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?
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.
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?
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
Fix broken window
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fun is the best word I have to describe how it felt to build this little table and chairs with her.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our version of the Strandmon is $299. Different upholstery options cost a bit more. I paid $140 for the nursery Strandmon secondhand.
Not as expensive as many chairs out there, but definitely not Ikea’s cheapest offering.
For me, the Strandmon is a good value.
The final verdict
I highly recommend the Strandmon. For comfort, style, quality and value it ticks all of the boxes for me.