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

chardonnay pearls

We’ve had nothing but gorgeous weather all week. It lured me away from my laptop and for that I am so thankful. Yesterday Steve had mulch delivered and by the time he was home from work I had spread it all. That wife-napping thing is really working in his favor ;)

Anyhow, a few smile-worthy ideas to take you through the weekend…

*A local nursery suggested I use Chardonnay Pearls (seen above) in our backyard flower bed. Now I’m obsessed with them! (…more outdoor pics coming next week…)

*I have treehouses on the brain and this modern one doesn’t disappoint.

*On a similar note, treehouse reading picks from Kate DiCamillo. Her own book, The Tale of Desperaux, is Layne’s all-time favorite.

*Living room built-ins that incorporate Ikea cabinets.

*An Ikea home tour that actually feels homey.

*Orlando is killing it with his Homepolish designs. I especially like this one and this one.

*Pretty Pegs now offer pretty table legs.

*Lauren’s house is black!

I hope you have a wonderful (loooooooong) weekend! The boys and I are headed up to the clubhouse to start painting. Should be interesting…

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

clubhouse exterior 1

I’m fixing up the clubhouse my dad built for my siblings and me over twenty years ago. Fortunately, it’s structurally sound so it just needs some TLC and a few fun additions to bring it to life. My kids like visiting the clubhouse as-is but I know it could be improved after so many years of neglect / unuse. After talking with my boys, we all agree that it should function as a “hangout” – a place to unplug, relax, read, picnic, take in the views and maybe even spend the night. Here’s what we came up with…




1 – Benjamin Moore Super White To create a clean slate, we’re going to paint the interior white. (And, yes, the boys are going to help paint!)

clubhouse interior 3

I do like how the clubhouse has aged over time so I think we’re going to leave the “ceiling” (the underside of the roof) unpainted to retain a weathered look. I’d like to frame the views through the windows so we may leave the window frames au natural, too.

2 – Hazelwood folding bed The boys want a place to sit / sleep so we’re bringing in a pair of metal folding beds to flank the window seen above. Carrying and lifting full-size furniture up to the clubhouse isn’t really an option. I think we should be able to hoist these up over the porch with the help of a rope and pulley. I’ll remove them and store them elsewhere (probably in my dad’s barn) during colder months.

3 – EKBY wall shelf To keep as much floor space clear as possible we’re forgoing any tables. Instead, we’ll hang a single shelf under the window in between the two folding beds. The clubhouse isn’t wired for electricity so a pair of solar-powered table lamps will provide artificial light.

4 – mosquito net canopy The mosquito situation in Ohio is verrrrry pesky (i.e., itchy) in summertime. Bugs aren’t that bad during the day but when the sun sets, watch out. The clubhouse doesn’t have windows or a door to close at night so we’ll hang a net canopy over each folding bed to prevent bug bites.

5 – army blanket I keep picturing the clubhouse as a camping or army bunk so army drab seems fitting.

6 – hanging hammock chair There used to be a pair of swings hanging from the clubhouse. One remains but the chains are rusted and the seat is cracked. We’ll remove it and hang a pair of hammock chairs instead. The boys are so excited about these!

7 – black & white pillow Totally unnecessary but I like pillows. I’m not spending any money on throw pillows for a clubhouse so I’ll just borrow two of these from the boys’ bedroom.

8 – SailorBags soft cooler Layne wants a mini-fridge for the clubhouse (the kid lives to eat) but I reminded him that there is no electric. So he said we should get a generator. (Like I said, he lives to eat.) I got him a cooler. #roughingit

I have a few other surprises in store for the clubhouse but if I told you then they wouldn’t be surprises. I’d really like to paint or stain the exterior, too, but I need to discuss that with my dad. (He’s the one who would have to look at it everyday). In the meantime, the boys and I will work on getting the interior cleaned up, painted and sleepover-ready. We’re working with Wayfair on this project and are super happy that they are just as excited about the clubhouse as we are. The kids and I will be away for a few weeks in June visiting family so, hopefully, the reveal will go live late June or early July. I’m really grateful for being able to share the clubhouse and this experience with my kids and you. I hope it inspires you in some way!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

clubhouse exterior 1

One spring 20+ years ago, my dad built this clubhouse for my siblings and me. (There are four of us total – three girls, one boy. I’m the oldest.) My mom had taken us kids to visit my grandparents in Florida for a week and when we returned home there was a clubhouse. And not just any clubhouse. A clubhouse ON STILTS. At the time, I couldn’t fathom how in the world my dad had built it alone. I still can’t. But that’s what he does. He builds things. And this clubhouse is one of those things.

clubhouse exterior 4

It’s nestled on the top of a hill among the trees overlooking a ravine, or “holler”…if you’re where I come from. My dad laid a telephone pole across the ravine for us kids to walk across. Again, I have no idea how. Admittedly, I mostly used it to reenact the famous Dirty Dancing log routine. Back then, my sisters, brother and I were free to roam (we had twelve acres) and there wasn’t the ever-present fear of children getting hurt / lost / kidnapped like there is now. It was a great way to grow up.

clubhouse exterior 3

The clubhouse is roughly 12′ x 8′ not including a narrow, covered porch that faces the ravine. It is supported by six poles set within underground concrete piers. The sloped roof is corrugated metal with corrugated fiberglass over the porch. There used to be two aluminum windows within the window frames but they rusted out and my dad removed them several years ago. There’s a pull-up bar positioned between two stilts on the ravine side.

clubhouse stairs

The clubhouse is accessed by a steep ladder…

clubhouse trap door

…which leads to a trap door. At least, that’s what we always called it as kids.

clubhouse interior 1

clubhouse interior 5

clubhouse interior 2

clubhouse interior 3

Inside, it’s one room. The ceiling slopes from 95″ at the doorway to 72″ at the back window. Back in the day my parents let us put a play kitchen in clubhouse so we could pretend it was a real house but now there’s just a few plastic chairs, some boards and dead leaves. If you look closely you might even notice a little graffiti on the walls. #rebels

clubhouse interior 4

The trap door and large play space are nice but the view from the porch is AMAZING.

clubhouse view

Like I mentioned, the clubhouse overlooks a deep ravine. Beyond that is part of the long, winding gravel driveway and beyond that is a big open valley. I don’t know what it is about the view but it always causes me to breathe more deeply. I guess that’s what being surrounded by nature and quiet does to you.

clubhouse exterior 2

My childhood clubhouse (and home) are as remote and peaceful as they look. To this day, there is no access to cable or the internet and cell phone coverage is spotty at best. You can’t see the road from the house. The property is a 35-minute drive from our current home. I love bringing my kids here to unplug and explore. Best of all, they love it too. Which is why I’ve decided to fix up the clubhouse for them (with my dad’s blessing). Stay tuned for the plans coming up next!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Last summer Steve and I mentioned wanting a fire pit for the backyard and my dad and bonus mom must have been listening. They gifted us this fire pit for Christmas. So come springtime, I was itching to find some outdoor chairs to go along with it.

slat chairs unfinished

I found these folding patio chairs in unfinished pine and decided a pair of them would be perfect for a portable fire pit area. (We actually looked into having a stationary fire pit incorporated into a patio design off the back of the house a few years ago but all the landscapers we talked with cautioned against it. They said the majority of the time permanent fire pits end up being wasted space – at least in our area. They recommended a portable fire pit instead. One that could be moved and / or removed as desired.) An oiled version of the chair is available for an additional $60 per chair but I figured I could save $120 by oiling the chairs myself.

This is a constant mental battle I have: Do I spend the extra money to save time? Or do I spend the extra time to save money? With three kids running circles ’round me, these days – more than ever – I’m inclined to spend the extra money and save time. But in this instance, I decided it was worth it to oil the chairs myself. I mean, I would have to re-oil those oiled chairs at some point anyway so I might as well get familiar with the process, right?

tung oil

After reading up on oil finishes, I went with this 100% tung oil ($12). There’s a lot of conflicting information out there concerning tung oil vs. teak oil but I discovered that “teak oil” is really tung oil. Plus, pure tung oil (like the one I used) is non-toxic and that’s always a good thing in my book. I also like the fact that dilution isn’t required and it produces a natural, non-glossy finish.

I grabbed one of Steve’s old undershirts out of the Goodwill pile and used it to wipe on two coats of tung oil, lightly sanding between coats. To get in between the slats, I poured some oil onto the shirt then used it like floss. It was tedious but it didn’t take very long. I was liberal with the first coat and less liberal with the second.

unfinished vs oiled slat chair

That’s a side-by-side comparison of one chair unfinished vs. one chair with one coat of oil. It’s difficult to tell from these pictures because they were taken outdoors where the natural light brightens everything but…the tung oil really brought out the wood grain and gave the pine a warm, golden glow which I like. The oiled wood looks richer.

oiled slat chair

Here are the chairs finished with two coats of tung oil. Compared to the first image in this post, they are much warmer in color. But they aren’t shiny at all. I did not want a glossy finish. Immediately after oiling the chairs, they were a little greasy to the touch but after 24 hours the oil had soaked in and the chairs just feel smooth now.

firepit 1

I set the fire pit and chairs up in an unused corner of our backyard. (The fire pit was almost too easy to put together, requiring NO TOOLS. Yay for assembly that can be completed in five minutes with the “help” of a toddler.)

firepit 2

We’ve yet to light a fire but the pit is sturdy and I like that it came with a screen, cover and lift tool. And, yes, I am the person who uses a blanket next to a fire. During summer. Steve makes fun of me for being cold in the summer. What can I say? I chill easily.

firepit 4

The chairs are surprisingly comfortable and sturdy. I think the slats are close enough together that you don’t feel them individually. I love the low-slung profile and the natural wood.

Since pine isn’t the best outdoor material (teak would have been my preference but beyond our budget), I plan on bringing them up to the house when it’s raining. They fold up easily so I can carry them and lean them against the house under an eave. In the winter, I’ll be able to stash them in the attic or the garage. I love that they don’t take up a ton of space when folded. I plan to re-oil them every spring. I didn’t use that much of the tung oil so the $12 bottle should last a while.

firepit 3

All in all, it was totally worth the $12 and time (maybe an hour total?) it took to oil the chairs myself. The only thing left to do is pick up some graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. Mmmm…

This past weekend we also got around to planting the side and back beds, pressure washing the house, patios & deck, setting up the rest of the outdoor furniture and brainstorming ideas to disguise our ugly electric meter. Things are looking and feeling so good outside (notice the grass?!) that I’ve almost forgotten about our brutal winter. Almost.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking