...because home doesn't happen overnight.

It’s been nearly three years since we sold our previous home, The Underdog. We bought it as a dilapidated estate sale in 2011 in an effort to downsize and simplify – physically and financially. We spent the next six years renovating it and making it into a home for our family. We believed then, and still believe now, that it was the perfect house for us at that stage in our life. It was a time of tremendous personal growth in many ways, and we learned a lot. From home improvement subjects like vaulted ceilings, metal roofing, IKEA kitchens and leaky furnaces to more abstract ideas like living with less and valuing experiences over things, the Underdog taught us so much and we’re forever grateful.

I thought it might be interesting to address some of the more frequently asked questions we’ve received since selling and moving.

the black house

What made you decide to move?

There isn’t really one singular thing that coaxed us into moving. It was more like the stars aligned and things kinda fell into place in a serendipitous way. We were putting the finishing touches on the The Pee House but hadn’t listed it yet. I was researching Realtor and Zillow to come up with an accurate fair market price for our flip when I happened upon a property that caught my eye. It wasn’t that the house was beautiful or anything like that, but I was struck by the setting and location. It was a secluded, wooded acre on a cul-de-sac close to all the places we visit on a weekly basis – the kids’ schools, public library, grocery store, favorite local restaurants, parks, swim club, work, etc. I had no idea a lot like it even existed in our area!

I showed the listing to Steve and suggested we “just look at it”, no strings attached. He was reluctant and rightfully so. Here we were with two houses already, neither one of them even on the market yet. We had spent whatever free time there was over the last several months working on the flip and were looking forward to a break. I believe Steve’s exact words were “I need you to stop.” I’m a persistent little bugger though (sorry!) and eventually he agreed to see the wooded property. We viewed it the next evening with our realtor. We were both pretty quiet during the walk-through. I was less impressed with the house (brown, outdated, weird layout, larger than we needed) but couldn’t get over the lot and location. I couldn’t get a good read on Steve. We got in the car to leave and I thought, “Okay, I saw it, now I can get it out of my head.” Sometimes I just need to see a place in person, then I can let it go. Sort of like adding items to an online shopping cart then never actually purchasing them :)

But then Steve said, “So, what did you think?!” I knew right then and there he was game. We slept on it overnight but made an offer the next morning. We were told there were multiple offers, so we didn’t let our hopes get too high. If we got it, great. If we didn’t, we already had two perfectly fine houses, ha! Our realtor called us that evening after the kids were in bed to let us know our offer had been accepted. We just looked at each other like, “Guess we’re buying another house!”

Turns out, the owners’ need to push closing out a few months was what motivated them to accept our offer. They needed time to prepare for a move to an assisted living facility. We were flexible seeing as how we needed time to unload two houses. An extended “under contract” period was perfect for both parties.

The next day we hastily listed the home we were living in as a “Make Me Move” on Zillow. We hadn’t prepped the house for sale; we hadn’t researched the fair market value. I quickly wrote up a description and uploaded photos that I had taken for the purposes of blogging. That was our listing. We didn’t even stick a “for sale” sign in the front yard. An hour after the listing posted, we had a call from a woman asking if she could come see the house that day. We thought, “Why not?”

She came, she saw and she was verrrrry interested. She told us she was newly divorced and her current home was already pending and scheduled to sell in a few weeks. She was under contract on another house, but the inspection had not gone well. She was still within the time frame allowed to walk away without penalty and was frantically looking for a Plan B. She thought our home was perfect. Her realtor contacted us the following day with an official offer. Steve and I had discussed a price we would be willing to accept and the offer was well above it. We felt we’d be silly not to accept it even though we hadn’t really processed everything that was happening. Within a matter of days, we were suddenly buying a new home and selling our current home. It was dizzying and a bit scary but also exciting! The way things were quickly falling into place, it felt meant to be.

The only hiccup we encountered was the timing of closings. Our buyer was anxious to get in ASAP; the sellers of the home we were buying needed more time. As much as we didn’t want to, we figured we could shack up in the flip house for a few weeks if necessary. (But who wants to move twice within a matter of weeks?!) Luckily, our buyer ultimately agreed to push back closing.

In the meantime, we finished up the Pee House, listed it for sale and accepted an offer. We had three closings on three different houses (selling two, buying one) scheduled within four weeks of each other. Not to mention, we were gradually packing up our belongings to move our family. Steve and I were working full-time day jobs, too. Ahhhhhh! It was insanity. We closed on the wooded property first which meant, for a short period of time, we owned three houses. We used that time to sporadically move our belongings to the new house. After work in the evenings and on weekends, we’d pack up the minivan and drop off items at the new house. Steve scored two hours with legit movers for a steal on Groupon, and we utilized them for larger items like furniture, mattresses and the washer & dryer on the actual moving day (although, in reality, we moved over two weeks). Two days later we closed on The Underdog, and two weeks after that we closed on the Pee House. It was a whirlwind, but it all worked out in the end.

What items, if any, were included in the sale of the your previous house?

Along with all the normal fixtures included in a property sale, we left a few extras. The TV & boob speakers (good riddance!) in the living room, all window treatments, the master bedroom sconces and the fauxdenza & wardrobes in the mudroom / dining area all conveyed. The buyer also requested to purchase several items separately from the sale of the house: living room sisal rug, media cabinet, counter stools, desk stool, bunk beds, shoe cabinet and trampoline. We were more than happy to leave those items with the house – less stuff to move!

Fun fact: We have a set of garage cabinets that have made every move with us over the last 10 years. They’re old chemistry lab wall cabinets that Steve found on Craigslist. He loves them, won’t let them go. So we’ve always been sure to note that they do NOT convey in our house listings.

Do you miss your old house?

With all the work, sweat and tears that went into the Underdog, we fully expected to grieve and miss it. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. We quickly fell in love with our new place and were super happy to see our old house go to someone so excited about it. That definitely made the transition easier.

There are things we miss though. I miss having a newer refrigerator with a water dispenser. Our current home didn’t come with a refrigerator, so we bought an inexpensive, used one from a local scratch-and-dent appliance store as a placeholder until we renovate the kitchen. It’s an older model with no water dispenser and minimal interior organization. (We use a Brita filter pitcher and have to refill it 3-4 times daily. It’s such a pain.) The door doesn’t shut properly and, just last week, the door handle fell off.

I miss bathrooms with windows. I miss natural light in bathrooms and being able to crack a window after a shower or bath. I miss the two small raised garden beds where we grew veggies, herbs and cutting flowers. The kids miss the trampoline.

But these are all just things that can be replicated to some extent at our current place in good time. We don’t regret moving. In fact, at least once a week, one of us says, “I love it here.” So, nope, absolutely no regrets. It was the right move.

the black house

Hi! How are you? I hope you’re well and doing everything in your power to stay that way. Our household is fine. The kids are schooling from home; Steve is working from home. Our dining room table is ground zero and a bit of a disaster these days. I’m still working at the hospital pharmacy which has been a roller coaster of a ride the last several weeks, but I’m grateful to just be working when so many others can’t. Nevertheless, my work climate feels extremely heavy and in an effort to balance it out I’ve recently found myself craving “lighter” pursuits during my time off: long walks, bike rides, new dinner ideas, new workouts, photography…heck, even cleaning house has been a worthy distraction.

Which is how this post came to be. I’ve been wanting to mock up our current home’s floor plan for a while now. I’m oddly passionate about floor plans. I used to draw up dream floor plans in middle school. Of course, they included such fantastical things as indoor pools and slides, gymnasiums, art studios, hidden rooms, trap doors and the like. Even now, I’ve been known to sketch out floor plans of interesting Airbnbs I come across online. I love Dwell magazine if not for the sole reason that most features include floor plans. I like to imagine how the house unfolds itself to those in it and how it lives.

I spent some time last week mocking up our current layout (I used Floorplanner) and it was strangely satisfying. I love a bird’s eye view! I thought it might be a cool thing to share here for reference. Maybe it helps you piece together some of my IG photos so you can see how the spaces relate to one another. Or maybe I’ll actually get around to sharing some projects (fingers crossed!) and this can serve as a map so to speak. I’ll warn you. It’s…unique.

Built in 1979, the house is a living example of 70s contemporary architecture. Common features of this style include vaulted ceilings in public spaces, multiple levels, wide staircases, loft areas, floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces and angled wood siding. Our home has them all! Originally, this type of architecture was designed to work on challenging, often sloped and wooded, plots. (Think Sea Ranch in California.)

the black house

Our own home is perched on a small hill nestled in the woods. It sits back off a cul-de-sac and feels really private. Even though the lot is larger than our previous residence (we went from roughly a half-acre to one acre), there’s very little yard. We actually have less grass to mow here; it’s mostly woods. A small stream trickles through the front. It’s quiet and there’s a lot of wildlife. In fact, the day we first toured the house nine deer traipsed through the woods! The lot and the way the house is situated on it is what ultimately sold us on moving.

Now that you have a better grasp of how the house sits on the landscape, let’s talk floor plan. The house is a 4 bed / 2 bath and is technically two stories, but the second story doesn’t span the entirety of the first floor. The total living space is ~2,300 sq ft. Yes, that’s ~600-700 sq ft more than our previous home. Most of the additional square footage comes from a fourth bedroom, a small loft area and separate kitchen / living areas. Before I catch flak for touting smaller living then buying a bigger house, please know that if it were up to me only I’d live in a tiny house tomorrow. But the people I love and live with don’t exactly feel the same way. Also, if a smaller house with similar features were on this lot, we probably would have pulled the trigger on it, too. It’s the lot and location that ambushed us. That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that we use every square inch of this place. So, the main floor…

The sketch above isn’t exactly to scale, but it’s pretty darn close. The whole house is centered around an open, winding staircase featuring a landing that overlooks the living and dining areas. Not shown in the above sketch is a step down into the living / dining area from the entry and kitchen. It’s just one step but, along with vaulted ceilings and skylights, it makes the space feel incredibly open. The kitchen isn’t huge (read more about it here) but does include a small breakfast nook which we use regularly. Inspired by an Airbnb we stayed at in Connecticut, we added a screened room / porch off the kitchen. It’s our favorite spot to hang with neighbor friends when the weather…and non-pandemic conditions…allow. The laundry room is teeny and houses a furnace, water heater, water softener, utility sink and litter box along with the washer and dryer. It’s a tight space that could really work better. However, I do like having a designated laundry area behind a closed door. We use the full bathroom on the main floor as a kid / guest bath. (Two baths is our sweet spot! Couldn’t easily share one; don’t want to clean any more than two.) Three bedrooms round out the main floor.

Please note: the screened porch and garage are not included in the total square footage as these spaces are not temperature regulated.

The second story sits atop the kitchen, breakfast nook and laundry (remember, the living / dining area has vaulted ceilings so no second story there) and consists of a small loft and master suite. Once again, this isn’t exactly to scale but hopefully you get the idea. We weren’t really sure what to do with the loft area, but it’s organically grown into a music nook / library / home office. We’re just letting it be what we need it to be instead of trying to give it a specific look or purpose. The master bedroom is just big enough for a queen bed, nightstands and a small dresser but lives larger thanks to doors that open up to a deck (basically the screened porch’s roof). An awkwardly placed bifold door reveals a Juliet balcony overlooking the living area below. It’s both scary and cool. We haven’t quite decided if it stays or goes, so it stays for now. (That’s always been one of our mottos: When in doubt, live with it a while.) The ensuite bathroom and closet are decently sized but inherently dark. There are no windows. In my opinion, windowless bathrooms are the greatest downfall of the floor plan. A toilet and bathtub occupy the small space not labeled in the master bathroom.

the black house

Never in a million years could I have dreamed up this floor plan, but it totally works for us. The circular layout, while somewhat confusing to visitors (“How do I get to the bathroom again?!”), is like a roundabout keeping foot traffic flowing. Kids and cats constantly going round and round, haha! The ratio of open public spaces to smaller private spots feels just right. The nook under the stairs is the coziest! Steve and I like having our bedroom upstairs, separate from life’s daily happenings on the main floor. In our previous home, we never wished for more room but sometimes more rooms, if that makes any sense. To us, it’s obvious that the builder thoughtfully designed the house to fit the lot. There isn’t another house just like it in our neighborhood.

We’ve already made some tweaks to the original brown-on-brown-on-brown color scheme, and we have plans for more changes to lighten darker spaces (goodbye kitchen and bathroom soffits!) and improve function in the utilitarian rooms. (I’m side-eyeing you, kitchen and laundry.) However, there are NO PLANS to knock down any walls or move any doorways. We really don’t want to make this house something it isn’t. It’s a quirky, cool product of the 70s that is well suited to a quiet life in the woods. Basically, it’s my spirit house.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking