...because home doesn't happen overnight.

So we got a cat. And there’s a burning question that keeps coming up: WHERE DO YOU KEEP THE LITTER BOX?

cat paraphernalia - litter box

Next to the dryer, naturally. I chose the spot on a whim when we brought Cheetah home but it’s actually kinda perfect. It’s out of the way and the tile hides stray litter and allows for easy cleanup. For the first few days, I kept the curtain open so Cheetah could maneuver in and out easily. Recently, I started closing it almost all the way. Cheetah can get to the litter box but we don’t have to see it 24/7. It’s pretty inconspicuous.

We have this litter box. It’s nothing fancy. (Don’t tell my nine-year-old there are automatic litter boxes. Next thing you know, one will be on his Christmas list and then how will he ever learn the discipline of scooping cat poop? #lifeskills) But it fits the small space and, more importantly, it works. The litter mat is here. It helps to catch stray litter.

You may recall a rolling cart used to live next to the dryer. I moved it to a linen closet to make room for the litter box. NBD. (I also stash the catnip, lint rollers, Frontline and cat brush in the linen closet.) I’m able to keep a drying rack and our small ironing board next to the dryer. Cheetah doesn’t seem to mind. She is a domestic cat after all. I hope she takes up ironing soon.

cat paraphernalia - food  water

The food and water bowl is under the bench on the other side of the mudroom. Again, the tile is super easy to wipe down. The bowl has non-slip feet so it doesn’t slide around on the tile.

cat paraphernalia - storage

I store cat food and litter in the wardrobe next to the bench. I was advised to purchase this cat food and this litter. Apparently, cats can have issues with grains? Since I have no experience with cats whatsoever, I can’t really attest to how good these are. And after I bought the walnut-based litter I realized that anyone with a serious tree nut allergy can’t enter our home. (Luckily, we don’t know anyone with a tree nut allergy but who’s to say we never will?) But Cheetah is alive and we haven’t had any issues with odors so I’m not complaining. One of my biggest qualms with potentially owning a cat was the smell. So far, we haven’t had any odor issues. Fingers crossed we can keep it that way.

cat paraphernalia - stand

For the first two days, Cheetah mostly slept. I think she was traumatized. Or she was pretending to be a in bad dream where a toddler follows her every move. Then on day 3 she suddenly perked up and started scratching the sisal rug in the entry and climbing the screens on the french doors in the kitchen. (!) This sparked an intense “why is my cat scratching / climbing?” google search. (I told you I was oblivious.) Apparently, Cheetah needs to scratch / climb and I need to provide appropriate items for her to scratch / climb or she will find some herself. In desperation, I snatched up the least offensive cat stand I could find at my local pet store. I AM THAT LADY. I know I could make one just as good (if not better) but, again, the desperation. Quick! Before all the window screens are torn to shreds!

The bones are there. I figure I can tweak it when it starts looking even more hideous. Whatever. Cheetah loves it. When I catch her scratching / climbing something I don’t necessarily want her to scratch / climb, I pick her up and place her on the stand. Sometimes I spray it with a little catnip solution. Watch out! Psychedelic cat! Luckily, she hasn’t damaged anything but I don’t trust her 100%. We’re a work in progress over here.

(Also, this picture has me itching to paint those french doors a glossy black like the ones in the kitchen.)

cat paraphernalia - lounger

To redeem myself of the Carpet Tree purchase, I found this cardboard lounger. I actually love it and so does Cheetah. She scratches it and also sleeps on it. I like that it slips under the living room shelves and doesn’t take up a ton of space. The world needs more pet paraphernalia like this.

cat paraphernalia - fiddle leaf fig

There seems to be some controversy about cats and fiddle leaf figs. I’ve heard and read that FLF’s are and are not toxic to cats. Cheetah hasn’t paid much attention to the tree so far but I did rig it with some frightening cooling racks to discourage her. I AM THAT LADY, TOO. If I have to choose, I’ll find a new home for the tree – not the cat. (Which should tell you something about my feelings toward this kitten because I heart that tree so hard.)

cat paraphernalia - leather sofa

I can count on three fingers the number of times Cheetah has slept on the leather sofa. Just today, I caught her pawing at it (no damage was done) and I quickly sprayed some water her way. The spray didn’t touch her but it was enough to grab her attention. I set the spray bottle on the speaker box next to the sofa for the rest of the day and its presence was enough to keep her at bay. I’ll have to update you on the sofa’s condition in a few months. To be continued…

In general, I’m either freaking out about the cat or completely ignorant. I think it’s a good balance ;) I don’t expect perfection. I made no décor choices based on cat behavior so I can’t fret if something gets scratched. As much as I love creating a stylish home, I want it to be livable for our family – which now includes a cat. If we can’t live in it, what’s the point? That being said, I’m making every effort to teach Cheetah which items are (not) okay to scratch / climb. Fortunately, she seems to be catching on.

I titled this post “Phase 1″ because I fully anticipate different or more cat paraphernalia entering our home. Things just got verrrrrry interesting over here, didn’t they? I shared the items we already have not as recommendations per se (although I really do love that cardboard lounger and the food bowl) but so you could see what we’re starting with and offer up any tips or advice. After reading all the wonderful comments on the previous post, I watched a video on how to clip cats’ claws at home and bought some trimmers. I AM ALSO THAT LADY. I can’t say I’m excited to cut Cheetah’s claws but we’ll figure it out.

If you made it this far and you’re a cat person, I hope you find my antics humorous and have wise words to share. Like, where does your cat sleep at night? Cheetah picks a different spot every night. Is this normal? If you’re not a cat person (like I was two weeks ago), I’m sorry and I hope you don’t think I’m too crazy. Also, I hope a snuggly kitten weasels its way into your life.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Obligatory preamble rambling: When we were renovating our kitchen, I searched high and low for any information I could find on Ikea kitchens. The results were few and far between. We did end up with an Ikea kitchen (which we love) but I’d like to shed more light on Ikea kitchen renovations from the perspective of other real life homeowners. It’s something I wish we would have had access to when we were considering Ikea for our own kitchen remodel. Plus, it’s fun to see how others use Ikea to suit their personal style and needs in the kitchen. I hope you find these posts helpful and inspiring – whether you ultimately end up with an Ikea kitchen or not. Enjoy!

lila's kitchen before

Lila describes the “before” of her kitchen in rural Australia as small, cold and clinical. With inadequate storage and an awkwardly placed (and inoperable!) wood stove, the space wasn’t working as well as it could be and it didn’t reflect the family’s warm, organic style. On a tight DIY budget, Lila and her husband used Ikea cabinets and a healthy dose of ingenuity to create a unique but warm kitchen. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lila about her kitchen renovation. Find her answers and the inspiring “afters” below.

plywood ikea kitchen after

Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

Most of our cabinets are from Ikea – except for the ones we custom built for awkward spaces (i.e., under the sink and the narrow space between the dishwasher and the wall).

plywood ikea kitchen fireplace

The cabinets in the non-functioning fireplace are narrow cabinets from Ikea. It was fantastic to find off-the-shelf cabinets that fit to give us more storage. They hold all of my baking spices, ingredients and tools.

plywood ikea kitchen 4

plywood ikea kitchen 3

Because we chose to install such a large sink (it was originally the laundry trough in our exterior laundry), we bought the DOMSJÖ colander and chopping board to place over one sink, enabling it to double as a work surface. We used Ikea drawers and made our own plywood fronts for the appliance drawers which house our kettle, toaster and blender. We have Ikea drawer organizers that we’ve used not only for cutlery and utensils but also to keep my spices close at hand near the stove.

plywood ikea kitchen 5

We purchased the BOSSE stools as our island is essentially our dining table. Our home is <900 square feet. The kitchen isn’t only a kitchen; it’s a dining room!

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

It had a lot to do with budget. We are renovating our house week-to-week without borrowing additional money to do so. I also felt the cabinets were of higher quality and more attractive than what a local cabinet maker could have produced. Not to mention, with Ikea we could save money by doing the labor ourselves.

plywood ikea kitchen sink

Who designed your kitchen? What aesthetic were you aiming for?

We designed our kitchen ourselves. We were going for warm, organic and industrial with a slight Scandinavian feel.

We designed the kitchen into zones so that items are grouped according to function. To the left of the oven are knives, cooking spices, pots and pans; to the right are the glasses, cutlery and plates for serving food.

plywood ikea kitchen pullouts

We installed trash pull-outs in between the sink and dishwasher so plates are easily cleared before washing. We grouped the kettle, coffee and tea brewing needs, the toaster, the spreads (jellies, jams) and the blender along with everything my husband needs to make his protein shakes. And, of course, my baking station holds all the things I need when I bake with my stand mixer plugged in and ready to go. It was important to us that these things were easily used but just as easily hidden when not in use. It keeps the small room feeling clean, uncluttered and spacious.

plywood ikea kitchen progress 1

plywood ikea kitchen progress

Did you assemble and install all Ikea kitchen components yourself? If not, what did you seek help with?

Yes, we put it all together ourselves. It was pretty straightforward and fast…and cheap! I know a lot of people find assembling flat pack stressful but I actually enjoy it.

plywood ikea kitchen 7

How did you customize your Ikea kitchen to suit your needs and preferred aesthetic?

We used plywood fronts on some drawers, poured our own concrete countertops and wrapped the island in vertical join board to soften the high gloss fronts that we chose from Ikea. Choosing countertops from Ikea wasn’t an option because the closest Ikea is 400km (approximately 250 miles) away, making transporting items like countertops dicey.

plywood ikea kitchen 6

We chose to tile vertically to the ceiling with matte white subway tile. The bones and organization of the kitchen are Ikea but we’ve blended it with a variety of other materials to avoid the dreaded “straight from the catalogue” look.

How long was it from design to the final product?

It took about 17 months from concept to finish. We had quite a few hiccups along the way with asbestos found in walls and discovering the floor mostly missing under the original cabinets. We only worked on weekends and some evenings which also stretched the build out.

How long have you lived with your Ikea kitchen? Have you encountered any problems?

We’ve had the cabinets in for over a year and they have been fantastic. We originally had drawers to the left of the oven but ended up removing the bottom two drawers and replacing them with a door because the 60cm (~24″) cabinet wasn’t the best choice for housing my pots and pans. I also failed to allow enough space between those drawers and the wall and they would brush against the wall tiles when we used them which drove me insane. If I could go back in time I would have put the 80cm (~32″) drawers there instead and allowed enough room!

plywood ikea kitchen 8

plywood ikea kitchen 9

What is your favorite thing about your kitchen? Least favorite?

That it’s finally finished! But really I just love that it’s white and fresh but not cold and clinical.

I hate the chrome faucet and the legs on our island but replacing them would be really expensive so at the moment I choose to ignore them. One day I’ll switch them out with something nicer.

plywood ikea kitchen organization

Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel? If so, which items?

Absolutely, I’d recommend the cabinets and organizing accessories. I haven’t used other items but I’d expect them to be great too considering how good the products we have are.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

I would use Ikea again in a heartbeat. I can’t speak to the quality of the appliances or countertops but the cabinets and organizational stuff are fabulous. They’re better than some of the custom made items I’ve had in previous houses.

Resources of note:

ceiling, wall and trim paint – Dulux wash and wear in White on White
floor – Feast Watson floor paint tinted to Dulux White on White
wall tile – Beaumont tiles, 300 x 100 Satin White
island light – Tradition Blasted KL1 Lamp purchased from Great Dane Furniture
other lights – Muuto E27 in white purchased from Surrounding
dishwasher – Asko D5424 (it’s a fantastic dishwasher!)
oven / stove – Smeg 60cm dual fuel
downdraft – De Deitrich
refrigerator – Samsung
plywood – from local hardware store
countertops – DIY hand poured concrete

plywood ikea kitchen elk horn fern

plywood ikea kitchen book niches

Thank you so much, Lila, for sharing your darling kitchen!

What a creative use of space, right?! It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The fireplace turned baking station, the appliance garage, the automated downdraft in the island, the ceiling height book niches…they’re all such clever ideas for a small kitchen. I love that Lila and her husband put their own spin on things by DIYing plywood fronts and concrete countertops. And don’t even get me started on that trough sink. THAT SINK! You can read more about Lila and her commitment to savoring life’s little things over on her blog.

If you’re in the mood for more Ikea kitchens, check out the rest of this series:

An Ikea Kitchen in the SF Bay Area

An Ikea Kitchen in Northfield, Minnesota

An Ikea Kitchen in Brooklyn

An Ikea Kitchen in Orange County

An Ikea Kitchen in Texas Hill Country

An Ikea Kitchen in Chesapeake

An Ikea Kitchen in a Barn (in France!)

An Ikea Kitchen in Cape Cod

And if you have an Ikea kitchen (it doesn’t have to be 100% Ikea) that you would be willing to share on House*Tweaking, please email me at housetweaking@gmail.com for consideration.

P.S. – Thanks to everyone who has already submitted an Ikea kitchen. I really, really, REALLY appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into bringing these posts to fruition. I have a slew of Ikea kitchens sitting in my inbox waiting to be featured. I apologize for the lapse in time between submission and the post going live. I’m buried in Ikea kitchens – in a good way! Keep ‘em comin’!

images: Lila at Little Wolff

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.

boys closet 1

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.

boys closet 3

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.

boys closet 4

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!

boys closet 5

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.

boys closet 2

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.

nursery after 1

nursery after 4

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.

nursery after 2

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.

nursery after 3

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.

nursery after 5

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.

nursery after 6

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.

nursery after 8

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.

nursery after 7

nursery after 10

nursery after 9

nursery after 11

nursery after 12

nursery after 13

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