How much of your furniture is new?

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).

Reading nook with Ikea Strandmon wing chair

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?

  1. 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.

Ikea Strandmon in the nursery
  1. Basement wingchair (2013)
  2. Basement ottoman (2013)
  3. Basement couch (2012)
  4. Living room couch (purchased in 2006 for our first house. Does this count as vintage now?)
  5. 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).

Basement TV area

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?

Mudroom to do list

The mudroom was top of the list of 2022 Home Goals that I shared last week. My plan is to focus on storage and decor–function and form.

Progress has already been made.

A grand total of 24 hooks have been installed. Excessive? Perhaps. But I subscribe to the philosophy that you can never have too many hooks.

I moved in the bench and umbrella stand that I made for our old mudroom.

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.

Refinish mirror

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. ✓

Hang art

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 big girl bed

Ellie’s room got an update just before Christmas when we took apart her crib and set up a bed.

Colourful toddler bedroom

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.

Anna doll lying in a cubby in a bed 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.

Colourful toddler bedroom

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?

Basement games area details

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

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

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

Vintage dining set

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

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

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

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

Games area in the basement

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

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

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

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

Games area

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

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

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

Games area in the basement

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

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

Games area from the reading nook
Games area from the couch

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

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

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

Glam bench makeover from a 70s TV stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vintage 70s TV stand

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

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

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

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

DIY toddler step stool – Ikea hack

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

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

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

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

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

The plan is super detailed with clear instructions.

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

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

Assembling the stool outside with our barncat

Close up of the baby monitor

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

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

Water spill on the Ikea Bekvam

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

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

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

Ellie on her learning tower

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

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

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

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

Starting over – One Room Challenge Week #5

Last week I said that week 4 of the One Room Challenge is the hard one. For me, this time around it was week 5.

Here are the previous updates on this dining room makeover:
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

Nothing tragic happened. I started painting the cabinets as I’d planned. But the whole “started” thing felt hard.

Priming cabinet doors

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.

Ellie sitting in the china cabinet

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!

Painting the china cabinet

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.

One Room Challenge Guest Participant logo

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?

 

Dining room makeover plans – One Room Challenge week #1

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

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

Here are my projects from the last times I participated:

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

My project this time around is not that.

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

I want to redo the dining room.

Baxter sitting in the dining room before it's painted

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

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

So here I go.

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

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

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

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

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

Ellie vacuuming in the dining room

Stick around and see how far I we make it.

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

The baby’s first build

Growing up, my parents always included my siblings and me in whatever was happening at our house. Maintenance, building, painting, renovating, cleaning–we were all involved. Some of it was chores. Some of it was just how our family rolled.

Looking back, I can see how these experiences gave us confidence, responsibility, skills, teamwork, work ethic, understanding and much more. This foundation set us up for our own homes and our own lives.

I don’t think my parents necessarily thought too deeply about the long-term benefits their approach would have. They liked doing things with us and wanted us to be involved. Or they needed help, and they had 8 extra hands hanging around. … Or, more likely, they had 8 extra hands and needed to keep them busy.

Today, a year into parenting, my sense is that most people spend a lot of time thinking–and worrying–about how to raise our children. What type of person do I hope my child grows up to be? How do I help her become that? I don’t think our aspirations are too much different than those of our parents. But I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and spend a lot of time reading different theories, trying different techniques and thinking about how to set our children up for success.

Admittedly, I’ve only been doing this Mom thing for a year. I have a long way to go, and I expect that we will face many challenges. However, I’m hoping that I can channel my own parents and remember how much I benefited from simply being involved in whatever they were doing.

Ellie and I did our first real build recently. You’ve seen her previously helping to make our invisible bookends and supervising some sanding. But this time she actually got her hands on some of the tools and materials. Of course, she also got her mouth on them too.

Baby playing with screwdriver and drill

My Mom gave Ellie a set of table and chairs for Christmas. I decided that since they were hers she should be part of putting them together.

Baby leaning on a box

I of course spent a fair amount of time making sure she didn’t drop the drill on herself, stick the screwdriver too far down her throat, cut herself on the scissors, or eat too much of the packaging. But we also had fun talking things through, finding the right pieces and putting it all together.

Baby excited to be holding a piece of wood

Fun is the best word I have to describe how it felt to build this little table and chairs with her.

Mom and baby sitting a child size table

I hope we have a lot more fun in the future. And I hope that she grows up to be a confident, capable, helpful woman, in part because of the things we do together.

A look back at 2018

What a year it was. I kicked off 2018 by sharing the news that I was pregnant. Ellie arrived at the end of February and we haven’t looked back. Our new family was absolutely the highlight of last year. We had some low times too–my Dad’s death and some other moments too hard for me to talk about yet. But Ellie is always light and joy and love.

Ellie–or rather her nursery–was also the source of some of the top posts on the blog last year.

I shared the reveal of her colourful, farmy, happy space and then dove into the details of various DIYs and other projects we completed in this special room.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Some of the most popular posts were her DIY Moroccan pouf (and a round-up of other poufs you can make yourself), the blackout window treatments (and how to pleat Ikea curtains), and an easy, low-budget Eames Hang-It-All.

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

A feature of the nursery is my favourite Strandmon wing chair from Ikea. I finally wrote a proper review of this chair, and it quickly became one of the most popular posts of last year.

DIY Moroccan pouf free sewing pattern

Just before Ellie arrived, I finished a project that’s been in my plans for awhile–a new coffee table for the living room. You all liked it as much as I do, and it ended up also being a top post of 2018. I used the Benchwright plan from Ana White, modifying it to have drawers on both sides. This table turned out so well, and the extra drawers are very helpful now that the baby is turning into a complete busybody.

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

Obviously, our lives now revolve around that busybody. We didn’t do quite as many projects in 2018, but I can’t complain about how we spent our time. Sharing the farm with our little family is all I want for 2019.