...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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…

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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.

space saving kitchen 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

mudroom doors black 3

As winter slips into spring, I’m itching to put away the snow boots, toboggans and heavy coats in favor of sandals, sun hats and light jackets. For a seamless transition, I rely on our versatile back entry. We don’t have a true mudroom. Instead, I carved out a corner of the dining room/laundry nook to act as a mini mudroom of sorts. A row of hooks, a saddler bench and a catchall floor basket keep in-season outerwear in check and provide a place to put on and remove shoes. (We have a similar setup near the front door.)

If you have room for one, a hardworking bench can be a great addition to an entry. I have a few stipulations when it comes to entry benches…

*Backless, armless, narrow, straight-lined. For those of us who don’t have the luxury of a separate entry, it’s essential to choose a bench that hugs the wall and doesn’t interfere with traffic flow.

*Robust. I prefer a bench that is primarily constructed of wood, metal and/or leather. It needs to hold up to kids and all four seasons.

*Leggy. A bench that sits up off the floor is easier to clean around. In small spaces, it’s lighter on the eyes, too.

*Opportunity for storage. A bench that includes hidden storage, shelving or an open design (i.e., no cross bars under the seat to allow for clearance of baskets or shoes) is ideal. For benches that don’t boast built-in storage, a woven or felt floor basket is an easy fix.

*<$200. Sure, there are a slew of pricey entry benches out there that I have all the heart eyes for, but in reality, I can’t see spending more than $200 on a piece of furniture that is going to get beat up on a daily basis – especially when I know there are affordable alternatives that can do the job just as well. It can’t be too precious. I think I would cringe every time a kid threw a muddy shoe at a more expensive bench.

*No espresso! There are plenty of benches that meet all the criteria above but many of them are only available in an espresso finish. Don’t fall for it! It will immediately cheapen the look of an entry (or any space for that matter).

For fun, here are eight entry benches under $200…

blu dot twilight

Target mid century modern bench

For closed storage plus a cushion top, I like the Blu Dot twilight bench and Target’s midcentury modern bench. I would consider reupholstering the cushions with indoor-outdoor fabric, mudcloth, a kilim rug remnant or another vintage textile for a bespoke look.

ikea skogsta bench

andover mill bench

For solid wood construction, I like the simple lines of the IKEA SKOGSTA bench and the Andover Mills thorndike bench. Keep the look natural with a wax topcoat, or use stain or paint for a custom look.

Saddler+Wood+Bench

leather + birch bench

Leather + wood is one of my favorite combinations. This saddler bench sits at our back entry. It has held up wonderfully to years of use and abuse. The Andalucia bench in white is a larger, more modern option.

mud hut wood + metal bench

universal shoe bench

For added durability, try a bench that combines metal and wood. The Mudhut asmara bench is marketed as a dining bench, but I could see it working well in an entry that opens up into a long, narrow hallway. The universal expert shoe bench from West Elm offers a compact design along with shelving. Use it where space is limited.

What are your must-haves for a practical entry? Do you have a dedicated mudroom? If so, I’m envious.

P.S. – Our front entry’s exterior.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking, sources linked within

I want to thank all of you for your well wishes and words of encouragement. THANK YOU. I wasn’t planning on it, but I had to take some time off. The kids ended up getting sick, too. Luckily, Cheetah hasn’t made anymore attempts to run away and I haven’t had anymore run-ins with opossums ;)

DIY leather pull 11

I’ve been tweaking things here and there in our bedroom. Mostly because I like change every now and then, but also because a few things felt slightly off. Take the IKEA HEMNES shoe cabinet, for instance. It actually started out in our entry, then I moved it to the master bedroom after I realized it made more sense functionally. (We don’t enter through the front door on a regular basis, so we don’t really need shoe storage there.) I hung a mirror (an octagonal one at first, then a rectangular one) and spray painted the knobs gold, but the vignette always felt flat to me. (Also, looking back at old posts is a little like looking at pictures of myself from college or high school. It’s embarrassing.)

Additionally, in my opinion, the cabinet knobs were awkwardly placed. They were positioned about one-third of the way down the drawer fronts. We had to give them a good tug to open the shoe compartments. I always thought handles/pulls located higher up on the fronts would work and look better. (IKEA must have received similar feedback because they now offer the STÄLL cabinet with notched handles.) I decided to try my hand at making leather pulls for the shoe cabinet.

DIY leather pull 1

I removed the original knobs, filled the holes with wood putty then sanded the putty smooth taking care NOT to sand the surface of the drawer fronts. (I just wanted to do a quick and easy patch & touchup job. If possible, I didn’t want to paint the entire fronts/cabinet.) After the putty had dried completely, I used a small watercolor brush from my kids’ art supplies to brush on two coats of paint over the putty only. I used Benjamin Moore white dove in semigloss (leftover from our baseboards and trim) because it was what I had on hand and there was a snow storm and I wasn’t dragging the kids to the store for eight drops of paint. It isn’t a perfect match but it worked just fine for the minuscule touchups. These photos are untouched other than lightening them up a little, but you really can’t tell where the knob holes used to be unless the sun is shining and you look at the cabinet from just the right angle.

Of course, you can have paint color-matched for a flawless finish if you’re worried about inconsistencies.

DIY leather pull 2

Once the holes were patched and painted, I got to work on the pulls. I found a faux leather belt at my local Salvation Army store. It was long enough for four pulls and the $1.99 price tag was perfect. When I got to the counter and found out it was included in the daily special (50% off all yellow tags!), I was stoked. The belt rang in at a whopping 99¢ and, after a grueling week from hell, it completely made my day. It’s the little things, people.

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I cut the buckle off the belt then measured and cut four 4½” strips for the pulls.

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I folded each strip over on itself, measured 3/8″ down from the cut ends then drilled a hole through each pull. (I don’t remember the exact size of the drill bit, but it was slightly smaller than the shaft of the machine screws I bought for the project. Keep reading for more info on those.) I used the same wood scrap from the DIY wood bead strand for a cleaner cut and to protect the floor. If you haven’t noticed by now, I tend to work on the floor in whatever room I’m working on at the moment. I’m too impatient to set things up elsewhere!

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I bought four 10-24 x 1″ brass machine screws plus washers and nuts in the same size for this project. I found them at Lowe’s and they cost ~$6 total. For each pull, I slipped a screw through a washer then the hole in the leather.

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DIY leather pull 7

I removed the shoe compartments from the cabinet (they simply pull up and out) and used the same drill bit to drill a hole in each front ~½” down from the top. I wanted the tops of the pulls to line up with the tops of the fronts without interfering with opening/closing. Again, I used a wood scrap underneath for a clean cut.

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Then I used a flathead screwdriver to screw the pulls onto the fronts. I secured them with a 10-24 brass nut. I probably could have used a slightly longer screw as I had to bust out pliers to screw the nuts on, but it all worked out. Steve says the screws are perfect because they don’t stick out and pose a hazard to hands reaching into the cabinet for a pair of shoes. One thing is for sure. They aren’t going anywhere!

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I love, love, LOVE how the brass looks against the (faux) saddle leather. I was worried the pulls might scream “BELT!” but I actually like the stitching. Especially at <$2 per pull!

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The new pulls are way more functional, too. No more tugging at awkwardly placed knobs.

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Surprise! Two of the compartments are empty. Steve uses the one on the bottom left as a hidden charging station for his phone.

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I didn’t plan for it, but the new pulls tie in to the leather bench at the foot of the bed. #happyaccident I sprung for a new mirror. Maybe you noticed? I really felt like we needed something round to break up all the straight lines and I wanted a touch of black. I found an affordable, round mirror with a black frame here. The scale is spot on. FYI – It’s heavy!

Thanks to the new leather pulls, round mirror and some Trader Joe’s blooms, I’ve fallen in love with this little corner of our bedroom. It just feels right. And now I want to add leather pulls made from thrifted belts to all the things. #savethebelts

Stay tuned for more bedroom updates, coming soon!

P.S. – If DIY isn’t your thing, pre-made leather pulls on an armoire.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking