Organization Is the Secret to Fitting a Family Business and 3 Kids into 1,200 Square Feet
Name: Amber and Chris Earl, owners of EARL (@earl_home); their daughters, Giavanni, 4, and Copen, 3; and son, Guy, 1
Location: North Hollywood, California
Observing a house evolve over time is a specific kind of pleasure: It’s like watching a young person grow up. You can see how a home stretches, adapts, and evolves to the lives that are being lived within. A visit to Amber and Chris Earl’s two-bedroom home in North Hollywood shows a house that has found its stride.
When our sister site Apartment Therapy toured Amber and Chris’s home in 2014, Amber and Chris were a couple of newlyweds who had just finished renovating their 1,200-square-foot home, which had been Chris’s grandfather’s house. Six years later, a lot has changed. For one, Chris and Amber are now parents to three kids: Giavanni (Gia), Copen, and Guy. Chris’s side hustle designing bespoke furniture is now a full-on family business (rechristened EARL last year). Plus, there’s the rest of the change that 2020 hit us all with. Their home has adapted to it all.
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The biggest challenge for the Earl family has been figuring out how to fit three kids and their business into a relatively small home. They’ve managed to do so with the help of Amber’s natural inclination towards organization, two daughters who are “like peas in a pod,” and a willingness to change things up as their family has grown.
On having three kids close in age: “We always said we wanted three or four kids, but it took me a while to get pregnant with Gia. When I did it was a huge shock: I didn’t think I was going to be able to have kids,” says Amber. So, when she got pregnant again eight months after Gia was born, it was a bot of a surprise. However, Amber says her immediate reaction after the birth of her second daughter was, “I’m not done. I need another one.” Having the girls close in age turned out to be a blessing when Guy was born last year. “Because they were 2 and 3 1/2 ,they were toddling around, playing together: I got to really focus on my newborn,” says Amber.
On using the garage as an office: From the very beginning, the Earls never parked a car in their garage. When they first bought the house, Chris used the space as his wood shop, but as the furniture business grew, Chris and Amber decided to turn the garage into EARL’s headquarters. More recently, as their ceramics began to take off, Chris added a ceramics studio to the space, so he didn’t have to keep working out of a shared studio. Chris works out of the studio five days a week and Amber is there three days managing the logistics and marketing of the business.
On her French food philosophy: Amber says she was intrigued by the comparisons between French and American parenting in Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. The idea that American kids snack so much that by the time they get to the table they’re not hungry struck a chord with Amber. As a result she says her kids rarely snack, instead waiting to eat until mealtimes.
On three kids in a small room: Amber jokes that she has fit her three kids and their clothing into a small, closet-less bedroom with Tetris-like maneuvers. To accommodate all three siblings in what was once a guest bedroom, she devised a semi-homemade bunk setup with a store-bought bed with storage drawers below and a loft bed built by Chris for the top bunk.
On her passion for organization: Amber’s organizational skills are evident in every corner of the house—and they are a big part of what makes this small space work. “If I had another career, I would be a professional organizer,” says Amber. “I am obsessed with a perfectly organized space.” She even assisted a professional organizer on a freelance basis earlier in her career!
On schedule management: Amber has also organized her weekdays to get three days of work and two days of mom duty. “Those days that I work—that break from being a parent—that makes me a better mom when I am with them,” says Amber. “I’m not half working half being a mom. I really focus on work when I am working, this makes me excited to spend time with them the other days.”
On rethinking baby gifts: When Guy was born, the family asked for gift cards instead of baby gifts, so they could buy an armoire to house all of the kids’ clothes and a compact changing table.
On no toys in the bedroom: To make space in the tiny bedroom, the kids’ toys all live in the playroom (formerly the home office). The Earls have a rule that all the toys must fit into two large drawers in a day bed. When a birthday or holiday comes around, they do an edit to remove enough older toys to fit in the new scores.
On having a photo-ready home: Another secret to their picture-perfect house may be that it functions as a de facto showroom and photoshoot location for EARL. In the main living spaces, furniture is in constant flux as the Earls rotate in new samples of pieces that are being prototyped for their furniture line. If a customer wants to see EARL’s signature Danskbed, Amber takes them to her and Chris’s bedroom to see the bed, which is now a part of the EARL line, but originally was designed a wedding gift to Amber from Chris. When they need to tidy up in a hurry, Amber calls it “blitzing” the house.
Despite all the life that is packed into their small home, Amber says it still works. She and Chris have debated whether they will move or add on in the future, but for now, this family of five is happily at home in a house that has served their family for more than 70 years.