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.

Advertisements

Renovation regrets in Illinois

One of my former bosses used the phrase “even better if.” As in, “We just finished this big project, and it went really well. But what are our even-better-ifs?” It was a great way of looking positively at areas for improvement.

Last week I posted one of my renovation regrets and asked other people to share theirs. Sarah in Illinois immediately thought of one at her house. But instead of calling it a regret, I’m going to call it an even-better-if. Because she and her husband Steve did make lots of improvements to their kitchen. There’s just one little spot that could be even better.

Early when Steve and I first started dating he made the decision to renovate his kitchen. Both of us worked on expanding his small galley kitchen into an existing dining room. We removed a wall, relocated all plumbing and electrical and more than doubled the counter area.

However, it wasn’t until we were really using the newly expanded kitchen that we realized we had a design flaw.

We made a small walkway to enter and exit the kitchen and although this is plenty large enough to walk in and out, we did not realize until much later that this opening was the prime “hanging out” spot. There is always someone standing at this opening.

This is the ideal section of counter top to do meal prep because it is so close to the refrigerator. If you need to enter or exit the kitchen or reach the refrigerator, you will have no choice but to squeeze by someone standing right in that spot.

We have considered re-configuring the kitchen but since we laid all of the floor tile in the room around the cabinets, this is a much much larger project than we want to tackle at this time.

This is an instance where we really should have lived and worked in the space before making final decisions. We learned our lesson and hope we have fewer renovation regrets in the future.

Argh. I’m sure that’s frustrating, Sarah. Matt gets super bugged when people are in his way when he’s cooking. Most of the family has learned to steer clear! Hopefully you can enjoy the other fixes that you did make. More counter space is always good.

Nursery DIYs round-up

Thanks for following along as I’ve shared various parts of Ellie’s nursery over the last few months. I love this room so much. Ellie is now four and a half months old, and her nursery continues to be a comforting, happy space for us.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

 

As with all of the rooms at our house, Ellie’s is a mix of DIYs, heirlooms (or hand-me-downs) and thrifted pieces.

Given that it’s taken me so long to share all of the tutorials, I thought it would be helpful to round up all of the DIYs in one post.

If you’d like to go back and look at the reveal for Ellie’s nursery, you can find that post here.

Shadow box

After thinking about this project for years, I finally made a shadow box to display Matt’s first pair of sleepers that he wore home from the hospital. This project was easy and affordable–definitely worth the effort when I consider how much it would have cost to have the sleepers professionally framed. I love that the sleepers are protected and preserved and that we can appreciate this extremely personal heirloom. How to make a custom shadow box.

Baby sleepers framed in a homemade shadowbox

DIY Eames Hang-It-All

It’s amazing how helpful simple things like hooks can be. These racks hidden behind the door hold our carriers, the diaper bag, bath towels, Ellie’s hat–things that we access frequently and need at hand. I love knowing where things are and the hooks are so helpful to keep her room is tidy and organized. How to make a knock-off Eames Hang-It-All.

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

Cozy flannel crib sheets

I found most crib sheets too tight for our mattress. In fact, the mattress bent, curved and wrinkled when I first made Ellie’s bed. As well, I wasn’t interested in the patterned sheets that are so common. I sewed simple white flannel sheets using this tutorial from House of Menig. I’m hoping to sew some cotton ones for summer now that the weather is warm.

Vintage pedal car tractor in the nursery

Skinny dresser from two nightstands

The nursery has a weird little nook just inside the door. Years ago I made a small narrow dresser to go in the nook. The dresser is still filled with Mama and Daddy things, but the top holds Ellie’s lamp and a few other frequently used items. How to build a tall narrow dresser.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Beadboard backing for the bookshelf

I found an Ikea Hemnes bookshelf second hand on kijiji and replaced the backing with a beadboard panel for a country touch and painted the whole thing white. Adding new backing is a super simple project, especially if you have staff at your lumber store cut the panel for you. Note if you’re changing the back, there is a channel on either side of the Hemnes that the panel slides into, so measure accordingly. More about the nursery bookcase, including our favourite books.

Bookcase in the nursery

Sew your own pouf footstool

I’m still super proud of the pouf footstool that I made. It’s Moroccan-inspired, large, leather(ish) and will be soft and sturdy when Ellie starts to pull herself up. I also shared a round-up of a bunch of other footstools that you could make yourself. How to DIY a Moroccan pouf.

DIY Moroccan pouf free sewing pattern

Blackout window treatments + an Ikea hack

Window treatments are obviously very important to keep the nursery dark so that Ellie can sleep. However, I also wanted them to look nice. I hid a blackout blind behind a bamboo blind valance, and then added full length blackout curtains for both function and form. I also shared my tips for pleating Ikea curtains. How to make blackout window treatments for a nursery.

Blackout window treatments in the nursery

Figurines shelf

My collection of nursery rhyme figurines seemed perfect for the nursery. The cutlery tray shelf that I made a couple of years ago is such a clever solution to display small items like figurines. How to make a shelf from a cutlery tray.

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

Patching and repainting a gallery wall

I love the turquoise colour of Ellie’s room and am happy that we didn’t have to repaint when we changed the room from office to nursery. However, we did have to deal with a couple of gallery walls that left a bunch of holes in the walls. I shared my tips for painting over the gallery walls without repainting the whole room. How to repaint a gallery wall.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

I feel like DIYing so many parts of Ellie’s nursery made it an even more personal space for us. It also, of course, made decorating this room a much more affordable undertaking. I hope that some of these projects inspire you at your home.

How to make a custom shadow box

Baby sleepers framed in a homemade shadowbox

Years ago Matt’s Mom gave us the teeny tiny sleepers Matt wore home from the hospital when he was first born. If you recall our laundry room makeover, I had hung the sleepers on the wall and mentioned that I’d someday like to make a shadow box for them.

Enamel basins and infant sleepers hanging in the laundry room

I decided the sleepers would be super cute in Ellie’s room, and it was officially time to display them properly in a shadow box.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Custom shadow boxes tend to be very expen$ive, so I knew this was something I was going to make myself. It ended up being very simple and cost much, much, much less than I expected.

Materials

  • 1×3 (choose lumber that is an appropriate width for the items that you want to frame)
  • Glass
  • Hardboard or thin plywood for backing
  • Cork sheet (optional)
  • Fabric, wall paper or paint (for backing–optional)
  • Construction adhesive (optional)
  • Finishing nails
  • Staples
  • Wood glue
  • Wire

Tools

  • Nail gun
  • Tablesaw
  • Mitre saw
  • Staple gun
  • Hammer

Method

1. Measure the item that you want to frame to determine the dimensions for your shadow box.

I figured out how I wanted the sleepers to look in the frame and then measured them, giving approximately an inch and a half of breathing space around the edge.

How to make a custom shadowbox

2. Have a piece of glass cut to your dimensions.

Our local hardware store cut the glass for me. Total cost for my 14 by 22 1/2 inch piece was an extremely reasonable $9.96. I had never bought glass before and was surprised that it was so cheap.

3. Cut grooves in 1×3 for glass and backing.

I like the depth 1x3s gave me for the sleepers. If you’re framing something bulkier, you may want to choose a wider stock.

I used my Dad’s tablesaw to cut two separate grooves in my 1×3. First was a channel for the glass. A single pass through the tablesaw was the exact width I needed for the glass. Depending on your glass, you may have to do a couple of passes. The groove is about 1/8 inch deep and about 1/4 inch from the edge of the wood.

How to make a custom shadowbox

For the backing, I cut a slightly different type of groove. I made a recess about a 1/4 inch into the depth and width of the 1×3.

How to make a custom shadowbox

4. Cut the 1×3 to length.

Use your mitre saw to cut each piece to length with 45 degree angles.

How to make a custom shadowbox

You want your wood to be ever so slightly shorter than your glass, so that the glass slides into the channels all the way around. Don’t make your frame too tight.

How to make a custom shadowbox

Take your time at this stage and dryfit, dryfit, dryfit as you go to make sure your wood and glass are fitting together perfectly. I purposely cut my pieces a bit long and then trimmed off little tiny slices to ensure a perfect length.

4. Glue and nail your 1x3s together.

Run a thin line of glue over all of your corners and nail together.

How to make a custom shadowbox

How to make a custom shadowbox

A nail gun is absolutely the best way to do this. Once you get three sides together, slide your glass into the frame before adding the fourth side.

How to make a custom shadowbox

If you don’t have a nail gun and are instead using a hammer, there’s a larger possibility of cracking the glass.

5. Cut backing for the frame.

Measure the size of panel that will fit in the recessed area on the back of your frame. Cut your backing just a little bit narrower and shorter than the opening (about an 1/8 inch all the way around). If your backing is too tight, it can loosen the joints of your frame.

How to make a custom shadowbox

6. Adhere cork to backing (optional)

I decided that the best way to attach the sleepers to the backing was going to be with pins, so I put a couple of layers of cork on the backing to give me something soft to pin to. Depending on how you’re mounting your item, this step may not be necessary.

I took a few pieces of leftover cork flooring underlay that we had and cut them to the size of the backing. Then I adhered them with construction adhesive.

7. Wrap the backing in fabric (optional)

The raw wood (or cork) of the backing may not be the most attractive. I found a piece of fabric and wrapped the backing in that for a more attractive base. You could also paint or use a scrap of fancy paper to cover your backing.

How to make a custom shadowbox

8. Mount the item.

For the sleepers, I chose to use little tiny pins to attach it to the backing. I hid the pins inside the sleeves, neck and folds of the fabric.

 

How to make a custom shadowbox

Depending on what item you’re framing, you could also use glue, tape or other tricks to mount it in your frame. Be careful whatever  you use because it may damage the item. For example, I didn’t love the idea of tape or glue residue on the sleepers.

The weight of your item will also affect how you mount it.

9. Insert the item and backing into the frame.

Carefully set the backing into the recess of the frame. Tap little finishing nails around the edge to hold the backing in place. I did this by hand very, very gently. Don’t set the nails all the way flush. You want them to stick out so they serve as a barrier to keep the backing in place.

How to make a custom shadowbox

For an extra tidy finish, you can cover the entire back side of the frame with a piece of paper. Professional frames often come with simple brown paper glued to the back of the frame. I didn’t bother doing this because I wasn’t worried about what the back looks like.

I did add a note with a marker on the back about what was in the frame.

How to make a custom shadowbox

10. String a wire across your frame for hanging.

I attached a piece of wire to the frame with two staples, one on either side. This gave me a secure line to set over my hook on the wall.

How to make a custom shadowbox

11. Hang your shadow box and admire your handiwork.

The paint stick and screw trick makes hanging anything (but particularly a shadow box) so much easier. Give yourself a break and whip one of these up.

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

I’m very happy that I finally completed this project after thinking about it for so long. A shadow box is a great way to protect these little sleepers, and it’s very special to see them everyday in Ellie’s room.

Do you have any items displayed in shadow boxes at your house? What would you like to frame in a shadow box? Have you ever built a custom frame?

How to make a custom shadow box

How to patch and repaint a gallery wall

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

For a long time, I’ve loved the idea of a turquoise nursery. So when we were transforming my office into Ellie’s room, I knew I didn’t want to change the colour. However, we did have to do some painting when I removed my gallery wall and my display of vintage hats in favour of more baby-friendly art.

Vintage hat display in my craft room

Sooooo many holes (and weird reflections from the light fixture).

Patching holes after removing a gallery wall

There are a few tricks to patch and repaint a gallery wall.

The first step is obviously to patch the holes. Use your favourite drywall spackle. Let it dry and then sand the patches so they’re nice and smooth. Do a second coat of spackle if any of the holes are extra deep and sand again. (Spackle sometimes shrinks as it dries, so you may find you have an extra dimple to fill in.)

Once you’re happy with the patches, it’s important to prime. Painting directly over the “raw” patches will result in “flashing.” This means dull or shiny spots on your wall. While the colour may look the same, the patches will still be visible as the drywall paste absorbs the paint differently than the surrounding wall, which has already been painted.

Prime gives a fresh surface for your paint to adhere to. You can limit your priming to just the patches, but make sure to cover all of the raw drywall paste.

Priming drywall patches

Priming drywall patches

The next step is paint. Again, you don’t have to paint the whole wall. Cover the primed area completely with paint.

Repainting a patched wall

The final step is to repaint the wall–the entire wall. Time, sun or slight variation in the mix stirred up by the paint store may lead to variation in your paint. So while your patches may only be in one section, repainting the whole wall ensures that the paint looks completely uniform.

Repainting a patched wall

However, you do not need to repaint the whole room. Stop painting at the corners, either an outer or an inner corner works. Even if your paint is a slightly different tone, the difference won’t be noticeable if you “break” at a corner.

Cutting in at a corner

The result will be a seamless finish and no one will be able to tell that you repainted.

How to patch and repaint a gallery wall

DIY Moroccan pouf and other footstools you can make yourself

DIY Moroccan pouf free sewing pattern

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

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

Free DIY pouf sewing pattern from BHG

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

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

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

DIY Moroccan pouf

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

Zipper in the bottom of a homemade Moroccan pouf

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

DIY Moroccan pouf free sewing pattern

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

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

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

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

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

DIY Poufs

Ready-made poufs that you could DIY

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

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

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

Other footstools I considered

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

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

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

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

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

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

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

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

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

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

Brass and white hookboards

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

Eames Hang-It-All

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

Dollarstore knock off Eames Hang It All

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

Materials

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

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

Materials to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

Tools

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

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

Makeshift spraypaint studio

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

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

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

Broken wooden ball

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

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

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

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

Drilling holes in wooden balls

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

DIY drying rack for painting wooden balls

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

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

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

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

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

Cost (for one DIY Hang-It-All)

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

Much less than $200.

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

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

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

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

Creative, affordable and personal art for a nursery

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

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

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

Baby sleepers framed in a homemade shadowbox

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

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

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

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

Animal portraits in a turquoise gender neutral nursery

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

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

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

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

Paper mache goose head

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

Children's story Jill's Jack

Children's story Jill's Jack

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

Ruler growth chart

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

Alphabet flashcards above the changing table

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

Alphabet flashcards hung on a twine clothesline

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

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

Ultrasound art

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

Book quote art by the Painted Hive

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

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

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

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

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

Sunflower puckered up for a kiss

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

Shades of Blue Interiors nativity print

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

Child's silhouette by Lilac Paperie

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

Fan family tree

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

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

12 creative, affordable, personal ideas for nursery art

DIY Benchwright coffee table with double-sided drawers

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

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

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

Ellie in her chair on the coffee table

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

Comparing our old and new coffee tables

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

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

Drawers on the coffee table

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

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

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

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

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

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table with four drawers

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

Drawers on the coffee table

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

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

Toy storage under the coffee table

 

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

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

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

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

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

Benchwright coffee table drawer frames

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

Richilieu 12 inch drawer guide

Attaching drawer guides with 3/4 inch screws

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

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

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

Speed square

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

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

Benchwright coffee table drawer frames

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

Benchwright coffee table base

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

Gaps

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

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

Toy storage under the coffee table

 

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

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

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

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

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

Pregnant lady sanding

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

Warped coffee table top

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

Uneven table leg

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

Levelling coffee table with foam pads

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

Labelling drawers

Labelling drawers

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

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

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

Black drawer handles on the coffee table

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

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

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

Four tips for simple Christmas decorating

Sarah is here to share a touch of Christmas from Illinois. Her front entrance is looking very festive, and decorating didn’t take her a lot of money or time. She’s sharing her tips for easy, affordable and attractive Christmas decorations below.

I love just about everything about the holiday season. One of my favorite activities is decorating our house both inside and out.

We had never done this before, but Steve asked if this year we wanted to decorate with a theme, so we chose “red and gold.” I think this will become a new tradition. It has made decorating much simpler and everything feels less cluttered and classier.

I used this line of thinking when decorating our front step and chose to go with the gold part of our theme. I thought I would share some tips I have when decorating.

This is the sad view that I started with. What you can’t see is the rotten pumpkins that I had just removed from the steps.

I began by going to my parents’ and helped my mom gather clippings from her boxwood bushes.

Tip #1: You don’t have to buy expensive decorations. Branches from pine, cedar, boxwood and other evergreens make beautiful natural decorations.

I gathered my supplies and laid my branches out in the general shape and size that I wanted to hang from my front door. I used floral wire to tie small bunches of branches together.

Tip #2: When wiring together live branches make sure to tie them really tight. The branches will shrink as they dry out.

I used ribbon for decoration and also to hide the wire that I used. I like to use wired ribbon to help it hold its shape.

Tip #3: I always scour after Christmas sales for ribbon. I can often save 50-75% by doing this.

For my lanterns I wired a few branches from my trees to the handles.

Tip #4: When trimming branches from a tree, look at how the branch is hanging before it is cut. If you want the branch to hang down, but it is curved up on the tree, it will be very difficult to force it into the position you want.

I also added some pinecones that my mom’s cousin had given us. Again I used floral wire to tie them together and tied them to the handle. I took some more wired ribbon and tied a knot to finish it off.

To complete the look, I added a really cute dog.

Merry Christmas from Illinois! I will be back after the New Year.

That is indeed a cute dog. Does the craft store sell Blitzes?

Thanks for all of your posts over the last year, Sarah. It’s been great to see what you and Steve are up to in Illinois. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!