...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Last month Steve and I snuck away to Nashville for a kid-free weekend. Steve wasn’t able to leave work early on Friday, so we drove to Louisville after he got home that evening and stayed overnight. We hit up HammerHeads for dinner. The mac & cheese balls didn’t sound particularly appetizing, but they came highly recommended so we had to try them. They were AMAZING. So smoky and savory! The brisket tacos were pretty yummy as well.

The next morning we had a little time to kill before our drive on to Nashville. We came across an interesting trinket shop/bakery called Kizito. I was initially drawn to the window display chock full of African wood sculptures, but once inside we were hypnotized by the most amazing aroma of yeast, sugar and cinnamon. Turns out, the shop is owned and operated by a woman from Uganda who visits her homeland regularly and brings back African folk art to sell alongside her homemade baked goods. It makes for quite a unique inventory! Steve bought cookies (a gingersnap and coconut macaroon) and I bought an ebony figurine that now lives on the media cabinet in our living room. I can’t look at it without seeing Kizito’s warm face and smelling the faintest hint of cinnamon.

We checked in to our Nashville Airbnb later that afternoon, and immediately my dream of living tiny as empty nesters was solidified. Our cozy home for the weekend was a vintage Shasta camper in our host’s dreamy backyard. Walking through the gate from the driveway was like being transported to a secret oasis – leafy canopy, dappled sunlight, chirping birds, twinkle lights and all. #icriedalittle (I’m not much of a camper, but I love being outdoors as long I have running water and a real bed nearby.)


The camper featured a teeny kitchen complete with sink, running water, hot plate, mini fridge and essentials. One end of the camper was outfitted with a built-in platform bed (plus AC unit!), while the other end housed a small table and vintage leather and cane chairs.

Clever storage included baskets under the bed, DIY peshtemal towel “curtains” to hide kitchen clutter and a slew of wall hooks and shelves. The wheel wells were covered in planks and provided extra shelving and seating. I thought the simple DIY window coverings were ingenious. Essentially, they were raw cut linen panels (white facing the window, gray facing the interior) with frayed edges and grommets looped over small hooks. During the day, they could be tied back with leather lace. At night, they could be closed by moving one grommeted corner to a hook on the other side of the window. Such an easy solution for oddly sized windows!

The vibe was super cozy, rustic and casual. I loved that the decor felt homier than a traditional camper. (Obviously, this camper isn’t meant to be moved around from place to place like a traditional camper.)

We spent a lot of time at the table reading, playing cards, drinking wine and just looking out over the backyard. (Temps were in the 90s during our stay, so we were grateful for the AC.) It was so quiet and peaceful that we had a hard time believing we were actually within city limits.

The separate bathhouse was so charming! Even with windows galore, it felt private. The lower awning windows featured the same tieback curtains as inside the camper for privacy, while the upper clerestory windows kept the small space feeling light and bright.


Inside was the cutest corner sink, a toilet and clawfoot tub. Just outside, in a secluded corner between the bathhouse and camper, was an outdoor shower. Panels of galvanized metal backed cedar slats surrounding the showerhead. Showering under the stars one night remains a favorite memory. An outdoor shower is now on my dream house wish list. Bonus: no cleaning required!

A hammock was on the other side of the bathhouse under a minimal pergola. I’ll never forget the first time Steve tried to mount it when he didn’t think I was watching. He approached it like an American Ninja Warrior obstacle by getting a running start then jumping on to it back first which caused the hammock to quickly flip upside down. Consequently, he landed underneath the hammock facing the ground with his knees bent, resembling a human spider. Luckily, the only thing hurt was his pride. I had just stepped out of the camper when it all went down (literally). “I saw all that,” I said. Then we laugh-cried for approximately fifteen minutes. I fall into hysterics just thinking about it now. I told him I hope it’s the last image that flashes through my mind on my death bed. I would die laughing.

I made friends with Margot, the friendly backyard mascot. She was so sweet.

Nighttime was nothing short of magical in this little corner of the world.

With some pre-planning I was able to make a dinner reservation for two at the highly touted Rolf and Daughters. The interior felt very “industrial loft” but it was still cozy. Our waitress was really patient with us and answered all our questions about the menu which was a little difficult for us decipher on our own. We ended up having an incredible, drawn-out meal that felt all the more luxurious because there weren’t any kids to tend to. I forgot how nice it is to linger after a meal. (I’m usually in cleanup mode as soon as all forks are down at home.)

Not all of our meals were so extravagant, but here are some other food joints we thoroughly enjoyed near our Airbnb:

Calypso Cafe: an affordable lunch option within walking distance of the Airbnb. We loved the salads and martinique callaloo.

Five Points Pizza: within walking distance and well worth any wait. The garlic knots and Zeus pie were my favorites.

I Dream of Weenie: within walking distance but bring a bottle of water. Gourmet, charcoal-grilled hot dogs featuring unique toppings are served from a vintage VW bus. There’s a rotating menu and daily specials. No boring hot dogs here! FYI – I love a good hot dog. LOVE.

For breakfast, we hit up juice joints like Franklin Juice and The Urban Juicer. The morning dirt at Franklin Juice was our favorite.

We browsed a bunch of local stores and antique shops. I could have moved right in to Imogene + Willie. It’s located in an old service station and has a cool industrial vibe that’s warmed up with wood and leather accents, planked walls and a glowing red chandelier. Did you notice the paper patterns hanging from the ceiling? From afar, they looked like a giant tissue paper garland.

I had a daybed + rug moment at Rich Hippies. Have I mentioned I love getting interior inspiration from commercial spaces?

We picked up gifts for family from Moto Moda, Cadeau and Craft South. (Coincidentally, it was tax-free weekend in Tennessee.) Cadeau is where I first discovered my new favorite candle, Ash by Boy Smells. Don’t let the name fool you. It smells nothing like boy smells. Steve couldn’t care less about scented candles, but he loves this one. We also hit up Third Man Records downtown. Steve was really hoping to run in to Jack White, but we just missed him. He had been there two days earlier. We spent one evening walking around downtown, ducking in to different venues, sipping drinks and listening to live music, but we were happy to retreat to the quiet lil’ camper afterwards.

Not surprisingly, I had a hard time leaving. I knew returning to real life would be a slap in the face, but the little time we spent away from the kids was enough for a much needed reset. One thing I picked up from our short stay and started incorporating into life at home is setting the dial on our kitchen radio to a classical music station in the afternoons. When we arrived at the Shasta, the host had tuned a Tivoli radio to a classical music station. The volume was perfect. Not too loud, not too faint. We ended up leaving it on for most of our stay. It was so calming, and it has the same effect at home when the boys return from school. They’ve even been asking me to turn on “that music” from time to time when they need some downtime. I love bringing home little experiential golden nuggets like this as souvenirs from our travels.

Have you spent time away from your kids recently? Is it something you’re at ease doing or do you need a nudge (or shove) to get you out the door? When my kids were younger, I rarely traveled or spent time away from them. But now that they’re older, it’s a little easier and the more I do it the easier it gets.

P.S. – More thoughts on vacationing without kids.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


More than half of the Airbnb homes we’ve stayed in boast IKEA kitchens. It’s not something I specifically look for in a vacation rental (I swear!), but I do get a little giddy the first time I open a drawer and make the discovery. I love seeing how other homeowners use IKEA cabinets within the context of their own homes. I think IKEA kitchens are becoming so popular because they’re affordable, efficient and customizable, and the drawer hardware holds up to daily abuse.

The Toronto house we stayed in utilized IKEA cabinets alongside other elements to create a rustic modern aesthetic. I thought I’d share it with you because, at first glance, the space doesn’t read IKEA. It feels lived in and exudes the same cozy vibe as the rest of the home. Keep reading to see some of the defining features.


Sleek cabinets + concrete countertops + wood floors

White, flat panel cabinets in a high gloss finish (IKEA RINGHULT) are topped with matte concrete countertops for contrast. The concrete wasn’t perfectly mixed or polished on purpose. Pits and color variations give the inexpensive material the look of pricier natural stone. The rawness of the concrete contributes to the rustic look. Pine planks ground the space and give off a pretty golden glow.


Minimal brass hardware

Solid brass edge pulls offer a clean design of a quality material. In line with the lived-in vibe of the house, the un-lacquered brass has taken on a patina over time. These particular pulls hail from Upper Canada Specialty Hardware, but Rejuvenation sells similar ones here.


Tiled walls

Taking the subway tile to the ceiling is a popular, contemporary installation of a classic material. Here, it adds another layer and texture to the utilitarian space. Fortunately, white 3″ x 6″ subway tile can be found for cheap at most home improvement stores.


Wood shelves

Forgoing upper cabinets on one half of the room gives the kitchen a lighter, airier feel. Thoughtfully placed reclaimed wood shelves in various lengths bring warmth to the tiled walls. A haphazard display of handmade mugs and cooking essentials feels casual and homey.


Open cubbies above wall cabinets

On the other half of the kitchen, a row of open cubbies fits snugly between upper cabinets and the ceiling. (Here, the cubbies were created by simply using horizontal IKEA wall cabinets in a wood lookalike finish – similar to this – and opting out of door fronts.) The cubbies break up the wall of cabinetry and make use of otherwise wasted space. The overall look is tidy and modern. The homeowners use the clever cubbies to stash their cookbook collection and less frequently used items.


A freestanding, antique island

An old farmhouse island takes center stage in the middle of the room. The worn wood top and rusted metal base give the new kitchen a sense of history while also providing extra prep and storage space. The drawers hold kitchen linens, and the bottom shelf keeps mixing bowls and a pair of colorful dutch ovens within easy reach.


A pot rack

An overhead pot rack makes use of vertical space above the island. The hanging pots and pans are reminiscent of a chandelier, reflecting light and the warmth of the wood-topped island below. The homeowners thrifted this rack, but you can find similar black, rectangular versions online.


Vintage rugs

Vintage rugs in saturated hues add color and pattern to the mostly white space and feel soft and warm underfoot. The rugs shown here are family hand-me-downs, so not only do they look great, they tell yet another story. Try searching “vintage rug” or “persian rug” on eBay or etsy.



What do you love most about this kitchen? I don’t think I can pick just one thing! I love the mix of old and new and all the contrasting materials. In person, I loved the patina of the concrete countertops, brass pulls and industrial island against the shiny, modern cabinets. (When we returned home, I may have trolled Craigslist looking for crusty, industrial metal legs to add a butcher block top to.) The pine floors were so handsome in real life, scratches and all. Even though the kitchen is probably the hardest working room in this house, the entire space felt really warm and inviting. It was obvious the family who lives here actually lives here. Which is the point, right?

P.S. – See more of this beautiful home right here. Read about our family trip to Toronto here.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking