Living in a cramped, one-bedroom apartment in the Big Apple can be too close quarters for any couple, but when you have two baby boys in less than two years, it brings new meaning to the term “tight quarters.”
Matt and Audrey McClelland knew they were ready for a change. In 2005, Audrey's native Ocean State came calling, but finding a home for a growing family wasn't as easy as they thought. “At that time, the market was so crazy. An open house could be up and sold by the end of the day,” explains Audrey.
So, she called her parents in East Greenwich and explained what she and Matt were looking for: a family home they could grow into, nestled in a good neighborhood. “She called me up and said this really adorable house is for sale and the school system looked great. That was one of the more important things to me… we knew we wanted another baby, so that was such a big thing in my mind, a good elementary school.”
Her mother, Sharon, scoped out the house, took photos and emailed Audrey and Matt about half a dozen snaps. The four-bedroom colonial in a quiet Warwick neighborhood needed a little bit of TLC but overall was ideal for the young family. Knowing others would likely feel the same way, Matt and Audrey wasted no time in submitting an offer – sight unseen. “People thought I was crazy. They said you ‘had to feel the house, feel the energy' when you walk in,” recalls Audrey, but all they had to do is look around their petite pad and they knew they could make this work. “Honestly, we didn't see the inside of the house until the final walk through… Coming from a one-bedroom in New York City, to us, it was unbelievable because there was so much room, and my husband can walk in and see the potential. I don't have a gift like he does… I was excited for my guys.”
When the couple learned the backstory of the previous owner, it made the deal even sweeter. A woman raised her three children there after being raised there herself. The home has been in the same family since 1968. Audrey and Matt were told she had asked about the potential buyers and when she was told it was a young family, she was delighted. “She didn't even take the best offer,” explains Audrey, which made her treasure the home all the more. “I remember giving her a hug and she said, ‘Love this house, love this house,'” says Audrey, who in turn told the woman she has an open invitation to knock on the door and visit anytime.
While the layout of the home was perfect, it clearly needed some work. The first order of business: ripping up the dated, worn carpet. The project revealed coveted hardwood floors underneath which were soon refinished. Next, the couple armed themselves with paint samples to choose the perfect hue for each room. Sons William and Alex settled into their own bedrooms in varying shades of blue – one with white furnishings and the other with pieces in a dark wood stain. “I went to the Mill Store in East Greenwich and bought shelves and dresser drawers and painted them different shades of blue,” says Audrey. Then, she had the boys scribble on the inside of the drawers and sign them for a special keepsake.
When the couple found out they were expecting once again, just six months after moving in, they reveled in the opportunity to furnish and decorate nursery. Matt, an avid sports fan, jumped at the chance to decorate the space with Red Sox pennants, Steelers gear and sport-themed finds. “Very traditional boy,” is how Audrey describes it. “It was really fun for all these added touches we could never have.”
For Audrey and Matt, their third son's arrival made the family feel whole, and made the house a home. “I remember going to bed the night after Benjamin was born and thinking three boys, three bedrooms, our family is complete.”
But it wasn't. Six months later the couple learned baby Henry was on his way. “William and Alexander doubled up in the biggest room, Ben still had his own room. I really got into blogging in 2008, and I worked with companies reviewing a lot of stuff. Someone had sent all of [Henry's] furniture to review. We tried to create his personal room.”
The bedroom arrangement stayed the same for about three and a half years, until they decided to double up the boys and turn the smallest bedroom into a walk-in closet for Audrey. Midway through the project, Matt and Audrey learned their fifth baby was on the way, and they were tickled pink to learn they were expecting a girl. The sport-themed nursery was soon awash in pink and gray. “It was so special to do a room for a girl!” gushes Audrey. “We went over the top.”
The couple says they are done having children, though Audrey admits, with a laugh, every time she says that, another little bundle comes along. With baby Victoria napping in the nursery in the next room over, Audrey reflects on the special meaning of the space. “It started with our oldest and now it's ending.”
Another special room for Audrey is her once where she works, blogs and vlogs (video blogs) for MomGenerations.com which she co-founded with her mother Sharon Couto and sister Jane Couto Govednik. “We used to say it was the only girly space in the house,” she laughs. Unlike the rest of the home which adopts a traditional-meets-shabby-chic aesthetic, the once has a contemporary vibe. “It's my zen spot. I can meditate and be in my zone, and everything in here is a bit of me,” she says.
And it's imperfect, like the rest of the house, and that's just the way Matt and Audrey like it. “Whenever someone opens the door, I say ‘this is a house with four boys and a baby – and it looks like it,'” says Audrey. “It looks like a family lives here… I think that's the biggest compliment I could get.”