...because home doesn't happen overnight.
08.14.14 / Driveway Update!

Do you remember our elderly, crumbling driveway? If not, let me jog your memory.

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The asphalt driveway had seen better days. It was cracked and unlevel and had sunk so far into the ground that the culvert near the road was essentially a speed bump. Don’t believe me?

driveway before 1

Grass was growing through the cracks. The depressions held water, gravel, dirt and mud. Some places were in such disrepair that you could lift up chunks of asphalt with your bare hands. The kids invented a “driveway puzzle” game where they would remove sections of the asphalt, jumble them up and then put them back where they belonged.

Replacing the asphalt with concrete had always been on our to-do list but it took a few years for it to reach the top of the list and for us to save money for such a big (expensive!) project. We lived with it as-is, not even bothering to make stopgap repairs. As the house’s exterior started to take shape, the driveway remained an eyesore. Steve and I would talk about how driving up to the house and pulling into the driveway should be a “Whew, I’m home!” moment but for so long it was “Ugh. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an uglier driveway.”

At one point, I was so over the crippled asphalt that I tried talking Steve into a gravel driveway. I actually like gravel driveways. But he was set on concrete (and a lot of it) and he was the one who would be maintaining it so we waited it out. Until this summer!

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Steve grappled with the idea of DIYing the driveway but he would have had to take time off work and persuade friends to help (and also take time off work). In the end, saving his vacation days and back won out.

We found a local concrete guy (well, pair of guys) through family after admiring their beautiful driveways (What? You don’t gaze longingly at driveways?) and discovering the work had been carried out by the same contractor. We had a less-than-wonderful experience with the people we hired to install the back patios and front walk about two years ago so we were adamant about finding a better contractor. And we did! Work started in early July and it took about two weeks for two guys to rip out the old asphalt driveway, prep the site and pour the new concrete driveway. They were meticulous and followed our plans to a T. Their finish work was spot on. I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it is to work with people who give a rat’s ass about their work. I’d give you the play-by-play of everything that went down but I don’t think it would be as enjoyable in post form as it was in real life. (Mabrey was mesmerized by the backhoe as documented here and here.)

I will tell you how much it cost. We paid $9,300 in cash which is no drop in the bucket but was affordable based on other quotes we received. (We had two other contractors come out and quote the job, too.) We could have saved thousands by doing it ourselves but it would have been a huge project and time-eater. For this particular project, we decided the money was worth it. And after seeing the results, we have no regrets whatsoever.

Soooo, the after!

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So, we still need to tackle some general cleanup, sealing the concrete and reseeding the lawn but LOOK AT THE DRIVEWAY. Go ahead. Feast your eyes. Stare. It’s like concrete porn. Steve wanted a big driveway and he got a big driveway. It’s essentially a two-lane road. We let it cure for three weeks before we parked a single vehicle on it. The day Steve pulled the cars into the new driveway for the first time the kids were all, “Look! Dad’s driving on the driveway!” The first time we pulled out in the car the kids were all, “It’s so smooooooth!”

driveway after slope

No more speed bump! There’s a new culvert in there. You just can’t see it. The driveway slopes ever-so-slightly away from the garage and out to the side yard and road. We also had the contractor install and bury two new drain lines that connect to downspouts at the front and back of the house. We haven’t had a problem with water seeping into the garage before and we’d like to keep it that way. Remember, we’re a bit paranoid when it comes to water + our house.

You might notice the far end of the driveway sloping up. The backyard is higher than the front. We were stumped about how to properly end the driveway at the backyard. Originally, Steve was going to have the guys create a curb there but we weren’t sold on the idea. I thought steps would look nice but Steve nixed that idea. He has high hopes of building a man shed just beyond the driveway someday and wanted a way to drive something (I’m guessing his nonexistent, fancy riding mower??) into the shed if necessary. I suggested a graduated slope. It made sense and we didn’t think it would look awful so a slope it is.

Can I tell you how excited I am about finally having a clean way into our house?! Before, we tracked rocks, dirt and mud into the house from the driveway. Now, I’m finding less of all of that in our house…and in our car.

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Here’s a better picture showing the slope. See how the driveway ramps up on the left? Normally, our trash cans sit between the window and garage door. (It was trash collection day when I snapped these so the cans were out at the road.) We’re going to DIY an enclosure of some kind to hide the cans but we haven’t made it that far. Also, our Direct TV satellite used to stand off to the left (seen in the first two images of this post) but it’s not hooked up yet. I’m trying to convince Steve that we don’t need it but football season starts soon so I’m not sure it’s going to fly.

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The one thing we aren’t head over heels about is the step to the front walk. It slopes up to the walk instead of meeting it at a 90º angle. But that’s the fault of the previous contractor who installed the front walk. It’s too shallow. We specifically requested a deeper walk there because we knew it would have to meet the new driveway at some point but it didn’t happen. Like I mentioned, it was a less-than-wonderful experience with the first set of concrete work. We’ll probably add river rock or short stacked stone walls on either side of the transition to hold the dirt back. Any suggestions?

Some side-by-side comparisons because that’s always fun…

driveway after 2

driveway after 3

driveway garage door

Somehow the garage door looks better. We’ll replace it eventually but the driveway is a good distraction for now.

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Can’t you just picture the driveway cleaned & sealed, surrounded by lush grass with a tidy trash enclosure, maybe a basketball hoop (?) and a modern man shed at the back? Squint harder.

And that completes probably the longest post ever written about a driveway. If you’ve made it this far, I’d love to know all about your driveway and any suggestions you might have for the trash enclosure and / or sloped step. Steve already has his man shed all planned out so don’t worry about that ;)

Whew, I’m home!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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Did you happen to see this streamlined family home in the most recent issue of Dwell magazine? The article struck a chord with me. The <700 square foot space belongs to a young family of three – soon to be four. It’s the result of a four-month-long renovation which brought more light and storage and better function and design into the apartment. The use of sliding doors, ample windows and Murphy beds go a long way in making the space feel bright and airy. The execution of a stowaway bunk bed in the children’s room is particularly captivating.

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In embracing small space living, the family spent the last year and a half selling off most of their books, furniture and decorative objects.

“It really made us scrutinize what’s important and what we can do without. Rather than being a burden, that has been liberating. We don’t feel weighed down by stuff we don’t need or use.” – David Friedlander, resident

“People usually try to fit their old furnishings into a new space. We fit ourselves into the space.” – Jacqueline Schmidt, resident

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In addition to being small, the apartment was also in less-than-perfect condition upon purchase. The poor condition yielded a low price tag which meant the family could afford a complete remodel and a few splurge-worthy materials like wide-planked oak floors.

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The kitchen is the perfect marriage of high and low: Ikea cabinets + marble countertops and backsplash.

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The bathroom boasts marble tile and a floating vanity. Natural light streams in through the shower window.

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You can see more of the family home here. I find it so encouraging! It’s a wonderful example of how living with less can actually be a luxury. Even though our home is about twice the size and we’ve done a fair amount of purging already, I am motivated to edit our belongings even further. Having downsized ourselves, I have to agree: living with less is freeing on so many levels.

Have you ever been inspired to go through your closets after seeing or visiting a smaller home? What one drawer / shelf / closet / room in your home needs a good purge session right now? Our junk drawer and the boys’ closet are calling my name…

images: Matthew Williams for Dwell

08.12.14 / The Master Bathroom

When we bought our house three years ago, the plan was to scrub the original bathrooms really well and live with them for a few years before renovating them. But in the midst of demolition, we discovered black mold behind one of the bathroom walls when we demo’d a shared kitchen wall. Upon further inspection, there were cracked shower tiles in each of the bathrooms allowing water to seep into the walls. We ended up gutting both bathrooms to remedy the mold problem. We finished the master bathroom before moving in and it’s been our only functioning bathroom for the past 2+ years. Yep, all five of us use one bathroom. And I’m still alive to tell its story.

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The original bathroom was pink and gray – complete with a matching vinyl shower curtain, window curtain and valance (!). The vanity was way too small. The fluorescent lighting had to go and the only ventilation was an open window. However, we didn’t mind the layout and the window in the shower provided a decent amount of natural light.

master bath after 1

To save time and money, we kept the original layout and toilet but all the other fixtures and finishes are new. The electric was upgraded to service a sconce above the vanity, a can light above the tub and a proper ventilation fan.

master bath after 2

The original aluminum window was replaced with a vinyl one featuring privacy glass. The glass is smooth to the touch (and easy to clean) but textured in between the double panes for privacy. I am so, so, SO happy to have a window in the shower! It’s as close as I’ll ever get to an outdoor shower in Ohio.

The original shower tile was only installed about two-thirds of the way up the wall. We chose to take the new wall tile to the ceiling to give the appearance of taller ceilings and a bigger space. We contemplated a glass door or partition on the tub / shower but the placement of the plumbing would have made entry / exit into the shower tricky. We opted for a simple floor-to-ceiling shower curtain instead and it works great.

master bath after 6

Bathrooms tend to feel very slick and sterile but I’m drawn to natural, nubby and woven textures. To achieve that tactile vibe I love, I chose tiles with interesting textures. The shower tile almost has a glittery appearance. It shimmers in the light from the window. Not to mention, the reflective surface is another way to trick the eye into seeing a brighter, larger space.

master bath after 3

The sink area of the bathroom is visible from our bed(room) so I wanted something super simple that would tie in to the bedroom and not look too utilitarian. I had my heart set on a floating vanity but Steve requested drawers for all of his beauty supplies. (He’s kinda high maintenance.) The compromise was a floating vanity boasting two deep drawers. It was the perfect solution! We have plenty of storage and I can slip the kids’ step stool underneath the vanity. The floating design makes for quick and easy floor cleaning, too.

master bath after 4

Eventually, we added a small wall cabinet to the left of the sink to house Steve’s electric razor, electric toothbrush and more of his manly toiletry surplus. (I told you he’s high maintenance.) I got tired of knocking over all the charging stations on the sink. We cut a hole in the side of the wall cabinet to gain access to an outlet so Steve can charge his grooming tools sight unseen and no one’s the wiser. THIS IS HOW YOU STAY MARRIED, PEOPLE. You won’t read about this in any of those self-help marriage books. Good communication? Showing appreciation? Healthy sex life? Yeah, those are all noteworthy and all but, I’m telling you, hidden charging stations are where it’s at! And they lived happily ever after…

For warmth, I hung a round teak mirror above the sink. I didn’t seal it or anything and it looks as good as new. Teak has a good reputation in wet conditions so it’s kinda perfect for a bathroom.

master bath after 5

The original floor tile tested positive for trace amounts of asbestos but there was no way we were keeping it. Now the proper way to remove asbestos tile (at least in the great state of Ohio) is to hire a certified abatement contractor for anything >50 square feet. (This one bathroom contained less than that but we were dealing with two bathrooms which put us over by ~20 square feet.) But that is expensive and Steve will try anything at least once. So he removed the asbestos tile himself using a wetting method along with full-body coverup gear and a respirator. I was pregnant at the time so the kids and I steered clear of the house during and for some time after removal. Steve did dispose of the tile in a landfill that accepts asbestos. In sharing this, I’m NOT saying you should attempt this yourself. I’m just being honest about what we did. You should probably follow your state’s regulations, m’kay? M’kay. Now that that’s settled…

The new floor features (asbestos-free!) penny rounds and they lend yet another texture to the bathroom. It reminds me of reptilian scales and, after we first installed it, I wanted to rub myself all over it. We chose a sandy, dirt-colored grout that has held up well over the past two years. A woven trash can disguises ugly water lines. The basket on top of the toilet tank holds toilet paper. We couldn’t decide on a good place to hang a toilet paper holder (I vetoed the side of the vanity because I didn’t want to see toilet paper from the bed) so we threw a few rolls in the basket temporarily and, well, now it’s permanent.

master bath after 7

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I don’t think either of us expected to live with only one bathroom for this long. (We’re slowly plugging away in the other bathroom as I type.) But if we must share a bathroom, I’m happy it’s this one. On any given night, you can find all five of us squeezed in here getting ready for the kids’ bedtime. It works but, man, I am totally looking forward to having a second bathroom. It’s going to be a game changer. No more difficult questions about what happened to my penis!

Resources of note:

wall & trim paint – Benjamin Moore white dove
floor tile – penny round moss from The Tile Shop
shower tile – capua blanco from The Tile Shop
tub, drain, shower fixtures – Kohler archer
shower curtain – 96″ seersucker curtain from Amazon, discontinued
double hook shower curtain rings – Amazon
shower curtain liner – Amazon
toilet – reused, Kohler
wall sconce – Barn Light Electric
mirror – Home Emporium
vanity – Ikea GODMORGON, high gloss gray
sink – Ikea ODENSVIK
faucet – Ikea DALSKÄR
soap dispenser – Target
wall cabinet – Ikea, painted white
towel holder & hooks – Lowe’s
trash can – Target
wall urchins – Target (I spray painted them gold because that’s what I do.)
hand towel – West Elm
peshtemal towels – etsy

Curious about the evolution of this bathroom? Here are a bunch of bathroom-related links:

RENOVATION

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/08/18/the-underdog-sans-scaffolding/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/08/30/a-few-new-things/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/09/13/behind-the-walls-i-mean-scenes/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/10/11/new-windows-doors/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/11/06/we-have-walls/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/11/01/in-case-youve-never-seen-foam-insulation/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/02/03/let-there-be-light-and-some-cabinets/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/02/29/master-bathroom-tiling-progress/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/03/02/windows-in-showers/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/03/06/master-bathroom-progress/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/05/20/fade-to-white/

FIXTURES & DECOR

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/09/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/10/05/the-master-bath-master-plan/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/01/13/a-bathroom-vanity-compromise/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/02/09/recent-purchases/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/02/23/gettin-teaky-with-it/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/03/27/master-bathroom-reveal/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/05/15/recent-purchases-2/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/11/29/bathroom-vanity-sanity/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/12/19/the-peshtemal-plunge/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/04/30/three-sea-urchins-a-trash-can-a-tumbler-a-soap-dispenser-walk-into-a-bathroom/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/06/18/easy-and-awesome-toilet-seat-upgrade/

You can now access this master bathroom tour (along with a general house tour and individual room tours) under the “See My House” tab in the side bar. I will be adding more rooms in the weeks to come. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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!

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Isadora has lived in cities all over the world (i.e., New York, Paris, London, Rome, Sydney and LA to name a few) but one of her biggest adventures has been gutting an old house and turning it into her young family’s dream home. When it came to the 1953 kitchen, Isadora and her husband made gutsy structural changes for a big impact. After receiving disappointing results with cabinet refacing and mid-grade custom cabinetry in two previous homes, Isadora chose Ikea cabinetry for her current kitchen. I asked Isadora several questions about the remodel. Find her answers and the “that can’t be Ikea!” kitchen below.

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Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

When designing our kitchen, I decided fairly early on that I wanted as many elements from Ikea so we could maximize the savings during their 20% off sale. We bought our cabinets, doors, drawer fronts, countertops and drawer organizers from Ikea. I considered getting the appliances there as well but they had discontinued their 36” professional style range. So, I bought my appliances elsewhere.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

In our first house we had our cabinets refaced, which was the cheapest option, but was still not as cheap as you might think. In our last house we did a kitchen remodel and had mid-grade custom cabinetry. After a few years, you could really see the wear and tear. I decided then and there that our next kitchen would be an Ikea kitchen. My thought was I could easily freshen it up by just going down to the store, getting new doors and changing them out ourselves since all of the sizes are standard.

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Who designed your kitchen?

I planned out the kitchen using the Ikea kitchen planner software and spent many evenings working out how to best optimize the space. Going against the advice of our realtor and contractor, I removed the window above the original sink. For the way we live, wall storage took precedence over the window.

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To compensate for the loss of the window, we removed a wall which brought in lots of natural light from adjacent rooms.

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I reviewed the design in-store and made a few changes based on the employees’ knowledge of the cabinets. The one frustration I had was the corner next to the glass front cabinets. There were no good options for an upper corner cabinet. I didn’t want an angled corner; I wanted a square corner. Ultimately, I had to override Ikea’s recommendations and go with a blind corner to get the glass front cabinets and square corner that I wanted.

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

We had a crew of workers at the house already working on every room of the house since the house had been taken down to the studs. We had the crew assemble the cabinets. That being said, if we had only been working on the kitchen, we would have put the cabinets together ourselves. Over the years, we have built countless Ikea units and assembling kitchen cabinets is manageable. I’ve found that the key is to take your time with the instructions the first time around, then subsequent cabinets are a breeze. Installing countertops is another matter and under no circumstance would we have attempted something like that on our own.

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

The profile of the door we chose is a little more traditional than I would have normally chosen for a mid-century house. But I really wanted an all wood door and this door was the only one that came in all wood at the time of purchase. Having had experiences with foil finishes buckling and veneers peeling, I knew this was something I wanted to avoid in such a high traffic area. An all wood door resolved those issues for me.

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To personalize the design, I chose the bridge faucet from the Hansgrohe Axor Montreux collection and paired it with Hickory Hardware’s Cottage Collection knobs and pulls. The countertop was the nougat quartz from Ikea so I wanted the backsplash to be special. If I could have afforded a Calcutta marble mosaic I would have done that but that material is so expensive! In the end, I went with an Arabescato marble which is warmer than your standard Carrara marble and, in my opinion, the extra warmth works better with the nougat quartz.

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Customizing the glass front cabinets with mirrored backs has also made a huge difference since we closed up a window in that spot. Everyone who comes to the house always tells me how much they love the mirrors in the cabinets. It’s a simple customization that made a big impact.

How long was it from design to the final product?

I don’t really have a good answer to this question since the kitchen was just one aspect of the overall remodel. I ordered the cabinets during the sale but they sat in storage until we were ready to install. I wanted to take full advantage of the sale!

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

We’ve had our kitchen for a year and love it. So far, the only problem we’ve encountered is the amount (lack) of storage. Though our kitchen is not small, it is actually not that big – roughly 11’ x 13’. Finding places to fit everything has been a challenge. But that probably means we should have less stuff.

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

I love how much counter space we have. It’s perfect for having the kids next to me, helping to prepare their favorite cookies. As for my least favorite thing…I wasn’t able to incorporate a good place for spices so the spice arrangement could definitely be better. I’m still looking for a good solution.

Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel? If so, which items?

Absolutely! This was our first Ikea kitchen and we have not been disappointed. However, I can’t speak for Ikea appliances since we don’t own any.

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

Definitely! In fact, we used Ikea kitchen cabinets in our laundry room and it turned out great.

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Resources of note:

backsplash – 1” x 3” arabescato stacked honed mosaic
faucet – HansGrohe Axor Montreux
pendants – industrial globe light from Shades of Light
range – Verona 5 burner
fridge – LG counter depth French door fridge
dishwasher – LG (all appliances were bought during a Thanksgiving sale to save money)

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Thank you, Isadora, for sharing your kitchen remodel!

What a transformation, right?! I love that Isadora went with her gut on the window removal to create a space that works best for her family. By taking down a wall, hanging glass front cabinets and using reflective mirrors, Isadora managed to amplify the natural light in the room. (Fun fact: the mirrors came from the home’s lower level which once housed a dance studio. How resourceful!) High end appliances and special features – like the marble backsplash, bridge faucet and mirrored cabinets – give this Ikea kitchen an elegant and timeless look. You can read more about Isadora’s kitchen right here and see all of the family’s remodeling adventures over on her blog.

If you’re in the mood for more Ikea kitchens, check out the rest of this series:

An Ikea Kitchen in Northfield, Minnesota

An Ikea Kitchen in Brooklyn

An Ikea Kitchen in Orange County

An Ikea Kitchen in Texas Hill Country

An Ikea Kitchen in Chesapeake

An Ikea Kitchen in a Barn (in France!)

An Ikea Kitchen in Cape Cod

And if you have an Ikea kitchen (it doesn’t have to be 100% Ikea) that you would be willing to share on House*Tweaking, please email me at housetweaking@gmail.com for consideration.

P.S. – Thanks to everyone who has already submitted an Ikea kitchen. I really, really, REALLY appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into bringing these posts to fruition. I have a slew of Ikea kitchens sitting in my inbox waiting to be featured. I apologize for the lapse in time between submission and the post going live. I’m buried in Ikea kitchens – in a good way! Keep ‘em comin’!

images: Re:Located Living