...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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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

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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!

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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…


modern family reno floor plan before


modern family reno floor plan after

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

10.04.14 / Made Me Smile

vintage rug in bathroom

Hello, hello. How was your week? Not gonna lie. It was an “off” week for me. Not sure if it’s the cooler weather, dark mornings or what but by Friday evening Steve could tell I needed a break. He took the kids and shooed me out of the house. I went to see a movie by myself. That might sound sad but, let me tell you, it was pretty awesome. Have you ever seen a movie at the theater alone? Would you?

A few links that caught my eye…

*I found the perfect vintage rug for the main bathroom. The pattern and colors are lively but the small size doesn’t shroud the hexagon tile.

*The ever popular Adamo family home is up for sale. (The mudroom / laundry room off the kitchen is one of my all-time favorite utility spaces.) It’s yours for only 1,875,000 GBP which roughly equates to 3,000,000 USD. #stickershock All of that to say I’m looking forward to seeing what the stylish family does with their next home.

*”We play with textures instead of color to create a cozy feeling.” Love this approach.

dark moody bedroom

*I would totally hibernate for the winter in this moody, cocoon-like home.

*Game of Scones, ftw.

*I love going to the store with multiple children.

*If you’re curious, I watched Gone Girl at the theater. I neither loved nor disliked the book. I mostly read it to see what all the hype was about. The book-to-movie adaptation is one of the few that I like better than the book version. Whether you read the book or see the movie, the story line is perverse and uncomfortable but I think the movie does a good job of lacing the plot with frank humor. As dark as the story is, there were moments during the movie where the audience (including myself) laughed out loud. Then, a few minutes later, there were audible gasps of disbelief. I like seeing movies at the theater that take the audience on an emotional ride. Just my $.02.

What are you up to this weekend? We’re working on a cradle base for the claw foot tub. I mean, the rug is nice and all but it would be nice to actually bathe in the bathroom. I’m also wrapping up a few smaller projects around the house before cold weather really sets in and all I want to do is sit by the fireplace. Have a good one!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Richard Ostell

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!

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Marie and her fiancé (now husband) snatched up a HUD foreclosure in 2012. The 1930s bungalow in Denver, Colorado, was outdated but the couple was able to see past the shag carpet, linoleum flooring and faux brick wall covering. Using a combination of imagination and elbow grease along with help from an outside contractor, they revamped the dark and cramped kitchen into a light-filled and functional space that exudes nothing but warmth. In an effort to modernize the kitchen without completely wiping out the home’s historical character or the couple’s bank account, Ikea cabinetry was mixed with original cabinetry. I asked Marie several questions about the renovation. Find her answers and the charming “afters” below.

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Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

Most of the new parts of the kitchen are from Ikea: the lower cabinets / doors / drawer fronts, sink and butcher block countertops.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

Ikea’s prices were definitely a draw but we also looked at several other options. We were impressed with Ikea’s quality by comparison, and the aesthetic balance of more modern cabinets that also fit in well with our older house. Soft-closing drawers were a nice bonus, too!

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

We designed it ourselves. We love the details of our bungalow and wanted to maintain its historical integrity while opening it up and streamlining things. I used Google SketchUp to render cutting out the wall between the kitchen and dining room and adding the breakfast bar. We knew generally how much space we’d have for the lower cabinets and for one next to the stove and found five different sizes of Ikea cabinets to fit those spaces.

Several parts of the design were set by the architecture of the house, its size and its age. You might have noticed there’s no refrigerator? It’s actually on the other side of the doorway on a platform over our basement stairway. This may have been somewhat common in the 1930s. My dad’s childhood home was built then and he remembers a similar arrangement. We briefly tried to design the space to turn the fridge and have it open into the kitchen but it wouldn’t work for several reasons. It’s a load-bearing wall, for one, and would have been a much bigger deal to remove than the wall we ultimately took out. Also, the oven and refrigerator doors wouldn’t have cleared one another. We realized that we liked the more minimal look of the space without the refrigerator. By now, we don’t even notice the extra step around the corner and just remember it when people come over, look confused and ask where our fridge is.

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

We assembled the cabinets and drawers, added the hardware and stained the countertops. Our contractor built the breakfast bar, and he and our plumber installed the lower cabinets and countertops.

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

Because we were on a tight budget and encountered a few other bumps in the renovation process, we were happy to reuse whatever we could. We kept the upper cabinets, which are probably original, with doors likely from the 50s, as well as the hardware. The original lower cabinets weren’t deep enough to add a dishwasher and the formica countertop was in really rough shape. I probably would have tried to save them otherwise but am glad they had to go. The Ikea cabinets offer so much more storage and don’t stick like the old drawers did.

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The cabinet handles and hinges had a faux copper finish in their prime but were discolored and peeling. We scrubbed and spray painted them to match the metals on the bar stools and the workbench and put them on the Ikea cabinets to connect the old and new. The arched handles also echo the house’s architectural details: our fireplace, front door, and the doorway to the living room are all arches.

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We stained the countertops to match our floors. We used two different types of Ikea butcher block countertops for the main counters and the bar but, once stained, they visually blend pretty well. Staining obviously made them not food safe so we use a cutting board next to the stove for all food prep which also saves the countertops. It’s been nice not to worry about coffee stains. They wipe right off or blend right in.

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We added a remnant from the Ikea butcher block to an old workbench we found at Habitat ReStore. It’s now our cookbook shelf and bar / SodaStream station. (I’m pregnant and have been drinking so much carbonated water that it gets a prime spot in our small space!)

I made the window valance with a fabric remnant from Ikea’s as-is section. This window is on the back of the house and is high off the ground so we just wanted something simple to cover part of the vinyl casing without blocking natural light.

How long was it from design to the final product?

We closed on our house in April 2012 and moved in at the end of May 2012. We were working with a contractor on several projects to get the house in livable shape. It was a HUD foreclosure and the previous owner had lived here for over 50 years. Most of the bones of the house were in wonderful condition in part because so much was layered on top of them.

For example, there were five layers (!) of flooring over the original wood in the kitchen – enough to create a step up into the room. Our contractor removed the old linoleum and tiles (which were all tested and thankfully free of asbestos), took out the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and we had the glue-covered floors sanded and refinished. You can still see some of the staples from a plywood subfloor that was layered over the hardwood. The staples were too weak to pull out so were sanded right down. Our floor glitters thanks to them.

When we moved in, the major structural elements were done: cabinets, plumbing, and appliances were in place, the wall was down, and the floors and countertops were finished.

After we moved, life got really full. Between our wedding, a surgery, work, and more pressing renovations, we were just glad to have a place to land and share a meal. We didn’t paint for almost a year! After another year we had the ceiling patched and got a new light in the dining room and also moved the current kitchen light up from the basement. I finally found a close match for the original picture rail moulding and hung it this spring.

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We’d love to add a backsplash at some point but haven’t figured out how to navigate the different lengths of the the top and bottom cabinets. So we painted it and have actually liked the visual continuity of the paint. It’s an eggshell finish so stains and splatters wipe off easily. We’re calling it done for now.

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

We’ve lived with the kitchen since June 2012. We upgraded our faucet from the first Ikea fixture this spring. To be fair, it was one of their lower-end ones and has since been discontinued. My husband does a lot of home-brewing so we’re not sure if the pressure and pull from brewing hoses and attachments was too much, or if the fixture itself wasn’t that great. Either way, it was warped and wobbly and leaked in spite of several attempts to fix it. Out it went. The new one fits the space better so it was all for the best.

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

I love the size of our kitchen which might sound strange since it’s just barely 8’ x 9’. It takes no time to clean. Everything is accessible and food can’t get lost forever or waste away in a forgotten pantry cupboard. It’s taught us to keep and use only what we love and need.

When we opened the kitchen up to the dining room (which is also about 8’ x 9’), the flow of the house completely changed. We get so much more natural light all day from the living room and dining room windows. It’s a small space but has made the whole house feel so much more spacious and welcoming. When we have friends over, everyone gathers here.

My least favorite thing has nothing to do with Ikea but the base of the dishwasher sticks out about an inch because our 80-year-old floors aren’t anywhere close to even. To keep the dishwasher level so it doesn’t leak, and also to level the cabinets so the countertop is straight, they’re not aligned. While it catches my eye, I’m just glad it worked out. Adding a dishwasher was a huge upgrade for the house.

Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel? If so, which items?

Oh, absolutely! The cabinets, drawers, countertops and sink have all been wonderful.

We especially liked the variety of cabinet and drawer widths Ikea offered. We could easily configure doors, shelves and drawers in a way that made sense for a surprising amount of storage. They hold everything from serving trays to our Kitchen Aid mixer. We use one upper cabinet for food storage. The others are all for kitchen supplies. We only have one small box in the basement for kitchen overflow – cake pans and other things we use seasonally.

The double-basin ceramic farmhouse sink is also a great feature, especially for a small kitchen. It can take whatever we throw at it or soak in it, and it still looks new.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

Definitely. Since the kitchen, we’ve added Ikea cabinets, sinks, and faucets to our bathrooms and have been impressed with their quality as well.

We are expecting our first baby any day now and, while we love our little house, we’re not sure we’ll be here forever as our family grows. Wherever we wind up, it’ll most likely be another project. We both grew up in older houses and the renovation process makes us feels at home. We would use Ikea for another kitchen in a heartbeat.

Resources of note:

paint – Sherwin Williams Cashmere, color-matched to Benjamin Moore “Moonshine.” The color changes all day with the light and is a calm and cool balance to the warmth of the wood. “Moonshine” also seemed appropriate for a homebrewer ;)
bar stools – West Elm
kitchen light – original (to the basement)
dining room light – Quoizel, Massena model (from a local outlet)
water buffalo wall sculpture – handmade by my sister
dining room table & chairs – thrifted
countertops and bench stain – Minwax walnut
stove & dishwasher – GE (both from a local outlet)
faucet – Moen, Kleo model

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Thank you so much, Marie, for sharing your charming kitchen!

This is such a warm and inviting space, isn’t it? It makes me want to pour a mug of coffee and linger. There are so many good takeaways. First of all, the mix of old and new cabinetry suits the historical character of this home. It just wouldn’t feel the same if all the cabinetry were new. Opting to keep the upper cabinets saved the budget, too. (We actually have friends who did the same thing in an older home. They opted to mix Ikea cabinetry with their home’s original cabinetry and it worked out surprisingly well.) And the decision not to change the location / accessibility of the refrigerator? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room and adding a breakfast bar made a world of difference in how the space looks and functions. Deliberate details – like the upcycled hardware, industrial workbench, stained countertops – help tie the space in with the rest of the home for a cohesive look. The couple’s resourcefulness can’t be overlooked either. Consciously reusing materials is smart, eco-friendly and inexpensive. To know Marie’s favorite aspect of the kitchen is its small size is so inspiring! Most people I know would turn their noses up at a kitchen this size. There’s something to be said for living with less stuff and greater awareness.

If you’re in the mood for more Ikea kitchens, check out the rest of this series:

An Ikea Kitchen in Rural Australia

An Ikea Kitchen in the SF Bay Area

An Ikea Kitchen in Northfield, Minnesota

An Ikea Kitchen in Brooklyn

An Ikea Kitchen in Orange County

An Ikea Kitchen in Texas Hill Country

An Ikea Kitchen in Chesapeake

An Ikea Kitchen in a Barn (in France!)

An Ikea Kitchen in Cape Cod

You’ve probably heard by now that Ikea will be phasing out the AKURUM cabinet system and introducing a new line next year. Many customers are up in arms over the “secret” transition. Ikea says it will continue to honor the warranty on AKURUM cabinets while providing new and improved features within the SEKTION line. I like change – especially when it involves betterment – but am curious to see how the transition plays out. I imagine Ikea kitchens will remain a force to be reckoned with since many of the beloved features (standard soft-closing drawers, wall rail installation, budget-friendly pricing, ease of customization, etc.) are staying. I would love to continue the Ikea kitchen series if you think it’s relevant. Thoughts?

images: Marie Gernes