...because home doesn't happen overnight.

gibson family

Sarah (a graphic designer), Kalyn (a finance guy) and Finn (a peppy schnauzer) live in a small Ohio town in their 1,100 sq. ft. starter home. I’ve been following Sarah’s blog for years and our offline lives finally collided when I started renting a studio space downtown. (Sarah works part-time for an interior designer in the same warehouse.) I’ve long admired Sarah’s creativity, DIY skills and knack for styling so I was crazy excited when she welcomed me into her home for a tour. Get a peek inside and read Sarah’s thoughts on everything from buying a foreclosure to hanging wallpaper to living in a small town…

gibson house 11

gibson house 8

gibson house 12

gibson house 13

On buying a fixer-upper: It was never our intention to purchase a fixer-upper. We looked at multiple homes with our realtor and this was the only house that required a renovation. I fell in love with the original character of the home and loved the fact that it was built in the early 1900s. It had obviously been neglected and sat empty and overgrown for more than two years. The stench upon walking in the front door was enough to avert even a serious buyer. I suppose we were the lucky crazy ones who decided to tackle this project. It just made sense for us financially (we bought it for less than the price of a brand new car) and we were capable of completing the majority of the construction ourselves. I also jumped at the opportunity to really make a house our home. Many of the properties we viewed just didn’t feel like us and were priced higher, meaning we had no additional room in the budget to make adjustments…so we settled on the foreclosure.

It was an insane amount of work and took over a year to complete but I’m so proud of what we’ve created and, more importantly, that we built this space together. Our first Thanksgiving in the home (two years ago with no heat), we skipped a warm and cozy dinner with our families, opting to stay in the house instead, reworking the plumbing and electrical. I remember setting up our camping table and chairs, eating fast food, shivering in our Carhartt overalls and laughing about our terrible Thanksgiving meal in our new home. We couldn’t envision ever having a completed or furnished dining room. I also remember my embarrassment the day Kalyn had a port john delivered, which sat in our driveway next to a dumpster during most of the renovation. Later, I was thankful to have a “restroom” while working on the home but even more grateful we didn’t live in the house during the chaos of construction and days without plumbing. Before my blog, Room for Tuesday, was up and running, I started a personal Tumblr to share with family, solely devoted to the transformation of our house. The before and after images are unrecognizable (luckily) but it’s fun to look back at where it began.

gibson house 0

gibson house 7

On compromising with your husband: Aside from hanging wallpaper together (which I would not recommend doing with your significant other), the living room floor plan has been our biggest challenge. Of course being the typical guy, he wants a huge TV. Normally, I would be cool with that but our living room is tiny. There is a giant fireplace and three windows, leaving only one viable wall for the TV. Long story short, we have two focal points: the TV and the fireplace. This does not sit well with me but it’s something I live with because I know that ugly eyesore of a TV makes him happy.

I will say, I am super thankful he allows me to get my way 90% of the time because he trusts my interior instincts. He’s also pretty creative himself and many fantastic ideas have manifested in his brain rather than my own (hallway wainscoting, landscaping, and bathroom expansion, to name a few).

On living with a rambunctious puppy: A week before our shoot, Finn decided to destroy the tufted back cushions on our sofa. Kalyn walked into a house filled with fluff and I immediately began to panic. My quick fix and cost-effective solution was to buy a variety of down throw pillows to line the sofa back. It’s definitely less expensive than a new sofa but I think it’s a sign we should upgrade. Kalyn has complained about our sofa being uncomfortable since the day it arrived so maybe it’s a happy accident.

Living with a large, high-energy dog can be challenging. Our windows are never clean and always have nose prints. Our freshly painted walls are now a little scuffed up, and our newly refinished floor is scratched but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It didn’t take long to achieve that “lived in” look, ha! The one thing he has going for him: no shedding.

gibson house 14

gibson house 3

gibson house 16

gibson house 15

gibson house 17

On creating flow: This has been one of our greatest construction challenges. The home originally was very closed in but we love open concept layouts. After determining which walls were load-bearing, we wanted to open up as much as we could. We increased the traffic area between our dining room, hallway and living room (it’s the weird center intersection you see in the photos). We also knocked out a wall between the kitchen and dining room but then rebuilt a pony wall. It made the kitchen larger, dining room smaller and helped to designate an area for the dining table and bar credenza. I like the functionality. It hides anything on the countertop so guests in the dining room aren’t looking at a mess. It also provides a bit of separation, without feeling closed off.

Floor planning and furniture just fell into place, for better or worse. Most key pieces could only fit into one configuration. That’s the trouble with small houses. For instance, the master bed had to be placed in front of a large window; it wouldn’t fit elsewhere. The guest bed had to be positioned in its current space because of an architectural built-in that hides the pitch of our basement stairs. Perhaps the living room has been the most challenging because of the TV.

gibson house 19

On those gutsy green walls in the dining room: Green tones have always been in my comfort zone. I know many people favor navy and calming blues but it’s always been green for me. I treat it like a neutral. It was the first paint color I selected for the house. I try to sprinkle it throughout our home with houseplants and accessories so it feels cohesive and acts as a common thread of color.

To this day, the Breuer dining chairs are my best find! I can’t even believed I snagged them for so cheap. This is the before, after and tutorial on reupholstering. They’re some of my favorite vintage items in our home!

gibson house 5

gibson house 21

gibson house 22

gibson house 23

gibson house 24

On dressing up the mundane: I recently took a seminar on millwork and the importance of scale, proportion and keeping trim historically accurate. Moulding is supposed to make you feel safe. It sounds insane but that is its purpose! It looks as though it’s helping to hold things up and in place structurally. I tried to be sensitive to keeping the base and crown accurate to the original trim, as well as adding woodwork in places that could be enhanced (wainscoting in the hallway and bi-fold closet doors in the guest room).

gibson house 25

gibson house 26

On splurging: My favorite splurge would definitely be the bed in our master bedroom. I custom designed the piece, from sketching the waffle tufting, scale, specifying my favorite cognac leather and even the charcoal wood tone on the tapered legs. It’s perfect and we’re so glad we upgraded to a king, even though it’s a little tight in the room.

On living with two closets: I’m not going to lie. Living with two closets is the worst. Without our basement, this house wouldn’t work for us; it’s definitely been our saving grace for storage. We’re big outdoor enthusiasts and with that comes a lot of gear. We love camping, skiing, hiking, kayaking, etc… so our equipment is divided between our basement and garage. I’ve also learned to shop smarter. We try to spend our money on quality, key pieces, rather than quantity… simply because we have limited space.

gibson house 28

gibson house 29

gibson house 30

Originally, the house had three closets. We sacrificed a small linen closet in the hallway to expand the bathroom. The toilet now sits where the closet used to be. It was a tough decision but I’m confident we made the right one.

gibson house 31

gibson house 32

On minding the details: I’m such a detailed-oriented person! The original doors in the home had beautiful glass knobs. I tried to restore them but they were cracked, foggy and too far gone. I wanted to keep the hardware details and moulding as close to the original as possible. Kalyn sourced the glass doorknobs online and demanded to have skeleton keys (his grandpa used to collect them) so I rolled with his idea and they turned out great. Although, guests sometimes are confused and lock themselves in the bathroom :)

The kitchen cabinetry hardware is from a small, family-owned business in Connecticut. Each piece is handmade and special. I wanted a variety of hardware (knobs, handles, cup pulls, etc.) in the same finish.

gibson house 33

On living in a small town: Our town is so small that it isn’t even considered a “town.” We live in a village and don’t have a mailman! That’s right, Finn and I walk to the post office everyday to retrieve our mail and packages. Kalyn and I both grew up on farms and, let me tell you, this is larger than where we come from. Ha! We love having a yard that backs up to a cornfield, the freedom to have campfires and enough space for a garden. Someday we’d love to be closer to the city but, for now, this location makes sense for us. It’s quaint!

gibson house 18

gibson house 34

Thank you for sharing your lovely home, Sarah!

Isn’t this space amazing?! Obviously, I love the overall renovation but what I noticed most in person were all the little details like the crown moulding, beefy baseboards, wainscoting, trimmed out bulkhead (in the kitchen), hardware, light fixtures, carefully curated vignettes and artwork on display. Every time I spotted a vintage camera or schnauzer paraphernalia it made me smile. What caught your eye? Did you happen to spy the rose gold recessed lighting in the kitchen? Such a pretty and understated surprise!

gibson floor plan

Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore super white
flooring – red oak, stained with Minwax’s dark walnut
curtains – Ikea
sofa – West Elm with Restoration Hardware pillows
coffee table – West Elm
armchair – West Elm
magazine holder – Crate & Barrel
ceiling fan – YLighting
horse sculpture – etsy
wall sconce – Ikea
wood candleholders – West Elm
media console – STOR New York
peony art – local artist Katie Stratton
horse photograph – F2IMAGES

cabinets – Kraftmaid
hardware – Colonial Bronze Company
sink – Kohler
faucet – Brizo
countertops – Silestone
backsplash – The Tile Shop
pendant – vintage
rug – vintage

wall color – Sherwin Williams evergreens
table – Ikea
chairs – vintage, reupholstered
pendant – CB2
art – Leftbank
sideboard – vintage

wallpaper – Hygge & West
light – DIY, Home Depot
rug – vintage
hardware – Anthropologie
brass chevron hanger – Target

bed – West Elm
nightstand – vintage
bedding – Urban Outfitters
automobile photograph – Minted
closet knobs – Anthropologie

accent wall paint – Benjamin Moore black panther
bed – custom, Lee Industries
nightstands – vintage, DIY
bedside lamps – Ralph Lauren
pendant – YLighting

vanity – Ikea
mirrors – Miles & May
wall sconces – West Elm
subway tile – The Tile Shop
hexagon floor tile – The Tile Shop
art – Lauren Stern
glass doorknobs – Look in the Attic & Co.

bench – CB2
animalia hooks – vintage, CB2, HomeGoods
engineer print & frame – DIY
pendant – Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

It seems the consensus is that you guys would like to continue seeing and reading about Ikea kitchens regardless of which cabinet line – AKURUM (previous) or SEKTION (current) – is featured. For that reason, I will continue to share the best of the bunch that come my way. Thanks for reading!

Obligatory preamble rambling: When we were renovating our kitchen, I searched high and low for any information I could find on Ikea kitchens. The results were few and far between. We did end up with an Ikea kitchen (which we love) but I’d like to shed more light on Ikea kitchen renovations from the perspective of other real life homeowners. It’s something I wish we would have had access to when we were considering Ikea for our own kitchen remodel. Plus, it’s fun to see how others use Ikea to suit their personal style and needs in the kitchen. I hope you find these posts helpful and inspiring – whether you ultimately end up with an Ikea kitchen or not. Enjoy!

boston ikea kitchen before 1

boston ikea kitchen before 2

boston ikea kitchen before 3

Lauren, along with her husband and one-year-old daughter, moved from New Jersey to just outside of Boston in May of 2014. In the process, the family bought an older Cape Cod. Lauren admits the kitchen wasn’t horrible but it was dark and closed off from the rest of the first floor. Even though it boasted many cabinets, actual usable cabinet space was minimal. The young family craved more natural light, more countertop space and a layout more conducive to gathering and entertaining. To achieve their kitchen goals, they opted to remove walls (one of which was load-bearing) that separated the kitchen from the living and dining rooms and to utilize Ikea cabinetry from the new SEKTION line. Lauren was happy to share more about the renovation with me (shortly after giving birth to baby #2 no less!). Find her interview and the inspiring results below!

boston ikea kitchen

boston ikea kitchen

Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

Our cabinet bases, drawer and door fronts, integrated dishwasher, vent hood and interior organizers are all from Ikea.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

We had been eyeing Ikea’s kitchen options for almost a year after reading great reviews about them on blogs (like yours!) and interior design websites. We didn’t personally know anyone that had installed an Ikea kitchen but we were confident in the feedback we had read online and in the 25-year warranty. We looked into custom cabinetry but the price was far out of our budget. Plus, we really like the simple, modern aesthetic that Ikea offers with their modular system.

boston ikea kitchen progress 1

Who designed your kitchen? What aesthetic were you aiming for?

Our kitchen redesign was actually part of a larger project to open up the first floor of our home. The original layout was choppy with small, dark rooms. When we purchased our home, one of the first things we promised ourselves we would do was take down a large load-bearing wall that separated the kitchen from the living space.

boston ikea kitchen

Once we had a general idea of what we wanted, we turned to the online Ikea kitchen designer to plan out a few different layout options. Then we chose the layout we thought would work best for our lifestyle. I had a folder of photos for inspiration. Ultimately, we wanted a kitchen with clean lines, a minimalistic vibe and classic features that we would love for years to come.

boston ikea kitchen progress 2

boston ikea kitchen progress 3

boston ikea kitchen progress 4

Did you assemble and install all Ikea kitchen components yourself? If not, what did you seek help with?

My husband assembled all of the cabinets over the course of two weeks. Our entire basement was filled with Ikea boxes. At first sight it felt daunting but, once the first few cabinets were completed, the process went fairly quickly and smoothly. The actual cabinet installation was completed by my father and his business partner who are general contractors in New Hampshire. Although I like to tell people that I was the project manager, they truly spearheaded the entire renovation process from taking down the load-bearing wall and patching in the hardwood floors to all of the finish work that was done to give the kitchen a custom, built-in look.

boston ikea kitchen

How did you customize your Ikea kitchen to suit your needs and preferred aesthetic?

Our previous home had a tiny kitchen with hardly any counter space which never allowed us to use the area as a gathering space for holidays or parties. We knew that a large island would give us the extra space we wanted and we made it a top priority. We wanted a unique look for the island so we purchased shiplap pine boards and hand-distressed them with steel wool using a a mixture of coffee grounds and vinegar. Our garage smelled for a few days but the finished product came out better than we even imagined!

boston ikea kitchen

boston ikea kitchen

For the rest of the design, we chose a mix of high and low to achieve the aesthetic we wanted. We used honed marble for both the island and the back run of countertops. The drawer pulls and backsplash are off-the-shelf items from Home Depot. The wine racks integrated into the dining room pantry are from CB2. Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. has always been a favorite source of mine. Being able to purchase both the sink and dining fixtures from Schoolhouse was a dream come true and really brought all of the different areas within the open concept together. Lastly, my father recommended using wood (color-matched to the gray cabinets) for the toe kicks and filler pieces in place of the flimsy offerings from Ikea. He also sourced thick pieces of pine for the open shelving.

boston ikea kitchen

How long was it from design to the final product?

We started the design process back in November of 2014 based on the previous (now discontinued) AKURUM cabinet system. When we found out Ikea would be launching the new SEKTION system with some great upgrades in early 2015, we decided to wait it out. We purchased the cabinets in February 2015 during one of the kitchen sales. The kitchen was completed by mid-April of 2015.

boston ikea kitchen

boston ikea kitchen

How long have you lived with your Ikea kitchen? Have you encountered any problems?

It’s only been about six months but, so far, we love everything about our kitchen. It functions so much better than the old kitchen. Little things like the soft-closing hinges and spacious drawers (instead of cabinets) really make it feel high-end. Everyone who sees our kitchen can’t believe the cabinets are Ikea!

boston ikea kitchen

What is your favorite thing about your kitchen? Least favorite?

By far, my husband’s favorite feature is the large 7′ x 3′ island. It gives us so much space to spread out and entertain. I love the new open concept design but, most of all, I adore the white subway tiles with contrasting grout. They make me smile each morning when I see them and reflect an enormous amount of light into the space. We don’t really have a least favorite aspect but the drawer front on the trash pull-out doesn’t line up with the other drawer fronts when closed. It drives us crazy.

Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel?

Absolutely! We got the exact look and feel we wanted for a fraction of the cost. Our kitchen still looks high-end to us even though it was budget-friendly, and cooking in it is so much more fun!

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

If we get the opportunity to renovate another kitchen, Ikea will definitely be tops on our list of sources.

Resources of note:

wall paint – almost gray by Benjamin Moore
flooring – Home Depot
cabinets, drawer fronts & doors, interior organization – Ikea
countertops – honed danby marble from Montes Marble & Granite
hardware – Home Depot
sink – blanco granite composite, Amazon
integrated dishwasher – Whirlpool, Ikea
range hood – Ikea
gas range – Samsung
refrigerator – Frigidaire
backsplash tile & grout – Home Depot
counter stools – Target
pendants over island – West Elm (spray painted black)
brass sink light – Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
dining room pendant – Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
faucet – Moen
soap dispenser – Kohler
wine racks – CB2

boston ikea kitchen

boston ikea kitchen

Thank you Lauren for sharing your kitchen! I love your style. I hope baby #2 is treating you well ;)

Okay readers, what are you taking away from this one? The mix of gray cabinetry, honed marble, subway tile and wood accents has such a natural, organic vibe. I love it! Knocking down walls (especially load-bearing ones) can be intimidating but I’m so glad Lauren and her husband were gutsy enough to do it here. It completely opened up the main living space to suit their casual lifestyle and gave them more possibilities when it came to reconfiguring the kitchen. Speaking of reconfiguring kitchens…did you notice the lack of upper cabinetry in the finished product? It gives the room a lighter feel and allows the tiled wall to take center stage. To make up for lost upper storage, the couple incorporated an island and pantry (in the adjacent dining area) with drawers and cabinets galore. (Psssst…the microwave is hidden in a pantry cabinet outfitted with an electrical outlet.) It’s such a good balance of form + function. My absolute favorite thing(s) about this kitchen are all the little DIY touches that keep it from feeling generic and falling flat. The spray painted globe lights, the vinegar + coffee-treated wood planks on the island (genius, btw!) and the pine shelves go a long way in adding interest to the space by providing warmth and breaking up matching materials. So inspiring!

Want more inspiration? Click the “See Real Ikea Kitchens” button in the sidebar to read about all of the kitchens featured in this series.

Do you have a project (big or small, Ikea or non-Ikea) that you would like to share with House*Tweaking readers? Email me at housetweaking (at) gmail (dot) com for consideration. Thanks in advance!

images: Lauren Santagate

MCM spa bath 7

Last year my friends, James and Kristina, graciously allowed me to share the renovation of their midcentury modern family home. (You can see it here and here.) They recently remodeled their master bathroom and, when I saw the results, I just had to share it too. Keep reading to see the transformation!

MCM family master bath before 1

MCM family master bath before 2

MCM family master bath before 4

MCM family master bath before 3

The bathroom is en-suite to the master bedroom and, even though it doesn’t boast a tub, the homeowners consider it their master bathroom. The original finishes included a mix of mismatched blue floor & wall tile. A boxy brown vanity supported a pink laminate countertop and a teeny oval sink. The corner shower stall was dark and dank. Just before demo, the couple let their kids draw on the walls for fun.

MCM family master bath progress 1

MCM family master bath progress 2

MCM family master bath progress 3

By tackling all of the work themselves, the couple was able to completely revamp the space for <$5,000. To save money they kept the room’s original layout but chose modern materials that both brightened and warmed up the space. They discovered mold in a shower wall which was mostly remedied with bleach and a mold-inhibiting spray. Still, some framing had to be replaced. To bring more natural light into the shower, the homeowners devised a plan to add sidelight windows on either side of the stall.

MCM spa bath 1

The couple was aiming for a midcentury spa vibe that felt warm and natural. Sticking to a palette of white, gray and wood was key. Material selections were based on design and budget. Wavy wall tiles in a high gloss finish catch light from a south-facing window and bounce it around the small room. The rippled texture lends an organic vibe while the horizontally stacked pattern feels modern.

MCM spa bath 3

MCM spa bath 2

A frameless glass door and sidelights allow light to flow freely into the once dark shower. A wall niche for toiletries and an overhead rain shower head were space-saving measures that also feel luxurious. Marble mosaic was used in the shower niche and on the shower floor for contrast. Using the marble sparingly was an intentional, budget-friendly choice.

MCM spa bath 5

MCM spa bath 9

Running the tiger wood flooring onto the vanity wall is a defining design element that punctuates the sink area and brings added warmth to the nook. A pair of cylindrical glass mosaic pendants flank the mirror.

MCM spa bath 8

A floating Ikea vanity frees up visual and floor space, providing the perfect spot for stashing slippers and a scale. The vanity is somewhat of an Ikea hack. The nook is 45″ wide and the off-the-shelf vanity is slightly narrower at 39″ wide. James improvised and ripped down leftover floor boards to stand in as filler pieces on either side of the vanity.

MCM spa bath 6

Likewise, the 47″ wide Ikea sink top had to be modified to fit the space. Using a grinder + a spray bottle filled with water, James cut 1″ off each side for a custom fit.

Resources of note:

wall paint – granite boulder, Behr Ultra (Home Depot)
trim paint – satin white, Behr Ultra (Home Depot)
wood flooring – ½” tiger wood bamboo (discontinued), Build Direct
wall tile – Allen + Roth wavecrest white gloss 4″ x 12″ ceramic tile, Lowe’s
accent tile – anatolia carrera marble mosaic, Lowe’s
shower head – 12″ Hudson Reed, Amazon
shower handle – Delta, Amazon
shower door – Coastal Shower Doors, Amazon
inserts for sidelights – ¼” tempered glass from local glass shop
toilet – American Standard cadet 4, Home Depot
toilet paper holder – Amazon
towel bars – Amazon
pendants – Lamps Plus
mirror – SKOGSVÄG, Ikea
vanity – GODMORGON, Ikea
sink – ODENSVIK, Ikea
sink faucet – Moen, Amazon
accessories – Marshalls

MCM spa bath 10

Thanks again, James and Kristina, for sharing your home with me and the internet!

I have many favorite things about this bathroom starting with the color palette. I love the tile choices mixed with the tiger wood on the floor and sink wall. The sidelights in the shower are so clever! I know the tiger wood filler on the vanity was primarily a means to an end but I love the result. It’s a detail that instantly de-Ikeafies (yep, I’m making up words) the floating cabinet and gives it a high-end look. Overall, the new bathroom design is purposefully spa-like but it doesn’t stray too far from the rest of the midcentury home’s decor. That’s not always easy to pull off!

MCM spa bath 4

What is your favorite part? Can you even believe this is the same bathroom?!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking