...because home doesn't happen overnight.

pesto sandwich 2

When it’s cold outside, I like a hot sandwich and warm soup inside. Our next-door neighbors in our old ‘hood used to make this sandwich all the time when they entertained. (I miss having neighbors who feed us!) It’s perfect for parties or a quick meal.

pesto sandwich 1


*loaf of ciabatta bread
*¼ c. pesto
*1 lb. shaved ham, preferably uncured (I use Boar’s Head uncured, smoked ham.)
*a few slices of provolone cheese
*¼ c. dill pickles, sliced
*thin slices of red onion for topping

I’m guessing you know how to make a sandwich. If not…spread the pesto onto the top half of the cut ciabatta loaf. Layer meat and toppings. (I can’t believe I just typed instructions for making a sandwich. You’re welcome.)

pesto sandwich

Wrap the sandwich in foil and place it on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

pesto sandwich 3

Cut the hot sandwich lengthwise then widthwise into 2″ finger sandwiches. Use toothpicks for easy serving.

pesto sandwich 4

Serve with kettle cooked chips, salad or soup of choice. Personally, I love it alongside Trader Joe’s organic tomato & roasted red pepper soup. (There’s a low sodium option, too.) YUM.

pesto sandwich 5

My kids aren’t fond of pesto so I usually forgo pesto on one end of the loaf when I make it for my family. This sandwich is super easy and super comforting. Enjoy!

Psst…easy chicken marbella is pretty comforting, too.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

I received great feedback from the first Ikea kitchen a reader so kindly agreed to let me share here on House*Tweaking. Since then, more readers have sent me wonderful stories and images detailing their experiences with Ikea kitchens. I’d like to continue to feature these types of posts throughout the year so I hope you don’t mind if I sprinkle them in from time to time.

These posts won’t feature overly styled rooms or professional photography – although many of them are magazine worthy. They are meant to provide personal accounts of designing and installing Ikea kitchens…something I felt was lacking when we were considering Ikea for our own kitchen renovation. These are real stories from real people. I ask the owners to be as honest and candid as possible. I want the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Personally, I get so much inspiration from seeing how other people incorporate Ikea products into their homes to meet their needs and style. I hope you find them inspiring as well.

french barn before

This particular story comes to us by way of France. (!) Ariane is a journalist and was once a news anchor for a local French network. Her dream had always been to own and run a vacation guesthouse. To realize her dream, she and her husband bought a home with outbuildings on the property that they could eventually turn into guesthouses. They started the process of revamping an old barn very casually but when Ariane was laid off in 2012, it became her full-time job. Ariane still does some journalism work on the side but she finds running the guesthouse completely fulfilling.

The barn had great features to begin with – high ceilings, a stone wall, tons of natural light, open layout – but it was necessary to add a functional kitchen to the space without distracting from the overall vibe.

french barn progress

Ariane worked with an architect to come up with a general layout for the barn but she designed and sourced materials for the kitchen herself. And, surprise!, she tackled the installation mostly on her own as well.

I asked Ariane several questions about her kitchen renovation. You can read the interview and find “after” shots below.

ikea barn kitchen 2

Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

The cabinets, doors, drawer fronts, hinges and hood are from Ikea. I must point out that this kitchen is located in a barn I just renovated. The barn is on our property and I run it as a rental guesthouse.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

When I started planning this kitchen, I looked around to see if I could find better prices but I couldn’t. No one would beat Ikea prices! And the look is pretty great, too. It’s trendy but nothing that will be outdated in a couple of years. And it’s sturdy.

I hadn’t planned on buying Ikea kitchen appliances for the guesthouse. We bought new appliances for our house and put the old stuff in the barn. The fridge is three years old. I had a new dishwasher on hold. The only thing I needed was a hood. I scouted Le Bon Coin (our version of craigslist here in France) and outlet stores with no luck. The day I went to Ikea, I found the hood on sale for 80% off! It was meant to be.

This is actually the third full kitchen I have purchased from Ikea! The first one was for my dad’s home. The second one was for my first apartment. The house I live in now has awesome custom oak cabinets that we’re reusing but we did hang Ikea glass-front cabinets next to the fridge. And we’ve started a wall-to-wall TV stand and bookcases for the living room…all made with Ikea cabinets!

ikea barn kitchen design

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

I hired an architect for the barn renovation and he planned the general layout (electricity, outlets, plumbing, etc.) so I started from there and worked with the Ikea design software. I took my design to the store and an employee helped me finalize the layout (and told me about the clearanced hood!). I located a bottle rack on the right side of the stove so the oven wouldn’t open next to the wall. The white version of the rack was 40€ and the stainless was 80€. I chose the white. In the “as-is” section, I found a stainless rack for 14€!! It made the trip home with me.

For the guesthouse, I needed a functional and low maintenance kitchen that would fit in with the general mood I wanted for the whole space. The kitchen is open to the dining area and living room. My first choice was based on an inspiration photo I had found on Ikea’s website – oak-colored doors for the lower cabinets and white cabinets on top. But once I saw them in real life, I didn’t like them so much. So I turned to a combination I had seen elsewhere. Your very own choice of black-brown for the lower doors and white for the top.

ikea barn kitchen install 1

ikea barn kitchen install 2

ikea barn kitchen install 3

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

I assembled all the cabinets myself. At the time, my hubby was recovering from an appendectomy so he couldn’t help at all! But since the installation stretched over several months, he was able to help me hang the upper cabinets (even though I did almost everything else alone). I asked for help when I needed it. Since pros were working in the barn alongside me, I asked a carpenter to help me with a piece of wood that needed to be cut with a circular saw (which I don’t have). A friend of mine helped me with the back of the peninsula and the baseboards. My brother-in-law installed an under-cabinet light and the hood. Even my eight-year-old nephew tried his hand at the counter tiles!

custom built counter

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

I knew I couldn’t buy counters from Ikea without renting a truck so I decided against it. (I live >2 hours away from the nearest store.) Besides, the barn’s crooked walls would have made it very difficult to perfectly cut a counter without proper tools and advanced skills. Instead, I decided to buy tile-able counters and tiles. I custom built the whole thing. I built a wood frame around the peninsula so it’s sturdy and doesn’t flip over. The wood (which is actually flooring!) on the back and side is nailed onto the frame like tongue and groove.

The day I went to Ikea to buy the kitchen, they were rearranging the hardware aisle and were out of stock on all the nice pulls. Instead of buying so-so pieces, I bought pulls I liked better at a big box store.

I had plumbers in for the barn remodel and they supplied the faucet. I bought the sink on sale. The plumbers installed both.

How long was it from design to finished kitchen?

I bought the kitchen in February 2013 and it was fully installed by the end of July 2013. I bought it early because sales were going on. I knew I wouldn’t start installation right away. The drywall wasn’t even up yet!

First, I focused on painting the spaces I had saved for myself. (The painter did all the ceilings and the walls that required scaffolding.) I got very bad tennis elbow which prevented me from working for a month. In the end, it took two months on and off to tackle the whole space.

ikea barn kitchen sink

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

I don’t “live” with my kitchen since it’s in the guesthouse. But tourists who have stayed here like it very much! They like the layout, the view from the window over the sink, the simplicity and the airy feel.

The only problem I’ve encountered was a broken dowel in one of the upper cabinets which loosened the tightness of the installation. My hubby helped me take the cabinet down and I changed the dowel (on both sides, you never know!) so it’s nice and secure now.

Ikea barn kitchen 1

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

You mean besides the pride of having it done almost all by myself?! I like that in real life it’s exactly like it was on the Ikea software. The design software is reliable if you use it correctly. I also like that it’s open and light on the walls but grounded with darker lower cabinets. It ties in really well with the rest of the space.

I think my least favorite thing is the counter. I need to fix a crack that has appeared between two rows of tiles and I think it would have been nicer to have carpenters install a custom solid counter. But I couldn’t justify the cost of that in any way, especially since it’s not for personal use. It will have to do!

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

Yes, I would definitively recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel. I know that they have changed the Faktum line (it’s Metod now) so I’m not as familiar with it as I was with the previous one. I’ve purchased Ikea kitchens in 1997, 2003 and 2013. I’ve seen the line evolve and become sturdier and easier to install so I’m confident this new line will be as easy to use as the old one.

I’ve never bought appliances from Ikea (except for the hood) so I can’t vouch for them.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

Yes, I would definitively consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel. Although, once in my lifetime it would be nice to experience a big project entirely taken care of by the pros!

Resources of note:

cabinets, doors, drawer fronts, hood – Ikea
counters, tiles, grout, sink – Brico Dépôt
faucet – Anchonetti
pulls, lights – Leroy Merlin
dishwasher, stove, clock – La Redoute
fridge – Darty
microwave, coffee maker – hand-me-downs
wood on the back of the peninsula – Chèze
accessories – Noz, Casa, thrift stores, yard sales

french barn turned guesthouse

Thank you, Ariane, for sharing your experience and letting me feature your lovely guesthouse kitchen. I can’t get over that stone wall, the soaring ceilings and those steel framed windows! Congrats on turning your barn into a functional and profitable space. Kudos to you for chasing your dreams!!

UPDATE: If you are interested in staying at Ariane’s lovely guesthouse in France, you can find more information here and here.

Okay, readers, who suddenly feels the urge to renovate an old barn? Yeah, me too. Even though most of the items sourced in this kitchen aren’t available in the U.S., the story and ideas have my wheels turning. Please thank Ariane for sharing her kitchen barn remodel. English isn’t her first language but she did wonderfully!

Do you have an Ikea kitchen (it doesn’t have to be 100% Ikea) you would like to share on House*Tweaking? If so, please contact me at housetweaking@gmail.com for consideration. Thank you in advance!

unfinished bath 1

Someday this is going to be a really awesome bathroom. For the past two years, it’s been this unfinished eyesore that I shield my eyes from every time I pass by in the hallway. I pretend it’s not there. When we have guests over and they want a tour, I’m all “…and here’s where we hold our Amazon deliveries for inspection…” When I’m embarrassed, I try to be funny but I think it comes across as awkward instead and then everyone ends up feeling uncomfortable. And even though we don’t mind guests traipsing through our bedroom to use the only functioning bathroom in the house, I’m guessing they feel a little weird doing it. So for the sake of our houseguests comfort, we really want to tackle this bathroom. Getting the mound of bathroom finishes (tile, tub, toilet, vanity, wall sconce, plumbing fixtures, etc.) out of the garage would be nice, too.

Maybe 2014 will be the year we park a car in our garage?!

unfinished bath 2

Two weeks ago our plumber adjusted the water lines for the tub. We tried leveling the concrete floor in here over a year ago (life has totally gotten in the way of this project) but the water lines needed to be sunk a little deeper into the slab for us to tile over properly.

During renovation we had the plumber update the water lines for the tub. At the time, he was afraid they were too high and he told us to give him a call if we needed him to adjust them. So two years later that’s just what we did. He didn’t charge us for this most recent work since it was his error. I love our plumber. He’s a man of his word, returns our calls and shows up when he says he’s going to. (He’s Pete the Plumber in Lebanon, Ohio for any locals needing a good plumber.)

Some jackhammering was involved in sinking the lines so Steve patched the floor this weekend. We have to let it cure for a while before we can start any tile prep but the good news is the floor is level! Dirty, but level!

We also decided to create access to the water shutoff in the bathroom. (We’re overly paranoid about water leaking, pouring, seeping, dripping and flooding into our home.) Our hope is we’ll never have to use it but if we need it, it’s there.

access to water shut off

The bathroom shares a wall with my workspace in the kitchen. The water shutoff is located behind this base cabinet. We thought creating access to the shutoff within the cabinet would be discreet but effective. To prep for an access panel, Steve removed the cabinet doors (Ikea cabinets make that super easy, btw.) and emptied the cabinet.

access to water shutoff

Steve picked up an inexpensive access panel from Home Depot for about $12. He traced its dimensions onto the back of the kitchen drywall from the bathroom. (We had already cut out a panel of cement board for access to the water shutoff during renovation. It goes back in place with a few screws.) He drilled a small hole in one corner (seen above) to get started then used a small hacksaw to cut out a square. He did this from the bathroom side and was careful not to cut through any pipes.

access to water shutoff 2

He cut right through the drywall and the back of the cabinet.

access to water shutoff 3

As you can see, he had some helpers. Everett was so excited. He thought we were making a secret passageway. Sorry, buddy, just trying to give you somewhere else to pee.

access to water shutoff 5

Then Steve slipped the access panel into place.

access to water shutoff 4

The cabinet frame and new access panel are both white so the result is pretty inconspicuous.

access to water shutoff 6

Then we loaded everything back into the cabinet.

hidden access panel

It’s like it never even happened. Having access to the water shutoff gives us peace of mind. Man, I hope we never have to use it. Now we’re just waiting for the concrete to cure and then it’s on to tiling! We don’t have a set deadline for finishing the bathroom. We’re working on it when we can – in between the kids’ activities, Steve’s work and business trips, episodes of New Girl, birthday parties. But it’s something we’d really like to see to completion before nicer weather hits and all we’ll want to do is GO OUTSIDE.

The plumber asked to see the floor tile and tub fixture for measurements when he was here adjusting the water lines. I sorted through the beast that is our garage to find them and then I got excited all over again about this bathroom. After sharing one bathroom with four other people for the past two years, having two working bathrooms is going to be such a luxury!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Many of you want to know what’s become of our outdoor furniture this winter. We don’t have room for it in the garage. We don’t have a shed. We don’t have an off-site storage unit.

snow covered outdoor furniture 1In the fall, we arranged the sectional, chair and coffee table pieces into two rectangular shapes (kinda like a 3D puzzle), covered them with two outdoor covers and pushed them up against the back of the house under an eave. Everything sits up off the ground on the platform deck. I washed the cushion covers and sealed them in plastic bags then took them and the cushions up to the attic to hibernate for the winter.

On a tangent, you can see more of our newly organized attic here. The Home Depot contacted me earlier this year about collaborating on a storage / organization post. Seeing as how we had been living with two pieces of foam board taped over our attic access for months in order to prevent heat from escaping into the attic, it seemed like a good fit. I love it when collaborations work out that way. When they give us a kick in the butt to tackle something we should have done already. Deadlines are good motivators!

Anyhow, the outdoor sectional cushions are up in that tidy, blue-carpeted attic space waiting for spring.

snow covered outdoor furniture 2

Let’s get back to the sofa. (I feel like this is a very scatter-brained narrative. Steve is out of town this week and I’m running on two hours of sleep sooooo…yeah, that explains a lot.) Our hope was that the deep eave would shelter the furniture from the elements somewhat. It does okay. Obviously, snow and rain still get on the furniture but that’s where the covers come in.

We bought the covers online. I don’t remember where (Steve has all that info. I’ll ask him when he’s back.) but I do remember we opted for ones near the “high quality” end of the spectrum but they weren’t the most expensive option we came across. We figured it was worth it to protect the not-so-cheap furniture we invested in. With the way this winter has been, we’re happy with our decision.

snow covered outdoor furniture 3

The one drawback is that snow, water and ice tend to accumulate on the covers causing them to dip. Every few days I go out and brush them off. The worst is when it’s water or ice. Water and ice are HEAVY. I use a pitcher as a bail to scoop and dump the water. When it’s ice, I gotta put my back into it. My fear is that the weight will pull on the covers and rip them. So even though the covers are protecting the furniture, our setup isn’t completely maintenance free. Then again, it’s been some kind of winter.

You may have noticed the outdoor dining chairs hanging out under the eave as well. They’re plastic and don’t hold snow like the bigger furniture so we left them uncovered. They’re swell.

snow covered outdoor furniture 4

The outdoor dining table is uncovered, too. We left it open to the elements all last summer and it was fine so no cover here either. It has a slatted top so water can drain off. If anyone’s been wondering about the DIY wood art, it still looks brand new. No worries.

And now this is the end of a very boring, snowy post. Wish it was the end of a very boring, snowy winter instead.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to browse beach cottage rentals online just to torture myself a little more.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking