...because home doesn't happen overnight.

main bath tiled 1

Steve finished tiling the bathroom walls two weekends ago. Working in spurts around his real job, family life and appendectomy recovery, the entire process strung along for most of the summer. Between the uneven walls and Steve’s perfectionist tendencies, it wasn’t the most enjoyable DIY. The window wall put up a good fight. It was all kinds of wonky. And our choice of tile probably wasn’t the easiest to work with on the wavy wall. The narrow subway tile is extra long at 12″ which didn’t allow for much “play” along some of the most troublesome spots. Luckily, the worst spot (along the bottom of the window wall) will eventually be hidden behind the bathtub so it shouldn’t be too noticeable in the end.

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But we do have perfectly wrapped corners. (The water lines denote the vanity’s location.)

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And exact 90º angles. Those are always fun.

We are SO HAPPY with how the black pencil liner and bullnose trim turned out! I was a little worried about the profile of the pencil liner sticking out further than the subway tile but I actually love it. It’s a great finishing touch that’s simple yet sophisticated. And it gives the walls some added dimension, too.

With all the tile in, we started to second-guess our choice of white grout for the walls. The contrasting spaces between the subway tile looked decent so we contemplated a contrasting grout for a split second. But when we pulled back the cardboard protecting the hex floor tile, things felt very busy all of a sudden. So we decided to stick to our original choice of white grout.

main bath grout 1

Which we tackled this past weekend! It was a joint effort and we let the kids fend for themselves while we knocked it out. Let’s just say, once we were finished, the rest of the house was looking waaaaaaaay scarier than the bathroom. When you have three kids and a bathroom remodel on your hands, you do whatcha gotta do. Sometimes the bathroom takes precedence while your kids run wild and eat whatever / wherever they want for a day. It’s all good.

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The freshly grouted bathroom! And a piece of unpainted baseboard for reference! I’ve never been so in love with a room that doesn’t serve any purpose (yet!).

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The grout is standard white unsanded grout from The Tile Shop. It’s the same color we used on the shower walls in the master bathroom.

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Pictures really don’t do this room justice. It’s difficult to photograph because of the small size and layout. Just being in the space – even sans fixtures – feels like a luxury. At one point, we considered only tiling the shower / tub area but I’m so, so glad we went for a tiled wainscoting around the entire room.

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I was having so much trouble capturing the room on camera that I went outside and snapped some shots through the window to give you a different perspective. Do you spy a glimpse of the open shelves in the living room?

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Someday, a toilet, vanity and wall sconce will live on this wall.

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Someday, towel hooks and shower / tub plumbing fixtures will live on this wall. Maybe one day we’ll even have a bathroom door. Who knows?! The possibilities are endless.

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Here you can see how the short hallway (to the bathroom) juts off from the main hallway. There’s a small linen closet to the left just beyond the bathroom. I don’t think I’ve ever shown this view before but, hopefully, it gives you a better idea of the bathroom’s location in relation to the rest of the house. Hint: on the other side of the right-hand wall is the kitchen desk.

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We still need to seal the walls, install baseboards and caulk. (The floor is already sealed.) Then we start work on the tub. We’re equal parts stoked : horrified. Especially considering what happened the last time we touched it. If anything, it should be a good learning experience. At least, that’s what we’re telling ourselves.

*Thanks to The Tile Shop for partnering with us on this bathroom remodel. Tile and grout were graciously donated to the project. All product choices, labor and opinions are ours.

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

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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.

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.

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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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nursery after 10

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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:















*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

08.14.14 / Driveway Update!

Do you remember our elderly, crumbling driveway? If not, let me jog your memory.

driveway before 2

The asphalt driveway had seen better days. It was cracked and unlevel and had sunk so far into the ground that the culvert near the road was essentially a speed bump. Don’t believe me?

driveway before 1

Grass was growing through the cracks. The depressions held water, gravel, dirt and mud. Some places were in such disrepair that you could lift up chunks of asphalt with your bare hands. The kids invented a “driveway puzzle” game where they would remove sections of the asphalt, jumble them up and then put them back where they belonged.

Replacing the asphalt with concrete had always been on our to-do list but it took a few years for it to reach the top of the list and for us to save money for such a big (expensive!) project. We lived with it as-is, not even bothering to make stopgap repairs. As the house’s exterior started to take shape, the driveway remained an eyesore. Steve and I would talk about how driving up to the house and pulling into the driveway should be a “Whew, I’m home!” moment but for so long it was “Ugh. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an uglier driveway.”

At one point, I was so over the crippled asphalt that I tried talking Steve into a gravel driveway. I actually like gravel driveways. But he was set on concrete (and a lot of it) and he was the one who would be maintaining it so we waited it out. Until this summer!

driveway work

Steve grappled with the idea of DIYing the driveway but he would have had to take time off work and persuade friends to help (and also take time off work). In the end, saving his vacation days and back won out.

We found a local concrete guy (well, pair of guys) through family after admiring their beautiful driveways (What? You don’t gaze longingly at driveways?) and discovering the work had been carried out by the same contractor. We had a less-than-wonderful experience with the people we hired to install the back patios and front walk about two years ago so we were adamant about finding a better contractor. And we did! Work started in early July and it took about two weeks for two guys to rip out the old asphalt driveway, prep the site and pour the new concrete driveway. They were meticulous and followed our plans to a T. Their finish work was spot on. I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it is to work with people who give a rat’s ass about their work. I’d give you the play-by-play of everything that went down but I don’t think it would be as enjoyable in post form as it was in real life. (Mabrey was mesmerized by the backhoe as documented here and here.)

I will tell you how much it cost. We paid $9,300 in cash which is no drop in the bucket but was affordable based on other quotes we received. (We had two other contractors come out and quote the job, too.) We could have saved thousands by doing it ourselves but it would have been a huge project and time-eater. For this particular project, we decided the money was worth it. And after seeing the results, we have no regrets whatsoever.

Soooo, the after!

driveway after 1

So, we still need to tackle some general cleanup, sealing the concrete and reseeding the lawn but LOOK AT THE DRIVEWAY. Go ahead. Feast your eyes. Stare. It’s like concrete porn. Steve wanted a big driveway and he got a big driveway. It’s essentially a two-lane road. We let it cure for three weeks before we parked a single vehicle on it. The day Steve pulled the cars into the new driveway for the first time the kids were all, “Look! Dad’s driving on the driveway!” The first time we pulled out in the car the kids were all, “It’s so smooooooth!”

driveway after slope

No more speed bump! There’s a new culvert in there. You just can’t see it. The driveway slopes ever-so-slightly away from the garage and out to the side yard and road. We also had the contractor install and bury two new drain lines that connect to downspouts at the front and back of the house. We haven’t had a problem with water seeping into the garage before and we’d like to keep it that way. Remember, we’re a bit paranoid when it comes to water + our house.

You might notice the far end of the driveway sloping up. The backyard is higher than the front. We were stumped about how to properly end the driveway at the backyard. Originally, Steve was going to have the guys create a curb there but we weren’t sold on the idea. I thought steps would look nice but Steve nixed that idea. He has high hopes of building a man shed just beyond the driveway someday and wanted a way to drive something (I’m guessing his nonexistent, fancy riding mower??) into the shed if necessary. I suggested a graduated slope. It made sense and we didn’t think it would look awful so a slope it is.

Can I tell you how excited I am about finally having a clean way into our house?! Before, we tracked rocks, dirt and mud into the house from the driveway. Now, I’m finding less of all of that in our house…and in our car.

driveway after 5

Here’s a better picture showing the slope. See how the driveway ramps up on the left? Normally, our trash cans sit between the window and garage door. (It was trash collection day when I snapped these so the cans were out at the road.) We’re going to DIY an enclosure of some kind to hide the cans but we haven’t made it that far. Also, our Direct TV satellite used to stand off to the left (seen in the first two images of this post) but it’s not hooked up yet. I’m trying to convince Steve that we don’t need it but football season starts soon so I’m not sure it’s going to fly.

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The one thing we aren’t head over heels about is the step to the front walk. It slopes up to the walk instead of meeting it at a 90º angle. But that’s the fault of the previous contractor who installed the front walk. It’s too shallow. We specifically requested a deeper walk there because we knew it would have to meet the new driveway at some point but it didn’t happen. Like I mentioned, it was a less-than-wonderful experience with the first set of concrete work. We’ll probably add river rock or short stacked stone walls on either side of the transition to hold the dirt back. Any suggestions?

Some side-by-side comparisons because that’s always fun…

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driveway after 3

driveway garage door

Somehow the garage door looks better. We’ll replace it eventually but the driveway is a good distraction for now.

driveway after 1

Can’t you just picture the driveway cleaned & sealed, surrounded by lush grass with a tidy trash enclosure, maybe a basketball hoop (?) and a modern man shed at the back? Squint harder.

And that completes probably the longest post ever written about a driveway. If you’ve made it this far, I’d love to know all about your driveway and any suggestions you might have for the trash enclosure and / or sloped step. Steve already has his man shed all planned out so don’t worry about that ;)

Whew, I’m home!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


Did you happen to see this streamlined family home in the most recent issue of Dwell magazine? The article struck a chord with me. The <700 square foot space belongs to a young family of three – soon to be four. It’s the result of a four-month-long renovation which brought more light and storage and better function and design into the apartment. The use of sliding doors, ample windows and Murphy beds go a long way in making the space feel bright and airy. The execution of a stowaway bunk bed in the children’s room is particularly captivating.


In embracing small space living, the family spent the last year and a half selling off most of their books, furniture and decorative objects.

“It really made us scrutinize what’s important and what we can do without. Rather than being a burden, that has been liberating. We don’t feel weighed down by stuff we don’t need or use.” – David Friedlander, resident

“People usually try to fit their old furnishings into a new space. We fit ourselves into the space.” – Jacqueline Schmidt, resident


In addition to being small, the apartment was also in less-than-perfect condition upon purchase. The poor condition yielded a low price tag which meant the family could afford a complete remodel and a few splurge-worthy materials like wide-planked oak floors.


The kitchen is the perfect marriage of high and low: Ikea cabinets + marble countertops and backsplash.


The bathroom boasts marble tile and a floating vanity. Natural light streams in through the shower window.


You can see more of the family home here. I find it so encouraging! It’s a wonderful example of how living with less can actually be a luxury. Even though our home is about twice the size and we’ve done a fair amount of purging already, I am motivated to edit our belongings even further. Having downsized ourselves, I have to agree: living with less is freeing on so many levels.

Have you ever been inspired to go through your closets after seeing or visiting a smaller home? What one drawer / shelf / closet / room in your home needs a good purge session right now? Our junk drawer and the boys’ closet are calling my name…

images: Matthew Williams for Dwell