Blackout window treatments for the nursery and how to pleat Ikea curtains

Blackout window treatments in the nursery

When it came to window treatments for Ellie’s room my first priority was making the room completely dark.

Both of my sisters at various points struggled with getting their babies to sleep and eventually resorted to taping black garbage bags over the windows. For my one nephew, the smallest strip of light was enough to hold his attention and keep him awake.

Fortunately, Ellie has been a really good sleeper so far (and please may it continue for all time), but I have found that a dark quiet room is very helpful to ensure she sleeps as soundly as possible.

My first step in making sure I could get the room as dark as possible was the layered window treatments that I used in our own bedroom. Blackout blind, hidden behind bamboo blind (which really acts as just a valance) and then full-length curtain panels for the finishing touch and an extra layer of darkness.

Blackout window treatments in the nursery

While I still like the dropcloth curtains that I made for the guest room and our room, for Ellie’s room I really wanted white curtains. Some sales around Black Friday netted me four Ritva panels from Ikea. At first when the curtains arrived they looked super creamy to me, but once I tried them in the baby’s room they were white (or white enough for me). They also have a bit of a texture, which I initially wasn’t planning on, but now I like that the fabric isn’t completely flat and boring.

Texture on Ikea Ritva curtains

I elected to get four curtains (two packages), so that I could do two panels per side, ensuring that the fabric covers the full width of the window, and also that the curtains look nice and full whether they’re open or closed.

My first step was to wash all four curtain panels to preshrink them. Then, I sewed two panels together so that my four curtains became two, one for each side.

Now, on their own, the Ritva curtains are not blackout–in fact far from it. Since it was important to me that these curtains block the light as well as add style to the room, I added a blackout lining that I bought at the fabric store. Tip: Wait for a sale. The amount of fabric needed is not small, and this lining is not cheap. A discount makes a huge difference.

I cut the lining so that it was just a bit shorter and narrower than my finished curtains were going to be. The fabric didn’t fray or ravel, so I didn’t bother hemming the edges. I sewed the lining to the curtains, just underneath the curtain tape that runs along the top edge of the Ritvas.

I will say that the curtains were absolute beasts to sew. They were huge and I had metres and metres and layers and layers of fabric that I was trying to slide around. It was very awkward, even though I was only sewing straight lines.

But once the curtains and lining were all together, the next step was pleating the curtains.

The curtain tape that comes with the Ritvas is the neatest thing for me about these Ikea curtains. This tape has little pockets at regular intervals and allows you to form pleats in the top of your curtain by inserting special hooks. (When I made our dropcloth curtains, the tape was something I had to buy and sew on separately).

How to pinch pleat Ikea curtains

Ikea sells hooks that you can use to pleat your curtains. However, I wanted to replicate the really full, traditional pleats that I made for our other two bedrooms, and the Ikea hooks didn’t do that. I bought four-pronged hooks at my local fabric store (again, on sale) and went to work to figure out how to make my non-Ikea hooks work with my Ikea curtains.

Hooks for pleating curtains

The thing with the curtain tape I’ve used in the past is that each pocket is set up at exactly the right interval to make perfect pleats. The Ikea curtains aren’t quite the same. They’re set up so that you can get as many different looks out of one curtain as possible. There are lots and lots of pockets and then, in the event that you don’t want to pleat your curtains, there are also loops that slide directly over your curtain rod.

So figuring out how to place my hooks took a bit of time… and trial and error… and measuring… and math. For my pinch pleats, I left about 4 sleeves in between the prong of each hook. The spacing varied ever so slightly because those pesky loops threw off my count every other hook. The joint where I’d sewn the two panels was another spot where I had to fudge the hook placement. Between each hook, I left 12 or 13 sleeves.

Once I was happy with the spacing, I went along the back with a marker and made a little dot on each sleeve that was going to receive a prong. I used a permanent marker so that when I wash the curtains, I can reinsert the hooks without repeating the whole trial and error process.

How to pinch pleat Ikea curtains

The panels for the other side of the window went much quicker, because I was able to use the first curtains as my pattern. However, I made sure to mirror the spacing, so that each panel is symmetrical.

The hooks simply slide into the sleeves, and it can take some smooshing to make sure that one prong stays in place while you’re inserting the others. My fingertips were a bit tender by the time I finished.

How to pinch pleat Ikea curtains

Once the hook is in place, turn over the curtain, and the pleats are nice and even.

How to pleat Ikea curtains

As soon as I hung the curtains, I was super impressed by how effective this blackout lining is. But I took one more step to ensure the room will be as dark as possible. Because we have a double rod with the back rod supporting the bamboo valance, I was able to loop the curtains around and hang a few rings on the back rod. This means that the curtain is right up against the wall, and there is less gap to let light in.

How to make blackout window treatments

The final touches were hemming the curtains to the right length and adding a wand to the edge of each curtain so that we can pull the curtains open and closed without pulling the fabric–a surefire way to get our white curtains grimy over time.

Wand for pulling curtains closed

My plan for bedtime or nap time was to simply pull down the blind, and let the curtains block the light around the edges of the window and look pretty. But after the time change this spring, I noticed Ellie was waking up earlier and earlier in the mornings. I pulled the curtains shut over the blind, and morning sleep-ins returned–love that blackout lining.

Blackout window treatments in the nursery

If you want to make your own blackout window treatments like these, here are the materials I used.

Materials

What is your go-to window treatment? Do you like the look of traditional pleated curtains or are you more modern? Can you sleep in the light, or are you on the dark side? Any tips to help babies sleep?

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Creating a new family heirloom

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The words “new” and “heirloom” don’t really go together. Is it possible to create an heirloom?

I love the dresser that we chose for Ellie’s room. You know I’m all about sentimental family pieces. This is a brand new piece of furniture, and I chose it specifically because I hope that it becomes a special heirloom for her.

It’s a solid wood, handcrafted gift from Grandma and Grandpa. I think it will last for many years and can have a long life beyond a baby’s room.

But whoa, it felt like a saga to get here.

Dovetailed drawer

Both sets of grandparents of course wanted to help us by buying some things for the new baby. When Matt’s parents redecorated his old bedroom, they had a Mennonite crafted dresser made.

Pine dresser

It’s country pine which is perfect for the farm, lots of drawers for storage, seemingly a good change table height (#firsttimemom #whatdoiknow). I thought something like it would be a really nice piece for the nursery–and I liked the heritage potential.

Matt’s parents were on board, so I met them at the furniture shop, and we picked out a dresser that was the same as theirs. But then the salesman told me the price. For a person who has furnished her home with mostly hand-me-downs or thrifted furniture, the sticker shock was immense. I wanted to walk out of the store and find a different dresser, but Matt’s Dad was sold.

We compromised by me paying the deposit, and they covered the balance.

Then I had to pick the finish.

Originally, I had planned to pick the same country pine finish that Matt’s parents have. But then I started to think about the rest of the furniture in the room. White crib and bookcase, grey chair. Would the addition of pine look too much like a garage sale?

The shop had a grey finish that still showed the grain of the wood, and I decided to go with that.

Usually I’m pretty decisive, but I started to doubt myself as soon as we walked out of the store. I quizzed my sisters, my Mom, my friends. Should I have gone with the pine? Or stick with the grey?

I saw this picture from Dina Holland and that sealed it for me. I loved how the grey dresser looked in the room that she designed, and I decided I’d made the right choice . (You can–and should–check out all of the rooms that Dina did in this house. They are colourful and fun and sophisticated and different from so much of what I see in decor these days).

As it turned out, I would have had plenty of time to change my mind. While the production time on the dresser was supposed to be two months, it took closer to three. Matt started to question whether the baby would arrive before the dresser.

But finally, everything came together (with free delivery to compensate for the delay). The dresser arrived and it was perfect. The size was right for the room (18 inches deep by 36 inches high by 54 inches long). The storage was abundant. The height is good for diaper changes. The grey finish still has a country style. And the quality of this piece means that it will be with us–and Ellie–for a long time.

I added simple wood dividers inside the drawers to help keep us organized (I cannot be bothered to fold baby clothes). Then I tied wooden labels to each of the knobs so that no matter who is dressing baby (including sleep deprived Mama), they know where to find things. The top is set up with the change pad and other diapering essentials.

Dividers inside a dresser drawer

Wood tags to label dresser drawers

Wood tags to label dresser drawers

In the future, I know this is a piece that will grow with Ellie and have a life beyond a change table and a nursery. I like thinking of it being in Ellie’s own home some day.

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

Do you have any furniture that you hope becomes an heirloom one day? How do you organize baby clothes at your house? What finish would you have chosen for the dresser? Anyone else suffer from sticker shock when furniture shopping?

DIY Moroccan pouf and other footstools you can make yourself

DIY Moroccan pouf free sewing pattern

One of my must-haves for the nursery was a spot to put up my feet. I knew a footstool of some kind would make nursing, cuddling, storytime and all the rest of baby time much more comfortable.

I love the look of the Moroccan poufs, so I was excited to find a free pattern to sew my own from Better Homes and Gardens.

Free DIY pouf sewing pattern from BHG

I made a few modifications to my pouf. First, I lengthened the pattern just slightly. I extended the side pieces by about an inch to make my pouf a bit taller.

Another change was my fabric. Rather than using the burlap and muslin that the BHG team used in their sample, I went with a white vinyl. Wipeable, durable, good for a nursery. However, I will say that vinyl is not the easiest to sew, and as the pouf got bigger it was much more challenging to manipulate. I’m sure the burlap would be easy-peasy.

I also chose to do my top stitching by machine, rather than going with the decorative hand embroidery BHG showed. Vinyl does not fold and cannot be ironed, so the top stitching helps my seams to lay properly.

DIY Moroccan pouf

The final change was I added a zipper. Even though the vinyl is wipeable, I liked the idea of being able to remove the cover if I ever need to. So at the very bottom of the pouf, I put in a 20-inch zipper. Stitching a zipper in vinyl, especially where all the seams came together, was not my funnest sewing moment. (Again, in another fabric it would be NBD.)

Zipper in the bottom of a homemade Moroccan pouf

To stuff the pillow, BHG recommends towels and fibre fill. I happen to have a large stash of pillows (anyone else find the search for the perfect bed pillow challenging?), so I mined that to stuff the pouf. This thing held seven full size bed pillows. Honestly, I’d love to fit an eighth in there, but I’m afraid the seams might not hold. Getting the pillows to lay smoothly inside, so that the pouf doesn’t look overly lumpy took a bit of effort.

DIY Moroccan pouf free sewing pattern

As soon as the pouf was finished and I set it in the nursery, I was thrilled. It’s the perfect height with the chair, and the white goes well with the other elements in the room. Now that we’ve been using it for more than a month, I also have to say that I’m glad the pouf is light weight enough that I can kick it out of the way when I am trying to oh so carefully put Ellie back in her crib without waking her up.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

I’m also really proud that I made this myself.

In my experience, poufs, ottomans and footstools are pretty easy to make. Even high-end poufs that I see online get my creative juices flowing as I think how I could make them myself.

Here’s a round-up if you’re looking for inspiration.

DIY Poufs

Ready-made poufs that you could DIY

If you’re looking for a Moroccan pouf similar to the one I made.

I think these buffalo check cubes were originally at Target and seem to now be discontinued, but they’d be super easy to DIY (a cube is really easy to sew). And wouldn’t the check fabric and the leather handles be perfect for a farm?

It might take a bit of searching to find a textural fabric like this, but once you do, it would be a snap to whip up this large ottoman.

Other footstools I considered

I truly love this Ikea cowhide footstool for its fit with our farm theme, but it appears to only be sold at Ikea in the US… and my DIY option was much less expen$ive.

My original nursery plan called for a lot of colourful accessories, like this beanbag ottoman.

A storage ottoman is a favourite for obvious reasons–it’s dual purpose, providing a spot to sit or rest your feet as well as a spot to stash blankets, toys or other nursery stuffs.

In the end, I’m very happy with my pouf. The price was right and so is the style.

What’s your favourite style of footstool? Have you ever made a pouf?

Our favourite children’s books plus the nursery bookcase

Bookcase in the nursery

One of the earliest things Matt and I did when we found out we were having a baby was buy our favourite children’s books. We each enjoy reading and we love the large book collection we have, so we want the same for our child.

Our two favourite children's books

For Matt, his book was A Woggle of Witches. He didn’t have this book growing up, but he checked it out of the library nearly every week. For him, he’s all about the pictures in this book, and he couldn’t really remember the story–or even the title until his Mom helped him.

A Woggle of Witches

The witches are afraid of the trick or treaters, even the cute little ghost dog.

For me, my book was an old anthology of Little Golden Book stories. I remember being read so many stories in this book. By far, my favourite is Jill’s Jack, the story of a young girl and her extremely friendly boxer puppy (it could easily be titled Julia and Bax IMO).

Children's story Jill's Jack

Children's story Jill's Jack

This particular anthology was published in 1951, so I was not optimistic that we’d be able to find a copy. But Matt found one on eBay and bought it for me for my birthday.

Beyond our two favourites, we’ve been gifted a lot of beautiful books, and we’ve built a great library for Ellie.

To hold the library I found an Ikea Hemnes bookcase on Kijiji for half what we would have paid new. Since the old backing was falling apart, I bought a piece of beadboard and installed that instead, and then I painted everything a nice clean white.

The bookcase fits perfectly in the corner beside the window and actually helps to balance our crazy off-centre window. Children’s books are not very thick, so we have plenty of space to tuck in some toys, mementos and extra storage. Plus I like that the bookcase will grow with Ellie as her library expands.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Ellie is now at the stage that she’s enjoying stories, and I’m loving working our way through her collection with a few books everyday.

Do you have a favourite book that you read your children (or perhaps was read to you)? I’d love to get more recommendations. How do you store children’s books at your house?

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

I firmly believe you can never have too many hooks. Bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens. Hooks are good.

So when I was putting the baby’s room together, hooks were on my list. We have a relatively large empty corner behind the door, which was going to be the perfect spot.

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

Originally, I planned to make simple hookboards similar to what I did in our master bedroom.

Brass and white hookboards

But then I had a brainwave. What about the Hang-It-All by Eames? It’s definitely not farmy or rustic. But it’s colourful and fun, which were some of the other qualities I was looking to incorporate into the nursery.

Eames Hang-It-All

The Hang-It-All is not at all in my price range ($200+ for a coat hook?). I did find a mini version for $4 at the Dollarstore of all places, but it was much too small for what I was looking for.

Dollarstore knock off Eames Hang It All

I decided my best bet was to make my own. Here is my tutorial.

Materials

  • Wire hook rack (mine are 20 inches wide and sport 12 hooks each)
  • Wood balls (1 inch, one for each hook)*
  • Craft paint or stain in your preferred colours (depending on what version of the Hang-It-All you’re making)
  • Scrap 2×4 and 3 inch finishing nails (for drying rack)
  • Glue (optional)

* You can buy wood beads, but I found that they were flat on two sides, rather than perfect spheres. Also, since the hole goes all the way through, you’ll have to patch one end with wood filler. If you go with the balls, you’ll have to drill holes in them yourself. Buy a few extra as they may split when you drill them.

Materials to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

Tools

  • Small paint brush
  • Drill and appropriately sized bit(s)
  • Hammer
  • Adjustable pliers or vice

I liked the look of the version that is white wire with colourful balls. But of course, I couldn’t find a rack in white (there are some good sources online). I bought a grey version and hit it with white spray paint in a very makeshift paint studio, also known as our utility room. (I really need the temperature outside to warm up again. This was beyond awkward.)

Makeshift spraypaint studio

Then I was able to begin assembling my homemade Hang-It-All. Here are my steps.

1. Remove rubber tips from your hooks. This is optional, but I found I was able to get a better fit on the wire itself.

2. Determine what size holes you need to drill in your balls. This took a bit of trial and error and a few balls were sacrificed in the process.

Broken wooden ball

Drilling smaller pilot holes with a 1/8 inch bit helped to keep the balls from splitting. For the final holes, I ended up going with a 3/16 inch drill bit. It was a tight fit, but the balls slid onto the hooks with a bit of muscle.

3. Determine how deep to drill your holes. I measured the length of the rubber sleeves that were originally on each hook and then marked my drill bits with a bit of tape so I knew when to stop drilling.

Mark your drillbit with tape to ensure you drill holes to the right depth

4. Drill your balls. (What a terrible sentence.) Use a vice or pliers to hold the balls. I found my adjustable pliers worked fine. I used an old sock as a cushion so that the teeth on the pliers didn’t mark the balls. Remember to stop when you reach the edge of the tape on your bit.

Drilling holes in wooden balls

5. Assemble your drying rack. Hang-It-Alls come in a variety of finishes. Whether you’re painting or staining your balls, a drying rack will be helpful to get a nice finish. I tapped a bunch of nails into a scrap 2×4, which worked very well. I could slip the balls over the head of each nail so they dried cleanly. Tip: Tilt your nails in alternate directions so you can fit more balls into one piece of wood.

DIY drying rack for painting wooden balls

6. Paint or stain your balls. A small craft brush will be helpful here. I tried to match Eames’ colours, but then decided to keep it simple with the primary and secondary colours. I was doing 24 hooks, so that meant 4 balls in each colour. Tip: If you’re staining your balls, watch out for different wood tones. I found between the two packages of balls that I bought, one was darker than the other.

I did two coats of paint. The finish with the craft paint is a bit dull, so if you like the glossy finish of the authentic Hang-It-All consider using a glossier paint or adding a final coat of a clear sealer.

7. Stick your balls on your hooks. My 3/16 inch holes were a very tight fit, so I didn’t use glue or any other adhesive. I simply twisted each ball until it covered up the dark grey unpainted tip of each hook.

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

8. Install your rack on the wall. Admire your handiwork and pat yourself on the back for being so thrifty.

Cost (for one DIY Hang-It-All)

  • Hook rack $11.28
  • Wood balls $5.99
  • Craft paint $7.14 (6 bottles at $1.19 per bottle)
  • Total $24.41

Much less than $200.

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

Right now, these hooks hold the diaper bag, our carrier, her warm outdoor outfit and a bath towel, and they’re a fun surprise when you look behind the door in the baby’s room. In the future, I can see these being useful for more tiny clothes and eventually dress-up costumes or backpacks.

For more about the Hang-It-All, check out this post by White Cabana.

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All for less than $25

Creative, affordable and personal art for a nursery

My approach to art is all about keeping it personal and affordable. When it came to the nursery, I had so many ideas that I couldn’t fit them all on the walls.

I thought it might be helpful to share the ideas here–including some that we did and some that we didn’t. I’d also love your input on what art you’ve incorporated into your babies’ rooms and other ideas you have.

Family mementos – The most sentimental piece of art in the room by far is Matt’s first pair of sleepers. These were what he wore home from the hospital. Can you believe it?

Baby sleepers framed in a homemade shadowbox

I built a simple shadow box, which protects and displays the sleepers and hung them in the little nook just inside the door. (I’ll be sharing more details on this project in an upcoming post.)

Anything can go in a shadow box–and a shadow box makes anything look artsy. Consider displaying a special toy, a small collection or a hospital bracelet. They would all make beautiful art.

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

Baby animals – Is there anything as cute as a baby animal? Before we considered having children, I knew if I was ever decorating a nursery I wanted some prints from the Animal Print Shop–they’re a nursery staple for a reason. The photos are so crisp and full of personality.

Animal portraits in a turquoise gender neutral nursery

I picked three animals that you may find someday on our farm. They make me smile every time I see them–although Matt thinks the duck is scheming something. Paintings, drawings, illustrations or photos, there are lots of options online–or even on your own camera–to get some cute animal art.

Animal busts – While I’m not advocating taxidermy for a baby’s room–not that there’s anything wrong with that if that’s meaningful for you–I love the different options that are available now for displaying animal heads on the wall. Most are really fun and whimsical.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Way back, before the third bedroom became my office and before my office became the nursery, I bought a papier mache goose head on Etsy that reminded me of the pet goose I had growing up. Bill has made the transition from office to nursery, and I think he’s a perfect fit for our farm theme.

Paper mache goose head

A favourite story book – There are so many great children’s stories out there. Consider scanning or cutting pages from your favourite story book, framing and displaying them. This isn’t something we’ve done in our nursery, but I know exactly what story I’ll choose if I ever change up the decor.

Children's story Jill's Jack

Children's story Jill's Jack

Growth chart – While it’s not applicable to an infant, I love a growth chart to track Ellie as she grows through the years. I made growth charts for both of my sisters when they had their first children, and I was excited to make one for our own baby.

Ruler growth chart

Alphabet/numbers art – Babies and children are learning so much, and we want to start them off right. So educational art is a natural fit for nurseries. Plus so much of it is pretty cute too. I found these animal alphabet flashcards through The Grit and Polish and knew right away they’d be perfect for the baby’s room.

Alphabet flashcards above the changing table

Like many of the commenters on Cathy’s blog suggested, I had them laminated so if they ever go on to a life as actual flashcards, they hopefully won’t get too tattered. Rather than framing 26 individual cards, I strung a pair of twine clotheslines and clipped the cards up with miniature clothespins. Etsy is a great source for beautiful flashcards (my set are by Susan Windsor).

Alphabet flashcards hung on a twine clothesline

Ultrasound print – Ultrasounds are very special moments in our journey to being parents. For me, the first ultrasound was the moment our baby became real–“holy moly, there’s really something in there.”

Remember that moment you first “met” your baby with a print of an ultrasound picture. If you have a bit of Photoshop or design skills, this is something you can DIY fairly easily. Or there are lots of services that offer ultrasound prints these days. Chris Loves Julia shared one in their daughter Polly’s nursery.

Ultrasound art

Quote – I admit I’m not the biggest fan of typography art. A sign with a word or two just isn’t my thing. But these longer quotes that I first saw on The Painted Hive are absolutely lovely and really speak to me.

Book quote art by the Painted Hive

You could use a quote from a favourite story (this would go great with the storybook art idea above), a song verse, an inspirational wish for your child or something that is particularly meaningful to you. For a different treatment, The Handmade Home does beautifully coloured quotes.

My mama choice would be this poem from Kahlil Gibran On Children:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

A talisman – This idea may be a bit abstract, but sometimes there’s something that we associate with our children. At the baby shower Matt’s family hosted for me, his sister-in-law decorated each table with sunflowers and sent every guest home with a packet of sunflower seeds to plant in their gardens. Sunflowers have now become something that I associate with our baby, and I love the idea of incorporating a photo of a sunflower or an artificial sunflower into the room. Nicole at Making it Lovely wears a special piece of jewelry for each of her children, which I think is absolutely… lovely (of course).

Sunflower puckered up for a kiss

Online printables – There is so much beautiful art available online. Minted and Jenny’s Print Shop are popular sources, but there are many more too. Don’t forget free printables as well. This pencil drawing from Shades of Blue Interiors is an extremely moving image for me. I printed and framed this as a gift to Matt’s brother and sister-in-law just before they had their first baby, and I still may find a spot for it in our baby’s nursery too.

Shades of Blue Interiors nativity print

Silhouettes – Anyone remember tracing their profile in silhouette in grade school for art class? A silhouette of your child’s profile is a super easy DIY and super personal. I spotted this silhouette via Shailey Murphy on Instagram, and I love how the artist Kendra of Lilac Paperie incorporated flowers (including Shailey’s daughter’s birth month flower) and other elements to make it even more special.

Child's silhouette by Lilac Paperie

Family tree – I made this fan family tree for our master bedroom, but I think it would be perfect for a baby’s room too. Put her name and birthdate in the centre and then branch out from there. It’s a lovely reminder of the heritage you’re carrying on in your family. (Martha Stewart has a free template).

Fan family tree

There are so many more creative ideas out there for creative, affordable, personal art. You can make a space that perfectly fits your style and is meaningful for your family.

What’s your favourite art idea from this list? What other ideas would you add? Have you tried any of these? What art did you use in your baby’s room?

12 creative, affordable, personal ideas for nursery art

DIY Benchwright coffee table with double-sided drawers

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

The Benchwright coffee table from Ana White (originally by Pottery Barn) has been on my wishlist ever since we moved to the farm. I loved the look of it, the storage potential that came with the drawers and lower shelf, and the DIY factor–building myself versus buying is pretty much always a win.

Well, I’m excited to share that the coffee table is finally done, just in time for Ellie’s arrival.

Ellie in her chair on the coffee table

In a lot of ways, the new coffee table may not look all that different from our old one.

Comparing our old and new coffee tables

The old one cost $15 at a garage sale when Matt and I were furnishing our very first house. My Dad helped me add a lower shelf, and then I painted the whole thing dark brown–and I just discovered that I missed a spot on the inside of one of the legs. It only took me 10 years to notice. Whoopsie.

The size and the shelf worked really well for us, so I knew I’d like those on the Benchwright. But I was ready to move away from the heavy brown paint to real wood, and I loved the idea of drawers to tuck things away–like remotes, if it turns out our new small person likes buttons.

Drawers on the coffee table

I won’t post a full tutorial because Ana’s plans have that pretty well covered. I’ll talk a bit about some of the changes I made and what worked and what didn’t.

I will say that this is my first time using an Ana White plan. I think her library is a tremendous resource for DIYers. I would agree with the “advanced” rating on this plan, not because of the drawers or overall complexity, but because a certain amount of detail is skimmed over on the plans.

I’m not sure if this is typical of Ana’s plans, but I often had to study the drawings, written instructions and cut list together to figure out what piece went where. In fact, I had two tabs open on my computer so that I could quickly reference the cut list without scrolling up and down repeatedly.

Nothing stumped me, but I did spend some time figuring things out as I went, and I think that would have been the case even if I hadn’t customized the plan.

Speaking of, I made one big change to this coffee table by doubling the number of drawers so that we had two on each side.

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table with four drawers

On the fireplace and TV side we can store newspaper, the lighter or DVDs.

Drawers on the coffee table

Then on the couch side we can tuck away remotes, magazines, books or other Mama and Daddy things.

The shelf underneath can hold bébé things, like toys or books–and be easily accessed for time in the baby jail play yard.

Toy storage under the coffee table

 

Doubling the number of drawers was not as difficult as I thought it might be. If you want to do this yourself, it’s important to start building the coffee table at step 8, the drawer frames.

Two sets of drawers slightly changes the dimensions of the coffee table, so you need the drawers first to determine all of the other measurements.

In Ana’s plan, the table measures 24 inches wide from the outer edge of each leg (this is not the overall width, as the top has an overhang that makes Ana’s table 27 1/2 inches wide in total). My table ended up being 27 1/4 inches from leg to leg.

In Ana’s plan, her drawers are 16 inches deep. I didn’t want the table to turn out too much wider than hers, so I shortened the drawers to 12 inches. All of the length measurements I kept the same. As you can see from the measurements above, my table ended up being 3 1/4 inches wider than Ana’s–not too much bigger.

I made two face frames–Ana’s plan calls for just one–so that I had one for each set of drawers. All of the drawers connect to one centre support, which again, I built according to Ana’s plan. The only change was the location because my support is right in the middle of the table.

Benchwright coffee table drawer frames

The back end of the drawer slides share the centre support. Installing the drawer slides determined the placement of all of the frames and the overall dimensions of the table. I used 12 inch drawer guides by Richelieu and attached them with 3/4 inch screws.

Richilieu 12 inch drawer guide

Attaching drawer guides with 3/4 inch screws

Drawers are intimidating to a lot of people. They’re actually not all that difficult. With purchased slides, you build your drawers to be 1 inch smaller than your opening. The slides take a half inch on either side.

On the table, you attach the slides in 3/4 of an inch from the outside edge. On the drawer, you attach them even with the front edge of the box. At the end, you cover the front of your drawer box with a “face” that hides the slides and the gaps. (Ana’s plans cover all of these details, so trust the instructions.)

Ana preaches throughout the plan the importance of building your drawers and frames square. I found that wasn’t a huge challenge. I followed the measurements, used my speed square and made sure my saw blade was set properly. The result was that everything stayed pretty square.

Speed square

Once I had the drawer frames built and the slides installed, I knew what the new width of the coffee table was going to be. Again, 27 1/4 inches (not factoring in the top).

This affected the side “aprons” on the top and bottom, and the dimensions of the bottom shelf and top. Again, I kept the length and height the same as on Ana’s plan.

Benchwright coffee table drawer frames

So with the drawer frames done, I went back to step 2 and started building the base. I say step 2 because for the bottom shelf (step 1), I used a piece of nice plywood, rather than piecing it together out of 1x12s as the plan called for. I had some good quality plywood leftover from another project, and it seemed easier to use that when I would have had to add an additional small piece of lumber to the 1x12s to get the width I needed.

Benchwright coffee table base

The one issue that I uncovered with the base, which would have been an issue even if I’d built the coffee table completely according to plan, was teeny gaps around the legs and drawer frames. Ana’s plan relies on exact measurements of your lumber. As in no overlap.

Gaps

They’re little tiny hairline gaps (despite looking giant in that picture), but they had me worried for awhile. I didn’t love the idea of seeing the gaps on my finished table. Fortunately, with the drawers and top in place, there are enough shadows that you can’t tell the joints aren’t completely tight. If I shine a flashlight through them, you’d see them, but I don’t expect that to happen, so I’m not worrying about them now.

For the top, you may recall that I debated whether 1-by or 2-by stock was the best choice. The resounding feedback on my last post was 2-by and you guys were all right.

Toy storage under the coffee table

 

When it came to the top, I decided that I wanted less of an overhang than Ana’s plan called for. Her table appears to have a roughly 3 inch overhang on either end and 1 3/4 inch overhang on the sides. I decided a 1 inch overhang all the way around was what I was aiming for, which meant my top was going to be 52 inches by about 30 inches.

The top is probably the area I struggled with most. Calculating the dimensions and the materials I needed wasn’t the problem. The problem was the wood itself. I bought all of my lumber at Home Depot, and the selection at my local store was terrible. In the 2×8 and 2×6 piles (I ended up using both to get the measurements I wanted), most of the wood looked like it had been chewed by a wild animal. Those that hadn’t been mauled were twisted like spaghetti noodles. In hindsight, I should have gone to my local lumber mill, but after this pregnant lady had single-handedly dismantled most of the stack, I just wanted to buy some wood and go home.

As I did when I made our wood countertop, I had the wood milled to ensure my pieces were completely square without the rounded edges typical of stock lumber. The staff member at HD was not at all happy by my request (apparently they’re not permitted to rip lumber like that), but he did it for me (looking over his shoulder for his manager the whole time).

The square edges make it much, much easier to get a tight joint and smooth top between the boards. However, because my lumber was so badly warped, we ended up with a few imperfect joints. Matt used all of his strength to try and hold the boards straight while I screwed them together (using my Kreg Jig).

In the end, the joints aren’t bad, but they aren’t great. I used a bunch of woodfiller, which is visible along some of the joints. I also sanded and sanded a few spots that were particularly chewed, which gave us a couple of dips.

Pregnant lady sanding

The biggest issue though is that the top as a whole had a huge twist from the warped boards.

Warped coffee table top

When we attached the top to the base, it pulled the base out of line. We ended up with a very tippy table. Matt’s advice was to ball up some paper and tuck it under the elevated leg. Thank you, husband.

Uneven table leg

My solution was that we each spent some time sitting on opposite corners of the table, trying to bend the top back into shape. We managed to twist it in the right direction a bit, but not quite all the way. I leveled it with a stack of foam pads. Perhaps not all that different than a ball of paper, but I feel like it’s a little less obvious.

Levelling coffee table with foam pads

Fortunately, all of our drawers still slide nicely and haven’t been pulled too far out of square. Just in case each drawer fits slightly differently, I’ve labelled the bottom and frame of the drawers so that we know which goes where.

Labelling drawers

Labelling drawers

None of our furniture is precious, so I’m happy to live with the top as it is. We have meals and snacks at this table. We put our feet up. Some day, Ellie will likely be drumming and then colouring on the coffee table. I’m not going to worry about any of it.

If I decide to in the future, the top will be easy to rebuild–with better lumber. It could also be replaced with a beautiful live edge piece if I want to go for something a little more precious.

We finished off the table with stain in Minwax Provincial, a couple of coats of Varathane and simple black handles from Lee Valley.

Black drawer handles on the coffee table

I’m very pleased with how it all came together and that we were able to build this ourselves. I love having it in the living room after years of envisioning it in our home.

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

Thanks Ana for a very good plan. Thanks everyone for your input on this project. If you have any questions about the drawers or other aspects of this table, please leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to explain my process.

Turquoise farm-inspired gender neutral nursery

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Thank you very, very much for all of your kind wishes for Ellie. The warmth of your welcome means a lot. We are all still doing well, and Ellie is still being pretty easy for us.

Today I’m excited to share her nursery. Decorating Ellie’s nursery was a very fun experience for me. It was really special to think about the room and our child and our hopes for her (or him).

As I shared before, we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so we wanted the space to be as neutral as possible. But I quickly decided that neutral didn’t mean without colour.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

As soon as I decided to use my office as the baby’s room, I knew we wouldn’t be changing the colour. I loved the dark turquoise (Benjamin Moore Coat of Arms) that was on the walls, and I thought it would be perfect for a baby.

My initial plan was to mix the turquoise with lots of other colours–pompom trim on the curtains, a brightly patterned footstool, fun coat hooks–but as the room came together, I found myself drawn more to white and wood.

The result is a space that feels bright, cheerful, fresh, farmy, while also being calm and homey.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

I first discovered the Animal Print Shop years ago, and I knew if I ever had a nursery of my own that I wanted some of Sharon’s pictures for the walls. The trio of portraits above the crib are perfect for our farm. I love the expressions on the goat’s, duck’s and lamb’s faces–although Matt thinks the duck is plotting something.

Animal portraits in a turquoise gender neutral nursery

Tucked beside the crib is a vintage pedal car tractor that my siblings and I drove growing up. It will be awhile before Ellie rides this one, but I love that my daughter already has her own tractor. This girl will learn to drive the tractor (the real one) long before she gets her driver’s license, so this is a small nod to the independence, confidence and responsibility I’m hoping to instill in her as she grows up.

Vintage pedal car tractor in the nursery

Ellie’s room connects to our bedroom through a pocket door. While pre-baby this was weird, it is now so convenient. We keep the door open and her crib is just inside. She’s slept in her crib since the first night we brought her home, and we’re able to hear her clearly and go to her when she needs us.

Baxter looking into the nursery

The window treatments are the same layered window treatments that I used in the master bedroom. Blackout blind hidden behind a decorative bamboo valance and then everything covered by full length curtains. In this case, I added a blackout lining to the curtains too in case Ellie needs extra darkness. I’ll be sharing more details about the window treatments in an upcoming post.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The Ikea Strandmon wing chair is the very first thing I bought for the nursery. I love this chair in the basement and knew it would be perfect for the nursery.

Shortly after I figured out I was pregnant, I hopped on kijiji and found a secondhand Strandmon for sale for half the regular price. It seemed like a sign. I had just found out I was pregnant. The chair I wanted for the nursery was for sale. A few quick emails and the next day it came home with me.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The chair has been everything I thought it would. The high back and generous wings are helpful as Mama dozes off during late night feedings. The seat–where I’ve spent more time than I care to think about–is very comfortable. The arms are just the right height to support a nursing baby.

I had considered adding rockers to the chair, but that didn’t work out. However, I’ve found that I’m not missing them.

Vintage pedal car tractor in the nursery

The side table and footstool are absolutely essential.

This quirky triangle side table lived in my family’s cottage for years. When the cottage was sold, I refinished the table and since then it’s had numerous lives in my bedroom at my parents’ house, the living room of our first house and, for a time, the living room of this house. The table was tucked away waiting for its next life when on a whim I dragged it up to the nursery. It turned out to be just the right height next to the Strandmon, and it’s the perfect size for my water bottle, phone, a box of tissues, lip balm and other nursing necessities.

Ikea Strandmon in the nursery

The footstool was a spot where initially I was expecting to add more colour. The pouf is a DIY courtesy of a free pattern from Better Homes and Gardens. As I started fabric shopping, I sourced lots of different options, but found myself coming back to a durable white vinyl that looks like leather. I’m very proud that I made this pouf myself, and I’ll be sharing more details on it in an upcoming post.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The bookshelf in the corner is another secondhand Ikea kijiji score–the Hemnes. The backing was in rough shape, so I replaced it with a piece of beadboard for a little bit of a country touch. Then I covered everything with a coat of Benjamin Moore Cloud White.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

At various points, I’ve questioned whether we needed a full bookcase in the nursery, but the books that we received have been some of the most special gifts and reading is another thing that we’re looking forward to sharing with Ellie. I also love that the bookcase can grow with Ellie as her reading taste evolves. For now, the bookcase offers helpful extra storage for toys, blankets and other trinkets.

Nursery bookcase

Toy storage in the nursery

The dresser is a special piece that I’m hoping becomes an heirloom for Ellie. It was made by a local Mennonite craftsman. The dresser serves as our changing table, and also holds her onesies, sleepers and diapers.

Cloth diapers in the dresser drawer

As a new mom, I wasn’t sure what height would be best or how much surface area was needed for a changing table. This dresser has been perfect for our needs (and for reference for other new parents out there, the dimensions are 18 inches deep by 36 inches high by 54 inches long).

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

Above the dresser I hung a set of alphabet animal flash cards. The watercolour illustrations on these cards are lovely. While they’re not all farm animals, they fit in with the menagerie elsewhere in the room. Ellie may not be able to see all that much yet, but she does seem to enjoy looking at the cards as we’re changing her.

Alphabet flashcards above the changing table

The other animal in the room–and the one thing aside from the paint that stayed from my office–is Bill. I bought this papier mache goose head years ago because he reminded me of the pet goose I had growing up. I loved him in my office and thought he’d be perfect presiding over Ellie’s farm nursery.

You may remember from when this room was my office that we have a weird little nook just inside the door. I left the narrow dresser that I built in place. The lamp, which my grandfather rewired so that I could use it in my childhood bedroom, casts a beautiful glow at night when we’re feeding.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Above the dresser, I removed the bulletin board and calendar and replaced them with two meaningful heirlooms. One is my collection of nursery rhyme figurines and the other is the sleepers that Matt wore home from the hospital when he was first born. The nursery rhyme figurines are on the cutlery divider shelf I built for my office. I’ll be sharing how I built the custom shadow box for the sleepers in an upcoming post.

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

The nursery is a mix of old and new, DIYs, hand-me-downs and purchases. It was special to plan it and put it all together, and it’s been special to spend time with Ellie in it.

Sources:

Wall paint Benjamin Moore Coat of Arms | Trim paint Benjamin Moore Cloud White | Bookcase (customized with beadboard backing and BM Cloud White paint) Ikea Hemnes | Wing Chair Ikea Strandmon | Crib Ikea Gulliver | Pouf DIY (free pattern via Better Homes and Gardens) | Dresser Penwood Furniture (local Mennonite craftsman) | Curtains Ikea Ritva | Curtain Rods Ikea Racka Hugad combination | Curtain Rings Ikea Syrlig | Animal Portraits (above crib) Animal Print Shop | Frames (for animal portraits above crib) Ikea Hovsta | Alphabet Flash Cards (above change table) Susan Windsor (Etsy) | Papier Mache Goose Head Macheanimal (Etsy)

If you’re curious about a source for something not listed, please leave a comment (although most of the other items are DIYs, hand-me-downs or gifts).

5 ways to decorate with family photos

Today we’re enjoying Family Day here in Ontario, so I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing some of the ways we feature our family when we’re decorating the house. (Happy President’s Day to my American readers.)

I recently updated the display of family photos on the sofa table in our living room. My brother and sister-in-law gifted us with a new family picture from their fall wedding, so that went in the centre. Then there was a pair of photos of my Mom and me when we were both six years old. I finally printed my favourite photo of our newest nephew. And best of all I dug out this blond cutie in a mini RCMP uniform (Matt was the ring bearer at his uncle’s wedding, who is a Mountie).

How to decorate with family photos

You all know that when it comes to decorating, I’m all about keeping it personal and affordable. One of the best ways to do both of those things is with family photos.

Here are five ways to decorate with family photos, including some favourites from our house.

1. Go for quantity – Don’t limit yourself to just a few pictures. You have lots of memories–and possibly lots of family members. Pick out your favourite photos and print them all. Get a variety of frames–thrift stores, the dollar store or Ikea are good sources–and display all of your photos at once. Display the photos in a gallery wall, on picture ledges, or set them on a table, as I did on the sideboard behind our couch.

Family photo display

2. Go back in time – Family photo displays don’t have to be limited to the current generation. Dig through your family archives to find pictures of your ancestors. In our guestroom, I have two photos that I love: one of my great grandfather driving a team of horses pulling a sleigh full of huge logs, the other of Matt’s great grandfather with his own team of horses in front of a wagon loaded with hay. They fit in perfectly with our farm setting, celebrate our ancestors, and–with scanning at home, printing at Walmart and framing from Ikea–they’re super affordable as well. So dig out those old albums and see what treasures await you.

Vintage family photos displayed in the guest room

3. Go big – The family photo shoot has come a long way since the stiff studio portraits. (Did anyone else get dressed up and pose with their parents and siblings?) How you display your photos should be upgraded as well. Technology means that pretty much any image can be printed on canvas or you can run off a large scale print at your local copy centre. A large picture makes a great statement and celebrates your family at the same time.

4. Go beyond the frame – Just like photo shoots have come a long way, so have albums. Customized, personalized photobooks are the upgraded version of albums . These can be great art on your coffee table, or propped on a bookshelf–like our wedding album–can be a photo display on their own. There’s something really special about flipping through a book of photos, rather than clicking through a hard drive.

Custom photobook

5. Go offline – Instagram has taken off as the place where we “publish” our digital photos. Part of the beauty of those Instagram shots is that they capture everything from special occasions to everyday life (sometimes… let’s not get into perfectly curated feeds that are more about branding than they are about life). Don’t limit those great memories to just online. There are lots of services for printing Instagrams–even Walmart is in the game. Print them as mini-prints and use washi tape to affix them to the wall. Or string a piece of twine between some pushpins and use mini paperclips or clothespins to attach your pics. Or check out one of the many online services that offer cute magnets and stickers (and lots of other options).

Family photos are one of my favourite go-tos when I’m looking for special art. How about you? Do you display family photos around your house? What’s your favourite way to decorate? How do you balance between digital and print?

Two gender neutral nursery designs

There are just a few finishing touches left before the baby’s room is finished and ready to share with all of you. Before the official reveal, I thought I’d share two alternate nursery plans that I considered–one colourful and one neutral.

There were a couple of things that both plans had in common.

We knew we weren’t finding out if we were having a boy or a girl, so no matter what the room looked like it needed to be gender neutral. (Sorry, no gender reveal post coming until baby arrives.)

The second thing was that I wanted an Ikea Strandmon wing chair and Animal Print Shop photos in the room. The Strandmon is a super comfortable chair. I knew the high back, wings, arms and generous seat would be good support for a tired nursing Mama. The Animal Print Shop images are super fun and would be a friendly addition to a baby’s space.

I’ve really enjoyed pulling the baby’s room together and thinking about what feel I wanted and what made the most sense for us and our baby.

Here are the two ideas that I started with.

Neutral

The neutral design came when I considered using the guest room as the nursery. This room has faux wood paneling on the walls, which I thought would look great in white. The dropcloth curtains that I made for the guest room were a soft non-colour that would contrast just enough with the walls. The rest would be wood, leather and natural tones like brown, white and grey. Something like this room from Cheetah is the New Black or this one from design dump.

I’ve learned that light colours are very calming for me, so I felt like this would be a zen space, even if I’m not always feeling zen.

I also felt like this scheme would work really well with our farm–all of the natural materials and neutral colours would be a fit for the country setting.

Here’s a moodboard with some of the items I was considering.

Colourful

The colourful scheme was the one that had been in my head the longest. I had originally planned on using my office for a baby’s room. The walls were turquoise, and I liked the idea of that inspiring, high energy colour for a baby. This pillow from Anthropologie (which is no longer available) inspired the rest of the decor.

Lindi Fringe Euro Sham from Anthropologie

I felt like white would be important to temper the turquoise. At the same time, I liked the colourful tassels, and they inspired me to think about other colours that would mix with the turquoise.

Here’s the moodboard for the colourful nursery.

The final space ended up being a bit of a combination of the two plans, and I’m excited to show it to you.

What design appeals to you most?