...because home doesn't happen overnight.

IKEA studio organization 14

After building a dry bar in the studio to store items you would normally find in a break room or desk drawer, I was still in need of closed storage for craft and DIY supplies, basic tools, fabric samples and paint swatches. Essentially, I needed a freestanding closet. I spent a few weeks searching Craigslist for large armoires. I was looking for something solid and sturdy with clean lines and a cheap price tag that I could tweak with paint and new hardware.

armoire tweak 1

Enter this beast. I scored it for $100. It’s difficult to visualize the scale in photos, but, believe me, it’s BIG. And heavy. When Steve and I unloaded it, Mabrey promptly claimed it as her “room.” She fits inside easily. Tiny house living? Kidding.

armoire tweak 2

In its previous life the armoire was used as an entertainment cabinet, but the solid wood construction, cavernous interior and adjustable shelving made it a perfect candidate for storage, too.

armoire tweak 3

The wood finish wasn’t all that bad but in the context of the space (there were so many different wood tones in the studio already) I knew I would like it better painted. I imagined it as a tall, dark and handsome cabinet. So I removed the hardware, doors and shelves, scuffed the surface with a medium grit sanding block, wiped it clean and gave it a few coats of Valspar Reserve latex primer + paint color-matched to Sherwin-Williams tricorn black. (We used this paint color on the front door of our previous home. It’s moody with blue undertones.) I used a 6″ foam roller and angled trim brush to apply the paint. I opted not to paint the adjustable shelves because I figured they would get scratched up anyway. Plus, I really like when warm wood and dark paint play together.

armoire tweak 4

I reassembled everything and replaced the original scroll-like knobs with these sexy leather pulls. I probably could have DIY’d something similar with a belt, but I’m so glad I splurged on the pre-made version. The pulls are thick and robust and I really like the simple stainless steel hardware. The honey leather looks so rich and dreamy against the black paint. I did have to trim the length of the included screws for a proper fit but that was the only real work involved. It’s pretty much guaranteed that anything I would’ve whipped up would have been waaaaaaaay subpar compared to these.

armoire tweak 6

As you can see, I left the brass hinges as is. Mixing metal finishes is okay! Even on the same piece of furniture! The paint is semi-gloss which makes it easy to wipe down and ideal for furniture.

I’ll be sharing photos of the armoire’s interior in an organization post later this week. In the meantime, let’s talk more about Mr. Tall, Dark & Handsome. I would gladly put him in my house if I had room. Have I mentioned how sexy those leather pulls are? They remind me of this kitchen.

People! There are so many entertainment armoires out there waiting to be repurposed. As flat screen TVs become more and more mainstream and boxy tube TVs fall by the wayside, large secondhand media cabinets like this one are in high supply. Instead of using them to hide media components, I could totally see them housing toys, books, craft/office supplies and clothing in nurseries, playrooms, craft rooms, offices, dens, family rooms and bedrooms. Get creative with interior organization: hanging rods for clothes, baskets for toys/diapers, labeled clear plastic bins for craft supplies, a pull-out shelf for a printer or laptop, etc. The possibilities are endless. #savetheentertainmentarmoire

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


Congrats to Chris who plans on using the cabinet fronts in a tiny guest home she’s currently building!

studio dry bar 3

It’s about time for a studio update, right? I could list a dozen valid (and another dozen invalid) reasons why I haven’t done this sooner but I won’t waste your time. The truth is I’m embarrassed. A few weeks turned into a month. A month turned into a few months. A few months turned into six. Now it’s December. Life is crazy like that.

Anyhow, the studio!

I think the last time I shared pictures the walls and ceiling had just received a few coats of white paint. I went with Sherwin Williams pure white (SW 7005). Since then, the drywall dust has been cleared (Oh my word! Such a mess!! Cleanup took me forever.) and the concrete floor has been painted.

studio floor paint 1

studio floor painted 2

The original concrete was in rough shape. There were cracks, stains and some spalling. I could literally sweep chunks away with a broom. The space is accessed via a loading dock so all kinds of dirt and grease are tracked in on a daily basis. I decided painting the floor a dirty gray was the way to go.

To select the perfect gray I spread out a bunch of color swatches on the floor then walked all over them and picked the one that hid my footprints best. Oh, if only picking a paint color was always so easy! The swatch that made the cut was Sherwin Williams dorian gray (SW 7017) and it’s actually a really great color, a warm muddy gray. I had it color-matched in Valspar’s latex porch and floor paint then rolled on three coats. (That makes it sound so quick and easy but, I assure you, painting a floor with kids underfoot is anything but quick or easy. I do not recommend it.)

studio radiator paint

Way back when, there was discussion about what to do with the grimy radiator. After giving it a good scrub, I ended up spray painting it white. I did not attempt to do this with kids around (which made finding time to do it even more difficult) and I tackled it before painting the floor. It took an insane amount of paint (eleven spray cans I think?) and I’m pretty sure I lost whatever brain cells I had left after baby #3 was born. Which explains why maybe this post isn’t the most bestest.

studio dry bar before 1

After everything was cleaned and painted, I got to work on the dry bar. (I also scored six Bentwood knockoffs at our local Habitat ReStore for $12 total!) I used cabinets from the SEKTION line at IKEA. I bought a pair of 36″ base cabinets with two drawers each and one 15″ base cabinet with three drawers. I chose the Ma drawer style and, since I planned on painting the fronts a dark color, I chose the wood effect brown frames which I so wish had been available when we were renovating our kitchen. (Our fronts are dark and slivers of the white frames peek out in a few places.)

studio dry bar progress 1

I built the cabinets and Steve helped me install them. Everything you’ve heard about assembling IKEA cabinets is true: Staring at all the boxes and pages of instructions is daunting but, after you’ve put one together, you can put together a hundred. We opted for steel legs instead of a toe kick since it is a warehouse after all.

studio dry bar progress 2

After that, the studio turned into a drawer graveyard. Layne offered to help. Start ’em young! Seriously. It’s so easy even a ten-year-old can do it. We had a drawer building race and he totally beat me.

I’d been itching to try Semihandmade for a long time so I ordered seven of the DIY slab drawer fronts with notched pulls and painted them using a 4″ foam roller. The MDF really soaked up the paint. It took three coats of Valspar Reserve latex. The color is Valspar sable evening in a satin finish and it’s one of those chameleon colors. Depending on the light, it can read charcoal or green-gray. I love it.

Semihandmade fronts come pre-drilled so I simply screwed the hardware (included with the IKEA drawers) into the proper holes and snapped the fronts onto the drawers.

studio dry bar drawer

Voilà! Super easy.

studio dry bar drawer 2

IKEA drawers have special mechanisms on them to tweak the fronts so they line up properly. I didn’t have to adjust them too much. The top drawers open by pulling on their bottoms via the notch below.

studio dry bar 1

Just as we did for our laundry nook, Steve built a wood top out of boards we found in our attic during renovation. Being the typical engineer, he fretted over the warped boards but I told him not to worry. That’s the beauty of the studio! Nothing has to be perfect! We sanded the wood but left it raw for a rustic look.

studio dry bar 4

Along with the drawer fronts, I also ordered a panel from Semihandmade to cover the exposed side of the end base cabinet. We cut it to size for a custom fit and I painted it the same color as the fronts.

studio dry bar shelf

The shelf is made from off-the-shelf brackets and more reclaimed lumber from our attic. Once again, Steve was worried because the wood was warped and the tone of the shelf didn’t match the bench top. I’m like, “It’s free! It doesn’t have to match!” One thing I don’t like is the spacing of the brackets but we didn’t have a choice. We had to tie in to the studs.

studio fridge

The kids’ favorite part of the studio is the mini fridge. I bought an inexpensive model and Steve made a platform using leftover plywood and IKEA legs to level it with the cabinets. Then he cut a piece of filler from scraps of the Semihandmade side panel to fill in the gap at the top. I painted everything to match.

studio dry bar 5

Overall, I’m super happy with how the dry bar came together. I’m impressed with the Semihandmade fronts. They have more weight to them than IKEA fronts and I like that there are more options for customization. I should note that the notched pulls are no longer an option. The notches had to be cut by hand and creating them became dangerous and time-consuming. I love the clean, modern look of the notches but reaching down to open the top drawers does feel a little awkward. If I were putting these fronts in my house, I would probably spray them or have them professionally sprayed for a perfect finish. The foam roller worked great but I would be pickier about the finish in a real kitchen.

I’ve had experience building cabinets from both the IKEA AKURUM and SEKTION lines and, in my opinion, the current SEKTION line has better hardware when it comes to assembly and stability. A few things that were plastic in the AKURUM line are now metal in the SEKTION line. I don’t know if or how that will effect longevity but it’s a difference I noticed.

I know this setup probably isn’t feasible for a house (um, no sink) but my hope is, even though I’m putting my spin on a workspace, someone out there might find something that translates to a living space. If you’ve been considering Semihandmade for a project (they do IKEA wardrobes and bathroom vanities too!) then you might want to check out entry details for the giveaway below. Hint, hint.

PRIZE: one $500 credit to Semihandmade (Offer is not redeemable for cash.)

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) within the continental U.S. or Canada. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post proclaiming “SEMI ME!” Double your odds by liking this Instagram post.

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, December 20th. One random winner will be announced Monday, December 21st.

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT: Share what project you would tackle with the prize money. New kitchen? Bedroom wardrobe for clothing organization? Bathroom makeover? So many possibilities!

Good luck!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

sektion 14

Ikea debuted their new kitchen system, SEKTION, earlier this week. Mabrey and I took a field trip to check it out. I brought along my camera to document the things that caught my attention and I thought I would share them with you. There’s one caveat: the pictures aren’t the best quality. I was in a time crunch and chasing a toddler so…yeah…my focus and white balance are all over the place. But, whatever. I have pictures!

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The first thing I noticed right off the bat were the drawers – specifically the drawers inside drawers. I like this option because the outside appearance doesn’t dictate the storage inside. You can have several drawers behind one drawer front for a uniform look. And you have the option of drawers that pull out all the way or only ¾ of the way if they’re layered over another pullout. The drawers themselves are available in several widths and depths that weren’t offered in the previous AKURUM line. I saw the widest, most shallow drawers I’ve ever witnessed in a kitchen in that island above. They would be perfect for flatware and servingware. Fortunately, the soft-closing hardware is still available with the SEKTION line.

Drawer lights (seen above) that turn on when the drawer is opened were an oooh-ahhh feature but from what I could tell they only lit the top drawers. I’m not sure how practical they would be for our household. Don’t people usually turn lights on anyway? I hear the new SEKTION line also features USB outlets, electrical outlets and remote-controlled dimming / power but I didn’t see this on display.

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sektion 17

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Both upper and lower cabinet frames are available in more sizes (width, depth, height) which I see as an improvement over the AKURUM line. When we were designing our kitchen there were a few places in the layout where we didn’t have much of choice when it came to cabinet size. It wasn’t a deal breaker but it would have been nice to have more options. Also, in the AKURUM line a 15″ cabinet wasn’t really 15″ wide. It was something like 14 5/8″ which made things a little confusing.

The new SEKTION line measurements are true measurements. That means a 15″ cabinet is really 15″ wide. This also means the two lines aren’t compatible or interchangeable. I asked an Ikea kitchen specialist about how Ikea was handling customers needing AKURUM parts. She said AKURUM parts would be available until October 2015. After that, only if there was a warranty issue, Ikea would work to get the customer something comparable. I don’t quite know what that means though, seeing as how the new system isn’t compatible. (I’m hoping we never need to replace anything!) I did see where SemiHandmade will continue making doors / drawer fronts for the AKURUM line so AKURUM owners will be able to switch out their fronts if they want to.

The new sizes allow for an array of configurations. The hutch-like setup shown above was a unique feature that felt somewhat custom as far as Ikea goes. (Notice the shallow, short drawers at the bottom of the upper cabinet.) With the new system, the base and upper cabinets can be installed via a wall rail whereas with the old AKURUM line, only the upper cabinetry had the option of a wall rail. I’m guessing this will help DIYers (and professionals alike) who may be installing on their own or in a home with uneven walls or floors. We used the upper rails so Steve could install the wall cabinets on his own (I was preggo at the time) and they worked out really well for us.

sektion 13

sektion 12

The one feature I’m so, so happy to see (and a little jealous of, quite frankly) is the brown wood lookalike color option for the cabinet frames. I was surprised this wasn’t an option when we were designing our kitchen. Slivers of the white cabinet frames are barely noticeable in between a few black drawer fronts / doors on our base cabinets. Guests say they don’t notice, but it’s the one thing I would change about our current setup if I could. I’ve contemplated painting those areas black or applying strips of black veneer. No need to worry about that with the new system though. As seen above, the “wood effect brown” frames work well with darker colored drawer fronts and doors. They look less cheap when opened, too. No white box staring you in the face.

sektion 9

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I noticed a few other interesting design elements like open shelf base cabinets and freestanding units made up of cabinets + legs. I think both of these could help lighten a room visually.

sektion 4

sektion 5

One new option I didn’t like was this undersink pullout. It’s made to look like two drawers from the front but it felt flimsy because the front panel is so tall. Plus, I don’t think it’s very practical. What if one person is washing dishes and another person needs to grab something from under the sink? You can’t move to one side like you can with two doors.

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As far as aesthetics go, many of the “new” drawer fronts and doors look a lot like the “old” options. There are a few new finishes in the mix including glossy yellow and glossy green if that floats your boat. I really wish Ikea offered an unfinished wood option that would be less expensive than the ready-to-hang designs and could be painted any color of the rainbow for a truly custom look. Ikea, are you listening?!

sektion 21

sektion 1

I totally understand that Ikea caters to the masses but I do wish they would push the envelope a bit more when it comes to their kitchen displays. It was nice to see an island sporting a waterfall edge and a herringbone backsplash.

sektion 32

I didn’t get a chance to scout the countertop and hardware selection but I did see a walnut butcher block! On a fauxdenza no less! Ikea must read blogs. They’re on to us. Update: it appears the walnut butcher block is actually solid wood veneer over particleboard.

Some more drawer-in-drawer action because I couldn’t get enough…

sektion 8

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In conclusion, I’m pretty impressed with the new system. I was a little afraid Ikea would veer off course with the SEKTION line but I feel like they made smart improvements upon the old system that was so popular. Here are my take it / leave it suggestions in case you’re interested.


*varied selection of new true cabinet sizes
*drawer-in-drawer action
*dark wood lookalike cabinet frame option for darker fronts
*freestanding units / open base cabinets


*integrated drawer lighting
*undersink pullout

Have you checked out the new SEKTION line in person? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not, you should make a day of it and go open & close a bunch of drawers and doors. You know, if that’s your thing. (It’s my thing.)

P.S. – A great write-up on the new SEKTION line.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking