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HouseTweaking kitchen DIY

Have you ever clicked the “see my house” link in the first column of my sidebar? If you have, I’m sorry. And if you haven’t, well, you aren’t missing anything. The only photos that pop up under that tab are of our previous home. You know, the one we lived in THREE YEARS AGO. I am a bad, bad blogger. I could say I don’t know what’s taken me so long. But I would be lying. I have a lot of excuses: life, kids, renovations, unfinished projects, TIME!, fear, so-so photography skills, dirty house, messy house, chocolate, wine, New Girl, sleep, showering…you get the idea. But enough with the excuses! A house tour is in the works.

A few weeks ago I took 1,100+ photos of our home while the boys were attending their last day of school before summer break. That’s almost one photo for every square foot of house. Ridiculous! I’m going to admit something here that I’m not entirely proud of. Before the impromptu shoot, I thought about styling everything up hardcore and hoarding the photos to see if some bigger name (online or in print) wanted to feature them. But then I thought that was a really pompous move and it’s not what this blog is about. I started House*Tweaking mainly to shake out all the ideas in my head, to share things that I find useful / good-looking / awesome and maybe inspire someone along the way. I never set out to have “X” number of readers nor have I ever wanted to be known. Holding out on loyal readers just to “increase my readership” or “reach a broader audience” or gain some sort of recognition didn’t feel right after I did some soul-searching. (Not that I don’t love a good collaboration. I do. Just not in this instance.) In the end, I tidied things up and I didn’t finish any of our unfinished projects for the shoot.

I’ve slowly been whittling down those 1K+ photos to a more digestible number. I plan on featuring a general tour in one post then breaking things down into separate room posts with more detailed photos, before & afters, source lists and links to related, past blog posts. Then all of it will get filed under the “see my house” tab. Finally.

Until then, here are a few teasers. Consider them my way of saying thank you for hanging around long enough to see us turn the Underdog into our home.

living room 2014-2

dining room 2014

mudroom 2014

master bedroom 2014

master bedbath 2014

nursery 2014

Love you guys.

P.S. – In an ironic turn of events, Domino (THE DOMINO!) asked permission to use the first image in this post for a special feature on their site. House*Tweaking was named one of the 17 best DIY blogs by the Domino editorial staff. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be mentioned alongside such amazing talent. I keep hearing about the impending death of blogs but things like this fill me with love and hope for the entire blogging community. Long live the blogs!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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!

ikea brooklyn before

After renting for eleven years, Susan and her young family bought an old apartment in Brooklyn and decided to tackle the kitchen renovation (among other things) before moving into the space. On a tight budget and even tighter schedule, they opted for Ikea cabinetry. Fueled by pure adrenaline, they managed to transform a cramped and dated hodgepodge kitchen into a modern marvel in just six weeks. I asked Susan several questions about the renovation. Find her answers and pictures of the jaw-dropping results below.

ikea kitchen brooklyn 1

Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

We purchased our base and upper cabinets, dinnerware and utensil organizers, as well as our range hood from Ikea. Friends with experience told us to avoid Ikea faucets. We bought our kitchen during the annual fall mark down, actually on Halloween evening in 2011. It was the perfect time to go as Ikea Brooklyn is usually packed and the wait line in the kitchen design / orders area can be hours. The store was literally empty and we received hands-on service from the kitchen designer who made sure we bought all the right accessories for our design.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

There were a number of factors that made Ikea cabinets the right choice for us. We had heard that the quality of the Ikea cases and interiors was good as long as you used wood glue when assembling.

We were also on a tight timeline and budget as we had just bought our apartment which needed renovation prior to move-in. We were living with very generous friends during the closing process (6 weeks, due to NYC regulations) and the renovation (6 weeks). The great thing about Ikea is that you don’t have to wait weeks or months for cabinet fabrication. We did not want to overstay our welcome. (We are still friends, thankfully!)

The third selling point was the flexibility of the design options. We knew we could upgrade the aesthetic with non-Ikea countertops, appliances and hardware to cater to our tastes and needs without breaking the bank.

ikea brooklyn DIY

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

We actually did assemble all the cabinets ourselves after our full-time jobs, putting our baby to bed, and walking 15 minutes to our new apartment. Looking back, I’m not quite sure how we did it all. I think it was the adrenaline of the renovation.

ikea brooklyn progress

ikea brooklyn cabinet install

We found the perfect contractor who installed our upper cabinets and base cabinets as well as the appliances. We did install all the doors, drawer fronts and hardware which was a pretty lengthy process getting the spacing just right. A separate contractor provided and installed the Caesarstone countertops.

We expanded the kitchen footprint by 35% which added some challenges. The floors in our apartment are very uneven (+/- 1-2″ over 6 feet) as the house was built in 1910 and has settled (hence our neighborhood’s name, ParkSlope). To mitigate this challenge, our contractor provided a new level plywood substrate with a self leveling compound topper. This allows the floor and the cabinets within the kitchen to be level. The countertop waterfall and the island panels were scribed to our uneven floors.

ikea kitchen brooklyn 2

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

The main thing we liked about the original kitchen was that it was open to the living area. As a young family, being able to keep eyes on little ones while getting work done is a must. We enlarged the kitchen by over three feet in length and one foot in depth. The peninsula went from being about six-and-a-half feet to eleven feet in length. It is amazing! It works really well as a place for our sons to color, play or eat while we cook as well as a perfect place for entertaining.

Design-wise, we wanted the kitchen to be clean and modern but also sympathetic to the details of our old home. I really wanted to do dark lowers and white uppers. The white helps the kitchen feel more open and doesn’t impose on the living and dining areas while the dark lower cabinetry grounds the space and hides fingerprints. I’m glad I did wood veneer on the lowers rather than a glossy laminate as any scratches or marks are easy to touch up.

ikea kitchen brooklyn 3

Some of my favorite details include the Doug Mockett 3″ black chrome edge pulls. These pulls are great as they act as built-in childproofing. Case in point: my three-year-old can now open them but my 15-month-old cannot. I chose to spend a little more on hardware that is unexpected and consequently most people are surprised when I reveal my kitchen is from Ikea.

To save money we went with ¾” thick counters. This literally was half the cost of the typical 1½” thick counters. I love the modern look this references. Probably the most impactful aspect of the kitchen is the waterfall edge treatment on the island. The miter edge is a favorite detail and when you conceal the sides of the cabinets, no one really knows who made them. We also chose to spend a little more money on side panels on either side of the fridge as well as on the back of the island which reinforce the custom / built-in look.

IKEA Home Planner Printout

Who designed your Ikea kitchen?

Professionally, I am a certified Interior Designer so my experience in space planning and design, although mainly for corporate clients, was useful. I pretty much designed our kitchen in an evening. As we were moving one of the walls in the apartment to create the washer / dryer closet, we were able to create the ‘built-in’ look by setting the wall dimension for the closet using Ikea’s standard dimensions for their cabinetry. I then worked a few evenings with Ikea’s 3D program online to confirm and refine the design. After we closed on the apartment, we purchased the kitchen which fit in a borrowed minivan in one trip. We carried all 1,100 lbs of cabinets up the four flights to our apartment ourselves.

We only had to make one return trip to Ikea to switch out some drawers. Due to the floor detail at the kitchen threshold, we ended up having to cut 2″ off three panels on the corner cabinet by the range. I had wanted more drawers in this location but due to this field dimension constraint and a conflict with the range, we had to switch to a cabinet which provides deep storage.

ikea kitchen brooklyn 7

ikea kitchen brooklyn 5

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

After living in rentals for eleven years, I have a lot of favorites that I feel are luxuries – especially for a NYC apartment. The ice-maker and water dispenser in the fridge, the garbage disposal, the working, *silent* dishwasher, the deep double sink, the touch on / off faucet and the dual convection oven are all attributes that I am thankful for every day. I finally feel like an adult as most rental apartments do not have any of these options.

ikea brooklyn storage 1

ikea brooklyn storage 2

The Ikea cabinet functions that I love are the soft-close drawers, the dinnerware and flatware organizers. Placing the flatware and dinnerware drawers right next to the dishwasher is one of my favorite things. It makes unloading the dishwasher a breeze. I also love all the drawers and that we were able to conceal our trash can in a standard Ikea cabinet.

ikea kitchen brooklyn 6

I also love, love the rubber floor. After living with ceramic and porcelain floors where a dropped cup or dish is shattered to a million pieces, the rubber floor has saved many of the drops by my family of klutzes.

My least favorite aspect is that we did not integrate the microwave. I really would have preferred it below the counter but there just wasn’t room. I really didn’t want to hang it over the stove. I hope one day I will learn to live without it and can gain that valuable counter space back. The other cost reduction we did that I wish we hadn’t was not venting the hood to the exterior. It is something I regret not doing but hope we can add it in the future.

Ikea cabinet wise, the only disappointment has been the corner lazy Susan. Silly me did not read the weight limitations of the unit which was only 1 lb over my Kitchen Aid mixer which sat on it for 2+ years with five other heavy appliances. Needless to say, a piece holding it in place broke. Thankfully, with some additional screws and super glue, we were able to reassemble. My mixer now lives in the base cabinet by the range and the lazy Susan holds snacks and lightweight appliances.

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

I would definitely recommend Ikea. I think the thing to be mindful of is / are the finish(es) selected on the cabinetry. Definitely use glue when assembling so you don’t have anything loosening over time. Being mindful of exposed sides, fillers, end panels, trim, etc., requires extra planning and forethought but can add sophistication to your design.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

Most definitely. Although next time, if applicable, I would pay someone to carry it up the four flights!

Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore cement gray
ceiling & trim paint – Benjamin Moore super white
upper cabinets – Abstrakt white doors on white Akurum cabinets
lower cabinets – Ikea Nexus in dark brown (discontinued, similar to Gnosjö wood effect black doors on birch Akurum cabinets)
hardware – Doug Mockett 3″ edge pulls black chrome DP3A-21
countertop – ¾” Caesarstone in organic white 4600
sink – Signature Plumbing Specialties 
faucet – Delta Trinsic pulldown faucet with Touch2O technology (This was an upgrade after the original faucet we had starting leaking due to a bad valve. We got this and our disposal for a steal in Amazon’s returns section.)
disposal – InSinkErator pro cover control (I love the batch disposal so no fingers can end up where they aren’t meant to be! We added this just this year but had installed an outlet below the sink during the renovation.)
refrigerator – GE cafe french door counter depth refrigerator (We actually sourced this on Craigslist. One of the benefits of living in a large city.)
range – GE cafe dual fuel range with baking drawer (Again, another Craigslist find. We paid extra to have it delivered. worth. every. penny.)
dishwasher – Bosch acenta in black (I love how you can’t even tell it’s there as it blends with the cabinets.)
hood – Ikea (discontinued – similar to Luftig)
backsplash tile – American Olean bright profiles 3″ x 6″ in ice white gloss
backsplash grout –  Laticrete #42 platinum
backsplash metal edge trim- polished aluminum Schluter Jolly trim
pendant lights – Tom Dixon-inspired found on ebay and rewired with a kit from West Elm
flooring – Nora Rubber norament round platinum gray, 18″ x 18″ tile
counter stools – Overstock
booster seat – OXO tot seedling youth booster in taupe

ikea brooklyn kitchen before & after

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Susan for sharing your kitchen with me!

There are so many smart takeaways here. I love how Susan incorporated high end hardware, numerous side panels and a waterfall edge to achieve a more sophisticated look. And the part about using a ¾” countertop versus the standard 1½” to save big money is ingenious. I’m all over the clean and simple design. Those pendants! And that rubber floor is so practical. But what’s truly miraculous is that Susan managed to create a full kitchen – complete with dishwasher – in Brooklyn. That’s no small feat. You can follow Susan and her adorable family 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 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: Susan at 4th Floor Walk-up

vintage rug 1

Nearly a third of the rugs in my home are vintage. I had never owned a vintage rug until last year. But once I bought my first, I was smitten. I’ve gradually acquired more since then and would love to increase their presence in my home. I just love them! Here are several reasons why I love ‘em so.

1. They’re one-of-a-kind. Most vintage rugs weren’t mass-produced at the time of creation. As a result, they boast unique patterns and color palettes. These exclusive patterns and colors bring a sense of individuality to ordinary spaces. Because of this, vintage rugs work well in newer homes where some history (or a story) is needed.

vintage rug 2

2. They’re available in non-standard sizes. I don’t know about you but not every room in my house conforms to the standard 3′ x 5′, 5′ x 7′, 8′ x 10′, 9′ x 12′ rug size options. Some spaces require a rug less rectangular in shape while other spaces call for something more linear. Too often I find brand-new rugs in my preferred width but the length is off…or vice versa. And made-to-order rugs? Well, those aren’t in the budget. In these instances, vintage rugs are ideal. It might take some leg work to find just the right size but it’s out there!

3. They feature high quality craftsmanship. Fifty-year-old (and plus!) rugs are still around because they were made well to begin with and, most likely, they were man-made not machine-made. If you fall in love with an old rug don’t worry too much about how much life it has left in it as long as it’s in good condition. It’s made it this long so who’s to say it won’t last another fifty years?! Most vintage rugs are surprisingly durable.

4. They’re already “worn in.” Vintage rugs are used and have been loved well. This takes the pressure off of new owners to treat them delicately. (You can’t say the same for brand-new rugs.) So bring on the kids! and crumbs! and spilled drinks! and dirt! There’s no need to baby vintage rugs. On the same note, some vintage rugs feature a well-deserved patina which only increases their beauty.

vintage rug 4

5. They lend a global vibe. Depending on a rug’s place of origin and style, you have the opportunity to incorporate a design element from another country or culture into your home. This is possible for travelers and homebodies alike. If you travel, you can often times score vintage rugs for a steal from their native land. (Just remember to leave room in your suitcase.) If not, you can just as easily shop for vintage rugs online. Personally, I am not a globetrotter (wish I was!) but I love that I have rugs from Pakistan, Turkey and Persia in my Ohio home.

6. They’re eco-friendly. Buying vintage anything is better for the environment than buying brand-new. Sometimes I wonder about the pollution created by shipping internationally but then I remember that the manufacturing and importing of brand-new rugs churns out way more pollutants. When you buy a vintage rug, you also avoid the harmful off-gassing of noxious toxins (which new rugs typically emit) into your home.

7. They’re beyond the shedding phase. With vintage rugs, there’s no need for obsessive vacuuming during the first few months of ownership to keep shed fibers at bay. This was an unexpected (and wonderful!) benefit the first time I purchased a vintage rug.

vintage rug 3

8. They can be cost-effective. With new rugs, price is directly proportionate to size (when considering rugs made of the same material). However, this isn’t always the case for vintage rugs. Many other factors – including condition, quality, age, demand, etc. – come into play. Of the three vintage rugs I own, the largest one (in my dining room) was not the most expensive. I looked at brand-new rugs for the dining room and they were all more expensive than the vintage one I ultimately bought. Also, most vintage rugs are sold by personal sellers whom are willing to negotiate on the price. You don’t have that option with new rugs and big companies.

Are you convinced of the power of vintage rugs yet?! Haha. I will definitely be adding more vintage rugs to my home. I especially like them in “hard” spaces where they can be the main textile focal point: kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms. And I also like the look of a smaller, colorful vintage rug layered on top of a larger, chunky jute. Hmmm…maybe in my bedroom or the nursery?? As for where to buy them online, I prefer to shop reputable sellers on etsy and ebay. And if there’s ever a question about the true color or condition of the rug, I always ask. So far, I’ve had nothing but good experiences.

Would you buy a vintage rug? Maybe you already own one? I’d love to know what style you prefer and where you (would) use it.

P.S. – Click here to see who won last week’s Cook Smarts giveaway!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

06.07.14 / Made Me Smile

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

We’re vacationing in Florida and the kids and I have spent the week swimming beneath the palm trees. After the winter we had, we aren’t taking these blue skies and sunny days for granted. We wake up in the morning, pull on our swimsuits and only take them off when it’s time to change back into our pajamas. It feels so good to be outside. The only thing that could make it better is if Steve were enjoying it with us. We miss him!

But enough with the sappiness. There’s plenty to smile about this week…

*Yippee! I get to follow one of my favorite bloggers on a new (downsizing) adventure!!

*The June issue of House Beautiful is one of their better issues I’ve seen lately. It explores different modern aesthetics and I especially enjoyed this dramatic tour and the organic vibe of this warm and rustic retreat.

*I’m dreaming of board-formed concrete walls like the one seen here.

*Architecture so good it almost makes me wish I was a giraffe.

*I’m not in the market for new curtains but if I were…

*I bought Steve this book for Father’s Day. (I hope he’s too busy tiling the bathroom to see this. Hehe.)


Have a wonderful weekend! Now get off the computer and GO OUTSIDE! That’s an order.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking