...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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Want in on a little secret? I decorated for Christmas before Halloween this year. Cue the record scratch.

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For two days in October I pretended it was December. Well, sort of. We normally do a live garland on the mantel and a live tree but those were nowhere to be found pre-Halloween. Mr. Fig was a somewhat believable stand-in. I rummaged through red and green totes in the attic. I saved empty boxes and wrapped fake presents pressies. (My apologies for misspelling the Aussie short form in my previous post. Google can’t be trusted.) I crafted paper dot garlands from glitter paper, a circle punch, hot glue and jute string. I found the cutest little cardboard Christmas tree at JoAnn’s. I rigged two of these paper star lights and one of these in the front window along with a few cheap & easy embroidery hoops turned 90º. Hint: Use fishing line. It’s strong and nearly invisible.

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I was simultaneously working on the kids’ Halloween costumes. My kids were baffled by my Christmas in October antics.

So why all the fuss? In short, Joss & Main asked me to be a part of their holiday campaign and I said yes. Deadlines were involved.

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The long answer? I’m only one of four bloggers participating in the #HolidayHostess campaign now through the end of the year. Each week a different blogger will be featured and you can shop their look via a flash sale. You also get an inside scoop on each blogger’s holiday traditions. Today is the first day of the campaign and I happen to be this week’s hostess. If you’re interested, you can check out the sale here and read about my holiday traditions here. There are some great pieces up for grabs. Act soon! The sale ends 12/9/14.

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In other news, we’re sticking with tradition and buying a live tree again this year. But I’m nervous! How does one go about keeping cute kitties out of Christmas trees?! You all were so helpful when we adopted Cheetah a few months ago. I’d love to hear your tips for surviving the holidays with a tree and kitty intact.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

A few coffee table items for those who enjoy inspiring (mostly home-related) reads and simplicity…

gift guide : coffee table


1 – The Public Library – An homage to public libraries across the country.

2 – acacia square plate – Use it as a kid-friendly tray for corralling loose coins, photos, remotes, coasters and lone Lego pieces.

3 – Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream – A legacy’s modern-meets-comfort vision in book form. Informative eye candy that deserves a spot in any home lover’s collection.

4 – A Frame for Life – A look at interior design from a human (not purely visual) perspective focusing on comfort and practicality.

5 – Neutra: Complete Works – For 20th century architecture geeks or those who just love good, nature-inspired design. Neutra’s works have a profound way of connecting the indoors with the outdoors.

6 – stone hexagonal coasters – Protect surfaces with these shapely coasters, available in black soapstone or white marble.

7 – Commune – On my personal wish list this year for its mix of texture & pattern, old & new. I love that it comes in an eye-catching book protector.

8 – paperweight magnifier – A sculpture with purpose. Great for young and old alike.

9 – bamboo vase – A non-glass vase for displaying blooms or stashing pens and pencils.

10 – rubber vase – For especially active households ;)

Need more ideas? Good reads for home lovers.

*BONUS* – Score 30% off (up to $10 off) one book from Amazon by using the promo code “HOLIDAY30” at checkout now through 11/30/14.

P.S. – Click here to see who won the Interior Define giveaway!

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Everyone knows the kitchen is the heart of the home. A few gift ideas for those who keep it warm…

gift guide : the kitchen


1 – acacia pizza peel – Perfect for pizza night.

2 – Thug Kitchen – Because cooking should be healthy and fun(ny).

3 – oil pourer, cruet – Hands down, the best oil / vinegar dispensers on the planet. No drips, no messes. You get a perfect pour every time. (We use the large one for olive oil and the small one for balsamic vinegar.)

4 – melamine bowl – Great for the kids’ snacks.

5 – gold foil kitchen print – Dancing makes everything better.

6 – sustainable bamboo trivets – Earth-friendly. Countertop-friendly.

7 – salt & pepper bottle grinders – Functional and beautiful. Two qualities of a perfect gift.

8 – One Pot – A fresh and easy take on comfort food. *BONUS* – Less dishes to wash.

9 – stainless steel straws – Eco-friendly. Kid-friendly. The only way our kids will drink the green juice we make.

10 – shallow maple bowl – Display fresh produce, or corral coffee and tea brewing supplies.

P.S. – Our juicer is still going strong after two years of almost daily use!

image: 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!

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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.



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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kitchen progress drywall


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.



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!



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



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