...because home doesn't happen overnight.

exterior spring 2014

We’ve touched nearly every inch of this house and the biggest projects are behind us. Still, there are several projects left on our to-do list. Here they are in no particular order:

THD attic

*spruce up the hallway. I’ve always wanted this hallway to be more than just a pass-through. It’s narrow and riddled with doors, but I have a few ideas.

*create an interactive side panel on the exposed side of the refrigerator. I don’t know if we have enough room to do this, but it would be great to disguise the side of the fridge in a useful way.

*create a wrapping station. I keep a few boxes and rolls of paper in a cabinet at the kitchen desk but it would be nice to have a designated area for quick wrapping sessions.

toddler transition 2

*transition the nursery to a big kid room. I’m in no rush to do this, but eventually I will need to reassess our needs in Mabrey’s room. A trundle for extra sleeping space is a must.

*replace the mailbox. The door doesn’t shut properly and the post has seen better days. I’ve had my eye on these midcentury-inspired ones ever since they were in the Kickstarter phase.

*install a discreet clothesline. I love hanging clothes and linens outside to dry but I need more space! Currently, I have a single drying rack and that just isn’t cutting it.

*organize the garage. It’s a mess from standing in as our workshop over the last 3 years.

*build a screen / vertical garden to hide the electric meter on the back of the house. I’ve been wanting an excuse to try these.

*build a screen to hide the outdoor trash / recycling bins. We like the look of this one.

dining patio

*install a trio of overlapping shade sails to shade the backyard deck and patios. We had a local company come out last summer to give us an estimate for this project. The quote was more than we were willing to spend. We think we’ll do some of the work ourselves to save money. We like the vibe of this outdoor space.

*plant a tree in the front yard. To make up for all the dead ones we removed.

*build a raised bed garden or two. Alison is my green thumb hero.

*incorporate a rain barrel. And use it.

*start composting. This tutorial for a tumbling composter doesn’t look too terribly difficult. Any tips for someone new to composting?

driveway after 1

This is a random pipe dream and one that might not ever make it to fruition just because we aren’t sold on it. It isn’t entirely necessary and we aren’t sure it’s worth investing in for this property but…

*build a sizable outbuilding at the end of the driveway and convert the attached garage to a flex / rec room. Like I said, pipe dream. We may decide to save our time and money for something else that makes more sense for our family.

That’s all I can think of at the moment! We don’t have deadlines for any these (some of them won’t happen this year) but it would be nice to tackle some of the outdoor projects this spring / summer while the weather is nice. If not, we have to wait a whole ‘nother year. We’d love to knock out the shade sails so we can enjoy them. And it would be nice to park at least one car in the garage. I’ll keep you posted.

What projects are on your never-ending to-do list?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

hidden litter box 8

Before we get into this hidden litter box business, can we talk about how “helpful” toddlers are? Mabrey is a BIG “helper.” If you had / have / know a toddler, you know what I mean. In their lil’ minds they are busy doing something important (like washing dishes, dusting, cooking, mopping, vacuuming, feeding the family pet, etc.) but in reality they are making an even bigger mess.

After Mabrey washes dishes, the dishes are still dirty and everything in sight is soaked. When Mabrey dusts, one square foot area is dripping wet and she’s still spraying it because (to her) it’s just not wet enough. When Mabrey cooks, she uses all of the things: pots, pans, spoons, spatulas, toothbrush (?!), measuring cups, Hot Wheels (?), bowls, whisk, baster, timer. All of the things. When Mabrey vacuums, everything is fair game: her braid, Legos, Cheetah’s tail, shoelaces, jewelry, rocks, Hot Wheels, crayons. Don’t want to pick it up? Sweep it up! When Mabrey feeds Cheetah, there’s no telling how much food she’ll put out or where the food will be. Two days’ worth of food in the water bowl? Two pellets in the food bowl strategically placed in the dollhouse? A perfect scoopful in the litter box? Yeesh.

Of course, after I clean up her helping messes and relay the day’s events to Steve in the evening, it’s comical. Sweet even. So she keeps “helping” and I keep reminding myself that she’ll want nothing to do with helping in a few short years.

But when it came to the litter box, something had to be done. Every time I turned around Mabrey was trying to clean it or throwing random stuff in it. Originally, I placed the litter box on the floor next to the dryer but that spot was a little too accessible for a two-year-old. I googled a bunch of hidden litter box ideas but it seemed like everything I found required a new, separate piece of furniture: a solid bench, an end table, a freestanding wood box, etc. I really wanted to keep the litter box in the mudroom and I wasn’t willing to give up precious real estate for another furniture item no matter how small.

So I started looking around at what we already had. That’s when the a-ha! moment struck.

PAX wardrobe + cat door = hidden litter box. Boom. Done.

We purchased a cat door for big cats (the vet guesses Cheetah is at least part Maine Coon which means we could end up with a pretty large cat when she’s full grown) that would accommodate the thin side panel of the PAX. If you’re curious, it’s this one. It doesn’t have the best reviews but it looks like they mostly pertain to indoor-outdoor use on an exterior door. Since we were going to be installing the door inside, we weren’t too concerned with the actual door function. We simply needed the large opening and the ability to install it into a thin panel.

hidden litter box before 2

hidden litter box 2

We removed the PAX doors and all contents (cat paraphernalia, sewing machine, sewing basket) from the bottom shelf. Using the included template, we cut a hole in the side of the PAX where Cheetah would be able to access it when the wood bench was in place (see first image of this post).

hidden litter box 3

Installing the door wasn’t difficult but it did require an extra pair of hands to hold everything in place while another person screwed everything together. Because we installed the door on a thin panel (as opposed to an actual door) we did have to trim the screws to get a perfect fit. Again, not difficult but an added step.

hidden litter box 4

I made the executive decision to install the door with the red locks facing the interior of the wardrobe. I didn’t want them visible from the exterior. (The 4-way locks allow access only in / only out / both in & out / both locked.) We could have done away with the flap door all together and just used the opening, but we decided to keep the door in case we ever need to put Cheetah up for some reason. That way, she still has access to the litter box.

We taped the door to hold it in the up position. We want Cheetah to get acquainted with the new location of her litter box before we introduce the door. I lined the bottom of the wardrobe with two Flor squares leftover from the boys’ room. I had to trim one for a perfect fit. I plan on hosing them off outside when necessary, probably each month when I empty and clean the litter box. A rubber mat, a scoop and the litter box sit on top of the rug squares.

PAX_wardrobe_with_cat_door_litter_box

To accommodate the litter box, I raised the lowest shelf and reorganized all of the shelves. I moved my sewing machine and sewing basket to a different closet but, eventually, they will end up in the studio along with most of the other items in this wardrobe. The dark brown woven basket on the shelf above the litter box holds cat food, overstock litter, cat nail clippers and Cheetah’s brush. So I guess this is the cat closet now? Never thought I’d be typing that.

hidden litter box 5

hidden litter box 7

I like that the cat door is easily accessible for Cheetah but completely inconspicuous. Mabrey’s interest in the litter box has waned. For now. The other great thing about this setup is that the litter is better contained. I’m not finding as many stray bits as I was when the litter box was on the floor next to the dryer. I also have my rolling cart back next to the dryer which is another plus.

hidden litter box 6

Luckily, Cheetah has adjusted to the change swimmingly. She took to it right away and hasn’t missed a beat. I actually think she prefers this setup over the previous one. It’s her contained space away from toddler “help.”

hidden litter box 1

After we installed the door and put everything back together, I got to thinking that if someone really wanted to they could totally go wild with a DIY cat house design that takes up the entire PAX. THE ULTIMATE IKEA CAT HOUSE HACK! You know, cutting holes in shelves, adding scratching / climbing posts to allow access to vertical space, etc. It was just a thought. I’m not THAT crazy ;)

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

02.06.15 / The Main Bathroom

(shouted) WE HAVE TWO FULLY FUNCTIONING BATHROOMS AND I FEEL LIKE I WON THE LOTTERY. Let’s do this.

main bathroom before 1

The main bathroom is located in a small hallway just off the open kitchen-living room. The original fixtures were outdated and in disrepair. There was no overhead lighting or ventilation fan. The one thing it had going for it was a window which let in a good amount of natural light. Before renovations started, we had planned on living with the bathroom as-is for a while. But when we demo’d the other (kitchen) side of the wall on the left, we discovered black mold. A few of the shower tiles were cracked, allowing water to seep into the wall.

We ended up gutting the entire room, updating the electrical, installing ventilation to the outside, replacing the window, adding foam insulation to the exterior wall & a can light above the shower / tub area. We lived with the unfinished, non-functional bathroom for over two years while all five of us shared the master bathroom. It was such an eyesore and we hated that we weren’t using usable space. We finished the bathroom at the end of 2014 after working on it off and on for almost a year. It mainly serves as the kid / guest bathroom.

main bathroom after 1

main bathroom after 2

To keep costs down, we worked with the original layout and brought in new materials and fixtures. We chose elongated subway tile for the walls. It reaches to the ceiling at the shower and is 36″ high around the rest of the room. It’s the same tile we used for the kitchen backsplash but here we paired it with white grout. I didn’t think the small bathroom (it’s ~5′ x 7′) could handle the busyness of contrasting grout lines. At the last minute, I added a black pencil liner to the design to tie in to the floor which is a tumbled travertine hexagon. I chose a light gray grout for the floor. The black travertine and dirt-colored grout are super kid-friendly.

main bathroom after 3

In the early stages of planning, I got stuck on the idea of a clawfoot tub resting on a wood base. We found a 4½’ vintage clawfoot tub on craigslist. The interior was in good condition but two of the feet had broken off and the exterior needed a fresh coat of paint. We DIYed two wood saddles from a reclaimed beam to support the tub and painted the exterior black. The chrome plumbing fixtures are new but have a vintage look. We went through two matching shower heads but each of them leaked so, for now, we’re living with an inexpensive one that I picked up at Lowe’s. It doesn’t pivot and we wish it did.

main bathroom after 5

main bathroom after 6

I hung a white fabric shower curtain liner on either side of the ceiling support (two liners total) to enclose the shower when necessary. The liners hang outside the tub for baths and inside the tub for showers. On the side visible from the door, I hung a single linen curtain in front of the liner. I love the natural texture it adds to the space. The curtains hang from rolling rings.

main bathroom after 7

We had planned on using the original toilet but it was accidentally broken during renovations. Oops. Steve had always wanted a sleek, modern toilet (#mandreams) and this seemed like the perfect excuse to try one. He chose a dual flush model with clean lines. The kids have a ball showing off the toilet and its buttons to guests.

The angle of the camera stretches the appearance. In real life, the toilet takes up significantly less floor space than the toilet in the master bathroom due to: 1) the small tank and 2) the ability to install it closer to the wall. The exterior is much easier to clean, too, but it takes a little elbow grease to clean the corners of the bowl (do bowls have corners?) inside. And it isn’t exactly easy to plunge. TMI? It’s worth noting that I don’t know what we’ll do if the seat or lid needs replaced. Special order from the manufacturer?

main bathroom after 8

I snuck in a seagrass trash bin between the tub and toilet. FYI – For bathrooms, I use a textured bin and place a smaller plastic trash can, lined with a plastic bag, inside. I removed the plastic can + bag for this shot because I didn’t think anyone would want to see our bathroom trash. I couldn’t find a black register cover so I bought an oil-rubbed bronze one and spray painted it matte black to blend in with the floor.

main bathroom after 9

We installed a simple metal shelf above the toilet. It’s a great spot for artwork, flowers and jewelry catchalls. (The vase is actually a bathroom tumbler.) The shelf isn’t the highest quality but I like the way the metal brackets pick up on the pencil liner. I painted the heads of the screws black so they would be less conspicuous.

main bathroom after 11

To keep things light visually, we chose an open vanity that stands up off the floor. I stash trash bags and a microfiber cloth in the bottom drawer. A woven basket holds toilet paper and a cup for rinsing the kids at bathtime. We couldn’t bear to drill into the vanity or wall tile to hang a toilet paper holder.

main bathroom after 13

The door to the bathroom opens up into the room in front of the vanity. We needed a stool for our toddler to reach the sink but I didn’t want it to impede the opening / closing of the door. I found a small folding stool at HomeGoods that fit the bill. It isn’t much to look at but, thankfully, it folds up and slides in next to the vanity so we don’t have to look at it all the time.

main bathroom after 12

My only issue with the vanity is that the solid surface top is creamier than the bright white subway tile. I think it’s probably one of those things that no one else really notices but it stands out to me. The faucet matches the tub fixture. I adore the labeled porcelain handles.

We chose a simple, recessed mirror / medicine cabinet for the sink area. It has a narrow stainless steel frame. This is where the microfiber cloth in the vanity drawer comes in handy. I use it for quick once-overs to remove the kids’ fingerprints from the mirror.

main bathroom after 14

The mirrored door opens to reveal hidden storage. The shelves are adjustable. I used several small organizers to corral the kids’ toiletries.

main bathroom after 15

On the opposite side of the room, we installed a trio of wall hooks. There’s one hook for each kid. I found peshtemal towels that mimic the linen shower curtain.

main bathroom after 16

This stool was the missing piece of the bathroom reno puzzle! It finally arrived last week. Not only is it pretty cute, it’s functional too. It saves my back when I bathe the younger kids. And, I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will be the perfect spot for a lit candle and a glass of wine when I give the tub a spin myself.

main bathroom after 18

I bought a vintage rug to add some color and pattern to the room. The low profile allows the door to swing open without getting hung up on the rug.

And that’s it! Since the bathroom is near the main living space, I wanted it to feel like a continuation of the great room. I repeated certain elements (subway tile, black & white contrast, rich wood tones, woven textures, vintage rug, etc.) for a cohesive look. The room really feels like a part of the house – not a separate, themed kids’ bathroom. Incorporating larger pieces (tub, vanity) that stand up off the floor visually lightens the tiny room and makes cleaning a breeze.

main bathroom after 19

main bathroom after 23

main bathroom after 24

main bathroom after 22

main bathroom after 20

main bathroom after 21

main bathroom after 25

After sharing one bathroom for the last 2+ years, we feel completely spoiled now that we have TWO functioning bathrooms. No one is waiting for a turn. Everyone has their own towel hook. We’re able to give the two younger kids a bath while our oldest takes a shower in our bathroom to speed up the bathtime routine. Guests no longer have to walk through our bedroom to use the bathroom and they have their own shower, too. It’s nice having a bathroom so close to the main living space. You know, because walking down the hallway, through the master bedroom and into the master bath is just too much work. Like I said, spoiled. But our favorite thing is that we’re finally using previously wasted space. I don’t know how many times I apologized to guests about the state of the main bathroom during its gutted life.

We have two bathrooms. Life is good :)

Resources of note:

2″ x 12″ subway tile – imperial bianco gloss white from The Tile Shop*
black pencil liner – noir honed somerset from The Tile Shop*
wall grout – standard white unsanded from The Tile Shop*
floor tile – noir hex from The Tile Shop*
floor grout – whisper grey sanded from The Tile Shop*
wall paint – Ace Paints lost spur mixed in Clark + Kensington paint + primer in one
trim paint – Benjamin Moore super white
tub – vintage, craigslist
tub base – DIY
tub exterior paint – Sherwin Williams enamel latex color-matched to Benjamin Moore black jack
plumbing fixtures – Randolph Morris from Vintage Tub & Bath
fabric shower curtain liners – Wayfair
linen shower curtain – Restoration Hardware
shower curtain rings – Amazon
toilet – Fresca salerno dual flush square toilet from TradeWinds Imports
trash bin – Target
floor register cover – Lowe’s, spray painted matte black
wall shelf – Urban Outfitters
amber vase – Target (it’s actually a bathroom tumbler!)
dried craspedia – FayeMarie etsy shop
art print – Printwork etsy shop
frame – Amazon
vanity – Home Depot, discontinued
basket – HomeGoods
folding stool – HomeGoods
towel ring – Lowe’s, spray painted matte black
hand towel, washcloth – HomeGoods
recessed mirror / medicine cabinet – Wayfair*
wall sconce – Barn Light Electric Co.
rug – vintage from etsy
dip-dyed stool – Serena and Lily
wall hooks – Amazon
peshtemal towels – Amazon

*Denotes items from brands that kindly sponsored this project. We selected and installed the products on our own.

Interested in seeing how this bathroom came to be? More bathroom-related links…

RENOVATION

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/08/18/the-underdog-sans-scaffolding/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/08/30/a-few-new-things/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/09/13/behind-the-walls-i-mean-scenes/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/10/11/new-windows-doors/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/11/01/in-case-youve-never-seen-foam-insulation/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/11/06/we-have-walls/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/02/03/let-there-be-light-and-some-cabinets/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/03/20/a-clawfoot-tub-declawed/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/02/07/scratching-an-itch/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/03/04/baby-steps-in-the-unfinished-bathroom/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/03/13/tile-prep-thinking-ahead/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/03/24/sometimes-diy-sucks/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/04/02/the-noir-hex-is-in-tips-for-laying-pesky-sheets-of-tile/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/08/25/the-bathroom-tiled-grouted/

FIXTURES & DECOR

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/09/07/thinking-about-a-bathroom/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/09/14/splash-and-crash/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/12/19/the-peshtemal-plunge/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/06/26/black-pencil-liner-in-the-bathroom/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/09/26/bathroom-update-baseboards-paint/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/10/31/putting-the-bath-in-bathroom/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/11/18/tub-cradle-base-how-we-did-it/

For ease, you can access this bathroom tour under the “see my house” tab in the sidebar along with a general house tour and individual room tours. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking