...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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Before our trip to Nashville, Steve and I fully expected to fall head over heels for our friends’ kitchen. John and Sara had emailed us pictures of their renovation and we were so excited to see it in person and trade DIY war stories. What we didn’t expect was a suite all to ourselves in a detached, newly constructed building. The couple worked with an architect to design the shell but John is responsible for most of the finishes. The lower level is a workshop / garage and the upper level is a modern day mother-in-law suite. Steve and I felt like royalty when we were showed to our sleeping quarters. AMAZING.

MIL entry 1

You enter through a dormer (there’s a matching dormer on the opposite side of the room) and it pretty much sets the tone for the 450 sq. ft. living space: simple and masculine with a few vintage touches. The white box above the door is actually an LG inverter. I was super impressed with its performance. During our visit the temps reached into the mid-80’s but our upper level suite stayed at a comfortable temperature minus the cold drafts and stale air that normally accompany a whole house or window A/C unit. The inverter unit is so quiet, too! I couldn’t even tell when it was running.

MIL entry 2

The tiled entry is decked out in the same marble hex as the kitchen in the main house and gives way to wood. A shoe and coat rack made of salvaged materials sits just inside the door.

MIL kitchen 1

A small but functional kitchenette includes a sink, mini fridge, microwave and toaster oven. The cabinets (which were stocked with snacks!) are off-the-shelf red oak but John finished them with Minwax water-based wood stain tinted to charcoal gray. At first, John was leery of how the gray stain showed up as blue-gray on the red oak but it ended up being a happy accident. The cabinets are topped with butcher block.

The MIL suite has an angled, sloped ceiling and you get a peek here of how it’s highlighted with contrasting gray trim. These two and their ceilings! I fully appreciate how the couple incorporated special details on the ceiling in the MIL suite and in the main home’s kitchen. It’s a surface commonly overlooked.

MIL dormer 1

Across from the entry is a matching dormer although this one houses a window. The two dormers balance the space and are great architectural elements. The industrial pendants are Feiss via Wayfair. The wood planks in each dormer are the original floor boards from the main house’s second floor. The planked wall is finished in the same wood stain as the kitchenette cabinets.

To the left of this dormer is a small seating area complete with a coffee table made from a salvaged door. But all of our crap had it cluttered up so I didn’t snap a shot of it.

MIL bed 1

The sleeping area consists of a bed, two small side tables / stools and a pair of matching lamps. The comforter is from Target. I did NOT want to leave this bed.

MIL bed 3

It might sound silly but my favorite feature of the entire suite were these built-in wall niches. (There’s a matching one in the seating area.)

MIL niche 2

They’re perfect for books, a cell phone, a glass of water or a pair of eyeglasses. They’re quite useful in a small space.

MIL bed 4

Here you can see more of the ceiling trim I mentioned earlier. It felt so cozy sleeping under the sloped ceiling.

MIL armoire

The armoire is antique and provides extra storage in the closet-less space. John added a hook to the side. Such a thoughtful touch! (And, yes, I hung my clothes up and pretended I lived here for two whole days.)

A small, en suite bathroom is positioned under the sloped ceiling. Typically, this can be problematic when laying out fixtures but this bathroom is well-designed. Even though it’s windowless, the bathroom feels bright and airy. It’s set up as a European-style bath with a shower that drains into the floor. There is no separate shower pan. A slim glass divider protects the vanity and entrance from water splashes. The toilet is located under the shortest part of the ceiling.

The door is the original back door to the main house. John frosted the glass for privacy but it still lets in light from the main living space. The floor is white hex with a black hex border. (Steve and John shared horror stories of installing hexagon floor tile.)

MIL bath

An open vanity is stained to match the kitchenette cabinets. The mirror is from a vintage dresser that once belonged to John’s grandmother. Two wall sconces flank the mirror. They are from Home Depot.

MIL collage

This modern day MIL suite is a new construction but industrial and vintage elements tie it to the main house. The tiled entry and color scheme are particularly helpful in linking it to the newly renovated kitchen in the main house. Keeping the color palette tight (white, gray, blue, black) makes the small space feel cohesive and gives it good flow. And I love how they reused materials from the renovation of their main home. It’s eco-friendly and also gives the new space a story, some history.

MIL bed 2

I’m still dreaming of the MIL suite. I told Steve that if we didn’t have kids (I’m not wishing away my kids, just making an observation) I could totally live in a space like this. I don’t need anything big or fancy. Or maybe this is the type of setup we’ll have when we’re empty nesters? Who knows.

I mentioned putting the MIL suite on airbnb to John and Sara. Nashville is such a cool place to visit and the MIL suite is better than any hotel room I’ve ever stayed in. But local regulations might not make that a feasible (or legal) option. In the meantime, I have an open invitation the couple is renting out the space short-term for extra income. Then maybe one day a real mother-in-law will take up residence.

Once again, John and Sara, thank you so much for putting us up and allowing me to share the fruits of your labor! You have one lovely home. Mwyah!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking, published with the consent of our friends John & Sara


So lovely! This gets my brain thinking about all types of possibilities for our own house. I love the concept of it!


Stunning, just stunning. I don’t know if I could pick a favorite feature because there are too many beauties to pick just one.



LOVE that entry!

It all looks so great. I just can’t decide which ceiling is better – this one or the amazing one in the kitchen. I agree, it is forgotten so often that it’s nice to see people really work it. Lucky guests, you…


I would TOTALLY rent this space on AirBNB. It’s beautiful!


Beautiful! Maybe your friends would like a few friends from Pennsylvania – we’re pretty nice….. ;)

Gosh, it’s just perfect. Loving the painted planked wood touch and yes, that sloped ceiling. Oh, and the bathroom door. They did a wonderful job and lucky you guys to get weekend away. :)


i could totally see this working for my sister and her husband once they get a bigger place and having a separate place for our parents! this is completely gorgeous, easy, personal, and quaint!


This MIL suite is SO awesome. I love the entrance. Could you maybe post a layout of the suite though? I’m having a hard time piecing together the floor plan from the photos.


LOVE the tile in the entry and the simple grey and white color palette throughout. That’s one lucky MIL!


Can I ask the price range on that inverter? I want one soooo bad instead of the bulky AC/furnace combo we have now. My parents have inverters in Europe, and I love them compared to the American system.


Never mind! Found them at AJMadison! :D


A nice space for young-to-middle aged guests, but I can’t see elderly inlaws making that climb!


Dear John and Sara,
Please start a blog!!!
Everyone Who Reads House Tweaking
P.S. – Pretty please???!!


I love everything about this guest house! A perfect mix of old and new.


Dear Dana, would you please ask John and Sara what kind of grout/bonding material they used between the wooden floor and the tiles at the entrance of the MIL? I have tile in my kitchen and hardwood in the rest of the family room. My contractor used grout, but it’s so inflexible that it’s kind of pushing some of the floorboards up (as wood expands and contracts).
Thank you!


Geeat space. Helping form my dreams and future plans!



I know this is totally off topic, but where did you get that cute overnight bag that is sitting in the entry?


Love your friends MIL suite! Just gorgeous! Do you know where they got the LG Inverter? I’m in Nashville too and could really use one of those. I clicked on your link to get the info but it just provides info. for Malaysia and won’t let you do US ?!?

Wow. I could totally live there. The tile set into the hardwood is my favorite. And that bathroom has so much character!! If I ever go there I know where to stay!


I found that years and years ago at a shop in Florida. My grandparents live in FL and I was there visiting.


bummer for me:( I just love it! Thanks for the reply.


I tried to make sure I had at least 1/4″ gap anywhere the tile met the hardwood but in the end I just filled the gap with standard, non-sanded grout. I fully expect the grout will crack and chip over time and need to be patched eventually but I expect much less foot traffic in the MIL than say a kitchen/living room.


I actually won the LG unit in a silent auction. You must be asking yourself, what the heck kind of auction has a ductless mini-split HVAC unit?? I was asking myself the same thing and couldn’t believe my luck when I got it for a fraction of the retail price. You could get a unit like it from one of the local supply shops like Ferguson or Ed’s Supply Company, but I would recommend just getting your HVAC contractor to pick it up. My HVAC guy is Ray Goodman with All Things Maintenance. He installed this unit and did a great job.


This is so cute! I would love to see a photo of the bathroom floor/glass wall layout because I am looking to do the same thing in a small bathroom we have -all-in one with no shower pan. Thanks so much if you can add a photo or two.

Head over heels indeed! That door to the bathroom is FAB. Old. soulful fab. The rest of the place is….meh.

KIDDING. Love it. All

Man, I’m in love with so many elements of this space! But the armoire and salvaged bathroom door are BEAUTIFUL!!


It was hard to photograph that area but you get a peek of the glass in the photo where I discuss the hook on the side of the armoire. The bathroom door is open a little and the shower is just to the left inside the door. The glass “wall” is really only about 10″ – 12″ wide but reaches floor to ceiling. It’s enough to keep the shower from spritzing the door and vanity.


I so second this! Loved the kitchen, loved the MIL and would love to follow along with the rest of the reno!


What a fantastic space! And lucky for me you posted when you did- we are in process of doing this very thing at our house! Just finished up the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC so the fun part of decorating is coming up soon! :)


John and Sara, thank you for your reply.


Loving this MIL suite!!! We have two adults, a baby, and a dog in a one bedroom apartment so I love seeing what people do with small spaces. I love the built in nook near the bed, small entryway, hooks on the side of the wardrobe, and tight color scheme. well done!


[…] to me and homeowners everywhere. (Be sure to check out John & Sara’s kitchen and MIL suite in Nashville. And you must see James & Kristina’s renovation of a midcentury family home […]