...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Remember when I put the boys’ room together last year? Well, take a look at what it looks like now. As in this morning. I didn’t even bother to pick up. Go ahead; pin away.

boys room update 1

boys room update 2

boys room update 3

boys room update 4

As I mentioned in last week’s post on the vintage dresser, this room has issues. Or more like I have issues with this room. Of all the room’s in our house, I find this one the most difficult to decorate. I’ve pinpointed two reasons why:

1) To optimize open floor space for play, all the furniture is pushed up against the walls. My natural instinct is to pull furniture into a room so it doesn’t feel like a bowling alley which is exactly what this room feels like to me.

2) I’m trying to make it a “boy” room but I also want it to fit in with the rest of our home. It doesn’t have to look like every other room in our house (nor should it) but it should have a similar vibe. With the muddy gray walls (it’s Valspar Dry Riverbed and I actually love this color just not in this context) and gray Flor tiles, the room tends to feel drab in real life.

If you’re a frequent reader, you’ve probably noticed a few changes from last year. The open shelf bookcases are gone. That was such a horrible idea on my part. Why did I ever think two rowdy boys would keep those tidy? The boys would put their toys and costumes away in the baskets but there would be stuff hanging out of the baskets and the baskets were all crooked on the shelves. I sold the bookcases to one of the kids’ bus drivers. I lost money on them but the bus driver was so excited to use them that I didn’t feel too badly.

The Lego table is gone. My sister is giving it a spin as a coffee table in her apartment and the chairs are in the attic. If you’ll remember, my boys specifically requested a table for Lego building. Turns out, they loved the idea of a table but 99% of the time they sit on the floor to play Legos. Mabrey used the table more than anyone. If the table doesn’t work out for my sister, I’ll probably take it back and use it along with the chairs for a kids’ table during get-togethers with friends / family. I bought a Swoop bag and it’s perfect for my kids. They can carry it out to the living room to play or keep it in their room. I considered a Pinterest-worthy color-sorted setup but that’s just not realistic for us. My boys really enjoy sitting with a pile of Legos spread out in front of them and *BONUS* it keeps them occupied for longer periods of time because they have to look for pieces.

Doing away with the bookcases and Lego table allowed me to solve a bigger problem – not solely filter out items that weren’t working. There was some serious inadequate clothing storage going on. I don’t know when it happened but one day (I swear it happened in ONE DAY) my boys shot up and all of a sudden their clothes got bigger and didn’t fit in their 4-drawer dresser anymore. They literally could not close the drawers when all of their clothes were clean and in the dresser. I think I remember a reader predicting that would happen. She was right. Letting go of the bookcases, table and chairs made room for the 10-drawer dresser I shared last week. Now the boys have plenty of room for their clothes with empty drawers to spare.

boys room update 5

Luckily, the baskets that once lived on the bookcases work perfectly in the closet. I reconfigured the wire shelving so most of the toys are in the closet now. It gets messy from time to time but at least this way I can close the closet curtains and walk away. I have some of their playthings tucked away in other spots of our home but for the most part this is it. (Due to popular demand and even in response to some negative comments about how little toys my kids have, I’ll be writing a separate post on that. Stay tuned.)

Layne asked for a reading chair in the room for his birthday this past winter. (He’s an avid reader.) We got him Ikea’s KARLSTAD armchair and he loves it. Steve and I do, too. It’s much heavier than I expected! We sit in the chair to watch the kids play or to read them books before bedtime. The wood crate next to the chair was a gift to Everett from his grandfather. He wanted to make Everett a toy box of some kind and asked for ideas and dimensions. I asked if he could make an open book crate on wheels and gave him measurements. The design is his. It holds books and has casters on the bottom so it can be rolled out of the way when the trundle bed is pulled out. It’s so useful!

The basketball hoop was another gift to Everett. This time from Santa. It’s not my favorite addition to the room ;) but Everett enjoys it and it was a good energy burner during our long, cold winter.

Now that the room is functioning well for everyone, I need to address some other issues.

ISSUE #1: Drab wall color.

SOLUTION: Paint! I’m leaning towards something light and fresh. (See the paint samples on the walls.) This will be the third time I’ve painted this room. And, yes, Steve likes to remind me that the room started out light.

ISSUE #2: Hidden bed. The bunk bed hideout is awesome but most days it looks like the image above with the curtains closed.

SOLUTION: Add a system for tying back the curtains during the day.

ISSUE #3: Lifeless walls.

SOLUTION: Add interest with wall art and inexpensive shelving. Have fun with it!

ISSUE #4: No vibe.

SOLUTION: Bring in a few textiles, plants and accessories to make the room feel more like a part of our home but not too serious. It is a kids’ room after all.

You probably think I’m crazy for switching up the boys’ room so soon but when a room isn’t working for my family (whether for kids or adults or both) I’m all for making it right. Notice I didn’t say perfect. In hindsight, I was way too hasty in getting the room “done” last summer. Hindsight is 20/20. This isn’t a room do-over just for blog fodder. (Although, I will be blogging about it.) This is something I would be doing even if I didn’t have a blog.

As much as I like eye candy online, I also think it’s important to show a room’s evolution and to show when things don’t go as planned. Or when things do go as planned but the plan was all wrong. I guarantee behind every drool-worthy room there is a wrong paint color that had to be painted over or a wrong piece of furniture that had to be returned / sold or a wrong layout that had to be tweaked. Or a simple “I changed my mind.” And that’s okay!

But it doesn’t feel okay when no one talks about it. It’s like a big secret in the blogosphere. Here’s what the room looked like two years ago and here’s what it looks like now. Yay! They leave out the part about trying out three different lamps, ten different pillows or the massive DIY fail. But that stuff most definitely happens. Personally, I have so much respect for bloggers whom share when things go awry. I find them more relatable, more human. It makes their “afters” that much better because I know a real person is behind them.

Do you have a room that irks you? Are you feeling stupid or guilty about wanting to make it right? (Because, yes, there are bigger problems in the world.) I feel the same way but I’m trying not to let it hold me back from creating a space that my family wants to be in. I encourage you to do the same.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

04.18.14 / Made Me Smile

hey you're awesome

How was your week? I felt like mine was full of busyness but I have nothing to show for it. Oh well. There’s always next week, right?

A few smile-worthy things to take you into the weekend…

*A DIY kitchen makeover that looks way more expensive than its $500 price tag.

*A modern, family-friendly deck.

*My new hanging planter arrived. You can never have too many houseplants, can you? The correct answer is no. No, you can’t.

*Long live the library! And one man’s photographic essay of interesting American libraries. (We visit our local library weekly. It’s such a huge part of our lives!)

*My favorite movie of 2013 is now available on DVD. It’s also one of my fave movies of all-time.

*On a similar note, if movies were written by kidsWarning: they’re snort-milk-through-your-nose HILARIOUS.

*Proud mom moment.

*The coolest video on instagram this week.

Have a very hoppy weekend! ;) And hey, you’re awesome.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

dresser revive 1

I owe you guys a long and wordy post about what’s happening in the boys’ room. The gist of story is that they need more closed storage for their clothing and the wall color makes the room feel depressing. I’ve gone mad trying to pick a new color which is evidenced by the random paint swatches on the wall. I’ll post all the details next Monday but today’s post is about reviving a vintage dresser I scored on ebay this past winter. It was $150 and included a large matching mirror with a wood frame that I’ll be hanging elsewhere. (Hint: it’s going in the hallway.) Fortunately, the seller was in Ohio so we were able to pick it up ourselves and skip shipping costs.

dresser revive 2

The dresser was in great condition. Fully functional with a few scratches and water marks from normal wear and tear. The thing is HEAVY. It’s solid walnut and features all the signs of great craftsmanship which are so hard to find in today’s furniture without spending an arm and a leg. Since it’s going in the boy’s room, it didn’t need to be perfect but I was hoping to improve the finish.

revive dresser 4

I had heard and read so many wonderful testimonials about Restor-A-Finish that I had to try it myself. (Orlando’s testimonial was especially convincing.) The application is a one-step process and it requires no sanding. It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? I chose the walnut tone and set to work reviving the new old dresser.

revive dresser 5

Application was super easy. I poured a little Restor-A-Finish onto a soft cloth and rubbed it into the wood. A little goes a long way. The stuff is a bit stinky so I opened the windows during application. (This is the main reason it’s taken me so long to get around to reviving the dresser. Too cold to open the windows!) Immediately, I could tell it was working. It’s subtle but noticeable. I liken it to a good pregnancy glow or a natural sun kissed glow. It blended the imperfections and restored the wood’s luster. But it didn’t leave a shiny finish. It was more of a healthy sheen.

dresser revive 3

If you compare this image to the second one at the top of this post, you can see the difference. It’s pretty miraculous!

revive dresser 6

I couldn’t believe how much richer the wood looked. It really did have a glow to it minus the gloss.

revive dresser 8

Following the directions on the back of Restor-A-Finish, I decided to protect the I-can’t-put-my-finger-on-it-but-there’s-something-different-about-you finish with Howard’s Feed-N-Wax. I waited 30 minutes after refinishing the dresser to apply the wax. I applied the wax with a soft cloth and was a little more generous with this application than the oil. Then I set a timer for 20 minutes. When time was up I buffed out the dresser with a clean soft cloth. Again, super easy.

revive dresser 7

After restoring the finish and applying the protective wax topcoat, the dresser almost looked brand new!

revive dresser 9

The results were enough to motivate me to restore the dresser in my bedroom using the same technique.

But back to the boys’ dresser…

dresser hardware

I didn’t particularly care for the dresser’s original hardware. The knobs are brass with laminate stickers glued to the centers. One knob was missing its laminate center so I tried everything in order to remove the laminate from the other knobs to no avail. I also didn’t like that each drawer had a knob. It was too knobby for my taste. I thought I’d try switching out the middle knobs for horizontal pulls and see what happened. You know, to break things up a little.

dresser hardware 1

I found these streamline pulls at Anthropologie and ordered four. (Btw, it was my very first Anthro purchase. I’m no longer an Anthro virgin.) I love them! They’re so dainty, so midcentury modern. Best of all, they make the dresser feel less knobby. Knobby…it’s a technical term.

Here’s a little before-and-after action for your viewing pleasure…

subtle dresser before and after

I know, it’s not a WOW! makeover. But that wasn’t my goal here. Restoring the finish and changing up some of the hardware gave this dresser a much needed facelift but it still looks like a classic midcentury piece. (Notice how the finish looks less orange-y, too. I like that.) It’s not trying to be something it’s not. I guess it’s more like Cindy Crawford on Botox versus Joan Rivers on plastic surgery. Sometimes subtle changes are the best.

Have you ever used Restor-A-Finish? It has me wanting to buy more vintage pieces just to love ‘em up with a little oil.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

The weather was so nice this past weekend that I just had to tackle an outdoor project. It meant skimping on the kid / guest bathroom but it was totally worth it. My skin hasn’t felt warm sunshine in six months! So while the kids rode their bikes and played with neighbor-friends, I set to work scraping, sanding and painting our decrepit garage door.

We plan to replace the garage door all together within the next year but I couldn’t stand it’s peeling paint any longer. (You can see images of the original door here.) And I needed an excuse to be outside. I have a hard time being anywhere…I always have to be doing something. #busybody It’s something I need to work on. Can you relate? Tangent aside, I’ve mentioned painting the garage door several times to Steve but his response was always the same.

I don’t think it’s worth the hassle since we’re going to replace it eventually.

Guess what. It was worth the hassle.

stopgap garage door 1

I used an old school Red Devil paint scraper (similar to this newer one) to remove the peeling paint. It worked well but the garage door’s humble state became even more apparent once the paint was removed. The door’s frame is wood but the recessed panels are made of fiber board or the like. When I scraped the paint from the panels, I was left with a cardboard-like surface. Cardboard garage doors aren’t big sellers for obvious reasons. Sections of wood are splintering at the bottom of the door. So, yeah, our garage door is on its last leg but at least it’s going out with grace.

After scraping, I hit up the paint store for a few paint samples.

stopgap garage door 2

I grabbed Benjamin Moore’s Steel Wool and Secret thinking they would pick up on the metal roof. (The photo above was taken after Steve went over the door and sample paint patches with an orbital sander.) Perfectly matching the roof is difficult because it reflects the sky and sun so it looks completely different on a cloudy, gray day than it does on a bright, sunny one with blue skies. At any rate, we chose Secret and bought two quarts of exterior paint from the Ben line to cover the door and our mailbox post which was looking rough, too.

The highlighted circles show where Steve and I spent an hour trying to scrape who-knows-how-old paint from the windows. I tried a razor blade, Goo Gone, fingernail polish remover…nothing worked well. We like the idea of garage door windows and wanted to reveal them. But after discovering how long it would to take to de-paint them and reminding ourselves that this was meant to be a quick and inexpensive temporary solution we opted to forget them and save days of our lives. (The interior side of the windows are painted as well so that would have doubled our work time.) Why someone would ever paint over perfectly good windows, I’ll never know (I’m guessing it was done out of fear of Peeping Toms or burglars) but we vow to buy a new garage door with windows when the time comes.

With the paint color selected and the decision made to keep the windows painted, I vacuumed the door and the paint chip-covered ground with the Shop-Vac. I wiped the door down with a wet cloth, let it dry then applied two coats of exterior paint in a low luster finish. I didn’t worry about primer. Again, STOPGAP. I also hit up the mailbox post (not shown) with the same taupe-gray as the door and brushed on two coats of white paint on the trim around the garage door.

stopgap garage door 3

I’m not 100% sold on the color of the finished door but it looks so much better. Steve and I joked that even a green door would have been an improvement. Steve also happily pointed out that the new color perfectly matches the DirectTV satellite. If you take away anything from this post let it be that Benjamin Moore Secret = DirectTV satellite gray. Haha. The safe thing would have been to go with white to match the trim but since we know this door isn’t staying forever we thought we’d try a color. I don’t know? I do think it would look better with windows. And don’t get me started on that awkward vinyl trim above the door. It’s so odd.

stopgap garage door 4

Admittedly, there was an ulterior motive for my madness. We’re scheduled to have our cracked asphalt driveway replaced with concrete in the coming weeks. I couldn’t stand the thought of having a nice, new driveway leading to a sad, peeling garage door. I have never been so excited about a driveway before in my life! We have saved our pennies for this. It always been on the renovation list.

As is, there is no “clean” way to reach our house. There’s a gap between the driveway and front walk. There’s a large piece of trodden yard separating the end of the driveway from the back patio where we enter the mudroom. And entering through the garage itself is a disaster and probably unsafe. The new driveway will be widened to meet the front walk and lengthened at the back of the house. We will add large square pavers with creeping Jenny in between them to meet the back dining patio. You don’t know how happy I am at the prospect of having (not one but) two paved ways to enter the house! Right now the majority of dirt in my house comes from dirty / muddy shoes walking up through the yard.

The driveway itself hold rocks, dirt, water and mud in all the cracks and low spots. It will be ripped out and excavated to make way for a wider and longer driveway. Concrete is our material of choice for its sustainability. It’s more expensive up front but will last longer and requires less maintenance than asphalt. Plus, we think it just looks better when driveways match their home’s walks and patios. Having a new driveway is really going to improve our home’s curb appeal. Our neighbors are going to be relieved. For two years, I’ve been cringing when I pull up to our house just because of the driveway. It’s baaaaaad.

stopgap garage door 5

So that’s how I spent my weekend in the warm weather. If you ask me, it was worth the $30 in supplies and two half-days of labor. The garage door is definitely looking better but I’d love to know your thoughts on the future door’s style and possible colors. White? A bluer gray that more closely matches the roof and decking? Also, what happens to that odd vinyl trim piece? Sometimes a third-party eye is better at this stuff.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking