Up on a hill in Mill Valley, California, the Sarosi boys, Nate, 8, Zeke, 9, and Max, 12, are living in
a kids' paradise: Nearly every room has been designed to inspire creativity and learning. The kids get to put their imagination to work playing in their tree-house hideaway, at-home diner, and backyard mini farm (eggs for sale!). Even though the house took a lot of planning on the part of parents Lily Kanter, cofounder and CEO of home-decor company Serena & Lily, and Marc Sarosi, a small-business owner, it paid off: "We rarely hear 'I'm bored,'" says Kanter. Even if you don't have a home makeover planned, be inspired to add a few touches here and there to get the whole family in a more creative state of mind.
At left: The boys horse around in their tree house with their cousin Levi.
Lily Kanter and her husband, Marc Sarosi, relax with their sons, Max, Nate, and Zeke.
Kanter has created a designated study space in a room adjoining the kitchen, where the boys can do their school assignments. Each boy has his own PC, but the computer time is limited to school-related purposes most weeknights. "The individual work spaces allow the boys to be creative and work independently," says Kanter.
Kanter designed Nate's room with beds for three to allow for sibling sleepovers. While Nate's big brothers prefer to sleep in their own rooms, the boys' cousin Levi loves the bunks. An oversize armchair and a bookshelf of stories add up to a perfect spot for pre-bedtime reading.
The home's attic has been converted into an epic play space, including this "diner" (Kanter painted over an old bar and added diner stools from americanchairs.com). Big brother Max loves to play the role of restaurant owner to his younger customers. Kanter has stocked the room with games and art supplies, so the boys have plenty of distractions on rainy days. On movie nights, the family fires up the retro-style popcorn machine and watches flicks on a pull-down screen.
When the boys fell in love with a neighbor's tree house, Sarosi agreed to build them one of their own. Plans from Tree Houses You Can Actually Build provided the blueprint. "They like to play a lot of make-believe," says Kanter. The boys have dreamed up their very own club, with elaborate tiers
of membership (Parents was able to visit the tree house on a "day pass"). A pulley system between tree house and attic was the kids' idea.
Sarosi landscaped the hilly yard to accommodate tiered garden beds. Today, the family's garden provides much of their produce, and each boy has a plot to plan and tend. "They're really proud when their stuff comes to fruition," says Kanter, who muses, "It's interesting how many more veggies they'll eat because they grow them!"
In addition to growing their own fruits and veggies, the family keeps a rooster and more than a dozen chickens, and the boys pitch in caring for the flock. The brothers were inspired to capitalize on their farming success and sell extra eggs from a wagon to passersby downtown -- one afternoon they made $28!
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Parents magazine.