...because home doesn't happen overnight.
07.02.14 / The Living Room

Thank you for all of the wonderful comments and encouraging words on the house tour! Seeing the before-and-after images next to each other was a little surreal even for us. Like, whoa, we actually bought that dump?! But mostly we feel happy about how much light and life are in this lil’ house now. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of the major renovations. I’d like to feature individual rooms and discuss them in more detail. First up, the living room!

HouseTweaking living room before 2

HouseTweaking living room before 1

It came to us dirty and dated but we liked the large, south-facing window and the orientation of the fireplace.

living room 2014-1

We had the aluminum window replaced with a better insulated vinyl one but we were adamant about retaining the look of the original. The center pane is fixed and the two outer panes are sliders. Whenever weather allows, the sliders are open. We salvaged the original slate windowsills throughout the home. I love the way this window frames the view behind the couch. It’s almost like a work of art and it brings in so much natural light. Plus, we enjoy watching the world go by.

For window treatments, we hung woven shades and gray linen curtains. I have a thing for natural textures so that’s where the woven shades come in and I read somewhere about hanging non-white curtains to distract from a less-than-perfect view. Just across the street is a nondescript shed painted hunter green soooo…yeah, gray curtains. The shades and curtains are functional but we leave them open 99.9% of the time. We don’t mind living in a fish bowl.

living room 2014-4

We replaced the orange shag carpet with engineered hardwood. (We’re on a concrete slab.) Installing the floors nearly did us in. We had to glue each and every plank to its neighbors and we did it all ourselves…while I was seven months pregnant. It was awful but we saved a ton of money by DIYing the install and we’re happy with the results. Although, next time (ha!) I think we’ll opt for something that’s easier to install.

We tried living with the red brick fireplace surround for over a year but we ended up painting it out in white. It really lightens up the space and it’s much easier to clean now, too. We don’t regret painting it one bit but we do feel better knowing we gave the red brick a try. We had the wood-burning fireplace converted to gas with an affordable insert we bought via craigslist.

The TV was quite the conundrum. I was all for giving it up but Steve enjoys it…along with (what I think are) unsightly surround sound speakers. The TV / surround sound setup was a complete compromise. I don’t particularly care for TV’s mounted above fireplaces but, since we removed the wall separating the living room from the kitchen, we didn’t have much of a choice. Our solution was to run the TV and speaker wires up and over to the adjacent wall and house the media components in a small cabinet. (You can see the wires via related links at the end of this post.)

living room 2014-13

To make the TV less ominous, we DIY’d a planked bump-out above the mantel that reaches all the way to the vaulted ceiling, recessed the TV within and painted the planks to match the fireplace surround. The bottom plank is removable in case we ever need to service / replace the TV. This setup appeases Steve and me. He has his fancy TV and speaker system but the wires are hidden and the TV isn’t too obnoxious. It also makes for a great architectural feature. That was a happy accident.

living room 2014-9

I’ve tried disguising the dreaded “boob speakers” with decorative mirrors hung on either side of the TV. They’ve been up for over a year but I haven’t decided if they work. We’ve tossed around ideas to make this wall even more of a focal point. Contrasting paint? Grasscloth wallpaper? Who knows what it will look like in a year!

I designed a wood box that slips over an ugly subwoofer on the floor next to the media cabinet. Are you sensing a theme?

living room 2014-7

I played around with a few different furniture arrangements before settling on the one you see. We discovered that placing the sofa in front of the window gave us more open floor space and encouraged casual conversation. Someone sitting on the sofa can easily converse with someone in the kitchen and vice versa. And the scale of the sofa fits the window so well. (I strongly suggest moving around your furniture until it feels right. No harm, no foul and it’s free!) We also switched out a large, round coffee table for a slimmer, rectangular one to better suit the space.

living room 2014-5

With such a major piece shoved up against the window / wall, it was important to “float” other pieces within the room. I positioned an oversized chair perpendicular to the sofa. Not only does this close off the conversation area, it also helps to separate the entry from the living room.

A shag rug layered over sisal defines the living room part of the main living space and gives the kids a soft place to romp. Bringing in the cloud-like rug upped the comfort factor 1000%. It’s where everyone wants to be.

entry 2014

We don’t have a true entryway or foyer. The front door opens up into the living room. The small area behind the chair acts as our “entry.” Peg hooks give guests a place to hang their coats and the bench is a great spot for stashing deliveries until we open them.

living room 2014-3

The front door is original but it was in sad shape when we bought the house. The previous homeowner had added numerous locks and light-blocking, privacy screens to ward off strangers. The only problem was it warded off everyone. In fact, we couldn’t use the front door (we normally enter through the garage or mudroom) for over a year after our move-in date. Our UPS man made deliveries through the window! Eventually, we rebuilt the door jam and rehabbed the door.

The old door was in such disrepair that at one point we considered getting rid of it and starting from scratch. We’re so glad we didn’t! It’s one of our favorite original features – albeit all gussied up.

living room 2014-8

To bring down the height of the wall near the entry and balance out the TV wall on the opposite side of the living room, we installed simple DIY shelving. I display decorative items on the higher shelves safe from our toddler’s reach and use kid-friendly baskets on the bottom shelf for easy storage. And, bonus!, this shelving unit hides yet another pair of surround sound speakers.

So that’s the gist of the inner workings of the living room. As far as aesthetics, I really wanted this room to ooze comfort and coziness. We hang out here. We watch movies here. We read here. The kids play and wrestle here. We have family dance parties here. We entertain here. A lot of life happens here so the room didn’t need to be brightly colored or overly patterned. I feel like the room gets enough personality from its inhabitants. Did I mention we have three rowdy kids? This isn’t one of those look-don’t-touch living rooms. (I detest those.)

living room 2014-12

living room 2014-10

living room 2014-6

living room 2014-11

I’m drawn to neutrals, cozy textures, a mix of wood tones, leather upholstery, vintage & tribal patterns and hits of black and gold so those run rampant. But everything is kid-friendly. On movie night, the kids use the zig zag poufs as bean bags and they’re never without a stockpile of pillows and blankets.

I hope you enjoyed this BIG tour of our little living room ;)

Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore tapestry beige
trim, ceiling, fireplace, TV wall, interior door paint – Benjamin Moore white dove
exterior door paint – Behr evening hush
flooring – Jasper engineered hardwood handscraped birch in Texas Brown via Build Direct
entryset – Emtek
peg hooks – West Elm
woven bench – Target
black & white bull photography print – Minted
string art – DIY
tripod floor lamp – Target, spray painted gold
wall shelves – Lowe’s, DIY
sisal rug in entry – NaturalAreaRugs
gold clip-on lamp – Land of Nod
wood sculptures – Ballard Designs
woven baskets – HomeGoods
porcelain glove form – vintage
black & white vase – HomeGoods
vintage kantha on back of chair – ebay
oversized chair – Thrive Furniture’s Taylor chair in expectation grey, blonde stain
large sisal with gray border – Overstock
Keno Moroccan shag rug – RugsUSA
basket next to chair – Target
scalloped wood side table – Grandin Road outlet
patterned pillow on chair – Crate & Barrel
leather pouf – Joss & Main
leather sofa – Soho leather sofa by Elements Fine Home Furnishings (google for the best price)
fringed blankets – Target
sheepskin – Ikea
kilim pillow covers – vintage, etsy (try Sheepsroad or YASTK shops)
light gray squiggle pillow – HomeGoods
slat bench / coffee table – Overstock
gray curtains – West Elm
curtain rod – Amazon
curtain rings – Meijer
woven shades – petite rustique from Overstock
wood bowl on coffee table – Target
shed antler – ebay
various decor books – Amazon
brass-bottomed vase – Target (it’s actually a toothbrush holder)
zig zag floor poufs – West Elm
media cabinet – West Elm (I added vintage brass knobs)
gold task lamp – Target
“Generations” photography print – Steven L. Miller photography (custom gold frame from JoAnn’s)
faux roe deer antlers – One Kings Lane
gas fireplace insert – craigslist
tongue and groove planks – Home Emporium
Monrovian star mirrors – Joss & Main
ceiling fans – Barn Light Electric Co.

In case you’re interested in seeing how this room has evolved, a few living room-related posts:




























Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

06.30.14 / Made Me Smile

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

If you follow me on instagram then you probably already know that Steve underwent an emergency appendectomy on Friday. He’s home now and resting but the recovery has been much more difficult than either of us were expecting. Obviously, our priorities have completely shifted. The kids have been good about bringing Steve water and snacks and reserving their aggressive hugs for when he’s feeling better. Mabrey is keeping us stocked up on groceries ;)

I wasn’t able to post my regular “Made Me Smile” links but there were too many good ones not to. I thought you might enjoy seeing them even though it’s Monday.

*I don’t know about you but I can’t think about appendectomies without thinking of Madeline.

*A $22,000 dream house…on wheels. (Steve and I are inspired by the couple’s desire to live mortgage-free.)

*One of the best nursery reveals I’ve seen. I love the mix of old, new and handmade.

*A young family is just beginning the decorating adventure in their newly constructed home. Damn good start if you ask me.

*Who wouldn’t want to stay at the Lombardi House?

*The mom behind the popular General Store.

*Coming to bookshelves in the fall of 2015: A Field Guide to Decorating.

*Daddy’s kitchen.

*Mabrey’s shopping cart.

Happy Monday, friends!

A quick update on the bathroom…

bathroom tile progress

We have two walls of subway tile! Tiling the uneven window wall was difficult. Tiling the smoother wall on the left was like tying a shoe in comparison. Steve knocked it out in one evening.

bathroom tile progress 2

Look at those perfectly wrapped corner tiles. Reason #99 you should marry an engineer.

In case you’re just now tuning in (or maybe you didn’t even know we had a second bathroom because we’ve shunned it for the last two years), this is the main bathroom in the house. A freestanding shower / tub will eventually live right in front of the back wall. We’re taking the tile to the ceiling around the shower / tub and the rest of the room will have tiled wainscoting. After much debate (I wanted tile. Steve wanted baseboards.) we’re installing the same chunky baseboards in here as the rest of the house. That’s why you see a gap at the bottom of the walls between the wall tile and floor tile.

As the shell of the room started to take shape, I got to thinking about how we would trim out the wainscoting and shower walls.

tile molding

I don’t even remember doing it but I selected this curvy tile to act as molding atop the tiled wainscoting. I don’t know what I was thinking. Oh, wait, I was pregnant. I probably wasn’t thinking. Maybe I was thinking about lunch. Maybe I was thinking about a nap. Most likely, I was contemplating how I could eat lunch and nap at the same time.

But I digress.

There’s nothing wrong with the tile itself but when you butt it up against the skinny modern subway tiles it looks strange. The profile is all wrong. And Steve and I were confused about where exactly to install it. Just along the wainscoting? Up the side of the shower walls? It would look weird if we ran it along the top of the wainscoting and dead-ended it at the shower. And it would look just as weird to have a mitered inside corner at the shower wall and continue the molding up the edge of the shower only to dead-end at the ceiling. We were at a loss.

That’s when an image of black pencil liner popped into my head. It was similar to this. I tried explaining my vision to Steve but he wasn’t catching on. (This happens a lot.) It was decided that I would head to The Tile Shop the next morning to scope out some options to help Steve better grasp my idea.

I wasn’t there five minutes before I found exactly what I wanted. Which was a good thing because my kids were play fighting in slow motion and everyone was staring. I quickly snapped a picture of the simpler design I had in mind and sent it to Steve. “Gorgeous” was the reply back. We had a winner.

pencil liner + bullnose trim

I bought the imperial bianco bullnose to match the subway tile and the noir honed somerset to tie in to the floor tile. We’ll run both along the wainscoting and shower. The end result will be similar to the last photo seen in this bathroom renovation post. The pencil liner is a little thicker than the subway and bullnose tiles but I think the difference in profile will be a nice finishing touch. I love that the single black stripe will pick up on the hex floor. And you know how I feel about stripes in general! The liner is also a subtle nod to the bathroom’s midcentury roots. Many ’50’s bathrooms boasted contrasting pencil liner. This is my attempt to bring it back in a modern way. What do you think?

Can’t wait to share more progress as we make it!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

It’s house tour time! I mentioned doing a general tour then breaking it down room by room into individual posts with source lists and links to related past posts. The plan is for everything to end up under the “see my house” tab on the side bar. Today I’m sharing an overview of befores & afters. The goal is to give you a general idea of the layout and major renovations. We bought the house in 2011 and a lot has changed since then. Let’s take a look!

First up, the current floor plan. I hastily drew this up in Floorplanner, an online site that allows you to create house plans for free. It isn’t exact and doesn’t include doorways but, hopefully, you get the gist of things. If not, you might find this post helpful.

floor plan

Part of the remodel included tearing down walls that separated the original kitchen, dining and living rooms.

floor plan walls removed

This allowed us to create an open kitchen – living space conducive to our casual lifestyle. It also made the modest house feel larger without straying from the original footprint.

exterior 2011

When we bought the home it was surrounded by numerous trees – some not in the best health – which prohibited the house from drying out properly and ultimately led to mildew problems and termite infestation. The exterior was in need of long overdue maintenance and repair including a new roof & gutters, new windows and general yard cleanup.

exterior 2014

We had several trees removed and installed a metal roof along with insulated vinyl windows. The yard was excavated and we added basic hardscaping and landscaping. In an effort to preserve the home’s midcentury roots, we rehabbed the original front door.

view from entry 2011

The original view from the front door looked into the dining room. Dirty and worn shag carpet was abundant. There were termite trails in the carpet pad and the baseboards were disintegrating due to termite damage.

view from entry 2014

After removing walls, vaulting the ceiling and adding skylights, the space feels larger and brighter. We switched out the dining room window for a set of french doors to help connect the new kitchen to the backyard.

kitchen 2011

The original kitchen was small and closed off from the living room.

kitchen 2014

The new kitchen is open to the living room. A nine-foot-long island provides plenty of room for food prep and casual dining. It’s the hub of the house.

kitchen-2 2011

The original kitchen cabinets didn’t open / close properly and some were rotted through in places from years of neglect. The layout assigned the refrigerator to a corner all by itself and didn’t include a dishwasher.

kitchen.2 2014

We left the kitchen sink under the window but ran new water and gas lines to relocate the refrigerator and stove and gain a dishwasher. We installed Ikea cabinetry. All appliances (save for the microwave) are Ikea as well.

kitchen.3 2011

The original kitchen’s footprint was quite small.

kitchen-3 2014

We relocated the dining room to make way for a larger kitchen. One side of the kitchen functions as a home workspace.

fireplace 2011

The living room – while dirty and outdated – boasted a brick fireplace and a large picture window. Chimney and roof leaks had caused damage to the ceiling and wall.

fireplace 2014

As much as we loved the idea of a wood burning fireplace it wasn’t a practical feature for our young family. A new gas line and a craigslisted gas insert allowed us to convert the fireplace to gas. We lived with the red brick surround for more than a year before deciding to take the plunge and paint it white. With limited wall space, we mounted the flatscreen TV above the fireplace and recessed it in a planked bump out.

everything room 2011

This room was used as a den originally. Sliding doors look out onto the backyard. Notice the window A/C unit. The house didn’t have central air conditioning.

everything room 2014

This room serves multiple purposes now. It’s our dining room, mudroom and laundry room. We installed a heat pump found on craigslist for $500, got rid of the window A/C unit and added a pair of freestanding wardrobes to stand in as closets. Hardworking tile and planked walls were specifically incorporated for their practicality.

laundry 2011

A laundry closet housed the washer and dryer behind cumbersome folding doors.

laundry 2014

We ditched the closet and created a laundry nook with a floating countertop and upper cabinetry.

main bathroom 2011

Moving onto the more private rooms in the house, here is the main bathroom. After discovering black mold within the walls, we gutted it.

main bathroom 2014

We moved into the house with this bathroom unfinished. (Luckily, the master bathroom was fully functional.) We’ve sloooooowly been working on the bathroom when time allows but have recently given it more attention. We tiled the floor and are in the midst of tiling the walls. The wait will be worth it!

nursery 2011

The smallest bedroom came to us with peeling paint, nonexistent baseboards and scary carpet. When we bought the house, we were a four-person family. Three bedrooms would have allowed each of our two sons to have their own bedroom. But three months after we closed on the house, we found ourselves unexpectedly expecting a third child.

nursery 2014*

The smallest bedroom became the nursery. I installed the engineered hardwood flooring (same as in the main living space and all other bedrooms) while seven months pregnant. And, yes, I want an award for that.

boys room 2011

The only thing this bedroom had going for it was its size. It’s the largest of the three bedrooms.

boys bedroom 2014

Naturally, it became a shared bedroom for our two boys. We’re currently working on bringing better design to this room. I’ll share the results soon!

master bedroom 2011

There wasn’t anything master-ish about the master bedroom other than it sported an adjoining bathroom. More crumbling baseboards, more gross carpet…you get the idea.

master bedroom 2014*

Three years later, it’s our retreat at the end of every busy day.

master bathroom 2011

The original master bathroom was very PINK. The shower tiles were cracked. The floor tiles were hideous. The vanity was too small. The fluorescent lighting was unnerving.

master bathroom 2014

We demo’d the bathroom down to the studs. We kept the original layout but updated the fixtures and finishes.

That concludes the general house tour. Our goal was to make the modest ranch work for our family and lifestyle without adding square footage. I should probably mention that we upgraded the electrical, had a radon mitigation system put in, added insulation to the exterior walls and vaulted ceiling, and installed all new interior doors. We still have a few big projects in the works: finishing the main bathroom & boys’ room, installing a new driveway, hanging a new garage door, organizing the garage, improving the backyard, etc. so we aren’t done by any means. I’m including links relevant to the larger renovations we took on below and will include source lists when I discuss each space in more detail.



































For easy access, this tour and info can be found under the “see my house” tab. I’ll gradually be adding individual room tours and will update the tour with new projects as we finalize them.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking