...because home doesn't happen overnight.

bedside sconces 3

I’m often asked about the swing arm wall sconces flanking our bed. Are they adjustable? Are they hardwired? At what height are they mounted? How do you power them on/off? What types of bulbs do you use? This is my attempt to address those questions but I should give you fair warning: There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Different people have different needs when it comes to bedside lighting. You should choose what works for your lifestyle, but maybe the information below will give you a gauge if you’re considering bedside sconces.

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We have a pair of the House of Troy Addison swing arm lamps in antique brass. The sconce is adjustable horizontally, not vertically. The arm is hinged and the brass shade rotates. It is a little stiff to move but holds positions well. Typically, we don’t adjust the sconces. We purposefully mounted them so that they were in functional positions from the start.

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The sconces are not hardwired. They plug in to an outlet behind the headboard. Each sconce came with a matching 30″ brass cord cover which we used in the space between the top of the nightstand and the backplate. If you like the clean look of a hardwired sconce but for whatever reason aren’t able to install one, a plug-in design with a quality cord cover is a great option.

Before mounting the lights, I searched for hard and fast rules regarding the recommended height of bedside wall sconces. What I found were general guidelines. The most practical tip I came across (and ultimately used) was to get into bed in my regular reading position then measure from the floor to a few inches above my shoulder. The measurement is a rough estimate of how high the bottom of the shade should be positioned.

Of course, this measurement is influenced by numerous factors: the height of the bed, an individual’s height, preferred reading position, the needs of sleeping partners, etc. Our bed is relatively low. It’s 24″ from the floor to the top of the mattress. I’m relatively short. I’m 5’4″ with shoes on, on a good day. I prefer to read in a reclining position with my knees up, not sitting straight yet not lying flat. Steve isn’t much of a bedtime reader and, on the rare occasion he does read in bed, he usually lies flat with only his head propped on a pillow. That’s why our sconces are mounted mostly to my specifications. (If you have a shorter/taller sleeping partner, you may need to compromise on the height of bedside lighting or consider a sconce that adjusts vertically as well as horizontally. Obviously, you don’t want to mount one sconce higher than the other.)

When I stepped back and eyeballed the lamps at the height just above my shoulder, they felt too low. (Probably because our bed is low and I’m short.) In the end, I decided to mount the bottom of the shade 50″ from the floor, roughly 8″- 10″ above my shoulder when reading in bed. This height is consistent with another tip I came across which was to mount the shade ~24″ from the top of the nightstand. The distance between our nightstands and sconces is 26″.

Personally, I like the look and function of sconces mounted off to the side rather than directly above a headboard. (Additionally, the placement of a window above our bed wouldn’t allow for sconces mounted above the headboard.) For swing arm lamps, I like the shades to overlap the width of the headboard just a little for a layered effect. The distance between the cord cover and the edge of our headboard is 8″.

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There is a small rotary switch at the shade to turn the light on/off. It’s easily reached from bed so there’s no need to walk across the room half-asleep to flip a switch. Initially, I put a 60 watt incandescent bulb in each lamp. Steve was always complaining the bulbs were too bright. I tried a small book light but it didn’t pass the Prince and the Bulb test either. Steve bought me an e-reader for my birthday to try to resolve the problem (and because I asked for one). It works great for most books but I can’t completely quit real books and glossies.

Recently, the kind folks at Ace Hardware offered to send me LED replacements for the sconces. I was put in touch with one of their lighting experts to determine which bulbs would be the best fit for our needs. I learned so much about LEDs! For instance, when it comes to LED bulbs “lumens” refers to brightness. 800 lumens is comparable to a traditional 60 watt bulb. Also, different LED bulbs give off different temperatures of white light. “Soft white” bulbs give off warm and cozy light while “daylight” bulbs have a cooler tone. For LEDs, the higher the Kelvin (K) temperature, the cooler the light. Bulbs <3000K are considered “soft white”; bulbs >4600K are considered “daylight.”

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When it came to choosing LED bulbs for the sconces, I knew I wanted them to be comparable to 40-60 watts of incandescent light. Since the sconces are in our bedroom, I wanted a soft, warm light as opposed to a cool light. A 500 lumens 3000K LED bulb ended up being the sweet spot for our bedside lighting needs. (All images in this post except the one above labeled ‘incandescent’ show the light given off by the new LED bulbs at dusk on an overcast day.)

I can’t get over the difference. The LED light is pure yet warm and cozy at the same time. It’s the best of both worlds. The incandescent reads orange and dirty in comparison. The LED bulbs better portray the true colors of the walls and textiles in our north-facing bedroom. Steve still says my reading light is too bright when he’s trying to sleep. At this point, I think he would say any light was too bright. So I ordered a manly sleep mask for him ;) These are the little secrets to happy marriages, folks!

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Truthfully, I have been slow to jump on the LED bandwagon. We installed LED over- and under-cabinet lighting in our kitchen and, at the time, it was an expensive extra. However, after realizing how much we use it and how much it affects our everyday living, it’s been a worthy investment. We use the cabinet lighting as ambient lighting during early mornings and late evenings. By day, we let natural light from windows, french doors and skylights do its thing. By night, we mostly rely on ambient light for a soft glow. Steve and I are both strongly averse to harsh, blue lighting. I swear, we’re part vampire.

A few weeks prior to collaborating with Ace Hardware, the incandescent above our kitchen sink burned out and I hastily grabbed an LED replacement at a local grocery store. I didn’t pay attention to the specs (size, lumens, Kelvin, etc.) and, as a result, the bulb is way too bulky, bright and cold for my taste. And I’m stuck with it for at least the next 15 years! Bummer. But now that I’m familiar with the LED lingo, I’m looking forward to switching out our remaining incandescents with soft white LEDs as they burn out.

Do you have any tips for mounting bedside sconces? Do you and your spouse have different bedtime lighting needs? Have you figured out which LED bulbs suit your home best? I inadvertently came across these easy plug-in LED dimmers that allow dimmable LED bulbs to be dimmed when/where hardwired dimmer switches aren’t possible. Pretty cool!

*This post sponsored in part by Ace Hardware. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

UPDATE: Apparently, I was operating on no coffee / no sleep / no brain cells at the time this post was written. So sorry for all the confusion! I have edited the post to clarify the main points and terminology. I hope it makes a little more sense. Thanks for all your feedback!

bunk bed duvets 1

A few years ago, I shared my bunk bed making secrets. Two and a half years later, I want to edit that post…starting with the removal of the cheesy lead shot. (Ugh.) But no, for real.

For the most part, the tips I shared are still in full force over here. I still use a step stool and sheet clips. (They’re like suspenders for your sheets.) I still keep pillows to a minimum. I’m still nixing the flat sheets. (They’re pointless with kids.) But there is one little thing that has been making my life even easier when it comes to making the boys’ bunk beds.

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They’re linen duvet covers in European sizes. Let me repeat. Linen duvet covers. European sizing. They will change your life. No more ironing. (Who am I kidding? I have never ironed bedding.) No more baggy, ill-fitting duvet covers. No more balled up, bunched up comforters inside said duvet covers. No more comforter clips.

European-sized duvet covers are smaller (narrower & shorter) so they actually fit the comforters. There’s less shifting of the comforters inside so I’ve been able to lose the comforter clips. (I still use sheet clips on the fitted sheet on the top bunk.) Also, the smaller sizing means less fabric to tuck around the mattress. Less tucking = less linen wrestling = less sweating = happy mama.

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I went with white European singles from this etsy shop and opted for the zipper closure for the boys’ twin mattresses. (If you are thinking of purchasing a European duvet cover, double check that it says EUR sizing. Not every listing in this etsy shop has EUR sizing available at this time which is why I didn’t link to a specific item.) For me, I prefer the zipper closure over any fold over, button or tie closure. It’s convenient and there’s no comforter slipping out over time.

I made the switch over a year ago. At the time, it seemed like such a splurge but now it feels like money well spent, an investment in my sanity. Bed making is quicker and the wrinkly linen is super kid-friendly. I’m hoping the white will stand the test of time. I can always pair it with something more colorful when boredom strikes.

When the BHG crew was here last month, the stylist brought in different bedding for the bunks. She was huffing and puffing, sweating and cursing by the time it was all said and done. We agreed that making bunk beds is the worst.

Thank goodness for those linen duvet covers that always look great with little effort. I’m tempted to make the switch in my bedroom, too.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

moody luxe 5

When I started this blog my family was living in a builder spec home. The finishes were cheap and I was doing my best to put my stamp on things. I turned to the internet for inspiration but was disappointed in what I found. Most looks weren’t achievable in our house. We had nondescript carpet and vinyl flooring – not hardwoods. There were no particularly alluring architectural features. We also had practical things like ceiling fans and light-filtering window shades. Tweaking that house taught us many things. Eventually, we came to value quality over quantity which prompted our downsizing adventure. But it also taught us that you don’t have to wait until bigger, future projects (i.e., installing new flooring) are completed to start making little changes that better reflect your preferred aesthetic.

“Nothing you do for your home is ever wasted.” – Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan for Apartment Therapy

We never did install new flooring in our previous home. But we did paint the walls & kitchen cabinets, install new countertops & a backsplash, experiment with furnishings and hang curtains & artwork. By the time we moved, the space definitely felt more like us than it had when we moved in.

All that to say, you don’t have to wait until you can do everything to do something.

And that’s what this makeover is all about. My clients moved into their home less than six months ago. They would love to upgrade the flooring, redo the kitchen, install statement light fixtures, fully furnish each room and improve the bathrooms but, as with most newly acquired houses, those things just aren’t in the budget right now. Instead, they’re tackling smaller projects as time and money allow, injecting their sense of style as they go. So far, they’ve painted nearly every room in the house and I recently helped them revamp the master bedroom. (You can read about my plans for the space and see a mood board here.) It’s a real room with carpet, blinds, a ceiling fan and even a TV. I hope it inspires you to do something.


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We made a lot of changes but, in my opinion, rotating the bed, painting the walls a deep charcoal and bringing in mismatched furniture were the game-changers.

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Relocating the bed to a blank wall makes it a natural focal point and lets more light pour in through the windows. The tufted headboard makes a grand statement. I love how the sides turn in for an intimate effect. So cozy!

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My client’s style is decidedly more luxurious than my own. When she requested sequins, I cringed a little. But this Moroccan wedding blanket was the perfect solution. It jingles ever so lightly! I wanted to take it home with me. I searched high and low for a vintage one that was large enough to fit the king bed but not a bazillion dollars. I kept the rest of the bedding simple with a linen duvet and lumbar pillow. The bordered euro shams are a nice detail and tie in to the khaki stripes on the Moroccan blanket.

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Patterned sheets are a fun surprise when the duvet is pulled back.

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X-based campaign-style nightstands pop against the moody walls. The geometric lines contrast with the headboard’s curves. I LOVE the lamps. They’re oversized to match the scale of the headboard. Anything smaller would have been dwarfed. The wood bases warm up the white nightstands and bedding.

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I turned to one of my favorite artists, Clare Elsaesser, to fill the void between the windows. I’ve always loved her work. The rich color combinations, tangled poses and fluid brush strokes create a dream-like quality making her pieces ideal for a bedroom. I framed the large print in a poster frame spray painted gold to match the curtain rods (also spray painted gold). At the eleventh hour, I decided to add black ribbon trim to the leading edges of the curtains for a little drama. It was more work but not expensive and totally worth it.

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I think a TV in the bedroom is a personal choice and my clients choose to have one in theirs. To make it less conspicuous, we mounted it on the wall above one of the vintage dressers I rehabbed. (The dark walls go a long way in hiding the TV, too.) An accordion-like bracket allows the screen to be angled toward the bed for easier viewing.

I was the teensiest bit apprehensive about the dressers. I absolutely LOVE how they turned out and knew they would look great in the space. However, when I met with my client initially, she told me she didn’t like gold and preferred “rustic” furniture pieces. The minute she saw them, she was sold – on the gold and the midcentury style. I was so glad because the clean lines and warm wood tones were very much needed in the space. I made her a believer! (Her husband loves them, too, but I knew he would.)

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The feather finish tops were a hit, too.

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I brought in a bench and mirror for easy dressing and quick once-overs. (A hallway leading to his and hers closets is located just to the left of the bench.) The mirror actually came with the dresser I used in my boys’ room. I had no use for it but hung on to it because it’s a solid piece. It finally found a home! At night, the Moroccan blanket can be folded up and placed on the bench.

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My client had her heart set on a chaise for the adjacent sitting area. She imagined it as a quiet space for lounging with a book and / or a glass of wine.

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A metal accent table picks up on other gold details in the room and provides a surface for reading material and a drink. Layered textiles create a relaxed vibe. The kilim pillow repeats the color scheme of the artwork in the sleeping area. The hanging planter fills vertical space and adds life to the vignette. We treated the two smaller windows as one large one (one curtain rod, two curtain panels) to make the space feel lighter and brighter.

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I paired the other dresser with black and white abstract art to give the sitting area a modern edge.

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The best part? My clients absolutely love the room. I can’t tell you how good it feels to witness people go from detesting a living space to not wanting to leave it. I’m so grateful they allowed me to put my spin on things. Not everyone is willing to go dark or try things outside of their comfort zone, but they were game. Thanks Maggie & Jeremy!

Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore kendall charcoal, color-matched in Valspar Reserve
ceiling fan – Amazon
headboard – Mariah headboard in taft pewter, Arhaus*
Moroccan wedding blanket – etsy
linen duvet, lumbar pillow – Ikea
euro shams – Ralph Lauren in polished bronze, Macy’s
sheets – Target
nightstands – Overstock
wood lamps – Lamps Plus
ring holder – Target
curtain rods – Amazon (spray painted gold with Rustoleum Universal pure gold)
curtains – Ikea
black ribbon trim – Amazon
large print – “Unclasped” by Clare Elsaesser, etsy
poster frame – Amazon (spray painted gold with Rustoleum Universal pure gold)
dressers – vintage, DIY
pierced hurricane candleholders – Target
woven basket – Target
bench – Overstock
mirror – vintage
chaise – Audrey chaise in tumble natural, Arhaus*
black and white abstract art & wood frames – Minted*
jute plant hanger – Amazon
olive throw – Overstock
kilim pillow – etsy
metal side table – Urban Outfitters
hide & sheepskin rugs – Ikea
task lamp – Ikea
ivy planter – thrifted

*Denotes items provided specifically for this project. This is NOT a sponsored post but I would like to thank Arhaus and Minted for providing the items listed above. I am grateful to be in a unique position to pass along quality products to my clients to help stretch their budgets. You can see more pictures of this space and read my tips for creating a beautiful bedroom over on Arhaus’s blog, Greenhaus.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking