Entertainment Wall

I haven’t posted much for progress downstairs lately. Mostly because it still isn’t finished, but also because we change our minds so often that it has been hard to keep up.

We knew what we wanted to put downstairs, and which area we wanted to put each designated room (office, playroom, family room, etc). But it was such a blank canvas when we moved in that we had no idea what we were doing for layouts. And for us, it’s always been a trial and error type thing.

I’m going to provide a little update on what is currently downstairs and how we got to that stage. Mostly to hold myself accountable to creating more blog posts, but also so you know I haven’t been slacking off all this time in between posts.

If I’m not mistaken, these would have been the last photos posted of the space, and a lot has changed since then. We struggled with where to put the TV. There was an outlet and a cable plug on the side wall seen in the photo above. So we automatically put the TV there, with a cheap kijiji fireplace underneath. Then we had two couches and a loveseat placed in an awkward “U” shape around it. It seemed like a good idea at the time because it accommodated a lot of people (perfect for entertaining), but it was terrible for movies and watching TV.

I had purchased some short bookshelves from IKEA to use for our DVD’s, a couple accent pillows, but we still weren’t in love with the design idea.

We decided that we couldn’t get our desired look or feel downstairs with this layout. And we basically went back to the drawing board and started over. We sold both couches and the loveseat, sold the fireplace, corner cabinet and even the large decorative pier 1 wooden cabinet and started again.

The first thing we decided to do was place the TV. Although the previous homeowners had it all set to go on that end wall, it just didn’t seem like the best place to put it. It turned the “family room” into a bowling alley that seemed small and closed off. Instead of the large entertaining space we wanted it to be. The IKEA shelves got moved to the larger wall with the TV, so we could continue to use them for DVD storage. But now that wall seemed empty with the large gaps on either side. And the space on the sides became wasted and useless. Another IKEA order was placed as we continued to transform the space.

To avoid losing the wall space on the sides of the TV to wasted space we opted for extra storage. I grabbed 4 cabinets that were the same width as my DVD shelves. I went with tall bookcases to make it feel more like a built in. Now, at first glance, all of the shelves and DVD’s make it feel busy and cluttered. Don’t worry, we found a pretty good solution for that too.

We picked up 8 doors for the tall bookcases. I chose a solid bottom door with a glass display on top. I have quite the collection of “display” items so I thought it would be the best of both worlds. I’d get the opportunity to put some of my favorite pieces on display, and also have the bottom of the bookcases to hide all the not so attractive items.

We set up the surround sound, cable, DVD player, and we were in business!

Instead of looking for another couch and loveseat combo, we opted for another Costco sectional. This one has all individual pieces that can link together any way you want! You can link the ottoman as a chaise, you can separate the set into two love seats, or add them all together for an extra long couch (which is what we did). We linked all 4 backing pieces together to create the best, family movie night, cuddle spot ever. And the great thing is, all seats have the same view! Which means no fights over who is closer or who can see better. Just like a movie theater. All we need now is a ceiling and some lighting.

We’ve already had some pretty great movie nights down here with the kids. And the nice thing is, even when you are on the other side of the room, you can still hear the music, see the show, or chat with your guests sitting down.

I told you we’ve been busy šŸ˜‰

Spring Cleaning – Purge

As mentioned in my previous Spring Cleaning post, we live by two rules: Purge & Organize. Purging is a must! You can only be so organized before junk takes over all the work you just did. Purging is something we have gotten really good at, but I completely understand that it can be hard for others.

When we are cleaning or going through items I keep in mind a few key things. And they are a great place to start if you are new to the whole “purging” thing. Here is what you need to ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I used this?
  • How much did this item cost?
  • Will I need this in the next month or so?
  • Could this item be of use to someone else?

The reason these questions are important is because it helps bring into perspective the importance of the item. If you haven’t used the item in the last year or so, do you really think you will use it going forward? Chances are you have replaced it with something else that you DO use!

When it comes to the cost of the item, I’m thinking in terms of replacement. If I give it away and all of a sudden need one, what would my loss be. For example, the kids seem to collect character cups (Plastic cups with Paw Patrol and Disney princesses on them). Sometimes they crack or get worn out and the pictures slowly fade and peel off. When going through them, it’s easy for me to say “Yup! I got my .99 out of this!” and throw the bad ones away and replace. You need to look at all items in this way. If you’re not sure if you will need it or not, maybe have doubts about getting rid of it, then hold onto it and grab it on the next round of purging. 6 months later when you come back to the same item, you will be more certain with whether or not it has been used or is worth the storage space.

When you are looking at an item and deciding on whether or not you will be needing it in the near future, here are some things to think about. Is this a seasonal item? For example, plastic cups for the patio. Annoying to store, and maybe don’t get a lot of use. If you’re coming up onto summer months, it’s a great time to revisit the idea of using them. Do you have an upcoming BBQ that will require cups? Did you forget you have them?

Lastly, couldĀ this item be of use to someone else? This is big for me. Old blankets that we never use anymore that are just collecting dust, could be a goldmine to a shelter or homeless person. The bottles of shampoo and body wash that you didn’t like, could be a luxury item to an abused women’s shelter, filled with people starting over with nothing.

What about clothing that no longer fits? They could be clothes to a family who just lost everything in a fire. Check around your community! Help out people in need! There are tons of organizations that will even pick up donations or have drop off zones for things like that. Pick up a coffee, drive through the city and make some donation stops. You will feel great for getting your space back AND doing something good for someone else.

Old rags and towels that might have holes or are fraying, make a great donation for animal shelters who go through endless amounts of rags and towels.

So now that you have completed the purge step and have thinned out your belongings. It’s much easier to organize and “home” everything.

Spring Cleaning – Kid’s Bathroom

It’s my favourite time of year. Snow is melted, grass is starting to grow and be green again. It reminds us that Winter doesn’t last forever. The light at the end of the tunnel.

But I also love Spring because it starts to feel like a new beginning. And there is no better feeling then starting again inside the house. Most people buckle down and do the annual “Spring Clean”, and the dream home is no exception.

When it comes to cleaning, the Dream Home lives by a pretty basic “rule”. It follows us from room to room, and so far it has proven time and time again to be a good rule to have. We abide by “Purge & Organize”. Yup, that’s it. I know, right? Seems like there should be more to the story. But those tend to be the biggest “problems” with a household. Holding on to too much junk. And not having places to put the stuff that you want to keep.

So every year, we do an annual “purge”. I try to tackle room by room because it makes it easier to contain the mess to the rooms that have yet to be done. I decided to tackle the Kid’s bathroom closet because I was getting annoyed with the shampoo bottles that seemed to be everywhere. I took every single thing out of the closet and wiped it all down. Got rid of dust and dirt and dried on toothpaste, and baby hand prints.

Next I went through every single item that came from the closet. It needs to be wiped down, inspected and then sorted. When I say “inspected” I’m referring to empty toothpaste tubes that my kids try to sneak back into the closet because they like the picture on the front. Or lotions that my son has shown an irritation to that we have never used. Basically using this process to make a decision on each item that came from the space. I make a pile for “keep”, “donate”, and “toss”. Donate would be the things like the lotions that are perfectly good, and full. Toss would be the empty toothpaste tube.

Once that takes place you are pretty much done with the “purge” part. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be feeling better and lighter already.

My kids’ bathroom closet previously had Dollarstore baskets in them for organizing. And I still love that system but I did need a couple extra baskets and I dug the label maker back out so that I could re organize each basket accordingly.

Here’s two newly organized baskets. I used one strictly for the kids medications, Tylenol, band-aid’s, even medicine cups and syringes. The other has been labelled “bath time” and will contain bubble baths, shampoos, and oatmeal treatments for bath water. Previously, I had a basket in each child’s name instead of a combined basket. But now that Foster is older, it just didn’t seem to make sense.

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Next I created baskets for “teeth” and “hair”. Our teeth basket always holds extra toothbrushes (or multi packs), toothpaste, kids flossing characters and travel stuff, like toothbrush holders and small toothpastes. The hair bucket, which used to be strictly named “Kennedy” has expanded to include detangler, combs and brushes, elastics, clips, headbands and a small bag of lice tools for routine checks to both kids. Once all my baskets were divided and organized, I added the new labels to any that had changed.

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The baskets were labelled: Medication, bath time, skin care, teeth, hair styling, face cloths and guests. Next step was to organize them back into the closet.

I put the things I use the least, at the very top. You’ll notice from the photo above that means “medication” and “guest”. The medication bin needs to be up high to ensure kids can’t get to it. Even on their teeth brushing stool.

Bath and Skin care take the next shelf down. Kids do not handle that department either quite yet. So It’s just out of reach but still easily accessible for us. The next shelf down contains hair styling and teeth .This shelf is low enough to be reached by Kennedy regularly, or Foster on a stool. Perfect for starting out. Foster can put his toothpaste back in the bucket, Kennedy gets her hair stuff in the mornings so I can put her hair up before school.

The very bottom shelf has the face cloths and towels. I leave that on the bottom because it does the least amount of damage in the midst of a temper tantrum or curious toddler. Also because its the tallest shelf and those fluffy towels stack up pretty quickly. So have extra room to store them is definitely beneficial.

The closet door is a pocket door so when company comes over, it can easily be concealed. Well, that’s the end of the closet clean out.

Next up, kitchen pantry!

Command Centre

Running a household can feel impossible some days. And it doesn’t seem to get any easier. Quite the opposite actually. The older the kids get the more I have to juggle. Not only do we have family activities, but we have daycare, school, work, special occasions, after school activities, sleepovers, movie nights, and those are just examples of things out of the house!

My point is, things get busy. And I am always struggling to make my life more organized and less stressful. Naturally, that prompted some changes at the Dream Home for efficiency.

Do you see this wall right here? It is a small wall that pretty much floats in the middle of our upstairs living space. This view is from the front door of the house. After some planning, I decided to turn it into a “command centre”. Anyone with Pinterest probably knows what that is, but in case you don’t… it’s basically an organized wall for your family. Some of the most common things you would see are: a calendar, whiteboard, menu, paper storage, family photo, etc. Although each family puts their own spin on it.

The issue with these types of walls (and something Pinterest seems to neglect to advise you on) is that you have to have all of your items before you start the wall. They tend to be more of a “gallery” style so you may need to hoard some of your great finds until you’re ready to complete the entire thing.

I used painters tape to mark where I wanted my items to go. It was easier for me to visualize without making multiple holes in the wall. I placed a lot of items on the floor first to get a more accurate idea of what the whole thing would look like. And once my tape was in place and I was happy with the look. I started to place the items (and by I, I mean Dave who was my helper for this project).

A helpful hint for anyone who decided to take on a project like this. Start by hanging your larger items first. The smaller “filler” items are easier to alter if the tape is slightly off.

For example, the first two things I placed were my large family calendar, and the clip frame that takes up the entire left side. The tape was previously there for the frame in the middle, but once they were on the wall I was able to centre my family photo so it floated in between. My calendar I attached with command strips, the others were hung with hardware.

And then it is all about building the items outwards. I tried to always add the next closest item to the centre point. And then complete it’s opposite. So the clock was the next closest item on the top, then you can see Dave working on the closest item to the centre on the bottom.

The most important item for me to have on this wall was hands down a calendar. I am constantly trying to juggle the schedule of multiple people and It was the first item I began to look for. I purchased this one on amazon and I liked that it was magnetic, a white board, and also has a cork frame for adding notes if need be.Ā I added the clock because this being the centre of the house makes it easily seen from anywhere (always convenient) for a busy family. Although a family photo is important, I didn’t want to take up a lot of space with pictures. Let’s face it, this wall is not huge and almost every other main level wall has photos hung. So it didn’t seem like a huge priority, although a small 5X7 did make it into the centre.

The bar and buckets were also important. The larger bucket holds notepads, post-it’s, your standard office supplies for grocery lists and homework. The smaller bucket contains all the writing tools. Pens, pencils, highlighters, markers, etc.

The large frame that takes up the entire left upper side is a wooden frame that contains three metal hooks. I stuck some photos inside but I thought it would be perfect for things like concert tickets while waiting for the show, or programs for pre school graduations, etc. Things that you want to show off but don’t want people to touch or lose.

A metal mail sorter was added to the lower side as well. I added labels which read “mail”, “memo” and “file”. A place for me to stick the mail when I am walking in the door. Once open it will be moved to either “memo” or “file”. Memo will end up being items that have to go back out, maybe things to add to the calendar, etc. And file will be the things that need to be filed away in my office. Paid bills, bank statements, etc.

Now, are you ready to see how it all came together? A few final finishes were added and now we’re in business!

And this post wouldn’t be complete without the side by side before and after. So, let me take you back to the front door view of the entire wall.

Now, down the road we have talked about staining the little entry table to match our kitchen table but after the harvest table we are taking a little break from staining. That project will simply get added to the end of the list of “upcoming projects”.

Dining Series – End Result

I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours of labor went into this project. Mostly because I am too scared to add them all up. It was not easy! And I’m starting to see why people simply gave these chairs away, and sold the table for peanuts. So before you decide to dive into a project of your own, here are a few things to consider:

  • Where do you plan on doing this? If you are sanding and stripping a full table in your garage, be prepared to lose it as a parking space. Are you willing to give that space up for days? How about weeks? And what about the sanding? That produces soĀ much dust. Can you set that up outside? Do you have the area to do that?
  • How confident are you in the project? It’s great to want to take something like this on but be sure you have your expectations adjusted. Is it just surface damage and a new color you’re after? How is the structure of the item? There is nothing worse than finishing a project only to find its not what you want! Especially a project that requires this much work.
  • Do you have everything you need? Sawhorse? Sander? Wood conditioners, stains, top coats, etc? It can be extremely frustrating to start a project only to run into a speed bump down the road when you need to stop everything because you don’t have what you need.

Those points are not there to discourage by any means. As I mentioned, it is a lot of work. But if you are willing to put in the time and effort, you could have results like these for aboutĀ $100. (Furniture = $40, stain, paint and wood conditioner = $60).

We have a wall in our eating area that we were never really sure what to do with. We had a corner cabinet when we first moved it, but it was never used and seemed to close off the space. When we upgraded our table we had a large decorative shelf in its place. But that also seemed to take up a lot of room for something that was only decorative.

So with all the money we saved on our table and chairs we decided to buy (yes buy.. full price too!) an IKEA bench to place against the wall. The thought process was that when we had company, a bench would fit (probably) four kids, and four adults could comfortably take the dining chairs. It also gave me an excuse to have more throw pillows.

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The pillows can easily be changed out with the decor over the years if need be. The bench itself is a medium grey (similar to the chairs). And in true IKEA style, the cover comes off fully so it can be washed or replaced with a new one! Perfect for a kitchen and kid friendly. We all know that no matter how careful we are, and kids SAY they are, messes still seem to happen.

Oh, and I forgot one of the best parts… the bench actually opens right up for added storage! When company comes, I can simply lift the top and store my pillows away before eating. You could also store place mats and other table settings that maybe don’t get used on a regular basis.

We have been living with our table and chairs now for a couple months so at this point I can give you a pretty accurate review. The bench has gotten spills and have been so easy to simply wipe clean with a damp dish cloth. The kids did pile onto it for not only one, but two, birthday parties. The table and chairs clean easily with the added top coat. And we have gotten tons of compliments on the finish itself.

 

Dining Chairs

After our amazing Harvest Table find I was determined to get some wooden chairs to match. I watched for several weeks on Kijiji and had a rough time finding four or more. They seemed to either be over priced or not what I was looking for. But I kept my eyes open in search of another hidden gem.

And behold, luck a second time around! I scored four solid wood dining chairs, for FREE! They were in terrible shape. Lots of discoloration, staining, scratches, you name it.. they had it. If I was going to explore different finishes then these beauties were the perfect guinea pig chairs. If I ruined them along the way, I wasn’t out a penny. It seemed like a great gamble in my eyes.

At first we thought we would just strip and stain to match the table. But upon examination of the wood we realized it was quite different then the table. Now, anyone who has worked with stain knows that different wood types can absorb differently. Colors will also fluctuate between different woods too. It eventually just seemed like a very bad idea. What if we put in all that work and the color is completely off? I opted for plan B.

I decided it might be a betterĀ idea just to paint the chairs a color. Make them into an accent instead of trying to match the table. (Which really is a beauty all on it’s own). I’ve used FAT paint in the past so I was immediately drawn to chalk paint collections for inspiration for the dining chairs. I eventually decided on “Fusion Mineral Paint” after helping my sister paint some dining chairs at her cottage. The coverage was great, they were durable and easy to clean, and I really liked the finish. It was a mix between a matte and a pearl (depending on how you looked at it). So I chose the color “ash” and I got to work!

I didn’t have to prep the chairs very much. Just a good cleaning with some soapy water (I used dawn dish soap), and a light sanding to remove some gunk. I decided to leave a lot of the imperfections on the chairs. It gave them some character and matched the harvest table more by being loved and abused a bit.

It took two coats to cover the chairs thoroughly without any of the light color showing through. Once they were dry, I used a spray varnish to seal them and provide a bit more of a glossy finish. Stay tuned for a final post of the whole thing tied together!

 

 

Harvest Table: Refinish

When we moved into the Dream Home, our kitchen table was something we struggled with. The one we had was nice but not our style. We upgraded to a more “contemporary” style with a pretty good find on Kijiji. But it still wasn’t the look we were going for.

We kept the contemporary table and 4 leather chairs until we could make up our minds with that we wanted to replace it with. And with all the other projects we had on the go, it just wasn’t a priority to switch it all around. So we kept our eyes open and waited for a hidden gem.

As you all know, I’m big on Kijiji! I love that site. I watch for great finds all the time. There is a lot of junk and things that are not my taste, but if you keep up with it, there is always some great deals. Someone moving out of town and can’t take their barely used furniture with them, maybe someone who can’t store their treasures anymore. Or, in our case, someone who just doesn’t see the potential.

We picked up this harvest table on Kijiji for $40! It was a terrible orange color, and it was not properly taken care of. There were crayon markings all over it, crumbs and sticky foods. It was a disaster. But a quick trip to Home Depot for some wood stripping supplies and all those flaws quickly vanished. The orange varnish and stain peeled away to reveal some gorgeous wood grain patterns underneath.

Next came a good sanding. This step was pretty much all Dave. Mostly because I didn’t have the patience to get down to the good part. And my arm felt like it was going to fall off from the vibrations of the sander. Look how beautiful she is! No more terrible orange color, all the dents and scratches have vanished. Now, the fun part, picking a color!

We chose MinWax “Dark Walnut” for the stain. Make sure you use a wood conditioner prior to applying your stain, this will keep the stain absorption even. (So no streaks or blotches of any kind). Once you apply the stain and reach your desired color let your surface set for several days to ensure it’s thoroughly dried. Next will be a clear protective coat, especially for surfaces that will see a lot of traffic (like this one).