...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Obligatory preamble rambling: When we were renovating our kitchen, I searched high and low for any information I could find on Ikea kitchens. The results were few and far between. We did end up with an Ikea kitchen (which we love) but I’d like to shed more light on Ikea kitchen renovations from the perspective of other real life homeowners. It’s something I wish we would have had access to when we were considering Ikea for our own kitchen remodel. Plus, it’s fun to see how others use Ikea to suit their personal style and needs in the kitchen. I hope you find these posts helpful and inspiring – whether you ultimately end up with an Ikea kitchen or not. Enjoy!

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Kitchen before

Jon and Jen bought a 1922 bungalow in Asheville, North Carolina, over three years ago. The kitchen was outdated and the layout was jumbled. A refrigerator and washing machine occupied one wall. A freestanding stove occupied another wall. A single wall of cabinetry didn’t provide enough storage. The placement of the dishwasher was inefficient. When opened, it blocked a doorway. In an effort to simplify and streamline the kitchen’s layout without adding square footage, the couple dreamed up a well-appointed galley kitchen. Taking cost, aesthetics and the need for more storage into consideration, they sprung for Ikea cabinetry in a style that works well with the home’s innate character. I asked Jen several questions about the renovation. Find her answers and the cheery “afters” below.

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Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

The cabinets, doors, drawer fronts and most of our dishes are all from Ikea. We went with RAMSJÖ doors and drawer fronts in white. They aren’t a solid white. They have more of a white-washed finish. We really like the look in the context of our bungalow.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

My brother and his wife installed an Ikea kitchen in their home about 7 years ago. We watched them go through the entire process and then put it to a daily test – with four kids! When they moved last year, the kitchen still looked new and they didn’t have a single complaint! That was a huge endorsement. My husband (a general contractor) has also had many designers praise Ikea for functionality, price and aesthetics. Finally, we couldn’t beat the price which was really important since we were renovating the entire home and had lots of other places to allocate our savings.

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Who designed your kitchen? What aesthetic were you aiming for?

My husband planned the layout and I chose the components. We gutted the kitchen down to the studs and raised the windows so we could fit a row of cabinets and a sink underneath. We also opened up two walls, added a mudroom and relocated a doorway to achieve a galley layout. Jon recessed the full-sized refrigerator a few inches into the wall so it reads counter-depth. We were hoping to achieve a classic cottage / bungalow style that would fit in with our 1922 bungalow home while keeping the original footprint of 10′ x 13′.

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Did you assemble and install all Ikea kitchen components yourself? If not, what did you seek help with?

My husband and his brother assembled and installed everything with relative ease. They didn’t use the Ikea base cabinet levelers but really liked the wall mounting strips for the upper cabinets.

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How did you customize your Ikea kitchen to suit your needs and preferred aesthetic?

We chose Vermont granite from a local stone fabricator and installed classic subway tile with contrasting grout for the backsplash. The cabinetry hardware, sink, faucet, pendant and appliances are non-Ikea. I think they keep the kitchen from looking like an Ikea display. We painted the kitchen the same color as the rest of the house since each room flows to the next.

How long was it from design to the final product?

Our kitchen was gutted over the 4th of July weekend and done by Labor Day weekend. It was part of a full-time larger scale renovation that also included the only bathroom in the house. Six weeks seems like a very long time when you’re living through it and showering on the back porch. :)

How long have you lived with your Ikea kitchen? Have you encountered any problems?

Nearly 3 years and not a single issue or complaint so far! We love it!

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What is your favorite thing about your kitchen? Least favorite?

Jon loves the hinges and the drawer slides. He claims they’re even better than many custom cabinets he’s encountered in his line of work. I love that we have TONS of storage in a relatively small space. A close second are the glass front cabinets on the same wall as the double window. Together, they make the kitchen feel light and bright.

Jon has no complaints about the kitchen. The only complaint I have doesn’t concern Ikea. The knobs and pulls (from Pottery Barn) are not aging well at all! The finish started coming off about eight weeks after installation. I tried returning them but I didn’t have the original boxes so it was a no-go. We’re living with them for now.

Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel? If so, which items?

Absolutely! Definitely the cabinets, drawers and door fronts.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

Yes! In fact, we installed an Ikea kitchen in the apartment we just built over a detached garage behind our house. The apartment is a furnished vacation rental so we definitely wanted an Ikea kitchen to stand up to lots of use.

Resources of note:

cabinets – Ikea
wall paint – Benjamin Moore thundercloud gray
countertop – Vermont granite
backsplash tile – basic white subway tile with pewter grout, both from Lowe’s
sink – Overstock
faucet – Costco
cabinetry hardware – Pottery Barn
appliances – Kenmore dishwasher, microwave, gas range / oven; Samsung french door refrigerator with bottom freezer
recessed can lights – Home Depot
pendant – Allen & Roth, Lowe’s
rugs – RugsUSA

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Jon and Jen, thank you for sharing your kitchen renovation story with me and for providing such thorough images of the process!

What a bright and happy lil’ kitchen! It was a huge undertaking, but repositioning and widening the doorways on either side of the kitchen was a game-changer. The galley layout suits the home well, don’t you think? I love the sight lines giving peeks in to the dining room and mudroom. Streamlining the space and painting it the same color as the rest of the main floor created a good flow. And that bit about recessing the fridge? Genius. I ain’t mad at those rugs either. See Jen’s blog for the full house tour. (These two have been busy!)

*BONUS* – Check out Jon and Jen’s newly finished apartment above their detached garage! It includes a tidy Ikea kitchen and is available for rent here. It’s only a $5 Uber ride to downtown Asheville which I hear boasts lots and lots of beer, so there’s that. ;)

If you’re in the mood for more Ikea kitchens, check out the rest of this series:

A (Mostly) Ikea Kitchen in Denver

An Ikea Kitchen in Rural Australia

An Ikea Kitchen in the SF Bay Area

An Ikea Kitchen in Northfield, Minnesota

An Ikea Kitchen in Brooklyn

An Ikea Kitchen in Orange County

An Ikea Kitchen in Texas Hill Country

An Ikea Kitchen in Chesapeake

An Ikea Kitchen in a Barn (in France!)

An Ikea Kitchen in Cape Cod

images: Jen Woodward

tub cradle base 1

A few things before I get into the nitty gritty details of the tub cradle base: 1) Our family vacation was wonderful! I’ll share more soon. 2) No pretty pictures in this post. These images were taken on the fly with our phones. Sometimes (a lot of times) convenience wins. 3) This is not a DIY tutorial. This is just us sharing what we did. We aren’t woodworkers. Feel free to improve upon our methods or forgo them all together. Good? M’kay.

When we started this tub escapade over two years ago (!), we were inspired by a similar cradle base created by none other than Jessica Helgerson and her handy husband. At the time, I shot Jessica an email asking about their tub base. I didn’t anticipate an answer but figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. I was so surprised when she replied! Turns out, Jessica’s husband scribed two wooden cradles out of Douglas fir to fit the contour of the tub’s bottom. The weight of the tub was enough to hold the setup in place. Adhesive wasn’t necessary.

Sounds easy enough, right? Sorta.

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First, we had to find some wood. But before that, we had to figure out how big of a piece of wood we needed. Using the height of the original claw feet as a guide and browsing images of other cradle bases online, we decided on two scribed bases measuring 25″L x 4¾”W x 10″H. That meant we needed a sizable chunk of wood measuring at least 10″ thick. We searched all over and even considered driving a few hours north to scope out salvaged beams. But in the end, we found an inexpensive 10″ x 10″ x 8′ beam right under our noses at Dayton Reclamation and Restoration LLC. It set us back $40. Done.

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We had hoped to take the beam to a sawmill or woodworker to have it cut to size (into two smaller blocks). But after some difficulty locating a place / person to do the job (at one point, we were advised to call “a woodcutting man in the woods” – lumberjack? – but he never answered his phone) at a location and / or time that was convenient for us, Steve decided to go for it himself.

He discovered that the wood nearest the core of beam had less splits, and we wanted the sides of the bases to be finished (as opposed to rough hewn) so he focused on cutting out the innermost wood from the beam. (He didn’t cut the two blocks out side-by-side but, rather, end-to-end from the beam.) Using a circular saw set on the deepest setting, he cut a block of wood to length from the beam. He ran the circular saw around the perimeter of the beam then used a sawzall to cut it free. He repeated this for a second block.

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Once the two blocks were cut, we set the tub upside down on 2×4’s in the garage. We put the original claw feet in place (but didn’t attach them…seen above in the background) then shimmed and leveled the tub so that it was as if the tub was sitting upright and level on the floor, only upside down. Have I lost you yet? Basically, we were taking into account the fact that the tub slopes toward the drain – a good thing.

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With the tub still upside down and the original claw feet in position (but not affixed to the tub), Steve carefully set a level across the two front feet. The level was lined with a strip of masking tape marked at the center point between the two feet and marked at 1″ increments out from the center. Using a tape measure, he measured the distance from the level to the contoured bottom of the tub at each 1″ mark and noted the measurements on the masking tape. Then he was able to transfer the curve onto a piece of foam board. He repeated the same process for the back legs. (The contour of the tub changes from the drain end to the non-drain end so we had to make two different templates.)

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Knowing the overall desired height (10″) and length (25″) of the cradles, Steve cut out templates from the foam board. We guesstimated a roughly 2″ depth for the highest part of the base that would hug the tub. If you haven’t noticed by now, there was a lot of guessing and eyeballing involved in this project.

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Using the custom foam board templates, Steve traced the curve onto the two wood blocks. (If you look closely you can see a pencil line on the wood in the image shown above.) He traced the curve onto both sides of the respective blocks to guide him during the cutting process. He made straight cuts down to the pencil line with a reciprocating saw, leaving an inch or so between cuts and keeping an eye on both sides of the block to make sure he wasn’t cutting one side deeper than the other.

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Working in sections, he tapped out the cut slivers with a hammer.

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Eventually, the cradle started to take shape. With the contour roughly cut, he used a Lancelot blade on an angle grinder to further carve out the cradle. Then he went back in with a flap disc to smooth out the curve. He repeated the same process on the second block.

After that there was a lot of setting the cradles on the upside down tub in the garage and making adjustments. We used a wood bit to cut notches in the cradles for the claw foot mounts to rest in, recessed. (We decided early on to place the cradles in the same positions as the claw feet for proper support and balance.) This step of the project involved a lot of trial and error and was extremely tedious. But it was necessary for a snug fit.

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The cradles were sanded with an orbital sander a total of SIX TIMES! We worked our way from 80 to 320 grit sandpaper for a smooth-as-a-baby’s-butt finish. We conditioned the cradles with Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner then applied two coats of Minwax special walnut stain and two coats of Waterlox to protect the wood from future splashes.

FYI – The state of our garage is an embarrassment so don’t look too closely! The walls are *mostly* organized but the floor is cluttered with all the components of the main bath renovation and the entire space is dirty. We’ve had an entire bathroom (tub, toilet, vanity, lighting, etc.) sitting in our garage for over two years! Maybe after the bathroom is finished, we’ll actually park a car in here. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

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As for the tub exterior, I used Sherwin Williams products. (I had tested the tub for lead a few months prior and the results were negative.) We had good luck with their enamel latex when we painted the builder kitchen cabinets in our previous house so I decided to use it for the tub, too. The tub’s exterior had been stripped and sanded before we bought it via craigslist. Yay for someone else doing the prep work for me! I wiped it down then applied one coat of Sherwin Williams all surface enamel oil base primer tinted to a medium gray. I had anticipated needing two coats but the coverage was superb. I finished up with two coats of Sherwin Williams all surface enamel acrylic latex in satin, color-matched to Benjamin Moore black jack. The sleek, contrasting exterior was exactly what we had envisioned!

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We were anxious to bring the new old tub into the house but completely forgot how long it takes for enamel paint to cure. We left the cradles and tub out in the garage for another 1-2 weeks to cure and off-gas. After a test run of placing the tub on the cradles in the garage, Steve had one of his *strong* buddies help him carry the tub in through the front door to the bathroom. The tub weighs 250-300lbs! We were leery of rolling that much weight on a furniture dolly across our wood floors. It would have been easier with a third pair of ripped arms but there wasn’t any room in the hallway / bathroom for another person.

We had built up “the moving of the tub” so much but, in reality, it was relatively anticlimactic. It fit through the bathroom doorway with the door off the hinges (whew!) and in minutes the tub was in place resting on the cradles. It was level, too! Because of the hex floor tiling fiasco, we were sure we’d need to shim or readjust things but we didn’t. Rarely are things easier than we expect so it was a nice surprise. The exterior suffered one small scratch but it only penetrated the top layers of paint – not the primer.

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It probably wasn’t necessary but we did add a bead of silicone to secure the cradles. Due to the weight of the tub and a snug fit, the tub doesn’t wobble or tip at all. We’ve jumped up and down in the tub and tried to rock it. It’s solid! We’re also really happy with the tub interior. It’s in great shape for a vintage tub. We’re guessing it was reglazed at some point.

All in all, we spent $270 on Project Declawed Tub (excluding fixtures and plumbing): $200 for the tub, $40 for the beam, $30 for the Lancelot disc. The staining and sealing materials were leftover from previous projects. For the primer and paint, I used a Sherwin Williams gift card I had won two years ago in Apartment Therapy’s Room for Color contest.

In a perfect world, the cradles would be spaced more evenly. I think the one on the left would look better if it was moved further to the left. But that’s where the drain is so it’s not an option. It’s worth noting that if you desire a completely symmetrical setup, a freestanding tub with a center drain is a must. But we weren’t willing to move plumbing lines in the bathroom. In fact, the goal was to work with the original layout. I also think the cradles would look better if they were ~2″ shorter. However, I’m not sure they would function as well. We kept the distance between the floor and the bottom of the tub the same as it was with the original claw feet. At 2″ shorter, the tub might have felt too low? Maybe not. We needed the clearance for the drain line. Not to mention, a lower tub would have put more strain on the already strained water supply lines. Ah! So many little things to think about.

Overall, we’re extremely happy with how the tub turned out. Especially since it was a unique concept. We’ve blamed this bathroom’s non-existence on time, kids, blah, blah, blah, but honestly there was some fear involved, too. How’s this all going to work?! We like straying from the norm and sometimes it’s scary but it’s always worth it. We either love what we end up with or learn something new or, if we’re lucky, both.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

thanksgiving 2

I recently partnered with Wayfair to create a Thanksgiving tablescape. The idea was to show how you can pair splurge-worthy reusable items (fine china, flatware, cloth napkins, candelabras, etc.) with easy, inexpensive DIYs to create a festive but not too literal look. I’ve always loved natural garland lining the center of a table so that was my jumping off point. I removed the wishbone chairs from the ends of the table and brought in two chairs from our outdoor dining patio to sit between the tulip chairs. This provided seating for six and allowed the table runner and greenery to spill over the ends of the table.

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I sewed a custom table runner out of vintage batik fabric and pom trim.

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I’ve found that most ready-made runners look too narrow on our chunky table so I created a wider one. It measures ~20″ wide.

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I bought a few $3 bunches of eucalyptus from Trader Joe’s and placed them on the runner along the center of the table for a natural, organic vibe. Not only do I love the look, but the greenery is more conducive to conversation versus traditional centerpieces. It makes for a casual but intimate dining experience. (And it smells divine!) I sprinkled in mini pumpkins and candles. A few of the orange pumpkins weren’t meshing with the color scheme so I spray painted them gold.

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The geometric candelabras were originally black. I spray painted them gold, too. Spray all the things gold! I melted purple and indigo crayons then rolled the bases of taper candles in the wax.

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I love how the candelabras turned out. They’re so, so pretty.

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I kept the place settings simple. Silver banded china (a wedding gift twelve years ago!), sleek gold flatware and linen napkins are quality staples with longevity that can be used year-round for special occasions. Instead of using napkin rings, I tied leather laces around the napkins and tucked in eucalyptus sprigs.

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I carried the eucalyptus and pumpkins over on to the floating credenza and threw in roses from a local grocer.

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I used wood letters, wood stain, hot glue and jute string to create a “give thanks” banner. (The craft store was out of stock on T’s so I had to improvise with an L and I.)

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I strung the two banners across the window and secured them with clear 3M cord clips. I like the way the wood letters tie in with the bench and woven shade.

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I think my favorite aspect of the decor is that it doesn’t scream Thanksgiving (aside from the “give thanks” banner) and it doesn’t stray too far from our home’s everyday vibe. The gold, white, green and indigo color scheme works well in our dining room but still feels autumnal.

You can read more about my Thanksgiving tablescape over on Wayfair. Find the source list below. If you have any questions, just ask!

Sources:

china – wedding gift, JCPenney
gold flatware – West Elm
wine glasses – family heirloom
linen napkins with midnight border – Coyuchi, Wayfair
leather cord – Realeather lace
batik fabric – etsy
pom trim – JoAnn’s
geometric candelabra – Wayfair
eucalyptus, pumpkins – Trader Joe’s
gold spray paint – Design Master 24 karat pure gold (It’s a wonderful warm gold with copper undertones – perfect for fall!)
wood craft letters – JoAnn’s
wood stain – Minwax special walnut

Psssst – We’re having THE BEST time on our family vacation! We’re already dreading leaving what feels like paradise. I wish everyone could experience this place.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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Other than displaying carved pumpkins, I haven’t really decorated for Halloween in years. (I’m more of a seasonal decorator than a holiday decorator.) This year the kids were hounding me more than usual and I’ve been on a recent “life’s too short” kick so I finally came around and spooked up this place. It’s nothing over the top but I think I have a chance at Mom of the Year 2014. (You know I’m kidding, right?)

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I spent $6 (coupon included) on two yards of tulle and black poster board at JoAnn’s to create ghost lights over the kitchen island. I rolled out the two yards of tulle and left it doubled over (for a layered effect) then cut it into three equal sections, one for each pendant. I cut a hole in the top of each section, slipped the tulle over the pendants then secured it with string. I trimmed the tulle to my desired length then “fringed” the ends by cutting ~2″ wide strips on the bottom half of each ghost. I freehanded three ghost faces and cut them out of the black poster board then secured them to the tulle with double-sided tape.

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They turned out pretty creepy. I think the key is to use a really thin and airy tulle (not the stiff, scratchy stuff) and to scrunch the ends. (Where are all my ’97 high school grads at? We hella good at scrunching.) The moaning ghost faces portray way more emotion and despair than two black eye holes. The cat is real. Yeah, you’re going to need to rescue a kitten to pull off this look in its entirety.

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I attempted to make a spider web out of jute string that I already had on hand. It turned out okay?? There’s a good reason why I’m not a spider. Apparently, webs take patience and a certain amount of skill. I immediately felt horrible about all the real webs I’ve swiped.

First, I hung three lengths of jute in an asterisk formation. I tied the ends to anything I could find: antlers, cords on the side of the cabinet, a doorstopper, etc. I rigged it so that we can still open the cabinet and door. Starting from the outer most part of the web and working my way in, I knotted off sections of jute in a hexagonal pattern. I taped a paper spider to my creation to better designate it as a “spider web.” I don’t know. It reads more like an unfinished, ginormous dreamcatcher to me.

All the spiders are crying, “You call that a web?! You disgust me.” In my defense, I don’t extrude silk from my nether regions.

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I couldn’t boo the kitchen and not the living room.

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I bought two sets of removable 3D bats and filled the area above the TV with them. (A ladder was involved.) I love these bats! Don’t let the reviews fool you. A few people were disappointed that the bats aren’t larger but I actually prefer this size. The bats are plastic and you bend them to get the 3D effect. They also come with removable stickers. I’m not sure how the adhesive will hold up after one season but I can always break out my trusty putty tabs if necessary. These bats are definitely going to be a mainstay of our Halloween décor.

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I grouped pumpkins and squash on the mantel on either side of the TV wall. They were a steal at Trader Joe’s and were left over from a Thanksgiving tablescape shoot. (It goes live mid-November.) That’s where the eucalyptus branch came from, too. I laced the mantel with these copper string lights. They are the best! The delicate LEDs put off a warm white glow and the copper wire can be easily manipulated. Unlike traditional string lights, they’re barely noticeable when not lit. I can see myself using these throughout the holiday season.

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I sprinkled in a few paper maché skulls. I bought them for pennies at Michael’s several years ago during one of their post-Halloween sales and they’ve been stashed in the attic ever since. I’m very proud of myself for remembering to bust them out this year. FINALLY.

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Likewise, I scored these window decals during a post-Halloween sale a while back when we were living in our previous house. They were originally two large window-sized poster decals but the size and shape were all wrong for our current home’s windows so I cut the spiders out from the background. I wasn’t sure how well the spiders alone would stick to the window. I used a damp rag to wet the window first to help with adhesion. So far, so good. I may end up laminating the spiders after this season to protect them. (You could easily DIY something similar with a little black craft paper or poster board. I was just trying to use what I had on hand.)

And now for some nighttime pictures because that’s always fun…

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Ah, the ol’ spider in the lampshade trick. It’s a classic. There’s also a little spider in one of the windows on the front door that I failed to photograph. Have I mentioned Steve is terrified of spiders?

Anyway, I threw all this together one day last week while the boys were at school. It was fun to see their reactions when they came home. They were so surprised! Everett’s favorites are the ghost lights. Layne likes the bats and skulls. I like the fact that I can reuse almost everything.

What are some of the ways you decorate for Halloween? I need to up my game for next year.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking