...because home doesn't happen overnight.
08.09.14 / Made Me Smile

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Last week I didn’t publish a Made Me Smile post. My grandmother passed away and my heart wasn’t up to the task. So this installment includes two weeks’ worth of smile-worthy links. I hope you find something that inspires you in some way!

*Did you listen to NPR’s TED radio hour, Growing Up, last week? I loved it.

*SHE FOUND HIM.

*Terrible real estate agent photos + hilarious captions = a good way to waste time.

*Be still my organizing, laundry-loving heart.

*My favorite hand soap in bulk refills!

*Such a great mix of old + new in a home with a family history. (The home is also featured in the current family issue of Anthology magazine. So good!)

*A smart and stylish galley kitchen. (Don’t let the initial 30-second ad turn you off. You won’t be disappointed!)

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*Architecture lust.

*I’m usually one of the last people to try new apps and tech-y things but the issuu clip is right up my alley. Clipping and pinning directly from the pages of a magazine? Yesssss.

*Patrick Dempsey’s thoughts on being a caretaker of a home (not just an owner) make him even hotter. Trust me, it’s possible.

*Tips for creating a bright kitchen in a basement apartment.

*A house inspired by Tom and Jerry cartoons. Needless to say, it’s a giant indoor playground – for kids and adults!

*It’s National Book Lovers Day! A few on my wish list: Clutterfree with Kids, Tiny House Living, You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap).

What are you up to this weekend? We’re laying low and gearing up for the start of another school year. Here’s to backpacks, jackets, lunch boxes, books and homework overtaking the mudroom once again!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Ensemble Architecture

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!

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Isadora has lived in cities all over the world (i.e., New York, Paris, London, Rome, Sydney and LA to name a few) but one of her biggest adventures has been gutting an old house and turning it into her young family’s dream home. When it came to the 1953 kitchen, Isadora and her husband made gutsy structural changes for a big impact. After receiving disappointing results with cabinet refacing and mid-grade custom cabinetry in two previous homes, Isadora chose Ikea cabinetry for her current kitchen. I asked Isadora several questions about the remodel. Find her answers and the “that can’t be Ikea!” kitchen below.

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Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

When designing our kitchen, I decided fairly early on that I wanted as many elements from Ikea so we could maximize the savings during their 20% off sale. We bought our cabinets, doors, drawer fronts, countertops and drawer organizers from Ikea. I considered getting the appliances there as well but they had discontinued their 36” professional style range. So, I bought my appliances elsewhere.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

In our first house we had our cabinets refaced, which was the cheapest option, but was still not as cheap as you might think. In our last house we did a kitchen remodel and had mid-grade custom cabinetry. After a few years, you could really see the wear and tear. I decided then and there that our next kitchen would be an Ikea kitchen. My thought was I could easily freshen it up by just going down to the store, getting new doors and changing them out ourselves since all of the sizes are standard.

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Who designed your kitchen?

I planned out the kitchen using the Ikea kitchen planner software and spent many evenings working out how to best optimize the space. Going against the advice of our realtor and contractor, I removed the window above the original sink. For the way we live, wall storage took precedence over the window.

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To compensate for the loss of the window, we removed a wall which brought in lots of natural light from adjacent rooms.

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I reviewed the design in-store and made a few changes based on the employees’ knowledge of the cabinets. The one frustration I had was the corner next to the glass front cabinets. There were no good options for an upper corner cabinet. I didn’t want an angled corner; I wanted a square corner. Ultimately, I had to override Ikea’s recommendations and go with a blind corner to get the glass front cabinets and square corner that I wanted.

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

We had a crew of workers at the house already working on every room of the house since the house had been taken down to the studs. We had the crew assemble the cabinets. That being said, if we had only been working on the kitchen, we would have put the cabinets together ourselves. Over the years, we have built countless Ikea units and assembling kitchen cabinets is manageable. I’ve found that the key is to take your time with the instructions the first time around, then subsequent cabinets are a breeze. Installing countertops is another matter and under no circumstance would we have attempted something like that on our own.

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

The profile of the door we chose is a little more traditional than I would have normally chosen for a mid-century house. But I really wanted an all wood door and this door was the only one that came in all wood at the time of purchase. Having had experiences with foil finishes buckling and veneers peeling, I knew this was something I wanted to avoid in such a high traffic area. An all wood door resolved those issues for me.

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To personalize the design, I chose the bridge faucet from the Hansgrohe Axor Montreux collection and paired it with Hickory Hardware’s Cottage Collection knobs and pulls. The countertop was the nougat quartz from Ikea so I wanted the backsplash to be special. If I could have afforded a Calcutta marble mosaic I would have done that but that material is so expensive! In the end, I went with an Arabescato marble which is warmer than your standard Carrara marble and, in my opinion, the extra warmth works better with the nougat quartz.

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Customizing the glass front cabinets with mirrored backs has also made a huge difference since we closed up a window in that spot. Everyone who comes to the house always tells me how much they love the mirrors in the cabinets. It’s a simple customization that made a big impact.

How long was it from design to the final product?

I don’t really have a good answer to this question since the kitchen was just one aspect of the overall remodel. I ordered the cabinets during the sale but they sat in storage until we were ready to install. I wanted to take full advantage of the sale!

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

We’ve had our kitchen for a year and love it. So far, the only problem we’ve encountered is the amount (lack) of storage. Though our kitchen is not small, it is actually not that big – roughly 11’ x 13’. Finding places to fit everything has been a challenge. But that probably means we should have less stuff.

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

I love how much counter space we have. It’s perfect for having the kids next to me, helping to prepare their favorite cookies. As for my least favorite thing…I wasn’t able to incorporate a good place for spices so the spice arrangement could definitely be better. I’m still looking for a good solution.

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

Absolutely! This was our first Ikea kitchen and we have not been disappointed. However, I can’t speak for Ikea appliances since we don’t own any.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

Definitely! In fact, we used Ikea kitchen cabinets in our laundry room and it turned out great.

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Resources of note:

backsplash – 1” x 3” arabescato stacked honed mosaic
faucet – HansGrohe Axor Montreux
pendants – industrial globe light from Shades of Light
range – Verona 5 burner
fridge – LG counter depth French door fridge
dishwasher – LG (all appliances were bought during a Thanksgiving sale to save money)

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Thank you, Isadora, for sharing your kitchen remodel!

What a transformation, right?! I love that Isadora went with her gut on the window removal to create a space that works best for her family. By taking down a wall, hanging glass front cabinets and using reflective mirrors, Isadora managed to amplify the natural light in the room. (Fun fact: the mirrors came from the home’s lower level which once housed a dance studio. How resourceful!) High end appliances and special features – like the marble backsplash, bridge faucet and mirrored cabinets – give this Ikea kitchen an elegant and timeless look. You can read more about Isadora’s kitchen right here and see all of the family’s remodeling adventures 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 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: Re:Located Living

My boys start school next week so we’re squeezing in a few more fun things before summer break is officially over. As a result, things might be quieter on the blog over the next week. I hope you understand. The good news is that once school starts, my afternoons are freed up for more projects. My goal is to finish tweaking the boys’ room by the end of the month. The last time I shared my sluggish progress in the room, I got a ton of questions regarding the hanging plant(er). I thought I would give it a quick mention today since there was so much interest.

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The boys requested a “cool plant” for their room. I decided a hanging plant would work best to keep floor space open for play. I stumbled across a sprawling burro’s tail at a local nursery. (Berns nursery in Beavercreek for any locals.) It came in a plastic hanging planter from the nursery but I wanted to dress it up a little.

I found the modern macrame planter on etsy. (I’ll take one of everything in that shop, btw.) Then I returned to my local nursery and found the cracked, glazed pot. To allow for proper drainage, I kept the burro’s tail in its original plastic pot and dropped it into the glazed one. (The glazed pot doesn’t have drainage holes.)

To hang the planter, I installed a toggle ceiling hook. After eyeballing where I wanted the planter to hang, I drilled a pilot hole in the ceiling then inserted and screwed in the hook. I don’t remember the weight capacity but it’s well above that of the planter. My one suggestion for ceiling hooks is to match them to your ceiling so they aren’t an eyesore. The one I used is white and it blends into the ceiling.

I carefully slipped the pot into the macrame planter and arranged the stems then suspended the entire thing from the ceiling hook. The length of the macrame hanger is perfect for standard 8′ ceilings. One thing to be aware of: the plant is delicate and if you manhandle it, it will drop its fleshy leaves. It drops a few leaves each week but they’re super small and non-toxic. I just pick them up when I see them or vacuum them during weekly cleanings.

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Burro’s tail (a.k.a. donkey’s tail or lamb’s tail) is a succulent and it likes sun, rocky soil and infrequent watering. I hung it in front of an east-facing window and water it every 2-3 weeks. It’s been going strong for over two months. I think I can keep it alive! I love all the different textures going on in this planter and I adore the simple macrame hanger with its natural wood beads. It’s got me scheming for more hanging planters in the house. In the living room? My bedroom?

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And while I’m thinking of it, I added a mat to the framed engineer print. You might remember my conundrum with the $3 engineer print being a few inches too short to fill the entire poster frame. Since this piece will be a mainstay in the room for years to come (I’m going switch out the engineer print each year for a current candid of the boys), I felt like it was worthy investment. It definitely gives the inexpensive, black and white print a polished look. I’m really happy with it!

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I have a few more fun ideas to bring to life in this room. In fact, today the boys and I picked up samples for the next big project. Can’t wait to share!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

It’s been over two months since I shared my childhood clubhouse and my plans for perking it up for my kids and their cousins. It took several sporadic weekends, a lot of elbow grease and numerous car loads but the clubhouse is finished! For now.

You can see the “before” here but this post is all “after”, baby. My apologies in advance for the massive photo onslaught you are about to endure. It was a sentimental project and I had a hard time choosing my favorites. Enjoy!

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I didn’t do much of anything to the exterior. Some people probably think I went about this bass ackwards but I’d rather wait and see how much the kids use the clubhouse before I invest in luxuries like windows, a legit door, exterior stain, etc. I could easily sink a grand into this structure but I’m trying to be somewhat practical here. (It isn’t easy.) So a pair of hammock chair swings it is!

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My dad suggested hanging them from old springs he had so I did that. You can bounce or swing or…swounce? And once you get in, you don’t want to get out. They cradle you like a baby. Btw, that’s my niece, Lillian. She lives in Texas but was visiting for the month of July so she got to help me work on the clubhouse. She was so excited!

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Steve geeked out and put his engineering skills to work by rigging up a dumbwaiter. It was a hit with the kids. It also came in handy when I was loading the clubhouse. The cots wouldn’t fit through the trap door so I hooked them to the dumbwaiter and lifted them over the porch railing.

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I didn’t even bother to paint the scrap boards supporting the pulley. It’s just a clubhouse, right?

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The clubhouse is all about nature. You’re surrounded by nothing but trees and sky. So inside, I kept things really simple to keep the focus on the outdoors. My initial instinct was to paint the interior white. But once I started cleaning up to prep for paint, it became evident pretty quickly that something closer to the color of dirt would work better. I chose a gray-green hue and never looked back. I really liked the weathered patina of the ceiling so I left it untouched.

Everett and my sister, Alina, helped me paint the first coat. I got a little emotional thinking about the three of us working together to revive a place my sister and I had once played in. I may have said something sappy about things coming full circle. I think too much when I paint.

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I repurposed a closet shelf from our own home’s renovation. Steve cut it down and installed three brackets to support it under the window. I didn’t bother to paint it. Again, it’s just a clubhouse, right? I kinda like the scuffed up paint anyway.

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The shelf is a makeshift nightstand of sorts. It’s perfect for books, nature journals and a pair of solar-powered cone lamps. I created a tic tac toe board out of washi tape and wood craft letters.

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Two folding cots flank the shelf. They’re comfortable for cots, I guess. The kids LOVE them. They fold up so I can stash them in a corner away from the elements when we aren’t using them. In the winter, I’ll store them elsewhere.

Net canopies are my attempt at preventing mosquitos from eating my children and nieces. They were super easy to assemble and hang. The ring at the top is flexible plastic – not wood – which allowed it to be packaged efficiently. Genius.

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Rocks and wildflowers from our nature walks are on display. I found the Ball jar in my dad’s barn. It reminds me of my mom canning beans from our garden in the summer when I was a kid. Once you hear the whistle of a pressure cooker, you never forget it!

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I had fun with with paint on the other side of the room.

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I upcycled a large canvas that once lived in Everett’s nursery in our previous house. I had originally painted a leaf motif on it for the nursery but I wanted something bold and simple that would pop against the gray-green walls of the clubhouse. I had a flashback of sitting on the living room floor and watching M*A*S*H reruns with my dad on our boxy console TV. The red cross spoke to me so I painted one on the canvas using leftover paint.

I stole some linens and pillows from the boys’ bedroom (don’t worry, I replaced them with something else) for the cots. The army drab blankets are another nod to the clubhouse-meets-M*A*S*H theme. They’re surprisingly soft – not itchy at all. When we aren’t visiting, I stash the bedding in a plastic tote.

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The kids had fun scouring the woods for the perfect walking sticks. I painted a few bands of color around them then propped them in the corner. They feel more like art than hiking gear. The boys think they’re way cool.

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Near the entrance I painted a sliver of wall in chalkboard paint to encourage graffiti. You might remember seeing my sisters’  and their friends’ original graffiti in the “befores”. Most of it was inappropriate (Everett asked me several times what a jackass was while we were painting) but I didn’t have the heart to wipe it out completely so I left one harmless message uncovered. A small tin bucket holds chalk.

A soft cooler hangs from a hook on the other side of the doorway. It’s great for snacks and bottles of water.

A few more candid shots…

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I moved them for some of the shots but there are plastic storage totes under each cot.

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They hold games, books, journals, etc. Many of the books were Steve’s or his dad’s when they were little. I’m kicking myself for not getting a shot of the kids playing Monopoly on the floor. There’s plenty of room between the two beds for playing or laying out a sleeping bag.

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I told Everett to “act completely normal.” You guys, THIS IS HIS NORMAL. He is hilarious.

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My bookworm. Layne zones out when he’s reading. I bet he didn’t even know I took this picture.

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Funny story. I started taking pictures for the reveal and didn’t realize until about halfway through that Everett had written “butt cheeks” on the chalkboard wall. I had to erase it and start all over. I told you he was hilarious.

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Some reactions to the finished clubhouse:

Lillian: I like that there aren’t a bunch of decorations and that it’s not just for little kids or boys.

Layne: I think it needs a generator and a mini fridge.

Everett: Butt cheeks.

Mabrey: (Nada. Too busy eating chalk.)

my dad: Looks nice. Reminds me of M*A*S*H. (No joke. That was totally unprompted.)

clubhouse lamp

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Personally, I kinda want to move in. And if the kids use it enough, I might be tempted to give the exterior more attention.

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I’d love to know what you think of the clubhouse. Any playhouse projects going on at your place? Any M*A*S*H fans out there?

Resources of note:

hammock chairs – Wayfair*
pulley, bucket, rope, tie-off – Ace Hardware
wall paint – Martha Stewart flagstone mixed in Glidden exterior paint, semigloss
shelf brackets – Home Depot
washi tape, wood letters – JoAnn’s
solar-powered lamps – Ikea
steel folding cots – Wayfair*
mosquito net canopies – Overstock
army blankets – ebay
wall hook – Home Depot
soft cooler – Wayfair*

*This project was completed in collaboration with Wayfair. Items denoted with an asterisk were kindly donated to the project. You can see side-by-side before-and-afters right here. All images, content and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking