...because home doesn't happen overnight.

gibson family

Sarah (a graphic designer), Kalyn (a finance guy) and Finn (a peppy schnauzer) live in a small Ohio town in their 1,100 sq. ft. starter home. I’ve been following Sarah’s blog for years and our offline lives finally collided when I started renting a studio space downtown. (Sarah works part-time for an interior designer in the same warehouse.) I’ve long admired Sarah’s creativity, DIY skills and knack for styling so I was crazy excited when she welcomed me into her home for a tour. Get a peek inside and read Sarah’s thoughts on everything from buying a foreclosure to hanging wallpaper to living in a small town…

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On buying a fixer-upper: It was never our intention to purchase a fixer-upper. We looked at multiple homes with our realtor and this was the only house that required a renovation. I fell in love with the original character of the home and loved the fact that it was built in the early 1900s. It had obviously been neglected and sat empty and overgrown for more than two years. The stench upon walking in the front door was enough to avert even a serious buyer. I suppose we were the lucky crazy ones who decided to tackle this project. It just made sense for us financially (we bought it for less than the price of a brand new car) and we were capable of completing the majority of the construction ourselves. I also jumped at the opportunity to really make a house our home. Many of the properties we viewed just didn’t feel like us and were priced higher, meaning we had no additional room in the budget to make adjustments…so we settled on the foreclosure.

It was an insane amount of work and took over a year to complete but I’m so proud of what we’ve created and, more importantly, that we built this space together. Our first Thanksgiving in the home (two years ago with no heat), we skipped a warm and cozy dinner with our families, opting to stay in the house instead, reworking the plumbing and electrical. I remember setting up our camping table and chairs, eating fast food, shivering in our Carhartt overalls and laughing about our terrible Thanksgiving meal in our new home. We couldn’t envision ever having a completed or furnished dining room. I also remember my embarrassment the day Kalyn had a port john delivered, which sat in our driveway next to a dumpster during most of the renovation. Later, I was thankful to have a “restroom” while working on the home but even more grateful we didn’t live in the house during the chaos of construction and days without plumbing. Before my blog, Room for Tuesday, was up and running, I started a personal Tumblr to share with family, solely devoted to the transformation of our house. The before and after images are unrecognizable (luckily) but it’s fun to look back at where it began.

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On compromising with your husband: Aside from hanging wallpaper together (which I would not recommend doing with your significant other), the living room floor plan has been our biggest challenge. Of course being the typical guy, he wants a huge TV. Normally, I would be cool with that but our living room is tiny. There is a giant fireplace and three windows, leaving only one viable wall for the TV. Long story short, we have two focal points: the TV and the fireplace. This does not sit well with me but it’s something I live with because I know that ugly eyesore of a TV makes him happy.

I will say, I am super thankful he allows me to get my way 90% of the time because he trusts my interior instincts. He’s also pretty creative himself and many fantastic ideas have manifested in his brain rather than my own (hallway wainscoting, landscaping, and bathroom expansion, to name a few).

On living with a rambunctious puppy: A week before our shoot, Finn decided to destroy the tufted back cushions on our sofa. Kalyn walked into a house filled with fluff and I immediately began to panic. My quick fix and cost-effective solution was to buy a variety of down throw pillows to line the sofa back. It’s definitely less expensive than a new sofa but I think it’s a sign we should upgrade. Kalyn has complained about our sofa being uncomfortable since the day it arrived so maybe it’s a happy accident.

Living with a large, high-energy dog can be challenging. Our windows are never clean and always have nose prints. Our freshly painted walls are now a little scuffed up, and our newly refinished floor is scratched but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It didn’t take long to achieve that “lived in” look, ha! The one thing he has going for him: no shedding.

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On creating flow: This has been one of our greatest construction challenges. The home originally was very closed in but we love open concept layouts. After determining which walls were load-bearing, we wanted to open up as much as we could. We increased the traffic area between our dining room, hallway and living room (it’s the weird center intersection you see in the photos). We also knocked out a wall between the kitchen and dining room but then rebuilt a pony wall. It made the kitchen larger, dining room smaller and helped to designate an area for the dining table and bar credenza. I like the functionality. It hides anything on the countertop so guests in the dining room aren’t looking at a mess. It also provides a bit of separation, without feeling closed off.

Floor planning and furniture just fell into place, for better or worse. Most key pieces could only fit into one configuration. That’s the trouble with small houses. For instance, the master bed had to be placed in front of a large window; it wouldn’t fit elsewhere. The guest bed had to be positioned in its current space because of an architectural built-in that hides the pitch of our basement stairs. Perhaps the living room has been the most challenging because of the TV.

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On those gutsy green walls in the dining room: Green tones have always been in my comfort zone. I know many people favor navy and calming blues but it’s always been green for me. I treat it like a neutral. It was the first paint color I selected for the house. I try to sprinkle it throughout our home with houseplants and accessories so it feels cohesive and acts as a common thread of color.

To this day, the Breuer dining chairs are my best find! I can’t even believed I snagged them for so cheap. This is the before, after and tutorial on reupholstering. They’re some of my favorite vintage items in our home!

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On dressing up the mundane: I recently took a seminar on millwork and the importance of scale, proportion and keeping trim historically accurate. Moulding is supposed to make you feel safe. It sounds insane but that is its purpose! It looks as though it’s helping to hold things up and in place structurally. I tried to be sensitive to keeping the base and crown accurate to the original trim, as well as adding woodwork in places that could be enhanced (wainscoting in the hallway and bi-fold closet doors in the guest room).

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On splurging: My favorite splurge would definitely be the bed in our master bedroom. I custom designed the piece, from sketching the waffle tufting, scale, specifying my favorite cognac leather and even the charcoal wood tone on the tapered legs. It’s perfect and we’re so glad we upgraded to a king, even though it’s a little tight in the room.

On living with two closets: I’m not going to lie. Living with two closets is the worst. Without our basement, this house wouldn’t work for us; it’s definitely been our saving grace for storage. We’re big outdoor enthusiasts and with that comes a lot of gear. We love camping, skiing, hiking, kayaking, etc… so our equipment is divided between our basement and garage. I’ve also learned to shop smarter. We try to spend our money on quality, key pieces, rather than quantity… simply because we have limited space.

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Originally, the house had three closets. We sacrificed a small linen closet in the hallway to expand the bathroom. The toilet now sits where the closet used to be. It was a tough decision but I’m confident we made the right one.

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On minding the details: I’m such a detailed-oriented person! The original doors in the home had beautiful glass knobs. I tried to restore them but they were cracked, foggy and too far gone. I wanted to keep the hardware details and moulding as close to the original as possible. Kalyn sourced the glass doorknobs online and demanded to have skeleton keys (his grandpa used to collect them) so I rolled with his idea and they turned out great. Although, guests sometimes are confused and lock themselves in the bathroom :)

The kitchen cabinetry hardware is from a small, family-owned business in Connecticut. Each piece is handmade and special. I wanted a variety of hardware (knobs, handles, cup pulls, etc.) in the same finish.

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On living in a small town: Our town is so small that it isn’t even considered a “town.” We live in a village and don’t have a mailman! That’s right, Finn and I walk to the post office everyday to retrieve our mail and packages. Kalyn and I both grew up on farms and, let me tell you, this is larger than where we come from. Ha! We love having a yard that backs up to a cornfield, the freedom to have campfires and enough space for a garden. Someday we’d love to be closer to the city but, for now, this location makes sense for us. It’s quaint!

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Thank you for sharing your lovely home, Sarah!

Isn’t this space amazing?! Obviously, I love the overall renovation but what I noticed most in person were all the little details like the crown moulding, beefy baseboards, wainscoting, trimmed out bulkhead (in the kitchen), hardware, light fixtures, carefully curated vignettes and artwork on display. Every time I spotted a vintage camera or schnauzer paraphernalia it made me smile. What caught your eye? Did you happen to spy the rose gold recessed lighting in the kitchen? Such a pretty and understated surprise!

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Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore super white
flooring – red oak, stained with Minwax’s dark walnut
curtains – Ikea
sofa – West Elm with Restoration Hardware pillows
coffee table – West Elm
armchair – West Elm
magazine holder – Crate & Barrel
ceiling fan – YLighting
horse sculpture – etsy
wall sconce – Ikea
wood candleholders – West Elm
media console – STOR New York
peony art – local artist Katie Stratton
horse photograph – F2IMAGES

cabinets – Kraftmaid
hardware – Colonial Bronze Company
sink – Kohler
faucet – Brizo
countertops – Silestone
backsplash – The Tile Shop
pendant – vintage
rug – vintage

wall color – Sherwin Williams evergreens
table – Ikea
chairs – vintage, reupholstered
pendant – CB2
art – Leftbank
sideboard – vintage

wallpaper – Hygge & West
light – DIY, Home Depot
rug – vintage
hardware – Anthropologie
brass chevron hanger – Target

bed – West Elm
nightstand – vintage
bedding – Urban Outfitters
automobile photograph – Minted
closet knobs – Anthropologie

accent wall paint – Benjamin Moore black panther
bed – custom, Lee Industries
nightstands – vintage, DIY
bedside lamps – Ralph Lauren
pendant – YLighting

vanity – Ikea
mirrors – Miles & May
wall sconces – West Elm
subway tile – The Tile Shop
hexagon floor tile – The Tile Shop
art – Lauren Stern
glass doorknobs – Look in the Attic & Co.

bench – CB2
animalia hooks – vintage, CB2, HomeGoods
engineer print & frame – DIY
pendant – Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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We’ve been living with TWO bathrooms for almost a year. It still feels like a luxury after sharing one bathroom for nearly three years. I get a lot of questions wanting to know how the main bathroom is or is not working for us. Now that we’ve lived with it a while, I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts on the space: things I’m loving, things I would change if I had it to do over and how I’m keeping the room looking as good as new. (Hint: It has something to do with The Honest Company and their promise to deliver safe and effective products at an affordable price point. I’ve been using their products for years on my own, unsolicited, and am happy to share a discount from Honest at the end of this post. If you aren’t interested in the offer, feel free to skip it but I hope you still find this post helpful when/if you’re brainstorming a bathroom renovation.)

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First up, the tub and its DIY cradle base are solid. We LOVE them. I was really nervous about losing the claw feet and adding the wood base (which we kind of made up as we went) but the setup turned out beautifully. Steve did a superb job contouring the wood cradles to match the profile of the tub because the tub hasn’t budged, not even a wiggle. The cradles are protected with Waterlox so inevitable bath time splashes aren’t a problem. I’ve only managed to take one bath in the deep tub but it was glooooorious. It needs to happen again. And I’m even not a fan of baths. Scratch that. I made it happen last night.

Many people warned us about cumbersome showers in an old cast iron tub, claiming water would spray everywhere and the curtains would stick to wet bodies. Surprisingly, neither of those things have been an issue. As long as we remember to close the curtain (there are actually two separate liners that enclose the entire tub), water from the shower head stays in the tub. Using liners with weights along the bottom and running the ventilation fan during showers prevents the liners from billowing into the shower and doing that annoying curtain-to-skin-contact thing.

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If there is one thing I would go back and change, I’d add recessed wall niches near the tub, if possible, to hold toiletries. As is, we only have a small rack on the plumbing kit. It’s big enough to hold the kids’ shampoo + body wash and a bottle of bubble bath from The Honest Company but it would be nice to have a little more room for rinsing cups and guests’ toiletries.

By the way, we’ve been using the shampoo + body wash as a family for years and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Steve even uses it. Real men use body wash. Ha! Obviously, the combined function is ideal for small bathrooms. It’s one less bottle in the shower. It’s naturally tear-free (it contains no added numbing agents like other tear-free products) and super gentle which makes it perfect for kids AND color-treated hair. Plus, it smells delicious. My favorite part, though, is that since it is soap-free we don’t get the nasty pink build-up caused by bacteria feeding on residual soap scum. It’s a win-win-win situation.

One thing that was a little unexpected is the height of the shower head. It’s slightly lower than what we’re accustomed to. It’s because the floor of the tub is higher than a standard tub or shower pan, and the ceiling is 8′ so we didn’t have extra vertical space to work with. It’s not a deal breaker, just something we’ve noticed. Steve and I have taken showers in the bathroom with no problem. Oh! And we remedied the leaky shower head. The company sent us a replacement. Problem solved.

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Overall, I would do this whole tub / cradle base / shower setup again but I’d consider the addition of a wall niche or two.

I wouldn’t change a thing about the wall and floor tile. I’m so happy we took the subway tile to the ceiling in the tub area and then carried it around the rest of the room at a height of ~41″. It’s super easy to wipe down and, with kids, that’s definitely a pro. I’m also glad I threw in the pencil liner detail at the last minute but, in my opinion, the best part of the bathroom is the hex tile on the floor. It was an absolute pain to install but totally worth it in the end. The black travertine hex paired with a light gray grout has proven to be extremely kid-friendly. Our boys seem to be, um, distracted when using the bathroom. Still, their stray streams (if you catch my drift) haven’t discolored the tile or the grout.

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After trying various store-bought and homemade cleaning solutions on the travertine hex with subpar results (I was usually left with a hazy film on the matte tile), I turned to Honest‘s bathroom cleaner and couldn’t be happier. It cleans mean and smells nice.

As for the square toilet, it’s a good thing it’s cute. It’s comfortable to the tush (inquiring minds want to know) and I love the modern shape against the old tub, but I didn’t even consider how difficult it would be to clean the interior of a square toilet. (!) Without giving away too many repulsive details, the corners can get pretty gross. I avoid chemical-based toilet cleaners because I like this planet we live on, but my homemade concoctions were no match for this toilet. I needed something thicker that could be easily directed toward the offending corners. Enter Honest‘s toilet cleaner. The natural ingredients work like a charm and have the faintest, most pleasant eucalyptus scent. It’s the best. Ever. Hands down. Seriously. HAVE YOU ORDERED THIS TOILET CLEANER YET? Yes, I’m attempting to proselytize toilet cleaner. This is what happens when you own a square toilet. My only words for someone considering a toilet with a square bowl are “How bad do you want it?”

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I wasn’t sure how the double handle sink faucet would go over with the kids but it’s worked well. If anything, we’re using less hot water because it’s easier for them to just turn on the cold. I’m NOT a fan of the vanity. Save for a basket (which I added) and a small drawer too low to be of much use, the vanity provides no real storage. If I had to do it again, I would go with a white version of the same floating Ikea vanity in our master bathroom. Yes, it’s ubiquitous, but for good reason. For starters, it’s affordable. The deep drawers provide ample storage and the floating design is practical for small bathrooms. The recessed medicine cabinet is totally saving my a$$. We’d be lost without it.

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Not having to share a bathroom with the kids means the master bathroom stays cleaner longer. We like having a bathroom close to the main living area, too. And I think our guests appreciate not having to pass through our bedroom to use the bathroom anymore. That always felt awkward. I love you second bathroom.

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And, obviously, I love Honest products. This is a sponsored post which means I’m being compensated to share my thoughts about the company with you. But it’s easy when it’s a brand I’ve been subscribing to and paying for on my own for years after buying and reading The Honest Life. Without being preachy, the book raised my awareness of what’s really in the products we bring into our home. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about making informed decisions. The subscription service ensures that I have only what I need when I need it. I can easily edit my bundles and shipping dates to suit my family’s needs. Typically, I receive orders 4-6 times per year.

I regularly order the shampoo + body wash, conditioning detangler (necessary for combing through Mabrey’s mane!), toilet cleaner, bathroom cleaner, dryer cloths and stain remover. Honest let us try the bubble bath and foaming hand soap for this post :) When Mabrey was a baby, I also used the wipes and organic healing balm. Looking ahead to the winter flu season, I added the organic breathe easy rub to my last bundle. Fingers crossed I don’t have to use it.

Do you subscribe to The Honest Company? Which items are your favorites? If you’re interested in trying safe and effective household essentials in your home, Honest is offering an exclusive 25% discount to House*Tweaking readers on their first bundle. Use the code HT25OFF at checkout.

*Offer valid only for first-time bundle buyers at Honest.com now through November 30th, 2015, 11:59 p.m. PT. This offer can only be redeemed once per customer and cannot be applied to international surcharge, taxes, shipping, previous purchases, current bundles, the purchase of gift cards or gift bundles. Offer cannot be redeemed for cash or combined with any other coupons or promotions. Terms of offer are subject to change. This post has been sponsored by The Honest Company who provided products and payment. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


Congrats to Taylor who has the perfect spot for the “Torched” print!

Myra contacted me about adding function and style to her family’s foyer. Even though the entry is spacious, the family is having a difficult time making it work for their lifestyle. With two young boys in the mix, the entry needs to provide organization for shoes, outerwear, a diaper bag, pumpkin seat, mail, keys and other miscellaneous.

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As is, the walls are only primed and the space is broken up by french doors that lead to a living room, an open staircase, a doorway and a coat closet. There isn’t enough storage near the front door so discarded shoes and hats turn into tripping hazards. A clunky bench blocks the french doors. The dresser was originally meant to hold small outerwear items but instead it has become a catchall for odds and ends, like board games and items left behind by guests. Myra isn’t sure it’s the best fit for the space. She and her husband recently spruced up the stairs with new paint and stain. They would love for the open staircase to be more of a focal point as it’s one of their favorite things about their home. And Myra wants the foyer to feel more inviting – both for her family and for guests – as it’s the main point of entrance. She leans towards neutrals, natural textures and hits of black and gold.

Here are my ideas for Myra’s foyer…

inviting + family-friendly entry

1 – First up, I would keep the wall color light. Benjamin Moore super white would look bright and clean. If white walls aren’t practical for Myra’s family, a light gray (i.e., Benjamin Moore gray owl or stonington gray) could be great. I think the front door would look more substantial with a few coats of black paint. Try Benjamin Moore onyx. Hanging two rows of hooks (one at kid height, one at adult height) on the sliver of wall just to the left of the front door as you enter would provide immediate storage for everything from jackets to backpacks to the diaper bag. These leather and peg hook racks are so handsome. A more affordable option would be to DIY similar racks using stained wood boards and black hooks from a local home improvement store.

2 – Since the staircase wall is the view that greets the homeowners and guests upon entrance, it should feel welcoming and act as a focal point. This is the place to hang art and add a few accessories. I would repurpose or sell the current dresser and bring in a narrower one with straighter lines so as not to compete with the staircase. A small teardrop lamp on top of the dresser lends warm ambience and makes the large space feel more intimate. The “Torched” art print has an organic vibe that helps to soften all the sharp angles in the entry. I would frame it and hang it a few inches above the dresser then lean the bird art (currently near the front door) in front of it for a casual, layered effect. A gold leaf-like bowl can corral everything from Hot Wheels to keys to the baby’s pacifier. Because it’s metal, it’s virtually indestructible. Greenery is always a good thing! Keep a large floor basket next to the dresser for miscellaneous items such as random toys, stray socks or a bike helmet.

3 – Textured rug squares in putty or taupe are perfect for high traffic areas. They’re so good at upping the cozy factor while simultaneously hiding dirt. The antique bench is too bulky and completely crowds another great feature of the foyer – those glass doors! I would like to see a simpler bench used elsewhere in the space. (More on that in a minute.) For immediate hidden storage near the front door, I would hang a slim shoe cabinet on the wall where the bird art currently resides. The cabinet is meant to hold shoes but it’s also great for smaller items like gloves and hats that don’t always make it into the closet or dresser. The plastic material is family-friendly (just wipe it down!) and inexpensive but could be dressed up by wrapping the sides and top in plywood. The top horizontal surface is a great spot for dropping keys or mail. Hanging a small round mirror above the shoe cabinet allows for quick once-overs. I love the leather detail on this one!

4 – Between the coat closet and staircase (on the window wall) I would provide seating with a bench. I like the simple design and natural materials of this one. The cork looks really organic and should be crazy durable, not to mention a little more forgiving to lil’ ones than the hard corners and arms on the current bench. A sturdy basket, shoes and/or the infant pumpkin seat can be slid underneath the bench and out of the way. I always think it’s a good idea to have a basket at the bottom of a staircase to corral items that need to be taken upstairs. Just grab the basket on your way up and go! A kilim pillow lends color and pattern. (Every room needs a pillow. Duh.)

5 – To finish off the space, I’d switch out the traditional chandelier with something more modern. I absolutely LOVE the lines and black finish of this blacksmith chandelier. The finish ties in to the metal legs on the bench, the black ink in the artwork and the leather loops on the hook rack.

Lastly, I would also encourage Myra and her family to utilize the backside of the closet door. A clear hanging organizer can keep extra pairs of shoes in check along with other small items like scarves, hats, gloves, etc. I know keeping an entryway (no matter how large or small) tidy with kids present can feel like a losing battle most days, but I’ve found that having a system in place is essential. It doesn’t take much to quickly throw hats in baskets and shoes in cabinets and hang bags and coats on hooks before walking away. When there’s a place for everything, it’s a cinch. I hope this gives Myra and her family – and maybe even you – some ideas for injecting function and style into one of the busiest spaces of a home.

After making it through all that, I’m excited to announce today’s giveaway! Minted is offering up some art for the taking. (I seriously can’t stop thinking about that dreamy print above.) See entry details below.

PRIZE: one $200 credit to Minted

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a physical shipping address. (No P.O. boxes please.) One entry per email address. This giveaway is open to international readers!

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post proclaiming “MINT ME!”

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, November 15th. One random winner will be announced Monday, November 16th.

*BONUS* I’m throwing in a signed copy of Lovable Livable Home to the winner! John & Sherry were nice enough to send me an early copy but I had already preordered one. I met up with them when they were in town last month and asked if they wouldn’t mind signing my preordered copy for a giveaway. They were game so it’s up for grabs! Shipping is on me.

Good luck!

Do you have a space in need of help? You can email me at housetweaking (at) gmail (dot) com with photos and a description of your space for consideration for a complimentary mood board and blog feature. I’m not able to help everyone but I will do my best to select spaces with the best potential. Thanks for reading!