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.

Off our rockers #DIYfail

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drawing a rocking chair pattern

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

Pregnant lady sanding

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

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

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

Adding rockers to a wing chair

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

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

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

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

Ikea Strandmon wing chair review

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

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

Screenshot

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

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

Size & shape

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

Ikea Strandmons in the store

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

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

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

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

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

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

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

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

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

Materials

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

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

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

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

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

Price

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

Ikea Strandmon pricetag

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

For me, the Strandmon is a good value.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

The final verdict

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

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.