One Family, 1,000 Toys, Two Bedrooms, and Space to Work & Play
Name: Caroline and Jason Rodrigues, owners of @shopmercimilo; their daughter, Milo, 5; and Caroline’s children, Cailin, 14, and Darren, 16, who live there part of the time
Location: Glendale, Califorina
Imagine if your child had a never-ending stream of toys showing up in your home. Sounds like a kid’s dream and every parent’s organizing nightmare, right? It’s also an accurate description of the situation in the Los Angeles home of Caroline and Jason Rodrigues, the couple behind the boutique toy store Merci Milo. Between samples of new toys they might carry, products that arrived damaged and cannot be sold, and others that were returned in non-pristine condition, playthings arrive at their home almost daily—much to their 5-year-old daughter, Milo’s, delight.
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On managing the mess: The Rodrigues family has managed the volume in much the way they do their shop: Maximalist displays of similar objects group together prettily in an environment of clean-lined midcentury modern furniture. “I like to call it organized chaos,” Caroline laughs. (They also do a big edit once a year and donate the toys Milo has outgrown.)
On the most-used corner of her home: While visitors’ eyes are drawn to the shop’s worth of toys in Milo’s room and the other design-forward playthings sprinkled throughout the home, this home is also a place where a lot of work is happening—especially these days. With a full-time job as an art director at Ergo Baby (now mostly remote) and the second job of running Merci Milo’s buying, accounting, and social media in her off-hours, Caroline is at her desk most of the day. (Jason tackles the shipping and receiving in Merci Milo’s warehouse, and in normal times, you can often find him in the store.)
On trying things until you get it right: Earlier this fall when Milo began kindergarten remotely, the family had a Goldilocks moment with Milo’s school-at-home space: They tried having her work at her desk in her room (too lonely), the dining table (too grown-up sized), and finally at her desk in the living room, which was the “just right” solution. Now, Milo and Caroline could be in the same space while Milo does her online learning.
On creating calm: Another secret to the full home feeling designed—not cluttered—is its foundation of white walls and natural woods, which provides a calm base for the family’s many collections. While there’s no part of the home that is off-limits to the 5-year-old, most of Milo’s toys are stored in her room, which helps to contain the kid chaos.
On skipping kid furniture: Caroline has also used her curatorial eye to find kid furnishings that are in perfect sync with her grown-up tastes. (Caroline and Jason have long been fans of vintage midcentury modern furniture, building their collection over many years together.) When it came to their daughter’s room they opted for a mix of vintage finds (including a retro wooden kitchen set) and new items with similarly modern lines, like the Ouef Perch bunkbed. The overall effect is calm, cozy, and collected.
On sharing space: The two-bedroom house also expands to welcome Caroline’s two older children from a previous relationship, Cailin, 14, and Darren, 16, when they are with Caroline, which is now twice monthly for longer stretches during COVID school closures.
On having a blended family: While it makes for a full house, the teens are also a big help. “They’ll give Milo a bath or help with the dishes or laundry,” says Caroline, who says her older daughter also helps style shoots for Merci Milo’s website.
One work-life balance: With their long hours, Caroline and Jason try to keep their weekend time completely work-free. “My husband and I work early in the morning until late in the evening, but we make sure that on Saturday and Sunday we don’t ever check our emails. We really try to keep those boundaries when it comes to family time,” says Caroline. This means that two days a week their three kids and two dogs get their full attention.
On not doing it all: Caroline and Jason also know how to pick their battles: Investing time and energy into the things that are important to them and taking a pass on those that aren’t. For example, with the long hours that their business requires, Caroline says that most nights they order dinner in instead of cooking. If the laundry doesn’t get folded, that’s okay too. “This sort of the reality of life, right now, right?” says Caroline. “I work a full-time job, I own a small business, my child is that home 24/7 and she has a lot of homework to do. So, we’re really just trying to be flexible, and not worry about it. We’ll get to it tomorrow.”