...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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I’m often asked about the swing arm wall sconces flanking our bed. Are they adjustable? Are they hardwired? At what height are they mounted? How do you power them on/off? What types of bulbs do you use? This is my attempt to address those questions but I should give you fair warning: There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Different people have different needs when it comes to bedside lighting. You should choose what works for your lifestyle, but maybe the information below will give you a gauge if you’re considering bedside sconces.

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We have a pair of the House of Troy Addison swing arm lamps in antique brass. The sconce is adjustable horizontally, not vertically. The arm is hinged and the brass shade rotates. It is a little stiff to move but holds positions well. Typically, we don’t adjust the sconces. We purposefully mounted them so that they were in functional positions from the start.

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The sconces are not hardwired. They plug in to an outlet behind the headboard. Each sconce came with a matching 30″ brass cord cover which we used in the space between the top of the nightstand and the backplate. If you like the clean look of a hardwired sconce but for whatever reason aren’t able to install one, a plug-in design with a quality cord cover is a great option.

Before mounting the lights, I searched for hard and fast rules regarding the recommended height of bedside wall sconces. What I found were general guidelines. The most practical tip I came across (and ultimately used) was to get into bed in my regular reading position then measure from the floor to a few inches above my shoulder. The measurement is a rough estimate of how high the bottom of the shade should be positioned.

Of course, this measurement is influenced by numerous factors: the height of the bed, an individual’s height, preferred reading position, the needs of sleeping partners, etc. Our bed is relatively low. It’s 24″ from the floor to the top of the mattress. I’m relatively short. I’m 5’4″ with shoes on, on a good day. I prefer to read in a reclining position with my knees up, not sitting straight yet not lying flat. Steve isn’t much of a bedtime reader and, on the rare occasion he does read in bed, he usually lies flat with only his head propped on a pillow. That’s why our sconces are mounted mostly to my specifications. (If you have a shorter/taller sleeping partner, you may need to compromise on the height of bedside lighting or consider a sconce that adjusts vertically as well as horizontally. Obviously, you don’t want to mount one sconce higher than the other.)

When I stepped back and eyeballed the lamps at the height just above my shoulder, they felt too low. (Probably because our bed is low and I’m short.) In the end, I decided to mount the bottom of the shade 50″ from the floor, roughly 8″- 10″ above my shoulder when reading in bed. This height is consistent with another tip I came across which was to mount the shade ~24″ from the top of the nightstand. The distance between our nightstands and sconces is 26″.

Personally, I like the look and function of sconces mounted off to the side rather than directly above a headboard. (Additionally, the placement of a window above our bed wouldn’t allow for sconces mounted above the headboard.) For swing arm lamps, I like the shades to overlap the width of the headboard just a little for a layered effect. The distance between the cord cover and the edge of our headboard is 8″.

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There is a small rotary switch at the shade to turn the light on/off. It’s easily reached from bed so there’s no need to walk across the room half-asleep to flip a switch. Initially, I put a 60 watt incandescent bulb in each lamp. Steve was always complaining the bulbs were too bright. I tried a small book light but it didn’t pass the Prince and the Bulb test either. Steve bought me an e-reader for my birthday to try to resolve the problem (and because I asked for one). It works great for most books but I can’t completely quit real books and glossies.

Recently, the kind folks at Ace Hardware offered to send me LED replacements for the sconces. I was put in touch with one of their lighting experts to determine which bulbs would be the best fit for our needs. I learned so much about LEDs! For instance, when it comes to LED bulbs “lumens” refers to brightness. 800 lumens is comparable to a traditional 60 watt bulb. Also, different LED bulbs give off different temperatures of white light. “Soft white” bulbs give off warm and cozy light while “daylight” bulbs have a cooler tone. For LEDs, the higher the Kelvin (K) temperature, the cooler the light. Bulbs <3000K are considered “soft white”; bulbs >4600K are considered “daylight.”

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When it came to choosing LED bulbs for the sconces, I knew I wanted them to be comparable to 40-60 watts of incandescent light. Since the sconces are in our bedroom, I wanted a soft, warm light as opposed to a cool light. A 500 lumens 3000K LED bulb ended up being the sweet spot for our bedside lighting needs. (All images in this post except the one above labeled ‘incandescent’ show the light given off by the new LED bulbs at dusk on an overcast day.)

I can’t get over the difference. The LED light is pure yet warm and cozy at the same time. It’s the best of both worlds. The incandescent reads orange and dirty in comparison. The LED bulbs better portray the true colors of the walls and textiles in our north-facing bedroom. Steve still says my reading light is too bright when he’s trying to sleep. At this point, I think he would say any light was too bright. So I ordered a manly sleep mask for him ;) These are the little secrets to happy marriages, folks!

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Truthfully, I have been slow to jump on the LED bandwagon. We installed LED over- and under-cabinet lighting in our kitchen and, at the time, it was an expensive extra. However, after realizing how much we use it and how much it affects our everyday living, it’s been a worthy investment. We use the cabinet lighting as ambient lighting during early mornings and late evenings. By day, we let natural light from windows, french doors and skylights do its thing. By night, we mostly rely on ambient light for a soft glow. Steve and I are both strongly averse to harsh, blue lighting. I swear, we’re part vampire.

A few weeks prior to collaborating with Ace Hardware, the incandescent above our kitchen sink burned out and I hastily grabbed an LED replacement at a local grocery store. I didn’t pay attention to the specs (size, lumens, Kelvin, etc.) and, as a result, the bulb is way too bulky, bright and cold for my taste. And I’m stuck with it for at least the next 15 years! Bummer. But now that I’m familiar with the LED lingo, I’m looking forward to switching out our remaining incandescents with soft white LEDs as they burn out.

Do you have any tips for mounting bedside sconces? Do you and your spouse have different bedtime lighting needs? Have you figured out which LED bulbs suit your home best? I inadvertently came across these easy plug-in LED dimmers that allow dimmable LED bulbs to be dimmed when/where hardwired dimmer switches aren’t possible. Pretty cool!

*This post sponsored in part by Ace Hardware. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

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