...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Did you know today is National Dream Day? It commemorates the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. On this day, dream sharing is encouraged. I have many dreams but I thought it would be fun to put a spin on Dream Day and share the top ten features of my (nonexistent) dream home. Financial factors aside, you know, since we’re dreaming and all. Oh, and I’m not addressing decor in this list just general features of the shell of the house. The images shown are meant to demonstrate the features I’m discussing. They aren’t exact interpretations of how I picture my dream home. Obviously, they would look a little strange mixed together under one roof and, quite frankly, most of them are larger than I envision my dream home being. Although, they’re all pretty dreamy. Here we go!

right-sized home

1. Right-sized. In contrast to the average American’s idea of what a dream house should be, my dream house would not be super-sized. My dream house is right-sized, meaning every square inch is utilized efficiently. It includes multipurpose rooms. It doesn’t include tons of wasted space or extra rooms that are rarely used. The floor plan is deliberate and thoughtfully laid out. It’s just what my family needs and nothing more. The design is so carefully considered that it allows us to live in the least amount of square footage as possible. No mansions for me!

large windows

dining room windows

clerestory windows in dining space

2. Plenty of natural light. I crave a bright space and I get a kick out of watching how the light in a house changes over the course of a day. My dream home has an abundance of natural light streaming in through carefully placed windows, doors and skylights. I’m especially drawn to clerestory windows and windows placed in the backsplash of a kitchen. All that natural light would help to make my right-sized dream home feel larger. Ideally, I wouldn’t have to use a single artificial light source until after the sun goes down at night. I don’t think I could ever be happy in a dark house.

indoor outdoor living room

interior courtyard

indoor outdoor living room

3. Connection to the outdoors. This kind of goes along with plenty of natural light but I don’t only want to see what exists beyond the walls of my house, I want to experience it. Maybe it’s a wall of sliding glass doors that can be opened up to extend our living space. Maybe it’s an interior courtyard or atrium. Maybe it’s an outdoor shower. Maybe it’s an outdoor living space. Maybe it’s as simple as a set of french doors that opens up to a private backyard or a wide, deep porch to watch cars pass by. Whatever it is, it encourages an indoor-outdoor lifestyle and connects the house to its surroundings.

4. Open living space. An open kitchen-living-dining space suits our casual lifestyle best. It needn’t be large (see #1) or entirely open but a communal layout in the main living area promotes family togetherness as we go about our daily routine.

vaulted ceiling

vaulted ceiling in kitchen

5. High ceilings. Having lived in a home with standard 8′ ceilings (our first home, lower than 8′ in some areas), a home with 9′ ceilings (our second home) and a home with vaulted ceilings (our current home), I have to say my preference is anything over the standard 8′. This is one of those features that has a huge impact in the way a space feels and once you’ve lived with it, it’s difficult to imagine living without it. My dream home has high ceilings. Perhaps not throughout the entire house but definitely in some of the most frequently used spaces.

6. Architect-designed. My dream home is designed by an architect – past, current or up-and-coming. I have so much respect for architects and they’re ability to design structures that are durable, functional and beautiful. Over the years, I’ve found that I have a hankering for architects’ personal residences. They feel practical and livable yet incorporate interesting and unique architectural elements. They always seem to flow well from room to room. From thick moldings in older houses to cantilevered structures in modern homes, I’m amazed by the way architectural elements play a part in the overall vibe of a home. It’s all in the details – no matter how intricate or simplistic.

wood lined pantry

wood walls, floors

7. Warm wood tones. As much as I enjoy drooling over all white spaces, I know they’re not for me. To keep things cozy and inviting, I need natural wood tones in my life. So, of course, my dream home features hits of warm wood. Floors, accent walls, cabinetry, countertops, built-ins…they’re all game. I absolutely love teak cabinets in a kitchen.

8. Flex space. If there’s one space we’re missing in our current home, it’s a multipurpose space that acts as a den, library, TV room and guest room all in one. It isn’t big but my dream home has one. And it can be opened up to the rest of the house during the day or closed off at night for privacy. I love the idea of having a separate, more intimate room off the main open living space where we can regularly watch movies together, just chill or, on special occasions, host overnight guests. Ideally, it has a deep built-in sofa or sectional that doubles as a bed.

stained wood siding

dark blue exterior

midcentury modern dark exterior

9. Dark exterior. So by the time my dream home comes to fruition (ha!), I might have changed my mind on this feature but right now I’m into dark exteriors. Inky blue, deep charcoal, black, dark-stained cedar…I love ‘em. My dream home has a dark exterior and a mix of materials that help it blend in with its surroundings.

modernist prefab

10. Prefab construction. Alright, this one is a bit of a stretch and it isn’t a MUST for my dream home but I’m completely fascinated by prefabricated homes. Not only are today’s designs in line with my preferred aesthetic but I’m in awe of the construction process. The process of manufacturing off-site then transporting and assembling a structure on-site over a relatively short period of time has many benefits. Steve and I have both agreed that the only way we would ever build is by way of prefabrication.

A few things not on my dream home list? A specific location, a particular architectural style and land. I think I must be half chameleon. Honestly, I could be happy living almost anywhere (okay, maybe not Antarctica) and I change my mind daily about the location of my dream home. Plus, I feel like I haven’t seen enough of the world to choose just one place to live for the rest of my life. I appreciate an array of architectural styles and as long as a space incorporates most of the features listed above, I would consider it dream status. Also, my dream home needn’t be a multi-acre property. As long as there is somewhere nearby to get in touch with nature (a park would suffice), I’m good. I don’t need to own it to enjoy it.

There you have it! My dream home in list form. My must-haves are constantly evolving so this list could look very different 10-15 years from now when my kids are all grown up. As I’m scanning the list, it looks like our current home ticks off about 50% of the features to some extent. Not bad, considering we’ve never thought of this house as our dream home. Now I want to ask Steve to make a top 10 list and see how it compares to mine.

If you have a moment, I’d love to know what’s on your dream home list. Happy dreaming!

images: 1) tourfactory.com 2) Prue Ruscoe for HomeLife 3 & 4) Joe Schmelzer  5) Arthur Casas 6) Kim Lucian for Apartment Therapy 7) House & Home  8) Eve Wilson for The Design Files 9) Sean Fennessy for The Design Files 10) Adrienne Breaux for Apartment Therapy 11) Lincoln Barbour for Jessica Helgerson Interior Design 12) Arthur Casas 13) Warren Heath for House and Leisure 14) Dan Semar via Flickr 15) Joe Fletcher for Dwell


Did you happen to see this streamlined family home in the most recent issue of Dwell magazine? The article struck a chord with me. The <700 square foot space belongs to a young family of three – soon to be four. It’s the result of a four-month-long renovation which brought more light and storage and better function and design into the apartment. The use of sliding doors, ample windows and Murphy beds go a long way in making the space feel bright and airy. The execution of a stowaway bunk bed in the children’s room is particularly captivating.


In embracing small space living, the family spent the last year and a half selling off most of their books, furniture and decorative objects.

“It really made us scrutinize what’s important and what we can do without. Rather than being a burden, that has been liberating. We don’t feel weighed down by stuff we don’t need or use.” – David Friedlander, resident

“People usually try to fit their old furnishings into a new space. We fit ourselves into the space.” – Jacqueline Schmidt, resident


In addition to being small, the apartment was also in less-than-perfect condition upon purchase. The poor condition yielded a low price tag which meant the family could afford a complete remodel and a few splurge-worthy materials like wide-planked oak floors.


The kitchen is the perfect marriage of high and low: Ikea cabinets + marble countertops and backsplash.


The bathroom boasts marble tile and a floating vanity. Natural light streams in through the shower window.


You can see more of the family home here. I find it so encouraging! It’s a wonderful example of how living with less can actually be a luxury. Even though our home is about twice the size and we’ve done a fair amount of purging already, I am motivated to edit our belongings even further. Having downsized ourselves, I have to agree: living with less is freeing on so many levels.

Have you ever been inspired to go through your closets after seeing or visiting a smaller home? What one drawer / shelf / closet / room in your home needs a good purge session right now? Our junk drawer and the boys’ closet are calling my name…

images: Matthew Williams for Dwell

08.09.14 / Made Me Smile

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Last week I didn’t publish a Made Me Smile post. My grandmother passed away and my heart wasn’t up to the task. So this installment includes two weeks’ worth of smile-worthy links. I hope you find something that inspires you in some way!

*Did you listen to NPR’s TED radio hour, Growing Up, last week? I loved it.


*Terrible real estate agent photos + hilarious captions = a good way to waste time.

*Be still my organizing, laundry-loving heart.

*My favorite hand soap in bulk refills!

*Such a great mix of old + new in a home with a family history. (The home is also featured in the current family issue of Anthology magazine. So good!)

*A smart and stylish galley kitchen. (Don’t let the initial 30-second ad turn you off. You won’t be disappointed!)

ensemble architecture

*Architecture lust.

*I’m usually one of the last people to try new apps and tech-y things but the issuu clip is right up my alley. Clipping and pinning directly from the pages of a magazine? Yesssss.

*Patrick Dempsey’s thoughts on being a caretaker of a home (not just an owner) make him even hotter. Trust me, it’s possible.

*Tips for creating a bright kitchen in a basement apartment.

*A house inspired by Tom and Jerry cartoons. Needless to say, it’s a giant indoor playground – for kids and adults!

*It’s National Book Lovers Day! A few on my wish list: Clutterfree with Kids, Tiny House Living, You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap).

What are you up to this weekend? We’re laying low and gearing up for the start of another school year. Here’s to backpacks, jackets, lunch boxes, books and homework overtaking the mudroom once again!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Ensemble Architecture

06.17.14 / My (Home) Workout

This really has nothing to do with houses (other than it takes place in one) but inquiring minds want to know about my workout routine so I’m sharing all the details – and awkward photos – below.

home workout 1

Welcome to my home gym! Haha. I gave up my pricey gym membership when we decided I would quit working as a pharmacist to stay home with the kids. And, honestly, it’s been for the better. It forced me to find an alternative workout method. Before, I went from machine to machine at the gym and it was so boring. I was stuck in a rut and I really had no idea what I was doing.

I’ve *mostly* exercised regularly (you can see my equally embarrassing pregnancy workout routine here) during and in between pregnancies. Thanks to that and breastfeeding and sometimes diet restrictions during periods of nursing, I’ve never had a problem gaining too much weight during pregnancy (I gained 30-35 lbs with each pregnancy) or losing the baby weight after giving birth. But after Mabrey was born, I noticed a huge difference in the consistency of my body. Everything was mushy and I lost a lot of muscle tone. I felt different too. I was more tired than usual (it probably had something to do with the fact that Mabrey didn’t sleep through the night until she was almost a year old) and weak. I wanted to feel strong again.

I didn’t have the funds for a class or a personal trainer plus a babysitter so I read a bunch of reviews on post-pregnancy workouts that I could do at home and ended up trying Tracy Anderson’s post-pregnancy workout. I loved it! During a good week, I would manage to get in three workouts. But two workouts per week was probably my average for the first year of Mabrey’s life. Once Mabrey weaned and started sleeping regularly, I gained more energy and was able to carve out more blocks of time to devote to exercising. Eventually, the post-pregnancy workout became less difficult and I knew it was time to move on.

home workout 5

Since I had a good experience with the post-pregnancy workout, I looked into some of Tracy’s non-pregnancy material. After reading hundreds of reviews, I opted for the 1-hour mat workout and precision toning DVD’s. You guys, these are the real deal. I’ve been doing them for over a year now. Here’s what I LOVE about Tracy’s method:

*I can work out at home…or pretty much anywhere. Just figuring out the childcare logistics for three kids is enough to turn me off to a gym or class. Not that I have anything against them but I know me and I know I’m much more likely to workout at my convenience. Getting three little people loaded into the car to go anywhere is an ordeal in and of itself. I make it a priority to work out and it usually happens in the afternoon during Mabrey’s nap time (the boys are either in school or at home reading / having screen time / watching a movie) but sometimes I wake up early to sneak in a workout before the kids are awake.

Likewise, the workout travels well. When the weather allows, I work out on the deck in our backyard. When we were on vacation last week I brought my laptop, DVD’s and weights along and worked out on my grandparents’ screened porch.

*I don’t need a ton of space or equipment. As you saw in the first photo, my living room doubles as my gym. I push everything up against the sofa to give myself plenty of room and pop in the DVD. If the boys are watching a movie, I play the DVD on my laptop and prop it up on the coffee table.

home workout 2

home workout 3

I stash what little equipment is needed (light weights, adjustable ankle weights) in a basket on the living room shelves. I used canned food as weights starting out until I decided to invest in legit weights. I have 1 lb, 3 lb and 5 lb free weights.

home workout 4

Some of the exercises require a chair for support. I grab my wishbone knockoff from the dining room and it works perfectly. I do the floor exercises on my living room rug but a yoga mat would work, too. I love that I don’t need an entire room devoted to large, expensive exercise equipment.

*It’s inexpensive. I would probably enjoy Tracy coaching me in person but I’m guessing I’ll never be able to afford her. (She’s been known to train the likes of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.) Over the past two years, I’ve spent less than $100 total on workout material and equipment. That leaves me with more money for pillows! or wine! or cute workout chairs! Bottom line: it’s cheap.

*There’s a subtle ballet / dance reference. I am NOT an athlete. I know. Shocker.

Fun fact: In high school I was demoted from track team runner to statistician after my coach learned that my body’s natural reaction to running was passing out. I ended up being diagnosed and treated for a cardiac arrhythmia later in life. But, whatever, I was good at math.

However, I did study ballet for over a decade. Tracy started out as a dancer and some of the arm and leg positions (plié, attitude, fourth position, etc.) are reminiscent of ballet and it’s funny how after all these years the positions still feel familiar. They’re almost like second nature to my body. That’s not to say someone without dance experience wouldn’t like the workouts or wouldn’t be able to do them. It’s just something I notice and like.

*It’s challenging. These DVD’s are not easy. But they aren’t impossible either. If I can get through an entire workout on the first try then, in my mind, it’s too easy. It took me MONTHS to get through the entire precision toning DVD without dropping my arms or a leg at some point. To this day, I am dripping with sweat and winded at the end of my workout. A year later, it’s still challenging.

FYI – Steve is a certified CrossFit trainer so he’s crazy fit. I begged him to try just the arm section of the mat workout with me a few weeks ago and HE COULDN’T DO IT. “This is stupid,” his words exactly.

To keep from burning out or plateauing, I alternate between the two DVD’s regularly.

*It isn’t trendy. Oprah and Gwyneth made Tracy a hot commodity several years ago but don’t assume her methods are outdated. Tracy is constantly creating new material. There are also little things (changing positions, adding / increasing weights, doubling up on sessions, controlling more, etc.) you can tweak within the workouts to make them more difficult as you get stronger and the workouts get easier. I’ve heard Tracy is training men now too and she recently released the pregnancy project after giving birth to her second child. It almost makes me wish I was pregnant again just to try it. Almost. At any rate, I’m totally bummed it wasn’t available when I was pregnant.

*It’s effective. The number one reason I haven’t moved on to something else is because this method really, well, works. I am stronger. I am toned. I like the way I feel. I like the way I look. I’m not ripped but that’s not my preferred body aesthetic anyway. The workouts focus on accessory muscles – as opposed to major muscle groups – to create a lean but toned profile. If I ever get to the point where I don’t feel challenged or I stop seeing results then I’m open to trying something different – Tracy Anderson or otherwise.

home workout 6

So that’s what I’ve been doing to stay fit. I try to work out every other day. Some weeks it’s more (rare!); some weeks it’s less. I will say that between the two DVD’s I like the precision toning more. It’s more difficult (the planking is ridiculous) and begets results more quickly. There’s more verbal direction, too. But both DVD’s are effective. My ideal workout would include the warm-up, arms, legs and cool-down sections of the mat workout paired with the butt and abs sections of the precision toning. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend the mat workout or the method for beginners.

I’d like to mention that this information isn’t meant to be prescriptive. I’m just sharing what I do. You should do what works for you. I have friends who swear by classes or gyms to stay motivated and hold themselves accountable. But if money / kids / time don’t make those convenient options for you and you’re interested in trying something at home, I’d highly recommend Tracy’s method. I’m always surprised by how much more productive I am on the days I work out. It seems counterintuitive but using up an hour of my busy day to exercise actually results in more stuff getting done. I have more energy, more focus.

How about you? What do you do to stay active? Have you ever tried Tracy Anderson’s method? Is there another workout method I should know about?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking