, we have taken care to restore our home’s regal beauty while also making it a cozy urban oasis. To do this, all of the alterations we’ve made pay homage to the age of our home (trying to incorporate fixtures and finishes that fit a Victorian), while creating function for modern living. In the end, we’ve created spaces that allow us to connect as a family, entertain friends, and enjoy a simple and casual lifestyle. It’s the kind of home where you can kick off your shoes and get really comfy.

Throughout the years our home has certainly evolved with us. If you had visited us a decade ago, you would have found the space of a young couple that was on the go. There was no television in sight, travel magazines were strewn across the coffee table in anticipation of our next trip, martini’s were neatly placed on top of coasters, and the two people inside were totally tuned into each other. Today, while we’re still tuned into each other, we’re now a family of three….okay, four (two parents, one first grader, and a fluffy cat). Our house is definitely “lived in”. We have cozy couches and floor cushions galore. An entire corner of our living room is occupied by a delightful assortment of toys and games. And our coffee table is no longer home to travel magazines…instead it serves as a coloring surface for our little one.

Living Space

Coffee Table Creativity

Dining Room

Our dining room table is the heart of our home. My husband, daughter, and I delight in preparing meals together and then taking time to savor our creations. During the week, the table also doubles as “the family office”. It is where we spread out homework, check emails, play board games, or write posts for Entertaining Family. It can get a little messy at times and you know, that’s great. I’ll take it as a sign of creativity and a life well lived!

This is also the space where we host dinner parties, one of our favorite pastimes. We love to have guests relax around our table sharing food and stories. At this time of year, as the cold weather lingers and the days are short, we find it even more important to connect with loved ones who bring warmth and sunshine into our home.

Room for Friends

On weekends, there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down with a good book. My husband and I are both avid readers and collectors of literature – and now our daughter is taking up this passion, too. On any given Saturday or Sunday, you can find us cuddled up in a quiet corner reading an engaging story.

Reading Time

Coffee and Books

This year we turned our fireplace mantel into a small library featuring of some of our favorite works, which means a great read is always within arms distance. My husband and I can pick up a novel or page through a design book, and there are plenty of titles for our daughter to enjoy. Books are stacked vertically and piled horizontally, and the bindings add new visual interest to this living room focal point.


Book Collection

Peter Pan

Art Books

Of course, one of the best parts of having a home is filling it with love. In our house, love comes in the form of many beautiful faces. From sleep overs, to dance parties, to coffee chats and dinners…over the years friends and family have dropped-in or stayed for extended periods of time, all filling our space with laughter and joy. If anything makes me want to cozy up at home, it is spending quality time with my people.

Playing (photo by Seth)

Laughing (photo by Masha)

Dance Party


As I reflect on our home, there are two words that come to mind: comforting and restful. It isn’t a formal space. It isn’t perfection. However, it is a place that reflects our love of family and leisure. It is a place to retreat from the world and celebrate the simple pleasures in life.

For more posts on our home, check out our rain garden or this piece on creating a home.



Creating a Meditative Outdoor Space That Fit Our Lifestyle

Our climbing vines

If you’ve read Entertaining Family before, then you know that I am a woman who can’t sit still…I love being with people, learning new things, and exploring the world around me. My inquisitive mind would constantly be in motion if I didn’t intentionally set aside time to relax, meditate, and decompress. One of my favorite places to unwind is my tiny urban garden.

But that wasn’t always so.

When my husband and I moved into our 1896 Victorian home, almost a decade ago, the yard was overgrown with invasive weeds and trees, and the ground was uneven at best…filled with dangerous, gaping holes is more like it. There was no place to entertain, and no where to sit and relax. In fact, being in our yard was anything but relaxing…overwhelming and anxiety producing was more like it.

We knew we needed to change things up, but we couldn’t do it ourselves. We hired an innovate design company, Greener Roofs and Gardens in Milwaukee, WI, to help us develop a plan that would fit our busy lives.

They knew it was important to us that no chemicals be used to tame the yard. Many landscapers, seeing the mess before them, would have said we’re going to have to pass on this job, but not John LaPointe and his crew. They emphasize green practices and were up for the task! If you look at their portfolio and testimonials, you will see that this was nothing new for them.

In creating our “new” outdoor space, we drew inspiration from the gorgeous neighborhood in which we live. Not far from Lake Michigan, our east side community is nestled between Milwaukee’s Lake Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 19th Century (the landscape architect who also designed Central Park in New York City), and Riverside Park, an urban green space along the Milwaukee River which leads to miles of hiking trails and an arboretum. The two parks are connected by Newberry Boulevard, a stately road lined with a canopy of towering maple trees.

Greener Roofs and Gardens completely re-landscaped our home to create a serene, meditative outdoor space that fit our family, reflected our love of wild, natural spaces and mirrored the outdoor environments found throughout our neighborhood.

We developed a low-fuss plan (a.k.a., there is absolutely no mowing required, ANYWHERE). We added a circular seating area for entertaining, a play space for our young daughter which includes a sandbox and a “tree house” with a garden roof, and raised beds to grow and harvest vegetables during the summer and fall (the inspiration for the vegan recipes I post on Entertaining Family). We used greenery (vines, cranberry bushes, and sculptural trees) to screen out the city buildings around us and create a yard that envelopes us in nature.

The entertaining space

In the front yard, our landscapers created a rain garden filled with native plants and flowers and decorative elements like flagstone walking paths and a free-form stone wall. In Milwaukee, during rain storms, we have issues with runoff taxing our deep tunnel system and this results in raw sewage being dumped into Lake Michigan – our city’s most important natural resource. Our small rain garden is one way to help reduce that runoff. Rather than having rain water flow from our yard into the sewage system, it pools in our garden where our big, hearty plants drink it up. This space is also a haven for honey bees, monarchs and different types of birds.

Today I couldn’t be happier, more relaxed or more content sitting in our outdoor space. First of all, it is absolutely lush and picturesque. Second, it supports he way we live! I’m simply too busy to spend all of my time caring for a lawn – and it’s not good for the environment – so this low-maintenance space is perfect for me and my family. Moreover, there are ample spaces for us to garden together, play together, and entertain friends and family. This type of yard wouldn’t work for everyone…and it doesn’t have to – it was made just for us and we love it!