...because home doesn't happen overnight.

indiana renovation IG

It all started with this post. I mentioned my thoughts on Ikea missing the mark by not offering an unfinished wood cabinet door / drawer front that could be painted any color of the rainbow. I absolutely loved all the comments (read through them if you haven’t already) on that post. There was one in particular that grabbed my attention. Megan commented that her sister, Whitney, had used painted Ikea cabinets in a kitchen remodel and linked to an instagram photo of the results. I had to know more. What began as a quest to discover how the painted cabinets came to be and how they were holding up, turned into a full on house tour. Read Whitney’s narrative and see the before, in-progress and after photos below.

indiana kitchen after 1

I bought my house three years ago after falling in love with a street in Fort Wayne, Indiana. After studying the block, I noticed one particularly dilapidated / vacant home. When I asked the next door neighbor what the story was she told me that an elderly lady had passed away and the house had been vacant for some time. My soon-to-be new neighbor gave me the son’s information and the rest is now history.

indiana entry

This is my second home. I learned so much the first time around that I knew I wanted to put some of my newfound skills to work on a bigger project.

indiana living room before 1

indiana living room in progress

indiana living room after 1

It wasn’t the plan from the start but somehow we decided to remove all the plaster and lath from the walls – ALL the walls. In short, my one-hundred-year-old house was completely gutted down to the studs. My dad, sister, husband and I did almost all the demo ourselves.

indiana dining room before

indiana dining room in-progress

indiana dining - kitchen after 1

We removed the wall between the dining room and kitchen, closed in a kitchen window, had all the knob-and-tube electrical replaced, properly insulated the walls and, finally, drywalled. After pulling up five layers of linoleum in the kitchen we realized the original pine floors were too damaged to save. We removed all the pine and replaced the kitchen flooring with unfinished red oak to match the rest of the first floor and then sanded and stained both the new and original hardwood a dark walnut finish.

indiana kitchen before 1

indiana kitchen before 2

indiana kitchen before 3

indiana kitchen in-progress

indiana kitchen after 2

When it came to work on the kitchen cabinets, I knew I wanted them to be gray. It was difficult to find a company that carried a gray cabinet in their line that was still in my budget. I received quotes from Kraftmaid and Clique Studios versus having them custom made. The quotes were between $6K – $9K for my small kitchen. More than I was willing to spend. My sister suggested buying Ikea cabinets and having them professionally painted so I read the reviews, did the math and decided Ikea was the way to go. We chose the white ADEL (no longer available) style as our base, but as a pleasant surprise, when we got to Ikea we found a discontinued ADEL style in birch (not advertised online) that was 50% off.

indiana kitchen open shelving

Phenicie Restoration did all the painting for close to $1,500 – all the cabinet fronts, side panels, toe kicks, open shelving (which we bought at Lowe’s and cut ourselves) and eight corbels. In hindsight, I probably would have cut all the trim and side panels first before sending them off to be painted, but because it was going to take a few weeks I was anxious to get the painting started while we installed the boxes.

After the side panels were painted we cut them using a jig saw through delicate painter’s tape to prevent chipping and splintering. The brand of paint Phenicie Restoration used was Sherwin Williams and the color I chose was “Wet Pavement” by Valspar. I was so pleased with how the cabinets turned out. They looked like I bought them gray from the manufacturer. The painters gave me a little jar of paint for touch-ups, knowing they’d need to be made eventually. Two years later I still love them. I have needed to touch up the corners here and there but it blends perfectly.

All in all, buying from Ikea and having them painted was more work but worth it for the money I saved. One great lesson learned was to triple check all the quantities of pieces sent to the painter. It wasn’t until after we got everything back that we realized we still had three drawer fronts tucked away among other Ikea purchases. But I can’t say enough good things about Ikea quality.

indiana dining buffet before

dining buffet after

The island we built between the dining room and kitchen encroached on dining space. So the idea for the banquette along the wall came quite naturally. I love all the imperfections in the antique buffet I found in our garage. Incorporating it into the banquette worked wonderfully.

indiana kitchen chimney

My favorite detail about my kitchen is the brick chimney we painstakingly uncovered under thick plaster.

indiana kitchen chalkboard sign

indiana DIY kitchen shelf

indiana living room after 2

indiana living room mantel

This house is very much a DIY group effort by myself, my husband, my sister and my dad. My dad has been a woodworker for 50 years. Being raised by a man who is always building something around the house has put home improvement in my sister’s and my blood. And slowly but surely my artist husband, Nate, is becoming one of us. Working on this house with my family has truly been a labor of love. I am looking forward to many more projects.

Resources of note:

KITCHEN

kitchen cabinets – Ikea
cabinet and banquette paint – Sherwin Williams paint, color-matched to wet pavement by Valspar
marble countertops – Marble Uniques in Tipton, IN
apron front sink – Kohler, Lee Supply
kitchen cabinet hardware – Lowe’s
kitchen faucet – Wayfair
appliances – Samsung, Lowe’s
floral prints under cookbook shelf – Rifle Paper Co.

DINING ROOM

pine dining room table, pine & pipe cookbook shelf – DIY, materials from Lowe’s
black glass buffet handles – Hobby Lobby
floral prints above banquette – Little Low Studio
dining chairs – Overstock
barstools – thrifted

LIVING ROOM

living room rug – RugsUSA
bench, wooden vase, stair wall picture frames – Target
sofa, chairs, industrial light, side table base – thrifted
wall mirror, globe – estate sale
throw pillow – Ikea
floral mantel prints – Lulie Wallace
fireplace mirror, entry table – vintage, thrifted
wall art – Kelly Ventura, Oh Gosh Cindy, Lulie Wallace, Rifle Paper Co., Little Low Studio
glass cloche, side table top – Crate & Barrel

**********************************************************************************************************************

Whitney, thank you SO MUCH for sharing your house-to-home story! And thank you, Megan, for introducing me to your lovely sister. You two make quite a team. I can only imagine how much time, sweat and love went into this transformation.

Okay, readers, how blown away are you? Me? Mind. Blown. I can usually spot an Ikea kitchen from a mile away but this one might have fooled me had I not known about the painted cabinets already. The custom cabinet color, exposed chimney, open shelving and fitted moldings give it that extra oomph to take it from just updated to something special. I am so happy that Whitney respected the 100+ year history of her home by choosing finishes and materials that complement the house’s character. Rehabbing the old buffet into a built-in banquette was ingenious. Did you happen to notice the black window frames? I asked Whitney about those. She said they are the original wood frames but she painted them black to make them pop. The cost? $20. Bang for your buck, folks.

This is why I love blogging. I love hearing and seeing others’ renovation stories. Even when the end result isn’t something I could achieve in my own home, I’m always inspired. When the storytellers allow me to share their experiences here with you, it’s icing on the cake. Do you have a project – big or small – that you would like to share on House*Tweaking? Please send submissions for consideration to housetweaking (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks in advance for letting me peek into your homes and lives.

images: Whitney Clappe-Utesch

food photo tips 1

So something funny happened. I used to strongly dislike cooking, but now I don’t. I still wouldn’t call it my passion (there are no plans for Food*Tweaking, ha!) but sometimes I actually find myself enjoying it.

What happened? I’m not exactly sure, but it didn’t happen overnight. I think a few things came in to play. I have more time to cook now that I stay at / work from home. My kids have become little foodies, critiquing my skills and offering to help out with meal prep. When I went dairy free, out of desperation I tried new recipes and ingredients and it exposed me to a whole new world of cooking. FYI – We aren’t completely dairy free anymore, but I haven’t bought cow’s milk in years. Now, Steve eats a mostly paleo diet and I try to accommodate him when I can.

I’ve also been using Blue Apron regularly for almost a year after our friends recommended the service. It’s helped me get out of the dinner rut of spaghetti and tacos – both of which I love but they aren’t very adventurous. I’m giddy every time the refrigerated box of fresh ingredients shows up at my doorstep. Especially when it’s the FIFTH snow day in a row and we’re low on food and I have no desire to brave the cold for groceries. I really like the new family plan which feeds our family of two adults + three children and then some. The new family meals are meant to be served family-style and are more affordable.

I’m so grateful for recipes shared online that I started sprinkling my favorite quick & easy go-tos in with other home-related content on the blog. Obviously, that forced me to take photos of food. All of a sudden cooking became yet another fun, creative outlet when viewed through my camera lens. *BONUS* – I get to eat the subject matter!

I’m definitely not a food styling expert by any means but I thought it might be fun to share a few of my food photography secrets. Kind of a behind-the-scenes look at recipe posts.

*I always photograph food in natural light. (But not always in black socks. No judgments! It was, like, -20°F!!) After some trial and error, I discovered that the best spot to shoot food in my house is on the floor just inside the french doors in our mudroom / dining room. The doors are north-facing and the bright, indirect light is perfect. Placing the food on some sort of backdrop on the floor makes it easy for me to get overhead shots. I’m not naming names because it isn’t my secret to tell but I know one highly regarded food blogger who styles and shoots food in her garage with the door partially raised because that’s where the best light is in her house. Whatever works! I also consider the mood of the dish when contemplating lighting. In general, for brighter, lighter foods I’ll shoot in the late morning on sunny days. For richer, more comforting foods, I’ll shoot on cloudy days or in the early evening.

*I always consider composition. It’s almost like decorating a room but on a much smaller scale. Sorta like creating a mood board but with food. A food board? Instead of lining up all the ingredients, I’ll arrange them organically. I try to balance colors and textures within the frame. My goal is for it to look pretty but imperfect and real. I’ll cut lemon slices, peel garlic, “spill” a little salt or crumble cheese. A little mess is okay! I add practical props. Measuring spoons and small bowls work well. I’m itching to add more props to my bag o’ tricks because my current inventory is lacking.

*I leave out raw meat and raw fish if possible. The same with labels unless they’re particularly helpful. They just don’t look all that appealing to me.

food photo tips 2

food photog tips 3

*I include one or two significant, in-progress shots. Again, I’m no chef and the recipes I share aren’t crazy complex so images of every step usually aren’t necessary. My kids really enjoy prepping so I’ll usually snap a few shots of them. (When we prepare a Blue Apron meal, Everett’s job is to read the instructions to me step-by-step. It knocks out his reading homework for the day. Win-win.) Needless to say, it’s difficult to supervise the kids, photograph and cook at the same time!

food photo tips 8

food photo tips 6

*I shoot several different angles of the finished product. That’s mostly for fun. I never know which angles are going to make the cut until I edit the photos. If the kids are cooperating, I’ll set the table quickly. If not, it might be just a few close-ups. If the dish is especially decadent, I like to include a half-eaten or empty plate, too. It’s a good “the end” image.

food photo tips 5

The recipe shown here is one of the new family meals offered by Blue Apron. It’s the chicken scallopini with roasted broccoli & whole wheat farfelle. Paleo Steve ate only the chicken (I left one breast free of flour) and broccoli. The kids and I loved it all! The roasted poblano chilaquiles with sunny side-up eggs and avocado sound pretty amazing, and the filipino-style beef picadillo with chayote squash & jasmine rice is a family favorite that I keep on standby.

If you have been wanting to try Blue Apron, now’s your chance. The first 100 readers will get two meals free-of-charge when they place their first order! Just click here. And, as always, shipping is free.

Do you have any tips for food styling or photography? Any great food stylists I should check out for inspiration? Were you surprised by the food on the floor in the mudroom? My black socks? Ha!

*This post sponsored in part by Blue Apron. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

P.S. – The evolution of my photography.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

sesame asparagus 6

Today I thought I’d share my favorite way to prep (and eat!) asparagus. It’s quick, super easy and deceptively flavorful…three must-haves for my ideal recipes. Enjoy!

sesame asparagus 2

SESAME ASPARAGUS SPEARS WITH LEMON MAYO DRIZZLE

1 bunch asparagus (I prefer thinner spears for ease of cooking and better flavor.)*

1-2 T. sesame oil*

salt to taste

¼ c. mayonnaise*

juice of ¼ of a lemon*

*preferably organic

sesame asparagus 3

Warm the sesame oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Cut ~1″ off the thicker, bottom ends of the asparagus spears and add to the pan. Season with salt.

sesame asparagus 4

Sauté, mixing periodically, until the spears are bright green and tender but not mushy. (About 5 minutes.)

sesame asparagus 5

While the asparagus cooks, add the mayonnaise to a small dipping bowl. Squeeze in the juice of one quarter slice of a lemon. Stir well until smooth.

sesame asparagus 1

sesame asparagus 7

For an appetizer, serve the asparagus on a small platter with the lemon mayo on the side as a dip. For a side dish, serve the asparagus on a plate with your entrée and drizzle the lemon mayo over the spears. (This dish pairs well with fish as seen here.) There’s something about the salty sesame and creamy lemon that just does it for me. It’s soooo tasty!

Do you have a favorite way to prepare asparagus? It’s such an easy, go-to veggie when you’re looking for something simple.

P.S. – More easy recipes: harvest salad, quick fall beans, I can’t believe it’s not apple pie!, chicken marbella, ham & pesto hot sandwich.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking