Ellie’s room makeover was the first project of the year. We got started in January, clearing out the old guest room and coming up with a plan for the space. And then we stalled.
This is a relatively simple project that could be done in a week. A different kind of blog would even do it as a weekend makeover. We are now at the beginning of April, which means Ellie’s room has been going on for three months.
It’s time to get moving.
Fortunately, something happened a few weeks ago that brought my motivation back. I found a headboard.
Ellie’s directive was that she wanted the same bed that she had, just bigger. I had planned to construct a headboard with a built-in shelf. But while browsing a thrift store, I found a double headboard that had shelves and sliding door cubbies, just like her current bed. I’m going to give it a coat of paint, attach it to a metal bedframe that we already have, buy a new mattress and cross this task off my list.
Speaking of the list, here it is.
Empty room – We finally got (pretty much) everything out this weekend. The big furniture was dragged into the middle of the room.
Paint walls – We patched the holes, primed the patches and picked up the paint. Hopefully it goes on the walls this week.
Bed – The doors to the headboard’s cubbies are going to get a little makeover, then I will paint everything white. I need to buy a new mattress and box spring. I dug the metal bedframe out of the driveshed. It needs a good cleaning and then I can attach it to the headboard.
Decorate – We’ll need some pictures on the walls, some accessories, a mirror.
Move in – We’ll make the bed, hang her clothes in the closet, bring in her books, and hopefully our girl will like her new room.
My plan is to tackle one thing a week (painting week, window week, bed week, etc.) until we’re done. Painting is up first.
The One Room Challenge, which kicks off this week, is providing a little extra motivation. While I’m not officially joining up, I love the ORC for how it helps me focus and gives me a deadline. So I’m making Ellie’s room my own personal One Room Challenge.
Stick with me. We’ll get this done… eventually.
Anyone else have a stalled home improvement in progress? How do you stay motivated during projects? Have you made any good thrifting scores recently?
The last project on my Home Goals 2023 list (and the only indoor project) is going to be our first project of the year. Ellie’s new room.
If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been trying to convince Ellie to move into the guest room for a while. The room is bigger, so she can have a double bed instead of a single. Her current room is closer to the centre of the house, a good location to become a playroom (and remove some of the toys from the living room). Most importantly, sleeping next to each other–with an open door between us–is not restful.
In December, we were struck down by a bad cold, and I moved into the guest room so that my coughing fits wouldn’t disturb her. Even with being sick, we both slept so, so well. I think that showed Ellie that the guest room was maybe okay, and she became a little more open to the idea of moving.
There’s still some resistance and sensitivity. Our girl is not thrilled with change. But talking about her new room and how we can design it like she wants is helping… a bit.
My initial plans (reuse the bed, paint the walls a muted green, make it soft and girly and floral) are shifting a bit based on her vision. But I’ve decided to let her make the choices. It’s her room, and I want her to be happy with it.
Right now, her favourite colour is teal, so that’s where I’m starting. We went to the store and looked at paint chips last week. With no hesitation, she immediately picked the colour she wanted (Calmness C35-3-0709-4 by BeautiTone from Home Hardware). It’s not as bright as I expected, and actually isn’t too different from what’s on the walls already. I’ll still be bringing in lots of neutrals to balance everything out.
I’m planning to reuse the dropcloth curtains that are currently in the guest room. Their warm colour will soften the bright walls better than white, I think. Hopefully I have enough bamboo shade left to make my standard layered window treatment. I need to buy blackout blinds to go underneath, and I may also add a blackout lining to the curtains (we like to sleep in the dark).
White will play a part with a new headboard. I had planned to reuse the metal bedframe that is in the guest room. But our girl likes how her current bed has a shelf (or as she calls it a nightstand). She stashes her water bottle and various other treasures. So I’m going to build a simple headboard with a shelf and paint it white. We have an extra metal bed base in the driveshed, so I will attach the headboard to that.
Her bookshelf (also white) and dresser (grey-ish wood tone) will move with her to the new room.
The tractor and likely the Strandmon wing chair will not. In my new quest to be thoughtful about how we use our house (like, do we really need a guest room?), the chair doesn’t make sense for her room. The chair was helpful when she was really little (especially for nursing), but now we read stories sitting on her bed. I’m trying to minimize clutter, and a big chair that we never sit in seems like clutter. The tractor can move out to the garage. Thanks to her new headboard, she won’t need nightstands.
Accessories and finishing are a bit undetermined right now. I really wanted to use the flowered chenille bedspread that I shared previously, and it looks like it is a nice match with the paint chip. My Mom’s flower girl lamp will hopefully find a home (and a new shade) as well.
For art, I’m wondering about a big gallery wall of black and white family photos. But I’m not sure black and white are what Ellie has in mind. There’s a cute curvy mirror (with a white frame) in the guest room already, but it’s a bit small to get a good look at your outfit. Maybe the light fixture should be more sparkly. Or I could paint the ceiling a really light pink.
I’m all over the place. Usually I’m pretty good at picturing spaces and have a vision in mind. Designing for someone else is a challenge.
Work on the room is kind of underway. The first step is clearing it out. As the guest room has been a catch-all space for years, this is a bit of an undertaking. We’re slowly going through things and have sold, donated and thrown out a lot with more to come.
Some major progress was getting rid of Matt’s and my bed last week. I don’t love sleeping in a king size bed and it was too large for our room. So in the spirit of making our house work for us, I posted it on kijiji and it went to a new home. The guest room bed is now my bed–once again. It was in my cottage bedroom as a child and was Matt’s and my bed at our first house and when we first moved to the farm. I’m glad that it continues to have a place in our lives.
Now I have more space to work on Ellie’s new room and make it what she wants it to be.
Is anyone else having realizations about what works and doesn’t in your house? What would you mix with teal to make beautiful room for a happy, sensitive, energetic young girl?
Our mudroom is done–for now. This room was the first on my home goals list for this year. I had just five small tasks to do, and they are finally finished.
Today, I’m giving a tour of the space and highlighting some of my favourite features.
The secret behind the picture
Let’s start with the hidden (literally) gem. I’m particularly proud of how this secret cupboard turned out.
One weekend, I built a little box. When our contractors arrived, I asked one of them to install it in the wall next to the door. Then I attached hinges to a picture frame and installed it over the box. Inside the box, I screwed two rows of little cup hooks. Voila, hidden key cupboard.
I like having our keys hung up, rather than jumbled together in a basket in the drawer. Originally I’d planned to find a farmy painting for the door. But when I couldn’t find the right size, I decided to go with photos. I chose a picture of Matt in the pool during our home inspection, and then I selected another photo of Ellie and me in the pool during demolition. A literal snapshot of the history of the mudroom, and our little family together in this space we dreamed about.
Figure it out furniture
Someday the mudroom may have beautiful built-ins. But for now, we’re making it work with free hand-me-down dressers, our homemade bench and other DIYs. And honestly, they’re working great.
The dressers look fresh after a coat of paint to match the walls. Spraying the hardware to match the black hooks that we used in the room was the finishing touch. The dressers are likely not going to be here forever (the one on the landing is too small and the one by the door is too big), but they’re doing everything we need.
The upper one holds puzzles, colouring books and games for Ellie. Plus cards, flyers, coupons. It’s also our mail drop, wallet and phone charging station. The lower one holds sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, masks and some outdoor toys and tools. In the winter it stashes hats, mitts and scarves. Both dressers have empty drawers, so we have more than enough storage for now.
Matt’s nephew and I made the bench almost nine years ago. I’ve been surprised by how much I like having the free-standing shorter bench. It gives space for my longer coats to hang freely, instead of puddling on the seat. Ellie is still a bit short to reach too high, so having her hats or other gear in a dresser drawer or a bin on the floor works best for her, rather than putting them on a too high shelf.
Living with the space as it is now gives me an idea of what we need and what works best.
A little bit country
We live on a farm, but we don’t have a farmhouse. With every tweak we make, I try to inject more country character. The V-groove paneling on the walls, cedar on the ceiling and simple black hooks are all examples of that.
The mirror is another. It was a bit ornate when I found it in the thrift store. Removing the decorative top piece and the cherry-esque finish countrified it a lot. The factory finish was so hard and thick, but patience and a lot of sandpaper prevailed. Finding the right way to refinish it took a bit. Everything I put on the wood turned red. Finally, I went with simply varathane. That countrified it the rest of the way.
The mirror bounces a bit more light into the room (enhancing Cigo’s sunbeam), and its round shape contrasts with all of the straight lines from the paneling and other elements in the room.
Designed for us
Installing an LED nightlight cover plate on the landing (I was influenced by Young House Love) was probably the easiest task on my to-do list. It gives a perfect glow for the stairs. The location of this plug–and all of the other switches, outlets, light fixtures, heated floor control panel–was very carefully mapped out by me. The electrician and the tiler didn’t completely agree with my choices, but I’m the one that lives here, so I got my way.
The dimension and height of the landing, the way the doors swing, where the openings were located, and the height of the archway into the kitchen were other areas where I pushed for what I wanted. Sometimes I felt guilty asking for a change, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t make the mudroom exactly the way I wanted.
Now everything is so convenient and it works for how we live.
Make it personal
Like all spaces in our house, the mudroom is personal to us. Matt’s nephew and I made the bench and I made the umbrella stand for our last mudroom. My sister-in-law made the yellow crate for Ellie. My Dad made the wooden shoehorn that’s hanging from the hook and the large wood plate on the dresser that we use for mail. There’s even a box on the stairs to hold stones, sticks, pinecones, feathers and other treasures that Ellie collects.
Matt’s winter coat which I wear to take the dog out hangs beside the door. Having a whole section dedicated for Cigo has been a game-changer. In the old mudroom, towels were draped over the bench, leashes were piled on top of each other. Now we have ample hooks for everything. I even stash his nail clippers and a bottle of dog shampoo in the dresser by the door, for those moments when he smells a bit too farmy to allow in the house.
The painting on the wall is another special, personal touch. Like so much of the art in our house, this too was painted by Matt’s grandpa. When I shared art options for the mudroom a long-time reader had a brilliant suggestion: switch between paintings. So I had two framed. One summer scene (by Matt’s grandpa) and one winter (by my Mom’s friend). They’re roughly the same size, so they can hang on the same hook.
The mudroom has been a great addition–literally–to our house. This is a space that we live in every day, and that I enjoy every day. I am very proud that we dreamt it and we built it. It’s much more than a mudroom.
Do you have a room that’s more than a room? What is your must-have for an entry? Do you have any secret storage at your house? Who else switches art seasonally? Anyone else have a sunbathing dog?
Recently, I did a mental inventory of our house. I counted 6 pieces of furniture that we bought new. All of the rest are hand-me-downs, handmade or thrifted.
The basement reading nook shows our mix: Strandmon wing chair (new, though it was a birthday gift), ottoman (made by me), stump table (made by Matt’s Dad and me), monkey art (hand-me-down from Matt’s Grandpa).
I’m pretty proud that we’ve only bought 6 things new. I like walking through a room and seeing all of the things that I’ve made or found or rehabbed. I think it makes our home personal. It also makes me feel capable when I reflect on all of the projects we’ve done.
The environmental aspect is really important to me as well. By reusing and recycling we’re reducing our impact.
Here are my 6 newbies, along with the year we purchased them. I’m curious to know what’s your number?
Ellie’s dresser (2018)
Another good example of a mix from Ellie’s nursery: dresser (new–Matt’s parents covered half the cost as I was stricken with sticker shock from buying new furniture), bookshelf (thrifted and repainted), Strandmon wing chair (thrifted this time), ottoman (made by me), triangle table (hand-me-down from my grandparent’s cottage). I should note that the crib was new as well (a gift from my Mom). It has since been passed on, so it is having a second life.
Basement wingchair (2013)
Basement ottoman (2013)
Basement couch (2012)
Living room couch (purchased in 2006 for our first house. Does this count as vintage now?)
Living room chair (also from 2006)
This total does not include appliances, mattresses, lighting (though all of our lamps are second hand), or accessories (art, pillows, etc.).
If you look at the dates above our “new” furniture is not all that new. Holding onto things for a long time is another way to reduce our impact.
Furnishing our house in this way is financially beneficial as well. The Strandmon wingchair that I bought secondhand for Ellie’s nursery was less than half the price of a new one. Keeping the same couch for 16 years is obviously cheaper than buying a new couch.
Here’s a final mix from the basement TV area: sectional and ottoman (new), wood side table (hand-me-down from Matt’s Grandpa), lamp (thrifted and repainted), TV cabinet (made by my Dad and me), TV (new, but bought mostly with points), chair (won), Monopoly art (made by me).
Mostly, I thrift and DIY for fun. This is what I like to do and I love furnishing our house in this way.
How much new furniture do you have at your house? Any great thrifting scores to share? Do you have any DIY furniture you’re particularly proud of?
We also added two dressers, which I painted last week.
They give us eight big drawers of storage, so I finally have a place to put my hats and mitts. As well as car keys, sunglasses, reusable bags, pens, notepads, phone charger, masks (who thought we’d need mask storage?) and so much more stuff.
One dresser is by the door–keys, outerwear, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. will live here. One dresser is on the landing by the kitchen. My vision is that it will become a kind of command centre for mail, papers, household stuff, and even some of Ellie’s toys.
Part of my goal with not adding built-ins right away is to discover exactly what kind of storage we need.
The dressers aren’t quite the style I’m looking for in our eventual built-ins and they’re not quite the right size for their spots, but they do the job for now. And the price was right. Matt’s Dad picked them up years ago and they lived first in his shed and then in our barn. After some repairs, a cleaning and a coat of paint, they are a great interim solution.
Here are some of the other things I’m planning to do in the mudroom.
Install dresser hardware
The dressers don’t have a lot of space to screw on drawer pulls. The centre recessed panel is actually glass, so I can’t drill through it. I’m likely going to reuse the old pulls, but I’m going to spray paint them black first.
I found a big oval mirror at a thrift store this fall. The rounded shape will be a nice contrast to all the straight lines in the room. I’m going to remove the decorative piece on the top and refinish the wood frame, aiming for a rustic finish that will go with our cedar ceiling.
Install nightlight cover plate
I remembered last week that I had one LED cover plate left from a three-pack I bought a few years ago (I was influenced by Young House Love). The mudroom would be a perfect place for a nightlight, so I dug it out. Bonus, the cover plate also has a USB port, so it will be going at my new phone charging station on the landing dresser.
Build key cupboard
During construction I had our contractors insert a little wood box that I made into the wall beside the door. This box is going to become a hidden key cupboard. A few rows of cup hooks will give us plenty of space to hang keys. For the cupboard door, I’m going to use a picture attached to hinges. Storage. ✓ Art. ✓ Function. ✓ Form. ✓
We don’t have a lot of wall space for pictures (and I don’t want to put too many holes in the paneling). I’m planning on hanging one painting. Matt’s Mom and my Mom have both sourced art for me. Matt’s Mom gave us a painting by Matt’s Grandpa. My Mom’s friend gave her two water colours that he painted. They’re all great farm scenes, and I really like how the blue and green tones contrast with the beige paneling. (Note that despite the photo differences below they’re all close to the same size.) Which would you pick?
We are definitely at the fun stage of the mudroom. These are pretty quick, inexpensive, easy projects. All of these little details make the room function the way we need it to and personalize the space for us.
What’s your first project of 2022? How do you handle storage at your entry? How many hooks is enough?
Ellie’s room got an update just before Christmas when we took apart her crib and set up a bed.
I had always envisioned this bed in the space. This was my bed when I was her age. Before that, it was my uncle’s bed when he was a child. It came from my grandmother’s family’s furniture store.
It is solid wood. Clean lines. Great quality. With super cute cubbies built into the headboard.
The finish was natural wood, but a little bit orange for my taste and also for her space. I didn’t want to change the other parts of her room. The turquoise paint on the walls, the grey wood toned dresser, the white bookcase. Those were all staying, so I needed the bed to work with those pieces.
I was a bit worried my Mom (the caretaker of the bed) wouldn’t like my plan to paint the bed, but she was all for it. A few coats of my go-to Cloud White by Benjamin Moore (in their Advance finish, which is good on furniture), and it was exactly what I had envisioned. And my Mom was thrilled, both that the bed was being used again and that it looked so fresh with its new white paint.
Ellie’s room is not large, so we could only fit a single bed. We rearranged some of her other furniture to make everything fit. It might be a wee bit tight, but everything fits (including her tractor) and the layout works for us.
And, best of all, the transition from crib to bed went pretty well too.
Who else likes secret cubby-holes? Have you repurposed any family hand-me-downs at your house? What is your crib-bed transition story?
I am back today with another look at the basement games area. Today I’m diving into some of the details of this space, because as I said in the before and after post everything has a story with me.
The dining set is obviously the centrepiece of this spot. This set is something I treasure, but it came our way somewhat accidentally.
I first fell in love with the chairs. You may recall that I have a thing for chairs. These chairs were scattered around Matt’s grandpa’s house, and I would see them in the bedrooms or tucked in corners when we went to visit him (this was way back when we were still in school and dating).
When Matt’s grandpa died and we were cleaning out the house, I learned they were part of a set. The set was one of the items that ended up in a family lottery, as multiple people wanted it. Matt’s Dad was not in contention, but then Matt said, “Oh Julia likes those chairs.” Matt’s Dad put his name in the hat, and his name was pulled.
As we were loading the table and chairs to bring them home, I learned there was also a hutch. Okay. We got a whole dining set. (Also, we were still dating and each still living at home with our parents. The set stayed in Matt’s Dad’s shed for awhile.)
When we bought our first house, the table, chairs and hutch came with us. The joints were loose on the chairs, the seat covers were torn, the finish on the table wasn’t great, and it was on the small side for entertaining. But I still loved those circle motifs.
When we moved to the farm, we had the table and chairs refinished (the hutch was fortunately in good shape), and I recovered all of the seats. Eventually, as I found other furniture for the dining room, the set made its way down the stairs. It’s the perfect size for this space, and the warm wood tones are a nice natural touch in the basement.
Plus, having a table for games, work, crafts, puzzles, food adds a lot of function to our basement.
The china cabinet houses board games, puzzles, decks of cards and other fun stuff. The drawers give me a spot to tuck away papers or work materials.
Matt always maintained that the basement was his space, so it was always my intention to style the top of the cabinet for him. I chose a lava lamp that I bought him when we were dating, a few toy cars that he treasured, and his prized trophy from the 1989 bicycle safety rodeo. A fake plant (I can’t keep real ones alive) gives a bit of greenery.
The tic-tac-toe game is an example of how I like to think outside of paintings and pictures for art. I bought the game at an antique fair ages ago, and always planned to use it here. It fits in with my fun and games theme in the basement.
Also fun and games are the playing card posters. This is another thing that I had always envisioned for the basement, but I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Finally, I decided that it was okay to invest in what I wanted, and I had a local graphic designer make the posters for me.
I kept asking Matt what his favourite card was, and he never answered me, so I picked my favourite: the queen of clubs.
The chandelier also used to be in the dining room. I did not like it at all there. But down here I think it’s okay.
I zoomed out for a few photos to show you how the games area fits in with the rest of the main room in the basement. I love how we’ve been able to make different zones, all within this one room.
If you want a recap of the rest of the basement, here are the other spaces:
I have a core group of 5 really, really close friends. Many of us met in grade 1 or 2. The history and the shared experiences are immense.
As the years have progressed, we have each taken different paths in life. Sometimes we don’t see each other very often or keep in touch the way that we feel we should.
When Matt died, all of my friends rallied around us, exactly the way that I knew that they would. They have been there for us in so many ways.
One friend started coming every Thursday night for dinner. The commute from her work was usually more than an hour, and she would often roll up the driveway just as I was putting dinner on the table (hungry toddlers are not to be messed with).
After a couple of weeks, she said to me, “You can stop inviting me. I’ll be here.” We would eat, and I would put Ellie to bed, and then we’d sit and talk. Sometimes another friend would join us.
When quarantine began, our Thursday dinners stopped. And oh I miss them. It felt like a huge hole in my week. Daily texts were not enough.
Desperate to connect, we came up with the idea to watch Celebrity IOU on HGTV together. Or as much as you can be together when you fear for your life during a global pandemic.
I would sit alone in the basement, the baby monitor by my side. My friend would sit in her condo with her cats. And we’d text commentary back and forth. It was fun. A connection. Casual. Someone who shared my delight in home stuff. Someone who shared my opinions and sense of humour… most of the time.
One episode was a more glam makeover. My friend texted, “Oh, I want that” at the same time as I wrote, “That would be perfect for you.”
So when I came up with the idea to redo this old TV stand, she was the first person I thought of. Something glam. Special. Fun. Feminine.
She–like me, like the rest of this special group of friends–is turning 40 this year. So the day before her birthday, I gifted her with this bench. She was really happy. It felt like her. It fit in with what she’s doing at her home–and has inspired her to do a few more updates to her bedroom.
Our furniture and our homes are so, so much more than just things and spaces. They represent the people who live in them and use them. For me, this bench represents 40 years of my friends and I figuring out who we are and how to embrace it. Nearly 35 years of caring for each other and helping each other.
It represents how we all–all six of us–work to give each other the love, peace and joy that we wish for each other.
As I wrote the title for this post I realized, wow, we have a toddler. Holy moly. Ellie turns 18 months old this week, but she’ll always be our baby.
Ellie is a smart, curious, confident little girl who loves to be included in whatever we’re doing–actually, she insists on being included.
Pretty much as soon as she could stand, I realized I needed a way to help her be involved and help me keep her safe and corralled.
I went looking for plans to build her a step stool and discovered the world of learning towers. One of the first plans I came across was a simple Ikea hack using the popular Bekväm stool from Happy Grey Lucky.
The plan is super detailed with clear instructions.
I was skeptical about Sina’s direction to drill through the full width of the 1X2. I thought for sure the pine would split, but I went very slow with my pilot holes and worked from a 1/8 bit up to 5/64″, and I had no problems when I screwed it all together–even though I couldn’t find #6 screws in the right length and was using fatter #8s instead.
The stool went together very quickly. Once I had the wood cut, Ralphie and I knocked it out in one naptime.
I chose not to paint it, as I like the colour of the natural wood. However, I do feel it may be helpful to coat the wood with Varathane or some other sealant, both to protect the wood and make it easier to wipe down.
We use the stool mainly in the kitchen for cooking and washing dishes. Between food spills and water splashes, I feel like it’s inevitable that the stool will become stained. (There is a coating of some kind on the actual Bekvam, but the upper framework is naked.)
I’m most interested in how the stool works as opposed to how it looks, and it is great.
Ellie loves her stool. She grabs on and tries to climb it whenever I’m cooking–she still needs help to get on it. She also drags it across the kitchen floor when she wants to wash dishes–girl loves water and is very insistent.
We love it too. It keeps her pretty secure and occupied–we sometimes joke that it’s a standing baby jail. I say pretty secure because I would never leave her unattended in case she tips, climbs out or slips down.
I was hesitant about just one dowel at her back, worrying about her slipping out, but we only had one incident where she tried to get down on her own. It would be easy to drill a couple of larger holes so that you could slip an extra dowel in if you felt like it. The larger gap makes it easy for her to climb up herself, although she’s only figured it out once so far.
As she grows, I hope she will continue to want to be involved in what we’re doing–and more helpful in actually doing it.
Nothing tragic happened. I started painting the cabinets as I’d planned. But the whole “started” thing felt hard.
I felt like I was restarting this makeover. I was removing hardware, shelves, drawers, doors. I was patching holes and sanding. I was priming.
Ugh. Prep is not the fun part of DIY for me. Although Ellie enjoyed having a new fort.
Even once I started painting, I wasn’t having fun yet. It just reminded me that I don’t like painting cabinetry. All of the angles, molding and curves that need to be cut in, all of the different pieces that need to be primed and then painted–twice. Just not my favourite.
So that’s a lot of complaining.
Sorry to be a downer.
Snapping out of it now.
I started painting the china cabinet. Yay!
This was a maybe on my initial task list, so the fact that I got to this part of the makeover is a good accomplishment.
The dining room, which had brightened up a lot already thanks to the lighter paint on the walls, gets brighter every day as the wall of dark brown cabinetry slowly goes fresh creamy white.
I really feel like the white paint is going to transform these circa-1990s entertainment units into a super functional and beautiful china cabinet.
I have another coat to go, but I think it’s doable before the big reveal next week. Next week! We’re almost at the end of this One Room Challenge.
Before we get to the end, check out the other participants’ progress at One Room Challenge.
Does anyone else struggle with the prep part of DIY? Have you ever had a project where you feel like you’re starting over? Are you yay or nay on painting cabinetry?