...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Did you know today is National Dream Day? It commemorates the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. On this day, dream sharing is encouraged. I have many dreams but I thought it would be fun to put a spin on Dream Day and share the top ten features of my (nonexistent) dream home. Financial factors aside, you know, since we’re dreaming and all. Oh, and I’m not addressing decor in this list just general features of the shell of the house. The images shown are meant to demonstrate the features I’m discussing. They aren’t exact interpretations of how I picture my dream home. Obviously, they would look a little strange mixed together under one roof and, quite frankly, most of them are larger than I envision my dream home being. Although, they’re all pretty dreamy. Here we go!

right-sized home

1. Right-sized. In contrast to the average American’s idea of what a dream house should be, my dream house would not be super-sized. My dream house is right-sized, meaning every square inch is utilized efficiently. It includes multipurpose rooms. It doesn’t include tons of wasted space or extra rooms that are rarely used. The floor plan is deliberate and thoughtfully laid out. It’s just what my family needs and nothing more. The design is so carefully considered that it allows us to live in the least amount of square footage as possible. No mansions for me!

large windows

dining room windows

clerestory windows in dining space

2. Plenty of natural light. I crave a bright space and I get a kick out of watching how the light in a house changes over the course of a day. My dream home has an abundance of natural light streaming in through carefully placed windows, doors and skylights. I’m especially drawn to clerestory windows and windows placed in the backsplash of a kitchen. All that natural light would help to make my right-sized dream home feel larger. Ideally, I wouldn’t have to use a single artificial light source until after the sun goes down at night. I don’t think I could ever be happy in a dark house.

indoor outdoor living room

interior courtyard

indoor outdoor living room

3. Connection to the outdoors. This kind of goes along with plenty of natural light but I don’t only want to see what exists beyond the walls of my house, I want to experience it. Maybe it’s a wall of sliding glass doors that can be opened up to extend our living space. Maybe it’s an interior courtyard or atrium. Maybe it’s an outdoor shower. Maybe it’s an outdoor living space. Maybe it’s as simple as a set of french doors that opens up to a private backyard or a wide, deep porch to watch cars pass by. Whatever it is, it encourages an indoor-outdoor lifestyle and connects the house to its surroundings.

4. Open living space. An open kitchen-living-dining space suits our casual lifestyle best. It needn’t be large (see #1) or entirely open but a communal layout in the main living area promotes family togetherness as we go about our daily routine.

vaulted ceiling

vaulted ceiling in kitchen

5. High ceilings. Having lived in a home with standard 8′ ceilings (our first home, lower than 8′ in some areas), a home with 9′ ceilings (our second home) and a home with vaulted ceilings (our current home), I have to say my preference is anything over the standard 8′. This is one of those features that has a huge impact in the way a space feels and once you’ve lived with it, it’s difficult to imagine living without it. My dream home has high ceilings. Perhaps not throughout the entire house but definitely in some of the most frequently used spaces.

6. Architect-designed. My dream home is designed by an architect – past, current or up-and-coming. I have so much respect for architects and they’re ability to design structures that are durable, functional and beautiful. Over the years, I’ve found that I have a hankering for architects’ personal residences. They feel practical and livable yet incorporate interesting and unique architectural elements. They always seem to flow well from room to room. From thick moldings in older houses to cantilevered structures in modern homes, I’m amazed by the way architectural elements play a part in the overall vibe of a home. It’s all in the details – no matter how intricate or simplistic.

wood lined pantry

wood walls, floors

7. Warm wood tones. As much as I enjoy drooling over all white spaces, I know they’re not for me. To keep things cozy and inviting, I need natural wood tones in my life. So, of course, my dream home features hits of warm wood. Floors, accent walls, cabinetry, countertops, built-ins…they’re all game. I absolutely love teak cabinets in a kitchen.

8. Flex space. If there’s one space we’re missing in our current home, it’s a multipurpose space that acts as a den, library, TV room and guest room all in one. It isn’t big but my dream home has one. And it can be opened up to the rest of the house during the day or closed off at night for privacy. I love the idea of having a separate, more intimate room off the main open living space where we can regularly watch movies together, just chill or, on special occasions, host overnight guests. Ideally, it has a deep built-in sofa or sectional that doubles as a bed.

stained wood siding

dark blue exterior

midcentury modern dark exterior

9. Dark exterior. So by the time my dream home comes to fruition (ha!), I might have changed my mind on this feature but right now I’m into dark exteriors. Inky blue, deep charcoal, black, dark-stained cedar…I love ‘em. My dream home has a dark exterior and a mix of materials that help it blend in with its surroundings.

modernist prefab

10. Prefab construction. Alright, this one is a bit of a stretch and it isn’t a MUST for my dream home but I’m completely fascinated by prefabricated homes. Not only are today’s designs in line with my preferred aesthetic but I’m in awe of the construction process. The process of manufacturing off-site then transporting and assembling a structure on-site over a relatively short period of time has many benefits. Steve and I have both agreed that the only way we would ever build is by way of prefabrication.

A few things not on my dream home list? A specific location, a particular architectural style and land. I think I must be half chameleon. Honestly, I could be happy living almost anywhere (okay, maybe not Antarctica) and I change my mind daily about the location of my dream home. Plus, I feel like I haven’t seen enough of the world to choose just one place to live for the rest of my life. I appreciate an array of architectural styles and as long as a space incorporates most of the features listed above, I would consider it dream status. Also, my dream home needn’t be a multi-acre property. As long as there is somewhere nearby to get in touch with nature (a park would suffice), I’m good. I don’t need to own it to enjoy it.

There you have it! My dream home in list form. My must-haves are constantly evolving so this list could look very different 10-15 years from now when my kids are all grown up. As I’m scanning the list, it looks like our current home ticks off about 50% of the features to some extent. Not bad, considering we’ve never thought of this house as our dream home. Now I want to ask Steve to make a top 10 list and see how it compares to mine.

If you have a moment, I’d love to know what’s on your dream home list. Happy dreaming!

images: 1) tourfactory.com 2) Prue Ruscoe for HomeLife 3 & 4) Joe Schmelzer  5) Arthur Casas 6) Kim Lucian for Apartment Therapy 7) House & Home  8) Eve Wilson for The Design Files 9) Sean Fennessy for The Design Files 10) Blair Harris Interior Design 11) Adrienne Breaux for Apartment Therapy 12) Arthur Casas 13) Warren Heath for House and Leisure 14) Dan Semar via Flickr 15) Joe Fletcher for Dwell

main bath tiled 1

Steve finished tiling the bathroom walls two weekends ago. Working in spurts around his real job, family life and appendectomy recovery, the entire process strung along for most of the summer. Between the uneven walls and Steve’s perfectionist tendencies, it wasn’t the most enjoyable DIY. The window wall put up a good fight. It was all kinds of wonky. And our choice of tile probably wasn’t the easiest to work with on the wavy wall. The narrow subway tile is extra long at 12″ which didn’t allow for much “play” along some of the most troublesome spots. Luckily, the worst spot (along the bottom of the window wall) will eventually be hidden behind the bathtub so it shouldn’t be too noticeable in the end.

main bath tiled 2

But we do have perfectly wrapped corners. (The water lines denote the vanity’s location.)

main bath tiled 3

main bath tiled 4

And exact 90º angles. Those are always fun.

We are SO HAPPY with how the black pencil liner and bullnose trim turned out! I was a little worried about the profile of the pencil liner sticking out further than the subway tile but I actually love it. It’s a great finishing touch that’s simple yet sophisticated. And it gives the walls some added dimension, too.

With all the tile in, we started to second-guess our choice of white grout for the walls. The contrasting spaces between the subway tile looked decent so we contemplated a contrasting grout for a split second. But when we pulled back the cardboard protecting the hex floor tile, things felt very busy all of a sudden. So we decided to stick to our original choice of white grout.

main bath grout 1

Which we tackled this past weekend! It was a joint effort and we let the kids fend for themselves while we knocked it out. Let’s just say, once we were finished, the rest of the house was looking waaaaaaaay scarier than the bathroom. When you have three kids and a bathroom remodel on your hands, you do whatcha gotta do. Sometimes the bathroom takes precedence while your kids run wild and eat whatever / wherever they want for a day. It’s all good.

main bath grout 2

The freshly grouted bathroom! And a piece of unpainted baseboard for reference! I’ve never been so in love with a room that doesn’t serve any purpose (yet!).

main bath grout 4

The grout is standard white unsanded grout from The Tile Shop. It’s the same color we used on the shower walls in the master bathroom.

main bath grout 3

Pictures really don’t do this room justice. It’s difficult to photograph because of the small size and layout. Just being in the space – even sans fixtures – feels like a luxury. At one point, we considered only tiling the shower / tub area but I’m so, so glad we went for a tiled wainscoting around the entire room.

main bath grout 6

I was having so much trouble capturing the room on camera that I went outside and snapped some shots through the window to give you a different perspective. Do you spy a glimpse of the open shelves in the living room?

main bath grout 7

Someday, a toilet, vanity and wall sconce will live on this wall.

main bath grout 8

Someday, towel hooks and shower / tub plumbing fixtures will live on this wall. Maybe one day we’ll even have a bathroom door. Who knows?! The possibilities are endless.

main bath grout 9

Here you can see how the short hallway (to the bathroom) juts off from the main hallway. There’s a small linen closet to the left just beyond the bathroom. I don’t think I’ve ever shown this view before but, hopefully, it gives you a better idea of the bathroom’s location in relation to the rest of the house. Hint: on the other side of the right-hand wall is the kitchen desk.

main bath grout 11

We still need to seal the walls, install baseboards and caulk. (The floor is already sealed.) Then we start work on the tub. We’re equal parts stoked : horrified. Especially considering what happened the last time we touched it. If anything, it should be a good learning experience. At least, that’s what we’re telling ourselves.

*Thanks to The Tile Shop for partnering with us on this bathroom remodel. Tile and grout were graciously donated to the project. All product choices, labor and opinions are ours.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

08.23.14 / Made Me Smile

closet purge

How was your week? Ours was rainy which = perfect purging weather. I emptied the kids’ closets and got rid of everything that was too small / broken / unloved / missing parts. Then I organized the items that made the cut and put them all back. It. was. awesome. (Except for the part where Mabrey decided to “help”.)

More awesomeness…

*Do you remember Jessica Helgerson’s tiny house? (How could you forget?!) Well, it looks like the growing Helgerson family is spreading out from their 540 square feet of living space to a farmhouse on the same property. You can find amazing sneak peeks of the renovation here under the hashtag #wildgoosefarmhouse. From what I can gather, the family moved in about a month ago. I can’t wait to see the finished space (more than likely, it will be a magazine feature) and I’m curious to know what will become of the tiny house.

*Luckily, Liam is much better at selecting homes versus fiancées.


*A rolling pedestrian bridge.

*A Fresh Thyme market is going in near our home. It looks amazing!

*Guess what I’m making with this.

*Living with less fosters mindful consumption.

*Um, you guys like coffee. Thanks so much for sharing your favorite brands and brewing methods. I’ve read each and every comment which has spurred some brewing research. Like many of you suggested, I hit up a local roaster (only two minutes from my house!) for suggestions and the freshest coffee beans I’ve ever encountered. I might not sleep all weekend.

Have a wonderful weekend! Don’t forget to make time for those happy little moments which add up to something greater.

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Heatherwick studio

DIY Hmong pillow 7

Other than sporadic curtain hemming, I haven’t touched my sewing machine much over the last two years. So I took some baby steps towards more sewing by churning out two pillows last week.

DIY Hmong pillow 1

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Hmong pillows are having a good run in the design world. I jumped on that wagon a while back when I bought a Hmong lumbar cover for Mabrey’s room. Since then, I’ve purchased two more Hmong pillow covers. I love their imperfect tribal patterns, rich colors and the history behind them. I thought it would be fun to make a few for the boys’ room. This simple project was the perfect way to ease back into (hopefully more) sewing.

Hmong fabric tends to come in narrow widths which makes it ideal for lumbar or bolster pillows and even table runners. I purchased my fabric here and it was about 12″ wide and roughly 8′ long. I decided to make two lumbar pillows. I bought two 12″ x 20″ down pillow inserts to accommodate the 12″ width of my fabric.

FYI – Just in case you don’t already know…pillow covers should measure an inch or two smaller than their respective inserts for a nice plump pillow.

DIY Hmong pillow 2

There are a million and one tutorials out there for envelope pillows so I won’t bore you with another. I loosely followed this tutorial with a few tweaks to fit the measurements of my lumbar inserts. The only cuts I had to make were lengthwise (the 12″ width was perfect!) and I had two finished pillows in less than fifteen minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES. And that includes the time it took me to set up and thread my machine. The main thing to keep in mind is that you want an overlap of 5″ or so on the back of the cover so your insert doesn’t bulge out of the opening. Also, right sides facing in when you’re sewing.

DIY Hmong pillow 5

DIY Hmong pillow 3

DIY Hmong pillow 4

I’m happy with how they turned out. I spent about $34 on each pillow – cover + insert. It isn’t pennies but it’s definitely affordable when you consider most quality Hmong pillow covers (inserts NOT included) run upwards of $50.

DIY Hmong pillow 6

I tossed the new pillows on the bunk in the boys’ room but they could work just about anywhere. They would make great travel pillows, too.

I have a small scrap of fabric leftover from this project. I’m itching to make something with it. I might just have to bust out my sewing machine again. Whoa, baby steps. Setting the damn thing up is usually the rate-limiting step for me. Then I realize I don’t have any thread on my bobbin and I’m ready to quit before I’ve even started. How long has it been since you fired up the ol’ sewing machine? Are you working on any sewing projects?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking