Sophie Demenge and Michael Ryan — the creators of Oeuf, the line of eco-friendly kids’ furniture and gifts — live in Brooklyn with their two teenagers. The home is filled with playful touches, including a real trapeze. “Our kids like to swing really high and scare people,” she laughs. Here’s a peek inside (and her advice on raising teens)…
On a helpful trapeze: I had the trapeze installed as soon as we moved in. Twenty years ago, when I lived in San Francisco, my mother had just died, and I needed to do something very different. So, I enrolled in a circus school! Trapeze forces you to let go, and that felt therapeutic to me. We thought our kids might use it for five minutes and never again, but it’s completely part of our daily lives.
On renovating: When we moved in, we needed to renovate the kitchen. We had no kitchen for months. I was like Kramer, washing the dishes in the shower. We would ask contractors how long something would take and they would ask, ‘When do you want to move in?’ and we’d say, ‘No, we actually live here.’ Parents were scared to drop off their kids for play dates!
On a family collection: In the 1950s, my grandmother wanted my mom (then a young child) to be aware of what was going on in the world, so she got her a subscription to Time Magazine. Every month for years, my mom would write a letter to whoever was on the cover. She would talk about her cat, her school, her braces, her crush… to JFK. The person would almost always send back a signed cover, usually with a letter. We have dozens of them and they’re amazing to read. These people really related to her! They would say things like, ‘Be patient, I know siblings can be annoying,’ or ‘You’re lucky to have a cat! I only had a goldfish.’ Our kids picked their favorite covers to hang on the wall.
Hot sauce pillow: Oeuf. Family portrait on eggshells: Olivia Angelozzi.
On playful gifts: Michael and I have a similar sense of humor and generally like the same things, which is helpful! I try to surprise him with a family portrait every year, whether it’s large or small. The painted eggs in the kitchen are one example. My kids hate them; they’re so embarrassed. They try to hide them when their friends come over.
On dinnertime: We’re not big cooks, so meals can be tricky. We go through phases where we get excited about making a menu, but it lasts a week then falls apart! We recently went through a slow cooker phase, which included boeuf bourguignon and chicken tikka masala, which were really good. There was also a pea soup, which was bad.
On work/life balance: I’ve given up! It’s elusive; there is no such thing. I just try my best to stay in the moment. When I work, I work. I’m fully on. When I’m with the kids, I try to be really present.
On keeping loved ones close: The framed photos on the wall are of the important people in my life, people who have shaped me. My sister, friends, mentors, people living or not. I spend quite a bit of time at my desk, whenever I work at home, and they bring me great comfort.
Wallpaper: Farrow & Ball. Headboard: vintage. Shelving: old library ladder, vintage.
On reading together: Wallpaper on an accent wall makes a bedroom feel instantly cozy. I like reading in bed, and I started a book club two years ago. We still haven’t finished a single book. But it’s super fun! We’re all women from different backgrounds, different career paths. No kids or husbands allowed. They would be shocked if they knew what we talked about! I don’t think they could handle it.
On letting kids express themselves: Originally, the decor in the kids’ rooms was a lot more ‘us,’ but slowly, they’ve remove things and pieced together how they wanted it to be. Growing up, my mom was an antiques dealer, and when I became a teenager, my room went from beautifully designed to horrendous! I’m sure it was tough for her, but she encouraged me. That’s how teenagers learn to express themselves.
On parenting teenagers: The kids are 14 and 16, and I think they’re navigating where they fit and where they don’t. They’re starting to discover their own interests, their own opinions, what they feel strongly about, what they want to be an advocate for. Even though they’ll say things very vehemently, they’re at the stage where it’s still said in a delicate voice. I think sometimes we can forget how deep and insightful kids are. They see everything, they hear everything. I just try to help them feel safe.
On bedtime rituals: Bedtime is check-in time. I go to their level, to understand what they’re interested in and why. The fears, the questioning. When the kids were younger, I used to rub their backs and I’d hold them until my arms would cramp. It’s still so nice to cuddle.
On bathroom decor: I’ve always had a thing about having a warm bathroom environment. Bathrooms are where it’s easy to feel vulnerable. So, I think it should be a place where you feel comfortable, where you can be alone. You should feel kind of held by the tiny space. It’s where you start the day, where you end the day, and for me, it’s one of the most important rooms in the house. If I see something, and it inspires me, why not put it in the bathroom?
Wall painting: by Sophie, inspired by Marc Johns.
On giving kids wings: I want the kids to know that if something is going on, they can tell us about it. We don’t focus on grades, we care about them talking to the lonely kid in the cafeteria. That’s where I’m really uncompromising. To never make people feel small, to never make anyone feel bad.
On looking ahead: I have no idea what the future holds. I could imagine the kids bringing their friends, their lovers, their own kids back to this house. I hope to have people coming and going and growing. I love this home.
Thank you so much, Sophie!
(Photos by Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo. Styling by Kate Jordan. Credits for the top photo: Table: made by Michael. Chairs and rug: flea market finds. Sofa: Room & Board, similar. Floor lamp: vintage Jean Louis Domecq. Womb chair: Eero Saarinen.)