...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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It’s no secret that I’m slightly obsessed with tiny houses. There’s something about fitting life into a tiny, tidy dwelling that appeals to me. I love the way it encourages creative space planning, minimal possessions, intentional choices, practical organization, financial responsibility, eco-friendly features and a reliance on community. We are a family of five living in ~1,600 square feet and I often dream of living in a smaller home. So when a long-time reader and her husband offered to share their tiny house story, I was all ears (and eyes). I’m happy to share their story with you today. I found it so inspiring and I think you will too.

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LeAnne and Derek bought a foreclosed fixer-upper shortly after graduating college and getting married. The original plan was to DIY the house into a modern cabin. But after a few grueling months of renovating and living in an apartment off-site, they made a conscientious choice to turn a small, detached garage into their living space. Find out more about their 350-square-foot tiny home (affectionately named “Bunker”) below. Plenty of photos included!

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What prompted you to convert your detached garage into living space?

When we purchased the foreclosed property in January 2014, we immediately started on the house which was a wreck. After a couple of months of renovating and an impending apartment lease coming to an end, we knew we needed to either resign a year lease or come up with a better option.  At the time, we were living in a 550 sq. ft. studio apartment in downtown Indianapolis, so living in a garage didn’t seem too far-fetched! Before Bunker was Bunker, she was the garage that was holding all of our tools, leftover doors, windows, and anything else we thought we may want to save. I specifically remember standing in that little garage crammed full of stuff and trying to imagine all of Derek’s ideas. He really was and is the visionary behind this project.

In April 2014, we officially switched our focus from Longshot (the house) to Bunker (the garage). Our original goal was to be moved into Bunker by June, but a stop work order hanging from our door two weeks before the move kept that from happening. We ended up going through the whole inspection process and moved into Bunker October 1st, 2014.

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What were your must-haves for the space?

His? Tall countertops. Mine? A closet. We actually ended up with both! Our kitchen is Ikea but we did the countertops ourselves. Ikea has a variety of legs to choose from, so adding height wasn’t a problem.

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The closets are Ikea wardrobes. We put two separate units together to create a closet space and to break up the “box” feeling of Bunker. We didn’t come up with the closet idea until three weeks before moving in. I was getting a little nervous about how we were going to store things!

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How did you make the utilitarian space feel cozy and livable? (i.e., How did you make the space feel less like a garage and more like a home?)

Our style has morphed into comfortably modern with an industrial cabin twist. Is that a style?! Every piece or detail in Bunker has been chosen just for her. Decorating a small space has been great because it forces me to be very intentional with what I buy. If I don’t have a quiet squeal moment in the store, I won’t buy it. My favorite pieces that add to the cozy factor is our DIY painted (blue!) refrigerator, our orange Ikea couch (which is also a full sleeper), and the cedar accents throughout the house.

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What is the hardest thing about living in 350 sq ft? The easiest?

The hardest part is keeping it clean. The easiest part also happens to be keeping it clean. With such a small area, when mail is sitting on the kitchen table, the whole place looks cluttered! The good news is that cleaning up takes barely any time at all. I try to straighten it up every morning before I leave for work. Then when I get home, I can swing open the double doors and don’t have to worry about it looking like a disaster. I would not describe myself as a clean freak, so our home has forced me to be more organized.

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What is your favorite Bunker project to date? Least favorite?

My favorite is the cedar siding wall we created to cover up the backs of the closets. It was a Sunday afternoon and I had mentioned that I would LOVE to get something to cover up the closets and shoes. We headed to Home Depot and strolled through the aisles. We came across packs of cedar siding and I quietly squealed. The project was so simple. The cedar planks were already the exact length of our closets. We just lined them up and screwed them in! Within an hour, we had a great accent wall for under $50.

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My least favorite would have to be the DIY steel & wire railing in the loft. I absolutely love the way it turned out in the end but it took a while to dream up, assemble and finish. In the meantime, I was sleeping in a loft with no railing to keep me from falling. The railing was Derek’s baby. We bounced around a lot of ideas. (We went months without any railing.) Eventually, we settled on steel frames with a single wire roped through a pulley system. The black portion of the railing is leftover metal roofing material, trimmed out in leftover cedar. My husband completely geeked out during this project and I love the way it came together.

Are you motivated to start work on the house now that you’ve conquered Bunker? Or are you content living in Bunker for a while?

This is a constant topic of discussion between the two of us. At this point, we are planning on being in Bunker for a few more years. We really enjoy what we have made, the convenience, and how much money we’re saving. (Our mortgage is 85% less than what we were paying in rent.) Longshot is currently being used as a workshop. We aren’t necessarily committed to any one thing and are keeping our options open.

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What is your next project?

As you can see from some of the pictures, we are still working on finishing touches. Most of the trim has yet to be completed. I have been avoiding some painting projects, and we would like to work on the outdoor patio area and landscaping.

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I have never been a flower girl since I prefer to eat plants instead of smell them. Therefore, we opted to do edible landscaping this year. We tilled up some beds around the house and grew kale, cabbage, tomatoes, onions and lots of herbs. We also had our first ever garden which keeps me on my toes! Next year, I would like to trim out the beds and mulch. One thing at a time. As with most homes, there are ALWAYS projects!

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Are there any other tangent stories or details you’d like to share?

We like to keep it real in the Lavender household so you must know that living in a tiny home isn’t always glamorous. When we first moved in, we were essentially taking over the space from spiders, mice and, the worst creatures of all, crickets. There was a point where we were literally up several nights in a row at 3:00 a.m. desperately trying to find the crickets that were chatting with each other. One of my favorite memories is my husband standing on the kitchen countertop sporting a head lamp with shop-vac in hand, trying to vacuum up a cricket when it would peek out of a crack in the concrete. There were many sleepless nights…which made us realize we are NOT ready for children ;)

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On a final note, Bunker was a complete DIY project except for the electrical work (which Derek did do, but when we got busted by the county, they made us tear it out and hire an electrician) and the water line.

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Thank you, LeAnne and Derek, for sharing a big peek at your tiny life!

You can see more of LeAnne and Derek’s tiny house on their blog. I have to say, I’m so envious of the couple’s mindfulness at such a young age. We could all stand to learn a thing or two from them: living within your means, choosing patience over instant gratification, making the most of what you have, being resourceful with DIY and having the courage to resist the (expensive!) norm. As for Bunker, she’s quite the cutie. I love the mix of homey accents (warm wood tones, sputnik chandelier, greenery, etc.) and practical elements (concrete floors, freestanding wardrobes, double screen doors, etc.).

Would you ever consider living in a tiny house? What would be on your must-have list? I don’t think I could live happily without a washer + dryer.

If you’re interested in reading more about tiny houses, I’d highly recommend Tiny House Living and The Big Tiny. And I really enjoy seeing how one growing family is making their tiny house work for them.

images: LeAnne Lavender

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The kids and I were in Florida last week visiting my grandparents. There was a stack of mail waiting for me when we returned home. I was happy to find a copy of Ikea’s newest catalog among the stack of envelopes and shelter glossies. I had thought the catalog’s official release date was August 15th. I was surprised to see it show up in my mailbox so early. At any rate, I devoured it in one sitting. I made a list of the items and ideas that caught my eye. I thought I would share them with you today. In an effort to avoid ruining the novelty for others, I won’t be sharing photos of each item. I’d love for you to experience the catalog on your own then refer to my list if you feel inclined to do so. UPDATE: If you aren’t able to get a catalog in your hands, you can view it online here. Let’s get started!

*pg. 6, 61, 198 With its minimal design and small footprint, the LISABO dining table is ideal for small spaces.

*pg. 7, 63, 197 I actually spied the MÖCKELBY dining table several weeks ago at my local Ikea. It was love at first sight. The piece is a modern take on the trestle table. I predict it will become a best seller. FYI: I originally read the description as solid oak, meaning this was a solid oak table through and through. After further clarification, it appears the table is particleboard with a solid oak top layer.

*pg. 8-9 I have been (im)patiently waiting for the highly anticipated line from Ilse Crawford. It looks like I will have to wait a bit longer. The SINNERLIG collection debuts this fall but I’m already in love with the natural materials and textures. The cork furniture (dining table, bench, stools) and bamboo pendant lamp ($60!) are my favorite pieces.

*pg. 15 Metallic gold tape turns a basic white fridge into a fun statement. Easy and inexpensive!

*pg. 25, 60, 179 The RISATORP wire basket is pretty, practical and versatile. I can see it being utilized in almost any room to corral food, toys, linens, art supplies, toiletries, mail, books, etc. Also, the pantry on page 25 is dreamy.

*pg. 33 The affordable HINDÖ shelving unit with cabinets has an industrial vibe. I would use it in a kitchen, dining room or creative studio for combined open and hidden storage.

*pg. 81 The SITTNING tea light holders (made of natural stone) and small chopping boards (made of oiled acacia) are less than $5 a pop! I’ll definitely be grabbing a few of each.

*pg. 85 An interactive, kid-friendly wall features chalkboard paint halfway up the wall topped with shelving and knob hooks. A unique idea for a playroom or basement family room.

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pg. 141 (Probably my favorite page of the entire catalog.) I love everything about this bathroom! I’m so happy the GODMORGON cabinet is still available. (We love ours!) The bamboo countertop option warms things up and the TÖRNVIKEN vessel sink finally solves the problem of standard water traps crowding drawer space.

pg. 167 Yay for a dark nursery!

pg. 176 The INGEFÄRA pot combines a traditional material (terracota) with a modern design (deep saucer) at a ridiculously cheap price point of $2-$4 depending on size.

pg. 187 Ikea has been keeping kitchens organized for a long time with various containers. Add the KORKEN jar to that list.

pg. 198 The simple design of the IDOLF chair works with nearly any table style. I’m especially fond of the added support detail just under the seat. It reminds me of a Thonet.

pg. 208 Good-looking yet affordable ceiling lights are few and far between. The new VARV ceiling lamp checks both boxes.

pg. 237 The HILVER table boasts warm wood tones with white accents and clean lines. I like the idea of using it as a desk in the corner of a living room or home office.

pg. 272 I’m diggin’ the hardware-less 2-drawer OPPLAND chest for less than $100.

pg. 286 I always fall for Ikea’s cheap, flatwoven rugs. The TÅNUM and SIGNE do not disappoint.

pg. 292 I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the NORDRANA baskets before. They’re constructed of polypropylene (the same material used for outdoor rugs) and washable. They’d be perfect hanging in a bathroom for easy and accessible storage.

pg. 304 Your kids want brightly colored plastic toys. You prefer wooden ones. The LILLABO cars are the perfect compromise.

pg. 305 I think Mabrey needs the DUKTIG cash register ;)

That’s my list! Overall, I really enjoyed browsing the new catalog. I like how Ikea shows many of their products in different settings on more than one page so you get a feel for how they might look in real life. I also thought the styling felt layered and lived-in…always a good thing in my book. One area that I thought was lacking this year was the bedding category which surprised me because I usually love their inexpensive bedding options. Have you flipped through the catalog yet? I’d love to know what caught your eye!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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I’ve been meaning to paint the mudroom doors black since the day we moved in over three years ago. I finally got around to it. Why do I put off little things like this for so long??!!

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During renovation we had pre-primed french doors installed to replace original sliders out to the backyard. This is our main entrance / exit in real life. It’s where we put on and take off shoes, bring in groceries and mail, hang up jackets and unload backpacks and lunch boxes. Needless to say, the white was never white. It showed every dirty fingerprint and was impossible to keep clean.

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I used Glidden’s trim & door paint in deepest black. It’s the same paint I used on the french doors in the kitchen. (Which begs the question, why didn’t I paint the mudroom doors at the same time?) It was leftover which was nice because it’s a little pricey. The oil “paint” is more like a gel. It has the consistency of finger paint but, please, don’t apply it with your fingers ;) You don’t stir it and it has a strong odor. Cure time is longer, too. It took three coats to cover the white. Keeping the kids and kitty at bay was probably the hardest part.

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The black hides fingerprints and the extra high gloss finish is super easy to wipe down. I love that this paint is dramatic AND practical.

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It irks me that the doors in the mudroom are recessed while the ones in the kitchen are flush with trim surrounding them. This stems from the fact the mudroom doors were once sliders and the kitchen doors were once a window. I don’t really prefer one design over the other; I just wish they were the same for consistency’s sake. It’s one of those minor details we overlooked during renovation. Ah, live and learn. Catch you next time french doors.

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The way the newly painted doors frame the view out back is icing on the cake.

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While I was at it, I went ahead and touched up the paint on the exterior side of the doors, too. (It’s evening hush by Behr in a satin finish, and it matches the front door.) It was nicked up from keys and such, and it really stood out to me once the interior sides were freshly painted.

Btw, the DIY outdoor art still looks great two years later!

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My painting streak didn’t stop there. I painted the exterior side of the french doors off the kitchen as well. (Again, it’s evening hush by Behr.) They’re Cheetah’s doors.

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Every morning she meows at the doors until we open one so she can closely watch the birds, rabbits, neighborhood cats and deer frolicking in our backyard. As you can see in the photo two images up, we keep sliding screens on the doors so Cheetah can’t escape. (We have screens for the mudroom doors, too, but they’re a little cumbersome to open and close numerous times per day so we don’t use them all that much.)

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I sorta fret over the doors being painted two different colors, inside and out. But it really isn’t a big deal. I think it helps that they’re both dark colors.

It feels good to finally cross all those painted doors off the list. What tedious projects are you putting off / tackling these days?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking