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

me and the kiddos

It was one of those weeks where I feel like I was a good mom but not a very good blogger. (I rarely feel like I’m good at both simultaneously.) Steve was out of town. The kids and I visited family and friends, hosted a sleepover, went on nature walks, took in a live performance of Mary Poppins, picnicked on the deck and spent time at my dad’s catching frogs by the pond and finishing up the clubhouse. (The reveal is next week!) Needless to say, by the time Friday night rolled around I was DONE. Then Mabrey ate mulch.

Besides the kids’ bedtime, here’s what else had me smiling this week ;)

*I am having so much fun watching Paula revamp her rental home. She’s still in the early stages of decorating but it looks great already!

modern home in dayton, ohio

*Sometimes it feels as if all the good design takes place on the coasts and we middle states are left with nothing but recliners and microfiber. But that’s so not true. There is noteworthy design right under my nose.

*Thanks to my girl, Freckles Chick, I finally picked up my first issue of House & Home. I’m totally gifting myself a subscription as a consolation prize for making it through the week.

*A husband speaks up for his blogger wife. (Why do women chastise their own gender so much? Surely, it isn’t getting us anywhere.)

*Thoughts on (not) potty training.

*After the third kid, people stop congratulating you. (In my own experience, this happened after the second.)

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I am visiting my sister’s new place to take measurements and come up with a design plan for her. In return, she’s keeping the boys overnight. Yesssss.

images: 1) Dana Miller 2) Juliana Sohn

back_at_the_ranch-sea_ranch-living_room-stool-leather-chrome-chair

The current issue of Dwell magazine features a home with no drywall. The ceilings are plywood and the interior walls are either board-formed concrete or wood. On paper it might sound a bit stark or cold but when I was poring over the images, I didn’t notice the absence of drywall. In fact, I had quite the opposite reaction. Everything felt really warm and inviting. A particular sentence within the article struck a chord in me.

“No part of the house is drywall, which Sheine (the architect) describes as a kind of crutch – the material of last resort.” - Fred A. Bernstein for Dwell magazine

It got my wheels turning. Where I come from, drywall is standard for walls and ceilings. You might see a planked wood wall, a stone wall, some paneling or an exposed brick wall in a house from time to time but that’s as exotic as it gets. And it’s usually just one wall – not the entire house. (In older homes, including ours, plaster walls are common as well.)

Drywall does have its advantages: efficiency of installation, ease of repair, relatively inexpensive, thermal resistance, availability, various decorating options like paint and wallpaper, etc. But, if you think about it, it does innately lack depth, warmth and texture. Maybe that’s why so many of us gave those sponging and rag-rolling painting techniques a try in the ’90’s. (FYI – I’m guilty! I totally rag-rolled the hell of out the bathroom walls in our very first home. Gulp.)

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Admittedly, I don’t know anything about installing interior concrete walls. How do you run electric? What about structural concerns? Can you add them to existing structures? Doesn’t everything sound echo-y? I’ve seen them popping up everywhere in the design world though and I’m intrigued. I’m especially fond of board-formed concrete. THE TEXTURE.

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And what about plywood? It’s so warm and handsome. Surely, the extra moolah would be worth the beauty but do you have to take special precautions for fire resistance? Moisture? Sun exposure?

Anyway, I’m completed fascinated by this idea of no drywall. Am I going to rip out all the drywall in my house tomorrow? Obviously, no. (…as Steve breathes a sigh of relief) But I will be filing this no-drywall house into my inspiration folder.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on unconventional materials for interior walls. Have you ever stepped foot in a house with plywood or concrete walls? Do they exude as much warmth in person as they do in photographs? Do you agree with the architect’s statement claiming drywall is a crutch? It’s something I hadn’t considered before reading this article. Just an idea to throw at you today!

See more of the Sea Ranch house and read the full article right here.

images: Mark Mahaney

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I first heard about Blue Apron from our friends in Nashville. Sara and I were bonding over our shared dislike for cooking (but love of good food) when she pulled a folder from a kitchen drawer. Inside were dozens of Blue Apron recipes that she and her husband had tried and liked. She told me that not only were the recipes easy to make and delicious but the kicker was that the company delivered all the fresh ingredients right to their doorstep in exactly the right proportions. No grocery shopping with whiny kids. No wasted ingredients. And shipping was free.

Sara and John both work full-time and have a young daughter. Sara is a physician and her job requires her to be on call several weeks out of the year. Those weeks can be stressful and chaotic not knowing if / when Sara will be called in to work. So during those weeks they subscribe to Blue Apron. Sara doesn’t have to worry about her family going hungry should she get called away. When Sara isn’t on call, they suspend or cancel their service until the next time she is. There’s no commitment.

I was completely intrigued.

Fast forward to three weeks ago when Steve underwent an emergency appendectomy. The recovery was hard on everyone. Between looking after the kids and caring for Steve, I had no time or energy to think about grocery shopping or what to make for dinner. We were in survival mode and eating takeout more than I care to admit. That’s when I remembered Blue Apron.

blue apron 1

I ordered three meals for the week. You can choose to feed two, four or six people. We are a family of five. I remembered Sara saying the portions were generous so I chose the four-person option to keep waste to a minimum. The ingredients arrived in a refrigerated box. One tomato was slightly smushed but usable and everything else was in perfect condition. Sara had mentioned to me that all the packaging was a downfall but, honestly, it wasn’t any worse than the takeout we had been getting. I put the ice packs in our freezer to reuse and we recycled the cardboard boxes, paper bags and plastic cups / bottles.

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Everything is divvied up in the exact amounts for foolproof cooking. The only ingredients you need to have on hand are olive oil, salt and pepper. Every recipe includes images of each step which we found extremely helpful.

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Basically, I prepped the ingredients then Layne was able to follow the directions to cook the meals while I supervised. (Btw, the day your kid makes you dinner is one for the record books. Kind of makes all those sleepless nights and dirty diapers worth it. Ha!)

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Here, Layne is making Filipino-style beef picadillo with chayote squash & jasmine rice. This was Steve’s favorite. It was labeled as four servings but we easily got 6-8 servings out of it. Based on our experience, I would venture to say the standard $9.99 per meal price ends up being more like $5-$8 per meal depending on the recipe.

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We also tried the cod & pattypan squash en papillote with garlic butter & fresh herb salad. You guys, I cooked with parchment paper for the first time! And, yes, the parchment paper came as an ingredient with the service. Really. The peeps at Blue Apron think of everything so you don’t have to.

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The pan-seared chicken & sautéed bulgur with tomato salad & creamy lemon-yogurt sauce was my favorite. Each recipe was delicious but what I especially liked about the meals was that there wasn’t any need to prepare side dishes. The meals were, in fact, meals. It was nice to try some new foods, too. Chayote squash, anyone?

Overall, Steve and I were super impressed with Blue Apron. We’ll definitely be using the service again during especially hectic weeks. Although, I hope it doesn’t involve another appendectomy. All I could think during our week of service was “Where was this when our kids were newborns?!”

Would you try Blue Apron? It would make a great gift for new parents, an ailing friend or a homesick college student in need of a healthy homemade meal. The service is available nationwide. Check here for a full map of delivery zones. The first 50 House*Tweaking readers to sign up here will get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order!

*This post is sponsored in part by Blue Apron. All images, content and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

On the blog, I’ve affectionately referred to this room as the “everything room” but in real life we usually just call it the mudroom. Here’s what it looked like when we bought the house…

mudroom before

mudroom before 2

There was an A/C unit in the window and an ominous ceiling fan. We thought the laundry closet was cumbersome. The dryer vented directly into the attic! Ugly tile and a remnant of green shag carpet completed the mess. We did like that this room served as a pause when entering from the backyard through the sliders (on the left) and from the garage via the man door (on the right).

mudroom after 1

Out of necessity we assigned this room multiple purposes: mudroom, dining room, craft room, game room and laundry room. Knowing the room would receive abuse on a daily basis, we opted for durable, dirt-colored tile on the floor and a forgiving tongue-and-groove wainscoting on the walls. (The tongue and groove is a repeated element also seen on the vaulted ceiling, planked TV wall and kitchen desk backsplash.) We were in need of closed storage for seasonal outerwear, reusable shopping bags, a broom, crafting supplies and a small collection of home accessories. We added a pair of freestanding wardrobes to serve as closets. One is customized with hanging rods at different heights (for outerwear) while the other is full of deep shelving (for crafting supplies and home accessories).

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In an effort to optimize wasted space under the window, I commissioned a local woodworker to create a custom wood bench out of Douglas fir. We hung sconces above the bench on side panels of each wardrobe to create a cozy nook without actually changing the structure of the room. It’s a great place to read, play a game of Uno or watch the kids get on / off the bus. The bench is surprisingly large!

mudroom after 4

A long, farmhouse-like table is perfect for dining, crafting, sewing or enjoying family game night. I chose a lighter wood tone to avoid overpowering the space. A mix of knockoff tulip and wishbone chairs surround the table for a laid-back vibe. I had the tulip chair seat cushions covered in a vinyl leather-lookalike. They are so kid-friendly! The iron pendant is industrial and beautiful all at once – which is fitting for a mudroom-slash-dining-room. We DIY’d a fauxdenza to house board games and incoming mail. The sleek profile and floating installation free up precious floor space. Cleaning underneath it is a breeze.

mudroom after 5

I painted the walls THREE TIMES before falling hard for the velvety black. It’s a great contrast to the slick surfaces and oodles of white. A gallery wall of family photos and art dress up the space so when we eat in here it doesn’t feel like we’re eating in a mudroom.

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We had the original sliders replaced with french doors. This room is our main entrance / exit on a daily basis and, for us, the doors are easier to open and close. Not to mention, they look better.

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A small bench just inside the door gives the kids a place to put on / remove their shoes. A felt basket and a trio of hooks corral shoes, bags, jackets, backpacks and hats. We try to keep only the items we’re currently wearing or using out in the open. The rest is stashed in a wardrobe.

mudroom after 9

We nixed the laundry closet in favor of a laundry nook. (And the dryer now vents to the outside.) Discovering a recessed dryer vent box at Home Depot was like winning the lottery. It allows the dryer to hug the back wall. We built the wood countertop using boards we found in the attic during renovations. A small “lid” opens to reveal the washer controls and detergent dispenser. In a perfect world, I would have a dryer with a flat top and controls near the front so the countertop could extend all the way to the back wall. But I have never lived in a perfect world so until my current dryer konks out, I’m stuck with a raised control panel on the back of the dryer and, consequently, a tiered, shallow shelf above the countertop. For fun, we added a metal strip along the shelf to display family photos held in place by magnets.

Fabric panels hang from curtain wire to conceal the washer and dryer while still allowing easy access. I also keep a rolling cart and small ironing board hidden behind the curtains. Two upper cabinets hold laundry essentials, instruction manuals and lightbulbs. A leaning mirror bounces light around the dark corner.

The idea behind the laundry nook was that it could function as a serving area / bar when we entertain. I’d love for it to pull double duty as a dry bar someday. And who said doing laundry wasn’t fun?!

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Admittedly, we eat most of our meals at the kitchen island but it’s nice having a designated dining table for special occasions and entertaining – even if, technically, it is in a mudroom. I never have liked formal dining rooms that are only used once or twice a year anyway. The small laundry nook forces me to fold and put away clean laundry as soon as it’s dry. That might seem like a disadvantage but it’s super effective and keeps me honest. This (unusual) setup totally works for our family and we’re happy we aren’t wasting money on unused space. It’s such a hardworking room!

Resources of note:

wainscoting & trim paint – Benjamin white dove, semigloss finish
wall paint – Ace Paints besalt mixed in the Clark + Kensington line, flat finish (I LOVE this paint.)
pendant – Crate & Barrel Hoyne pendant
pendant lightbulb – Bulbs.com
dining table – West Elm Boerum table in natural
succulent centerpiece – DIY
vintage kilim rug – etsy
tulip chairs – Overstock, reupholstered by Springboro Upholstery
wishbone chairs – Home Emporium
wardrobes – Pax units, Bergsbo doors; both from Ikea
hardware – Värde handles from Ikea, spray painted black
sconces – Jonathan Adler Havana wall sconce
woven shade – petite rustique from Overstock
wood bench – custom (I found the woodworker via craigslist.)
Hmong pillow – OrientalTribe11 on etsy
ochre throw – Target
sheepskin – Ikea
woven basket under bench – Wayfair
fauxdenza – DIY featuring Ikea’s Akurum wall cabinets
fauxdenza hardware – Home Depot
faux horns – Home Emporium
wood sculpture on fauxdenza – thrifted
white picture frames – Ikea
metal picture frames – West Elm
wood picture frames – Target
art – various DIY, Clare Elsaesser, Amelia Kay (The baby pointillism piece is Steve’s work.)
saddler bench – Wayfair
wall hooks – Home Depot
felt basket – Target
laundry cabinets – Ikea Lidingö wall cabinets
laundry countertop – DIY
magnetic strip – Home Depot
laundry nook mirror – Feiss Cleo mirror via Wayfair
curtain wire – Ikea
curtains – Ikea Aina panels, hemmed to size

If you feel like reading more about this multipurpose room, here are a bunch of links documenting its evolution:

MUDROOM RENOVATION

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

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/10/07/mudroomdining-room-flooring/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/05/11/planking-in-the-mudroom/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/11/05/honest-mondays-repainting/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/02/10/our-biggest-renovation-regret/

ORGANIZATION

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/05/22/storage-in-the-mudroom-laundry-nook/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/06/22/wardrobe-function/

*http://www.wayfair.com/IdeaLounge/Tips-for-Winterizing-the-Mudroom-E878

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/01/15/diy-fauxdenza/

*http://www.wayfair.com/IdeaLounge/Create-His-and-Her-Charging-Stations-E877

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/11/14/making-the-most-of-small-closets-mudroom-part-i/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/11/22/making-the-most-of-small-closets-mudroom-part-ii/

DECOR

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/11/15/hand-me-down-dining-table/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/11/09/stenciling-the-laundry-nook/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/12/27/updates/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/01/23/a-last-minute-gallery-wall/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/02/21/the-everything-room-repainted/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/02/28/a-mini-gallery/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/03/01/easy-frame-hanging-no-nails-or-tape-measure-required/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/09/25/dining-room-progress-plans/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/09/26/two-quick-easy-projects/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/10/16/for-herdog/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/10/23/wayfair-in-the-house-a-cozy-nook/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/10/29/new-art-a-lightbulb/

You can access this mudroom / dining room tour via the “See My House” link in the side bar along with a general house tour and tours of individual rooms. I’ll be adding more rooms in the weeks to come. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking