...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.

calvin & hobbes 1

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.)

calvin & hobbes 2

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.

calvin & hobbes 3

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.

calvin & hobbes 4

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.

calvin & hobbes 8

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.

calvin & hobbes 6

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

calvin & hobbes 7

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.

boys closet 1

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.

boys closet 3

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.

boys closet 4

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!

boys closet 5

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.

boys closet 2

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

Today I’m sharing the top ten features of my (nonexistent) dream home. Financial factors aside, you know, since we’re dreaming and all. Oh, and I’m not addressing decor in this list just general features of the shell of the house. The images shown are meant to demonstrate the features I’m discussing. They aren’t exact interpretations of how I picture my dream home. Obviously, they would look a little strange mixed together under one roof and, quite frankly, most of them are larger than I envision my dream home being. Although, they’re all pretty dreamy. Here we go!

right-sized home

1. Right-sized. In contrast to the average American’s idea of what a dream house should be, my dream house would not be super-sized. My dream house is right-sized, meaning every square inch is utilized efficiently. It includes multipurpose rooms. It doesn’t include tons of wasted space or extra rooms that are rarely used. The floor plan is deliberate and thoughtfully laid out. It’s just what my family needs and nothing more. The design is so carefully considered that it allows us to live in the least amount of square footage as possible. No mansions for me!

large windows

dining room windows

clerestory windows in dining space

2. Plenty of natural light. I crave a bright space and I get a kick out of watching how the light in a house changes over the course of a day. My dream home has an abundance of natural light streaming in through carefully placed windows, doors and skylights. I’m especially drawn to clerestory windows and windows placed in the backsplash of a kitchen. All that natural light would help to make my right-sized dream home feel larger. Ideally, I wouldn’t have to use a single artificial light source until after the sun goes down at night. I don’t think I could ever be happy in a dark house.

indoor outdoor living room

interior courtyard

indoor outdoor living room

3. Connection to the outdoors. This kind of goes along with plenty of natural light but I don’t only want to see what exists beyond the walls of my house, I want to experience it. Maybe it’s a wall of sliding glass doors that can be opened up to extend our living space. Maybe it’s an interior courtyard or atrium. Maybe it’s an outdoor shower. Maybe it’s an outdoor living space. Maybe it’s as simple as a set of french doors that opens up to a private backyard or a wide, deep porch to watch cars pass by. Whatever it is, it encourages an indoor-outdoor lifestyle and connects the house to its surroundings.

4. Open living space. An open kitchen-living-dining space suits our casual lifestyle best. It needn’t be large (see #1) or entirely open but a communal layout in the main living area promotes family togetherness as we go about our daily routine.

vaulted ceiling

vaulted ceiling in kitchen

5. High ceilings. Having lived in a home with standard 8′ ceilings (our first home, lower than 8′ in some areas), a home with 9′ ceilings (our second home) and a home with vaulted ceilings (our current home), I have to say my preference is anything over the standard 8′. This is one of those features that has a huge impact in the way a space feels and once you’ve lived with it, it’s difficult to imagine living without it. My dream home has high ceilings. Perhaps not throughout the entire house but definitely in some of the most frequently used spaces.

6. Architect-designed. My dream home is designed by an architect – past, current or up-and-coming. I have so much respect for architects and they’re ability to design structures that are durable, functional and beautiful. Over the years, I’ve found that I have a hankering for architects’ personal residences. They feel practical and livable yet incorporate interesting and unique architectural elements. They always seem to flow well from room to room. From thick moldings in older houses to cantilevered structures in modern homes, I’m amazed by the way architectural elements play a part in the overall vibe of a home. It’s all in the details – no matter how intricate or simplistic.

wood lined pantry

wood walls, floors

7. Warm wood tones. As much as I enjoy drooling over all white spaces, I know they’re not for me. To keep things cozy and inviting, I need natural wood tones in my life. So, of course, my dream home features hits of warm wood. Floors, accent walls, cabinetry, countertops, built-ins…they’re all game. I absolutely love teak cabinets in a kitchen.

8. Flex space. If there’s one space we’re missing in our current home, it’s a multipurpose space that acts as a den, library, TV room and guest room all in one. It isn’t big but my dream home has one. And it can be opened up to the rest of the house during the day or closed off at night for privacy. I love the idea of having a separate, more intimate room off the main open living space where we can regularly watch movies together, just chill or, on special occasions, host overnight guests. Ideally, it has a deep built-in sofa or sectional that doubles as a bed.

stained wood siding

dark blue exterior

midcentury modern dark exterior

9. Dark exterior. So by the time my dream home comes to fruition (ha!), I might have changed my mind on this feature but right now I’m into dark exteriors. Inky blue, deep charcoal, black, dark-stained cedar…I love ‘em. My dream home has a dark exterior and a mix of materials that help it blend in with its surroundings.

modernist prefab

10. Prefab construction. Alright, this one is a bit of a stretch and it isn’t a MUST for my dream home but I’m completely fascinated by prefabricated homes. Not only are today’s designs in line with my preferred aesthetic but I’m in awe of the construction process. The process of manufacturing off-site then transporting and assembling a structure on-site over a relatively short period of time has many benefits. Steve and I have both agreed that the only way we would ever build is by way of prefabrication.

A few things not on my dream home list? A specific location, a particular architectural style and land. I think I must be half chameleon. Honestly, I could be happy living almost anywhere (okay, maybe not Antarctica) and I change my mind daily about the location of my dream home. Plus, I feel like I haven’t seen enough of the world to choose just one place to live for the rest of my life. I appreciate an array of architectural styles and as long as a space incorporates most of the features listed above, I would consider it dream status. Also, my dream home needn’t be a multi-acre property. As long as there is somewhere nearby to get in touch with nature (a park would suffice), I’m good. I don’t need to own it to enjoy it.

There you have it! My dream home in list form. My must-haves are constantly evolving so this list could look very different 10-15 years from now when my kids are all grown up. As I’m scanning the list, it looks like our current home ticks off about 50% of the features to some extent. Not bad, considering we’ve never thought of this house as our dream home. Now I want to ask Steve to make a top 10 list and see how it compares to mine.

If you have a moment, I’d love to know what’s on your dream home list. Happy dreaming!

images: 1) tourfactory.com 2) Prue Ruscoe for HomeLife 3 & 4) Joe Schmelzer  5) Arthur Casas 6) Kim Lucian for Apartment Therapy 7) House & Home  8) Eve Wilson for The Design Files 9) Sean Fennessy for The Design Files 10) Adrienne Breaux for Apartment Therapy 11) Lincoln Barbour for Jessica Helgerson Interior Design 12) Arthur Casas 13) Warren Heath for House and Leisure 14) Dan Semar via Flickr 15) Joe Fletcher for Dwell

UPDATE: This post has been edited to remove a distasteful, insensitive and tacky introduction that does not reflect my true intentions. I apologize.

08.18.14 / I Drink Coffee Now

coffee

When I was noticeably pregnant with Mabrey, strangers would ask “So how many does this make for you?” When I answered three, I would sometimes get the “oh, I love the dynamic of three!” from all-knowing parents of three. But I was surprised by the reply I most often received…

“Ohhhhhhh, I started drinking coffee after number three.” And then they would nod their head slowly as if remembering something they hadn’t thought of in a long time.

I get it now. I drink coffee now.

I had always enjoyed a cup of coffee here and there. In college, I would occasionally grab a cappuccino for late night study sessions. Before Mabrey, a hot cup of jo was a special after-dinner treat on chilly nights. But I never drank it regularly until Mabrey was about a year old. I started out drinking a cup maybe once or twice a week in the mornings, usually on the weekends. Eventually, I really looked forward to those rare cups. I would purposefully wake up earlier than everyone else on coffee mornings to sip my joe in peace and quiet. It made for some good me time and gave me a chance to mentally prepare for the day ahead.

Fast forward to this summer. It turns out, I need more than one to two mornings of me time per week! I’m drinking coffee almost daily now. Just one 8-ounce mug. For me, it’s more of a mental – rather than physical – ritual. I don’t get headaches or fatigue on the random days I miss my daily cup. But I do cherish those quiet moments. They are little slices of happiness that set the tone for the rest of my day.

I recently read an article in Real Simple magazine that discusses happiness. Here’s what one contributor had to say:

“…I really believe that happiness is a collection of small, pleasurable experiences, like buying flowers or eating a square of chocolate. I try to have a few of these moments every day.” – Anne-Marie Slaughter

I couldn’t agree more. Does coffee itself make me happy? No. But having that pause before the chaos of the day sets in is what really does it for me.

So here’s my question to any coffee drinkers / snobs out there. What coffee do you drink and how do you brew it? Currently, I have a Keurig that my bonus mom gifted me earlier this year. To save money, I have been using a reusable filter cup and inexpensive ground coffee but I’ve been bouncing around from brand to brand and haven’t really fallen in love with a particular brew. Seeing as how this coffee thing is such a big part of my happiness (ha!), I’d really like to make it special. I’m open to other methods of brewing as long as they don’t yield a whole pot of coffee (I’m the only coffee drinker in the house) and aren’t super involved. I’m not opposed to grinding beans – whether at home or in-store. A few years ago while on vacation, I had coffee brewed in a french press and it was AMAZING. I’ve heard wonderful things about Chemex but, I’m not gonna lie, it looks intimidating. So, please, for the sake of Monday, spill the (coffee) beans and let me know what you’re drinking and how you’re brewing it! Thanks!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking