Off to a quick start – One Room Challenge Week #2

Welcome to week 2 of the One Room Challenge.

If you’re new to my blog, welcome. My name is Julia, and I live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario with my husband, Matt, our one year old daughter, Ellie, our rescue dog, Baxter, and #theworldsbestbarncat, Ralph.

Ellie and Ralph in the dining room

We moved here 7 years ago, and since then we’ve been working on our fixer-upper 1970s era ranch style house with lots of DIY, thrifting and occasional professional help. Our style is a bit traditional and full of very personal elements, with country touches to make our house look like it belongs in its farm setting.

The dining room is the last makeover before we start more major renovations like a garage addition, new kitchen or bathroom.

In last week’s post, I shared my plans for this update.

Today I thought I’d give more of an overview of this space.

Pros:

The dining room is a large room. A vaulted ceiling and a big archway to the living room make it feel even larger.

It has a big window that offers an amazing eastern view across the farm. Watching the sunrise over the fields while we have our breakfast is a beautiful way to start the day. (The Frank Lloyd Wright Coonley Playhouse-style stained glass was made for us by Matt’s uncle.)

Coonley playhouse Frank Lloyd Wright inspired stained glass panel

Over the years, we’ve collected vintage and thrifted furniture that are perfect for our traditional style: Matt’s grandmother’s piano, an antique dining table, 8 chairs that turned out to be a pretty good match to the table, and after an incredibly lucky thrifting score 3 circa-1980s bookshelves/TV/entertainment units that stand in for our china cabinet.

Cons:

Like every room in our house, the dining room was rough–literally. The walls felt like sandpaper and the ceiling is popcorn. Add to that stains, scuffs, holes and cracks in the drywall and the trim, and the room was not pretty.

It was also dark. Even with the large window, the dark brown walls make the room feel dim. Another issue arose this winter when one of the panes in the window cracked. It’s on my list to be fixed during this ORC.

All of the furniture, except the piano, needs a makeover. The table and chairs need to be refinished. The chairs need new upholstery. And the china cabinet needs to leave the 80s behind for fresh white paint.

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

Someday, I plan to cover the popcorn ceiling with planks. But for now, I’m going to be relying on the power of paint and focusing on the walls and hopefully the china cabinet.

And with the motivation of the ORC, I’ve gotten off to a quick start on this project.

The update

I sanded the walls smooth and made so, so much dirty dust. Vacuuming has been the central task of this makeover thanks to the baby crawling around–and occasionally licking the floor (why?).

Sanding rough dirty drywall

And then I got started patching all of those holes and scuffs and cracks. I knew the walls were rough, but I hadn’t noticed how many cracks there were.

Cracks and scratches in drywall

Patching cracks in drywall

Patching drywall

More sanding, more patching, more sanding–and lots of vacuuming to try and keep the baby out of the dust.

My other crew member, Baxter, was not helpful. He loves the morning sunbeam in the dining room and even the threat of 7 years bad luck from laying under the ladder wouldn’t keep him from his favourite napping spot.

Baxter laying under the ladder

My luck seems to be good so far. One week in and the walls are smooth and ready for priming. The floor–and the baby–is relatively clean. Onward with the challenge.

You can check out all of the ORC participants later this week. The designer participants share their updates on Wednesday and the guest participants will be posting on Thursday.

One Room Challenge Guest Participant logo

Is anyone else dealing with rough walls or ceilings? How about battling dust? Who else has a helpful DIY crew?

 

Dining room makeover plans – One Room Challenge week #1

Alright. I’m doing it. I am stepping onto the train that is the One Room Challenge.

It’s been awhile since I’ve joined the ORC, so for those that don’t remember or if you’ve perhaps not heard of the One Room Challenge, this is a 6-week event where bloggers all over the world redo one room.

Here are my projects from the last times I participated:

The ORC has grown over the years, and it’s now a massive event with featured designers, sponsors and some serious, serious projects.

My project this time around is not that.

That’s one of the reasons I was hesitant about joining the challenge. (That, and making sure I can actually commit to finishing this room in 6 weeks.)

I want to redo the dining room.

Baxter sitting in the dining room before it's painted

Really, if I can just paint the walls, I’ll be happy. That doesn’t seem up to the level that is the One Room Challenge.

However, a main feature of the ORC is how inclusive it is. All people, all projects are welcome. This is a motivating, inspiring, encouraging undertaking.

So here I go.

The dining room. The (third) last untouched room in our house (the other two are the kitchen and bathroom which will be a completely different scale of renovation). So let’s call it the last untouched room, okay?

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

I mentioned some of my goals and plans for this room already this year. But to kick off the challenge, here is the official plan:

  • Sand the walls
  • Patch cracks and holes
  • Prime walls
  • Paint trim
  • Paint walls
  • Fix broken window
  • Hang art
  • Build doors for china cabinet
  • Paint china cabinet

The china cabinet is the big question mark in this project. A couple of years ago, I’d absolutely be able to finish both the walls and the cabinet. However, since my new crew member arrived last year, project time has been pretty much reduced to nap times… although she does try to be helpful.

Ellie vacuuming in the dining room

Stick around and see how far I we make it.

And visit One Room Challenge to check out all of the other participants.

The red room

Growing up I always thought to myself, “When I have my own house, I will paint one of the rooms red.”

When Matt and I bought our first house, two of the rooms were painted red. We repainted one, but kept the other.

By the time we moved, I was so tired of that red room.

Red room

As I’m gearing up to paint the dining room, one of the colours on my list is chocolate brown. I think it’s a holdover from our first house where top on my list to replace the red was chocolate brown.

However, I’ve learned since moving here that I don’t love strong wall colours. I get tired of them quickly. I don’t feel as relaxed in a vibrantly coloured room as I do in a subtle one.

For example, our bedroom. I painted it trendy Hale Navy four years ago (holy moly how is it already four years ago?). It looks awesome. But I don’t know that I love it and sometimes I think I’m ready for a change.

Navy blue and white master bedroom

In contrast, the living room, hallway and kitchen are all a light greige (Abalone from Benjamin Moore mixed at 75% intensity). I love this area of our house. I spend most of my time in these rooms and I always feel very comfortable.

Hallway painted Benjamin Moore Abalone

Greige may be boring and a non-colour, but it works for me. I’m likely never going to be a white walls person. They look nice on Pinterest, but they’re not something I want to live with.

I’ve learned I need a bit of colour. But not too much.

So as I’m working on the dining room, I’m not thinking chocolate brown any more. I’ve decided I’m going to stick with my tried and true Abalone. Our dining-living room is open concept enough that picking the same colour makes sense, and more importantly it’s a colour that works for me.

Do you have a tried-and-true paint colour? Are you a fan of vibrant rooms, or do you prefer subdued colours? Who’s on team white? Do you have any painting regrets?

The first project of 2019

I think I’m going to paint the dining room.

I know. I know. Such an assertive, decisive statement.

I find it difficult to plan very far ahead these days, and I’m hesitant to start a project that I won’t be able to finish in a reasonable time. But Matt thinks painting the dining room is achievable, and I really want to believe him.

Baxter sitting in the dining room before it's painted

The dining room is our last “easy” makeover in this house. Easy meaning mainly cosmetic. Honestly, it’s mostly a coat of paint. However, I’ve been holding off on this room because I want it to be more than a coat of paint.

You saw in my post a few weeks ago that I have plans to do something to the ceiling in this room, whether scraping off the stipple or covering it up. The responsible, logical DIYer in me wants to do the ceiling first, then the walls. That way, dust or plaster or what-have-you doesn’t fall on my freshly painted walls.

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

However, I have no idea what I’m going to do to the ceiling or when I might do it. And waiting no longer makes sense to me. We’ve lived here nearly 7 years. I could have painted the walls when we first moved in, and I’d have no hard feelings about repainting them now.

So I’m going to avert my eyes from the ceiling and work on the rest of the room.

Here’s my to-do list:

  • Sand and patch walls (like all of the walls in this house, the texture is like sandpaper)
  • Prime walls
  • Remove corbels from the archway (too small, not my style)
  • Paint trim (I like to paint trim before the walls)
  • Paint walls

After that, we’ll see what else happens.

I have some things to hang on the walls. I’d like to finally figure out how to style Matt’s grandmother’s piano. I have plans to paint the entertainment unit/china cabinet (and build doors or have them built for me). I’m pondering curtains. Some day I’d like to refinish the table and chairs.

Maybe by then I’ll have the ceiling figured out.

Do you ever delay projects because you want to do everything at once? Or are you a fan of the temporary makeover? What cosmetic makeovers are on your wish list? What have you been working on around your home so far this year?

Plans for planking a vaulted ceiling

Vaulted or cathedral ceilings used to be no big deal to me. Even when we bought our house, the vaulted ceiling in the living room wasn’t a huge selling point. I didn’t dislike it. I just didn’t really care.

But now, the vaulted ceiling in our living room is one of my favourite features in our house. It makes the room feel bigger and makes the space much more interesting.

Living room with vaulted ceiling

I have a plan to make the ceiling even more special: plank it.

You know that I’m on a continuous quest to add more country character to make our house feel more farmy. I think wood planks would be a great way to do that.

Plus, the planks would be an easy way to eliminate the dirty stipple that covers the ceiling currently. In all of the bedrooms, we’ve scraped the stipple, but the living room is large. There is no way I want to scrape that ceiling.

I’m inspired by this ceiling that Sarah Richardson did in her farmhouse many years ago. I think something like that would be great for our living room. (The chandelier would also be a lovely upgrade from our current terrible green ceiling fan, thankyouverymuch.)

Sarah whitewashed her planks. I like seeing a bit of the wood grain. But plain white paint is another option. What would you do?

The other part of the photo above that’s inspiring me is the centre beam at the top of the vault. Our ceiling has a beam as well. It’s about 6×6, which looks a bit wimpy. It also appears that someone tried to make it look handmade rather than commercially milled (we have a hand hewed barn beam for our mantel, so I know what the real thing looks like and this beam does not compare).

Faux beam at the centre of the vault

We could clad our beam like Sarah did (this would allow us to beef it up and also cover the faux distressing). My other idea is to strip it back to real wood, or cover it with something that looks more like real wood (something like this from The Handmade Home, but without the “vertical” pieces). What would you do with the beam?

The vault extends into the dining room, so I’m also trying to figure out what I want to do there.

I’m more open to scraping this ceiling. It’s about the size of two bedrooms, which feels doable to me.

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

Whatever I do to the centre beam in the living room, I’d do the same in the dining room. But what about the rest of the ceiling? Would you leave it flat? Or plank it like the living room? Can you coffer a vaulted ceiling? Or is there another treatment that would add some interest?

This project is a little while in the future. So we’re in the thinking stage still. I appreciate your thoughts. What would you do?

How to make hidden bookends

A love of reading is something I’m working hard to instill in Ellie. As she amasses more and more books, we’re already running out of space on the bookshelf in her nursery. You saw in my post last week that I relocated part of her collection to the top of the dresser in the little nook.

Wood tray on a white dresser

I didn’t want chunky bookends taking up space on the dresser. We have enough going on here already and didn’t need more clutter. But the books needed some help to stay upright. I had an idea to make invisible bookends.

I was inspired by these basic metal bookends that you see at the library.

Metal bookend

So I swung into a local store that specializes in materials for exteriors (siding, flashing, soffit, trough) and picked up some step flashing (picked up being literal since the man working the counter gave the pieces to me for free). Step flashing is small L-shaped pieces of metal typically used around chimneys. You could likely do this project with regular aluminum that you bend into an L yourself, but I liked skipping that step with the flashing.

Step flashing

This project uses just one piece of flashing and one tool, snips. Super simple.

Step flashing with snips

Once at home, I used the very technical technique of holding a book up to the flashing to determine where to cut it.

How to make a hidden bookend

I used snips to cut the aluminum roughly in half. I got two bookends out of one piece of flashing with a little piece of metal left over. (This was another mama-daughter project–appropriate since it’s her room.)

Making bookends while wearing the baby

One end of the L tucks inside the cover of the book, and the other tail rests under the books. The weight of the books stabilizes the bookend and holds everything in place.

Hidden metal bookend

Hidden metal bookend

Obviously, these Beatrix Potter books are small and light. I tested the bookends with some larger books–another well-loved collection that Ellie and I will be reading soon–and everything stayed steady.

How to make a hidden bookend

Sometimes bookends are an opportunity to make a style statement. Other times you want to keep things quiet and simple–or save space on your bookshelf. That’s a time for invisible bookends.

How to make hidden bookends

What’s your bookend style? Do you have a spot where you could use hidden bookends? What were some of your kids’ favourite series to read? What DIY projects do you do with your children?

The power of trays

Styling the top of a little dresser

I’ve never known what to do with the top of the little dresser in the nook in Ellie’s room. The dresser itself is still filled with Mama and Daddy things–tools, notepaper, stamps. Initially the top held only the lamp my grandfather made for my childhood bedroom. But like most flat surfaces, the rest of the top has attracted… stuff.

I needed a way to corral the stuff. At the thrift store, I found a shallow wooden tray. I didn’t love the colour, so I sanded it down to bare wood. (This is how we DIY around here these days.)

Sanding while Ellie supervises

After the sanding, the tray looked a bit dough bowl-esque, which I loved. But I could still see the red undertones in the wood. I picked a stain (Puritan Pine) that I hoped had gold undertones. The colour wasn’t quite what I was looking for, so I slapped on a layer of grey to tone it down a wee bit.

In the nursery, we have a bunch of wood tones: golden wood floors and side table, neutral unfinished wood frames on the pictures and shadowbox, grey stain on the dresser. My slapdash approach turned out to be a pretty close match to the dresser.

Wood tray on the wood dresser

The best part of it all is that now I have a spot to stash stuff–the power of trays. The tray holds Ellie’s sunglasses, a footprint we made when she was just two months old (!), nail clippers and an acorn that her Daddy picked up for her at a picnic–and soon enough she’ll be picking up her own bits and bobs.

Wood tray in the nursery

The tray, combined with some overcrowding on Ellie’s bookshelf, was a catalyst to finally style the top of the dresser. I added her collection of Beatrix Potter books and now I’m really happy with how the dresser looks and works (although I do wish the figurines shelf was a titch higher). I’ll be sharing how those books magically stand upright in an upcoming post.

Wood tray on a white dresser

The tray is simple and small, but it’s very functional. And it looks nice too.

Any other tray fans out there? Who else has issues with flat surfaces? What bits and bobs do your kids collect?

Fall colour inspiration – Navy & green

Audubon print of a heron in my bedroom

Call it fall. Call it time for some changes. Call it Friday night on Instagram. Whatever it was, three pictures in one scroll had me thinking about adding some olive accents to our navy blue bedroom.

I still love the Hale Navy colour that we painted on the walls–and so does the rest of the world apparently, as the Hale Navy trend is still going strong.

I’ve not made many changes to the room since our One Room Challenge Reveal. I feel like a touch of olive would freshen things up–and would be timely for fall.

The bedding would be the easiest. New sheets. New comforter or shams. But what about an upholstered headboard? Velvet and tufted like that first photo from barlow reid? Hmmm… might be a bit more than I’m looking to tackle right now… but tempting.

(BTW, the new season of the ORC starts this week. You can follow all of the action on www.oneroomchallenge.com.)

What colour combos are you liking these days? Do the seasons inspire anyone else to redecorate? How long do you live with a “done” room until you feel the need to do it again?

Off our rockers #DIYfail

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

Last week I sang the praises of Ikea’s Strandmon wing chair. However, there is one shortcoming we encountered with this chair that I didn’t talk about.

(To be fair, the shortcoming is more a result of a DIY we attempted rather than the fault of the chair itself.)

When I was planning the nursery, I knew I wanted the Ikea Strandmon. I also really wanted it to be a rocking chair.

I saw a tutorial converting the Strandmon to a rocker and it seemed really straightforward, so I thought it would definitely be something we could handle.

The biggest obstacle was sourcing the rockers. I was skeptical of the rockers that were available online. I wasn’t sure that the dimensions or the curve would be right for our chair. And I of course didn’t like the prices.

I contacted a local specialty wood store that does custom orders and got a quote from them. They wanted about $300. Not at all unreasonable given the work involved, but they also wanted me to supply a pattern. Figuring out the arc was my main stumbling block. I wanted someone to do that for me! If I was making my own pattern, I might as well make my own rockers.

The Strandmon is a large chair, so I knew I needed big rockers. My parents have a large rocking chair, so my Mom and I turned it on its side and traced the rockers. Then I went back to my specialty wood store and bought a beautiful (and heavy and expensive) piece of red oak.

Drawing a rocking chair pattern

I traced my pattern and carefully cut the rockers on my Dad’s bandsaw (I wish I have a photo of this as I was quite pregnant at the time). Then I brought them home and sanded the heck out of them. They came out so, so well. Perfectly smooth. Great curve. I was so proud that my plan was working.

Pregnant lady sanding

Then Matt and I tested them. We were trying to figure out where to drill the holes to affix the Strandmon onto the rockers. So we set the chair on the rockers. And the chair tipped right over. The weight of the back was too much for the rockers and the chair became super unstable.

We tried again and again to find a spot where the Strandmon could balance. We eventually found a point where the chair would sit on the rockers without toppling over. But it was still really tipped. I couldn’t imagine how I would maneuver myself into the chair while holding a baby.

I was super disappointed, but it was also pretty funny to see how crooked I made the chair (please note how crooked this photo is, which actually makes the chair look straighter than it is).

Adding rockers to a wing chair

I spent a couple of weeks trying to come up with a solution. I considered cutting Strandmon’s legs to shift the balance somehow. I had a plan to adjust my rocker pattern to decrease the curve. I was going to do a pair of test rockers out of cheap wood before going to buy more oak. But in the end, I tucked the rockers and their pattern under the bookshelf in Ellie’s room and tried to forget about them.

Now, after nearly seven months of many, many hours spent in Strandmon, I pretty much have forgotten about the rockers. The rocker-less Strandmon has been working well as my nursing chair, and I’m honestly not missing the motion.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

What kind of chair do you have in your nursery? Anyone else going rockerless? Make me feel better, would you? Share your own #DIYfail in the comments.

Ikea Strandmon wing chair review

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

I’ve made no secret of my love for the Strandmon wing chair from Ikea. Our first Strandmon lives in the reading nook in the basement, and I like it so much that this chair was my first and only choice for the nursery (and now for my friends too).

Screenshot

My posts about Strandmon are some of my most frequently visited on the blog, but I’ve never published an official review, so today I’m going to remedy that (with only a slight overdose of cute baby photos).

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

Size & shape

The Strandmon is a pretty classic wing chair. Ikea first introduced it in the 1950s and the design hasn’t changed dramatically in today’s version (although they continue to release new colours). I like that the chair isn’t super mod or unusual. Its timeless design means it will always be in style.

Ikea Strandmons in the store

Strandmon is a large chair. Overall, it’s 32 1/4 inches wide, 37 3/4 inches deep and 39 3/4 inches high.

The back height is super supportive, and the wings are a great dimension to support my head when I nod off while feeding Ellie. The arms are the perfect height to support my elbows when nursing or reading.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

I am not a very tall woman (5 feet 4 inches) and was not blessed with long legs. With my butt all the way to the back, the seat is too deep (21 1/4 inches) and too high (17 3/4 inches) for my feet to touch the floor. However, I like the generous depth.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

I pretty much always sit with my feet up, and I highly recommend a footstool or pouf to increase the comfort of the Strandmon. (I’ve not tested the footstools that Ikea offers. Instead I made my own sturdy round ottoman for the reading nook and a large Moroccan-style pouf for the nursery.)

For nursing I like to have a cushion at my back for extra comfort.

My favourite thing about the shape of this chair is the angle. The seat, the arms, the back are all tipped back slightly. This encourages lounging and is the biggest factor in making the Strandmon so comfortable.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

Materials

Both of our Strandmons are in the dark grey fabric (what Ikea calls Nordvalla). We’ve had the basement Strandmon for 5 years and the fabric looks new (although this chair does not see daily use). In the nursery, this chair is used multiple times every day, and it’s holding up really well.

The nursery Strandmon was bought secondhand. It came from a house with dogs and has now seen six months of baby. Matt gave it a coating of Scotchguard spray before Ellie arrived, so it has an extra layer of protection from spit up and milk and whatever else Ellie might (literally) throw at it.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

What’s under the fabric is also important. I like a firm seat, and the Strandmon lives up to my expectations. The cushion is very sturdy and hasn’t softened despite frequent usage. The frame also feels very strong and we’ve not noticed any wiggles.

While most Ikea furniture requires assembly, the Strandmon comes nearly fully assembled. The only construction is screwing in the legs. The legs are solid and we’ve not had any issues with them loosening.

Price

Our version of the Strandmon is $299. Different upholstery options cost a bit more. I paid $140 for the nursery Strandmon secondhand.

Ikea Strandmon pricetag

Not as expensive as many chairs out there, but definitely not Ikea’s cheapest offering.

For me, the Strandmon is a good value.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

The final verdict

I highly recommend the Strandmon. For comfort, style, quality and value it ticks all of the boxes for me.