Step Inside: Mike & Lydia's Character-Filled Dwelling
The basis of the Schoolhouse design ethos is rooted in a “mix beats match” mentality. To that end, we always aim to capture our new collections in real, lived-in homes because the character and style of an authentic space simply can’t be staged.
This Spring, we ventured to the family home of Mike and Lydia — Portlanders, marketing mavens, and most recently, the creatives behind Casa Madre, a hospitality project in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit. Colorful, considered, and full of winsome personality, it's easy to see that the duo have created a lively and inspired space with maximum joy in mind. To celebrate our latest launch, we asked them to share about their idyllic dwelling and the beautiful life they've created around it.
Tell us about your home! How did you find it and what made you fall in love with it?
We originally owned a house (for five years) a block and a half away. One day, I was driving home and saw a “for sale” sign up at our current home. I’d never noticed the house before because it sits high above the road, but I was immediately interested.
To give a little backstory, our house at the time was a charming 1900s Portland craftsman. We loved the neighborhood, but the home itself was very old and needed a lot of love! We were in the middle of dreaming up all of these renovation plans for our old place and had just learned that it would cost a small fortune to make the house into what we wanted, so we were casually looking for something new.
That night, we went on a family walk around the neighborhood. Mike saw the “for sale” sign (that I strategically led him to), and we decided to check it out. As soon as we stepped into the backyard and saw a towering cedar tree with a swing on it, we fell in love. We bought the house in the summer of 2018 and have been slowly making it our own.
"We have both always had this wish to live a little differently."
Could you share a bit about your background?
Both Mike and I are Portland natives. We were born here, grew up here, and consider it home. I worked in corporate advertising for over ten years, and Mike is a film director and runs a small creative agency.
To be completely transparent — the pandemic shifted our perspective and what we wanted for our lives. Our oldest son, Mario, was five at the time, and we had just found out we were pregnant again. We have both always had this wish to live a little differently — the pause of the pandemic, our growing family and desire for change, led me to leave my corporate job and start chasing after a long-held dream of building a life in Mexico.
How would you describe your interior style in five words or less?
Mike: clean, craftsman, vintage.
Lydia: comfortable, colorful, not precious, and playful.
"A friend of ours once said our home felt like an elevated take on grandma's house — charming, warm, and familiar."
What are some of your favorite design details of the house?
The big picture windows in the front and the living room: because the house sits quite a bit above road-level, we aren’t looking into neighbor's windows but rather at the tree line that hugs the street. It feels like you're tucked away in a forest.
The green toilet and sink we inherited when buying the house: it's so unexpectedly playful and includes the first wallpaper we put up by Hygge & West.
The French doors and the deck: this is something we added in the summer of 2020. We wanted to be able to step right into the backyard and have an easy indoor/outdoor flow. During the warm months, the doors are open all the time.
To you, what makes a house a home?
Flowers and children: there’s a saying in mexico: una casa no es casa sin flores y tampoco no es casa sin niños. It roughly translates to: a house is not a house without flowers, nor is it a house without children.
Our everyday routines: when we come home from a trip and feel relaxed and relieved, then we know it is home. We're building routines in Mexico, but the ones we’ve left behind in Portland are the ones that have been ingrained in our lives for over 30 years.
A place to practice hospitality: we’ve had many (pre-pandemic) backyard parties here over the years. I have so many fond memories with others — drinks on the deck, dinners in the garden, conversations with friends on our yellow couch and blue swivel chairs.
"To me, a house is not a house without flowers, nor is it a house without children."
Community and hospitality seem to play a big part in your family values. How have you stayed connected to others this past year?
Lame answer, but… technology has been the greatest gift when it comes to staying connected: FaceTime, group chats, Instagram, etc.
Aside from technology, it would be our lifestyle here in Mexico. Community was a big part of why we moved. We wanted to spend more time outside in the winter months (without rain gear) and avoid the 4:30 sunset on the west coast. We have made great connections with other families and friends here, and much of it can be attributed to the outdoor and open lifestyle that the warmer temperatures allow.
How have you managed to stay inspired and energized in your work/day-to-day?
Being somewhere new is naturally energizing for us. Our town in Mexico has a much slower pace with fewer modern-day conveniences. The beach, ocean, and jungle all within arms reach truly make it worthwhile. Other than that, I stay energized the same way I do back home. I work out each morning and devote some time to myself — whether I'm running in SE Portland or in the Mexican jungle, it is a source of consistent joy. My surroundings have also kept me inspired — connecting with others through meaningful conversation or shared interests around food, art, books, our children, or nature.
Could you share a little bit about your hospitality project in Mexico?
I often would think about what I could do if I could choose any career or fill my days in any way that I wished. Building, creating, and bringing to life a hotel was an idea I always came back to. The mix of creativity, design, communication, storytelling, and marketing was so appealing.
With the pandemic, our priorities shifted, and my decade-plus corporate career came to a close. We felt a new sense of liberty and jumped at the chance to bring our Mexico dream to life. Casa Madre is not quite a hotel, but it is a hospitality project.
At its core, it is a secret garden and collection of casitas tucked away where the jungle meets the ocean in the Mexican Riviera Nayarit. The property is home to three special rental units: Casa Momo, Casa Felix, and Casa Padre, and each offers something unique for guests. The casitas are interconnected by a rustic brick patio, mature mango, avocado and almond trees, flowering bougainvillea, a tranquil fountain, and a swimming pool.
Last but not least, what’s something that brings you joy these days?
Our baby Felix is a squishy, happy, smiley baby who lights up our home. Witnessing Mario be a big brother and seeing them together (now that Felix is seven months and able to interact more) is the definition of heartwarming.
Casa Madre also brings us joy! Watching our dreams take shape — as we begin to welcome our first season of guests — is incredibly gratifying. The immediate interest and support from friends and followers online is something we do not take for granted.