...because home doesn't happen overnight.


More than half of the Airbnb homes we’ve stayed in boast IKEA kitchens. It’s not something I specifically look for in a vacation rental (I swear!), but I do get a little giddy the first time I open a drawer and make the discovery. I love seeing how other homeowners use IKEA cabinets within the context of their own homes. I think IKEA kitchens are becoming so popular because they’re affordable, efficient and customizable, and the drawer hardware holds up to daily abuse.

The Toronto house we stayed in utilized IKEA cabinets alongside other elements to create a rustic modern aesthetic. I thought I’d share it with you because, at first glance, the space doesn’t read IKEA. It feels lived in and exudes the same cozy vibe as the rest of the home. Keep reading to see some of the defining features.


Sleek cabinets + concrete countertops + wood floors

White, flat panel cabinets in a high gloss finish (IKEA RINGHULT) are topped with matte concrete countertops for contrast. The concrete wasn’t perfectly mixed or polished on purpose. Pits and color variations give the inexpensive material the look of pricier natural stone. The rawness of the concrete contributes to the rustic look. Pine planks ground the space and give off a pretty golden glow.


Minimal brass hardware

Solid brass edge pulls offer a clean design of a quality material. In line with the lived-in vibe of the house, the un-lacquered brass has taken on a patina over time. These particular pulls hail from Upper Canada Specialty Hardware, but Rejuvenation sells similar ones here.


Tiled walls

Taking the subway tile to the ceiling is a popular, contemporary installation of a classic material. Here, it adds another layer and texture to the utilitarian space. Fortunately, white 3″ x 6″ subway tile can be found for cheap at most home improvement stores.


Wood shelves

Forgoing upper cabinets on one half of the room gives the kitchen a lighter, airier feel. Thoughtfully placed reclaimed wood shelves in various lengths bring warmth to the tiled walls. A haphazard display of handmade mugs and cooking essentials feels casual and homey.


Open cubbies above wall cabinets

On the other half of the kitchen, a row of open cubbies fits snugly between upper cabinets and the ceiling. (Here, the cubbies were created by simply using horizontal IKEA wall cabinets in a wood lookalike finish – similar to this – and opting out of door fronts.) The cubbies break up the wall of cabinetry and make use of otherwise wasted space. The overall look is tidy and modern. The homeowners use the clever cubbies to stash their cookbook collection and less frequently used items.


A freestanding, antique island

An old farmhouse island takes center stage in the middle of the room. The worn wood top and rusted metal base give the new kitchen a sense of history while also providing extra prep and storage space. The drawers hold kitchen linens, and the bottom shelf keeps mixing bowls and a pair of colorful dutch ovens within easy reach.


A pot rack

An overhead pot rack makes use of vertical space above the island. The hanging pots and pans are reminiscent of a chandelier, reflecting light and the warmth of the wood-topped island below. The homeowners thrifted this rack, but you can find similar black, rectangular versions online.


Vintage rugs

Vintage rugs in saturated hues add color and pattern to the mostly white space and feel soft and warm underfoot. The rugs shown here are family hand-me-downs, so not only do they look great, they tell yet another story. Try searching “vintage rug” or “persian rug” on eBay or etsy.



What do you love most about this kitchen? I don’t think I can pick just one thing! I love the mix of old and new and all the contrasting materials. In person, I loved the patina of the concrete countertops, brass pulls and industrial island against the shiny, modern cabinets. (When we returned home, I may have trolled Craigslist looking for crusty, industrial metal legs to add a butcher block top to.) The pine floors were so handsome in real life, scratches and all. Even though the kitchen is probably the hardest working room in this house, the entire space felt really warm and inviting. It was obvious the family who lives here actually lives here. Which is the point, right?

P.S. – See more of this beautiful home right here. Read about our family trip to Toronto here.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

I may not be in need of new lighting, textiles and home decor for my own home, but I still like to browse online to see what’s out there in case a friend or client asks for help. Sometimes just making a wish list curbs unnecessary impulse buys, too. I happened to be clicking through the sale section at Urban Outfitters and came across a slew of goodies that caught my eye. Maybe you’d like to see? All items are currently on sale with free shipping through Labor Day!



images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

IKEA dresser bench 1

The nursery version of Mabrey’s room featured an IKEA EXPEDIT (now discontinued) which served as a dresser/changing table. A mix of woven baskets and fabric bins held everything from clothing to diapering essentials to random toys. I added an extra long contoured changing pad to the top to give it yet another purpose. It served the nursery well, but as Mabrey grew so did her clothes. Eventually, the baskets couldn’t contain her wardrobe. They were overflowing and, more often than not, I would find them pulled out from the shelving unit. It was not a tidy look, and it wasn’t working for our current situation. (Not to mention, Mabrey hasn’t needed a diaper change for more than two years.) It was clear that we had outgrown the EXPEDIT, but it lived with us for nearly a decade as a living room console, playroom storage and media stand in previous residences. It had a good, long, multipurpose life. We got our money’s worth and then some. It was time to pass it on to someone else.

When I started searching for an upgrade, I knew I wanted another versatile piece that would stand the test of time and maybe even a few moves. Actual drawers were absolutely necessary! On a trip to IKEA earlier this year, I spotted a NORDLI dresser on display and was impressed with the customization options, soft-closing drawers and affordable price. After taking some measurements, I settled on the four-drawer NORDLI dresser.

IKEA dresser bench 3

It was easy enough to assemble and anchor to the wall. I took me maybe an hour and a half? The scale is spot-on! The length fits the wall opposite Mabrey’s bed perfectly. The drawers are wide and roomy, yet the 17″ depth is shallow enough to keep the middle of the room open for play.

IKEA dresser bench 6

Real drawers that open and close! Such a novel idea. The drawer hardware runs smoothly and the soft-closing dampers are every parent’s dream. Three of the drawers hold clothing. The fourth holds puzzles and a magnetic doll dress-up set.

IKEA dresser bench 7

I love the HÖFTA drawer dividers! They’re super handy for divvying up drawer space and organizing smaller items like socks, underwear, pajamas and costume accessories. Mabrey knows where to find everything, and everything has a designated spot to return to after washing.

IKEA dresser bench 5

IKEA dresser bench 2

The low-slung design reminds me of a bench, so I made a custom cushion for the top. I loosely followed this tutorial to sew the cushion which features french mattress seams for added interest and a casual vibe. I decided not to add tufts to the top because the cushion is so narrow and I thought tufts + patterned fabric might be too busy/formal. (Also, I’m lazy.) It’s worth noting that this is NOT a removable cover. We don’t allow food, drinks or art supplies in the kids’ bedrooms, so it shouldn’t be an issue. Even so, I’m no stranger to a little spot cleaning.

IKEA dresser bench 4

Sewing a french mattress cover is definitely more time consuming than making a basic boxed cushion cover. This took me the good part of a day, and my fingertips were numb for another two days. But I’m so happy with the result! It felt good to bust out the ol’ sewing machine. We have somewhat of an on-again-off-again relationship.

IKEA dresser bench 8

Adding the cushion added another function to the dresser. It makes for the coziest, pint-sized reading spot. (Cheetah loves curling up on it, too.) I love multipurpose pieces like this! Especially in tight spaces where square footage is at a premium. With a removable slipcover made from outdoor fabric, I could see this dresser-bench combo working just as well in an entry or mudroom – even a breakfast nook. With so many customization options available, the possibilities are endless.

IKEA dresser bench 9

I love finding affordable, quality pieces like this at IKEA. Too often, I think consumers wrongly equate quality with a big price tag only. When I think about quality, I consider design, materials, function, versatility, longevity and price. A piece that looks great, works well, serves multiple purposes for different rooms and/or different life stages doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Bonus points for possible customization and personalization! For instance, the BEKVÄM kitchen cart is solid, unfinished wood and begging for a DIY stain or paint job. I’d use it in a small kitchen as a bar cart or extra prep space, in a bathroom as added linen storage or in a craft room to corral art supplies. And it’s $60!

Do you have a favorite multipurpose IKEA piece?

P.S. – Stay tuned for a full tour of Mabrey’s big girl room along with a complete source list!

*I am a brand ambassadör for IKEA. This post sponsored in part by IKEA. I received product and payment for this collaboration. IKEA is a registered trademark of Inter IKEA Systems B.V. and is used with permission. The views, ideas and opinions expressed here are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking