Secrets that Make a House a Home

I just finished reading  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, and I highly recommend it. It’s a beautifully written narrative of an ordinary, grouchy old man’s end of life, but you get the benefit of seeing behind the mask. The author paints a touching picture of this man’s broken, beautiful soul. I believe choosing gratefulness is key to a fulfilled life, so I’m going to get all sappy on you today and share the secrets that make a house a home.

secrets that make a house a home

One section, near the end of the book, struck me, and not exactly as the author intended, I’m sure. The section is really about loving someone and growing old with them. There is beauty in those reflections, don’t get me wrong, but as I am in the stage of wearing down my house and causing all the imperfections that come over time, the obvious part of the analogy rings true for me. Rather than stressing about the breakage happening in my home, I’m embracing the “secrets” (quirks or wear, if you will) that make a house a home.

“Loving someone is like moving into a house…At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all of this belong to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, and the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside, which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the secrets that make it your home.”

Dan and I bought this house out of necessity, not because we immediately loved the house. We were expecting our first son and living in a one bedroom apartment which we had downsized to after we sold our three bedroom house. To say the apartment was cramped is an understatement.

When we looked at our house, all we saw were the gems: FIVE bedrooms (we really only needed 2!), woods in the backyard (no neighbors behind or even the chance for neighbors!), HUGE bathroom upstairs (no more tiny apartment bathroom!), full basement (room for beer/wine making, hobbies, office, etc.), huge dining area (our 4 person table was dwarfed!), and the biggest winner: the largest kitchen we’ve ever had.

I was enamored by the perfectness and greatness of our house at first. Dan and I poured our blood, sweat, and tears into fixing up our home. We painted into the wee hours of the morning for more weekends than I care to count, and the more we worked on our home; the more we loved it. It has our fingerprints in every room, and that makes it lovely to us.

But time changes things. New paint loses it’s freshness, innocent (and not so innocent) spills stain the carpet, and chips/dinges in the wall come from happy play.

The hard part about pouring your work into your home is seeing it get damaged as time goes on. It is easy to hold on to Pinterest worthy images of a house and think that is what your home should look like. If I look to social media it tells me that my home should look like this:

Living Room Inspiration: Navy, Blush and Gold Living Room by Studio McGee

Source

Gah, that home is beautiful! I like it; I won’t lie! That’s not a real-life home though, and it is not the standard for normal families. Life is messy. Kids are messy, and it is ok for your home to age with your family.

Here is what I think a home is:

…A hallway filled with scuff marks

Proof of many hockey/soccer/football/tag games with friends and parents. Those are memories etched into our walls. And yes, we used to let them use real pucks in the house. They hit too hard now to let that continue. 🙂

loving an imperfect home

…A stove-top that might never come totally clean

It’s been used to feed hungry mouths over and over and over. The crud that no one (ahem, me!) had time to clean thoroughly has been baked on over and over and over. And yet, that faithful friend keeps right on firing up and cooking food for my family. It’s like it doesn’t even care that it’s dirty…

loving an imperfect home

…A creaky spot at the end of the stairs

I avoid this spot every morning I come downstairs to not wake up my family. In fact, it’s second nature to avoid the creak. Dan calls me a ninja because I can go up and downstairs absolutely silently. I do believe I’m the only one in the family that possess this trait.

loving an imperfect home

…A broken counter-top that still functions perfectly well

Yes, I wish my kids hadn’t snapped off the edge of our brand new counter tops before I could re-glue them. It looks kind of jankity, but you know what? When you turn the faucet handles, water comes out! When you wash your hands in the sink, the dirty water goes down the drain! You can even fix your hair, put on your make-up, or change a kids clothes on the counter and it still holds things up! It doesn’t even collapse. Ugly, kind-of broken fixtures still work.

loving an imperfect home

As my kids get older and my home ages under their growing feet and hands. I have learned to appreciate my home’s quirks and love it’s secrets. I know which window I can open when it’s raining to let in the fresh, clean air; which kitchen doors creak and which bathroom drawers are silent; which door will lock you out and the window that will let you back in. I love my beautiful, well-worn home for all its quirks and secrets, and she only gets better with time.


What secrets do you know about your house? Have you stopped to be grateful for the quirks of your home? What makes your house a home?

Fostering a Grateful Heart | Entryway

Are you a perpetual home-shopper? I used to be. I am exercising my gratitude muscles this year by writing about aspects of my home that I appreciate. Can you guess what is happening? My attitude toward my home is changing! I didn’t hate my home before, but I love it deeper now. I have more pride in it and joy maintaining it since starting these posts.

If you’d like to read more like this, click here.


GratefulnessToday our entryway is on my mind. By entryway, I just mean the area right inside our front door. I explain this because my house actually does not have a defined entryway. The front door opens right into the living room.

Entryway Shoe Shelf

I love home design and studying function/flow of a home. I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to define the entryway space and maximize it’s function. It’s a quirky space, but here’s 3 things I’ve found to love about it.

Size

It’s large! Since there is no wall defining this space, it can be as large as I need it to be. Working on a project in the winter? Set up a folding table; there’s plenty of space to paint! Have friends coming over for dinner? Set up the kid’s table in the entryway; there’s room for 6+ kiddos to eat there!

Open Entryway

Purpose

It’s multi-functional! Currently, it’s workshop, office, AND mudroom. What more could you ask for?

Uses of an Entryway

Flexibility

It can change size easily! Need more room for sitting in the living room? Scoot that couch back, encroaching on the entryway, to make room for more chairs. Need to dry all the winter gear after skiing? Push the couch into the living area to make room for drying racks.

Do I wish sometimes I had an elegant entryway complete with round table topped with a gorgeous floral arrangement and beautiful chandelier? Yes, but then perhaps I’d be so worried about keeping the table decorated and chandelier clean that I wouldn’t let my kids drop their snow gear at the door to run inside for the hot cocoa. Maybe I’d be so caught up in the lovely of the space, I wouldn’t use it for painting a picture for fear of making a mess. Maybe I’d find myself making a museum of all the pretty things instead of a home that my family is free to make mistakes in (note smudges on mirror and barbell on floor!).

Entryway Stairwell

I’d rather my house be used then on display. I’d rather have a desk in the middle of the mess because my family can see all that I do on the computer. No hiding. I like having my projects right there in the open. What better prompt to finish a project?! I’d rather there not be a place for everything because what would prompt me to keep only what I need?

Honestly, there are more hesitations in my mind when I think of the perfect house than thoughts on how idealic and wonderful it would be. I think I’d be more stressed trying to (unsuccessfully) keep it clean and less joyful watching my kids be kids (playing hockey in the house anyone???).

If I did have said perfect house, you know what would happen? I’d discover it wasn’t actually perfect. It would have its flaws, just like any other house: the off-centered windows, ill placed outlets, less than ideal HVAC system, etc. There’s always something.

So instead, I chose to love the home I’m in. I will be grateful for all aspects of my house, no matter how quirky and off-centered. If I do get another house someday, I will practice gratefulness of that one too.

At the end of the day, my entryway isn’t the ideal layout. It isn’t the height of design genius. That doesn’t need to stop me from maximizing it’s function and appreciating every square foot of my house.


So there you have it. Way too many words about the awkwardly large space inside my front door. Where are you at in your gratefulness for your house? Any overlooked areas that actually turn out to be quite flexible and usable? Do share!

Grateful for Space

Fostering a Grateful Heart | Continuous Grates on Range

I show to you another small, but wonderful, part of my home: the stove top on the range. A very small area, and yet, I am so grateful for the continuous grate feature over and over again. Are you ready for me to wax poetic about my stove top? I am! Ha! I could sing the praises of all my appliances in one way or another (and I just may one day!). They are such workhorses that get a great work-out each and every day.

Let’s talk about the grates on my stove!


GratefulnessWhen we decided to purchase a foreclosure, we knew all of the appliances would need to be purchased new. I had never purchased appliances on my own. In our first house, I had the help of parents for the washer and dryer and the rest came with the house.

When researching for a range for our current house, we were so thankful the house was already equipped for a gas stove. Both my husband and I love to cook, and we much prefer a gas range.

I was fortunate enough to be carpooling with a lady who had purchased a foreclosure a year or so prior to the purchase of ours. She informed me that our mutual place of work had a discount program with Whirlpool. She was very happy with her appliances, so we decided to purchase ours through this program too.

Now since we limited our search to what was available from Whirlpool through my work program, we had far fewer ranges to search through. A blessing looking back, there are SO many companies out there to choose from! We decided on the Whirlpool Gold line, and I found a range with 2 power burners.

The burners on our very inexpensive apartment stove did not satisfy our cooking abilities, so it was basically this feature alone that sold the stove to me. That and price. We weren’t looking to break the bank on the stove. I believe paid around $550 for the stove. This one is a little fancier (we don’t have 5 burners) but similar. The best part, price-wise, the deliverers dented the side of the stove in transit so they gave us a discount. We ended up paying under $500 for the stove. It has been worth every penny in my opinion!

gas range with continuous grates

I can’t remember thinking too much about the grates on the stove, but I am so thankful for continuous grates. Continuous grates run, wait for it…continuously, from the left to the right side of the stove and from front to back.

gas rangeThe beauty of this feature? My very normal, 30 inch range can hold massive pans. The grates don’t wobble or wiggle if the pan is really too large for the burner. I have a massive cast iron dutch oven that can cover two burners. The stove handles this with easy with no extra finagling from me to get the pot on or off the stove.

Another great aspect? You can slide a pan from one part of the stove to the other without jarring the other grates. Think of delicate sauces that you must remove from heat at the right moment. No problem. A quick slide with one hand while the other turns off the heat. Need to fill up every burner for Thanksgiving dinner? Just slide those pans around like a slide puzzle!

Side note: Anyone really dislike those games as a kid? We always had several kinds lying around, and I would try but get frustrated and give up easily. Puzzles are not my thing!

The grates are cast iron so they don’t move easily. I’ve never had trouble with them shifting, and I give my stove a work-out regularly!

gas range gratesThey are a bit heavy to move for cleaning, but they don’t hold a candle to the weight of my other cast iron pans, so I think nothing of their weight! For daily cleaning, I just wipe the grates down with a Norwex cloth. For a deeper clean a couple times a year, I put them in the sink for a good scrub.

Notice the discoloration around the burners above, I wonder now if I’m caring for the grates properly? I oil my cast iron pans after each us, but I’ve never oiled these! I might need to start that. Anyone know the proper way to care for these?

If you’re in the market for a a new gas range and don’t want to spend a fortune, I’d look for continuous grates first! And if you’re interested I’d also look for high power burners and a simmer burner.


Do you have an appliances that have really shined for you, and you didn’t even plan it that way? Do you absolutely love one that you didn’t even spend that much time picking out?

Fostering a Grateful Heart | Sunlight

I am practicing gratefulness of my home. To see more posts in the Fostering a Grateful Heart series, click here.


Gratefulness

One aspect of my home that is easy for me to see in real life but hard to photograph is sunlight. We have good sized windows that let in a lot of light. I haven’t quite learned the trick to photographing windows, but this is my area of gratefulness today: large windows that let in a lot of sunlight.

I notice it in our hallway the most. I love the light streaming into the hallway from all the rooms.

Bright Hallway

All of our bedrooms have good sized windows so the rooms never feel tight or small.

They do require large curtains though!

I don’t think these windows are anything uncommon. Our house was built as a spec house, so there isn’t anything fancy about it. I think our house is just new enough to have larger bedroom windows (our house is about 20 years old).

I mostly think of the light in sharp contrast to the house I grew up in. The windows were about half the size of these. I remember doing fire drills with my siblings, and we had to boost each other up to get out the window! The windows were quite high up on the wall! My 2 and 4 year old could climb out these if they wanted to. They are so much lower to the ground than older windows.

Our living room is south facing so very bright and warm when it’s sunny. We spend most of our time on this floor of our house. I love that it is so bright.

Bright Living RoomHaving more light in a home is a mood booster for me too. The apartment we rented before purchasing this house had one large window on the south side of the apartment and one sliding glass door on the north side. The sliding door led to a covered deck so there was extremely limited light coming in that way. There were no other windows in the apartment!

That apartment was so dark, all the time. Walking into this house was a breath of fresh air. Each room felt so light and airy, in sharp contrast to the dungeon we were living in!

I am so grateful we were able to purchase a house that has large windows and is south facing. The amount of light we get each day is significant and wonderful!

This post was a challenge for my photography skills. I see some definite needs for improvement. Sunlight is hard to capture!


Do you have a bright, airy house? Are you in a dark dungeon like we were? If you crave more light, here are some easy ways to get more in:

  • Strategically placed mirrors
  • Hang curtains high and wide so they don’t block an inch of the window
  • Move furniture so no windows are blocked

Grateful For Light

Fostering a Grateful Heart | Space to Cook

I’m purposefully practicing gratefulness this year. Check out other installments of Fostering a Grateful Heart here!


Gratefulness

The kitchen is the most used room in our house which I think makes it the easiest place for me to let discontentment creep in. I’d like to think of myself as a pretty good home cook, and I can let the inadequacies of my kitchen become causes of my grumblings: not enough space on the stove, no real range hood, not enough counter space, etc.

Here’s the truth: This is the largest kitchen in floor space and counter space I’ve ever had.

When we moved in, we extended the peninsula to hold one more cabinet which made space for our new and improved cutting board. Pictures can be deceiving in size. This puppy is 3 feet long! I regularly prepare dinner with my kids or hubby chopping alongside me. There is plenty of space!

Long Cutting Board

Not only can the peninsula hold this massive cutting board, there is ample space on the counter next to the sink. This space is where I’ll put our blender to make smoothies, do a rough chop of vegetables, or puree soups. Oh, and of course, it holds plenty of dirty dishes after a meal!

To the right of the sink, I put the drying mat for letting hand-washed dishes air dry. Again, there is plenty of space for the drying dishes without crowding the corner and prep space next to the stove.

Speaking of the space to the left of the stove, I usually line up my prep bowls for what I’m cooking from the corner over to the stove. I line them up in the order that I need to add them to the pan. I will frequently have 3-6 bowls lined up here (I use the cereal bowls from our everyday dinnerware to hold the prepped veggies/meat/fruit).

To the right of the stove, there is room for either (1) the prep dishes for the dish being cooked on that side of the stove or (2) plenty of space to make a pot of coffee. Our coffee process requires a kettle, kitchen scale, Chemex pot, and coffee grinder. It’s a little more involved than most people do! Either way, lots of space!

Bonus space: the counter to the right of our fridge. I don’t use this space for regular cooking or prep-work, but I use it for entertaining. I set up our airpot with coffee mugs, cream, and sugar for morning gatherings, or I put glass pitches of water or lemonade plus cups and straws. The counter is large enough to hold all these items, freeing up counter space for food and allowing everyone’s thirst to be satisfied. 😉

This kitchen is larger than our first apartment, our first house, or our second apartment. However, have you noticed that you can easily fill out the space you have, no matter how large or small? Contentedness and gratefulness for my kitchen takes purpose and intentional thought for me. I can always think of a feature, space, appliance that would make my kitchen so much better, but the truth is this: great food can be made in any kitchen, friends can gather and laugh in any kitchen, and family memories can be made with any amount of counter space.

You don’t need a lot to be happy. You don’t need more to be a good host. The thing you need is for you to have a grateful, joyful attitude about what you do have.


How have your spaces changed size over the years? Did your contentedness change too? What aspect of your kitchen are you the most grateful for? Is there something in your kitchen you used to want and now have (and have perhaps forgotten that you once longed for this feature!)?

Fostering a Grateful Heart | Fireplace

If this is your first time seeing Fostering a Grateful Heart, check out this post for a little explanation.


Gratefulness

For this week’s edition, the freezing subzero temps and mountains of snow influenced me. Today, I am so grateful my house has a fireplace.

Growing up, we had a wood burning stove that we used to heat our house in the winter. That began my love of fireplaces. I loved (and still do!) the smell of the wood burning and the super intense heat sitting right next to it. I used to curl up in one of my parent’s barrel chairs to do my schoolwork and get super toasty.

Until the bees that were frozen in the logs, that we had brought in to dry out on the hearth, woke up. They moved slowly, but that didn’t matter – still terrified! Run! There’s a bee!!!

Moving on…

When Dan and I began to look for houses to purchase, I quickly realized that a fireplace, any variety, was not standard. I kind of thought most houses had a fireplace. However, most of the houses we looked at did not, and if they did, the other less-than-desirable characteristics would cross it off our list. (We we buying our first house at the beginning of the housing market crisis. We looked at a lot of foreclosures with serious damage.)

Fast-forward several years, and we are looking for our second home. When our friend sent us the listing, this photo was one of the main reasons we went to look at it (The primary reason being we were pregnant and living in a one bedroom apartment!). Be still my heart, a fireplace!!! Does it work???

Fireplace Listing PhotoIt did, much to our surprise! We let that puppy heat up the house while we took our tour. We were sold and put in an offer that night. The rest is history, they say. 🙂

Today, she doesn’t look much different, less dusty, but not too different visually. It’s on my ever growing list of projects!

Fireplace ChristmasIt is still a favorite feature for me. Well, me and the dog. This is by far his favorite sleeping spot now that the sun is not shining.

There’s just something about watching the flames flicker. It is mesmerizing and comforting. It reminds me of camp fires on vacations years ago and deep talks with friends and family. Even now, a fire in our backyard is a favorite activity of mine.

Fireplace HeatSitting by the fire with a book and something hot to drink is by far my favorite winter activity.

Here’s the ole dog again, he loves him some heat!

A Dog and His Fire

There’s the piece of my home I am grateful for today (and every day it’s cold!). Not only a nice feature to keep warm but offers more decorating opportunities, a place to hang the stockings (a necessity, you know!), and a nice visual center for the room. I love having a fireplace. Do you have one?


Do you have any features you always look for in a house? Do you categorize them: must-haves vs. like-to-have? Is a fireplace in your top 10?

Fostering a Grateful Heart

Gratefulness, joy, contentment, and peacefulness have been on my mind a lot lately. As I work on this blog, I am trying to make it into a side job for me, but I don’t ever want money to be the chief aim of this space. I want to encourage others to live a contented life, to be grateful for the roof over their head, to have joy in managing their health, and to let peace reign in all areas of their lives.

Encouragement to others is my main goal. I haven’t lived the most years, but I’ve learned a few things in the years I’ve lived. I would love to share any wisdom I’ve learned with anyone reading this blog.

One area I’ve been cultivating in my life is gratefulness.

Confession: I am a perpetual home shopper. I keep tabs on the local real estate market and tend to know every house available in a 5 miles radius. While this doesn’t necessarily make me ungrateful or envious, it does distract my attention from my own home. If I’m looking at other homes, I am, by default, not looking at mine. Could that energy be better spent elsewhere?

The last month or so, I’ve been working to look at my house differently. What do I love about MY home? What are good functions in my house? Are there small benefits I overlook daily? What is so GREAT about this house?

This exercise birthed a thought in my mind. If I challenge myself to publicly share what I love or am grateful for in my house, I could encourage others to live more content with their house. I could inspire some to see the silver lining in their home.

That is my goal. I hope you are inspired and encouraged.


Gratefulness

 

Today I am grateful for wide stairwells in my house.

Wide Stairwell

I notice every time I walk down the stairs from upstairs to the main floor. The painting we did on the walls and trim when we moved in help accentuate the width. The stairs going up at 42″ wide. By contrast, the stairwell to the basement is 36″ so the difference is noticeable as I move about the house.

After a quick Google search it looks like standard width is 36″. The stairs to our basement are standard, and I can attest to them being more difficult to move people and things up and down without banging the wall.

At the bottom of the stairs, the width is 43.5″, and to me, the extra 1.5″ is noticeable.

Wide Stairs Baluster

Why do I love this about my house?

  1. It leaves room for many bodies, stuffies, and blankies going up and down the stairs. This is an every day occurrence in our house.
  2. It makes carrying large loads of laundry up and down the stairs easier – no bumping the wall with the laundry basket!
  3. It makes for easier moving of furniture up and down the stairs.
  4. It allows for more light in the stairwell. The more light the better in my book!

I know this is a very small detail in our house. In fact, my hubby thinks I’m a little odd for even noticing.

I think gratefulness in the small details of our lives are what creates peace and contentment with the larger things. Why am I content to live in this house? Well, wide stairwells is one reason.


What small functions of your house do you love? Do you have an architectural detail that you are so grateful the contractors thought to put into your home?