Category Archives: decorating

American Standard “Clean” Toilet: The Throne to Own


You know you’ve reached middle age when you get excited about a toilet. Although, really, can you name another fixture in your home that you have such an intimate relationship with?

In the past six months we’ve purchased two toilets: one for the bathroom in the city apartment and one for the bathroom here at the house. The toilet for the city apartment was a total duress purchase. The toilet that had been installed during the building’s gut rehab in 2006 had been causing trouble for a few years. We really shouldn’t have been surprised when we learned that the cause of a leak into our downstairs neighbor’s bathroom was coming from the toilet. And I guess we weren’t really surprised … but we weren’t really prepared to buy a new toilet either.

I wasn’t completely uneducated about toilets, mind you. Over the years I’ve written about toilets here and there. In doing research for those posts I identified three things that I wanted in our new toilet: concealed trap way, easy flushing and comfort height.

The thing about a duress purchase is that you have to make your purchase quickly, which means you’re at the mercy of what’s in stock at hardware stores. That basically eliminated the toilets on my Which Throne Will We Own  list. But then in a moment of porcelain serendipity, Lowe’s came through with a toilet that fits all of my criteria – and also happened to be under $300.

American Standard Clean Toilet at Lowes

The American Standard “Clean” High Efficiency Elongated Toilet has styling that rivals the more expensive Toto toilets but at a fraction of the cost. As you can see in the photo above that I sent to The Mister when I bought the toilet, the Clean toilet came in well under $300. The concealed trapway and small tank look great in our small apartment bathroom. But perhaps even more importantly, this high efficiency toilet (1.28 gpf) packs a powerful flush! My experience with other high efficiency toilets has been that they require multiple flushes – thereby negating any water savings. The American Standard Clean toilet has a strong flushing system that rarely requires a second flush.New American Standard Clean Toilet

In fact, we’re so pleased with the toilet that we purchased for the apartment under duress that we bought the same toilet for the house.

DISCLOSURE: This is an honest review of our experience with the American Standard Clean Toilet. This American House was not compensation for this post. We may receive ad revenue from embedded Amazon clicks. 

Use Everything: DIY Dried Vine Wreath


This house has awakened in me a desire to live more simply and responsibly. I’ve developed a bit of a use everything mentality. It’s partly because, unlike our life in the city, I have extra space here at the house that allows me to hang on to things until I can make use of them. We can barely fit our clothes into the closets in the apartment. I’m certainly not going to waste precious space on old plastic containers and other odds and ends. So whereas back in the city I’d throw a plastic container that once contained feta into the recycling bin, I’m much more likely to hang on to it here at the house. (And, by the way, those feta containers have proven to be very effective vessels for paint and stripper!)

Our first fall here at the house I trimmed some of the vines off the carriage house. I didn’t know what I’d do with those vines but it seemed a shame to throw them on the fire pit. Instead, I placed the vines on a hook in the garage and let them dry. Later that winter I made a small wreath by weaving the dried vines together. That wreath now hangs on the front door of our apartment in the city. Just a little piece of the house that welcomes us back to our city home.

Every time I’ve cut back the vines since then, I’ve saved the pieces on a hook in the garage. I’ve amassed quite a stack of vines at this point. And so on the night before my birthday I sat outside and weaved together a large wreath. I found a metal form from a Christmas wreath that we bought from a roadside stand a few years ago (Look at that – recycling again!) to use a base and then wrapped, wrapped, wrapped until I had a big, ol’ wreath.


It’s silly, I know. I mean, like the world really needs another wreath, right? I really could have just thrown those old vines on the fire pit and no one would have cared. Except for the joy that I felt in the hour or two that I spent making that wreath! It was literally joy, folks. Joie de vivre! As I sat outside on a starry moonlit night and wrapped those vines around in a circle, I had a giant smile on my face. (OK, maybe the drinks that were sloshing around in me didn’t hurt.) There I was: working with my hands, turning trash into treasure and satisfying my eternal desire to make things prettier. Nothing could me happier!


I was originally making the wreath to hang on the fence at Christmastime. But we’ve recently had the fence repainted (more on that later!) so the vine wreath would get totally lost. Now I’m thinking the wreath will hang on the fireplace when it’s finally finished. The vines look great against the gray bricks.

Wild for Wildflowers

A bouquet of wildflowers in the bathroom

One of my favorite things about summer is that I can walk around our yard and gather a bouquet of wildflowers. This little bouquet includes a few day lilies, some fern fronds and some other leaves and branches. And even though the upstairs bathroom is in a state of disrepair, having this little container of flowers by the sink helps me forget all about that.

Fountain Grass on Display

DIY Fountain Grass Centerpiece

As I was doing a little yard clean up this weekend, I found myself with a pile of fountain grass. I was about to sweep it up and dump it in the compost pile but then I stopped myself. Instead, I gathered up the grass, tied a string around it and created a simple, autumnal centerpiece on the sun porch. Don’t you just love it when beautiful accidents happen?

Take a Tour of Our City Apartment on Curbed


We spend so much time thinking about and working on This American House that it’s easy to forget how much work we put into our city apartment. Fortunately, little things like a house call on Curbed are there to remind us that that work was not in vain.

We opened up the apartment to Nick Fochtman, a super talented interiors photographer, about a month ago and then played the waiting game until the post went live on Curbed. Nick did an amazing job in making the apartment seem much larger than it actually is. On the day of the photo shoot I left him alone in the apartment to do his work. I took a walk around the neighborhood for about an hour and then returned to find him just finishing up. I had no idea how the apartment would look through his lens. That it looks so incredibly stylish and spacious is quite a delight!


I think the title of the post – How One Couple Rode Out the Recession and Transformed Their Rogers Park Home – perfectly encapsulates the point I was trying to make in my answers to the Q&A. While it has been very tempting over the years to follow the lead of many of our neighbors and let our apartment go into foreclosure, we’re ultimately very happy that we’ve stuck it out. The value of the apartment is still nowhere near what we paid for it in 2007 but we’re still proud to call it home. I’m proud of all the projects I’ve completed that have come together to make the apartment feel comfortable yet handsome. And, most importantly, had we let the apartment go into foreclosure we wouldn’t have been able to get a mortgage for This American House.

One funny thing about this house call is that just one month later the apartment looks totally different. About a week after we had Nick over for the photo shoot I got the itch to redecorate. Such is life with me – our homes are in a constant state of evolution. I’ve rearranged some furniture and started working on a project that is going to transform the mantel into something a little more useful. Stay tuned for more details on those projects soon.

Meanwhile, take a tour of our apartment on Curbed and let us know what you think!