Basement games area details

I am back today with another look at the basement games area. Today I’m diving into some of the details of this space, because as I said in the before and after post everything has a story with me.

The dining set is obviously the centrepiece of this spot. This set is something I treasure, but it came our way somewhat accidentally.

I first fell in love with the chairs. You may recall that I have a thing for chairs. These chairs were scattered around Matt’s grandpa’s house, and I would see them in the bedrooms or tucked in corners when we went to visit him (this was way back when we were still in school and dating).

Vintage dining set

When Matt’s grandpa died and we were cleaning out the house, I learned they were part of a set. The set was one of the items that ended up in a family lottery, as multiple people wanted it. Matt’s Dad was not in contention, but then Matt said, “Oh Julia likes those chairs.” Matt’s Dad put his name in the hat, and his name was pulled.

As we were loading the table and chairs to bring them home, I learned there was also a hutch. Okay. We got a whole dining set. (Also, we were still dating and each still living at home with our parents. The set stayed in Matt’s Dad’s shed for awhile.)

When we bought our first house, the table, chairs and hutch came with us. The joints were loose on the chairs, the seat covers were torn, the finish on the table wasn’t great, and it was on the small side for entertaining. But I still loved those circle motifs.

When we moved to the farm, we had the table and chairs refinished (the hutch was fortunately in good shape), and I recovered all of the seats. Eventually, as I found other furniture for the dining room, the set made its way down the stairs. It’s the perfect size for this space, and the warm wood tones are a nice natural touch in the basement.

Games area in the basement

Plus, having a table for games, work, crafts, puzzles, food adds a lot of function to our basement.

The china cabinet houses board games, puzzles, decks of cards and other fun stuff. The drawers give me a spot to tuck away papers or work materials.

China cabinet for boardgame storage
Boardgame storage in a vintage china cabinet

Matt always maintained that the basement was his space, so it was always my intention to style the top of the cabinet for him. I chose a lava lamp that I bought him when we were dating, a few toy cars that he treasured, and his prized trophy from the 1989 bicycle safety rodeo. A fake plant (I can’t keep real ones alive) gives a bit of greenery.

Games area

The tic-tac-toe game is an example of how I like to think outside of paintings and pictures for art. I bought the game at an antique fair ages ago, and always planned to use it here. It fits in with my fun and games theme in the basement.

Also fun and games are the playing card posters. This is another thing that I had always envisioned for the basement, but I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Finally, I decided that it was okay to invest in what I wanted, and I had a local graphic designer make the posters for me.

I kept asking Matt what his favourite card was, and he never answered me, so I picked my favourite: the queen of clubs.

Games area in the basement

The chandelier also used to be in the dining room. I did not like it at all there. But down here I think it’s okay.

I zoomed out for a few photos to show you how the games area fits in with the rest of the main room in the basement. I love how we’ve been able to make different zones, all within this one room.

Games area from the reading nook
Games area from the couch

If you want a recap of the rest of the basement, here are the other spaces:

With the art on the walls, the cabinet styled and the furniture all in place, this games area is done. And even better, it’s used and enjoyed all the time.

Are you a board game and puzzle family? How do you store games and puzzles at your house? What’s your favourite card in the deck? Do you use dining furniture for things other than dining?

Glam bench makeover from a 70s TV stand

I have a core group of 5 really, really close friends. Many of us met in grade 1 or 2. The history and the shared experiences are immense.

As the years have progressed, we have each taken different paths in life. Sometimes we don’t see each other very often or keep in touch the way that we feel we should.

When Matt died, all of my friends rallied around us, exactly the way that I knew that they would. They have been there for us in so many ways.

One friend started coming every Thursday night for dinner. The commute from her work was usually more than an hour, and she would often roll up the driveway just as I was putting dinner on the table (hungry toddlers are not to be messed with).

After a couple of weeks, she said to me, “You can stop inviting me. I’ll be here.” We would eat, and I would put Ellie to bed, and then we’d sit and talk. Sometimes another friend would join us.

When quarantine began, our Thursday dinners stopped. And oh I miss them. It felt like a huge hole in my week. Daily texts were not enough.

Desperate to connect, we came up with the idea to watch Celebrity IOU on HGTV together. Or as much as you can be together when you fear for your life during a global pandemic.

I would sit alone in the basement, the baby monitor by my side. My friend would sit in her condo with her cats. And we’d text commentary back and forth. It was fun. A connection. Casual. Someone who shared my delight in home stuff. Someone who shared my opinions and sense of humour… most of the time.

One episode was a more glam makeover. My friend texted, “Oh, I want that” at the same time as I wrote, “That would be perfect for you.”

So when I came up with the idea to redo this old TV stand, she was the first person I thought of. Something glam. Special. Fun. Feminine.

Vintage 70s TV stand

She–like me, like the rest of this special group of friends–is turning 40 this year. So the day before her birthday, I gifted her with this bench. She was really happy. It felt like her. It fit in with what she’s doing at her home–and has inspired her to do a few more updates to her bedroom.

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

Our furniture and our homes are so, so much more than just things and spaces. They represent the people who live in them and use them. For me, this bench represents 40 years of my friends and I figuring out who we are and how to embrace it. Nearly 35 years of caring for each other and helping each other.

It represents how we all–all six of us–work to give each other the love, peace and joy that we wish for each other.

Musing about kitchen floors

The scene plays out most nights at our house. After dinner, I go to the sink, turn on the water, squirt in the soap and start washing the dishes. Ellie comes running. “Ellie help! Ellie do dishes!”

She collects various play cups, we drag her step stool over to the sink and we switch the faucet back and forth between her sink and mine as we do the dishes. I feel like the “we” and “do this dishes” each deserve their own quotation marks there.

Every few minutes, I swipe the counter, the floor, the toddler with the towel and try to stem the flood.

And I think to myself, we can never have wood floors in the kitchen.

Now I realize I will not always have a two year old who loves to play in the water. But I still don’t think wood floors in the kitchen are for me. I am not that tidy of a cook or diligent of a housekeeper.

I feel lucky to have wood floors in our living, dining and bed rooms and plan to extend them through much of the main floor someday. But I don’t think I’ll be extending them into the kitchen.

A rule of interior design seems to be have one consistent flooring throughout your house (or at least the main floor). It makes your house seem larger, and, especially in an open concept plan, it allows spaces to flow together. And wood is the go-to flooring choice.

But when we (someday) renovate the kitchen, I’m going to be looking for something other than wood that works with wood elsewhere. And I’m going to have to figure out how to transition from wood to whatever floor I use in the kitchen.

I took a little tour around the internet to get some ideas, so I thought I’d share some of them with you today. I’d also appreciate your advice. Have you seen any flooring transitions that you like? How do you mix flooring? What flooring do you like best for a kitchen?

Stops and starts

Room boundaries are the most common points where flooring changes. Right now our wood stops and our tile starts at the large archway between the kitchen and the living room.

This house is open concept, but you can see they’ve defined the kitchen and dining area with different flooring.

This kitchen uses the boundary between the living area and kitchen as a rough guide, but it plays up the division in an artistic, creative way. I’m looking for something more subtle, but I feel like this look works in this cool, colourful kitchen.

I felt like I’d had a major breakthrough the other week when I realized I could choose another landmark other than the “line” between the living room and the kitchen. A landmark like the island. What if I made the island the boundary of the kitchen and used my durable, non-wood flooring on the kitchen side of the island and wood everywhere else?

Sarah Richardson kind of did this in her farmhouse. She put a tile section in the main work area between the sink and the stove. The rest of the kitchen (and the main floor) is wood.

You can see in this picture that the tile is barely visible from the other side of the island, so the feeling of consistency and openness is maintained.

Now I’m mulling over what kind of floor would work. I know there are wood look-a-likes out there, but given the real wood we have elsewhere, I don’t want to mix. And I’d like to stay away from tile or stone, as I find it too hard to stand on during long cooking sessions.

The kitchen reno is a long way off, likely, but thinking about it is part of the fun for me. Want to join me in a little day-dreaming?

What would you do?

 

Child’s art display in the playroom

I am someone who loves bulletin boards. I fill them with inspirational pictures and sayings, family photos, reminders, notes, calendars–anything and everything.

When Matt and I moved into our first house, one of the bedrooms had a built in desk with upper shelves. I took a roll of cork and pasted it to the wall between the two shelves. When I switched jobs, I covered the utilitarian grey bulletin board in my new office with pretty floral fabric. In Ellie’s room, when it used to be my office, I built a custom tall, narrow cork board (and again covered it in pretty floral fabric) for the weird niche that’s just inside the door.

I had the idea to add a cork board to Ellie’s new basement play area awhile ago. There was a big blank wall above the shelves that was perfect for some art. Or lots of art.

Cork board art display in our toddler's playroom

Our girl loves drawing and painting and making. And when I started putting her creations up on the fridge, she was thrilled. It was so touching to see how proud she was to have her art on display.

I wanted to give her a designated spot to hang her pictures, and adding a bulletin board to her play zone was the perfect solution.

Cork board art display in our toddler's playroom

But I wanted a large bulletin board and every where I looked they were expen$ive.

I finally decided that I spend very, very little on art. I spent very little setting up her play area. I had been thinking about a bulletin board for a few months. Ellie’s art collection is only going to grow.

I could afford to splurge on the bulletin board.

So I found the most affordable source I could and ordered it.

It fills the wall perfectly (I chose a 6 foot by 4 foot board), and it’s a fun addition to her play room.

Cork board art display in our toddler's playroom

I feel like this cork board is an example of how I like to think beyond pictures when it comes to art and wall decor.

Elsewhere in the basement we have our oversize wood scrabble tiles, DIY posters, photo collages of Matt (hung at Ellie’s height), and even some enamel basins in the laundry room. Wall art is all about adding interest to your space and there are so many ways to do that beyond pictures. A bulletin board may not seem artsy, but it soon will be filled with art. And it will be a meaningful, personal display for Ellie’s play area.

Are you a bulletin board person? Do you call it a bulletin board or a cork board? Is there a difference? How do you display your kid’s art? Have you made a decor or organizing splurge? What unconventional “art” do you have at your house?

Colourful and cozy toddler play area

Thank you everyone for your kind comments on the last few posts. It has felt like a big step to return to blogging and find my voice again, and I appreciate your warm welcome and patience very much.

Keeping busy has helped me get through the last few months, and one of my projects is a new play zone for Ellie. I think I love it just as much as she does.

Colourful toddler playzone

We had already amassed what felt like a large collection of toys. Then Christmas arrived and I felt overwhelmed by all of the new additions every time I walked into the living room.

Baby, you’re movin’ to the basement.

It was time to get organized.

Bring on the bins!

Colourful toddler playzone

Well, before I could get to the bins, I first had to find the shelf to store them. I reused a shelf that I had built for the office in our first house. It had a brief life in the main area of our basement here, but has been tucked away for a few years.

I hauled it out and gave it a fresh coat of white paint. A trip to the dollar store found bins that fit pretty much perfectly (they’re a bit long, but that makes them easier to grab). Initially, I was not in love with their bright green colour and planned to spray paint them, but once they were in place, the colour worked with the our DIY refurbished ding pong table and felt fun and fitting for our basement.

I’ve organized toys by category: cars, stuffed animals, farm, food, lego, balls & blocks, music. I may label the bins with pictures at some point, but for now I do the clean-up most of the time so labels aren’t needed.

Colourful toddler playzone

The top of the shelf holds some of Ellie’s extensive tractor collection and a few books and everything is within Ellie’s reach.

By far Ellie’s favourite thing to play with are books, so I knew I had to have a library of some kind. I’ve loved the idea of book ledges, so off to Ikea we went for some spice racks. I picked a small selection of books from the main bookshelf in her room and tucked in some small stuffed animals for extra fun.

Toddler reading nook with spice rack bookshelves

A collection of pillows under the shelves make a cozy spot to read.

Toddler reading nook with spice rack bookshelves

Purple is the one pop of colour that we’ve not used elsewhere in the basement. I’ve been trying to incorporate it for awhile, but I’ve never found the right spot. When I decided that the pink and purple ape would be a regular resident of Ellie’s play space, I knew it was time for the purple.

This ape was a class mascot that came home from school with Matt years ago. He has been wearing a T-shirt that had a nerdy saying about history on it and sitting in a corner of the basement all this time. When I took off the T-shirt, I was shocked to see that Matt’s students had written “Merry Christmas” and then all signed their names on the ape’s belly. This will be something nice for Ellie to see when she’s a little older and help her understand how special her Dad is.

Colourful toddler playzone

The ape is lounging on some purple pillows. I already had the purple upholstery fabric, pillow forms and even zippers, so these were a quick project. But when I spotted a rare Purple People Eater pelt at a local fabric store, I knew some faux fur was just what this little nook needed.

While the shelf and the nook and the books are the main play area, the rest of this room is also very much about Ellie. Bigger toys line up along the wall, her growth chart hangs in here. There’s even a spot for Baxter, who likes to keep an eye on his little sister.

Colourful toddler playzone

 

Colourful toddler playzone

And at the far end of the room, I added a special gallery of photos.

Colourful toddler playzone

Matt’s brother made these photo collages for Matt’s memorial. Ellie loves looking at pictures of Daddy, and it’s important to me that he has as much of a presence in her life as possible. So hanging these photos where Ellie can see them easily was an easy decision.

Ellie looking at photos of Daddy

Having a little DIY, organizing, decorating project felt really good. It was a distraction, but also a reconnection to who I am and a reminder of what I like to do.

I also feel really good every time Ellie asks to go downstairs to play, which is often now.

Three simple ways to refresh your home

The One Room Challenge continues this month, and I’ve been inspired to revisit some of my previous ORC rooms.

I still love all of the spaces that I did through the ORC. But with any space, time can take a toll. Maybe your needs change, things get worn, or you can add something to make the room new again.

Here are my tips on easy ways to freshen up a room.

Clean

The laundry room was my very first One Room Challenge. The black and white colour scheme and shaker cabinets still feel pretty current. The pipe drying rack and towel bar work really well. I love the style and the function of the whole space.

Black and white shaker cabinets with chrome hardware in the laundry room

But there’s some lint gathering on the floor, cobwebs in the corners and detergent drops on the counter. A good cleaning will make the room feel fresh and make me like it even more.

I’ll also be spending some time in the guest room (aka my sewing room 2.0). My original office/craft room was the ORC project, not the guest room where my sewing machine has lived since Ellie arrived. But I need an excuse to motivate me to sort the paperwork that’s been piled on top of the filing cabinet.

Repair

The master bedroom was my second One Room Challenge. The DIY headboard, wallpapered closet doors and repainted dresser have all held up really well. But a few fixes are needed.

Audubon print of a heron in my bedroom

The guide fell off of my nightstand drawer, so now every time I pull out the drawer, it drops and will crash to the floor if I don’t catch it. Hammering the guide back onto the drawer should be a very simple repair.

The second repair comes from not doing things properly the first time. When I hung the Audubon prints on either side of our beds, I skipped adding a picture wire across the back of the frame, and instead simply hung the frame itself from nails tapped into the wall. The picture frames have bent from the weight–it’s not a good look. I’ll be adding wires and rehanging the pictures, and hopefully the frames will return to their rectangular shape.

Also on the list? Rebalancing the washing machine and a paint touch-up in the laundry room,

Tweak

Sometimes after living with a space–even one you love–for awhile you realize there’s something missing. Our dining room is our most recent ORC, completed just this spring. I hoped to build doors for the upper section of our china cabinet during the makeover, but ran out of time.

White china cabinet in the dining room

The ORC goes so fast that there are often parts of a makeover that don’t get done. Even though I’m not participating in the ORC, watching everyone’s projects motivates me to return to the dining room and maybe finally build the doors.

I also have some other ideas for simple updates. In our bedroom, I’m going to freshen up our bedding with some new pillow cases. And in the laundry room, I’d like to sew a faux roman shade for the window.

One of the best parts of the One Room Challenge and other room makeovers is that you end up with a new beautiful space. These simple updates can ensure that you continue to enjoy your space for years to come.

Are you revisiting any room makeovers that you’ve done in the past? What tweaks do you want to make in your home?

 

Imaginary One Room Challenge – Phase 1 bathroom makeover

The One Room Challenge kicked off last week. I’m not a regular participant in the challenge, but I wish I was. It’s such a good way to update a space and actually complete a project. I love the rooms that I’ve done in the past (check out the laundry room, master bedroom, my office and dining room). I also love following the ORC, seeing everyone else’s makeovers.

This fall, I will mostly be an observer rather than a participant (though I do have plans for a few updates this month that I’ll hopefully be sharing soon).

But I’ve been having fun doing an imaginary makeover.

I started thinking about the main bathroom and how I could update it in advance of our big gut makeover (which I’ve talked about before and is still a someday project).

Main bathroom

I’m not a big fan of phase 1 renos. I feel like they can be a lot of work and potentially a lot of money, only to be ripped out in a few years.

However, we’ve lived here for more than 7 years and the main bathroom still looks exactly the same as when we moved in. A few updates a few years ago could have made it a more enjoyable space. (Although we have added a baby to the tub, which gives a whole lot of joy.)

Baby in a bathtub

Here’s the bathroom as it looks now. It’s a big space with a nice window, lots of storage, counterspace and everything you need in a bathroom. However, it’s dated and some parts of it–tiles, caulking, faucets, even one of the sinks–are actually broken.

Main bathroom before

Main bathroom before

Bathroom Before Collage

To fix all of the issues, we will need to do a full gut. However, there are some simple updates that could make the bathroom look a lot better now. Here’s a moodboard with some of my ideas.

Moodboard for phase 1 bathroom makeover

Sources: Vanity | Mirror | | Floor tile

The biggest change would be simply painting the walls. They are fake paneling that was painted yellow who knows when. The yellow clashes with the purple-ish tile and the Care-Bear-esque countertop. Fresh white paint would help the tile and counter and would also make the paneling look more like on-trend vertical shiplap.

If I painted the walls, I’d want to take down the big sheet mirror. The silvering is deteriorating in a few spots and the mirror is very dated. I could frame it out, but I like the idea of injecting some wood tones and different shapes with a pair of arched top mirrors.

The makeover could easily stop here and I’d be happy. But if I was going to make this project worthy of the ORC, here’s what else I’d do.

Build wood shelves over the toilet. These could add some decor and storage. It would be nice to get the bins of Ellie’s bath toys, washcloths and soap off the counter.

To go with the wood shelves, I’d update the linen closet by facing the shelves with wood strips and covering the floral shelf paper with plain white.

The white cabinetry is looking a bit dingey. If the walls go white, the vanity might be a place to introduce some more contrast and make the colours of the tile and counter make more sense. (Aside: This photo shows how a frame can make a big mirror look more current.)

Grey bathroom vanity

Source: Juniper Home

The current floor introduces yet another colour to this room. Beigey taupe, which, of course, goes with nothing else. There are so many options out there today for simple peel-and-stick tiles, which could simply be laid over top of the existing vinyl. This could be a place to introduce some fun pattern, although I don’t want anything too busy to clash further with the counter and wall tile.

An alternative to new flooring would be a better rug. A nice runner that would cover more of the floor and serve the function of a bathmat could be a good option.

While I’m updating the floor I would also remove the terrible metal transition strip in the doorway. Not only is it ugly, it’s also not screwed down properly, so it rattles every time you step on it–every time for 7 years.

Alas, it’s likely going to be 7 years and counting for this bathroom. The dreaming is fun though and I know one day this room is going to be everything I imagine.

Are you participating in the One Room Challenge–for real? Or do you have an imaginary makeover happening as well? How do you feel about phase 1 makeovers?

DIY toddler step stool – Ikea hack

As I wrote the title for this post I realized, wow, we have a toddler. Holy moly. Ellie turns 18 months old this week, but she’ll always be our baby.

Ellie is a smart, curious, confident little girl who loves to be included in whatever we’re doing–actually, she insists on being included.

Pretty much as soon as she could stand, I realized I needed a way to help her be involved and help me keep her safe and corralled.

I went looking for plans to build her a step stool and discovered the world of learning towers. One of the first plans I came across was a simple Ikea hack using the popular Bekväm stool from Happy Grey Lucky.

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

The plan is super detailed with clear instructions.

I was skeptical about Sina’s direction to drill through the full width of the 1X2. I thought for sure the pine would split, but I went very slow with my pilot holes and worked from a 1/8 bit up to 5/64″, and I had no problems when I screwed it all together–even though I couldn’t find #6 screws in the right length and was using fatter #8s instead.

The stool went together very quickly. Once I had the wood cut, Ralphie and I knocked it out in one naptime.

Assembling the stool outside with our barncat

Close up of the baby monitor

I chose not to paint it, as I like the colour of the natural wood. However, I do feel it may be helpful to coat the wood with Varathane or some other sealant, both to protect the wood and make it easier to wipe down.

We use the stool mainly in the kitchen for cooking and washing dishes. Between food spills and water splashes, I feel like it’s inevitable that the stool will become stained. (There is a coating of some kind on the actual Bekvam, but the upper framework is naked.)

Water spill on the Ikea Bekvam

I’m most interested in how the stool works as opposed to how it looks, and it is great.

Ellie loves her stool. She grabs on and tries to climb it whenever I’m cooking–she still needs help to get on it. She also drags it across the kitchen floor when she wants to wash dishes–girl loves water and is very insistent.

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

Ellie on her learning tower

We love it too. It keeps her pretty secure and occupied–we sometimes joke that it’s a standing baby jail. I say pretty secure because I would never leave her unattended in case she tips, climbs out or slips down.

I was hesitant about just one dowel at her back, worrying about her slipping out, but we only had one incident where she tried to get down on her own. It would be easy to drill a couple of larger holes so that you could slip an extra dowel in if you felt like it. The larger gap makes it easy for her to climb up herself, although she’s only figured it out once so far.

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

As she grows, I hope she will continue to want to be involved in what we’re doing–and more helpful in actually doing it.

Deer in the dining room

Hello. It’s been a little while. Thanks for your patience during my blogging holiday. We’ve had a lovely summer, and having this time all together is something I will always treasure.

Our days have been filled with all kinds of fun, including a few little projects. One of the projects was a final decorative touch in the dining room. Hanging two sets of antlers in the corner.

Two sets of antlers hanging in the dining room

This was always part of my original plan during the One Room Challenge this spring, but in the finishing stages it was cut.

The delay was mostly due to one set of antlers not being mounted. It took me some time to figure out how I wanted to mount them and how to do it.

The first set of antlers came from Matt’s Grandpa. We’ve had them for awhile, but haven’t had a good place to put them. They’re mounted and varnished and quite old.

Two sets of antlers hanging in the dining room

I decided to try to make our new antlers match the old ones as much as possible. I traced the mounting plaque, but made it a bit taller, as the skull plate on the new antlers was a bit larger. I know the skull plates are typically trimmed and covered, but I actually like seeing the bone. I’ve written about my (potentially strange) attraction to skulls before. If antlers are considered attractive, why can’t the bone be as well?

Covered skull on mounted antlers

Mounted antlers unvarnished and uncovered skull

I also decided to keep the antlers natural rather than varnishing them. I like the light tone of the antlers and wanted to highlight their natural beauty.

The next step was to try to match the colour of the plaque. I didn’t want to buy new stain for such a small project, so I tried blending a few different stains. I got close, but not exact. Part of that is likely due to a difference in the woods. The grain of the new plaque is much more pronounced than in the old one.

I was nervous about attaching the antlers to the plaque, but it worked out much better than I expected. Online tutorials prescribe bolting the antlers to the plaque. I simply drilled pilot holes in the skull and then screwed through the back of the plaque into the bone using regular screws. The skull seems secure, so I hope that it will hold.

The final touch was adding a picture hanger to the back of the plaque.

Back of mounted antlers

I put both antlers in the corner next to our deer painting. When I first photographed the dining room for the reveal post, this corner looked very empty. Over the last few months, I’ve gotten used to its emptiness–part of my draw to a bit more minimalism. However, since the antlers are a bit hidden in the corner, the room doesn’t feel too busy.

Two sets of antlers hanging in the dining room

I like that the antlers are finally on display. I feel like displaying them honours the animals. While my preference is always to see deer alive walking around outside, these deer in some ways live on as I appreciate their antlers every day.

Are you a fan of antlers in decor? Do you have any antlers at your house?

 

Tiptoeing towards (a bit more) minimalism

A project in one part of the house brings chaos to others. By the end of the dining room makeover, the kitchen floor was in a state I prefer not to think about. The guest room still hasn’t entirely recovered from being the dumping ground for all of the things I removed from the dining room.

But while there was chaos in most places, the dining room itself–once it was finished–was calmer than ever. And it wasn’t just the fresh light paint.

White china cabinet in the dining room

In preparation for painting the china cabinet, I emptied everything out of it. In the process, I designated many dishes for donation. Shot glasses and bar stuff that we don’t need. Wedding gifts that we’ve never used. Extra serving pieces. Wrap it up, pack it up, take it out.

When I reloaded the china cabinet, there was so much breathing room. All of our dishes fit easily, and on the upper shelves where we have some of our more special items on display, we could actually see them. They weren’t lost in a mass of clutter.

China cabinet

I also took down the stained glass window and the display of family photos from behind the couch to protect them from paint spatters.

When the room was finished I was reluctant to put these things back. If you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you know I’m super sentimental and love all of the family and personal touches we have around our home. So I was really surprised I didn’t want to have the stained glass Matt’s uncle made for us, or my hand-picked favourite family photos back on display.

Those things are super precious to me. But without them, the dining room felt calmer–a feeling that I liked.

Vintage shelving unit used as a china cabinet

There’s a push for minimalism–or at least paring down–by a lot of bloggers these days. While I will likely never be a Marie Kondo devotee, I am feeling a pull to simplify. I love my stuff, but maybe I don’t need quite all of it. Maybe some of it is more precious than others.

When the dining room makeover began, I had felt pressure about what to do with the top of the piano. What should I put there? How should I style it? During the challenge, I realized I didn’t have to do anything. The top could just be empty. There’s the metronome (functional) and the art Matt’s parents gifted to us on the wall above, and that’s it.

Deer painting above a piano

Inspired by the feeling I felt in the dining room, I’m now looking at the rest of the house. The bookcases in the living room, my closet, the kitchen–what do I actually need and love?

How about you? Anyone else making a move towards minimalism? How do you balance sentimental collections while making your home feel calm and uncluttered?