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IKEA 2017

The 2017 IKEA catalog is out! Have you had a chance to pore over it yet? Each year I share my takeaways and this year is no different. I received my copy last week and finally had a chance to look it over. I made a list of the items and ideas that caught my eye. I thought I would share them with you today. In an effort to avoid ruining the novelty for others, I won’t be sharing photos of each item. I’d love for you to experience the catalog on your own then refer to my list if you feel inclined. If you don’t have a catalog in your hands, you can view it online here. (I’ve linked to most items within the post, but this narrative is really meant to accompany the catalog as some items and ideas aren’t listed online.) Let’s get started!

pg. 10, 11, 196 The NORRARYD dining chair is a modern take on the traditional Windsor chair. I love the scale. (The back isn’t too high.) It comes in three versatile colors: black, white and red.

pg. 24, 25 I love the DIY coffee table idea! The open storage and lower profile make it ideal for smaller and/or open concept spaces. You could stash books, games and toys in the base. I’d love it even more if the crates were reclaimed or vintage. I would get creative with the top. What about butcher block, painted plywood, remnant marble or feather-finish laminate?

pg. 30, 177 You can’t go wrong with a big, inexpensive stockpot like the VARDAGEN.

pg. 56-57 I need to see them in person, but I feel like the TORHAMN cabinet fronts could work well in the right context. (In a modern farmhouse with lots of white? I don’t particularly like how they’re styled in the catalog.) The wood grain might get a little busy, so I’d be inclined to use white open shelving in lieu of upper cabinets. There are a few more new cabinet front styles listed online, but I still think IKEA is missing a huge opportunity by not offering unfinished, paintable options and timeless, classic designs like true shaker fronts.

pg. 66-67, 184 All the heart eyes for an organized pantry, especially the steel IVAR drawers and mini fridge.

pg. 82-83, 252 The transitional style of the MALSJÖ cabinet is so handsome. The recessed brass pulls are my favorite detail making this piece one of my top picks for 2017. I’d use it as a mini home library to corral books and albums or in a dining space to hold serveware, barware and alcohol.

pg. 88, 229 When I designed a nursery for my eldest (twelve years ago!) I used a PÖANG chair instead of a rocker and it worked great. I love the leather upholstery option.

pg. 108-109, 272 I’m all over those shapely FLÅDIS baskets.

pg. 116, 302 The FLISAT children’s series features practical storage in natural wood tones. Mabrey has the wall storage (not shown in the catalog, see it online) in her room.

pg. 124-125, 238 I spy flatwoven rugs made with jute, wool and sisal. They’re great for adding natural texture to any space. Priced affordably, they’re sure to be bestsellers.

boys bedroom after 2

pg. 129 Many of you have asked about the curved ceiling track I used for the boys’ bunk bed enclosure. It was discontinued but it looks like IKEA has improved the design. The new VIDGA series hugs closer to the ceiling and is white to blend in with most ceilings. (The older version sat a few inches off the ceiling and was silver.) A corner track is available to create enclosures and room dividers.

pg. 173 It isn’t new, but the BITTERGURKA plant pot is too cute not to mention. The small scale makes it perfect for growing herbs in the kitchen during cooler months.

pg. 190 I’ve always loved the classic and inexpensive kitchen linens at IKEA. The new VARDAGEN napkins and tablecloth are wonderful additions to the line. I’d use them for everything from everyday family meals to summer picnics to Thanksgiving dinner. So versatile!

pg. 207, 255, 273 I’m drawn to the muted colors and metal detailing of the FJÄLLA boxes. I like them paired with the fabric-covered KVARNVIK boxes for contrast.

pg. 221 The NOCKEBY sectional is good-looking and I like the practicality of a washable cover, but I need to give it a sit in person to determine how comfortable it is. The light beige and light gray upholstery options look promising.

pg. 248 The STILLHET tealight holders are so pretty.

pg. 319 The SLADDA bike is perfect for urban life and sleepy coastal towns. I love all the adorable accessories!

That’s my list. Truthfully, this year’s catalog isn’t my favorite. The staged rooms read a little too catalog, and some of the new things I’m normally excited to see (i.e., large furniture pieces, bedding, pillow covers, lighting, cabinet fronts, etc.) just weren’t there for me. (Although, I’m curious to see the EKBACKEN concrete lookalike laminate countertop in person.) Fortunately, many of my favorites are still available: STOCKHOLM sofa, MÖRBYLÅNGA dining table, the HEKTAR and SINNERLIG pendants, LAXARBY fronts…to name a few. I did appreciate the personal and behind-the-scenes stories woven throughout the catalog. I think it would be great if IKEA could somehow give the catalog more of a lived-in, lifestyle vibe. Maybe shoot even more in actual homes? I get the best ideas when IKEA products are mixed with vintage or bespoke items and shot within a real life scene. I enjoy catalogs that promote ideas alongside items. Just my two cents :)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the newest IKEA catalog. Any favorite pieces?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

kid-friendly home 1

During our stay in Toronto, I kept noticing colorful baskets in various sizes and shapes all over the house. A large basket in the living room held books. A smaller version in the playroom held a toy Viewfinder along with a pile of reels. A tall, slender basket in the master bathroom held magazines. Several baskets in the laundry room held sewing supplies. By the end of the week, I was so smitten with the baskets that I messaged the homeowner about them. She said they were bolga baskets from Ghana. An online search quickly revealed a whole new world of baskets to me. Bolga baskets are on pinterest, etsy, ebay… you name it! Where have I been?

Bolga Baskets

They’re pretty and practical, and you know I’m all over that woven texture. Of course, I had to have one. (Or two.) After some slightly obsessive internet stalking, I discovered affordable options from this online retailer. They offer free shipping on all U.S. orders and are members of the Fair Trade Federation.

bolga basket mudroom

We now have bolga baskets hanging out in our mudroom…

bolga basket living room

…and living room. They’re perfect for corralling shoes, toys, reading material, craft supplies, produce, cats and, oh I don’t know, maybe your 23 Olympic gold medals. They arrive flattened to keep shipping costs down but are easily reshaped with water. I wetted, reshaped and dried mine in the bathtub. Bam! Baskets!

bolga basket kitty

I wasn’t kidding about the cat part.

Did you already know about the bolga basket thing? If so, sorry to bore you, but I was too excited not share! #basketnerd

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

flip house main

Confession: we’ve been trolling house listings since last fall. We knew that once our mortgage was paid off, we wanted to seriously consider potential investment properties. Initially, several scenarios came to mind: 1) Buy another fixer-upper to renovate and live in, and sell our current home for a profit. 2) Buy a rental property and rent it out while living in our current home. 3) Buy another fixer-upper to renovate and sell for a profit while living in our current home. We spent a lot of time studying the local real estate market, researching feasible real estate investment options, running the numbers, talking to realtors and seasoned investors and figuring out exactly what we wanted to gain from our investment. A new home? A sizable, one-time payoff? Steady, long-term additional income? A new experience? A challenge?

We looked at a ton of houses – online and in person. I can’t even make a guesstimate. A TON. We looked at all kinds of properties: foreclosures, short sales, HUDs, for sale by owner, sheriff sales, real estate auctions, old houses, new houses, big houses, little houses, estate sales and plain ol’ houses just, you know, for sale. At one point, we were this close to purchasing a parcel of land in a neighboring city and building an Airbnb first, then eventually adding a home for ourselves, but were stopped short thanks to zoning restrictions and a questionable lien on the property.

We discovered pretty quickly that it was going to take a property with loads of potential at a great price and some proper star alignment to get us to leave our current home. We’ve touched every surface, made it ours and own it outright. It’s the ideal setup for us at this stage in our lives. Plus, I think there’s something to be said for living in a home for a while after the renovation dust settles. So many homeowners move on to bigger and “better” things when their house is done, but we feel like, “What’s wrong with staying put even if it’s not our forever home, our dream house?” In reality, we’re very much enjoying the freedom our home has given us. That’s not to say we wouldn’t be tempted if the right house came along – at the right price, at the right time, in the right location. But, so far, it hasn’t and we don’t see any reason to force it. So we ditched option #1…for now.

Regardless of our living situation, Steve and I have been itching to take on another project. Home improvement is something we both enjoy. It’s a fulfilling outlet for us. We know houses are just things, but we can’t help seeing the potential in even the worst ones. And if we can turn a profit doing something we love, then heck, let’s try it! But not on TV. (Yes, there have been television offers but that’s not us. Props to the people who do it though!)

So as soon as we paid off our mortgage, we took out a home equity line of credit in order to make a cash offer on and renovate a fixer-upper. Mere days after we opened the account, we found the perfect investment property in a highly sought after local neighborhood. I toured it the day it went on the market while Steve was at work. (Scouring new listings had become part of my morning routine.) The minute I stepped in the door, I knew it was the one. Immediately after the showing, I called Steve and we decided to make an offer. We were actually driving up to Michigan for spring break later that evening and communicating with our realtor via phone to put in an offer. Sadly, a few hours later, we learned that there was a clause in the contract requiring owner occupancy for 12 months. Basically, we were required to sign a contract saying the house would be our primary residence for the first year. We had no plans to live in the house, and our realtor advised us against lying due to legal repercussions. So we had to let it go. Even though it was perfect.

Fast forward two months, a nearby dilapidated ranch caught our eye. (Sound familiar?) It was an estate sale to be sold in as-is condition and was located in a township void of pricey city taxes and within an excellent school district. (We had learned from months of research that “as-is” listings can be great investment opportunities.) Steve called our realtor to schedule a showing, but while we were waiting to hear back I noticed the listing had already gone “pending” online. When our realtor called back, we fully expected him to tell us the house was under contract, but instead he said we were good to see it that day.

“It’s listed as pending online. Is that not the case?” we asked.

“No. The listing agent said it’s a mistake. There have been major issues with a new listing database. There’s no contract,” he answered.

We saw the house later that day and made an offer that evening. Our lowball offer was accepted (most likely because we were paying cash, could close quickly and beat other buyers to it thanks to the lucky “pending” slip-up) and…SURPRISE!…we closed on the house last month. Since no liens, loans or in-person sellers were involved, it was the fastest closing ever. It went something like, “Sign here and congratulations.”

Although, the congratulations part felt laughable to us. “Congratulations! You just bought a second house! It needs a ton of work and smells like cat pee!”

As far as plans go, we’ve decided to fix it up and sell it as opposed to rent it out, although both are viable options. If it doesn’t sell (fingers crossed it does), we can always rent it out even though it’s not our first choice. (We’ve learned that we need a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work out.) Why sell? First, if renting the house were our primary goal, many of the improvements we’d like to make wouldn’t happen. Making improvements to appeal to renters is not the same as making improvements to appeal to buyers. Sure, we could go in and clean it up a bit and make a few so-so repairs and rent it out, but that’s not something that sounds too enjoyable or fulfilling to us. We like a good challenge. Second, the house is in the same township we live in, so we’re all for renovating it to maintain (and possibly increase) home values. Finally, we aren’t entirely sure where we’ll be living 10 years from now, and we don’t want to invest in a long-term rental and be responsible for it remotely.

I’m hesitant to call what we’re doing a flip even though, let’s be realistic, that’s what we’re doing. However, we have no plans to install the cheapest granite countertops we can find and slap down a bunch of carpet in a matter of weeks. Yes, one of our goals is to make a profit, but we don’t want to completely sacrifice style in the name of dollar signs. We love the idea of a thoughtfully designed, budget-friendly flip, and we’re fully prepared for it to take a little longer than the average flip. Is there such a thing as a careful real estate turnover? On the other hand, we also realize we’ll have to make some compromises since we’re not renovating the house for ourselves. We’re confident we can find a sweet spot between cheap flip and dream remodel.

I’d like to mention that we chose not to share our plans and house search in detail in real time on the blog because we wanted to be sure our decision wasn’t swayed by outside influences. We really wanted to stay true to ourselves and our personal goals. I hope you understand! The good news is I plan to document our flip experience much like I did our downsizing journey. If anything, we’ll all learn something, right?

So, yeah, we bought a house. It reeks of cat piss. And we couldn’t be more excited. Or scared. House tour coming soon! (Two words: pistachio walls.)

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking