...because home doesn't happen overnight.
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


I haven’t written a blog post or been on social media for twenty-one months. TWENTY-ONE! That’s nearly two years!! Surely, I must have gone mad or something horrendous has happened to me and my family. Fortunately, the reason for my hiatus isn’t that dramatic. Simply put, I started working full-time as a pharmacist (my trained profession) again, and it was necessary to reprioritize (quickly!) for the sake of sanity – mine and my family’s. Blogging has taken a back seat and been there for a while. But I have a little free time on my hands at the moment, so I’m scratching the itch and giving it a go. It’s impossible to fit two years into one post, so I’ll hit the highlights (not necessarily in chronological order) and see what happens.

me and mabes

1. I went back to work as a pharmacist. Going back to pharmacy wasn’t something I specifically discussed on the blog (although I did mention what I missed about working outside the home here), but when I decided to stay home with the kids after our third was born it was always my intention to go back to pharmacy in some capacity once Mabrey started school. At the end of 2016, panic got the best of me when I realized Mabrey would be starting kindergarten the following fall. I wasn’t sure if anyone would hire me with a five-year gap on my resume, so I immediately began applying for jobs thinking it would take a while to get a bite. Steve and the kids were nothing but supportive. I think they were ready for me to get back out there. Ha! As luck would have it, I had an interview and then an offer within a week. The job, hours and pay were just too good to pass up.

I’ve been working full-time (actually overtime 90% of the time) since the beginning of 2017 and I love it. You may recall that the majority of my pharmacy experience was in retail and it wasn’t my favorite. Now, I’m in a hospital setting in an outpatient pharmacy where we collaborate with nurses, doctors and social workers to ensure patients have everything they need for a successful transition to home/long term care facility/shelter. Because we’re non-profit and have access to several community-based public health programs, we do a lot of work with low income and homeless individuals. I’m not sure what you know about Dayton, Ohio, but we’re in the thick of an opioid epidemic, so we serve many patients coping with addiction and overdose as well. We also fill prescriptions for hospital employees. Earlier this year, I was promoted to manager, so not only am I fulfilling pharmacist duties, I’m managing several other pharmacists and a half-dozen technicians, too.

The first few months were a HUGE transition period (mono, strep, frequent work travel for Steve and finishing up the pee house renovation were added challenges), but I feel like we’re in a good place now – especially with all three kids in school. We’re even enjoying this new normal.


2. We moved! You probably already guessed that from the photos. So, yeah, at one point last year we owned THREE houses for a short period of time and it was INSANE. The long story will have to wait for another post, but the short story is our forever house totally ambushed us, sneaking up out of nowhere. The timing was terrible. We were finishing up the pee house and hadn’t even contemplated putting the house we were living in on the market. In the end, it all worked out. Even though it’s all kinds of outdated (so. much. brown.) and we’ve only been here a year, our new place feels like home more than any other place we’ve lived. We love working on it, and every time we finish a project we love it even more.

pee house

3. We sold the pee house. Our first flip was a success! We sold by owner and made a decent profit. I promise to share more details and photos someday. I think the most difficult aspect of flipping for us was holding back from over-improving which meant diligently choosing what to do and what not to do. Our goal was to bring the old house back to life with modern conveniences but keep resale and profit in mind. Would we flip again? Definitely.

kids 30a

kids wv

4. The kids grew. Layne is thirteen and, let me tell you, thirteen is hard! For kids and parents. So many changes happening, and it’s a stage of parenting I feel completely unprepared for. Layne went through an especially drastic growth spurt. He grew 6.5″ and gained thirty-three pounds in one year! Even the pediatrician was blown away. He passed me up a while ago and is nearly as tall as Steve. He wears a size 11 shoe and tells me he has the deepest voice of anyone in his school. He’s still playing mandolin and recently acquired an electric bass which he really enjoys. He’s taken up tennis which seems to be the common thread holding us together at this point, so I’ll take it! He still hugs me goodnight voluntarily every night before bed (although he has to lean down to reach me) which is reassuring.

everett pizza float

Everett is ten and hilarious. His loves to make people laugh. You’ll be happy to know he has realized his life’s calling as a pizza float model :) He’s really into music and plays electric guitar. Steve took him to his first live concert over the summer, and he was awestruck. He’s an amazing artist, too. He doesn’t simply copy real life images; he’s creating images in his mind and bringing them to life on paper. It’s pretty spectacular to watch. We’re still dealing with remnants of PTSD left over from the scooter accident, but he’s made a ton of progress and I’m so proud of him. He’s a tough lil’ guy.

mabrey & hobbes

Mabrey is Mabrey. She’s spunky, social, wants to do ALL THE THINGS and has a raw sense of humor that inevitably comes from having two older brothers. She’s thriving in school. She’s six, in first grade and enjoys making new friends and generally staying busy. On the first day of school, a new kid was at the bus stop and Everett whispered to Mabrey, “Do your thing.” She can make anyone her friend in five seconds flat. She gets off the bus skipping. Literally. She loves animals (somehow she tricked me into bringing a second cat home on a trip to the pet store for only cat food – see #5), dresses and spaghetti but hates brushing her hair. She declares each day “the best day ever!” and when you’re around her, it’s hard to disagree.

mabrey & hobbes

5. We adopted another cat. Meet Hobbes. He and his two brothers were found stranded in a window well as scrawny kittens. We adopted him after Mabrey asked to *just* hold him at the pet store last fall. I mean, how do you say no to that picture?! Ugh. I keep insisting I’m not a “cat person,” but the last time I went to Aldi I walked out with two bags of cat food and a box of microwavable popcorn. If that doesn’t scream “CAT LADY!” I don’t know what does.



king hobbes

Hobbes lives up to his name. (Everett named him after his love of Calvin & Hobbes.) He’s social, playful, mischievous, cuddly and super sweet. He’s kinda bossy, too, eating Cheetah’s food and bullying her into playing chase. Cheetah is super chill about it all. She made the move to the new house without a single hiccup and has adapted well to sharing the house with another feline. She’ll entertain Hobbes for a bit then lets him know when she’s had enough. They’re alone together during the day when everyone is at school/work, and they get along just fine. Sometimes I even come home to find them curled up on the couch together.

lake michigan kids

6. We took some pretty awesome vacations. As busy as we’ve been, we’ve managed to squeeze in several vacations. Finding the time is the most difficult aspect of planning getaways nowadays. The kids are in school and have music/tennis lessons. Steve and I are both putting in long hours at work. Steve has been traveling frequently for business, and my PTO (paid time off) was restricted for the first half of the year due to the closing of a sister hospital in the area. For those reasons, we’ve done more long weekend versus week-long trips. We’re finding the busier things get, the more we need these little breaks to reconnect as a family.

kids 30a

kids wv cave

Specific details probably deserve a blog post of their own, but here are a few of the places we’ve visited over the last two years: an architect’s farmhouse in Connecticut, a Treehouse Masters treehouse in Kentucky, a cave in West Virginia, an artsy hotel in Columbus, Indiana (a little known midcentury modern architectural mecca), a family-friendly hub on 30A in the Florida panhandle and a boho bungalow in Detroit’s North End. (The Henry Ford museum is fantastic!) In fact, I wrote the majority of this post in Detroit.

me @IKEA

Putting the blog and social media on hold wasn’t planned, but it’s been most definitely necessary. I know my limits, and I know what ensues if I live beyond them. It isn’t pretty. Even so, I have felt like something is missing. I miss writing. I miss taking pictures. (I literally had to dust off my camera last week.) I miss having some kind of tangible documentation of the passing of time when it comes to our home and family. I miss the exchange of ideas, inspiration and support from other house-loving peeps. The truth is, I think I need both. I need the clinical day job that utilizes my college degree along with the creative daydream on the side. Over the years this space has served many purposes and I’m forever grateful for it, but I’m glad to have it as a hobby again. You know, blogging life instead of living the blog. That being said, I can’t guarantee any regularity in posting. Post frequency will vary and most likely depend on our work and family schedules. Is weekend blogging a thing? I’m going to try my hand at Instagram again, too, so you may be more likely to find me there on a somewhat more frequent basis just because it’s way less labor intensive.


Finally, THANK YOU for all the emails, comments and thoughts during the radio silence. They may go unanswered (damn you, time!) but not unread or unappreciated. I know some readers may choose (or have already chosen) to move on, and I totally understand. Heck, I haven’t read a blog since…I don’t know when! For those of you who take time out of your busy lives to read, thanks. Hope all is well wherever you are.