...because home doesn't happen overnight.

ghost lights 1

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?)

ghost lights 2

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.

ghost lights 3

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.

spider web

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.

halloween living room

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

bats

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.

halloween mantel 1

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.

halloween mantel 2

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.

spiders

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…

ghost lights 4

spiders 2

spiders 3

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

reclaimed shelves 2

I received an email from a reader a few weeks ago asking for help tracking down unfinished boards to fit Ikea’s BJÄRNUM brackets. (You may recall we fitted the brackets with reclaimed fence boards to create open shelving in the kitchen.) The brackets are meant to support 1″ thick, 11″ deep boards. Unfortunately, the “common” boards carried by most big box home improvement stores aren’t actually 1″ thick – even though they’re labeled as such. So annoying!

Anyway, I’m afraid I wasn’t much help. I advised the reader to scope out craigslist or other secondhand sources for reclaimed boards that could be cut to size. (We cut our fence boards so that the ends taper into the brackets.) A little while later I received a followup email. The reader had found the perfect unfinished boards at her local home improvement store: stair treads! Ingenious. Sometimes, a little creative thinking leads to materials that are less expensive and / or more unique than blatantly labeled materials.

This renovation trick was on my mind while reading the November issue of Dwell. In the magazine, I came across a few more examples of not-so-obivous material choices.

maple shorts

This modest new build incorporates maple “shorts” as flooring. The cut pieces were left over from previous projects and sold at a discount.

cedar shelves

In this same home, leftover cypress (used elsewhere on the exterior as siding and decking) is incorporated in the kitchen as shelving.

“…you’re using basic things, but you’re using them in new and unique ways.” – Jonathon Kemnitzer, designer

marble thresholds as bathroom tile

I spotted another clever use of material in this bathroom. The “tiles” are actually 6″ wide marble thresholds that have been cut to length to cover the floor and shower walls.

“This is considered junk stone in the interior design world but we saw something really handsome in it.” – Paul Syme, architect

I love the idea of thinking outside the box when it comes to building materials. As I mentioned, we repurposed reclaimed fence boards as kitchen shelving. We’ve also created outdoor art using wood salvaged from our home’s attic, and we recently constructed a tub cradle base from an old beam. Have you made not-so-obvious material choices in your own home?

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2 & 3) Kem Studio 4) Nathan Dykstra

Last week I shared our friends’ renovated kitchen and dining space. There was interest in seeing how the renovation affected other areas of the house so I thought it would be helpful to feature the entry, family room and office as well. First, let’s recap how James and Kristina reworked the floor plan without adding square footage. (FYI – These are rough sketches showing changes made to the layout. They are not to scale.)

BEFORE

modern family reno floor plan before

AFTER

modern family reno floor plan after

A wall separating the kitchen from the original family room was removed and a doorway in the kitchen that provided access to the original dining room was closed up. Keeping their casual lifestyle in mind, the homeowners turned the former family room into an open dining space. The original (more formal) living room at the front of the house became a family room and the original dining room became a home office. Part of the wall separating the new kitchen from the new family room was opened up to give the space better flow.

modern family entry before

The original entry included vinyl flooring and a few midcentury gems (i.e., front door, pendant lights and brick pony wall planter).

modern family room 1

Not wanting to stray too far from the home’s midcentury roots, the homeowners kept the original front door but painted it a lively turquoise. They kept the statement pendants and pony wall but chose to nix the planter setup. (They didn’t think the planter would go over well with their two young kids and two dogs.)

modern family entry 2

Instead, James covered the brick pony wall with MDF, painted it black and then wrapped the entire thing in walnut paneling salvaged from the paneled wall that once separated the kitchen from the old family room. (You can spy a glimpse of it here.) He capped it with the same quartz countertop material found in the new kitchen. The pony wall provides a welcome pause upon entering the home without completely blocking off the entry. James was able to reuse more of the walnut paneling as shelving in the entry closet for added storage.

modern family entry 1

The new entry boasts the same large scale tile found in the kitchen and dining space. It’s durable and provides a cohesive look.

modern family room before

To James and Kristina, the original living room felt too formal and too disjointed from the heart of the home (the kitchen). The adjoining dining room was dark and didn’t jive with the family’s desire for an open kitchen-dining space.

modern family room 2

They decided the formal living room was unnecessary and repurposed it as a casual family room. The dining room was sealed off from the kitchen and relabeled as a home office. James is a self-employed contractor and runs his business from home. Kristina is currently taking college courses. The new room designation just made sense.

The entire home’s carpet had recently been replaced when James and Kristina took possession of the house. They considered installing hardwood flooring but the new carpet was in excellent condition and reminiscent of a 50s shag. In the end, they decided to keep the carpet out of the landfill and embrace it.

modern family room 3

modern family room 8

A wide doorway between the family room and kitchen lends an openness and a simplified traffic pattern between the two spaces.

modern family room 6

modern family room 5

Staying true to their preferred minimal and masculine aesthetic, James and Kristina mix midcentury finds with clean-lined contemporary furnishings.

modern family room 4

For contrast (and to play up the room’s inherent darkness), the office is painted a deep charcoal with blue undertones. Since photographing the space, James and Kristina have hung an oversized black and white print on the far wall to draw the eye into the office.

modern family office 3

modern family office 2

One side of the office features a sitting area and has a cozy den vibe. Vintage end tables play nicely with a big box daybed.

modern family office 4

modern family office 5

The opposite side of the room functions as a workspace. James installed LED can lights overhead. The wall-mounted flatscreen can be used as a computer screen or a TV screen (for watching movies or playing video games). Two tall Ikea cabinets flank the desktop. James wrapped the cabinets and center desk support in a tiger wood laminate from a countertop supply store. The desktop is marbled Corian with a 3″ lip to give it a chunkier appearance and to hide unsightly wires. Transparent chairs take up little visual space in the small room.

Rescources of note:

family room and entry wall paint – Behr ocean pearl, matte finish
TV wall paint – Behr mocha accent, matte finish
office wall paint – Behr dark ash, matte finish
entry tile – Kaska Italian porcelain tile from Build Direct
entry cabinet – vintage
entry pendants – original to the house c. 1965
walnut paneling – original to the house c. 1965
pony wall top – Silestone white zeus quartz
media center – BESTÅ, Ikea
family room end tables – Urban Outfitters
family room coffee table – $20 garage sale find
family room chair – vintage, given as a tip from one of James’s clients
sectional – Kardiel
family room table lamps – Ikea
desk cabinets – ABSTRAKT, Ikea
desk chairs – TOBIAS, Ikea
office daybed – Urban Outfitters
office coffee table – Target
office end tables – vintage via craigslist
pillows – Target

modern family room 7

modern family media

modern family office 1

modern family light

modern family entry 3

There are so many good ideas to take away from these spaces:

*Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and relabel rooms to suit your needs and lifestyle.

*Always consider what’s on the other side of a wall. Closing off and / or opening up doorways can have a huge impact on a home’s flow.

*Some original statement features are worth keeping – even if it means putting your own spin on things.

*Quality materials can be salvaged and repurposed as a way to pay homage to a house’s past life.

*You don’t have to rip out all the carpet to make an improvement. Replacing the flooring in the most highly trafficked areas will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Keep durability, cohesion and traffic patterns in mind when contemplating materials and location.

*Mix old and new successfully with a unifying theme.

Once again, thanks to James and Kristina for sharing their livable yet stylish, modest yet modern home! I can’t get over the entry pendant lights and the modernized pony wall. What’s your favorite part? I have a few more ideas from this renovation to share as inspiration. Stay tuned…

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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!

denver ikea kitchen before 1

denver ikea kitchen before 2

Marie and her fiancé (now husband) snatched up a HUD foreclosure in 2012. The 1930s bungalow in Denver, Colorado, was outdated but the couple was able to see past the shag carpet, linoleum flooring and faux brick wall covering. Using a combination of imagination and elbow grease along with help from an outside contractor, they revamped the dark and cramped kitchen into a light-filled and functional space that exudes nothing but warmth. In an effort to modernize the kitchen without completely wiping out the home’s historical character or the couple’s bank account, Ikea cabinetry was mixed with original cabinetry. I asked Marie several questions about the renovation. Find her answers and the charming “afters” below.

denver ikea kitchen after 4

denver ikea kitchen after 1

denver ikea kitchen after 5

denver ikea kitchen after 11

Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

Most of the new parts of the kitchen are from Ikea: the lower cabinets / doors / drawer fronts, sink and butcher block countertops.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

Ikea’s prices were definitely a draw but we also looked at several other options. We were impressed with Ikea’s quality by comparison, and the aesthetic balance of more modern cabinets that also fit in well with our older house. Soft-closing drawers were a nice bonus, too!

denver ikea kitchen after 8

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

We designed it ourselves. We love the details of our bungalow and wanted to maintain its historical integrity while opening it up and streamlining things. I used Google SketchUp to render cutting out the wall between the kitchen and dining room and adding the breakfast bar. We knew generally how much space we’d have for the lower cabinets and for one next to the stove and found five different sizes of Ikea cabinets to fit those spaces.

Several parts of the design were set by the architecture of the house, its size and its age. You might have noticed there’s no refrigerator? It’s actually on the other side of the doorway on a platform over our basement stairway. This may have been somewhat common in the 1930s. My dad’s childhood home was built then and he remembers a similar arrangement. We briefly tried to design the space to turn the fridge and have it open into the kitchen but it wouldn’t work for several reasons. It’s a load-bearing wall, for one, and would have been a much bigger deal to remove than the wall we ultimately took out. Also, the oven and refrigerator doors wouldn’t have cleared one another. We realized that we liked the more minimal look of the space without the refrigerator. By now, we don’t even notice the extra step around the corner and just remember it when people come over, look confused and ask where our fridge is.

denver ikea kitchen after 6

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

We assembled the cabinets and drawers, added the hardware and stained the countertops. Our contractor built the breakfast bar, and he and our plumber installed the lower cabinets and countertops.

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

Because we were on a tight budget and encountered a few other bumps in the renovation process, we were happy to reuse whatever we could. We kept the upper cabinets, which are probably original, with doors likely from the 50s, as well as the hardware. The original lower cabinets weren’t deep enough to add a dishwasher and the formica countertop was in really rough shape. I probably would have tried to save them otherwise but am glad they had to go. The Ikea cabinets offer so much more storage and don’t stick like the old drawers did.

denver ikea kitchen after 10

The cabinet handles and hinges had a faux copper finish in their prime but were discolored and peeling. We scrubbed and spray painted them to match the metals on the bar stools and the workbench and put them on the Ikea cabinets to connect the old and new. The arched handles also echo the house’s architectural details: our fireplace, front door, and the doorway to the living room are all arches.

denver ikea kitchen after 12

We stained the countertops to match our floors. We used two different types of Ikea butcher block countertops for the main counters and the bar but, once stained, they visually blend pretty well. Staining obviously made them not food safe so we use a cutting board next to the stove for all food prep which also saves the countertops. It’s been nice not to worry about coffee stains. They wipe right off or blend right in.

denver ikea kitchen after 9

We added a remnant from the Ikea butcher block to an old workbench we found at Habitat ReStore. It’s now our cookbook shelf and bar / SodaStream station. (I’m pregnant and have been drinking so much carbonated water that it gets a prime spot in our small space!)

I made the window valance with a fabric remnant from Ikea’s as-is section. This window is on the back of the house and is high off the ground so we just wanted something simple to cover part of the vinyl casing without blocking natural light.

How long was it from design to the final product?

We closed on our house in April 2012 and moved in at the end of May 2012. We were working with a contractor on several projects to get the house in livable shape. It was a HUD foreclosure and the previous owner had lived here for over 50 years. Most of the bones of the house were in wonderful condition in part because so much was layered on top of them.

For example, there were five layers (!) of flooring over the original wood in the kitchen – enough to create a step up into the room. Our contractor removed the old linoleum and tiles (which were all tested and thankfully free of asbestos), took out the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and we had the glue-covered floors sanded and refinished. You can still see some of the staples from a plywood subfloor that was layered over the hardwood. The staples were too weak to pull out so were sanded right down. Our floor glitters thanks to them.

When we moved in, the major structural elements were done: cabinets, plumbing, and appliances were in place, the wall was down, and the floors and countertops were finished.

After we moved, life got really full. Between our wedding, a surgery, work, and more pressing renovations, we were just glad to have a place to land and share a meal. We didn’t paint for almost a year! After another year we had the ceiling patched and got a new light in the dining room and also moved the current kitchen light up from the basement. I finally found a close match for the original picture rail moulding and hung it this spring.

denver ikea kitchen after 2

We’d love to add a backsplash at some point but haven’t figured out how to navigate the different lengths of the the top and bottom cabinets. So we painted it and have actually liked the visual continuity of the paint. It’s an eggshell finish so stains and splatters wipe off easily. We’re calling it done for now.

denver ikea kitchen after 13

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

We’ve lived with the kitchen since June 2012. We upgraded our faucet from the first Ikea fixture this spring. To be fair, it was one of their lower-end ones and has since been discontinued. My husband does a lot of home-brewing so we’re not sure if the pressure and pull from brewing hoses and attachments was too much, or if the fixture itself wasn’t that great. Either way, it was warped and wobbly and leaked in spite of several attempts to fix it. Out it went. The new one fits the space better so it was all for the best.

denver ikea kitchen after 7

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

I love the size of our kitchen which might sound strange since it’s just barely 8’ x 9’. It takes no time to clean. Everything is accessible and food can’t get lost forever or waste away in a forgotten pantry cupboard. It’s taught us to keep and use only what we love and need.

When we opened the kitchen up to the dining room (which is also about 8’ x 9’), the flow of the house completely changed. We get so much more natural light all day from the living room and dining room windows. It’s a small space but has made the whole house feel so much more spacious and welcoming. When we have friends over, everyone gathers here.

My least favorite thing has nothing to do with Ikea but the base of the dishwasher sticks out about an inch because our 80-year-old floors aren’t anywhere close to even. To keep the dishwasher level so it doesn’t leak, and also to level the cabinets so the countertop is straight, they’re not aligned. While it catches my eye, I’m just glad it worked out. Adding a dishwasher was a huge upgrade for the house.

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

Oh, absolutely! The cabinets, drawers, countertops and sink have all been wonderful.

We especially liked the variety of cabinet and drawer widths Ikea offered. We could easily configure doors, shelves and drawers in a way that made sense for a surprising amount of storage. They hold everything from serving trays to our Kitchen Aid mixer. We use one upper cabinet for food storage. The others are all for kitchen supplies. We only have one small box in the basement for kitchen overflow – cake pans and other things we use seasonally.

The double-basin ceramic farmhouse sink is also a great feature, especially for a small kitchen. It can take whatever we throw at it or soak in it, and it still looks new.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

Definitely. Since the kitchen, we’ve added Ikea cabinets, sinks, and faucets to our bathrooms and have been impressed with their quality as well.

We are expecting our first baby any day now and, while we love our little house, we’re not sure we’ll be here forever as our family grows. Wherever we wind up, it’ll most likely be another project. We both grew up in older houses and the renovation process makes us feels at home. We would use Ikea for another kitchen in a heartbeat.

Resources of note:

paint – Sherwin Williams Cashmere, color-matched to Benjamin Moore “Moonshine.” The color changes all day with the light and is a calm and cool balance to the warmth of the wood. “Moonshine” also seemed appropriate for a homebrewer ;)
bar stools – West Elm
kitchen light – original (to the basement)
dining room light – Quoizel, Massena model (from a local outlet)
water buffalo wall sculpture – handmade by my sister
dining room table & chairs – thrifted
countertops and bench stain – Minwax walnut
stove & dishwasher – GE (both from a local outlet)
faucet – Moen, Kleo model

denver ikea kitchen after 3

Thank you so much, Marie, for sharing your charming kitchen!

This is such a warm and inviting space, isn’t it? It makes me want to pour a mug of coffee and linger. There are so many good takeaways. First of all, the mix of old and new cabinetry suits the historical character of this home. It just wouldn’t feel the same if all the cabinetry were new. Opting to keep the upper cabinets saved the budget, too. (We actually have friends who did the same thing in an older home. They opted to mix Ikea cabinetry with their home’s original cabinetry and it worked out surprisingly well.) And the decision not to change the location / accessibility of the refrigerator? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room and adding a breakfast bar made a world of difference in how the space looks and functions. Deliberate details – like the upcycled hardware, industrial workbench, stained countertops – help tie the space in with the rest of the home for a cohesive look. The couple’s resourcefulness can’t be overlooked either. Consciously reusing materials is smart, eco-friendly and inexpensive. To know Marie’s favorite aspect of the kitchen is its small size is so inspiring! Most people I know would turn their noses up at a kitchen this size. There’s something to be said for living with less stuff and greater awareness.

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

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

You’ve probably heard by now that Ikea will be phasing out the AKURUM cabinet system and introducing a new line next year. Many customers are up in arms over the “secret” transition. Ikea says it will continue to honor the warranty on AKURUM cabinets while providing new and improved features within the SEKTION line. I like change – especially when it involves betterment – but am curious to see how the transition plays out. I imagine Ikea kitchens will remain a force to be reckoned with since many of the beloved features (standard soft-closing drawers, wall rail installation, budget-friendly pricing, ease of customization, etc.) are staying. I would love to continue the Ikea kitchen series if you think it’s relevant. Thoughts?

images: Marie Gernes