...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Confession: I’ve been holding out on you.

dining progress 1

Earlier this year the dining part of the everything room {for anyone new here…the “everything room” is a mudroom, dining room and laundry room all wrapped together in one hardworking space} was looking rough. It was in that weird middle stage where stuff definitely looks better than pre-renovation but there’s no real style shining through yet. The round table was on loan from family as a space filler. I actually really liked that table but it wasn’t working for the space.

While the pedestal table could extend to seat six, we didn’t have anywhere to store the leaf and opening / closing the table was cumbersome. The room’s size and shape were screaming for something larger and rectangular. I had my eye on this West Elm table for months and months until I saved the money to snatch it up. Then it was on backorder. Then I waited impatiently for shipping confirmation. Then it arrived damaged. Then it was sent back. Then I waited impatiently again for the repaired table. Then it arrived. Then it was perfect. It was totally worth the waiting game.

dining progress 3

The tulip chairs are still here {more on those in a future post…I just dropped the seat cushions off at the upholsterer. My first professional upholstery job!} and I found two wishbone chairs at a local liquidation outlet for the ends of the table. Those wishbone chairs have been on my wish list for years but I could never justify the usual $150-$1,000+ price tag. When I spotted these knockoffs for $70 each, I was sold. They aren’t the most comfortable chairs but they aren’t uncomfortable either. If we’re going to be sitting at the table for a long time {hello, never-ending Monopoly game with kids} we sit in the super comfy tulip chairs. But, my oh my, are the wishbones dreamy! They get moved around a lot. Sometimes they’re in the dining room; sometimes they’re in the living room. I love them no matter where they end up.

dining progress 2

There are a few other changes to share. Maybe you remember me trying out our old cowhide, maybe not. Well, not only did the room need a larger table, a larger rug was in order, too. I found a vintage kilim on etsy from this shop for cheap. You have to look long and hard and haggle to get kilims cheap. Turns out, I’m a great haggler online. Notsomuch in real life. Typically, kilims don’t come in conventional sizes so there’s a lot of measuring going on during kilim searches. Luckily, I was able to find one that fit this room perfectly. I love that it’s “used” and isn’t too precious. Food and dirt happen and I vacuum ‘em up. No fretting.

dining progress 4

I also removed the curtains from the window in between the two Pax wardrobes. Many of you suggested nixing the curtains and you all were right! I was missing out on a ton of natural light with those weirdly placed curtains. I was so worried about the window not being centered {it’s not centered on the wall} between the wardrobes but it’s barely noticeable.

dining progress 8

I donated the petite sofa that used to sit below the window. It was leftover from our McMansion days and I was trying to make it work but it just wasn’t. I found an inexpensive carpenter guy just starting out on craigslist and commissioned him to make this wood bench. I gave him dimensions and an inspiration photo and this is what I got for $125. That price includes sanding, staining and sealing. It’s solid and well built. Sure, HH could have made it for less but he has been so crazy busy at work lately that, most likely, it wouldn’t have happened for a couple of years. I wish I had some Ana White in me but, sadly, I don’t. #thatswhatshesaid I’ve been dying for HH to teach me how to use more power tools but I think he’s secretly scared. The pillows are from an etsy store I’ve mentioned before.

dining progress 5

So the real reason for this post is to share my plans for making this little nook under the window a cozy reading / hangout spot for the kids or, who am I kidding, me. It shouldn’t be too difficult. A pair of sconces and something to corral a stack of books will do.

jonathon adler havana


I kindasorta have my heart set on two of these plug-in sconces.

dining progress 6

Wouldn’t they look lovely mounted to the sides of the wardrobes? We do need more lighting in this part of the room at night. During the day it’s bright but at night the only light sources in the everything room are the chandelier and a lone recessed light over the laundry nook. This side of the room is pretty dim even with those two lights on. I’m justifying the cause here, people.

dining progress 9

Other than taking that little nook up a notch, there isn’t much left to do in this room. I mentioned the tulip chair cushions are being reupholstered. The man door to the garage {not shown} needs painted and trimmed out. I want to add art to some of the empty frames that make up the gallery wall. The wardrobes could use a healthy dose of reorganization. But those are all fairly easy projects. The hardest part is finding the time.

I apologize for not updating you on the everything room until now. I have a tendency to overanalyze blog posts. Do I show one minuscule change or wait for something meatier? Or both? Or somewhere in the middle? Ah, I don’t know. What I do know is this room is easily becoming one of my favorite spaces in our entire house. Yes, I do say this every time improvements are made but I really mean it this time.

I’ll never forget going to The Tile Shop to select floor tile for this room.

“What room will the tile go in?” the salesperson asked, ready to direct me to the correct aisle.

“Oh, it’s a mudroom / laundry room / dining room right off the garage with french doors to the backyard,” I replied nonchalantly as if it were as common as a bathroom.

Awkward silence.

Then, “Honestly, I haven’t seen one of those,” the salesperson admitted, stumped.

Well, now you have.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Our master bedroom has taken a backseat to many other projects.

casual bed 1

We bought nightstands, organized the closet, hung an awkward curvy headboard under the window and pretty much lived with it like that for the past year. But I finally said to HH, “Enough is enough! Time to make this a room we want to sleep in every night.” I’ve slowly been acquiring pieces over the past six months and recently repainted. This past weekend we got around to hanging window treatments and installing new lighting. We’re not done with the room just yet but take a peek.

Clearly, I am still in the process of fine tuning the details {nightstand styling, hemming curtains, adding accessories, etc.} but I am already in love with this room.


It’s so weird. I had envisioned a dark and moody bedroom but somehow I ended up with a calm and airy one. If it had been totally up to me, I would have gone for those dark walls but HH was leery and told me more than once he didn’t want to feel like he was sleeping in a cave. So we went lighter and I’m surprised by how much I like it! The wall color {Benjamin Moore half moon crest} reminds me of a light gray-blue oxford shirt and it’s growing on me. Big time.


We hung a curtain rod above the closet and added four floor-to-ceiling curtains. It’s so nice not to see our jumble of clothes from bed.


The panels easily slide over to give us access to the closet. We thought doors would have been too cumbersome and we like how the curtains balance out the window on the other side of the room. And hanging the curtains high on the wall go a long way in making the room feel bigger.


We hung woven blinds and curtains on the window opposite the closet. The plan is to embellish the plain white curtains {maybe on the closet too?} with ribbon or something. And hem them. Obviously. I always like to wash, dry, iron and hang curtains BEFORE I hem them so I know they aren’t going to shrink up on me.


Ideally, I wouldn’t put my bed under a window unless it was architecturally interesting but we don’t really have a choice in this room. I tried to make the most of it. I looked at a bunch of pictures online of beds in front of windows. Many of them showed curtains falling behind the headboard but they were a little too fussy for me. The images I liked most were of simply dressed windows. So we just hung some woven blinds and called it a day. I like the texture and laid back feel of the shade.

We also switched out the curvy headboard for a straighter one to help the bed “fit” under the window better. I made sure to find one that wouldn’t overlap with the window. We love the original slate windowsills and like showing them off.


Our bedroom receives very little natural light. To keep it bright, good artificial lighting is a must. We added a new ceiling fixture, a table lamp on a dresser on the other side of the room and two swing arm lamps flanking the bed. The swing arm lamps are my favorite pieces in the room and are super functional for two like-to-read-in-bed kinda people. I actually ordered the wall lamps back in January and they’ve been sitting boxed on our dresser up until a few days ago. I was waiting to paint and receive our new headboard before we hung them. There has been a running joke in our bedroom for the past several months…

HH, trying to read his Handyman magazine by the light of a lone lightbulb on the ceiling: Boy, it sure would be nice to have some reading lights in here.

Me: Technically, we do have reading lights in here. They’re just in boxes.


The lamps support up to 75W which is more than enough for nighttime reading. The arm and shade are adjustable but I need to WD40 them. They’re a little stiff. I was this close to ordering the lamps in silver. That was my initial safe choice. But I am so glad I went for the antique brass. They feel so grown up. And I do turn 35 this year. Now if I could only keep my teenaged inappropriate humor under wraps…NAH. Borrrrrrrrring. {In my defense, I did just quell the urge to throw in a “that’s not the only stiff thing in the bedroom” joke. So sorry.}


The room is narrow so I thought horizontal striped bedding would make it feel wider. Plus, I never met a stripe I didn’t like.


I know you guys probably have a bunch of questions about where I got what but, if you don’t mind, I’d rather address those in a true “after” post. Especially since I’ll be adding in more accessories. But if there is something you are just itching to get your hands on, ask in the comments and I’ll be sure to source it for you. I just couldn’t wait any longer to share how things are looking.

In the meantime, I’ll be hanging out in my bedroom tweaking ’til my heart’s content. It’s funny. I used to blaze through this room on the way to the bathroom {the other bathroom is still gutted} and do my nighttime reading in the living room on the sofa but, now, I want to be in this room all. the. time. And it’s not even done.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

You already saw our kitchen go from this…

…to this…

Yeah. That was a complete gut job. Since then, we’ve been doing what we do best. Tweaking.

We originally installed four open shelves near the range. They were totally functional and got me on the open-shelving-in-the-kitchen bandwagon but left a lot to be desired. The white MDF boards got lost against the light-colored wall and looked a little meh. A reader with a keen eye also noted that the shelves seemed too low and would look better if they were in line with the hood.

We lived with them that way for a few months. I really liked having our everyday serving ware {plates, bowls, glasses, etc.} out in the open for quick access but felt that something was off. I went back through my kitchen inspiration photos and noted that many incorporated wood shelving. And after I looked further, I noticed that {as the wise reader above had suggested} the open shelving was in line with either: 1) a range hood 2) wall cabinets or 3) both. Aha!

I mentioned to HH that I thought the shelves would look better if they were raised so that the top shelves were in line with the hood and the bottom shelves were in line with the bottom of our wall cabinets {on the perpendicular walls}. He just looked at me.

He didn’t say a word but I’m pretty sure he was thinking, “What?! I just hung those shelves. They’re not going anywhere.”

Then I added, “And wouldn’t it be nice if we could find some reclaimed wood to replace the MDF?”

Still, the look and no words. This is what HH has to put up with on a daily basis. Have pity on him.

But I had planted a seed. And eventually it sprouted some roots because a few weeks later HH told me we had a few fence boards leftover from our DIY ‘love’ headboard. On top of that, they were 1″ thick – exactly what we needed. He thought we had enough to replace the MDF shelf boards. He also said something about installing a backsplash while he was at it.

I love that man.

I’ll have full-on ‘how we did it’ posts next week but feast your eyes on this…

How you like dem apples?

First, let’s discuss the most obvious tweak. The backsplash.

We chose 2″x12″ white subway tile and a contrasting warm gray grout.

We decided to tile up to the hood but not to the ceiling because we really didn’t want the hood to be an ‘in your face’ focal point from the adjoining family room.

Likewise, we chose to only go three tiles high with the rest of the backsplash. Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy an entire wall of tile now and again but when it’s visible from a not-so-utilitarian space {like our wide open adjoining family room} then it feels a little cold to me. Not to mention, keeping our backsplash minimal saved us time and money. Unless your kids are doing the cooking in your house {in which case TELL ME YOUR SECRET}, you really don’t need a backsplash that extends to the ceiling.

It’s hard to tell from this shot but the low backsplash wraps around under the microwave.

No backsplash along the desk area. I’m reserving the under-cabinet space for an inspiration board, memos, reminders, etc.

Now for the less obvious tweak. The reclaimed wood shelves…

Seriously. They might be my favorite thing in the entire kitchen. Besides the skylights. The wood is old fence boards from HH’s family farm back in Pennsylvania. Like I mentioned, it was from the same lot that we used to DIY our previous headboard. {Don’t worry. HH sealed it so there’s no risk of contaminating our dishes with nasty chemicals or harmful dust.}

This shot shows how the raised shelves follow the lines of the kitchen better. I liken their new, higher position to a good {not Joan Rivers} facelift. It’s like that’s where they were supposed to be all along. Oh, and I have no problem reaching stuff on the shelves at their current height. At 5’4″, that was a slight concern for me but, turns out, it’s just like reaching up into a wall cabinet for something on the bottom or middle shelves.

The wood isn’t perfect. It’s bowed and warped which did pose somewhat of a challenge to hang. It has an aged patina that can’t be bought and only comes with time. We purposefully left some of the old paint on the boards.

Each shelf is actually made up of two boards placed side by side. Since we reused the IKEA brackets, HH had to cut the boards length and width wise to fit. Even though there are two boards and they aren’t perfectly smooth, it’s not enough to make our dishes wobble precariously above us.

I love the function of the open shelving so much that I bought two more brackets and we added a low shelf over near the fridge for easy water drinking. {See how the backsplash continues along this wall?} The height of the shelf is in line with the backsplash and still allows us to utilize the electrical outlets properly. This corner needs work. I want to hang the paper towel roll and I’ll probably remove the coffee maker since we rarely use it.

HH was worried the area under the shelf would be wasted but it’s perfect for storing cutting boards.

Some more shots because I can’t enough of the reclaimed wood and it’s Friday!

The mix of the shiny white tile, glass globe pendants, stainless steel brackets & appliances, weathered wood shelves, warm walnut island top, dark lower cabinetry and aluminum stools are so us. We love the contrast of light + dark, old + modern, shiny + matte.

I still have a short list of things to add to the kitchen, mostly final touches and accessories: window treatment, rug, maybe some hooks under the lower shelves near the range for towels/kitchen tools, wall art to the left of the window, etc.

Last week, one reader guessed another addition to the kitchen…

Cabinet lighting. {I’ve yet to paint those damn french doors. Why?! It’s not that hard!}

HH installed it himself. I have no idea how. I’m clueless when it comes to electrical work. I do know our electrician-in-law {who did the rest of the electrical work on the house} ran supply wire and hooked it up to switches so the cabinet lighting turns on/off with the flip of a switch. Presto! If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask in the comments section and maybe HH can answer them. I’m sorry. I have no desire to be an electrician.

But I do love what lighting can do for a space. I wish I could capture the ambience of the cabinet lighting at night. It’s the only lighting we use in the great room in the evenings after the kids are tucked in bed, lunches are packed for the next day and the kitchen is cleaned up. Cabinet lighting – that’s about as romantic as we get, people.

One last thing before I go…THANK YOU for voting for Mabrey’s room in the Room for Color contest over on Apartment Therapy. We won the dark division! I couldn’t have done it without you.

Have a happy weekend! I’ll be attempting a weekend warrior project that involves paint. Fingers crossed the kids cooperate.

Click here to see who won this week’s Bona giveaway.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Sometimes HH and I get overwhelmed, discouraged and even struck with fear when looking at the long list of things left to do on our Underdog. Especially when many of the projects are right here in plain sight for us to see on a daily basis. We’ve found that the best way to turn our frowns upside down is to look at ‘befores’ of our house and see just how far we’ve come.

We bought the house in May 2011 but didn’t really start any work {aside from tree removal and demo} until after our previous home sold in mid-August 2011. During the nearly 9 month renovation, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment away from the chaos. Even though our apartment was far from lovely, I am so thankful we were able to have a safe haven separate from the renovation.

I thought you would appreciate seeing the progress on our home as well so you’re in for a little before-and-progress/after action today! {I’ll warn you. The ‘befores’ may be frightening to anyone who suffers from claustrophobia and the ‘afters’ are far from done.}

Here’s our Underdog in all its untouched and then renovated glory…

That’s the view from the front door looking towards the dining room and kitchen.

We removed the walls dividing the kitchen, dining room and family room. We vaulted the ceiling and added skylights. The original dining room window was replaced with french doors. The doors need painted and we still have a little work to do in the kitchen {backsplash, window treatment and styling}.

The original kitchen cabinets were rotted and falling apart.

We installed an IKEA kitchen.

That’s the interior wall we took out to open up the space.

A large 9′ island adds storage where wall space was lost and serves as a casual dining spot for everyday meals.

That’s the family room. If you look closely, you can see paint peeling and water damage along the wall and ceiling above the mantel.

And that’s the family room as of this week. Eventually, painted white tongue-and-groove planking will surround and frame in the TV. An original painting {created by the previous owner no less} will hang in front of the TV and raise/lower via a motorized pulley system. HH is still fine tuning the design. Other than buying a rug, new sofa and chairs, this room hasn’t been decorated. We need window treatments, a bench under the picture window and accessories.

Some more shots of the great room after…

The only decision we’ve made about the original brick fireplace surround is to live with it a while. I have nothing against painting brick but HH and I both like exposed brick. We’ll see.

We haven’t addressed the front door yet.

I have plans for a gallery wall behind the sofa to disguise the surround sound speakers and balance out the upper cabinetry on the other side of the room.

The leaning artwork is the piece that will raise above and lower over the TV.

Onto the former den…

The window unit was the only form of air conditioning in the house.

We removed the unit and installed a heat pump heating & cooling system.

We’ve repurposed the room as a dining room/mudroom/laundry room although it still needs a lot of work. HH added tongue-and-groove wainscoting and laid durable travertine tile. Even with the two PAX wardrobes, I need to address storage & organization. Somehow, shoes and backpacks aren’t making it all the way to the wardrobes. We also need to repair the man door to the garage, hang the light and hang the last interior door {to the kid/guest bathroom} that’s leaning against the wall.

The dysfunctional sliders were replaced with french doors. Just like the ones in the kitchen, we’ve yet to paint them. The dining chairs are actually outdoor chairs that will live outside in the future. For now, they’re inside.

The other side of the room housed a laundry closet.

We demo’d the closet and added upper cabinets. The plan here is to install a wood countertop above the washer/dryer and to conceal the machines so that this corner resembles a dry bar.

The opposite side of the house is where the bedrooms and bathrooms reside.

The old hallway was dark and dirty.

Recessed lighting was installed to wash the walls and brighten the passageway. {Hi boys!} The interior doors were replaced but they aren’t painted yet. We need to build a door for the attic access.

The first of the two bathrooms had cracked tile and mold within one wall.

The bathroom was gutted and is prepped, awaiting finishes. It’s on our winter to-do list. It will become our kid/guest bathroom. Yes, that means our family of five is sharing one bathroom right now.

The first teeny {smaller than 10′x10′} bedroom had peeling paint on the walls, matted shag carpet and a bed took up the entire room. It was a nice four poster bed though, no?

This room is the closest to being ‘done.’ As in the rest of the house, we demo’d the room to add insulation to the cinder block exterior walls, updated the electrical, hung drywall, installed new flooring & baseboards and painted.

The second bedroom was a decent size but crowded with furniture and clutter. The baseboards in this room were deteriorating from termite damage.

Our boys share this room now. {Surprise! You get a sneak peek of their new rug. More on that next week.} I can’t wait to add built-in desks and open shelving so the room can double as a workspace for the kids.

The master bedroom was being used as an art studio. It was dark, dirty and outdated.

It’s now a true bedroom but needs some tweaking. Don’t mind the sloppy bed with mismatched pillows. Everett made the bed and I didn’t have the heart to tell him he did it wrong.

I have to be honest. I’m not 100% happy with the wall color. It’s Benjamin Moore tapestry beige and it’s the same color we used in the hall and great room. While I LOVE it in the hall and great room, I don’t like it in the master bedroom. The problem with the bedroom is that it faces north and receives little natural light. I thought painting it light would make it appear lighter but this particular color just accentuates the shadows and comes across as dingy. I’ll probably end up repainting it. Any suggestions for good paint colors in a north room are welcome!

The adjoining master bathroom had many of the same problems as the other full bath. The original tile was cracked and the entire space was outdated.

We did a full gut job. I need to get creative with storage and organization in this bathroom. A toilet paper holder would be a good place to start. I have the same feelings about the paint color in here as in the master bedroom.

Currently, this is our only functioning bathroom. While it isn’t impossible for a family of five to share one bathroom {I do love having only one bathroom to clean}, I am looking forward to the day when the kids have their own bathroom.

So. There you have it. A look at our house from the first time we walked through it to current day.

Whew. That was cathartic. I’m feeling much better about our progress. And that’s only the inside of the house. Maybe I’ll crank out a similar post for the exterior. Can you believe HH and I walked through the house the first time with it looking like that and left with smiles on our faces? Yeah. We’re crazy.

To answer a very popular question…the house was an estate sale in a highly sought school district and listed at $99,000. It was the black sheep of the neighborhood with most homes in the area going for $140,000 and up with minimal updates. We offered $85,000 and got the house. At closing, we learned that all of the money from the sale of the house went to charity.

While tweaking this house into our home isn’t always easy or fun {damn you, concrete slab and cinder blocks walls!!}, we love it a little more each day.

Check to see who won this week’s Stella & Dot and Signs by Andrea giveaways!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking