...because home doesn't happen overnight.
05.28.14 / Exterior Evolution

It’s been three years since we made the decision to downsize and buy the Underdog. From the beginning we said “it isn’t the house of our dreams but rather the house in which to pursue our dreams.” We still stand by that motto. Renovating this house hasn’t always been easy (or quick!) but we feel we made the right decision for us. Some days when we’re feeling especially disappointed about our progress (or lack thereof…yes, kid bathroom, I’m giving you the stink eye) it helps to look back and see how far we’ve come. So today we’re taking a look at the exterior’s evolution.

exterior tree removal

When we bought the house it was barely noticeable from the road, hidden behind several large trees. Our inspector found evidence of a previous termite infestation inside and outside the home. One of the first things we did was have many of the trees removed to allow the house and yard to dry out properly. The tree removal also optimized natural light inside. (I had to fight to save that one remaining tree. I’m so glad I did. It provides the only shade in the front yard.)

exterior lawn redo

Shortly after removing the trees, we did away with the wood shutters and installed a metal roof. Still, the yard was horrendous – bumpy, full of weeds, stumps and bare spots. It actually sloped toward the house. After talking with a neighbor who happens to be a landscaper, we had the yard excavated in the fall of 2012 and started from scratch. We had new concrete walks installed, completely reseeded the lawn and put in some basic landscaping. Eventually, we rehabbed the front entry.

exterior spring 2014

It’s taken us a while but this is how the exterior looks currently. It’s nothing special but it’s clean and uncluttered and well-maintained which was basically our goal all along. Really, anything other than “crack house” was our goal!

exterior spring 2014-6

We endured a brutal winter and, unfortunately, we lost some of our young plants. I spoke with employees at a local nursery and they said they are having a hard time keeping up with the demand right now. Many commercial and residential customers are having to replace plants that didn’t make it through the winter while the nursery’s own plant inventory (they grow their own shrubs and trees right here in Ohio) suffered as well. A few of our gold mop cypress have a bit of brown on them and that has me worried. I guess we’ll just wait it out and see how they do. Two grasses aren’t sprouting yet so it looks like they may need replaced. Many of our plants aren’t meant to withstand temperatures colder than -10ºF and we had many days much colder than that this past winter.

exterior spring 2014-3

As far as I can tell, the roses are fine. The hydrangeas are greening up. One of them started sprouting way ahead of the other but the second is starting to catch up.

exterior spring 2014-4

We did lose the miniature evergreens in the front bed. Personally, I wasn’t all that sad to see them go. They were one of those hasty “I don’t know what to put here so let’s do these” choices. I replaced them with Elijah blue grass. I don’t think I’ve shared a good picture of the planter under the picture window that we turned into a storage bench.

exterior spring-5

Steve built a wood frame within the planter and used leftover Trex deck boards to create three separate “lids” that form a bench seat. We store potting soil and outdoor toys inside. It’s worked out really well so far.

exterior spring 2014-7

Last year we created flower beds along the east and north sides of the house but held off on planting anything in them. We didn’t have the time or money to devote to them. A few weeks ago I spent $350 and one day planting them. The east-facing bed has spirea, grasses and variegated liriope.

exterior spring 2014-8

The north-facing bed only receives a little sunlight in late evening. A nursery employee suggested chardonnay pearls (left of the heat pump) and an azalea (right of the heat pump) for this shaded area. I threw in a few more liriope.

exterior spring 2014-9

The chardonnay pearls are my favorite. The have the slightest sweet scent that drifts in through our bedroom window.

We went with a different mulch this year. It’s browner and finer than what we used last spring. I like it better. The previous stuff was chunky and almost stick-like…although I did like the black color. Steve had the mulch delivered last Friday afternoon and by the time he got home from work, I had spread it all. I really enjoy spreading mulch. Is that weird?

exterior spring 2014-2

The grass seed has taken really well. We pay an organic lawn care company to come out and fertilize regularly. We recently reseeded around the deck we installed last summer. Hopefully, it comes in as nicely as the rest.

For comparison’s sake, a look at where we’ve been and where we are now…

exterior before & after

Again, it’s nothing special but it’s definitely an improvement. Our neighbors and mailman have noticed. In fact, just last week our mailman came to the front door and said “Don’t take this the wrong way but I don’t think I’ve been up here since you got a new front door.” Imagine his surprise when I told him it’s the original door. It feels good not being embarrassed by our home’s exterior anymore. We’re really looking forward to having the driveway replaced and I’m anxious to see how everything fills in over the years.

What about you? Did you lose any plants due to the harsh winter? Were / are you embarrassed by your home’s exterior?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

summer uniform 1

Fashion probably isn’t the first thing (or twentieth thing, for that matter) that comes to mind when you think of House*Tweaking. But I’ve had reader interest in sharing how my interior style translates to fashion and everyday wear so I’m gonna give it a whirl. Bear with me. I’m much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.

The past decade has been hard on my wardrobe. I’ve been bouncing from pregnancy to post-pregnancy to nursing and back again…three times. I was hesitant to invest in clothing because I was either gaining or losing weight. By the time it was all said and done, my entire wardrobe was outdated and ill-fitting and, yes, I owned way too many yoga pants. (Um, I’ve never done yoga.) Last year I finished up breastfeeding for good (we’re stopping at three kiddos) and I’ve kinda made it my mission to get my body and wardrobe back in shape.

You already know that my interior style is comfy casual and nothing too fussy. That’s pretty much how it goes for my wardrobe, too. My “fancy” isn’t all that fancy. I have a mix of high and low in my closet. I prefer to spend a little more on the basics like denim (Levi’s are my fave) and shoes to get the biggest bang for my buck. I also gravitate towards mostly neutrals. I like whites, heathered grays, pale peaches, denim and chambray for summer.

summer uniform 2

After a long and brutal winter, I was more than ready to ditch the leggings and jeans and outerwear. I snatched up some shorts and sandals. I opted for shorts with elastic waistbands to stay with the whole comfy casual vibe. (Let’s be honest, they just feel better.) I paired them with light and breezy tanks. It doesn’t show up well in the photos but the tops have appliqué and eyelet details. For strappy tanks, I swear by reusable, self-adhering backless bras. Also, a cute woven hat can be a mom’s best friend. There’s no need to “fix” your hair.

summer uniform 3

Printed shorts give a dressier look without sacrificing comfort. I love how the sandals can be dressed up or down. I don’t think they would be comfortable enough to wear on a day trip to the zoo with the kids but for running errands or a quick park outing they’re good. I’m not tall so I like summer shoes that are white, nude or tan. They help to make my bare legs look longer than they really are.

I guess you could say my summer uniform consists of: 1) breezy tanks with textural details 2) pull-on shorts and 3) strappy wedges.

Have you shopped the all new Nordstrom Rack yet? It features limited-time sales events and is powered by HauteLook. In fact, you can shop both sites from a single account and add items to a universal shopping cart from either site then check out in one easy process. If you already have a HauteLook account, just use it to log into Nordstorm Rack and shop both stores. (That’s what I did.) Items ship to the U.S., Canada and Australia. Orders over $100 ship free and 90-day returns are easy – by mail or in store. With brands at up to 70% off and 24/7 online shopping available, it’s practical and easy for busy parents to purchase clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories from women’s, men’s and children’s departments from the comfort of home. New merchandise is added weekly so check back often!

I rounded up a few pieces I would wear for a casual, cool look.

nordstrom rack casual

Sources: Three Dots linen dress // Yoki wedge sandal // Splendid colorblock racerback tank // Vince shiny scoop tee // Union Bay high waist denim short

And a few somethings special…

nordstrom rack special


Sources: BLVD floral print romper // Dr. Scholl’s brilliant wedge loafer // J Brand linen blend short // Ella Moss printed pull-on short // BB Dakota sleeveless fit & flare dress

What about you? How has your wardrobe changed (or not changed) over the past decade? And I’d love to know what your go-to pieces are for summertime. Please share!

This post was sponsored in part by Nordstrom Rack. All featured products were chosen by me. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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