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Fatherhood by Design

Gunnar Larson is braving fatherhood in the city with balance, style and a little bit of magical thinking.

Fatherhood by Design

Parenting in NYC is all about perspective. What others see as challenges, we see as opportunities--to grow ourselves and our kids, to engage and create, to solve problems and to innovate. What we lack in space, we make up for in passion and ingenuity. And the right design can make all the difference: in the way we organize our days with our kids, in the strollers we push, in the spaces we call home.

This week, we continue our collaboration with our friends at Bugaboo, showcasing some NYC dads who embody passion and creativity, alongside a stroller that’s equally as innovative: the Bugaboo by Diesel. If there’s anyone that can appreciate the high level of design packed into this relatively small stroller, it’s interior designer and visual artist Gunnar Larson.

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Gunnar’s knack for small spaces first caught our attention with the impeccable nursery he designed for daughter Ihlen. No detail went unnoticed--from storage to wardrobe to hanging Dutch bassinet--all on the single bedroom wall of a tiny 400-square-foot apartment he shared with wife Sara.

Since then, we’ve followed Gunnar’s work in NYC residences big and small, as well as commercial projects that have spanned from skincare company to restaurant to even short film. His creativity and resourcefulness serve him well as a dad, too, as he navigates playgrounds and playdates, schedules and sleep training, in his North Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn with 22-month-old Ihlen.

We recently accompanied Gunnar on a stroll to one of his favorite prop shops, Film Biz Recycling, and learned about what inspires him as a designer...and a dad. We left big fans of both.

What do you love about raising kids in NYC?

My wife and I always tell people you should raise your kids where you feel at home. NYC is home for us. I love that my daughter is able to experience so many different people and walks of life around our city and community. I also love the fact that we don’t need a car to run errands; we can just get up and go for a walk around the city.

What surprised you most about becoming a dad?

How inspirational a little human can be. I was surprised at how your paternal instincts to protect, provide and share wisdom and truth with your child come so naturally.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A renaissance man. I may have discovered that term later in grade school, but when I was young I wanted to invent, explore and create. I was always building something; a horse out of leftover building materials, a jump rope and a hockey stick; a coffee table and side table out of my drum set; and lampshades out of rabbit fur pelts.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

It just happened over the course of time. I grew up outside of a small rural town of 650 people, so there were not a lot of career path options. I have always strived to have a beautiful home that is welcoming to all, and as a kid, I was building and repurposing things for my bedroom and around the house. I went to school to be a chiropractor and quickly switched over to art classes and graphic design. Throughout the years, I ended up working in set design, photo shoot propping and store visuals, which all lead me to interior design. My diverse background really has helped me to view homes and commercial spaces with a unique perspective. People want their homes to be a statement of creative inspiration, and commercial spaces want to be inviting, and have the ease and warmth of a home. It is a balance of an artistic eye and the effective use of space. I have evolved to where I am because of the people around me that see what I do as special, and hire me to create magical spaces for them and others.

What are some things you hope to teach your little one about your craft?

The power of perspective and risk. When designing any space you need to stick to your perspective and effectively communicate your vision to the client. You also need to take risks. Risks are hard but rewarding. My father taught me to take wise risks, and I want to teach my daughter to do that same. On the flip side, I definitely want to teach my daughter how to sew, saw and drill. The joy of being able to install a shelf properly or hem a curtain is rewarding and pretty practical.

How has becoming a dad impacted your work and creativity?

When Ihlen was about to be born, I finished her little nook in our old 400-sq-foot apartment in the East Village. It was then that not only me but everyone I knew affirmed my talents for small spaces and spacial design. Having Ihlen was what really made me stop and reflect on my own life, career and talents. I was able to understand my parents’ love and sacrifice for me as I was becoming a father. As I reflected on the past and looked forward to the future, I felt the freedom to take even larger, more creative risks in the name of being a father. There is power and strength in having the title of father, husband and best friend; it was becoming a dad that allowed me to stop and see this for the first time.

What’s your best strategy for achieving a family/work balance?

Schedule, schedule then let everything go! I secretly (now publicly) wish I was a yogi. I love yoga and had the best teacher several years ago in the East Village. I always loved doing poses and moves that were structured and difficult, and then the instructor would say, “Now let everything go!” Scheduled sleeping (sleep training) for our daughter was life changing! Everything she does is pretty much on a schedule. As two working parents, we need to be on schedules to get it all done, but then the best part is when you let it all go! We have set up our schedule to allow for some impromptu living. You need to schedule life, but then you also need to just live it. It is a balance, and sometimes it gets a little messed up, but then you just get back to your schedule and start over again...then let everything go.

How has your style changed since becoming a parent? Do you have a dad uniform?

My wife and I love fashion! My style has become even more crazy, elaborate and bold. Maybe it is because it is so fun dressing Ihlen up in fun outfits, and that is inspirational to me. The one uniform aspect I do have is my slippers. I have two pairs: my work-from-home black slippers and my off-work-at-home brown leather slippers. It is weird, but it helps me know when to relax and when I need to be focused on a work task.

What everyday things have made you realize that being a parent involves bravery?

Playgroups and the playground. These activities can be overwhelming and scary. You have the parent cliques, the nannies that don’t care, the kids who bite, the parents who freak out at everything and then the parents who are nonchalant in just about every way of life. It takes bravery to break through to other parents and caregivers and also to let your child interact with other kids. One day your kid is getting pushed and bitten, and the next day your kid is the one biting and pushing. You need bravery, thick skin, patience and love for everyone--both children and parents.

Photography by Justin Borucki.

This post was brought to you by Bugaboo.

14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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