...because home doesn't happen overnight.

exterior spring 2014

We’ve touched nearly every inch of this house and the biggest projects are behind us. Still, there are several projects left on our to-do list. Here they are in no particular order:

THD attic

*spruce up the hallway. I’ve always wanted this hallway to be more than just a pass-through. It’s narrow and riddled with doors, but I have a few ideas.

*create an interactive side panel on the exposed side of the refrigerator. I don’t know if we have enough room to do this, but it would be great to disguise the side of the fridge in a useful way.

*create a wrapping station. I keep a few boxes and rolls of paper in a cabinet at the kitchen desk but it would be nice to have a designated area for quick wrapping sessions.

toddler transition 2

*transition the nursery to a big kid room. I’m in no rush to do this, but eventually I will need to reassess our needs in Mabrey’s room. A trundle for extra sleeping space is a must.

*replace the mailbox. The door doesn’t shut properly and the post has seen better days. I’ve had my eye on these midcentury-inspired ones ever since they were in the Kickstarter phase.

*install a discreet clothesline. I love hanging clothes and linens outside to dry but I need more space! Currently, I have a single drying rack and that just isn’t cutting it.

*organize the garage. It’s a mess from standing in as our workshop over the last 3 years.

*build a screen / vertical garden to hide the electric meter on the back of the house. I’ve been wanting an excuse to try these.

*build a screen to hide the outdoor trash / recycling bins. We like the look of this one.

dining patio

*install a trio of overlapping shade sails to shade the backyard deck and patios. We had a local company come out last summer to give us an estimate for this project. The quote was more than we were willing to spend. We think we’ll do some of the work ourselves to save money. We like the vibe of this outdoor space.

*plant a tree in the front yard. To make up for all the dead ones we removed.

*build a raised bed garden or two. Alison is my green thumb hero.

*incorporate a rain barrel. And use it.

*start composting. This tutorial for a tumbling composter doesn’t look too terribly difficult. Any tips for someone new to composting?

driveway after 1

This is a random pipe dream and one that might not ever make it to fruition just because we aren’t sold on it. It isn’t entirely necessary and we aren’t sure it’s worth investing in for this property but…

*build a sizable outbuilding at the end of the driveway and convert the attached garage to a flex / rec room. Like I said, pipe dream. We may decide to save our time and money for something else that makes more sense for our family.

That’s all I can think of at the moment! We don’t have deadlines for any these (some of them won’t happen this year) but it would be nice to tackle some of the outdoor projects this spring / summer while the weather is nice. If not, we have to wait a whole ‘nother year. We’d love to knock out the shade sails so we can enjoy them. And it would be nice to park at least one car in the garage. I’ll keep you posted.

What projects are on your never-ending to-do list?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

hidden litter box 8

Before we get into this hidden litter box business, can we talk about how “helpful” toddlers are? Mabrey is a BIG “helper.” If you had / have / know a toddler, you know what I mean. In their lil’ minds they are busy doing something important (like washing dishes, dusting, cooking, mopping, vacuuming, feeding the family pet, etc.) but in reality they are making an even bigger mess.

After Mabrey washes dishes, the dishes are still dirty and everything in sight is soaked. When Mabrey dusts, one square foot area is dripping wet and she’s still spraying it because (to her) it’s just not wet enough. When Mabrey cooks, she uses all of the things: pots, pans, spoons, spatulas, toothbrush (?!), measuring cups, Hot Wheels (?), bowls, whisk, baster, timer. All of the things. When Mabrey vacuums, everything is fair game: her braid, Legos, Cheetah’s tail, shoelaces, jewelry, rocks, Hot Wheels, crayons. Don’t want to pick it up? Sweep it up! When Mabrey feeds Cheetah, there’s no telling how much food she’ll put out or where the food will be. Two days’ worth of food in the water bowl? Two pellets in the food bowl strategically placed in the dollhouse? A perfect scoopful in the litter box? Yeesh.

Of course, after I clean up her helping messes and relay the day’s events to Steve in the evening, it’s comical. Sweet even. So she keeps “helping” and I keep reminding myself that she’ll want nothing to do with helping in a few short years.

But when it came to the litter box, something had to be done. Every time I turned around Mabrey was trying to clean it or throwing random stuff in it. Originally, I placed the litter box on the floor next to the dryer but that spot was a little too accessible for a two-year-old. I googled a bunch of hidden litter box ideas but it seemed like everything I found required a new, separate piece of furniture: a solid bench, an end table, a freestanding wood box, etc. I really wanted to keep the litter box in the mudroom and I wasn’t willing to give up precious real estate for another furniture item no matter how small.

So I started looking around at what we already had. That’s when the a-ha! moment struck.

PAX wardrobe + cat door = hidden litter box. Boom. Done.

We purchased a cat door for big cats (the vet guesses Cheetah is at least part Maine Coon which means we could end up with a pretty large cat when she’s full grown) that would accommodate the thin side panel of the PAX. If you’re curious, it’s this one. It doesn’t have the best reviews but it looks like they mostly pertain to indoor-outdoor use on an exterior door. Since we were going to be installing the door inside, we weren’t too concerned with the actual door function. We simply needed the large opening and the ability to install it into a thin panel.

hidden litter box before 2

hidden litter box 2

We removed the PAX doors and all contents (cat paraphernalia, sewing machine, sewing basket) from the bottom shelf. Using the included template, we cut a hole in the side of the PAX where Cheetah would be able to access it when the wood bench was in place (see first image of this post).

hidden litter box 3

Installing the door wasn’t difficult but it did require an extra pair of hands to hold everything in place while another person screwed everything together. Because we installed the door on a thin panel (as opposed to an actual door) we did have to trim the screws to get a perfect fit. Again, not difficult but an added step.

hidden litter box 4

I made the executive decision to install the door with the red locks facing the interior of the wardrobe. I didn’t want them visible from the exterior. (The 4-way locks allow access only in / only out / both in & out / both locked.) We could have done away with the flap door all together and just used the opening, but we decided to keep the door in case we ever need to put Cheetah up for some reason. That way, she still has access to the litter box.

We taped the door to hold it in the up position. We want Cheetah to get acquainted with the new location of her litter box before we introduce the door. I lined the bottom of the wardrobe with two Flor squares leftover from the boys’ room. I had to trim one for a perfect fit. I plan on hosing them off outside when necessary, probably each month when I empty and clean the litter box. A rubber mat, a scoop and the litter box sit on top of the rug squares.

PAX_wardrobe_with_cat_door_litter_box

To accommodate the litter box, I raised the lowest shelf and reorganized all of the shelves. I moved my sewing machine and sewing basket to a different closet but, eventually, they will end up in the studio along with most of the other items in this wardrobe. The dark brown woven basket on the shelf above the litter box holds cat food, overstock litter, cat nail clippers and Cheetah’s brush. So I guess this is the cat closet now? Never thought I’d be typing that.

hidden litter box 5

hidden litter box 7

I like that the cat door is easily accessible for Cheetah but completely inconspicuous. Mabrey’s interest in the litter box has waned. For now. The other great thing about this setup is that the litter is better contained. I’m not finding as many stray bits as I was when the litter box was on the floor next to the dryer. I also have my rolling cart back next to the dryer which is another plus.

hidden litter box 6

Luckily, Cheetah has adjusted to the change swimmingly. She took to it right away and hasn’t missed a beat. I actually think she prefers this setup over the previous one. It’s her contained space away from toddler “help.”

hidden litter box 1

After we installed the door and put everything back together, I got to thinking that if someone really wanted to they could totally go wild with a DIY cat house design that takes up the entire PAX. THE ULTIMATE IKEA CAT HOUSE HACK! You know, cutting holes in shelves, adding scratching / climbing posts to allow access to vertical space, etc. It was just a thought. I’m not THAT crazy ;)

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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

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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