...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Remember when I put the boys’ room together last year? Well, take a look at what it looks like now. As in this morning. I didn’t even bother to pick up. Go ahead; pin away.

boys room update 1

boys room update 2

boys room update 3

boys room update 4

As I mentioned in last week’s post on the vintage dresser, this room has issues. Or more like I have issues with this room. Of all the room’s in our house, I find this one the most difficult to decorate. I’ve pinpointed two reasons why:

1) To optimize open floor space for play, all the furniture is pushed up against the walls. My natural instinct is to pull furniture into a room so it doesn’t feel like a bowling alley which is exactly what this room feels like to me.

2) I’m trying to make it a “boy” room but I also want it to fit in with the rest of our home. It doesn’t have to look like every other room in our house (nor should it) but it should have a similar vibe. With the muddy gray walls (it’s Valspar Dry Riverbed and I actually love this color just not in this context) and gray Flor tiles, the room tends to feel drab in real life.

If you’re a frequent reader, you’ve probably noticed a few changes from last year. The open shelf bookcases are gone. That was such a horrible idea on my part. Why did I ever think two rowdy boys would keep those tidy? The boys would put their toys and costumes away in the baskets but there would be stuff hanging out of the baskets and the baskets were all crooked on the shelves. I sold the bookcases to one of the kids’ bus drivers. I lost money on them but the bus driver was so excited to use them that I didn’t feel too badly.

The Lego table is gone. My sister is giving it a spin as a coffee table in her apartment and the chairs are in the attic. If you’ll remember, my boys specifically requested a table for Lego building. Turns out, they loved the idea of a table but 99% of the time they sit on the floor to play Legos. Mabrey used the table more than anyone. If the table doesn’t work out for my sister, I’ll probably take it back and use it along with the chairs for a kids’ table during get-togethers with friends / family. I bought a Swoop bag and it’s perfect for my kids. They can carry it out to the living room to play or keep it in their room. I considered a Pinterest-worthy color-sorted setup but that’s just not realistic for us. My boys really enjoy sitting with a pile of Legos spread out in front of them and *BONUS* it keeps them occupied for longer periods of time because they have to look for pieces.

Doing away with the bookcases and Lego table allowed me to solve a bigger problem – not solely filter out items that weren’t working. There was some serious inadequate clothing storage going on. I don’t know when it happened but one day (I swear it happened in ONE DAY) my boys shot up and all of a sudden their clothes got bigger and didn’t fit in their 4-drawer dresser anymore. They literally could not close the drawers when all of their clothes were clean and in the dresser. I think I remember a reader predicting that would happen. She was right. Letting go of the bookcases, table and chairs made room for the 10-drawer dresser I shared last week. Now the boys have plenty of room for their clothes with empty drawers to spare.

boys room update 5

Luckily, the baskets that once lived on the bookcases work perfectly in the closet. I reconfigured the wire shelving so most of the toys are in the closet now. It gets messy from time to time but at least this way I can close the closet curtains and walk away. I have some of their playthings tucked away in other spots of our home but for the most part this is it. (Due to popular demand and even in response to some negative comments about how little toys my kids have, I’ll be writing a separate post on that. Stay tuned.)

Layne asked for a reading chair in the room for his birthday this past winter. (He’s an avid reader.) We got him Ikea’s KARLSTAD armchair and he loves it. Steve and I do, too. It’s much heavier than I expected! We sit in the chair to watch the kids play or to read them books before bedtime. The wood crate next to the chair was a gift to Everett from his grandfather. He wanted to make Everett a toy box of some kind and asked for ideas and dimensions. I asked if he could make an open book crate on wheels and gave him measurements. The design is his. It holds books and has casters on the bottom so it can be rolled out of the way when the trundle bed is pulled out. It’s so useful!

The basketball hoop was another gift to Everett. This time from Santa. It’s not my favorite addition to the room ;) but Everett enjoys it and it was a good energy burner during our long, cold winter.

Now that the room is functioning well for everyone, I need to address some other issues.

ISSUE #1: Drab wall color.

SOLUTION: Paint! I’m leaning towards something light and fresh. (See the paint samples on the walls.) This will be the third time I’ve painted this room. And, yes, Steve likes to remind me that the room started out light.

ISSUE #2: Hidden bed. The bunk bed hideout is awesome but most days it looks like the image above with the curtains closed.

SOLUTION: Add a system for tying back the curtains during the day.

ISSUE #3: Lifeless walls.

SOLUTION: Add interest with wall art and inexpensive shelving. Have fun with it!

ISSUE #4: No vibe.

SOLUTION: Bring in a few textiles, plants and accessories to make the room feel more like a part of our home but not too serious. It is a kids’ room after all.

You probably think I’m crazy for switching up the boys’ room so soon but when a room isn’t working for my family (whether for kids or adults or both) I’m all for making it right. Notice I didn’t say perfect. In hindsight, I was way too hasty in getting the room “done” last summer. Hindsight is 20/20. This isn’t a room do-over just for blog fodder. (Although, I will be blogging about it.) This is something I would be doing even if I didn’t have a blog.

As much as I like eye candy online, I also think it’s important to show a room’s evolution and to show when things don’t go as planned. Or when things do go as planned but the plan was all wrong. I guarantee behind every drool-worthy room there is a wrong paint color that had to be painted over or a wrong piece of furniture that had to be returned / sold or a wrong layout that had to be tweaked. Or a simple “I changed my mind.” And that’s okay!

But it doesn’t feel okay when no one talks about it. It’s like a big secret in the blogosphere. Here’s what the room looked like two years ago and here’s what it looks like now. Yay! They leave out the part about trying out three different lamps, ten different pillows or the massive DIY fail. But that stuff most definitely happens. Personally, I have so much respect for bloggers whom share when things go awry. I find them more relatable, more human. It makes their “afters” that much better because I know a real person is behind them.

Do you have a room that irks you? Are you feeling stupid or guilty about wanting to make it right? (Because, yes, there are bigger problems in the world.) I feel the same way but I’m trying not to let it hold me back from creating a space that my family wants to be in. I encourage you to do the same.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

bday 2

On Saturday, we celebrated Mabrey’s and Everett’s birthdays with extended family. (Mabrey turned two on Sunday and Everett will turn six on Monday.) Their birthdays are close enough to warrant a joint celebration – at least with extended family. Mabrey and Everett have such a close, unique relationship. They don’t mind sharing the spotlight with the other. At least for now.

On my kids’ actual birth days, the goal is to make them feel as special as they are. For us, that doesn’t mean oodles of gifts or an expensive party for all their classmates or even matching decorations. Extra cuddles, some balloons, a special gift, favorite foods, revisiting their birth story, maybe a visit to their favorite park and saying “I can’t believe you’re X years old already!” is all it takes. And we always read Dr. Seuss’s Happy Birthday to You!

bday 3

It got me thinking about how other families celebrate birthdays. Back when I working as a pharmacist, one of my co-worker’s had a Birthday Hat. It was a big, obnoxious (in a good way) hat that each person wore on their special day. They have pictures of each family member wearing the hat each year on their birthday. Such a fun tradition!

Growing up, my family took pride in singing the most horrible, drawn-out version of “Happy Birthday” you’ve ever heard. Loud, off-key, out of sync – that’s the stuff! The worse, the better. It’s always funny to see how non-family members not accustomed to our tradition react to the rendition. Usually, they look on in horror!

bday 1

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family? Any unique traditions? I’d love to hear ‘em.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

03.28.14 / Made Me Smile

made me smile awesome 2

Despite the rough start (DIY fail + technical bloggy problems = no bueno), I was able to crack a few smiles this week. Take the good with the bad, folks!

*House Beautiful’s kitchen of the month is more like the kitchen of my dreams.

*I spy many Ikea pieces in this fresh and cozy apartment. (If there were an Ikea version of “Where’s Waldo”, I would slay it. I can spot an Ikea item from a mile away.)

*That’s it. I’m moving to Australia.

*Ever wonder what happened to Genevieve Gorder? (She was my favorite “Trading Spaces” designer back in the day.) Well, apparently, Genevieve has been very busy renovating her home. I love her house tour in Design*Sponge at Home so I can’t wait to see the full-on renovation.

*DIY paper towel holder.

*Coolest. dad. ever. (Besides my husband.)

*Chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies make everything better.

*I grew up on 12 acres of rural land and explored the woods all day every day until evening when my mom would ring the dinner bell. We had a huge, vintage schoolhouse bell on our porch that my mom would manually ring to call us for dinner. I’m thinking of continuing the tradition with my kids, albeit with this suburbia-friendly dinner triangle.

*Mabrey’s awesome shirt. Plus, outtakes…

made me smile awesome

I hope you have a weekend full of smiles! We’re celebrating Everett’s and Mabrey’s birthdays with family then attempting Round 2 of tiling in the bathroom that just won’t finish itself. Keep on keepin’ on, my friends!

made me smile awesome 3

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

bath prep 1

This past weekend we prepped the unfinished bathroom for tile. Steve mudded, taped and sanded the seams in the cement board. Then he shop-vac’d the entire room and cleaned everything with a damp cloth. (Where I come from, shop-vac is a verb.)

Per the suggestion of a friend who also happens to be a self-employed contractor, we decided to try a new waterproofing product (it’s that hot pink stuff you see above) on the shower walls. It’s called RedGard and can be rolled onto surfaces before tiling to create a waterproofing barrier and prevent cracks.

tile prep 2

Some say this extra step isn’t necessary. (We didn’t use this product in the master bathroom because we hadn’t heard of it yet and things are just fine in there.) For us, it’s peace of mind. Plus, we like trying out new products along the way and sharing our experience with others.

The cement board in this bathroom was installed at the same time as the drywall in the rest of the house – which we hired out for. And while the rest of the walls turned out great, the cement board installation in this bathroom was a little wonky. I’m guessing it was the last room to be finished at the end of a long day and was completed in haste. The seams were less than perfect but not enough for us to rip everything out and start over. Steve asked our contractor friend what to do. He suggested mudding, taping and sanding the seams then applying the RedGard. So that’s what we did.

Steve rolled two coats of RedGard over the cement board. The stuff is really thick and stinky. For better control, he used a small roller. This method worked well but the RedGard can also be troweled on if desired. Steve wore a respirator during application while the kids and I spent most of the *mild* day outside. We turned on the bathroom ventilation fans and opened the windows to help dissipate the smelly fumes. Still, it was pretty stinky the day of application.

bath prep

The RedGard turns from pink to red when dry. It dries fairly quickly. See how it’s more red in the image above and pinker in the very first image of this post? That was the time between starting the first coat and cutting in around the window to finish up the first coat. The color is just as garish in real life as it is in these pictures. If not more so. Steve’s vision was screwed up for the the rest of the day after staring at the red-pink walls. The boys were relieved to learn this was NOT going to be the final color of their bathroom!

With the bathroom prepped for tile, we started thinking ahead. The original plan for the room was to use the same skinny subway tile we have in the kitchen for the shower walls and a continuous 36″ high tiled wainscoting around the rest of the room. For the floor, we planned to use carrara marble hexagon tile.

But right at “go time” we were second-guessing these choices. We hemmed and hawed over whether or not to do the tile wainscoting throughout the room…mostly because we knew it would be a lot of work but I also worried it might look too busy. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of having mostly tiled walls to wipe down from the kids’ splashes and messes. We decided putting in the extra time now for the wainscoting installation would pay off in the form of easy cleaning down the road. Not to mention, the wainscoting will serve as another “layer” in the room and you know how I feel about layers. So tile wainscoting it is!

Then we got to thinking about the floor tile. I love, love, LOVE the marble we chose. But my kids love, love, LOVE to not pee in the toilet. We have two boys and our toddler just started showing interest in potty-training. Need I say more? I knew the white marble wouldn’t last one day in this house without becoming stained. (We have light-colored penny tile in the master bathroom but it’s ceramic and isn’t easily stained like marble.) And I don’t really feel like being a slave to a bathroom floor, no matter how pretty it is.

I wasn’t on the computer two minutes before I found this noir hexagon tile. It’s tumbled travertine and it’s slightly less expensive than the marble we originally chose. We have a travertine floor in our mudroom and it has held up really well to all the mud, dirt, rocks and food my family throws at it so I know the same material will work great in the kids’ bathroom. And can we talk about the color of this tile for a hot second? From a distance it reads black but upon closer inspection there are variations of charcoal, blue-black and jet-black. The color gradient gives it a natural, organic feel. It’s soooooo goooooood. So good we changed our minds. Noir hex it is!

We’re (im)patiently awaiting the arrival of our noir hex order to swap out the carrara we have on hand. Since the floor tile needs to go down before we can begin the wall tile, our progress in the bathroom has come to a screeching halt. So goes DIY home improvement!

In the meantime, I went ahead and created an updated mood board for the bathroom.

 

Kid/Guest Bathroom

 

1 – barn wall sconce We have the same light over the sink in our master bathroom. We like it so much we’re using it in the kid / guest bath, too. Even though the two bathrooms will feature different finishes, keeping the lighting the same offers some consistency.

2 – imperial bianco 2″ x 12″ subway tile We used this tile for a minimal backsplash in the kitchen. Again, incorporating the same tile here provides cohesion throughout the house which is nice because this bathroom will serve as our main bathroom once finished (eek!) and it’s located near the kitchen.

3 – stainless steel first aid cabinet I bought this metal cabinet eons ago. We’re planning on cutting through the drywall and mounting the cabinet between the studs (recessed so that it’s flush with the wall) for hidden storage in the bathroom. I haven’t decided if it will hang above the toilet or on a sliver of wall next to the sink. Probably next to the sink?

4 – noir hex! Most everything else in the bathroom will be white or wood-toned so I’m banking on this tile for some high contrast.

5 – tork brass dripping mirror I like adding circles to boxy rooms so I’m thinking a round mirror will go above the vanity. I like the thin brass frame of this one but I’ll probably wait until most of the fixtures are in place before I finalize the mirror selection. As much as I like softening sharp lines with rounded edges, I wouldn’t be opposed to a rectangular one if it “fits.”

6 – cognac vanity with marble top We bought this vanity over two years ago on sale at Home Depot. I can’t find it available anywhere now. We bought it for the inexpensive price, open frame and clean lines. I’ve read it’s a pain to assemble and install so we’ll see how it goes.

7 – claw foot tub with wood base Do you remember the claw foot tub we found on craigslist? It had four feet when we bought it, three feet when we got it home and now it’s down to two. (!) The plan is to DIY a simple wood base and forego the claw feet all together. I have a feeling we’ll be flying by the seat of our pants during this project as I haven’t come across any detailed DIY’s for wood tub bases. It might not work out but it sounds fun so we’re giving it a go. We’re trailblazing!

We’re itching to whip this bathroom into shape. Whenever we’re in the middle (or even beginning stages) of a project, it feels like a major waste of time (and, honestly, a complete drop in confidence) to take a step back and reassess our plans. But sometimes it leads to changes that make more sense in the long run. That’s how I feel about our decision to switch up the floor tile in the kids’ bathroom. It’s a good change.

Do you find yourself second-guessing every step of a project? Does it help or hinder you? We’ve seen it go both ways for us. Sometimes taking a second look at plans reaffirms our original decisions which gives us a boost of confidence to forge ahead. Other times, we doubt certain aspects and end up completely paralyzed which usually results in the project getting pushed further out.

Oh, home improvement, why are you so addicting?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking