...because home doesn't happen overnight.

wood bead strand 13

Wood bead garlands have been popping up in interiors for years. I think I first noticed them styled in Scandinavian vignettes. Then they became pretty popular as holiday garland on trees and mantels. More recently I’ve spotted them casually gracing tabletops in interiors with a natural, organic vibe. (Lauren Liess’s coffee table and Anissa’s dining room table come to mind.) I love how effortless they look. Oh, this ol’ thing I just tossed on my table?

A few weeks ago when cabin fever hit hard, I was itching to make something. Putting my spin on the famed wood bead garland sounded fun so I gave it a whirl. Obviously, I’m not reinventing the wheel here but it was nice busying my hands and tweaking little details to my liking. Here’s what I did…

wood bead strand 1

I knew I wanted a pretty substantial strand with a longer length and chunkier profile (no measly little necklace of wood “pearls”) but when I started gathering my supplies I quickly discovered that pre-drilled wood beads are expensive! And I needed quite a few. To save money, I ended up buying wood balls in various sizes and drilling the holes myself. I bought three bags of 1″, two bags of 1¼” and one bag of 1½” wood balls along with four yards of leather cording. I raided the garage and found some heavy duty grip pliers to stabilize the balls during drilling.

wood bead strand 2

One by one, I placed each ball on top of a scrap piece of wood, secured the ball with the pliers in one hand and drilled a hole through the center with my other hand using a 3/16″ drill bit. (I’m a lefty so if you’re a righty flop the image above for a better visual.) You can drill whatever size hole you want. The key is to drill a hole at least slightly larger than your preferred stringing material: rope, string, jute, yarn, etc. Keep a firm grip on the pliers!

wood bead strand 3

Drilling through the ball into the wood scrap below prevents splintering and produces a clean cut. Ideally, this would be an outdoor project but below-zero temps kept me indoors. I kept the vacuum nearby and swept up sawdust as I went along.

wood bead strand 4

After all the holes were drilled, I wasn’t digging the cool grayish tones of the unfinished maple. I busted out my trusty beeswax + orange oil wood conditioner (previously seen here) and applied it with a soft cloth.

wood bead strand 5

This was about halfway through the waxing process. The beads on the left are unfinished. The beads on the right are waxed. I love how the beeswax warms up the wood tone and emphasizes the graining. Instant patina!

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Once waxing was complete, I strung the beads onto the leather cording.

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I decided to string the largest beads near the center of the garland and the smallest beads near the ends for a graduated effect.

wood bead strand 8

After all the beads were strung, I went back through and spaced them out a little so the garland wasn’t too stiff and had some play in it. I wanted the garland to drape easily. I knotted the ends and cut the excess cording. Done! (You could also tie the ends together to create a circular garland.)

wood bead strand 9

The end result is so pretty in a natural, unfussy way. I love that you can see little indentations from the pliers. Living proof that they were touched by hands – not just a machine. There’s really no wrong way to style them. They kinda just do their own thing and go with everything. They’re the J. Crew of home accessories. I’ve already had a heyday trying them out all over the house.

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As a cat-friendly centerpiece on the dining room table.

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Spilling out of a thrifted bowl on the media cabinet.

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Curled up in a large bowl on the coffee table.

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Dangling from a hook on a sliver of wall.

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Draped over a pile of books on my dresser.

They’re so versatile. I keep moving them around. Who knows where they’ll end up. I’m going to start a new blogger game called Where Are the Wood Beads? Should be a good time.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

humidifier 2

If you live somewhere that experiences colder weather or dry air, chances are you know first-hand the detriments of low humidity: itchy skin, chapped lips, cracked knuckles, staticky clothes, bloody noses, parched throats, increased vulnerability to respiratory illnesses, etc. Here in Ohio, humidifiers are almost a necessity during the winter months.

In our previous home, we installed a whole house humidifier right onto the upflow furnace unit in the basement to combat dry air. Our current house sits on a slab with a downflow furnace blowing heated air through ductwork that runs through the slab. (There’s no crawl space or basement.) Installing whole house humidifiers onto downflow furnaces isn’t impossible, but our current setup won’t facilitate it. There’s just not enough room. Additionally, we often use the gas fireplace in the living room to heat the house during the day which keeps the furnace from kicking on so, even if installation wasn’t tricky, a whole house humidifier still might not be the best choice for us.

We lived through our first winter in this house sans humidifier and we felt it. Someone was always sick. We all had cracked knuckles. I experienced nosebleeds. There was so much static we were afraid to touch each other and folding laundry was almost painful. The following winter I purchased a standalone humidifier and we’ve been using it during colder months ever since. It makes such a difference!

humidifier 4

After doing some research, I bought a Honeywell cool moisture console unit. (If there’s one thing I learned in pharmacy school, it’s that you should always use a cool mist humidifier. Warm units are breeding grounds for bacteria.) This is the third year we’ve used it and we’re extremely happy with it. It has a small footprint (~20″ x 12″) and can provide moisture for up to 1,900 square feet making it ideal for our 1,600-square-foot home.

humidifier 3

The humidifier must be placed on a flat, hard, water-resistant surface at least 6″ from any wall. I place it on the tile floor in the Everything Room. (You can add Humidifier Room to the running list of purposes that room serves.) It plugs in to an outlet hidden within the fauxdenza.

humidifier 5

The unit is relatively quiet. You can hear it running from the living room but it’s definitely not loud enough to disrupt conversation or TV watching. Every once in a while we hear a little glug-glug as water is released into the base but even that is miniscule. It doesn’t rattle or vibrate. I keep the fan speed on low and the humidity level somewhere between the two lowest settings depending on the day. Once the dials are set, the unit automatically turns on/off as needed to maintain the desired humidity level. It shuts off when the water tanks are empty. In contrast to traditional humidifiers, this unit is evaporative meaning you don’t see a visible mist or get water droplets on surrounding surfaces.

Standalone units do require some attention. The water tanks must be refilled periodically with tap water. Typically, I refill the tanks 1-3 times per week during the winter but, right now with outside temps barely in the double digits, I’m refilling the tanks every 1-2 days. The tanks and base must be cleaned regularly as well. I use the ProTec tank cleaning cartridges to extend the time between cleanings. I usually clean the unit at the beginning of the winter before the first use, once or twice during the winter and once at the end of winter. I flip the filter with every other water refill and replace it annually. When not in use, I keep the humidifier in its original box up in the attic.

I brought the humidifier down from the attic last week and set it up. Right away, I noticed a difference – not only in my skin (no more chapping and cracking!) and eyes (no more stinging!) but also in my houseplants. They were looking pretty droopy and sad but perked right up. We’ve also noticed that the humidifier helps prevent extreme shrinkage in our wood floors. Before, a gap would develop at the entrance to our bedroom (probably due to the leak we don’t speak of) in the winter, but it’s been nonexistent ever since we starting using the humidifier.

humidifier 1

Low humidity negatively affects so many things: people, pets, plants, wood floors and even furniture. If you’re looking for a small, effective standalone whole house humidifier that is easy to operate and maintain, I would recommend this one! (not sponsored, just sharing what has worked for us) I tried explaining the basics above, but the manual is easy to follow and gives more details on proper setup, maintenance, operation and storage.

Do you use a whole house humidifier? What about a hygrometer to monitor indoor humidity levels? Maybe it’s not necessary for your location or method of heating. I can remember my dad placing a pan of water on top of the wood stove in the house I grew up in to increase humidity. I’ve always wondered if homeowners with steam radiators or radiant floor heating need humidifiers. Anyone?

P.S. – Our biggest renovation regret. My winter essentials.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

01.18.16 / Liked & Linked

snow day tent

winter light

After a slow start and unseasonably mild weather, winter hit hard and fast last week. It’s too cold to do much of anything outside besides retrieve the mail and take out the trash. Even those tasks are done with a sense of urgency to avoid being chilled to the core. I’ve lived in the midwest my entire life and I feel like I’ve seen enough snow to last a lifetime, but there are some aspects of winter I do enjoy: cozying up with a book, cleaning out closets, tackling little projects, planning a summer vacation, cuddling with my littles (human & furry), watching the kids collaborate out of boredom to build blanket forts and play games. Oh, and the light! Our usually dark bedroom gets the best light in the winter when the sun is low and its rays are bouncing off the snow.

A few things helping to ward off cabin fever…

*A cute cardigan.

*Creamy, non-drying lipstick. My winter favorite!

*15 things to do for yourself this year.

*A braided bob tempting me to go shorter.

just the basics entry

just the basics kitchen

*A new (to me) source of interior eye candy. And, as a result, a new shelter book on my wish list.

*A cozy TV nook.

*What it’s really like to live on the road as a family.

*I finally created a landing page for all of the IKEA kitchens I’ve featured over the years. You can access it by clicking the ‘See Real IKEA Kitchens’ icon in the side bar. More to come!

*How many days from the past month do you remember? (I love this mindset.)

Stay warm, friends!

images: 1 & 2) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 3) Jonas Berg 4) Anders Bergstedt