...because home doesn't happen overnight.

The weather was so nice this past weekend that I just had to tackle an outdoor project. It meant skimping on the kid / guest bathroom but it was totally worth it. My skin hasn’t felt warm sunshine in six months! So while the kids rode their bikes and played with neighbor-friends, I set to work scraping, sanding and painting our decrepit garage door.

We plan to replace the garage door all together within the next year but I couldn’t stand it’s peeling paint any longer. (You can see images of the original door here.) And I needed an excuse to be outside. I have a hard time being anywhere…I always have to be doing something. #busybody It’s something I need to work on. Can you relate? Tangent aside, I’ve mentioned painting the garage door several times to Steve but his response was always the same.

I don’t think it’s worth the hassle since we’re going to replace it eventually.

Guess what. It was worth the hassle.

stopgap garage door 1

I used an old school Red Devil paint scraper (similar to this newer one) to remove the peeling paint. It worked well but the garage door’s humble state became even more apparent once the paint was removed. The door’s frame is wood but the recessed panels are made of fiber board or the like. When I scraped the paint from the panels, I was left with a cardboard-like surface. Cardboard garage doors aren’t big sellers for obvious reasons. Sections of wood are splintering at the bottom of the door. So, yeah, our garage door is on its last leg but at least it’s going out with grace.

After scraping, I hit up the paint store for a few paint samples.

stopgap garage door 2

I grabbed Benjamin Moore’s Steel Wool and Secret thinking they would pick up on the metal roof. (The photo above was taken after Steve went over the door and sample paint patches with an orbital sander.) Perfectly matching the roof is difficult because it reflects the sky and sun so it looks completely different on a cloudy, gray day than it does on a bright, sunny one with blue skies. At any rate, we chose Secret and bought two quarts of exterior paint from the Ben line to cover the door and our mailbox post which was looking rough, too.

The highlighted circles show where Steve and I spent an hour trying to scrape who-knows-how-old paint from the windows. I tried a razor blade, Goo Gone, fingernail polish remover…nothing worked well. We like the idea of garage door windows and wanted to reveal them. But after discovering how long it would to take to de-paint them and reminding ourselves that this was meant to be a quick and inexpensive temporary solution we opted to forget them and save days of our lives. (The interior side of the windows are painted as well so that would have doubled our work time.) Why someone would ever paint over perfectly good windows, I’ll never know (I’m guessing it was done out of fear of Peeping Toms or burglars) but we vow to buy a new garage door with windows when the time comes.

With the paint color selected and the decision made to keep the windows painted, I vacuumed the door and the paint chip-covered ground with the Shop-Vac. I wiped the door down with a wet cloth, let it dry then applied two coats of exterior paint in a low luster finish. I didn’t worry about primer. Again, STOPGAP. I also hit up the mailbox post (not shown) with the same taupe-gray as the door and brushed on two coats of white paint on the trim around the garage door.

stopgap garage door 3

I’m not 100% sold on the color of the finished door but it looks so much better. Steve and I joked that even a green door would have been an improvement. Steve also happily pointed out that the new color perfectly matches the DirectTV satellite. If you take away anything from this post let it be that Benjamin Moore Secret = DirectTV satellite gray. Haha. The safe thing would have been to go with white to match the trim but since we know this door isn’t staying forever we thought we’d try a color. I don’t know? I do think it would look better with windows. And don’t get me started on that awkward vinyl trim above the door. It’s so odd.

stopgap garage door 4

Admittedly, there was an ulterior motive for my madness. We’re scheduled to have our cracked asphalt driveway replaced with concrete in the coming weeks. I couldn’t stand the thought of having a nice, new driveway leading to a sad, peeling garage door. I have never been so excited about a driveway before in my life! We have saved our pennies for this. It always been on the renovation list.

As is, there is no “clean” way to reach our house. There’s a gap between the driveway and front walk. There’s a large piece of trodden yard separating the end of the driveway from the back patio where we enter the mudroom. And entering through the garage itself is a disaster and probably unsafe. The new driveway will be widened to meet the front walk and lengthened at the back of the house. We will add large square pavers with creeping Jenny in between them to meet the back dining patio. You don’t know how happy I am at the prospect of having (not one but) two paved ways to enter the house! Right now the majority of dirt in my house comes from dirty / muddy shoes walking up through the yard.

The driveway itself hold rocks, dirt, water and mud in all the cracks and low spots. It will be ripped out and excavated to make way for a wider and longer driveway. Concrete is our material of choice for its sustainability. It’s more expensive up front but will last longer and requires less maintenance than asphalt. Plus, we think it just looks better when driveways match their home’s walks and patios. Having a new driveway is really going to improve our home’s curb appeal. Our neighbors are going to be relieved. For two years, I’ve been cringing when I pull up to our house just because of the driveway. It’s baaaaaad.

stopgap garage door 5

So that’s how I spent my weekend in the warm weather. If you ask me, it was worth the $30 in supplies and two half-days of labor. The garage door is definitely looking better but I’d love to know your thoughts on the future door’s style and possible colors. White? A bluer gray that more closely matches the roof and decking? Also, what happens to that odd vinyl trim piece? Sometimes a third-party eye is better at this stuff.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

dollhouse 1

My grandpa made a dollhouse for me when I was three or four years old. It wasn’t your typical dollhouse. It was constructed of leftover real house materials (think steel framing, indoor-outdoor carpeting, parquet floors, etc.) and it was HUGE. At the time, I would use the sloped roof as a slide and my baby brother would crawl through the house width-wise as if it were a tunnel. Imagine my frustration every time he came barreling through Barbie’s living room! I blame credit my grandpa and that amazing dollhouse for instilling in me early a love of all things home.

So, naturally, I wanted to brainwash Mabrey in the same way. However, I’m not quite as resourceful or energetic as my grandpa. (He’s 78 now and still has more energy than me.) And our space doesn’t really allow for a ginormous dollhouse. I opted for a modest, off-the-shelf dollhouse that I could put my stamp on instead.

dollhouse 4

The original orange and blue color scheme wasn’t doing it for me so I grabbed leftover black and white paint from our garage and doctored the heck out of the dollhouse. You can read more about my tweaks here but basically I painted the roof, shutters and front door to achieve a neutral color scheme. The paint contained a built-in primer which negated extra steps. I even stained the floor boards for warmth and contrast because kids think about those things when they’re playing, you know. KIDDING. The materials for my tweaks were all leftover from real life renovations so they didn’t cost me a dime – just a little time and patience. I completed all the tweaks before assembling the house.

dollhouse 8

I painted the bathroom white and spray painted the fixtures gold. Every dollhouse needs a gold toilet lid!

dollhouse 6

I painted the kitchen doors and drawers black. It resembles our real kitchen which Layne and Everett immediately picked up on.

dollhouse 5

Other family members pitched in and gifted Mabrey a dining set and nursery furniture. As soon as it’s spray painting season, I think the dining settee and chairs will get a glossy red makeover.

dollhouse 11

The dolls were a gift from grandparents. They are handcrafted and super easy for Mabrey to manipulate. They are too cute and add fun splashes of color to the neutral house. Each doll has its name hand painted on the bottom which gives them fun little personalities.

dollhouse collage 1

The best feature about the house is its versatility. The doors, windows, stairs, partitions and balcony can be easily moved around should boredom strike. Kids can experiment with different arrangements. I’ve found the bathtub in the kitchen and the toilet on the balcony (!) after Mabrey’s had her way with the house. But to me, that’s the lure of dollhouses – the freedom to incorporate totally outrageous and impractical ideas without consequence.

dollhouse 2

It was important to me for the dollhouse to fit on the trunk in Mabrey’s room. Her room is small (just shy of 10′x10′) and space is tight. I didn’t want the house taking up precious floor space and I didn’t want a house that would require a larger horizontal surface to rest on. Taking measurements before ordering was essential.

dollhouse 9

The height of the dollhouse on the trunk is perfect for Mabrey. She can stand to play and easily access the house and its contents. Because the house is lightweight and well made, I can move it out to the coffee table in the living room for extended playtime. But, most of the time, the dollhouse lives in the nursery.

dollhouse 10

Mabrey isn’t the only one who enjoys the dollhouse. I’ve caught Layne and Everett playing with it, too. And I may or may not channel my inner four-year-old from time to time. I’m looking forward to adding more accessories over time and watching the dollhouse grow with our family.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

fireplace wall 2

The planked wall framing out the TV is shellac’d and painted!

fireplace wall 8

HH did the shellac’ing. I did the painting. Except for the top five boards. I couldn’t reach them even on a tall ladder! The plank below the TV is removable to access the TV and we painted it separately. For fun, let’s take a look at the evolution of this wall.

fireplace wall collage

The ‘before’ is a picture from the first time we toured the house. The ‘progress’ shot was taken during renovation when the walls and ceiling were demo’d. We removed walls separating the living room, kitchen and dining room to create an open living room / kitchen layout. The ‘after’ was taken today, nearly two years after we started renovations. It’s been a long time comin’. Before, the tall and wide mantel completely overwhelmed the living room. Now, it looks less ominous even though it’s the same size. It’s amazing what raising a ceiling and painting everything white will do for a room.

fireplace wall 1

So, this is where we watch movies, warm ourselves by the fire and generally hang as a family. It’s pretty awesome. Even with the boob speakers. I give HH a hard time about his nerdy love for all things tech-y but, you know what?, it makes him happy so I need to let up. This is a real house, not a show house.

fireplace wall 4

After the paint was dry, HH caulked where the planked wall meets the drywall and ceiling. We did not caulk in between each plank just like we didn’t on the planked ceiling. I think it looks less perfect and more charming that way.

tv frame collage

HH used simple corner trim to frame the TV opening. I was adamant about not wanting chunky or beveled trim. The simpler, the better. HH outfitted the *removable* bottom plank with a mesh speaker screen to allow sound from the two boob speakers under the TV to travel into the room. The screen is paintable and HH painted it to match the tongue and groove. Before he installed the bottom plank, HH placed a piece of wood on either side of the speakers, angled out from the back of the wall, to direct the sound forward. He’s really happy with how the speaker setup turned out and I don’t think it’s hideous so we’re still married.

fireplace wall 5

I’m pretty dang excited about being able to shoot at different angles in this room. For the longest time, I’ve been purposefully shooting around the fireplace wall because it was such an eyesore. Can you spot the Skylander that Mabrey placed on the hearth? She is a funny one. The moment the camera comes out, she sets to work placing the littlest things just so. I guess she thought a gaming figure was missing here?? She dug through our media basket for this particular guy then set him on the hearth. When she stood up she had this look on her face like, “Perfect!” #ministylistintraining

There are still a few trivial things that need to happen before we can officially call this project D-O-N-E. We need to install trim where the mantel and drywall meet and where the floor meets the brick. But we’re so close we can almost taste it.

fireplace wall 6

Also, I wouldn’t mind painting the gas shutoff to the fireplace {seen here as a silver circle on the wall} the same color as the drywall.

fireplace wall 7

So far, we’re really loving the lightness and brightness of the fireplace wall. It could be because we’ve had nothing but snow and gray skies for two weeks. We’re open to changing up the drywall if things start to feel cold or blah. Paint? Grasscloth? But, for now, we’re good. Very, very good.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Two weekends ago HH installed a tongue and groove backsplash in my home workspace {sounds fancy but it’s just a desk area in our kitchen} and this past weekend we shellac’d and painted it. It was a team effort as we traded off between painting and parenting duties but we got ‘er done!

desk paint 1

Don’t you love it when preparation for a painting project only involves a strip of protective paper + painter’s tape and the removal of two outlet covers? I do. Normally, the prep is what I loathe the most but this project was super easy and instantly gratifying.

desk paint 2

We used two coats of Zinsser B-I-N shellac-base primer and two coats of Clark + Kensington’s primer + paint in one, color-matched to Benjamin Moore white dove in a semi-gloss finish. All coats were brushed on. The color is the same as the rest of the trim and planking {ceiling, wainscoting, TV wall} in the house. I didn’t try to match it to the upper cabinets.

desk paint 3

desk paint 4

The plain white outlet covers aren’t such eyesores now and the simple backsplash is the perfect blank canvas for my workspace.

desk paint 6

The upper cabinets feel grounded whereas before they were floating on that big wall. Even without a stool and accessories, the entire space has a more finished look to it. It’s really coming along!

desk paint 5

I’m going to like working here.

By the way, we also knocked out the painting of the TV wall this weekend! We’re just waiting for things to dry thoroughly before we reinstall the removable plank below the TV. I’ll share after pictures later this week but you can catch a glimpse of the *almost* finished product on instagram. Man, I love productive weekends. Being snowed in has its benefits.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking