Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

April 28, 2016

Easy + Delicious Refined Sugar-Free Carrot Cake Recipe

I have finally reached my 50 pound weight loss goal!  I've been really focused on my health since the end of September and getting to a healthy weight, while developing healthier eating habits, is just part of that goal.  I'm working on a post about my weight loss, but I'll admit that I'm a little apprehensive about sharing something so personal.

In the meantime, I've really enjoyed sharing some of my kitchen experiments as I try to tweak my favorite desserts to reduce their sugar content.  I have been working diligently to curb my sugar cravings and, ultimately, stave off the diabetes that runs in my family, but every now and then a sweet treat is nice, so I've been working to find a few healthier alternatives to have in my baking arsenal. 

Carrot cake is one of those desserts that I have easily convinced myself is healthy in the past (it has carrots!), but in reality the sugar, fat, and caloric content on a typical carrot muffin is staggering!  It's one of my favorite desserts, though, so recently I fiddled around with my carrot cake recipe, trying to make a healthy carrot cake.  Frankly, I'd still classify this carrot cake as an "indulgence," but it is sugar-free and grain-free - even the icing - so it's more in line with Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar program, which has helped me immensely.  This sugar-free carrot cake recipe is made with coconut flour, brown rice syrup, and stevia so, while it's still high in calories and fat, it doesn't have the high sugar content of a traditional carrot cake.  To lower the sugar content even more, you can skip or cut back on the pineapple. 

Refined sugar free carrot cake recipe

Refined Sugar Free Carrot Cake Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup fresh pineapple (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used olive, melted coconut works too)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:
  • One package full fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup stevia (I used Truvia, which has a milder after taste than other stevia brands)
  • Splash of milk (I had coconut milk on hand) 
  • Unsweetened, shredded coconut

Sugar-Free Carrot Cake:

When you bake with coconut flour, you need to add an alarming number of eggs so don't worry - that's not a typo!   Combine the eggs, oil, lemon juice, and brown rice syrup until mixed thoroughly.  Stir in the coconut flour, baking soda and spices until well mixed.  Add the shredded carrot and pineapple.

Pour in a well greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes (oven time may vary).  Allow to cool, then transfer to a wire rack where it should cool some more.  Half an hour later and my cake was still a touch too warm for icing, so I would wait an hour next time.

Delicious refined sugar-free carrot cake and cream cheese icing - baked with coconut flour, stevia and brown rice syrup // by @danslelakehouse

Sugar-Free Carrot Cake Cream Cheese Icing:

Use an electric mixer to combine the softened butter, cream cheese, and stevia.  Try with a little less stevia - maybe a 1/8 cup - and taste test.  Some people cannot handle the aftertaste of stevia, but I found the Truvia brand I used was milder than others, plus the delicious carrot cake and cream cheese overpowered the stevia and all I tasted was a mild sweetness.  If you find it sweet enough, skip the rest of the Stevia.  I added a splash of coconut milk to help make the icing a little easier to spread, but it's optional.

Cake decorated with fresh fruit
Cake recipes with stevia and brown recipe syrup

I topped my carrot cake with some unsweetened, shredded coconut, sliced dragon fruit (so pretty - and delicious, I'd never had one before!), pineapple sticks, and kiwi - simply because it looked pretty, but the fresh fruit does increase the overall sugar content.

April 22, 2016

A Feminist Doll Makeover - Craftivism Inspiration

You might have already heard about Tree Change Dolls - reclaimed dolls with a more realistic makeover - but I only recently stumbled upon the work of Sonja Singh.  She takes previously-loved dolls with unnatural, overly made up painted faces and turns them into natural looking dolls!

Tree Change Dolls

Here's an example of the incredible transformation:

How to Remove Makeup from Dolls and Repaint the Faces

The makeunders are quite labor intensive: Sonja first removes the painted faces, cleans and sometimes repairs the dolls, re-styles the hair (sometimes actually thinning out unnaturally thick hair), repaints more realistic faces, and then her Mom knits and sews wholesome garments.  Sonja even makes new shoes and accessories for the dolls, which are more eco-friendly than their former plastic duds.  In her pursuit of realism and authenticity, she even adds skin imperfections to her dolls and mixes up a natural looking shade of white for the eyes.

Feminist Doll Makeunder

Unsurprisingly, every time she lists a batch of these transformed dolls in her Etsy shop, she sells out immediately!  

Because, as she points out, she isn't the first person to re-paint the faces on dolls, she generously shares videos of her process.  That's right - even though she relies on these dolls to make a living, she shows others how to do it themselves!  She has a video tutorial for how to remove painted faces from dolls, another video sharing tips for restyling doll hair, and even a video that demonstrates how she re-paints more natural faces on her dolls

Sonja is a feminist inspiration because not only is she working to change the way children grow to understand social constructions of beauty, she doesn't safeguard her techniques and instead encourages individual people to give dolls makeunders themselves.  As an avid thrifter and lover of second-hand finds, that these dolls are reclaimed and repaired makes me love this enterprise even more.

The next time I hit the thrifts, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for an obnoxiously overdone doll to breathe new life into for one of the littles in my family, although I definitely do not posses the face painting skills Sonja has mastered!   

Inspiring Feminist Craftivism: Dolls Made to Look More Natural
Natural Looking Doll Makeover
Feminist Toys for Kids

Reading her story and pouring over photos of her incredible doll makeovers just made my day because it's just so amazing to read about people changing the world with their talent.  I see feminist implications for her work, and I feel inspired and uplifted.  I wanted to pass on the good vibes in case you hadn't heard of Tree Change Dolls either!

Check out Sonja's Tree Change Dolls on Etsy, Instagram, Facebook , Twitter, or Tumblr.
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April 20, 2016

How to Design a Bathroom You Love

My Mom started planning a bathroom renovation around the same time I started to plan our  reno and, a year later, my bathroom is almost done, but my experience has been so discouraging for her.  She was already hesitant about tearing apart her functioning, if slightly embarrassing bathroom, and because my renovation did not go smoothly it's made her incredibly nervous to begin work.  On the bright side, she knows which tile and granite shops in our city to avoid...

We were chatting the other day about the bathroom renovations and makeovers under my belt and she wanted to know what choices I regretted - and which ones I'd recommend.  I can definitely see the appeal of hiring a designer for major renovations because, not only do they have formal training, they have already learned the lessons us DIYers have to learn the hard way!  I worry sometimes that DIY bloggers get a little over confident when it comes to doling out advice because choosing finishes in a handful of personal renovations does not an expert make!  Still, picking out finishes is the best part, so it's not something I'd willingly hand over to anyone.  Because of my inexperience, though, I'm a little hesitant to give my Mom design advice.  I'm worried I'll put together something she doesn't love, or I'll just recreate something that screams "Tanya's Lakehouse".  I can say this about my "design skills": I am getting pretty good at designing and decorating space that I love.   Whenever readers ask me for design advice (I've been offered money for this, which I could not in good conscience accept), I try to just discuss pros and cons of different choices, to help people make their own decision (like in my recent post about painting wood beams).  Frankly, I actually really love sharing my two cents (who doesn't?), but I'm always worried I'll steer someone away from something they really love.

Ultimately, unless you're designing a home with resale in mind, creating the kind of space that makes you sigh, "ahhh, home sweet home," with a contented, goofy grin should be the main objective when decorating and renovating.  I believe in creating a home you can love.  Trends will come and go, so being happy with your home is so important!  With that in mind, when PlumbTile reached out and suggested we collaborate on a post about bathroom renos, I knew immediately that I wanted to share my advice on how to dream up a bathroom reno you will love.  PlumbTile was an incredible inspiration for this post because their selection of bath products is staggering - plus they carry so many of my favorite brands and products, making it an effortless collaboration.

Start with Pinterest:

The best place to start designing a bathroom - or any room - is Pinterest!  I created a special board for Bathroom Design Inspiration and that's where I started collecting photos of any bath designs I liked.  Now I've turned it into a resource for others, but in its early stages I also pinned anything I liked - a color, art inspiration, walnut furniture - anything that I really, really liked.  Once the board started getting full, I looked back through my pins and started teasing out themes and commonalities.  From there it was clear that there were some must-haves: a pop of aqua, walnut cabinetry, stone counters.  Having a clear vision in mind kept me from getting distracted when other options (like the acrylic cabinetry) tried to derail me!

I designed the townhouse bathroom in the pre-Pinterest era and it was so much more difficult!  My inspiration sources were a jumble of magazine tear outs and images I'd saved to my computer.  I didn't really have a good grasp of my taste as a result.  Seeing all of your favorite spaces at once on Pinterest suddenly makes it crystal clear what you like and dislike - it's how I realized that I wanted the lakehouse to be bolder and brighter than the townhouse. 

Think About Function:

Once I had my wishlist of finishes figured out, I started chatting with Hubby about how we would use the space and we made a second list of "needs": two sinks, two outlets, floating cabinets, tiled tub surround (definitely no shower portal!), minimal grout lines, single lever faucet (I just love our Kohler Purist faucets!), etc.  Although some of these decisions seem purely functional, many of them ended up influencing the design elements (like my tile choice or where we put the outlets).   Then I combined my lists, printed it, and held onto it throughout the process so I wouldn't get distracted or forget about a key detail. 

Chat with the Pros:

The place where we bought the cabinetry from offered a free design service and I'm so grateful because the designer we worked with didn't try to sell me on any finishes.  In fact, the pushiness of the onsite designer is why I originally didn't want to work with the company that supplied our stone counters.  I already knew what I wanted and so the designer at the cabinet place focused on functional concerns (like the linen tower doors bumping the stone counters) and figured out some ways to remedy them (like making the linen tower deeper than the vanity - genius!).  Along the way, I definitely peppered every trades person and designer we met with questions, trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible.  Being inquisitive is a must during any renovation process - ask questions!  BUT don't let yourself get sidetracked; Kelly, from View Along the Way, has a great post about how the advice from an overzealous kitchen designer resulted in a kitchen she regrets!  That's why having a list of wants and needs in hand is helpful.

Find a Key Piece:

For awhile I was overwhelmed with shopping because I wanted everything - or nothing!  I can see why so many people just opt for white subway tile, or some variation: tile choices, especially, can be overwhelming.  When I found the quartzite stone counter slab - and decided it would pair well with my aqua sink obsessions - things started to click into place.   With the magic of hindsight, there are still a few things I made change if given a do-over, but I'd definitely keep the quartzite stone!  I told my Mom to find a key piece too, because then decisions start to get easier.  

Bring Samples Home:

I think this one goes without saying, but I feel compelled to mention it: bring samples home.  Everything looks different under showroom lights, so bring samples home and take a look at them under various lighting conditions.   

Determine the Show Ponies and Work Horses:

With my two lists of wants and needs determined, I figured out where I wanted to splash out and inject some personality into the room - and where I would layer in more neutral elements.  As you know, I'm a fan of bold bathroom sinks!

I loved the glass vessel sink in the townhouse and once I realized that Kohler sold an aqua undermount sink, I knew that aqua sinks had to happen!  I was always fascinated by the original 1960s pink and black bathroom in my Mummu's house - as a child I cried when the pink toilet (to match her pink tub and sink) was replaced with a bisque one.  The rest of the pink still remains and every time I wash my hands in the pink enamel sink, I smile.  I'm sure her floating vanity inspired my choice on a subconscious level as well. 

Not every element can be the star, though, so when I settled on aqua sinks, I decided to choose subtle tile for the floor and tub surround - although a part of me was very tempted to do a matching aqua tiled tub surround (and part of me wishes I had!).  The dark grey tile floor, though, is perfect because it's not attention grabbing.  

Colorful sinks are an unusual choice - and a commitment! - so I don't advocate a bold sink for everyone (although I have to show you this grey Kohler sink - isn't the color gorgeous?).  The point is to find out what element in a room really makes you smile and make it happen.  It might be a bold tiled backsplash or a quietly stunning slab of marble.  It doesn't have to be bold, but once the main attractions of a bathroom design are chosen, it's important to give them some room to shine by choosing some more neutral finishes or fixtures.

For my Mom I'm advocating a really neutral design so she can change up the look with accessories, but even still, I'm encouraging her to pick some quiet design elements (like a neutral floor) to let other elements (like an unusual, pale grey tile she's considering) be the star.

Don't Forget the Details!

By the time I had to choose smaller details like a mirrored outlet cover and hardware, I was beat!  I had made so many choices and was tired.  But I hadn't been happy with the finishes in the townhouse bathroom because I hadn't paid much attention to fixtures or hardware and, months later when the reno was over, I had some regrets.  So for this reno I powered through and although I might revisit the outlet covers, I'm thrilled with the hardware.  Taking the time to think through each and every detail has made the bathroom really come together for me.  This kind of work reflection is a snap for the pros and probably takes eons longer for regular people to do, but it's worth it to spend the time and effort.

Those are my tips for designing a bathroom YOU love: start with Pinterest, keep a list of must-haves so you don't get distracted, ask questions of every pro you meet, find that key piece and let it shine, and don't forget about the details.  Not rocket science, but this process helped me!  Starting with Pinterest and having a list of must-haves written down are my best tips, because everyone will chime in and while you want to elicit some advice because you never know what gem you'll pick up, it's important to start with a clear vision and know your own style.

What is your advice for my poor Mom, so nervous about her impending bathroom reno that she is willing to hand over the design to her nutty daughter who will inevitably opt for too much aqua?
A huge thanks to PlumbTile for sponsoring this post.  I was so floored by their incredible inventory!  I started pouring over the different categories while writing this post and I found my beloved kitchen cabinet pulls and even the pretty brushed nickel pulls I'm always tempted to steal from my Mom's mid-century modern inspired teak bedroom furniture!  All thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.
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April 18, 2016

Should Wood Beams be Painted or Left Natural?

Because I painted out the wood beam in the lakehouse living room, I've had a few readers ask me if I recommend painting wood beams out as a rule.  That's a good question!  For anyone who is on the fence about painting a wood beam - or keeping it natural - I rounded up a little inspiration, and share my two cents, below.

via My Domaine
When we moved into the lakehouse, it was very woodsy: wood ceiling beam, oak trim, oak cabinets, more oak cabinets, pine panels flanking the fireplace, and, oh hey, okay, more oak cabinets...

I am not opposed to wood tones and although I've long loved teak and walnut, I find myself appreciating wood grain more and more, thanks to the influence of my woodworker Father-in-law and grain-loving Hubby.  I was slow to make peace with the wood kitchen cabinets in the townhouse, but here in the lakehouse I've even added wood, like the walnut bathroom cabinetry, pine-topped Ikea fauxdenza hack, and DIY solid maple wood kitchen counters.

So, if I had to pick, I'd pick "team wood," but I think that - in the eye of the beholder -  there can be good wood and bad wood.  I appreciate the hardwood floors the former owner installed because the stain is beautiful and works so well with the teak and walnut I love.  That, in my books, is "good wood".  However, the skinny, cheap oak trim purchased at Home Depot in the late 1990s is "bad wood," in my purely personal assessment.  Painting the skinny trim was no question because I didn't want the eye drawn to it.  The 1990s oak cabinetry was similarly easy to paint (no regrets!).  Painting the sauna wood flanking the fireplace helped modernize the whole wall and I like the quiet texture the painted wood panels now add to the room without screaming, "I used to be a cottage".

Why I Painted the Wood Beam in the Living Room:

The wood ceiling beam made me pause, though.  I kind of liked it, but ultimately decided that it clashed with the flooring and all of our teak furniture.  For a few days, I actually did consider leaving it unpainted (true story!) but, in the end, white paint won out.  I have no regrets because painting the wood beam makes the 13 foot tall ceiling feel even taller, but doesn't draw the eye up toward our popcorn ceilings.  When the beam was natural, the ceiling felt a lot lower and the eye definitely traveled up there - even more once the walls and trim were white.

It wasn't a solid beam - it was just wood strips, laminated together - so it truly wasn't anything super special, although I'm sure it cost a pretty penny when the house was built.  As my Mom pointed out, if I ever have a strong desire for a wood beam, I can clad it in walnut veneer (drool), which I think is a genius, incredibly tempting suggestion!

The Case for Keeping Wood Beams Natural...

Architectural Digest
If it's solid wood and complements a home's aesthetic, then I'd be tempted to keep a wood beam natural.  Ultimately it's a matter of personal preference, but I think that wood beams work especially well if the decor has a mix of wood tones and lots of textures, so the beams don't stand out and draw attention away from other design elements. 

via My Domaine
via West Elm
via My Domaine
Design Files
Even if the decor doesn't boast a generous mix of wood tones, wood beams can work if the same tone is picked up elsewhere, like in this mid-century influenced home.  The wood beam looks great with the wood kitchen cabinetry and looks like a thoughtful detail.  That was the problem with my beam: I was slowly and purposely eradicating anything in that orange wood tone.

via Apartment Therapy
I can't even imagine this home - which boasts one of my favorite kitchens of all time - without wood beams because it just suits the rustic feel so well!

Style at Home
The Case for Painting Wood Beams...

White painted wood beams - along with white ceilings - do wonders for making a space seem brighter and airier.  Once painted, beams no longer draw the eye, which is perfect if you have other, more beautiful, elements to highlight in a room.  Paint can also help modernize a rustic-looking space, especially if the wood beams are weathered or worn and that doesn't complement the decor style.  If an airy vibe is what you're after, painting out wood does wonders, while still offering more visual interest than a plain ceiling:

via Better Homes & Gardens
via Apartment Therapy
via Plastolux
via Plastolux
via My Domaine
via Apartment Therapy
Ultimately, you can't loose!  After years of DIYers painting every piece of furniture they could get their hands on, wood is newly appreciated and natural wood is definitely on-trend again, but I am a firm believer in turning a blind eye to trends and following your gut to create a home you love.  Beams look gorgeous either way - painted out or left au naturel - and any homeowner or renter is lucky to have them.  There are even tons of DIY tutorials and products for adding faux wood ceiling beams to naked ceilings! 

If you're faced with this decision, the best thing to consider is whether the wood complements your design plans and whether it's irreplaceable (like a 200 year old solid piece of lumber).  It's far easier to paint later than strip primer and paint from a tall ceiling, so if you're on the fence at all - live with the wood for a bit!  

What are your thoughts on painted wood beams?
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April 14, 2016

Easy + Healthy Protein Brownie Recipe (Plus Tips for Baking with Coconut Flour and Protein Powder)

Since the fall, I've been diligently focused on my health and well being.  Obviously I still enjoy a treat every now and then (yum, matcha tea shortbread!), and then there was that late night emergency vet visit that saw Hubby and I drive 20 minutes deeper into the sticks, where we ate a delicious bacon double cheeseburger in the parking lot of a skating rink at 10pm.  But, on the whole, we've really started eating healthier around here.
Sugar-free Protein Brownie Recipe
Healthy eating dessert

Because we still enjoy a sweet treat every now and then, I've been baking with coconut flour and almond flour, substituting sugars (even maple syrup and honey) with Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar-approved brown rice syrup, and sneaking in a little whey protein (to make baked goods more diabetic-friendly).  I've always loved baking, but switching to these new ingredients has really thrown me for a loop because they change the flavor and texture of food quite dramatically!  A lot of the recipes I've tried from Pinterest turned out to be disappointing, gritty flops, which is why I decided to just start from scratch and develop my own healthier spin on a baked treat.

The grain-free, refined sugar-free brownie recipe I shared recently was one I came up with through trial and error, adapting an old zucchini and date cake I used to make, but ultimately changing almost every ingredient!  It turned out to be so delicious and moist and sweet - it was the breakthrough I needed to keep experimenting!  Since then, I've had a few more flops (both of my own creation and from online sources), but there have been a couple of recipes that have turned out deliciously good!
In my quest for tasty sugar-free desserts, I thought I'd share recipes I find that are a success - in addition to my own original concoctions - because I know so many of you are struggling to cut back on sugar too.

Healthy Brownie Recipe

This avocado brownie recipe is an adaptation of one I found online and it's so decadent!  I didn't change much, because it was already pretty perfect, but I did make a few substitutions: swapping out the maple syrup for brown rice syrup, adding some protein powder so it's extra filling, and ditching the applesauce in favor of my own fruity sauce (which is totally optional)!  


For this recipe, I added a fruity twist by making my own quick fruit sauce using frozen mango, peach, and strawberry mix.  It added a nice, soft flavor but not as much sweetness as a ripe banana or even unsweetened applesauce tends to lend baked goods.  I want to try this with different fruit combinations - imagine it with a homemade raspberry sauce!    

Baking without sugar
Avocado brownie recipe

  1. Cook the frozen fruit for a few minutes to boil off some water (or skip this step and use a pre-made applesauce)
  2. Combine the peeled avocado, fruit mixture, brown rice syrup and vanilla in a food processor until pureed.
  3. Pour into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the 3 eggs.
  4. Sift the coconut flour, protein powder, cocoa, salt, and baking soda (don't skip this step!)
  5. Stir the sifted mixture into the avocado mixture and combine thoroughly.
  6. Pour into a greased, 8x8 pan
  7. Cook at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (your oven may vary)
  8. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes.
  9. Store in a covered container in the fridge once cooled for maximum freshness!

Tips for baking with coconut flour

3 Tips for Baking with Coconut Flour and Protein Powder

One: I've been baking a lot with protein powder and my best tip is to sift, sift, sift.  Whisking the coconut flour, cocoa powder, protein powder and baking soda is a key step in achieving a smooth, velvety brownie.  If you skip this step, the protein powder and coconut flour want to clump and you'll end up with pockets of dry flour in the baked brownie.

Two: Add cocoa powder!  My biggest complaint with coconut and almond flour is the texture, but recipes with a lot of cocoa powder have a more familiar, velvety smooth texture thanks to the fine cocoa powder.

Three: Add more eggs!  If you're experimenting a little on your own, trying to adapt old recipes, take a look at how many eggs coconut flour recipes have - lots.  Don't be alarmed if you need more egg!

How to add protein to desserts

I am absolutely in smitten with these healthy(ish) brownies!  The original recipe from The Healthy Maven was delicious and with a couple of substitutions, these brownies are more in line with Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar program, plus the protein powder means they're a more filling treat and my diabetic Dad can even enjoy one, every now and then!

Diabetic-friendly recipes
Brownies diabetics can eat in moderation
Clean eating brownie recipe

Do you have any go-to recipes for a healthier spin on baked treats?  Have you tried quitting sugar too?  I've baked my way through some real duds, so I'd love any recommendations!

Healthy Avocado Protein Brownie Recipe (Plus Tips for Baking with Coconut Flour and Protein Powder)
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April 12, 2016

Bathroom Update: Shopping for a Towel Warmer

Although I have spent my entire life living in modestly sized spaces, with each subsequent move I've found myself in possession of an increasingly spacious bathroom...

My childhood home:  A bathroom so small, that you can rest your head on the sink and wash your feet in the tub while you sit on the toilet (for the record, I've never done this but I know it's possible).  It is the tiniest bathroom imaginable - my Mom is planning to renovate, but she has to be careful about what toilet she buys because some of the newer models are literally too long.  In addition to the small size, my parents only installed an outlet in there after I moved out, so it was pretty brutal getting ready in the mornings when I lived at home.  I was so routinely late for a morning philosophy class that the professor got in the habit of opening the door for me 10 minutes after class started, with such impeccable timing that I'd reach for the knob and the door would open, as if by magic (as an adult, I am now deeply embarrassed by this, but still fully committed to blaming that minuscule bathroom). 

My first apartment:  An absolutely HUGE bathroom because the toilet was between the sink and shower.  To me, it was insane.  Mind, blown.  If we squeezed in, Hubby and I could actually stand in the bathroom at the same time.

My first houseRoom for a VANITY.  With drawers!!  A whole gaggle of people could fit in there while it was being tiled.  At one point one of the tilers dismissively referred to the bathroom as small and I scoffed, "uh, excuse you, this is NOT small; this is huge because there are four of chatting in here right now."

This lakehouse:  Insanely large.  We now have two sinks and a linen tower.  And there's room for hampers IN the bathroom - two of them!  In the bathroom!!  I could totally host a cocktail party in here.

I have finally made it in this world: I have a large bathroom.

Now that we have a bathroom clearly fit for royalty, we decided to add a little more luxury.  Heated floors don't really thrill us, but we decided that a towel warmer would be just dreamy on cold winter nights.

I started looking for the perfect towel warmer a little late in the game and was quickly overwhelmed - and disappointed!  So many shops only had tiny photos in catalogs and, for some weird reason, towel warmers are a special order in this city (where it's cold all the time) and we were getting ready to drywall so I needed to find a towel warmer quickly.  It was a frustrating shopping experience, so I expanded my search online and quickly found a shop with tons of inventory and a really great selection - appropriately named Only Towel Warmers.  I reached out to them about partnering with me for our bathroom makeover and the owner was generous enough to send a towel warmer for review.

Where to buy towel warmers online

I chose a modestly priced model - the Amba Radiant Straight Hardwired Wall Mounted Towel Warmer -  because that's what we would have purchased ourselves.  It was $330 at the time, but now it's reduced to $264.95 - which is such a good deal!  This is also one of their best selling towel warmers, and I can see why: it's stylish and contemporary, with a perfect size for a small space and a reasonable price tag to match!

Amba Radiant Straight Hardwired Wall Mounted Towel Warmer Review

Things to Consider When Shopping for a Towel Warmer:

There were some criteria we had in mind while shopping for a towel warmer, which I thought I would share for anyone else who might be earmarking towel warmers for a bathroom reno or update.  These are the questions we asked ourselves:

Wall mounted or hard wired?
We don't have a lot of floor space in our bathroom, so wall mounted was definitely the better fit for us.  Easy!

Style & finish? 
Wow.  There are so many different styles available - there is literally something for everyone, but we had our hearts set on a modern, streamlined towel warmer that would look like it was part of the same Kohler Purist line our faucets and sconces belong to.  We also wanted brushed nickel (matchy-matchy!) and this model fit the bill!  The brushed nickel finish matches the Kohler fixtures perfectly and with similar styling, you'd never guess that it's not part of the same line - which is exactly what I wanted.

Reading through the glowing reviews from Only Towel Warmers, it looks like the owner, Michael, has tracked down specific styles/finishes for customers - so I think that whatever you're in the market for, he can find.  Seriously - some of them are designed so beautifully, you might not even know at first glance what it is, like the Amba Elory.  You can even get fun colors!  Or, if you can't find the right look, you can design your own towel warmer!

Hang towels on hooks or drape on a bar?
Some of the towel warmers we considered have handy hooks, while others only have bars, so we could have found a model to suit whatever our preference is for hanging towels.  What I love about this model is that we can drape towels, robes, PJs, on the top of the vertical bars (makeshift hooks!) or drape them on the bars as designed.  It's a versatile design, despite its small size. 

How many towels will the towel warmer need to hold?
This was an easy answer for us, but for larger families or home with lots of guests, this is something to think about!  There are really large models available - and some clever, super long ones for compact bathrooms with lots of occupants.  We picked a style that had just enough room for two folded towels, side by side, and we mounted it high enough that we could still fit two generous clothes hampers below.

We didn't realize towel warmers came in so many different widths and heights!   We paid particular attention to measurements, making sure not only that two towels could fit side by side, but that we were maximizing the wall space we devoted to the warmer.  

Hardwired or plug-in?
Because we had walls open during the reno, hardwired was ideal for us, but I love that you can add a plug-in towel warmer to any bathroom without having to renovate!  My Dad has a plug in one in his damp, basement bathroom to help his towel dry in less than ideal conditions.   

Is a timer necessary?
Ours came with an optional timer that has a schedule - so handy if you bathe or shower at the same time every day!  We don't, so Hubby is thinking of replacing it with one that will count down but I don't mind this model of timer at all.  It's a handy to feature to add on.

The price range for towel warmers really varies, but you can easily find one to fit almost every budget.  For modest bathroom renovations, it's a nice treat if you couldn't afford more luxurious updates like heated floors or stone counters.  It really does lend a spa-like quality to even the most humble bathroom!

Once we had these questions answered, it was easy to pick the best towel warmer - especially because Only Towel Warmers is set up so you can shop by brand, price, or sort by hardwired/plug-in.  Here are some helpful towel warmer shopping FAQs for anyone who might be shopping for a towel warmer in the future.

Only Towel Warmers Review

Why I Love a Towel Warmer in the Bathroom

I am so thrilled we decided to add a towel warmer to our bathroom plans!  It heats up quickly and it's such a treat to dry off with a warm towel - especially on chilly nights.  I sometimes squeeze Hubby's towel over and drape my pajamas on the towel warmer too.  The bathroom get pretty warm and steamy with the shower portal gone, but it's still nice to dry off with a toasty towel!  Plus the towels dry much faster afterward, which is a plus!

It works so efficiently, I don't even really need to weave the towels in and out - they get toasty no matter how they're draped on the towel warmer, which is a relief because my enthusiasm for doing this waned after a week:

Guide for purchasing a towel warmer - what questions to ask

How to Install a Hardwired Towel Warmer

We were able to install our hardwired towel warmer really easily because we had walls open and wiring was being done anyway, so it's an idea to flag if you have a bath reno on the horizon.  If you don't, Only Towel Warmers sells a ton of plug-in models - even a plug in of this exact version

Installation for us was fairly straight forward.  Because we had removed all the drywall it was easy to put wood cross pieces between the wall studs where the bar was going to be mounted.  Hubby loved this extra security for install!  If you don't do this step, don't worry, because you can just drill holes and use anchors in the drywall.  Hubby also installed the electrical box and ran the wires straight down to the basement at this time (our basement is unfinished, making access easy).  Once the drywall went up again, he simply installed the bar and connected the wires as per the included instructions.  We worked together so I could hold the bar as he connected the wires on the bar to those in the wall.  It was super simple to install.

How to add a spa-like feel to a bathroom on a budget

I am so enamored with this luxurious little touch!

Shopping with Only Towel Warmers was so straightforward and easy.  They have outstanding customer testimonials on their website and I can say from my experience, the customer service was top notch.  The company is a family-owned business, located in the States, and I'm honored to be able to partner with and promote family businesses when I can.

Disclosure: I was provided my towel warmer for review, but was not prompted, encouraged or ask to include any particular information in my review.  I'm completely happy with the product and the customer service, which seems to be the general consensus among customers.  If you're shopping for a towel warmer, chat with the experts at Only Towel Warmers.  You won't be disappointed, I promise!
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