...because home doesn't happen overnight.

bedside sconces 3

I’m often asked about the swing arm wall sconces flanking our bed. Are they adjustable? Are they hardwired? At what height are they mounted? How do you power them on/off? What types of bulbs do you use? This is my attempt to address those questions but I should give you fair warning: There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Different people have different needs when it comes to bedside lighting. You should choose what works for your lifestyle, but maybe the information below will give you a gauge if you’re considering bedside sconces.

bedside sconces 4

We have a pair of the House of Troy Addison swing arm lamps in antique brass. The sconce is adjustable horizontally, not vertically. The arm is hinged and the brass shade rotates. It is a little stiff to move but holds positions well. Typically, we don’t adjust the sconces. We purposefully mounted them so that they were in functional positions from the start.

bedside sconces 6

The sconces are not hardwired. They plug in to an outlet behind the headboard. Each sconce came with a matching 30″ brass cord cover which we used in the space between the top of the nightstand and the backplate. If you like the clean look of a hardwired sconce but for whatever reason aren’t able to install one, a plug-in design with a quality cord cover is a great option.

Before mounting the lights, I searched for hard and fast rules regarding the recommended height of bedside wall sconces. What I found were general guidelines. The most practical tip I came across (and ultimately used) was to get into bed in my regular reading position then measure from the floor to a few inches above my shoulder. The measurement is a rough estimate of how high the bottom of the shade should be positioned.

Of course, this measurement is influenced by numerous factors: the height of the bed, an individual’s height, preferred reading position, the needs of sleeping partners, etc. Our bed is relatively low. It’s 24″ from the floor to the top of the mattress. I’m relatively short. I’m 5’4″ with shoes on, on a good day. I prefer to read in a reclining position with my knees up, not sitting straight yet not lying flat. Steve isn’t much of a bedtime reader and, on the rare occasion he does read in bed, he usually lies flat with only his head propped on a pillow. That’s why our sconces are mounted mostly to my specifications. (If you have a shorter/taller sleeping partner, you may need to compromise on the height of bedside lighting or consider a sconce that adjusts vertically as well as horizontally. Obviously, you don’t want to mount one sconce higher than the other.)

When I stepped back and eyeballed the lamps at the height just above my shoulder, they felt too low. (Probably because our bed is low and I’m short.) In the end, I decided to mount the bottom of the shade 50″ from the floor, roughly 8″- 10″ above my shoulder when reading in bed. This height is consistent with another tip I came across which was to mount the shade ~24″ from the top of the nightstand. The distance between our nightstands and sconces is 26″.

Personally, I like the look and function of sconces mounted off to the side rather than directly above a headboard. (Additionally, the placement of a window above our bed wouldn’t allow for sconces mounted above the headboard.) For swing arm lamps, I like the shades to overlap the width of the headboard just a little for a layered effect. The distance between the cord cover and the edge of our headboard is 8″.

bedside sconce 2

There is a small rotary switch at the shade to turn the light on/off. It’s easily reached from bed so there’s no need to walk across the room half-asleep to flip a switch. Initially, I put a 60 watt incandescent bulb in each lamp. Steve was always complaining the bulbs were too bright. I tried a small book light but it didn’t pass the Prince and the Bulb test either. Steve bought me an e-reader for my birthday to try to resolve the problem (and because I asked for one). It works great for most books but I can’t completely quit real books and glossies.

Recently, the kind folks at Ace Hardware offered to send me LED replacements for the sconces. I was put in touch with one of their lighting experts to determine which bulbs would be the best fit for our needs. I learned so much about LEDs! For instance, when it comes to LED bulbs “lumens” refers to brightness. 800 lumens is comparable to a traditional 60 watt bulb. Also, different LED bulbs give off different temperatures of white light. “Soft white” bulbs give off warm and cozy light while “daylight” bulbs have a cooler tone. For LEDs, the higher the Kelvin (K) temperature, the cooler the light. Bulbs <3000K are considered “soft white”; bulbs >4600K are considered “daylight.”

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When it came to choosing LED bulbs for the sconces, I knew I wanted them to be comparable to 40-60 watts of incandescent light. Since the sconces are in our bedroom, I wanted a soft, warm light as opposed to a cool light. A 500 lumens 3000K LED bulb ended up being the sweet spot for our bedside lighting needs. (All images in this post except the one above labeled ‘incandescent’ show the light given off by the new LED bulbs at dusk on an overcast day.)

I can’t get over the difference. The LED light is pure yet warm and cozy at the same time. It’s the best of both worlds. The incandescent reads orange and dirty in comparison. The LED bulbs better portray the true colors of the walls and textiles in our north-facing bedroom. Steve still says my reading light is too bright when he’s trying to sleep. At this point, I think he would say any light was too bright. So I ordered a manly sleep mask for him ;) These are the little secrets to happy marriages, folks!

bedside sconce 1

Truthfully, I have been slow to jump on the LED bandwagon. We installed LED over- and under-cabinet lighting in our kitchen and, at the time, it was an expensive extra. However, after realizing how much we use it and how much it affects our everyday living, it’s been a worthy investment. We use the cabinet lighting as ambient lighting during early mornings and late evenings. By day, we let natural light from windows, french doors and skylights do its thing. By night, we mostly rely on ambient light for a soft glow. Steve and I are both strongly averse to harsh, blue lighting. I swear, we’re part vampire.

A few weeks prior to collaborating with Ace Hardware, the incandescent above our kitchen sink burned out and I hastily grabbed an LED replacement at a local grocery store. I didn’t pay attention to the specs (size, lumens, Kelvin, etc.) and, as a result, the bulb is way too bulky, bright and cold for my taste. And I’m stuck with it for at least the next 15 years! Bummer. But now that I’m familiar with the LED lingo, I’m looking forward to switching out our remaining incandescents with soft white LEDs as they burn out.

Do you have any tips for mounting bedside sconces? Do you and your spouse have different bedtime lighting needs? Have you figured out which LED bulbs suit your home best? I inadvertently came across these easy plug-in LED dimmers that allow dimmable LED bulbs to be dimmed when/where hardwired dimmer switches aren’t possible. Pretty cool!

*This post sponsored in part by Ace Hardware. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Right-sized living forces me to shop with intention for our home and for myself. I think about how I will use an item and how often. I think about where I’ll store it. I think about how the item will impact my everyday living. If I already have a similar item, I think about its fate and if/how the potential purchase will be an improvement over the current item. I think about how long the item will last. I think about how I want the item to look. And I think about how much I’m willing to spend. Typically, the more boxes an item checks, the more money I’m willing to spend on it. There’s no aimless browsing. There are no impulse buys. If a purchase doesn’t hold up to my expectations, I return it.

Here are a few of my best buys from this year. I’ve divided them into two categories: things for my home & family and things for myself. They are little things I use on a regular basis that have improved my everyday life because of their purpose, convenience, small footprint, beauty and/or comfort.


best buys 2015

1 – reusable grocery bags I use them multiple times per week for all shopping, not just grocery. They also make great library book bags. Don’t let their small size fool you. They stretch to hold an insane amount of stuff. They store easily inside of each other and can be stashed in a closet, glove box or purse or hung on a hook.

2 – wire basket I bought one of these over the summer to harvest tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers from the garden. The kids loved using it and it held up against their abuse. Because of the simple design, I leave it out on the kitchen countertop to corral all kinds of things during colder months.

3 – indigo dyed kitchen towels Pretty and practical, these kitchen towels are soft and absorbent. Drying dishes never looked so good.

4 – stainless steel lunch boxes When I bought these for the kids, I was leery of spending so much on lunch boxes. But after going through a ridiculous amount of boxes, bags, containers and lids (where do they all go?!) over the years, these have proven to be a worthy investment. Not only are they virtually indestructible, they somehow make packing lunches easier and faster. (Get tons of ideas here. Instead of forks, I pack toothpicks now.) Numerous classmates, parents and teachers have inquired about them. I throw them in the dishwasher for easy cleanup.

5 – mesh family beach tote Our old pool bag gave out this past summer and I had to find a replacement in a pinch. Even though it isn’t the prettiest thing, this tote is super functional which is the #1 priority for me when it comes to a family pool bag. With its various pouches and pockets, it easily holds everyone’s towels, drinks, snacks and pool toys. The mesh material is waterproof, sandproof (I made that up…it means it doesn’t hold sand) and washable. Throw it in the washer or hose it down. It folds up and stores flat during colder months.

6 – peshtemal beach towel Along with the pool bag, I also replaced our old beach towels with peshtemals. (We made the switch indoors a while ago.) There’s one for each member of our family and they’re all the same color so there’s no fighting over towels or outgrowing themed towels. They’re thin which means they dry quickly and roll up easily to fit inside the pool bag. No more lugging around heavy, wet towels! They get better with every wash; just don’t use fabric softener.


best buys 2015

1 – Finley clutch So, technically, I haven’t bought this yet because it’s sold out :( But as soon as it’s back in stock, it’s mine. I have the petite bellfield tote (the only purse I own) and it only gets better with each passing year. It’s great for everyday, but I’m in need of something smaller and dressier for special occasions. That motherhood milestone when you no longer have to carry around a ginormous bag for everyone else’s necessities? I’m celebrating it with a clutch.

2 – electrolyte drink tablets I’m a sweater (as in odiferous not knit) and, apparently, I’m a runner now, too. I discovered these tablets after a particularly grueling run. For me, they really help to prevent muscle cramping without adding loads of sugar to my diet.

3 – Saucony retro sneakers These are my go-to kicks for running errands and keeping up with the kids. They’re comfortable without looking orthopedic and they look great with almost everything “ath-leisure.” I love them so much I have them in black/silver and purple/orange. (The purple/orange looks great with olive or navy leggings.) I hope Saucony never stops making them.

4 – stainless steel water bottle When I’m home, I’m really good about drinking plenty of water. But when I’m out and about (which seems to be more and more these days), my water intake wanes. I keep this water bottle in my bag or in the car and fill it up at home or via drinking fountains around town. The kids have been known to borrow sips from it, too. It keeps hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold for 24 hours. I’ve used it with #2 above.

5 – swanky earbuds I’m a true introvert and sometimes I just need to drown out all the stimulation going on around me. I love these comfy, good-looking earbuds for listening to music, TED talks and podcasts at home or away. The design is a lesson in form + function. One cord is longer than the other. A teeny, inline 3-button remote is all but invisible. Gold accents make them feel more like jewelry than audio paraphernalia and a leather case keeps everything tidy. *BONUS* – Use the promo code “housetweaking15” to score a 15% discount.

6 – metro legging Easily, these are the best leggings I’ve ever owned. I bought the high-waisted version months ago and they have been a staple in my wardrobe ever since. Imagine if jeans and yoga pants had a baby. That baby would be these leggings. They do amazing things for the glutes. Dress them up for running errands and dining out or dress them down for lounging and light workouts.

What are some of your favorite buys of the year?


Congrats to Chris who plans on using the cabinet fronts in a tiny guest home she’s currently building!

studio dry bar 3

It’s about time for a studio update, right? I could list a dozen valid (and another dozen invalid) reasons why I haven’t done this sooner but I won’t waste your time. The truth is I’m embarrassed. A few weeks turned into a month. A month turned into a few months. A few months turned into six. Now it’s December. Life is crazy like that.

Anyhow, the studio!

I think the last time I shared pictures the walls and ceiling had just received a few coats of white paint. I went with Sherwin Williams pure white (SW 7005). Since then, the drywall dust has been cleared (Oh my word! Such a mess!! Cleanup took me forever.) and the concrete floor has been painted.

studio floor paint 1

studio floor painted 2

The original concrete was in rough shape. There were cracks, stains and some spalling. I could literally sweep chunks away with a broom. The space is accessed via a loading dock so all kinds of dirt and grease are tracked in on a daily basis. I decided painting the floor a dirty gray was the way to go.

To select the perfect gray I spread out a bunch of color swatches on the floor then walked all over them and picked the one that hid my footprints best. Oh, if only picking a paint color was always so easy! The swatch that made the cut was Sherwin Williams dorian gray (SW 7017) and it’s actually a really great color, a warm muddy gray. I had it color-matched in Valspar’s latex porch and floor paint then rolled on three coats. (That makes it sound so quick and easy but, I assure you, painting a floor with kids underfoot is anything but quick or easy. I do not recommend it.)

studio radiator paint

Way back when, there was discussion about what to do with the grimy radiator. After giving it a good scrub, I ended up spray painting it white. I did not attempt to do this with kids around (which made finding time to do it even more difficult) and I tackled it before painting the floor. It took an insane amount of paint (eleven spray cans I think?) and I’m pretty sure I lost whatever brain cells I had left after baby #3 was born. Which explains why maybe this post isn’t the most bestest.

studio dry bar before 1

After everything was cleaned and painted, I got to work on the dry bar. (I also scored six Bentwood knockoffs at our local Habitat ReStore for $12 total!) I used cabinets from the SEKTION line at IKEA. I bought a pair of 36″ base cabinets with two drawers each and one 15″ base cabinet with three drawers. I chose the Ma drawer style and, since I planned on painting the fronts a dark color, I chose the wood effect brown frames which I so wish had been available when we were renovating our kitchen. (Our fronts are dark and slivers of the white frames peek out in a few places.)

studio dry bar progress 1

I built the cabinets and Steve helped me install them. Everything you’ve heard about assembling IKEA cabinets is true: Staring at all the boxes and pages of instructions is daunting but, after you’ve put one together, you can put together a hundred. We opted for steel legs instead of a toe kick since it is a warehouse after all.

studio dry bar progress 2

After that, the studio turned into a drawer graveyard. Layne offered to help. Start ’em young! Seriously. It’s so easy even a ten-year-old can do it. We had a drawer building race and he totally beat me.

I’d been itching to try Semihandmade for a long time so I ordered seven of the DIY slab drawer fronts with notched pulls and painted them using a 4″ foam roller. The MDF really soaked up the paint. It took three coats of Valspar Reserve latex. The color is Valspar sable evening in a satin finish and it’s one of those chameleon colors. Depending on the light, it can read charcoal or green-gray. I love it.

Semihandmade fronts come pre-drilled so I simply screwed the hardware (included with the IKEA drawers) into the proper holes and snapped the fronts onto the drawers.

studio dry bar drawer

Voilà! Super easy.

studio dry bar drawer 2

IKEA drawers have special mechanisms on them to tweak the fronts so they line up properly. I didn’t have to adjust them too much. The top drawers open by pulling on their bottoms via the notch below.

studio dry bar 1

Just as we did for our laundry nook, Steve built a wood top out of boards we found in our attic during renovation. Being the typical engineer, he fretted over the warped boards but I told him not to worry. That’s the beauty of the studio! Nothing has to be perfect! We sanded the wood but left it raw for a rustic look.

studio dry bar 4

Along with the drawer fronts, I also ordered a panel from Semihandmade to cover the exposed side of the end base cabinet. We cut it to size for a custom fit and I painted it the same color as the fronts.

studio dry bar shelf

The shelf is made from off-the-shelf brackets and more reclaimed lumber from our attic. Once again, Steve was worried because the wood was warped and the tone of the shelf didn’t match the bench top. I’m like, “It’s free! It doesn’t have to match!” One thing I don’t like is the spacing of the brackets but we didn’t have a choice. We had to tie in to the studs.

studio fridge

The kids’ favorite part of the studio is the mini fridge. I bought an inexpensive model and Steve made a platform using leftover plywood and IKEA legs to level it with the cabinets. Then he cut a piece of filler from scraps of the Semihandmade side panel to fill in the gap at the top. I painted everything to match.

studio dry bar 5

Overall, I’m super happy with how the dry bar came together. I’m impressed with the Semihandmade fronts. They have more weight to them than IKEA fronts and I like that there are more options for customization. I should note that the notched pulls are no longer an option. The notches had to be cut by hand and creating them became dangerous and time-consuming. I love the clean, modern look of the notches but reaching down to open the top drawers does feel a little awkward. If I were putting these fronts in my house, I would probably spray them or have them professionally sprayed for a perfect finish. The foam roller worked great but I would be pickier about the finish in a real kitchen.

I’ve had experience building cabinets from both the IKEA AKURUM and SEKTION lines and, in my opinion, the current SEKTION line has better hardware when it comes to assembly and stability. A few things that were plastic in the AKURUM line are now metal in the SEKTION line. I don’t know if or how that will effect longevity but it’s a difference I noticed.

I know this setup probably isn’t feasible for a house (um, no sink) but my hope is, even though I’m putting my spin on a workspace, someone out there might find something that translates to a living space. If you’ve been considering Semihandmade for a project (they do IKEA wardrobes and bathroom vanities too!) then you might want to check out entry details for the giveaway below. Hint, hint.

PRIZE: one $500 credit to Semihandmade (Offer is not redeemable for cash.)

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) within the continental U.S. or Canada. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post proclaiming “SEMI ME!” Double your odds by liking this Instagram post.

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, December 20th. One random winner will be announced Monday, December 21st.

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT: Share what project you would tackle with the prize money. New kitchen? Bedroom wardrobe for clothing organization? Bathroom makeover? So many possibilities!

Good luck!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking