...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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We live in a township which means we avoid city taxes and must abide by ordinances that help keep property values high such as mowing the lawn regularly, not parking broken down vehicles in the driveway and generally maintaining our home’s appearance. When we were in full on renovation mode, we received a notice from the township regarding peeling paint on the front door, garage door and mailbox post. I found it comical, if not a bit infuriating. Here we were breathing new life into a decrepit property  – removing dead and overgrown trees, installing a new roof and windows, completely updating the interior, etc. – and we were being served a letter for a petty thing like peeling exterior paint. I couldn’t help but thinking that if we had left the trees in place (they completely blocked the view of the house from the road) until some of the major work was finished, the township wouldn’t have even noticed the peeling paint.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the township’s commitment to optimizing property values, but wasn’t it obvious we were working hard to improve the property already? We were addressing more pressing issues and would get to the peeling paint eventually. In the end, to avoid fines, I slapped a few coats of paint on the garage door and mailbox post as a stopgap measure. Steve shuffled around projects so he could tackle the restoration of the original front door. Meanwhile, a full bathroom sat gutted inside the house.

Fast forward four years, we’re finally in a place where we can address little things like a mailbox. (No pun intended.) The mailbox that came with our house had seen better days. It looked like someone had taken a baseball bat to it. The door didn’t close properly, and the flag had fallen off and been “fixed” numerous times. The *painted* wood post was rotted.

I’ve had my eye on Modbox USA, a sleek mailbox reminiscent of midcentury modern designs. I contributed to the Kickstarter program last year and even mentioned it on the blog at one point. The creator Greg, a midcentury design enthusiast, got the idea for the midcentury-inspired mailbox when he stumbled upon an issue of Atomic Ranch in which a reader asked, “Do you know of a good source for ’50s period mailboxes?” The editor replied, “The retro market seems to be wide open.” And an idea was born. The fundraiser was a success, and Steve and I were giddy when the mailbox and post showed up on our doorstep.

modbox install

The mailbox came with installation instructions, and Steve installed it without too much trouble. Due to the depth of the frostline here in Ohio, he did have to add a length of metal rod to the post to avoid shifting. He set the post with concrete in a cardboard form tube then rigged a support system constructed of lumber scraps and clamps to hold the post in place while the concrete cured. Once the concrete had cured, he added the mailbox.

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I’ve never been so excited about a mailbox in my life! It’s one of those things you don’t really think about until you make the upgrade. The simple design is perfection. The fabrication is impeccable. The company uses 20 gauge steel which is 75% thicker than today’s standard mailboxes.

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Checking the mail has never felt so luxurious. The door has a magnetic closure, and the handle has some heft to it. It’s a far cry from the rusted door we had to yank open and slam shut on our previous mailbox.

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The two-tone color highlights the streamlined design. The mailbox is offered in all original Eichler exterior color accents. We went with the eucalyptus and white color scheme to tie in with the metal roof and garage door.

Greg at Modbox USA has agreed to offer up one mailbox to a lucky House*Tweaking reader! No curbside mailbox? No problem. Modbox USA offers wall-mounted mailboxes, too. Find giveaway entry details below.

PRIZE: one wall-mounted mailbox (including letter tray) or one curbside mailbox (including post) from Modbox USA in your choice of color.

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address in the continental U.S. (No P.O. boxes please.) One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post proclaiming, “MODBOX ME!”

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, May 8th. One random winner will be announced Monday, May 9th.

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT: What’s the best mail you’ve received lately? Tax refund? A wedding invitation? A letter from a good friend? We got a statement from the bank officially showing our mortgage balance as $0.00. Feels so good!

Use the discount code TWEAK15 to score 15% off your entire Modbox USA purchase now through May 11th, 2016.

Good luck!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

nursery after 13

Mabrey turned four last month. I think that means I can no longer call her bedroom “the nursery.” I also think that means it’s time to make some changes. The nursery setup has served us well, but our spunky girl is growing and I want her room to evolve with her. A few items can stay: the rug, ceiling light and window treatments. We’ll be letting go of other items to make way for more age/stage-appropriate pieces. Here are my plans for the space…

Big Girl Room

1 – I’m nixing the dark walls to create a brighter, fresher space that better reflects Mabrey’s personality. Two walls will be painted the same white that’s in the boys’ shared room. (It’s Benjamin Moore white dove.) I like the idea of the kids’ bedrooms having a common denominator, so we’ll be giving one wall the Stikwood bamboo treatment to mimic the boys’ wood wall. The fourth wall will be covered in Cavern Home’s tapestry zuni wallpaper for a boho vibe. In the past, I’ve installed wallpaper solo and also with Steve’s help. I thoroughly despised the process each time. I’m seriously considering hiring the job out this time.

2 – I’m replacing the crib/toddler bed with a twin trundle. I mentioned loose plans for the bed here, and just this past weekend Steve and I painted it olive green. It looks incredible! Look for a separate post on that project soon. I’ll be switching out the knobs on the trundle with robust leather pulls. (Initially, I considered brass pulls but later decided they probably aren’t the most kid-friendly option.) The room is tiny – not even 10′ x 10′ – so there’s minimal space for a bedside table and lighting. I’m forgoing the traditional nightstand + lamp combo in favor of a versatile wood stool and a midcentury modern wall sconce. I’m pairing simple white bedding with a colorful kilim pillow and an indigo throw.

3 – Currently, an eight-year-old IKEA EXPEDIT unit holds Mabrey’s clothes.  The piece has traveled with us from a large house to a small interim apartment and finally to our current home, serving as toy storage, a media cabinet and dresser along the way. Looking ahead, I think a squattier piece with drawers would better suit Mabrey’s needs. It will serve as both a dresser and bench for seating. A striped pillow invites sitting.

4 – I’m bringing in new accessories to spice things up. The wild & free banner is soooo Mabrey. The moody indigo watercolor pays homage to the nursery wall color. The felt letter board is a fun way to display Mabreyisms and quirky phrases. An oversize jute basket will corral favorite toys and provide some of that natural texture I love so much.

That’s the gist! I’m throwing in a few surprises to keep things interesting, and I’ll be posting progress pics on instagram if you want to follow along. As I mentioned, we painted the bed over the weekend. It’s off-gassing in the garage as I type. After the paint has cured and the leather pulls are installed, I’ll write up a little “how we did it” post. I’m so excited to see this room come together and watch Mabrey’s reaction. She saw Steve unpacking her bed yesterday and said, “Oh Daddy! Thank you! I love you.” So sweet.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 

space saving cabin 1

We recently stayed at this amazing modern cabin in Lake Leelanau, Michigan. The home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms plus a powder room and is modestly sized. (If I had to guess, I’d say it’s roughly 1,800 square feet.) Immediately upon arrival, it felt airy and spacious thanks to numerous windows throughout, vaulted ceilings in the main living space and, of course, the innately uncluttered decor that typically comes with a vacation rental. Once we settled in, however, I noticed several space-saving tricks that weren’t as obvious. I thought I’d share them with you since many of the clever ideas could easily translate to a residential property. Here they are…

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1. A built-in entry closet. The small entry is sandwiched between a powder room and exterior walls, leaving very little room for a legit closet. Recessed IKEA cabinet frames maximize storage space for outerwear, bags, sports equipment and other miscellaneous.

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The top cabinet provides hanging space while the lower cabinet houses several drawers. Often times, the space below a hanging rod is underutilized, so I thought this setup was ingenious. In a real home, I could see the drawers being used to corral mail, parent-teacher communication and children’s homework. You could even designate a drawer for each child.

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2. Loads of kitchen drawers. The kitchen occupies one wall. The owner opted for a trio of windows with lake views in lieu of upper cabinetry. (Duh.) The base cabinets open to reveal ample drawer space.

space saving kitchen 1

Shallow drawers are ideal for smaller items like silverware, cooking utensils, cutting boards and baking sheets. Deeper drawers are perfect for pots and pans.

space saving kitchen 2

A single pull-out below the sink provides hidden storage for trash and recycling bins and also houses dish soap, dishwasher detergent and extra trash bags. The lower drawer to the left of the trash is actually a drawer dishwasher hidden by a cover panel. The compact size allows for a separate drawer above which houses silverware and makes the task of unloading the dishwasher a breeze.

FYI – I mentioned my thoughts on having a trash pullout at the sink in this post, and my concerns were validated. The setup worked well for us when there was only one person in the kitchen, but we tend to clean up after meals together and prefer separate zones for trash/recycling and dishwashing. Otherwise, the person at the sink is constantly being asked to move out of the way. That’s just our preference.

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Yes, this is an IKEA kitchen and, no, I didn’t know about it when I booked the place. I was so excited (and, quite honestly, surprised!) when I opened a cabinet and made the discovery. All the cabinet frames and drawers in the house are IKEA, even the bathroom vanities.

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From a design standpoint, I liked the seamless look of the single panel fronts versus several individual drawer fronts. Opening one drawer to gain access to another drawer really wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be. Inside and out, the cabinets are tidy. The custom fronts are furniture grade plywood outfitted with raw brass pulls. I loved the warm, natural look. I also loved the owner’s decision to repeat the cabinet design in the bathrooms. It just made the entire house feel really cohesive.

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3. A freestanding pantry. With no room for a walk-in pantry, a floor-to-ceiling pantry is an effective alternative.

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Not only does it provide storage for dry goods, it houses dishes, bowls, glasses, mugs, serveware – even a slim refrigerator with bottom freezer! An open space above the refrigerator acts as a minibar out of kid reach. Note: There is no microwave in the house which perplexed us at first, but the only thing we missed it for was popping bagged popcorn.

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Once again, drawers, drawers and more drawers glide in and out for easy access and loads of storage. The placement of dishes and serveware near the dishwasher facilitates dishwasher unloading.

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4. A kitchen table. No dining room? No problem. A large table punctuated by a pair of oversized pendants takes the place of an island and acts as buffer between the kitchen and adjacent living room.

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Reclaimed wood and an X-base are reminiscent of a farmhouse table, but the waterfall edge is a modern touch. A mix of vintage chairs lends a casual vibe. I loved the juxtaposition of the rustic table and chairs against some of the sleeker elements in the space.

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5. A custom, low-slung media stand. An extra low media stand allows the flatscreen to reach just below the window line, allowing for uninterrupted views of the landscape.

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The simple design raises the flatscreen to a comfortable viewing height and provides space for thin electronics and books.

space saving desk 2

6. A desk behind a sofa. Bringing in a console table is the knee-jerk reaction when considering the space behind a floating sofa, but what about a drop-leaf table that doubles as a desk? It’s an instant home workspace!

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In a traditional setting, I could see it being used to pay bills, check email, work from home and tackle homework. It’s conducive to adults and children alike.

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7. Nightstand alternatives. In moderately sized bedrooms, nightstands can crowd the room and eat up precious floor space. Floating shelves attached to an extra wide headboard are an effective option.

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There’s just enough space for a glass of water, a candle, eyeglasses and nighttime reading material.

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They’re great in children’s rooms, too! Forgo lamps and mount wall sconces on the headboard.

space saving bedside chairs 2

space saving bedside chair 1

In one of the bedrooms there wasn’t quite enough room for shelves, so the owner brought in folding chairs to flank the bed. Bonus: The chairs can be used for extra seating in a pinch when company visits.

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8. Pocket doors. Here, a pocket door separates a powder room from the hallway. When space is tight, everyday motions like opening a door can be cumbersome. In hallways or in doorways that adjoin two rooms where the space required to accommodate a swinging door is minimal or non-existent, consider installing a pocket door.

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Another pocket door separates the master bathroom from the master bedroom.

I hope these ideas inspire you to think outside the box when coming up with space-saving solutions in your own home! Admittedly, there were so many great details in the cabin that I had a hard time condensing them into a readable post. (Still, here I am at 25+ photos and 1,000+ words. Are you still awake?!) I encourage you to go back through the images and make note of more features, like the simple trimwork, the flooring materials, the mirror-less powder room, the mirror at the end of the hallway, the freestanding soaker tub, the DIY platform beds (constructed of the same plywood found in the kitchen and bathrooms), the custom cabinet bases, the artwork and ALL. THE. CORNER. WINDOWS. What catches your eye?

P.S. – See more vacation houses here and here.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking