Maria Means Cote whirled into our orbit shortly after launching our site last year when she became a customer. Thanks to Instagram, we have had the pleasure of discovering her beautiful world, filled with four gorgeous children, charming interiors and an idyllic life in London. We sat down with Maria to learn more about her day-to-day and how she manages with four littles at home (read on for so many brilliant ideas!), her favorite spots in London ( to visit on your next trip across the pond) and so much more.
Tell us about your family and what you're up to these days.
My husband and I moved to London from New York City nearly 12 years ago! We were newly engaged and excited for what we expected to be a 2-3 year adventure…but, here we are! Leaving New York in our mid-20’s was bittersweet, but we fell more and more in love with London, and now, as a young family, we can’t imagine being anywhere else. For us, it has been the perfect compromise of urban living in one of the world’s greatest cities, but with a slightly tempered intensity. And the access to green space - between private gardens, communal squares and the most incredible city parks - makes living here with small children all the more enjoyable.
Where did you grow up and where do you live or split your time now?
My father is American - a Southerner - and my mother is Italian. I was born in Milan, but we moved to Atlanta when I was little, which is where I grew up. We spent all of our summers in Italy with my grandparents, who I am incredibly close to, so that has always been a big part of my identity as well. We are based in London but want our children to have the same bond with their grandparents that we do with ours, so we try our best to spend 1-2 holidays per year Stateside with family - though the travel and jet-lag with 4 littles is certainly daunting! We are also trying to spend more time in Italy to try and keep up their Italian speaking.
You live in London. What are your three favorite restaurants for nights out?
So many! The River Cafe is an institution and always a favourite for a special night out. Casa Cruz is perfect for a night with girlfriends or a sexy date night. And Annabel’s is our go-to when out-of-town guests are visiting.
What about top lunch spots with the entire family?
Petersham Nurseries in Richmond has a fabulous teahouse that is child (and dog!) friendly, with the most incredible food. We love to bring the kids for lunch in their charming greenhouse, have a poke around their fabulous shop and then let the kids run around by the riverside, where you can find horses roaming.
Are you currently working outside of parenting? If so, how do you find the balance?
Not at the moment! I worked at Prada for nearly 10 years and then went back to work in a new role after my third son was born, but I’ve been fortunate to be home with my children for the last 18 months. We are very spoiled in the UK, where you are entitled to 12 months maternity leave, which I took advantage of for each of my babies. Now, with four little ones, I think it would be challenging to go back to work in a full-time capacity, but I am exploring some creative projects on a part-time basis. Working has always felt like an integral part of my identity, so I’m hopeful that I will be able to navigate consulting work by being selective about what kinds of projects I take on and when.
How old are your children?
George is 6, Alexander 5, Sebastian 3 and Beatrice turns 1 in November.
What is life like with four? How do things change from one to two...to three? And four?
My husband will say that the biggest shock was zero to one, but for me the jump from two to three was without a doubt the hardest. We had three little boys in 3 years and it was just WILD. The age gaps did not work in my favour, and it was just a lot of little people with very different needs. I am a Virgo perfectionist through and through, so losing control and learning to embrace the chaos was very challenging for me. I genuinely think that once you find a rhythm with 3, you could have 6 children and be fine! Beatrice was an unexpected surprise and has been the most joyous little blessing. Her brothers absolutely adore her and she just slid into our family’s dynamic seamlessly.
Any advice you would give for traveling with four little ones in tow?
For me, the organisation and packing pre-travel is the most essential part of the whole trip. I have been keeping a travel packing list since George was a baby that I continue to amend and edit, and I would be lost without it. A friend also recommended packing cubes (from Amazon or Muji) a few years back, and they have been a total game changer. Each child has an assigned colour and it keeps their clothes perfectly organised and folded within the luggage…and unpacking is then a breeze, as I just put the cubes directly into drawers or shelves wherever we’re staying at the other end.
Your daughter's nursery is so beautiful! Tell us about the inspiration behind it.
Thank you! The pink palace! I truthfully never imagined I would embrace pink so whole-heartedly, but after three boys I just couldn’t help myself. We knew we were going to name our daughter Beatrice (or Bea, for short), so I loved the idea of ‘birds and bees’ in a garden for the theme.
I had seen a few wallpapers I loved, but then when I discovered Ariel Okin’s designs for Chasing Paper I was immediately sold - we are renting our house, so the removable wallpaper was perfect for a non-permanent solution. It’s so pretty and even has tiny bees in the print.
Any favorite design moments in the nursery?
The most sentimental piece is unquestionably the little ceramic Madonna painting, which first hung in my nonna’s nursery, a gift from her father. It later lived in my mother’s childhood bedroom, then mine, and eventually my boys’ rooms when they were babies. She watches over us all!
Please share where you found some of the furniture and decor for your daughter's nursery.
Apart from the wallpaper, the biggest splurge was probably her crib, which is from Serena & Lily. I had the curtain and some matching cushions made from a beautiful Schumacher fabric called Chenonceau, and the darling floral-printed vanity stool is from Overstock.
The armchair is Ikea, but I had my seamstress replace the piping with a pink linen fabric I had leftover and add a pink grosgrain ribbon along the trim. The pretty pink light fixture is vintage from By Alice Home here in London, and the rattan bookshelf is Zara Home.
Any words of wisdom for keeping your home beautiful with a house full of children?
I wish I did! Foolishly or not, I did not decorate our home in a ‘child-friendly’ manner, but with pieces that I love and make me happy - that being said, you also have to not be too precious about anything and accept that things will get dirty and broken from time to time. People are always shocked that we have a white sofa in our playroom, but white cotton/linen slipcovers are actually one of the easiest possible fabrics to clean! At least one slipcover is going into our washer/dryer each week due to muddy shoes, spilled drinks, baby spit-up…we also go through a LOT of stain remover.
You have one hour to yourself... how are you spending it?
For the first time in 7 years I am finally trying to get back into some semblance of fitness. I have started trying to run or play tennis a few times a week…I am completely breathless and in agony after 20 minutes, but, baby steps.
Fulfilling, emotional, wonderful, overwhelming, joyful, exhausting and enriching, all in equal measure.
Quickfire round: Favorites for Baby and Children
Books for bedtime: I’m a sucker for beautiful illustrations! Babar and Madeline are some of our favorites, and Lavender’s Blue has all the traditional nursery rhymes for the baby. My 3-year-old currently only wants to read Curious George books at the moment, whilst the eldest is in a Roald Dahl kick. And the classic Dr. Seuss books are amazing for Alexander, who’s just starting to read.
Playlist: The Sound of Music, Disney soundtracks, and Alphabet Aerobics by Blackalicious…I played it for George last year when he was learning about alliteration and he is now OBSESSED with learning every word. We have to listen to it at least 3x on the way to school every morning.
Stroller: Bugaboo and Yoyo. I also convinced my husband to buy me a Silver Cross pram when I was pregnant with George, which is a high source of contention. It takes up our entire entryway and is completely impractical…but just so beautiful!
Activities for the entire family: We are lucky to have so many beautiful parks in London, where we spend most of our weekends. And in the winter we love the Saturday morning family screenings at the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill - we get to have our coffee while the kids watch (ie run around and jump on the sofas with all the other kiddies).
Instagram accounts to follow: So many incredible mamas and accounts out there! But really visually inspired by @bagather, @chelseahandegan, @gadabout, @liz_damrich and @tallwoodcountryhouse (a fellow mama of 3 boys). And @mollybsims quarantine content gave me life!