City of Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner happily let the News-Press cameras invade her family’s home on Ellison Street. The Gardeners’ cats Junior and Toby were not as trusting, though they warmed up to the idea in the end.
Built back in 2004, the house sits on the same property of their original smaller home into which they moved back in 1996. After letting this reporter snap photos – some of which were taken while standing atop one of the family’s kitchen chairs – Gardner and her husband, Michael, sat down for an interview to give an inside look into their day-to-day living routine.
News-Press: What’s your favorite room to relax in?
Robin Gardner: Just recently, it’s become our new downstairs which we just finished. But the place where I’m usually hanging out is right here in the kitchen – either on my computer, reading the newspaper or just enjoying watching the kids walk around.
Michael Gardner: I’m usually in the inglenook; I like to do a lot of reading in there. I can hear and see most everything in the house when I’m there, but I’m away from the … [laughs] … loved ones.
N-P: What’s your least favorite room to clean?
Michael: That’d be our neighbor’s. They make us go over there and clean their rooms all the time [laughs]. During election season, we just have to do what we have to do.
Robin: My daughter’s room – she clearly needs assistance and I’m sure other mothers experience a whirlwind daughter and that is Emma personified. She cannot enter a space without bringing herself and everything that goes with her into that space and then leaving it there.
Michael: Mine’s actually my office. I feel like everything that I work on or touch has some historic value so I hate organizing it. Maybe I can put it all in plastic bins, put some Obama stickers on them and the museum can come pick them up.
N-P: What room or part of the house would you say has the most memories attached to it?
Michael: For me, it’s our family room with the fireplace. My little brother was married there one Christmas Eve. It was sort of a last-minute wedding for him and it was great. Relatives flew in from all over and we turned the house into a special place. Then, Governor Kaine was in that room in July when he was 18 points down. He stood next to the frog statue and it was all up from there.
Robin: I’d say, on top of that room, our kitchen table because this is the gathering place when we have informal meals, or when the kids have their birthday parties. I remember hosting a tea party for Emma and her friends here and it’s kind of the heart of the house. When we built the house, my mom was ill – she’s no longer with us – but I remember her sitting here and having conversations within the family, so this is where my memories are.
N-P: What part of the house do you wish you could change?
Robin: I would change two things. There’s a butler pantry between our kitchen and dining room. It should have been a desk station where you could have put a laptop or used it as a mail station. We’re missing that on this first floor. The other would be the cabinets – instead of the lower cabinets with the doors, I would have done drawers. It’s hard to get some things out of them and then I go to other people’s homes and I’m having drawer envy [laughs].
Michael: I would make some of our porches a bit deeper and the front walkway is kind of linear. But other than that, we use pretty much every room in the house.
N-P: Kitchen: friend or foe?
Michael: Well, the Domino’s guy loves our kitchen [laughs].
Robin: It is a foe, except for at Christmas time. I love baking, but I hate cooking, and I’m not afraid to say it [laughs]. There are other people who just love mixing up big meals or doing stuff all day Sunday and freezing for the week, or coming home and finding it relaxing. I don’t find cooking relaxing; I find it a burden. But I like baking – cookies and cakes – and I like putting together Thanksgiving dinners or big meals for a group of people, but on an everyday basis? Not so much.
N-P: What about you, Michael? Are you a cook?
Michael: [Laughs] No, not me. Let me be clear here. I love Robin, but I did not marry Robin for her cooking.
Robin: And that’s a good thing!
Michael: We’re a busy family, and the big corner that we cut is on the day-to-day meal preparation. Our family meals unfortunately are a lot about chicken nuggets for the kids and food that they’ll eat that’s easy to prepare. So, I’ve learned to make sure and eat nice lunches at work and not worry so much about dinner. We sort of joke that we could have left the shrink-wrap on the appliances.
Robin: Except the refrigerator!
Michael: Yes, to chill the beer [laughs].
Robin: And I love my crock pot. I’m all about the crock pot, which I use at least once a week.