...because home doesn't happen overnight.

mama chair 2

For years I’ve been thinking it would be great to have extra seating near the fireplace. We spend the majority of our winters huddled around the fire trying to stay warm. The poufs I tossed down several years ago are super kid-friendly and worked well when our kids were a little younger. They were essentially glorified bean bags. However, as you can imagine, they were quite low and not really suitable for adults. An epic chair hunt commenced.

For a while, finding a chair wasn’t a huge priority. The poufs were fine, and we were trying to wrap up the main bathroom anyhow. But it didn’t stop me from looking. I knew I wanted something low and squatty to keep sight lines unobstructed from all angles. (Something like a tall wingback would have cut off the space.) I also wanted something unique which meant I was willing to wait for the right chair to come along.

I browsed thrift stores, craigslist, ebay, etsy and several other online sites for over a year before I found THE ONE on ebay. It was listed as a “Danish chair with walnut armrests and neckrest in Kurt Østervig style” – although I don’t think it’s a legit Østervig. While the frame was in great condition, the upholstery left a lot to be desired. It was upholstered in a satinish, tone on tone floral fabric (most likely not the original upholstery) and it was badly stained. (See the before here.) The scale and lines were perfect though, and I knew a good upholstery job would make a world of difference. I immediately nabbed it for $150.

Then it sat in the garage for another year while I saved up the money to have it reupholstered. I wasn’t even going to try DIYing my way around those walnut armrests and neckrest. When it came time to select an upholstery fabric, I considered a nubby polyester in mustard or gold (similar to this), but ultimately decided I’m too fickle when it comes to textiles to commit to it. I wanted a true neutral that would stand the test of time. With a saddle leather sofa and an oversize gray chair already in the room, I kept it simple and chose ivory.

But.

BUT!

It had to be 100% family-friendly. I worked with a local upholsterer who suggested a fabric line pre-treated with Nano-Tex. You can learn more about Nano-Tex here, but it basically renders fabrics stain- and spill-proof…permanently. Sign me up!

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I brought a bunch of samples home and tried them out in the space. In the end, I went with dublin oyster (pre-treated with Nano-Tex) from Luxury Fabrics. It’s a chenille that feels like velvet, looks like linen and wears like microfiber. Upholstery trifecta! Then I had to wait ANOTHER SIX MONTHS before I could pick it up from the upholsterer.

(For locals, I use Springboro Upholstery. The guy does excellent work, but he isn’t exactly cheap – this cost ~$525 for the fabric + labor – and lead times can be crazy. He’s busy for a reason though. I also used him for the tulip chair cushions in the dining room. They’re a leather lookalike and have held up tremendously well.)

It was totally worth the wait! When I picked it up from the upholsterer he said, “It’s definitely the most unique piece I’ve ever worked on. Very 60s.” Bingo.

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I love it. It’s even better than I had envisioned. It’s low-slung and kinda sexy and looks amazing from every angle which is great since it’s visible from the living room, dining room and kitchen. To me, it looks like the chair form of those preppy equestrian blazers with leather elbow patches. I would totally wear this chair.

The day I brought it home, Cheetah was curled up in it within five minutes, and that very same evening Mabrey wiped spaghetti sauce on it. The spaghetti sauce literally came up with one swipe of a wet cloth. If we were to have a fourth baby (we’re not), I would name it Nano-Tex.

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I placed the front feet on the shag rug and angled the chair in toward the coffee table. I stuck felt pads (from the junk drawer) on the back feet to protect the wood floor. Eventually, I’ll probably upgrade to these, but the “free” felt ones are fine for the time being. I really like how the chair closes off the seating area. Before, the space always felt a little lopsided with most of the furniture sitting off to one side. It feels more balanced and intimate now.

Obviously, I couldn’t leave the chair floating by itself looking all lonesome.

Obviously.

It needed a side table and a reading light to keep me it company. Since the chair was a splurge, the table and light had to be budget-friendly, but, again, I wanted them to be unique. I wanted a petite, round table to allow traffic to flow freely and mesh with the low arms and scale of the chair. It took me a while, but I found the perfect reclaimed teak table from Overstock of all places. (Shopping Overstock is a lot like shopping secondhand stores, except the inventory is new. You have to sort through a bunch of junk to find the good stuff.) I scored it for $111 with a 12% coupon. The natural wood and organic curves give it a bohemian vibe. The open spaces keep it from feeling too heavy.

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The lamp is vintage from ebay. It set me back $25 and was originally a weird mauve-brown color (seen here). I taped off the wood accent, light socket and cord and gave it a few coats of flat black, heat-resistant spray paint which we already had on hand. I love how the black paint sets off the shape.

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I wrapped the upper third of the fugly cord in leather lace from JoAnn’s ($4 with a coupon) using the same method I used on the kitchen desk lamp. Then like the sly cord hater I am, I snaked the cord through the table, under the rug and plugged it into an extension cord that reaches from behind the media cabinet. One more reason to love that lil’ table!

mama chair 1

The kuba cloth pillow and indigo mudcloth throw are from here and here, respectively. I stole the pouf from the gray chair and now no one wants to sit there because it’s impossible to lounge with your feet on the floor. Which begs the question, “Are two poufs in one room too many?” The little blue and white pot on the mantel is the peruvian planter from West Elm. The snake plant hides the gas shutoff for the fireplace. I still haven’t figured out a way to disguise the dreaded boob speakers :/

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I’ve been jokingly referring to the new chair as my mama chair, yet every time I go to sit in it someone has already beat me to it. It’s the new favorite seat in our house. Burning fire or not, it’s a great little reading and/or wining spot regardless.

But seriously, kids and cat, BACK OFF IT’S MINE. If you’re good, maybe I’ll leave it to you in my will.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

nursery after 13

Mabrey turned four last month. I think that means I can no longer call her bedroom “the nursery.” I also think that means it’s time to make some changes. The nursery setup has served us well, but our spunky girl is growing and I want her room to evolve with her. A few items can stay: the rug, ceiling light and window treatments. We’ll be letting go of other items to make way for more age/stage-appropriate pieces. Here are my plans for the space…

Big Girl Room

1 – I’m nixing the dark walls to create a brighter, fresher space that better reflects Mabrey’s personality. Two walls will be painted the same white that’s in the boys’ shared room. (It’s Benjamin Moore white dove.) I like the idea of the kids’ bedrooms having a common denominator, so we’ll be giving one wall the Stikwood bamboo treatment to mimic the boys’ wood wall. The fourth wall will be covered in Cavern Home’s tapestry zuni wallpaper for a boho vibe. In the past, I’ve installed wallpaper solo and also with Steve’s help. I thoroughly despised the process each time. I’m seriously considering hiring the job out this time.

2 – I’m replacing the crib/toddler bed with a twin trundle. I mentioned loose plans for the bed here, and just this past weekend Steve and I painted it olive green. It looks incredible! Look for a separate post on that project soon. I’ll be switching out the knobs on the trundle with robust leather pulls. (Initially, I considered brass pulls but later decided they probably aren’t the most kid-friendly option.) The room is tiny – not even 10′ x 10′ – so there’s minimal space for a bedside table and lighting. I’m forgoing the traditional nightstand + lamp combo in favor of a versatile wood stool and a midcentury modern wall sconce. I’m pairing simple white bedding with a colorful kilim pillow and an indigo throw.

3 – Currently, an eight-year-old IKEA EXPEDIT unit holds Mabrey’s clothes.  The piece has traveled with us from a large house to a small interim apartment and finally to our current home, serving as toy storage, a media cabinet and dresser along the way. Looking ahead, I think a squattier piece with drawers would better suit Mabrey’s needs. It will serve as both a dresser and bench for seating. A striped pillow invites sitting.

4 – I’m bringing in new accessories to spice things up. The wild & free banner is soooo Mabrey. The moody indigo watercolor pays homage to the nursery wall color. The felt letter board is a fun way to display Mabreyisms and quirky phrases. An oversize jute basket will corral favorite toys and provide some of that natural texture I love so much.

That’s the gist! I’m throwing in a few surprises to keep things interesting, and I’ll be posting progress pics on instagram if you want to follow along. As I mentioned, we painted the bed over the weekend. It’s off-gassing in the garage as I type. After the paint has cured and the leather pulls are installed, I’ll write up a little “how we did it” post. I’m so excited to see this room come together and watch Mabrey’s reaction. She saw Steve unpacking her bed yesterday and said, “Oh Daddy! Thank you! I love you.” So sweet.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 

space saving cabin 1

We recently stayed at this amazing modern cabin in Lake Leelanau, Michigan. The home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms plus a powder room and is modestly sized. (If I had to guess, I’d say it’s roughly 1,800 square feet.) Immediately upon arrival, it felt airy and spacious thanks to numerous windows throughout, vaulted ceilings in the main living space and, of course, the innately uncluttered decor that typically comes with a vacation rental. Once we settled in, however, I noticed several space-saving tricks that weren’t as obvious. I thought I’d share them with you since many of the clever ideas could easily translate to a residential property. Here they are…

space saving entry 1

1. A built-in entry closet. The small entry is sandwiched between a powder room and exterior walls, leaving very little room for a legit closet. Recessed IKEA cabinet frames maximize storage space for outerwear, bags, sports equipment and other miscellaneous.

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The top cabinet provides hanging space while the lower cabinet houses several drawers. Often times, the space below a hanging rod is underutilized, so I thought this setup was ingenious. In a real home, I could see the drawers being used to corral mail, parent-teacher communication and children’s homework. You could even designate a drawer for each child.

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2. Loads of kitchen drawers. The kitchen occupies one wall. The owner opted for a trio of windows with lake views in lieu of upper cabinetry. (Duh.) The base cabinets open to reveal ample drawer space.

space saving kitchen 1

Shallow drawers are ideal for smaller items like silverware, cooking utensils, cutting boards and baking sheets. Deeper drawers are perfect for pots and pans.

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A single pull-out below the sink provides hidden storage for trash and recycling bins and also houses dish soap, dishwasher detergent and extra trash bags. The lower drawer to the left of the trash is actually a drawer dishwasher hidden by a cover panel. The compact size allows for a separate drawer above which houses silverware and makes the task of unloading the dishwasher a breeze.

FYI – I mentioned my thoughts on having a trash pullout at the sink in this post, and my concerns were validated. The setup worked well for us when there was only one person in the kitchen, but we tend to clean up after meals together and prefer separate zones for trash/recycling and dishwashing. Otherwise, the person at the sink is constantly being asked to move out of the way. That’s just our preference.

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Yes, this is an IKEA kitchen and, no, I didn’t know about it when I booked the place. I was so excited (and, quite honestly, surprised!) when I opened a cabinet and made the discovery. All the cabinet frames and drawers in the house are IKEA, even the bathroom vanities.

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From a design standpoint, I liked the seamless look of the single panel fronts versus several individual drawer fronts. Opening one drawer to gain access to another drawer really wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be. Inside and out, the cabinets are tidy. The custom fronts are furniture grade plywood outfitted with raw brass pulls. I loved the warm, natural look. I also loved the owner’s decision to repeat the cabinet design in the bathrooms. It just made the entire house feel really cohesive.

space saving pantry 1

3. A freestanding pantry. With no room for a walk-in pantry, a floor-to-ceiling pantry is an effective alternative.

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Not only does it provide storage for dry goods, it houses dishes, bowls, glasses, mugs, serveware – even a slim refrigerator with bottom freezer! An open space above the refrigerator acts as a minibar out of kid reach. Note: There is no microwave in the house which perplexed us at first, but the only thing we missed it for was popping bagged popcorn.

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Once again, drawers, drawers and more drawers glide in and out for easy access and loads of storage. The placement of dishes and serveware near the dishwasher facilitates dishwasher unloading.

space saving kitchen table 1

4. A kitchen table. No dining room? No problem. A large table punctuated by a pair of oversized pendants takes the place of an island and acts as buffer between the kitchen and adjacent living room.

space saving kitchen table 2

Reclaimed wood and an X-base are reminiscent of a farmhouse table, but the waterfall edge is a modern touch. A mix of vintage chairs lends a casual vibe. I loved the juxtaposition of the rustic table and chairs against some of the sleeker elements in the space.

space saving media stand 3

5. A custom, low-slung media stand. An extra low media stand allows the flatscreen to reach just below the window line, allowing for uninterrupted views of the landscape.

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The simple design raises the flatscreen to a comfortable viewing height and provides space for thin electronics and books.

space saving desk 2

6. A desk behind a sofa. Bringing in a console table is the knee-jerk reaction when considering the space behind a floating sofa, but what about a drop-leaf table that doubles as a desk? It’s an instant home workspace!

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In a traditional setting, I could see it being used to pay bills, check email, work from home and tackle homework. It’s conducive to adults and children alike.

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7. Nightstand alternatives. In moderately sized bedrooms, nightstands can crowd the room and eat up precious floor space. Floating shelves attached to an extra wide headboard are an effective option.

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There’s just enough space for a glass of water, a candle, eyeglasses and nighttime reading material.

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They’re great in children’s rooms, too! Forgo lamps and mount wall sconces on the headboard.

space saving bedside chairs 2

space saving bedside chair 1

In one of the bedrooms there wasn’t quite enough room for shelves, so the owner brought in folding chairs to flank the bed. Bonus: The chairs can be used for extra seating in a pinch when company visits.

space saving pocket doors 1

8. Pocket doors. Here, a pocket door separates a powder room from the hallway. When space is tight, everyday motions like opening a door can be cumbersome. In hallways or in doorways that adjoin two rooms where the space required to accommodate a swinging door is minimal or non-existent, consider installing a pocket door.

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Another pocket door separates the master bathroom from the master bedroom.

I hope these ideas inspire you to think outside the box when coming up with space-saving solutions in your own home! Admittedly, there were so many great details in the cabin that I had a hard time condensing them into a readable post. (Still, here I am at 25+ photos and 1,000+ words. Are you still awake?!) I encourage you to go back through the images and make note of more features, like the simple trimwork, the flooring materials, the mirror-less powder room, the mirror at the end of the hallway, the freestanding soaker tub, the DIY platform beds (constructed of the same plywood found in the kitchen and bathrooms), the custom cabinet bases, the artwork and ALL. THE. CORNER. WINDOWS. What catches your eye?

P.S. – See more vacation houses here and here.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking