Dayton-area woman unearths beauty at home

For Carly Short, alluring ideas (and energy) unfurl in an inviting cottage on a 1-acre lot in West Milton. And the Kettering native has thoroughly embraced her recent journey from a city dweller to modern-day homesteader.

“I took the plunge and moved in with my partner after living in my own home for 13 years. It was purchased by him in 2017,” she said. After selling her home in Belmont, Short joined her beau Nick Fahringer for many novel adventures.

“Living out in the country, after living in the city my entire life, has me focused on better ways to be efficient while still creating a beautiful space,” Short, 39, explained. “Function is more important when you don’t have Door Dash and a multitude of restaurants at your fingertips.”

As a photographer and a co-owner of Heart Mercantile and LUNA Gifts & Botanicals in Dayton, Short’s keen eye for design and a natural knack for all things entrepreneurial serve her well as she and Fahringer construct their signature space. “Nick is a semi-professional Enduro Racer, so we are on the road most weekends,” she said. “And he also helps run the family business, making aftermarket parts for motorcycles.”


The 1,300-square-foot, one-story farmhouse was built in 1955. As such, the three-bedroom, two-bath cottage delights visitors with such charming features as a wood-burning stove in the basement and even an old outbuilding Short has transformed into studio space.

Currently, Short and Fahringer are developing a plan for the renovation of the kitchen and master bath in the spring. One of the bathrooms has already been updated.

Their vision? Modern cottage with an all-natural vibe and purposeful style.


Cornfields surround the couple’s property, which has been colorfully vibrant this season with apple trees, wild raspberries, grapevines and more.

“Starting gardens at a new property is always the focus; and we have been busy on our lot — building new beds and making the most of our outdoor space,” Short said. “We thrive outside and spend most of our time on patios and in our gardens.”

This month, Short has been focusing on the planting process and gearing up for spring and summer next year. In the fall and winter, she noted, it’s time to rest, explore and rejuvenate.

A love of gardening emerges as “something, I think, that is born into your soul,” she explained, adding “finding the joy in the small things in life” has been exhilarating yet relaxing.

“No matter which space we are in, a piece of nature is with us,” she added. “From house plants to dried flowers, nature touches every part of our home decor. I find that the times I feel the most alive are when my hands are in the soil.”

Not surprisingly, Short explores her passion in other areas, too, creating dried floral arrangements and wreathes as well as terrariums that seem to summon their own sense of magic and community amid carefully placed succulents, soil and stones.


As a couple, Short said “Nick and I both have a do-it-yourself mentality” and an eagerness to learn as they reimagine indoor and outdoor spaces.

“We try to do most things ourselves, but there is a time when it is best to hire a professional,” she said. “While anyone can learn to tile, fix plumbing etc. there are reasons why professionals exist.

“If you don’t have time to learn and put many hours of practice in, I believe a professional is the way to go. If you simply don’t have the money, there are abundant resources available to take on a project by yourself. Just don’t expect perfect results!”


As many homeowners would attest, the amount of time it takes to refresh even just one indoor or outdoor area is a huge surprise.

“I have a ‘time-allowed syndrome,’ where I think I can do things quicker than humanly possible,” Short said. “I had big plans for the garden this year with over 12 garden beds planned. But the reality was with the time I had, I could only do about half of that. There is a lot to be done when establishing a new garden. The other factor is there are always setbacks like bugs, soil condition, animals and weather.”

Inside the home, Short said one of the biggest surprises was how the smallest nuances can truly transform a space. “A little paint, the right furniture, a good rug and some wall art are all you really need,” she said. “For me, no space is complete without a few plants.”


Whether creating an art piece, a wreath or a garden bed, Short uses Excel spreadsheets and mood boards for almost everything she does.

“I absolutely love Pinterest for ideas and inspiration, but I think it is important to use that inspiration and just create something you love,” she said. “My home and gardens are a collection of things I find beautiful — flowers I am experimenting with and things that make me happy.”

Although having a concrete plan in hand is wonderful, Short noted it’s also vital to leave some room for sheer playfulness. “Sometimes I use Pinterest boards; sometimes I print things out.” She also uses Milanote, a visual planning app “that lets me pull screenshots from different places to create a vision, and honestly, sometimes I just wing it,” she said with a laugh.

As far as websites, Short occasionally peruses Design Milk and Apartment Therapy for a pop of inspiration.


“When you are creating a space, think about what the space is going to be used for first, then think about the feeling you want that space to have,” Short said. “From there, you can collect things that bring you joy and still make sense for the space.”

Although having a color palette is quite helpful, for example, Short said “putting things together that make you happy is really the only thing that matters.

“Design is play, creativity and visual engineering all in one; and if you aren’t enjoying the process, it is time to redirect and find a way that makes it more enjoyable.”

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