It's an indication of just how all-encompassing business and family are for the Friberg-Petersons that her vision of an idyllic fifties involves "having friends and a social life and going out on Saturday nights and giving dinner parties. Our kids will be older, and we'll really be in a position to have some fun." She's not kidding. For Peterson and her husband, there's no time right now for Saturday evenings out or socializing with friends. They don't have the time for restaurants or movies. Recreation means a couple of nighttime basketball games for Friberg or a jog pushing the baby stroller for Peterson. Nor is there any room for privacy, as Peterson is the first to acknowledge. "We've had a full house for a lot of years now. Between working at the office together and taking care of our four kids at home, there's nothing resembling privacy at this stage in our lives for either of us. That's something else we're looking forward to."
In the winter of 1990 things seemed anything but stable, controlled, or fun for Friberg, Peterson, and their four kids. Their house had been invaded by four wallpaper hangers, four painters, one electrician, a rug installer, an upholsterer, a slipcover installer, and countless movers. Paper was being torn off every wall in the house; 15 rooms' worth of rugs and slipcovers were gone. The kitchen was weathering its 16th renovation -- not bad, considering the family has lived here for less than eight years. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie couldn't find her computer or the book report she'd been writing on it. Only later did she discover that it wasn't the movers but her mother who was responsible; Peterson had borrowed it for a photo shoot in Manhattan.
Despite Friberg and Peterson's pact to keep business problems away from the kids, there is one very painful way this company intrudes on home life. It stems from a decision they made years ago to turn their house into a showpiece for their wallpaper and fabric lines. Their quick-changing kitchen alone has appeared in 16 magazines, among them Self, Better Homes and Gardens, and as the cover story in House Beautiful.
The publicity is unbeatable, which is enough to convince the always-optimistic Peterson that any trade-offs are worth making. "It's a little inconvenient sometimes, but I just remind myself that this is what pays the bills," she says. "This is my advertising."
The adjustment has been more problematic for Friberg. He's a well-ordered man who clearly values neatness and privacy, the kind of father who welcomes his kids at the office but picks up after them as soon as they leave. So when he jokes, "I could walk into my own house and not even know if it had been burglarized," there's a hint of tension in the humor. Still, he's disciplined himself to go along with the game plan. After all, the renovations do make business sense.
Mini- and major overhauls may be toughest of all on the kids. Their beds, toys, and furniture are borrowed regularly, and their rooms revamped according to the needs of frequently scheduled photo shoots. Just a few months ago baby P. F.'s room was wallpapered three different times within a single day and then scheduled for its next redo four weeks later. Erik came home from preschool only to find that his bed had disappeared.
Teenager Anne-Marie resists most strongly, especially when a decor she particularly likes is replaced by another in a color or pattern she hates. To make matters worse for the kids, their parents also decided that it would make good business sense to rent out the family house to production companies to film television commercials. "Besides helping us raise money for the kids' education, I think it's a good marketing tool," Peterson says. "Just think about all those subliminal urges people are getting for beautiful wallpaper when they see our house in coffee commercials." But she acknowledges the intrusions from television camera crews can be nothing short of nightmarish. "It doesn't matter what you tell them not to touch. They'll touch it. And if they can, they'll break it."
Several years ago Peterson's parents sold their nearby suburban home, demolished Peterson and Friberg's garage, and built a 2,500-square-foot house in its place. Peterson's mother has become a manager herself, handling all the house-related details that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle during the week, including supervising any television filming or renovating. "They've always done a better job of delegating at home than at the office," Pete Peterson comments dryly.
Peterson and Friberg are ever on the lookout for imaginative ways to involve their kids in the business. Back when Peterson was working on her latest kids-room collection of wallpaper and fabrics, she tied her two daughters into the company's market-research effort by sending them out to schools, where they interviewed children their own age about the things they liked and didn't like in their own rooms. What did they want in their bedrooms? What were their favorite colors? "We're not trying to prepare our children to work in the family dynasty or even to teach them to be businesspeople," Friberg says. Instead, their aim is to reinforce the same lifestyle lessons they teach at home: responsibility, time management, how to set and accomplish goals. Peterson sees it this way: "For us, everything we do is about building a whole life -- not just a business -- for our family."
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