...because home doesn't happen overnight.
12.15.14 / Made Me Smile

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We put up our tree last week. Cheetah was verrrry interested in it before we added lights and (unbreakable) ornaments. She disappeared into the tree once and we had to pull her out but, since adding the decorations, she seems to have lost interest other than batting around a few ornaments on the lowest branches. Just in case, we anchored the tree to the mantel with fishing line ;) WE ARE THOSE PEOPLE.

More happenings…

*Coolest open house ever.

*So much potential.

*DIY corner shelves. (Way to go, Alison!)

*A reader from Estonia contacted me this week. It piqued my interest and I did some reading up on the area. Now I want to visit! Have you ever been? This beach villa looks amazing and this old town home in Tallinn looks so cozy.

british standard kitchen via Remodelista

*Kitchen love.

*One mama’s thoughts.

*Someone gifted me an Amazon gift card for my birthday. I bought this book and have been devouring every word and image. I’m kind of sad I only have a few pages left to read.

Have a great one!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Alexis Hamilton

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!

gold coast ikea kitchen before 1

In February of this year, Jess and her partner, Tim, purchased their first house located in Queensland, Australia. The kitchen was closed off from the main living area and faced the back of the house. 90’s cabinets and laminate countertops did not reflect the couple’s impeccable style.





gold coast ikea kitchen before 2

To improve the layout, the couple made plans to remove walls separating the kitchen from the living area and flip the kitchen so the peninsula would separate the kitchen from the living area. They used Ikea cabinetry to achieve a sleek, modern design. I asked Jess several questions about the remodel. Find her answers and the mind-blowing “afters” below.

gold coast ikea kitchen after 1

gold coast ikea kitchen after 2

Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

We chose to purchase our FAKTUM cabinets, ABSTRAKT gloss white doors, drawers (and fronts), BLANKETT handles, RATIONELL drawer liners and cutlery organizers from Ikea. We also selected a few of our appliances – namely the MW6 combi oven, dishwasher and rangehood (discontinued hidden model).

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

I had a pretty solid Ikea bookcase constructing background as my first house was furnished with many of their inexpensive storage solutions. I knew that we could probably tackle the kitchen cupboard assembly without too many hiccups. Obviously, the price was also a huge deciding factor for us as we are renovating on a budget and committed to completing as much as we can ourselves.

I also spent hours and hours online reading reviews and comparing different kitchen systems. I found ikeafans.com (sadly, it’s no longer) to be an invaluable source of knowledge. If hundreds of other novices had attempted an Ikea kitchen and come out on the other side without a messy divorce, so could we!

gold coast ikea kitchen after 12

Who designed your kitchen?

We designed and redesigned several times using the online kitchen tool which we found to be very useful and, at times, a bit frustrating. It is amazing how much bigger your kitchen looks onscreen versus real life! I definitely suggest taping out the rough dimensions of your new cupboards before making any final decisions.

Once we were fairly set on our design, we made an appointment with an Ikea kitchen specialist who helped us to finalise additional items like cover panels and plinths.

In terms of aesthetic, we managed to combine our individual styles and also take inspiration from my favourite blogs – House*Tweaking, Manhattan Nest and Chezerbey. The end result is a Scandinavian / clean-lined / warm wood tone style that we both absolutely adore. All the pieces fit together better than we could have hoped!

gold coast ikea kitchen progress 1

gold coast ikea kitchen progress 2

gold coast ikea kitchen progress 3

gold coast ikea kitchen progress 4

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

With heaps of over-confidence and a passion for late night arguments, we tried our hand at everything over the course of our renovations. And we didn’t suck at it…especially the bickering, we excelled at that!

We knocked down the old wall between the kitchen and the lounge room, built a new wall to effectively reverse the kitchen, plastered and painted, and generally spent every weekend taking carloads to the tip.

I built all of our kitchen cupboards which took approximately 12-14 hours total. Tim & I installed the cabinets ourselves and we even tiled for the first time when we installed the marble splashback.

gold coast ikea kitchen after 4

gold coast ikea kitchen after 5

Unless you are a licensed electrician, it is illegal to undertake electrical work yourself in Australia. Fortunately, we have a great electrician who installed our new downlights and pendants and wired up our new appliances. We also outsourced the plumbing work and the Caesarstone bench top construction and installation.

gold coast ikea kitchen after 8

gold coast ikea kitchen after 18

gold coast ikea kitchen after 10

gold coast ikea kitchen after 11

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

To suit our style of mixed cold and warm elements, we chose a Caeserstone bench top in sleek concrete, sourced hexagonal carrara marble from ebay and utilised Tasmanian oak as trim on archways and above the cooktop.

We recycled cover panel offcuts to close a 7cm gap between the ceiling and top of the upper cabinets. We cut down a standard FAKTUM cupboard to create a usable storage space above the fridge pod.

gold coast ikea kitchen after 6

gold coast ikea kitchen after 7

Our kitchen features a few unique items that give it that little bit extra in our opinion: a black Franke techtonite sink, a clock purchased on an anniversary trip to Byron Bay and Tim’s dream induction cooktop which we managed to pick up for a song from an online auction house.

We also took the opportunity to install new flooring throughout our house which originally featured the cheapest bamboo laminate and old cracked tiles hidden under black linoleum. We chose Quickstep classic midnight oak brown which was extremely easy to install and perfectly complemented our kitchen choices.

How long was it from design to the final product?

Design has been happening since day one of viewing the house. We ordered our kitchen components in June and began renovating on weekends in August. The final kitchen reveal happened during the first week of October. I took three weeks holiday in September which allowed me to install new flooring and paint pretty much everything.

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

We have lived with the finished product for two months now and have only adjusted the push-to-open hardware on the top cupboards to ensure they close properly. I am very impressed with the quality of the Ikea cupboards and appliances, particularly the fact that we have a working dishwasher again!

gold coast ikea kitchen after 13

gold coast ikea kitchen after 15

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

This is a hard question! Tim’s favourite is the Electrolux 70cm induction cooktop, whereas mine is the actual layout which has opened up the main living area.

Our least favourite is, unfortunately, the pantry size. We didn’t realize that the 40cm cupboard actually means 30cm drawers so it was a bit of a downsize from our old kitchen. Luckily, we have ample spare cupboards to compensate.

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

Yes, absolutely. We are very happy with the quality of the cupboards and the endless options / configurations.

We would highly recommend the combi oven and love the soft-closing drawers. The gloss finish of the doors and drawer fronts is impeccable and seems to be very durable.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

We would definitely use Ikea again. In fact, we are taking on the study / linen closet as one of our next projects and plan to use a combination of the Ikea FAKTUM cupboards and the PAX wardrobe system. Ikea provides both great service and an awesome result.

Resources of note:

wall paint – Dulux vivid white
flooring – Quickstep classic midnight oak brown
cupboards (cabinets) – FAKTUM, Ikea
handles – BLANKETT, Ikea
bench top (countertop) – Caesarstone sleek concrete (4003), Regency Stone
cooktop – Electrolux 70cm ceramic induction cooktop in black (EHD68210P), GraysOnline
rangehood – Luftig (BF570), Ikea
oven – Fisher & Paykel 60cm oven (OB60SL7DEX1), JB Hi Fi
microwave combi oven – Nutid (MWC6), Ikea
dishwasher – BESPARA integrated dishwasher, Ikea
fridge – Fisher & Paykel, already owned
splashback (backsplash) – 50mm hexagonal carrara marble mosiac, ebay
grout – Ardex magellan grey, Beaumont Tiles
sink – Franke tectonite kitchen sink in carbon black (SID110-50), Masters
tap – stainless steel with vegetable hose, ebay
wood trim – Tasmanian oak, Bunnings
clock – anniversary gift
pendants – Tadao 1 medium point top concrete pendants, Beacon Lighting
stools – Tolix in white, Outlet Homewares
Hahnii snake plant in grey pot – Masters

gold coast ikea kitchen after 19

gold coast ikea kitchen after 20

Jess & Tim, thank you for sharing the story of your kitchen remodel so candidly and so thoroughly! DIY novices? You could have fooled me.

OH MY WOW. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this amazing renovation. I love that they had the forethought to knock down those walls and flip the kitchen’s layout. It completely opened up the space. The kitchen looks as if it’s been this way all along. Jess & Tim make it look easy, but committing to a minimal design and limited palette requires restraint. And the attention to detail is flawless: the DIY cabinet over the fridge, hexagonal backsplash, concrete pendants, concealed hood, fancy electrical outlets / switches, trimmed out space between the upper cabinets and ceiling. One of my favorite parts is the oak trim above the cooktop and in the doorways. They complement each other so nicely and provide the slightest touch of warmth at eye level. Not to mention, the oak-trimmed doorways are practical. Our drywalled corners have taken a beating from the kids!

As you can see, Jess & Tim’s stellar style doesn’t stop at the kitchen. I’m all over that sofa. It’s further proof that Aussie’s must have an innate sense of style that puts the rest of the world to shame. (No offense, world.) I’m just glad these two are kind enough to share theirs with us and I hope it’s contagious. You can follow Jess & Tim’s renovating adventures over on Jess’s blog here.

I’m off to practice my Aussie lingo (cupboards, bench top, splashback, lounge room – so adorable!) but if you’re in the mood for more Ikea kitchens, check out the rest of this series:

An Ikea Kitchen in Asheville

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

P.S. – The #HolidayHostess event continues this week with Kelly from Lily Pad Cottage. She recently painted her laundry room navy and it looks fab!

images: Agent Thirty Six

A few ideas for the homebodies in your life who enjoy nothing more than an evening spent at home surrounded by creature comforts…

cozy home


1 – Mongolian faux fur pillow / vintage kilim pillow cover – Pillows = cozy. Mix tactile textures with playful patterns for maximum effect.

2 – Smell My Nuts mason jar candle – A candle with a scents of humor. (Sorry, had to.)

3 – plaid flannel sheets – Because cold sheets are the worst.

4 – square photo holder – Display photos of favorite people, furry friends and dreamy places.

5 – wood & white ceramic planter – Just add a succulent and call it a day.

6 – vegetable-dyed Baluch rug – Happy feet, happy home.

7 – peshtemal towel – We made the switch from terrycloth to peshtemal two years ago and haven’t looked back. They have so many uses!

8 – teardrop lamp – You’re going to need some mood lighting.

9 – macrame wall hanging – Walls need love too.

Keep it cozy, folks.

Pssst…If you haven’t had a chance to check out the #HolidayHostess sale over on Joss & Main, there are some larger pieces to cozy up your home, too.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

12.04.14 / Our Vacation Rental

beach house 1

Last winter when we decided to plan a vacation to Rosemary Beach, I searched online for vacation rentals and fell down a virtual rabbit hole ogling at all the possibilities. There were townhouses, flats, carriage houses and extravagant beach houses. And they were all beautiful.

One thing I noticed after a little research was that the rentals just outside of Rosemary were less expensive but still within biking distance to downtown Rosemary and the beach. I also noticed that we could save a ton by visiting during the off season. We weren’t sure what to expect weather-wise so we wanted a place we could spread out and hang out in comfortably if the weather didn’t cooperate. I whittled down the list of possibilities to ~10 rentals then we selected one of them as a family. You never know what to expect when reserving a vacation rental sight unseen (at least in real life) but we lucked out. Our vacation rental was clean, family-friendly, homey, convenient and in a great location on a dead-end street.

We chose to stay in Seacrest Beach which butts up against Rosemary but is a little more economical. The house came with four adult bikes and we used them to bike to downtown Rosemary (~5 minutes) every day. We biked to the beach, too. We biked everywhere.

beach house 2

The house had four bedrooms (three of them were master suites with a king bed and an adjoining bathroom), three bathrooms, and was three stories high. The night we arrived, we were blown away. It was much larger than we had expected. The ceilings were at least 10′ high which made it feel even bigger. Coming from a 3-bed, 1-bath rancher, we were very spoiled.

We loved the big porches on the first and second floors and took full advantage of the swings.

beach house 3

The first floor living room opened up onto the dining area and kitchen. We liked the open floor plan. I also appreciated the furnishings. Many beach rentals have generic decor (which I totally get…it’s a rental) but this house felt really homey with all the wood tones, natural textures and nubby upholstery. There were all kinds of books and magazines available to read. We really felt like we were staying in a home – notsomuch a rental.

beach house 4

Layne, our oldest, made the comment, “Look mom! This house is perfect for us. It has poufs!” Atta boy. Haha. We watched movies as a family almost every night in the living room. The kids would drag down bean bags from the bunk room (more on that in a minute) and we would pop popcorn. It was so cozy.

beach house 5

I loved the rustic coffee table. It had a great patina, was kid-friendly and oversized. The kids would pull up the poufs to the coffee table and we played board games or worked puzzles. (Or spilled glasses of water. It happens.)

beach house 17

beach house 7

The full kitchen (while very beige) was stocked with dishes, glasses, flatware, serve ware, pots, pans, Keurig, traditional coffeemaker, blender, slow cooker…basically anything you could think of. I liked that there were two sinks – one under the window and one in the peninsula. There was a large pantry which came in handy. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches at the house to save money. Our *three* kids fought over the *two* stools at the bar. It was a popular spot.

beach house 6

The dining area was one of my favorite spaces. The table sat eight but could be extended to seat larger parties. It was great for card games and Everett did his homework there every evening, too.

(Did I mention we pulled the kids out of school? Layne only missed three days but Everett missed an entire week. I felt guilty about them missing school but both of their teachers / schools were really supportive. Everett’s teacher gave him some work to do while he was away.)

The apples are fake and there were 28 of them. I know because Mabrey made Steve count them over and over. I may have thought about stealing the chairs. And did you notice the basket on the floor in the corner? There were large baskets in nearly every room in the house. They were great for keeping our things out but tidy. When we were packing up to leave, I just went around and emptied all the baskets.

beach house 8

I would like to point out the palm leaf on the buffet and the pinecones on the bar. The neighborhood we stayed in has a nature trail. The palm leaf and pinecones were souvenirs from my walks. If you happen to be the guy who was driving a golf cart near the trail about a month ago and came upon a strange lady loading pinecones into a shopping bag and hacking palm leaves with a steak knife, I’m sorry I scared you. Also, at this very moment there’s a large bag of said pinecones sitting my garage waiting to be strung into garland. #pineconecaper

The stairs lead up to the second and third floors. We were not used to living with stairs and there were so many here because of the three floors and extra high ceilings. It only took a few days for us to get lazy and choose not to go back up / down the stairs to retrieve a forgotten item. The stairs were a fun novelty but by the end of the week we were all ready to go back to living without stairs. Isn’t that crazy?!

beach house 9

Each bedroom had its own balcony / porch. Steve and I claimed this bedroom. Technically, it was Mabrey’s room, too. She slept in the walk-in closet in a pack-n-play that was already in the closet. She kept calling it her room. I’m pretty sure the closet was bigger than her bedroom at home!

The master suites had wall-to-wall seagrass carpet. I’ve owned seagrass rugs before but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live with seagrass carpet. I really liked it in person and it seems like it would hold up well to heavy traffic and abuse.

beach house 10

This bed? It was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. Steve and I meant to check the mattress tag before we left but forgot. Oh well. We’ll just have to go back.

When I was posting to instagram during our vacation, someone made the comment “rental homes always make me want to get rid of all my stuff.” Ditto.

beach house 11

MORE STAIRS up to the third floor. My legs are burning just thinking about them.

beach house 12

The third floor bunk room was a hit with the kids. Everett claimed it and slept in a different bed each night before deciding that the bottom bunk on the far left was the most comfortable. He is such a funny kid. Do you spy the bean bags I mentioned earlier? There were three which was perfect for family movie nights. The bunk room was stocked with children’s books (for all ages) and puzzles.

beach house 13

The bunk room included a TV, wet bar and mini fridge. Everett stashed some water and an apple in the fridge just in case he woke up hungry in the middle of the night. I told you he is funny.

Maybe the only drawback of the entire house was that there was no door on the bunk room and the center stairwell was open from the first floor to the third floor. It was a super cool architectural feature and fine for the boys (they’re 6½ and 9½) but I didn’t feel comfortable letting Mabrey (2½) have free rein in the bunk room. She had to be supervised.

The balcony off the bunk room was another favorite spot.

beach house 14

The hammock swings did not go unnoticed ;)

beach house 15

We picked a different porch to eat on every day but this one was our favorite even though it required carrying our lunches up three flights of stairs. When the most difficult decision of your day is “Hmmm, which porch should we eat on?” that’s not a bad day.

beach house 16

And, finally, the view from the third floor balcony was pretty amazing. Can you spot the palm tree-lined cobblestone streets? It was such a happy and charming lil’ neighborhood.

The ironic thing about our time spent in this awesome house is that, for the most part, we all used the same bathroom! (We’re used to sharing one bathroom.) And we usually traveled as a pack from room to room. (We aren’t used to not being in the same room together.) It was nice to have the extra space to spread out for a few days (the boys enjoyed having their own rooms) but it was superfluous and I was glad I wasn’t the one responsible for cleaning it. If / when we go back, we’ll bring more people or we’ll probably stay somewhere smaller.

That being said, we had the most amazing time. The house truly was everything we could have asked for – and more! Very accommodating, truly hospitable. We’re so grateful that we were able to make some memories here.

So what do you think? How do you feel about vacation rentals? How do you save money on vacation? Do you have a favorite spot / feature of the house? Have your kids ever missed school due to a vacation?

P.S. – Because I know someone will ask, I searched for vacation rentals on VRBO. The property management company for our house was superb. They have an app for you to download during your stay that has all the info you could ever want or need about the house and surrounding area. I would highly recommend the area, house and VRBO! That is an unsolicited recommendation.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking