...because home doesn't happen overnight.
10.11.14 / Made Me Smile

vintage batik fabric

Happy Saturday! We’re busy sanding, staining, priming and painting today. The (declawed) clawfoot tub and accompanying DIY cradle base are coming along. Can’t wait to share our progress! This project has been so much fun mostly because we feel like we’re sailing uncharted waters. I’m not sure if the final result will resemble anything close to our vision but we’ve enjoyed the challenge.

More things I enjoyed this week…

*Vintage batik fabric for a special project.

*Lovers.

*DIY wabi-sabi wood tiles.

*Bekah’s airstream redo.

*Danielle and Austin’s big reveal.

auhaus architecture

*There’s an Australian version of Houzz now?! Whoa. Where have I been?

*Tracy Anderson’s new workout DVD.

*Currently reading and loving: The Big Tiny.

*Trivets anyone?

Have a great rest of the weekend. I’m off to give the tub yet another coat of paint!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Auhaus Architecture

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It’s been almost three years since I’ve worked as a pharmacist. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t quit my job to blog. (Although having the blog as an outlet has been wonderful.) We found ourselves unexpectedly expecting a third child in the midst of a pretty intense renovation and things were messy, literally and figuratively. The decision to quit my job was a joint one. When I was pregnant with Mabrey, Steve and I sat down and made a list of pros and cons. He came to the decision more quickly and easily than me. I knew giving up a steady paycheck to stay home with the kids wasn’t going to be all fun and games. And it hasn’t been. There are days I would rather be at work – not that being at home isn’t work. Here are the things I miss (and don’t miss) about working in the traditional sense.

I MISS:

*the money. I took an 80% cut in pay when I quit my job. It’s not 100% because I’ve been able to bring in a little money via the blog and some design work. I miss contributing significantly to our household income. I miss that feeling of accomplishment that came with each paycheck almost more than the money itself. But, when Steve and I did the math, the money I would have brought home after paying for three kids’ childcare / after school care didn’t seem worth the hassle of drop-offs and pickups and hurried mornings and evenings. At the time, I proposed Steve staying home and me working full-time. From a strictly financial standpoint, it made sense. I made more money than Steve. But I really detested my job and Steve’s exact words were, “I couldn’t do it.” Steve regularly reminds me that my worth isn’t directly related to the amount on my paycheck. I know he means well but it sounds too much like a cliché.

*a more equal division of parenting and housework. I typically worked second shift as a pharmacist which meant I did the morning routine and Steve did the evening routine on the days I worked. I also worked one or two weekends per month so Steve had weekend duty sometimes. Now that I’m home, the majority of parenting responsibilities and housework chores fall on me by default. Don’t get me wrong. Steve is an AWESOME hands-on parent. But he works 10-12 hour days and travels so he isn’t here all the time. Now, more than ever, I feel like if one of the kids is having a problem or the house is a disaster it’s a reflection on me – as opposed to us. And I feel like it’s my sole responsibility to fix it. Some days, that’s a lot of pressure. I fully realize this is self-induced and I’m working on it.

*using my brain. I swear my IQ has dropped by 30 points in the last three years. I adore having conversations with my kids but there’s a lot of talk about poop and butts. It’s not particularly stimulating on an intellectual level. For a while, I forgot how to have an adult conversation. That’s starting to change. Our kids are getting older and asking great questions which prompt interesting conversations. Still, I miss being challenged even though some days are extremely challenging – if that makes any sense.

*the freedom! After drop-offs on the days I worked, I would have a few hours to myself to do WHATEVER I WANTED. Sometimes I worked out. Sometimes I treated myself to lunch. Sometimes I watched TV or read a book. Sometimes I cleaned without anyone going behind me undoing what I had just done. Sometimes I simply savored driving home in my car alone. Now, just scheduling my annual pap smear is a logistical nightmare. I find myself choosing not to do things because the thought of working around school, naps, bus drop-offs / pickups, extracurricular activities, meals, schedules, etc. is daunting. To be honest, I have felt a twinge of jealousy when Steve shows up after work with a freshly cut head of hair. For him, it was so easy. Again, I’m working on it.

*missing my kids. After a 12-hour day at work, I wanted nothing more than to chill with my kids the following day. I missed them! And they missed me! Now, some days I want to lock myself in the bathroom. Or get a hotel room for the night. There are days I think my kids would happily fork over their own money for said hotel room. Steve is really good at recognizing this and he basically forces me out of the house when he sees that I am in need of a break. I love him for that.

*a sense of productivity. In the pharmacy, my work was constantly being evaluated. There were productivity measures on our computer screens that turned green when things were running smoothly and red when we were backed up. At closing, we printed out reports that summarized the day’s work. We recorded the number of prescriptions we filled and dispensed. We had semi-annual peer reviews that provided us with a look at the things we excelled at and those things we needed to improve upon. Now, there are days where I run around like crazy staying busy, moving from one task to the next, but when it’s all said and done, I have nothing official to show for it. Look! A clean bathroom! A fully loaded dishwasher! The kids’ nails are trimmed! woo. hoo.

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I DON’T MISS:

*the rat race. I so do NOT miss the harried busyness of getting myself and the kids dressed, fed, gathered and out the door just to arrive at the pharmacy hours later feeling like I’d already put in a full day’s work. Did I remember to pack Everett’s lunch? Did I remind Steve Layne has a spelling test to study for tonight? Did I set out the chicken for dinner? And I know Steve doesn’t miss leaving work abruptly to pick up the kids before daycare closes then rushing home for dinner, homework, baths and bedtime. When I was working, I felt like we were infinitely thinking three steps ahead. Things are still busy. Things will always be busy when kids are involved. But it’s a less frantic busy. Our mornings and evenings are less hectic. There’s less driving. There’s less shuffling hither and thither. Our family schedule is more simplified. I recently asked Layne and Everett what they liked most about me not working as a pharmacist. They had the same answer. “We like getting off the bus at our house and you being here.” And it’s little things like this that almost erase the “I miss…”

*the line of work. Even though I miss the money, the feelings that came with it (accomplishment, productivity, worth, etc.) and my hilarious co-workers, I do not miss working in a retail pharmacy. After being in the field for over a decade, I was disgusted with the way our society, in general, views healthcare. Health is not a privilege. It’s a way of life. It does not come in pill form (for most people). It’s not acute. I also saw the other side of things. The big drug companies marketing and pushing pills like a ShamWow infomercial. I was appalled. I wanted out. I also felt stifled creatively. By contrast, the last few years have been thoroughly rewarding. I’m grateful I get to be here for my kids and experiment with writing, photography, renovating and decorating on the side. I’m glad my kids get to see me throw myself into something I’m passionate about.

*spending more. Since our household income was cut in half, we were forced to scale back on our spending. That might sound like a drawback but it’s actually been very freeing. We only buy / do things that we really want to buy / do. We rarely make spontaneous purchases. We drive old cars. That being said, we’ve taken more vacations in the past few years because we’ve made them a priority. And we would love to travel more. We’ve been throwing extra cash at our mortgage and are on track to be mortgage-free by early 2016 (if not sooner) so, hopefully, we’ll see those traveling dreams come to fruition. It’s been really insightful to buckle down and prioritize financial goals. As a result, our finances are more streamlined.

*missing special events. When you work in any retail setting, you work evenings, weekends and holidays. I missed plenty of family gatherings, school parties and programs. We don’t make it to every gathering and school function but at least they’re options now. (Okay, sometimes we’re guilted into thinking we don’t have a choice.) I’m very protective of the time we have together. When someone is sick, it doesn’t throw a wrench into our schedule as much as it would have if I were working. (Btw, stay-at-home parents don’t get sick days.) Steve and I are able to spend more time together now, too.

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What’s the point of this post? (If you’ve made it this far.) Your guess is as good as mine. When I’m feeling things, it’s usually easier for me to write them down and dissect them. None of this is news to Steve. We’ve discussed everything I’ve laid out above. He’s always been supportive of my work – the pharmacy, the kids, the blog. Looking at the list, there are more items listed under “I miss…” vs. “I don’t miss…” But when I look closer, the things that most directly affect our quality of family life in a positive way are listed under “I don’t miss…” Looking back fifteen years from now, I don’t think I’m going to wish I would have worked more.

On the other hand, I don’t want motherhood to completely consume me. Is that selfish? Shouldn’t I be happy that we can make one income work for us? That I have the option to be home with the kids? It’s just that I’ve seen far too many women stay home to raise children only to become confused, lost, depressed, aimless when their nest empties. How do you prevent that? That’s what I’m trying to figure out, I guess. I’m getting involved outside the house. I’m making time for things I like to do. I’m getting better at telling Steve when I need a break. I’m reading more to challenge my brain. I’ve discovered I’m happiest when I’m learning something new. Sometimes I learn new things from a book. Sometimes my kids teach me new things.

“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American social activist / abolitionist / feminist, c., 1895

“We can have it all. Just not all at once.” – Rosalind Brewer, president and CEO of Sam’s Club, 2014

Have you quit working to be home with your kids? What do you (not) miss about working? Maybe you’ve decided to keep working after kids? Maybe you’ve decided to go back to work after your kids are grown? At any rate, what do you do to satiate your need for intellectual stimulation? What do you do just for you?

Personally, I am forever grateful for this little slice of the blogosphere where I get to share all the big and little things that pique my curiosity. x

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

flexifelt 1

This is the first house we’ve lived in that doesn’t have carpet. When we moved in, we put adhesive protector pads on the feet of all the furniture that rests directly on the wood floors. For larger, stationary pieces (i.e., the sofa, living room chair, media cabinet, etc.) the standard felt pads work fine. But we’ve always had an issue with the protectors staying put on the counter stools at the kitchen island. The stools get moved in and out several times a day and I’ve had to replace the felt pads at least four times. New pads start shifting out of place after only a few days. They attract dust bunnies to the bottom of the stools. I’m constantly cleaning adhesive residue off the floor under the island overhang. At one point, I decided to forego the pads all together because they were more work than they were worth. But the kids like to tip the stools when they’re sitting on them (drives me bonkers) and it was leaving small dents in the floor.

Steve did some googling and came across these flexi-felt covers. The presentation videos are super hokey but the concept was appealing. The flexi-felt cover is basically a small sleeve of clear, flexible plastic that grips around furniture feet. A quality felt pad on the bottom of the sleeve allows furniture to glide along floors without leaving scratches or dents. Out of desperation, we measured our stools (an essential step) and shelled out $35 for sixteen felt sleeve covers. It seemed like a lot of money but we realized we had spent as much – or more – on furniture pads that had failed over the past two years.

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When the felt covers arrived, Steve couldn’t get them on fast enough. I’ve never seen a grown man so excited about furniture pads. The process of putting the covers on, however, was NOT exciting. Even with the included installation tool, it took nearly forty-five minutes to put on all sixteen covers. Our stool legs don’t taper perfectly (a section of the metal leg juts out just above the feet) so it was difficult to slide the tool out during installation. But once all covers were in place, we were surprised by their appearance and performance.

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Sure, we could have slipped cut tennis balls onto the stool legs but I wasn’t keen on the stools looking like geriatric walkers. Rubber cane tips would probably prevent dents and dings but, again, geriatric. Not to mention, they don’t glide easily. The transparent flexi-felt covers aren’t obnoxious looking at all. In fact, they’re barely noticeable. But the game changer? THEY WORK. It’s been over a month since we installed the new covers and they haven’t budged. Steve and I are impressed. The pads come with a one-year warranty but the limitations are questionable. For instance, the warranty doesn’t cover “normal wear.” At any rate, we have no complaints so far and I’m curious to see how they hold up in the long run. I’ll keep you posted.

Do you use furniture pads? Have you discovered any pads that stay put on frequently moved furniture?

FYI – This post is NOT sponsored in any way. Just sharing a non-geriatric furniture pad option that’s working for us so far.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

modern family 15

I first met Kristina while I was waiting at the boys’ elementary school for a parent-teacher conference. I was pregnant with Mabrey and due any day.

“I’m sorry. I just have to tell you that you are the cutest pregnant woman I’ve ever seen. You’re adorable.” I turned to see a beautiful tall woman who looked to be about my age. She had the most amazing olive skin, shiny brunette hair, watery brown eyes and the friendliest smile framed by full lips.

We exchanged introductions and I knew right away we were going to be good friends. Which is weird because it’s not always easy making friends as an adult. In fact, it’s downright awkward. (Especially when you’re somewhat of an introvert around strangers.) But I liked Kristina right off the bat. We talked and quickly discovered that our oldest sons were in the same class so we exchanged phone numbers to schedule a playdate.

A few weeks went by. I gave birth to Mabrey and shortly thereafter Kristina called to invite Layne over for an hour or two to play. She thought subtracting one kid from my house would help lighten my load a little and I was grateful. Yes! She gave me her address and we were both surprised to learn we lived less than five minutes apart. I loaded up all three kids and made the short drive over to Kristina’s. I had every intention of dropping Layne off with a quick hello-goodbye and taking advantage of my two-kid status by hitting up the grocery store.

But the minute I stepped foot in her house, I was hooked. From the outside, it was an unassuming midcentury brick rancher. Inside, Kristina and her husband, a self-employed contractor, had transformed the house into a modern family home. To make a long story short, I didn’t go grocery shopping that day. I stayed for the entire two hours but it felt more like 15 minutes. And it wasn’t just because the house was super cool. Although, that was a good icebreaker. Kristina was very easy to talk to and we discovered we had a lot in common – as did our sons and our husbands. Everything clicked.

Two and a half years later, we’re great friends. And so are our children and husbands! We have a lot of fun together and share similar interests. One of which is a love of all things home and home improvement. (Kristina’s husband, James, is the one who helped Steve with the pesky hexagon tile in the main bathroom.) We’ve bonded over renovation stories – good ones and not-so-good ones.

I always knew I wanted to share their home on the blog but I have so much apprehension about asking people to let me broadcast their home on the Internet. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. And I don’t want people to think I’m using them for blog material. But, earlier this year, I decided to JUST ASK! (That’s how this post came about.) Luckily, James and Kristina were more than happy to share their home with me, my camera and the interweb. I hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you in some way!

modern family before 1

First up, the befores. James and Kristina were on a budget when they were searching for a house in the area. They were looking for a midcentury modern ranch in good condition. They didn’t want a house that had been updated already. They wanted a house that they could put their spin on by switching up the layout and / or making cosmetic changes. They stumbled upon this 1965 ranch in immaculate condition. It was an estate sale. They snatched it up and James took three months off work (an advantage of being self-employed) to revamp the main living spaces: kitchen, family room, dining room, living room and laundry room. He did nearly all of the work himself.

The remodel involved removing a wall that closed off the kitchen from the adjoining family room (seen above) and reworking the kitchen.

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The original kitchen was connected to a formal dining room (via the doorway seen above) but the couple opted to close up the doorway and turn the dining room into an office. The adjoining family room became a casual dining space. A wall separating the new kitchen / dining space from a front living room was opened up to give access to the room which they now use as a family room.

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Here’s an “in progress” shot looking at the kitchen from the new dining area (former family room). The paneled wall is gone and the space already feels larger and brighter. The door on the left leads to a laundry nook. On the right, you can see that the doorway to the original dining room has been closed up and access to the front family room (former living room) has been added.

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And here is the space now! The new open layout is conducive to the family’s casual lifestyle. Not to mention, it gives the house better flow. The original layout felt jumbled and loopy.

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Here is the view looking toward the new dining area (former family room) from the kitchen. Sliding doors on the right lead out to the backyard. Keeping durability in mind, the carpet and linoleum were replaced with large scale, rectangular tile. It’s hard to imagine a wall ever divided this space.

James and Kristina’s style is decidedly masculine, modern and minimal. They list Atomic Ranch as their number one source for inspiration. Many of the furnishings in their home are from the same era as the house but it doesn’t feel like a time capsule.

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The kitchen is a mix of custom and Ikea cabinetry. The frameless wood cabinets are Ultracraft and the white cabinets are Ikea. (The home’s original kitchen cabinets were installed in the garage for closed storage.) To break up the dark wood, a horizontal cabinet in glossy white was installed above the sink. The doors lift up to reveal everyday dishes. The color and texture of the backsplash pick up on the floor tile. The tiled backsplash extends to the ceiling above the horizontal wall cabinet for a finished look.

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An island does double duty providing a surface for both food prep and casual dining. White quartz countertops contrast with rich wood tones. Three glass pendants punctuate the island without obstructing the view.

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A tall Ikea cabinet stands in as a pantry. It houses usual pantry goods plus a trash can and ties in to the horizontal wall cabinet and quartz countertops. Mixing affordable Ikea cabinets with higher end cabinetry was a smart move, design-wise and budget-wise.

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The wood burning fireplace is an original feature and functional. Muddy taupe walls pair well with the red brick and red accents provide a complementary pop of color.

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The dining table, chairs and hutch are vintage Drexel and were all craigslist finds. James and Kristina reupholstered the chair seats in a gray tweed. The sideboard (left of the fireplace) was a wedding gift from family.

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Resources of note:

wall paint – mocha accent by Behr, matte finish
floor tile – Kaska Italian porcelain tile from Build Direct
wood cabinets – Ultracraft frameless cabinets
white cabinets – Ikea ABSTRAKT
countertops – Silestone white zeus quartz
faucet – Moen
appliances – LG
backsplash – cooltiles.com
glass globe pendants – Lumens
counter stools – Amazon
dining furniture – vintage, craigslist scores (table + buffet was $450)
dining rug – Flor
dining pendant – Lumens
red retro play kitchen – Amazon

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So what do you think? They had quite the vision and their execution was impeccable, wasn’t it? When you tear down walls and move doorways around in an older home you risk losing the home’s original character. But, by keeping the fireplace and incorporating materials and furnishings reminiscent of midcentury modern design, James and Kristina were able to retain their home’s MCM roots while bringing it up to speed with their family’s lifestyle. I’m always inspired by real homeowners on a real budget who manage to turn an otherwise ordinary house into a home that reflects their style. Are you inspired? Would you like to see more of this house? Currently, James and Kristina are remodeling their master bathroom. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

A big thanks to James and Kristina for allowing me to share their home! If you’re local and in need of a reputable contractor, I’ve added James’s business, JK Designs, to the side bar.

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, rough sketches of the floor plan before and after the remodel…

BEFORE

modern family reno floor plan before

AFTER

modern family reno floor plan after

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking