...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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I first met Kristina while I was waiting at the boys’ elementary school for a parent-teacher conference. I was pregnant with Mabrey and due any day.

“I’m sorry. I just have to tell you that you are the cutest pregnant woman I’ve ever seen. You’re adorable.” I turned to see a beautiful tall woman who looked to be about my age. She had the most amazing olive skin, shiny brunette hair, watery brown eyes and the friendliest smile framed by full lips.

We exchanged introductions and I knew right away we were going to be good friends. Which is weird because it’s not always easy making friends as an adult. In fact, it’s downright awkward. (Especially when you’re somewhat of an introvert around strangers.) But I liked Kristina right off the bat. We talked and quickly discovered that our oldest sons were in the same class so we exchanged phone numbers to schedule a playdate.

A few weeks went by. I gave birth to Mabrey and shortly thereafter Kristina called to invite Layne over for an hour or two to play. She thought subtracting one kid from my house would help lighten my load a little and I was grateful. Yes! She gave me her address and we were both surprised to learn we lived less than five minutes apart. I loaded up all three kids and made the short drive over to Kristina’s. I had every intention of dropping Layne off with a quick hello-goodbye and taking advantage of my two-kid status by hitting up the grocery store.

But the minute I stepped foot in her house, I was hooked. From the outside, it was an unassuming midcentury brick rancher. Inside, Kristina and her husband, a self-employed contractor, had transformed the house into a modern family home. To make a long story short, I didn’t go grocery shopping that day. I stayed for the entire two hours but it felt more like 15 minutes. And it wasn’t just because the house was super cool. Although, that was a good icebreaker. Kristina was very easy to talk to and we discovered we had a lot in common – as did our sons and our husbands. Everything clicked.

Two and a half years later, we’re great friends. And so are our children and husbands! We have a lot of fun together and share similar interests. One of which is a love of all things home and home improvement. (Kristina’s husband, James, is the one who helped Steve with the pesky hexagon tile in the main bathroom.) We’ve bonded over renovation stories – good ones and not-so-good ones.

I always knew I wanted to share their home on the blog but I have so much apprehension about asking people to let me broadcast their home on the Internet. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. And I don’t want people to think I’m using them for blog material. But, earlier this year, I decided to JUST ASK! (That’s how this post came about.) Luckily, James and Kristina were more than happy to share their home with me, my camera and the interweb. I hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you in some way!

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First up, the befores. James and Kristina were on a budget when they were searching for a house in the area. They were looking for a midcentury modern ranch in good condition. They didn’t want a house that had been updated already. They wanted a house that they could put their spin on by switching up the layout and / or making cosmetic changes. They stumbled upon this 1965 ranch in immaculate condition. It was an estate sale. They snatched it up and James took three months off work (an advantage of being self-employed) to revamp the main living spaces: kitchen, family room, dining room, living room and laundry room. He did nearly all of the work himself.

The remodel involved removing a wall that closed off the kitchen from the adjoining family room (seen above) and reworking the kitchen.

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The original kitchen was connected to a formal dining room (via the doorway seen above) but the couple opted to close up the doorway and turn the dining room into an office. The adjoining family room became a casual dining space. A wall separating the new kitchen / dining space from a front living room was opened up to give access to the room which they now use as a family room.

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Here’s an “in progress” shot looking at the kitchen from the new dining area (former family room). The paneled wall is gone and the space already feels larger and brighter. The door on the left leads to a laundry nook. On the right, you can see that the doorway to the original dining room has been closed up and access to the front family room (former living room) has been added.

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And here is the space now! The new open layout is conducive to the family’s casual lifestyle. Not to mention, it gives the house better flow. The original layout felt jumbled and loopy.

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Here is the view looking toward the new dining area (former family room) from the kitchen. Sliding doors on the right lead out to the backyard. Keeping durability in mind, the carpet and linoleum were replaced with large scale, rectangular tile. It’s hard to imagine a wall ever divided this space.

James and Kristina’s style is decidedly masculine, modern and minimal. They list Atomic Ranch as their number one source for inspiration. Many of the furnishings in their home are from the same era as the house but it doesn’t feel like a time capsule.

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The kitchen is a mix of custom and Ikea cabinetry. The frameless wood cabinets are Ultracraft and the white cabinets are Ikea. (The home’s original kitchen cabinets were installed in the garage for closed storage.) To break up the dark wood, a horizontal cabinet in glossy white was installed above the sink. The doors lift up to reveal everyday dishes. The color and texture of the backsplash pick up on the floor tile. The tiled backsplash extends to the ceiling above the horizontal wall cabinet for a finished look.

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An island does double duty providing a surface for both food prep and casual dining. White quartz countertops contrast with rich wood tones. Three glass pendants punctuate the island without obstructing the view.

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A tall Ikea cabinet stands in as a pantry. It houses usual pantry goods plus a trash can and ties in to the horizontal wall cabinet and quartz countertops. Mixing affordable Ikea cabinets with higher end cabinetry was a smart move, design-wise and budget-wise.

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The wood burning fireplace is an original feature and functional. Muddy taupe walls pair well with the red brick and red accents provide a complementary pop of color.

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The dining table, chairs and hutch are vintage Drexel and were all craigslist finds. James and Kristina reupholstered the chair seats in a gray tweed. The sideboard (left of the fireplace) was a wedding gift from family.

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Resources of note:

wall paint – mocha accent by Behr, matte finish
floor tile – Kaska Italian porcelain tile from Build Direct
wood cabinets – Ultracraft frameless cabinets
white cabinets – Ikea ABSTRAKT
countertops – Silestone white zeus quartz
faucet – Moen
appliances – LG
backsplash – cooltiles.com
glass globe pendants – Lumens
counter stools – Amazon
dining furniture – vintage, craigslist scores (table + buffet was $450)
dining rug – Flor
dining pendant – Lumens
red retro play kitchen – Amazon

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So what do you think? They had quite the vision and their execution was impeccable, wasn’t it? When you tear down walls and move doorways around in an older home you risk losing the home’s original character. But, by keeping the fireplace and incorporating materials and furnishings reminiscent of midcentury modern design, James and Kristina were able to retain their home’s MCM roots while bringing it up to speed with their family’s lifestyle. I’m always inspired by real homeowners on a real budget who manage to turn an otherwise ordinary house into a home that reflects their style. Are you inspired? Would you like to see more of this house? Currently, James and Kristina are remodeling their master bathroom. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

A big thanks to James and Kristina for allowing me to share their home! If you’re local and in need of a reputable contractor, I’ve added James’s business, JK Designs, to the side bar.

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, rough sketches of the floor plan before and after the remodel…


modern family reno floor plan before


modern family reno floor plan after

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



I like the modern and vintage look. Very nicely done. Where is the living room though?


I absolutely LOVE this feature! Please keep more of the house coming. It’s so much inspiration for my home…Thank you to the friends for sharing. :) Happy Monday! (And I agree, making friends as an adult can sure as hell be awkward!)


Gorgeous! My husband and I are planning to tile our den and this floor is definitely going in my inspiration file. I’d love to see more of their house! Thanks for sharing!


Surely, now that you’re good friends, she’ll let you poke around the rest of her house and share it here too! What a great space, and how cool to have found a decor soulmate at school :)


Job well done !


I have followed your blog with pleasure since well before your move into the Underdog and so appreciate how you have taken us step by step through all the work and thought you have given it, and shown us how a real family lives in a real home. Thank you for braving the possible “no, thank you” and showing us another nearby family home. All lovely – and loving.


The original layout featured a formal living room at the front of the house (not shown) and a casual family room at the back of the house (shown in the befores with the paneled wall). The family opted to use the original formal living room as a casual family room and turn the original family room into a dining space open to the kitchen. The “new” family room is behind the wall on which the hutch resides. There is a doorway in the kitchen that leads to the family room.


PLEASE share more of this home! It’s freakin gorgeous. Surely she must be featured in a magazine?


What a great transformation! A really nice mix of era-specific and modern furnishings (I love the kitchen cabinet combos and the globe pendant lights). The open flow looks really family-friendly too. Thanks for sharing this!


Love the glossy white cabinet, what a great idea!


I have just put in a purchase agreement for a 1956 brick ranch that I’m calling the Atomic Pumpkin(It’s covered in orange toned brick and has pumpkin stained cedar panels as accents). I’m so thrilled to see this house and your house as inspiration for modern living in these gems. My boyfriend (who lacks vision!) thought that I was nuts. But I’ve showed him what you and Steve have done as renovations, and now he thinks that I’m a bit less crazy. ;-)
I’m looking forward to working on my own mid-century gem. I may even blog, but it would just be for my family and friends to follow. Thanks for the inspiration-


I’d love to see the other main living spaces. I’d like to get a sense of how it flows with the remodeled space in the back.


Of course I would like to see more. What an amazing before and after. Great job to James and Kristina and thank you for sharing. Really nice lighting throughout. It’s really nice that you left the original brick.
Couldn’t agree more about it being hard to make friends as you get older, congrats to all of you.


LOVE this house and would LOVE to see more :) I think it’s so cool that you have so much in common, including your decor style – love that!! :) #twins #samesies ;)


I’m astounded that Atomic Ranch hasn’t picked them up yet.


Gorgeous Thank you for sharing! Wish I lived closer so I could have them work on my house. Please share more!


Great remodel! I would love to see more of their home.
Do you have any great tips for house hunting for a places that have potential like this?


The house looks great but your pictures ?! They are gorgeous !! Did you upgrade your camera ? Thanks to both of you for sharing. Take care.


Ditto! Please show us the living/family room, too. The kitchen and dining room are both gorgeous! They have great taste.


I know this is a lot of work, but in spaces like this where the layout is changed could you maybe do a before and after floor plan? I had to read this comment a few times and kind of draw it in my head before I got it!

Great feature as always – love your work!


Gorgeous! It makes me drool-y. Also–feeling your pain on the introvert side of things; we just moved to a new area and it feels a lot like middle school out there!


My Franciscan Starburst dishes are crawling off their shelf and moving in with James & Kristina!


Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!!


Give us more please!


It isn’t really my taste, but, goodness, I can see the beauty of it. “Flawless execution” indeed!


These shots were taken with my trusty ol’ Canon EOS Rebel XSi.


Thanks for the feedback! I’ll keep this in mind for future posts.


more pictures please! i would love to see their family room and bathrooms.


I love the mix of white and wood cabinets in the kitchen. Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing!


Gorgeous! I love the vision they had for this house. I think so few people when looking at mid century ranches can see the potential that these two did. We used to live in your area, lots of these ranches :)


FYI – I updated the post to include rough sketches of the floor plan before and after the remodel. Hope that helps! Thanks for the suggestion.


I don’t even like MCM but I do love good design and before and after photos. I would love to see more of this house. One of the things that I love about your blog are the simple and affordable ideas that you share. This house is beautiful but it is not huge nor was it brand new. Your blog inspires me to keep it simple. So much of what is on the internet re design is unrealistic. This family’s home like your home proves that you can have a beautiful BHG home and still have money to do other things.


The pictures are beautiful ! Nice job :)

yes, i’d love to see more of this whole house…bravo!


I need a decorating soulmate…: )


That’s just about the best compliment I could receive! Thank you.

Love how they transformed it to fit their needs and their style is just stunning. I would love to see their whole house!!!


Beautiful space! Simple but inviting.


This post has me thinking of ripping up our existing hardwood( 1960 original wood floor in living and hallway areas, and newer hardwood in kitchen) and installing larger tile throughout for a more uniform flow. I am horrified for what that would involve but the look is stunning in this house!


Show more of the house, please!!! Love it!!!

What a gorgeous home Dana and I can easily see why you were so drawn to it. Its very You!! I think the simplicity of it is beautiful and Im so happy you were able to kindle a wonderful friendship with Kristina.


[…] week I shared our friends’ renovated kitchen and dining space. There was interest in seeing how the renovation affected other areas of the house so I thought it […]


[…] took advantage of wall space by installing horizontal wall cabinets from Ikea. (They are a nod to similar cabinets above the kitchen sink.) A laminate countertop provides a surface for laundry detergent and grab-n-go early morning […]


“I just have to tell you that you are the cutest pregnant woman I’ve ever seen. You’re adorable.”
Any tips on achieving this, Dana?? (I realize this has nothing to do with this beautiful re-do, but since you mentioned it…) I’m 14 weeks into my second pregnancy and am feeling pretty low on the cute scale. Maybe you remember a couple of maternity clothing staples or other ideas you could share? Many thanks!


[…] I’m sharing two more golden nuggets from our friends’ home: a modern shed and playhouse nestled in a corner of the backyard. James designed and built both […]

[…] I’m sharing two more golden nuggets from our friends’ home: a modern shed and playhouse nestled in a corner of the backyard. James designed and built both […]


[…] Our friends are remodeling their master bathroom and they mentioned a bathroom fan disguised as a recessed light. Say what?! Apparently, Steve and I have been living under a rock. Had we known about this clever fan a couple of years ago we definitely would have incorporated it in the bathroom renovations. I’m putting it on the “next house” list. Ha! […]


Beautiful house and a great story of how you guys met. I always want to compliment strangers in public but I’m always a bit to scared it will be weird. Should just do it more often!


I’m so happy Kristina reached out to me that day. I’m such an introvert. I’m never the one to make the first move. I should!


Hi! This looks great! We are getting ready to paint the walls around our red brick fireplace as well, and I absolutely LOVE the paint color they chose to highlight their fireplace. I saw that you called it “muddy taupe.” Is that the actual color name? If so, do you happen to know the brand? If not, do you know what it is actually called? Thanks for the inspiration!