...because home doesn't happen overnight.

ghost lights 1

Other than displaying carved pumpkins, I haven’t really decorated for Halloween in years. (I’m more of a seasonal decorator than a holiday decorator.) This year the kids were hounding me more than usual and I’ve been on a recent “life’s too short” kick so I finally came around and spooked up this place. It’s nothing over the top but I think I have a chance at Mom of the Year 2014. (You know I’m kidding, right?)

ghost lights 2

I spent $6 (coupon included) on two yards of tulle and black poster board at JoAnn’s to create ghost lights over the kitchen island. I rolled out the two yards of tulle and left it doubled over (for a layered effect) then cut it into three equal sections, one for each pendant. I cut a hole in the top of each section, slipped the tulle over the pendants then secured it with string. I trimmed the tulle to my desired length then “fringed” the ends by cutting ~2″ wide strips on the bottom half of each ghost. I freehanded three ghost faces and cut them out of the black poster board then secured them to the tulle with double-sided tape.

ghost lights 3

They turned out pretty creepy. I think the key is to use a really thin and airy tulle (not the stiff, scratchy stuff) and to scrunch the ends. (Where are all my ’97 high school grads at? We hella good at scrunching.) The moaning ghost faces portray way more emotion and despair than two black eye holes. The cat is real. Yeah, you’re going to need to rescue a kitten to pull off this look in its entirety.

spider web

I attempted to make a spider web out of jute string that I already had on hand. It turned out okay?? There’s a good reason why I’m not a spider. Apparently, webs take patience and a certain amount of skill. I immediately felt horrible about all the real webs I’ve swiped.

First, I hung three lengths of jute in an asterisk formation. I tied the ends to anything I could find: antlers, cords on the side of the cabinet, a doorstopper, etc. I rigged it so that we can still open the cabinet and door. Starting from the outer most part of the web and working my way in, I knotted off sections of jute in a hexagonal pattern. I taped a paper spider to my creation to better designate it as a “spider web.” I don’t know. It reads more like an unfinished, ginormous dreamcatcher to me.

All the spiders are crying, “You call that a web?! You disgust me.” In my defense, I don’t extrude silk from my nether regions.

halloween living room

I couldn’t boo the kitchen and not the living room.

bats

I bought two sets of removable 3D bats and filled the area above the TV with them. (A ladder was involved.) I love these bats! Don’t let the reviews fool you. A few people were disappointed that the bats aren’t larger but I actually prefer this size. The bats are plastic and you bend them to get the 3D effect. They also come with removable stickers. I’m not sure how the adhesive will hold up after one season but I can always break out my trusty putty tabs if necessary. These bats are definitely going to be a mainstay of our Halloween décor.

halloween mantel 1

I grouped pumpkins and squash on the mantel on either side of the TV wall. They were a steal at Trader Joe’s and were left over from a Thanksgiving tablescape shoot. (It goes live mid-November.) That’s where the eucalyptus branch came from, too. I laced the mantel with these copper string lights. They are the best! The delicate LEDs put off a warm white glow and the copper wire can be easily manipulated. Unlike traditional string lights, they’re barely noticeable when not lit. I can see myself using these throughout the holiday season.

halloween mantel 2

I sprinkled in a few paper maché skulls. I bought them for pennies at Michael’s several years ago during one of their post-Halloween sales and they’ve been stashed in the attic ever since. I’m very proud of myself for remembering to bust them out this year. FINALLY.

spiders

Likewise, I scored these window decals during a post-Halloween sale a while back when we were living in our previous house. They were originally two large window-sized poster decals but the size and shape were all wrong for our current home’s windows so I cut the spiders out from the background. I wasn’t sure how well the spiders alone would stick to the window. I used a damp rag to wet the window first to help with adhesion. So far, so good. I may end up laminating the spiders after this season to protect them. (You could easily DIY something similar with a little black craft paper or poster board. I was just trying to use what I had on hand.)

And now for some nighttime pictures because that’s always fun…

ghost lights 4

spiders 2

spiders 3

Ah, the ol’ spider in the lampshade trick. It’s a classic. There’s also a little spider in one of the windows on the front door that I failed to photograph. Have I mentioned Steve is terrified of spiders?

Anyway, I threw all this together one day last week while the boys were at school. It was fun to see their reactions when they came home. They were so surprised! Everett’s favorites are the ghost lights. Layne likes the bats and skulls. I like the fact that I can reuse almost everything.

What are some of the ways you decorate for Halloween? I need to up my game for next year.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

modern shed and playhouse 1

Today I’m sharing two more golden nuggets from our friends’ home: a modern shed and playhouse nestled in a corner of the backyard. James designed and built both structures on his own. (If you haven’t noticed by now, his craftsmanship is impeccable.) The outbuildings are covered in 12″ HardiePlank lap siding, a fiber cement product known for its beauty, strength and durability. The planks are meant to be lapped over each other but James installed them flush for a simpler, sleeker look.

modern shed 1

Since James uses the attached garage to work on client projects, the family needed a separate space to store tools and equipment for lawn maintenance and gardening. A wood ramp allows James to wheel out the lawnmower easily. I wasn’t able to snap a shot of the shed’s interior, but the walls are lined with leftover walnut paneling from the home’s interior renovation. (It’s the same paneling that wraps the pony wall as seen here.) It’s the most attractive shed interior I’ve ever seen.

modern shed 2

The exterior is painted a rich chocolate brown. Colored acrylic windows (from TAP Plastics) are a surprising and fun feature.

modern playhouse 1

Many elements are repeated in the playhouse for cohesion: chocolate brown HardiePlank siding, colored acrylic windows and a mono-pitched roof. The door is painted the same turquoise as the home’s front door. Large outdoor playthings are stored underneath the raised structure and concealed by timber slats. A small deck cantilevers off the front of the playhouse supporting a staircase on one end and a slide on the other.

modern playhouse 4

A series of five small acrylic windows in orange and blue tie in to the shed’s colored windows.

modern playhouse 3

The interior is outfitted with interlocking foam floor tiles, a chalkboard wall, a small picnic table and a toy box. A niche in the chalkboard wall (not shown) provides a convenient spot for storing a bucket of chalk.

modern playhouse 5

modern playhouse 6

modern playhouse and shed 2

modern playhouse 2

The modern designs of the shed and playhouse fit the family’s midcentury home so well. James and Kristina have a knack for incorporating their style into everything they do. When you visit their home, you experience the different spaces – inside and out – as parts of a bigger whole. The spaces flow into one another with ease thanks in part to deliberate, consistent design. I love that.

So what do you think? What’s your favorite aspect of the shed and / or playhouse? Obviously, my kids are big fans of the slide ;)

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

reclaimed shelves 2

I received an email from a reader a few weeks ago asking for help tracking down unfinished boards to fit Ikea’s BJÄRNUM brackets. (You may recall we fitted the brackets with reclaimed fence boards to create open shelving in the kitchen.) The brackets are meant to support 1″ thick, 11″ deep boards. Unfortunately, the “common” boards carried by most big box home improvement stores aren’t actually 1″ thick – even though they’re labeled as such. So annoying!

Anyway, I’m afraid I wasn’t much help. I advised the reader to scope out craigslist or other secondhand sources for reclaimed boards that could be cut to size. (We cut our fence boards so that the ends taper into the brackets.) A little while later I received a followup email. The reader had found the perfect unfinished boards at her local home improvement store: stair treads! Ingenious. Sometimes, a little creative thinking leads to materials that are less expensive and / or more unique than blatantly labeled materials.

This renovation trick was on my mind while reading the November issue of Dwell. In the magazine, I came across a few more examples of not-so-obivous material choices.

maple shorts

This modest new build incorporates maple “shorts” as flooring. The cut pieces were left over from previous projects and sold at a discount.

cedar shelves

In this same home, leftover cypress (used elsewhere on the exterior as siding and decking) is incorporated in the kitchen as shelving.

“…you’re using basic things, but you’re using them in new and unique ways.” – Jonathon Kemnitzer, designer

marble thresholds as bathroom tile

I spotted another clever use of material in this bathroom. The “tiles” are actually 6″ wide marble thresholds that have been cut to length to cover the floor and shower walls.

“This is considered junk stone in the interior design world but we saw something really handsome in it.” – Paul Syme, architect

I love the idea of thinking outside the box when it comes to building materials. As I mentioned, we repurposed reclaimed fence boards as kitchen shelving. We’ve also created outdoor art using wood salvaged from our home’s attic, and we recently constructed a tub cradle base from an old beam. Have you made not-so-obvious material choices in your own home?

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2 & 3) Kem Studio 4) Nathan Dykstra

 

modern family laundry 1

modern family laundry 5

James and Kristina‘s laundry room is less of a room and more of a hallway that runs between the kitchen and garage.

modern family laundry before

The original laundry room consisted of nothing more than a washer and dryer. James and Kristina were looking to add storage without adding square footage.

modern family laundry

So they built up! James created a platform for a front-loading washer and dryer and took advantage of wall space by installing horizontal wall cabinets from Ikea. (They are a nod to similar cabinets above the kitchen sink.) A laminate countertop provides a surface for laundry detergent and grab-n-go early morning coffee. Keeping the coffee maker in the laundry room frees up counter space in the minimal kitchen.

modern family laundry 4

Kristina is a hair stylist for friends and family and works out of the house so a separate utility sink for washing and rinsing clients’ hair is a must-have. Food and water bowls for the family’s two dogs sit at the base of the sink cabinet. The entire space is tiled in the same porcelain tile as the entry, dining area and kitchen. (Sock feet photobomb.) The wall color is Behr ocean pearl, the same color used in the entry and family room.

It just goes to show that a laundry room needn’t be big (or even a room) to be tidy and functional. I’m especially inspired by how the space flows so well with the rest of the house due to repeated elements like the horizontal wall cabinets, floor tile and paint color. Way to work with whatcha got!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking