...because home doesn't happen overnight.

calvin & hobbes 5

My kids are OBSESSED with Calvin and Hobbes. It’s a daily read around here. I credit the comic strip with advancing Everett’s reading skills over the summer. It has prompted a lot of good questions from the kids, too. (“Mom, what does ‘pizzazz’ mean?”) Even though Calvin and Hobbes was a favorite of Steve’s when he was little, he never pushed it onto the kids. It just sorta happened. I think it was Layne who first chose a Calvin and Hobbes book at the library and it was love at first sight read.

So when I was brainstorming ideas for a blank sliver of wall next to the boys’ closet, a DIY mural of Calvin and Hobbes was the first thing that came to mind. Luckily, everyone else thought it was a cool idea, too.

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We searched high and low for an image that would fit the narrow wall space. We settled on a simple image of Calvin and Hobbes standing next to each other. Steve printed the image onto a transparency at work. (Shhhh, don’t tell.)

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We used a projector to project the image onto the wall. The projector is the same one we used for a similar project in our previous house. We borrowed it from Steve’s office and they told us to keep it because they had no use for it. I have no idea how the projector made the cut and managed to stay in the “keep” pile when we downsized. In fact, I thought we had given it away but Steve found it in the attic space above the garage last week.

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Steve traced an outline of the image onto the wall with a pencil. The image was a tad too wide. We didn’t want the bedroom door to obscure Calvin when opened. So after tracing Hobbes, Steve repositioned the transparency to move Calvin a little closer to Hobbes. Then he traced Calvin.

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Using paint we already had on hand (Clark + Kensington primer + paint in one, color-matched to Ace Paint color “besalt” D36-7 in a flat finish) and a small paint brush, Steve filled in the lines. It took two coats to get adequate coverage.

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The matte charcoal paint worked perfectly. The end result is similar to what you would find in print. Except it’s life-sized and on a wall.

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The area under the basketball hoop no longer feels like a void and the mural should hold up to free throws.

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For reference, here’s the same view with the bedroom door open.

Layne and Everett were away at their grandparents’ house when Steve painted the mural. Even though we had talked with them about creating a mural, the boys had no idea it was happening while they were away. They were so surprised (and excited!) to discover it when they came home. Everett talks to Calvin and Hobbes. It’s hilarious. And ironic. And awesome.

The best thing about the mural (other than it being FREE!) is that it’s easily “erased” with a coat or two of paint should the boys tire of it. But seeing as how their dad is still a fan after 25+ years, I don’t think Calvin and Hobbes are going anywhere.

Fun fact: Did you know Bill Watterson first created the popular comic strip characters in his spare time when not working at an advertising job he detested? The mischievous first grader and his tiger sidekick were originally side characters in a strip that was rejected by a syndicate.

How do you feel about wall murals? Would you consider painting your child(ren)’s favorite character on a wall? I would never agree to a character-themed mural on a wall in a main living area but when done in a kid’s space and in a simple, non-garish design, I think it’s harmless fun.

FYI - If you’re interested in DIYing a wall mural but don’t own a projector, try borrowing one from a local business, school, library or church.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

boys closet

Last year I created a series devoted to the closets in our home. In each post, I give a peek inside a particular closet and share its contents and how they’re organized. So far, I’ve shared the master bedroom closet, the mudroom wardrobes (here and here), the nursery closet and the linen closet at the end of the hallway. Today we’re taking a look at the closet in the boys’ room.

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Just as we did with the other bedroom closets, we removed the boys’ closet doors and replaced them with curtains. Originally, we hung curtains from a ceiling track mounted inside the door frame. But we quickly realized that setup didn’t allow us or the kids to fully access the closet contents. So we removed the track and hung a curtain rod high and wide outside the door frame. I hung four curtain panels from the rod and hemmed them so that they skim the floor. With the curtains hung higher and wider, we can easily slide them open to gain access to the entire closet. The rod and curtains are from Ikea.

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We designed and installed a ClosetMaid shelving system to utilize wall space. Baskets and modular bookcases keep things tidy. The woven baskets once lived on freestanding bookshelves in the room but I ended up selling the bookshelves to make room for a much needed dresser. (You can read more about why the bookshelf setup didn’t work for us here.) Luckily, I was able to reuse the baskets in the boys’ and Mabrey’s closets.

The top shelf holds a keepsakes tin, Beyblades and littleBits. The next two shelves hold costumes. The bottom shelf is actually two wire drawers. They hold the boys’ underwear and socks – one drawer for each boy. The basket and wire bin on top of the drawers hold the boys’ pajamas. The two bookcases on the floor hold books, blocks, Lincoln Logs, cars and a few miscellaneous toys like action figures and speed stacking cups.

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We also installed wire shelving in a recessed corner of the closet which provides even more storage. The shelves hold (from top to bottom) sleeping bags, a marble track and puzzles. A small rod gives the boys a place to hang a few items. (Obviously, most of their clothing is folded elsewhere in the room.) The basket on the floor is empty!

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Swoop bag holds Legos. I hung the bag at kid-height from a hook so the boys can get it down and hang it up on their own. The bag doubles as a Lego playmat and travels well. It’s been to our living room (haha), grandma & grandpa’s house and has even gone on vacation with us. I contemplated a color-coordinated organization system for the Legos but when I mentioned it to the boys they were all, “We don’t care if our Legos are all mixed up.” Well, then, I guess I don’t care either.

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The closet isn’t super tiny but, when you consider it is in a room shared by two kids and that the room doubles as a playroom for three kids, it fills up quickly. A few key elements that make the closet work for our family:

1) movable, organizational shelving to optimize wall space

2) two dressers elsewhere in the room for clothing storage

3) a carefully edited toy collection

4) bins and baskets for corralling like items

5) regular purging

Of course, my kids aren’t perfect. The closet doesn’t always look like this. It gets messy from time to time but having a designated place for everything makes cleanup quick and relatively painless.

What about you? How do you organize your child(ren)’s closet(s)? What works? What doesn’t?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

main bath tiled 1

Steve finished tiling the bathroom walls two weekends ago. Working in spurts around his real job, family life and appendectomy recovery, the entire process strung along for most of the summer. Between the uneven walls and Steve’s perfectionist tendencies, it wasn’t the most enjoyable DIY. The window wall put up a good fight. It was all kinds of wonky. And our choice of tile probably wasn’t the easiest to work with on the wavy wall. The narrow subway tile is extra long at 12″ which didn’t allow for much “play” along some of the most troublesome spots. Luckily, the worst spot (along the bottom of the window wall) will eventually be hidden behind the bathtub so it shouldn’t be too noticeable in the end.

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But we do have perfectly wrapped corners. (The water lines denote the vanity’s location.)

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And exact 90º angles. Those are always fun.

We are SO HAPPY with how the black pencil liner and bullnose trim turned out! I was a little worried about the profile of the pencil liner sticking out further than the subway tile but I actually love it. It’s a great finishing touch that’s simple yet sophisticated. And it gives the walls some added dimension, too.

With all the tile in, we started to second-guess our choice of white grout for the walls. The contrasting spaces between the subway tile looked decent so we contemplated a contrasting grout for a split second. But when we pulled back the cardboard protecting the hex floor tile, things felt very busy all of a sudden. So we decided to stick to our original choice of white grout.

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Which we tackled this past weekend! It was a joint effort and we let the kids fend for themselves while we knocked it out. Let’s just say, once we were finished, the rest of the house was looking waaaaaaaay scarier than the bathroom. When you have three kids and a bathroom remodel on your hands, you do whatcha gotta do. Sometimes the bathroom takes precedence while your kids run wild and eat whatever / wherever they want for a day. It’s all good.

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The freshly grouted bathroom! And a piece of unpainted baseboard for reference! I’ve never been so in love with a room that doesn’t serve any purpose (yet!).

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The grout is standard white unsanded grout from The Tile Shop. It’s the same color we used on the shower walls in the master bathroom.

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Pictures really don’t do this room justice. It’s difficult to photograph because of the small size and layout. Just being in the space – even sans fixtures – feels like a luxury. At one point, we considered only tiling the shower / tub area but I’m so, so glad we went for a tiled wainscoting around the entire room.

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I was having so much trouble capturing the room on camera that I went outside and snapped some shots through the window to give you a different perspective. Do you spy a glimpse of the open shelves in the living room?

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Someday, a toilet, vanity and wall sconce will live on this wall.

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Someday, towel hooks and shower / tub plumbing fixtures will live on this wall. Maybe one day we’ll even have a bathroom door. Who knows?! The possibilities are endless.

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Here you can see how the short hallway (to the bathroom) juts off from the main hallway. There’s a small linen closet to the left just beyond the bathroom. I don’t think I’ve ever shown this view before but, hopefully, it gives you a better idea of the bathroom’s location in relation to the rest of the house. Hint: on the other side of the right-hand wall is the kitchen desk.

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We still need to seal the walls, install baseboards and caulk. (The floor is already sealed.) Then we start work on the tub. We’re equal parts stoked : horrified. Especially considering what happened the last time we touched it. If anything, it should be a good learning experience. At least, that’s what we’re telling ourselves.

*Thanks to The Tile Shop for partnering with us on this bathroom remodel. Tile and grout were graciously donated to the project. All product choices, labor and opinions are ours.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

DIY Hmong pillow 7

Other than sporadic curtain hemming, I haven’t touched my sewing machine much over the last two years. So I took some baby steps towards more sewing by churning out two pillows last week.

DIY Hmong pillow 1

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Hmong pillows are having a good run in the design world. I jumped on that wagon a while back when I bought a Hmong lumbar cover for Mabrey’s room. Since then, I’ve purchased two more Hmong pillow covers. I love their imperfect tribal patterns, rich colors and the history behind them. I thought it would be fun to make a few for the boys’ room. This simple project was the perfect way to ease back into (hopefully more) sewing.

Hmong fabric tends to come in narrow widths which makes it ideal for lumbar or bolster pillows and even table runners. I purchased my fabric here and it was about 12″ wide and roughly 8′ long. I decided to make two lumbar pillows. I bought two 12″ x 20″ down pillow inserts to accommodate the 12″ width of my fabric.

FYI – Just in case you don’t already know…pillow covers should measure an inch or two smaller than their respective inserts for a nice plump pillow.

DIY Hmong pillow 2

There are a million and one tutorials out there for envelope pillows so I won’t bore you with another. I loosely followed this tutorial with a few tweaks to fit the measurements of my lumbar inserts. The only cuts I had to make were lengthwise (the 12″ width was perfect!) and I had two finished pillows in less than fifteen minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES. And that includes the time it took me to set up and thread my machine. The main thing to keep in mind is that you want an overlap of 5″ or so on the back of the cover so your insert doesn’t bulge out of the opening. Also, right sides facing in when you’re sewing.

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DIY Hmong pillow 3

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I’m happy with how they turned out. I spent about $34 on each pillow – cover + insert. It isn’t pennies but it’s definitely affordable when you consider most quality Hmong pillow covers (inserts NOT included) run upwards of $50.

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I tossed the new pillows on the bunk in the boys’ room but they could work just about anywhere. They would make great travel pillows, too.

I have a small scrap of fabric leftover from this project. I’m itching to make something with it. I might just have to bust out my sewing machine again. Whoa, baby steps. Setting the damn thing up is usually the rate-limiting step for me. Then I realize I don’t have any thread on my bobbin and I’m ready to quit before I’ve even started. How long has it been since you fired up the ol’ sewing machine? Are you working on any sewing projects?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking