...because home doesn't happen overnight.

family photo books 1

I’ve been meaning to create family photo books for a while now. I held off as long as I did because I was waiting for the perfect photo book to come along. I really didn’t want the thick albums of yesteryear with their photo pockets. I’m horrible at printing out photos. Horrible. Not to mention, traditional bulky albums take up a lot of space – space we don’t have. It saddened me to know the photos of our life were stuck in limbo on our laptop and phones. Surely there was a tangible yet beautiful way to share family photos.

Enter Artifact Uprising. The company offers a variety of photo products you can hold in your hand: photo books (hardcover and softcover), calendars, postcards, prints, etc. It doesn’t sound all that different from any other company offering similar products but Artifact Uprising focuses on design-worthy aesthetics and eco-friendly materials. Photo book pages are made of 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper and wood items are handcrafted from local, fallen beetle pine – versus healthy trees. The commitment to quality along with the inspiring back story are what set this company apart from the rest of the pack.

“We believe that doing good is more important than doing well – and that kindness makes the world right. We believe in travel and the things you can learn from getting lost. And we believe the best lessons come from the listening. We try to laugh when light is needed and persist when the path requires it. We love wide open spaces and campfires and the kind of quiet that allows you to hear the snow crunching below your feet. We believe in those who wake up every day to choose joy. And we believe in the underdog. We believe in always remembering where you came from. We believe each of us will – in time – do something really, really nice for the world.” – Jenna Walker, CEO & co-founder of Artifact Uprising

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So, yeah, choosing Artifact Uprising was a no-brainer. I sat down one afternoon while the boys were at school and Mabrey was napping and created nine softcover photo books in the 5.5″ x 5.5″ size. They candidly document the last three years of our life. Most of the photos are from my instagram account but I downloaded a few from our computer as well. I didn’t include every photo from my instagram feed – only the ones that were family-oriented. I chose mostly nature-themed photos as cover photos so the books would look pretty on display. They. are. gorgeous.

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The day the books arrived I tossed them in a bowl on the coffee table and immediately the kids were flipping through them. They are the perfect size for little hands. To say we LOVE them is an understatement.

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I can’t believe how one photo can spark a memory and suddenly we’re talking about “that one time…” They are such great conversation starters for kids. Mabrey especially enjoys seeing pictures of people she knows in a book. “Dat’s ME!” She thinks they’re legit books and we’re all famous ;)

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One softcover book runs $16.99 and would make a special gift for a family member or friend. Mine are in chronological order but you can create “themed” books, too. A book that tells the story of a child from newborn to graduation would be great for a graduation party. A book dedicated to a family vacation could be fun. Steve and I have even talked about creating a book that documents our home’s renovation.

How do you display family photos at home? We have a gallery wall plus these new photo books and we also stream our computer photos on to the TV (via Apple TV) on the weekends when we have guests or are working on a project. The kids love seeing themselves on TV. #mininarcissists

*I love Artifact Uprising‘s mission so much that I contacted them about becoming an affiliate soon after our photo books arrived. They agreed! While I purchased the photo books shown above on my own with no special discount, I do earn commission on any orders placed via affiliate links. This post was NOT sponsored and Artifact Uprising didn’t request a post. I just love sharing good stuff. Thanks for your continued support!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

08.20.14 / The Nursery

The nursery we weren’t expecting…

nursery before

The before: not a lot to say here. Questionable green carpet, peeling paint, disintegrating baseboards but, LOOK!, a new window! This is the smallest of the three bedrooms (it’s not even 10′ x 10′) but it faces south and receives a good amount of natural light. When we bought the house, we had planned on this being Everett’s room. But a week before we sold our previous house, we discovered we were unexpectedly expecting. Surprise! In an instant, this room became the nursery. Well, not really in an instant. Mabrey was five months old by the time the room resembled anything remotely close to a nursery.

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I don’t know about you but my number one goal for a nursery is to make it conducive to sleeping – the more, the better. I chose a deep blue-gray for the walls and Steve thought I was insane. (I was extremely sleep-deprived at the time so it wasn’t much of a stretch.) Once the paint was up on the walls, though, he came around. Somehow, the moody walls made the teeny space feel larger. There’s so much depth to the color, it’s as if the walls recede. It continues to be one of my favorite paint colors in the house.

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Along with a good amount of natural light, I used lots of white to brighten the space. I love the contrast. I chose pinks and corals as accents. In keeping with the vibe of the rest of the house, I added hits of texture with layered rugs, a woven shade and seagrass baskets. Since the room is so small, I chose a simple (and inexpensive!) crib that can be converted into a toddler bed. Two years later, I have nothing but good things to say about it. The quilt is a family heirloom. My great-grandmother made it. It was my dad’s when he was a baby then mine. I’ve used it with all three of my kids. It’s starting to show some wear but I think that only adds to its beauty.

I created the art above the crib using an old mirror frame, leftover tongue and groove planks (from our mudroom renovation) and paint. It’s reminiscent of a sunset. It’s secured to the wall with drywall anchors and 3M adhesive strips. Mabrey has never shown an interest in playing with the art but it’s nice to know it’s not going anywhere if she decides to make it her toy. (I know it looks substantial but it weighs less than three pounds.)

The room wouldn’t accommodate an oversized rocker so I chose one with a small footprint. A lumbar pillow and floor pouf (which now lives in the living room) made late night feedings comfortable enough. Luckily, Mabrey was a fast eater so I never spent more than 15-20 minutes in the rocker at a time. Today, it’s where we sit to read nap time and bedtime stories. We’ve made a lot of good memories in that rocker.

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A trio of floating shelves holds books, baskets and decorative items without taking up precious floor space. Two fabric bins on the floor corral toys for easy access and cleanup.

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A makeshift changing table sits opposite the crib. We’ve had the horizontal bookcase for several years and it has served as a living room console, playroom storage and media stand in our previous residences. It’s so versatile! I added a contoured changing pad, toiletry basket and lamp to give it a completely different function in the nursery. The bins and baskets hold the majority of Mabrey’s clothes and diapers.

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Just like in the other bedrooms, I removed the closet door. The door to the room opens up right in front of the closet and it was cumbersome having so many doors (if you can consider two doors “so many”) in such a small space. I hung a curtain panel from a tension rod in the door frame and called it a day.

The closet is super tiny. I put a standing utility shelf in it for extra storage. The closet primarily holds a few hanging items (like dresses, coats and jackets) that are currently in rotation along with hand-me-downs that don’t fit just yet. I keep a laundry basket in the closet and throw in things that are too small as Mabrey outgrows them. When the basket is full, I donate them. It’s a good system. The basket on the floor next to the changing table acts as a hamper.

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The curtains framing the window match the one hanging in the closet. The woven shade is mounted outside the window frame while a room-darkening roller shade is mounted out of sight, inside the window frame. The trunk under the window was a wedding gift from my mom. I tweaked an off-the-shelf dollhouse (it originally featured blue and orange accents) because I’m crazy like that. Sometimes we bring it out to the living room to play.

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I caught quite a bit of flack in the online world for creating a dark nursery but I don’t regret it one iota. It’s actually a very happy place to play and sleep. I’m pretty sentimental about this room. I never thought we’d have a little girl in our family (and I was content with that) so I’m really grateful for this space and the amazing little person in it. She’s quite the firecracker and I can’t imagine life without her. Also, I’m already brainstorming ideas for a “big girl” room. It probably won’t happen for a year or so but, be warned, it’s coming. And then, technically, I won’t be able to call it a nursery anymore and I will sob. The end.

Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore dark pewter
trim paint – Benjamin Moore white dove
flooring – Jasper engineered hardwood handscraped birch in Texas brown via Build Direct
ceiling light – Ikea, discontinued
curtains – West Elm, discontinued
curtain rod – Target
woven shade – petite rustique from Overstock
room-darkening roller shade – Levolor from Lowe’s
dollhouse – Plan Toys terrace dollhouse
trunk – gift
area rug – jute chenille herringbone from West Elm
sheepskin rug – Ikea
floor lamp – gift
crib – GULLIVER from Ikea
organic mattress pad – Amazon
crib sheet – Amazon
crib bumper – Amazon (white version unavailable)
artwork above crib – DIY
quilt – vintage
striped crib pillow – West Elm, discontinued
rocker – Amazon
lumbar pillow – etsy
floating shelves – Ikea
wire book bins – Kroger
various seagrass baskets – Ikea, Kroger
fabric toy bins – Target
resin deer head – White Faux Taxidermy
fabric garland – DIY
wall mirror – Ikea
table lamp – Morten table lamp from West Elm
extra long, contoured changing pad – Amazon
changing table – EXPEDIT from Ikea, discontinued
striped bins – Ikea, discontinued
doll stroller – Land of Nod

In case you haven’t seen enough of this itty bitty room, here are a bunch of links documenting its evolution:

RENOVATION

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/01/04/the-painting-saga/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/01/11/the-flooring/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/07/05/hold-the-door/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/10/15/a-date-with-my-doors/

FURNITURE, DECOR & ORGANIZATION

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/08/28/mabreys-room/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/10/03/diy-fabric-circles-chandy/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/01/22/a-crib-review-with-special-guests/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/02/25/playing_in_the_nurser/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/09/10/free-for-all-white-faux-taxidermy/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/12/13/making-the-most-of-small-closets-nursery/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/01/07/a-dollhouse-for-mabrey/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/02/03/the-boy-version-of-mabreys-room/

*BONUS* – Mabrey’s birth story.

You can access this nursery tour (along with a general house tour and individual room tours) under the “See My House” tab in the side bar. I’ll be adding more rooms in the weeks to come. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking