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

hey you're awesome

How was your week? I felt like mine was full of busyness but I have nothing to show for it. Oh well. There’s always next week, right?

A few smile-worthy things to take you into the weekend…

*A DIY kitchen makeover that looks way more expensive than its $500 price tag.

*A modern, family-friendly deck.

*My new hanging planter arrived. You can never have too many houseplants, can you? The correct answer is no. No, you can’t.

*Long live the library! And one man’s photographic essay of interesting American libraries. (We visit our local library weekly. It’s such a huge part of our lives!)

*My favorite movie of 2013 is now available on DVD. It’s also one of my fave movies of all-time.

*On a similar note, if movies were written by kidsWarning: they’re snort-milk-through-your-nose HILARIOUS.

*Proud mom moment.

*The coolest video on instagram this week.

Have a very hoppy weekend! ;) And hey, you’re awesome.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

dresser revive 1

I owe you guys a long and wordy post about what’s happening in the boys’ room. The gist of story is that they need more closed storage for their clothing and the wall color makes the room feel depressing. I’ve gone mad trying to pick a new color which is evidenced by the random paint swatches on the wall. I’ll post all the details next Monday but today’s post is about reviving a vintage dresser I scored on ebay this past winter. It was $150 and included a large matching mirror with a wood frame that I’ll be hanging elsewhere. (Hint: it’s going in the hallway.) Fortunately, the seller was in Ohio so we were able to pick it up ourselves and skip shipping costs.

dresser revive 2

The dresser was in great condition. Fully functional with a few scratches and water marks from normal wear and tear. The thing is HEAVY. It’s solid walnut and features all the signs of great craftsmanship which are so hard to find in today’s furniture without spending an arm and a leg. Since it’s going in the boy’s room, it didn’t need to be perfect but I was hoping to improve the finish.

revive dresser 4

I had heard and read so many wonderful testimonials about Restor-A-Finish that I had to try it myself. (Orlando’s testimonial was especially convincing.) The application is a one-step process and it requires no sanding. It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? I chose the walnut tone and set to work reviving the new old dresser.

revive dresser 5

Application was super easy. I poured a little Restor-A-Finish onto a soft cloth and rubbed it into the wood. A little goes a long way. The stuff is a bit stinky so I opened the windows during application. (This is the main reason it’s taken me so long to get around to reviving the dresser. Too cold to open the windows!) Immediately, I could tell it was working. It’s subtle but noticeable. I liken it to a good pregnancy glow or a natural sun kissed glow. It blended the imperfections and restored the wood’s luster. But it didn’t leave a shiny finish. It was more of a healthy sheen.

dresser revive 3

If you compare this image to the second one at the top of this post, you can see the difference. It’s pretty miraculous!

revive dresser 6

I couldn’t believe how much richer the wood looked. It really did have a glow to it minus the gloss.

revive dresser 8

Following the directions on the back of Restor-A-Finish, I decided to protect the I-can’t-put-my-finger-on-it-but-there’s-something-different-about-you finish with Howard’s Feed-N-Wax. I waited 30 minutes after refinishing the dresser to apply the wax. I applied the wax with a soft cloth and was a little more generous with this application than the oil. Then I set a timer for 20 minutes. When time was up I buffed out the dresser with a clean soft cloth. Again, super easy.

revive dresser 7

After restoring the finish and applying the protective wax topcoat, the dresser almost looked brand new!

revive dresser 9

The results were enough to motivate me to restore the dresser in my bedroom using the same technique.

But back to the boys’ dresser…

dresser hardware

I didn’t particularly care for the dresser’s original hardware. The knobs are brass with laminate stickers glued to the centers. One knob was missing its laminate center so I tried everything in order to remove the laminate from the other knobs to no avail. I also didn’t like that each drawer had a knob. It was too knobby for my taste. I thought I’d try switching out the middle knobs for horizontal pulls and see what happened. You know, to break things up a little.

dresser hardware 1

I found these streamline pulls at Anthropologie and ordered four. (Btw, it was my very first Anthro purchase. I’m no longer an Anthro virgin.) I love them! They’re so dainty, so midcentury modern. Best of all, they make the dresser feel less knobby. Knobby…it’s a technical term.

Here’s a little before-and-after action for your viewing pleasure…

subtle dresser before and after

I know, it’s not a WOW! makeover. But that wasn’t my goal here. Restoring the finish and changing up some of the hardware gave this dresser a much needed facelift but it still looks like a classic midcentury piece. (Notice how the finish looks less orange-y, too. I like that.) It’s not trying to be something it’s not. I guess it’s more like Cindy Crawford on Botox versus Joan Rivers on plastic surgery. Sometimes subtle changes are the best.

Have you ever used Restor-A-Finish? It has me wanting to buy more vintage pieces just to love ‘em up with a little oil.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

The weather was so nice this past weekend that I just had to tackle an outdoor project. It meant skimping on the kid / guest bathroom but it was totally worth it. My skin hasn’t felt warm sunshine in six months! So while the kids rode their bikes and played with neighbor-friends, I set to work scraping, sanding and painting our decrepit garage door.

We plan to replace the garage door all together within the next year but I couldn’t stand it’s peeling paint any longer. (You can see images of the original door here.) And I needed an excuse to be outside. I have a hard time being anywhere…I always have to be doing something. #busybody It’s something I need to work on. Can you relate? Tangent aside, I’ve mentioned painting the garage door several times to Steve but his response was always the same.

I don’t think it’s worth the hassle since we’re going to replace it eventually.

Guess what. It was worth the hassle.

stopgap garage door 1

I used an old school Red Devil paint scraper (similar to this newer one) to remove the peeling paint. It worked well but the garage door’s humble state became even more apparent once the paint was removed. The door’s frame is wood but the recessed panels are made of fiber board or the like. When I scraped the paint from the panels, I was left with a cardboard-like surface. Cardboard garage doors aren’t big sellers for obvious reasons. Sections of wood are splintering at the bottom of the door. So, yeah, our garage door is on its last leg but at least it’s going out with grace.

After scraping, I hit up the paint store for a few paint samples.

stopgap garage door 2

I grabbed Benjamin Moore’s Steel Wool and Secret thinking they would pick up on the metal roof. (The photo above was taken after Steve went over the door and sample paint patches with an orbital sander.) Perfectly matching the roof is difficult because it reflects the sky and sun so it looks completely different on a cloudy, gray day than it does on a bright, sunny one with blue skies. At any rate, we chose Secret and bought two quarts of exterior paint from the Ben line to cover the door and our mailbox post which was looking rough, too.

The highlighted circles show where Steve and I spent an hour trying to scrape who-knows-how-old paint from the windows. I tried a razor blade, Goo Gone, fingernail polish remover…nothing worked well. We like the idea of garage door windows and wanted to reveal them. But after discovering how long it would to take to de-paint them and reminding ourselves that this was meant to be a quick and inexpensive temporary solution we opted to forget them and save days of our lives. (The interior side of the windows are painted as well so that would have doubled our work time.) Why someone would ever paint over perfectly good windows, I’ll never know (I’m guessing it was done out of fear of Peeping Toms or burglars) but we vow to buy a new garage door with windows when the time comes.

With the paint color selected and the decision made to keep the windows painted, I vacuumed the door and the paint chip-covered ground with the Shop-Vac. I wiped the door down with a wet cloth, let it dry then applied two coats of exterior paint in a low luster finish. I didn’t worry about primer. Again, STOPGAP. I also hit up the mailbox post (not shown) with the same taupe-gray as the door and brushed on two coats of white paint on the trim around the garage door.

stopgap garage door 3

I’m not 100% sold on the color of the finished door but it looks so much better. Steve and I joked that even a green door would have been an improvement. Steve also happily pointed out that the new color perfectly matches the DirectTV satellite. If you take away anything from this post let it be that Benjamin Moore Secret = DirectTV satellite gray. Haha. The safe thing would have been to go with white to match the trim but since we know this door isn’t staying forever we thought we’d try a color. I don’t know? I do think it would look better with windows. And don’t get me started on that awkward vinyl trim above the door. It’s so odd.

stopgap garage door 4

Admittedly, there was an ulterior motive for my madness. We’re scheduled to have our cracked asphalt driveway replaced with concrete in the coming weeks. I couldn’t stand the thought of having a nice, new driveway leading to a sad, peeling garage door. I have never been so excited about a driveway before in my life! We have saved our pennies for this. It always been on the renovation list.

As is, there is no “clean” way to reach our house. There’s a gap between the driveway and front walk. There’s a large piece of trodden yard separating the end of the driveway from the back patio where we enter the mudroom. And entering through the garage itself is a disaster and probably unsafe. The new driveway will be widened to meet the front walk and lengthened at the back of the house. We will add large square pavers with creeping Jenny in between them to meet the back dining patio. You don’t know how happy I am at the prospect of having (not one but) two paved ways to enter the house! Right now the majority of dirt in my house comes from dirty / muddy shoes walking up through the yard.

The driveway itself hold rocks, dirt, water and mud in all the cracks and low spots. It will be ripped out and excavated to make way for a wider and longer driveway. Concrete is our material of choice for its sustainability. It’s more expensive up front but will last longer and requires less maintenance than asphalt. Plus, we think it just looks better when driveways match their home’s walks and patios. Having a new driveway is really going to improve our home’s curb appeal. Our neighbors are going to be relieved. For two years, I’ve been cringing when I pull up to our house just because of the driveway. It’s baaaaaad.

stopgap garage door 5

So that’s how I spent my weekend in the warm weather. If you ask me, it was worth the $30 in supplies and two half-days of labor. The garage door is definitely looking better but I’d love to know your thoughts on the future door’s style and possible colors. White? A bluer gray that more closely matches the roof and decking? Also, what happens to that odd vinyl trim piece? Sometimes a third-party eye is better at this stuff.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

fiddle leaf fig 1

It’s been over two months since Mr. Fig came into my life. From the get-go I made a promise to myself to share whatever became of him – good or bad. I’ve read a bunch of stories of homeowners bringing home fiddle leaf figs but can’t find as much in the way of follow-ups. What’s going well? What went wrong? Rather than reading a list of care tips from a gardening website, I think it’s more helpful to see how real people care (properly or improperly) for their fiddle leaf figs.

fiddle leaf fig 2

So when new growth appeared at the top of my fig several weeks ago, I thought it might help to share how I’ve been caring for it. I am no expert. It used to be that everything green I touched turned brown but lately I’ve been able to keep all of my houseplants alive. What’s going on?! Many of things I’m doing aren’t secrets. In fact, many of the tips I’m utilizing were kindly offered up in the comments section of this post. Thank you!! (Mr. Fig thanks you as well.)

First up is location. Fiddle leaf figs love bright indirect light. My tree sits just inside a set of french doors and below two skylights on the north side of my house. This area is always bright but the sun’s rays never hit the plant directly.

The planter sits on a stand with casters so I can roll it out of the way to open the doors. The doors lead to a grilling patio which has seen absolutely zero action over the last six months. Now that the weather is getting warmer, we’ll probably be scooting the tree out of the way more often. I’ve thought about relocating it to the living room but it seems to really like this spot and I’m nervous about switching things up. More than likely, I’ll roll the tree outside when the weather is nice. While the tree is small, this setup will work but when / if this guy grows much, much larger I may have to rethink the location. I don’t rotate the tree regularly but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

fiddle leaf fig 3

The other big thing about fiddle leaf figs is watering without over- or under-watering. When I first brought the tree home, I was giving it a splash of water every 3-5 days but then someone mentioned that I should be flooding it then letting it dry out in between waterings. So that’s what I’m doing now. I pay attention to how the leaves are oriented and when things start looking droopy I wait another day or so to water. I also implement the lift test. When the leaves are droopy I lift the plastic planter out of the ceramic one. If the tree feels relatively light, then it’s time to water. That equates to watering every 7-14 days. From what I’ve heard, it’s better to under-water than over-water so when in doubt I err on the side of waiting it out a little longer in between waterings.

fiddle leaf fig 4

To water, I carry the tree over to the kitchen sink and set it inside. (Reason #99 why I love a single basin sink.) If the dirt seems extra dry, hard or compacted, I use a pencil and stab it into the dirt over and over to break things up and allow the water to reach the roots. I use the pull-down faucet to flood the planter with lukewarm water. I add water until I see it running through the bottom of the planter.

fiddle leaf fig 5

Then I let the tree sit in the sink while the water drains until it’s no longer dripping. I think it was a reader who told me not to immediately place the tree back in the ceramic (non-draining) planter. Apparently, letting the tree sit in a pool of water can cause root rot.

I fully realize that if the tree continues to grow (grow, grow little tree!) this method of watering isn’t going to work forever. I guess that’s when I start rolling the tree to the bathroom and giving it a shower? Forget finishing the second bathroom for the kids. It’s going to be the fiddle leaf fig bathroom. Hee-hee.

fiddle leaf fig 6

About once a month I wipe the leaves with a soft, damp cloth to remove dust and images of photosynthesis diagrams flash in my brain. Oh Calvin cycle, how I love thee.

I recently spray painted the rolling stand gold. (Yay for spray painting weather!) Not sure how this impacts the health of the tree but I’ve heard plants like to be courted. Singing to them, talking to them, displaying them on gold thrones…it can’t hurt.

And that’s how I’m not killing my beloved Mr. Fig. He isn’t the lowest maintenance guy but I don’t mind. I’m so happy he seems to like it here! I plan on fertilizing him this summer. And eventually I’m going to have to repot. I’ll keep you posted. Literally.

Do you have a fiddle leaf fig? How’s it going? Do you want a fiddle leaf fig? I would have bet money on the demise of any fig tree in my house knowing my reputation with houseplants. But trying out a small, inexpensive one has been successful! I hope I can keep it up.

I’ll be back later today with a regular Made Me Smile post. TGIF!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking