...because home doesn't happen overnight.

moody luxe 5

When I started this blog my family was living in a builder spec home. The finishes were cheap and I was doing my best to put my stamp on things. I turned to the internet for inspiration but was disappointed in what I found. Most looks weren’t achievable in our house. We had nondescript carpet and vinyl flooring – not hardwoods. There were no particularly alluring architectural features. We also had practical things like ceiling fans and light-filtering window shades. Tweaking that house taught us many things. Eventually, we came to value quality over quantity which prompted our downsizing adventure. But it also taught us that you don’t have to wait until bigger, future projects (i.e., installing new flooring) are completed to start making little changes that better reflect your preferred aesthetic.

“Nothing you do for your home is ever wasted.” – Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan for Apartment Therapy

We never did install new flooring in our previous home. But we did paint the walls & kitchen cabinets, install new countertops & a backsplash, experiment with furnishings and hang curtains & artwork. By the time we moved, the space definitely felt more like us than it had when we moved in.

All that to say, you don’t have to wait until you can do everything to do something.

And that’s what this makeover is all about. My clients moved into their home less than six months ago. They would love to upgrade the flooring, redo the kitchen, install statement light fixtures, fully furnish each room and improve the bathrooms but, as with most newly acquired houses, those things just aren’t in the budget right now. Instead, they’re tackling smaller projects as time and money allow, injecting their sense of style as they go. So far, they’ve painted nearly every room in the house and I recently helped them revamp the master bedroom. (You can read about my plans for the space and see a mood board here.) It’s a real room with carpet, blinds, a ceiling fan and even a TV. I hope it inspires you to do something.


arhaus bedroom before 1




arhaus bedroom before 2



We made a lot of changes but, in my opinion, rotating the bed, painting the walls a deep charcoal and bringing in mismatched furniture were the game-changers.

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Relocating the bed to a blank wall makes it a natural focal point and lets more light pour in through the windows. The tufted headboard makes a grand statement. I love how the sides turn in for an intimate effect. So cozy!

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My client’s style is decidedly more luxurious than my own. When she requested sequins, I cringed a little. But this Moroccan wedding blanket was the perfect solution. It jingles ever so lightly! I wanted to take it home with me. I searched high and low for a vintage one that was large enough to fit the king bed but not a bazillion dollars. I kept the rest of the bedding simple with a linen duvet and lumbar pillow. The bordered euro shams are a nice detail and tie in to the khaki stripes on the Moroccan blanket.

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Patterned sheets are a fun surprise when the duvet is pulled back.

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X-based campaign-style nightstands pop against the moody walls. The geometric lines contrast with the headboard’s curves. I LOVE the lamps. They’re oversized to match the scale of the headboard. Anything smaller would have been dwarfed. The wood bases warm up the white nightstands and bedding.

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I turned to one of my favorite artists, Clare Elsaesser, to fill the void between the windows. I’ve always loved her work. The rich color combinations, tangled poses and fluid brush strokes create a dream-like quality making her pieces ideal for a bedroom. I framed the large print in a poster frame spray painted gold to match the curtain rods (also spray painted gold). At the eleventh hour, I decided to add black ribbon trim to the leading edges of the curtains for a little drama. It was more work but not expensive and totally worth it.

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I think a TV in the bedroom is a personal choice and my clients choose to have one in theirs. To make it less conspicuous, we mounted it on the wall above one of the vintage dressers I rehabbed. (The dark walls go a long way in hiding the TV, too.) An accordion-like bracket allows the screen to be angled toward the bed for easier viewing.

I was the teensiest bit apprehensive about the dressers. I absolutely LOVE how they turned out and knew they would look great in the space. However, when I met with my client initially, she told me she didn’t like gold and preferred “rustic” furniture pieces. The minute she saw them, she was sold – on the gold and the midcentury style. I was so glad because the clean lines and warm wood tones were very much needed in the space. I made her a believer! (Her husband loves them, too, but I knew he would.)

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The feather finish tops were a hit, too.

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I brought in a bench and mirror for easy dressing and quick once-overs. (A hallway leading to his and hers closets is located just to the left of the bench.) The mirror actually came with the dresser I used in my boys’ room. I had no use for it but hung on to it because it’s a solid piece. It finally found a home! At night, the Moroccan blanket can be folded up and placed on the bench.

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My client had her heart set on a chaise for the adjacent sitting area. She imagined it as a quiet space for lounging with a book and / or a glass of wine.

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A metal accent table picks up on other gold details in the room and provides a surface for reading material and a drink. Layered textiles create a relaxed vibe. The kilim pillow repeats the color scheme of the artwork in the sleeping area. The hanging planter fills vertical space and adds life to the vignette. We treated the two smaller windows as one large one (one curtain rod, two curtain panels) to make the space feel lighter and brighter.

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I paired the other dresser with black and white abstract art to give the sitting area a modern edge.

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The best part? My clients absolutely love the room. I can’t tell you how good it feels to witness people go from detesting a living space to not wanting to leave it. I’m so grateful they allowed me to put my spin on things. Not everyone is willing to go dark or try things outside of their comfort zone, but they were game. Thanks Maggie & Jeremy!

Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore kendall charcoal, color-matched in Valspar Reserve
ceiling fan – Amazon
headboard – Mariah headboard in taft pewter, Arhaus*
Moroccan wedding blanket – etsy
linen duvet, lumbar pillow – Ikea
euro shams – Ralph Lauren in polished bronze, Macy’s
sheets – Target
nightstands – Overstock
wood lamps – Lamps Plus
ring holder – Target
curtain rods – Amazon (spray painted gold with Rustoleum Universal pure gold)
curtains – Ikea
black ribbon trim – Amazon
large print – “Unclasped” by Clare Elsaesser, etsy
poster frame – Amazon (spray painted gold with Rustoleum Universal pure gold)
dressers – vintage, DIY
pierced hurricane candleholders – Target
woven basket – Target
bench – Overstock
mirror – vintage
chaise – Audrey chaise in tumble natural, Arhaus*
black and white abstract art & wood frames – Minted*
jute plant hanger – Amazon
olive throw – Overstock
kilim pillow – etsy
metal side table – Urban Outfitters
hide & sheepskin rugs – Ikea
task lamp – Ikea
ivy planter – thrifted

*Denotes items provided specifically for this project. This is NOT a sponsored post but I would like to thank Arhaus and Minted for providing the items listed above. I am grateful to be in a unique position to pass along quality products to my clients to help stretch their budgets. You can see more pictures of this space and read my tips for creating a beautiful bedroom over on Arhaus’s blog, Greenhaus.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

DIY dresser top after 3

I recently wrapped up a bedroom makeover for a client. One of the biggest problems with the previous setup was matching furniture. The bed, nightstands, dresser and chest of drawers all matched each other which made the room feel generic. To shake things up I brought in a new headboard and new (non-matching) nightstands along with a pair of vintage dressers. I really love the look of this West Elm dresser and think it would have worked beautifully in the space, but it just wasn’t in the budget. Instead, I sourced a pair of midcentury dressers from craigslist. For $45. Total.

dresser before 1

dresser before 2

The pieces were solid and I liked the straight lines and wood tone, but the laminate tops were down right fugly.

dresser before 3

They didn’t even come close to looking like real wood.

dresser hardware before

And I loved the shape of the pulls but they were badly scratched and brass-plated. They were too brassy for even a gold-lovin’ gal like myself.

I could see the potential though and for $45 the price was right. I figured I could spray paint the hardware. Easy. Inexpensive. Done.

For the tops, I considered switching out the laminate for marble but when I looked into having remnants fabricated the cost was >$500! Immediately, I thought of Ardex feather finish to give the laminate tops a stone-like appearance for cheap. But I really didn’t want a gray concrete finish. So I was thrilled to discover that Ardex is now available in white! The only problem was I couldn’t locate a supplier nearby. I finally found an online source (see the link above) that was able to ship a bag of the white to me from the west coast. Yes! It was a little pricier than grabbing a bag of the gray on Amazon ($32). I think with shipping + taxes I ended up shelling out $47 for the white. Still, it was way more affordable than marble.

When I finally had the white feather finish in hand, I set to work revamping the dresser tops.

DIY dresser tops

1 – I sanded the laminate with a medium sanding block to scuff it up. Then I wiped it down with a damp rag and let it dry. I didn’t tape off the dresser but I did remove the top drawers from each dresser.

2 – I gathered supplies for mixing and applying the Ardex. I used a small-medium glass bowl and 2″ & 4″ putty knives.

3 – I mixed the Ardex as directed, 2 parts powder : 1 part water. The mixture starts setting 20 minutes after mixing so I mixed small batches – 1 cup powder : ½ cup water. (After the first layer, I changed the ratio just a little for a creamier mixture and easier application. Keep reading to see that.)

4 – I spread the mixture on the dresser tops with the putty knives. The 4″ worked great for the tops and the 2″ gave me more control on the edges. I also found it helpful to use my finger on the edges for a smoother application. I applied the feather finish in the direction of the faux wood grain because I wanted any residual knife strokes to run the same way (lengthwise) along the dresser top for a cleaner look.

DIY dresser top 2

There’s always that moment during any DIY project where I think, “What have I done?!” For this project, it was right after I applied the first layer. It literally looked like I had frosted the dresser. Gulp. I let it cure overnight then came back the next day and sanded the first layer with an orbital sander. (I ended up applying three layers and worked my way from 150 grit to 320 grit sanding discs.)

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I used the 2″ putty knife to scrape off random bumps from the bottom edge for a nice clean line.

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After the first round of sanding, things were looking smoother and I was feeling better about my decision to frost the dressers :) If you look closely, you can see areas of laminate showing through on the edges. Not to worry, they were eventually covered by subsequent layers.

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I shop-vac’d and wiped down the sanded top then applied a second layer as seen above. For the second and third layers, I added a tiny bit more water (maybe two teaspoons?) for a creamier mixture. For me, it was easier to work with. It allowed me to spread on smoother layers with less ridges and bumps. I was worried that a thicker mixture would result in a more “rustic” look – something I wanted to avoid.

I let each layer cure overnight then sanded them with the orbital sander the following day. After applying and sanding three layers, I was satisfied with the appearance.

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5 – I raided the garage and found some concrete and driveway sealer in a matte finish.

6 – I only brushed on one coat of sealer since these are dresser tops. If the feather finish was going in a kitchen or bathroom, I would have done at least two coats of sealer. The sealer goes on clear and darkens the feather finish but, when dry, it’s not noticeable.

7 – With the tops done, I turned my attention to the bodies of the dressers. I wiped them down with Bona then used an old t-shirt rag to wipe on Restor-A-Finish in walnut. I’ve used Restor-A-finish before and I’m still amazed by its awesomeness. It’s like an airbrush for wood. I think the walnut color helps tone down orange-y finishes.

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The finished dressers! I spray painted the pulls with paint I already had on hand. One of the most frequent questions I get is “What kind of gold spray paint do you use?” I like Rustoleum Universal pure gold metallic for a champagne / antique brass finish. (That’s what I used here.) I like Design Master 24K pure gold for a truer gold finish. I usually have a can of each on hand.

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I’m super happy with the white feather finish tops. Everyone who sees them can’t help but pet them. They look like natural stone minus the veining. They remind me of light limestone or white slate. From far away, they definitely read white but up close there are light gray shadows which I love. They’re smooth to the touch but have an organic texture. I’m glad I went with a matte sealer versus gloss to keep the look natural.

Here’s a peek at them in my client’s space…

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DIY dresser top after 2

She LOVES them. I can’t personally attest to how the feather finish holds up in a kitchen or bathroom (I’ve heard oils stain it) but these dressers easily withstood a long, bumpy ride and loads of (wo)manhandling before landing in their new home. I would say their hardness is similar to that of real concrete.

Two midcentury dressers for ~$90? Not too bad. With a limitless budget, I would have never bought these dressers or tried the feather finish. Instead, I was forced to think outside the box and ended up with two crazy affordable, unique pieces. And that’s why I love budgets and DIY. You get one-of-a-kind results.

Have you ever tried Ardex feather finish? Would you? Seriously, if you can ice a cupcake, you can do this. Just think of all the laminate you could hide! Haha. I would definitely use it again. Which is good considering I have nearly a full bag leftover from this project.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

06.15.15 / Liked & Linked

studio floor paint

dresser rehab

Last week Mabrey helped me choose a paint color for the studio floor. Don’t get me wrong. I love concrete floors but these are badly stained, cracked, crumbling, etc. If paying someone to fix and polish them didn’t cost an arm and a leg, I would totally do it. But, alas, it seems the going rate for finished concrete floors is one arm plus one leg. So a few gallons of porch and floor paint it is! I literally threw a bunch of swatches on the ground then we walked all over them. I picked the one that showed our dirty footprints the least.

I also finished rehabbing a pair of vintage dressers for a client. Fancy new dressers weren’t in the budget so I found a matching midcentury pair via craigslist for $45. The tops were fugly laminate and I used Ardex feather finish to give them a new look. I’ll be sharing the tutorial and before-and-afters later this week. It was a really fun project.

More fun stuff…

*Real estate finds: I want to show it some love. I want to save it.

*A dreamy marbled duvet.

*Browsing Remodelista’s considered design awards. (You must check out the amateur garage-turned-kitchen by Jo Flavell under the “Amateur – best kitchen space” tab. So mooooody.)

insieme house

*I have two new instagram crushes: Gray Benko and Insieme House. One makes me laugh and the other makes me want to buy a teeny A-frame ASAP.

*I just finished reading this book and now Steve is reading it. The tiny house lifestyle really appeals to me. I’ve all but decided that when we’re empty nesters we’ll have a tiny house. Steve says okay as long as he gets a big workshop.

*Steve has been dropping hints as to what he wants for Father’s Day. It’s either a food processor or a BBQ Dragon.

Happy Monday!

images: 1 & 2) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 3) Insieme House