...because home doesn't happen overnight.

gibson family

Sarah (a graphic designer), Kalyn (a finance guy) and Finn (a peppy schnauzer) live in a small Ohio town in their 1,100 sq. ft. starter home. I’ve been following Sarah’s blog for years and our offline lives finally collided when I started renting a studio space downtown. (Sarah works part-time for an interior designer in the same warehouse.) I’ve long admired Sarah’s creativity, DIY skills and knack for styling so I was crazy excited when she welcomed me into her home for a tour. Get a peek inside and read Sarah’s thoughts on everything from buying a foreclosure to hanging wallpaper to living in a small town…

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On buying a fixer-upper: It was never our intention to purchase a fixer-upper. We looked at multiple homes with our realtor and this was the only house that required a renovation. I fell in love with the original character of the home and loved the fact that it was built in the early 1900s. It had obviously been neglected and sat empty and overgrown for more than two years. The stench upon walking in the front door was enough to avert even a serious buyer. I suppose we were the lucky crazy ones who decided to tackle this project. It just made sense for us financially (we bought it for less than the price of a brand new car) and we were capable of completing the majority of the construction ourselves. I also jumped at the opportunity to really make a house our home. Many of the properties we viewed just didn’t feel like us and were priced higher, meaning we had no additional room in the budget to make adjustments…so we settled on the foreclosure.

It was an insane amount of work and took over a year to complete but I’m so proud of what we’ve created and, more importantly, that we built this space together. Our first Thanksgiving in the home (two years ago with no heat), we skipped a warm and cozy dinner with our families, opting to stay in the house instead, reworking the plumbing and electrical. I remember setting up our camping table and chairs, eating fast food, shivering in our Carhartt overalls and laughing about our terrible Thanksgiving meal in our new home. We couldn’t envision ever having a completed or furnished dining room. I also remember my embarrassment the day Kalyn had a port john delivered, which sat in our driveway next to a dumpster during most of the renovation. Later, I was thankful to have a “restroom” while working on the home but even more grateful we didn’t live in the house during the chaos of construction and days without plumbing. Before my blog, Room for Tuesday, was up and running, I started a personal Tumblr to share with family, solely devoted to the transformation of our house. The before and after images are unrecognizable (luckily) but it’s fun to look back at where it began.

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On compromising with your husband: Aside from hanging wallpaper together (which I would not recommend doing with your significant other), the living room floor plan has been our biggest challenge. Of course being the typical guy, he wants a huge TV. Normally, I would be cool with that but our living room is tiny. There is a giant fireplace and three windows, leaving only one viable wall for the TV. Long story short, we have two focal points: the TV and the fireplace. This does not sit well with me but it’s something I live with because I know that ugly eyesore of a TV makes him happy.

I will say, I am super thankful he allows me to get my way 90% of the time because he trusts my interior instincts. He’s also pretty creative himself and many fantastic ideas have manifested in his brain rather than my own (hallway wainscoting, landscaping, and bathroom expansion, to name a few).

On living with a rambunctious puppy: A week before our shoot, Finn decided to destroy the tufted back cushions on our sofa. Kalyn walked into a house filled with fluff and I immediately began to panic. My quick fix and cost-effective solution was to buy a variety of down throw pillows to line the sofa back. It’s definitely less expensive than a new sofa but I think it’s a sign we should upgrade. Kalyn has complained about our sofa being uncomfortable since the day it arrived so maybe it’s a happy accident.

Living with a large, high-energy dog can be challenging. Our windows are never clean and always have nose prints. Our freshly painted walls are now a little scuffed up, and our newly refinished floor is scratched but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It didn’t take long to achieve that “lived in” look, ha! The one thing he has going for him: no shedding.

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On creating flow: This has been one of our greatest construction challenges. The home originally was very closed in but we love open concept layouts. After determining which walls were load-bearing, we wanted to open up as much as we could. We increased the traffic area between our dining room, hallway and living room (it’s the weird center intersection you see in the photos). We also knocked out a wall between the kitchen and dining room but then rebuilt a pony wall. It made the kitchen larger, dining room smaller and helped to designate an area for the dining table and bar credenza. I like the functionality. It hides anything on the countertop so guests in the dining room aren’t looking at a mess. It also provides a bit of separation, without feeling closed off.

Floor planning and furniture just fell into place, for better or worse. Most key pieces could only fit into one configuration. That’s the trouble with small houses. For instance, the master bed had to be placed in front of a large window; it wouldn’t fit elsewhere. The guest bed had to be positioned in its current space because of an architectural built-in that hides the pitch of our basement stairs. Perhaps the living room has been the most challenging because of the TV.

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On those gutsy green walls in the dining room: Green tones have always been in my comfort zone. I know many people favor navy and calming blues but it’s always been green for me. I treat it like a neutral. It was the first paint color I selected for the house. I try to sprinkle it throughout our home with houseplants and accessories so it feels cohesive and acts as a common thread of color.

To this day, the Breuer dining chairs are my best find! I can’t even believed I snagged them for so cheap. This is the before, after and tutorial on reupholstering. They’re some of my favorite vintage items in our home!

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On dressing up the mundane: I recently took a seminar on millwork and the importance of scale, proportion and keeping trim historically accurate. Moulding is supposed to make you feel safe. It sounds insane but that is its purpose! It looks as though it’s helping to hold things up and in place structurally. I tried to be sensitive to keeping the base and crown accurate to the original trim, as well as adding woodwork in places that could be enhanced (wainscoting in the hallway and bi-fold closet doors in the guest room).

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On splurging: My favorite splurge would definitely be the bed in our master bedroom. I custom designed the piece, from sketching the waffle tufting, scale, specifying my favorite cognac leather and even the charcoal wood tone on the tapered legs. It’s perfect and we’re so glad we upgraded to a king, even though it’s a little tight in the room.

On living with two closets: I’m not going to lie. Living with two closets is the worst. Without our basement, this house wouldn’t work for us; it’s definitely been our saving grace for storage. We’re big outdoor enthusiasts and with that comes a lot of gear. We love camping, skiing, hiking, kayaking, etc… so our equipment is divided between our basement and garage. I’ve also learned to shop smarter. We try to spend our money on quality, key pieces, rather than quantity… simply because we have limited space.

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Originally, the house had three closets. We sacrificed a small linen closet in the hallway to expand the bathroom. The toilet now sits where the closet used to be. It was a tough decision but I’m confident we made the right one.

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On minding the details: I’m such a detailed-oriented person! The original doors in the home had beautiful glass knobs. I tried to restore them but they were cracked, foggy and too far gone. I wanted to keep the hardware details and moulding as close to the original as possible. Kalyn sourced the glass doorknobs online and demanded to have skeleton keys (his grandpa used to collect them) so I rolled with his idea and they turned out great. Although, guests sometimes are confused and lock themselves in the bathroom :)

The kitchen cabinetry hardware is from a small, family-owned business in Connecticut. Each piece is handmade and special. I wanted a variety of hardware (knobs, handles, cup pulls, etc.) in the same finish.

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On living in a small town: Our town is so small that it isn’t even considered a “town.” We live in a village and don’t have a mailman! That’s right, Finn and I walk to the post office everyday to retrieve our mail and packages. Kalyn and I both grew up on farms and, let me tell you, this is larger than where we come from. Ha! We love having a yard that backs up to a cornfield, the freedom to have campfires and enough space for a garden. Someday we’d love to be closer to the city but, for now, this location makes sense for us. It’s quaint!

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Thank you for sharing your lovely home, Sarah!

Isn’t this space amazing?! Obviously, I love the overall renovation but what I noticed most in person were all the little details like the crown moulding, beefy baseboards, wainscoting, trimmed out bulkhead (in the kitchen), hardware, light fixtures, carefully curated vignettes and artwork on display. Every time I spotted a vintage camera or schnauzer paraphernalia it made me smile. What caught your eye? Did you happen to spy the rose gold recessed lighting in the kitchen? Such a pretty and understated surprise!

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Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore super white
flooring – red oak, stained with Minwax’s dark walnut
curtains – Ikea
sofa – West Elm with Restoration Hardware pillows
coffee table – West Elm
armchair – West Elm
magazine holder – Crate & Barrel
ceiling fan – YLighting
horse sculpture – etsy
wall sconce – Ikea
wood candleholders – West Elm
media console – STOR New York
peony art – local artist Katie Stratton
horse photograph – F2IMAGES

cabinets – Kraftmaid
hardware – Colonial Bronze Company
sink – Kohler
faucet – Brizo
countertops – Silestone
backsplash – The Tile Shop
pendant – vintage
rug – vintage

wall color – Sherwin Williams evergreens
table – Ikea
chairs – vintage, reupholstered
pendant – CB2
art – Leftbank
sideboard – vintage

wallpaper – Hygge & West
light – DIY, Home Depot
rug – vintage
hardware – Anthropologie
brass chevron hanger – Target

bed – West Elm
nightstand – vintage
bedding – Urban Outfitters
automobile photograph – Minted
closet knobs – Anthropologie

accent wall paint – Benjamin Moore black panther
bed – custom, Lee Industries
nightstands – vintage, DIY
bedside lamps – Ralph Lauren
pendant – YLighting

vanity – Ikea
mirrors – Miles & May
wall sconces – West Elm
subway tile – The Tile Shop
hexagon floor tile – The Tile Shop
art – Lauren Stern
glass doorknobs – Look in the Attic & Co.

bench – CB2
animalia hooks – vintage, CB2, HomeGoods
engineer print & frame – DIY
pendant – Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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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After renting for nearly a decade, Annie and Greg bought their first home in 2011. Since then, they’ve slowly been updating the 1950’s  house located in southern Minnesota. With a job relocation to Seattle on the horizon, they decided to tackle the kitchen to get the most bang for their buck when they list the house in a few months. They considered making do with the original cabinets but realized a few coats of paint wouldn’t address the need for a better functioning layout and more counter space. Keeping their small budget and future resale in mind, they opted to source most of their kitchen components from Ikea. I asked Annie several questions about their experience. Find her answers and images of the newly remodeled kitchen below.

budget-friendly ikea kitchen via House*Tweaking

Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

The cabinets, doors, drawer fronts and toe kick are all from Ikea.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

We never considered going elsewhere for those items due to our numerous trips to the Twin Cities Ikea where we’d snoop through their kitchen displays and dream. My husband, Greg, is a design and process engineer with a construction background and I’m a stickler for good design as well. Quality, design and function are important to us. Ikea delivered those aspects and fit our small budget. You can’t beat the hinges and door dampers on the soft-closing cabinets. We outfitted most of our 9′ x 10′ galley kitchen for ~$2,600. People don’t believe us unless they’ve also researched and / or created an Ikea kitchen.

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

The design was our own. We wanted to increase the amount of storage while not overwhelming the small space. We’re putting the house on the market in a few months to move to Seattle for my husband’s career. We’re trying to keep the same feel from room to room. Every bit of our house has been updated or renovated and the kitchen was the last room to finish on the main floor. I think it flows very well which goes to show Ikea’s versatility.

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

The two of us assembled and installed the cabinets. We read that putting the cabinets and drawers together was a pain but we didn’t have a problem. Once assembled, we stored the cabinets in the master bedroom to keep them away from our dogs and my accident-prone ways.

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

The original plan was to keep the old cabinets and paint them then add a new sink, faucet and countertop. One side of the 1952 kitchen had the stove and refrigerator next to one another with no counter space whatsoever which bothered us quite a bit. I’m short and the shelves in the old cabinets were hard for me to reach – even with a step stool. Once we started looking at the facts and what it would take to update the old cabinets, we realized it wouldn’t look or function any better. We said, nope, let’s go to Ikea. Let’s start fresh.

After that I started designing the space with the Ikea kitchen planner online. I took a few afternoons scattered over a few weeks to go over layout options with all the measurements. Then we took a Sunday to revise it together and arrive at the final design.

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I pictured the new cabinets going nearly to the top of the 9′ ceiling to bring the eye up and make the space look larger. (That was one thing I liked about the old cabinets.) I wanted to make it look more custom with crown molding. The trash and recycling also have their own place inside of a pull-out base cabinet which we love. We definitely wanted a better layout and more storage. It’s odd that we have more storage now – I still have empty drawers and shelves actually! – even though we omitted upper cabinets by the stove in the new design. Less cabinets and more storage is pretty awesome.

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The fridge took some work because it is not counter-depth. We had to shorten the door opening by 7” to get a built-in look after removing a pocket door and widening the doorway. Today, the doorway goes with the scale of the house and makes the kitchen and dining room feel more like one space. Carpet is not my friend and it was in the dining room. Gag. We installed hardwood flooring in both rooms for added cohesion.

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There were a few kitchens on my Pinterest board I was obsessed with which lead me to the hardware, the butcher block countertop and a single basin sink. My original idea for the countertops was soapstone but butcher block is more affordable and more forgiving. We work with wood furniture in our design / refurbishing business so it’s not a big deal for us to repair it. The more it ages, the better it looks to me. We didn’t install a backsplash because I think it’s a personal decision better left to the next owner…who I hope sends me a picture. I did consider a few backsplash options. We have subway tile in both bathrooms, marble in one bathroom and various of shades of gray throughout the house which were all tile options that caught my attention.

I wanted high contrast between the off-white ÄDEL cabinets and accessories so we used an almost matte black, oil-rubbed bronze in the details. The hardware has modern lines but the warm wood countertops and classic schoolhouse lights keep the room from leaning too contemporary. My taste tends to be modern rustic.

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How long was it from design to the final product?

We did very little to the kitchen until October of 2012 when we removed the laundry chute the previous owner had in the kitchen. I ran into the chute cabinet at least three times a day. The two of us removed the pocket door and opened the doorway to a nice 55” from the 26” it had been. We didn’t start the real work until March of this year.

The Ikea kitchen sale started late February which was right after we finished renovating a bathroom. Mid-way into the sale we went to Ikea with our design, logged into our kitchen planner account and asked the kitchen specialists a ton of questions. A specialist printed off our list, added what was needed (an important step since not everything is correct or included on the list) and we had our total in about five minutes. $2,634 didn’t even qualify for the discount which was fine with us. At that time, Ikea had everything we needed in stock but since we were not purchasing that day we had to call ahead to inquire about availability – especially because of the ongoing kitchen sale.

We nailed down our finances a few weeks later then returned to Ikea to order our kitchen. It was only $99 to deliver to our home a little more than 30 minutes away.

Everything was in stock and could have been delivered a few days after ordering but we requested a later delivery to accommodate our schedules. The delivery company called on a Tuesday to say they would be in our area the following day. I called back and scheduled the drop-off which fell into a 5PM to 9PM time slot when we’d both be home from work. Wednesday rolled around and the delivery company left a voicemail at 2PM saying they would be at our house in 40 minutes and that if we couldn’t be there we’d have to reschedule. This was our only unhappy moment. (Ikea hires the delivery out so it’s not really much of a reflection on them.) Luckily, Greg was able to leave work early and arrive home just before the delivery truck. Nothing was damaged upon arrival and we signed off with the delivery company. Simple and fast.

I immediately checked the list. Everything was accounted for. We started putting the cabinets together that night for a few hours. It took three weekday evenings and a total of six hours to assemble most of the components. Having years of experience in his family’s construction business, Greg wanted to do the rest on installation day. He’s an engineer and was impressed with the assembly method. If you pour out the box contents correctly it practically puts itself together. A screw gun is handy, too.

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Installation was easy and we spread it out over two weekends. The suspension rail was simple to use and helped a lot since it was just the two of us. The problems we did encounter were part of the kitchen structure itself: uneven walls and ceiling. You know, stuff that goes along with older houses.

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Custom framing came into play for the cabinet above the fridge and the tall pantry cabinet. Otherwise, the process was pretty straightforward.

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The flooring installation was aggravating compared to the cabinets. It took us a few weekday evenings in a row to knock it out. We were a tiny bit shy of toe kick in the end and we damaged a set of shelves at some point during installation. A trip to Ikea and $20 solved those issues.

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

The new kitchen has existed for about a month. Out of habit, we still find ourselves walking into the dining room looking for the fridge because that’s where we kept it during the reno. There haven’t been any concerns or problems. With our rambunctious pups, the floor has been scratched even though we use rugs. The cabinets are fine. I accidentally ram my step stool into them on a daily basis and they stand strong. I love this space now.

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

I love the flow and storage. And, although we kept resale in mind, there is still a lot of us in the design. We lived in nine rentals over the course of ten years before buying this house and nothing was even close to feeling like us. I’m also a food blogger on top of a DIY / home improvement blogger so the kitchen is the room in which I could spend all day and be happy. It’s my meal prep space, where I catch up with my husband over a glass of wine, where I break out in song and dance on the new hardwood floor and where the designer in me geeks out. Honestly, my least favorite thing is that we’re moving soon and that we waited so long to tackle the kitchen. I’m also bummed about not having found the items to display on my counters yet.

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

That’s a big yes. We recommend Ikea to anyone who will listen. If you create a design that truly fits your needs, seek advice from the kitchen specialists, prepare and organize your lists (I make a lot of lists) and materials, dedicate time to assembly and installation, accept that some problems might arise but that you will face them and all will be well, you can have a beautiful, quality Ikea kitchen. If things aren’t going together easily that means you are probably doing something wrong and need to take a step back. For example, we first put the base plate of the hinges on backwards.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

In our next (Seattle) house, kitchen renovations will come first and Ikea will be a big part of it.

Resources of note:

cabinet frames, cabinet doors, drawer fronts, toe kick – Ikea, ÄDEL off-white
trim, molding – Menards
wall paint – Benjamin Moore rockport gray
trim paint – color-matched to Ikea ÄDEL off-white and Benjamin Moore decorators white
hardware – myknobs.com
kilim rug – ebay, vintage
butcher block countertop – builder outlet store
butcher block finish – dark raw tung oil + citrus solvent (waterproof, food-safe, all natural)
sink – build.com
faucet – Signature hardware
water filtration faucet – Amazon
range hood – <$200 at Rakuten.com
dishwasher – craigslist, $60
refrigerator and stove – already owned
lighting – Home Depot, Lowe’s
blinds – JCPenney
flooring – American Carpet Wholesalers
dining room pendant – Overstock

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Thank you so much Annie for sharing the details of your kitchen renovation!

How amazing is it that less cabinetry actually resulted in more storage?! This small kitchen is an example of thoughtful design at its best. I love Annie’s choice of hardware and lighting alongside the white cabinets and wood countertops. And don’t get me started on that vintage rug. Inevitably, making the decision to spend a little more on the kitchen reno to gain counter space and storage was a smart choice. The new layout and classic design are sure to be advantages over comps when the couple lists the home in the near future. You can follow the couple’s home improvement adventures over on their blog and you can see what Annie’s whipping up in the new kitchen on her food blog. (Pssst…the bathroom renovations are equally inspiring!)

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

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

And if you have an Ikea kitchen (it doesn’t have to be 100% Ikea) that you would be willing to share on House*Tweaking, please email me at housetweaking@gmail.com for consideration.

P.S. – Thanks to everyone who has already submitted an Ikea kitchen. I really, really, REALLY appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into bringing these posts to fruition. I have a slew of Ikea kitchens sitting in my inbox waiting to be featured. I apologize for the lapse in time between submission and the post going live. I’m buried in Ikea kitchens – in a good way! Keep ’em comin’!

images: Annie at The Wits

05.13.13 / Puppies & Rainbows

Notice anything different?


Yep, there’s a new rug in town. But, first, the back story…


I love the sisal rug shown above. It’s crazy durable and after a year of living with three kids, it looks the same as the day the UPS man delivered it. One caveat. Not everyone’s feet are as seasoned as mine. I grew up in the country where it was okay normal to walk outside barefoot. I still prefer bare feet over the trendiest shoes. {That’s why you see my feet naked in nearly every photo of me on the blog.} But my HH and my kiddos have sensitive feet {the kids get all of their persnickety traits from their father – ha!} which deem the natural sisal a little too “scratchy” and “rough”. Sissies, I say!

To put the rug-related whining at bay, I made a futile attempt to layer a striped DIY rug over the sisal but it was welcomed with little excitement. Still not comfy enough for my delicate family. In an effort to secure the “Mom of the Year” award, I reluctantly started hunting for a plusher option. Two must-nots: 1) it must not cost a bazillion dollars and 2) it must not shed profusely.

About a month ago, after nearly six months of hunting, I found THE ONE. It is plush, oh so plush. In all, it cost me less than $275 for the 8′ x 10′ size. {Looks like the price has since increased.} And it barely sheds. BARELY SHEDS! I’ve been eyeing moroccan berber rugs for a while but they are so expensive and I was leery of reviews reporting beast-like shedding. So when I found this polyester version, I decided to give it a try.


What can I say? We are smitten. It is the rug version of clouds in heaven. I would say it has boosted our living room’s cozy factor 1000%. My feet are becoming more refined by the minute. But don’t expect them to start wearing shoes anytime soon. Another quality we were unexpectedly surprised by is the rug’s sound absorbing abilities. The vaulted living room sounds cozier if that makes any sense. HH and I noticed how the rug quieted the room as soon as we rolled it out.


The 8′ x 10′ shag is slightly smaller than the 9′ x 12′ sisal and doesn’t come with a non-slip backing so I just layered it on the sisal. The natural fibers of the sisal seem to hold it in place pretty well. I vacuum it once weekly and that’s plenty. My only complaints are that the rug is polyester and it does have an initial carpet smell. The odor was remedied with a week’s worth of open windows. And I will make my kids eat organic everything from here on out to counteract the negative effects of polyester. Kidding. A little.


I can’t keep the kids off the rug. They are like moths to a flame. Mabrey enjoys rolling around on the rug like so…


…when she’s not practicing her WALKING!

And, finally, proof that I have secured the “2013 Mom of the Year” award…

The day we received the rug HH and I rolled it out, vacuumed it, opened the windows then let the kids have at it. As noted, they were all about it. The very next morning Layne, our eight-year-old, woke up early, made his bed, got dressed and went out to the living room where HH found him planted face down in the rug at 7:00 a.m.

HH: Layne, what are doing?

Layne: Puppies and rainbows, Dad. Puppies and rainbows.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking