...because home doesn't happen overnight.

asheville cabin

Last month we spent a week in the mountains of North Carolina. It was the perfect balance of relaxing and doing. I’ve decided to share more about our stay in a two-part series. Up first is where we stayed!

asheville cabin

We rented a cabin in a remote area about thirty minutes outside of Asheville. For us, it was the perfect proximity to the city. It was far enough away to completely submerge ourselves in nature but close enough to drive into the city for food and fun. Upon arrival to the cabin, we were met by the sweetest waft of mountain air mixed with pine. We couldn’t stop inhaling. I wanted to bottle up the scent and bring it home with me.

asheville cabin

A kitchen garden growing alongside the front walk smelled delicious, too. We were free to use the herbs for cooking meals during our stay.

asheville cabin

At the opposite end of the cabin was a deck overlooking the mountainous landscape. We caught the tail end of October and it was perfect timing. We literally watched the leaves change from green to various shades of orange and red during our stay.

asheville cabin

The porch swing was ideal for sipping morning coffee and watching the fog roll in. It was so peaceful. Chirping birds and a nearby bubbling creek were the only sounds.

asheville cabin

They don’t call them the Smoky Mountains for no reason.

asheville cabin

The cabin is located a mile down a private gravel lane that crawls up the side of a mountain, surrounded by trees and farms along the way. I managed to squeeze in a few runs and the colorful tree canopy created a tunnel-like effect. While running up the side of the mountain wasn’t easy, it felt like I was watching the most beautiful silent film.

asheville cabin

Except for a few cows mooing at me :)

asheville cabin

The cabin itself was a dream. The casement windows were my favorite part. I would crank them open to let in the mountain air and listen to the creek.

asheville cabin

asheville cabin

Floor-to-(almost)-ceiling windows in the dining area gave us an amazing view of the autumnal colors. We spent the majority of our time in the cabin at the dining table. The benches were perfect for the kids. At home, we eat most of our meals at the kitchen island. It’s casual and unfussy but sitting at a table where we can look at each other’s faces is pretty nice, too. This table inspired us to start eating at our own dining table more often.

asheville cabin

The sight lines in the cabin were incredible. I loved the transom windows above the bedroom doors.

asheville cabin

The only bathroom was charming and cheery and included an oversized clawfoot tub, hexagonal floor tile, high angled ceilings and a large pedestal sink. Just imagine soaking in the tub with a view like that!

asheville cabin

Without light pollution, nights at the cabin were the blackest of black and perfect for stargazing. All lit up at night, the cabin reminded me of a tiered birthday cake glowing with candles.

asheville cabin

asheville cabin

asheville cabin

We felt right at home in the cabin. Built-ins were stocked with all kinds of books and board games. (During one family game night, we discovered that Mabrey is a Pick Up Stix ninja!) There was no TV but we did stream The NeverEnding Story for a family movie night. All five of us piled onto the sofa to huddle around the laptop. It was so cozy. There was a home stereo and our soundtrack for the week included a lot of Nickel Creek, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.

The kids were excited to discover a few surprises: a hidden play space tucked under the eaves in one of the bedroom closets, a ping pong table in the unfinished basement and a secret man cave in the loft of a barn on the same property. The man cave included a wet bar and drum set (!). Layne really took to the drums. He would wander down to the barn on his own throughout the week and I would hear a rough drum solo through the open cabin windows. It was too funny.

asheville cabin

We had several rain days but we didn’t mind. We hid out in the cabin baking cookies, reading books, playing ping pong, sipping coffee, listening to music and just being together. I finished Cabin Porn and The Inner Game of Tennis. Cabin Porn is a beautiful collection of handmade cabins. I knew the cabins would be good but, my goodness!, the stories behind them left me in tears and inspired. I was not expecting all the feelings. And The Inner Game of Tennis was great, too, if tennis is your thing. I started The Kinfolk Home as well but have yet to finish it. It’s not due to lack of interest. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s so good that I want to be able to savor it uninterrupted and, well, real life presents a slew of interruptions. I need to make the time to finish it.

asheville cabin

I bought Animal Kingdom and Splendid Cities just for the trip to ward off boredom. They are the most beautiful coloring books. I brought along a pencil case (from Target) filled with colored pencils. They kept Steve, the kids and me busy for hours at a time. It was almost meditative.

Needless to say, our time spent at the cabin filled us up in so many ways and we’re so grateful for the experience. I think we all left little pieces of our hearts in those mountains.

Stay tuned to read about what we did and saw beyond the cabin.

P.S. – I’m not linking directly to the cabin listing for privacy reasons but, if you’re interested in learning more about it, you can email me.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


Congrats to Taylor who has the perfect spot for the “Torched” print!

Myra contacted me about adding function and style to her family’s foyer. Even though the entry is spacious, the family is having a difficult time making it work for their lifestyle. With two young boys in the mix, the entry needs to provide organization for shoes, outerwear, a diaper bag, pumpkin seat, mail, keys and other miscellaneous.

myra foyer 1

myra foyer 2

myra foyer 3

myra foyer 4

myra foyer 5

As is, the walls are only primed and the space is broken up by french doors that lead to a living room, an open staircase, a doorway and a coat closet. There isn’t enough storage near the front door so discarded shoes and hats turn into tripping hazards. A clunky bench blocks the french doors. The dresser was originally meant to hold small outerwear items but instead it has become a catchall for odds and ends, like board games and items left behind by guests. Myra isn’t sure it’s the best fit for the space. She and her husband recently spruced up the stairs with new paint and stain. They would love for the open staircase to be more of a focal point as it’s one of their favorite things about their home. And Myra wants the foyer to feel more inviting – both for her family and for guests – as it’s the main point of entrance. She leans towards neutrals, natural textures and hits of black and gold.

Here are my ideas for Myra’s foyer…

inviting + family-friendly entry

1 – First up, I would keep the wall color light. Benjamin Moore super white would look bright and clean. If white walls aren’t practical for Myra’s family, a light gray (i.e., Benjamin Moore gray owl or stonington gray) could be great. I think the front door would look more substantial with a few coats of black paint. Try Benjamin Moore onyx. Hanging two rows of hooks (one at kid height, one at adult height) on the sliver of wall just to the left of the front door as you enter would provide immediate storage for everything from jackets to backpacks to the diaper bag. These leather and peg hook racks are so handsome. A more affordable option would be to DIY similar racks using stained wood boards and black hooks from a local home improvement store.

2 – Since the staircase wall is the view that greets the homeowners and guests upon entrance, it should feel welcoming and act as a focal point. This is the place to hang art and add a few accessories. I would repurpose or sell the current dresser and bring in a narrower one with straighter lines so as not to compete with the staircase. A small teardrop lamp on top of the dresser lends warm ambience and makes the large space feel more intimate. The “Torched” art print has an organic vibe that helps to soften all the sharp angles in the entry. I would frame it and hang it a few inches above the dresser then lean the bird art (currently near the front door) in front of it for a casual, layered effect. A gold leaf-like bowl can corral everything from Hot Wheels to keys to the baby’s pacifier. Because it’s metal, it’s virtually indestructible. Greenery is always a good thing! Keep a large floor basket next to the dresser for miscellaneous items such as random toys, stray socks or a bike helmet.

3 – Textured rug squares in putty or taupe are perfect for high traffic areas. They’re so good at upping the cozy factor while simultaneously hiding dirt. The antique bench is too bulky and completely crowds another great feature of the foyer – those glass doors! I would like to see a simpler bench used elsewhere in the space. (More on that in a minute.) For immediate hidden storage near the front door, I would hang a slim shoe cabinet on the wall where the bird art currently resides. The cabinet is meant to hold shoes but it’s also great for smaller items like gloves and hats that don’t always make it into the closet or dresser. The plastic material is family-friendly (just wipe it down!) and inexpensive but could be dressed up by wrapping the sides and top in plywood. The top horizontal surface is a great spot for dropping keys or mail. Hanging a small round mirror above the shoe cabinet allows for quick once-overs. I love the leather detail on this one!

4 – Between the coat closet and staircase (on the window wall) I would provide seating with a bench. I like the simple design and natural materials of this one. The cork looks really organic and should be crazy durable, not to mention a little more forgiving to lil’ ones than the hard corners and arms on the current bench. A sturdy basket, shoes and/or the infant pumpkin seat can be slid underneath the bench and out of the way. I always think it’s a good idea to have a basket at the bottom of a staircase to corral items that need to be taken upstairs. Just grab the basket on your way up and go! A kilim pillow lends color and pattern. (Every room needs a pillow. Duh.)

5 – To finish off the space, I’d switch out the traditional chandelier with something more modern. I absolutely LOVE the lines and black finish of this blacksmith chandelier. The finish ties in to the metal legs on the bench, the black ink in the artwork and the leather loops on the hook rack.

Lastly, I would also encourage Myra and her family to utilize the backside of the closet door. A clear hanging organizer can keep extra pairs of shoes in check along with other small items like scarves, hats, gloves, etc. I know keeping an entryway (no matter how large or small) tidy with kids present can feel like a losing battle most days, but I’ve found that having a system in place is essential. It doesn’t take much to quickly throw hats in baskets and shoes in cabinets and hang bags and coats on hooks before walking away. When there’s a place for everything, it’s a cinch. I hope this gives Myra and her family – and maybe even you – some ideas for injecting function and style into one of the busiest spaces of a home.

After making it through all that, I’m excited to announce today’s giveaway! Minted is offering up some art for the taking. (I seriously can’t stop thinking about that dreamy print above.) See entry details below.

PRIZE: one $200 credit to Minted

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a physical shipping address. (No P.O. boxes please.) One entry per email address. This giveaway is open to international readers!

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post proclaiming “MINT ME!”

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, November 15th. One random winner will be announced Monday, November 16th.

*BONUS* I’m throwing in a signed copy of Lovable Livable Home to the winner! John & Sherry were nice enough to send me an early copy but I had already preordered one. I met up with them when they were in town last month and asked if they wouldn’t mind signing my preordered copy for a giveaway. They were game so it’s up for grabs! Shipping is on me.

Good luck!

Do you have a space in need of help? You can email me at housetweaking (at) gmail (dot) com with photos and a description of your space for consideration for a complimentary mood board and blog feature. I’m not able to help everyone but I will do my best to select spaces with the best potential. Thanks for reading!

It seems the consensus is that you guys would like to continue seeing and reading about Ikea kitchens regardless of which cabinet line – AKURUM (previous) or SEKTION (current) – is featured. For that reason, I will continue to share the best of the bunch that come my way. Thanks for reading!

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!

boston ikea kitchen before 1

boston ikea kitchen before 2

boston ikea kitchen before 3

Lauren, along with her husband and one-year-old daughter, moved from New Jersey to just outside of Boston in May of 2014. In the process, the family bought an older Cape Cod. Lauren admits the kitchen wasn’t horrible but it was dark and closed off from the rest of the first floor. Even though it boasted many cabinets, actual usable cabinet space was minimal. The young family craved more natural light, more countertop space and a layout more conducive to gathering and entertaining. To achieve their kitchen goals, they opted to remove walls (one of which was load-bearing) that separated the kitchen from the living and dining rooms and to utilize Ikea cabinetry from the new SEKTION line. Lauren was happy to share more about the renovation with me (shortly after giving birth to baby #2 no less!). Find her interview and the inspiring results below!

boston ikea kitchen

boston ikea kitchen

Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

Our cabinet bases, drawer and door fronts, integrated dishwasher, vent hood and interior organizers are all from Ikea.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

We had been eyeing Ikea’s kitchen options for almost a year after reading great reviews about them on blogs (like yours!) and interior design websites. We didn’t personally know anyone that had installed an Ikea kitchen but we were confident in the feedback we had read online and in the 25-year warranty. We looked into custom cabinetry but the price was far out of our budget. Plus, we really like the simple, modern aesthetic that Ikea offers with their modular system.

boston ikea kitchen progress 1

Who designed your kitchen? What aesthetic were you aiming for?

Our kitchen redesign was actually part of a larger project to open up the first floor of our home. The original layout was choppy with small, dark rooms. When we purchased our home, one of the first things we promised ourselves we would do was take down a large load-bearing wall that separated the kitchen from the living space.

boston ikea kitchen

Once we had a general idea of what we wanted, we turned to the online Ikea kitchen designer to plan out a few different layout options. Then we chose the layout we thought would work best for our lifestyle. I had a folder of photos for inspiration. Ultimately, we wanted a kitchen with clean lines, a minimalistic vibe and classic features that we would love for years to come.

boston ikea kitchen progress 2

boston ikea kitchen progress 3

boston ikea kitchen progress 4

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

My husband assembled all of the cabinets over the course of two weeks. Our entire basement was filled with Ikea boxes. At first sight it felt daunting but, once the first few cabinets were completed, the process went fairly quickly and smoothly. The actual cabinet installation was completed by my father and his business partner who are general contractors in New Hampshire. Although I like to tell people that I was the project manager, they truly spearheaded the entire renovation process from taking down the load-bearing wall and patching in the hardwood floors to all of the finish work that was done to give the kitchen a custom, built-in look.

boston ikea kitchen

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

Our previous home had a tiny kitchen with hardly any counter space which never allowed us to use the area as a gathering space for holidays or parties. We knew that a large island would give us the extra space we wanted and we made it a top priority. We wanted a unique look for the island so we purchased shiplap pine boards and hand-distressed them with steel wool using a a mixture of coffee grounds and vinegar. Our garage smelled for a few days but the finished product came out better than we even imagined!

boston ikea kitchen

boston ikea kitchen

For the rest of the design, we chose a mix of high and low to achieve the aesthetic we wanted. We used honed marble for both the island and the back run of countertops. The drawer pulls and backsplash are off-the-shelf items from Home Depot. The wine racks integrated into the dining room pantry are from CB2. Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. has always been a favorite source of mine. Being able to purchase both the sink and dining fixtures from Schoolhouse was a dream come true and really brought all of the different areas within the open concept together. Lastly, my father recommended using wood (color-matched to the gray cabinets) for the toe kicks and filler pieces in place of the flimsy offerings from Ikea. He also sourced thick pieces of pine for the open shelving.

boston ikea kitchen

How long was it from design to the final product?

We started the design process back in November of 2014 based on the previous (now discontinued) AKURUM cabinet system. When we found out Ikea would be launching the new SEKTION system with some great upgrades in early 2015, we decided to wait it out. We purchased the cabinets in February 2015 during one of the kitchen sales. The kitchen was completed by mid-April of 2015.

boston ikea kitchen

boston ikea kitchen

How long have you lived with your Ikea kitchen? Have you encountered any problems?

It’s only been about six months but, so far, we love everything about our kitchen. It functions so much better than the old kitchen. Little things like the soft-closing hinges and spacious drawers (instead of cabinets) really make it feel high-end. Everyone who sees our kitchen can’t believe the cabinets are Ikea!

boston ikea kitchen

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

By far, my husband’s favorite feature is the large 7′ x 3′ island. It gives us so much space to spread out and entertain. I love the new open concept design but, most of all, I adore the white subway tiles with contrasting grout. They make me smile each morning when I see them and reflect an enormous amount of light into the space. We don’t really have a least favorite aspect but the drawer front on the trash pull-out doesn’t line up with the other drawer fronts when closed. It drives us crazy.

Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel?

Absolutely! We got the exact look and feel we wanted for a fraction of the cost. Our kitchen still looks high-end to us even though it was budget-friendly, and cooking in it is so much more fun!

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

If we get the opportunity to renovate another kitchen, Ikea will definitely be tops on our list of sources.

Resources of note:

wall paint – almost gray by Benjamin Moore
flooring – Home Depot
cabinets, drawer fronts & doors, interior organization – Ikea
countertops – honed danby marble from Montes Marble & Granite
hardware – Home Depot
sink – blanco granite composite, Amazon
integrated dishwasher – Whirlpool, Ikea
range hood – Ikea
gas range – Samsung
refrigerator – Frigidaire
backsplash tile & grout – Home Depot
counter stools – Target
pendants over island – West Elm (spray painted black)
brass sink light – Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
dining room pendant – Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
faucet – Moen
soap dispenser – Kohler
wine racks – CB2

boston ikea kitchen

boston ikea kitchen

Thank you Lauren for sharing your kitchen! I love your style. I hope baby #2 is treating you well ;)

Okay readers, what are you taking away from this one? The mix of gray cabinetry, honed marble, subway tile and wood accents has such a natural, organic vibe. I love it! Knocking down walls (especially load-bearing ones) can be intimidating but I’m so glad Lauren and her husband were gutsy enough to do it here. It completely opened up the main living space to suit their casual lifestyle and gave them more possibilities when it came to reconfiguring the kitchen. Speaking of reconfiguring kitchens…did you notice the lack of upper cabinetry in the finished product? It gives the room a lighter feel and allows the tiled wall to take center stage. To make up for lost upper storage, the couple incorporated an island and pantry (in the adjacent dining area) with drawers and cabinets galore. (Psssst…the microwave is hidden in a pantry cabinet outfitted with an electrical outlet.) It’s such a good balance of form + function. My absolute favorite thing(s) about this kitchen are all the little DIY touches that keep it from feeling generic and falling flat. The spray painted globe lights, the vinegar + coffee-treated wood planks on the island (genius, btw!) and the pine shelves go a long way in adding interest to the space by providing warmth and breaking up matching materials. So inspiring!

Want more inspiration? Click the “See Real Ikea Kitchens” button in the sidebar to read about all of the kitchens featured in this series.

Do you have a project (big or small, Ikea or non-Ikea) that you would like to share with House*Tweaking readers? Email me at housetweaking (at) gmail (dot) com for consideration. Thanks in advance!

images: Lauren Santagate