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.

Renovation regrets

As Frank says, “Regrets, I’ve had a few.” But when it comes to our renovations, they’re very few.

I think there are a few reasons for this.

One, I’m pretty decisive. I take the time to figure out our spaces and what will work best for us, and once we know what we want we go for it.

Two, I am a pretty visual thinker, so I can picture a space in my head and see what it’s going to look like. This means for the most part I’m not surprised as a project unfolds.

Three, and most importantly in my opinion, I’m not picky. Sure there are spots where the drywall could be a bit smoother or maybe the paint colour isn’t exactly what I pictured. But I can live with them because overall I’m happy with the results of our renos.

However, there’s one spot that I wish we had done differently. So while Frank’s regrets are too few to mention, I’m going to talk about one of mine today.

I wish we had insulated the ceiling of the basement TV area.

Basement TV area

The reason for this is the ceiling of that section of the basement is the floor of Ellie’s room. So every night when Mama and Daddy go off duty and sit down to relax, we’re very conscious of every little sound and how it carries through the floor and upstairs into her room.

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

Now I should be clear that Ellie is an excellent sleeper, and we’ve had very few issues. In fact, one night my girlfriend was over with her two rambunctious boys–both younger than 5 years old–and they played noisily downstairs while I successfully put Ellie to bed.

However, sound is something I’m very aware of and I feel like I’d be able to relax a bit more if we had better sound insulation between downstairs and upstairs.

When we renovated the basement, we were not thinking about kids, let alone what room would be the nursery.

Potlights in the open ceiling

As well, interior insulation was not on my radar. For all of the years that I worked in my Dad’s construction company, insulation was usually reserved for exterior walls. It was about temperature, not sound.

Sound separation has become more of a consideration in recent years, I feel. But it’s something I wish I’d thought about six years ago.

What about you? Do you have any sound issues at your house? Have you insulated any interior walls or ceilings? Do you have any reno regrets?

Looking back at Home Goals 2017

Thanks everyone for your good wishes on our new addition. We’re excited–and I will admit I’m still a bit nervous about this whole baby thing too. We had our pre-natal class this weekend, which was informative and encouraging, and I have (yet another) ultrasound this morning (this baby is going to have supersonic hearing after all of our scans). Overall, we’re feeling pretty good about where we’re at.

As you can see, 2017 was quite a year for us. Today I’m taking a minute to look back at the year that was from a personal, professional and farm point of view.

After thinking and planning for quite awhile, I took a leave of absence from my communications job at the end of August to spend some extra time with family and see if I could build my own communications consulting company. I love working from home and love working for myself. I’m still working on building my client base, but I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.

The timing for my leave turned out to be very fortunate, as at the start of July we found out we were going to have a baby and at the end of September Matt was diagnosed with an ocular melanoma. It’s been so helpful to have a more flexible schedule for appointments and most importantly to have the mental space to process and reflect on all of the changes in our lives.

Along with all of that, we’ve replaced both our cars–my 14-year-old girl finally died and Matt’s year-old car was written off after he was hit by a driver who ran a red light. Matt ended up with a broken arm courtesy of the airbag, which derailed some of my plans for projects around the farm, but was a small hardship when he could have been much more seriously hurt.

Amongst all of these changes and challenges, the farm has been our constant and our refuge. 2017 marked five years at the farm, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It gives both of us peace to be here, and also gives us an outlet when we need to distract ourselves with tractor therapy, digging in the dirt, painting something or just walking the property.

I have a feeling we’re going to be saying, “What a year!” for the next while (perhaps the rest of our lives?) as we watch this baby grow, adjust to our new family reality and continue with life on the farm.

As many of us do at the start of the year, I like to take a moment to look back and reflect on the year past. Beyond all of the personal changes in our lives, I also started 2017 with my usual list of Home Goals I wanted to accomplish at the farm over the year.

Looking back, we didn’t do too bad.

My office

Turquoise craft room

I was very happy to finish the final bedroom at the farm and finally unpack all of our moving boxes–only five years after moving in. Reupholstering my grandmother’s vintage slipper chair is a project I’m still very proud of. What I called my office ended up being more of a craft room and it was such a great space for creativity.

I say “was” because my office ended up seeing another makeover just a few months later when I decided to turn it into the baby’s room. I’m finding other spaces to be creative around the house, and I love how the baby’s room is coming together. I’ll be sharing all of those details soon.

Clean up the pond shore

Red sky over the pond at sunset

The pond shore was my one and only outdoor land clearing goal for the year (and we have plenty of spaces that I want to clear). Mid-year, I gave up on it happening, but then an enthusiastic nephew and a generous husband went to work over a few weekends, and we made more progress than I ever expected.

There’s still more to go, which might be difficult as I don’t think the baby will be as helpful as our teenage nephew, but Matt and I may be able to divide and conquer on this one. And regardless, every time I look out the kitchen window or walk past the pond with Baxter (which happens at least once a day), I’m grateful for the improved view and access to the water.

While I had planned to focus just on the pond shore, I did give the area right behind the house a bit of attention, and cleaned up (most of) the jungle that’s been there since we moved in.

New lawn

Vegetable garden

Green tomatoes growing in the garden

At the start of last year, I said I was going to add rhubarb (check), a second row of berries (check–ended up being blackberries) and maybe some more grapes (check). I also put in four blueberry plants to try. As usual, I’m crossing my fingers that everyone survives the winter and bears fruit this year.

My biggest goal was keeping the weeds under control. I can’t say I was successful in that. I tried to find some old hay bales for a deep mulch but didn’t have any success. And in terms of weeding by hand, most of the season, I didn’t feel like weeding, and I gave into that feeling… a lot.

We capped off the year by covering two of the quadrants with tarps, and my tentative plan for the coming year is to leave the tarps in place. This will decrease the garden size by not quite half, which might just be manageable in our new reality.

Flower gardens

Garden in bloom in June

The flower gardens got some half-hearted attention this year. I can’t say I met my goal of keeping them weeded and filled with beautiful flowers, but I did get in them a few times and they didn’t look too scraggly most of the time (I don’t think).

Basement

Uh, yeah. I still have empty picture frames leaning against the basement walls waiting for art. I didn’t get to this in the first half of the year, and, since I left my job, I’ve been careful about spending money on extras, even inexpensive posters. So we go yet another year with some unfinished areas in the basement.

However, I did finally share the transformation of the basement TV area and all of the details on how we decorated it. I love this space so much and am so proud of us for doing it ourselves.

Basement TV area

New barn cat

Our barncat Ralph

After talking to a few people, we decided not to add a new barn cat to our family. Ralph has things under control and she’s content. She doesn’t need company, and I’m not confident that expecting her to train a young cat would work. So Ralphie gets to be mistress of the barn. She can live out her years in peace, and we will take our chances with adopting a new cat when we need it and hope that the newbie lives up to Ralph’s high standard.

Extras

As always, a few extra projects sneak into every year. I can call another room completely finished–the guest room–after refinishing a vintage metal bedframe. Spoiler alert, the guest room has since seen a few more changes as it’s become guest room/sewing room as I’ve given my office over to baby.

Antique brass metal bed frame

The living room also saw a few tweaks with a new mirror on the mantel and new pillows on the couch. I’ll be sharing our new coffee table soon too.

How to mix and match throw pillows

So around the house, 2017 was a mix. Which is okay and pretty normal for us.

We had enough abnormal in the year that I’m grateful that projects and the farm are such a refuge for us.

How was 2017 for you? What was your big accomplishment for the year?

How to mix and match throw pillows

How to mix and match throw pillows

Throw pillows are a great way to add personality to a space. You can easily change them out for the season or your mood. However, mixing fabrics is a skill. It takes practice and sometimes some trial and error.

Join me in a little demonstration.

These are the pillows I chose when we first bought our beloved basement couch. It came with six pillows, and I selected three different fabrics. I wanted colour, pattern and something not too serious. However, it turned out they didn’t all play together as nicely as I wanted.

Observe.

How to mix and match throw pillows

On their own, the patterned pillows each work with the turquoise velvet, but they do not work with each other, despite sharing several colours.

How to mix and match throw pillows

However, let’s look at another equation.

How to mix and match throw pillows

Remember back when I made our big round ottoman? How I searched for the perfect fabric, and the one that ended up working best with the striped pillows was the bird fabric that I already had in my stash? I still love this fabric, and since I ended up buying more to supplement my stash, I still had a good amount of yardage. More than enough to make two pillows.

These ended up being the most professional pillows I’ve ever made. They have zipper closures, piping and even extra liners to help contain the feathers, which always seem to work their way out through the covers. I love them so much.

How to mix and match throw pillows

But what about the poor rejected blue-green geometric? Here’s another equation for you.

How to mix and match throw pillows

The feather is another fabric that I’ve had in my stash for years. I had always planned to use it to make cushions for the couch upstairs, and I finally got around to it. The blue and green bring a bit of summer into the living room.

How to mix and match throw pillows

I love the serendipity of two stash fabrics being perfect mix for pillows that we already had. Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons about mixing fabrics.

  1. Let’s start with defining our fabrics. For the purpose of this demonstration, I’m going to use the labels “solid” (pretty self-explanatory), “geometric” (could be a stripe or another more linear pattern–the colourful stripe and the blue-green links both fall into this category for me) and “floral” (self-explanatory, but I’ll extend this to include fabrics like my birds or the feather).
  2. Don’t mix like patterns. By this I mean geometric with geometric or floral with floral. Unless the scale is dramatically different similar patterns will compete with each other like my pillows did. This exercise has taught me that the best bet is to mix different types of fabrics, like a geometric with a floral.
  3. Pick fabrics that share similar colours. This is probably the easiest way to mix. Colours don’t have to match exactly (the turquoise piping on the bird pillow isn’t the same as the turquoise velvet, but they still play well together).
  4. When mixing patterns, start with your most dominant pattern first. This is probably my biggest takeaway. My mistake in the family room was using the turquoise velvet as the base. It’s easy to match cushions to a solid. It’s harder to match the bossy stripe. But once I put that at the centre of the equation, I was able to make the mix work.

Pillows are some of the easiest items to sew–and there are also plenty of options to buy. They can add a finishing touch to a room or completely change the feel of a space. I like being able to freshen up the living room for the summer season, and I’m also very glad to have found the right mix for the family room.

Do you enjoy mixing and matching pillows? Do you sew your own or purchase? Do you change your decor with the season? What are your tips for finding a mix that works?

Fun and games in the family room

Basement TV area

Way back when we started looking for our perfect farm, one of the things we wanted was a useable basement. Many farms come with old farmhouses which don’t typically come with great basements. Usually, there are rubble and stone foundations, shallow ceiling height, dirt floors and moisture.

One of the things that made this farm a winner was that it had a very, very useable basement. You saw the transformation on Friday of how we renovated the TV area. Today I’m delving into the details of how we decorated it.

It all started with these posters. These are Matt’s two favourite Monopoly properties. When I saw them on Lindsay’s blog, I knew I had to make them for him.

Monopoly posters

Theme is a bad word when it comes to decor, but we have a loose fun and games theme happening here in the basement. On the TV stand I made a die to serve as a bookend and on the ottoman we have a backgammon board tray.

I like these little pops of fun.

Dice bookend

Backgammon board tray

The other pop we have in the basement is colour. The base is neutral–the walls, carpet, couch, chair. The red throw, the green tray, the purple lamp and, of course, our pretty pillows all add personality.

The lamp sits on top of a wood cheese drum that came from Matt’s grandpa’s house. It’s too low to be used as a proper end table, but it’s the perfect height to give a bit of a glow when we’re sitting downstairs. And it’s the little touch of rustic that I’ve decided every room at the farm needs.

Purple lamp on a wood drum

I love these pillows. The stripe is bossy, a little bit retro and a perfect match to the bird fabric that  I used on our DIY ottoman (Crazy Ol Bird Midnight by Swavelle/Mill Creek). I love this bird fabric so much that I bought a lot of it, and I had plenty to make two pillows for the couch. (The stripe and the turquoise velvet pillows came with the couch).

Colourful pillows

The sectional is so comfortable. I love the chaise, I love that we have room for a huge number of people, I love that everyone can sit with their feet up. The ottoman also serves another purpose. The top hinges open to give us lots of storage.

Basement TV area after

The other half of the TV area holds–what else–the TV. My Dad and I made the TV cabinet five years ago when we were first putting the basement together. And it’s awesome.

TV cabinet with multiple video game systems

The goal with the TV cabinet was to hold all of Matt’s video game systems. He’s never been able to have them all hooked up at once, but here he finally does. There’s everything from old Nintendo and Sega to new Playstation and XBOX. The drawers hold games, controllers, cables and other accessories.

Video game TV cabinet

Beside the TV stand is the Austin chair that I won from Blogpodium. The boxy shape and grey fabric work perfectly with the rest of the TV area.

Chair with red throw

Baxter’s toys live in a basket under Austin–the basement is fun for everyone.

Dog toys

Our big renovation gave us a space. All of the little decorative details make the space. It’s personal and fun and perfect for us.

Basement TV area after

What’s your must-have for a fun family room? How do you feel about decorating themes? How do you mix neutrals and colour? Do you have a video gamer at your house? What are your favourite Monopoly properties?

Basement TV area before and after

This reveal has been a loooooong time coming. The seventh post I ever wrote for this blog was “Basement reno begins” –that was more than five years ago. A few weeks after writing that post I shared a to-do list, the plans and then celebrated when we finished demo. Five years ago this week, we had fixed the wiring, reframed the exterior walls and received new spray foam insulation.

Now, I’m finally ready to share with you the TV area. You’ve seen snippets of this along the way, and we’ve been using this room for the past four and a half years. But there were a few missing elements that have finally come together, so I’m ready to show it off.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane first, shall we?

This is what we saw the first time we visited the house. A gross cluttered basement with a random dude sitting in a chair (just kidding, that’s our real estate agent taking a break with one of the books that was left behind). Please note the ceiling fixture that was installed as a wall sconce (there’s a matching one just out of the picture on the right) and the giant woodstove.

TV area before

Somehow, we saw past all of this and bought the place. After several trips to the dump, we ended up with a cleared, if not clean slate. This angle shows you the half wall leading into the laundry room (which we removed) and the doorway to Matt’s office (which we moved).

Basement before

On the other side of the room, we have the woodstove, the matching pair to the ceiling sconce and you can get a glimpse of the ceiling fan, which was recessed into the ceiling so that it didn’t decapitate anyone. In my caption on this photo originally, I wrote “Picture a large, comfy sectional couch where the woodstove is and a big TV on the wall opposite the staircase.”

The main room before

Uh-huh. It’s a good thing I had a clear vision. We needed something to get us through the next six plus months of work.

We started demo. Byebye half wall. Hello new doorway. Byebye exterior drywall. Why are you still there ceiling sconces?

Basement demo in progress

Then we reframed the walls so that they were deep enough for more insulation, removed the ceiling drywall so that we could fix bad wiring and finally got rid of those ceiling sconces. I’m still proud that I was able to replace the ceiling fan with a fifth potlight and put them all on the same switch. Me! I did that.

The partially gutted basement

We hauled the woodstove up the stairs with a rope tied to the back of my Dad’s truck, our mason patched the hole from the chimney, and we left a little message on the concrete.

Matt + Julia 2012

With spray foam insulation complete, we started to approach the putting it back together stage. What followed were six months of drywall. So much drywall.

Installing drywall in the basement

Then finally paint.

Trim and carpet. (The crush to get the trim installed before the carpet arrived was tight).

Painting trim

Our new couch arrived just before Christmas 2012, and the basement was habitable.

Decor-Rest sectional couch with chaise

We’ve made tweaks (obviously) since then. Want to see what it looks like now?

Basement TV area

I have another post coming up that goes into all of the details on the finished space. But until then, here are a couple more before and afters for you.

Basement before

Basement TV area after

The main room before

Basement TV area after

This is by far our most significant renovation. I love that we saw the potential of the space, stuck with it through all of the hard work and created a hangout area that works perfectly for us. The fact that we did almost all of it by ourselves makes me very proud.

Wet, but waterproof

Things are a bit wet around here. We’ve had rain on and off for about two weeks. And last week, the rain was pretty steady.

Rainy weather forecast

The ground is completely saturated.

Had this been a year ago, we would have been soggy inside as well as out. Our big (and expensive) project last summer was waterproofing our basement. However, when I last reported on the project back at the start of September, we had just found puddles in two of the rooms that we waterproofed. We were so disappointed.

After talking it over with our contractors, we decided to go with a wait and see strategy.

So this extremely wet spring is our test.

And I’m pleased to say that our basement is passing.

I don’t know what was up last fall, but this spring, when we’re basically immersed in a bog, inside of the house is nice and dry.

Phew.

The sump pump has been running fairly regularly for about a month. Over the weekend, it was running about every one and a half minutes.

Water discharging from the sump pump

You may remember that we elected to waterproof from the inside. There are a couple of little “hatches” where we can access the weeping tile that the contractors laid around the foundation. Checking them out, we found water in the pipes. But the pipe is doing its job and funneling the water to the sump pump.

Water in the weeping tile in the basement

I’m so relieved that everything is working the way it’s supposed to and that we have a dry house this spring.

How’s the weather where you are? Have you had any water issues this spring?

Home Goals 2017

Alright. It’s officially time to start looking ahead. Time to share my Home Goals 2017.

Unusually, I’ve not been thinking about these for the past few months. Some of them have solidified over the last few weeks–one of them even started just before the end of last year. Some of them came together just as I was writing this post.

I think we’re getting to the stage where more things are done around the house–and the things that are yet to come are biggies. As in so big we’re not ready to tackle them yet (although I really, really, really want a garage).

However, there’s still enough to keep us busy for another year. Here’s what’s on the list.

My office

Turquoise and brass file cabinet from DIY Mommy

Source: DIY Mommy

Ahhh. My office. Finally a room of my own (thank you Virginia Woolf–not an affiliate link). I don’t know as I can convey the monumentalness of this project–except by making up words. Five years ago we moved to the farm. Since that time, moving boxes have been stacked against the wall in my “office.” I want to unpack and truly have a functional office. Finishing off my office will finish off another milestone for the house: the final bedroom.

The transformation is already underway. This is the project that Matt and I started right at the end of December–gotta keep up our holiday tradition of scraping a stippled ceiling.

Clean up the pond shore

Property clean up has been on my list every year. And every year I end up working on whatever spot shows up in front of me. This year I want to be a little more plannful. This year, I am cleaning up the pond shore–how’s that for an emphatic statement.

The pond is my favourite place on our whole 129 acres. And I haven’t been able to easily access the shore the whole time we’ve lived here. I’ve considered enlisting professional help, but I think if I put out a call, I should be able to find a few family members willing to wield chainsaws and weed eaters for a weekend.

Vegetable garden

The vegetable garden was our major project last year, and as a result I feel like we’re in very good shape to start this year’s growing season. However, there are a few things I’d like to add this year, like rhubarb, a second row of berries (maybe raspberries, maybe something else) and maybe some more grapes.

Most important, this year I am going to keep the weeds under control–another emphatic statement. I’m hoping a deep mulch will help me not spend my whole summer weeding.

Flower gardens

Last year our flower gardens were entirely neglected as the vegetable garden consumed all our time. This year I want to give them at least a little bit of attention.

I’ve dumped plants randomly in two beds at the front of the house, and they need a bit of organization. I’d like to add some more shade tolerant flowers to the turnaround.

I’m also planning to remove the flowerbeds at the back of the house (there are only so many hours in a day, and mowing is easier than weeding).

Basement

I’ve said it before. The basement has been hanging around long enough. This is the year we’re going to finish it once and for all–including fun art.

New barn cat

Ralph the barn cat

This one may be more of a farm goal than a home goal.

We have an outstanding barn cat in Ralph. So outstanding that we’d love for her to teach someone the wisdom of her ways. I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to go about finding her an apprentice, but we’re going to figure it out.

So there you have it. Six goals. Two inside, three outside, one alive. Some big, some small, one with a tail. Some easy, some tedious, some furry.

We’ll see how this goes.

Time to get started!

Do you have any goals for this year? What would you like to accomplish at your house? Any tips for introducing a new barn cat? Anyone want to help clear the shore at the pond?

Basement bathroom details

Small black and white bathroom

Today is about diving in to all of the details on our basement bathroom that you saw on Friday.

This is a small space–5 feet by 7 1/2 feet. But it makes a big statement, if I do say so myself.

As you saw, what we started with was not great. We ripped everything out right back to the concrete. We reframed the walls, our plumber ran all new waterlines, our electrician fixed the unsafe wiring we uncovered, we had sprayfoam insulation added, and then we put up drywall and cement board.

Along the way, Matt broke up the concrete floor so that we could reposition the shower drain and toilet (a lack of insulation in the original walls made them very thin. Once we reframed and reinsulated, we had to bump the toilet out from the wall by a few inches).

We also flipped the plumbing in the shower so that the shower head was on an interior wall rather than the exterior one.

And the other change was a small bump out into the hallway outside the bathroom. We have a very wide hallway leading to the laundry room–7 feet wide. So we borrowed about 2 square feet of it to make a little storage nook in the bathroom.

Here’s the floorplan.

Bathroom floorplan

And here’s how the bumpout looks from outside the bathroom. It’s not obtrusive and gives us a nook perfectly sized for a storage cabinet just outside the laundry room.

Storage bumpout for the basement bathroom

Let’s step inside and take a look at some of the details of our new basement bathroom.

The shower is big (3 feet by 5 feet), beautiful (marble! white! clean!) and has a few special features that I’ve always wanted (the soap niche and bench).

The main tile that we used is a 4 inch by 2 inch white subway tile–a bit bigger than the standard. It runs up half the wall behind the toilet and then floor to ceiling in the shower. Inspired by Lindsay Stephenson and her beautiful DIY shower, I added an accent band of grey marble mosaic tile. The shower floor is also a grey marble mosaic of little hexagon tiles.

The niche and the bench are two things I knew I wanted from the start. The niche is 12 inches wide by 15 inches tall and the bench is 32 inches wide by 16 inches deep by 18 inches high. On every horizontal surface, I used a solid piece of marble to protect against leaks. For the curb and the niche, we were able to find marble at Home Depot. For the bench, it took awhile, but we eventually found a remnant that was big enough for the top.

White subway tile shower with a marble seat

It may sound funny, but the shower curtain is what pulls it all together for me. Early in the bathroom project, I fell in love with Cole & Son Woods wallpaper. It was an organic pattern that would be a bit of a rustic element in the bathroom. Since moving to the farm, I’ve come to want to incorporate something rustic in all of my interiors. However the fabric version–like the paper–is way more $pendy than my budget.

I considered all kinds of alternatives, but nothing panned out. Then this summer Jen at Rambling Renovators posted about a Woods knock-off. And it was from a Canadian company and already made into a shower curtain. Before I finished reading her post, I had already placed my order. It’s perfect.

Someday we might add a glass enclosure (there’s extra blocking in the wall to support glass), but that’s more money than we want to spend, and Matt’s satisfied with the curtain.

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, we reused the original vanity and sink that were in the bathroom. We didn’t have a lot of space, and they fit perfectly, so there was no reason to reinvent the wheel. Looking at these photos, I see the finish of the vanity looks very creamy next to the white toilet and tile. However, in real life, it doesn’t bug me.

Matt selected the faucet, and his choice was driven purely by budget. If it had been up to me, I would have chosen something square, like the towel holder and light fixture, which I picked. However, in hindsight that might have ended up being a bit too many squares. The faucet matches the hooks that we chose and the variety of shapes work well.

Small black and white bathroom

There were two things I wasn’t sure about in this bathroom: the black paint and the huge mirror.

In a small room, I was worried the black would be too much. But it’s only one wall, so the black doesn’t overwhelm the small space (it’s Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore). The contrast with the white tile and fixtures is dramatic.

In a small room, a big mirror is a no-brainer. But sheet mirrors like this aren’t exactly in style anymore. Running it from the corner right over to the shower and from the vanity up to the ceiling modernizes it a bit. Installing the light fixture on top of the mirror also modernizes it–although the process of measuring and hanging this mirror was nerve-wracking. But the mirror does its job of doubling the light and appearing to double the size of the room.

Small black and white bathroom

With limited wall space, we didn’t have a lot of room for towel bars. Two hooks behind the door–each with three individual hooks–give Matt space for his bath towel and clothes–although pants still end up on the chair in the family room outside the door. Argh.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

Even if the hooks don’t work quite like I intended for storage, the built-in works very well.

The closed cabinet on the lower part hides the less decorative things in the bathroom. Plus the cabinet door that I found at the Habitat Restore is a perfect match for the doors on the vanity. Originally, I’d planned to build a drawer inside the cabinet, but some dollar store baskets are much simpler and work just as well to organize Matt’s toiletries. The guy’s deodorant collection is ridiculous.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

The upper part of the shelves gives more storage and a spot to decorate, which makes me happy. The back of the open shelves is lined with barnboard–that I actually went out and cut off the side of the driveshed. It’s another rustic touch that I love so much.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

This might be a stretch for anyone except me, but I had a loose chess theme in mind when I conceptualized this bathroom. We have kind of a fun and games thing happening in the rest of the basement. Matt’s game–although I’m not sure you can really call it a game the way he plays–is chess.

When I thought about going black and white for the bathroom, I thought of a chess board.

That also led me to incorporate a photo of Matt’s grandpa, who was an avid chess player. And to ask my Dad to make a large rook–Matt’s favourite chess piece–on his wood lathe. (Beware, any time you play with Matt, he will always castle his rook and king).

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

For all of the time that Matt and I have shared a house, we have not shared a bathroom (aside from the short time span when this bath was under construction). So this room is all about him.

Happily, the finished product is something that works for both of us.