Name: Carissa Tozzi, her husband Dino, their six-year-old son Wolf and their rescue pup, Pepito
Location: In the woods of Connecticut
Size: 3200 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, owned
Surround yourself with people who get it, reads a newly released poster from Wolf & Friends, an online community and lifestyle site for families raising kids who need extra support or have developmental needs. The sentiment is important to anyone's life; encouragement from friends and family can make life smoother. But the same could be said for the things that surround you, too. The furniture, art and accessories in your home can positively affect your life. That's something Wolf & Friends co-founder Carissa Tozzi knows well.
Carissa is the mom of Wolf, her company's namesake and inspiration. "When Wolf was born I immersed myself in the kids/parenting space online and pored over Instagram and Pinterest to discover and shop for cool toys, decor, and clothes and accessories for him… but when Wolf was three and in preschool, his teachers suggested he may have some sensory issues and handed me a folder of catalogs for some 'stuff' they said might help," Carissa says. "I immediately started researching what that meant and how we can help him. I looked through the materials they gave me and then went online to see what else I could find."
Unfortunately, what Carissa was able to find wasn't satisfactory or inspiring. These fruitless searches led her to launch Wolf + Friends with her friend Gena Mann. "Every place I landed on were these clinical and terrifying therapy sites and were all geared towards children on the autism spectrum… which Wolf was not. I realized there wasn't a place for children like Wolf who could use some extra support, in his case it was sensory sensitivities (loud/unexpected noises + environments that had too much sensory stimulation), but I thought about all the kids we knew with ADHD, anxiety, developmental delays, autism or SPD, etc…and I wondered why these therapy sites were designed this way. I quickly realized that many of the products these sites suggested I could also find online at Amazon or I could source a modern/design inspired-version that fit our lifestyle from DWR, The Land of Nod (now crate + kids) and Design Life Kids, for example. And that's how the idea of Wolf + Friends came to be."
The home that Carissa and her husband share with their son Wolf is originally of mid-century modern design, but they've been (slowly) renovating it to keep the architectural vibes while also introducing "contemporary shapes, colors and textures into both the interior and exterior of the house." The large home is also the perfect example of one filled with supportive elements for everyone. "A home should be a place where your family feels happy, safe, and welcome in every room," Carissa writes.
In that way, their home and the Wolf & Friends site are similar: They're both environments where everyone is welcome and supported. "We have created an informative, imaginative + inclusive shopping experience to give parents the unique opportunity to design a lifestyle that will match where their child is in their development."
As Wolf has grown, so have his design and furniture needs, and his room and the rest of their home have evolved to go along with Wolf's development. Wolf + Friends is changing, too: Next up, the company is launching an app for "families raising children with special needs such as ADHD, learning differences, developmental delays, anxiety, giftedness, sensory processing issues, behavioral challenges, Down syndrome, and autism."
The app will aim to "make meaningful connections, find resources, schedule playdates, get advice from childhood development specialists, and shop for imaginative products that will support their child's unique needs."
Apartment Therapy Survey:
What are your design inspirations: Everything from a clean minimal northern European design aesthetic to ornate classical Italian to the loose, laid-back attitude of '50s and '60s West Coast.
Favorite Element in the whole house (and tell us why): The floor-to-ceiling windows. These allow us a constant sense of connection to the woods and wildlife—deer, birds, foxes and sometimes coyotes and bears (yes they have all been seen) and our surroundings that brings awe, peace and tranquility.
Biggest Indulgence: The downstairs bathroom, which is still a work in progress. But we would say [our biggest indulgences] haven't been built yet! My husband wants a sauna in the woods, I want a swimming pool, and Wolf wants a tree house!
Resources & Recommendations:
Nugget Comfort — Which he uses as a cozy spot to read…but he can also use the cushions to build a fort for pretend play.
Lots of books
Lots of costumes + accessories (he loves dressing up as a superhero or doctor, etc.) (Great for pretend play, social + emotional + language development.)
All of his action figures are in his room (Also good for pretend play, social + emotional + language development.)
His photo albums — He loves taking pictures with his Polaroid camera and then looking at his memories. (Shooting photos in a step-by-step way supports executive functioning skills.)
A balance board for building core strength and practicing balance. — Kinder Feets
A soft cozy rug with a map of the world from Lorena Canals.
We found this company on Instagram, Lagom, which does handmade wire decoration for kids. Budapest based. They made a wolf head, a howling wolf and a sign that says Wolf + Friends. LOVE!
Wolf + Friends also curated a collection of products they recommend on Amazon.
Thanks, Carissa and family!
Visit wolfandfriends.com for shopping advice. "We have created an informative, imaginative + inclusive shopping experience to give parents the unique opportunity to design a lifestyle that will match where their child is in their development."
And sign up to find out when the WOLF + FRIENDS app will be available.
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*This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. Note: Apartment Therapy Media's Chief Content Officer, Susan Kaplow, is an adviser for Wolf + Friends.