...because home doesn't happen overnight.

The weather was so nice this past weekend that I just had to tackle an outdoor project. It meant skimping on the kid / guest bathroom but it was totally worth it. My skin hasn’t felt warm sunshine in six months! So while the kids rode their bikes and played with neighbor-friends, I set to work scraping, sanding and painting our decrepit garage door.

We plan to replace the garage door all together within the next year but I couldn’t stand it’s peeling paint any longer. (You can see images of the original door here.) And I needed an excuse to be outside. I have a hard time being anywhere…I always have to be doing something. #busybody It’s something I need to work on. Can you relate? Tangent aside, I’ve mentioned painting the garage door several times to Steve but his response was always the same.

I don’t think it’s worth the hassle since we’re going to replace it eventually.

Guess what. It was worth the hassle.

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I used an old school Red Devil paint scraper (similar to this newer one) to remove the peeling paint. It worked well but the garage door’s humble state became even more apparent once the paint was removed. The door’s frame is wood but the recessed panels are made of fiber board or the like. When I scraped the paint from the panels, I was left with a cardboard-like surface. Cardboard garage doors aren’t big sellers for obvious reasons. Sections of wood are splintering at the bottom of the door. So, yeah, our garage door is on its last leg but at least it’s going out with grace.

After scraping, I hit up the paint store for a few paint samples.

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I grabbed Benjamin Moore’s Steel Wool and Secret thinking they would pick up on the metal roof. (The photo above was taken after Steve went over the door and sample paint patches with an orbital sander.) Perfectly matching the roof is difficult because it reflects the sky and sun so it looks completely different on a cloudy, gray day than it does on a bright, sunny one with blue skies. At any rate, we chose Secret and bought two quarts of exterior paint from the Ben line to cover the door and our mailbox post which was looking rough, too.

The highlighted circles show where Steve and I spent an hour trying to scrape who-knows-how-old paint from the windows. I tried a razor blade, Goo Gone, fingernail polish remover…nothing worked well. We like the idea of garage door windows and wanted to reveal them. But after discovering how long it would to take to de-paint them and reminding ourselves that this was meant to be a quick and inexpensive temporary solution we opted to forget them and save days of our lives. (The interior side of the windows are painted as well so that would have doubled our work time.) Why someone would ever paint over perfectly good windows, I’ll never know (I’m guessing it was done out of fear of Peeping Toms or burglars) but we vow to buy a new garage door with windows when the time comes.

With the paint color selected and the decision made to keep the windows painted, I vacuumed the door and the paint chip-covered ground with the Shop-Vac. I wiped the door down with a wet cloth, let it dry then applied two coats of exterior paint in a low luster finish. I didn’t worry about primer. Again, STOPGAP. I also hit up the mailbox post (not shown) with the same taupe-gray as the door and brushed on two coats of white paint on the trim around the garage door.

stopgap garage door 3

I’m not 100% sold on the color of the finished door but it looks so much better. Steve and I joked that even a green door would have been an improvement. Steve also happily pointed out that the new color perfectly matches the DirectTV satellite. If you take away anything from this post let it be that Benjamin Moore Secret = DirectTV satellite gray. Haha. The safe thing would have been to go with white to match the trim but since we know this door isn’t staying forever we thought we’d try a color. I don’t know? I do think it would look better with windows. And don’t get me started on that awkward vinyl trim above the door. It’s so odd.

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Admittedly, there was an ulterior motive for my madness. We’re scheduled to have our cracked asphalt driveway replaced with concrete in the coming weeks. I couldn’t stand the thought of having a nice, new driveway leading to a sad, peeling garage door. I have never been so excited about a driveway before in my life! We have saved our pennies for this. It always been on the renovation list.

As is, there is no “clean” way to reach our house. There’s a gap between the driveway and front walk. There’s a large piece of trodden yard separating the end of the driveway from the back patio where we enter the mudroom. And entering through the garage itself is a disaster and probably unsafe. The new driveway will be widened to meet the front walk and lengthened at the back of the house. We will add large square pavers with creeping Jenny in between them to meet the back dining patio. You don’t know how happy I am at the prospect of having (not one but) two paved ways to enter the house! Right now the majority of dirt in my house comes from dirty / muddy shoes walking up through the yard.

The driveway itself hold rocks, dirt, water and mud in all the cracks and low spots. It will be ripped out and excavated to make way for a wider and longer driveway. Concrete is our material of choice for its sustainability. It’s more expensive up front but will last longer and requires less maintenance than asphalt. Plus, we think it just looks better when driveways match their home’s walks and patios. Having a new driveway is really going to improve our home’s curb appeal. Our neighbors are going to be relieved. For two years, I’ve been cringing when I pull up to our house just because of the driveway. It’s baaaaaad.

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So that’s how I spent my weekend in the warm weather. If you ask me, it was worth the $30 in supplies and two half-days of labor. The garage door is definitely looking better but I’d love to know your thoughts on the future door’s style and possible colors. White? A bluer gray that more closely matches the roof and decking? Also, what happens to that odd vinyl trim piece? Sometimes a third-party eye is better at this stuff.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

fiddle leaf fig 1

It’s been over two months since Mr. Fig came into my life. From the get-go I made a promise to myself to share whatever became of him – good or bad. I’ve read a bunch of stories of homeowners bringing home fiddle leaf figs but can’t find as much in the way of follow-ups. What’s going well? What went wrong? Rather than reading a list of care tips from a gardening website, I think it’s more helpful to see how real people care (properly or improperly) for their fiddle leaf figs.

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So when new growth appeared at the top of my fig several weeks ago, I thought it might help to share how I’ve been caring for it. I am no expert. It used to be that everything green I touched turned brown but lately I’ve been able to keep all of my houseplants alive. What’s going on?! Many of things I’m doing aren’t secrets. In fact, many of the tips I’m utilizing were kindly offered up in the comments section of this post. Thank you!! (Mr. Fig thanks you as well.)

First up is location. Fiddle leaf figs love bright indirect light. My tree sits just inside a set of french doors and below two skylights on the north side of my house. This area is always bright but the sun’s rays never hit the plant directly.

The planter sits on a stand with casters so I can roll it out of the way to open the doors. The doors lead to a grilling patio which has seen absolutely zero action over the last six months. Now that the weather is getting warmer, we’ll probably be scooting the tree out of the way more often. I’ve thought about relocating it to the living room but it seems to really like this spot and I’m nervous about switching things up. More than likely, I’ll roll the tree outside when the weather is nice. While the tree is small, this setup will work but when / if this guy grows much, much larger I may have to rethink the location. I don’t rotate the tree regularly but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

fiddle leaf fig 3

The other big thing about fiddle leaf figs is watering without over- or under-watering. When I first brought the tree home, I was giving it a splash of water every 3-5 days but then someone mentioned that I should be flooding it then letting it dry out in between waterings. So that’s what I’m doing now. I pay attention to how the leaves are oriented and when things start looking droopy I wait another day or so to water. I also implement the lift test. When the leaves are droopy I lift the plastic planter out of the ceramic one. If the tree feels relatively light, then it’s time to water. That equates to watering every 7-14 days. From what I’ve heard, it’s better to under-water than over-water so when in doubt I err on the side of waiting it out a little longer in between waterings.

fiddle leaf fig 4

To water, I carry the tree over to the kitchen sink and set it inside. (Reason #99 why I love a single basin sink.) If the dirt seems extra dry, hard or compacted, I use a pencil and stab it into the dirt over and over to break things up and allow the water to reach the roots. I use the pull-down faucet to flood the planter with lukewarm water. I add water until I see it running through the bottom of the planter.

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Then I let the tree sit in the sink while the water drains until it’s no longer dripping. I think it was a reader who told me not to immediately place the tree back in the ceramic (non-draining) planter. Apparently, letting the tree sit in a pool of water can cause root rot.

I fully realize that if the tree continues to grow (grow, grow little tree!) this method of watering isn’t going to work forever. I guess that’s when I start rolling the tree to the bathroom and giving it a shower? Forget finishing the second bathroom for the kids. It’s going to be the fiddle leaf fig bathroom. Hee-hee.

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About once a month I wipe the leaves with a soft, damp cloth to remove dust and images of photosynthesis diagrams flash in my brain. Oh Calvin cycle, how I love thee.

I recently spray painted the rolling stand gold. (Yay for spray painting weather!) Not sure how this impacts the health of the tree but I’ve heard plants like to be courted. Singing to them, talking to them, displaying them on gold thrones…it can’t hurt.

And that’s how I’m not killing my beloved Mr. Fig. He isn’t the lowest maintenance guy but I don’t mind. I’m so happy he seems to like it here! I plan on fertilizing him this summer. And eventually I’m going to have to repot. I’ll keep you posted. Literally.

Do you have a fiddle leaf fig? How’s it going? Do you want a fiddle leaf fig? I would have bet money on the demise of any fig tree in my house knowing my reputation with houseplants. But trying out a small, inexpensive one has been successful! I hope I can keep it up.

I’ll be back later today with a regular Made Me Smile post. TGIF!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Obligatory preamble rambling: When we were renovating our kitchen, I searched high and low for any information I could find on Ikea kitchens. The results were few and far between. We did end up with an Ikea kitchen (which we love) but I’d like to shed more light on Ikea kitchen renovations from the perspective of other real life homeowners. It’s something I wish we would have had access to when we were considering Ikea for our own kitchen remodel. Plus, it’s fun to see how others use Ikea to suit their personal style and needs in the kitchen. I hope you find these posts helpful and inspiring – whether you ultimately end up with an Ikea kitchen or not. Enjoy!

texas ikea kitchen 1

Ashley’s home in Texas Hill Country has an innate rustic feel. When it came to remodeling the kitchen, Ashley and her husband, Bob, wanted to bring in more storage and modern elements while honoring the home’s rustic vibe. The results are nothing short of jaw-dropping. I asked Ashley several questions about her kitchen renovation. Find her answers and the amazing “afters” below.

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Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

The cabinets, cabinet fronts, cabinet hardware, countertops, oven, cooktop and hood are all Ikea. Note: Ikea only sales a 24″ width butcher block so for the island we had two pieces professionally cut and bonded together.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

I started by looking for images of kitchens I liked. Googling things like ‘rustic modern kitchen’ or ‘barn kitchens.’ I found several I thought would really work for this space and after researching more I found that a lot of the products used in the kitchens I admired were from Ikea.

We researched Ikea kitchens, made several trips to check out the products and were convinced that it was the best route for us. To be honest, I had no idea that an entire kitchen could be purchased from Ikea!

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Who designed your kitchen? What aesthetic were you aiming for?

I designed the kitchen myself, along with help from my own personal interior designer who just happens to be my aunt. (I’m a lucky gal.)

Our house has a very rustic southwestern feel. I wanted to keep that vibe by choosing organic and rustic elements along with industrial and modern pieces.

Did you assemble and install all Ikea kitchen components yourself? If not, what did you seek help with?

My husband, Bob, assembled all the cabinets. When you purchase an Ikea kitchen it literally comes in what seems like a million pieces. We had boxes stored in every nook and cranny of our house. It is very overwhelming but you just have to take your time. Patience is key. Bob would put together one or two cabinets a night. A family friend who happens to work in renovation and construction was kind enough to help us with the install.

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How did you customize your Ikea kitchen to suit your needs and preferred aesthetic?

The great thing about an Ikea kitchen is that is easily customizable. This was our first remodel and in the beginning I was pretty intimated and a tad overwhelmed. The 3D kitchen planner that Ikea offers lets you work from the comfort of your own home to customize and visualize your kitchen.

I wanted lots and lots of drawer space and Ikea has amazing kitchen drawers so I included several of them. When I selected the stainless steel cabinets I was told that there were far fewer options when it came to cabinet selection in the stainless. This ended up working in our favor because where we had originally planned to have cabinet doors we had to put in large drawers and I love them so!

How long was it from design to the final product?

The kitchen was the first room we tackled. We are renovating every square inch of this house while living in it. I wanted to get the biggest inconvenience out of the way first. It took about a month from the first sledgehammer hit to where we are today. There are still a few things that need to be done such as purchasing a new fridge and dishwasher but because those items do their jobs just fine they keep getting pushed lower and lower on the list, making room for new floor, tiles, tubs and sinks.

We were, for the most part, solely dedicated to the kitchen renovation. We use and abuse our kitchen daily and were eager to get it done and functioning as quick as possible.

How long have you lived with your Ikea kitchen? Have you encountered any problems?

We have had our new kitchen for about 8 months now. Our biggest issue is with one of my favorite pieces of the kitchen….the butcher block. There’s really nothing I love more about this kitchen than the combination of the natural rustic butcher block with the industrial feel of the stainless steel. But we have discovered that we may not be the best candidates for an entire butcher block kitchen. Like I said before, our kitchen is worked hard every day all day and the butcher block has not held up to the torture. We love it on the island and will keep it there but we are in the process of looking for a more durable material for the rest of the counters. We are leaning towards black leathered granite.

The butcher block around the sink has taken the hardest hit. The first ‘oh sh*t!’ moment came not long after we had it all finished. One of us had left a damp rag on the counter overnight and come morning the butcher block had buckled and cracked where the rag was. We need a kitchen that can handle the stray damp rag and water splash.

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What is your favorite thing about your kitchen? Least favorite?

My favorite, hands down, is the storage space that the drawers and cabinets provide. I thought I had a lot of kitchen crap but Ikea has proven me wrong. I have several drawers and cabinets that aren’t even close to being full and some that are still empty!

My least favorite is unfortunately the butcher block. Love the way it looks, hate the durability or lack thereof. I’m going to be sad when we replace it but I will be oh so happy when I don’t have to look at the water stains and buckled countertops.

Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel? If so, which items?

Absolutely! I already have. The cabinets have been the greatest surprise for us. The space and the look of them are great. I don’t know if you could find a better bang for your buck.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

We have talked about this because our goal for this house has always been to fix it up and then sell it. I think we would definitely consider Ikea products for another kitchen; most certainly the cabinets and appliances.

Resources of note:
paint – Valspar pale bloom
open shelves – reclaimed wood we pulled out of a guest bathroom in the house
wood on the back of the island – also reclaimed wood pulled from the guest bathroom
backsplash – Lowe’s American Olean 42-pack urban canvas ice white (common: 4″ x 8″; actual: 4.25″ x 8.5″)
sink – Lowe’s Superior Sinks 16-gauge single-basin undermount stainless steel kitchen sink
light above island – Lowe’s Allen + Roth oil-rubbed bronze pendant
light above sink – Lowe’s Allen + Roth edison bronze pendant with clear shade
faucet – discontinued but this is very similar…Lowe’s Giagni Fresco stainless steel pull-down kitchen faucet
barstools – Tabouret 24″ metal counter stools (These stools are nice but clash with the stainless steel cabinets. I think a rustic wood and iron stool would do the trick.)

*BONUS* – The total cost of the kitchen was around $9,000.

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Thank you, Ashley, for allowing me to feature your kitchen. I am so in love with the rustic / modern / industrial aesthetic! I have to say I never would have thought of combining stainless steel cabinets with white cabinets but it totally works. I’m also grateful for the honest review on the wood countertops. Maybe we could do a follow-up post when the perimeter butcher block is switched out? Out of curiosity, from one mom to another, I asked Ashley how she cleans her stainless steel cabinets. Her secret? She uses Method stainless steel cleaner. She’s tried other cleaners but was leery of their “keep away from children” warning on the labels.

Alright, folks. Another day, another Ikea kitchen. Are you enjoying this series as much as I am? Before-and-afters are THE BOMB but, hopefully, you’re learning stuff, too. See more Ikea kitchens here, here and here.

Do you have an Ikea kitchen (it doesn’t have to be 100% Ikea) you would be willing to share on House*Tweaking? If so, email me at housetweaking@gmail.com for consideration.

Pssst – Thanks to everyone who has already submitted an Ikea kitchen! I really, really, REALLY appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into bringing these posts to fruition. I have a slew of Ikea kitchens sitting in my inbox waiting to be featured. I apologize for the lapse in time between submission and the post going live. I’m buried in Ikea kitchens – in a good way! Keep ‘em comin’!

images: Ashley @ One Lucky Nest

DIY dream catcher 7

Today I’m shooting the front entry for the reveal which will be featured later this month or early next. Over the weekend I had fun creating some hanging art for the entry. Wall hangings / fiber art / hanging art…whatever you prefer to call ‘em…are super hot right now. I thought something on a smaller scale would dress up the non-existent entry. (It’s just a door that opens into the living room.) I didn’t follow any DIY’s but, instead, made things up as I went. As mentioned in a previous post, this was my inspiration. Here’s what went down.

DIY dream catcher supplies

First, I gathered supplies. I picked up three gold rings (6″- 5″- 3″), leather lace and five wooden beads at JoAnn’s for less than $8. I had white string on hand which I found in the garage. (I think it’s for gardening?) The only tools required were my gold scissors and hands.

DIY dream catcher 2

1 – I tied the gold rings together with a strip of leather lace.

2 – I cut twenty-two strands of 24″ long string. Then I folded one 24″ string in half and looped it around the smallest gold ring so the cut ends were furthest from the ring.

3 – I pulled the loose ends of the string through the loop…

4 – …and continued pulling until the string was tightly secured around the ring.

5 – One by one, I added all twenty-two strings to the 3″ ring.

6 – I threaded five wooden beads onto the strings and knotted them in place at varying heights to create a “V” shape. (Each bead is threaded onto to two loose string ends which are knotted.)

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I hung the entire piece on a hook to trim the strings into a “V” shape that corresponded with the placement of the beads. (Be careful not to cut the strings holding beads above the beads!)

DIY dream catcher 4

I added another loop of leather lace at the top to display the hanging art on some wood knobs near the front door. Ta-da! This project was super easy, super cheap.

DIY dream catcher 5

I especially love the fact that this hanging art incorporates four of my favorite things: gold, white, leather and wood. I like to think of it as a modern day dream catcher and I associate the five wooden beads with my family of five. It’s a stretch and I’m nuts, I know.

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Steve got a kick out of watching me DIY the hanging art.

“Are you making earrings?”

“It’s like bling for the entry.”

“I’ve got some ideas for post titles: DIY Dangly Balls, Hang Your Balls at the Door and (my personal favorite) Nothing Says Welcome Home Like My Balls.”

I could go on and on. We were both in tears by the time it was all said and done. Our sixteen-year-old sense of humor has saved our marriage more than once. Laughter is good.

Anyhow, there’s a snippet of the entry. I can’t wait to show you the rest! It’s nothing over the top but it’s functional and stylish which is really all I need it to be.

Now, tell me. What are your title ideas for this post? Have fun with it. My sixteen-year-old sense of humor won’t judge.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking