...because home doesn't happen overnight.

I want to thank all of you for your well wishes and words of encouragement. THANK YOU. I wasn’t planning on it, but I had to take some time off. The kids ended up getting sick, too. Luckily, Cheetah hasn’t made anymore attempts to run away and I haven’t had anymore run-ins with opossums ;)

DIY leather pull 11

I’ve been tweaking things here and there in our bedroom. Mostly because I like change every now and then, but also because a few things felt slightly off. Take the IKEA HEMNES shoe cabinet, for instance. It actually started out in our entry, then I moved it to the master bedroom after I realized it made more sense functionally. (We don’t enter through the front door on a regular basis, so we don’t really need shoe storage there.) I hung a mirror (an octagonal one at first, then a rectangular one) and spray painted the knobs gold, but the vignette always felt flat to me. (Also, looking back at old posts is a little like looking at pictures of myself from college or high school. It’s embarrassing.)

Additionally, in my opinion, the cabinet knobs were awkwardly placed. They were positioned about one-third of the way down the drawer fronts. We had to give them a good tug to open the shoe compartments. I always thought handles/pulls located higher up on the fronts would work and look better. (IKEA must have received similar feedback because they now offer the STÄLL cabinet with notched handles.) I decided to try my hand at making leather pulls for the shoe cabinet.

DIY leather pull 1

I removed the original knobs, filled the holes with wood putty then sanded the putty smooth taking care NOT to sand the surface of the drawer fronts. (I just wanted to do a quick and easy patch & touchup job. If possible, I didn’t want to paint the entire fronts/cabinet.) After the putty had dried completely, I used a small watercolor brush from my kids’ art supplies to brush on two coats of paint over the putty only. I used Benjamin Moore white dove in semigloss (leftover from our baseboards and trim) because it was what I had on hand and there was a snow storm and I wasn’t dragging the kids to the store for eight drops of paint. It isn’t a perfect match but it worked just fine for the minuscule touchups. These photos are untouched other than lightening them up a little, but you really can’t tell where the knob holes used to be unless the sun is shining and you look at the cabinet from just the right angle.

Of course, you can have paint color-matched for a flawless finish if you’re worried about inconsistencies.

DIY leather pull 2

Once the holes were patched and painted, I got to work on the pulls. I found a faux leather belt at my local Salvation Army store. It was long enough for four pulls and the $1.99 price tag was perfect. When I got to the counter and found out it was included in the daily special (50% off all yellow tags!), I was stoked. The belt rang in at a whopping 99¢ and, after a grueling week from hell, it completely made my day. It’s the little things, people.

DIY leather pull 3

I cut the buckle off the belt then measured and cut four 4½” strips for the pulls.

DIY leather pull 4

I folded each strip over on itself, measured 3/8″ down from the cut ends then drilled a hole through each pull. (I don’t remember the exact size of the drill bit, but it was slightly smaller than the shaft of the machine screws I bought for the project. Keep reading for more info on those.) I used the same wood scrap from the DIY wood bead strand for a cleaner cut and to protect the floor. If you haven’t noticed by now, I tend to work on the floor in whatever room I’m working on at the moment. I’m too impatient to set things up elsewhere!

DIY leather pull 5

I bought four 10-24 x 1″ brass machine screws plus washers and nuts in the same size for this project. I found them at Lowe’s and they cost ~$6 total. For each pull, I slipped a screw through a washer then the hole in the leather.

DIY leather pull 6

DIY leather pull 7

I removed the shoe compartments from the cabinet (they simply pull up and out) and used the same drill bit to drill a hole in each front ~½” down from the top. I wanted the tops of the pulls to line up with the tops of the fronts without interfering with opening/closing. Again, I used a wood scrap underneath for a clean cut.

DIY leather pull 8

DIY leather pull 12

Then I used a flathead screwdriver to screw the pulls onto the fronts. I secured them with a 10-24 brass nut. I probably could have used a slightly longer screw as I had to bust out pliers to screw the nuts on, but it all worked out. Steve says the screws are perfect because they don’t stick out and pose a hazard to hands reaching into the cabinet for a pair of shoes. One thing is for sure. They aren’t going anywhere!

DIY leather pull 9

I love, love, LOVE how the brass looks against the (faux) saddle leather. I was worried the pulls might scream “BELT!” but I actually like the stitching. Especially at <$2 per pull!

DIY leather pull 14

The new pulls are way more functional, too. No more tugging at awkwardly placed knobs.

DIY leather pull 13

Surprise! Two of the compartments are empty. Steve uses the one on the bottom left as a hidden charging station for his phone.

DIY leather pull 10

I didn’t plan for it, but the new pulls tie in to the leather bench at the foot of the bed. #happyaccident I sprung for a new mirror. Maybe you noticed? I really felt like we needed something round to break up all the straight lines and I wanted a touch of black. I found an affordable, round mirror with a black frame here. The scale is spot on. FYI – It’s heavy!

Thanks to the new leather pulls, round mirror and some Trader Joe’s blooms, I’ve fallen in love with this little corner of our bedroom. It just feels right. And now I want to add leather pulls made from thrifted belts to all the things. #savethebelts

Stay tuned for more bedroom updates, coming soon!

P.S. – If DIY isn’t your thing, pre-made leather pulls on an armoire.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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